Tuesday, February 28, 2006
About a mile from my apartment there is a sort of meeting place, which extends up over the levee and leads to a long pier that looks out over the river. As I looked out over the water, I saw all the dead lookng trees huddled along the river's edge. The water always says something to me about the Lord, and this day was no exception. As I looked at one tree in particular, which looked like it had been there a while, I felt the Lord impress upon me that even the most firmly rooted trees, planted near life-giving water need times when they are stripped bare and seem dried up. All the tree can do is sit and wait, trusting that its roots are firmly planted where they need to be and that the water it is so close to (yet can't reach down and pull up for itself) will have the effect of renewed life and growth and covering.
I couldn't help but identify with this poor tree. But the message is one of encouragement. This season of deadness is a type of pruning and when the tree does begin to bud and bloom again, it will be bigger, its branches heavier with leaves, its roots stronger than it was before.
And that is the promise to me, to any of us, who like the tree are being pruned and called to wait patiently on the Lord to bring about the perfect work of patience and hope.
As I turned to head back home, a song came on my MP3 player which said "I surrender. To you I'm givin' in. Come take me...change me...I want to start again." Then it said..."It's not the end, this is the beginning!" While that line was playing, I saw before me the long stretch of levee ahead and my heart was filled with hope.
In surrendering, I am giving up things...but truly for me those things are merely ideas. Cherished ideas...hope-filled ideas...pleasing ideas...but ideas none-the-less. My natural response is to feel like something is ending...like I am losing something. But "it's not the end...this is the beginning."
I know this to be true...when I come to the end of myself...my plans...my hopes...I come to the starting line of God's plans for me. I come to the beginning of something more amazing than anything I can think or imagine.
"It's not the end...THIS IS THE BEGINNING!"
Monday, February 27, 2006
My faith is in Thee,
My expectation is from Thee,
My love goes out toward Thee.
I believe Thee,
accept Thy Word,
acquiesce to Thy Will,
rely on Thy Promises,
trust Thy Providence.
I bless Thee that the court of conscience
proves me to be Thine.
I do not need signs and wonders to believe,
for Thy Word is sure truth.
I have cast my anchor in the port of peace,
knowing that present and future are in nail-pierced hands.
Thou are so good, wise, just, holy,
that no mistake is possible to Thee.
Thou art fountain and source of all law;
what Thou commandest is mine to obey.
I yield to Thy sovereignty all that I am and have;
do Thou with me as Thou wilt.
Thou hast given me silence in my heart
in place of murmurings and complaints.
Keep my wishes from growing into willings,
my willings from becoming fault-finding with Thy providences,
and have mercy on me.
If I sin and am rebellious, help me to repent;
then take away my mourning and give me music;
remove my sackcloth and adorn me with beauty;
take away my sighs and fill my mouth with songs;
and when I am restored and rest in Thee
give me summer weather in my heart.
(From Valley of Vision - Arthur Bennett)
Friday, February 24, 2006
The King James Version margin gives “imagination” as the meaning of the word “mind.” The present moment rarely troubles us. It is when we let ourselves imagine what may be lying ahead that we find ourselves, often, shaken or anxious or cowardly…the grace of God is not given to us for dreams, creations of our imagination. The grace of God is given us for real life. He who strengthens and illuminates our today will make strong and radiant our tomorrow. This must be true, for with Him is no variableness, “neither shadow that is cast by turning” as James 1:17 tells us for our comfort. Therefore, let us stay our imagination on Him and refuse to let it wander off into unknown tomorrows. Trust ye in the Lord forever. Him we know – for I know whom I have believe and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him (2 Tim 1:12). To Him I have committed my future, my tomorrow. I may safely trust Him, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
This was my reading in Whispers of His Power (by Amy Carmichael) this morning. It was yet another “word in due season” and a “balm for my soul” this morning.
I don’t wait very well – though at least one of my friends calls me the “most patient person” she knows. I laugh at that because I know my heart and the things that go on in my mind and how often each are very much like a wild stallion, frustrated and bucking against the gate to get out and run and have his own way. Oswald Chambers says that the most stressful thing is waiting on God…and I know this to be true. I want to know. I wouldn’t mind waiting half as much, if I knew that the end of it all would be the outcome I desire.
I can’t know that and really, deep down (often way deep down under a lot of other things) I don’t just want what I want. I want what the Lord has. I want to walk along the lines He has said have been drawn for me in pleasant places. Yet, my mind…my imagination…draws my own lines, envisions my own pleasant places…and I yearn for them…because I can in some way see them, I guess. But with the Lord, I see only where I stand and not a step beyond. His lamp only shows me where me feet need to be right then…His grace is only sufficient for that...I can not see where my second footfall will land, only the one I am taking now…and I can not know that those steps will lead to the pleasant places I’ve imagined in my mind. What I can know is “whom I have believed” and that “he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Namely, my life…my future…my hope.
And herein lies the battle…to whom am I most committed? To myself or my Lord? To my will or His? To my way or His? To my timetable or His? I find, more and more lately, that I daily have to choose to surrender – EVERYTHING – and submit everything to Him. It is when I try to hold on to even just a piece, a fringe, a glimpse (when I look back at my treasure like Lot’s wife) that fear, anxiety, uncertainty and sinful thoughts reign. But, in those moments when I stop, pray, and surrender…there is peace, rest, calm, and hope. Not hope in getting my way…but in knowing that He is at work and that His promises are true, regardless of present circumstances or disappointments or failures.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4
How I long to know perfect, uninterrupted peace! But I am thankful for this struggle…for the opportunity to remove more and more of me from my hopes and dreams and make them more and more about seeing the Lord’s will done…to see Him glorified through me. And, I am thankful, that all the while…in the midst of my struggle and stumbling and emotion…the Lord is building my faith and making me stronger for the journey. As Piper says, “God does not waste the gift of pain (or struggle).” Even though I KNOW my struggle is because of my sinful and demanding heart!
How kind! How merciful! How gracious is our God! He does not spare the rod and spoil His child, but also follows correction with tender words and soothing balm, which brings healing and comfort.
And I am humbled.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Even before I heard this message, the Lord had begun to stir up in me a desire to know what it is to live in unceasing prayer, which Paul writes about in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Since this weekend, I've been "stumbling across" many wonderful things about prayer...and I'd like to pass them along.
From "Valley of Vision"...
O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its gay amusements and cruel disappointments never appears so inconsiderate as then.
In prayer I see myself as nothing; I find my heart going after Thee with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to Thee. Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.
In prayer all things here below vanish, and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.
In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear, and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.
In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what Thou art doing for Thy church, and I long that Thou shouldest get Thyself a great name from sinners returning to Zion.
In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to Thee with all my heart, to be Thine for ever.
In prayer I can place all my concerns in Thy hands, to be entirely at Thy disposal, having no will or interest of my own.
In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Thy kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes, as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved.
Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.
Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.
Sent in one of our latest prayer e-mail updates from church...
“Praying men are God’s chosen leaders. The distinction between the leadersthat God brings to the front to lead and bless His people, and those leaderswho owe their position of leadership to a worldly, selfish, unsanctifiedselection, is this: God’s leaders are pre-eminently men of prayer.”
“The possibilities of prayer are found in its allying itself with thepurposes of God, for God’s purposes and man’s praying are the combination ofall potent and omnipotent forces.”
E. M. Bounds
I'd also like to encourage all of you to pray for the City of New Orleans. In some places, the work to rebuild has not even begun. Many decision face our leaders...our God appointed leaders...many of whom do not know the Lord in a personal way. Please pray for wisdom and that the Lord's sovereignty and grace would be clearly seen. Pray for the uniting of churches and for the success of an upcoming revival-type meeting, set to take place March 11 & 12. Pray that people would respond and be eternally changed and that churches would be prepared to receive and disciple new believers. Pray that the rebuilding would be purposeful, and not just about putting things back together again...that those things that need to go out with the debris would. Pray also for humility among believers and church leadership...humility and a desire to serve.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Be still, and know that I am God . . . —Psalm 46:10
,,,If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, "because you have kept My command to persevere . . ." ( Revelation 3:10 ).
Continue to persevere spiritually.
This is from today’s entry in My Utmost for His Highest. As I read it, I found great hope for me in my circumstances and a reassurance of the Lord’s promise to work all things together for my good and His glory. I was also freshly convicted of how often (how often and how recently) I become frustrated that the Lord isn’t working according to my timetable…how often my best efforts seem frustrated…how often I see others (others I deem less worthy? Ugh!) receiving the blessings I desperately hope for. But, despite that – despite the bleak and impossible outlook (from my vantage point) – I am told that the lines for me have fallen in pleasant places…that he has prepared a future for me…that He knows the desires of my heart and “if it is noble and of God…it will be fulfilled.”
I am also told that this time of waiting…of deferred hope…is purposeful – that my hope is being refined. All of me that corrupts my hopes and dreams is being purged that they might be pure, holy, and set on righteousness, not merely my own satisfaction.
What a kind God we serve. One who is not content to give just to give and spoil us…because He knows the damage of bestowing good things on an unprepared heart. Like a child – immature, irresponsible, untrained – being handed a set of car keys…accidents (even deadly ones) are going to happen. I am so thankful that the Lord has seen fit to lay a foundation in my life that will prepare me for the future He has prepared, and spare me from many of the “crashes” that would result if I were left to my own devices…if I was just given whatever just because…if I was allowed to carve out my own future.
Again…what a kind God we serve!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Already, I have been encouraged and feel my head has been lifted a bit. I pray the same for each who read this.
1. You will waste your [???] if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our [???] but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming [???], he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your [???] is designed for you by God, you will waste it.
2. You will waste your [???] if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
3. You will waste your [???] if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your [???] is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your [???] (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
4. You will waste your [???] if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
5. You will waste your [???] if you think that “beating” [???] means staying alive/getting what you want rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your [???] are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. [???] does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).
6. You will waste your [???] if you spend too much time reading/thinking about [???] and not enough time reading/thinking about God.
It is not wrong to know about [???]. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. [???] is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of [???] if we read day and night about [???] and not about God.
7. You will waste your [???] if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with [???]: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your [???] by retreating into yourself.
8. You will waste your [???] if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your [???] grieving as those who don’t have this hope.
9. You will waste your [???] if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had [???]? If so you are wasting your [???]. [???] is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that [???] is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against [???]. Also think of battling with [???]. All these things are worse enemies than [???]. Don’t waste the power of [???] to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).
10. You will waste your [???] if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with [???]. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.
Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Monday, February 20, 2006
“Bitter about the portions allotted they indulged in idolatry, gluttony, and sexual sin.”
--Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart
I read this first last Tuesday, as I was traveling to
What I have seen has not been pretty.
“Bitter about the portions allotted they indulged…”
When I read that, I have to ask…what do I regard as my portion?
Is it singleness, childlessness, self-indulgence, family stress, a dead-end job? If so, then it is also a greater degree of freedom, limited amounts of laundry and dishes to wash, nieces and nephews and a job I can leave at the office every day.
But is any of this REALLY my portion?
In a sense…yes. It is the life the Lord has carved out for me right now. All that and more. That life also includes dealing with automotive issues, singing on the worship team at church, taking out the trash, baking for my co-workers, living alone, being able to meet a friend for dinner on a whim…and more still.
But again…is THAT my portion?
I would tend to say yes. These things comprise the life that has been given to me (or denied me depending on one’s perspective). My life would seem to be my portion. And, at times, I have a tendency to feel a little bitter about that…and indulge. But the Lord says this:
“I am your portion and your inheritance.”
So, if I am bitter about my portion…I am bitter that the Lord is my portion and not all the things I feel I should have or have been wrongly denied.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.—The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Daily Light, 2/14)
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; [He holds] my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
“I have a beautiful inheritance.”
I read all of that, repeat it and believe it, yet still the war in my heart rages. The whispers come, telling me that I have been cheated, that I have only remnants of other people’s lives (those bits they are willing to share with me), that I have a second-rate portion.
BUT THE LORD is my portion…how can I think that is second rate. He is my inheritance…how can I call that a left-over. He holds my lot…how can I call it anything but beautiful, perfect, good?
So I must then surrender again and again and again…each time bitterness tries to take root in my heart…and say:
“Take all I am, Lord, and all that I cling to
You are my Savior I owe everything to
Take all the treasures that lie in my storehouse
They cannot follow when I enter Your house
So I surrender all to You
I surrender all”
(I Surrender All – Sovereign Grace Praise)
That is the only response I can have, otherwise, bitterness will take root. I've been there. I've lived that and do not wish to go back again. So, while this is painful and has led to many tears, I am grateful for this and for the opportunity to excise yet more ugliness from my heart. I am grateful that the Lord has chosen to remind me of how easily I am decieved and tempted into sin. And I am grateful that He is chosing, also, to lead me out...and to give more grace...and comfort...and encouragement...and that He always forgives.
But I am most thankful, I think, that He always gets to the heart of the matter. While I am set to focus on what I think the real issues are and deal with them, He comes in and shines His light on the root, brings it out of the darkness and in so doing sets me on the path to repentance...and greater freedom.
So, as I wince and say "ouch" at this revelation of bitterness, I can also say "Isn't He good?!?!"
And, really mean it.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Yet, throughout this time of struggle and being made intensely aware of my weakness and inability to do even one very small thing for the Lord on my own...how sin is always right there with me...how likely I am to do the thing I hate...and how, at times, I don't even hate it nearly enough...the Lord has consistently assured me that this is part of the plan. What He set in motion in July of 2004, He is continuing...in and through (and to my mind, despite) my weakness and failures and even blatant sin.
That doesn't make sense to me, no matter how often He says it and reminds me of this truth. I do not say this to excuse a cavalier attitude towards the calling the Lord has placed on my life or because I want to ascribe to the position that grace is a license to sin. My knee-jerk reaction is to condemn myself...the Lord's is to comfort and encourage. I would attempt to spur myself on with emotional floggings - He chooses love...unimaginable, unfailing, always forgiving love.
In her comment to my previous post, BayouMaMa wrote: "Sounds like you and the Lord are going on a "honeymoon." She was right. Despite the instances of weakness and sin, my time with the Lord (even in contrition) was sweet and copious. He spoke so much and showed me so much, I knew I was being primed and that I had been fully prepared for all He showed me. And it was this speaking, the consistency of the message, and how everything I read and prayed fit together so perfectly that confirmed what He has been saying all along...
Right now, I can only hear what He has to communicate by falling on my face. He has chosen to allow me to struggle, that I might stay on my face a while longer. Yet still, no matter how many times I fall, I press on...hoping that next time instead of falling, I will stand. That all He is speaking will have its full effect and I will be changed and be made more holy, more righteous, more like Christ than I was before.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
ANYway. It would appear that the trip isn’t just about business though…which is the part I am most concerned with, actually. I was SUPPOSED to go last week. But, things didn’t work out that way and now I am going up this week. In the natural, it was because of deadlines. In the spiritual, it was because I had to fall flat on my face for three days to be prepped first.
There are no direct flights into Tuscaloosa. I have to fly into the Birmingham Airport and be driven an hour West to Tuscaloosa. There are also no direct flights from New Orleans to Birmingham, so I will spend approximately 2 hours in the Memphis Airport each way. All told I will have somewhere around 8 hours of captive time (both flying and waiting) over the next 3 days. I am thinking there is a plan for that, as well.
As I was packing this evening, I felt a strong sense from the Lord that I not only needed to go with expectancy that He would meet me in the down time as I travel, but that I needed to be ultra purposeful about it. I could easily sit and do little more than get lost in my thoughts for 2 hours in an airport. I can be perfectly content in idleness. But the sense I got from the Lord was that this was not what He desired. I also got the clear message that I needed to scrap my plan to bring my lap top.
I was really excited about the prospect of traveling with my new(ish) WiFi ‘puter. I looked forward to picking up signals at the airport and in the hotel and being able to check my e-mail and maybe even post from a “foreign” location. But, it would appear that is not going to be the case.
I have to confess, this point has my flesh screaming. I’m thinking, if the Lord does meet me in a powerful way while I am gone, I could chronicle it and type up the mother of all posts. But, I realize that an awesome post is probably not the reason the Lord wants to take me away from everything for a few days.
As I step on to the plane, I will be leaving a lot behind…and I truly hope I can leave it behind me while I am away. I will not just be leaving my computer and my home and my family, I will be leaving many of the hard things that have been such a distraction lately. For the better part of three days I won’t have to deal with the apartment that still doesn’t look like my apartment, random and disturbing calls from family members, disconnectedness from church friends, or the continued weirdness at work. And in their place, I will set my face toward the Lord and what He has for me both en route to and in Tuscaloosa. I will also begin a fast of sorts.
I gave up regular TV about 2 years ago, but still occasionally watch movies in the evenings. That will stop. There will be no surfing entertainment news sites or listening to secular music. In their place, I will read the Word or other scripturally meaty things and listen to worship music or sermons. I am also not going to weigh myself for a month so that I am not tempted to gauge my dedication to the dieting by the rising or falling numbers on the scale. The purpose of all of this is to attempt to breathe as much God-saturated air as possible, and crowd out all else that distracts or clouds my thoughts or tempts me…and truly be able to feed on the faithfulness of the Lord. (That thought…feeding on faithfulness…still “gets” me all these hours later!)
It is my hope that the Lord will honor my heart and my efforts and do amazing things in and through this time that is being set aside.
“See” you in a few days…
Monday, February 13, 2006
Ps 68:28 “Thy God hath sent forth strength for thee."
Many of us know what it is to receive a word in the early morning that lasts all through the day. We live on that word; we “feed on faithfulness.”
These few words from the Psalm for the Day have been with me all through the hours. “Thy god hath sent forth strength for thee.” The day lies before us. It will bring us things that in our selves we have no strength to meet. That does not matter. Our God has already sent forth strength for us. It is like that other word, “My God with His lovingkindness shall come to meet me.” Strength and lovingkindness – what more do we need? That duty, that difficulty, which we see coming to meet us, what of it? Our God hath already sent forth strength for us, and before the thing we fear can meet us on the road, our God with His lovingkindness shall meet us there.
This definately has been (and will continue to be) food of faithfulness for me! I love the idea of feeding on faithfulness...as opposed to all the other things I could feed on. That makes this word all the more appropriate and meaningful to me where I am right now.
The temptation for me is definately to be fearful about failing...again. Three times last week, i woke up and vowed to begin a new and do better than I had the day before and three times I fell flat on my face. I felt very powerless...much the same way I did every time I attempted to do the diet thing all those times before. Honestly, it scared me. I felt like I'd lost something or undone something. Like the day before I took the first step on this journey of repentance, I felt like I was at a point of no return and what lay ahead was insurmountable.
That feeling is just as much a lie now as it was then.
That last morning of the Flesh-a-palooza, I woke at my normal time and opened the Word to read. My Psalm for the day "just happened" to be my flagship verse...the one the Lord gave me when this all began:
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 away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer.
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.
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.
This was the part where *I* paused after reading it the first time. Then I desperately needed the promise of "shouts of deliverance."
But, the Psalm does not stop there...and "the rest of the story" is what I desperately needed now.
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!
He will instruct...He will lead. I need only be willing to follow - even through my failures, even when He seems to "tarry", even when the results are not all I might have hoped. So long as my heart is upright and desires to be obedient (which is purely His doing for nothing good dwells in me) He will respond in kindness as He has done consistently through my inconsistency. If the time comes when I am not willing to follow...I will feel the pain of the bit in my mouth.
Not that there haven't been consequences thus far...there have. But I have regarded them as just and they have been followed by lovingkindness and mercy and more grace. In fact each failure, each revelation of my utter weakness and inability to do even the smallest thing I set out to do on my own has given me a deeper understanding of how unfathomable His love and grace and mercy are.
This Saturday, we sang a song called "The Glories of Calvary". The first verse of it goes like this:
Lord, You're calling me to come
And behold the wondrous cross
To explore the depths of grace
That came to me at such a cost
Where You're boundless love
Conquered my boundless sin
And Mercy's arms were opened wide
As the words "explore the depths of grace" came out of my mouth, I felt the Lord impress upon me that that is part of what this whole period of struggling is about. Greater revelation of my weakness is leading me into a greater revelation of His grace and faithfulness...leading me to explore the unending depths of grace.
And this also was the food of faithfulness to me and remembering it this morning is another way the Lord has "sent forth strength" for me today.
Friday, February 10, 2006
I have basically just done whatever I felt like doing and didn't put up much of a fight at all. Like my crying episode earlier in the week, I think the situation at work (the taking away of the last "easy" thing in my life) was what eliminated what little resolve was left in me and I just gave. If I felt like acting on sinful desires and cravings, I did.
So, mostly, this week, I've felt like crawling in a hole and just cryng for the rest of time. Yet, somehow, at the same time, I've felt like rejoicing and celebrating. In fact, many times, I've just broke out into spontaneous worship...joyful...yet still tearful...worship.
And, amazingly, my time with the Lord has been uninterrupted. I am most thankful for that. He has been very faithful to speak, consistently and specifically. Each morning it is as if I am reading fresh words, whispered to the authors just for me...though I am reading the Bible and devotional material that was written before I was born...or my parents were born...or, in some cases, even before my grandparents were born.
My knee jerk reaction at this point is to feel like I need to start over...that somehow I have undone what has been done and I need to "get back" to the starting line and do it all over again. That is NOT what the Lord has been saying and showing. What He has spoken, very consistently, is that this is not a step backwards...this is part of it. That what He is speaking to me and teaching me now, I can only recieve when I am flat on my face.
It does not make sense to me that He DESIGNED to use my weakness and sin to lead me into what He has for me...but then, really, does He do work any other way in anyone? Do we give Him a choice?
So, I rejoice in the knowledge that I have not been sent back to square one...that what He began in me He will complete...that He has a plan and a purpose in this...and is working even my unfaithfulness for my good and His glory. I am trusting that He is able to do above anything I can hope or think and turn what honestly feels like a hopeless situation into one of great Hope and Wonder. And I rejoice because He is not leaving me to my own devices. He desires that I respond in a very specific way...that I stop specific things and begin specific things in their stead. I trust that as I seek Him, He will communicate those to me. He has already highlighted certain pitfalls - gateways to temptation - that I need to address. I am hoping as I press in, He will give me the direction I need. Finally, I rejoice because He has not allowed me to stay and wallow in the "I'm a failure" mode. Each time my heart leans that way, He speaks words of peace and encouragement...replacing my thoughts of condemnation with thoughts of Him.
And, therein lies the key to battling any issue of sin and obedience...turning our thoughts from ourselves (our cravings, our inability to do what we desire to do) to Him, who is a very present Help and is able to accomplish the impossible.
Thursday, February 9, 2006
In an earlier post, I wrote a bit about "weirdness" between a co-worker and myself. It has been over a week and is about the same. If I speak directly to this co-worker, he will respond, otherwise I don't exist. This is very hurtful...and confusing...to me. I have done what I can to make amends and tried to give him space, yet still be "me" (though I am not sure how effective that part is...as it seems it is "me" that is the problem.)
I want to understand...and more to the point, I want it to go away and go back to the way things were.
I realize that may not be possible...that this may be by design for more than one reason.
Regardless, what the Lord is saying is "Leave Him to Me." My job is to be obedient and leave the why's and the working out to Him.
Here is what the devotion said...the first part could have been written specifically by me about this situation (though, probably not written as well):
When there is deep misunderstanding which has led to the erection of barriers between two who once were close, every day brings the strengthening of those barriers if they are not, by God's grace, breached. One prays and finds no way at all to break through. Love seems to "backfire" every time. Explanations become impossible. New accusations arise, it seems, from nowhere (though it is well to recall who is named the Accuser of the brethren). The situation becomes ever more complex and insoluble, and the mind goes round and round, seeking the place where things went wrong, brooding over the words which were like daggers, regretting the failures and mistakes, wondering (most painfully) how it could have been different. Much spiritual and emotional energy is drained in this way--but the Lord wants to teach us to commit, trust, and rest. "Leave him to me this afternoon," is what his word is. "There is nothing else that I am asking of you this afternoon but that: leave him to Me. You cannot fathom all that is taking place. You don't need to. I am at work--in you, in him. Leave him to Me. Some day it will come clear--trust Me." "Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, and he will lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on Him, for you [and the other] are his charge" (l Pt 5:7).
In my morning readings, I've been in Exodus. I am in the 20's where they receive the Law and instructions...very specific instructions...on building the temple and dressing and ordaining the priests. The sense I got from the Lord in this...and thinking about most of the ordinances and such in the OT in general...was that probably a lot of what was done, and the specificity of the instructions given didn't make practical sense to the people. Them being people and all, I am sure some wondered or even voiced thoughts that there might be some other, better, more efficient way to go about it. What they couldn't see was the big picture. They couldn't see what the Lord was preparing them for and preparing us for through the law, the rites, the sacrifices, and the festivals.
As I read through these passages, I can see the foreshadowing and preparation for Christ. It makes sense to me and I know there could have been no other or better or more efficient way.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
Foresight is very nearly always blind.
I want 20/20 foresight, but I cannot have it. What I can have is the assurance that the God of the Universe, who is for me and promises to work ALL things together for my good (even my own sinful ways, lusts and cravings) is fully aware of, at work in and sovereign over each step I take.
He is EVEN sovereign over this, admittedly small, yet upsetting, situation with my co-worker. Mine is not to know the end from the beginning (wow, how like Eve I am! Wanting to be God!)...mine is to discern in the moment what word, thought or deed would be the most honoring and obedient to the Lord.
He says, "Leave Him to Me."
And I say..."Amen."
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
What I got in the word will be the subject of another post (I think…the best laid plans, ya know) but here is what I read in my devotional material:
…Dejection stems from one of two sources— I have either satisfied a lust or I have not had it satisfied. (My Utmost for His Highest)
When you are feeling downhearted, go and do something for others. If you do that, and go on doing it, you will come to the place where Habakkuk was when he wrote his glorious Yet. “although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be I the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Thing of the grit of that man long ago. He did not wail about feelings. And his God is your God. He can make even you a Habakkuk. (Edges of His Ways)
2 Tim 2:12a If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:
Rom 5:17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
If we suffer we shall also reign with Him. Have you ever found yourself wishing that it were just a little easier to “reign in life”? And yet that is what each one of us is called to do. God keep us from sinking down to anything less arduous. We were never allured to the Lord’s side by a promise of the easy. We never shall be.
The Lord is good. I can’t help but be in awe-ful gratitude seeing how He threads what I have purposed to take in, and ordered it so perfectly to speak to me right where I am…to a specific struggle…and further provoke the required heart-change. He also went a step further and included one of my favorite OT passages, Habakkuk 3:17-19.
When I got to the office, I pulled up Habakkuk 3 on the computer and read all that proceeded that familiar passage. The verse immediately before really struck me:
16I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon [the lusts] which invade us.
And “yet” he says:
17Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
[though my lusts are never met]
18yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
(bracketed portions are my personalization)
At the end of this portion, it says:
“To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments”
With song…with rejoicing…with stringed instruments!
Though things are hard, though everything seems to go the wrong way, though I get nothing I want and much of what I dislike, though I feel weak and stretched and conflicted…and weak, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the Lord of my salvation. I will seek Him and His glory and His joy shall be my strength!
Monday, February 6, 2006
The straw that broke the floodgate of tears (I just made up my own colloquialism!) was weirdness between a co-worker and myself…and (if I am being honest) being deprived of the attention I am used to getting from said co-worker. But this was, by no means, anything that would normally send me to the ladies room in tears, it was just one more thing than I could handle at the moment.
The truth is everything is hard right now. No matter what area of my life you care to look at, its hard – challenging - being tested – forcing me to stretch – and my flesh is screaming. Work was (up until last week) the only “safe haven” I had…the only place where things weren’t hard…where they actually felt good. I say “felt” good, because the Lord has been faithful to show me that though everything else feels anything but good…it is. Work had become my refuge…my escape…what brought a smile to my face.
I’ve never said that about work in my life.
But that is what it was. As I realized this in my teary restroom retreat, my heart sank and I knew whence this turnabout had come…I should be looking to the Lord to be my refuge from all that is hard…not work.
With that realization, the tears flowed all the more and for a moment there, I was sure I would be in the restroom for the rest of the day. But the Lord never allows me to remain in the self-imposed condemnation that initially follows my realization of sin. He is ever faithful and kind and lifts me out of that and into thoughts of forgiveness and of what good will come from repentance.
Saturday, February 4, 2006
One of the reasons for the change is just time. My work schedule has been hectic and my evenings have been spent trying (mostly in vain) to get my place back in order since my family members have moved out. The other reason is because of the great swirling inside of me. I can't make sense of much that is going on with and in me right now. I feel very much like I am straddling two wobbly and cracking pieces of ice, in the middle of a wind storm. The only concrete thought that is possible is "don't fall!"
But the Lord has been speaking very specifically, and encouragingly, to me over the past week and I hope that I can put all of it down in some sort of way that makes sense, for myself and in a way that might benefit someone else, because I firmly believe that He does nothing just for me, but always intends it to benefit someone else, somehow.
So, thanks again for continuing to stop by...and please pray that clarity (and the resulting response of change) comes soon.