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

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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

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

 

Good News. He Chose Us To Be His Home.

For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. Psalm 132:12

House hunting is not easy and it’s never a quick undertaking. There is always a list of things that are non-negotiable. Things like ~ Must have three bedrooms and two baths. Must be close to grocery stores. Must be newer construction. Must have a basement (if you live in the north.) Must be well insulated. Must have newer roofing. Must pass an inspection with flying colors.

Personally, after the filters were implement, I must say that every home we’ve ever purchased was preceded by a certain initial feeling when I walked into it. I knew it was going to be ‘home’. In fact, I saw the house that we currently live in on the Internet and still knew it was the right one. Ron traveled 400 miles to see it in person and he bought it even though I’d never set foot in it.

Choosing a habitation is a big deal ~ even for God. His eyes travel to and fro across the earth, searching for those whose hearts are completely His. We, His bride, are a chosen people, His holy habitation. But how can we make sense of this in light of the fact that we’re sinful human beings? Shouldn’t God prefer to dwell in perfection? In glorious places? In palatial surroundings? Why would He choose the likes of you and me?

Just as He chose a stable for His Son to be born, He still chooses the common to showcase the divine. Even though humanity is fallen, the ones who place their trust in Jesus for salvation are made righteous because of Jesus. They provide a sanctified environment for the Spirit of God to dwell. They wear the righteous robes of Jesus because He provided the way for the great exchange ~ He took our sin as His own and we were given His righteousness as our own.

I feel the undeserved favor today. I am the home of God’s Spirit. By shunning sin, I make Him ‘feel at home’ and give Him the freedom to express His life through mine.

I’ll never get over it! 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

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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