Struggle with Self-esteem?

I don’t know how many of you struggle with not feeling good enough, but it has been a thorn in my side for my entire life.  It was almost a stumbling block between me and salvation.  I didn’t think that there was anyway that God could possibly forgive me!  My poor self image and my awareness of my sinful nature was so before me that for some reason I thought that God would accept Hitler before me.

Now no at the age of 13 I had not caused the death of anyone or tried to take over the world, but all the same I felt so unworthy that I was certain that no one even God could possibly forgive me for my sin.  It took a long time to realize that it wasn’t a matter of worth that got me into the kingdom of heaven, but a matter of grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.   –  Titus 2:11

The passage that really settled it for me and gave me assurance of not only my salvation but my position in Christ is Ephesians 2:1-10

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work is those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature an following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What comforted me about this passage is many things and I’d like to break it down for you.  First of all, as I’ve already mentioned I was keenly aware of my sinfulness, which made me feel totally unworthy of anything God could have for me.  In Ephesians 2:1-3 it talks about our sins and how we were dead in our transgressions and how all of us lived this way as by nature objects of wrath.  When I read that I thought this Book gets me.  This is exactly how I feel.

Then came verses 4 & 5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”  I could hardly believe my eyes, God loved me and not only that he had rich mercy on me.  Though I was dead in my transgressions God chose to make me alive in Christ.  By grace I was saved.  What a generous God.  It was almost more than my eyes could take in.  My heart was pounding with joy as it is now reliving it.

As if He knew that I needed the added message of what my position  was to help me with my self worth, He goes on to tell me that He/God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, amazing.

So that we don’t get it wrong we are reminded that it is by grace we are saved, through faith, and this not from ourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  This keeps me in the right frame of mind humble because I know that I need God for everything.

Then the writer does us the wonderful blessing of letting us know what God’s purpose for us is. Verse 10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Isn’t it wonderful we know what we are here for to do good works that God has already prepared for us.  That means we need to keep in communication with Him so that we don’t miss out on our purpose.  Since He has planned them out in advance it would be foolish to just go around and do any good work that might not be the one He is wanting you or I to do.  Open communication is crucial for us to know what it is that we are to be doing to stay in God’s will.  Anything else is pride.

Lord thank You for Your Word and for Your will and plans.  Forgive me for my times of pride when I’ve charged off and done things on my own will whether I thought they were for You or not, I was sinful not to come toYou first.  I ask you to forgive me of the sin of my pride and help me to turn to You first.  In the sweet name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 6

Jack what are you going to do with what God has shown you today?” Stunned, “Janet, I’m not so sure I know what to do. You have been a very good wife to me and I’ve been I lousy husband and father to Julie. I just don’t know if what you have found is for me.” “Why? Do you think you are any worse than any other sinner on Earth that He died for? If you do think that you are too bad to be redeemed, let me point out that you are allowing your pride to get in your way and stopping you from receiving the most precious gift that was ever given to man” responded Janet. Jack replied, “How can I be sure that Christ could care for even me?” “Jack, it says in Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ That is how you can be sure that he cares for even you. The question is what are you going to do with this most precious gift? Are you going to reject it and in the process reject eternal life and all the blessings that go with it? Or are you going to accept this wonderful gift? With the acceptance of this gift comes blessings galore; love, joy, peace, gratitude for all that He has done for you and given you no matter how much that is. Jack you’ve lived a life of anger and bitterness and emptiness long enough don’t you want something better for yourself?” Jack’s heart ached worst than ever, “Janet, when you made your decision did your heart ache?” Janet responded tenderly, “Yes, Jack worst than it ever had in my life like it was crying out to God. That is when I knew I had to take the step to open my hearts door to the knocking of the Savior. Is that what you are feeling now?” “Yes,” said Jack, “I can hardly stand it.” Janet’s own heart beat with joy, “Then may I suggest you confess your sins and ask Jesus to become the Lord of your life. Thank Him for the gift of salvation that He gave you and promise to be obedient to His word.” “Lord,” said Jack, “I’ve never come to you before and I realize the folly of that. God I am so full of sins I hardly know where to start. Please forgive me for my cruelty to my family and employees and my pride, arrogance, materialism and ungratefulness. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the Cross for me and pay the price of my sins. I accept that gift and ask You to become the Lord of my life. I realize now I’m no good at running my own life. I need You. I promise to be obedient to Your word and will. Thank You for this evening Lord, for bringing Gab and Esther into my life and for giving me my family that I had taken for granted. Thank you for Janet’s sweet spirit all these years. Help me to be the husband she deserves. Make me into the father that Julie longs for. Amen.” “Oh, Jack, I can’t express how happy you have made me. I know that you have a lot on your mind. I also know that the two or rather the three of us can face anything with God. My sweet Jack, I’m so grateful that God took everything from us and used it to bring you to Him! I’d rather start all over again with all of us knowing Him than having everything and not having Him.”

A thought occurred to Jack, “What about the fire and you and Julie? Are you grateful for that as well? How could you be grateful for that?” Disbelief and anger were surfacing in Jack at the thought of this. Janet tried to calm him, “Jack, I won’t deny that it was awful and has been terrible painful and I wish with all my heart that it had only been me that had been burned and not Julie. But I trust God and His wisdom I know that even in this He has a plan that will work to good. If this is what it had to take to get your attention I gladly pay the price and although I wish Julie wasn’t affected by this I know her heart for you well enough to know that she would gladly go through anything to have the family she now has. Please Jack see the good in this, if the fire had not happened you may have not lost the business which in turn brought you to God and to me and Julie. In this we can be grateful for all that has happened because the end product has brought wholeness to our family. Jack, don’t beat yourself up over this. I beg you to do your best to see the master plan in all this – we have the family Julie and I have been praying for continually.” With tears in his eyes, “Are you sure that you and Julie won’t hate me for the rest of our days for the consequences of my hard heart?” “Never!” responded Janet with her own tears, “We love you! Apart from God you are the love of our lives! Plus we wouldn’t be living His word if we didn’t forgive you. For in Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.’ Plus my joy is too great at having the husband I have been longing for.” “You can truly be grateful for this?” asked Jack. “Yes, my love, God has given me the gift of gratitude. I pray that you find that same gift.” Responded Janet her eyes shining in the dawning sun. “It’s a lot to take in” he admitted, “but I am getting there. I can say I’m grateful for you, Julie and the wholeness I feel in my heart, I’m grateful for your forgiveness. Hum! I guess I could say that I too have found the gift of gratitude. I love you so much Janet thank you for being so patient with me and for praying all those years that this night would one day come.” “It has been my pleasure and the joy of my heart to pray for this night. God is so good and I’m so grateful!”

“Father, another humbled and grateful heart.” says Gab, as he goes down the hospital hall and disappears.

By Joy Dara Stephenson

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 5

Gab appeared in the hallway and stayed in the shadows where he observed as, Jack went on to first tell her how he had managed to not only loose the house in the fire but because of his ill temper as he put it he had managed to loose the business as well. How he had met Gab that night the last night of the business and all that they had done together.

Janet’s response surprised Jack. She seemed pleased that they had shared the food and his encounter with the homeless rather than being furious about loosing their livelihood. He went on to tell of Esther how peculiar she seemed in the light of that place and how her story had got him thinking. “Do you think that this Christ could truly do what this Esther woman claims He did for her?” he asked Janet. “What do you think?” Jack replied, “Janet if you could just see how Esther truly had nothing, not even most of her teeth anymore but the joy that she had seemed genuine enough. I can hardly believe that I’m finding myself envying a woman that has nothing but this Savior she speaks so lovingly about. I also need to tell you that I realize that I’ve been perfectly awful to you and Julie. I don’t understand how you could stand living with me. It’s like my eyes have been opened up to the man I’ve been and I can’t say that I like him very much, to be honest I very ashamed of the husband and father that I’ve been to you and Julie. I wouldn’t blame either one of you if you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. I felt that way coming here. I was hoping you would be asleep and I could just be near you with my thoughts. I was too ashamed to hope that you would want any part of me. I was bad enough when our life was perfect but since the fire I’ve avoided you and Julie when you both needed me the most.” At this Jack stopped he heard something he wasn’t sure his ears were serving him well, it sounded like tears and laughter. This is definitely not the response that he was expecting. Jack questioned, “Are you crying or laughing at me?” Janet softly responded, “Oh, Jack, don’t you know that this is what Julie and I have been longing for, even before the fire? The tears are tears of joy and relief that our life together might be all that I’ve been hoping and praying for, please forgive the laughter but it just hits me as funny that now that you’re becoming the man I’ve always loved, you think that now I would turn my back on you. Heaven’s no! God is finally granting the desires of my heart.” Jack was shocked, “How could I be married to you for so many years and not know that you were one of them, a Christian? You weren’t when we met and married were you?”Janet lovingly responded, “No, Jack, I did not deceive you when we were dating and got married into thinking you were marrying something other than what I was.

Not long after our marriage I got lonely. You were so distant and busy with the business. It seemed the only time you needed or wanted me was to parade me around and use me as a show piece at various events other than that you were content to have me stay at home and be a dutiful wife. You gave me everything but what I longed for most, you. Then a neighbor invited me to some teas at her church and at one of them I finally realized the emptiness in my heart could never be filled by anyone but God. So I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It wasn’t that I was trying to keep it from you; I desperately wanted to share it with you. The problem being we never really talked and you were always so busy that this has been our first real conversation since my conversion decades ago. I asked my Christian sisters how best to approach you with my faith. They suggested that I do as the Bible says for wives to be submissive to their husbands and to always be loving to you and that through my actions not my words an opportunity to speak might present itself. Since the restaurant kept you so busy it was easy to fellowship at church with you never even knowing I wasn’t home because you were always at work. Then when Julie was born my sisters in Christ helped me to train her up in the Lord. At every meal she prays that her daddy might love her like her Heavenly Father. She will be so pleased to know that your heart has changed.

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 4

“One day I questioned my friend Mary as to where all these bizarre qualities were coming from. She responded, “Do you listen to the pastor speak before the meals at the shelter?” I admitted that I had zoned out during such times. She then invited me to a meeting that night, which would serve my purpose of getting out of the cold and her purpose of introducing me to her Best Friend. So I went not expecting much but my friends must have been praying for me because for the first time I heard about the love of Jesus Christ. About all the suffering He had done for me, even when I still hated Him. This was a man well acquainted with suffering yet He gladly bore it so that I might be saved. I listened to all the preacher had to say and when the alter call was given I went down. I was ready to accept this free gift of eternal life. You see that is what you see in my eyes it is what Christ has done for me. That is the song I sing of joy and thanksgiving. That He has saved me. As the Apostle Paul said, ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ That is Philippians 4:12b-13. I have not have the privilege with this new life of learning to be content in living in plenty, as I once lived. But I would not go back to that old empty life for anything. I would only go back to wealth if I could take Jesus with me. I imagine you are having a hard time with all of this Jack, aren’t you?” Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I understand that,” continued Esther, “it was not easy for me to put my head and especially my heart around it when I first heard it. I’ve kept you a long time should you like to talk to me again we can meet here any day at the same time.” Jack agreed that he had a lot to think about and told Esther he would like to meet with her again. With that he and Gab left while Jack’s head was spinning with thoughts.

It was definitely too late for visiting hours at the hospital, but for some reason that was the only place Jack wanted to be with his thoughts. He bid Gab goodbye and walked on to the hospital deep in thought. Could this Christ that Esther spoke so lovingly about do the same for him as He had done for her? He wasn’t so sure; he thought that truly he was different than other people even if Esther and he had come from such similar back grounds. As he entered the hospital he noticed that it was dark, he reasoned that it must be to help the patients sleep. It then occurred to him that in all the time his family had been here the few times that he had visited, he never came other than visiting hours. For some reason he realized he suddenly felt a pang of guilt. He realized that he had been absent when his wife and daughter needed him most. His heart started changing. He no longer felt as concerned with their appearance as he was with their need for him. The thought entered his mind, “How could I have been so uncaring, so shallow.” Then almost immediately came the thought, “Because that is what has always been my way – Oh, what a wretched man am I that I have cared more about appearances than, than, than loving – that’s what has been missing in my life.” Suddenly he felt utterly worthless. How could he be so vile of a man? He had always thought of himself as a good man or at the very least a decent man, but now he was beginning to see himself for who he truly was and it was breaking his heart. What had been so hard was crumbling within him. As he reached his wife’s room he wanted so much to talk to her and at the same time felt so unworthy of her. His beautiful Janet who had been so gracious about his egotism and callousness, how could he disrupt her sleep, with thoughts of his own need to talk to her about all that he had heard and been pondering? He slipped into her room as quietly as possible and yet she stirred and murmured, “Nurse?” “No, it’s me Jack. Do you need me to get you a nurse?” He asked. “No,” she responded, “I just didn’t think it was anyone but a nurse.” “I didn’t mean to wake you. You go back to sleep. I just wanted to be near you.” Said Jack. “Is Julie okay?” “Yes she is fine. I have heard nothing from the doctors to think otherwise.” At this Janet responded, “What has happened to you Jack? You’re not acting like yourself.” “I don’t quite know where to start. So much has happened. I haven’t shared with you anything that has happened since the fire.” “It has been your way not to share anything with me a lot longer than that, Jack. I’m stronger than you know and I care more than I think you trust, won’t you please share your heart with me. This is something I’ve been praying for, for a long time.” “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather rest and sleep?” “Please, Jack, there is a reason you are here and I’ve rested all day and am quite awake. I promise if I need to rest I’ll let you know. Now do we have a deal?” “Yes, we have a deal, but this may take quite a bit of time.” Janet’s eyes twinkled as she  responded, “You have my undivided attention.”

Who Does God Want?

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For a long time I felt too bad to be accepted by God.  Surely He would rather have anyone on the face of the earth rather than me.  I never realized at the time that I was being prideful.  Thinking that I was so bad that the God of the universe could not accept me.  In my sick mind I even thought that He’d accept Hitler before me.

That is not how God works however.  He doesn’t take the deserving.  If He only took the deserving, no one would be accepted because no one is deserving.  The tinniest of sins is still sin and God can not look on the sin for He is a holy God.  Holiness can have nothing to do with unholiness.

What He is looking for is someone humbled by the realization that their sin makes them undeserving of God’s grace.  He is also looking for someone who will admit that sin and ask for forgiveness for that sin, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Once I understood that Jesus actually came for sinners and loved sinners, I came to the decision of turning my life over for last time to God.  It had been my pattern in the past to go to every alter call that I heard but since I never felt worthy, I never felt saved.

Salvation has nothing to do with feelings and has everything to do with the action of accepting what Jesus did on the cross, turning away from your sin and trusting God for your salvation.

If people think they have no need for God, they are suffering from the same thing I was, pride.  When people think that  they don’t need God, they misunderstand what God is all about.  As mentioned before God is Holy and He can not look on unholiness.  No matter how good a person may think they are they have missed the mark or sinned, which is what missing the mark means.  There is not a person on this earth that is perfect.  There was one once, His name was Jesus Christ.  He lived, died, and rose from the dead to pay the penalty of our sins.

So who does God want?  He wants all sinners to come to Him.  Since everyone sins that includes everyone.  His love is that big.  His compassion, grace and mercy that amazing and inclusive.

You Were Created To Be Loved!

When God created the heavens and the earth and the animals He then said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” Genesis 1:26a  God was looking for someone with whom He could be in relationship.  We were made for relationship. Man had been created in God’s image. God is a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit each in intimately connected to the other. Since we are created in God’s image we also need intimacy. God wants to have that intimate relationship with us.

In the garden before the fall of man, man had a relationship with God that was intimate.  (Genesis 3:3-9) For man to have been afraid of the sound of God walking in the garden, he must have been familiar with the sound for it to cause fear.

God created mankind to be in relationship with Him. But sin destroyed that. But our God is a merciful God. He is never without a backup plan. This rebellion was of no surprise to God. He’s  backup plan, Jesus Christ, was already worked out it was just going to come in His timing.

That offering took place on the cross by Jesus Christ.  You see God did not lie when He said anyone that ate of that tree would die.  The penalty for sin, which is what eating that fruit was – sin, is death.  God is a just God. All sin is equal in His eyes.  Holy can not look on unholy and sin makes us unholy no matter how big or small it is.

But God is also a loving Father that wants the very best for His children and longs to have relationship and longs to shower us with love.  He didn’t want us to die in our sin apart from Him.

So as a Holy Judge He accepted what Christ offered to do.  Jesus said, “Father (Your Honor) I’ll pay their penalty. I will die that they may live. Let them go and let me pay the price.”  So that is what Jesus did on that cross so long ago.  He died on the cross in place of you and me.  Now if He had just died that wouldn’t have been enough but He rose from the dead and now sits on the right hand of God.  When someone accepts what He did for them and asks forgiveness of their sins and repents of those sins.  Repents means turns away from.  Then Christ tells the Father that one is one of mine.

Once that is done the relationship we were created for.  That ache in your heart that can’t be filled with anything in this world; not a mate, children, riches, drugs, sex, food, anything that you may try.  That ache in your heart was put there by God so that you would come to Him.  He longs for you.  He wants to be there in the dead of night when no one else is there to be cried out to and soothe and comfort you.  He wants to be there during your joys and hear all about them.  He longs for your worship and for you to be still to listen to His voice as He speaks to you.

He’s the father of the prodigal son standing expectantly, looking down the road, hoping fervently to see you coming to Him.

He’ll knock on your door seeking fellowship with you, but He’s a gentleman and will never force Himself upon you.  It’s you, with your free choice, that must open the door of your heart to start the relationship.  He loves you that much! He puts it in your hands and leaves it to you.  Whether you choose to accept His gift of love is up to you.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart