“If you want to show your love for Me, love yourself.”

“If you want to show your love for Me, love yourself.”  

That’s what Jesus said to me a few weeks ago and I’ve been pondering it and pondering it.  A common prayer of mine has always been to ask how I could love Him more. And the words that would come to mind were, “If you love me, obey my commands.”  The only problem with that came when I overgeneralized that statement. I put the focus on me and not on Him. So I worked and worked and worked to be a good Christian, to be a good missionary, to be a good wife, to be a good mom, to be a good prayer warrior, to be good.  It overwhelmed me to the point of panic.

“If you want to show your love for Me, love yourself.”  

Isn’t that selfish? Isn’t that arrogant” Isn’t that Humanism?  Isn’t that wrong? I could talk myself out of that thinking a thousand different ways, and all in the name of obedience.  I called it humility. I called it obedience. My fear of disobedience had me hating myself for all the ways I fall short.  All the ways I fail. How could I love a person so covered in the ugliness of sin and shame?

And yet, “If you want to show your love for Me, love yourself.”  He wants me to love myself because He loves me. If I take the focus off of myself, which at the end of the day is true humility, I can see that I can love myself, not for what I’ve done, but for what He has done.  He made me lovable.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8

If I don’t love myself, how can I truly know God?  Not loving myself is to not love what God has done in me.  What God has made me. Because God loves me, I have love in my heart through His Spirit, and I have the power and the command to love myself, just as I love others.  That is the evidence of my relationship with God. That is the truth of who God is at His core. He is love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:16

I will abide in Your love, Jesus.  The love You have for me is a love that I can and will embrace by Your power.  I want to turn away from the self-loathing brought about by disobedience and imperfection, and instead embrace the powerful, cleansing flood of your forgiving love.  

I accept Your love, Jesus.

Teach Me, Oh Lord!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:14

Jesus, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed.  It seems like taking my next breath is too difficult.  Depression has this way of crippling you down to the deepest part of yourself, and for so long I have scratched and clawed away at life just to find a smile.  It’s been really, really hard. I found myself crying out to You, God, with phrases like, “Lord, just take me!” or, “Lord, come back already! I can’t do this anymore!”  And then I felt frustrated, even angry that You didn’t abide to my demands.

But God, You’ve never been content to let me be swallowed up by my own self-pity or the schemes of the enemy intended to destroy me.  I was too important to You to have my life thrown away because I was weary of fighting. All along You have offered me Yourself, Your Salvation, Your strength.  I cried, “save me!” and Your response has always been, “I am.”

You truly are I am, aren’t You, God?

You’ve taught me so much through these trials, Lord: lessons You weren’t content to let me lose.  Each step of the journey, You have taught me, strengthened me, and helped me. You have made my paths straight, no matter how drunk on my own self-loathing I became.  You pulled me up out of pits of my own folly, and wiped away my tears with the tender kisses of Your breath of Life.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
   the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
   What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
Psalms 118:5-7

No matter where I am, no matter what I do, You will teach me and guide me and strengthen me.  You are God. When I am discouraged, when I am depressed, when I have given up, You remain strong within me, teaching and guiding me and building me up in Your image and molding me to be more like You.  Your Word teaches me, Lord. You are the Word made flesh, Jesus. I will submit to Your teaching.

My soul clings to the dust;
   give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
   teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
   and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word!
Psalms 119:25-28

 

Wisdom in the Secret Heart

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:6

I’ve been dealing with a lot of old stuff in counseling.  Stuff that’s been hidden deep inside me for a very long time.  And I’ve been realizing how much I have lied to myself to protect myself from the truth of my past.  I’ve lied to myself to stay safe, but I haven’t been safe.  I am wounded.  And healing can only come in the revelation of the wound and the power of God to heal it in me.

I’ve always looked at the idea of “wisdom in the secret heart” as a deep wisdom, a deep understanding or teaching of God’s Word in my inner being.  And that’s certainly true!  But I’ve been discovering just how deep the Lord is willing to go with me if I’m willing to let Him take me there.   And it’s way deeper than human knowledge can even comprehend.

It’s scary.   It’s so scary that I’m writing this blog post right now and instead of my standard “prayer format”, I’m just putting it out there stream of consciousness style.  I guess the details are fine to stay between me and God.  He is showing me the things that have been there all this time.  The things I’ve lied to myself over for many, many years.  I’d let the enemy convince me that keeping it hidden from my own mind would heal me.

But I’ve relied on myself to heal these wounds for a long, long time.  I even convinced myself that I was trusting God to heal me in the midst of my own suffering.  But God has used it.  He is faithful to teach me wisdom in the secret heart no matter how stubborn I am and no matter how many times I fall for Satan’s tricks.  He is patient with me and quick to forgive.

All this sin that others inflicted on me.  All this sin I inflicted on myself to hide with shame what happened.  All of it has been revealed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 56:10

God is able to clean what has been stained inside of me.  God is able to heal the wounds and restore me.  But restoration can only come once the wounds are revealed.  And the wounds couldn’t be revealed until I was willing to acknowledge them.  I can look back at so many experiences in my life and see how the Lord has been gently trying to show me the way and help me to get there.  And through it all I’ve gone deeper and deeper and deeper as I submitted to His teaching and His love for me.

I’ve confessed and cried out to God.  I’ve offered prayers of repentence and cries for mercy.  And the Lord has heard me.  And He’s taken me deeper.  He’s taken me to the deepest knowledge of my broken spirit and my broken heart.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

But it wasn’t until I gave up everything–and I’m still in the midst of giving it all up–that I’ve realized the truth of this wisdom in the secret heart.  This wisdom of deep repentence, not regret, not fear, but deep and profound repentence for all the years of hiding it I’ve tried to sustain.  It was never hidden from God.  And His love for me remained.  When people stole my innocence and scarred my soul, the Lord was there, and He wanted to heal me.  As He wept for my injury, and wept for my abusers, and wept for the damage it did to all of us, He remembered the cross of Calvary and offered it to me.

And only now have I finally recieved the start of that wisdom from the secret heart.  That wisdom that brings confession, repentence, forgiveness, and restoration.  There is profound peace in that.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:12-15

Your Love Endures Forever

God, I have a really hard time understanding why people refuse to believe in Your love for them.  They refuse to follow You or trust You or listen to You, though You make yourself known so clearly!  Either that, or they’re quick to acknowledge you with their lips, but fail to acknowledge You in their hearts.  I don’t understand it, God, until I take a long look at myself and discover with horror that I do the same thing.

I want to believe in Your love for me, Jesus, but how quickly I fall into the trap of believing the lies of the enemy about You and me and our relationship.  I do something beautiful and I beam with pride in my own accomplishment, without taking the time to give credit to the one who was in charge of it all to begin with.  I want people to acknowledge my good deeds and praise my efforts, instead of pointing people to You, the author and perfecter of my faith and theirs.

I want to recognize Your authority in everything, God.  Not just when I need You, or not just when I’m thinking of You, but all the time.  I know that You forgive me. And I know that You love me. But my love and obedience are so frail, Lord.  I get caught up in the hype of my own reflection in the mirror. Increase my faith in You God and what You want to do through me.

I know that loving myself is important.  You made me. You love me. I should love me.  Everything that You make is worth loving. But I need to love myself out of a desire to show my love to You, not in order to lift myself up as worthy on my own merit.  I am beautiful because You call me beautiful. I am lovable because You have called me lovable.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up for the times I have failed You and I’m not going to cry over mistakes I have made in the past.  Instead, I will continue to ask You to help me point to You more, and seek Your honor above my own more. I will continue to try, Lord, knowing that my efforts are not in vain because You will help me.  You will patiently teach me and guide me. And I will try to trust and obey.

I won’t live in condemnation, but instead lift up Your righteousness and forgiveness.  I will recognize Your authority over me and praise You for blessing the works of my hands, so that Your name will be glorified.  

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;|
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew[a] Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 to him who struck down great kings,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.

 

You, Oh God, Are Faithful

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:6-7

Why have I ever questioned Your faithfulness, God?  You define Yourself as faithful and yet I forget to trust You in that.  I want to trust You more God. The desire of my heart is to trust You in all things and be lifted up out of the pit by Your faithful hand, because You are faithful.  

The world is fallen into deep chaos, God.  Idolatry, murder, sexual immorality, and evil of all kinds commands this world in an orchestra of personal passion mixed with the screams of the innocent.  It can be pretty terrifying, God. Evil rules and evil wins all the time. We are barraged with the cannon fire of the enemy at every turn. The spiritual battle waged against us is real.  It is painful. It is discouraging. It is real.

But, You, Oh God, are faithful.

You answer evil with the victory of Jesus.  You answer hatred with the love of forgiveness.  You answer the lusts of the flesh with the intimacy of unconditional acceptance.  Why would anyone choose anything else? You abound in steadfast love and yet the world mocks what You offer and chooses to go their own way.  How it must break Your heart to see people stubbornly refuse Your love and faithfulness. How it must sadden You to watch people twist Your offer of acceptance into a license to do whatever pleases them.  

People are ruled by the desires of their own hearts.  People have chosen to decide for themselves what is “good” and what is “evil”.  From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the tree, people stopped trusting You and chose instead to trust themselves.  People will permit all sorts of evil now, God. How it must sadden You!

Trusting You is the better way.  You bring order from chaos. You offer life over death.  You bring restoration instead of decay. It’s pretty clear that Your way is the better way, because Your way brings life!  In a world that longs to live forever, why would anyone choose to go their own way? Why would anyone choose death over life?  Help me to show them, God. Help me to tell them. Help me to live so that others want life, too.

Life is found in You alone.

Here is a message from Nasser al’Qahtani regarding Exodus 34:6-7. 

 

The Time of Singing Has Come

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
   and come away,
11 for behold, the winter is past;
   the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
   the time of singing has come,
Song of Solomon 2:10-12

You are coming back, my Love, my Lord!  You are making all things new. You are making me new.  Gone are the days of my vain suffering. The winter is past.  Lord, I clean to Your promises. I worship You for what You have given me!  I am Yours. The time of singing has come. I rejoice in You. You have promised to rescue me and I will rejoice!

You had my friend pray this scripture over me yesterday, and Lord, I know that You are with me, encouraging my soul, breathing life into my heart again.  I want to hold onto You, Jesus. I want to cling to You for all I need and be sustained.

Forgive me for only seeing the ashes for so long!  I was caught in despair and I had forgotten true joy.  I had forgotten that my Love is bounding after me like a gazelle, eagerly ready to restore me and commune with me.  Lord, You made our union for our glory together!

You made me to worship You and to be Yours!  I am Yours. I love You! I submit to You because You are Good.  You are Light. You are Trustworthy and Faithful. Your words are True.  Your Glory is revealed in Your Love!

I worship You, God!  I find rest in Your arms.  The time of singing has come.

Sifted Like Wheat

“And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:15-16

Jesus, the Passover came just as you had planned, and You knew You would soon endure deep physical and mental suffering.  The Passover meal is such a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people, and I know You longed to commemorate that moment with your friends, and encourage them before the trials that would soon come.  Suffering is so hard, Lord. The reminder and celebration of Your faithfulness is imperative in dealing with the struggles that plague our lives. We so easily forget Your faithfulness and enduring love.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Luke 22:19-20

Lord, you served us in Your suffering.  You said that the blood You would shed for us would be a new promise for us:  A promise of salvation forever. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb protected the Israelites from death, so, too, Your blood was offered as a new promise of life and safety to anyone who would agree to accept Your promise.  

Following You is hard, God.  Following You also means following the road You had to travel: the road of suffering.  And You never told anyone that following You would be easy. Instead You quickly let Your friends know that following You would come at a great cost.  

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32

Lord Jesus, I have often felt “sifted like wheat”.  I’ve struggled and faltered and my faith has been at times so weak, and at other times strong enough to move mountains.  But Lord, it has been hard. Satan doesn’t mess around. And I have been hurt! At times, by my own folly, I have fallen into pits.  At other times, I held strong to Your promises and still fell into pits of destruction and pain.

“Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Luke 22:33

Isn’t that just how life goes?  I am weak. I am strong. I am weak.  I am strong. But You are always strong.  I make promises to You that I can’t keep. My flesh is weak, no matter how strong my spirit is.  But Lord, Your Spirit in me is always strong. Your Spirit in me will get me through the trials that I face, both the ones of my own making, and the ones set before me by the enemy.  

It was the enemy that set about to kill You.  And it was the enemy that tried to destroy You.  But Your plan all along was to love Your enemies and die for them, no matter how much they hated You.  So, you let the enemy sift You like wheat, tearing your flesh from your body, hurling insults at You, driving You like an animal to Your death, until You were displayed on a cross for all the world to see, and proclaimed, “It is finished!”  

You had the last laugh, Lord Jesus!  You broke the bonds of sin and death on that day and defeated the enemy with Your victory.  Your resurrection proved You were God and had dominion over life itself. And You offer that life to any who would receive it.  

So, I want to receive Your life fresh today, Lord.  Help me to endure the trials that come. Humble me to receive Your power at work within me and help me to encourage those around me to endure just as You did.  I don’t want to arrogantly proclaim, I will follow You anywhere. Instead, let me humbly say, I will trust You no matter what happens.

I trust You, Jesus.  You are faithful.

 

Surely Not!

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Luke 20:9-18

For the longest time I have denied certain sins in my own heart, God.  Like the scribes and the chief priests in the temple long ago, I’m guilty of denying the blatant arrogance in my own heart.  I say, “Surely not, Lord! Not me. I’m a good Christian! I go to church and read my Bible, and I pray! I do this and that and this and that and this and that!”  We all do that, don’t we, God? In the past I would read these words scattered all over the Gospels and I would shake my head and think in my heart, “Sure am glad I’m not like that!”  Wow! How wrong I was! How wrong I am!

How many times have I said to You, “Surely not!”  

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Isaiah 64:6

I’m so sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for refusing to hear your conviction in my heart because of my own arrogant confidence in myself and my deeds.  Of course I knew that my deeds were “filthy rags”, but I still acted like they were so much more than that! In my own depravity I welcomed the validation of my own actions with the pride I felt in them.  

But I’m done with that, Lord.  

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

I want to always remember that only by Your grace and only by Your blood am I worthy of anything.  But by that same grace and blood I am worthy of all things! I’m done with sin and death. I want to pick up Your life and be free!

So, humble me, Lord Jesus.  Show me again how great You are!  Show me fresh the love You have for me.  Show me deeply how beautiful I am because of You.  I won’t walk in shame for the failure of my own heart.  Instead I will lift up Your name and acknowledge the banner of love You cover me with.

He brought me to the banqueting house,
   and his banner over me was love.
Song of Solomon 2:4

I’m in your banqueting house because You brought me there.  I didn’t do anything to deserve it, but You choose to fly your banner of love over me. So, Lord, the next time I start to say, “Surely not!”, please show me with your gentle love and correction.  Only that will bring wisdom and peace for my whole life.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
   or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
   as a father the son in whom he delights.
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
   and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
   and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
   and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Proverbs 3:11-15

You Call Me Beautiful

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
   behold, you are beautiful;
Song of Solomon 1:15a

Thank you, Lord, that you call me beautiful.  I need to remember that. I get so caught up and entangled by my own inadequacy and I call it humility.  I get down on myself. I call myself weak. And I think I am being humble. I think I am following You. But you call me beautiful.  You call me your love. I am so dirty with sin and shame. And you call me clean. You call me beautiful. I am beautiful.

How can my sin be be called beautiful when it covers me like caked on mud?  Because You no longer see the sin! You have washed me clean! Your blood has washed me clean.  Your love has overcome my filthiness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Lord, You have cleansed me of ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.  I am clean. I am beautiful. You call me beautiful.  You call me clean.

As a lily among brambles,
   so is my love among the young women.
Song of Solomon 2:2

And so I shall be called a lily among brambles.  The world around me is filthy and full of sin, but I am Your beauty.  I am your flower. Your love. I want to walk in the confidence of that knowledge!  I want to spend every moment walking in the power of how You know me, how You see me!  I want to know I am Your beautiful flower! Help me to have the confidence of Your truth about me!  

I am loved.  I am beautiful.

The Bow of Bronze

“They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but YAHWEH was my support.”
Psalm 18:18

Lord, I feel kicked when I’m down a lot.  My troubles seem to stand up and mock me every time I turn around.  And no sooner than I overcome one obstacle, another rises up to take its place: bigger and stronger and crueler than the last.  But You truly are my only support. You alone are my rock and my fortress. You alone are my salvation.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
   and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Thank you, God, that when I am beaten, you lift up my head.  You comfort me and strengthen me. This battle training builds me up for the war to come.  The armies of Satan are an endless stream of terror and rage, but You truly are my strong tower.  

The battles will come.  I will grow weary. I will get caught up in fear.  I will have moments when I believe every lie the enemy hurls at me.  But You, YAHWEH, You are my shield in spite of my weakness.

The cords of death encompassed me;
   the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
   the snares of death confronted me.
Psalm 18:4-5

I’m tethered to this world and the evil that rules it.  I’m tethered by its brokenness and my own. I walk in the mire.  I get tired. I get scared. I get overwhelmed. But You are always present.  You are always there. You hear me. You answer me. No matter what sin ensnares me, You will save me!

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
   to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psalm 18:6

I know you are training me for what is to come, Holy Father.  You train and refine me. You make me stronger and stronger. All I can do is stand and wait and watch and learn.  All I can do is trust You and what You will do.

s-l300.jpg

He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:34

Who can bend back a bow of bronze but YOU?  I will trust in Your strength and not my own.  

“For You equipped me with strength for the battle;”
Psalm 18:39