Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Child's View

God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we've done wrong.  1 John 1:9

My friend's 6 year old son was devastated. Before bedtime, he began to tell him mom about bad things he had done, mistakes he had made and the mean things he had said.  Through tears of shame, he asked his mom, "How could God love me? How could he forgive me?"   My friend quickly assured him that there is nothing he could ever do that would make God not love him.  With a kiss and a hug she put him to sleep.  

Later, she shared with me her struggles about her conversation.  She was heart-broken that he felt such grief and sadness.  He was so distraught over such little things, like mean thoughts and watching big kid's shows, things that most of us wouldn't think twice about.   At the same time, she didn't want to dismiss his concerns.  As I listened to her story, I couldn't help but think of Jesus when he said, “We must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

This six year old knew that he had made mistakes and he wasn't perfect.  None of us are perfect but once we get older we tend to rationalize our mistakes and compare our relatively minor imperfections with dysfunctional family members, our out of control friends or the really messed up people on reality tv shows. Compared to them- we aren’t that bad. We reach a point where we have to do something major like driving a car after having too much to drink, discovering an unplanned pregnancy, or running a red light and endangering someone's life - to admit to ourselves that we are sinners.

Romans 3:23 says "we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  The Greek word translated "sin" in this verse means "missed the mark"; in other words, we make mistakes and we aren't perfect.  Realizing that we make mistakes is the first step to realizing we need a Savior. If we were perfect, we could save ourselves.   Since we aren't perfect, we need to ask God's forgiveness for all of our sins- the major ones that haunt us and the small ones like being mean or being caught in a lie.

I told my friend that her son should simply pray and ask Jesus to forgive his sins.  The Bible says, “He is faithful and just to forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9   Jesus can take away the awful feelings of guilt and shame.  There is nothing that we have done, said or thought that He won’t forgive.  Nothing.  All we have to do is ask. He makes us pure and holy.

Talking with my friend reminded me of when I was five years old. At that very young age, I realized I was a sinner.  I knew I had done bad things and so every night I prayed and asked God to forgive me.  As I look back on my life I am so grateful that I realized that I wasn't perfect and and made mistakes when I was young.  I learned that Jesus loved me not because of what I had done for him but because of what he had done for me.  Realizing His love for me at such a young age has given me a lifetime of confidence in His love, grace and forgiveness. 

If you have a young one in your life, don't miss out on the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus's amazing grace and love at an early age.   Romans 8:38-39 promises us that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus- Nothing.    You can help them avoid so much grief and heartache if they learn they are always loved and there is nothing they can do to lose God's love.    

How old were you when you realized that Jesus loved you in spite of all your sins and mistakes? How did that change your life?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rejoice with me

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Summer seems to be the time that my friends fill Facebook and Instagram with all kinds of amazing and beautiful experiences. One friend spends half her summer at the beach, another's husband and daughter are in Rwanda, a couple of friends went to England, friends from England traveled to the States, a dear friend went to NYC and was able to share her favorite hangouts with her kids and I was able to take a picture of my feet on a black sand beach during a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii. Really, it is truly amazing to see all the joy captured in these posts and pictures.

Now it is time for a quick gut check- When you hear about other people's blessings do you rejoice or are you envious?  I have to admit- sometimes I am envious.  It is hard to rejoice with some people.   This inner conflict- most of us have had at one time or another- is the reason that told to rejoice in the Bible.  Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."  If rejoicing with others was always natural and easy, we wouldn't have to be told to do it.  It's like picking up dirty clothes, my kids have to be told to do it because they don't do it naturally.

Though it may go against our natural instinct to rejoice with some people, the Holy Spirit can empower us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. The antidote to envy is giving glory to God and trusting that just as God blessed our friend (or someone we don't like) , He has blessed us and will continue to bless us more. His resources aren’t limited.

An important way to encourage each other in our faith is to rejoice in the goodness of the Lord in our friends’ lives. Being able to share joy with others is so important that the word “Rejoice” appears over 100 times in both the NIV and King James Versions of the Bible. It is a command and a response. When we share with others what God has done for us, we can encourage them to trust that God can do exceedingly and abundantly even greater things for them.

Jesus told a story about a woman who lost a valuable coin- worth about a days wages.  She swept and cleaned her house until she found the coin. "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’" Luke 15:9  "The idea behind the prefix “re” is to do something again- i.e. redo, return. So, “to rejoice” means to feel the joy again. The woman had the initial joy of finding the coin but the joy was multiplied because she could rejoice with her friends. 

At times, I am hesitant to share my blessings because I don’t want to be perceived as bragging. The proper heart in sharing blessings requires us to not seek glory for ourselves but instead to glory in what God has done. God calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It is much easier to rejoice with someone who has shared her hard times as well as her good times. When we are authentic with others, they will be able to mourn with us in the hard times and rejoice with us in the times of blessing. By remembering the struggles of the past, we will be able to appreciate the blessings in the lives of our friends and our own life." Embracing Change, p. 180

God calls us to rejoice with others because when we rejoice with our friends, we get to enjoy and celebrate the blessing again and again.

This week look for opportunities to rejoice with the people God has put in your life. Ask them to tell you about a blessing they have recently experienced. Your request will allow them to re-joice and will allow you to join in their joy!

Leave a comment on this blog, Facebook, Instagram or write an old fashioned letter to share how God has blessed you. Not to brag but to allow others to share your joy, take a minute to write down a blessing so you can read it and rejoice again.