Why Are You a Good Girl?

Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in God. Psalm 4:5

As a little girl, I remember hearing my parents say, “Now, we want you to be a good girl!” That often meant that their reputation was on the line and I might embarrass them. I was compliant only because I feared the punishment. Was my choice to behave properly the right kind of sacrifice, the kind David talks about? Hardly. I was selfishly saving my own neck.

From the very beginning, we have acted religiously in an attempt to distract ourselves from our own sin. It hasn’t worked. Down deep we know that we are flawed. And down deep we fear that God is not fooled. In spite of this, we still keep doing it to feel good about ourselves. We hope to appease an angry God but underneath all this striving is the shame of our sinful nature.

I heard someone pose an interesting question the other day. ‘Is it possible for an unbeliever to please God?’ Immediately, I thought of all the selfless acts that arise in the worst of times. People offer their lives to save another. They give generously to charities. They love their families and sacrifice for their well-being. But does all this please God? The answer, I believe, is no. The only acts that please God are the ones that are done with Him at the center of our motivation. He must be the point of my good deeds – not me.

So if unbelievers can’t please God, does this mean that believers will automatically get it right? No. So much of what I do is still selfishly motivated.

By God’s grace though, my intentions are getting cleaned up. I’m maturing just as I did in my childhood. I’m thinking about what happened as I got older and left grade school behind. My motivation for doing the right things began to change. My love for my parents grew and I wanted to honor them. I couldn’t bear the disappointment they would face if I made bad choices. This desire to honor them is the right foundation for a good sacrifice.

After all is said and done, I need to love God more. Easy to say but how is that accomplished? By knowing Him and receiving His love for me. God is the initiator of love and I am the responder. “We love Him because He first loved us.” I cannot simply will myself to love Him more. That encourages more performance and the need to prove something. My love needs to be of the genuine kind, born out of intimacy and amazement.

How could You love me? And yet, You do. Refresh the Gospel message in my soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Don’t Miss Promised Insight!

As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Daniel 9:13

Behind every sin is a world of insight. Repentance is often done quickly at an altar but seeking God as to why the sin was committed can never be momentary. Sometimes, I can be careless, sin easily, and then say I’m sorry over a slip-up.  But, most of the time, sin results from years of struggle in a certain area. Iniquity that emerges out of old strongholds is the kind that Daniel references here in his famous prayer.

Israel sinned against God over a long period of time. God wooed, sent prophets to warn, but still they went their own way. Not only did they miss the sweet fruit of repentance but they failed to gain insight about their detour away from God. Their hard-heartedness kept them from recognizing that rebellion started with small considerations to do their own thing. What attracted them at the beginning? How did they whitewash sin as it progressed? How long did they enjoy the detour before calamity hit? Were they aware that their sins got bigger and bolder over time? Do they remember caring less and less as sin grew? These are the questions that accompany true restoration.

When God has done a deep work in me, it took years, not days. He shed light on my wayward path, helping me see it as the result of making one small choice after another. The decisions I thought inconsequential were really weighty. There was no insignificant step on the path. My selfish road was a long and winding one and so was the review as God gave me spiritual insight into my own heart. It took me a long time to dismantle my life and God took a long time to rebuild it. All this was done against the backdrop of a breakdown in my forties.

You may think this sounds grueling and depressing. But it is not. That’s the thing!   Grace wraps this journey of restoration. While learning, while grieving, there is also joy that I am no longer wandering and vulnerable; but safe in God’s cocoon. His voice is instructive and His manner is merciful. His truth just clicks. It’s clean, simple, yet profound. Satan’s thinking is cobwebbed. Estrangement from God is marked by fog and confusion. Exhaustion and futility are the result.

If you find yourself in a place of rugged introspection, suffering from the fallout of sinful choices, do not fear the way home. Home is where God is. Your companion is Jesus. He is a friend, not an enemy. He is a gentle teacher and is kind with the pace. If you weep over your sin, He holds you and soothes you. Repentance, that thing our carnal nature abhors, is the really the thing that unlocks the door of heaven.

‘Thy kingdom come’ to every life who asks for a second chance today. Amen

No Longer On Speaking Terms

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly. Psalm 40:9-10

What do you do when the person you’re counting on lets you down?  Not just once, but over a long period of time? You just don’t understand  what happened because the relationship is not platonic, but deep and abiding.  Many proclamations of love have been expressed over the years.  Then, just when you need them most, they aren’t there for you.

Perhaps the first thing you do is cry out in protest. “Where has your heart gone?  I need you? I thought you loved me?” But when your words do not move them to draw closer, you might stop talking and turn the other way.

Such can be the case when I perceive that God is failing me. I’ve prayed for things I believe I need right now. I reason that anyone who loves me wouldn’t withhold it. I try to muster up some faith so I can pray harder, and longer. I may make excuses for God to others but the first signs of disillusionment have already been manifested in the core of my soul. My testimony sounds hollow, even to me. Eventually, armed with the lies of the evil one, I turn away from God’s face and stop talking.

Did you see today’s scripture? David is speaking in glowing terms about God’s faithfulness. If I had to guess, I’d say that God just came through for David in some huge way. David is fresh off of some kind of mountaintop experience. But that would be the danger of taking these two verses out of context. David is, in fact, in turmoil and waiting on God. His soul is ragged and desperate. Yet, in spite of this, and in spite of the fact that his eyes have yet to see the saving help he ascribes to God, he is still talking.

This is the essence of faith; faith that I cannot manufacture on my own. In my need, in my disappointment, in my wilderness, and in my waiting, I brag on God’s love and faithfulness to others. Not only that, but I encourage them to put their lives in His hands. How can this be? Because the foundation of my life rests on the pillars of God’s promises! I know in my spirit that God has not abandoned nor forgotten me. I can, simultaneously, pour out my complaint in prayer and speak of His glory ~ whether in private or in public assemblies.

For all the years I shut You out, forgive me. Amen

Save

When Love Is In Front Of You

I will never walk alone for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.  Psalm 26:3

Everyone wonders what their future will hold.  Good times or hard times?  Healthy or unhealthy?  Married or unmarried?  Financially secure or living with meager provision?  Surrounded by those who love us or mostly alone?  We aren’t granted a clear picture of tomorrow but any of us who know God as our Father can know for certain one thing about our future.  In spite of uncertainty, David says that God’s love is ever before us.  Perfect Love is always and forever in our tomorrows.

If times are good, God will join me in my celebration.  If times are difficult, He will offer open arms.  If times are rewarding, He will still remind me that heaven will be better because He will be there.  If times are tragic, He will assure me that this time of tears is short in comparison to an eternity of joy.

Picture a groom, on his knees proposing, and he says in a deep and meaningful tone, “Spend your life with me.  I can’t promise you that it will always be easy but however it unfolds, I promise to be there with you and love you.”  It’s exactly what she needs.  Love.  Companionship.  Commitment.  And for any who have not known this in their human experience, Jesus is the Bridegroom who offers what is supremely better than that.  A perfect love without the imperfection of the flesh within mortal marriages.  There is perfect companionship as the groom knows His bride completely.  And there is  perfect faithfulness as this Groom never backs away.  No matter how well or how poorly the bride loves, His love is constant and true.

Your love is here now.  Your love has always sustained me.  Your love waits for me in all my tomorrows.  You are timeless and I can rest that You have traveled ahead of me.  I’m so comforted.  Amen

The Sin-Eater

Jesus, seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reason in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; ‘who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:6-7

The scribes in this story are right. Claiming to forgive sins is a big deal and no one can do it except God but they didn’t recognize their Yahweh in the face of His Son, Jesus. People will do anything to wash themselves of nagging guilt. Most refuse to run to Jesus because their own pride convinces them that they have the power to do something about it. Never has this self-sufficiency been more twisted than with the ancient practice of choosing a sin-eater within a community.

Still in existence within rural Appalachia, this ritual originated in southern England. A sin-eater was selected from among the most despised of society. Their calling would ostracize them for life. Their role was, 1.) to live in obscurity, 2.) to appear at the home of a deceased person at the time of the funeral, 3.) perch themselves at the border of the property and wait for the casket to emerge from the house, and 4.) perform the ritual of eating bread and drinking wine. All of the sins of the deceased would be transferred to the bread/wine and enter the sin eater’s body. They were believed to be the new ‘dwelling place’ of the dead’s iniquity.

Before meeting Jesus, the hymn writer, William Cowper, succumbed to a deep depression from the weight of his own guilt. While living in a mental institution, he was known to keep washing his hands and lamenting, “My guilt, my guilt. What can wash it away?” After his conversion and having looked to Jesus to wash away his sins, he wrote, Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy.” Within weeks, he wrote the words to the hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners cleansed beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

There is only one sin-eater. Jesus. He became the despised, was shunned by His people, and took on the sins of the damned. He was the sacrifice for any who will apply His blood to their iniquity. Today, we do not need to wallow in guilt nor employ a scapegoat to bear our sins. Jesus did it – and then He said, “It is finished.” 

Nagging guilt need never plague me. You are a God of closure. I repent, you forgive, and it is finished. Amen

 

Need A Foundation?

“And He shall be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

Today, I need to plant my feet on something solid.  I need to be sure of something and someone.  I need to know that my feet won’t slip and what’s under me won’t shift.

    Isaiah reveals that three building blocks make up my spiritual foundation.

  • Salvation ~ Though I was saved from eternal condemnation when I became God’s daughter, I am delivered from other things every day.  This very moment, if I turn to Abba, I can be saved from the temptation to sin, to self-condemn, to feel insecure and fearful, to indulge in self-pity, and to cave in to any other threat that would steal my sense of belovedness and peace.
  • Wisdom ~ My life can’t be navigated successfully without it.  Abba is my storehouse of wisdom.  When shall I speak?  When is silence more prudent?  What is my defense?  Which way shall I turn at the next fork in the road?  At the very foundation of my spirit, I know that Wisdom is a Person and He is not stingy with instruction.
  • Knowledge ~ Knowledge is information.  For any who love to learn and expand their mind, God is the most brilliant instructor!  While a spiritual journey is, most importantly, a journey of the heart, it is not exclusively emotional and soulful.  My mind is also engaged.  Spiritual transformation starts cognitively with knowledge and with my choice to believe that the final authority for Truth begins and ends with God.

God is the solid foundation for our times, offering us salvation, wisdom, and knowledge as cornerstones.  His offer of salvation supports the weight of our trials.  His offer of wisdom supports the weight of our fears.  His love, daily poured out, supports the weight of our distrust.

I won’t be afraid of today, Father.  Everywhere I choose to go, you give me sure footing.  I can’t help but live successfully.  Amen

Save

Say ‘Thank You’ And Make a Vow!

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14

Have you ever noticed how few people ever say ‘thank you’? We are, by nature, selfish and entitled. Because we believe we deserve better, saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t occur to us as often as it should. I can also be offended when I think another’s ‘thank you’ isn’t grand enough for what I gave them. Because they didn’t go into enough detail, or because it took them too long to send an acknowledgement, I call them ungrateful. While it may be true in some cases, my propensity to hold a grudge should be checked against my own sin of entitlement.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve’s offense against God wasn’t necessarily pride but ingratitude. They had access to every single tree created except one but they felt that even that one should be theirs.

If I’m going to measure a ‘thank you’ against the weight of the gift that was given to me, then I’m guilty of not expressing a proper ‘thank you’ to God. The level of my acknowledgement is far beneath what it should be. I casually thank Him for forgiving me when I fail to realize what would happen to me if He hadn’t. I forget to thank Him for my health until I languish for a time under a chronic illness. God owes me nothing and yet He gives me everything. I pray that my thanks won’t be just a whisper under my breath but an audible, hearty alleluia.  Perhaps my thanksgiving will be contagious and I will help create an environment of gratitude where everyone considers taking part.

The Psalmist encourages an additional exercise ~ to perform vows to the Most High.  A vow is a serious thing.  It binds and it also brings about consequences according to the purity or impurity of our words.  Too many vows are spoken carelessly; vows to join a secret society, a fraternity, or a swearing to adhere to the ‘family way of doing things’, etc.  I can vow to never forgive, to never trust men, to never be poor. These entrap, these are binding and set my life on a set of railroad tracks. Jesus was clear as to the danger.  He said, “Don’t make false vows but only vows to the Lord your God.”

So Father, deepen my gratitude for the privilege of being your child. I vow to finish this race well. Like a bride who stands at an altar, I vow to love you all my life. I vow make you my treasure above all other people, and all other things. Amen