Is God Listening?

This weekend in my Spiritual Strength newsletter I shared about why we pray and how we know what to pray, which got me thinking about God hearing us. I mean there are a lot of people around the world that He has to listen to at any given time during the day or night. Does He really hear me? I know He’s God and all powerful and all knowing and everything, but let’s face it, I’m not perfect, I’ve messed up before and will again. Does He really care about me?

There’s evidence throughout the Bible of many people asking this exact same question. And over and over God says that He does listen and does care about them, and us. Why? Because He’s compassionate and loving and gracious, and most of all, because He says so. But what about my screw-ups? Does that make a difference to God? We know that God doesn’t like when we sin or screw up. He hurts when we disappoint Him or go against Him or forget about Him. But until we are made perfect again He understand that we’ll be going through this cycle.

The challenge for us is to do what we can to not make the cycle repeat and try to be more compassionate with ourselves and the people in our lives so that we don’t sin and our relationship with God stays healthy. When we’re able to coexist and work together in ways that support each other and do good for the world we’re learning how to live in a way that is honoring to God.

But back to the question, does God ignore us? Zechariah 10:6 says:

“I will strengthen Judah and save Israel; I will restore them because of my compassion. It will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries.”

So God will wash His hands of us for a period the time we’re rejecting Him, but because He’s compassionate He welcomes us back and continues to work with us on doing better next time. So this week if you’ve been distant or feel like you’ve been off the path take time to reconnect with God.

Giving Thanks at Christmas

“God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord…This is a free gift … being made free from sin through Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:23, 3:24

Christmas is the time for giving gifts, one of the greatest gifts to recognize is the gift of freedom from sin and an eternal life from Jesus.  If you think about it, we really have a lot to be thankful for at this time of year, beginning with this fabulous earth we live on, and going above and beyond with the birth of a Baby who would save us and offer eternal life.  But when it comes to gifting, hearing the word “free” always makes us wonder: Is it really free?  What am I giving in exchange for it?  Why is it free (is it that bad?)? Are just a few of the questions we ask.

Technically though, there isn’t a catch to this free gift.  We just have to be willing to accept it, and accept Jesus’ presence in our lives. The good news is, as I shared in my devotional this week, is that:

“…while Jesus was fully divine and fully human, we are not.  We do not have to be, nor are we God.  God has never asked us to take on the responsibility of bearing or fathering his son, all he has asked of us is to be the person he has created us to be.  God doesn’t need or expect you to be God or anything close to that, just to be yourself.”

Accepting the miraculous free gift of salvation, freedom and eternal life isn’t meant to be a leg-shackle, nor does it turn us into God, nor does God expect supernatural miracles of us or our lives.  He asks us to be ourselves, to trust him, to follow his leading as often as possible, and to share the gift of freedom with someone else.  Will you accept the free gift today?

Only with God’s Grace

Grace is a topic that always fascinates me.  It’s one I’ve written many devotionals and blog posts on as well as taught many youth group lessons.  It’s one of those topics that never fully reveals itself, and there’s always something new to learn.  What is grace anyway?  A really simple definition is “God’s mercy and goodness to us.”  It doesn’t really describe the whole package, but it’s a start.

Hebrews 4:16 says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Grace is that unknown factor, that last second touchdown, that surprisingly answerable question on a math test, that free drink from the person in front of you in line, that delay on a deadline, that forgiveness when none is deserved.  It can’t be predicted or expected, but without it hope would have much less impact or relevance.  Not to mention that each of us need mercy and blessings in our lives almost on a daily basis.

The awesome thing is that God is there ready for us when we need help.  Maybe we won’t get the exact answer we were looking for or be freed of consequences, but whenever we need that peace that passes all understanding it’s waiting for us just a prayer away.  We all have those dark-night-of-the-soul days too where the only thing that can pull us out is a touch from God.  The next time you’ve screwed up, or just don’t know what to do, don’t worry, you can get through this challenge too, just lean on God’s grace.