Incapable of Being Loved

Have you ever felt incapable of being loved? Is it because of rejection from an important person in your life? Or is it from the guilt that you live with from past mistakes?

I have not made the best decisions in life. There are consequences I live with because of past mistakes. There is no reason at all to stand before people with any plea for them to love me. There are times that I have felt unlovable.  Sound familiar?

If so, let me tell you why thinking that you are incapable of being loved is a lie.

Can a person be incapable of being loved?

There are many reasons that we think we are incapable of being loved, but I believe these thoughts are directly related to our past mistakes.

 I lived in fear of God’s judgment most of my life because I did not understand the truth of His Word. I believed in God, but I did not think He loved me. How could he when I couldn’t do things right?

I kept waiting for God to thump me on the head for the mistakes I had made. I feared the punishment that I knew I deserved. But this is one of the many misconceptions about God that we somehow learn as we grow.

The danger in living with these thoughts will make us miss out on God’s love for us.

How are we loved?

As God’s children, we can remember that He loves us. The reason God sent Jesus is that He loves us.

He saw our sin, and He knew that we would never get it right. So, Jesus came down to be the sacrifice needed to bring us to God. The way to God was made easy for us.

We didn’t have to do anything. Jesus is the one who did all the work by laying His life down for us. He did this because He loves us.

"For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, ESV).

All we had to do is believe.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18, ESV).

We no longer need to fear God’s judgment because the cross paid the price for our sins. Because of this sacrifice, those who believe will not face punishment.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (I John 4:18, ESV)

We then can abide in God’s love by obeying Him.

I am grateful to Jesus for being the sacrifice for my sin, and it is this gratitude that makes me want to obey His principles. As we abide in God’s love, we no longer fear facing Him in the future because there is no judgment for believers.

Instead of sitting in self-condemnation, we can remember that God loves us, that Jesus died for us, and we no longer are condemned.

Christians Never Suffer

When we found out that my dad had cancer, my brother and I worked together to set up his care. We were all devastated and scared but did our best to stay positive through the decisions. When my brother became sick five months later, I not only became my dad’s only caretaker, but I became the caretaker for my brother, also.

For the next six months, my life became busy with hospitals and nursing homes. One time, I spent all day in one hospital with dad for surgery and was home no more than an hour when called to another hospital for my brother.

 I became angry with God and asked, ”Where are you? Why is this happening?”

Where is God when we suffer?

Have you ever been at this point of despair? We might cry out to God and plea for him to protect us from the pain. But believing that Christians never suffer is a lie.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

Thinking that our life should be easy or have a hedge put around us just because we follow Jesus can be why people fall away from God when bad things happen. The truth is, Christians do suffer, and God tells us we will. God’s purpose is fulfilled through our sufferings, even if we do not understand the reason for them.

What does the Bible say about suffering?

Before the Apostle Paul’s conversion into Christianity, he lived a sinful life persecuting and even killing followers of Jesus. After his conversion, it became his mission to tell others how to live for Jesus. He wrote many letters to the churches, which today make up most of the new testament.

 As a follower of Jesus, Paul did his share of suffering. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul talks about all the bad things happening to him. Paul suffered imprisonment and beatings that almost killed him; beaten with rods three times, stoned once. He was shipwrecked three different times, and he was adrift at sea for a day.

He talks about all the dangers he lived through,

“… in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights…” (v 26-27a, ESV).

Wow, Paul, is that all? And I complained to God because I had to go to the hospital twice in one day?  

What fascinates me most about Paul is his attitude through all of this. Instead of persevering through all of this suffering, he could have run the other way. Instead, Paul teaches us to rejoice.

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2, ESV).

Paul trusted God and continued with his mission of telling the world about Jesus. I am so glad he did. His letters have been a comfort for me as I learn to trust God in suffering.

So, we are not to think that God will keep us safe from the trials of the world. Instead, we can rejoice in sufferings, trusting Him to fulfill His purpose through these trials while we continue to walk according to the principles of his word.

Suffering will happen. May we be like Paul and rejoice in the glory of God!

Can We Make Choices Based On How We Feel?

I have had several relationships, numerous cars, too many jobs; well, the list goes on. And most of the choices made were based on how I was feeling at the time. I am not sure how I learned to do this, but I have made most of my decisions by following my heart.

Some people believe that we should follow our hearts. They say there are fewer regrets, and we will have more self-respect if we follow our hearts. But, how well of a decision do we make when it is rooted in emotion?

Can you trust your heart?

I have learned from experience, and maybe you have too, that there is danger in making decisions based on how we feel. Since our choices can affect those around us, we will leave ourselves sitting in regret if we have made the wrong one.

Where is the self-respect in that?

I have made these decisions, the ones that affect others around me. It is easy to listen to the voice of our hearts and completely miss the broken heart sitting next to us.

By the time you see the damage, it is too late for repair.

Have you heard what the Bible says?

The Bible tells us to seek wisdom when making decisions (James 1:5). I believe this is because we cannot trust what our heart is telling us.

Jeremiah says the heart is deceitful.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV).

James tells us that we can be tempted to sin by following our desires.

"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15, ESV).

In Matthew, we read that evil comes out of the heart.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matt 15:19, ESV).

I could go on listing more verses from the Bible, but I think you get the idea.

These are verses that I memorized as a kid but somehow let the truth slip by as I followed my heart’s desires.  Making choices based on how we feel is a lie that has deceived many women, myself included.

When we follow our heart’s desires and do not take the time to think things through, a decision made might hurt someone close to us. Seeking God’s truth for direction is how I stopped hurting others around me.

We have the power of freedom over this lie. We can keep following our hearts’ desires or let God direct our steps. The choice is ours.

Testimony

The bible passage that has become the center of my personal growth in the Lord is in Colossians. The one sentence that stands out the most to me is in verse 23 of chapter 2, “…but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”. I have struggled with the desires of the flesh most of my life. That is why this verse caught my interest. Studying this verse led me to other passages that eventually helped me understand how to stop living in the flesh and live in the spirit.

I was saved at age five and baptized when I was eight. I grew up in church and heard bible stories about who God is.  I also attended a bible club where I memorized verses every week. But somehow, the application of God’s principles to my life didn’t sink in. Growing up in church, I learned about God, but I never really knew how to discipline myself to His principles.

 I have used that excuse my entire life. I may not have known how to discipline myself to His principles, but I did know about God, and I did believe in Him. I knew enough that when pain entered my world as a teenager, I could have sought the help I needed. Instead, I chose to rebel and run away. I believed in God, but I was mad at him. I’ve spent most of my life blaming God for the bad things that had happened in my life and using them as an excuse to justify my sin.

I lived out my teenage years in rebellion and turned to alcohol. I was always depressed, and I carried that depression into my adult life. I lived on an emotional roller coaster and have suffered many broken relationships as a result. I was sure that the sadness was a direct result of the pain I had endured. I see now that my depression resulted from the guilt I felt because I disobeyed God. But instead of admitting my sin, I kept blaming and kept running.

I finally became tired of running. Crying uncontrollably, I remembered what Jesus did for me on the cross. I admitted through my tears that the only reason I was at this place of brokenness was that I had taken my eyes off the cross. The revelation of my depravity was the reason for the tears. The shame and guilt of forty years of the wrong choices had finally caught up to me. I no longer could excuse or justify my sin away. I was at my bottom, that place of helplessness where the only thing I could do was crawl back and fix my eyes on the cross.

The journey of recovery started with Colossians 2:23. As I studied the Bible, I faced the pain that had sent me running in the first place. I had to face and feel the horror of the moment I had decided to run. I had to admit with shame that I had blamed God instead of turning to Him. I had to confess my sin and turn away from the selfish life I lived.

Today I do not suffer from depression. God has taken my addictions away from me. He teaches me how to love others. I have peace, as God has taken away my anxieties. I am becoming trustworthy as I stop hiding, and I am learning to trust others. I am learning to live free of fear. I don’t try to excuse my actions anymore. I am quick to own up to them and get right back on the path.

But this change did not come easy for me. The change God has made in me has taken a lot of obedience over a lot of years. I am not entirely whole. I still have more to learn and more growing to do. But as long as I keep seeking His direction daily, I am walking the path. I now live my life according to His will and glory, not mine. As I walk in obedience to His word, God is changing me.

3 Excuses for Not Going to Church & 3 Reasons Attendance is Required

Are you looking for someone to explain why Christians need to be in church? Want to know the reasons why worshiping at home, reading your study Bible, and praying alone is not enough? I am here to answer your questions surrounding the “I don’t need the church to worship” attitude.

When I was able to go to church every Sunday, I always came home feeling encouraged and renewed.  There is just something about worshiping God with others.  The Spirit of the Lord fills each believer’s heart as we shout out our praises to God. 

Of course, this type of worship isn’t the same with church streaming into my office at home. Singing out loud by myself while the dog gives me that clueless look can be uplifting, and I do this often. But worshiping God by myself is not nearly as powerful as singing with a group.

This post will attempt to explain why I believe the statement, “Christians don’t need to go to church,” is a lie.

What are the excuses not to go to church?

Although worshiping God is an ongoing activity that is not exclusive to Sunday morning church attendance, there is a danger of listening to the lie that Christians don’t need to go to church.

But I understand the argument. I have made plenty of excuses myself over the years. So, what are the excuses that we use to stay in bed Sunday morning? I’m sure there are many, but I have listed three.

1. I can worship anywhere.

“I can worship anywhere” used to be an all-time favorite phrase of mine. Until, of course, I started hearing others repeat it. There is just something about realizing the error of your ways when someone throws your words back in your face!

Now that I have made church a priority in my life again, I understand what it means to feel the presence of Jesus when worshiping with others. Praising God with others is one thing I have missed through this pandemic and something that I cannot wait to do again. What a difference singing praises with others make.

2.  I have a study Bible.

Another good phrase I have had thrown in my face; “I have my study Bible. I don’t need to hear it preached.” Here are some questions that we can ask ourselves.

Have we heard the Bible preached to us, or did we pick the Bible up and study it independently? If we have never heard the word of God taught, how do we know if what we are teaching ourselves is accurate? Do we know who wrote the commentaries to see if we can trust what they are saying? And the most critical question, are we even reading our study Bible?

3. I say my prayers.

There were certain times when I did not make church attendance a priority, which was also the times that I did not make God a priority. Saying a prayer here and there when times are tough is not the kind of prayer that God requires. But I spent a lot of years praying only in the moments of trials in my life. With this attitude, praying for others is far from our way of thinking, but God requires it.

Is church essential in the Bible?

I am grateful that the women’s Bible study group I belong to has still been able to find a way to meet every week.  Even though it is a virtual meeting, it has been the only time of fellowship that I have been able to have last year.

It has been a time of blessing, sharing, prayer, and a time filled with laughter and tears.  We are learning and growing in Jesus as we share His word.

This encouragement and building up each other are what the Bible talks of as required for the Church body. The Bible speaks of the importance of the church in the life of a believer; I will list a few.

1. What does worship require?

 In Hebrews 10:24-25, we read that we are to worship together and encourage one another. If God says this is important for us to do, and we want to do what God says is important, why don’t we go to church?

Several passages in the Bible point to building up and encouraging one another. If we do not go to church, who are we building up? Who encourages us?

2. What does owning a study Bible require?

It is good to have a study Bible. I have several! We need to seek God daily since he deserves all of our attention, and we need His direction for everything we do. The best way to know God and what He desires of us is to study His word.

We need to be doing that regularly, if not every day. But studying the Bible is done in addition to hearing the word of God preached. Even the Apostles didn’t follow Jesus until they had heard Him preach for a while.

“So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, ESV).

Take your study Bible to Church because we need to hear the word of God preached, and so do our loved ones who have never heard. Take them with you!

3. When are prayers required?

Of course, let’s not forget to pray. We are told in the Bible to pray constantly. So, this is not something that requires Church attendance. But praying with others does.

In Matthew 18:20, we read when people gather, Jesus is present. Wow! No wonder there is power in groups of Christians praying together. 

I cannot wait until I can be back in church and worship God with others as one body.  But until then, I can be thankful for the encouragement from my Bible study friends!

Refuge and Strength

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (ESV)

Who do you turn to in chaotic situations?  Is there a significant person that you run to, or do you only rely on yourself?  I have heard people talk about how they solely depend on themselves.  Others say there is a significant person in their life that is called their rock.  I have experienced both in my life. 

There have been times when I put the responsibility of refuge and strength on another person.  There have also been times when I have only trusted myself to fill the need.  In both situations, I was unhappy and unfulfilled. 

It’s easy to turn to ourselves or cling to others when in need or trouble.  But since we are human, we are always let down.  God is there and won’t let us down, but we have to seek Him.

Coming to God and depending on Him to be our refuge and strength is not easy, but I can say, from experience, that it is more fulfilling.  The more we seek Him, the easier it gets.

Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” Isaiah 26:3 (ESV).

Do you have peace?  Do your feelings seem to range between sadness, anger, and fear these days?  We hurt for what is going on in the world.  We are mad at the spread of a plague that doesn’t seem to be ending.  We fear for our loved ones.  How can we have peace and know that God is in complete control?  As I listen to others’ concerns, I scramble to think of what I can say to share the peace that I have found. 

If this pandemic had happened in my younger days, even ten years ago, I would not have had any hope at all.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God.  I have always believed in Him.  But choices based on how I wanted to live is what filled my life.  I didn’t seek God’s direction in anything.  I lived in how I wanted to live and felt that I was alright in God’s eyes because I believed in Him.  But I didn’t have any peace.  I was full of anxiety daily.  Anything out of the ordinary would scare me and send me into a state of depression.  So how do I have so much peace today in the middle of all that is going on?

Seek God’s direction daily.  Do not make life choices without first studying the bible and praying for God’s guidance.  Learn to lean on God and trust Him with anything that comes into our life.  We don’t need to change when coming to Jesus, but because we turn to Him and follow His direction, God changes us.  This change is where we will find peace. 

These emotions that try to seep into our life will only last for a minute as we come to God and trust His plan and purpose for our life.  It’s not because we say we believe.  It’s because we live out what God teaches us. 

That is why I am not anxious.  That is why I have peace.

Habits Cannot Be Broken?

How do you get rid of a bad habit? What changes do you make? Do you address the desire you have for your addiction or create a list of “quitting” rules to follow? We can set a plan for ourselves that looks good on paper, but if we still harbor those desires in our hearts, are we headed for danger?

Can habits be broken?

If we believe that we cannot break a habit, we will stay stuck, and we will give up trying to quit. Making a plan to stop but not looking at the desire we have for the habit will also set us up to fail.

The truth is, the desire for what we are addicted to is still in our hearts, and if we ignore this fact, a simple trigger will keep us stuck.

I don’t know what habit you struggle with, but harboring desire in my heart is what kept me in my smoking habit for forty-six years. It did not matter how many plans to quit I set for myself.

Until I dealt with how much I enjoyed smoking, I was unable to quit.

 So, what is the best way to get rid of these desires?

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Following the rules that I had set for myself was not enough. When we fail to control our desires, they will sit dormant in our hearts, waiting for that one trigger to bring it out again.

My breakthrough was when I realized that only God had the power to control this in me, but I had to hand over the desire to Him. 

How to break a bad habit

As I took the steps needed to give up smoking, I first had to admit that I had no desire to quit. Then I decided to give it over to the only one who had the power to take the habit from me.

But I had to not only give my habit over to God. I had to leave it with Him. I gave it over and over again before I finally left it there.

As we learn to turn our desires over to God, we can cling to God’s promise that He is faithful and will provide a way of escape in our temptations to hang on to our desires.

I have learned that trusting God is the only way I can break a habit for good.

How to be Angry and Not Sin

As a child, I remember being told to stop being angry; a lot. But I do not remember being given any instructions on how not to be angry, just that I am to stop. In time I learned how to control my anger. Or did I stuff my emotion? Either way, I believed anger at being a sin, and the way to not sin was to stop being angry.

Is anger a sin?

The danger of believing the lie that anger is a sin will cause us to deal with anger negatively. We know not to throw temper tantrums. We’ve learned that from an early age, whether we have stopped throwing them or not.

 But the opposite of throwing a fit can be just as bad, and maybe worse in some cases.  I chose to hold anger in and stuff it down deep. That is how I have dealt with anger for most of my life.

 Anger held in will eventually come out. We can only hold in for so long before it has to go somewhere, and you can be sure the explosion will not be pretty. 

When we don’t deal with the anger, it festers in our thoughts. Those thoughts become too much to bear, so we stuff them.  Stuffed emotions come out in our actions and speech.

 I stuffed my anger because I did not want to sin. The truth is, anger is not a sin, but how we react can be sinful.

 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, ESV).

What does the Bible say about anger?

Several passages in the Bible deal with anger. In Proverbs, we read how a person with good sense is slow to anger, but the one who gives full vent is a fool.

But for this blog, I will focus on Ephesians 4:26-32. Ephesians is a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, but I believe these words have application today.

I don’t believe that Paul was saying that anger is a sin in this passage. He does refer to specific actions as being a sin, though.

Paul warns them to not let unwholesome talk proceed from their mouth (v29). How often do we open our mouth and say the wrong things when we are angry? I know I have more times than I can count.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31, ESV).

Stuffing our emotions of anger causes us to live in bitterness.

So how do we not sin when we are angry?

 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is calling us to choose. Will we continue to sin in our anger, or will we be tenderhearted and forgive as God forgave us? The choice is ours.

Autumn

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage-I have conquered the world” (John 16:33, NET).

Autumn is my favorite season.  I love the different colors as the leaves change.  I remember one particular street on the school bus route when I was a teen.  There was a ranch style house that sat back off of the road, and trees surrounded it.   There seemed to be a hundred different yellow, orange, and red shades all over the yard in the fall.  Between the leaves that had fallen to the ground, and the ones left on the trees, it was just breathtaking.  I could not take my eyes off the scenery.  I cannot even describe how the vision made me feel.  But during that time of season change, I could not wait to get to that street every morning. 

That feeling of ‘fall’ always starts in August for me.  This month has always been my transitional month going from summer to fall.  Looking back, I think the most significant changes done in my life were in August.  My emotional state would change during this month.  I would get more depressed, and I would worry about things in my life more.  I have quit or started jobs in August.  A relationship would begin, or one would end in August.  For some reason, changes in my life always happened in August!  I wonder; is this why I like the colors of fall so much?  Maybe it brings a calming, peaceful feeling to me in the middle of chaos.

As the cold days entered August this year, I once again had the same feeling of fall that I do every year.  But, today, the month of August is different for me.  I can still feel the change in my emotions, but instead of depression and worry, it is a calm, warm, peaceful feeling.  No significant changes have happened in my life lately, as there has been in the past.  Since the leaves have not changed colors yet and I don’t have my scenery to escape into, I wondered where this peace was coming from.  Then I remembered church camp.  I went every August growing up.  That is where I had week-long vacations with Jesus.  Just like that, it hit me!   

I am having year-long vacations with Jesus and claiming His promise every day.  How else would I have so much peace in this troubled world?