Help Them to See

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
   They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
   there is none who does good.
Psalm 53:1

That seems to be the world today.  Carnal and selfish pursuits are the gold standard for humanity.  The world proclaims itself as god: capable of determining right and wrong for itself.  The lie of the enemy from the beginning has been that we could be like God and choose for ourselves right from wrong.  

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:1-6

The arrogance to think that we could no better than the one who made us.  We are like little children talking back to our parents, insisting we are right and they are wrong.  Insisting we know better. Insisting we choose for ourselves what is best. It is complete folly!

I know that it is only by the grace of the One Who Made Me, Jesus Christ, that I can even comprehend this great tragedy.  It was only when I made the decision as a small child to let the King of my Heart be Jesus instead of myself. One small act of obedience led to an understanding of God’s goodness that I will carry with me for eternity.  God is love and light. In Him is no darkness. He knows what will be best for me and I can trust Him like the good Father He is. I can trust that He will lead me in the straight path and protect me from the wickedness of my own arrogance.

Because isn’t that the crux of the matter?  People don’t want to submit to any authority but their own.  Why would they want to let someone else tell them what to do? It sounds so much better to choose your own path.  

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

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.
Genesis 3:7-8

And all this knowledge that they had chosen for themselves separated them from God by shame.  They suddenly knew shame and fear. Things that had never been in their lives before. I wish people could see how simple it is.  I wish they could see that trusting You is good and trusting in ourselves only leads to fear and shame and death away from Your Goodness.

Lord, help them to see that the time is short.  Help them to see that Your ways are good. Open their eyes and let them see that they can be made righteous by Your Son, Jesus.  Help them to see, Lord. Help them to see.

 

To Go From Knowing to Doing

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

Lord, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things lately and I didn’t even know it.  It’s a true tragedy to realize that the enemy has convinced me so often that the fear I’m feeling is not fear especially in regard to the judgement of God.  I have spent 45 of my 49 years of life as a believer in Jesus, and I guess I thought that I had established a deep understanding of God’s love and forgiveness.  I’ve certainly asked for it enough times! Sin sneaks up on me and the next thing I know I’m calling out to You, God, asking You to please, please forgive me.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:8

I know you love a repentant and contrite heart. I know that You are most pleased when I choose to submit to Your will for my life instead of choosing to rebel.  I know that Your plan for me is so much better than anything I could plan for myself. Frankly I KNOW a lot of things. But knowing and doing are two very different things.  And I don’t do near as much as I know.

Lord, how else can I bridge that gap except to call upon You?  You are my Creator. You are my strong Tower. You are my bridge to salvation.  You can be my bridge between knowing and doing.

So, help.  I need help, God. I’m tired of being afraid.  I’m tired of letting fear, disguised as a million different things that seem ok, rule my choices and my life.  I want to walk in the confidence of your forgiveness so that I can walk through life without fear of judgement.  If I am going to believe that the judgement of my sins were poured out on the cross of Christ, then I’m not supposed to walk in guilt any longer.  I am forgiven so I don’t need to be afraid of You, God. Let Your perfect love cast out all fear in my life as I submit to Your sufficient and all encompassing forgiveness.  Perfect Your Love in me, Lord Jesus, so that I can help show others how to have the peace of Your forgiveness. No one who trusts You will ever need to fear the judgement of their sins.  Silence the enemy and all the lies he spreads that say we’re not worth it, or we don’t deserve it, or what we did is too horrible. Help all people to find and recieve Your free offering of life and love without judgement, by Jesus on the cross. It seems a very fair punishment for anything anyone could do.  Help me to accept it more fully. And help others to find it and be free of guilt. Amen.

But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
Psalm 55:16

A Call to Repentence

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
1 Samuel 7:3-4

Beloved Savior, the people are dying.  They are defeated and broken and lost and they don’t even know it.  Your Presence is so far from them, mighty Yahweh! They don’t even believe You exist anymore.  Show them, my King, show them You are real and true. Show them that Your Power will save them if only they would turn away from the false gods they serve and look to You for their salvation.  

You are asking so little of us, Lord.  You ask so very little.

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-13

Why are they so stubborn, Lord?  Please Father, break their hardened hearts to pieces.  Show them the power of Your love against their enemies and urge them into the shelter of your Presence.  It is Your Presence, Your Salvation, Your Power that brings salvation to the lost. Not images. Not ideals.  Not even crosses. It is Your Victory over the cross that brings salvation to any who would believe it!

Even the Philistines got it eventually.  Sort of.

Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?
1 Samuel 6:6

They finally acknowledged what they were dealing with, and tried to make amends to You with a guilt offering.  (see 1 Samuel Chapter 6) Our world now doesn’t even believe the history that has been protected for thousands of years, a history that declares Your faithfulness and Your salvation offered for all of humanity.  It took the Egyptians ten plagues that eventually led to death, just to submit to Your will. Even then they didn’t repent. And the Philistines, who finally acknowledged Your existence with terror, only wanted You to go away.

I feel like that’s the world we live in now, God.  Only it’s even worse than that. People refuse to see You.  They refuse to acknowledge You. And their time is running out.  Their hearts are so hardened and so committed to the lusts of their own desires, that breaking through that seems an impossible task.  But You are faithful, Yahweh! You can breathe life into the things of this world that are dead, even if they don’t yet know they are dead.

So breathe Your life into the world one last time before the end.  Perhaps a few will recognize their folly before it’s too late. And let Your words permeate this planet as a final warning siren of Your eminent judgement.  Lord, I know that it is your will that none should perish. Please, convince them, Jesus. Convince them that Your love and forgiveness are worth turning away from the false idols that have given the world nothing but death, war, famine, and pain.  Fleeting pleasures are nothing compared to the glorious riches that await the ones who recieve Your Life and Your Salvation.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
2 Peter 3:8-10

 

When I am Faithless…

I seem to start a lot of my conversations with, “I’m sorry, God.”  Lord, I know full well that repentance is a fine and necessary thing.  But Lord, I’ve neglected to accept Your punishment for my crimes against You as already PAID IN FULL.  I’ve walked around, suffering and moaning with the failures that surround my day. I am sad and I hear myself say, “I know I’m just suffering the consequences of my own actions.”  So sad. And I know that I often do have to suffer the consequences on occasion. But I have neglected to fully receive from You that the consequences for my sin were paid on the cross of Christ.

I have victory.  I am forgiven. I have let the enemy convince me that I have neither!  I have walked in grieving and loss. I have walked in guilt and shame. I have walked in all the things You conquered for me in Your payment for my sins on the cross.  You rose from the dead! You PROVED your victory. You proved it and proclaimed it and then sealed it as a promise in our hearts by giving us–giving me–Your Holy Spirit.

But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Ruth 1:11-13

Why do I ever think You’ve left me to my fate?  Why do I act the way Naomi did when everything she depended on in the physical world had been taken from her.  Distraught, she cried out in her misery, but not to You, God. She cried out in shame and worry and hopelessness.  How many times have I felt that same way? I’ve walked in the sorrow of my circumstances instead of the peace of Your Gospel.  

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth 1:16-18

Ruth, on the other hand, who had nothing, and by worldly standards was fated to a worse fate than Naomi, chose to trust in You.  As a foreigner she had no hope without You, and so she chose by faith to walk to the very end trusting You regardless of how things looked.

I’ve always thought I knew the story of Ruth and Naomi.  I’ve always thought of Naomi as so faithless. And today I saw that I have been walking like Naomi, in faithlessness.  But You are faithful even when we are faithless. Thanks for that, God. Please give me more faith. Teach me to trust You more and hope in Your salvation.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

 

Lost in the Land of Shadows and Dirt

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.
Judges 6:1-2

It’s crazy what disobedience can do to people.  Disobedience fills us with fear, shame, and guilt, and drives us out of all the good things God wants to give us.  Disobedience causes us to stop trusting in God’s provision and start trusting in fear. We let fear become our leader instead of God.  And it takes us nowhere good. For the Israelites, disobedience to God led them to do evil in the sight of God, which ultimately led to their self inflicted exile out of the Promised Land and into the mountains to hide in caves.  They went from the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Shadows and Dirt.

“For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in.
Judges 6:3-5

God allowed the Israelite’s enemies to take over the land He had given to them so that they would repent and recognize that the Land and God’s protection were by His sovereign hand alone.  As the people of God walked away from the worship and trust of Yahweh, The One True God, they also walked away from His blessing and provision. The people began to worship the false idols and put their trust in those things to provide for them and it had them living in the dark in caves!  How often have I found myself living in a cave because of my own lack of trust in God. I fall into fear and doubt and worry, and then there I am: in the dark instead of the light, afraid and hungry.

And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.
Judges 6:6

So, what do we do when we have thrown ourselves into the dark? We cry out to God!  He is our rescuer and our salvation. If we know God, then we are all too familiar with His love and mercy and His longing to restore us into a right relationship with Him.  But God isn’t content to just save us, though that would surely be enough for us! Instead, He lovingly teaches us and guides us, so that we will understand how to avoid going into the dark again.  

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For the Israelites, God’s compassion and deliverance came from a curious source.  And over and over again we see God do this. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “God chose the foolish things to confound the wise.”  That’s just how God rolls. And the Israelites needed to see that even though they were weak and afraid and living in caves, He could rescue them from their own failings and bring them back into the inheritance that He had planned for them from the beginning.

And so God chooses Gideon whom He calls “a mighty man of valor”. Gideon who hid from his enemies in a wine press to beat out his wheat. Gideon, who doubted and questioned even after the miraculous sign of the appearance of the “Angel of the Lord”.  Gideon, who even after he agreed to do as Yahweh commanded, took it upon himself to do it under cover of darkness so no one would see him do it! (reference Judges 6:11-40)

Yes, God chose Gideon, because Gideon bodily encompassed everything that the Israelites had become.  Gideon was afraid, in the dark, and doubted God. And don’t we all do the same thing? Don’t we all fall short a thousand times a day?  Don’t we all fall back on fear and hide in the dark? Thankfully, our God knows that about us, and just like Gideon, He will patiently teach us again and again that He is faithful and He will save us.  Our inheritance is ours for the taking if we will simply cry out to Him from the darkness and trust Him.

 

  

The Lord is Faithful

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:45

Lord, You are faithful with Your promises.  The written accounts of Your faithfulness are vast.  You describe Yourself as faithful and true. You have been faithful to me and to the promises You have made me.  So, why do I always doubt? Why do I fall so short of trusting You? I look around and it seems that everyone who knows You counts on Your faithfulness.  Do they question it in their hearts the way I do? 

Why do we doubt You?

I know it is the enemy sowing his seeds of doubt.  I know he is trying to knock me out of Your lap. But You have a firm hold, Lord.  You won’t let me fall. You are faithful. I recall Your faithfulness and my heart is made light.  I get reminded of Your goodness. I remember Your work in my life: how You saved me from sin and death, how You walked with me and gave me strength, how You put courage and faith in me and held me up.  

Why do I doubt You?

You have brought me back from death so many times.  When I repent, You hear me. You have turned my failings into blessings.  You forgive me and love me and walk with me. You know everything about me.  You made me. And still You love me. Still You see me. Still You forgive me.  

Why do I doubt You?

Hold me up with Your righteous right hand.  Create in me a clean heart. Prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Make my paths straight. Guide me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake. Be my strength and my shield.  Be my fortress, my shelter, my comfort, my defender. Be my everything.

Don’t let me doubt you.

Lord, You are faithful.  You are good. And Your love and forgiveness never need to be doubted.  Yet over and over again You prove Yourself to me. When I doubt, You don’t condemn, You encourage.  When I feel dead, you show me life afresh. When I doubt, You provide faith. Build my faith fresh today.  Fill me with Your power, Precious Lord. Let me feel Your Presence and be reminded of Your faithfulness.

Lord, You are faithful.

 

Devoted to Destruction

“For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Joshua 11:20

It’s funny to me that the day after God shows me the mercy of His love through Joshua, I would be stirred by His dedication to the destruction of His enemies.  But here we are. Let’s face it, Joshua got asked to lead God’s people into a whole lot of destruction of other people. And it would be really, really easy to decide that God liked destroying people based on the above verse alone.  We can be so quick to decide things when we look at scripture through the lense of our own analysis, can’t we? However, if we look at the scripture through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, where we can recognize the true character of God, we can see more clearly the Lord’s intent and our faith is built up.  We learn to trust the Lord and not ourselves, for the Lord is light and we are born into shadow and destined for death without Him.

Our first clue in the book of Joshua to the Lord’s view on destruction happens with the fall of Jericho and the salvation of Rahab.  Right off the bat, at the very beginning of Joshua’s siege to claim the Holy Land, God rescues a prostitute. Ya, that doesn’t sound like a God devoted to destruction.  At least not at first. How can we reconcile the opposing points of view and not think God is a bully bent on utter annihilation? Easy. Think back to Exodus. Think about the Golden Calf and the Ten Commandments.  

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Exodus 32:7-14

 

When people worship idols, and claim the works of God on the idols they have made with their own hands God no longer becomes important to you. (Think of your own hypocrisy and how many times you counted God’s acts of providence upon you as “good old fashioned hard work”, or luck, or something else.)  Not really. If you know He is God, and yet worship yourself or your success, you retreat from the presence of God’s light and love, and into a darkness born of your own depravity. With Moses and the people of Israel, God called attention to the most important thing a person can do: choose to follow and trust God, or not.  (Remember Adam and Eve?) When Moses stands before the Lord in defense of the people, acknowledges their sin, and asks for God to forgive them, he mirrors the very thing that Jesus would do for mankind in the future. Moses argues for salvation for the people based on God’s own character. Repentance brings God to relent from destruction.  Sin must be destroyed. But we can choose to be healed from our sin rather than destroyed with our sin, simply by repenting and allowing God to reign in our lives.

When we look ahead a chapter or two in Exodus, we can see that the Lord defines himself as merciful and good.  

5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 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 34:5-7

Based on this truth of who God says He is, we can discern the intent behind this business of devotion to destruction, can’t we?  It can’t mean what we think it means because God doesn’t contradict himself. What, then, has God done when the Bible says He hardened the hearts of people to make them worthy of destruction? If God is merciful and compassionate, and the stain of sin is in all mankind through Adam, what is it that God wants destroyed?  Simply put: Sin. The hardening of a man’s heart by God means that God has allowed their sin to be amplified by their own stubbornness or hardened hearts. But if we believe that we have free will (as was discovered with Adam and Eve and their submission to the temptation of Satan), then when faced with the truth of God’s mercy and desire to rescue humanity, we all the more can see that we are depraved and in need of saving.  The hardening of our hearts makes us hyper aware of the sin in our lives and becomes either conviction to fight against God or to repent and be saved. The amplification of the sin in mankind makes the need for salvation all the more real. (By the way, that is how we know it is the very Spirit of God that convicts us of our sin and leads us to salvation through Him. We can’t seem to even recognize our sin without Him.)

Through this understanding of scripture, we can reconcile the seeming contradiction of devotion to destruction and the mercy and compassion of God.  As Paul so beautifully put it:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:18-21

When we see the profound failing of humanity in ourselves, by having a hardened heart or recognizing by our own conscience by failure to obey the letter of God’s law, we have an even greater opportunity to recognize our need for salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul said that the Law of Moses came “to increase the trespass”. Does that mean God made the law so we would fail? Definitely not! Look what Paul says a little later in the book of Romans:

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.
Romans 7:13-20

Joshua led God’s people into the destruction of sin but still offered mercy and adoption into the family of God for any who would repent.  The Gibeonites knew the reputation of the Law of the Isrealites: that they were to include foreigners in their practices and worship if they wanted to follow God, and thus used that loophole to finagle their way into God’s protection.  Why didn’t God devote them to destruction? Because God is full of mercy and honor. He allowed the Gibeonites to live (for a little while) in order to honor the covenant that Joshua had made with them and to show His power to save, even through the disobedience of man.  It is that same mercy that allowed Rahab and her entire family to be saved simply by turning away from the sin and community of Jericho and aligning herself with God’s people. So too, at the end of Chapter 11 of Joshua, we discover that a handful of people from the “enemy tribes” remained after the dedicated destruction was finished.  

21 And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

At the end of the day, God will do anything to show us our need for Him.  We can choose to walk in our sin and be ruled by sin that leads to death. Or we can walk away from our sin and be ruled by Christ who offers victory over sin and death and gives us life.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:1-4

 

Cages

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

Jesus, I’m haunted.  The sins of my past, both big and small, haunt me and I’ve grown too comfortable with just accepting that feeling.  I’ve let myself think that there is no way to move past them. I’ve believed the enemy’s lies, Lord. And I’m sorry.  I’ve let him put me into a million different cages of fear, doubt, shame, and sorrow. Lord help me, I’ve been comfortable there.  I’ve been so comfortable. It’s all I’ve known for so long.

You’ve promised me your blood has paid the price for my sins, no matter what they were, no matter who they hurt.  You’ve promised me that my sins are forgiven, that you’ve paid the eternal price for them and have had victory. I’ve known that in my head since I was a little girl, ever since you saved me, Jesus.  But I’ve let my callouses build up, I’ve let them be a shield instead of You. I’ve tried to fight my own battles, even as you cried out to me to let You fight instead.

I’m tired of accepting defeat.  I’m tired of listening to lies. I’m tired of beating myself up for the wrongs I’ve committed against You.  I’m tired of carrying the weight of their burdon, Lord. Help me to release them. Help me to be humble enough to accept Your forgiveness, because I know that it is pride and shame that have kept me from believing Your blood is enough.  Help me to have the humility to give up control so that I can receive the victory I can never find on my own.

I’m sorry, Lord.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  Help me, Jesus. Help me to receive Your salvation fresh and new right now.  Help me to walk in Your victory and Your peace. Your blood was enough. Your blood IS enough.  You are enough. Help me, Jesus. Help me to move forward. Help me to have hope. Help me let go.  Get me out of all these cages I’ve put myself in and let me be done with it forever.

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

Dealing with Offense

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
   Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
   and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
   and does no evil to his neighbor,
   nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
   but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
   and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15

Recently a couple whom my husband and I lovely dearly, and who dearly love us but don’t know us very well, approached us to discuss their concerns over a recent set of back to back crisis that had occurred in our family.  While their intentions were honorable and intended to encourage and help us, they had the opposite effect. And I’ve been hurting over it ever since.

It’s easy to say, “Forgive them.”  And it’s easy to say, “Have mercy.”  And I know that I have tried to have both for them as I’ve contemplated their words and tried to humble myself to receive them.  Yet, my heart was not following the truth in my soul. I felt so much shame and condemnation, though our friends intended neither.  

Why did I feel like that?

After processing our feelings with each other, with God, with my counselor, and with some trusted and close friends, I realized something.  No matter what your intentions are, correction should never come at the cost of injury to another person. As verse four above says, it’s better to take on a hurt yourself, than to hurt someone else.  

Because our friends love us, and because they were concerned for us, and because they didn’t know us well enough to really know what was fully going on with us, they took it upon themselves to discuss the matter with people who they thought might have more insight into our circumstances.  This became the source of my first wound. Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth. Unfortunately, because the people they spoke to also didn’t know our situation very well, they were unable to offer a very accurate picture of our hearts.

Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth.

My second wound came in the translation further inaccurate suppositions.  Our friends, likely became more and more concerned for us as they spoke to more and more people who had witness glimpses of our recent trials, and perhaps glimpses of our past actions, and then drew conclusions about us regarding those glimpses.  Again, honest love and concern, led to an inaccurate transcript of all that had transpired. So, when our friends met with us, they had already established in their own hearts a general idea that there were certain issues and were then seeking to help us draw out those issues in confession and repentance.

This was a bad idea.  

They had formed an agenda based on love and concern, that had been built upon conjecture.  

Therefore, while their intentions were honorable, their method had been so tainted by poor information that they were unable to approach the situation with us in a way that truly expressed the love that they have in their hearts for us, and the genuine desire they had to help us walk through correcting bad behaviors.

I was captured this morning by Psalm 15.  It’s all about abiding with God and what dwelling with the Holy One looks like.  And David spells out what that looks like. It is walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in his heart, not slandering, not doing evil to his neighbor, not taking up reproach against a friend, who despises evil, honors those who fear the LORD, who takes on hurt himself rather than hurt another, who doesn’t put out money with interest, or take a bribe against the innocent.  But, the fact remains that we can do none of those things on our own. Only with the Holy Spirit of God, the Salvation of the Hand of God through Jesus, by the power of God the Father, can we even begin to mirror these things. Sure, we can try. But if we start to source our thoughts and actions on the opinions of others, we head down a road that leads to nothing but hurt, and the ramifications of that can be devastating.

I was devastated by the encounter we had with our friends, even though I know that was never, ever their intent.  

But because they had come by their information about the situation from others and not from us and from God, it was doomed from the start.  Fortunately, our Lord is a reconciling God. He is a God of healing, love, and restoration. So, even through the pain of that conversation and the subsequent days that followed, my husband and I began to find peace.  

We gained a deeper insight into how to walk the path of “speaking the truth in love” with a much deeper understanding of what that should look like.  I learned that how I source information is vital to reconciling a situation. My source must be the Lord and the people directly involved alone, not the opinion of friends or family, or even my own!  

I also learned that without a personal experience in a situation or deep relationship with someone, I’m not capable of bringing specific instruction or correction to a situation without first talking to the people involved.  Our friends sought advice from too many people before they spoke to us, and unfortunately that skewed the entire outcome. Am I saying we shouldn’t take counsel from trusted friends in the faith who have wisdom and experience?  Of course not! But, counsel must be sourced from the Word of God, and not the opinions of the people who have witnessed the incident. When our friends sought counsel, it should have been about how to approach the situation, not about the situation itself.  

How many times have I fallen into gossip by seeking counsel from someone I trusted and then falling into the trap of the enemy to start basing my opinions on a person without knowing all the facts?  How many times have I spoken to someone just to express my frustration or concern, when I should have just given it to God, or spoken directly with the person that offended me?

I’ve also been humbled, which I am in constant need of learning.  I’ve gained practice in patience and endurance when I’m misunderstood.  And I’ve learned that how others see me and interpret my actions is usually wrong, so I better be as “above board” as I can about my intentions, my actions, and my complete dependency upon God and not myself (or others.)  And that even when I think I’m right, I could actually be wrong.  Shocker!  I need to be humble enough to let the Lord show me things, without beating myself up or walking in shame or condemnation.  And if I start to feel shamed or condemned by another person, I need to speak up, instead of silently suffer.  Once I go there, I’ve lost touch with the Spirit of the Lord within me because of my hurt.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten the sharp reminder from the Lord, that my value cannot be measured on a man’s scale.  I’ve always tried to honor the Lord in my actions, and raised Him up when I’ve been called to account for myself, but I’ve also made excuses for bad behavior.  And I’ve allowed my heart to be swayed by pride, insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.  Of course I should always lift up the Lord.  I should always testify to His power at work in my weakness.  I just need to make sure that when I do that I am speaking from my weakness and not my pride.

I am accepted by God.  That’s all that matters. So, I will try to speak the truth to others with more love than I have in the past by trying to source my love from the Spirit of the Living God within me, rather than from any power of my own.  And I will try to receive the truth spoken to me in love, even if it is poorly executed, by sourcing my translation of those words through the filter of the Holy Spirit instead of my feelings.

Man, Daddy, that’s some deep stuff.  Thanks for helping me figure it out. I love you, Holy Spirit, for giving me peace.  And Jesus, you are my greatest delight. Because of You, I can do all things through You.  Even deal with hurt feelings. I feel much better, now, God. Thank you.