On Being Thankful

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19

I complain a lot to God.  I know that sounds bad, but I don’t think it is.  I complain about my circumstances. I ask for provision.  I ask for healing. I ask for salvation for my loved ones.  I ask for hope. I ask for courage. I ask for help in a million different ways, and if I look at my requests with a critical eye, I can see the complaint in every single one.  On the surface, my prayers seem dependant on the Lord. They are filled with the helplessness that we should always assume about ourselves. It’s the notion that, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” And that’s very, very true.  But I know it’s more often my doubt and my fear that plunge me into these prayers. I doubt provision. I doubt healing. I doubt hope and courage and strength. If my life and my salvation truly are by the grace of God alone, shouldn’t I be more confident in the lesser things?  

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:26

My salvation should be enough for me.  The whole world and the things of the world are nothing in comparison to the profound gift of eternal life that Jesus has provided.  James put it forward in an interesting light:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:3

I say all of this to examine honestly my motives.  Do I ask for my passion? Do I ask for my fear? Do I ask for my safety?  Or do I ask for the Lord? And am I thankful for it?

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Is the overcoming of the world not enough for me?  Really? Do I praise God for my life and salvation or do I wallow in fear and anguish over the things of this world?  And that brings me back to the lepers. They want Jesus to have pity on them. They want healing. They want to be restored.  They want to return to their lives. But only one acknowledged the author of his salvation. Only one came back to say thank you and to praise God.  That one leper knew that the Lord had saved him from more than his disease. He had given him life, and being thankful for that became his primary goal.  He didn’t just take the blessing and run along with his life. He praised the author of his salvation. He praised the King of Kings for his sovereignty, his authority over life, and his mercy.  

Lord Jesus, I want to trust You in all things.  I want to have confidence in your sovereignty in all aspects of my life.  When I come to You, Lord, I want to come in confidence, not fear. I want to come in the knowledge of Your divine grace and mercy.  You saved me!

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

I want to trust You more, Jesus.  I want to trust in Your provision, Your life, Your deliverance, because you know what I need and are delighted to give the good gifts we ask for.  You love me. Help me trust in Your love so that I can truly worship and praise You with thanksgiving instead of fear.

 

The Intentional Love of God

It seems to me that the word “intentional” gets thrown around a lot: “be intentional with your finances”, “be intentional with your relationships”, “be intentional with your worship”, “be intentional with your friendships”, be intentional, be intentional, be intentional.  This got me thinking about the Lord and His very intentional love for mankind. He chooses to love us in very intentional and specific ways in order to teach us about His character, and ultimately to show us that His love is sincere, unchanging, and forever for us. One could likely fill volumes on the subject of God’s love, but the Lord brought a few key verses to my mind as I meditated on this idea.

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.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
   “therefore I will hope in Him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

God intentionally loves us by showing us mercy and compassion.  No matter our sin, no matter our guilt, no matter our circumstances, the Lord of Hosts offers us His love through compassion.  His heart is moved by our trials. His desire is to show us mercy, though we are dreadfully entangled by sin. This mercy and compassion comes from His faithful love.  It is a love that doesn’t change. God’s nature is to love mankind, His glorious creation, made to worship Him, and free us from the enslavement of our own sinful folly.  That is the epitome of mercy and compassion. And it is truly new every day. Everyday, every moment, we find ourselves caught up in sin, and yet, His great love never dies or grows weary.  His love is eternal and fresh for us everytime we choose to receive it.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is beloved and known by many as the “Love Chapter”.  It defines the specific characteristics of what true love looks like. It is often read at weddings as a lesson to newlyweds about how to love one another.  But how often do we look at this passage and consider it in reference to Our Lord? Who better to exhibit the pure light and love of God, but Jesus Christ? Jesus bore all things for us on the cross.  His love never ends. How beautiful to recognize this list as we look upon the face of Jesus and see His proclamation of love expressed through this passage. Understanding God’s intentional definition of love helps us to understand God’s character in a deeper way, and when we understand what love is, it becomes much easier to accept.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
1 John 3:1

In order to show us His love in another way, God calls us His children.  He brings us into his family and gives us all the rights and authority He has given to His Son.  We don’t deserve any of that, but he doesn’t care that we don’t deserve it. He adopts us anyway!  He adopts us because He loves us. And in that adoption we are given all the rights of His children.  All we ever have had to do is accept His offer of adoption.

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:17

How much more proof of God’s love do we need?  He has made us equal inheritors of all Jesus has.  We get to share in all of that! What a powerful testimony of God’s deep love for us!

But it doesn’t stop there.  In fact, I think the most important and most intentional way that God shows us His love for us is in this:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:16-17

God shows us His deep, compassionate, merciful, familial love fully in those verses.  His love is a love that would die for us to live. He gave us salvation from our own troubles, our own folly, our own failure, by giving us His Son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate price for our wrongdoing.  Nothing is more loving and more selfless than that. He paid the price for our sin! He took the blame on himself for what we have done! You can’t get any more intentional than that.

So, the next time you hear someone talk about intentionality in this thing or that, I hope You will remember the intentional love of Jesus Christ for His people.  It is a love that is compassionate, merciful, never failing, familial, and sacrificial to the point of death.

Dancing for the Lord

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
   you have loosed my sackcloth
   and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
   O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalms 30:11-12

I admit it, I never really understood what the point of dancing was when it came to worshipping God.  I know that sounds kind of dumb coming from me, but it’s true. To make matters worse, I’ve been prophesied over by many people who have said I am the Lord’s ballerina, or that I dance befor joy for the Lord.  I have always loved this idea, but at the same time, I’ve questioned it. Not that I questioned the validity of the prophecies, because in my spirit they have always felt very true, but I just didn’t get it. What does dancing have to do with anything?  Why dancing? I just kept imagining my goofy 80’s self dancing awkwardly to Duran Duran’s Rio. Ya. Exactly.

But the Lord has not been content to leave me in this place.  I have found myself asking and asking for Him to make it clear to me what he wanted me to know about dancing, and, more importantly, what my dancing for Him looked like.  I’m not talking about pirouettes or hip gyrations or the Nay Nay. I’m talking about dance as worship. And how does dancing for the Lord not seem weird and awkward, but instead something of great beauty and joy for the Lord.

That’s when I came to the famous “David dancing scene”.

12 And it was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. 13 And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal.14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
2 Samuel 6:12-15

“David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. David, leading as a priest king, wearing a linen ephod, lead the people in celebration and proclamation of God’s victory and salvation. With every part of himself, he worshipped the Lord as a an act of extreme celebration.  He celebrated the arc and the presence of the Lord, and the blessing that the Presence would bring to God’s people.  He danced without fear of judgement. He danced for the Lord in celebration of God’s victory, power, and protection.

This got me thinking about when the first time dancing is mentioned in the Bible and what the circumstances of that instance might reveal to me.  Sure enough, the dancing came as a celebration of God’s victory for His people.

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
Exodus 15:20-21

After the Lord rescues the Israelites from Egypt, the whole group sings a victory song about how great God is and how trustworthy He is to save them.  And then all the ladies, led by Miriam the prophetess, dance before the Lord.  Miriam led the entire congregation in the celebration of God’s victory, by dancing before the Lord.

So, here’s what the Lord has been teaching me through all of this: dancing is a celebratory proclamation of God’s victory over my enemies. It is an expression of gratitude, worship, and celebration for deliverance.  If I have learned anything about God in my 49 years, it is that God is my deliverer. He has saved me from sin and death, and He has rescued me time and time again from the evil of this world. Whether inflicted on me by others, or inflicted on me by my own folly, God has faithfully rescued me.  I think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?

Lord, thank you for rescuing me from my sins and from this world’s pain.  You have made me your daughter. You have given me authority in accordance to the will of Lord Jesus, to have victory by His name.  I love you, Jesus! Dancing before You is to celebrate what you have done and to proclaim it with unabashed delight. You have given me victory!  You have given me joy. You have given me peace. I didn’t deserve any of it and yet You faithfully have given it to me! Indeed, Your promises are true and I will trust You and delight in You forever.  Amen.

 

At the King’s Table

What is man that you are mindful of him,
   and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:4

It is easy to be reminded in this world how unworthy we are of the love of God.  For a follower of Christ, every moment of our lives is a battle between the desires of our flesh and the desires of our heart.  We long to serve and obey the Lord and yet we fail so miserably at every turn. Crippled from the start, our tendency is toward sin in all its forms.  It’s been that way since the fall of man. And the more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we recognize our complete depravity without Him.  Who are we, that God loves us so much? Who are we, that God would call us His children? Who are we, that God would come into Creation as one of us, in a decayed body bent toward sin, and suffer and die just to save us?  Who are we?!

While reading about David’s victories in 2 Samuel, it quickly becomes clear who we are to God.  Considering that David is the prophetic forerunner of Jesus, we can safely look into the actions that David took as opportunities to reflect on what Jesus has done for us.  First, we have received the blessing of victory through Christ. The phrase: “And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went” appears twice in 2 Samuel Chapter 8, first in verse 6 and then again in verse 14. God gave David victory because David’s heart was filled with love and faith in God.  Our victory is received by that same faith in what Christ has won for us through His death, burial, and resurrection.

David didn’t deserve his victory anymore than we do, but God honored David for his faith and trust in Him.  Even more importantly, God honored David because of God’s promise to Abraham. And God doesn’t go back on his promises.  Now take a look at David’s treatment of Jonathan’s son.

And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”
2 Samuel 9:7-8

Doesn’t that sound a lot like Jesus.  I can just hear our Lord saying, “Don’t worry, kid, because of my promise to Abraham I’m not going to destroy you.  Instead, because you trust me, you can join me at my table forever.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
   the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
   and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
   and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
   with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelations 19:6-9

Just like the sweet, crippled son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, we are inheritors of the promise.  David loved Jonathan and therefore took his son into his own court, and fed him from his own table.  God loved Abraham and therefore took any who would believe in Him, brings them into His courts, treats them as his own children, and feeds them from His own table. Beautiful!

So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table.
2 Samuel 9:11

Lord, I want to have confidence in Your provisions and promises.  I want to know You are my father and that You love me. I want to feel the power of Your promise and love for Abraham and receive the promised blessing of that promise.  I want confidence in Your love, Lord. Fill me with Your unending and precious favor. Thank you for adopting me as your child. Thank you for giving me Jesus and letting me be a joint heir with Him and all You have given Him.  Let me come into your presence with thanksgiving always. I will praise You, God! I will trust You by Your power at work within me. Amen.

 

God Looks at the Heart

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:17


Reading through Samuel, I’ve marveled at the loyalty David showed to God’s anointed King Saul, even amidst the cruel reality of twisted rage and jealousy Saul possessed.  There is a lesson here from both men. Both had been chosen by God, and yet the two men couldn’t have been more different in loyalty, value, and service. Plainly, God did this for a reason: to teach us that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

God chose Saul in order to answer the Israelites desire for a human king.  He chose a strong and handsome man from a wealthy family. He was a man of great stature and he had a commanding presence. He looked the part in every human way!  The Lord also chose Saul from a humble family, a family that was small and insignificant. I believe the Lord chose him in the hope that Saul would remain humble because of his background.  Even knowing that Saul’s hubris would defeat him, the Lord gave Saul the opportunity to succeed. Free will is a powerful thing. And Saul would always have the ability to choose the path he would take, whether it be for God or for himself.

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
1 Samuel 9:1-2


On the other hand, David was a doe-eyed boy with a faith in the Lord that struck courage in the hearts of his companions, and fear into the hearts of his enemies.  Whether defeating Goliath, or defending his sheep, David’s victory always came from faith and trust in the Lord. David trusted in God regardless of his audience. His faith came from his heart, and the Lord blessed him with victory.  Yet the victory of God often doesn’t look like the victory of a man. And David’s victory looked like serious defeat for many years, while the Lord worked.

Jealousy and fear became hallmarks of Saul’s leadership.  From the beginning, he both loved and hated young David. David had made him look like a fool by defeating the taunting Goliath after days of humiliating and demoralizing ridicule, with nothing more than a slingshot and faith.  I think this only highlighted Saul’s own lack of faith and trust in God. Still, Saul tries to stand on the side of David and the side of God. He spends half his time trying to kill David, and the other half of the time trying to love David. This must have been horribly difficult.  However, Saul’s biggest fault always seemed to be that he wouldn’t take responsibility for his own shortcomings. He lacked humility. Everything that happened to him was always someone else’s fault. And every mistake Saul made he justified in some way.

David, on the other hand, abided in the Lord fully.  He never put his faith in a kingdom or even King Saul, but instead his heart beat only for the Lord.  To God this was a beautiful and valuable offering. Even though David was quickly anointed as king due to Saul’s folly, David would never raise his hand or his heart against him because no matter the circumstances, even if Saul’s actions were evil and dishonoring to God, David respected the Lord’s chosen, and also trusted the Lord in His promise to raise David up as King.

How often am I guilty of not trusting the Lord and His promises for me?  I look at someone’s poor leadership, or their sinful actions, or their blatant disrespect for God, and my heart instantly goes to bad places.  In my flesh I want justice. I want to make things right. I want to fight for the sake of God’s Name! David’s companions were the same way. Time and time again they would encourage David to kill Saul, and they’d use the justification that God had allowed Saul to fall into his hands, or they would argue that God would bless him for taking down the unrighteous king.  Yet, through it all, David refused to raise a hand against God’s chosen.

Jesus did the same thing.  No wonder we are constantly given the parallels between the two of them!  David always tried to trust in God’s promises. Jesus perfectly trusted God’s promises.  Israel didn’t want to accept Jesus because he came to the world as a servant and not a conquering king.  So, too, David served and waited and trusted. Volumes of books have been written on the subject!

I want to trust God like that!  Because trusting God from the heart is to mirror Jesus! And because of God, I have been given His Spirit to walk in trust.  I don’t have to worry about God taking away His Spirit from me, the way He took it from Saul, because our righteousness is now Jesus. My calling is now Jesus.  My redemption is set by the blood of the Lamb and no folly or failure can take that from me. So, as David did, I shall boast in the Lord alone. Because on my own, I’m no different than Saul.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 

Confidence in a Still, Small Voice

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
1 Kings 19:4

How often have I fallen victim to defeat even after great victories won in the Lord! Only a breath beyond the defeat of the priests of Baal by fire and sword, Elijah fell into a deep, suicidal depression.  Why? Because the defeated enemy cried out in desperation for vengeance to kill him! Only days before, Elijah had mocked and defied the prophets of Baal because of his confidence in the Lord! And now he was in the desert lying under a tree asking God to take his life.

Story of my life.

I get so high off of the victories of God.  I love to see Him work in power through me to bring someone to repentance or salvation or victory.  And then, as sure as the Lord had victory, I look at myself and my circumstances and I’m ruined. Like Elijah, when I look at myself honestly, I see how small  and powerless I am, and I’m ready to give up.  I’m ready to forget the Lord’s power and sulk in my own weakness.

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
1 Kings 19:9-10

Of course God meets Elijah in his pain and asks him the age old question, “why are you here?”  In other words, “Why are you hiding, Elijah. Why don’t you trust me today?” And Elijah, in his pain and discouragement, proclaims to God that he’s all that’s left of His prophets and there is just no way he can stand up against all that evil all by himself.  And God teaches him something.

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12

You know, I’ve always been taught that God speaks to us in a still, small voice, because of this passage of scripture.  But recently I realized something fresh, something deeper about that still small voice lesson that God gave to Elijah. And it isn’t that God talks in whispers.  It’s that God can and will use one small voice to proclaim his victory over His enemies. Elijah was the still small voice that the Lord of Hosts proclaimed. Elijah, God’s chosen prophet, God’s chosen voice, weak and defeated and broken and depressed and suicidal.  One still, small voice that by God’s power had defeated all the priests of Baal with confidence in the Power of God, and God alone. And God came with fire. Hiding in a cave, alone with the Lord, Elijah found comfort. God comforted him. He showed him the power of his small, little voice.  Then, once God had reminded Elijah of who he was in the Lord, he gave him a taste of what was to come.

And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
1 Kings 19:13-18

Elijah felt alone and afraid.  What could one voice do against Jezebel and Ahab?  What could one voice say that could make any difference?  A voice empowered by the Lord is enough. Still and small though it may be, it’s power source is the Spirit of God, and it is strong.  Elijah just needed a reminder. He needed to know that more victory would come, and that he wasn’t alone.

So, when I feel defeated and lost, broken from looking at myself instead of at God, God will remind me of this story.  And he says to me, “You are a still small voice, my love, but I am a roaring lion. And I am in you.” I can be confident in my still, small voice, because I belong to and serve the Risen Lord.  In the hands of the Living God, one voice can always be enough.

Idolatrous, Murderous, Adulterous Me

So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.13 Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. 14 And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” 15 Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” 16 And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head.
1 Samuel 19:12-16

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve hated myself for all the idol worship in my life.  I’ve made so many things idols: my smart phone, chocolate, decadent food, a tv show, a computer game. The list goes on and on and on.  How I’ve hated myself for these terrible sins against my Lord. And then this morning, before I began to read the Word, I asked God to give me new insight into David’s life while he was deeply oppressed and victimized by King Saul.  Jesus did not disappoint! (He never does! I don’t know why I think He will sometimes.)

I came to the passage that I opened my blog with today.  Basically, Saul is trying to kill David (again) and so his wife helps sneak him out of the house by cover of night and then takes a household idol and uses it to make it look like David was just sick in bed.  Ya. A household idol. In the house of the guy who took out entire armies, and killed giants with a sling, and ripped lions and bears limb from limb because of his great faith and trust in God.  He had, at the very least, one pagan idol in his home big enough to simulate a grown man in bed.

Honestly, I don’t think David actually worshipped the household idol, but rather he worshipped the beautiful Michal that loved him.  David was always a sucker for a beautiful woman. His idol was his bride and the attention he received from her. Any time I look at David I’m reminded that the “man after God’s own heart” still struggled with sin.  All the time.

Boy am I thankful for David.  The Lord has used him to remind me of just how much He loves me, despite my idolatrous ways.  The Lord delights in my repentance and loving disciplines and teaches me. He never abandons me, but instead lifts me up and helps me try again.  Just like He did with murderous, adulterous, idolatrous David.

I guess I’m in pretty good company.

 

Psalm 51

The Lord has been speaking to me in Psalm 51 for the last few months.  Snippets of it come to mind and are uttered from my mouth when I pray everyday.  I know the Lord is bringing it to my heart to teach me of His love and forgiveness.  For my whole life I have doubted the His love and forgiveness, even as I walked in faith to believe those promises.  Honestly, I’m amazed that such a dichotomy of thinking could be found in my heart, and yet I know very well that it is true.

I doubted God’s love because of shame in my own heart for my sins.  Because of the bad decisions of my past, because of the sin I committed against the Lord, and continue to commit against the Lord each day, I thought there was no way that God could possibly even want to forgive me.  I’d think, “No way. Not this time. This time was bad. God hates sin. He surely hates me. I hate me.”

But thankfully, that’s not how God works at all.  While I would try to tell myself this, and try desperately to trust in the forgiveness of God, I couldn’t marry God’s hate of sin to my own iniquity.  As I keep learning, however, God is not willing to leave us in dark places, or in lies of the enemy, if we are willing and earnestly seeking Him and longing to know His truth.  That’s where the marriage between doubt and hope really come together.

I doubted my own ability to be forgiven.  I hated myself for my sin, and so I couldn’t think of anyone else not hating me as well.  Yet, over and over again, the Lord would speak into my heart that I am forgiven.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
   and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
   and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:5-6

He knows that I was brought forth into the world full of the potential for great sin.  And He is willing to teach me the wisdom of trusting Him in my heart regardless of past, regardless of my circumstances, regardless of my sin.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

He will and has made me clean!  By the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, I have been purged and made clean in the eyes of God.  I am whiter than snow to Him now, because I have freely accepted His ability to cleanse me and forgive me.  Again, this is where hope comes in. I hope in the promise that God’s salvation is truly mine to receive. And the Lord builds my faith to continue to trust Him regardless of the lies the enemy tells me about how evil I am.  God knows I my heart is evil. And only He can forgive me.

9 Hide your face from my sins,
   and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
   and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:9-12

When I ask Him, it is His delight to receive and honor my request to be cleansed and forgiven and brought into His Presence.  He can daily restore in me the JOY of His salvation given to me with love. Only then can I see that He truly does love me. He truly does cleanse me.  He truly does forgive me. And because of that, I can move forward, not only in confidence of His forgiveness but also with the experience and faith to share this Good News with others!

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.
16 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 51:13-17

Sounds like a pretty solid plan.  I think I’ll take it.

All Because of Good Intentions

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

I feel really sorry for Saul.  He was handsome and strong and a head taller than everyone.  He looked good. In the eyes of the world he was the perfect leader, and yet he was an utter failure.  I think that’s why God chose him. Had Saul submitted to God when he made his decisions, he would have been blessed by the Lord.  But Saul had a lot more confidence in worldly strength than he did in God.

It’s sad, because on the surface it appears as though Saul did inquire of God.  He constantly inquired of the Lord after he made a decision to do something, he had the Arc of the Covenant with them, and he even had a priest traveling with him, ephod and all.  “…The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod…” 1 Samuel 14:2-3 But appearances and tradition are never what God wants from us.   Saul never looked to God until after he’d made up his mind what he wanted to do. He decided his plans were great (probably because he’d been chosen by God, so who needs to ask God again, right?) and then asked God for a blessing after he’d made up his own mind. He did it when he performed the sacrifice to God, instead of waiting on Samuel.  And he did it before going into battle with the Philistines.

Saul’s son Jonathan, on the other hand, boldly moved forward to defeat his enemies by trusting in the power of God to provide the victory even against all odds.  We know this because Jonathan sees an oportunity to attack the Philistines in a really strategic way, and moves forward to act with only his armor bearer to help him!  But where Jonathan differed from Saul is in this: Jonathan inquired of the Lord before He asked. He felt confident that his plan was solid, but he still asked God to make it clear by asking for a sign, and didn’t move until he’d gotten the clear sign of God’s promised victory.  (See 1 Samuel 14 for all the details.)

And so we go back to poor Saul.  This earthly king, chosen by God, who looked the part well and surrounded himself with all kinds of powerful heroes in order to ensure his military victories.  He made sacrifices. He had the Arc. He had his priest. He even had a prophet. The people loved him! After all, they constantly deferred to him, saying, “Do what seems good to you!” (1 Samuel 14:41)  He had everything he needed to look and act like the best darn victorious king who ever lived. And that was his downfall. It became all about him and not about God.

Justifying our bad behavior for the sake of serving God is a terrible crime!  How many times have I justified an act of my own choosing because I had decided it was best without looking to God for wisdom and permission first?  Seriously! If I’m being honest with myself, I do it all the time! Even though the Lord has told me that I need to limit nutritionless food to honor him with my body, I justify dessert because I’m celebrating or I crave it, or I’m free in Christ.  I go on fad diets, justifying the extremes in order to get quick results. I make plans for vacation because I need a break instead of needing sabbath rest, or I read a book instead of read my Bible because I’m tired, or I don’t have time.  If I think about it too hard, I think I could quickly fall into shame over it all!

But that’s not why I’m here.  That’s not why God put me on this planet.  He put me here to worship Him, to partner with me in love and friendship, and to have us be together in all things.  He wants me to be unified with Him and with His Church. I make presumptions that I know what God wants from me, so I don’t need to inquire of Him, and that only leads to rebellion. Rebellion to my solitary purpose in Christ is a stepping stone for sin and more rebellion.  And that disobedience from good intentions leads me further and further away from my King, which is definitely not God’s good plan for me!

I look again to Samuel’s words to Saul after yet another huge failure with good intentions that would lead to God’s rejection of him as King:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

Sadly, Saul’s response to this fall from grace is to blame the people he was leading.  

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

His intentions were so pure, weren’t they?! (Yes that’s sarcasm.) And yet, how many times have I been blind to my own excuses and good intentions? So. Many. Times.  I’m so thankful to have the sealed promise of the Holy Spirit within me to convict me of my wrongdoing and correct the flaws of my thinking. Our Lord is not content to leave us where we are.  When we sin against Him and go to Him for guidance through repentance, He is quick to show us what we’ve done and what we need to do differently. It hurts. It’s no fun. Frankly, it sucks. But it is so good, too! Unlike Saul, I have the glorious forgiveness of Messiah, Jesus, to pay for my failings and shortcomings, to pay for my sin, and to give me life and victory.  And He is so quick to forgive and to teach, that the mercy that flows through Him to me would spill out of me into others, and thus share the fruit and life that comes from submitting to the will of God.

 

God’s Got a Plan. Really.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
   but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 16:25

Sometimes I feel like my life could be defined by failure after failure after failure, as I’ve turned away from God and His protection countless times in order to defend myself by my own means.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Like all people, I have a tendency to think I know best. And honestly I can’t help a bit of sardonic laughter at the thought of that because I’m acting like I know better than the Creator of the Universe.  The One who made all things. The One who made me. And everyday it seems that I can find at least one opportunity to say boldly in the face of the Lord of Hosts, “Nah, I got this one, Jesus. I can handle it.”

This isn’t a new concept for me.  I know this stuff. I know I need a Savior.  I know I’m hopelessly lost without Jesus. And then the whim hits me, and I let sin take charge, and voila: folly.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
   and shrewd in their own sight!
Isaiah 5:21

Yep, that’s me.  Everyday. I get so darn cocky about how wise I am and how smart or safe or satisfied I will be making choices for myself.  God doesn’t need to be bothered with this little stuff. God’s busy running things in the world, He doesn’t have time for this sort of thing.  And he gave me an intellect, I should use it. That’s how He helps me, right? After all, it’s my life, so it’s my choice. Right? Sure, ok. And the Lord says to me, “How’s that working out for you, Daisy?”

In a word: badly.

I find myself in a constant state of repentance with that kind of behavior.  I approach the throne of grace with hat in hand, embarrassed and ashamed, ready to sing out the Britney Spears line, “Oops I did it again!” to the Lord.  And the Lord shakes his head at me and responds with open arms and a forgiving smile. He isn’t asking for me to be ashamed. He isn’t asking me to be afraid.  He just wants me to believe Him when He says He knows best for me.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

But, God, I screwed up.  I knew the truth and I stubbornly chose to act against it.  I deserve to be punished. I need to be humbled. I need to be chastised.  I need. I need. I need.

And God responds with a solid and resounding, “Nope, nope, and nope. Look to the cross, my silly little daughter.  Punishment paid in full. Now stop whining, pick yourself up and let’s try this again. Only listen to me this time, would ya?”

And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
1 Samuel 12:20-22

Sounds like a good plan, Jesus.  Help me trust You this time.