The Object of Someone’s Wrath

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? Psalm 90:11

Many live as the object of someone’s wrath. Through no fault of their own, they share the same last name with someone who harbors rage over the ways their life has failed to deliver what they think they deserved. As the list of offenses pile up, so does their anger. The reservoir is full and it just takes the mildest of annoyances to cause an overflow. When I think about an explosive person, I picture them as having no elastic left in the rubber band of their patience. It has already been stretched out by stuff prior to a present day encounter. It just takes something minor for the band to snap.

If you’ve lived long enough as the object of someone’s wrath, these things are probably true of you:

  • You assume that you’re the problem. Angry people are skilled at blame shifting.
  • You suffer from extreme anxiety. You never know what is going to cause an explosion.
  • You cease to become yourself. A life of appeasement is your insurance policy against outbreaks.
  • You hate yourself for being weak. But you fail to see that what appears as weakness is often prudence to ensure survival.

While implementing spiritual coping skills is the topic of another devotional, there is something far more pressing to talk about. If I am a child of God, I was once the object of God’s wrath. Now that is terrifying. I could do nothing right. My sin marked me. I couldn’t fix it. Only Jesus could. His wrath condemned me to an eternal place of wrath. But hell was not created for me.

Paul said it like this ~ We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us . . . Eph. 2:3-4 Never has there been a transition in scripture more beautiful than this. “But God. . .” Because Jesus took the wrath God had stored up for me upon Himself, I am now under His favor. When the heavens open, the light of God’s radiance pours down on me. I can stand tall, cast off the shame, and look up confidently for reassurances of God’s love.

Now the real tragedy is this ~ many of God’s children act as though God is still angry with them. The news from the soapbox of this ministry today is broadcasted loud and clear. God is not mad at you.

I am loved with Your everlasting love. In Your name, I silence the mouth of the enemy who tells me something is still wrong with our relationship. Amen

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Refreshing People

So that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.  Romans 15:32

The word ‘refresh’ is found 17 times in scripture.  In most of them, the spirit of one person is being refreshed in the company of another.  This got me thinking.  What really happens when I am refreshed?  Who is it that refreshes me? And most importantly, am I a person who refreshes others?  Do I leave them feeling stronger or weaker?

I jotted down names of people who refresh me when I’m in desperate need of it.  What is it about each one?  Each is:

  • Someone who is deeply at rest in the Lord.
  • Someone who is permanently unshaken by life.
  • Someone who has had their needs met in Christ and can listen well without self-distraction.
  • Someone whose heart is full of the scriptures and it comes out of their mouth at just the right time.
  • Someone who inspires faith, not blind optimism.
  • Someone who whispers courage based on God’s presence and promises.
  • Someone who prays for me, by name, with intuition and discernment.

I know it’s possible to be refreshed by someone who is kind and positive.  Perhaps they’re not even a believer but their personality and attitude toward life are contagious.  But, when I need more than a pep-talk and someone to speak God’s words into my life for perspective and strength, I won’t get it from them.  Without Christ, there is no foundation to their strength.  Their encouragement has no substance even though their personal fortitude is admirable.

Paul knew that if He went to Rome to be with the Roman believers, he would be refreshed.  Weariness and discouragement would be replaced by hope and renewal.  If I don’t have others in my life who refresh me, I need to ask God why and possibly make changes about those with whom I fellowship.  Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs ~ so important was the spiritual refreshment that happens between two people who love Jesus.

Make me more like the ones on my list, Jesus.   Amen

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

Which Teacher Do You Prefer?

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.  Psalm 119:93

Which of two teachers would you prefer to learn from?  Let’s say that the topic to be taught is THE COMFORTING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The first teacher does a word study on ‘comfort.  He cross references well and takes you to many passages and stories where God creatively comforted His children.  It’s obvious he has a grasp of the topic and is out to impart information to those who listen.  He hopes you take good notes so that you can remember the material.

The second teacher speaks briefly about the text.  He, too, defines ‘comfort’ and references some related passages.  Then, thoughtfully, he begins to reminisce and speak of a time when he was in desperate need of comfort and companionship.  It was not to be found.  He was alone in a world of family and friends and wondered how he could make it one more day in his sense of isolation.  He pressed into God and experienced the comforting work of the Spirit firsthand.  As he told the story, you were unaware of time and the weight of his words fell on your heart.

The first teacher works hard at his faith but it’s mostly cerebral.  Like a graduating senior who tries to remember calculus formulas so he can ace his freshman math course in college, this bible scholar files away biblical facts.  He approaches the bible like a textbook to be mastered.  His knowledge of God is based mostly on what he has read, not on what he has experienced.

The second teacher is not so much aware that he is a student as much as he is a disciple of one he loves dearly.  Life’s experiences brought him to the end of himself and his great need of a Savior ushered him into a relationship with Jesus.  Anything he studies fills in more blanks about a person with whom he experiences a daily relationship.

How much easier to remember God’s precepts when they are woven into the cement of our experience.  When the Word has been life-saving, it is not soon forgotten.  I’ve heard it said that nothing we know, do we really know, until it has found its way into application.

Not much of what I know is valuable to me, Lord, unless I find it active in our relationship.  Help me teach others through the storylines of my life.  Amen

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