Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Unlike my normal mornings, things start with turning on the news. Ordinarily I could care less about current events...sad, but true...and my TV is rarely on. In fact, the last time I watched the news was during the last hurricane scare.
Each day...sometimes, each hour...the news just gets worse. Levees are breaking and weakening, pumps threatening to go out and the tide still hasn't gone down. Even when it does go down, only so much water will go with it, the rest will have to be pumped out. If the pumps fail, they will need to be repaired first. It could be a week or two before we can even go home to see what the damage is. We will be displaced for months.
As I said in yesterday's post...it all sorta hit me yesterday as I was finally able to get in touch with friends. But as I also said, the Lord has been very faithful and very near and for that I am so greatful.
I can see both His prior work of preparation and His current hand of provision. I can also see some of what He is trying to teach me right now. Namely, He (not the company I work for or my parents or anyone else) is my provision...He (not friends or family) is my comfort...He (not my church or teachers I respect) is my teacher...He (again, not friends or family) is my rock, what plants my feet on solid ground, the cleft of the rock I am to run to in the midst of the storm. Also, what I do, say, think, feel, express...how I respond to people and circumstances can either commend Him or dishonor His name to those I am with. And I have had many opportunities to be reminded of and practice that. Even in the emotional day yesterday, I tried to be courteous and remember that I was being watched.
So with all of that swirling in my head, I went to my time with the Lord. This is what I read:
He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. (Job 37:11-13)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
I can't add anything to that...and am jus thankful again for how consistent He has been to remind me of His truth.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Not only does his anguish break my heart, but I am also humbled by the fact that no one I know has a story like that. We have all gotten out safe and are protected.
Another reason for the emotion is that some of the reality of what lies ahead is hitting me. I don't mean the financial aspects - though that is a concern - I mean that it may be anywhere from a month to 4 months (on the conservative side) before life starts to get back to normal and I get to see all my friends and family again on a regular basis. Because of the nature of my dad's job, it might be that long before he is with us, as well.
I was also able to get in touch with many of my friends for the first time today...so that is yet another reason for the emotion.
My eyes are a bit swollen, and hurt a little. But still, the Lord is very near.
I spoke with my small group leader and his wife earlier today and we were just sharing about what the Lord has been showing and saying over the past few days. I told him about how I could see prior preparation for this and how very near the Lord has been during this time.
About 2 years ago, while listening to John Piper's poem on the book of Job, I prayed this prayer:
"Lord, whatever I have to give up or you have to take away to get me where you want me to be, do it." That has been a consistent theme in my prayer time...yet being the woman of flesh that I am I know there are things He's shown me that needed to go that I held on to. Yet still I prayed. I joked with my group leader saying "I didn't know when I prayed that it would bring a hurricane."
I don't know that it is really that much of a joke though.
Certainly I can't know for sure that this storm and its effects is God's answer to my prayer...I do know that His ways are not my ways and it is not outside the realm of possiblity, at least I can not rule out that His intention for me in this is to "get there."
I pray I respond appropriately.
Even with that revelation, the Lord continues to show me how tightly I cling to "my stuff". Just before typing this my sister-in-law was talking to my uncle about job opportunities here in Dallas. My uncle was encouraging her to look into it. I hollared from the other room "Don't convince her to move here with the babies (the kiddos)!" In my heart I said "We;ve lost everything else, I can't lose the kids too." But I know that is not the heart attitude I should have. I should even hold my nieces and nephew loosely and not insist that we live 5 minutes away from each other always. The Lord knows what is best and He is at work...I need to trust Him more.
Thank you Lord for showing me my heart, for continually revealing what is there and being so faithful to speak your truth to me. Thank you also for my friends and family, for their safety and for allowing us to stay in touch though we are spread all over. Please lead, guide and direct us and continue to keep us connected and united. We are your body whether we are in the same town or across the country. Also, be glorified in our response to what you have chosen to deprive us of...let me glorify you in what you chose to deprive me of...and help us to surrender to your ways whatever that looks like.
If this wasn't the big one, the thought of what that might be is frightening.
In truth this wasn't the big one. The area where I live (just outside of New Orleans) and the city itself were only grazed by this monster of a storm, and though it is gone from us, the effects remain and worsen. Levess are breaking, buildings are collapsing under the strain of floodwaters, and the places we called home are now more like cesspools. And not just homes, but grocery stores, hospitals, churches...everything is either partially or completely covered in water. Conservative estimates say that we should be able to get home to survey the damage and begin clean-up by Friday or Monday at the earliest...power may take up to 2 months to restore.
So is it all bad news?
No. It isn't
This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians 4..."we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perlexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
I was greatful for the reminder. As I read that, I felt the Lord also reminding me of how much preparation He has done in me and my life for this. Over the past year or so, my desire for material things, attachment to my stuff, preoccupation with my own comfort has lessened. The Lord also took me through a period of stern attitude adjustment regarding my job.
Honestly, that has been my biggest concern in all of this. If the city is without power for month I can't work. If I can't work, I don't get paid. I will need money to survive and pay remaining bills like car insurance (if I still have a car) and cell phone and my student loan. But again, the Lord was faithful to show me months ago (and remind me this morning) that He is my provision, not my employer. He also reminded me that I work for civil engineers so they will have plenty of work on their hands in the months to come...so at least I will have a job to go back to.
I've been asking me to remind me of His mercies and His goodness because if I lose sight of that and the potential loss or fears become my focus, I will lose it...and my lost family will not see the treasure I have and will not see the surpassing greatness of my God.
We've been so blessed here in Dallas. My family's kindness has been amazing. We are staying in a "spare" house they have here. As we were driving from the spare house to my uncle's house my niece wanted to sing. She likes to sing two songs with me "Jesus" and "Hands". That is "Jesus Loves Me" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." We sang Jesus first and I could see my mom's face harden...then we sang "hands"
"He's got the wind and rain, in His hands..."
I could barely sing it. But was so grateful for that testimony and prayed silently that the Lord would let those words penetrate my mom's hardening heart.
Please pray for us. First for me that my focus would be on Christ and remember His kindness and point that out and praise Him aloud. That I would be faithful to the Lord through this...no matter what we go home to...and that He would be faithful to not let His word return void. Pray for my family, that the Lord would use this to draw them in rather than push them away and that His kindness would be evident to them. Pray for my friends and church family as almost all of them will come home to loss as well. And pray that the word of prophesy given last year will come to pass...that this loss and devastation will cause revival and purity. That he has stripped all away not to exercise His wrath, but as a means of grace and restoration to bring us to the place we need to be...for His purpose and glory.
I had to walk away from the computer to help my sister-in-law with the kids. I got my youngest niece and fed her a bottle and put her to sleep. As I rocked her, I sang "Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I've proved Him over and over. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for grace to trust Him more.
Lord, give me that grace...give it to all of us. Though you flood us and take our homes and every earthly thing...may we hope in and praise you. May our praise rise like incense to you...and be a light to those in darkness. May it proclaim your surpassing greatness and power and goodness!
Monday, August 29, 2005
Is there damage?
Yes. (But the damage in these photos are not typical.)
Is there flooding?
Certainly. (This is the interstate interchange right near my church. This underpass gets about 6ft of water during a normal storm...this is somewhere around 20 ft. This is a dramatic photo but not indicative of flooding in the surrounding area.)
Power outages? Yes. Loss of life and property. Sadly, there almost definately has been. But is the soup bowl full to overflowing? No, it would appear not.
Levees have been breeched and at least one broke under the strain. There are some low-lying areas that are under 8-12 feet of water. But, within the city of New Orleans itself I have yet to hear reports of anything over 4-ft, which is not great, but not what they were predicting. Things could worsen, but our city has seen that kind of flooding without hurricanes...so as damage goes it isn't going to be extraordinary.
In yesterday's post I quoted a line from an e-mail I'd been sent the day before. It was from a word of prophesy that had been made and written down a year ago. It said that Ivan was about God's Grace and "Katherine" (or Katrina?) would be about purifying the church. The interpretation of those forwarding it on was that Katrina would destroy New Orleans and that what would be rebuilt would be a city that glorified God and that great revival would come to the churches.
A few weeks ago, I started reading Andrew Murray's Humility. In it he says "it is not sin that hubles most, but grace." One could also say that it is not wrath that humbles most but grace. Perhaps the purity will come because of God's mercy in causing this monster to graze rather than desimate us.
That is what I am praying.
It is my prayer that all believers will begin to say a loud what I read in Job this morning:
"I sinned and perverted what was right and it was not repaid me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit and my life shall look upon the light! (Job 33:27-28)"
Oh, Lord use this kindness to get the hearts of your people completely set on and surrendered to you. Use this kindness to humble us and make us a people that brings glory to your name...that proclaims your goodness before men and by their example and testimony leads others to repentance.
NOTE: After I posted this, I checked my e-mail and saw today's Elisabeth Elliot devotion.
Here it is:
Nothing is Lost
Paul was a man who suffered the loss of everything, according to his own claim. Yet any loss he counted pure gain. The key to this transforming of earthly losses into heavenly gains is love. What do we love? If our hearts are set on people and possessions and position, the loss of those will indeed be irreparable. To the man or woman whose heart is set on Christ no loss on earth can be irreparable.
It may shock us for the moment. We may feel hurt, outraged, desolate, helpless. That is our humanity. But the Lord can show us the "long view," the incalculable gain in spiritual and eternal terms, if we love Him above all. Everything that belongs to us belongs also to Him. Everything that belongs to Him belongs also to us. What, then, can we finally lose? If we lose not Christ Himself, we have finally lost nothing, for He is our treasure and He has our hearts.
Lord, help us as we go back and see what loss has been suffered that all is gain in Christ. Thank you for that promise!
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I typed a big explanation for this quote and somehow lost it all. I will try to re-do this later.
Just FYI for in the meantime...my family and I are safe and with family in Dallas.
Please continue to pray as my father had to stay. He is the administrator for a nursing home and had to stay with the residents.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
He has truly been very merciful to us in New Orleans.
Though it is devastating for a hurricane to hit anywhere, here in New Orleans, we are at more of a disadvantage as we are below sea-level. Our city is bowl shaped and if we are hit, we will be underwater - almost completely - for some time. As the hours wear on here, it is looking worse for us. My family is preparing to leave...though we don't know where to go.
What I do know is God is sovereign and He knows what is going to happen...and like Job I can say "Though he slay me, I will hope in him (Job 13:15)." Or, in this case...though he cover our city in flood waters...i will hope in him. So, in the meantime, as I wait to see the work of His hand, I will pray and ask you to join me...pray that His will would be done and if it is His will, that He would be merciful to us, yet again. It's not a matter of deserving it - for we don't - it's a matter of displaying His kindness and confounding the wise.
Lord, show the people watching the weather and those forcasting it that you alone are God. You make the winds to blow and the rains to fall, you rule Leviathan and can say "peace be still" to this storm. Your will be done, Lord. For your glory and your name sake!
Friday, August 26, 2005
This passage of scripture is often held up as one of the primary examples of the humility of Christ…and with good reason. Not only did he stoop to wash the disciples feet, but he stooped to wash Judas’ feet, knowing what was in Judas’ heart and that he would soon betray Him. He also didn’t regard this act as stooping…and that is the thing that strikes me the most. It is pride that says “This is beneath me.” There is no trace of that in Jesus’ words or actions. His purpose was to bless, and (more importantly) to instruct them (and us) in the way of humility. He says “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (v. 15-16)”
In his book “Humility,” Andrew Murray asserts that “everything is worthless that is not pervaded by deep, true humility towards God and men.”
He goes on to say (and I quote extensively because I could not say it better) “when our heart is set upon this true sanctification [i.e., the humility exemplified by Christ], we shall study each word of Jesus on self-abasement with new zest, and no place will be too low, and no stooping too deep, and no service too mean or too long-continued, if we may but share and prove fellowship with Him who spake ‘I am among you as He that serveth...Brethren, here is the path to the higher life: Down, lower down! Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature, abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and bless.”
Let us be convinced then, as Mr. Murray is…as Christ showed us…that our “one need is humility, and let us believe that what He shows, He gives. What He is, He imparts."
Oh Lord, empty us that you might fill us. Empty us that we may know the humility you have shown and, like you, take the form of a servant, deny ourselves and be a reflection of your goodness.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I saw this picture on another blog and was so struck by it. The abandon…hunger…dependence that this picture evokes is just…very…humbling. I tried to remember the last time that I was postured that way both spiritually and physically – alone in my room reaching out to the Lord with everything I had – and I was hard-pressed to conjure a recent memory.
Why am I not like this woman more often? It is certainly not because I don’t have ample reason to. “He has heard my voice…inclined His ear to me…” why don’t I then desperately call on Him every day?
It’s not that I don’t pray, either…I do. But my prayers are far less impassioned and almost sickly polite. I don’t think they resonate with the realities of who Christ truly is and who I truly am in light of the cross. They don’t say “Lord this very breath I am taking is a gift I don’t deserve! Indeed, you are my breath of life…my everything!” They also don’t communicate the profound truth that God hears…that He has inclined His ear.
I read that phrase and picture God, leaning forward, wanting to hear what I say. I can’t fathom that – and my polite prayer is the proof. Far too often I do not sound like I am speaking to the God of the Universe who could rightly slay me in a moment, yet is merciful enough to not only stay His hand, but draw me into relationship with Him.
Despite my apparent ingratitude, God says “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jer 31:3)“
As tears well in my eyes, all I can think to say is “Thank you, Lord,”
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Last night at my small group meeting we talked about the Old Testament. One of our pastors had recently spoken about the importance of this often neglected portion of the Bible in the life of the believer. He called it the “root of the bible” out of which the New Testament grows. He asserted that one can’t truly understand the New Testament (NT), or the gospel for that matter without the Old Testament (OT). Proof of this is how much of the OT is quoted in the NT. The OT was in actuality the bible of the early believers. Jesus relied on their knowledge of the bible in His teachings, often quoting from it and pointing to prophesy and fulfillment concerning Himself. Peter, Paul and the other disciples and apostles followed his example as well. They didn’t use their own words as application points in their sermons or letters, they used what the people regarded as the word of God – what we now call the Old Testament.
During this discussion, we spoke about the challenges and benefits to reading the OT on a regular basis, the difference in culture, and how knowing the whole word of God might benefit our daily life and our overall spiritual growth. We spent sometime on the culture differences, which is where the quoted passage from 2 Samuel 6 comes in.
In OT times there was a regard for and a proper fear of God that we just do not even come close to grasping. They didn’t have a local Hebrew bookstore to go to and buy the latest translation of the torah, no, they had to memorize it. Look at the OT testament – there is a lot there. Certainly, all of it was written down at some point, but that transcription was taken from dictation, and for generations prior to this effort fathers and mothers told these truths and stories to their families, who memorized them and passed them on to their families…and so on…and so on.
I don’t know about you, but it is a challenge for me to memorize a verse or two at a time…I couldn’t even imagine memorizing chapters, books, major portions of the Old Testament! But that is what people did, because they had to, otherwise they would not have the word of God written on their hearts or impacting their daily lives, which would lead to sin and greatly dishonoring God.
Our culture isn’t that way. We look for the path of least resistance…the easy way. We don’t want to read, we want to listen to audio books or, better, see the movie. Fast food isn’t fast enough for us. Even childbirth can be virtually pain and hassle free. We are the same way with our walks…we want change to just happen. We want to accept Christ and POOF we are perfect. That is not the way it is. The walk of obedience is just that, a walk…it requires movement, action, and exertion. And the truth of the matter is, cultural differences or not, we are not made to walk the walk all the time as we should.
Just look at the example in the passage quoted WAY up at the top of this post.
At first reading, we might think “What’s the big deal? He was just trying to keep the ark from falling. Surely his motives were pure. Why would God strike him down that way?” But the fact of the matter is, God had spoken and commanded that no one touch the ark. In that moment, Uzzah put a condition on God's commands. He is not alone. I think we can all agree that we always want to put conditions on God's commands.
As we were discussing this, someone said “The ark was where God lived! GOD! Did he think God was going to fall out?” She also followed that comment with the acknowledgement that she would have done the same thing…and does that with situations on her life far too often.
I know I try to “steady the ark” a lot. My hand is out there, ready to keep things going the way I think they should, to keep calamity from striking, to keep my stuff from falling down into the mud or going off course. But what I forget, what Uzzah forgot was that the course of my life, the calamities that come, how much goes according to “plan” isn’t my call to make, it’s God’s. He is the one with the plan, preparing the way, and working all things according to His good pleasure and for my good. When I stick my hand out to steady the ark, I am saying “I control my destiny – I have faith in me!”
But God says: “I have made, and I will bear… But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”—“Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you… Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
He never forgets…but we do. We forget far too much, far too often.
Lord, help us remember who you are and who we are. Help us to have a right estimation of ourselves and humbly submit to your ways. Help us also to make your word, the totality of your word, the centerpiece of our lives that we might walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have placed up on us…for your glory!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Here are the nuggets I jotted down in my notebook:
"His humility was simply the surrender of Himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him what He pleased, whatever men around might say of Him, or do to Him."
"It is in this state of mind, in this spirit and disposition, that the redemption of Christ has its virtue and efficacy. It is to bring us to this disposition that we are made partakers of Christ. This is the true self-denial to which our Saviour calls us, the acknowledgment that self has nothing good in it, except as anempty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed. It is in this, above and before everything, in which the conformity to Jesus consists, the being and doing nothing of ourselves, that God may be all."
"The root of all virtue and grace, of all faith and acceptable worship, is that we know that we have nothing but what we receive, and bow in deepest humility to wait upon God for it."
"The Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5: 19).
"I can of My own self do nothing; My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will" (John 5: 30).
"I receive not glory from men" (John 5: 41).
"I am come not to do Mine own will" (John 6:38).
"My teaching is not Mine" (John 7:16)
"I am not come of Myself" (John 7:28)
"I do nothing of Myself" (John 8:28)
"I have not come of Myself, but He sent Me" (John 8: 42).
"I seek not Mine own glory" (John 8:50)
"The words that I say, I speak not from Myself" (John 14: 10).
"The word which ye hear is not Mine" (John 14: 24)."
"These words open to us the deepest roots of Christ's life and work. They tell us how it was that the Almighty God was able to work His mighty redemptive work through Him. They show what Christ counted the state of heart which became Him as the Son of the Father. They teach us what the essential nature and life is of that redemption which Christ accomplished and now communicates. It is this: He was nothing, that God might be all. "
Then I got to work and read today's Daily Light. I think it ties in beautifully!
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.—Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.—You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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. Rom. 14:7; Rom. 14:8; 1 Cor. 10:24; 1 Cor. 6:20; Phil. 1:20-23; Gal. 2:19, 20
It always brings a tear to my eyes when I see something like this...how God strings threads of thought together, draws me, directs me, and corroborates how he has led and spoken. He is so good and faithful!
Friday, August 19, 2005
As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.
You know how . . . we exhorted each one of you . . . and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.—That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.—Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”—Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Reference verses:1 Pet. 1:15; 1 Thess. 2:11, 12; 1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 5:8-11; Phil. 1:11; Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31
photo from John Piper's website - www.desiringgod.org
Thursday, August 18, 2005
“The way we live privately”
When I think of the words “behind closed doors” what comes to mind are trashy movie jackets, carnal pursuits, forbidden trysts, and other forms of self-indulgence. Apparently, that is what the rest of the world thinks, too.
I got on Google this morning to find a picture that would go with this post and was horrified by what I saw…smiling faces striking provocative poses, lounging suggestively, and taking part in all manner of vulgarity.
Is this really what people are like behind closed doors?
I don’t have to look at anyone else to answer that question, I only have to look at my own recent past to say “well, yes.” Now, I wasn’t a drunk, I wasn’t promiscuous, I didn’t lounge seductively in negligees, but I did commit all manner of sin…sin I would never have dreamt of committing in the presence of my friends and family…sin I kept hidden…lied about…longed for the closing of a door behind me so I could be free to indulge in.
And most times, I did it all with the proverbial smiling face. I enjoyed it. Those things gave me pleasure…in the moment that is.
What the pictures on google don’t show is what happens after. Sin has consequences for the saved and for the unsaved…always. Those pictures don’t show you the regret, the families that are torn apart, the emotional baggage, the self-medication, the aborted babies, hangovers, the debt, the disease…the separation from God.
Who’s lining up to pose for those pictures??
No one, because those pictures expose the lie and “we” like the lie too much to do that. We like to think only of the pleasure of the moment, of our own freedom to do whatever it is we want to do. This is true for the saved and the unsaved, as well.
“[who] God [is] in our lives”
Though some Christians would never take part in a drunken orgy…they might watch one on tv. Though some Christians would never abuse drugs or alcohol…they might indulge in food or over-spending. And, though some Christians would never admit it…there is a difference between the person we are at home Monday – Saturday, and the one that shows up to church on Sunday.
I know that was the case for me. But here’s the thing…we are called to be imitators of Christ. The expectation is that we should be able to say with Paul “follow my example.” (I Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17) And we should be able to say it from our pew as well as our couch.
Two years ago, I couldn’t say that. My home life was designed for one thing and one thing only…pleasing myself. And though I liked to think I hid my true motivation from my church friends, the truth was that the reality was very evident. What I said was negated by how I said it, my countenance, and my selfishness. I wore my “secret sins” the same way I wore my more public ones…I just didn’t realize it.
What changed? So many things and yet one thing…the Lord impressed on me a greater revelation of what “to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21)” means. Before I was living for myself…not for Christ…but He intervened and started teaching me how to die to self, pet sin by pet sin, idol by idol, stronghold by stronghold. And guess what began to happen? The line between home “me” and church “ me” got blurry. In His mercy it continues to get blurry and I hope one day it will be gone.
I hope one day, everything that goes on behind my closed doors will be motivated by a desire to be pleasing to the Lord and a true imitator of Jesus.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Prisoner of the Lord
In truth, we are prisoners to one thing or another…
…you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness…”
Christ has called us to be His prisoner, His slave. Not to selfishly Lord over us, but to help us become all we were created to be; to taste (as much as is possible on this earth) the fellowship Adam gave up and all the joy and peace that comes with it. Not just for the purpose of blessing, but for His glory. For at the most basic and fundamental level, when creatures do that for which they were created, it glorifies, honors and proclaims the greatness of God.
We were created to “worship God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Confession). The most sinful, carnal man has this yearning within him – this unfulfilled part of His being that cries out to be satisfied. Unmet, it can become angst, melancholy and any manner of self-indulgence. As a sinner, we attempt to appease it with sin. We buy. We consume. We medicate. We seek physical pleasure. We seek the love of others, success, praise, physical perfection. We indulge in various forms of entertainment, sex, drugs, alcohol. We acquire knowledge, money, and possessions. All of these, though, are merely substitutes for enjoying, learning of, being loved by and worshipping God. None of them truly fill that space. The gratification is momentary and then it is on to the next thing, because the truth is that we were not made to be satisfied by anything but fellowship with God.
Yet, even as believers, we attempt to sate our appetite with substitutes…we settle for the shadow rather than the reality. We call a friend for advice rather than going to God in prayer. We seek comfort from others forgetting that God has sent us The Comforter. We fill our time and minds with sports, movies, useless trivia, hobbies and limit the time we invest in the eternal to whatever we can squeeze in before work in the morning.
I could go on and on…
But why do we do this?
The answer borne out in scripture, in fact the root of all sin is one thing…Pride.
The simplest definition of pride that I’ve heard is this: contending for supremacy with God. Indeed, whenever we place our own wants and desires, thoughts and feelings, choices and plans before Him…we are acting pridefully, saying that what we want, think or feel is more important than what God wants, says or desires in any given situation. In those moments we are refusing to acknowledge our dependence on Him…our position as creatures. We are saying that we are the masters of our respective destinies…that we are self-sufficient.
No wonder there is no sin God hates more or that He calls one with a prideful heart an abomination.
Outside of the blood of Jesus, we are wretched, disgusting creatures, full of ourselves and reveling in our rotting flesh. Because of Christ, though, we are seen as Holy and Perfect, not because we are or we have somehow earned it (not even by our faith as believers), but because of the holiness and perfection of another, namely, Christ.
If Christ is the standard, then what exactly is His example?
“…but [he] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. (Phil 2:7-8)”
Made himself nothing…form of a servant…obedient to the point of death.
This is the standard. And, if pride is the root of all sin then its antidote is the root of all righteousness. This antidote is humility.
“It is probably safe to say that humility is the one character quality that will enable us to be all Christ wants us to be. (Stuart Scott)”
So, how do we become that which we so emphatically are not? That which I am daily shown my inability to choose? The same way I handle anything that is beyond me…I go to the one who can.
“for with man it is impossible, but with God ALL THINGS are possible. (Mk 10:27)”
We are not left to our own devises here or left with merely the knowledge of our inability to be truly humble. In His kindness, God has given us His word and the example of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit AND the promise that we can be holy as He is holy…humble as Christ is humble.
Lord, help my unbelief in the face of my pride. Show me more that I might become truly convinced of my need of you. Make it a stench to me that I might then sacrifice all of me as a fragrant offering to you, for your glory. Teach me your ways…let me learn of you…learn the lesson of the Lamb that was slain, of the Son of God who washed the feet of His disciples…of the King of Glory who was born a man and walked among us…of the Creator who became the Sacrifice.
Resources on humility: Humility by Andrew Murray and From Pride to Humility by Stuart Scott
Friday, August 12, 2005
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand...(Romans 14:1-4)
As my pastor read from this chapter of Romans on Sunday, the Lord dropped an unexpected application in my heart: weakness requires restriction.
This thought or rather things associated with the thought of my weakness and need for restrictions has been swirling around in my mind for the past month or so. It didn't solidify or crystalize until Sunday when the Lord said "weakness requires restriction."
Since I hit the one year mark, I have felt strong urges both to "take it easy" and to be even more diligent. The "more diligent" feelings tend to be stronger. I have just really felt this overwhelming sense of urgency lately...like this is a very crucial time...the choices I make now could either make or break all that has been accomplished over the past year.
I know that God is sovereign and that He alone can sustain me and see the work He has begun to completion...but I also know that it is my submission and humility plays a part, too.
The upshot of all of this is: now is not the time to ease up.
I have been praying about exactly how I need to walk this out...what restrictions need to be made...should I adopt the 40 day plan again...do I need a list at all...should I restrict carbs or snacks or non-food things???
I don't have a clear vision yet...but I know I will. I have acknowledged my weakness (even after a year of victory) and my utter dependance on God and that is always a good place to start.
Then, as a sort of confirmation/blessing, in my reading this morning I read Psalm 32, which has sort of been my theme passage for this whole journey.
32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted awaythrough my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,and I did not cover my iniquity;I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;surely in the rush of great waters,they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;you preserve me from trouble;you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,which must be curbed with bit and bridle,or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Be not like a horse. I love that!
Lord, let my obedience not be out of compulsion or because I am driven to it...but out of humble submission to your authority in my life...out of a confidence in your steadfast love...because I truly trust in your ways. Show me the straight path...the way I should go...and help me to be glad for the protection you are guaranteeing me through your direction and what you lead me to deny myself. Thank you Lord that you are ever present and that you are trustworthy and good. Thank you for your constant and tender care of me. Thank you for what you have done...and what I know you will do!
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I took off an hour early from work and stopped and picked up a goofy goodbye card, figuring I needed to balance out the sappy e-mail I'd sent him the day before. I also went prepared to put on my best smiling face for a photo with him. As I grabbed his arm to ask him to hold still for a picture, he hugged me and said "I love you."
It's been that way, always.
When I cried at the movies or during Kodak commercials or holding my nieces for the first time or every other hour at Disney World a few years ago...they laughed at me.
It's what they do.
But they aren't the big toughies they'd have me believe they are. I know them from back when...when they cried over toys or fear of the dark or not getting the last lick of cake batter. And I know they have big hearts which are easily touched...even if that doesn't necessarily produce tears.
And I know that, sometimes, the tears do come.
Like the day I came home from college after my grandmother died. When each of them saw me for the first time, they cried. There were no words...we knew what was on each other's hearts...so we just cried and hugged. I even saw a few tears on their faces when my dog, Samantha, died. Now, we all loved the dog, but she was mine and I was beside myself. They hurt because I hurt and it showed.
And, according to his e-mail response, Joey cried when he read my big, sappy e-mail.
I knew he would.
I also knew he'd still laugh at me when I cried last night. And, I really wouldn't have had it any other way because had HE started crying, I wouldn't have been able to regain my composure for the non-crying picture.
So, he is off tonight for Knoxville and I am still crying, but I know everything will be fine. The Lord has already used this to reveal some things to me about my relationships, especailly those with my family and I am praying that He gives me what I need to live each moment with them as if they were moving away the next day...to love them like crazy and not hold back...and make sure they know it and see it and feel it!
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
I remember the day you were born…we were at Ma’s and got the call…another boy.
I was hoping for a sister, but I don’t remember being disappointed….for long anyway. :)
I remember mom big and pregnant, laying on the sofa with a fan on her at all times…you were born in the middle of August, remember? Poor thing. The next thing I remember (after the phone call) is you and Brad as babies in the living room, both big and chubby and just the cutest, most fun toys I could have ever gotten! Brad was much fairer than you…and fatter…and funnier. But you…well you were far prettier. I know men don’t like to hear that they were pretty babies…but you were. You had peaches and cream skin…huge dark brown eyes and your hair was much redder than it is now, nearly 30 years later.
As you both grew…and your mutual cuteness was overcome by Timmy – by far the cutest baby of us all – you went from being cute, squishy toys for me to actual people…brothers. You were by far the sweetest, most tender-hearted of the boys…you probably don’t want to hear that either, but you were. I remember you crying…a lot. Not that you were a whiney baby, because you weren’t. Brad and I cornered that market. You were just sensitive and got your feelings hurt pretty easily…something you at least hide better now. I loved that tenderness about you. It let everyone know that you cared…that as easily as you were hurt, you loved.
But you were also a boy’s boy, wiling and able to rough-house and wrestle and beat the pants off of your brother’s in any sport they chose to play. You were the best at all of them…except skateboarding. None of you were really that good, to be honest…though I think Nicky thought he was Tony Hawk or something. I was glad when that phase ended too…it scared me.
The next one, the Breakin’ phase, was a bit safer. We were all old enough to get in on that one and you 4 took turns being Ozone and Turbo and I got to be Kelly. We’d play and dance in the living room, thinking we were really doing something. I am sure we looked really…really white.
I remember us all awake at 3am on Christmas Eve, trying to be quiet…yet hoping somehow we’d wake mom and dad up and they’d let us open our presents before dawn. I remember listening to and laughing hysterically to Dad’s Bill Cosby album. I remember how fun Shark Week was. We’d all pile on the sofa and snuggle and watch it together. I remember the crazy bunkbeds dad made that weighed a ton. I remember Joey P. Long and your imaginary friends and the times you’d come hang out with me in my room and let me talk you into fixing your hair.
I also remember that you never peed on me…for which I am very thankful.
What I don’t remember is us fighting. Maybe it is convenient memory…I don’t know. But I like that I don’t remember that. I also like that I can look back on nearly every significant moment of my life…in some cases every day of my life and find you there somewhere. I don’t like that now, that is coming to an end.
I don’t like that you are moving away.
I don’t like that you are moving so far away.
I could handle it when you lived in another city because you were in the same state, so it was ok. This is just too much. And I don’t like what that means.
That means no Uncle Joey to help me reason with Kevon. No watching you annoy Kelsey at some random family function. No seeing you 2-3 times a week and watching your face light up when Kira says or does something even moderately cute. No seeing the smile Timia gives only to you. No hearing you and the other boys tell stories or jokes and seeing you laugh silently, face all scrunched up, whole body quaking, teeth bared…but no sound. And no knowing that whatever happens, we are all about a 15 minute drive away. There is also the knowledge that if something does happen, I have to deal with the other three…alone! ;)
You are the calm one…you are the stable one…you are the sensible one…and you are leaving me alone with these people!
But this is not about me. It is about you and doing what you think is best for your future. It is about you going out there and being the calm, stable, sensible, truly good man you have become and making a life for yourself. I am just sad that it has to happen away from us.
I do hope you find what you are looking for and hope you know, too, that I will be praying for you…and no it won’t just be that you hate it in Knoxville and move back! I really do just want what is best for you…and yes, I want it to be here…but realize that it may not be.
I just love you, so much. More than I think I realize and more than I know I show. I will miss you…a LOT. And, I am proud to call you my brother…even if I have to dial one and the area code first.
Your broken-hearted sister…
O God, may Thy Spirit speak in me that I may speak to thee.
I have no merit, let the merit of Jesus stand for me.
I am undeserving, but I look to Thy tender mercy.
I am full of infirmities, wants, sin; Thou art full of grace.
I confess my sin, my frequent sin, my wilful sin;
all my powers of body and soul are defiled:
a fountain of pollution is deep within my nature.
There are chambers of foul images within my being;
I have gone from one odious room to another,
walked in a no-man's-land of dangerous imaginations,
pried into the secrets of my fallen nature.
I am utterly ashamed that I am what I am in myself;
I have no green shoot in me nor fruit, but thorns and thistles;
I am a fading leaf that the wind drives away;
I live bare and barren as a winter tree, unprofitable,
fit to be hewn down and burnt. Lord, dost Thou have mercy on me?
Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before Thee.
But Thou hast given me another master and lord,
Thy Son, Jesus,
and now my heart is turned towards holiness,
my life speeds as an arrow from a bow towards complete obedience to Thee.
Help me in all my doings to put down sin and to humble pride.
Save me from the love of the world and the pride of life,
from everything that is natural to fallen man,
and let Christ's nature be seen in me day by day.
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining,
and delight to be not only chiselled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock where I have been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air, where I may be built in Christ for ever.
Monday, August 8, 2005
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “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.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. … Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. … See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:3-17)
“…you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
I don’t get boxing. It seems utterly pointless and useless to me. What sense does it make to put two guys in a ring and make them hit each other? What sense does it make to be one of the two guys getting hit? I could maybe understand it if they were trying to settle some sort of dispute or were rivals for some lady’s affection or something chivalrous like that…otherwise it just seems dumb.
I am told, though, in guy logic it makes sense.
I guess I will just have to take their word for it.
I think the bigger issue here is that I just don’t really get fighting... perhaps because I’ve never been made to fight for anything. I've never been exposed to war or had any serious hardships; school was always pretty easy for me; jobs have come and gone at my chosing and with ease. Even my history with interpersonal conflict has been either talk it out or walk away (usually bitter or guilt-ridden). So the idea the Hebrew writer raises above about fighting “to the shedding of your own blood” isn’t something that I can say has been my experience.
And I think that is exactly the point he is trying to get across.
In the boxing ring and on the football, soccer, or rugby field there's no talking or walking away...they fight...they give it their all...they even shed their blood until someone prevails. I can look at that and wonder "what are they fighting for? and is it worth it?" My temptation would be to shrug my shoulders and walk away babbling on about how dumb and pointless it is. But it isn't pointless and dumb to those with the swollen eyes and bandaged heads, if it were I'd have to add "insane" to my list of criticisms. They are fighting for something...the question isn't so much what as "is it worth it." Admittedly, that question is more of a value judgement than something that can be definatively measured...but asking it does something more important than the actual answer...it throws the question back at me.
What am I fighting for and is it worth it?
Am I fighting for anything?
Looking back over the past year, I haven't really needed to fight. In His mercy, the Lord has seen fit to bring me through this season without any serious temptation or struggle.
That has begun to change.
Lately, I have been tempted…I have had to either fight for holiness or feel the effects of wavering. Again, by his grace I have not turned and walked the other way…I haven’t jumped head first into sin with abandon…I haven’t even “wavered” in anything big or in a big way or consistently. It's been seemingly little things…a snack when I wasn’t hungry…a train of thought that led to vain and sinful imagination…justifying not doing things the way I know I should.
In those moments I was given an opportunity to value holiness enough to fight “even to the shedding of my own blood” and I can’t say I did. Sure there were times I was obedient but looking back over it all I can say that the temptation wasn’t as strong in those moments. The fact that I had the unnecessary snack or spent time daydreaming or did that thing I really shouldn’t have done shows that there were moments of greater temptation and that at some point in each of them, I gave up the fight before I should have. I also believe that I am called to resist and resist and resist until it is done…even to the shedding of my own blood.
I need to see it as a matter of life and death…to see holiness as something worth fighting for…not just in generality but each and every time temptation comes.
Let me clarify...I do not think the Lord’s intention is that I duke it out to that level with the enemy on a daily basis. I don't believe it should even get to that point with regularity. I believe that he set us free so that we would be free...so that we could see the shadow coming and shut the door...so that we would respond to the whiff of temptation appropriately...and help the lost, the weak...rescue the perishing.
All of that said...I also know that this temptation and fighting (and sometimes not fighting) is not for nothing. It better prepares us to serve and it does something else...
"More precious than perishable gold is faith which has stood the test. These trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy" (1 Pt 1:7 NEB).
It is intended to test the faith I proclaim and make my faith stronger.
I believe it is also intended to be a testimony to His greatness and power. Our failures are meant to show that He alone has power over sin. Try as we might…try as I might, I am incapable of doing one thing on my own. I cannot obey on my own. I cannot even feel badly about my sin on my own. There have been times when I have convinced myself I was in the right…times when I have so wanted something that I shut out the tiniest twinge of conviction…times when I had sinned so much and so often that I had sufficiently hardened my heart to that area of sin. The only reason conviction gets through anyway…the only reason I respond to it…the only reason I obey the correction and direction that follows is all of Grace and all of God.
And the only way I will be able to resist temptation with the exertion and force that I am commanded to is if He does it.
He has done this much…He saved me when I was against Him…He began this work…He revealed this truth to me…and I know He will finish it!
Friday, August 5, 2005
Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.—I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.—Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.—Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. . . . But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. . . . Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Rom. 6:4; Rom. 6:19; Rom. 12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15, 16; Eph. 4:17, 20, 21, 24
Thursday, August 4, 2005
“It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.—Canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Daily Light, August 4th)
It is finished.
I find that it is hard to believe that my sin has been effectively dealt with…that the victory has already been won…that the work has already been done…that all that is required now is that I walk in the reality that it truly is finished.
I am not alone.
I spoke with a friend of mine last night who is trying to come to this realization: the sin that so easily besets him has been dealt with…he is a new creation…the old has passed away…he can now walk in newness of life.
It is not an easy thing to do.
The flesh can be pretty loud and awfully convincing…but only in so far as we let it. Isn’t that right? Isn’t it true that He who is in us is greater than the world and its temptations…even the temptations of our own flesh?
Is that not truly where the battle lies…within us? As cliché as this might sound…it is a battle for our hearts…for what we long for and desire most.
I’ve heard it said, “the heart wants what it wants.” That may be true…but what is not true is that the heart must remain the unfettered, hedonistic Ruler of all we do. Left to its natural state, the heart is “desperately sick (Jer 17:9) and often surprises us with its demands. But God…
But God can change our hearts…our wants…our desires and make it His throne, where He (not our sick heart) is Ruler of all we do. And because He is the Lord Almighty and we are His…because of the battle He has won on our behalf…because of His promises and His faithfulness we can say “It is finished!” Whatever “it” is…it’s done. The enemy of our souls need have no further empty victories…he can no longer taunt us with His lies about our defeat.
So why do we fail? Why do I fail? Why does my friend fail? Why is sin still so much a part of my life?
I don’t really know except to say that I must not really believe "it is finished"…if I did sinning again in the same areas wouldn’t be an option. But often times, I am tempted to look at it as if it is…I am tempted to think that sin is an option or an inevitability. And that just isn’t true. The Lord says “Be holy as I am holy” not “try as best you can.” The standard is holiness, the expectation is that if we abide in Him we CAN be blameless before God. Even as I type that, I am thinking “but will there be times when I mess up…sure.” Though I am not convinced that failure is so inevitable. Looking over my life, it seems as though it is inevitable…but if I am honest, it also seems as though mostly I do not “abide” in Christ or “seek first the kingdom of God” or pursue holiness as I should.
I don’t know.
One thing is certain though…it IS finished…I am His…and I 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 (Heb 4:15)…who “always lives to make intercession for” me (Heb 7:25)…and who promises to work all things together for my good (Rom 8:28)…even my sin.
And, he doesn’t leave me without help. He has given me His word, filled with instruction for righteousness. And he promises the power of His spirit that I might obey…that I might be able to “ present [my] members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Rom 6:19)
Thank you Lord, for setting your standard high that I might strive for you. Thank you for your promises, for your word and for your Holy Spirit’s power. Thank you for the assurance that the battle has been won, the victory is sure! Help me to walk as such, not subject to the whims of my flesh or the wiles of the enemy, but to the truth of your word and the leading of your Spirit.
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Funny thing, truth. You can “know” it but not KNOW it…know what I mean?
I don’t even know if I know what I mean.
Over the course of the past few weeks, it seems the Lord has been revealing truth to me about a certain situation…a truth I wasn’t too keen to accept. All the while, He was revealing things, restraining my pursuit and even whispering “this isn’t for you.” Though I didn’t plunge headlong in pursuit of it or take any steps in that direction really, in my heart I was holding out for the possibility that all the revealings and restrainings and whisperings were just my imagination or self-doubt.
I knew the truth…but didn’t KNOW it, that is I didn’t accept it and allow it to have its desired effect, which is (of course) freedom.
Thankfully, the Lord never sleeps and he saw to it that I got the message.
But before I get to that…let me back track a little to this morning. In the car on the way to work I decided to pop in a cd of our worship time from this past Sunday. I heard:
"Oh God of strength,
your hand is on my life,
bringing peace to me.
You know my frame,
you know how I am made,
you’ve planned all my days.
Hand of mercy, hand of love,
giving power to overcome.
If all beneath me falls away,
I know that you are God!"
At this point, tears were forming and I was repenting for my lack of faithfulness, for my lack of prayer, for the self-sufficiency that shows, and how it says to God “my plans/wants are more precious!” Then suddenly, like a ray of light…joy. He is my strength…even in leading me to repentance. He KNOWS my frame…every bit of me…He HAS planned all my days…they are in His merciful and loving hand. “Oh let the rest fall away God…let the rest fall away! Let me hope for nothing more than to know you and be conformed into the image of your son and to do your will!”
Those are some big, lofty prayers for 6:30am…and I know my sincerity will be tested …has been tested even these few hours later…which brings me to the “message.”
But before I get to that…after I had cried and prayed and been filled with joy, I was also filled with something else…expectancy. It was such a real, tactile thing that said to me”something is about to happen…this is important.” Even in that, I had to pray that I not insist this something look a certain way…that I would be open to whatever the Lord would do and desire only His will and to be pleasing to Him in my response.
Then I get to work, turn on the computer and go fix my coffee. When I got back to my desk, I had a message waiting from a friend. She said, essentially “this isn’t for you and you know it”. Immediately, I wanted to argue and justify and keep my options open and for a few minutes it was a struggle…but I relented…I surrendered. Which reminds me of another song that was on that cd…
"It’s all about you, Jesus
And all this is for you,
For your glory and your fame
It’s not about me,
As if you should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender, to your way."
Lord, I do surrender to your way…and seek to know and embrace your truth…to be free from the desires of my flesh and subject only to you. Thank you for your correction and direction and your persistence with me. Thank you for your tender care for me. Thank you for this denial…I know from past denials that it is for my good and soon I will see and truly rejoice in it. But now, I rejoice in hope for what you will accomplish…and for the feeling of expectancy you have given me to replace this thing that is not for me. I praise you and your ways, Lord!
The feet of Jesus trod. --Ter Steegen
I read this in A Chance to Die last night and thought it so appropriate for where I am right now. The Lord truly has been so faithful to confirm what He speaks and reveals…to help me divide my own tendency towards introspection and criticism from the conviction and correction of the Holy Spirit. I am thankful.
I am also thankful that it doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just show me my faults and leave me there in the muck. He lovingly helps me out, cleans me off and shows me how to avoid falling in that muck again. He is too good.
Speaking of His goodness…this was today’s Daily Light:
His mercy is for those who fear him.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.—The Lord is near to all who call on him . . . in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
“Because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, . . . and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, 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.”—The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Reading that, I notice that this care and these promises are not guaranteed to the hard-hearted and unrepentant…the Lord is near to those who call on him…he fulfills the desire of those who fear him…he looks on those who are humble and contrite…who tremble at His word.
Oh, Lord, that I would be those things in your sight. That I might never know what it is to be turned over to the sin that dwells within me. Help me to be quick to repent and always humble before you, Lord!
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Cardinal Cajetan: What is it you want most?
Aleander: To serve God with all my heart.
Cardinal Cajetan: Then that is how you shall be tested.
Then that is how you shall be tested…
That phrase rung in my head and I couldn’t shake it. About half way through, I had to turn the movie off and go to the Lord. My most recent test (at least the most recent thing *I* would call a test) was what I was thinking of…and it was related to my singleness. So I brought that before the Lord. In tears I asked Him “Do I want marriage more than I want to be pleasing to you?”
Pleasing…that word stood out. Then it was as if the Lord took me up to give me the aerial view of things. I was focused on what was immediately in front of me, but God looks on the heart…or the root of the matter. He sees the big picture as well as the elemental details. What is a distraction or obstruction for me is perfectly clear to Him and last night, what He showed me was crystal clear.
Pleasing…that was the word of the night. By highlighting that word he showed me that nearly every struggle with sin is a matter of whom I choose to please. In those instances when I allow an entertaining thought to go on too long, or feel the temptation to over-indulge in food, through spending or even laziness, when I become irritated at work or with a friend…all of it is caused by making a choice to please myself rather than please God.
Being shown the root and its trailers extending into every area of life had two effects on me…the first was overwhelming self-pity, causing me to cry out “I am desperately sick, Lord!” That didn’t last long. In His mercy, He led me to follow that up with “but you are infinitely good and do not reveal sin for condemnation but to get it gone! Thank you Lord!”
This morning I read the following passages, which seemed to reinforce what the Lord showed me last night:
For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, (Romans 16:18)
…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. (1 Peter 4:2)
I am not to serve my own appetites…whatever they may be. I am called to live for the will of God, not for my passions and desires.
Lord, help me to choose what is pleasing to you…no matter what the cost to me. I have no confidence in my ability to choose rightly outside of your intervention. But I do have confidence in your ability to sanctify and transform me…and in your ability to do what is for me, impossible!