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.

Authority in Love

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Feminism sprouted from the age old oppression and forced authority man has inflicted upon woman since the beginning of time.  Since Eve disobeyed God and led her husband into sin, and received the curse upon herself that came from disobedience to a merciful, loving and benevolent God, she has been trod upon, belittled, marginalized, and lorded over.  And let’s face it, that sucks.

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
   in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
   but he shall rule over you.”
Genesis 3:16

In the eyes of humanity, we were doomed from the start.  Except that doesn’t really fit with God’s character, or how He has always dealt the His people. God is merciful and His love is enduring, not fickle. I believe that if we look at our place in humanity as women with God-centered eyes, knowing with confidence that God loves us as much as He loves men, we can see our place in the world as something beautiful, powerful, and of deep significance to the Kingdom of God.  

The consequences of Eve’s actions, combined with the knowledge of good and evil, put us in the position to choose to act out of love for ourself or out of love for God.  The choice became ours, as our hearts became self-focused instead of God-focused. From that point forward, man has had authority over women, an authority that God never, ever, ever intended.  In fact, God had a completely different plan for humanity. He had a plan of equal partnership, where men and women complimented one another for the glory of the Father, and ruled over the creation that God had made together, with God himself as their partner, friend, and Lord.  

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Genesis 2:18

But we were never going to overcome the consequences of Eve’s sin on our own.  As long as we are aware of ourselves and have the choice to choose to be selfish or put others above ourselves, we can never overcome the power that sin gained over us.  Fortunately for us, God was never content with that outcome, and so, from the beginning, God promised us that He Himself would rescue us from the consequences of our sins, and restore us to a place of partnership and love with HIM.

So, what does that mean for women?

There’s a passage in the New Testament, that man has used throughout the course of Christian history since the resurrection of Jesus, to place himself solidly over his wife.  

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Ephesians 5:22-24

I think man’s long-time interpretation of this passage has truly been to his detriment.  And I think that Jesus might just agree with me. God has a pretty serious commission for men, actually.  And it isn’t to control or lord over them.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33

Jesus didn’t die so that men could be saved and women oppressed. He wanted men and women to be an example of His relationship with the Church.  And we are called to be joint heirs with Christ, not slaves to an unknown power. We are called to be God’s children, not his servants.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 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 8:14-17

Jesus showed us this during His life on Earth.  He lifted up women. He comforted them, encouraged them, and lovingly went to the cross for them, just as He did for men.  He loved women as his sisters, joint heirs to all that he had been given. Look at how He honored the woman with the alabaster jar.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:6-13

Women didn’t follow Jesus because He oppressed them.  They followed Him because He loved them and honored them and lifted them up. And that is exactly what he wants men to do with women.  Jesus considered women of equal importance as men.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 ESV

So, how do we reconcile submission to our husbands with equality? Isn’t submission the opposite of equality?  Letting someone else be the boss has to mean I have no authority, right? Nope.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:1-7

The Lord led me to this passage of scripture as a young woman, in the very early years of my marriage to a radical Muslim man.  When I realized the folly of my choice to marry a man who was not a follower of Jesus just because he revered God, I repented boldly before the Lord, and asked Him to help me figure out the mess I’d made of myself and save me from it.  And He did, using the passage above to give me profound hope.

Nothing I could do would change my husband.  Nothing I could say would alter his total devotion to Islam.  Nothing. My family and friends, who had been against my marriage from the start, told me to divorce him.  But the Lord had a different plan because the Lord loves women, and He doesn’t want to see them oppressed. As I sought the Lord’s counsel he showed me true hope in His power.  So, rather than stubbornly try to fight my husband into salvation, I submitted to the Lord.

And that’s the key.  I submitted to the Lord.  I repented and submitted. And Jesus did not use it against me, or punish me, or make me feel small.  Jesus didn’t command homage or obeisance or penance. Instead, He offered me help and hope and courage.  This small act of helplessness and submission to the Lord Jesus, gave me my first example of what genuine love and respect could look like.  When I humbled myself to a place of complete desperation and acknowledged my inability to do anything on my own, and I turned to the Lord for help, I learned for the first time what a marriage was supposed to be.  I was the bride of Christ before I was the bride of my Muslim husband. And Jesus quickly showed me how beautiful and honoring a loving husband could be in Himself.

Submitting to God’s authority over my life had brought me hope and life.  It hadn’t brought me to a place of oppression. Jesus lifted me up instead of wiping His feet on me.  He told me He loved me and that He was eager and always ready to help me. It felt good. It felt right.  It felt like, though I’d totally screwed up, that the Lord loved me so unconditionally, that my submission to him would be honored and not exploited.

Two years later, after much submission to the Lord, and having enlisted an army of prayer warriors to the cause of praying for my husband’s salvation, my sweet husband submitted to the Lord for himself, and found the same love and forgiveness and help that I had found.

Submission to another is an act of love and trust.  I put my faith and trust in the Lord to rescue me and help me.  And Jesus came through. But there’s more to it than that, because God’s cool like that.  He lavishes His love upon us, he doesn’t just toss us a bone now and then on a whim. My submission to the Lord became my biggest testimony of God’s pure love for me and for my husband.  By my submission I showed God’s faithfulness. I became a living example of what serving and submitting to a loving God actually looked like. And it won my husband’s heart without me saying a word.

My husband and I have now been married almost 25 years.  23 of those years have been as partnered Christ followers on mission and in service to the King of Kings.  And over the years, the Lord has continued to elevate me to a place of great authority and respect in His eyes.  My brief willingness to admit I was helpless on my own, became a legacy of testimony about what real love is supposed to look like.  It’s a glorious partnership. Being humble enough to trust in the leadership of another became my legacy.

I believe the Lord intended that for all women, from the time of Eve’s choice to serve herself instead of God, God decided that if humanity would just have faith enough to trust Him to lead them, that He would do it!  The consequence of sin can bring death, or it can bring humble repentance. God is ready and willing to forgive anyone who would humble themselves enough to trust Him. And God loves to exalt the humble.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11

How much more opportunity do we need as women to be exalted by the Lord of Hosts?  To submit humbly to God and to our husbands, is to receive the great blessing that comes from our devoted and loving Father to exalt us and use us as the perfect conduit to show our partners what love looks like, so that they can know how to love us.  That doesn’t sound anything like oppression to me! It sounds like authority in love.

Jesus has given women the chance to have great authority over the impartation of love, which is the most important gift from God that we can receive.  It was love that made Jesus humble himself to take the cross. It was love that made the Lord God save His people. It was love that made God never give up on a selfish, sinful, adulterous people.  It was all because of love. Therefore, as a woman, I have been given the opportunity to carry the authority of offering a testimony of love to my husband, in order that he can learn how to love me and love God.  Ya, that’s right. God made women to be the forerunners of love, to show men what the bride of Christ is supposed to look like. And that’s a pretty big deal.

 

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I accept Your love, Jesus.

Wisdom in the Secret Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Love Endures Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 136

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

 

You, Oh God, Are Faithful

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

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

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

But, You, Oh God, are faithful.

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

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

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

Life is found in You alone.

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

 

The Time of Singing Has Come

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sifted Like Wheat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I trust You, Jesus.  You are faithful.