So why would God love anyone?

We are loved because we exist.

What a potentially transformative realization! God loves us simply because we are. We exist, therefore we are loved by God and by people who are godly. No other reason is necessary.

There are numerous reasons why we may be liked—people like us because we are kind, or funny, or helpful, or whatever. But we don’t need to do anything or be good enough in order to be loved by God. We exist, and always will in some form; so we will always be loved. God doesn’t always like the things we do, but God always loves us.

May this knowledge give us comfort, confidence, and hope.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Let’s Remember What We Know

Yesterday, two different minister friends, one in Georgia and one in Louisiana, unknowingly helped to inspire this blog post. Patrice Gerideau shared an extraordinary painting, “The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, which I’ve added below. I love seeing Mary in an untidy room, looking overwhelmed and maybe a little resentful. Zoë Garry preached a sermon entitled “Did Mary Know?” and answered her own question. Yes, she said. Mary knew that her baby was destined for greatness.

I agree. Now I have a question of my own, without an answer. Mary knew, but did she always remember what she knew when hard days came? I can’t speak for her, but I know there have been truths that God has assured me of. And I knew that I knew. But when trials, storms, distress, and tribulations came along—as they inevitably will—sometimes I forgot what I knew. Sometimes I didn’t remember God’s promises, and I floundered.

Help us, precious Lord, to remember what we have learned of you.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, “The Annunciation,” 1898.

Temptation?

It’s not a sin to be tempted, but it’s a sin to yield.

We can fall into temptation, enter into it, or be led into it. As our lives change, temptations change; but we are still being tempted, and if we don’t know what our current temptations are, we’re in trouble.

The best way to resist temptation is to focus on God’s love for us, and our love for God. Fear will not work for long, but love is stronger than fear.

God will always forgive us, but there are consequences for sin. It always does harm. So let’s try hard to resist temptation. If we yield, and sin, let’s do the next best thing: repent, make amends if possible, ask God to help us do better. Then we focus on God’s love, and move forward.  

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

Continue In Prayer

How exciting! I was finally seeing some answers to a very old prayer, answers that I’d been waiting for, interceding fervently for. Now I was glimpsing some progress and feeling grateful. And my first inclination was to ease off the prayers.

Thankfully, it hit me that instead of slacking I should ramp up those prayers. I don’t know how prayer works but I know it makes a difference. Now is the time to pray even more faithfully and look to the Lord more hopefully.

Colossians 4:2 tells us to “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” How glad I am for the answers that I see! How earnestly I long for my loved one’s continued growth and healing! Oh yes, it’s time for more prayer.

Photo from Unsplash, West Kenya Union Conference

Never Alone

We so often feel alone in our pain or grief. We feel isolated in our suffering. No one understands, no one can change anything. But when I saw this picture by Anna Ancher (1988), it tugged at my heart.

The solitary chair by the bed is what drew my attention. To me, it says we are never left to suffer alone. No human can completely understand the depth of someone else’s pain. But our Lord understands. The One who wept with Mary and Martha, in their grief, weeps with us. Sits by us, even when we finally fall into exhausted sleep. And rejoices with us when the dawn comes.

Shine Me Up, Lord

A typo in an online forum made me think. The writer intended to say, “God shines in our lives.” Instead, he wrote, “God shines our lives.”

How very true that is! We tend to shine things that are special to us, things that we care about. We spend time and energy making them look their best, so they move beyond functional to beautiful. We clean and rub and polish, then stand back and gaze at the shined object with a satisfied smile.

We are God’s precious creation, and God loves to see us doing and looking our best. I don’t believe the good Lord compares us to anyone else. And our outward appearance doesn’t have to be fancy. But inside—let’s allow God to shine us up. Make us glow. Help us to be spiritually beautiful, as well as useful.

Silver, floors, cars, shoes….what do you shine? How do you do it? And how does God shine you?

There’s Real, and There’s More Real

I was enjoying the rhythmic pounding of surf on East Beach at Galveston when I saw a mother and her young child nearby. She gripped the baby tightly by his armpits and gently bounced him into each wave as it came crashing ashore. He laughed with delight, oblivious to the fact that the strong water could sweep him to his death. He knew that he was safe with his parent’s protection.

As we get older, we become more aware of peril and less mindful of our Heavenly Parent’s presence and protection. Yes, the threats and dangers are real. But God’s steadfast love for us is even more real. God’s creative ability, and desire to turn curses into blessings, will never change. Let us gladly work each day to remember this truth, and to believe that it applies to us.

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Better than Before

A national restoration franchise promises to respond to flooding, fires, or other catastrophes by making your home or business look “like it never happened.”

God does not promise that. After a calamity or tragedy, we often wish God would wipe away every trace of pain or scandal, making our lives look as though nothing bad ever came our way.

This will not happen, because God deals in reality and truth. But we are offered a greater gift. It is our loving Lord’s desire to heal us, mend us, and make us better than we were before the catastrophe. Stronger. More free, more beautiful. Closer to wholeness.

Let us look to God, so that the Lord’s longing to bless us will meet our yearning for freedom. We can only find full restoration in Divine Love. This is where we will grow to be better than before.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash.com

Near, and Far Away

Much of our country is grappling with another surge of COVID cases. We have loved ones near and far who are sick, scared, destitute, in distress, or mourning. It’s frustrating not to be able to go to them, easier to rage or weep for them than to pray.

And yet, the words of God spoken through the prophet Jeremiah are still true: Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?(Jeremiah 23:23, ESV)

We yearn to be close to dear ones. We want to hug them, cook for them, help them. But let’s work to find comfort in the confidence that Someone is near to them—wherever they are—who longs to help, even more than we do. Then let’s pray earnestly, faithfully. I don’t know how prayer works, but I know that it does.  

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

New Blessings

My friend Lenda Fay Matthews said something yesterday that grabbed me: “God is always inventing new blessings for us.” Not a new concept (Lamentations 3:22-23), but a new way of saying it.

I thought of the deep pleasure I derive from making new things for people I love. The consideration of just the right gift, the planning process, the execution, the presentation—what joy comes from that!

This joy is just a tiny reflection of God’s delight in blessing us. Not because we deserve it, not because we’ve been perfect children, but simply because God loves us. Though God grieves when we sin, we are still loved. Always.

May we be increasingly aware that God is surely “inventing new blessings for us.”

By John George Brown