Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 15 - Gardening Parable

Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things! Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength. Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you--The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame" (Joel 2:21-27)

My parent's home flooded during Hurricane Katrina. That was back in September 2005. This weekend, they were ready to start planting a garden along the front of the house. It's been 2 and a half years. In that time the house was gutted, remodeled, raised and leveled, refurbished, stuccoed, re-stuccoed, re-leveled and new front steps built with columns and railings. So now, it's time to tend to the pretty details. Before we could plant pretty things, though, we needed to prepare an area for planting. As mom stomped out an outline for the garden and began popping up layers of grass, she found roots...and rocks...and bits of concrete leftovers from the raising...and trash. It was a mess! In the end, she had to buy new soil to pour over the existing stuff that was infused with grass and hurricane debris and reconstruction trash. Even after all of that, the garden requires quite a bit of imagination. If you tilt your head to the side, squint one eye and imagine it all grown and filled in 6 months down the road, it looks beautiful! But now...not so much.

Why is this significant? Well, it's Day 15 of this new repenting of gluttony bible study. Two weeks down. Time for weigh in. I gained 3 pounds. Enter discouragement.

The main premise of the course is that gluttony, not food, is the problem. That is contrary to what most other diet plans will tell you. Every other plan I've been on has been all about the food...the right types of food...exactly the correct combinations...and even avoiding certain types of food alltogether. This plan says "eat of the goodness of God's provision, but in moderation." For the past 4 years, I've avoided white things: sugar, pasta, flour, potatoes, and I have to confess that re-introducing those things had me concerned.

My weigh-in didn't help things.

I walked away from the scale with questions and fears. I mean, I knew this was going to happen right? I can't just eat anything! My body's not used to it. But still, I'm going hungry AND exercising. I'm fasting (of sorts) 3 days a week! 3 pounds?!?! Seriously?

I took those to the Lord and begged for strong consolation and confirmation that I was pursuing His will with this plan. I know that if I know He is in this and has gone before me, I can deal with going hungry and not losing weight. But I NEED to know this is His will.

Then, on my walk this morning he brough to mind the passage from Joel referenced above and my adventures in gardening this weekend. He showed me that sanctification is much like gardening. It would have been unrealistic of my mom and I to think that we could have a beautiful, luxuriant garden in one afternoon. That ground had been neglected and trashed for almost 3 years and needed some serious work before we could expect to get anything from it. The old grass and trash and earth needed to be cleared away, new soil needed to be put down and then the plants or seeds needed a consistant course of fertilizer, water and exposure to the sun before we would see growth and beauty.

And so it is with this, He said to me. This is the clearing away stage. It is hard. It isn't fun. It's messy and may look like I'm just piling up trash, but after a while, after good things are planted and I am nourished through His word and regular time in the light of His presence there will be fruit, restoration, satisfaction and praise.

In the meantime, I will praise Him now for His faithfulness to this messy pile of upturned earth which He still calls chosen, precious, loved.


DOST think thy prayers He doth not heed?
He knows full well what thou dost need,
And heaven and earth are His; My Father and my God,
who still Is with my soul in every ill. -- Hans Sachs

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 9, 10 & 11 - No Choice

You did not choose me, but I chose you...(John 15:16)
I remember the summer I got saved like it was yesterday. It was the best summer of my life and the worst summer of my life. For months, I had been feeling like I was at the end of my rope. I felt lonelier than I'd ever felt. I was angry. I wanted to just die and be done with it all, though I didn't really know why. That summer, I had really connected with a group of people in the dorm. We hung out, went to movies, played spades, cooked meals for each was so much fun! Yet not "enough" fun, I guess, to make me not want to die.

The reality of it was, I see now, that nothing would have been enough. I could have woke up one day a size 6, with a great boyfriend on top of the great friends I found that summer and the job I enjoyed and the winning the election for RHA President and being on the dean's list...and so on...and it still wouldn't have been enough. I would have still yearned for whatever I thought the next thing needed to be or more of what I already had plenty of and still would have wound up stuffing my face full of nachos and chinese food and cheesecake because "more" of something...anything...was all I knew to be about.

But God...

That summer, he put two very different believers in my path. One was a fairly new believer. She was very petite with very big hair and was also very vocal about her faith. We met the Fall before in English class. We were discussing Milton's Paradise Lost and I took the opportunity to get on my atheist/agnostic soap box. We'd been debate friends ever since. The second was a sugar cane farmer named Ed. Both loved the Lord and were uncompromising with the gospel.

When I wasn't cooking or playing spades or going to class, I was talking about Jesus with them. I laid out all of my objections and knowledge and facts to disprove creation and miracles and organized religion and they came back with scripture which put me back to faith. It was quite simple: every objection I raised could be brought back to a "but God" and nothing I had learned was static or certain. New discoveries could surface tomorrow and then where would I be? But God had spoken from the beginning, they said, telling us everything we needed to know for life and godliness. He never changed. The question was, where did I want to plant my feet...on the shifting ground of science or the solid rock of the creator of everything?

That July, the arguements had all been made. I had no more "What ifs" or "What abouts" to pull out of my hat. I was left with that one question and God's word. My friends encouraged me to just open the Bible and read, not to prove a point o find a flaw or get ammunition but to know if He really was who they told me He was.

So I did. I went upstairs to room 310 in Babington Hall, laid across my bed and opened the bible. I landed in Ruth and read the whole thing through. At the end I was in tears. It is still a mystery to me why, but I was and I was done. It was true. It was real. It wasn't going to change tomorrow. And, somehow I also knew that it was the "more" I'd been trying to find in friends and fun and food. So, I closed the Bible, rolled over in the bed, looked up at the ceiling and said "Ok. Do whatcha gotta do."

I was convinced. I was done arguing. I chose Christ.

Or did I?

It is so easy to look back over that sequence of events and see my wrestling, my arguing, my thinking, my challenging and then my accepting and surrendering. But God's word is clear: I was chosen. Before Abraham was, before Africa or even one star was in the sky He knew my name and knew that I'd be His. This grace in which I now stand was no more my choice than being born female, or to my particular set of parents. It was no more my choice than a jail term is for an inmate. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. That price was paid before I was a thought on anyone else's mind and He simply, rightfully, claimed His property that day in July of 1994.

This is true for anyone who calls themself "Christian".

And so it is with our lives after salvation. Just as God, despite my sin and my resistance, had his way and claimed what was rightfully His all those years ago, He will have His way still in my life until the day I die. The demands and commands of scripture... to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, to love, to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against our souls, to speak truth and honor authorities, to gather with the local church, to be sober-minded and self-controlled, to rejoice in all things...are not suggestions. They are His will for all believers and He will make it so. We might, at times, behave as if we have a choice in the matter. We might even thing that we can determine how far we will go, how faithful we will be, how literal we will take God's word, or how much of our lives we will let it touch. But that just isn't true.

That thought is both freeing and convicting.

We have no justifiable option or exception when it comes to obedience. It is never OK, no matter what the current world view is or what my particular weakness or background or circumstance - it is never OK to disobey what God has commanded. (Oh, let us never confuse grace with leniency or license.) In that moment, our only choice is life or death. Plain and simple. And God has said, choose life that you might live! He will have His way. His will, well, it will be done, period. All disobedience gives us in the meantime is death. So let us agree with God and be at peace with Him, that His will does not have to unfold in spite of us and that we might have life and have it abundantly. Let us not forsake this for some phanthom choice which isn't a choice at all but a lie that would rob us of the joy and peace and all of the other blessings God longs to lavish on those whose hearts are completely His in Christ Jesus!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Psalm 63

Today is a fast day. Like last week, I woke with a headache. Unlike last week, I still have the headache and am really hungry right now...and it is only 9:32am. This morning, I decided to bring my bible to work with me and keep it next to me on my desk so that I could tangibly feast on the word (as opposed to looking at a slip of paper with scripture on it or looking up a verse on the computer). Just now, I was feeling weak and hungry and decided to open the bible around where I thought Psalms would be. I landed on Psalm 63:

My Soul Thirsts for You
1O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;my flesh faints for
you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no

2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding
your power and glory.

3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my
lips will praise you.

4So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I
will lift up my hands.

5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich
food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful

6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the
watches of the night;

7for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings
I will sing for joy.

8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds

Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and steadfast love toward the children of men!

Today's Spurgeon

Then all the disciples forsook him and fled. Matthew 26:56

He never deserted them, but they in cowardly fear of their lives, fled from him in the very beginning of his sufferings. This is but one instructive instance of the frailty of all believers if left to themselves; they are but sheep at the best, and they flee when the wolf cometh. ... It may be, that I, at the opening of this day, have braced up my mind to bear a trial for the Lord's sake, and I imagine myself to be certain to exhibit perfect fidelity; but let me be very jealous of myself, lest having the same evil heart of unbelief, I should depart from my Lord as the apostles did. ...Where else could they have been so safe as near their Master, who could presently call for twelve legions of angels? They fled from their true safety. O God, let me not play the fool also. Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 8

I've been talking about sin a lot lately with my 8 year old nephew. The really neat thing about these talks is that he get's it. As I share with him and show him scripture about our fallen nature and rebellious hearts and need to accept correction and walk in obedience, I can see it clicking in his head. He sees the truth in it. He can apply it to what led to that particular moment of correction. He communicates, in his 8 year old way, how powerless he feels in combatting his own sin and his desperate need for a Savior.

I feel his pain.

In our talks, I use the analogy of a fence. I take his bible and trace the perimeter of it and say: "Imagine this is a fence. God tells us that in His word is everything we need for life and godliness. So within this fence is safety and blessing and nearness to God. But when we sin, we put ourselves in danger. We serve the enemy and separate ourselves from God. You know that sometimes when the bible talks about death it doesn't just mean we physically die, it means separation from God. Jesus died that we might never have to know what that feels like. But we sin and, in a sense, jump over the fence and away from Him. He is still God and all powerful and sovereign (which means that His will is done no matter what) but He also allows there to be consequences when we jump over the fence so we won't do it again. Just like when Mommy or Daddy punishes you or takes a toy away sometimes. They aren't trying to hurt you, they are trying to help you to learn what is right and what is wrong. God is the best teacher and has given us His word that we might not sin against Him, though He knows sometimes we will. The great thing is that He also gives mercy and grace to those who call upon His name, so if you find yourself in sin, across the fence, you can jump back over. The bible calls this repentance. It is when we acknowledge that we have sinned, confess it, ask forgiveness and turn from it to God."

What we haven't talked about yet is the reality that, sometimes, we sin the same way, so often that we can no longer hear God. In fact, the Word says that there could come a time when God will not hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:2) or where we find no chance to repent though we seek it with tears (Hebrews 9:17).

The verse that drove me to begin the online study I've been doing was Hebrews 9:17. It is about Esau being rejected by God and finding no chance to repent. I was shaken at the thought and determined that so long as there was a loving spark in my heart towards God or a hint of fearful reverence, I was going to run towards it and pray that God would meet me there, forgive my rebellious heart and heal me. But I'd never been struck by the Isaiah verse quite the way I was yesterday when I read it in my lesson.

The verse says:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

Let those words sink in a minute.

Your sins have hidden His face from you...He will not hear.

Even now, the thought of that is like the ground beneath me opening up and swallowing me whole.

Have you ever felt like your prayers weren't being answered? Have you ever begged and pleaded and cried out to God to remove something or move in a situation or change you only to come away feeling like you were talking to yourself? Or, if not that, to see no change or hear no word of encouragement to help you press on? That is how I have felt many times over the past few my prayers were, maybe, I wasn't even really praying.

God's word tells me that this was because I wanted to not want to sin more than I wanted to not sin. I wanted the easy road to sanctification. I wanted the Lord to just flip a switch in me and turn my sinful tendencies off and then everything would be easy peasy rice and cheesy.

He doesn't work that way. But He does work, and work all things together for our good and His glory.

He is also faithful though we are not.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deut 7:9)

To a thousand generations! I love that!

I love that, though there are warnings in scripture about habitual sin and God not hearing, there are also verses like this about our Faithful God who keeps covenant to a thousand generations!

Friend, if you are like me and discouraged by sin. If you feel that resigning yourself to the way things are is the best way to deal. If you are just tired of going around that same mountain. Be encouraged today. So long as it is called today there is Hope! God gave His only Son up for us...will He now also now give us all things. He dealt with our sin up front...before we came to Him...while we were yet sinners. Will He now hold our tendency to sin against us? He opened the way that we might come, come boldly, come in our sin to Him who alone has power over sin and death. He is the sovereign God who will have mercy upon those He chooses and has given us His spirit that we might know that He is...that we might hear His voice and run to Him! If you hear that voice today, do no harden your hearts...RUN! And received grace upon grace upon grace!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 5, 6 & 7 - No bootstraps

God getting his point across, Part I:

My friend: So, how did it go this weekend?
Me: Well...
My friend: (laughing) That good, huh?
Me: (choking up)...I've just come to realize that I've got no bootstraps to pull myself up with here.
My (wise) friend: That's great, Tina! Keep humbling yourself and submitting this to God. He gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. Be humble, receive grace and He will finish what He began in you.

God getting his point across, Part II:

Parts of my morning reading...
WHY is it that we, in the very kingdom of grace, surrounded by angels, and preceded by saints, nevertheless, can do so little, and, instead of mounting with wings like eagles, grovel in the dust, and do but sin, and confess sin alternately? Is it that the power of God is not within us? ... What is it we lack? The power? No; the will. What we lack is the simple, earnest, sincere inclination and aim to use what God has given us, and what we have in us. -- John Henry Newman

Being confident of this very thing that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phillippians 1:6)

God getting his point across, Part III:

My online gluttony study title today - "Happy are the Helpless".

Point taken.

"...And the [prideful glutton], standing afar off, would not so much as raise [her] eyes to heaven, but beat [her] breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 4

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, an my mouth will praise you with joyful lips… (Psalm 63:4-5)

A few years ago, I heard a comedian talking about babies and how funny they are. His argument was that they get away with a lot of things, and are even considered cute for things which are considered quite offensive in grown-ups. One example he used was their tendency to cry, scream even, when they are hungry. He painted a hysterical mental picture for his audience of a restaurant full of grown-ups, screaming and throwing tantrums while they waited for food as their harried waitresses ran here and there shoving bread sticks in their mouths to quiet them.

When my youngest niece was a baby, she would get bright red in the face and scream violently when meal time came around. She startled more than a few onlookers with volume one wouldn’t expect from a 10lb infant on more than one occasion. But as soon as that bottle was in her mouth, returned to her normal, quiet and sweet self, even sighing and cooing as she ate.

From birth, our bodies are wired to need, crave, and hotly pursue food. But somewhere along the line, the physical urge gets mingled with the emotional and things get bad. Now, I can’t ever recall a time when I screamed for food, but the irrational craving and rationalization that goes on in my heart sometimes is the grown-up equivalent, I think. So, the idea of missing a meal is not something I consider easily.

I am thankful, though, that our consideration or preferences or estimation of what we are capable of is not the final word on any subject.

According to the eating schedule that came with the online study program, today was a day of fasting. In fact, if I follow it as is, I will fast every Thursday. I confess, when I first looked over the plan I was hesitant. But God…

As is His way, he prepared the way before me. He gave me three wonderful days before the fast day and calmed my heart. The fear I anticipated going into this day just wasn’t there. The headache I woke with this morning dissipated quickly. The extreme hunger and weakness I expected was non-existent. And, the difficultly I thought I’d have replacing food with the Bread of His Word was beautifully natural.

Faithful is He who has called us and set us apart!

He promises to keep us, to intercede for us, to go before us and prepare a way, to give us all grace and all sufficiency in all things at all times, to be our strength when we are weak, to complete every good work He begins in us and satisfy our souls. This He has done, time and time again, and this He will do...and so much we turn to Him in obedience.

"My soul waits and in His name I hope..." for grace to continue, to be faithful, to be truly changed...for His glory! Amen!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 3 - And she did eat, and was sufficed...

"And she did eat, and was sufficed, and left." Ruth 2:14

Whenever we are privileged to eat of the bread which Jesus gives, we are, like Ruth, satisfied with the full and sweet repast. When Jesus is the host no guest goes empty from the table. Our head is satisfied with the precious truth which Christ reveals; our heart is content with Jesus, as the altogether lovely object of affection; our hope is satisfied, for whom have we in heaven but Jesus? and our desire is satiated, for what can we wish for more than "to know Christ and to be found in him?" Jesus fills our conscience till it is at perfect peace; our judgment with persuasion of the certainty of his teachings; our memory with recollections of what he has done, and our imagination with the prospects of what he is yet to do. As Ruth was "sufficed, and left," so is it with us. ... we have had our hunger relieved at the feast of sacred love, and found that there was a redundance of spiritual meat remaining. --Charles Spurgeon

And she did eat and was sufficed and left. Amen.

That is the testimony of this day: Feeding on the Word and Faithfulness of God, being sufficed and leaving (food on my plate).

Amen and Amen!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 2 - Complete in Him.

It's 7:10pm, Day 2 is drawing to a least for me because I'm old and go to bed early.

The bible study/support program I mentioned yesterday also came with an eating plan and today was Liquids day. That means that with the exception of one small meal, I am only able to drink juices, milk or soups. I was nervous about this but today went great. ... suprisingly so. So eating, or lack thereof, turned out to pretty much be a non-event, and I am glad. Thank you, Lord!

What was not a non-even was the e-mail I received from my mentor this morning. In her message she quoted the following scripture:
and you are complete in Him...(Colossians 2:10 NKJV)


I'll tell you, I don't feel complete.

I go through my day and it seems everyone belongs to someone, or is connected more deeply to people, places and groups than I am. I look at my heart and see affections and motives and desires that just aren't there. I look at my life and feel major components are missing. My personality needs serious adjustments...

I'm a work in progress.

I'm by no means complete.

Yet, that is not what scripture says. Scripture tells me I am complete. It also tells me I am a sinner and that I will be pursuing righteousness my whole life. So, how then, am I complete?

The that is a big "DUH!" but so easily forgotten is found in the modifier at the end of the verse: IN HIM. We are complete in Him. He is the fullness of the Godhead, perfect righteousness, and as believers we are bound to with Him as He is with the Father. So whether we are fat or thin, married or single, barren or Fertile Myrtles, own a home or live in a trailer, live on food stamps or interest from our many investments or ever figure out how to solve that blasted Rubix cube...we are complete in Him. We have all we will ever need ... in Him. Our heart can know perfect Him. We can know what it is to be whole and matter Him. The truth is, this completeness that seems unfathomable is possible...only in Him.

All other striving and any achieving will pale in comparison.

Every blessing from His hand is but a shadow compared to the glory of His nearness, to the perfect peace and purity of a heart yearning for and rejoicing in His will.

Oh may that heart be mine, Lord...for your glory! Amen!

Day 1

Hebrews 12
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And 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.6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See 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; 16that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17For 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. …22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. …[and] let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.

I love Hebrews. Over the past year, it has become one of my favorite books of the Bible. I've read it at least half a dozen times since last summer. I love the Hebrew writer's passion for God and truth...and his boldness in proclaiming it. I love the earnestness of it. I also love the awe of it. When I read words like "so great a cloud of witnesses", "God is treating you as sons", "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" and "our God is a consuming fire" I have no choice but to look heavenward, in fact I picture the writer that way...his glory-filled face upturned as his heart burns within him.

During this difficult season of my walk, it has often been quotes from Hebrews that have caused a similar awe and kindling in my heart. And it has been the challenging verses of Hebrews that have spurred me on and filled me with hope; verses like: "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself...", "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood...", and "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."

But one passage in particular has haunted both my idle and prayerful times...a passage that can humble my heart, no matter how hard or cold, in an that I am so thankful for because it compels me to prayer, and to keep fighting no matter how many times failure instead of awe finds me on my face before the Lord. The passage is found in Hebrews 12, beginning at verse 15: 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.

No chance to repent.

If that doesn't put an urgency on personal holiness I don't know what will.

And so it was, as this verse came to my mind over the past week, that my urgency to seek the gift of repentence and pursue righteousness in a serious way intensified. As as result, I made a decision: I was tired of going 'round the same mountain (Mt. Still Single and a Glutton) over and over again and I didn't want to miss the chance at repentence the Lord seemed to be handing me. So...I decided to act on that in two ways: First I determined to seek the Lord and ask for repentance, and then to take practical steps in keeping with repentance, or turning from my sinful habits and motives. In short, I sought regular and relevant study of the truth of God's word and accountability in the form of an online Bible study/support group for gluttons and by inviting three women from my church to walk with me.

The first lesson of the study dealt with motives: I needed to know what my real motives were and what they should be. I confessed to my online mentor, the ladies from church and the Lord that my motives for dealing with gluttony right now, and historically, has been to be more attractive so that marriage might be a possibility for me. This motive has nothing to do with and does nothing to glorify God.This motive denies the sovereignty of God. This motive does not trust in the faithfulness and goodness of God.This motive requires me to repent and trust God to change me.

So, here I am on Day 1...considering Him who endured, lifting my drooping hands, and trusting that He who promises to save me to the uttermost, to make me into His image, to present me holy and blameless before His father is faithful, though I am not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Live Upon God Who Is Invisible

By [2Corinthians 1:9] I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon [them] as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." -- John Bunyan

So when I hear Him say that to suffer aright you must learn to live upon God as invisible, I want to know what that means and I want to experience that so that when my season of suffering is intensified to the point of losing all and dying, I will not lose my joy. Like Habakkuk 3 says “Though 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, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)” You gotta live in God for that to be true. – John Piper.

Most people know that John Bunyan is the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. What most do not know is that in a span of 3 years he lost his sister, his mother, saw his father re-marry, was drafted into military service and then saw (or at least heard about) a man who switched sentinel duty with him shot through the head. After that, he married, had 4 children (the first of which was blind) and then, after 10 years of marriage, lost his wife. Within a year, he remarried and a year later he was put into prison for 12 years for his religious non-conformity while his second wife, Elisabeth, was pregnant with their first child…his fifth. The stress of being left with 4 children to care for alone, with no means of income, caused her to go into labor early and she miscarried. But his bride was an undaunted by suffering and loss as her husband. She, a poor, young girl, stood before a panel of judges and plead her husband’s case…never wavering in her conviction that he was imprisoned wrongly and should be allowed to continue to preach the Word of God.

What made them both so steadfast despite hardship, loss and pain? Bunyan tells us in the quote above: death to the world and self for the sake of living upon God who is invisible.


That is quite a provoking and reality shaking word. We are to live upon God that is invisible. We are to temper our emotions, make our choices, and rule our actions by what is invisible…NOT on what we see or think or learn or feel. If we are to persevere, and do so with joy, we must live not by what is visible and often more readily apparent but what we know: namely that God, who is invisible, is who He says He is and will do what He promises.

Oh Lord, this is a tall order. Looking around the world today and even the small little corner of the world that makes up my life here, there are so many things that want to dictate my thoughts and actions and provoke me to live upon and respond to what they present as true. But you have called us to live upon you, who is invisible…but not entirely to those with eyes of faith. Winds will blow, rains will fall, fortunes will rise and fall, hopes will be fulfilled, deferred and dashed to pieces, circumstances will change like the tides but you promise that you change not and will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us, Father, to make this reality the only one we know. Make us into men and women the likes of John and Elisabeth Bunyan, who will look into the face of suffering and loss and trial and deprivation and see their God just the same was when they lived in ease and health and abundance…and then more so. Amen.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." (Psalm 35:3)

"Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." Psalm 35:3

Lord, if thou shouldst say this to all the saints, it were nothing, unless thou shouldst say it to me. Lord, I have sinned; I deserve not thy smile; I scarcely dare to ask it; but oh! say to my soul, even to my soul, "I am thy salvation." Let me have a present, personal, infallible, indisputable sense that I am thine, and that thou art mine. (Spurgeon)

I've sort of always disliked the use of the word "season" in terms of discussing christian life and our walk. It sounds so "christianese" to "pat". But lately, I've come to like it mostly because I've been struggling...a lot...and the idea that this time is like a season (which comes and goes and is followed by something else) is encouraging to me. Seasons change, winter is followed by spring...and I SO long for spring right now!

This winter of my heart has been cold, hard, and long. I've done all I know to do to stoke the fires and make it warm again, to bear the cold with cheerfulness, to keep myself from being overcome, but this winter is a formidable opponent. And, the reality is that I can do nothing in my own power to change my heart, my habits, or my life.

But God...

With Him all things are possible.

With Him is peace.

With Him are precious promises...a hope...a future.

He says that He is always watching over the way of His saints. That He goes before us to seek out a place for us, carrying and guiding us the whole way. He says that He orders our steps and establishes our plans. He upholds our hand lest we fall headlong. And He promises to fight our battles, to deliver us from all of our afflictions, and to work all things together for good.

The problem is accepting His definition of good...and remembering the truth of His promises when what He calls good doesn't look or feel like it. This is a matter of faith and trust because often His working in our circumstances and answers to our prayers aren’t what we expect them to be. But, as Elisabeth Elliot says, “What God gives in answer to our prayers will always be the thing we most urgently need, and it will always be sufficient.”

Our vision is temporal, God’s is eternal. What we pray for is often more governed by our view, emotions, and reason. But God’s answer will always be eternally and kingdom minded. He knows that what we need more than ideal circumstances is patience, peace, love, joy, kindness, endurance, character, compassion, discipline, and holiness. We need a righteousness that is like unto our Savior.

We need to know that He is…and that He is our Savior.

We need Him to say to our soul, in the midst of trials and disappointments and failure and sin that He is our salvation. When we know that…when our soul hears and receives that…what else matters, really?
Is illness, infidelity, immorality, betrayal, personality, media, poverty, weight, habits, gluttony, sex, crime, drugs, drink, bitterness, loss or death bigger than our Savior? Can they separate us from or stem the tide of His mercy and lovingkindness for one second? Can their pleasures promise to never cease? Can their torments promise to flee forever? No.

But God…

He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He promises that His love endures forever. He promises that His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. He promises that His grace is sufficient for us. He promises that His blood makes us wholly clean and that His righteousness will be ours. And He promises that He is our salvation, bearing us into eternity, before the throne, accepted forever and ever.

Praise be to God, forever, who promises this and more…who says to our soul “I am thy salvation”!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Provoking thoughts from John Piper

The following was on John Piper's blog today:

Your life hangs on how you relate these two statements:

“If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).

“Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

Do you experience the first one weakening the second?
Or do you experience the first one joyfully empowering the second?
Your life hangs on your answer.