Thursday, June 30, 2005
From today’s Daily Light...
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”—As a father the son in whom he delights.—He wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.—Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
Last night I was approached by a woman who has been struggling with her weight for quite some time. A mutual friend of ours had told her about the success I’ve had in this area this past year and thought it would be good for us to talk.
I am not sure she liked what I had to say.
She opened with the same question everyone else has asked me…”So tell me what you’re doing.”
They mean, of course, “which magic plan are you following so I can follow it to?”.
That is what we have been conditioned to believe in…the plan, the food combinations, the magic calorie/fat gram/carb number…in some cases, even the pill or (more drastically) the surgery. My answer is not so simple and formulaic.
It starts with correction. Correcting the view that this is a health issue or a societal issue or a motivation issue or even a willpower or self-control issue (which it is, but not the way typically thought).
I am overweight because I have made a habit of eating sinfully. I am overweight because for years I was a glutton. Gluttony is still a sin. It didn’t cease to be such with the advent of the fast food restaurant…and God still hates it. But just realizing and acknowledging that isn’t the cure-all or magic step to weight loss. Though it is a start…the real change takes place when we let that knowledge have its proper effect.
Head knowledge of sin doesn’t do me much good if it doesn’t humble me before my God and convince me of my need of Him.
I knew gluttony was a sin. I knew it displeased God. I knew my very presence in a room was the equivalent of a billboard promoting sin. Knowing it didn’t get it done. Typically this knowledge would just lead me into condemnation and more gluttony. How and why it changed, I don’t know except to say consistency in seeking the Lord allowed the Holy Spirit to move me from condemnation to humility and then to the starting block which is repentance.
The word repent means to turn away from. No true change is possible unless you turn from one thing to another, better, thing. I can’t stop being a glutton if I am still walking down Gluttony Boulevard. I have to turn on to Self-Control Lane…and that is only possible by the power of and grace of God.
The word self-control even, is a bit of misleading word because I have come to know more and more that the discipline that is a part of my life now has nothing to do with “self” and is only there because it was put there by the Lord. Even the change from condemnation to humility was the Lord’s doing. I can take no credit.
And I give no credit to the plan I follow or the amount of exercise I do or anything else either.
I was reading a post on a website about Weight Loss Surgery. It is touted as a miracle…the solution to obesity. It makes me very sad because all it does is make very skinny gluttons….it doesn’t deal with the sin that causes obesity and one doesn’t have to do much more reading on these sites to see the truth of that.
As I read, this verse came to mind:
'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
I then heard it this way:
Not by might, nor by a plan or pills, starvation or surgery, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty!
As I shared with my new friend, I could tell she was somewhat disappointed by what I said. I believe she was looking for a step by step process to freedom. She is right to want that…but I can’t give it to her or anyone else. I didn’t come up with this for myself. The Lord, who knows my frame and knows the most secret things of my heart has set this course for me…and it will be different for everyone else…except for the beginning. Each will HAVE to begin with repentance…and with being motivated by glorifying Him alone, no other motivation no matter how good it seems will be enough. In that posture, they can then commit their way to Lord and He will indeed direct their steps.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”
And I am SO glad! Who better to correct and discipline than the one who has numbered our days and set for the steps we will take?
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)
Oh that we would all trust the Lord with the planning of our lives...seek only to glorify Him and allow Him to direct our steps!
Oh that I would more and more each day!!
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The Lord has more than blessed the sacrifice…and that really was what it felt like…by giving me a true love for my new church, its people and ministries. And he has done all of that without diminishing the love I have for my first church home. For that I am truly thankful.
I was able to go back and visit this past weekend and had been looking forward to it for a while. I sing with a group that ministers at nursing homes in the city, and our group was asked to play at a fellowship my old church was having. I went expecting to be greeted with many warm welcomes…big hugs, excited questions about how I was and other sentimental things. What I didn’t expect was that some people wouldn’t recognize me.
Since I left I have changed quite a bit. The Lord has done a work of intense sanctification in me (which mostly feels like He has barely scratched the surface). Consequently, habits and patterns of sin have been dealt with…one of which was my gluttony. Since July 19, 2004 I’ve lost about 85 lbs. Though the numbers on the scale are way different, I’ve been through a few clothing sizes and had to push my car seat up quite a bit, I don’t see major dramatic changes in my physical appearance. But then, I see me everyday. There were a few people I had to say my name to before they realized who I was…many other double takes…and a few more “Oh my goodness! I didn’t recognize you!”'s. I even got a couple of “You look gorgeous!”’s.
I just simply wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a few people saying “I can tell you’ve been losing weight.”
Despite all that, I still don’t see a huge dramatic difference on the outside…see:
But, I am grateful for the kindness of the Lord in giving me glimpses of what others see…and for allowing me to see what He has done on the inside. That part is the most dramatic and most important to me…that is what will last…what is of eternal consequence.
I hope people see that as clearly, too....and give all the glory to the one to whom it is due.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Well, I have been working on a deadline all day and got to a stopping point just now, with about 15 minutes left to go. I usually straighten up my desk with that time...but it was pretty straight, so, I decided to read today's Daily Light.
This is what it said...
The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them.
My times are in your hand.—He chose our heritage for us.—Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness; . . . make your way straight before me.—Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.—In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.—Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.—As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.—“The Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”—Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
I can't imagine a better devotional thought for today. It pretty much covers everything I've had on my heart, everything the Lord has been stirring and bringing to the surface in my life these last couple of weeks. (A view of the archives of this blog will bear that out, I am sure)
He is so sovereign and faithful...and the thoughts in this devotion echo something I heard today while listening to one of Alistair Begg's messages on the Book of Ruth: "God says you take care of my things and I'll take care of your things."
And take care He does...always.
Lord help me to remember that the next time I am confronted with with my inability to take care of my things. Remind me of your inconceivable capableness (is that even a word?) and purposefulness in each reminder of my need of you. Remind me of how you have proven faithful every time before and that no matter how tenuous my grip may seem on this life you've given to me that you have a plan...and part of it is a greater loosening of my grip and surrendering it to you all the more.
I love this poem by "Amma" (Amy Carmichael). I have to call her Amma because she is that dear to me, though I've never met her...though she died before I was born.
I woke up at 4am this morning and had some time to read a bit in A Chance to Die...I wish I'd brought my journal here so I could share the bit that got me choked up this morning. But, this poem really sums up who she was...what she strived for...and is always a huge encouragement to me to press on no matter what things look like. Even on days like today when things look good...hopeful...when I am thankful and in humble awe before the kindness of God. I think it is always good to remind myself that those realities, those realizations are not just for me to bask in...but to fuel me to His service...to further surrender to Him!
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
--Amy Wilson Carmichael
What He said was..."I have spoken. You know what is required. Now walk in it."
Not the answer I was looking for...but the one I needed.
All along as I'd been praying (and not hearing "this is how this is going to go" or " this is the next step you need to take to get closer to that thing you want") it seemed the Lord was continually telling me to "Be still and know that he is God." Of course, I didn't see it that way until that day at the retreat. I saw it as silence...and I didn't like it. But what the Lord was telling me was, faith is required. Contentment in today is required. Obedience to what He HAS said is required. I am to walk faithful, obedient and content in today and let Him handle tomorrow...and the next 5 years.
"Walking in" what I know was what yesterday was all about for me.
The area of sin and lack of faith that was exposed was in the area of my finances. After the initial revealing, I could look back and see that the Lord had been tapping me on the shoulder, so to speak, about this for some time ... and I ignored it. This was the slap on the hiney to get my attention.
It wasn't that the Lord had said "don't do this or stop doing that." But I did have moments of conviction that I successfully justified and moved past. The Lord had done a major work in this area a year or so ago...my giving quadrupled, I always had more than enough and felt very blessed. But since I started losing weight...I started liking buying clothes in smaller sizes...actually liking trying new things on...and I liked it a bit too much. I wasn't extravagant in that I went to expensive stores and spent $200 a pop or anything like that...but I definately bought more than I needed and at times made unwise choices.
I knew it was something of an issue and did mention it to those I am accountable to...but I am not sure I really realized the real sin of it, and therefore did not repent...and did not walk the way I knew the Lord wanted me to in this area.
After all was said and done yesterday, I sat here thinking about the whys and wherefores. Prior to last year, my finances were wholly a mess and the Lord allowed me to set them straight with Him alone. Why did He chose to do it this way...things weren't really that bad. What I heard was "...to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."
I had to look it up to make sure it was scripture...it was ... Luke 12:48.
The Lord has given me much...financially, socially, and in ministry...he has also given me much of Him. Thinking about that makes me realize that He has consistently chosen to do that through my sin...through exposing my sin...through my being open about what He exposes and how He deals with it. That is amazing to me! While in the first moments, the exposure of sin makes me feel just that...exposed...naked before God and man...there has also consistently been blessing beyond measure and the encouragement and accountability and motivation I need to continue to "walk in it."
Thursday, June 23, 2005
I had one of those yesterday.
I will spare you all the details...but the Lord chose to reveal an area of sin and lack of faith in a fairly public way and for a few hours there I was reeling from it.
I woke up several times in the night fretting and then praying myself back to sleep. When I went to take a shower, I noticed I didn't start singing as soon as the water came on (which I usually do). I was reminded of the verse I read the day before ... Proverbs 17:22 - "A Joyful Heart does good like medicine." So I endeavored to be joyful. This was a kindness. It was kind of the Lord to not let me stay where I was...and to give me sufficient motivation to submit to His ways. So I sang and cried a bit in the shower.
And it hasn't stopped. I had to confess...ask forgiveness...and seek the Lord on how proceed...how to get where He intends this to go. I know He has an intention...and that it is good, even if it feels shameful and icky right now.
I am also comforted in knowing that the kindness of God is softer than the hardness of men...that His mercy is new every morning...and His grace knows no end.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I assure you…the reality is none of the above.
So... let me clarify a bit…at least for the sake of my own mind.
The site is called Free in Him because, well, that is what I am. I have been a Christian since 1994 and up until a year or so ago, I wouldn’t have categorized myself as free. In fact, I was just the opposite. I believe my conversion was genuine…but due to ignorance and lack of accountability I was virtually powerless against my sin-nature. Because of the Holy Spirit I was immensely convicted, read: miserable, but because I enjoyed being miserable at the time, conviction alone wasn’t quite enough to get me to seek help. I cried out to the Lord to take the stuff away…and his answer was "no". So rather than press in and ask for help another way, I suffered in silence. Finally, in His mercy He led me out of where I was. The sin areas that kept me a prisoner for so long…that kept me in a perpetual state of condemnation…are no longer a part of my life. He has changed me…and my wants…I am not the same…I am free.
Yet I am not done.
The shackles that fell off were just the beginning. They had to go so that the Lord could deal with the real issues…the root sins that caused the other stuff…the ick that lurks in my heart. Daily I am reminded of the darkness there and my need of Him. Daily I am given opportunities to conform to Christ…to choose His way over my own…to think on what is good and true…to speak words of life…to endeavor to reflect His gospel. And daily I am made more aware of my need of Him…that nothing good dwells within me…that anything that even gives a whiff of Him is all of grace.
So all the talk of failing and sin is a result of being humbled before the Lord in the face of what He exposes in my heart…of the bad motives lurking behind my good intentions…of how much my life of sin cost Him.
It is also partly because of others. The Lord has been so gracious to allow me to walk along side many people. Six months ago that was not the case. A year ago life was all about me and my problems…but the Lord intervened and now my friendships are deeper and richer and more plentiful than ever. There are a few of my friends that are struggling…that have been beating their head against the same brick wall with little more than a headache to show for it…and that grieves me. I don’t mean to imply that they are making no effort…not praying…not desiring the Lord to intervene or even habitually and purposefully sinning. For the most part they are doing all they know to do…its just that all of that tends to look like the equivalent of beating your head against a brick wall. It could just be that I am impatient in general and want to see them free sooner rather than later…but really I just want to see them free! I want them to have what He has given me. I don’t understand why He hasn’t…but I also know He intends this time of struggle for their good and that His timetable and mine are not the same.
So sin…its effect…God’s power over it…life after victory is on my mind a lot these days.
I am reminded of something my pastor said this Sunday…”God has put boundaries around sin and has kept it from destroying what He has created!”
He also said “We cannot trust God with eternity and not with the Day to Day.”
So this day, I chose to be thankful for my friends…for how the Lord is using their struggles in their life and in mine…for how He may use my struggles in theirs…for the freedom He has given and His never ending grace…that no matter how bad things may look, God has set boundaries on sin…and for the story of Glory He is writing even now!
I hope that clears things up!
It’s a really neat little devotional…and unique as it is entirely scripture. I’d like it better if the references were next to the excerpts…but then maybe people (lazy ones like me) wouldn’t go read the verse in context?
Anyway, I read the reading for this morning and it made me think of Jim Elliot again…well more to what my reading in his journals made me think about. Our old self and new self…the struggle with sin…and the possibility of being more than conquerors when we determine to submit all to Him!
You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
How can we who died to sin still live in it?—I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.—He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.—Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. We are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.—“Just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”—Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.—“Because I live, you also will live.” “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Col. 3:3; Rom. 6:2; Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 5:20; John 17:21; 1 Cor. 12:27; John 14:19; Rev. 2:17
Reading this I feel I have no room for wallowing in my own failings, inconsistencies and inadequacies. I am suddenly thinking of lines from two different songs:
“I get knocked down…but I get up again”
“Sure the waves can knock me down, but I say ‘Let ‘em roll!”
That last one is from Watermark’s first CD…it is a song called “Driven to Humility” And that is really what it is all about…we must be humble to submit our life, our will, to another…to receive correction and leadership…to focus on one who is stronger in the midst of temptation and sin. Pride keeps us looking at us…even when all we are seeing is bad. It is still pride because we are in effect saying that our badness is greater, more important than His goodness, His power, His mercy, His ways.
Driven to Humility, indeed!
There is nothing natural within me that wants a life hidden in Christ. I want to be the main attraction...I want to think that what people see in me is all good and all me...even typing this I want to make sure those reading it don't get the wrong impression of me. But despite that...and nearly as equally (and more so most of the time) I do recognize that the Lord has placed in me a desire to glorify Him...to reflect Him...to decrease as He increases. And I am so thankful for that!
Reading that sort of reinforced what I’d read just before in the Word. I was in 2 Kings 4…vs. 3. Elisha tells a widow to gather jars and pour what little oil she has into them. 1 partially filled jar of oil…poured into many other jars. He tells her to gather as many jars as she can and “not too few.”
Not too few.
Me…I’d gather just a couple because in my mind I’d be thinking “I have a partial jar here!” I’d also probably gather small jars so they’d look full with the little I had. But that is not faith…and that is not what the widow did. She gathered many and was able to fill them all. The oil didn’t stop flowing from her partially full jar until all of the jars she’d collected were full. AND there was still oil left in her original jar!!!
How amazing is that? God will fill…use…multiply as much as we are willing to give Him! Whew!
Jim Elliot gave all…he felt it was inadequate, but the Lord spoke to and through this man…and still is. His life, though over on this earth, is not spent and is still a vibrant light and encouragement and reflection of the Gospel.
Would that we all have that sort of legacy!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
It is VERY easy for me to be critical. As I’ve said before…I naturally look at, expound on and emphasize the lack/bad rather than what is there…what is good. I am trying, with the Helper, to do better…to be more encouraging to those around me…to not try to play the Holy Spirit and trust the One who knows the hearts of men and is acquainted with all their ways to do the convicting and correcting. Yet there are times when I am put in a position to speak into the lives of those around me. I believe we are called to walk together, to bear each other’s burdens, to speak words of truth, to admonish, even, at times. That isn’t the issue, really…whether to speak or not…it is HOW and WHAT we speak. Too often I have found myself sharing my opinion…making logical arguments…and even harshly criticizing in the name of Christ. Looking back over those times, I have to confess that my motivation was not to restore anyone in love as much as it was to profess myself wise or somehow feel superior next to my estimation of their low estate. I think the true test of whether I am walking with others in Calvary Love…speaking and caring for them in a way that edifies them and glorifies the Lord is what I say or think when they aren’t around. I have to ask myself…do my private thoughts or conversations about this person or situation differ from what I say to the person in question or in public regarding this issue? Out of the mouth the heart speaks…it will and does come out. If I am making an effort to tenderly encourage a friend and then turn to another and give a critical and unloving analysis of their plight…I am not extending Calvary Love to that person…and chances are, they know it. I am made a liar before God and man. By His Grace, I am learning to push my assessments aside…to embrace the sovereignty and kindness of God…and trust that it is better to be silent if one can’t be completely honest. I’d rather say nothing than have to repent of pride and lying later. Because the truth of the matter is…for me to rant and rave over what I perceive to be error or a misstep in someone else’s life is for me to say “That could never be me…I would never do that or make that mistake!” And that is just not true. I am just as susceptible to deception as the next person…and when I am not deceived it is ALL of grace and NONE of me. I can also rest in the knowledge that the Lord does not allow us to fall down if He does not also intend to lift us back up…and use that to help keep us from falling later.
If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting "Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?" then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I find myself taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do," "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.
Amy Carmichael, “Calvary Love,” from If, by Dohnavur Fellowship. Fort Washington, PA: CLC Ministries, n.d. Used by permission.
Monday, June 20, 2005
A pretty compelling title, if you ask me.
I didn’t go in the book store looking for a book on deception and freedom. I actually went in looking for something…anything…by Amy Carmichael. Sadly, Barnes & Noble doesn’t feel it necessary to keep her books in stock. Neither does the local Christian bookstore.
I could get up on my soapbox here, but I won’t.
Anyway…I was disappointed and just thought I’d look to see what else they had available. As I scanned the titles and author names, this one leapt out at me. I’ve been thinking a bit about deception in my own life and the lives of those I am close with…and in God’s kindness He also reminded me of areas where His Truth has set me (and them) free. But as is the way with me…I am always going to lean more heavily on what is lacking…because bringing it out into the open is the only way to get it dealt with (and, possibly because I am a bit of a pessimist and it is easier to dwell on the “bad stuff”).
As I read the first few pages, I sensed the Lord leading me to ask myself the following two questions:
How have I been (am I being) deceived?
How has (or can) the truth set me free?
I didn’t have much time to ponder that as the girl that was meeting me for coffee walked through the door. But we did discuss that a bit in our conversation…and it was good
The next morning as I got up and spent some time with the Lord, I read…
The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them! (Psalm 135:15-18)
I was blown away. Maybe I am being overly literal or over symbolic…but essentially what this said to me is when we are deceived, we have made something else our god, and like “dumb idols” we do not speak His truth, we do not see His ways, we cannot hear His words…we become like them…like the idol that has been put before God. I know for me…I could say any number of things have been in that place and for the sake of that thing, fear, pride, self-seeking, lust, willful disobedience, rebellion…you name it…have been allowed to take over and rule me for a time.
I am humbled at how often I have fallen into this trap…how often I still do…and how much grace is there when I repent. How clearly I see things…how clearly I hear His voice…and how joyful obedience becomes.
The question for me now becomes…are there areas where I am not speaking God’s truth…not seeing His ways…not hearing His voice? Last night…another area was revealed to me. It’s really not a new area…but it is manifesting in ways (and at a time) I wouldn’t have expected.
I had dinner with a dear friend and, as is bound to happen when two single women get together, the subject of marriage came up. I shared that the Lord had been leading me to pray…but that I was still struggling with thoughts of disbelief that anyone would be interested in me…especially now. She was taken aback by that and said many sweet and encouraging things, which can be summed up this way: I don’t see myself correctly…I don’t see what “everyone else” sees.
Or at the very least…I don’t see what this dear friend sees in me.
I am aware that the Lord has done a major work in me. All along the way, the internal/spiritual/emotional changes He has worked over the past year or two has been far more dramatic to me than the 80+ pounds I have lost. There have been times when I have been overcome by the reality of the difference in me…in my thoughts…in my habits…in my responses to circumstances. But where I get tripped up, I think, is when I look in the mirror. I see the same thing I have always seen. I no longer look in the mirror in disgust…in fact most days I FEEL like a size 8. I don't see myself as a size 8...I am just comfortable in my skin and mostly feel content with what the Lord is doing and how He is doing it and so on. But, He has given me this promise…the promise of marriage…and called me to pray in faith and I am still having a hard time detaching the possibility of marriage from the (actual or imagined) size of my butt.
Yet He is kind, and encouraging, no doubt to “help mine unbelief”.
This weekend I was reading Elisabeth Elliot’s biography of Amy Carmichael (again) and in it she related a story of her first missionary journey. There was a delay with the boat…a 6 day delay…and one of the other missionaries was complaining and worrying that they would miss what the Lord had for them. Their leader responded “God knows about the boats.” As I read that, I heard “God knows about the butt!”
It reminded me of another time, many years ago, when I was standing in my room, getting ready for something and looked at myself with disgust in the mirror. I thought, “NO one will every want to marry me as long as I look this way.” Immediately, and as audibly as I have ever heard the Lord, I heard “I am bigger than your butt.” I was stunned and sat down on the bed in tears.
Yet, years later, I am still struggling with this. And maybe it is because I have been trying too hard to see myself the way others see me or the way I think they should see me. When in reality I need to see who He is more than I need to see who I am.
So, I guess the choice I have to make is…is God God or is my butt?
The answer is easy to say…a challenge to live out.
What I have to keep reminding myself is that my ability to conceive of the reality of His promises is not what should motivate or control my prayer time. It is a matter of faith…and faith that is seen is not faith. Yet I can hold to what I know…that He is God…a faithful God…who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and serve Him (Deut 7:9)…who does exceedingly, abundantly…beyond all we could ask for think or hope for (Ephesians 3:20)…who will complete what He has begun (Phil 1:6) and work even this faith struggle for my good and His glory (Rom 8:28).
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Every so often, our teacher says something that just lays me flat or causes me to get mentally stuck. I wind up pondering this one thought and miss large sections of the rest of the class. Last night was one of those nights.
For the past several weeks, he has been beating the drum of intercession. He opened up this strain of teaching and thought by saying something pretty radical: “God does nothing outside of an intercessor…outside of prayer.” One man in the group dared to question that statement…suggesting that creation was the one exception. Though I couldn’t think of the verse, I knew that wasn’t true…and our teacher led us to:
Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them
He explained that Jesus’ ministry is intercession…is now and was always. As the word says “all things were made through him”…through him as the word and through his intercession.
(he explained it far better than I just did…and I don’t have my notes handy...sorry)
Anyway…as he reminded us of this last night, I wrote “everything that happens in my life happens because of Jesus’ intercession!”
And there I stayed for most of the rest of the night…and into this morning.
I confess that I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about intercession until recently. And until last night, I didn't realize how much my thinking needed reforming in this area.
I guess it is sort of a residual catholic thing, but I always sort of saw Jesus' intercession as: I pray and he takes my petition to the Father. But the reality is , he is interceding for me before I am praying...when I am not praying...about things I haven't even thought to pray for yet. I pray or act ONLY because He has first interceded for me. Whew…taking that to a more specific and personal level…
This past year and all of the changes that have taken place in my heart, in my habits, in my mind…were birthed in prayer long before I took the first step towards it. He was praying for my freedom while I was still content to wallow in self-pity...while I got angry with Him for not making it all just vanish or giving me the life I wanted in spite of my sin...while I continued to walk in disobedience.
Still this morning, I can hardly think of it without either sitting in stunned silence or getting teary-eyed.
It really has radically changed the way I view prayer…and my Savior.
He is interceding for me…always (Heb 7:25). That is almost too much to comprehend. But at the same time…what a benefit! Knowing that the Lord is interceding on my behalf…that the unction I now have for obedience…the burden I feel for something…that convicting word I read the other day…all of that was brought into being through His intercession for me…and will be carried through by His intercession. How can I NOT step out? How can I NOT obey? How can I think I might fail? How can I think I have no choice but to give into temptation? And…how can I not join Him in intercession?
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
I also made the fonts bigger...as some have mentioned that the point size was a bit small.
I hope you enjoy the new look. It will likely not last. I may find another, groovier template I like better...or my brother will be done with the site he is making me. Yes, that is right...my brother is making me my own site.
I shared with him a while ago that I wanted to do a site about my weight loss. I'd seen so many out there proclaiming the miracle of lap bands or gastric by-pass that I thought I should put one out there that talks about a real miracle...and glorifies the miracle maker. So he volunteered to help...and we should be up and running in a few months. This blog will be part of the site...and I will have testimonies of the work He has done in my life, progress photos and who knows what else.
I’ve said this before, and been criticized for it, that my life really doesn’t start until 5:30pm…that is when I “punch out” at work most days. Everything that means anything to me takes place after that…or rather HAS to take place after that. Not that the Lord does not intend for me to sow seeds or be a light here at work…or that there isn’t a real possibility that he has me here to win a specific person…but, essentially, what I do makes a rich man richer. It is how the Lord has chosen to provide for me at this time…but is it worth it when 75% of my time is spent on things with little or no apparent spiritual or eternal significance?
That may not be the best way to think about my job…but, if that is the case…if it is only a means for me to pay my student loans and put food in my belly…then why am I doing this? Should I re-think things, re-order my priorities, and seek out a way to better spend my time?
I didn’t speak any of this to anyone…I thought maybe it was just a “grass is always greener on the other side” moment. But then, I talked to another friend whose husband had just returned from the same missions trip. They had spent a good deal of time talking about something similar…the futility…and wondering why people couldn’t be the way they are…live the way they do…see as much of God here as they do in Mexico.
I’d been thinking about that too.
Whenever people come back from a missions trip, there are always amazing stories, stories of Acts come to life. It just seems worship is richer, quiet time more meaningful, the spirit of God more tangible. It can’t be that God has changed…so it must be the people that are different somehow. But what is it? Is it just a change of scene and society…or simply that going away makes the noise of life less noisy and so they are better able to hear and respond? Could be…I’ve seen similar things happen on retreat weekends, and experienced it myself. But, there has to be something more to it than location.
What I think it is…and my friend seemed to agree…was that people are living more like the way the Lord intended: living, breathing, eating, drinking Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Every moment of every day is about serving and pleasing Him and knowing more of Him. Whether it is building a school or caring for orphans or coordinating the team or going out into the city to reach the lost…it is all about the Lord and His purposes.
I can’t say that that is the mindset I have here at work every day.
But I should.
My friend suggested that perhaps we need to live more simply, get a job with less hours and devote our time more to serving the church. And that is something I do intend to pray about…I feel I have to given all the Lord has laid on my heart. But I don’t think that I need to wait until I am living in a house with 5 other ladies and working part-time to do what it is I am called to do…to be who it is I am called to be. The requirements don’t change. My circumstances might make it harder or easier for me to live the way I am called to live. I may have to fight harder to do all for the sake of the gospel in this office than I would if I were working 20hrs a week at a coffee shop and devoting the rest of my time to ministry…but I am still called to it none-the-less.
What is “it” exactly? To live, breathe, eat, drink…do all things for Christ, because of Christ and so that Christ will be magnified and glorified before men. To make him the priority…not praise, or job security or creature comforts. And, to be willing to sacrifice said things for the sake of the gospel, when the Lord calls me to do so. I should be willing to give my last $5 to someone in need and go without myself. I should be willing to forsake my personal alone time to minister to someone. I should be willing to simplify my life so that I am in a better position to bless others.
I should have a missions mentality right here…right now.
And, I don’t.
Is that the end? Certainly not. Though the thought of quitting my job and stepping out in faith into “whatever” and living in a way I never have before makes my breath catch in my throat. And, it may be a step I am not called upon to take…but I want to at least be willing to be made willing if that is His will. I also don’t want to wait for some radical change in the circumstances of my life or the next retreat to get the right heart attitude about life or experience more of the Lord. I want that now…and I believe I can have it now…in this job…in my same apartment…with my same “responsibilities.” And if I can’t…well, I know the Lord will prepare my heart and get me there.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Lord, all that I long for is known to you,This was in a devotion I read yesterday and I just really like it. “my sighing is no secret from you…” I don’t know if you sigh as much as I do, but as someone who is prone to sigh…that means a lot to me! God hears my sigh. It doesn’t fall on deaf or uncaring ears. It goes directly to the one who knows both the reason for the sigh AND what the best response should be. So it would be stupid to do anything else but leave Him to answer for me, right?
my sighing is no secret from you...
I put my trust in you, Yahweh,
and leave you to answer for me, Lord my God. --(Ps 38:9, 15)
Which reminds me of something Amy Carmichael’s mother wrote to her, which I quoted in a previous post…
“He who hath led will lead
All through the wilderness
He who hath fed will surely feed
He who hath heard thy cry
Will never close his ear
He who hath marked thy faintest sigh
Will not forget thy tear
He loveth always, faileth never
So rest on Him today – forever.”
Monday, June 13, 2005
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9)The Lord your God is God…God by very definition is supreme, omniscient, omnipresent, greater and bigger than even the mind can conceive. There is nothing that falls outside the realm of His power…nothing that He does not either cause or allow to happen…nothing that He can not either prevent or cause to work out for good. God is God…and we are not…neither is anyone or anything else. “Who is God?” is the question at the heart of decisions we make daily. My choice to fret or to disobey or take matters into my own hands…whatever…they all in effect say something about who God is to me in that moment…or more to the point what my god is in that moment. When I choose to worry – though the word says “Do not worry (Matthew 6:34)” – I am making that thing I am worrying about God…or myself God, by saying that what I am feeling is bigger and truer than God.
The faithful God…He knows all and is in all and is faithful in all things. No crisis is too great…no trifle too small to escape His notice and be used for His purpose…which is our good and His glory. I find He uses His faithfulness to woo me to Himself. In moments when fear is looming, anxiety is building, sin is knocking at the door, disappointment seems inevitable, He reminds me of His faithfulness and kindness…His way of making the impossible, possible…and I can turn away from my own thoughts, my own vision, my own feelings and trust Him. His faithfulness time and time again prove His goodness and kindness…and compel me to run to Him rather than camp out in despair or fear or doubt.
Who keeps His covenant and steadfast love…I know very little of covenant keeping or steadfast love. I know much of broken promises and fickle feelings. I know conditional love. I know obligatory love. I know love I have to earn or work to keep. I know love that can quickly turn to hate…or at least look like it. I know love that probably doesn’t qualify for more than mild regard. I have both received and given each type of sad excuse for love…and broken more than my share of promises. But God is God…and He is the faithful God…and both His promises and love are sure. He will keep His word, always…and He will love us with an everlasting love, always. Nothing can change that. I am reminded of Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To a thousand generations…not one generation, or five or 10…but a thousand!
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20).
His blessing goes on and on and on…His faithfulness knows no end…His love goes on forever!
A Memorial to Ruth, My Wife
by Bill Piper
She was a priceless gem, rarer by far than sapphire, ruby or diamond. Her radiance depended not on some earthly or external beam. Her glow was from within, shining from genuineness of character and purity of soul.
The dancing sparkle of her life resulted not from material stimuli. It came from a heart that gave and gave and gave again with never a thought of receiving. It reflected a life that loved and loved until there was just no more love.
Her beauty was that of expanded unselfishness. Her whole life was others, her loved ones, her friends, her neighbors and her church. She knew no resting place. The needs were endless and her devotion always equaled the demands. Deep weariness of mind and body never deterred her.
The enormous wealth of her character showed most in her unstinting kindness. All who knew her felt it, witnessed it, experienced and believed in it. Everyone coming within the warm glow of her influence was cheered, encouraged, lifted and blessed.
Her beauty knew no vanity. She disdained the cheap, the tawdry, the make-believe. She loathed everything farcical and hypocritical. Her genuineness was transparent. She radiated reality. Life to her was neither a mummery nor a charade but a daily expression of untainted sincerity.
Her glory sprang from a love of life. Her activities never ceased and her energy seemed boundless. Her spontaneous laughter and contagious smile delighted all who met her. She enjoyed being alive and her life had beauty and purpose.
She epitomized the virtuous woman. She was clothed with strength and honor. My heart safely trusted in her. She looked well to the affairs of her household. She burned the midnight oil. Her hands were never idle. Her mouth was full of wisdom and on her tongue was the law of kindness. Her children have risen to praise her.
She was modest, almost to a fault. Always the lady. Always the queen. She carried herself with poise and great dignity without pomp, piety or ceremony. Modern trends in styles were ignored if they offended her sensitivities or violated her convictions. She never sought praise or popularity, contented always to serve in a spirit of congeniality and selflessness.
She was the practical woman. Never lavish. Never wasteful. I was the dreamer. She shunned the unnecessary and the excessive. Satisfied with simple things, she avoided that which was foolish and vain. Sound judgments preceded her decisions. Never one to parade, she abstained from the superficial, pretentious, needless and impractical.
Above all was the totality of her dedication. Devoted to her husband, her family, her friends and her church, she was supremely committed to her Lord. Her faith in Christ never wavered. Having trusted him as a child, she loved him more with every passing year. Her convictions held firm in the face of a changing world. The variances of life’s vicissitudes never altered her course. She remained steadfast, immovable, abounding always in the work of the Lord. She was a rock. She was found faithful. She walked with God and God loved her and took her. She now rests with him whom she loved and served.
The light from her devotion and the aroma from her character lives on to bless perpetually the lives of all who loved her. Her testimony will not be lost. Her commitment to Christ has not been in vain. Her husband, her children and all her descendents will rise to call her blessed.
This sermon is a fulfillment of that prophecy, and, I pray, is an honor and an encouragement to all of you women who embrace the biblical calling of marriage, the joyful support of a husband and his calling as you display the relationship between Christ and the church, and motherhood, the transmission of a God-centered, Christ-treasuring vision of life to your children, and home-management, the creation of a beautiful and simple place and living organism which becomes a refuge of Christ’s peace and launching pad for God’s righteousness.
Wow! I am not yet a wife and a mother...but I want to be. When I read something like this I am reminded that marriage (or any other good thing I want) is NOT NOT NOT about me...but about the Lord being glorified in me...His will being done...My being submissive to His leadership and obedient to His ways...not to achieve a goal or meet my agenda, but to honor Him and be conformed more and more to his image... THAT is my call right now, right where I am...or wherever I may find myself tomorrow...whether or not what I am hoping for comes to pass or goes the way I think it should.
You can find the whole sermon, here:
I read this one last night...
The Servant in Battle
O LORD, I bless thee that the issue of the battle between thyself and Satan
has never been uncertain,and will end in victory.
Calvary broke the dragon's head,
and I contend with a vanquished foe,
who with all his subtlety and strengthhas already been overcome.
When I feel the serpent at my heel
may I remember him whose heel was bruised,
but who, when bruised, broke the devil's head.
My soul with inward joy extols the mighty conqueror.
Heal me of any wounds received in the great conflict;
if I have gathered defilement,
if my faith has suffered damage,
if my hope is less than bright,
if my love is not fervent,
if some creature-comfort occupies my heart,
if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight.
O thou whose every promise is balm,
every touch life,
draw near to thy weary warrior,refresh me, that I may rise again to wage the strife,and never tire until my enemy is trodden down.
Give me such fellowship with thee that I may defy Satan,
unbelief, the flesh, the world,with delight that comes not from a creature,
and which a creature cannot mar.
Give me a draught of the eternal fountain
that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love and decree.
Then shall my hand never weaken, my feet never stumble,
my sword never rest, my shield never rust,my helmet never shatter,
my breastplate never fall,
as my strength rests in the power of thy might.
You can find more prayers and meditations like this one, here:
Or you can buy the entire volume, here:
Friday, June 10, 2005
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!I have been surrounded by turmoil and crisis and drama lately…even in my own life. As I’ve mentioned before, there are several situations involving friends that have me feeling quite heavy…there are unusual things going on at work…and areas of concern within my own family. What I am challenged to remember as I look around me and at my own heart is that no matter how circumstances or feelings change, God is the same. And, how I am called to respond is the same. That is the tricky part.
It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you
again, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1).
I am reminded of Peter stepping out on the calm sea, full of faith, to walk to Jesus. Then the waves kicked up and suddenly his attitude changed. The man who said “Just tell me to come and I will” was now looking at the violent waves and freaking out. The sea wasn’t churning when he stepped out…and now things were different. But they were only different to him.
The faith that was required to walk on calm waters is the same faith required to walk in the midst of waves…it is no different because God doesn’t change. He is the same God in times of blessing that He is in times of hardship. Which is why Paul can say, as he does later on in Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).” In fact, our rejoicing is our safeguard from the storm.
Remember in one of the Ruth posts, I quoted on old hymn that said:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill He treasures up his bright designs, And works his sovereign will. Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face."~ William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet from Olney Hymns
Storms will come…that is certain. What is equally certain is that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), therefore, what is required of us (holiness, steadfastness, faithfulness…and rejoicing to name a few) does not change either, no matter how our circumstances or feelings do. This is the walk of faith…and how we cultivate godliness…by exercising faith, practicing righteousness and being faithful in all things. This is also what will protect us from the storm and keep it from being destructive to our lives and our faith.
Will we always do it perfectly? Of course not…but God will honor and bless our striving and use it to develop godly character that is better fit to stand through the next storm. Choosing to rejoice is also an act of humility. It is saying to the Lord, “You know better than I do!” And the Word tells us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).”
There is much grace to be found, much comfort and much strength when we humble ourselves before God during a storm and purpose to think more of being pleasing to Him than being pleased ourselves.
How do we do it though? Well, its not easy, but then it sort of is.
In those moments when our stomach is churning and our head is full of scary thoughts and images…when we break out into a cold sweat or our heart starts pounding...rather than use that as a queue to fret and think on all the bad things that could happen...or lash out in anger…let that be a signal to go to the Lord. Let fear or anger be the alarm bell that sets off rejoicing.
Rejoicing in what? In the risen Christ…in his mercy…in evidences of His grace in the past (even better...in the midst of the current trial)…in His sovereignty…in His promised faithfulness. For it is great and boundless. He has already met our greatest need in dealing with sin and reconciling us to himself…is any other crisis bigger than that? I would suggest that it only seems bigger because 1) it is the thing that is happening right now and 2) our main concern is that things go the way we want them to and/or 3) we aren’t regularly determining to live with the cross in our view.
I know that has been true for me. But, praise be to God, who is faithful when I am not. Who pardoned me and is sanctifying me, even through my weakness! He truly is faithful! Which reminds me of another hymn…
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father!
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not:
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Here's the run-down…
No diet soft drinks - 9 for 9
No sugar free candy - 9 for 9
No Secular Internet - 9 for 9
No pork. - 9 for 9
2 Caffinated Beverages a day - 7 for 9
Daily Exercise - 6 for 9
No TV/Movies - 9 for 9
Extra time spent on house and reading - 9 for 9
Prayer for a godly husband - this one has been even harder than exercising, which is surprising. When I have prayed these past 9 days, it been a struggle to feel that I am truly praying in faith. I know this is hard for a reason and my heart is being exposed, so I am thankful for what I know the Lord is going to reveal and deal with and heal through this process.
I am meeting with a friend tonight to pray in this area…maybe the Lord will truly meet with us and do a work here?!?! That would be amazing!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.This verse popped in my head the other day and it struck me as funny. Here Paul is telling us that Christ set us free...so that we would be free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
That was my first thought…”Like you need to say that?”
But then I realized, yeah, he really does…and we need to keep on hearing it and being reminded of it.
Before I was saved, I thought I was free but I was really a slave to sin (Romans 6:17). I was doing anything and everything I “wanted” to…whether I really wanted to or not. I remember moments when something would come out of my mouth…or I’d do something I swore I’d never do (again). Like eating. I ate…it was what I did. I ate a lot and I ate everything that was bad for me. For me it wasn’t a sin issue (then) but a health issue and even more a social issue. I was different and treated as such…therefore my friends were few and my admirers non-existent. I truly believed that if I was ever to be married and have babies, I had to get skinny. But I couldn’t. I’d set a goal…start a diet…decide to go walking…try to stop eating certain things or just eat less. Failure after failure. It was like I was on auto-pilot when food was put in front of me…I was incapable of stopping myself or making a good choice. I was a slave to my stomach.
I was also a slave to my emotions…they ruled me. No amount of logic could break through when I felt something. My feelings…not wisdom or good counsel…determined my actions. And so I sat in my cell, unable to get out…unaware that I was imprisoned.
It wasn’t until after I came to Christ that I realized just how trapped I was…yet for a while there, it was like God opened the door to my cell and I just decided to stay inside.
Now I was free. Now I had a choice. Now I knew what sin was and who could deal with it. I knew because of the cross I could live differently…and, mostly, I didn't. Sure, some things changed…and I was no longer oblivious to my captivity…but in many respects I was still a slave.
So I needed to be reminded over and over again “It is for FREEDOM Christ set [me] free.”
Paul knew then what I know now...sadly, we really are that dense!
But now…I believe I can honestly say “I’m Free!”
Sure, sometimes I go to the door of my cell and peek in…but by God’s grace I have yet to step inside. Those things that enslaved me before are no longer a part of my life and haven’t been for nearly a year. Am I perfect? Certainly not! But I know I am free and when my former master comes by with shackles jingling in his hand, I know I don’t have to let him take me. I can stand and say “I’m Free!” and know that my new master will fit me for the battle if the old one decides to put up a fight!
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a girl with a plan. It was a good plan…a plan for a house. No, not a house, a home. She spent hours going through the rooms in her mind, decorating them, picturing herself in them, imagining what the breeze would feel like as she sat on her porch with her man looking out over children playing the yard. She planned everything down to the last detail and sketched it out as meticulously as any blueprint.
Just like any construction, there were goals and deadlines and severe attention to detail…and when those deadlines weren’t met, they were rescheduled. When the plans didn’t work out, they were re-drawn. Over and again the house was redesigned, timelines revamped…yet still she insisted the plan was good though it had to be reworked every so often.
For many years she held tightly to her set of plans, worn and tattered from all of the amendments. Then she met the Master Builder and he offered a better plan…one that would not require constant revisions…one that would actually come into being. She resisted…all she’d ever had was this plan. She knew it so well and had spent so much time in the rooms of this dream home…she couldn’t just give it up.
It took a while and the Master Builder was patient…but persistent. Time after time He watched as she tried to start building her home, only to stop and revise. He could see her despair and frustration…he could also see something she couldn’t…that she labored in vain. But she was determined to accomplish this goal, so she would redraw, reschedule and begin again. Over time, though, after many, many disappointments and revisions, the home of her dreams began to lose its savor.
Then, finally, she relented, and handed her plans to the Master Builder. She expected Him to unfold His plans before her and explain in detail how they were far superior to her own. But He didn’t. He only assured her that He did have a plan and that it was good…perfect. She must wait and trust…and learn all she could about caring for what He was preparing. Though, at times, she could hear the sounds of construction, she never saw anything actually built. But somehow the sound, and the promise of the Master Builder, were enough…and she waited…and trusted…and tried to learn what she could.
And she waits still… This story doesn’t end with a happily ever after and a picture of the girl on the porch of her home watching her children play…that home has not been build yet. But it does end with hope…and faith that what the Master Builder promised will come to pass…and it will be good…perfect…better than any version of her dream home ever was.
June 9, 2005
THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR US; WE ARE GLAD.
Some Christians are sadly prone to look on the dark side of everything, and to dwell more upon what they have gone through than upon what God has done for them. Ask for their impression of the Christian life, and they will describe their continual conflicts, their deep afflictions, their sad adversities, and the sinfulness of their hearts, but with scarcely any reference to the mercy and help that God has provided them. But a Christian whose soul is in a healthy state will come forward joyously and say, “I will not speak about myself, but to the honor of my God. He has brought me up out of a horrible pit and out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings; and He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God. The Lord has done great things for me—I am glad.” This summary of experience is the very best that any child of God can present. It is true that we endure trials, but it is just as true that we are delivered out of them. It is true that we have our corruptions, and sadly we acknowledge this, but it is just as true that we have an all-sufficient Savior who overcomes these corruptions and delivers us from their dominion. In looking back, it would be wrong to deny that we have been in the Slough of Despond and have crept along the Valley of Humiliation, but it would be equally wicked to forget that we have been through them safely and profitably; we have not remained in them, thanks to our Almighty Helper and Leader, who has “brought us out to a place of abundance.”1 The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through them all and preserved us until today. Our griefs cannot spoil the melody of our praise; we consider them to be the “bass line” of our life’s song, “The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.”
...from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright (c) 2003
So I went inside, got settled and opened to chapter 1. The heading read:
DOES IT MATTER WHAT OTHERS THINK?
I laughed out loud.
Then I read the first sentence…
“Life is too short to spend time and energy worrying about what others think of us.”
I laughed again. "OK, Lord, you really do have my number. Thank you." And I kept on reading.
What the Lord revealed to me in that was that, though part of my struggle over this whole lunch thing was a concern that I might somehow be maligning the name of God at my office…the bigger part was just feeling really yucky at the thought that people don’t like me. The “whys” were, again, partly about reflecting the gospel and partly about how people perceived me. Which has always been a struggle for me.
The statement above really drove all of that home and made me see it through a new lens. Piper goes through both sides of this…Should we care at all? Should we make efforts to get people to like us? He shares scripture that seems to speak to both sides of the issue…i.e., that we will “offend without cause” and that we should be “above reproach.” Then he sums it all up by saying:
"In other words, with Paul, we do care—really care—about what others think of Christ. Their salvation hangs on what they think of Christ. And our lives are to display His truth and beauty. So we must care what others think of us as representative of Christ. Love demands it. But we ought not to care much what others think of us for our own sake. Our concern is ultimately for Christ’s reputation, not ours. The accent falls not on our value or excellence or virtue or power or wisdom. It falls on whether Christ is honored by the way people think of us. Does Christ get a good reputation because of the way we live? Is the excellence of Christ displayed in our lives? That should matter to us, not whether we ourselves are praised…Yes, we want people to look on us with approval when we are displaying that Jesus is infinitely valuable to us. But we dare not make the opinion of others the measure of our faithfulness. They may be blind and resistant to truth. Then the reproach we bear is no sign of our unfaithfulness or lack of love.”
After I read that I really had to ask myself, "Am I unkind or unfriendly at work?" Though I don’t congregate and socialize very often, I would have to say, honestly no, I don’t believe I am unkind or unfriendly. I am "birthday card girl" and "baby gift girl"…I randomly get flowers for some of the ladies I work with and always try to smile and say a kind word as I pass people in the hallways. Really what I believe it boils down to is that I do not congregate and gossip like the rest of the people on my floor…I’m not part of the clique (and I shouldn’t be) therefore, I was excluded. Should I make more of an effort to be kind and friendly…yes…ESPECIALLY now. This would be an example of turning the other cheek. And, though they never respond favorably, I need to know that as long as I am seeking to honor the Lord in word and deed, that is all that matters.