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No Virginia, God Is Not Like Santa Claus
I overheard a conversation between a parent and a child that went like this:
“That’s enough now. You need to be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents.”
“I’ll be good.”
Not anything earth shattering. Not anything new. I’ve heard this said many times. I’ve been told this many times. I’ve even said this many times myself. But this time when I heard it, it smacked me. It actually made my stomach knot up and I didn’t know why. It was commonly spoken and commonly believed, why did it suddenly upset me?
It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I figured out that that way of thinking prevented me from receiving from God most of my life. I thought God was like Santa. He would only give me things if I were good. He only loved me when I was perfectly well behaved. I didn’t think that God loved me, because I wasn’t perfect. Is this way of thinking preventing you from receiving from God too?
Honestly, there are a lot of people out there who think God is the same way. They believe that God only loves us when we “be good.” He only approves of us when our behavior is within the little box of rules and regulations. We need to be flawless to be loved. We are only given the things we want and need when we are “behaving” and being “good.” But it’s a lie. The truth is that God loves us all the time, unconditionally. The whole Bible illustrates that He loves us and that He gives good gifts to all people. Period.
Here’s some truth about God’s gifts:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)
“For God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.” Romans 11:29 (NLT)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17 (NIV)
“Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Jesus) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18 (KJV)
What was His best gift? I think it was Grace. The grace that came in the form of a small baby born in Bethlehem approximately 2013 years ago. His name was Jesus. You wanna know why?
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:6-8(NLT)
God gave Jesus (the person of grace) to everyone who will ever be born, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. No matter what family you were born into or what country you were born in. No matter your past, present or future behavior. Whether you are wealthy or poor, brilliant or slow-witted, Jesus was given to you so you could be reconciled to God.
“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s wrath. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:9-11(NLT)
God is not trying to control your behavior, like your parents did with the “no gifts from Santa” hogwash. He wants you to know Him and have a relationship with Him. From that you learn how much He loves you! You also discover who He made you to be and are set free from the lies people have spoken over you. The change in behavior comes as a side-effect from knowing who you are and how much you are loved. You are righteous and holy because Jesus is righteous holy, not because of what you do or don’t do. This is the reason He sent Jesus. This is the reason for the celebration of Christmas.
No Virginia, God is not like Santa Claus.
Because You Love Me
Today’s Musical Monday song is Because You Love Me by Jodee Messina
I suppose that you could make this song about a person who was there for you and really loved you, but really it’s about God’s unconditional and unending love.
Last Thursday, I had a rough and emotional day. One of those days when you just want to flip off the world and go to bed. I was so frustrated and discouraged. Then this song came on and I just cried. I cried because I remembered that I’m not alone. I remembered that I am here because God loves me. I am alive and I survived because of Him. I can be brave because He loves me.
It was exactly what I needed to get my emotions back in check and roll on with my day. So on this Monday, reign it in and remember that you are beloved of the Great Creator and you can do all things through His son Jesus who strengthens you.
Today’s thought of the day: God is our provision.
One of God’s names is Yahweh Yireh (Jehovah Jireh). This means that He doesn’t just provide, but that He, Himself, is our provision!
“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!” Nehemiah 9:19-21
A Thousand Years
I love soundtracks. And in that vein today’s Musical Monday song is on the Soundtrack for Breaking Dawn Part One, where Bella and Edward get married, it’s A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.
I love this song. It makes my hopeful romantic tell my inner 7 year old to put on her princess gown and be ready. Because someday her prince will come. It’s that kind of a Monday people. Brace yourself.
Inner 7 year old’s Musical Monday Pick is Once Upon a Dream from Sleeping Beauty
As a teen and young adult I got really tired of the church telling me to do something with the “because I said so” and the “be good” reasoning. I still battle that desire to live inside the rule box.
I’m going to rant now- How about telling me the whole truth? The truth is that God actually set up marriage as a covering and a protection for women. Instead of trying to scare me with STDs and pregnancy! How about teaching me who I am in God? How about making me confident to know that I am worth marrying? How about telling me that any guy who would sleep with me outside of that covenant doesn’t actually respect me at all, no matter what he says? How about teaching guys HOW to respect women? How about teaching them how to be real men instead of guys, punks and dudes? How about teaching them who they are in God too?
Rant over. Rational blog to follow in 3, 2, 1….
There is a rampant identity crisis in this world. I’m not the only one who struggled with identity. And honestly, I don’t blame my parents or the churches I went to for my lack of identity. It’s not their fault, because they did not know what they were doing. They did their best with what they had and they loved me the best way they knew how. I had some very wonderful people in my world, truly. And I’m grateful.
But the fact remains that the world at large lies to kids. They do one of three things: The world scares the crap out of them and scars them for life, traps them in a ruled filled box, or tells them to do whatever they want. Not one of those things are actually Biblical, my friends!
Moses spent a lot of time telling the Children of Israel the importance of passing on what they learned about God and from God to their children. But they didn’t do it. So after Joshua died, the children of Israel went through a crazy cycle (Read Judges) of doing whatever they wanted, then crying out to God. God would send a deliverer, and then they’d stick with God for a generation. Then they’d start the cycle all over again.
Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Training up doesn’t must mean to tell them do this and don’t do that! It means we need to show them how to make good decisions and why it matters. Most importantly though, we NEED to know who we are in God and we NEED to teach the next generation who they are in God. It is ESSENTIAL that they know because how you see yourself colors every decision you make (and the ones we don’t). Your identity feeds your perspective.
Before I really understood how much God adored me, I was willing to take what I could get. I coasted along living on crumbs. I don’t do that anymore, because I am the daughter of the Most High God. He has a good plan for me and I expect Him to do good things for me. I expect that when I screw up that He will it around for my good. Because that’s who He is and what He does! He’s a good God who restores and reconciles and regenerates and resurrects! And He is absolutely in love with us! With me! With you!
Here’s an intro to your identity in Christ:
Ladies, you are the representation of the beauty of God. You are the daughter of the most high. Zephaniah 3 says that God sings over you with joy. On the cross, you were the joy set before Jesus that made all that suffering WORTH IT! You are adored! So don’t settle for anything less than full respect and love.
Gentlemen, you are the representation of the warrior side of God. Sorry to tell you but having sex does not make you a man. Sorry. But it doesn’t. What makes you a man is you being responsible and respectful. Genesis 1 tells you that you are made in the image and likeness of God. You were created first to be a leader, a guardian and protector. It also means you have the power to create and sow good things! That’s who you were made to be. Don’t settle for being an immature boy or a guy who plays around, be a man.
Being Real with God
Deep Thought Thursday: God’s not looking for a show.
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” -Jesus (as quoted in Matthew 6:1, Message Version)
So if God doesn’t want us to “play righteous” or to “be good”? What does He want from us?
He doesn’t want anything FROM us, He wants US. He wants the real us. The REAL YOU. The REAL ME. No one can have an authentic relationship with someone who is fake and pretending, including the Almighty God.
I remember the first time I really got real with God. I was in a class called Healing for Women.* We were supposed to come to class and journal every week. And I’d been faking it the whole time. Meaning I was showing up, participating in class, and doing the journaling BUT…I wasn’t really being real. I was telling people what I thought I was supposed to say. Speaking Christian-ese. Then one Saturday night I got real. I filled pages and pages in the notebook I was journaling in. It was ugly and it hurt like all get out, but I was real for the first time. Then I read it and sobbed. One of the things I realized was that I was livid at God. And I just “knew” that being angry with God was a sin and I was going straight to hell. That being said I still went to church the next morning (maybe my church attendance would help me with the hell problem). During our hug and handshake time, I had a full-fledged breakdown. I went to the bathroom to finish my breakdown out of the presence of my pastors, friends, and church family. No one needs to see that.
On my way to hide out, I literally ran right into my friend Michelle because I couldn’t see through the tears. Here’s the gist of our conversation:
“Jilly, are you alright?”
“No. I’m going to hell.”
Looking confused. “Um, why do you think you’re going to hell?”
“Because I’m angry with God.”
“You don’t think God knows you are angry with Him?”
Me looking confused. “Um?”
“Jilly, He knows. But now that YOU know, He can deal with it. Just admit it and apologize to Him and move on.”
“I can do that?”
Nodding head. “Definitely.”
Now I “knew” that God knew everything. Hello, He’s God. Duh. But it never crossed my mind that despite the fact that He knew I was angry with Him and falsely accusing Him of causing every bad thing in my life- He loved me unconditionally anyway. Who is this God who loves whacked out broken people who blame Him for all the bad stuff, take credit for the good He does, and generally disregard His Word? He must be crazy, that God.
But something happened right then. Something changed in me. I got hungry. For the first time I wanted to get to know this “crazy” God. I knew of Him, but I didn’t know Him. It’s like Job at the end of the story having his eyes opened, and seeing God clearly for the first time. The God I thought He was would have smited me outright. But this God knew my mess and still loved me. Wow. I was wrong. I misjudged Him completely.
My being real with myself led me to be real with God. Being real with Him, led me to seeking Him, to really know and have a relationship with Him. I began to seek Him. And when I sought Him, I found Him.
I found Him to be trustworthy, faithful, loving, kind, and welcoming. He’d always been that way. He’d always been right there, as close as the air I breathe. Even though I turned my back on Him, He never left me. He never gave up on me. His arms were always open to me, I just didn’t know. That’s who God really is. The real Yahweh. He cannot lie. He cannot be anything other than who He is. And that is what He wants from you. To be straight up real with Him.
He wanted a real relationship with Adam and Eve too, but they chose knowledge over Him. He wanted it from the Children of Israel too, but they chose religion and the law over Him. This is what God had to say about their choice of the law over being real with Him:
“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.” Amos 5:21-24
God does not want another performance or a faux show from you. He wants you to be raw and real with Him. He doesn’t want you to pretend to be good or act happy. He wants to give you real joy and real peace. He wants you to come to Him broken and honest, so He can heal and help you. He can heal any broken place that you open up and give Him. He can restore anyone and anything that comes to Him. Nothing is too difficult for Him.
But He can only work within the confines of our choices. So if you choose to wall yourself in and pretend that you are fine, He’ll honor that choice. It’s not what He wants, but He’ll respect your choice.
While I chose to keep myself shut up and not let Him in, He respected that. He never left me, but He didn’t interfere either. He never forced His way in. But when I opened up a smidge, and let Him in a little. He healed the area that I let Him in. Then I let Him in a little more and a little more. Each time I invited Him in, He brought healing and peace with Him. He’ll do the same for you.
Choose to be real with Him. David was real with God. And God called David a man after his own heart. Did you hear me? God called the man who got another man’s wife pregnant (AND was responsible for that same man’s death) a man after His own heart. Why? Because of their relationship. He saw through David’s behavior to his heart. He knew David, the real David, because David never held anything back from God. Good, bad, ugly. He gave it all to the Lord. Don’t believe me, read Psalm 51 where He lays the Bathsheba debacle before the Lord. That Psalm shows a real relationship with God.
To be real or not to be real. Choice is yours.
*If you are a woman living in SE Michigan and want to take Healing for Women, go to this link for information. This session is closed but the next one starts 11/25/13. It will change your life.
Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet (AKA Random Chat with my Coworker)
My coworker and I were talking about Halley’s Comet. It was last visible in March of 1986, when I was 10 & 11/12ths. He glared at me, because he’s like a decade older, then said something about Mark Twain being born and dying the same years as Halley’s Comet. I thought that was odd so I looked it up. Turns out it is true!
Here’s what Wikipedia had to say: Mark Twain was born on 30 November 1835, exactly two weeks after the Halley’s Comet. In his autobiography, published in 1909, he said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Twain died on 21 April 1910, the day following Halley’s Comet.
Feel free to tuck this little random nugget away for conversation lulls.
PS: If you are wondering, Halley’s Comet will visible again on 28 July 2061. Mark your calendars!
Hope in God
Today’s Deep Thought: When your hope is based on God’s promises, you can be assured that you will not be disappointed because not a single one of God’s promises will fail!
The last thing Joshua said to the Israelites was, “Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” Joshua 23:14 NLT
Hebrews tells us: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 NLT
Paul said: “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5
Hope=A joyful and confident expectation of good.
Faith=Being convinced (absolutely persuaded) that God is who He says He is and, therefore, will do what He says He will do. Also known as trust, belief.
Even if you don’t see how God is going to do it, God sees the beginning and the end.
Even if you can’t wrap your mind around it or begin to understand it, God knows all things.
Even if you have no money, God is your provision.
Even if you’ve been waiting sooooo long, don’t give up. Those who persevere receive what they were promised.
Even if it looks impossible, God still does miracles every day. He has limitless resources. LIMITLESS! And He’s got more planned for you than you can possibly imagine. Imagine that!
Even if you are the least likely, ESPECIALLY if you are the least likely candidate, God loves using those people! (David for instance. Or Mary. Or Galilean fishermen and tax collectors working for the Romans. The list goes on and on).
When God promises something, He delivers. So, stand on His word! Speak the scripture out loud! Remind God of His promises.
Faith praises God NOW for things that have been promised but have not yet arrived. We praise NOW because we know that God ALWAYS keeps His Word. Always.
Forgiveness is a Choice
I don’t know what I dreamt about but I woke up feeling deep. Deep as in I want to analyze everything deep. Then I heard a song this morning on my drive to work about the freedom found in forgiveness and dealing with things instead of blaming someone else. And my mind headed straight for Matthew.
Matthew was my first love and long-term relationship. I dated people before and after him that I cared about, but no one has remained in my heart the way he has. I think that when you really truly love someone a piece of you will always care what happens to them. I freely admit that the love is still there.
Our break up was THE hardest one of my life. (Truthfully, it was harder and hurt far more than when I ended an engagement at 26 years old). But it needed to happen. It needed to happen because we were growing and changing in separate directions. It needed to happen because we had the same 3 fights on repeat. It needed to happen because we were trapped in between genuine love and completely different priorities. It needed to happen because we were wounding each other deeper every day.
When we did break up I blamed him for the majority of it. If he would do this and not do that then we wouldn’t have fought so much. If he’d just do this instead of that! Why doesn’t he do this instead of that? You see where I’m going with this. He readily took the blame I handed him, so I thought I was totally justified.
When I started dealing with my own issues and insecurities a few years later, I saw our break up in a totally different light. I realized that I was basically expecting a kid, (we dated from 18 to almost 21) who didn’t even really know who he was or what he wanted out of life, to fill every need in my life. Including the needs only God can fill. Can you say UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?
The guilt of what a horrible person I was to him plagued me for months and months and months. I realized how demanding I was. I realized that I never appreciated the good things he DID do. I didn’t appreciate how far he would drive to come see me or when he did choose to do nice things for me. I swung from the blaming him for everything to blaming myself for everything. I forgave him, but at the cost of condemning myself completely. Can you say JERK? Or better yet, can you say MARTYR?
The true cause fell somewhere in the middle. There were some things that I legitimately needed to take responsibility for, as they were clearly my issues. But there were some things that he needed to do to and take responsibility for. We were both at fault and we were both hurt. And in the end it didn’t really matter what we did or didn’t do, what mattered was that we were both deeply hurt.
What about you? Are you holding a grudge against someone for things long past? Are you still blaming everything wrong in your life on someone else? Do you realize that not forgiving them is actually hurting you, not them? You’re actually holding your own self hostage!
Or are you at the other end of the spectrum holding yourself hostage with guilt, shame or blame? Do you need to forgive yourself?
Either way, choose today to let it go. Go to God and tell Him you don’t want to carry whatever it is you’re carrying anymore. You can be free of guilt, shame, regret, unforgiveness, and condemnation. When those feelings rise up and you feel yourself sliding into that bitter pit, take it back to the Lord and forgive yourself/the other person again. Do it every day if you have to. Do it until unforgiveness no longer plagues you.
The freedom is worth the work to get there. Freedom is better than bitterness any day. Trust me.
*God requires forgiveness. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13. See also Matthew 6:15 and Luke 6:37.
*God has forgiven you, so you should forgive yourself. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12
*When you forgive yourself and others, you need really to let it go. Don’t meditate on it. Don’t rehearse it over and over in your mind. Don’t even remember it. God doesn’t. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12. It’s repeated again in Hebrews 10:17.
*You don’t have to reconcile or have a relationship with someone to forgive them. Stephen forgave the men as they were literally stoning him. “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Acts 7:60
*You don’t have to tell someone you forgive them, to forgive them and move on. Whether you see them every day, you don’t talk to the person anymore, or even if they have passed away, you can forgive them just the same. This is between you and God. Jesus took it to God directly, immediately. “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
*Forgiving someone does not excuse their behavior, nor does it exempt them from legal prosecution in rape, abuse or other situations where the person has broken the law.
*Forgiveness releases YOU to move forward and not be plagued by what happened.
I’ll be honest; it actually took longer and was harder for me to forgive myself than it was to forgive Matthew. Years ago I was fortunate enough to able to apologize to him face to face. We had a very good conversation that day about many different things. It was the most freeing conversation I think I’ve ever had. I let go of the guilt I was carrying for my part completely for the first time.
Forgiveness is truly a beautiful thing.