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Jesus Loves ‘Messy’ People

Jesus Loves ‘Messy’ People

Mark 2:15—“While he was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who were following him.”

Arts and crafts are one of my girls’ favorite things to do at the table! The more glitter, shine, colors, sparkle—man, that is what we are all about!

They find so much joy being creative, using their God-given artistic abilities. They learn to work together and encourage each other as their creation comes to life.

But let me tell you, it makes the biggest mess you have ever seen! My table has the scars to prove it. Dried on glue, stains from the paint, glitter stuck between the cracks. UGH! It will never be the same again!

In the grand scheme of things, it is so worth it.

In Mark 2 we see a man named Levi get an invitation from Jesus to “come follow me.” He immediately gets up, leaves all his possessions and follows Jesus.

Now this man was a tax collector. The Jews in this time considered a tax collector to be at the bottom of the social list along with murderers and thieves. To say the Jews disdained tax collectors would be an understatement! They wanted nothing to do with them.

I’m sure Levi was well aware of the scars he carried. Like most tax collectors of his time, he probably stole money from people, cheated them for his own personal gain and treated people unkind (No wonder the Jewish people didn’t like him). It would be safe to say he had made a mess of the life God gave him—having dried glue, stains and glitter in between the cracks of his life.

But instead of avoiding the tax collectors, Jesus responded differently. He not only wanted to talk with Levi; He wanted to eat with him.

God’s eternal salvation is for all mankind—not just the “good” people, the “worthy,” the “churchy” people, but even the lowliest of all. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and hurting, to give them a hope and a future—something the Pharisees couldn’t understand. Or maybe more accurately, they didn’t want to understand.

Jesus was going against everything the Pharisees had been taught and what they themselves were teaching in the synagogues. They wanted to be in charge; they wanted to teach their way; they wanted people to listen to them and them alone! Jesus was ruining their plan!

Jesus reached out to those messy people and told them they, too, could be worthy of a God who saves. Jesus was an expert in taking the old and making it new, taking what society said was unworthy and making it worthy again. In fact, he tells them that is the exact reason he came. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinner” (Mark 2:17).

When I sit at my stained-covered table, I am reminded how my life is tarnished with things too. I have made a mess of the beautiful life God has given me. I have taken His blessings, protection and provisions and wasted them on selfish things. Living my life with my own intentions instead of His.

But Jesus is in the restoration business!

No matter how many stains or blemishes I may have, He loves me still! He wants to renew the old and clean up the mess I have made!

Thank goodness I have a Savior who has the power to do all He has promised!

Winter into spring

Winter into spring

Seeing God’s creation change at the very beginning of each season brings me so much joy! I particularly love experiencing the new birth that takes place as winter transforms into spring.

About the time I lose hope for those warm sunny day, signs of life begin to sprout forth! Buds on trees, bright colored tulips, Easter lilies and sprouts of green grass make their long awaited appearance, lifting my spirits once again.

It’s a bit different when it comes to my personal life. The ups and down, twists and turns, “seasons” of life, seem to last longer than expected. When I seem to face one thing after another, I pray for good news, but only bad news comes. Those “winters” never seem to end while living in the midst of the storm.

Being from Oklahoma, it can be bright and sunny in the morning and cold and raining in the evening. The weather is fickle, and so is our journey here on earth. One moment I’m living in summer just long enough for it to turn into fall in a blink of any eye, leaving me breathless in the wake of a cold blustery wind.

So what is a Christian girl to do?

Do I give up hope? Looking for signs of life, yet finding nothing.

I turn to the Word, clinging to the promise of a new day that will burst forth hope. Bringing a long awaited victory!

God’s word tells me in Nehemiah “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

When things feel less than joyful, I can cling to the promise that His joy will give me strength. I am weak, but He is strong. Therefore, if I rely on my own strength I will fail every time. But, if I remember He is the one with all the strength, I can rest in the joy that He will carry me through.

God’s Word says, “You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: ‘God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” (Ps. 91:1-2)

I can rest in His presence during those nights that seem to never end because of fear, worry and pain. I can trust in my God who hears me, for He is in control, even in moments when I am spinning out of control. Spend time crying out to my God who hears me, knows me, understands me, and finding rest to trust He is in control.

“The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth” (Isa. 26:7).

If we aren’t careful, we could think this verse means life should be easy. But we have spent too many days on earth to believe that! Instead, God shows us our path. He leads us down the path He wants for us. It may be hard, and at times, we would choose a different road. But in the end, we will see how His name and His renown were made known to those around us because we continued to walk the path laid out before us.

Knowing He is the guide should bring peace. It isn’t an arbitrary journey. There is purpose and meaning behind each day! Every single one of our days were numbered long before we were even born (Ps. 139:16).

Never stop reading God’s word, especially in the winter months of life. It is our life blood, our warmth when life gets cold. When we need strength, sometimes the heaviest thing we can lift is a leather bound book with letters written in red. But I challenge you sister/brother, muster up all the strength you have, pull those pages open and cling to the words until hope bursts forth, and your new season begins!

Can you obey while doubting God?

Can you obey while doubting God?

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Even while doubting in his heart and not understanding how it would be worth the effort, Simon Peter obeyed.

It makes me feel good, knowing that someone so close to Jesus could still doubt before obeying.

You see, each time the Lord asks me to obey, my flesh wants to push back and disobey. I want to make excuses, come up with reasons why what the Lord is asking me wouldn’t work. I begin to doubt my own ability and worry about what others might think.

Honestly, I doubt that God truly has everything under control.

Sometimes I hear Him clearly, yet I play that game in my mind—oh you know the one—when you ask yourself, “Was it really a God idea or my idea?” And then you sit and wait and wait…

Yet Peter (still called Simon at this point) simply obeyed even while doubting Jesus’ abilities.

Scriptures point out they had fished all night long yet got nothing in return. I can feel the same way with the tasks God has called me to do. Working long and hard to obey and do what He has asked yet getting nothing in return.

“Lord, I don’t know why you want me to talk to them again. I have talked until I’m blue in the face and they won’t listen.”

“Lord, I don’t know why you want me to keep teaching this Bible study. I don’t see any change in my students’ lives.”

“Lord, why do you want me to keep doing laundry? These clothes just keep piling up!”

“Lord, why should I forgive them over again? I know they are going to continue to do it and continue to hurt me.”

“Lord, my quiet time is stale, and I feel like you are distant from me. Why should I keep trying to hear from You?”

Yet, he (Peter) obeyed.

“When they had done so, (casted their nets on the other side of the boat like Jesus asked) they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees.

“Go away from me, Lord,” he said, “for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:6-8).

After Jesus performed a miracle, Simon Peter fell at the feet of Jesus in shame of his doubt, realizing his sin, in contrast to this God man, whom even the fish of the sea obey!

What man toiled all night to make happen, Jesus simply spoke. More than they could ever hope for materialized before their very eyes!

Because of his obedience, Jesus changed his entire future!

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to Simon, “from now on you will catch men.” And when they had brought their boats ashore, they left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:10-11).

No longer was Simon Peter going to be a fisherman, but he was going to fishing for men, lost men drifting in a sea of darkness, bringing them into the safety net of Jesus Christ, the one true light of the world!

Now, let’s not overlook Simon Peter’s response. After all, he had a choice to make. 1) Was he going to follow this Jesus or 2) Was he going to take the biggest catch of his life, sell it for money and keep living life as usual (just a little richer)?

This encounter with Jesus changed him. Simon no longer cared about fishing. He only wanted to know Jesus more and obey him.

You see, when we obey, even in our doubt, God brings about change in our lives. It may not be change that instantly manifests itself like it did for Peter, but how many long nights of fishing did he have to go through before this night? How long had he scrapped by, barely making ends meet?

When we obey, God blesses.

Only Jesus can make a miracle. Only Jesus can bring to life something that was once dead. Maybe the time for new life hasn’t come yet. Maybe the miracle is in the waiting or just around the corner.

But rest assured, it’s coming, and His timing is perfect! For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9).

Hang on to that promise today!

How to A.S.K.

How to A.S.K.

Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him (Jesus)” (Matt. 8:2)

“… a Roman officer came and pleaded with him (Jesus)…” (Matt. 8:5)

That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus” (Matt. 8:16)

Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat” (Matt. 9:2)

“Approached”, “came”, “brought”.

In each of these instances, the people drew near to Jesus. They came seeking healing from their physical ailments, and in each instance, Jesus healed them. They realized Jesus was the miracle maker. They needed a healer, someone to do for them what they couldn’t do for themselves.

It makes me wonder, do I take my handicaps to Jesus? Do I handle issues on my own when healing is waiting?

If I would take my wounded soul, my crushed spirit, my aching heart to Jesus, would He just leave me hanging in brokenness?

So many times I try to resolve my own problems before I go to Him. I exhaust plans A, B and C, and then when all else fails, I remember I have a God who can save me. Why does it take so long for us to remember Him, to remember He wants us to bring our brokenness before Him, to remember we have a God who is on our side?

Jesus longs for us to come to Him. All we must do is ask. “How much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask” (Matt. 7:11).

A—Aware: I need to be aware that I have a problem.

S—Savior: I have a Savior who can handle my problem.

K—Kneel: I need to kneel before the throne and ask God who can answer!

Be healed! And instantly the leprosy disappeared” (Matt. 8:3).

“‘Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.’ And the young servant was healed that same hour” (Matt.8:13).

“And the man jumped up and went home!” (Matt 9:7).

What if “healing” is waiting for you? Why wait for our plan to fail before we run to the Savior to heal? Be brave. Ask today! See how God bends down low to answer your earnest plea.


Offer Yourself Grace

Offer Yourself Grace

Getting in the car with three little kids is a lot harder than one might think. So many things to grab and remember as you are trying to walk out the door.

Keys, purse, phone, at least two pairs of shoes because you know they don’t have them, sippy cups, binky, diaper bag, snacks— OK, well that’s all I can carry—oh yeah, my drink! Needing that extra hand, you sit your cup down, for one moment, to forget it the second it leaves your grasp.

Then off you go, and BAM! It’s gone! “Oh man! I really wanted that!” Too late now. As you see it fly down the road into the gutter.

Well, a coke is one thing, but what about my husband’s mini iPad!? Wade had just bought himself a new iPad, and as he was walking out the house, with kids in tow, he sat his new toy on the hood of his car. With dread in his heart a few hours later, realizing what he had done, he set out to find if what he feared was true. After searching for a long while, he finds his new toy in a busy intersection, smashed to pieces!

He was mad, to say the least. Mad it was wasted money, mad it couldn’t be fixed, mad he hadn’t really got to enjoy it at all, but mostly just mad at himself for being so careless!

We all get this way from time to time; careless about what we are doing. We get distracted only to find out, after the fact, what a mess we made. At those times do you beat yourself up? Do you let it ruin your day because of a careless mistake?

Could you offer grace? Yes, grace to yourself for making a mistake? Seems like an odd request, but forgiving ourselves appears to be really hard. We don’t like to mess up. It makes us feel stupid, inadequate and forgetful.

My son verbally calls himself a “dummy” when he messes up. Angry that he, once again messed up, he begins to self-condemn. He moves from making a simple mistake to calling himself the mistake!

As adults I think we do this in more subtle ways. Yet, our self-talk, name calling, and self-defeat, is destructive all the same.

If we let our mistakes control our thinking of who we are, we have already been defeated. We might as well pack our bags and just head to the couch with a gallon of ice cream.

God offers us grace. We offer grace to others. Let’s try to offer grace to ourselves every once in a while.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

God made each of us and loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins, our mistakes (John 3:16). Yes, we need to repent of our sin and call on Him to forgive us. But once we do, let’s remember that He cast them as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12). Therefore, we can move past those mistakes and move forward to what God has in store for us!

Ultimately, we are weak individuals who will make mistakes, a lot of mistakes! Let’s lighten up on ourselves and offer some grace!