Faith Counted to Me

On more than one occasion I’ve responded to someone who asked about my health with the statement, “If the Lord wants me to live, then no amount of blood lost, or heart failing, will put me in the grave.”  And I believe it. While I know that God made me with a heart and blood and bones and brain to work my body, I also know that I don’t NEED any of those things. God, who gave me breath and life, doesn’t rely on those things and I will not put my trust in them.  

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness[b] of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:18-21

Lord, thank you that I don’t need to put my trust in my own body, my state of health, or my obedience to honor it, but instead I can put my faith and trust in You to see me through until the appointed time.  You are trustworthy and my body is not. Your promises are true. I am in a constant state of faltering but You are faithful no matter what.

No amount of my own unbelief will make me waver, because You have given me faith in You and You have sealed me with Your Spirit, to secure my place with You and secure my faith in You.  It is all from You.

You are sovereign over all things, even me.  I will trust in You and Your promise of my salvation and forgiveness.  I’m sorry for all the times I have doubted and all the times I have failed.  But Lord, I am so thankful that You continue to forgive and continue to teach me and guide me to deeper faith, just as You did with Abraham, and just as You do with all who have believed in Your salvation through Jesus.

22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 4:22-25

So, I know that I can rejoice in You regardless of my current struggles because You are faithful and true.  You are teaching and training me. You are making me stronger and more faithful. You are building my hope and my strength and my trust in You.  What a glorious gift, Jesus! Thank You for being You and for giving so much love to me! Your love is a refining love. It is a forgiving love, and it is an enduring love.  You have generously poured Your love into us who trust You and it feels good! Thank You for Your love and for Your Spirit!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

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

Creator of All Things

“God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
Daniel 1:17

God, you are the creator of wisdom, intellect, beauty, and leadership.  You made everything and bestow Your gifts upon mankind as You see fit. Since I’ve been back in counseling I’ve been so introspective.  I’ve been pondering who I am. As I examine myself more deeply and consider all the things that have made me and molded me, I am reminded that You are the one that made me.  You’ve given me Spiritual Gifts, and You’ve also given me everything else. You’re the one that made me sweet and kind and gregarious and bold. You’re the one that put me together piece by piece and decided how I would look and what my personality would be.  You decided what family I would be born into and the time and world I would live my life in. All of it was You.

As I’ve been studying Daniel, You keep pointing out that You are the author of everything.  You gave Daniel his lineage, his appearance, his wisdom, his knowledge. It all came from You.  And even though Daniel had been hurled into captivity in Babylon, You used him mightily for Your glory!  Daniel honored You, acknowledged You, and deferred to You in praise and petition for everything that he did, and You blessed him in that.  Daniel had faith to see You in everything.

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
   to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
   he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
   and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
   he knows what is in the darkness,
   and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
   I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
   and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
   for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Daniel 2:19-23

Lord, help me to see You and know You in everything, so that I can be strengthened and encouraged, and so that I can bless and teach the people I come in contact with.  I am a captive in this Babylon of sin and death, Lord. But You have given me wisdom and faith and boldness to see You and trust You. Lord, the mustard seed of faith that You planted in me as a small child has grown into a giant tree of trust and faith.  Let me move mountains for You, God! Let me trust You more! As I ponder myself and my architecture, Lord, let me see Your grand design in a fresh light. Remind me of Your complete faithfulness. And give me the boldness to proclaim it even in the face of death.

 

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.

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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