Back to the Garden

Sin and shame have ruled my life for a very long time.  Since I was a child, I tried to hide it from everyone: from God, from myself, from the world.  As a small child I had experienced a cruel type of shame from the enemy that forced a burden on me that I was not intended to bear.  But the Lord is so merciful, full of forgiveness and abounding with love. What the enemy intended to harm me, God will use for good.  And He is.

I’ve longed to go back to the Garden where I could walk in the presence of God, completely vulnerable, completely trusting, and completely unashamed.  I just didn’t know it. I kept trying to cover myself instead of relinquishing my control to let God cover me. God’s covering is perfect. It protects.  It builds up. It comforts. It surrounds me in love and peace. It is good because God is good. And in the Garden, we communed as one friendship in complete transparency with one another.  I could know Him and He knew me. And it was good.

But the devil tried to steal that from me.  He tried, but he has failed. God never gives up, and He hasn’t given up on me.  Instead, He has tenderly and lovingly guided me back to Him, though the path has been difficult.  All along the journey I have fought with Him. I’ve questioned His judgment and His direction. Can you imagine?  I questioned God! What an oxymoron! But I did it, and I’ll likely do it again. I kept insisting that He not see my nakedness.  I had too much shame. I had too much guilt. I had fear and darkness where their should have been trust and love.

“I acknowledged my sin to You,
And I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to YAHWEH,’
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Psalm 32:5

When I acknowledged my doubt and fear and shame to Him, He didn’t turn me away.  He forgave me. And again and again He will do the same. What incredible peace there is in that!  It is life changing. As I continue to strip off the layers and layers of shame and guilt and fear that I have built up around myself for so many years, the Lord faithfully and lovingly says, “I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you,” over and over and over again.  Seventy times seven and more. And with each confession I’m drawn closer to Him. I am more and more exposed and I am more and more free.

His presence is the only covering I need.  Shame and doubt and fear have only kept me away from Him.  But as I release control of my covering to the Lord, I am free.  His presence is my shield, my righteousness, my honor, my delight.  To be naked and unashamed in His presence is to be back in the Garden.  And that’s where I want to be.

So, Father, I’m sorry for not trusting You.  I’m sorry for trying to cover all of my guilt and shame with manufactured lies that never gave me the comfort and peace that I thought they would or needed them to.  Real peace can only be found in You. Real comfort is in Your arms. Your presence is mine for the asking when I surrender to You and confess it all. Thank You! I am saved.  Help me to continue to walk in the Garden and not try to cover myself again in anything but You.

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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.

Being Poor in Spirit

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
Luke 8:9-10

You explain things so clearly to anyone who wants to understand.  I love that about You, God. The ability to learn and understand the mysteries and wisdom that come from You are found in the humility to put aside my own thinking and reason to be taught by You.  That was the problem with the Pharisees. Those lovers of the Law were really lovers of themselves and the percieved piety they recieved from the obedience to your statutes. But they were missing the point entirely!  If anyone hears your law and only obeys it to impress or feel better about themselves they are not catching the heart of what the Law has brought.

Paul talked about the Law making clear to us the Truth of who You are and are inability to have fellowship with You.  He taught that inevitibly Your perfect law made clear our failing annd pronounced death upon us. But it was our sin that brought death, not the law itself.  So acting out the Law, if it didn’t teach the person to know and understand Your heart and Your desire to bring forgiveness of sin, gained nothing from obedience to that law.  Without the faith to know that You are salvation, not the Law, a person is lost forever. They will never understand, will they? They’ll just be stuck in the death of their sin, instead of the life that can only be offered by You.  

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25

But being poor in spirit and humble in knowledge, gives me the right to learn and understand Your greatest mysteries because I’m willing to let You teach me.  As I recognize the deeper and deeper need for You to be my advocate in all aspects of my life, I find You willing and ready to teach me. And that’s how You used parables.  You showed people that if they were willing to be taught, instead of just having it all spelled out for them to figure out on their own, they could inherit a deep and meaningful fellowship with You that can be found in no other way.

But if a person is stubborn, and refuses to be taught, but only wants to lift up their own wisdom and understanding, then they can never learn even the simplest of lessons from You.  And of course the simplest lesson of all is that You came down to earth as a man to be our bridge between yourself and us. And anyone willing to follow You at all cost will find the richness of Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your eternal life.   So, that’s why the disciples had been given the ability to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God. Because they were humble enough to give up trying to find You or serve You on their own.

You love that, don’t You?!  You just love people to acknowledge that they need You and want Your help!  It’s not complicated. It was never supposed to be complicated. Help me to be poor in spirit like that!  Teach me to be humble and to learn from You. Don’t ever let me rely on my own reason above Your own. Help me to know the depth and mystery of Your Love.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20

The Mercy Seat

Disobedience brought death into the world.  You’ve always told us that. From the very beginning you told us that if we listened to You and trusted that Your plans for us were full of good things, that we would be with you forever and never know death.  All we ever had to do was trust you. But we got tricked into thinking we couldn’t trust you, didn’t we? And it brought us nothing but fear. Lord, you never wanted us to be afraid of you. It was only after we had been shown what disobedience looked and felt like in the Garden that we became afraid.  

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Genesis 3:8-11

I don’t know why we’ve always tried to make it so complicated.  You’ve kept it simple from the beginning God. From the time of Adam and Eve, you showed us that we had brought death to ourselves and to the world.  When Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, they tried to cover themselves with leaves, but you took animals, killed them, and gave the skins to them to cover themselves.  You showed them in an action that the knowledge of their nakedness as shameful to them brought to them death. Only death could cover it.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

With Moses things were no different.  You met him on the mountain. You told him that you were trustworthy and that if he trusted you Moses could lead all the people into trusting Him in freedom.  You gave him some rules to show him how righteous and good and fair you are, and how breaking those rules would only bring death. You showed him and he believed you.  

And then you showed the people how to remember your promises and how to remember you are trustworthy.  You gave them the plans for the tabernacle. And every inch of the tabernacle declared your promise that you are trustworthy and that your plans for people were to be clothed for “glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2).  You laid out your grand design for humanity with the designs of the tabernacle, completed with mercy at the center where you met face to face with mankind.

34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.
Exodus 26:34  

The mercy seat covered the arc of the testimony.  The arc held the law, but the testimony of it was not the law, but Your desire to show us that disobedience brings death, but trusting You brings mercy.  It was a physical representation of your desire for us to be together, for us to trust you. Your mercy covers the law. Your mercy has dominion over the law.  Your mercy is the answer, but the sacrifice of blood is meant to show you that we understand what the knowledge of good and evil brings to us and to the world. It brings death.  When we understand that we can receive your mercy.

I receive your mercy new today, Lord.  Sin brings death, but you have brought mercy through your son, Jesus, who had victory over sin and death through his resurrection.  I receive your mercy new today, Lord. Give me the grace to receive your mercy new each moment by your Spirit in me.

 

His Promises are True

Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Father, thank you for the gift of life you have given us.  Thank you that the promises you gave to Abraham remain and that I am a part of your family and part of the inheritance that you promised mankind from the beginning.  You made us to be your friends, to be your children, to walk with you and commune with you.  It was always your plan to protect us, to love us, and to be in union with us.  I’m sorry that I haven’t always believed that.  I’m sorry for the lies of the enemy that I have allowed to take root in my heart.  Lord, I am so grateful that you forgive me regardless of my failings.  Thank you that your promise to Abraham is still true today, and that your promise will continue for eternity.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus.

Lord, as I read through the end of Genesis (Genesis 42-50) and watched again how you continued to bless Joseph through many trials and great suffering, I am comforted.  You really do work all things for good for those who love you.  And through the suffering and condemnation and betrayal of the one man, Joseph, you saved a whole family, as well as saving the promise you gave to Abraham.  That’s what you do, God.  You save.  Through Joseph you proclaim what you would do for all people through Jesus.  Though we sin against you, though we were your enemies, you gave Jesus to die for us.  He suffered so we wouldn’t have to.  Just like Joseph suffered.  His brothers were guilty, but Joseph trusted you, even when it hurt.

I want to trust you more, Jesus.  I want to trust you when it hurts.  I want to know and feel the truth of your promises everyday and every moment.  With every breath, Lord, let me breathe in your truth, your love, and your salvation, so that I can stand strong against the schemes of the enemy.  I am yours God.  I am yours through the fire and trial of this sinful world.  Please use me to save others by living a life that would recognize the fully glorified risen Christ that is alive and active within me.  Salvation is by you alone.  Shine through me, Jesus!  Shine your light and love through every pore of my body that your people, chosen from the beginning through Adam, can be reconciled to you, just as Jacob’s sons were reconciled to you through Joseph.

Like Joseph, let me always point to your promise.  Let me always recognize your power at work in me!  I don’t want to ever give myself credit for the power that you have provided.  Without you, I’d miss out on all that you planned from the beginning for me.  I don’t want to miss any of that, God.  I want to shine.

So, by the name of the Lord Jesus, by his power, and by his might I proclaim the truth of the living Christ over me and any who would believe it and accept it:  That Jesus came as a man; that he lived a perfect life even made “a little lower than the angels”; that he suffered and died the death every sinner deserves though he never deserved it; that he rose from the dead as proof of his promise to me that he is God and that he has power over sin and death; that his restored life is a promise of restored life in me; and finally that he placed his Spirit in me as a sealed promise reminder that my life is his, with all the benefits that such a thing provides.  What the enemy intends to harm me, God will use for good.  

The battle is won.  The victory of Christ is secured!  I am dead now to sin because of Jesus’ defeat of all sin on the cross of calvary.  And my life is new, made new by the surety of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  He proved his power.  He proved his victory.  I will hold onto that victory and draw my peace from that promise.  That promise sealed by God himself.  I am his and he is mine.  We are inseparable.  

Lord, show the world the unending and relentless love of Christ through me!  Amen.