Learning To Accept God’s Love

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Do you ever struggle with unanswered prayers?

Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor.

I have had such a deep longing within my heart that I’ve desperately wanted to see come to pass. For the last several years I have waited for the Lord to answer my prayer. I wait patiently on my good days and tell myself “It’s just not God’s timing yet”  But, on my bad days I feel afraid and hurt and unworthy.

I began to wonder why I struggled with unanswered prayer so much and why I always felt defeated.  You see, I never realized the correlation between how I view God and my prayer life before; Let me explain.

I was raised in an angry, abusive home where I was sexually abused. The only role models I had were quick tempered mean alcoholics.  Needless to say,  I grew up scared of men. My life was filled with so much fear, pain, hurt, betrayal, and lies. Manipulation and deceit were at the core of our home.  I found myself thinking I was not lovable. In my mind if my own parents could not love me, there had to be something wrong with me.

So years later, after I became a believer, the concept of a kind, loving heavenly Father was a completely foreign concept to me. The words my pastor spoke sounded wonderful, like a fairy tale, but deep down I couldn’t escape the sense of God’s judgement and anger.  Even when I read my Bible, I seemed to focus on the legalism aspect of scripture. And every time I failed, messed up or fell short, I felt myself the target of God’s anger. I came to almost expect unanswered prayer, because I believed I did not deserve to be blessed.

This began a cycle of falling short all the time and making unwise choices.  Never realizing the connection between my childhood and my skewed perception of God.  The years of an unloving atmosphere filled with anger and fear had warped my brain, therefore, unconsciously blocking the truth of who God really was.

It wasn’t until after my second abusive marriage, I began to recognize that I had become comfortable with accepting less than what the Lord desired for me.  This was bolstered by the declaration from my ex-husband that the Lord had told him to divorce me and had in fact, taken me out of our marriage for his ministry.  That are marriage was never ordained by God.?  I guess in some way, this belief somehow absolved him of all the hurt he had caused me. Since I had been long ago programmed to believe that everything was my fault, I bought into his lie.  This had devastating effects on my heart and feelings of worth. I felt so much shame for my divorce and thought, “here I go again disappointing God, once again falling short, I had failed as a wife.”  I did not even sign my divorce papers when I was served, because I feared God’s wrath.

I remember sharing with my counselor that I desperately wanted to please God.  I shared how I knew God was mad at me, because I had failed again.  That I knew I did not deserve a happily ever after, like most Christians.  My counselor took my hand and said “Cheryl, God is not angry with you, He loves you, He cares for you and He understands your past and wants desperately to heal you. Slowly thru my brokenness and pain, and on my knees seeking God, that the truth started soaking in.  I think this was the first time I realized that maybe, it was true, God was not angry with me and in fact loved me.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8

This verse which says God is slow to anger, that He offers forgiveness when I confess my failures and that He does not hold my shortcomings against me, began transforming not only my brain, but my heart. And if that were not awesome enough, the fact that God is abounding in mercy and loving-kindness toward us..” As I meditated on this verse I began to believe God’s truth, the massive wall that had protected my heart as a child and continued into adulthood, slowly began to come down.

The unanswered prayer that was weighing on my heart for so long, was lifted.  I began to see that the Lord is my Daddy, the Dad I never had.  I realized as I love my children unconditionally and want what is best for them, so does my Heavenly Father.  My prayers began to change, I started trusting that I could trust Him with my deepest hurts and needs.  He knows my heart and the heart of the person I was praying for.  He and only He knows how this prayer should be answered. I began to truly have a peace that passes all understanding.  Knowing if this door closes, He has something better for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him,  and He will make your paths straight Psalm 3:5-6

He is our gracious heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are, patiently bearing with us, teaching and guiding us as we grow and mature in Christ. He is not mad at me, and He is not mad at you. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He has good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and He loves us with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Sometimes our past experiences shape us in ways we don’t fully understand. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reshapes us, transforming our hearts and minds as only He can. Though it often takes time, God’s truth can work its way deeply into our hearts and completely break down walls built of lies. And oh, how He loves to bring those walls down!  I learned I am worthy, worthy of love and am a beloved child of God.  Amen

So, the sentence at the beginning; Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor. Is far from the truth, The Lord either answers are prayers with a yes, or a no and No is because we have a good Father in God, who, just like a good earthly father, desires to give His children what’s best for them even if He has to say no to something they want right now. Or He is teaching you to trust in His timing, to wait on Him, If you’ve asked God for answers but find yourself waiting longer than you planned, take a moment now to thank Him in advance for His answer. Trust that He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don’t give up. Look forward in hope and expectancy for Him to respond and remember that the Lord is good to those who seek Him.   The question is: Do we really believe that He is good? If we did, wouldn’t that be cause to celebrate, whether He says yes or no?

Father God, today I choose joy because I believe You are always saying yes. Sure, there are places of disappointment in my life and there are things I would like to be different, but I choose to give thanks. Starting today, I choose to respond to You as if You are always good — a Father who has my best in mind. Because You are good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado

Consuming Fire

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We should worship God with reverence because He is a consuming fire!  Hmmm.

Ever wonder what that means? Is it His Holiness? Does this warn of judgment? Is this an expression of his purity? Yes, YES, YES! You see, God is Holy and pure and righteous. Our imperfections, flaws, failures, and sins stand out glaringly in comparison to His perfection. Yet rather than destroying us with His Holy fire. He can make us new and clean and so much more than what we once were. So not only can we draw near to Him because of Jesus, we can stay near Him as we live Jesus’ life in our world (see Hebrews 13). That, my friend, is reverential worship at its finest!

If you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ I plead with you to do so today before it is too late.

He is the only way to eternal life. Jesus shed His blood for the forgiveness of your sins, He did this out of His love for you so that you can spend eternity in heaven with Him by simply accepting the free gift of salvation that He is offering, (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 5:24, John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, Romans 3:25).

Prayer for salvation:

“God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross at Calvary, and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord.  Come into my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.”

 

God’s Word, Our Playbook

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All my life, I have loved sports, I love playing it and watching it on T.V.  I loved being active and enjoyed spending time with my teammates.  I grew up playing softball and if I must say myself, I was pretty good.  Why?  Because I loved the game, I practiced it, I studied it, I was dedicated to being the best I could be. I learned to take criticism and direction from my coach, we learned what position we would play and what was expected of us.  We studied our opponents and what we needed to do to overcome them.

I guess that is why I always thought of God’s Word (Bible) as my playbook for life.  Have you ever thought about that?

I like to think of our lives as believers, being like a football player.  When a football player is looking to be recruited his two priorities are; to be on a winning team and playing for a good coach.  He is looking for one that will motivate and inspire.  First off, he needs to learn the team’s playbook, because this will become the most important part of his life. This book contains a set of codes and directions for each play, so that they all know exactly what to do when the quarterback calls the play, where their positions will be, and if executed right, how to make a successful play.  Therefore having a winning season.

God has given us a playbook, His scriptures.  God’s playbook will teach us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  He has given us everything we need! It gives us the confidence to not only know our opponent, but how to defeat him with an expectation of success and victory.   Just as the football player looks to his “coach” for direction and inspiration, so should we look to our Heavenly Father.  He gave us the instruction and lovingly inspires each play.  He knows exactly what position suits us best and how to use the gifts he’s developing in us.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3 5-6

God has not given us His word to just reflect on, we are called to know His word.  We are to live by His word.  Just as with a football players playbook, God’s word should be our number one priority!  But you will never know God’s playbook, much less what to do with it, until you know the One who wrote it.  So, study Him, know Him and talk to Him daily, moment by moment.

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11 18,19 

I want to encourage you to make it a habit to read your playbook (the Bible).  Think of the Holy Spirit as our “quarterback” the ultimate play caller.   He has the perfect vantage point and will whisper His thoughts (plays) into your head, giving us the perfect play for that specific moment.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left Isaiah 30:21

Allow God to take the Scriptures we have studied and bring them forth out of our memory, and remind us of what we need to do in each situation. Make it a habit of calling upon the Lord for everything you do and know with confidence He will faithfully provide it. Time is short, don’t wait until 4th down before you ask Him!

The best part is; With God’s playbook we know we will end with a winning season….As Greg Laurie say’s “I know how it ends and it ends real good”  Praise the Lord..We are Victorious in Christ!  Doesn’t that make you want to join this winning team!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 24-27

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Father, thank You for Your Word.  Thank You for the perfect play when I call upon You.  I seek Your will for my life this day Lord.  Show me what You want me to know as I read Your Word, and as I meditate upon Your Word.  Continue to lead me in all aspects of my life so I may glorify Your Son.  In Jesus’ precious name, amen…

God Bless, Cheryl Downum

Be His Hands and Feet

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The one thing I know for sure is, God has a plan for you, and every time he allows you to go through trials and difficulties, he is building you up to launch His calling for your life.  He is making you stronger, and adding a depth to your character that only God can give.  He is giving you compassion and empathy for people in situations similar to yours, and someday He will use your tough experiences to help others.  Be ready for that day, and remember that His power is the greatest in our times of weakness.  Think about it what a privilege it is to partner with our Lord Jesus Christ to comfort His people in distress.

I do believe that while God can use any method He wants to comfort us, restore us, and make us strong, He uses the people that He puts in our lives – divine appointments as I like to call them – to be His healing hands and feet on earth.  I remember the night my son passed away and the nurses surrounding us, holding us and one praying for us.  During his entire last hospital stay we were never without some sort of comfort from the staff.  I believe that the Lord sent those nurses and a Christian Doctor to comfort us at a time when we needed them most.

We all have our own unique stories in which God has comforted us in a trial, sent angels (without wings) to be His hands and feet, to comfort us and used them to draw us closer to Him.

What We Think About God

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What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

This is the opening sentence in Tozer’s  The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s also one of the most important, profound sentences that I have ever read.  I find myself needing to read and re-read it in order to grasp it. Tozer is telling us a great truth that everything we believe, everything we do, every sin with which we struggle, every attempt to understand who we are and what it means to be a Christian is rooted in our thoughts about God.

Your view of God affects everything you think, feel and do. Think about it, it affects your prayer life and is the key influencer of all of your thoughts and actions.  Once I was able to see what God was really like, my heart changed, I began to have a deeper walk with Him, able to trust more and in turn began to change my heart.

What about you? Are the things you think about God true to who He is? Don’t answer too quickly.   We MUST remember this, whatever you know about God is so minute compared to what there is to know of Him; He is INFINITE.

What do you think about God?  Food for thought.

I want to encourage you TODAY to seek Him out in a new way and allow Him to change the most important thing about you.  Amen

Living In A Hurting World

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For the second night in a row the news showed the images of a video showing a young disabled man from Chicago being tortured and beaten.  I don’t know about you, but the state of our broken world has me lying awake at night. Heartbroken over the condition of our country where something like this can happen. Grieving over the loss of his innocence and the pain and fear he must have experienced.  Horrified by the attackers lack of remorse and saddened by the idea that hate and evil has won out.

It’s 2017, and injustice, oppression and racism is rampant, causing innocent people to fear for their lives just because of the color of their skin.  Sometimes, I feel powerless. I feel overwhelmed. I feel afraid. When I watch the news and social media I see such total disregard for human life, I am slapped in the face with the reality that the world we live in is a fallen, broken, hurting, and dangerous one.  We can see it in the innocent blood that is spilled. We see it everyday in the angry political  exchanges on television and in our own Facebook news feed.  We see it in the well meaning Christians who do not know what our God asks of us because they do not open up their Bible. We see it in those who do not know God and instead seek answers from other people they deem wise.

We live in a world that needs Jesus, We need not look any farther than the scriptures to know how God responded to pain while on this earth. Jesus spent much of His life among suffering people, hurting people and His response to them shows us how God feels about pain. He always responded to hurting people with sadness and grief. When Jesus’ friend died, He wept. I am confident that Jesus wept over that young man being tortured and hurt.

We need to diligently pray for that young man.  We need to Pray for hurting families and broken communities that have had their children ripped from them by senseless violence. Pray for those who protect us along with their families that have suffered loss. Pray for churches to minister to the hurting. Pray for people not to lose heart. And, yes, pray for Jesus to come back and set this broken world right.

In our day-to-day experiences of life, we have opportunities to learn to be like Jesus, to choose to be patient, to be considerate, to feed the poor, to help others, to pray. On the job and in our homes, Jesus has something to say about what we do.

We will experience problems in life whether or not we follow Jesus. Our choice is not whether to have problems, but whether we learn from those problems. Do we react to them the way Jesus would, or do we become bitter and seek revenge and hate? We learn more about love when we love people who are hard to love; we learn more about forgiveness when people sin against us. Our character is shaped more like Jesus not so much in good times, but in difficult times. We do not always understand why God allows people to suffer. We may not see any good in it, or any lesson to learn. But God assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We may not know how—we just have to trust him.

We can begin with teaching our children to love as Christ loves, we need to teach our children that every life is precious and valued. We don’t need to paint for them a picture of a country with a history of inequality, but talk to them about the progress that still needs to be made. We need to never stop teaching them not to be hateful or mean, but to stand up for those who fall victim to hate and bullying.  Allow them to be colorblind.  My kids use to love this little song O be careful little ears what you hear, be careful little ears what you hear, There’s a Father up above, And He’s looking down in love,So, be careful little ears what you hear.  Unfortunately, they become racist from the words they here at home and school.  We need to diligently protect them from the ways of the world.

Most important we need to pray with them for those that are hurting and be intentional about how we can actively make a difference in the lives of others.

Dear God,

Some days feel too hard. We’re hurting. Struggling. Fighting fear and worry at every turn. Thank you in the midst of it all, you haven’t left us to fend for ourselves. Forgive us for doubting you are there. Forgive us for thinking you’ve forgotten. Forgive us for believing we somehow know the better way.

You are fully trustworthy. You are All Powerful. You are Able. You are Lord over every situation no matter how difficult it may seem. You are Healer and will never waste the grief we carry today. You will use all things for good in some way. Anything is possible with you. Nothing is too difficult for you.

We pray for those who grieve today. We ask for your comfort to surround those who weep. We pray for the peace of your presence to cover our minds and thoughts, as you remind us, the enemy can never steal us out of your hands. He never has the final say over our lives. We are kept safe in your presence forever, whether in life or in death.

We thank you that your ways are higher than our ways and your thoughts are bigger than our thoughts.

We lay it all down at your feet, every burden, every care. Believing that is the safest place for it to be.

We love you Lord, we need your fresh grace.

In the Powerful Name of Jesus,

Amen.