Friday, July 29, 2005
You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
This word “heritage” keeps coming up. As does the reminder that our heritage is from the Lord…given by Him…for His glory.
Just had to point that out…now back to Daily Light…
“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”—The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.—The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.—He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all [good] things?
This installment of Daily Light really does weave together so many of the things the Lord has been showing me this week…my heritage, I lack nothing, His plans are the best plans…His ways the best ways, He is my provider and protector, He is good and kind.
Yesterday, it all came to a head. I was made to walk in what I had been shown.
To be honest, most of yesterday was a battle. I saw the weapons formed against me…and sometimes felt them. But praise be to God…they did not succeed.
As with most of my battles lately, this one was a battle of the mind and of the will. I wanted something that the Lord has been denying. Last night was the last straw for me…I broke and began venting to the Lord. Mid-rant He spoke, so gently,
“What you want is a good thing…but if it were good for you right now, you would have it.”
That stopped my whining and pining, cold! More importantly it, it helped focus my heart and mind where it needed to be…on the Lord and off of me. After a minute of humbled silence, I had to again say,
“No, Lord…I lack nothing.”
What I wanted yesterday was a good thing and I believe my want of it is an evidence of grace in my life. But the specificity of my want is what the Lord was taking issue with. It is one thing for me to want the will of God for my life…quite another for me to insist that He carry it out a certain way.
I can’t see the big picture. I don’t know why this thing wouldn’t be good for me now…But He does! More than that…He knows why it wouldn’t be good for anyone else connected to it. Which is another valuable reminder…it’s not always just about me. This denial could be for someone else’s benefit, as well.
It was also a good reminder to focus on what He has revealed to me, those good things He has already given, and those He has promised and instructed me to pray about.
Last night, as I was waiting for some people I met for dinner, I was reading in A Chance to Die (again). The section I was in related a period where Amy had again been praying for men to join the work. A pair of brothers had joined for a short period of time while they were training to go to China. Amy felt a leading to pray that they would stay, but dismissed it as selfish (and no doubt for fear of being disappointed). She also feared covetousness…wanting her neighbor’s (in this case China’s) manservants. A while later, she had a dream and in it, these two men were serving at Dohnavur. She wanted to dismiss it, but felt a strong urging from the Lord to pray to that end. She argued with him…again not wanting to rob another for her sake. The Lord said, essentially, “Would I ask you to do that?” She replied “no” and then began to pray. The next day, she read in her own copy of Daily Light “Blessed is she that believed for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. (Lk 1:45)” That same day, the Lord laid it upon the heart of one of the men to stay…in short time, circumstances in China made it impossible for the other to go.
As I read this, I couldn’t help but see parallels to my life and direction for specific prayer…my own fears and hindrances in that…and direction for what needs to happen.
God has promised good things…some specific good things…and I have not believed. I have not prayed as I should. Why? Because I am too focused on myself and not on “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, [who will] also with him graciously give [me] all [good] things?” According to His will…to Accomplish His purposes…to Proclaim His glory!
Lord, help mine unbelief…help me to pray…help me to obey…help me to be thankful for the good things you have already given and not continually look for the next good thing…help me to rest in today and your provision…and help me to fight the temptation to do otherwise…to seek my refuge and protection in you and learn of your ways.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
This morning, I am just overwhelmed with the thought of all the unseen doors the Lord has led me though and how, like Amy, I didn’t even know it until I was safely on the other side. Incidental happenings, spontaneous meetings, small changes in habit have literally been doors flung open wide leading to the highways of God. In the moment they seem small…but then, after a while a quick glance back reveals the truth and makes going back even more of an impossibility. I don’t mean a glance back like Lot’s wife…looking back with longing. I mean a humble, grateful, awed look back…a look back to be able to sufficiently appreciate how far the Lord has brought you. These looks back don’t increase the allure of that once “familiar landscape,” they diminish it…they increase the beauty of what you are headed to, though you can’t even see it yet.
For many months now, I’ve had a great sense of expectation. The feeling of walking on a road toward the horizon, knowing something is waiting there…no…knowing something is coming towards me as I walk towards it. I can hear the hoof beats so to speak, but I can’t see a thing. I don’t know if it is a horse or a cow or a man beating two halves of a coconut together or a horde of wildebeests, but I know something is coming. And I know it is good.
Had I not walked through that door from the familiar into the unknown, I wouldn’t know this feeling of expectancy…I wouldn’t know what it is to faith God in this way…and I wouldn’t know this particular expression of His love and care. No matter what it is that is coming…no matter how long I have to walk to get to meet it…I wouldn’t trade the experience of the door and the road for anything!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Anyway...I thought I'd lighten things up a bit with this post. I thought I'd ask you guys a question...kinda like Lamommyof3's "dilema of the week." Though mine isn't a dilema...just a question.
So here it is...get ready...wait for it...
What are you reading right now?
You can tell me where you are in the Word...or whatever else you may be reading...or both.
Right now, I am reading A Chance to Die and Daily Light pretty much everyday...and in the Word I am currently in 2 Chronicles, Romans, and I do a Psalm and a verse or two in Proverbs each day.
So...what about you?
Luke 22:35 And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing."
I was reminded of something I’d written yesterday:
“As a single woman, that question has a slightly different meaning to me - an admittedly somewhat selfish meaning - and effects my life a bit differently. But whatever selfishness there is in me, there is also a godly desire for that which God desires and ordained from the beginning. That which I lack…that which I see so many lacking.”
That which I lack?
And I felt the Lord ask me…”Have you lacked anything?”
I had to answer, “Nothing Lord.”
I was very humbled as I thought about all He has provided and done for me. There truly has been NO lack at all…except in my gratefulness for His faithfulness and completeness in my life.
When I have felt the need for a husband to rein me in and give me balance…He has been that husband.
When I have needed a godly father to impart wisdom and protection…He has been that father.
When I have been broker than broke…He has been my provider.
When I had no friend to call or lean on…He has been that ever present, ever available, ever faithful friend.
When I needed discipline…He sent conviction and correction.
When I needed comfort…He has been my comforter.
When I felt I needed an outlet for my “maternal instincts”…He sent me my nieces.
I could go on and on...but most importantly...
When I needed a Savior…and I was a brute beast before Him…He bore it and lovingly won my heart.
No, Lord…I lack nothing.
I was just struck by this quote...and his use of the same words I used in my post yesterday...provide and protect.
Sean isn't a Christian as far as I can tell...if he can "get it" and live it...make it the priority of his life...certainly Christian men can!
Thanks to Gina for her comment and similar burden to pray for the men. I would encourage anyone who reads this to consider setting aside time to pray for the men in their lives...that the Lord would make His priorities their priorities...that He would do a work in theirs hearts which would allow them to esteem the gift of family more than their "freedom" or what they prefer to do with their leisure time. Often times what we regard as freedom is really a prison cell...and only by walking in obedience to the Lord can we TRULY be free. Ask the Lord to lead them to answer the call He has placed on their lives...to step out and lead their families (or pursue family life if they don't have a family yet)...to be the leaders he has called them to be in the home, in the church, in the work place. Ask Him to give them favor as they step out...to strengthen them and bless their efforts. Ask Him also that the women in their lives would respond accordingly...that we would submit to the authority given to them and encourage their attempts to lead (even if we think they are doing it the wrong way or not doing it fast enough).
May God be glorified and men drawn to Christ as men put on the mantle assigned to them and thrive under what seemed a millstone or stumbling block to them before.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
When I read this, I thought of the Lord calling me out of the church I was a member of in 2002 and bringing me to the church I am at now. That truly was the beginning of everything – without that step so much of my life wouldn’t be different now. So much sin would still be there…as would the weight.
It wasn’t an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination…and I didn’t know what I was going into. I certainly didn’t see any inheritance on the horizon. And what I have received thus far may not be the actual inheritance, only the preliminaries…the preparation. What He has given me thus far has been pretty incredible...so, if this isn’t … WOW! I can’t wait to see what is!
Daily Light goes on to say…
He chose our heritage for us.
I wouldn’t have chosen to do things this way. Like the prodigal son, I would have asked for my inheritance early...and squandered it...or at the very least chosen to stay put, to not fight sin, and been content to just sit around waiting for things to just “poof” away or into my life.
But as Daily Light reminds me…
“[He is] the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”—“Who is a teacher like him?”...We walk by faith, not by sight.—Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.—Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
That is what I’ve been called to…to learn from Him, to trust His ways, to walk by faith and not require sight, to seek what is lasting and wage war against my soul…against my sin and flesh…from now until the day I pass from the temporal to the eternal.
Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Thy mind in Thy Word, of neglect to seek Thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless Thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do Thou rule over me in liberty and power.
I thank Thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with Thy patient work, answering 'no' to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.
No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction.
May I also ask, Lord, for you to give me the words to express the burden on my heart…to put aside my selfishness and write what is true…what is edifying…what glorifies you.
A couple of months ago my church had a time of teaching and prayer on the topic of abortion. Needless to say, it was a very emotional time. It was also a monumental day for me, as it was the first time I ever brought any word or prayer before the whole congregation. I remember sitting in my chair, praying and then suddenly I heard a word, and a phrase from scripture (though I wasn’t certain until I looked it up). My heart started pounding and I knew I had to go…so I did. The word the Lord gave me was very different from what He was saying to everyone else. Most of the other words and prayer was centered on the mothers and the unborn…mine was for the men. Specifically, that the Lord would do a work in the hearts of men…raise up a generation of men that would make abortion unnecessary.
Just typing that, I can feel that burden again.
Let me say that I know it “takes two to tango” and if there are two people involved in any situation there are two sinners to contend with. However, I also believe that if men are men…men as God defines them and designed them to be…they set the tone for the relationship, and lead and protect the woman. Their leadership can prevent “unwanted” pregnancies and, hence, abortion.
Men being men will also prevent another rising epidemic in society…single motherhood.
Recently, I went to the home of a woman who was babysitting for my nieces. She is single, with a teenage daughter who has a 2 year-old son. Both are single parents…neither of the fathers are around. My sister-in-law had her first child at 17 with a man whom she found out later had many other children with many other girls. Her sister had her first child at 14. Their father left the family shortly after she (and the other two triplets) were born. None of these men contributed to the support or raising of their children.
Not a day goes by when I don’t see some example of this…and can’t help asking over and again…“Where are all the men?”
As a single woman, that question has a slightly different meaning to me - an admittedly somewhat selfish meaning - and effects my life a bit differently. But whatever selfishness there is in me, there is also a godly desire for that which God desires and ordained from the beginning. That which I lack…that which I see so many lacking.
God designed them to lead, because WE need to be led. He designed them to provide so that we could create a home. He designed them to be protectors, because we NEED protection. And he designed woman to help him, because one can’t do it alone.
Admittedly, men do have the greater burden. He is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church and lay his life down for her. He is responsible for supporting and providing for a wife and their children, which pretty much amounts to handing over his paycheck to someone else. And he accomplishes this by spending the bulk of his day AWAY from the family, which can lead to conflict. So, ladies, mothers are not the only ones called to be selfless.
Perhaps this call is exactly why so many men seem capable of the excessive selfishness which leads to abandonment and abortion. It is a heavy mantle, especially when the woman isn’t shouldering hers. The two have to work together to be successful.
Let me also say, that I am privileged to know MANY families that are successful. Many men who are family-oriented…who put their own hobbies and wants aside for the sake of their kids…who actually enjoy being with them more than they do X-box or fishing or watching TV. It is a joy to know them and see the fruit of their devotion and obedience to the Lord in their call as husbands and fathers. It gives me hope for the next generation.
What also gives me hope is that God knows and has a perfect plan even for the sin which has resulted in single-motherhood or extended singleness in men and women. And his intention is for our respective sanctification and His glory. How gracious of him to intend good and blessing even when it would seem that our own sin or someone else’s has doomed us or permanently altered the plan. And how good to know that there is NO SUCH THING as an altered plan when there is a sovereign, omniscient and kind God!
Lord, I do lift us these missing men…these men that by their absence or lack create teenage mothers, necessitate abortions, burden the welfare department. I know there is forgiveness and that you are bigger…AND that you intend even the worst of these circumstances for the good. Raise up men who will be men…who will honor you in their choices…who will step up and put on the mantle you have ordained for them. Also, make us women receptive to their response…submissive to their leadership…and prepare us to be the helpers you created us to be.
Monday, July 25, 2005
So, I've been making a very concerted effort to exercise everyday. I had been doing Taebo, but wanted a change and the only other tapes I have are by Richard Simmons. So for the last couple of days, that's what I've been doing.
I don't do them too often...not because of who he is or how he dresses (though I have issues with that)...I can't do them too often because at some point I always start to cry.
It's crazy I know, but true. I'll be there following along with the DiscoSweat or something, trying not to laugh when he attempts to dance, ignoring the shaved legs and his use of the word "sparkle" and suddenly I am choked up. It is usually just after he says "You're doing it!" or "I'm snapping for yoooou!"
It makes no sense to me. The man is ridiculous...he wears spangled tanks, short shorts and has the white man's equivalent of an afro...how I can cry rather than laugh is beyond me!
And as I typed that I heard "man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."
I don't know where he is with the Lord...from what I can surmise about his life, I would tend to think he has "god on his terms" (which may or may not involve the gospel). Nevertheless, God made him...died for him...and is using him (right where he is and right where I am) to get me (and countless others) up and moving.
Though I do tend to cry as I exercise with Richard, I still do enjoy his workouts more than any others I've ever done. Maybe it is just because I know he knows what its like to be fat or because I can tell he genuinely wants to help people. I don't know...but maybe the next time I get choked up I won't worry so much about why and be thankful that by God's grace I'm "doing it!" and that Richard even cares to snap for me.
And, perhaps, pray for him?
Sure beats stopping altogether...or laughing at him, right? Because if you think about it...really think about it...it really is the opposite of funny!
He is a fellow New Orleanian...here we peddle vain traditions and self-indulgence and tend not to see how they contradict the gospel. In fact it is only by God's grace that ANY see the truth. Perhaps that is where he is and thinks he is ok...or perhaps he is in Christ and just hasn't been conformed into His image yet. Only God knows the hearts of men...only the Shepherd knows his sheep...and only the sheep hear His voice. I guess that is a good place to start praying...that Richard would hear the voice of God, whether it be for the first time or not. That he would hear His voice and become conformed, either by surrendering his life and being born again OR by repenting and walking in truth with the Lord.
My uncle showed up at our house one day with a 9 week old golden retriever puppy. She had been a gift from a man my uncle met on the job. Unfortunately, the woman my uncle was married to had 2 toy poodles who were terrified by this playful giant of a dog…so he brought her to us. My dad couldn’t refuse, especially after we pointed out that she had the same color hair as our youngest brother, Timmy, who was at that time rolling on the ground with his new friend. And so Samantha became a part of our family that day.
I was never crazy about the name…but it didn’t matter because I called her any and everything else. Sam, Mantha, Mant, Big Girl, Big Big, Honey, Honey Girl, Honeybabygirl, Honeybunchesofoats, …and sometimes HoneyHoneyHoney (real fast and in the highest pitched voice I could muster). Whenever she’d hear me say that, she’d stop and her legs would start going, trying to run as fast as she could to get to me. It was especially funny when she was inside on the linoleum…just picture Scooby and Shaggy trying to run from a ghost.
Needless to say…I LOVED this dog. I loved her more than I loved any person up to that point in my life (she came long before I had nieces). She was the best dog. She trained herself to potty outside, never got on the furniture (in fact if I tried to sneak her up she did so very unwillingly), she loved her bath and was about as loving as you can get. She also never lost her puppyness, even when she had achy joints, she’d fight through it to play.
After 13 years of pure joy with her, things suddenly changed. She stopped eating…had no energy…and didn’t even get up to greet me at the door. Being the amateur vet that I am, I did a quick inspection and noticed her eyes and insides of her ears were yellow. That meant one thing to me…liver failure. I took her to the vet to be sure. They wouldn’t say the words…they ran tests and kept her for days and put her on an iv…and ran up the tab. Finally, I had to say the words to the vet and she said “well, yes.” Of course there was no cure…no reversing the damage…no possibility for even partial recovery outside of a transplant. So I had to make that decision…and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I did it. On a very hot Saturday in June, I carried her into the vets office and said goodbye. We brought her back home and buried her outside my old bedroom window. I couldn’t watch. I was a mess…for weeks after I could barely talk about it.
I grieved for her like I’d never grieved before or since.
Up until this weekend I was sure I would never see her again. I knew people like to think “all dogs go to heaven” but I couldn’t find a passage in scripture that explicitly told me that. A friend reminded me this weekend that there isn’t one that says otherwise either. But, being who I am, I had to look it up.
In my research I found a really good article on the subject which has the added bonus of a John Piper poem in the text, which reads:
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
The gist of the article is this: there will be animals on the new earth, God is the giver of good gifts, and He is extravagantly kind…so why wouldn’t some of these animals be our pets?
Very true. I guess the point for me is…if you can’t know for certain…and there is no biblical prohibition or contradiction…why not believe the best?
As I watched a dog competition on TV with one of my brother’s Saturday, a commercial came on and in it…a dog very similar to my Honeygirl. My eyes filled with tears as I sighed out “Honey.” If just seeing a similar dog on TV has that effect on me, what might it be like if one day, I am standing on the New Earth and I hear that familiar whine and look down at my legs to see her leaning against me (her version of a hug, I suppose)?
Like Piper, I would be “was on the brink Of endless joy.”
You can read the article “Do dogs go to heaven?” by Randy Alcorn, here:
Saturday, July 23, 2005
I read this as I waited for my friends to meet me for dinner and it came back to me a few times as we talked. As each of us shared things from our lives…hardships, current tests, past joys…it was almost as if I could feel the breeze blowing and smell the fragrance of God on their lives. None of us always do things right…and each of us have regrets over choices (past and present) and wish we had considered the Lord more than we considered ourselves at times. But as we spoke, we were also reminded of God’s sovereignty and purpose, how He pulls the tiniest, seemingly insignificant details together to direct the course of our lives…how if just one of them were left out we wouldn’t be where we are…we might not even know Him. We were also reminded of how grateful we are for where we are and what we have been spared from…and I am sure we are each grateful that we have walked through so much of that knowing that our Savior was very near, a very present help, and ever lives to intercede for us.
As I drove home, I thought about my own life…all I’ve been given, all He has accomplished and all He has withheld. For my good and His glory. I thought about how many things I would prefer to be different…and also how the Lord has met me right there and showed me the kindness of each denial and how much doing without has taught me about the Lord and my own heart…how much of my sanctification has come through denial. It reminded me of something else from A Chance to Die…
And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my FatherUntil it be according unto mine?
Ah! No, Lord, No, that never shall be! RatherI pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.
I pray Thee hush the hurried, eager longings;I pray Thee sooth the pangs of keen desire.
See, in my quiet places, wishes thronging, Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.
And work in me to will, and do Thy pleasure'Til all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content, my Well-Beloved's leisure;At last, at last, even as a weaned child.
Amy faced many denials…many trials…many losses and much suffering. I am certain at times she was shaken and could see no way for things to work out. But she didn’t have to SEE…she KNEW. She knew the Lord was and would always be faithful and that His promise was that ALL things would work together for the good. She also “knew where to turn to regain her footing, first to her God and then to thoughts of others.”
It is amazing the effect taking one’s eyes off “self” has. Surely, as Jesus bore our sin, He wasn’t thinking of the lashes on His back or the weight of the cross or the nails that were waiting to be pounded into His perfect flesh. He was thinking of us…of the “joy set before Him”…the salvation of our souls.
Lord teach me this lesson…to go to you and think of others when I am tempted to think only of myself. Teach me to seek and see evidences of your wind on my life…whether it is a comforting breeze or a chilling wind…and be thankful for the fragrance you leave in your wake.
Friday, July 22, 2005
I’ve also been listening to a message on Humility by C.J. Mahaney all week which I guess has primed me to respond in a more intense way to the thoughts the Lord is stirring up in me…and to what I’ve been reading.
Part of my morning readings has been in Romans (the past couple of days in chapters 6-8)…and then there is the ever faithful Elisabeth Elliot devotions and Daily Light.
This is what I read this morning:
The Fruit of Forgiveness
Every day I am forgiven for many sins of many kinds, and although on the one hand forgiveness seems such an impossible thing (but grace is greater than all my sin), on the other hand I receive it often without wonder and nearly always without offering any "fruit."
When the Lord punished Israel, Isaiah wrote: "Only then can the fruit of his forgiveness be shown: they must smash their stone altars into pounded chalk" (Is 27:9 JBP).
When I acknowledge a specific sin, it is a good thing to do something specific to demonstrate my determination to forsake it. Smash an altar, sacrifice an hour of sleep or a meal (if the sin has been, e.g., failure to do what I want to do "because I haven't time"), write a note of apology to one sinned against, make restitution in some way for a wrong. To arise and obey in such a particular act is an appropriate sign of the genuineness of my repentance--the fruit of forgiveness.
The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
He . . . was numbered with the transgressors.—Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many.—He himself bore MY sins in his body on the tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds I have been healed. (WHEW! Can’t read that today without getting choked up!)—By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.— 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.—Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Even more reminders of the truths the Lord revealed yesterday…sin is not an inevitability for the believer. When I read words like “die to sin and live to righteousness” “uttermost” “ceased to sin” I know that though temptation is certain… I do not have to give in…EVER…because he “lives to make intercession for” me! Jesus had His cross…which for the joy set before him (our salvation and fellowship) he bore with joy. My cross, which He commanded I take up daily (to do as Paul says and die daily), is to live in this world surrounded by temptation, desiring to seek my own and have my way, and deny myself and follow (obey, submit to and chose to honor) Him…in all my ways…not just in a few things…not just in the easy stuff…not just by going to church or NOT doing things on a certain list…across the board, even into the inward parts…even when no one is looking…and especially when it is hard.
Sounds impossible, right?
It is…for with man it is impossible, but with God…WITH GOD…ALL things are possible…most especially holiness because He wills it!
Lord, make me holy as you are holy. Hear my cry and have your way. Bring the dross to the top and scoop it away, sift me that the chaff might float away in the breeze never to return. Continue to humble me and make me smaller in my own sight…I must decrease and you must increase! For your glory and by your power…have your way, Lord! And give me faith to stand regardless!
Thursday, July 21, 2005
“Last week was a struggle.”
“For the past few months I’ve been struggling with…”
At least once a week I hear (and probably say) some variation of the quotes above. I never thought anything of it…of course we struggle with stuff. We live in a fallen world and deal with indwelling sin…it is only natural that we will struggle with it, right?
I don't think so.
I believe scripture bears this out…and I know I have been taught that it is possible for us (through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit) to be holy as He is holy, that is…to be tempted by sin and yet not sin…consistently…even always. Yet my friends and I continually use this struggle word and think that is to a degree OK or expected. We say it without a thought of what we are really saying, which is “I’ve been sinning lately.” “Last week, I was defeated by sin many times.” “For the past few months I’ve been habitually sinning.”
Pretty sobering when you put it that way.
This morning I read a devotion that deals with this very topic. It is from Elisabeth Elliot and reads:
You Can't Keep Both Eyes
A young man was delivered from a life of self-destruction in the form of drug abuse. He turned from his old ways, but of course was pursued by the enemy and tempted back. It was clear to him that he could not afford to be lenient with himself in allowing the least indulgence in the old habit. One day he said to his pastor, "Don't ever allow me to use the word 'struggle.' Every time I use it I am excusing disobedience, I am really preferring to 'struggle' rather than to quit."
Jesus made this necessity sharply clear when He said, "If it is your eye that is your undoing, tear it out and fling it away; it is better to enter into life with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into the fires of hell" (Mt 5:29).
To struggle--that is, to allow a "little bit" of sin, to be cautious with ourselves, tolerant of a certain amount of plain disobedience, is to try to keep both eyes.
Jesus’ solution to sinful behavior was amputation…you don’t get much more radical than that!! Shouldn’t we then be equally as radical in eradicating the offensive things from our lives…shouldn’t we then practice spiritual amputation?
That verse prompts me to ask myself…
What do I look at that offends?
Cut it off!
What do I do in the course of a day that offends?
Cut it off!
What do I say that offends?
Cut it off!
Lord let me not continue in sin…let me not continue to pretty it up by using words like “struggle, stumble or fall”, let me see it as you do, call it by its true name, and cut it out of my life! Only you can produce Holiness and only by your power can I be faithful. Be strong, for I am weak and help me to be Holy as you are Holy. To speak rightly and obey…all the time…without hesitation…without interruption, for your glory and your Name’s sake.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
When was the last time you had a moment like the one above…where all you could do was cry out in awe about the mysteries and glory of God? When was the last time you read something in the Word and thought… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it (Ps 139:6) or just had to stop like Paul did in Romans and say “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways (Ro 11:33)!” I confess I don’t have near enough moments like that. Which begs the question…Why?
Why is my time with the Lord not typified by moments like that?
The only answer I can come up with is Pride.
If I am really honest, I have to admit that I don’t always treat the word or my time in prayer with the significance it deserves. I don’t always exhibit my complete dependence on God and His word…I don’t always value it as the very bread of life. I don’t always go into that time aware and acknowledging that The Mediator makes it possible…and what He had to suffer to do it. In doing so, I arrogantly approach God…on my terms…seemingly on my own merit.
"How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?" - Carl Henry
Lord help me to be ever mindful of the cross and the impact it has had on my life…the bridge it has created for me to get to you…a bridge paved with the suffering and blood of the only good, righteous and worthy One. Thank you for Jesus…thank you for the mediator you have provided…thank you for the reconciliation you purchased for me through Him. Help me to be in awe that I am allowed to be in your word, to speak your name, to lay my burdens at your feet and hear your voice. May I be ever mindful of the cross and continually humbled before you.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”—There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.—“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy.”—“Hallowed be your name.”
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”
Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”—“I have granted help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.”
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory.
Psalm 139 1O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Isaiah 66 1Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Deuteronomy 10:12"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?
Romans 4: 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
1 Peter 1: 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
How can anyone be arrogant when he stands next to the cross? - Carl Henry
The cross underminds our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with bowed head and broken spirit. - John Stott
On July 19, 2004 the Lord began a great, wholly unbelievable thing. In great kindness He convicted me of the sin of gluttony and general self-indulgence and set about putting me on the path to repentance and freedom. One year later I am humbled and in great awe of all He has accomplished. Time and again, as people notice the physical change, they marvel at my self-control and discipline and time and time again I have to shake my head and give glory to the ONLY one to whom it belongs.
I am not a self-controlled person. There are still areas that I need discipline in, badly. Yet though there are long-standing habits and patterns of sin that are no longer a part of my life and haven’t been for a year…I know that their absence has nothing to do with me and therefore I am utterly and completely incapable of getting any other area under control. But, He is infinitely capable…and like He has done this past year (starting me on a plan I would never have chosen and using it to affect change in what I saw as completely un-related areas), He can and will do the same – above and beyond all I could hope or imagine – in these other areas of my life.
To commemorate the one year mark, I took photos of myself. I didn’t really want to take them. Since my last set of progress photos in March I haven’t lost more than 10 or 15 pounds. I spent most of that time on a plateau and have only recently begun to lose again. All the while, people continued to comment on how I looked and that they could still see I was losing. I thought they were just being nice. When I compared the one year pictures to the ones from March, I was shocked. There really was a difference and they really weren’t just being nice…
Still, when I look in the mirror, I see what I’ve always seen. And as my last post exemplifies, my thoughts are also still affected by my perception of myself. In both things, the Lord is faithful to give me glimpses of truth and eyes of faith to expose the lie and strengthen me. He has also been faithful to humble me and show me the pride that underlies my thoughts and feelings.
The past two weeks have been very swirly with thoughts and feelings contrary to the truth of God. My heart has been filled many times with yearnings for things that the Lord has determined to deny me right now. The truth is that He is kind to do so…His character prevents Him from being otherwise. The truth is also that I tend to focus more on the denial than the kindness.
Lord forgive me…you have done much…much more than I deserve. Thank you for your kindness in denials and in things I easily regard as blessings. Please help me to trust you more than I trust my ability to rightly assess my circumstances. Fix my eyes and heart on you…change my heart so that my motives will be for your glory and not my own. Forgive my weariness in doing good…and thank you that your response what to encourage rather than chastise. You are too good to me! I do not deserve your kindness and favor, yet you give it. Remind me of this that I might be grow in humility. Thank you for what you have done this year...and for what you are doing it for.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Despite the rough start to the week with my nephew and the less than restful nights, I really am going to be sad when this week is over. I feel like this is what I was made for...though this week has more than confirmed that I would never want to be a single parent. Having a daddy to send them to when they refuse to stop fussing or just an extra set of hands to help get the kids in and out of the car along with all of their stuff would have been priceless this week.
Nevertheless, I will miss the smiles and cuddles in the morning, having others to care for, and even having to clean bottles and juggle sleeping toddler, baby carrier, purse and diaper bag (not to mention my vbs supplies) in the summer heat.
This week has been less spiritual than normal...I have had less time to spend with the Lord, less time to spend in specific and purposeful prayer and less time to even think spiritually...its all been reflex and response, really. But sitting still last night during bible study showed me that it really was spiritual on many levels. The Lord showed me that I am self-reliant...yet also how many of my reflexes have been changed by His grace. He showed me how kind He was to keep marriage and children from me up to this point because of all He has done in me to make me a better wife and mother when that time comes. And, he showed me that all the preparation and learning about marriage and raising a family will ultimately do no good if I don't pray. I was deeply convicted on this score last night.
44 days ago, the Lord led me to both set aside and incorporate various things in my life. One of those things was praying about marriage and for my husband whomever he may be. I failed miserably. In fact there are many things I want badly, that are important to me that get very little prayer time. I was so overcome I had to leave the class and compose myself (and deal with my nose). It wasn't that I didn't pray about marriage and so I am no closer to it than I was last month that upset me...it was what the lack or inability to pray says about the condition of my heart and the reality of my faith. That was truly and profoundly disappointing.
A friend challenged me to look in scripture for verses that proclaim God's trustworthiness...as I caught up on my reading this morning I spotted at least 5 or 6. I "know" He is...I guess, though, somehow my mind has not been fully renewed in this department or something. And I also know that this isn't a back track or delay...but part of the plan so no time has been lost that He did not know about and plan for. I might not have really heard last night's message if I had been successful in praying during the 40-day thing. I am chosing to be grateful and determining to be faithful despite what I see...what I think...what I feel...what I can dream up or imagine...how much time passes...how slowly the weight comes off...how disinterested or unmotivated the men around me seem...how loudly my biological clock ticks...and no matter how severely my heart aches when I have to return the kiddos to their rightful owners.
Thursday, July 7, 2005
My friend and I sat in her kitchen separated by a length of table and a generation…yet in that moment, our lives didn’t seem all that different. There we sat, two woman desiring God’s will for our lives and yet desiring what we desired, and fighting to submit and be content. As we talked, she related to me a recent struggle with an attraction to a somewhat older, and also single man.
“I have prayed about it,” she said, “and asked the Lord if this isn’t of Him to take it away.”
I had prayed that prayer before, too…many times.
“I don’t know if God answers prayers like that.” I said. “It has never been my experience that He removes things which require us to stand and obey…which eventually build our faith and character. In fact, it has been my experience that He puts them there and leaves them there on purpose.”
After a pause, she admitted she tended to agree. We talked about the motive of a prayer like that…how it is purely selfish and does not glorify the Lord at all. We want it easy. But if the Lord removed all fleeting emotions and temptations to sin, how would our faith mature and grow? We would be a weak and pathetic people, indeed.
I left feeling like I’d done something good for my friend by helping her fix her eyes on the tester rather than the test, and remove a bit more of herself out of this area of her life.
Little did I know I was being set up for my own test.
A few days later I was faced with a reality. I was shown that my estimation of a situation was what I believed it wasn't. It made me feel very much like Alice's cat, Dinah, as she listened to Alice explain her idea of a perfect world:
"Everything would be what it isn't and contrarywise, what it is it wouldn't be and what it wouldn't be it would." —Alice, Alice in Wonderland
I was perplexed...and wished the Lord would just make it go away. But it didn’t take long for me to see that I was masterfully set-up. Here I was in a position to pray that selfish kind of prayer (which is also sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy – when the Lord doesn’t take it away we can assume the thing is His will and give ourselves leave to go after it full force and justify sin) so I knew I couldn’t. I knew I just had to stand…churning stomach, spinning head and all. I also had to ‘fess. Now I wasn’t confessing to something I’d been concealing…this realization caught me completely by surprise. I was confessing or acknowledging the truth and opening myself up for accountability as I stood. I was also humbling myself by going to my friends and saying that this thing I’ve been oblivious to, even denied was there for a while now, in fact is an issue. (For those keeping up…this is the same “shaking and scary” thing I mentioned in a previous post.)
Do I even need to say that none of my friends were surprised?
NONE. Not one.
For a moment there I didn’t know who I was! And now I can’t help but be thankful for moments like that when I am shaken and my confidence in my ability to ascertain reality or what is in my heart is shattered, because it makes me realize who is the real judge and discerner of the hearts of men…whose reality I need to bow to...whose truth I need to trust.
I was still reeling a bit from this as I spent some time with the Lord this morning…wondering what this would look like as I walked it out…what this realization would change…how I would respond to it as the days and weeks go by. When I got to work, I read Daily Light and here is what it said:
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.—“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Reading it again now, I am sort of choked up. There is nothing new under the sun…or anything too big for Him to overcome…nothing I can walk into that does not also have a way for me to escape…and His power in me is made perfect in weakness.
Made perfect in weakness. Wow.
Lord I AM weak…be strong that I might stand in obedience for your glory!
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
I know what you’re thinking…”Finally she is quoting someone other than Amy Carmichael!!!” Well, yes…but I did come across it reading A Chance to Die yesterday. So it is still indirectly from my Amma. :)
I am so easily side-tracked. Let me quote that again…
"Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption.”
I don’t know that I can put into words what this prayer means to me…the effect it had on me. Without boring you by laying my heart completely bare and spilling all of its contents on this page…suffice it to say I was hit with a realization that was surprising to me, yet plainly obvious to everyone else. It shook me and scared me a bit.
Actually I had a lot of “shaking and scary” moments this weekend.
The specifics are not important, really but if you care enough, just go down the list in your head: family, friends, work, home, finances, car, weight, love, prayer, matters of habit, effective service, …just everything…I was either tested, stretched or shown my lack in all of these and more over the course of the past 3 days. I was also freshly confronted with my complete inability to carry out even the smallest act of obedience on my own! Freshly reminded that his grace and his grace alone is what keeps me on solid ground and from plunging headlong over the cliff, freefalling into sin with abandon.
He has put his bit and bridle in my mouth and has broken me…though I do buck from time to time, though there are moments when I want to break out into a gallop or go down another path, He keeps me on course by His word and His truth and the power of His spirit. And I am so thankful!
Yet, I would very much like less of this being reigned in by force…by humbling or having the proverbial anvil dropped on my head. I would like very much to know obedience prompted by love, and without interruption. I would like to see something coming… a stray thought, a fleeting emotion, a habitual reflex …and by His might and because of His love - STOP.
Which reminds me of something directly from Amma:
"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."
That is what I want...to see the shadow and shut the door...not let it saunter in and walk around a while and then fight to shove it out! I know I will never be perfect, but I should like to try as best I can…to be Holy as He is holy…and to have to repent less. To flee from shadows more than I have to fight off sin.
Friday, July 1, 2005
A friend of mine gave me an article on things for couples to consider before they get married. The title of it read:
Should They Get Married?
Should She Marry Him?
That really struck me…why not “Should He Marry Her?” or better…”Should Someone Marry Me?”
That was what stuck with me…the question…”Am I marriable?”
As I pondered this, Proverbs 31 came to mind. Until about a year and a half ago, this was a passage of scripture that I grudgingly skipped over. It was for married women and I was DECIDEDLY NOT MARRIED (can you hear the tone??)…therefore I didn’t need to read it. Then I would huffily turn the page.
It was very sad. And I am so thankful that I am not there anymore!
Anyway, I heard someone explain this passage in a way that was totally new to me. This was written by a mother to her unmarried son. It was an acrostic poem intended to help him FIND an excellent wife. So…the character traits portrayed by the wife in this passage are character traits he was expected to look for … in a SINGLE woman. Of course the application of those traits would be different for a woman living as a single vs. a woman living as a wife, mother and homemaker…but the traits should be there.
I had a little time to sit and read and ponder this last night. I read over the proverb and then wrote down the character traits that I saw in this woman. What I saw was that she was: trustworthy, does her husband good ALL the days of her life (not just sometimes or after they are married), works and serves others willingly, isn’t concerned with her own care or comfort, strength and character are her adornment, she sees that she has been given something of worth and used it, helps the needy in practical ways, isn’t afraid of life’s extremes and is prepared for them, presents herself well, reflects well on all closely connected with her, doesn’t fret about – but rather, rejoices in the future, tends her home well, fears the Lord.
Let me add here that this isn't "The Rules" for nabbing a husband. My motivation in reading this and thinking on these things isn't to learn how to trap myself a man. I do believe that the Lord would have me marry...though I know I can't be certain of that where I am now. And, while I do want to prepare for marriage as best I can, I also want to make the most of the time the Lord gives me as a single...to do as Paul says we are to do and make our main focus the things of the Lord. I don't want to wait for some life-altering event...or even wait for a man...to get serious about being the woman God intends me to be. I want to be about that now and seek Him on how He would have me express my femininity where He has me at this point in time, irregardless of what the future brings.
All of that was in my heart as I wrote a list of questions to ask myself about where I am with all of the character traits I saw in the Proverbs 31 woman. When I got the end I looked over them and knew that I’d be spending some time with the Lord on this. I think it is important for us (at every stage of life) to sort of take an inventory of who we are in Christ. The Lord has given us this portrait of a woman who is to be praised…because of her Fear of the Lord and the resultant life of obedience and honor to Him. I think it would be good for all of us to regularly stand next to that standard and see how we measure up…asking the Lord for His direction and Spirit to keep us from falling into condemnation AND to give us the faith to accept and act on His correction or reproof.
I know at the end of my time with the Lord I likely have had a few painful or shameful moments…but I also know that He corrects those He loves…He wounds and He heals…and He intends it all for my good and His glory. It is purposeful and not merely to inflict wounds…nor is it intended to lead to discouragement…but hope that He never starts anything He doesn’t intend to finish or tear down something He doesn’t intend to replace with something better.
I will type in the questions I asked myself…I think they apply to any woman, really and hope they are of some help or inspiration to you.
Am I trustworthy?
Am I doing my husband good…at home…in my thoughts…emotions…finances…in prayer and in my relationships?
Do I work and serve willingly?
Am I more concerned with my own care and comfort than with what is required of me?
Do I exhibit or am I cultivating strength of character?
Do I see how God has blessed and gifted me and fit me for services?
Do I consider those giftings valuable and use them?
Do I readily open my hand to those in need…or do I “just” pray or feel compassion and not follow up with any action?
Am I prepared practically and spiritually for life’s extremes?
Do I present myself well?
Do I reflect well on those closely connected to me? (or do they suffer “guilt by association”?)
Do I rejoice or fret over the future?
Do I tend my home (car, work) well?
Am I making a home or is it just a crash pad/storage shed?
Do I fear the Lord?
Questions I thought to ask regarding this are:
Do I pray?
Do I conduct myself in public and private in a way that glorifies the Lord?
Do I study, memorize and apply His word?
Do I live as if His return was imminent?
Do I respond humbly to correction and chastisement?
Do I truly believe that He alone is my provider, sustainer, and protector …my comfort, joy and strength?
Again, (and I am reminding myself here, too) the aim is not discouragement or condemnation…it is to humbly submit oneself to the Lord and be open to what He has to say…and how He would have us respond.
“For those who bow down low…he’ll lift up to His side..”