This past weekend my husband and I were at a wedding. It was gorgeous—the perfectly arranged flowers, the gold chairs, the gorgeous table arrangements, and of course, the breath-taking bride.

The church doors opened, the music played, the crowd stood, and the bride radiantly walked down the aisle.

Anytime I am at a wedding I love to watch the groom during this moment. In this instance, as I looked at him I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes. He had a soft smile on his face, tears streaming down his cheek, and it was as if no one else was in the room besides him and his soon to be wife.

It was in this moment that I was reminded that I am the Lord’s bride. He looks at me and sees a white dress, perfect hair, and great shoes. He doesn’t see my sin, shame, guilt, my sweatpants and spit up stained t-shirt. He looks at me and sees a beautiful bride and loves me so deeply.

God loves us in the same way He loves Jesus—it’s a sacrificial love. There is no greater love. It isn’t based on what I do or don’t do. I know this truth, but I so often believe the lie instead.

Just last week I was having one of those days where nothing seemed to be going right. I overslept, was rushing around, was frustrated with my husband which led to me blowing up on him, and the list went on. I felt so guilty for the way I treated my husband and I felt like I couldn’t go to the Lord in that moment. In my mind I believed that my shortcomings meant the Lord was going to love me less. Would He even care about my prayer I thought to myself?

Come now, let us reason together says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isaiah 1:18).

How sweet is that? He sees our messy, ugly, selfish sins and in spite of it all He still loves us in that moment because after all, that is why He sacrificed His only son.

Do you see the Lord’s love this way? Do you truly believe the Father’s love for you isn’t dependent on what you do?

Standing on the Word

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6).

“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died'” (John 11:20-21).

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’ (John 11:38-44).

Lazarus had died and Martha and Mary were devastated. They had lost their brother and fully believed that things would have been different if only Jesus had arrived sooner.

When I read through these passages I get a bit angry. I know how it ends, so the anger doesn’t last long. I know Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and I understand why He did what He did, but I get angry because I know how Mary and Martha must have felt. In this last season of my life I feel just like them. I keep thinking, Lord if you had been here sooner then I wouldn’t be in this situation, my husband wouldn’t be searching for a job, I wouldn’t have been rear ended on the highway. The list could go on and on, situation after situation. Feeling like the Lord missed the mark on His timing.

I am like Martha in so many ways. When she hears Jesus is coming she goes out to the gate to meet Him. She even says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha knows the truth. She has spent time with Jesus and she understands what He has been teaching. I can relate to her here. Every morning I get up and spend time with the Lord and I pray to Him, “Lord I know that you will provide in your timing” or “Lord I believe you are the way, truth, and life.” And truly I do know (head knowledge) those things. The problem is connecting them to my heart and making it personal.

The other day it hit me. Like Martha, I believe what God’s word says and I know His truth but I am not really applying it to MY life.  I’m missing what He’s telling me. The truths that I pray and know in my head can be lived out in my everyday life. God can do more than I hope or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I love in John 11:39 when Jesus asks them to move the stone away. He is getting ready to raise a man from the dead for crying out loud, couldn’t He just point his finger and make the stone completely disappear? But again, what a sweet Lord we have. I think He wanted to involve Martha and Mary in this. He wants them to take a step of faith and show Him that they trust He can perform this miracle. He didn’t ask much of them but He asks a small task, “Take away the stone.”

What is God asking you to do? For me, He wants me to believe that He is in control, that He is never late. He wants us to take a step of faith and just like with Martha, He will be right there with us when we do. He wants us to step out in faith and ”move the stone.” I challenge all of you to read John 11: 1-44. This story is one we’ve heard a lot, and may tend to overlook, but is so miraculous, and so important. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so that those in the crowd, and Martha, and Mary, and me and you, could see the glory of the Father, and know that he sent Jesus to unbind all of us.

Standing on the Word

Abba Father,

I confess to you that I keep thinking it’s all too good to be true! That’s how good, how incredible, how amazing your love and truth are! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! It’s like I’m on a precipice looking down at this incredible place that’s too good to even imagine. I want to be there; I see it and can almost reach out and touch it, but I’m AFRAID to believe! If I really believe it and go “all in” I might be disappointed, I might get hurt. It can’t really be that good. So good that it can’t be real. That kind of goodness doesn’t happen, doesn’t last, isn’t real. There’s always a catch, always something bad lurking around the corner.

Father, forgive my unbelief! I do believe, help my unbelief!

But this! What if? What if it really is real? What if I finally surrendered my unbelief, doubting, questioning, scoffing, hesitating, and allowed myself to jump off the precipice with the greatest leap of faith I’ve ever taken? What joy and freedom is awaiting me? If I allowed myself to finally fully accept and believe all God’s promises are true? I am my own worst enemy. Please give me grace to be “all in.”

“knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14).

To be in your presence; the One who “is kind to the ungrateful and evil”. It is unfathomable! The One who has taken every sin I have ever committed and ever will commit off my shoulders and heaped them ALL upon Himself to be my burden bearer and then carried this immense weight to the instrument of torture at Calvary–“my burden gladly bearing.” Oh, the wonderful cross! Oh my wonderful Jesus, Savior, Redeemer, FRIEND. What a friend I have in Jesus. He came to bind up the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are BOUND!

What if FREEDOM is really real?! “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1a) Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24).

“Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…And whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:35, 37b).

“For the lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage super of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’…And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (Revelation 21:5-6).

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5b-6).

All your words are TRUE!

You are the way, the truth and the life! I do believe, help my unbelief. Oh God, you are my God. You are real and you reward those who earnestly seek you. I seek your face, oh God of Jacob! Hear my cry Lord. Give me grace to fall into your arms, completely trusting that “the eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Thank you Jesus. You are faithful, you will do it!!!

Amen!!

Learning to Live in the Garden of Grace