Unconditional

“And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.  God does all these things to a person-twice, even three times—to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them.”              Job 33:27-30

This month, I was facing a $439 deficit that included having to purchase very much needed tires for my vehicle.  I had no idea where the money was going to come from.  I figured a budget multiple times, and  spent a few sleepless nights waking at 2am in a panic wondering how I was going to manage to cover the added expenses without falling behind on my other bills.  I prayed and then I worried, prayed-then worried.

Then I did something else-while I was still worrying, I texted many people asking them to pray for me and for God’s provision.  Asking others to pray for me is a challenge because I wrestle with pride and although I love to help others, I hate being in a position to ask for help.   But I asked, and they prayed.  And God delivered.

The week after Mother’s Day, I found a $100 bill in my purse.  $100 is NOT something I would easily forget and would panic if I lost so I knew it was not money I had placed there.  I learned a darling friend, knowing my prideful heart, slipped it into my purse.  She knew I wouldn’t accept an outright offer and would feel embarrassed and ashamed.  (I had another friend offer to send me the whole $439 but my pride would not let me accept the offer.) I praised God for the $100 blessing but still worried about where the rest would come from.

Time came where I had to get my tires.  I have a Christian mechanic who knows my situation and graciously offered to let me make payments on the purchase of my tires.  When I went in to discuss the payment plan, the officer manager lowered the price of the original quote he gave me saying he was going to make no money off the tires he was selling me.  I thanked him for discounting the price even more.  This meant less I would have to make payments on.  Two days later I had the new tires placed on my vehicle.  I walked into the office and was greeted by the owner of the auto shop whom I’ve become friends with as we attended a 9 month training together recently.  I reminded the owner I was on a payment plan. He handed me a receipt showing $0 balance and told me I didn’t owe him anything.  He wanted to gift me the tires.

Tears welled up in my eyes.  I was so overwhelmed with this generosity, not even my pride could keep me from crying in front of him.  As he hugged me, I told him I couldn’t possibly accept such an elaborate gift. My whole being just felt I didn’t possibly deserve such a gift.   He said he wanted to bless me but if I wasn’t comfortable accepting it then I could pay him.  Before I could respond, the company phone rang and he answered it.  While he was on the phone, another line started ringing.  He was the only one in the office so I offered to help him out by answering the second phone call.  He handed me the phone.  When the two phone calls were taken care, to appease my pride I jokingly told him I had just worked off the tires so I felt better in receiving his gift.  We both laughed and I left the auto shop with a brand new set of tires and a heart filled with an unexplainable awe of God’s goodness and love for me.

Driving home I heard Sidewalk Prophets, But You Loved Me Any Way.  As I sang along to the radio, between sobs I belted out these words:

“I am a thorn in Your crown, But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
“See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with the smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life…”

I didn’t deserve any of the blessings God bestowed on me this month. In fact, I don’t deserve any blessing He has ever given.  I fail Him every single day.  I start my mornings reading His word and praying only to lose my temper and drop an F-bomb before I walk out the door.  That’s not even a dent in the long list of sins I have committed and will commit in my lifetime.  But God loves me, anyway.

Many scriptures tell us God’s love is unconditional. But it’s only when I receive blessings I don’t deserve that I gain a better understanding of what ‘unconditional’ means.  With every undeserved blessing a piece of pride is plucked from within me, my heart is humbled a little more and I find myself offering greater grace to others because of God’s grace and mercy offered to me.  All praise, glory and honor are lifted up to my Father in Heaven, who is my Great Provider and does not give me what I deserve but delivers me time and time again from going down in the pit.  I know He will do the same for you too because trust me, I’m nobody special. But to God, I’m worth dying for, and so are you.

It’s Just a Little Crush…

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7NLT

Oh my goodness!  Did you see his smile?  How cute was he?  Do you think he noticed me?  Oh my gosh!  He’s coming over here…don’t act nervous, don’t say the wrong thing…he asked me for my phone number!  Now I wait for his call….

He called…we’re going out.  Could he be “the one?”  He’s so cute…he’s so nice.  Lord, I pray he’s the one…

The date was awesome and Lord-when can I kiss him again?  He’s definitely “the one.”  Lord, please make it happen in Your time and in Your will…

I don’t understand.  Why did he dump me?  What’s wrong with me?  How could he take my love for so many years and then just throw it away in a text message?  My heart is broken.  I’ll never love again…

That guy is cute…is he single…does he notice me…

A vicious cycle a woman endures when she makes the idea of love, men and being in a relationship the god of her life.  I have been that woman.  I meet someone, fall head over heels in love and get my heart broken-repeatedly.  The heartache made me bitter, skeptical and if you ask my family and closest friends, they’d say “closed off to dating” at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I made my fair share of mistakes in past relationships.  But I also loved each one with all my being.  I talked about them to all of my friends, spent as much time with them as I could, fought hard to hold on to the relationship and in the end lost a few men who never really loved me.  Worst, I lost a piece of me each time.  The biggest mistake I made was worshiping them, putting them first in my life-even above God.

Putting others before God, no matter who it is, is a form of idolatry.  Yes, God calls us to love one another, but He also says, “You must have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)  He repeatedly warns us that He is a very jealous God.  Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” God is so serious about not wanting us to worship other people that he compares Himself to a consuming fire.  His jealousy for us should devour every part of us to the point that we have no desire to worship anyone or anything else.

God put Song of Solomon 8 on my heart this past week.  He’s been tugging at my heart about idolatry and worshiping people.  When I read verses 6 and 7, the hopeful romantic in me dreamed of a love like Solomon and his wife-a human kind of love, in fact, an Eros kind of love.

Then I re-read this passage and God opened my eyes to see that THIS is how God wants me and all of us to love Him.  When I have a crush, he’s all I talk about, all I think about.  I count down the days until I can see him or talk to him.  With God, I take time spent with Him for granted.  There are days I choose to sleep in rather than read His word and I rarely stop talking in my prayers to listen to His voice.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed to talk about Him with other people.  Yet God, in His patient grace and mercy still seeks me and pursues me daily.  He has me tattooed on His heart, so why don’t I have Him tattooed on mine?  He longs for me (and you) to place Him like a seal over our entire beings.  He showed the strength of His love by dying on the cross for us and conquering death for us.  If His jealousy is a consuming fire, think how more consuming His love for us is.

God’s love cannot be quenched by water or anything else.  Paul tells us in Romans 8, “…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (verses 38 and 39, NLT) David repeatedly reminds us in Psalms that God’s love is never ending.  And just like we couldn’t do anything to earn our salvation, we can do nothing to buy God’s love.

This week, God has been asking me, “Why am I not your crush?  Why don’t you talk about me the way you’ve talked about those men of your past?  They shattered your heart but I would never leave you wounded, broken or questioning your self-worth.  To Me, you are far greater than rubies.  To me my darling, you surpass them all.”  I had no answer for Him, only conviction in my heart and a realization of the form of idolatry I’ve practiced for far too long.

God wants to be first in my life and yours.  No matter if you’re married, single, divorced, or widowed, God wants to be first-above your spouse, significant other, even before our children.  God first, other second, ourselves third…that’s the order I was taught at a very young age yet fail to practice.  I pray this post opens up every reader’s eyes to examine where God is ranked in their life and to see if there is anyone or anything they are putting in place of God.  If you find something, confess it and know that He forgives.  Don’t shame yourself or allow the enemy to fill you with guilt.  Remember, nothing we do can stop God from loving us.  Let’s all choose to love God like the love described in Song of Solomon 8-like a consuming fire with the brightest flames.  And let’s talk about how awesome He is to everyone we meet like we would if we all had “just a little crush”.