Day 12: I will forgive | Love Letters

For·give·ness: The act of forgiving or the state of being forgiven; willingness to forgive.

[Source]

What is considered unforgivable to you?

Think about someone who has hurt you. Someone you could never dream of speaking to–let alone see–ever again. Imagine forgiving that person, as if what had been done in the past never happened.

Quite difficult.

Now think about a time when you have hurt someone. Maybe you didn’t apologize, but to this day, you know what happened. It might be something that appears in your mind now and then. Some days you forget what happened, other days the memory of what you did hits you.

Even harder to think about.

Considering the first scenario, we can easily say, People can be heartless. I could never forgive them. Considering the second scenario, we remember, I can be heartless. How could anyone forgive me? Putting both together, we can conclude that sin is a part of human nature.

Looking closer at the wrong that we’ve done and that others have done to us, forgiveness can seem like the last thing anyone deserves.

A man in the Bible who was deemed unforgivable by society was Zacchaeus.

We’re introduced to him in Luke 19:2; he is a chief tax collector. Tax collectors made a lot of money at this time, so for Zacchaeus to be in a role of leadership, we know he is very wealthy. Tax collectors were typically wealthy for a reason–they were known to be greedy and deceitful. They often cheated people of their money so they could gain more, and as a result, they were intensely hated by others. Pretty much completely unforgivable.

Zacchaeus, a man ostracized by others, is found near a synagogue–the last place he should be according to society, as he is considered “spiritually unclean.” He knows that Jesus is passing through the city of Jericho today, and he wants to see Him:

“And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way” (Luke 19:3-4 NKJV).

Zacchaeus’ determination to see Jesus is fascinating. He not only comes to a place where he is unwelcome, he runs and climbs a tree to make sure he sees Him. Although Zacchaeus has all the money he needs–and probably loves his wealth over anything–he is still empty. Something is missing in his life, and he is searching for it.

God never pushes away those who come seeking for Him–no matter who they are. Jesus displays this characteristic of God by His response to Zacchaeus, a hated man in the world’s eyes: “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house’” (v. 5).

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and asks him to come. He wants to fellowship with him at his own home. This is unheard of.

Zacchaeus’ life changes the moment he makes contact with Jesus. In verse 6, he comes down from the tree quickly and joyfully. He is filled with utter joy that he is invited by Christ Himself with such amazing love–a love he has never seen before.

However, this interaction is met by criticism. Luke 19:7 states, “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’” The crowd thinks it’s wrong that Jesus is willing to accompany a sinner, but they don’t understand what true love is.

Nevertheless, Jesus doesn’t worry about what others think. Jesus offers forgiveness, and Zacchaeus takes it by making a decision to come down and fellowship with Him.

How do we know Zacchaeus is truly repentant? By his actions. In verse 8, he tells Jesus that he will give half his wealth to the poor and return anything he has taken from others, restoring it four times the amount he actually owes! Zacchaeus chooses to abandon his former life as a sinner, in love with money and his lifestyle, to love the God who loves him.

Jesus acknowledges Zacchaeus’ changed heart, saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 18:9-10 NKJV). He honors Zacchaeus, mentioning that he is displaying the same faith that Abraham showed in God. This was a huge recognition for someone who was seen as undeserving of any forgiveness. Jesus also confirms what He came to do: forgive.

Jesus came to save those who are lost–to save those who are unlovable, broken, undeserving, and have made mistakes. He came to forgive us.

God tells us, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32 NIV).

Zacchaeus’ story is one of many. The Bible is filled with people who have been forgiven by God, even though they were sinners:

  • King David – An adulterer and murderer, David is called a man after God’s own heart, because he sought God’s forgiveness and turned back to Him.
  • Peter – He denied Jesus three times as if he never knew Him before Jesus died on the cross. Jesus still died for Peter and forgave him when he came back to Him.
  • Paul – He was known as a persecutor of Christians, responsible for several deaths, yet he transformed because he chose God. Not only was Paul forgiven but he was used to establish the church and wrote over half of the New Testament.

Can you imagine that God offered his forgiveness to every single one of them? If God could save them, He can save you.

Just as Jesus called Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree, He’s calling you to come down and come to Him–from wherever you currently stand. The “tree” you are currently staying in could be pain, pride, regret, addiction, prejudice, violence, selfishness, lack of forgiveness–whatever. The Lord saw Zacchaeus where he was–he couldn’t hide. And He sees you, too.

Zacchaeus not only came down from the tree and came to Jesus, he turned away from his sins. He abandoned his former life–where sin and shame lived–for a better one. This was true repentance. And there was joy there.

Are you ready to abandon the former things to let God in? Are you ready for real joy?

A relationship with God isn’t an elite club only open to the best, the brightest, and the most righteous. It’s open to everyone. I encourage you to take a hold of God’s forgiveness today. You are not out of His reach. You are not too far gone and unable to be restored. God’s love for you means He offers His forgiveness to you.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 NIV)

Love Letter 12

[*Please note: Today’s post is based on a sermon I recently heard at my church.]

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Day 11: I created you with purpose | Love Letters

Pur·pose: The reason for which something is done or created; the reason for which something exists.

Here’s another lesson I learned while taking fine arts courses. Art supplies are expensive. Their quality affects the price, but they also get costly because you have to buy so many of them.

You don’t just need paper. You need the right kinds of paper. One drawing pad for charcoal drawings, another for ink. The list of materials for an average class is extensive, but it’s for a reason. From pencils to brushes, every item–although different–serves a unique purpose. What I can do with one tool, I cannot do with another. Working on one piece might require using several materials that have various effects.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, giving our heart to God, we can tap into our very own unique purpose.

We are freed from sin, forgiven by God, and reconciled to our Father, able to live fully in His love. Once dead in the weight of our sins, we are alive in Christ:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV).

We are made new, given a new life and a new attitude. God has prepared assignments for you that only you can do: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

We discover our true purpose, or the reason we exist–to love God not just with our mouths but in all that we do. Good works don’t save us, but they prove whether or not we truly love God and belong to Him. James 2:17 states that “faith without works is dead.” You can talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?

When it came to buying art supplies for class, quality was essential. If I bought new paints that claimed to be of a certain quality, I expected them to be of that certain quality. If they didn’t do what they advertised, I couldn’t even use them!

As believers, we have a common responsibility to show others Christ. To show everyone His love and how He deeply cares for this world. Though we have a common goal, we can live it out in different ways. You might live out this responsibility through your career, a talent or skill you have, the words you say, the hospitality to show, etc.

It’s God’s will for everyone to have an opportunity to know Him, to have access to His freedom and eternal life in Him.

Can you imagine the major losses if we don’t live up to this responsibility?

There are consequences for not walking in your purpose. You have a story that nobody else can tell. Your life is a story that someone needs to hear. Others are counting on you to be served, to hear how God has changed your life, to be encouraged, to know Him for themselves.

God created you with intention. He knows the impact you can have on this world. He knows your personality, your patterns, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You’re not an accident. You are loved and made to be on this earth intentionally.

Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re not made to live out someone else’s purpose; you’re made to live out your own. So, be encouraged.

God has a job for you to do, and His love means He’ll help you accomplish this job. Whoever you are–a student, an employee, an entrepreneur, a friend, a sibling, a daughter–simply a living and breathing human being, you have opportunities to influence other people for good.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

Love Letter 11

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Day 10: I provide peace | Love Letters

Peace: Inner contentment; serenity.

[Source]

During my second year of college, I did what I never thought I’d do and took a studio class in drawing. Over the course of the semester, I had a rewarding experience as I was challenged to learn various art mediums and concepts.

One of the most challenging concepts to draw was perspective–essentially, the ability to make something look “real.” You give an image a sense of depth by creating the illusion of a three-dimensional view on a flat, two-dimensional surface.

Visually, it’s like going from this:

To this:

With perspective, your image changes depending on your viewpoint–the spot where you (the artist) observe your scene. If I wanted to draw a building, I could walk around it and gain a different viewpoint at different areas–perhaps one spot will show the right side of the building, the other the left, and so on. At the end of the day, I could only choose one spot and draw that, giving only one perspective.

Meanwhile, there’s an entire building my eventual audience won’t see in my finished piece.

In our lives, we might view a current situation we’re in only from one perspective, because that’s where we are at that point in time.

You likely feel frustrated when you don’t like the place where you are now. Maybe you’re being unfairly treated by a “friend.” Or your job is getting increasingly stressful. Perhaps you wish you could relocate to a different place. The scene you’re looking at now doesn’t look so good, and it’s been draining you for quite a while now.

When we enter seasons of waiting, God gives us the opportunity to gain a better perspective. God’s love for you means He wants you to grow, to become a better version of who you were yesterday. Maybe the unfair friend is growing your ability to forgive. The stressful work environment is growing your ability to trust Him and not yourself. The desire to move is growing your ability to have patience–and wait until the best time.

In these difficult seasons when you’re longing for understanding, God first offers His peace. I can’t imagine a person who doesn’t want peace. Oftentimes, when we’re stressed and uncertain, we turn to everything but God. We want an instant sense of security. We keep searching and searching for it, but anything or anyone that isn’t your Heavenly Father cannot give you the peace you long for.

Nothing in this world has the perspective of the entire “building” you’re looking at except God. He is all-knowing, and He knows you can’t figure it out on your own. He offers His help, so you can lean on Him for peace–an inner contentment, or serenity.

When you rely on God for peace, He gives you a satisfaction that cannot be taken away from you.

Peace is the result of an understanding of your own shortcomings and a confidence in God’s care for you. It can look like saying, God I don’t understand this situation, but I know that You have control in it. You have the best for me, and I expect the best from You. I’m excited for what You have in store for me.

And you should be excited. God’s preparing wonderful things for you. Plus, He’s giving you the ability to mature and gain His wisdom in the process.

Instead of moving around, making decisions on your own, and putting pieces together, be still and seek God for the perspective He’s showing you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

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Day 9: I will take you higher | Love Letters

Fa·vor: the state of being approved or held in regard.

[Source]

God’s love for you comes with favor. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are welcomed into the body of Christ. You are part of the family of God: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV).

As part of this family, you have an inheritance. You are approved before God, and He holds you in high regard. You have access to Him–on earth and one day in heaven. You have access to His promises for you.

God makes a way when there is no way. When you commit your life to the Lord, you can expect Him to show up when you least expect it.

One of my favorite examples of favor in the Bible is Ruth’s story.

In the book of Ruth, we find that Ruth is living in a time of complete hopelessness–there is famine, corruption, and she experiences the death of her husband. However, Ruth decides to commit herself to God. She states to her mother-in-law, Naomi, “‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God’” (Ruth 1:16 NKJV).

When she loses everything, Ruth displays her loyalty to Naomi–but most importantly, she declares her loyalty to God. She wants God to be her God. She knows love for God means obedience. As she’s following Him, she receives favor from Him.

Boaz, a man of God who has great inheritance (wealth), recognizes Ruth because of her love for God, which is again displayed by her actions:

“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge’” (Ruth 2:11-12 NKJV).

Later on, Boaz blesses Ruth with a large supply of barley to take back to Naomi. Boaz and Ruth eventually get married. The theme in this book is obedience. Ruth is recognized for her obedience to God and rewarded by her obedience to God. She is given favor among men and even given a new life where she now has access to more than what she had before.

I’m sure Ruth didn’t know what was on the other side of her obedience, but she trusted in God anyway. We don’t know what’s on the other side, but if we trust in God and obey His commands, we can have confidence in His blessings.

God can take you higher than where you are now. He will not let your enemies triumph over you. He can promote you. He can give you favor in that job interview. He can provide financial blessings where you are lacking. He can restore broken relationships. He can deliver you from trouble. The key is to honor God–not because you want the rewards but because you want Him.

Remember: Ruth wanted God to be her God.

God sees your heart, and He is near those who draw near to Him. If you have a heart that truly wants to please and live for Him, it will be clear through your actions. You will see His promises for you unravel time and time again throughout your life.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 NKJV)

Love Letter 9

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Day 8: I have good gifts for you | Love Letters

Gift: Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance.

I’m a huge fan of home makeover shows. I love watching skilled interior designers bring a space to life based on a pre-thought-out plan. They transform an old room into an incredible masterpiece–not only based on someone’s desires but his or her needs.

Then there’s the room reveal. Clients take in the fact that their old room has been made new. They might have had ideas of what they wanted their space to look like but didn’t know how to execute those ideas. This room is what they desired and better than what they imagined. Many times, there are personal details in the new space that make the room even more special–perfectly tailored for them. The final room is a special gift they never knew they needed.

Sometimes, we have an idea of how our lives should go, and we have a plan of action on how to carry it out. Other times, we might have thoughts of how things should be but no idea of how to make them happen.

We can get so caught up in a big dream that we forget the little details. God has a pre-thought-out plan for you. He knows the best way for you to get from Point A to Point B. And He knows whether or not Point B is actually what it’s cracked up to be!

Plans take time to execute. Designers must initially sketch out a space, find the right items, and consider the logistics of how to get everything done.

God’s love for you means He will provide good gifts in your life. He will give favor, honor, and assistance. Some of these blessings are for now, others are for later. Waiting for things to unravel might seem brutal, but the grand reveal is always better than what you expect. He knows you intimately, and He knows what you need at different points in your life.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) states, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” God’s ways are above your ways, and He has blessings for you that are better than your best plans.

In Psalms 68:19, God reveals that He loads us with daily benefits. In Lamentations 3:22-23, we learn that God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day has a purpose in your story.

As a designer knows that every step is vital in a major room renovation, God knows that every day is a vital part of your journey. While He works out daily blessings, He’s pushing you to transform into who He created you to be.

Blessings are often right in front of us.

Maybe you had an uplifting conversation with a coworker today or you have family members who deeply care for you. You were able to catch up with an old friend or someone offered to help you on a task out of the blue. Perhaps God’s given you a talent you enjoy or healing after you were sick for weeks. No matter how big or small, all these things can be wonderful blessings–let’s not forget that!

Instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the future, focus on the good gifts God has given you now. Work with Him daily to follow the right path for your life, and you will start seeing the ways He’s moving parts together for the bigger picture.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11 ESV)

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Day 7: I provide a way out | Love Letters

Path:

  1. A route, course, or track along which something moves.
  2. A course of action, conduct, or procedure.

[Source]

In the midst of challenges, we sometimes feel alone. We might feel as though our prayers aren’t working. That God doesn’t hear us. And that He doesn’t love us.

These ideas are sneaky lies the devil tries to seep into your thoughts. Satan wants you to believe God isn’t listening and doesn’t love you, because he doesn’t want you to turn to God. And so, these difficult moments are the times we must hold onto the Lord even more.

In a battle, the opposing side you’re up against doesn’t want you to win. Your enemy will try any tactics to get rid of you. It’s a huge bonus if your enemy catches you distracted, because that’s the best time to strike. Similarly, the devil–your enemy in this world–will try to get your eyes off God to distract you in order to attack you. Negative thoughts aren’t from the God of love and freedom–they’re from the devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10). Spoiler alert: God is more powerful than the enemy, so you have nothing to fear if you follow Him.

God doesn’t passively watch you struggle in life. He actively fights for you. You can’t know the future, and you can’t see things from miles away. However, your Heavenly Father can. Not only is God working on your behalf now–He’s clearing your path of future obstacles you can’t see.

God will not leave you hanging in the midst of the battle. He won’t suddenly desert you, leaving you to fend for yourself. He will provide the path–the course of action, or the route–that will lead to your victory.

Although you don’t see the way out now, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. I urge you to keep your trust in God and find protection in Him. One way you can practice trust is by waiting on God–instead of rushing ahead and making final decisions without His instruction.

God’s instruction comes with peace. It may not be what you expect, but you’ll know it’s from God if you know Him. God keeps His word. He’s unchanging and acts based on His character, which you can learn for yourself by reading the Bible (His Word).

Take your hands off, and allow God the space to move in your life. He won’t force you–He’ll look for your willingness to let Him work. But whether God has told you to wait, leave, go ahead, or stop, your obedience will be worth it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Love Letter 7

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Day 4: I can give you Life | Love Letters

Life-giving: having the power of providing sustenance, spirit or life.

[Source]

One of the most fascinating things about the world is how one thing can give life to another:

  • A mother can give birth, giving life to her child.
  • A flower can leave pollen behind to reproduce, giving life to other flowers.
  • A cell can divide itself to multiply, giving life to other cells–which give life to life.

In all cases, the source is vital. One living source is necessary to provide life to other things.

This fact about nature also reflects a fact about the Lord. God manifests His love for us by remaining the Source in, of, and for our lives. 

If you need to be filled, He fills you: “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV).

If you are searching for answers, He provides answers: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5 NIV).

If you need peace, He gives peace: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 NIV).

In short, He’s the living Source who will sustain you in this life, and the next one.

The next one? Huh?

Death is real. But life after death is as well. God gives us plenty of heads up about it in His Word–because just as God doesn’t want to hide Himself from you, He doesn’t want to hide this from you, either. He loves you so much that He wants you to find life in Him. And He wants you to know that you need to receive life in Him for later.

God provides security after death. He offers a place for you in heaven, because He loves you. And it’s free for you to take today.

This is not a place that is hidden from you or can be taken from you. When you make a personal decision to trust in God and live for Him now, you have this place in heaven forever.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in the past. He provides renewal, a new life. And He freely offers Himself for you to receive Him.

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26 NIV).

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Day 3: I can offer you more | Love Letters

More: to a greater extent.

“Maybe this is as good as it gets.”

Have you ever found yourself saying that? That you have no choice but to stay where you are, because it will only get worse from here?

You might feel you must stay within a bad relationship, because there’s no one else for you. Or, you feel you have to hang out with toxic friends, because otherwise you’d be alone. Maybe you feel you need to sacrifice your health to get perfect grades, because you’re convinced you’ll fail if you don’t. You feel you have to perform perfectly at work, or else you won’t be valued.

Whatever the case is, you feel as though if you don’t hold onto something, you have nothing.

Any of these things–relationships, grades, or careers–can disappear at any moment. And you probably know this, which is why you feel the need to maintain them constantly.

These are all things you can enjoy, if they are good things. But when you find your entire worth in them, you’re going to find yourself empty.

You were not made to find your security in temporary things. God has more for you than that. He provides more, or to a greater extent. But how do we get to this “more”?

Understanding God’s love for you is the first step. His love for you is unchanging, and it lasts forever. When you secure yourself in God–a sure and permanent thing–you’re able to make better use of non-permanent things in life.

You won’t put pressure on others to reassure you. You won’t feel defeated over your mistakes. You’ll be able to walk away from negative people and situations, because you know your worth is not in them. You’ll be able to enjoy your blessings–knowing your worth is not in them, either.

Your value is not based on what you have or don’t have. God sees your value. He created you with value.

God can do more for you than what you can do for yourself.  What you see with your own eyes is the surface. When you commit your life to Him, you’ll find that good moments in life can get better. And better.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

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