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.

 

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.

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

No Other Love Compares

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-41

Lord, You don’t look at me the way I look at myself.  You see the labels I put on myself as a distraction to me that keeps me from sitting at Your feet and worshipping You.  It’s humbling to be reminded of how often I get distracted and side tracked by my own opinion of myself, or even worse, the opinion that others have about me.  I get caught up in what I think I’m supposed to do. I worry about obedience to what You want from me and don’t stop to listen to what You are saying.

Lord, help me to listen.  Help me to stop putting pressure on myself to do what people expect of me.  Instead, let me fall at Your feet and worship You. Teach me to lay aside the world and the constraints of my own sinful pride and a misplaced desire to serve You in a way that I have decided I am supposed to.  I just want to hear your words teaching and guiding me.

I want to wash Your feet with my tears, Jesus.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Holy Spirit, move in me.  Humble my arrogant heart. Temper my human longings and create in me a clean heart.  Guide me in the ways of Your thinking and desires for me. Drown out the sounds of my human will and the demands that the world has placed on me.  I long to be in Your right mind and not my own. I long to be true to Your definition of who I am and what I am to do. I long to worship You with humility.

39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:39-41

I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who puffed themselves up on the outside with their dependence on praise and obedience to the Law.  I don’t want to be honored by men or even know what they think of me. I don’t want to care, dear Jesus! I don’t want to care! Let me be a fool or a loud mouth.  Let me be brazen or unrefined. Let me be so aware that there is nothing good in me, that I all I can see is Your grace lifting me up! Let me choose the better portion in You, my Love!  

Sweet Holy Spirit, let me hear Your whispers.

I will submit to Your love for me, my Lord Jesus.  Only in You am I free. And no other love or praise can compare.

Being Poor in Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Fruit

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

If my mouth is praising You in all things and if my actions are full of mercy and love for everyone around me, my fruit is good!  It is abundant and full! It is reassurance, dearest Jesus, that the abundance of my heart is your love and mercy. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me, or even what others expect of me.  All I need to do is focus on You, Your Word in my heart, and the offerings of Your love and mercy that flow through me. I know I’m not going to get it right all the time. But I see You working, God. I see Your hand gently guiding me and faithfully teaching me to “bend the bow of bronze”.

He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 Psalm 18:34

I found myself praying this morning very deeply for someone who had hurt me.  Lord, I know that’s nothing new for You, but I know I don’t do it enough. My logic and understanding of your Word tell me to forgive and show mercy to those who hurt me, but in the moment, I’m often so hurt that I spend all of my energy focused on just speaking love and speaking from the abundance of my heart.  But prayer needs to be the further fruit of those words. Thank you for reminding me of that this morning.

Lord, help me to be more focused on You so that I continue to produce good fruit.  Let every thought be held captive by Your love, Your grace, Your Spirit.  That is where my treasure is. That is where my story leads. That is all my heart desires.  Let me honor You and serve You in all things. It may look strange to the World. It may even look strange to Your children.  But I know that Your Spirit will use me. Your Spirit will guide me. And Your Power will seap out of me to the world around me, without me even saying a word.  That’s just who You are. And You are in me so I can be confident in that.

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
Luke 6:19

Use me God.  Though I am a woman of unclean lips, You have made me clean and Your power is made perfect in my weakness.