What does God think of you?

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. - James 5:13-16a

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What does God think of you?

Does He merely put up with you? Tolerate you? Does He hold His nose around you?

Or does He delight in you? Does He cherish you?

Our answer to this question impacts our response to nearly every situation in our lives. Suffering, success, sickness, sin…our lives are filled with beauty and pain, and God invites us, above all, to do one thing in response to everything that happens: commune with Him. BE with Him.

Would a God who merely puts up with you extend this kind of invitation?

Matt Chandler puts it like this: “It's a delight and a gift for the people of God to commune with their adopting, loving, merciful Father. We see here, "Are you suffering? Go to him. Are you cheerful? Sing praises about him. Are you sick? Gather with others, particularly the elders, and go to him. Regardless of what's going on, get in here."  

If we believe we need to earn God’s approval in some way – if we believe He just tolerates us – the last thing we want to do is run to Him. When our prayers become mechanical, when we struggle with habits and sins we desperately want to overcome, when we are at our lowest and our highest, God is not standing far off, stiff arming us until we get it together. 

Rather, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you hear nothing else today, hear this: when you are in Christ, God delights in you. He loves spending time with you. He cherishes you, even as He cherishes Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we have the immense privilege of approaching the Almighty God of the universe as our Abba Father. We – because of grace beyond my understanding – have the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, friends.

And this makes the invitation offered by James a remarkably delightful one.  When we understand how God esteems us, we are able to esteem others in the same way.  When we understand the depth of Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” we are able to freely confess our sins, knowing and believing they’re forgiven. When we know God as Abba Father, we are able to pray to Him as loved children, not avoid Him as filthy, abandoned outcasts. And as we pray, we experience His love and grace more and more deeply. We are healed.

Almighty God, Abba Father, Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for adopting us into your family. We pray that we would accept your invitation to be with You. That we would pray in our suffering. Please draw us to prayer, Father. Show us how to celebrate, how to sing. We pray for increased faith in your power to heal. And we pray that we would be secure enough in the finished work of Christ Jesus that we would confess our sins to one another. Give us Your love for our brothers and sisters, Father. We ask these things in the Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Open our Hearts

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

As human beings, we are constantly moving toward either death or life.  The enemy has it out for us. He steals, he kills, he destroys. And when left to our own devices, apart from Jesus, we often gravitate toward death too.

But God didn’t leave us on a path toward death. He sent Jesus so we could have life. Forever. For the Christian, there is no eternal death. There is no lasting destruction. We have life abundantly! And thus we have hope.

At times, death and life may not seem clear cut. In our world, they get distorted. Displaced. Throughout Scripture, we read cautionary tales about ways of living that may seem to bring life but actually result in death. In His grace, God has given us heads up after heads up as if to say, “You see this way of living? This will eventually bring pain and destruction and death! I don’t want these things for you! There’s another way! Take the path toward life!”

In James 5:1-6, we see one of these warnings. He cautions those who are obsessed with wealth - those who don’t pay fair wages, who oppress, who mistreat others for their own gain, who have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. He even says, “You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” (5:5)

If hoarding things and living in self-indulgence leads to a day of slaughter, what’s the alternative? What’s the path toward life? What's the response of the Christian?

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

When we are filled with love that brings life – which is God Himself – it gushes out of our being in practical, tangible ways. Rather than hoarding, we give generously. Rather than living self-indulgently, we learn the life-giving gift of living self-sacrificially.  We don’t close our hearts. We OPEN them. The Holy Spirit in us gravitates toward life. 

Granted, at times the love and life trickle out of us. We flirt with self-indulgence. We hoard. But by His grace, this isn't who we are. Even when we begin to walk back toward death, He draws us back to life.

Father, In Your presence is fullness of joy and fullness of life. You have loved us generously. In light of this reality, may we live and love generously. God, there are GREAT needs in our world right now. We know You are a God of justice and mercy. Where there is oppression, give us the courage and means to intervene in Your Name. Where there is poverty – both spiritual and material – please move us to action.  And where we are choosing spiritual poverty over the riches you have offered us, please help us in our unbelief. We want life abundantly. Please let Your love and life overflow from us in deed and in truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

See you Sunday!