Can God help me build up my self-esteem?

“I’m worthless!”

That’s a depressing statement. Yet many people silently admit to themselves that they are worthless.  The single mom who doesn’t feel loved; the child or adult who can never seem to do anything right for his parents; the employee who messed up on the job again; they and many others feel that they are not worth very much.  Maybe you’ve felt this way.  Is there an area of your life in which you want to feel better about yourself?

Many say you can establish a positive self-image by focusing on your skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources, or appearance.  There’s “help” out there in the form of self-hypnosis, support groups, affirmation and visualization techniques, plastic surgery, self-help books, CDs, DVDs, and other attempts to build self-esteem.  All these efforts only provide a temporary, superficial lift.  Ultimately they prove to be feeble efforts to feel worthwhile.

We all want to feel a sense of worth, love, and security in our lives, but we can’t provide them for ourselves.  But God can.  He freely gives them to us through his Son, Jesus.  His Word tells us not to focus on ourselves but on him, to look not at what we’ve done but at what he’s done for us through Jesus Christ.  Our sense of worth and value – our self-esteem – is found in the Savior who lived and died in our place.

A man named Paul realized this when he said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).  In Jesus we find a status before God that we could never produce, a love from God that is unfailing, and the security for life in knowing that our Savior who loves us will be with us each and every day.

God’s way of helping us build up our self-esteem is showing us Jesus.  Please join us to find out more about your Savior who lived and died for you.

Feeling Down?

Do you ever feel that things you do really don’t make a difference?

Is it sometimes difficult to see the results of your hard work?

There are many times when we may ask ourselves, “What’s the point? Why do I keep trying?”

When events in our lives lead us to become depressed or discouraged, two reactions come rather easily to us.  The first is blaming God for the problems.  The second is thinking that somehow God is punishing us for something we have done.  However, neither of these reactions is correct.

The problem lies not with God; it lies with sin.  All of life’s problems come as a result of living in a world filled with sin.  These problems include layoffs at work, health problems, family issues, and others.  We’d have to get rid of sin to remove the troubles and problems that discourage us. But that’s something we could spend the rest of our lives trying to accomplish and never complete the task. Thankfully, God accomplished what we are unable to do.

We deserve to be sentenced under the judgment of God for everything we do or say or think that violates God’s will for us to live perfect lives.  But the Bible gives us the good news from God that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  In tremendous love for us, God took away all of our sins and laid them on Jesus.  He charged his Son with our guilt.  Jesus, our Savior, suffered the punishment that we deserved.  He died to free us from eternal death.

Even though we experience discouragements in our life, nothing can take away the peace we have in Jesus, who took away our sins.  Through faith in our Savior, we are children of God.  Every day God is at our side helping us through difficult times.  Confidently trusting in him, our discouragements melt into calm assurance that our loving God is always leading us.

Contentment – How do I live in a material world?

Bang!  The window shattered.  My wife was driving our minivan when, for no apparent reason, a back window exploded.  It had no visible flaws, but the harsh desert sun had obviously taken its toll and fatigued the glass.  In an instant, the window, which had seemed to be durable and lasting, revealed its true state – its perishing nature.

This window is typical of the material things in this world.  Everything this world “owns” is temporary.  Even when we don’t realize it, our possessions are growing old and wearing out (like my van’s window).  When we understand the true nature of our earthly goods we look at them in a different way.  Jesus once said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  Your car, your house, your body, and everything else will age and fall apart.  Treasure in heaven is treasure that lasts forever.  That is what we really should be concerned about.

Owning the biggest house or the fastest boat won’t get you into heaven.  That’s because heaven is not about material wealth.  It’s about goodness.  Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Mark 8:36-37)  Our soul is our most important possession.  Because of our sins of greed, envy and theft, we are not worthy to experience the blessings of heaven.  And no matter how hard we work to try to earn heaven, God says that we fall short.  By our own efforts, we can never be good enough to get into heaven.  But Jesus is!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Jesus wants you to be rich in heaven.  He came down to earth so that we could live with him forever.  He lived and died for you to make you righteous in God’s eyes.  Jesus has credited his perfection to your account.  Because of Jesus, God loves you and takes care of all of your needs.

How do we in live with contentment in a material world?  First, we understand the true value of our earthly possessions: they do not last and they cannot buy us heaven.  Second, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the home that he has prepared for us in heaven.  Then we will live every day assured of God’s love and caring.  That is true contentment.  Paul confirms this when he says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Something’s Missing

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:21

Something was missing.  That’s what Bill thought.  It wasn’t like there was anything wrong; there was just something missing.

Bill was able to take an early retirement.  He had worked hard.  He advanced rapidly.  In addition to all of this, Bill was a good investor.  Even when people said it was foolish to take stock options, he did it just the same.  Consequently, when he received the offer to retire early, he was able to take advantage of it.

He was 55 years old, retired and financially secure.  He had good health.  He was able to enjoy himself and travel.  He even started a consulting business that kept him as busy as he wanted to be.  However, late at night he always felt something was missing.

Bill’s problem is one many people have.  They look at their lives and conclude something is missing.

As I look at my life, most of the time it seems to be in order.  I am not a multi-millionaire, but things could be worse.  The bills are paid.  My family is not lacking anything important.  There is even a little left over for savings.  Still, the nagging thought remains – something is missing.

The problem I need to address is the very issue to which Jesus directs my attention.  It is easy to focus on preparations for this life.  It is just as easy to see wealth and a steady flow of income as my highest priority.  This may lead me to scrimp and save, and even sacrifice.  But, after the bills are paid and the investments pay dividends, what’s next?

Jesus teaches me the wealth of this world is secondary.  He also wants me to understand it will never prepare me for the life to come, nor can it ever prepare me to stand before the Judge of all.  This is why I need to have a clear understanding of what it means to be rich toward God.

Being rich toward God is not measured in financial terms.  It requires spiritual ones.  Being rich toward God means I can live my life with the true direction his Word provides.  Being rich toward God means my debt of sin has been paid by my Savior’s sacrifice.  Being rich toward God means I am able to stand before God as he desires – without fault or blame.  Often, it is this wealth that is missing in my life, and until I return to the one who gives it, there will always be that nagging feeling – something’s missing.

Jesus reveals what’s missing in my life.  Then he offers to fill it with his rich blessing.  As I store up his lasting wealth in my life, I can be confident nothing important will ever be missing.

Can God help me with some relief?

Stress puts the squeeze on all of us at one time or another.  It’s natural to look for relief. As we seek to discover just how practical our relationship with God really is, we might be led to ask, “Can God help me with some relief?”

It seems like some people in Palestine had that question nearly 2,000 years ago as they went out to hear a new preacher named Jesus.  The all-knowing Jesus gave a wonderful answer in that teachable moment that we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew, one of the disciples with Jesus on that day, records some of Jesus’ comments about stress.  He said, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).  To those stressed about grocery money, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the birds go hungry.  To others who were stressed over an inadequate wardrobe, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the flowers down when it comes to how they look.  His point was made in a question that he still asks us today, “Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Of course we are!  The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world!” (John 3:16).  You and I are included in that statement of good news.  God showed his love by removing the greatest stress – our sin that separated us from our God – and placing it on Jesus who took it away by his death on the cross.

God has the perfect antidote to relieve stress.  He wraps his loving arms around us and says, “I love you!  I forgive you.”  That relieves the stresses over finances or health or time crunches or job pressure . . . or anything.  Relief is as close as God’s promises, which are written for us in the Bible.  Each week we take a close look at some of those wonderful promises.  Come and share with us some genuine stress relief.

Handling Pressure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

To which would you compare yourself? Are you kind of like an over-inflated balloon? Does the slightest pinprick cause you to burst? Or when your knot comes unraveled, do you fly this way and that until all the air is spent and you hang limp, unable to move? Are you similar to a fluorescent light bulb? Will a rap against a hard object cause you to fracture into a million tiny shards? Or maybe you’re more like a rubber playground ball, always feeling kicked around and sometimes feeling a little too squishy. Maybe it’s like a weight is attached to your foot and you’re being pulled deeper and deeper and the ringing in your ears gets louder and louder. We’re all under pressure, aren’t we? How do you handle yours?

By ourselves, we’re pretty fragile. The problems of life are usually not so considerate as to come at us one at a time. The word “bombarded” would fit rather well sometimes, wouldn’t it? Temptation pricks at our thin exterior. We are pulled in all sorts of directions by the schedule that so often dictates our lives. Tragedy and trouble shatter the peace that we want so dearly to maintain. People kick us around and criticize our ideals and decisions. Sometimes the pressure feels so great that we think we’re going to implode. The additional pressures of serving God and his people just add to all those other things.

But don’t you think God recognizes all this? By ourselves, we are fragile. But with the Lord, we’re firm. When we hear or study his Word, there’s something solid that grows underneath our delicate exterior. The Holy Spirit does his work of giving us faith and strengthening us in that faith to resist everything that the devil and the world can throw at us. And you know what it is that’s so solid, don’t you? The Bible proclaims a certainty that we just can’t find in ourselves. The good news that Jesus lived perfectly and died in our place and forgave us all our sins is not something squishy or fragile. It’s real. It’s one hundred percent done. It’s yours to rejoice in. It’s the solid foundation on which you and I stand.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for giving me something I can count on. Thank you for being what I could never be and doing what I could never do. Thank you for giving me forgiveness and heaven. When the pressures of life remind me how fragile I am, help me to trust only in you. Even in all the problems of life, help me remember that you will keep me safe in your most capable hands. Amen.

Why do I keep on sinning?

None of us have the ability not to sin! The Bible teaches, first, that a superhuman spirit, the devil, is in rebellion against God and all he represents. The devil and his allies will do anything they can to get you to join their rebellion by rejecting God’s will for your life.

Second, there’s the world we inhabit. When the first people yielded to the devil’s temptation, they brought evil into the good world God had made. Now we live in an environment that is simply not going to encourage us to put God first, as he commands.

Finally, there’s our own nature. Like the world, we human beings are a good creation of God that went wrong very early in our history. Now there’s corruption within us that makes it impossible for us to offer God the perfect obedience that he demands and deserves. Our inner corruption means that the devil’s and the world’s temptations will strike a responsive chord within us, making it hard for us to say “no.”

Above all, please be sure that Jesus’ sacrifice has won God’s forgiveness for your every sin even the ones you can’t seem to shake. Second, know that Jesus also won for us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who creates a new self inside us. This new self wants to please God with a holy life. It’s locked in mortal combat with our old self, who wants exactly the opposite; and sometimes the old self still gets his way.

You might say there’s a dogfight going on inside every Christian. You could also say that the idea is to feed the dog you want to win, and starve the other one. Keep feeding your new self on God’s Word, and watch what happens!

My Weak Faith

The first line of an old Christian hymn asks for “a faith that will not shrink.” That seems like an odd way of talking about faith shrinking. It’s the way my faith sometimes feels, however.

News stories report on people who have great faith and who are heroes. Somehow, I don’t seem to be a likely candidate.

The Bible paints dramatic pictures of “heroes of faith” Abraham, Moses, David. I can’t picture myself comparing to them.

My faith seems timid and uncertain; not heroic. Sometimes I even conclude that faith and church and religion work fine for some people, but they’re not for me.

I need to stop looking at my faith and look at Jesus instead.

Every Christian’s faith “shrinks” sometimes, but Jesus stays strong.

A father once brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asked if Jesus could do anything. Jesus told him, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Nervously, excitedly, the father exclaimed: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”(Mark 9:24)!

What matters is not so much how strong my faith feels, but what my faith rests on.

I may have very strong convictions that a bottle of drain cleaner will make my sore throat go away. Actually, it will make me sicker instead of better.

The correct medicine will assist in making me feel better, even if I don’t have much confidence in it.

Martin Luther said once that we are all “equal in Christ through faith.” Luther knew that Abraham, Moses, and David all had a stronger faith than he did, but it was the very same faith in Christ.

Faith is a gift God gives us, and whoever believes in Christ receives Christ’s blessings no matter whether he receives them with a strong faith or a weak one.

But I Need It!

Appetite is a good thing. Without it, you die. But appetite can also be a bad thing because with it sometimes we eat too much and get heavy and slow and have heart attacks.

An appetite for things is also not wrong. There is nothing wrong with a stroll through a grocery store looking for things we need for our lives. But appetite can get out of control, even in a grocery store.

This danger is exemplified by the statement, “But I need it!” With this appetite in view, God warns, “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16,17).

There are things that we absolutely need. We need food and clothes and shelter and air to breathe. There are many other things like that we need, which our Father in heaven wants us to have to sustain our lives and our happiness. But these things are not the most important things that we need. Jesus talked one day to two friends of his in their home. Martha thought getting supper and getting the house cleaned were things that she “needed” to do. Mary on the other hand thought she needed to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).

Our Father in heaven says to us, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

That makes it simple. To the statement “But I need it!” there is a Godly response. Only one thing is needed. Please don’t think that is too simple. When the world passes into oblivion and we stand at God’s judgment throne Jesus will be all that we need. To know Jesus as the only one who provides good for us in this world and the next is the only thing we need.

There are things we need. We truly do. Body and soul need things. Our challenge when faced with the statement “But I need it!” is to know what God says we need.

He will always be right, and, insofar as we listen to him, so will we.