Worth                                                              

Worthy is He Who Gives Worth
  
The Christmas song, “O Holy Night” has a phrase that sticks with me.  It sings, “And the soul felt its worth.”  Worth.  It’s a treasure if you have it.

Jacob was an important guy in the Old Testament.  His name was changed to Israel, which is where the nation of Israel got its name.  The twelve tribes of Israel came from this man’s twelve sons.  It really is a big deal!  Jacob had a beloved wife, Rachel.  She was beautiful and the apple of his eye. 

He worked fourteen years to gain her as a wife- now that’s love!  It would have been seven, but his father-in-law tricked him and gave him Rachel’s older sister, Leah, first.  He said it was because the older had to marry before the younger.  Or, maybe it was because Leah was not beautiful and had no prospects of getting married.  It only makes sense that her father would use the cultural norms to his daughter’s advantage to secure her a husband.  Who could blame him?

Poor Leah.  Unloved and unattractive. 

The ways of the earth surely did not bend to her favor.  But, God did.  It was through Leah that six of twelve tribes of Israel sprang.  It was from Leah that God brought the Levitical Priesthood about.  It was through them that He greatly revealed Himself to mankind.  It was also through Leah that the linage of Jesus came, who is the fulfillment of the law given to the priests.  Important?  Yes!  Shake-the-whole-earth-to-its-core important. 

Leah.  Loved and favored by God.  She had worth. 

Jesus gave her worth.  The savior of the world was her descendent.  That’s some claim to fame.

When Jesus was born in a manger in a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem it was humble even for the people of the time.  They had hotels back then, which is why Joseph and Mary tried there first.  Hotels were the expected place to stay when they traveled, just like now.  I would have chosen to stay in a barn after a long trip as a desperate last resort.  Maybe it was the same for them?

Jesus.  Poor and lowly.

The Savior of the World, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel (God with us) should at least have had a descent place to be welcomed into this world.  The ways of earth surely did not bend to His favor.  But, God did.  It may not have seemed like the perfect plan to have a baby in an animal’s dirty residence, but the shepherds got it.

Shepherds in the biblical times stank; they smelled like sheep.  Not a prestigious job, but someone had to do it. 

Just outside of Bethlehem there were fields where shepherds watched over sheep.  These were not just any sheep.  These sheep were raised for the purpose of being sacrificed to God in observation of the law.  You know the law in connection with the Levitical Priesthood.  The law says that the sheep were to be perfect and without blemish.  In keeping with this, the shepherds would wrap the sheep in cloth to keep them from getting bumped around so they would be fit for sacrificing.  Makes sense.

On the night Jesus was born, God revealed the majesty of His son to none other than the stinky shepherds.  In a play they would be referred as “Shepherd #1” and “Shepherd #2”.  The first to soak up the magnificence of the birth of Jesus were nameless shepherds. 

Shepherds.  Stinky and nameless.

The ways of earth surely did not bend in their favor.  But, God did.

When the shepherds came to see the new born king, what did they see but the perfect sacrificial lamb wrapped in the sacrificial lambs cloth.  Significant?  Yes.  Shake-the-whole-earth-to-its-core important. 

Who else would grasp the significance of these details?  Jesus, the Lamb of God was wrapped in the sacrificial lamb’s cloth.  They knew.  They could tell the story of why Jesus came better than anyone else.  Better than an inn keeper.  Better than a midwife.  Better than a palace servant.  Better than another king. 

Shepherds.  Loved and favored.  Jesus gave them worth.

The bloodline of the Levitical Priesthood was replaced by the blood of Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb.  Those who belong to Jesus are a part of His new and lasting priesthood.  Not a priesthood based on law and animal sacrifices, but on love and the perfect sacrifice of Jesus that took care of sin once and for all.

 Christian woman, you are a priest.  The ways of earth may not bend to our favor but do not mistake your worth.

You.  Loved, forgiven, and favored.

Knowing who you are in Christ is shake-the-whole-earth-to-its-core important.  It will change you to your core.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us worth.

Jesus.  Worthy is the Lamb.  He gives us worth.


By Andrea Simmons
12.20.17
  


  

Revelation 5:12, "In a loud voice they were saying: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'"​

Victory Over Muddy Waters
It happened again.  Self-doubt crept in and gave me those old familiar feelings of being inadequate.  You might as well have tattooed it across my forehead.  This time it was a big scoop of not being good enough with a thick layer of comparison on top.  As comfortable as those old feelings are, they are suffocating to live with.  I haven't learned how to never let them creep up; they are so sneaky.  I have learned how to deal with them and keep them in their rightful place.  Never again do I want to live my life to the beat of a negative self image (it robs God of His glory).  It kind of feels like I'm trudging through deep muddy water and  I can barely pick one foot up to move it in front of the other because I am stuck in the burden of who I am not.

What happens when we choose to stay with those thoughts of inadequacy?  They become like our god.  Anything that consumes our thinking and our feelings, which we dwell on too much, take the rightful place of God in our lives.  When anything takes the place of the LORD our God, we are in deep trouble, or should I say stuck in deep muddy water?

Very often in the Bible water is symbolically used to express God's judgment on those who reject Him, but not for those who embrace Him.  I'm thinking about the time God led Joshua and the Israelites across the Jordan River.  My heart has stopped in the book of Joshua for a few days now; I love what the Holy Spirit is teaching me.  Read Joshua 3:11-16 below.

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan.  Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man.  And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”  So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people,  and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.  Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

The Ark of the Lord represents Jesus.  The waters represent the judgment of God for those who do not accept Jesus.  When the priests carrying the Ark step into the waters of judgment the waters part- no judgment here!  All of God's people cross over on dry ground without judgment.  As a matter of fact, the waters were "far away" and "completely cut off."

Judgment stopped.

The people crossed right on over into the Promised Land.  Do you know what they left behind?  The other side of the river and its past, its sins, and life before the promise was fulfilled.  No more mud, no more mire, and nothing to trudge through. 

Likewise, we have no place to pass judgment on ourselves with critical thinking where Jesus has provided a way for us to cross over, leaving it behind.  He justified us.  We should not entertain thoughts or feelings of, "I'm not good enough," or "Why did I say that?" or "I can never…"  This kind of condemnation comes from the evil one.  Paul speaks to us in the book of Romans in chapter 8 verse 34, "Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed in interceding for us."   Who is to condemn what Jesus has justified?  Not you.  Not me.

Just to drive the point home a little more, read Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Please understand that in Jesus you are not condemned and you have no place to condemn yourself.  So, when we find ourselves in the situation where our own heart is condemning, remember God is bigger, He has provided a better way, and you squash that thought/feeling right in its tracks!  Surrender it to God, pray these verses around it, and put it in its proper place- far away from you and completely cut off from you, where it belongs.  You have victory in Him who provided for you!

I have given you some what-not-to-do's, so let me wrap up with a verse of what to do.  Read Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

True.
Honorable.
Just.
Pure.
Lovely.
Commendable.
Excellent.
Worthy of praise.

This is a pretty good list to measure our current thought life against.  Remember, after obedience follows rest.  In this case, the victory is rest from deep muddy waters.  I want that!

By Andrea Simmons 1.12.17
  
    
Joshua 3:15 & 16

"The waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.  Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
  
  
What's His is Promised
When we think back over our lives, we often remember the momentous events.  Right?  I remember how much I loved gymnastics when I was young.  The day I was promoted to team was thrilling.  Best. Day. Ever!  I loved to compete, I loved being awarded ribbons and most of all, I loved practicing.  If there was any chance I could have practiced under an Olympic bound coach I would have been all in.  Obviously, it didn't happen.​

Some of the other memories are the first time I was pulled over by a cop.  Yes, there were tears.  There were the times I walked to Pomp and Circumstance in high school, college, and grad school.  Then there was the time I held my first baby in my arms.  I especially love the day I said, "I do," to my beloved Chuck.  Well, you get the idea.

The life of Jesus has so many events to ponder and be amazed that it's hard to narrow it down.  Wouldn't you agree?  However, I think right up there with His miraculous birth and divine resurrection is the transfiguration.  When I think about it, I actually feel a loss that I haven't spent more time in my life up to now learning about this momentous event in the life of Jesus.  It's so powerful!

Read matthew 17:1-13.  Read all of it!  I hope  you will learn to love it!  For now, let's look at verse 2, "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light."  I love to ponder what was transpiring between God and Jesus at this point.  What were Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus about?  The book of Luke tells us they were talking about what was transpiring to happen in Jerusalem.  This is the start of the end of Jesus' ministry, His last few months on earth before the crucifixion and resurrection.  Do you see why this is so momentous?  It is a very pivotal point in the life of our Savior.

The verse Matthew 17:2 describes how Jesus was completely changed, the English word is metamorphosis.  Can you just imagine being Peter, James, or John and being surrounded by His shining white glory in this way?  How do you take it all in?  What gets me is when it says His face shoneHis face.  The face of the Son of God.  Why am I choosing to land on this?  Let me tell you….


It is because we are made in His image.  Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."  He made us like Him.  Think about this verse and then think about Romans 8:17 which says, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

We are made in His image and He shares His glory with us.  All of a sudden it means everything that it was His face that shone.  It is His face which we were created in the image of whose glory which is promised to us.  My friend, if you ever doubt who you are, you only need to look to who Jesus Christ is to remember.

I'm going to say that again so we can remember it.  If you ever doubt who you are, you only need to look to who Jesus Christ is to remember.  In Him, you have great worth!

Is there any better gift?

By Andrea Simmons 12.21.16
  

  
Matthew 17:1-9
"After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will put up three shelters: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown in terror.  Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” He said. “Do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus."
  
Thinking Good Things
We were just talking.  Then, our conversation took an impactful turn.  All of a sudden, my teenage daughter realized that if my parents had decided to go to the church my mom grew up in instead of attending my dad's church when they got married, her life today would have been completely different than it is.  My siblings and myself would have never met and therefore never married the people we did.  She and her cousins simply would not be.  Then we marveled over all the decisions we make in moments of time that affect our lives in gigantic ways.  She was pretty floored.  So was I.​​

One thing I try to teach my two girls is how we think is exactly this way.  In a moment of thinking you can either choose well or choose poorly and the outcome can have impacting results, too.  This stands for almost any decision but here is one example….  If you choose to believe a lie about yourself such as, "I'm not worth it," the threat is you may buy in to the lie setting yourself on a bumpy path to a poor self image and lesser relationships.  However, if you choose to be more flexible in your thinking and hold on to the truth that you are God's creation, intentionally made for greater things, then you can walk in the enveloping security of who you really are.  Do you see how just one small decision made in a moments time can affect you long term?  What if you have a plethora of moments that lead you strongly down one path or another? 

The way you think can either help you or hinder you.  You choose.  How do your choices glorify God?
For way too long I didn't even know what I was choosing and I lived like I wasn't even worth certain friendships.  This thinking spilled over into every part of my life and tried to define the sum of me.  But, Jesus.  Our knowing Savior gently showed me the error of my ways and corrected my thinking patterns over time.  I'm so thankful He did.

Here is a beautiful command given to us in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  It is not a secret, it's clearly spelled out for us what we are to be thinking about- good things! 

Let's read on because following the words in this verse are more words, this time not words just to command but words with a promise.  Philippians 4:9, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."  To summarize, if you think about good things, there is peace to follow. 

Let me tell you from experience, thinking about lesser things is not peaceful.   Have you ever replayed an embarrassing event in your head over and over?  I have, it totally kept me from sleeping last night.  I had to take it to God, put it into perspective, and change my thinking before I could get some sleep.  When I did, I got some peaceful sleep.  There's real life application in these verses that are good for daily living!

What thinking patterns do you need to turn over to God today?  When you do, expect some peace because God's promises are iron clad.  Get ready, get set, go!
  
By Andrea Simmons  11/22/16

Philippians 4:8&9
 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
May Flower Queen

​​My mom.  She went to a private Catholic school that taught kindergarten through twelfth grade. Growing up and she was poor.  On occasion, she was made fun of.  She would often tend to the needs of the younger children on the playgroud when they were hurt or bullied and she would stop the madness and bandage their newly acquired bumps and bruises.  Her kindness was evident to the recipients and reached a wide audience of those yonger than she was.​​

The custom at this small school was for all the high school students to vote on the May Flower Queen at the end of every year.  As life is full of cliches, here were three popular girls, two of which had their turn at May Flower Queen.  Obviously, this year was destined to be the third girls turn and she was sure to have her triumph.  That is, until the rules were changed.  This year, the voting was opened up to the entire school.  Yep, kindergarten through twelfth grade could vote.

The day came for the votes to be counted and, much to everyones surprise, contestant number three did not win the crown.  My mom did.  Her kindness to everyone paid off in this classic story of the good underdog swoops in at the very end to win the victory.  I totally love that my mom was the victor.  I love that story.  My mom was totally deserving of that moment and it was given to her!

Yay!

I remember a more dry time in my own life when I often hoped that someone would adore me.  I desperately wanted someone, anyone, to single me out and tell me I was special and important to them.  I was stuck in the muddy thoughts of being less than and living in the idea of not even being good enough.  I didn't even feel like I could blend in and felt being completely off the social grid.  Do you know what I mean?  I felt unloved, unlovable, and unnoticed on many levels.  Maybe this didn't show outwardly, but I struggled most definitely inwardly.  I was a Christian woman living in the world and believing what the world had to offer. 

Jesus often spoke in the spiritual.  Often when those He spoke to tried to apply His words in the context of the world, they were left confused.  This is the same reaction that we as Christian women have when we try to view ourselves by what the world has to say rather than appropriately applying what God has to say.  We, too, can be left confused as well as wanting for something more.

As Christian women, do we live in the world or in the Spirit?  We can answer that by taking notice of what we think about.  

Once you pour yourself out to Jesus and acknowledge He is your Savior, He fills you up and gives you an identity that is good- not what the world would have you belive.  This new identity replaces the old one.  It replaces the identity of worthlessness, being a victim, not being good enough, and being a bad person in general.  He replaces every label the world can slap on you no matter what the circumstances are.  You are loved, cared for, adored, saved, and provided for, among so much more.  In Christ, you are who He says you are.  The buck stops here.

​​In relationship with Jesus, your identity will be made solid and iron clad.  Once and for all you can know who you are.  I have never met a person who walked with Jesus that regretted it.  Never have.  A life with Jesus is always fulfilling.

Read this next passage.  It gives some insight as to who you are to God who loves, adores, and seeks after you.  You!

Isaiah 43:1-3a, "But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'"

No matter what your circumstances are that give you a false identity, turn to God, who knows your name, and knows you have been redeemed and belong to Him.  Through it all, you have a Savior.  Find your identity in His love no matter what the world throws at you.  Rather, catch what gifts God hands to you.  In Him, we are all May Flower Queens.  Singled out, chosen, and loved.

Dear Lord, thank you for seeking us.  Help us to internalize your love and the identity you want to give us for your glory.  Speak truth into us so we know how sweet and good it is! Praise your holy name!  Amen.

By Andrea Simmons

10.14.16


  

Isaiah 43:1-3a
"But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'"
Order or Disorder?
She did not want to hang out with the girls in the youth group who would be her friends.  She was shy and unwilling to submit to the friendships that were waiting for her.  No, she wanted to hang out with the popular girls.  There were three of them in her Sunday school class.  So, she started hanging with them.  Sadly, her steps towards new friendships were not reciprocated. 

The dynamic trio did not want her there and so they ignored her, desipite her efforts.  The three even went as far as to go to the youth pastor and complain and seek his help.  He only asked them to try to accept the tag-along, which caused more pleads and arguments on their end.  She didn't mean to cause a ruckus; she only wanted to be friends with the group she was drawn to.  Although she was not included in their private conversations about her, she was not naive. 

The problem was that she was keenly aware and the unwanted situation fed deeply into her already established root system of not feeling good enough.  This young and precious girl was going about life and her identity all wrong.  She had her eye on what she considered the prize, but God had so much more in mind for her.

How many times do we unwillingly find ourselves in a place in life because we were following our earthly desires causing us to miss God's best for us?

There was disorder and she was broken.  I've seen it happen in youth groups more than once.  It doesn’t start and stop in youth groups; it exists in people of all ages.  Why does this happen and why is our response often one of feeling less than?

Christ brings order.  Without Christ there is no order, yet we can find a big perscription for disorder in our lives.


Let's read what Paul has to say about how God created us to live in Acts 17:28a, "For in Him we live and move and exist."  All eyes were on Paul as he is talking to very intereseted and inquisitive people in Athens, of whom some believed in Christ and some did not.  The truths he spoke were good for everyone.

He was driving home the point in these two verses that you, as an individual, were created by God.  God caused to you to live.  The word live is not equivelant to the animals that move, crawl, breath, and walk on all fours.  This is a higher kind of living than that.   We are made in the image of God, we are His offspring.  We have a spirit and a soul with purpose and meaning beyond other creation.
 
We were created in such a way that God is the one who caused us to move.  He caused us to exist.  Some translations say in Him we have our being.  You as an individual live and move and have your existence because of Him and it is in Him that you are.  You as an individual were created to be in relationship with God because God purposed it to be exactly that way.  It is in this truth that we find internal order.  He is close to each and every person. 

When we believe and acknowledge this in our daily living then we are living in truth and order rather than lies and disorder and it is only there that we find peace.  We start to let go of the lies of feeling worthless, not good enough, or not wanted, because we begin to realize that we are who God intended for us to be in every situation in life.  He intended for us to be wanted and have great worth in Him.  Truth.  In Him we know this; apart from Him we cannot know it.  


When our eyes are fixed only on God and His purposes we start to redefine who we are what we want.    Order follows and feelings like worthlessness, which God never intend for us, are thrown out like a worn pair of socks.  When our eyes are fixed on Jesus and how we are loved by Him, everything else starts to fall into place on how we view ourselves.  God wants good things for His children, taht's you.


Paul tells us that some in Athens believed and some did not.  Do you believe who God says you are?  Do you know whose you are and that you were created to have your existence in God?  Do you live knowing that with God you have order in truth about who you are and your place in this world rather than disorder in lies?

Dear LORD, thank you for making me.  Please show me how to focus on you and let go of everything else that makes me feel like I don't measure up.  Help me learn how to simply have my existence- my being, in you alone as I go about my days.  Thank you for freeing me from the heavy burden of feeling lesser and giving me a personal story of love and acceptance.  Praise you holy Name!  Amen.

By Andrea Simmons
9/21/2016
  
Acts 17:28
"For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'"
An Intense Love
My daughter, Claire, bought a baby fish for her sister, Annah one year for Christmas.  We had so much fun watching that baby fish grow because we got the joy of discovering what color he was turning out to be and how gorgeous his fins grew.  Bubbles was a beautiful blue beta.  Every morning when I went into Annah's room to wake her up and get out some clothes for her I'd feed that beloved fish, too. 

Every time I walked into her room that little guy would swim to the edge of the tank as if to say, "I see you out there!  Now feed me!"  For that reason, I called him Little Piggy.  (Now that I write that out, it doesn’t seem like such a good nickname…) 


One morning after a few years I didn't see Bubbles.  The next morning I didn't either, so I looked.  Yep.  It happened.  Now I had to do in the inevitable and tell my little girl her fish had gone to fishy heaven, so to speak.  She cried for two days and had her Sunday school teacher pray about it.  Her teacher told me she'd actually cried about it in class.  Out of all the fish in the world, she loved that little blue one.

John 3:16 tells us that God loves all the people in the world.  Here's the verse again, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."  The word whosoever in the Greek is pas.  Pas is a general term meaning everyone.  We could just hang out there all day and marvel at the magnitude of God's love; He is good to us in every way.

However, I want to give you another verse of God's love that I recently decided is one of my favorites.  It's Romans 5:8, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Now these two verses seem similar at first, but there are differences.  The words us and we are in this verse three times.  They all translate into the same Greek work ego, meaning I, me, or my.  The difference is, in this verse the term ego is not general like pas but a specific individual and personal term.  John 3:16 is general and Romans 5:8 takes us to a more personal understanding of God's love for each and every individual, including you.


I treasure the knowledge of God's love for us as a whole, but I also revel in the idea that all by myself, I am so valued.  Some days I just need that!  How about you?


Psalm 139:13, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb."  The words inward parts in this verse are always gripping.  It means, physically, the most inward parts of your body and it also means your deepest emotions and feelings- all that makes you the person you are.  On our sickest and healthiest days, He knows.  On all of our most worrisome and sorrowful days and our happiest most joy filled days, He knows.  Psalm 56:6 states, "You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears."  We may not see Him, but He absolutely always feels when we feel and keeps a record of each tear.  I do not even journal my own life as good as that!  God is deeply involved with every expression of our days.  Feel loved.  Think about His love for you and how great He is; you will never walk away disappointed when seeking Him like this.

​He is so in love with you, the individual, that He not only keeps all your tears, but He has the very number of hairs on your head counted (Matthew 10:30) and that changes daily, yet He knows the number.  This is just one more way God expresses to us His deep knowledge and intense love for YOU.  How much more can our worth be revealed by His loving goodness?  He sent His only Son to die a painful and gruesome death in place of people like you and me who didn't have a chance otherwise.  That is some deep love.  (Please consider that Jesus was restored to the Father sitting at His right hand in heaven, Mark 16:19.  He was also shown love and taken care of.)


Dear God, who loves us deeply, thank you.  Thank you for your word that reveals to us how cherished we are to you.  We all have a longing to be loved and you have displayed full well your love for us that can fulfill all of our needs.  You are a caring and attentive God; there is no other like you.  Today, we praise your holy name!  Stir in our hearts and minds and let us know your love for us in such a way that we are changed for the better and let it bring glory back to you.  In your name we pray, amen!


 by Andrea Simmons
Romans 5:8
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 
I Am Who God Says
There was a tragic time in my life where I had one individual who repeatedly told me, "I hate you," and "anyone is better than you," among a plethora of other things.  I remember a time that I needed to get my wisdom teeth pulled; there wasn't enough room in my mouth for all of my pearly whites.  However, the oral surgeon needed $300 up front before they submitted anything to insurance and started the surgery.  I just remember sitting at the top of my bed motionlessly listening while the other paced up and down the foot of the bed putting me through the ringer for requesting the $300.  With this individual, I would never be good enough to measure up for anything.

Now, I'm writing this with little or no emotion simply because it was so long ago, I've forgiven, and now I firmly believe I am who God says I am.  But, I do remember very well what it was like to feel worthless.  My sweet sister, do you ever feel worthless?  Sometimes it's difficult to see our own value just like the majestic bald eagle doesn't know his own beauty and it's hard to receive compliments, but that is something many of us need to work on.

Today, let's talk about low self esteem.  Please remember I'm not a psychologist, but it does take one to know one…  First off, the following list contains characteristics of someone who possesses low self-esteem. If you identify with some or all of these, you might consider that you are suffering from low self-esteem.

1.      Social withdrawal
2.      Anxiety and emotional turmoil
3.      Lack of social skills and self confidence. Depression and/or bouts of sadness
4.      Less social conformity
5.      Eating disorders
6.      Inability to accept compliments
7.      An Inability to see yourself 'squarely' - to be fair to yourself
8.      Accentuating the negative
9.      Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
10.   Self neglect
11.   Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
12.   Worrying whether you have treated others badly
13.   Reluctance to take on challenges
14.   Reluctance to put yourself first or anywhere.
15.   Reluctance to trust your own opinion
16.   Expecting little out of life for yourself.

               Tyrrell, Mark. (N.D.). Top ten facts about low self esteem. Retrieved from http://www.self-               confidence.co.uk/articles/top-ten-facts-about-low-self-esteem/ on 8.2.16.

What helped me to get over low-self esteem may help you, so I wanted to share it with you today.  It is wrapped up in the beauty of Jesus.  Could we agree today that He is wonderful?  He doesn’t cause bad things to happen; He is the antidote to those bad things.  He is wonderful.  So, before I tell you what I did, I want to tell you that it was super simple, yet super hard- at first.  The more I practiced it, the easier it got.

The following verses address how we are to think.  Think.  We are masters over our thought life and even those moments that are not consumed with audible thoughts but feelings that tear us down all the same.  It's those emotionally based thoughts and feelings that keep us in bondage and from being free to be ourselves.  Read the verses a few times each and ask God to tell you what it is He wants you to learn from them.

Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Philippians 4:8, " Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

The first thing I did was to pay attention to when I was harming myself with these all too comfortable thoughts and feelings and I paused.  During this moment of pausing I would retrain my thinking and I would remind myself of whom God says I am.  Following are some verses on who God says you are.

Psalm 139:13, "For you formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb."  You were planned by God and on purpose.

John, 8:36, "The Son has set me free. I am free indeed!" You are free.
1 Corinthians 6:19, "My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit."  Your body is a temple.

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I am strengthened and can do all things.

Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it."  I will be complete.

Romans 8:1, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I am not condemned.

Romans 8:38-39, "Nothing can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus."  I am always loved because His love is always with me.

Romans 8:28, "In all things God works for the good of those who love him."  God is working out good things for me.

Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."  You are more than a conqueror. 

1 Corinthians 10:13, "God is faithful. He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear."  I have the ability to resist the temptation to think inferior thoughts of myself.

2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind." I have a spirit of power and good thinking.

2 Corinthians 4:17, "Momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."  The glory in heaven reaches far beyond anything I suffer on earth; it's worth waiting for!

Ephesians 3:20, "He is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me."  His power is at work in me and I will do more great things than I ever knew I could.

Romans 8:31, "God is for me! Who can be against me?"  I do not care what others think about me anymore, God is for me!

Are you asking why so many verses?  It is because the Bible is good for teaching and correcting our behaviors (2 Timothy 3:16).  God knows what we suffer and He also wanted to train us to be the best version of ourselves.  The important thing to remember is that God fully wants you to know who you are, and that is very dearly loved with great attention to the details that make up you.

I continuously repeated to myself for months and months, "I am who God says I am."  It made a vast difference in what I thought about myself.

So far we have learned that we need to catch our negative thoughts and replace them with the truth.  The next thing to know is that when we degrade ourselves so consistently we are going against God in this and it is called sin.  We need to ask Jesus to forgive us our sins and He will be faithful to forgive us and purify us always (1 John 1:9). 

And my sister, be in prayer, always be in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  There are better ways and blessings for you, so choose what is better and best.   In part, I mean that you should be less sure of who you think you are and more sure of who God says you are.

In Your great name, Dear God, I pray you would stir in the heart of the woman reading this that needs a better way to view Your creation in her.  Be relentless in her until she comes to terms with You and why You created her.  Thank You for hearing this prayer and the good things You are about to do!  In Your holy name I pray, amen.

by Andrea Simmons 8.3.16
Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
To the Least of These
My husband got a phone call.  It was from a sweet lady who means no harm but asked if he could take her to the grocery store.  While he has a willing heart, it was a difficult thing for him to want to do this because she is difficult to be around.  She is a conversation hog and cares little about anything you have to say.  She shops slowly, with no regard to the fact that you have other things to do.  There are just things about these trips to the store that make it hard work.

Then, it came to be my turn to take her to the store.  My mood instantly changed when my husband hung up his phone.  I did not want to take her to the store, but come the next day and I would be.

That morning I got up and prayed something I have been praying for a while now.  In my prayer I was asking God to lead me today to be His bond servant.  I asked Him to help me put His agenda above my own and other people before my own schedule.  Instantly, the Holy Spirit spoke to my soul and I knew very well that when I picked up this lady today I would need to not only be willing to take her shopping, but to be happy to do it.  

Ouch!  I had been so wrong and so far from the servant of God I was praying to be.

Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"  I was not only helping someone out, I was serving God.  Not only are my actions to bring Him glory but my attitude too.  Well, I can tell you the trip to the store still had its challenges and I had to pray for help even while I was there, but my heart was tender to the LORD and this lady He loves. 

How often do we let our own selves get in the way of living the truly Christian life God intends for us? 

I felt ashamed, I have to admit, because I have spent so much time with God asking Him to show me who I am to Him and in Him so I could move beyond a point of feeling continuously worthless.  What was I doing but allowing someone else to feel this way?  This may be too honest to share, however, it is a real life struggle and maybe someone else needs to hear it, too.  

I'm convicted.  I will surrender this to God every time because I want to keep my relationship with Him and I know that any kind of disobedience brings us apart.  I feel discouraged and beaten up by the world when this happens.  Peace comes after obedience to Him, not before.

We all need to be thinking of the least of these as valuable beyond our own understanding.  God gives worth to all starting with the fact that we are made in His image and He loves each and every one of us.  It may be difficult at times, but will you take the step out to treat all people with the love God has commanded us to treat them with? 

Glory to God, who gives worth to all.

 By Andrea Simmons
 
  
Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"
Wonderfully Created
It's not that you're not good enough; it's just that you don't know who you are. Does that even make sense? It does to me.

I used to constantly listen to that nagging small voice deep inside that confirmed the negative things the evil one wanted me to believe. Negative things like I didn't do it right, again! Bombed that one! They're so much better than me at ____ (fill in the blank). I wish I could be like that. I'll never be as _____ as so-and-so (fill in the blank, again). And, the list goes on. You might even have your own list. Most of the time, I didn't even know I was doing it because it was so second nature.

The bad news is that I always took the blows as if I was supposed to be believing them.

Where does it come from? For me, some of it came naturally and some of it came from a relationship I used to be in and I’d recall things I was told. Some of it came from what I let myself believe about myself. When you hear from others how bad you are whether subtle or manifest, you start to believe them. Let me tell you, it is a struggle to keep your identity in the midst of life, sometimes! Where do you get your identity from?

Your identity...

Let me tell you something I have learned and I hope that you get it- really get it!

Let’s start with the book of Exodus because it starts out with a bang! The ten plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the deliverance of an oppressed people to be blessed by God. It can keep you on the edge of your seat! By the end of the book the events change a great deal. The author goes into all the details of building the temple according to God's specific direction. And I do mean details, right down to the color of thread and the fabric layers to be used for the roof. Not the most exciting words to read.

Not only does the Bible give us those details once, but twice. The second time these details are discussed, it is from the perspective of the very best skilled craftsmen that God Himself chose to do the work. I had to ask God, why? Why is this so important? It sure didn't build up my interest as the beginning of the book did.

The answer came to me so quietly, but impacted me so profoundly. So we could be closer to Him.

So we could be closer to Him.

God so specifically ordained each detail of the temple as He did you, too. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb." If the outwardly temple was so special to God that it had to be made according to specific and intentional divine direction by God for only the very best of craftsmen to create, then when God Himself built us, it must have been an amazingly divine act of God enveloped in a thick coat of love for who we are. We cannot escape His love, we may reject it, but we cannot escape it, because He loves us.

Why else is any church building built? So, we can physically and spiritually come to Him. Why else would you be built?

Those ugly little voices I always paid attention to- no more! You and I are loved in a very complete way. That is where we must choose to live. He is who I choose to listen to and get my identity from. Do not compare yourself to anyone. Do not accept words and actions meant for destruction to identify you but listen to the one who made you and loves you. When the world is throwing smack at you, take it right back to Him, your audience of one. Only the person of Jesus.

Surrender these things echoing inside of you to Him who loves you and has made a way throughout history to provide opportunity after opportunity for you to know you are loved. Give Him the ugly and He will tell you that you are favored. Finding Him is easy, after all, He is waiting for you to come to Him and pray.

By Andrea Simmons
Psalm 139:13 
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb."
My Name is Christian, Part 2

When it came to naming my two daughters I was thrilled to go through lists of names and whittle the list down to a few perfect names that fit my criteria. The name had to be one that I loved and it had to mean something significant or positive. For instance, the wonderful biblical name, Caleb, means dog, which is the name my husband wanted if we were to have a boy. Hum. I was not about to name my child something that means dog even if it is a wonderful name. I was a little surprised to find out that not all people were as bent on the meaning of their child’s name as I was. It made me feel a little extreme to be so dogmatic about it (pun intended) but it was important to me all the same.
 
One of the significant things about the name Christian and being a Christian is that in the name of Christ the old covenant under the law of Moses is gone and there is a new covenant in Christ. Before, the old covenant was for the people of Israel alone, God’s chosen. The new covenant is for all people. The promises from God now belong to Jews and Gentiles alike. No longer did the people need to claim “I am a Jew” or “I am Gentile”, which was a great chasm of difference between them. In this hot political time when Jesus followers were first named Christians, there was great prejudice towards each other’s nationalities. This was not just a prejudice of current preference, but their dividing history went way back. Jews would not eat or associate with a Gentile because they were unclean and to do that would cause great social ramifications. Now, in Christ, they could unify with the name ‘Christian’. This name took away deeply rooted social divides and unified people to God. Christ rocked their culture! Christian is a significant and unifying name.
 
I am a Christian.
 
Acts 11:5-10, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of pray and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.”
 
God told Peter not to call unclean what He had called clean, regarding not only the food but the Gentiles who ate the ‘unclean’ food, too. The Gentiles, who accept Christ, as well as the Jews, are now under the new covenant and are clean by the act of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection. The unfit and despised are now equal and worthy on spiritual and earthly terms.
 
God made a way for the Gentiles and for the first time they are now seeing firsthand the fruits of God’s love and provision for them. They have a new name, Christian.
 
No matter who you are, what you have done, where you have been, or what has been done to you, you have the opportunity to leave the old and become new! In Christ, you have a new significant name and a new identity. In Christ you are a Christian. The old you is gone and the new is here to stay.
 
Thank you, LORD! Because there are so many places and times in my life I have been found lesser in the eyes of the world. But not by you, God! You have made a way for each and every one of us in Your great ways! “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him,” Psalm 40:1-3. Thank you because we are all created equal in your name and you have done great things for us. You can wipe our past clean, make us new, and give us a new name. Praise you, God, and thank you. Bless your holy name that can make all things new!
 
By Andrea Simmons
Acts 11:9-10
 “‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.”
My Name is Christian, Part 1
I have been thinking a lot lately about our worth. I cannot get away from the fact that when we focus too much on our own worth we are taking focus off of God, which ultimately takes away from our worth. That is not a fence I am willing to straddle. I was attempting to do a topical bible study on ‘the worth of a person’ and what I found is there is virtually nothing on the worth of people and everything on the worthiness of Christ and worth in other areas. There is only one conclusion to draw from this and that is only in the worthiness of Christ can we find our worth and be fulfilled. Apart from God our worth is only hinted at. (Doesn’t this completely explain the hurt in our lost world?)

Then I thought about the word Christian. I was taught at an early age that it could be translated as “little Christ” meaning we were smaller than Christ but He lived in us. As I pondered this I realized if our title or our name is Christian then it is in Him that we can find our self, our purpose, and our worth. Because we were created in His image and created by God and for God we cannot separate ourselves from him and find any good thing. Only in Him can we discover who we are.

The word Christian was first used in the book of Acts. “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians,” Acts 11:25-26.

Broken down, the word Christian is Christ and ian. During this time in bible history, those who followed Caesar would add ian to the end of Caesar’s name creating the word Caesarian. This term was used to show that Caesar’s soldiers or Caesarians belonged to Caesar and followed him so closely that they would probably die for him. Yet, when those living in Antioch called the Christ followers Christians they were actually mocking them.

They obviously didn’t consider Jesus someone to be followed and felt the term was taunting. However, the Christians liked and adopted the term from their enemies and owned it as their own name. By accepting the term Christian they were stating to the world that it was by Christ they lived and died, it showed their deeply rooted love and dedication to Him. What the enemies meant to cause harm, God intended for the good of His people.

Here is the point that pulls together how we are to view our worth in Christ. We are Christians. If we take out the word Christ in Christian then we are just follower’s left prey to the evil one. If we take the ian out of Christian then what is left is Christ, which does not imply a connection with Him and does not signify our following Him. To be a Christ follower or a Christian we need to boldly proclaim both Christ and that we follow Him. When His name becomes our name and we call ourselves Christian then we have an identity.

Eusebius was an early church historian who claimed Christ. He was tortured mercilessly. His torturers were disturbed at every answer he gave when they asked him questions. What is your name? What nationality are you? Where do you live? Are you a slave or free? His response to every question was, “I am a Christian.” They despised the answer but he had no other answer because he was found in Christ, he was a Christian.

Eusebius had no reservations about who he was. In that, we can see by his actions that he did not question his worth in Christ because he was willing to only claim His name and die for Him. He must have been convinced about his worth to God because he was so committed to live and die by His son’s name. In His name is a relationship that is good and fulfilling to us. It was not in Eusebius’ separate and sole existence that gave him worth. It was Christ that gave worth to him.

If we want to know our worth we must know our Savior. Your name is Christian. Apart from Him we will only know what it is to be lost. It is my prayer that whoever reads this will consider who God is and who you are and learn full well where worth comes from. There is so much out there to teach us the lie that we are not worth anything at all but the absolute truth is because Christ is worthy, you are worthy. In His amazing love and provision for you, He made sure you were made with great worth- there is no doubt about that! Only in Him will we discover our worth. Praise His holy name!

By Andrea Simmons

Acts 11:25-26 
“So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
Life Can be Such a Struggle
Life can be such a struggle. One particular morning as the things of the world had emotionally roughed me up I decided to take it to God in prayer. I wanted so much for Him to tell me who I was in Him because I was fighting what I always struggle with- feelings of not being good enough. I used to live in a state of worthlessness and still when those moments hit I tend to crawl inward and feel depressed. As I prayed to God, I kid you not, my focus opened up and I heard the words just as they were being sung by Billy Joel, “I love you just the way you are,” in his song, “Just the Way You Are.” I knew God was using those words to remind me of what I was asking Him to remind me of, and it totally worked! He is a caring Father.

Psalm 121:8, “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” When we think of God we tend to know that He is watching over us and the whole world. We have this mental picture of God looking down from heaven overseeing every detail waving His cosmic hands over the earth making things happen. He is much closer to us than that; He not only watches over our coming and going but He also records each of our sorrows, documenting each and every one. He is intimately close to us. As it is, God hears all of our prayers and bottles up our tears; nothing we go through is forgotten.

Psalm 56:8 tells us, “You have kept track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” I personally love to rest in this knowledge and believe that we, who are in Christ, are never truly alone.

While King David was young and being hunted by the enemy he wrote Psalm 56. He took great comfort in the fact that while things were not changing the moment he cried out to God that because he cried out things would change. He was confident that God kept track of his pain caused by the enemies and that, in God's timing, his struggles would be avenged leaving him with peace and rest.

The same is true for us while we trod the paths of earth. We have an enemy, Satan. Any pain caused us by the evil one, God is aware of. Like David living in the valley of death, we can find rest in the fact that we are not alone. God is fully aware and planning our rescue. Cry out to Him as King David did, prayers and tears are weapons against the evil one. Psalm 56:9, "Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me."

Our Good Father, we give you praise! You are close to us and continually display your greatness and love. When we are in the pit help us to turn ourselves towards you and cry out to you with tears and prayers because we know you hear and see it all and deeply care for your children. Teach us who we are to you and how to let that knowledge change us deeply. In this, we can believe your word and find true comfort in believing it. Praise you, the God of heaven and earth!

Amen.
by Andrea Simmons

Psalm 121:8
"The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” 
Humility/Love Response, Part 2
My husband, Chuck, and I bought a laptop; it was a really nice one with all the features we wanted. We were so pleased to tote that thing around the house and use it for all our daily purposes. Then one day when my oldest daughter was done using it, she grabbed the top right corner and pushed it away from her. That wouldn’t be a big deal except she used just enough force to crack the screen in several places all the way across the screen up and down and everywhere. I remember it clearly because I had to sit out a six week session of my master’s program while we shipped it off to Florida for the $600 repair job.

Yes, I did day $600. Ouch!

We got our laptop back in perfect working condition and we resumed using it. I wish I could say this was the end of our laptop troubles but less than a month later I ran over my school bag with the laptop in it. I sat that bag up against the side of the car while I buckled my littlest one in her car seat, got in my driver’s seat and backed out of the drive way. Chuck was on the porch waving at me like a mad man trying to communicate for me to stop the car and I stopped a little too late. Since we live on a budget I was horrified at the new expense I just created for us- not to mention I was in the middle of another class that I absolutely needed that computer for! At that moment my dear husband only hugged me and repeatedly said, “It’s just a thing. It’s just a thing.” Thank goodness computers were covered under our house insurance.

A few months later Chuck did something equally as stupid. Well, maybe not as stupid as what I’d done, but I wanted to be really mad at him for it. However, my mind would not stop replaying his graciousness to me that day on the driveway and I knew I had to extend the same grace. It did not escape me that his expressed love for me over the computer situation created a response of love in me back to him. That’s a full circle of love.

The same is true with those who know God’s love for them. God created us out of love. He created a plan of salvation for us out of love. He gave His one and only Son out of love. He is coming again out of love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” Deuteronomy 6:5. Similarly, Matthew 22:36-37 says, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your hart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Our response to God’s love for us should be to love Him back.

Just like I considered how Chuck had previously shown his love for me, King David considered what God had done for Israel.

“Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.” (Psalm 77:10-15.)

We should remember to consider who God is and what He has done out of love for us. Our response should always be love back to Him, a full circle of love in relationship with Hm.

“Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: ‘Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chronicles 29:10-13.)

The person who believes in God loves and honors Him, which is an appropriate response to Him who first loved us.

By Andrea Simmons

Matthew 22:36-37 “'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your hart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Humility/Love Response, Part 1

My oldest daughter loves to say her best quality is humbleness. Please note the irony in her humor! But, there is a truly humble story about Booker T. Washington, the beloved black educator. A short time after he became the president of Tuskegee Institute in the state of Alabama, he was walking in a wealthier area of town and was stopped by a white woman. Not knowing who she was approaching, she asked Mr. Washington if would like to earn a few dollars by chopping firewood for her. Since he had nothing pressing at the moment, he rolled up his sleeves and humbly chopped away until the job was done. Later, as a little girl had recognized his face, his identity was revealed to the woman.
 
The next morning the embarrassed woman paid Mr. Washington a visit at the Tuskegee Institute to offer her apologies. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She was delighted as she shook his hand expressed to him that his attitude towards the situation and her had touched her heart and created a fondness for him. It was not long after this incident that she showed her admiration of by convincing some of her wealthy acquaintances to join her in giving thousands to the Tuskegee Institute.


Jesus was even more humble to leave His throne in Heaven on high and come to this dusty old world. He took the risk of offering us salvation while we were still hopeless sinners. Unlike the woman, we will never be able to pay Jesus back for His act of love on the cross.
 
God’s great love should evoke in us a response of humility from deep within having been offered such a gift without ever being able to repay it. When we look at our own state of sin compared to His matchless greatness and magnificence we not only pale, we look like specs of dust next to His vast beauty. We have nothing left to do but see ourselves as we are and be humbled.
Isaiah 57:15, “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’” He is high and we are lowly and He is all about helping us in our current state. How can we not be humble, accept His gift, and love Him back? He makes Himself so easy to love!
Dear LORD, I was born in a helpless state yet you loved me, a worthless person. In all of your majesty I cannot repay you but I can bring you praise and worship. Thank you for showing me my place in all of this allowing me to come to a point of knowing who you are, which is the greatest understanding I could ever have! Keep me humble in your presence and in my daily living making sure you get all the glory that is due you. Help me to glorify you in all I do. Praise your holy name.
 
Amen.
 
By Andrea Simmons

  

Isaiah 57:15 
“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’”

Respond With Boldness
I have spent most of my life in Sunday school classes, small groups, devotional groups, youth groups- you name it and I’ve spent some time in these church groups. One thing I have learned over the years is we are responsible for our responses to the content being taught/discussed. I had an older friend say once that if he skipped his morning prayer then he felt guilty for praying in the car on the way to work because it wasn’t good enough; he felt like he was giving God his second best. We were obviously discussing something like ‘the perfect prayer life’.
 
I am often reminded of a common response we have all had when we go through content that challenges us as Christians. For instance when we read a book that stretches us (other than the Bible) there are good responses we can have toward the book. We are talking about the kind of book that stretches our ordinary routine of daily life. The kind that causes us to rethink some things Jesus teaches and makes us question the things we know and do. The faith stretching these kinds of books cause is very good. Good things.
 
What I have been reminded of was that so many times, when we are stretching, we are also comparing. It looks and sounds something like this, “I just go to work and come home and I’m so far from the kind life depicted in this book… I must not be a good enough Christian because my prayer life falls short of the example in the book.”
 
It is so good to allow the author’s thoughts stretch us and spur us on to being more ambitious for Christ; that is probably their prayer for those who read the book. But, do not call unholy what God has called holy. If you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart then be confident that a good work is being done in you! Out of that fact that Jesus in us and we are growing to be more like Him, it may or may not look exactly like those in the book. Because Christ is holy and He is in us then we are holy. We should not down play this by comparing ourselves to examples in a book because we are not doing the exact same things as they are. Honestly, we should model after Jesus first and foremost…
 
We should consider praising God for the good works He’s doing through real examples in our lives and pray for the LORD to show us a need that He would like us to take care of. We have the same Salvation and grace at work in us as the book examples do. We should not look at examples and compare, leaving ourselves with the short end of the stick, but be encouraged and spurred on. Do not be hindered by what we think we are not but focus on what Jesus said we are!
 
Our individual responses should be between us and God. Let’s measure what we’re studying and test it against scripture to make sure it is real truth. Let the Holy Spirit talk to us and open up to us what it is He has for us to learn. Let’s not think our relationship with the LORD as less than it is because God is powerful in us! If we are feeling spurred on to be a greater example and witness then the purpose of the author was accomplished and we should move towards the nudge we feel.
 
Our daily routine is where the rubber meets the road and is proof of our faith being lived out. If we are in a season that God has called us into and we are confident our works are because of His specific calling, and then praise God! Some of us are in a season of actively living for the LORD but there is no big ministry to speak of, still praise God. This does not make God in us lesser. This means we are in a different season, but make no mistake, the way we live our daily life and stay in relationship with God is more than very important! God at work in us can still make a big impact for His kingdom. Be spurred on, be challenged, be active, be encouraged, and be bold! Make a bold move for the LORD, these are good things! Let other’s examples cause us to be spurred on; we all serve a mighty God.
 
By A.S.
Acts 4:13
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."
Radar on Worth
 
There was a convenience store tucked between an affluent business district and a poverty level ridden neighborhood. A believing woman, Rachel, was tucked in line between a manicured businessman and a tattered woman in a worn coat behind her in the convenience store line. She thought nothing of the diversity given the area of town as she stood in line to pay for her early morning coffee. When the man in front stepped out of line the tattered woman spoke just loud enough to be heard, “He must be important”. Without hesitation Rachel turned, and in surprise at the sight of a very young woman behind her, managed to respond, “Your occupation does not decide your worth.”
 
A few hours later that same day, Rachel was driving down the street and from her car recognized the tattered woman as she stood her street corner. Stricken by the magnitude of the moment, Rachel felt great concern for the woman, horror by her, and a little disbelief. Her Christian life had never encountered a modern day Rahab before. She felt compelled to do something, but how could she possibly help this woman with the small amount of time she had before picking her kids up from school, let alone change this woman’s life for the better? This was a moment of truth.
 
Well, the very least she could do was offer her a hot meal on a cold day and get her off the streets for a couple of hours. At this thought, she pulled over and waved at the young woman. “Would you like to get something to eat?” Rachel offered. With a few moments of hesitation the young woman got into the car. “Are you the lady from the convenience store this morning?” Rachel confirmed she was, reassured that the young woman recognized her, and drove to a nearby restaurant. They ate together with very few spoken words. All too soon came the moment of the dreaded return to the street corner.
 
Before the young girl got out of the car she said, “You must think I’m a pretty bad person, huh?” Rachel, surprised by the invitation to offer her thoughts said, “Your occupation does not decide your worth.”
 
No matter what your station in life is or how people view it for good or bad the truth is that Jesus came for everyone. When the sun shines down, it shines down on everyone. When the rain falls down, it falls down on everyone. When Jesus loves the world, His love is for everyone. “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
 
If worth had a radar things like occupation, wealth, looks, accomplishments, or lack thereof would not be picked up on it. If worth had a radar it would pick up on those that Jesus gave worth to. Because we are made by God and He is our heavenly father and He is worthy, we are worthy. Jesus gives us worth. Nothing else does. We need to learn to separate the views of the world and the view of God. The first gives an idea of worth that is backwards coupled with disillusions and lies. The latter gives an idea of worth based on what is real and true.
 
We who feel worthless must consider that we are giving others the job of measuring our worth. It is not their job. The job of giving worth starts and stops with Jesus, who gives all worth. Take the job back from people and give it to Jesus. Read and study His word and pray to Him. Let Him tell you how worth it you are, because you are. No matter your station in life the playing field is evened out when we come to Jesus. No matter your station in life you have a Savior waiting to love you and show you how worthy you are to Him in His name.
 
Dear God, thank you for giving me worth! So many times I transfer that job to those who cannot be trusted with it, keep me and help me to always remember my worth comes from you who loves me. You are a good and amazing God! It is your name I praise, amen.
 
by A.S.
John 3:16 
“For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Super Powerful
I had a friend who was a police officer. He told a story one day of a time he was arresting someone who had committed a crime. As he spoke he made the point that he was able to do the act of arresting because the state of Kansas had given him the authority to do so. A non-officer does not have the authority to any such thing because the state has not given power to arrest someone. It was at this point he made the connection that through Jesus we have authority. We have the authority He gave us to do so many things, but only when He invests His authority in us, which is only after we confess our sins to Him, ask forgiveness, and for Him to come into our hearts.
 
One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:37, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Don’t you just love being ‘more than a conqueror’? Me too.
 
We cannot stop right there, you know, on the part that talks only about us being ‘more than conquerors’ because if you keep reading it says, “through Him…”
 
Jesus conquered death, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9, ESV) What we can take from this is that it is only through the power Jesus gives us that we are more than conquerors. (The literal Greek translation is ‘we overwhelmingly conquer’. I love that so much! It is not simply to conquer but to overwhelmingly conquer, like a football score of 55-0 kind of conqueror. Yep, that’s you and me, conquerors like that!)
 
1 Corinthians 15:57, “But, thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I also love that we are victorious in Jesus! But, only because He is victorious are we victorious in Him. Separate from Him there is no victory.
 
We are holy temples, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NASB). We are holy temples because God dwells in us!
 
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NASB). We are not condemned by our sins, because we are in Christ Jesus! We live. We live and move and have our being in Him. Are you just soaking this all in with me? This is who we are in Christ and we are all good things! I will certainly trade any unworthy thoughts of myself for this- in a heartbeat.
 
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). All things. I can’t get enough of that, either! Again, only in the power of Christ can we do all things. Any struggle and any hardship can be conquered because Christ gives us the strength to get through it. Oh, thank goodness. I can attest that it’s not always easy, but being on the other side of many hardships I am a witness that God has been my source of sanity and strength. I made it through. And, I’m sure there will be more hardships to get through. There is rest knowing that you are not alone and you will have the strength through Christ when we cling to Him through it all.
 
I love being a child of God and I can see how much He loves you and me. I love not being condemned and I love being more than a conqueror, victorious, a holy temple, and being able to do all things. We can do none of this for ourselves because it is all through God; don’t you love how God lavishes His love on us? On the flip side, God makes Himself so easy to love and He does it all through His dear Son, Jesus.
 
Keep true to who God said you are no matter what life throws at you or what evil entices you. What is in your life right now that you need to surrender to Jesus in order to have His power over it? Come to Him and let Him lavish His love on you. He may fix it the way you want or give you the ability to handle it like a conqueror, either way, let your loving Savior be powerful in you, in your circumstances, and in all things today. Amen!
 
by A.S.
 
Romans 8:37
“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

From Nothing Special to Kind of a Big Deal

Genesis 32:24-31
 
He was born second of twins and since he was holding his older brother’s heel at delivery they named him Jacob. His name means deceiver or cheater. Later in life his name proved to be true because he cheated his older twin, Esau, out of his birthright and stole his blessing. But these live events played out as God said they would. God told their mom, Rebecca, that the older would serve the younger. After he did these things to Esau, Rebecca arranged for him to get a wife from her brother’s kids in another land. The idea was to move him far away from the furious Esau for his own safety. He did move and he married Leah and then Rachel, who he loved.
 
Twenty years later, Jacob left Laban, his father-in-law, because Laban was not treating Jacob right. God warned Laban in a dream after he’d started chasing Jacob not to say anything good or bad to him. Laban obeyed. In the span of land between Laban and meeting up with Esau, Jacob met a different man. The man, probably an angel, fought with Jacob all night and then changed his name from Jacob to Israel (meaning ‘God prevails’  after Jacob insisted the man/angel bless him. Jacob’s name changing to Israel is where the country Israel gets its name from! That’s kind of a big deal!
 
Here is what floors me about Jacob. He didn’t do anything big or important- nothing. He’s not a warrior. He’s not a king. He’s not even a leader of any sorts. He’s not a particularly honest man. He didn’t hunt lions and bears. He just struggled in life with lots of the before mentioned things. Jacob was very average. Yet the rich and long history of Israel gets its name from him. He is a strong part of the promise God made to Abraham and the promise is carried through Jacob. That is a big deal, too!
 
(I never knew he was so important to the history of the Bible and the carrying out of God’s plan of salvation! I am amazed!! )
 
He seems to be nothing special… except that God has placed him and uses him specifically! God gives him his worth. His worth has nothing to do with the great things he did because there weren’t any. It is simply God saying he has been picked and he is worthy! Amazing!
 
This gives so much for those of us who feel like we are nothing special and do nothing important and are not in any place to make any kind of difference. The bible is clear that we are all called to do good works. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
 
Jacob was used and his station in life was known by God. He is in the linage of Jesus, salvation to the world- he was very much used. We may not see our purpose, use, worth, or place of belonging but, oh my goodness, we have it! God created each and every one of us and we are all to live our ordinary everyday un-famous lives for the LORD and He will use it famously. Not by anything we can do but because He says it. And, if He says it being Master over everything in heaven and earth then it will be done! YAAAHHHOOO AND AMEN!!! You can take this to the bank and cash it! Praise the LORD!
 
by A.S.
 

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Someone for Something
I have been stuck on Ephesians 2:10 for a while, partly because I’m studying it for a Sunday school class and partly because I absolutely love what it means to me. Wallowing in the thoughts that God has singled each of us out for a unique work and a real live purpose dazzles me. We were created for something and not for nothing. Thank you, Jesus, because I do not want to live this time on earth for a big empty nothing.
 
I do not know when it started but I knew fairly early on that I wanted find that one thing I was good at. Admiration poured out of me for people who were skilled in any certain area because they found that one thing they were good at. That man who could build any mechanical thing from raw metal parts or that beautician, who cut hair better than the rest, just amazed me. The pianist in the front, the one with a beautiful voice (since I seem to only know how to squak), the doctor, the architect, the chiropractor, the violinist, the mechanic, the bookkeeper, the reading specialist, the entrepeneurer- whoever was the best of the best, I admired because I wasn’t ever the best at anything.
 
Sigh.
 
Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt this way?
 
I love the example King David gave us in the Psalms. So often he started out with very real and human thoughts. Read Psalm 77. In this Psalm King David feels the LORD has left him without help and he is crying out. Next, he regains some discipline and chooses to remember what the LORD has done that is good and considers God’s goodness. It turned into praise and even on into the end of Psalm 78 he became a better leader because of it. These verses are an example of how turning from our problem to praise the LORD works out for the best.
 
Let us consider Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” ESV. Take a deep breath here and rest. We do have a purpose and something we were created to do!
 
This purpose is two-fold. One side of the good works is to work hard at what we are skilled to do. (Don’t think you are skilled? Take some time to seek God’s direction in this. Read the book “Restless, Because You Were Created for More” by Jeannie Allen, it is a good resource and then pray.) The other side of good works is built into our daily lives. Jesus’ ministry was whoever He was with at the moment. He was never rushing off to the next event or the next encounter. What He was doing at any given moment or whoever He was with was His ministry. He lived a holy and perfect life.
 
Also in Ephesians 2:10 we can learn that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works. What we can learn from that is that no good thing can come from us outside of Jesus. We have to be connected to Him to fulfill His purpose and His works through us. Outside of Him we are good for nothing. In all reality there has to be a personal relationship with Him for us to find our purpose and be a part of His good works. Period. The end. The fat lady has sung.
 
Like King David, admit your true feelings and surrender them to Him who created you for good works. Discipline your focus on who He is and how you know He is good. This is prayer. Seeking Him in times like these glorifies Him. The result of our actions of praise and glory to Him result in blessings to you, whom He created and loves.
 
You are someone made for something.
 
by A.S.
 

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
It's Your Job
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
 
I want to take a second to think about work… It can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some it could mean a hefty paycheck, or on the other end of the spectrum, maybe no monetary payment at all. Some work may be intellectual or other work physical. No matter what the activity, the word work does imply an action to accomplish something or something useful to do.
 
Now I want to think about holy work.
 
My friend, they are the same thing if you belong to Jesus Christ.
 
Somehow in modern days we have separated work by the terms secular work and ministry work. While the two may have some differences, both ministry jobs and non-ministry jobs are packaged with a calling. No matter what you do for work, there is a calling on your life.
 
While at Bible College, I had a double major. Christian education, because that’s what I longed to study, and elementary education, because I knew I wasn’t called into the ministry at this time in my life. One night after praying late in Weatherby Chapel I walked back to my dorm in the dark of the night and asked God out loud when would I ever love people enough to be in a ministry? God spoke to my heart that night in my desperate call and I learned that I asked the wrong question, which was an indication as to why I was not yet ready for a ministry. The question put into my heart at that moment was, “When will you love Me enough?” It’s not about the people; it’s about God.
 
Maybe I’m thick-headed or stiff-necked, but it has taken years for me to learn this. (I think I have finally got it, though.) In the mean time I thought I would have to suffer through a bunch of secular jobs and completely missed the point that even if we have not figured out a purpose or place of ministry we are all called to do good works in everything we do!
 
The word “work” in Ephesians 2:10 refers to employment and anything to be accomplished. It strongly implies we are made to work rather than not work. What I love most about the definition is the use of the word “anyone.” Anyone who is employed. Every job we can take on out there (as long as it does not go against God) can be considered good work for anyone and everyone who love Jesus. “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians .2:10).
 
He has created us with skills and a purpose; we were not created for nothing! Read the verse again, it directly confirms Him actively and intentionally creating us for good works! Do not doubt this, but believe it! This is a calling placed on you and your life.
 
Your job is a holy job no matter what it is. God has created you in His image and He is holy. In His name you work your job as a holy person. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ,” Colossians 3:23-24.
 
The next time you wake up in the morning decide what your employment is for the day and then work it, my friend. Work it in the name of Jesus because you are doing good works that are pleasing to God!
 
by A.S.
 

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

We All Have a Past
We all have a past. Some pasts are a little cleaner than others, but we all fall short of the glory of God and so we have a past. Many of us let the past dictate our present and possibly even our future.
 
A woman who has had an abortion may feel she’s not allowed to have other healthy children or lead a bible study group. A woman who has cheated on her husband and children may cringe every time she sees someone from the church where it happened at. A woman who has had multiple partners may think she can never feel pure and certainly may not feel ‘equal’ to the other women at church. Fraudulent check writing. Stole someone’s identity. Spent time in jail. Hit her child. Had an emotional affair. Had a divorce. Jacked up the credit cards. Didn’t pay the bills. Didn’t like her step-children. Yells at her children. Short tempered. Had her children taken by social services. Used abusive words. Lied to people you loved. Lived selfishly…
 
What's in your past?  Your thing may seem less bad than what's been mentioned, but still, what is your thing?  We all have fallen short.
 
Here’s what you need to know about Paul, originally called Saul. He was a zealot for God- or so he thought. He intentionally set out to find and kill people who professed to be Christians in the New Testament. He thought he was doing God a favor. Can you beleive that? Sound backwards?
 
God got his attention.
 
One day when Paul was on the road to Damascus, he was, you guessed it, on his way to take Christians as prisoners. The Lord stopped him in his tracks with lights all around and spoke to him (Acts 9). We he got up from the experience he was blind. It was a clear and undeniable message. He continued on his way to Damascus, only this time on a new mission. He had an encounter with God and saw the light. His ways were changed instantly. Now, his mission was for Christ and Christians rather than against them. He became a praying man (Acts 9:11) and a baptized man (Acts 9:18).
 
(I find it intriguing that God chose Paul, a Roman and Gentile, to bring the good news to the Gentiles and to the people of Israel. It's interesting because salvation came from Israel, the Jews, which is something he was not, yet God greatly used him. I love that because it gives us hope for God using us, too.)
 
Paul did not consider himself equal with the other disciples because of his horrid past. He clearly understood that there can be lasting consequence even for forgiven sin. However, he did not allow his past to hinder his salvation in the Lord. He had been forgiven and he lived out his forgiveness each day! He didn’t care what other’s thought; he pressed on to do the work God called him to do. And, he did it with all that he had in him.
 
No thoughts of discouragement of his past got him down. The past was in the past, forgiven, and not to be dwelled on. He moved forward preaching Jesus in the security of knowing that he belonged to God now, and nothing could separate him from the love of God.
 
Amen!
 
Paul had confidence in God’s plan of salvation for his life.
 
You can have confidence in God’s plan of salvation for your life. Acts 10:15 says, “Do not call anything impure that God has called clean.”
 
In Jesus, you are clean.
 
Stop counting yourself unworthy because of your past. Start counting yourself worthy as Christ has shown you worthy in His sight. Think about these things! You are who God says you are and not what your condemning thoughts (or anyone else’s) say.
 
It’s a choice of believing and shifting your thinking to the truth.
 
Take a minute to pray to the God of the universe and ask Him:
To forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart.
To help you to see yourself as He sees you.
To give you the strength to change your thinking about who you are from now on.
 
And, He hears every prayer prayed in His name. He heard your prayer. Expect Him to answer, He is real and He loves you- His dear child!
 
Acts 10:15
“Do not call anything impure that God has called clean.”