Thursday, October 28, 2010

Psalm 69 Humility in the Kingdom

30 Then I will praise God's name with singing,
and I will honor him with thanksgiving.
31 For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle,
more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.
32 The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
Let all who seek God's help be encouraged.
33 For the LORD hears the cries of the needy;
he does not despise his imprisoned people.

Lord, let me see you at work at be glad! Keep me from wanting to see my work be done and boast! My heart is so deceitful, Lord; I cannot know it. However, you always know it. Like the king in Proverbs 21, let my heart be like a stream of water in your hands; direct it as it pleases You!

Father, forgive me for seeing your work and lamenting because it wasn't the way that I wanted it. Spirit, let me hear your voice as you direct my heart. Jesus, be glorified as we lift you up!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Perplexed, but not driven to despair

Time seems to pass so quickly these days. 33? I know that seems young to some of you, but part of me feels like I was just a kid a few days ago. It makes me wonder what I am doing with my days.

At 33, I have five beautiful children from the perfect husband. When we started out, I had so many plans for my family. I knew what kind of Mom I would be, how our household would run, what I would teach my children, how I would point them to Jesus. As I sit here today and recall the life that I envisioned for myself back then, I don't recognize the woman in the vision. It certainly isn't me! Where did that woman go? And where did this selfish, quick-tempered, lazy, half-hearted mother come from?

Obviously, this woman was me all along, I just didn't know it. It took the course of everyday life to show me. It was easy to play all of this out in my mind... not so easy to live it. For all of the desires and plans that I had of pouring myself into my family and showing them the love of Jesus, when the truth is revealed, it turns out I am one of the most lazy, selfish people I know. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to get what I want, whether that be quiet, or time to play music uninterrupted, or a way to get out of making dinner, or countless other things.

The thing is, I have known myself to be this way for years now, and I have determined time after time to change it, and I can't (or don't want to.) So what's the point? Why keep trying? Why not just give up and go my own way? I mean, if I am so displeased with who I am, surely the Perfect and Holy God is even more displeased and has no intention of continuing to bless my life, anyway! Sounds like a logical time to quit.

BUT, in my despair, when my soul is parched and faints within me, the Lord draws me to the well of His Living Water and I read,

14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified... 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10)

5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (Galatians 5)

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing... 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. (2 Timothy 4)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure" (Revelation 19)

“The time has come, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15
(and the list of scripture that the Lord has used in my heart today goes on and on!)

The good news is this: Jesus has come to fulfill the law... Jesus has come to be the single offering... Jesus has perfected me... Jesus has bid my children come to him... and He will make His call effectual in His will and timing... Jesus is who my blessing depends on, not me... Jesus is calling me to repent of my prideful self-assessment and believe the Good News.

"Lord, you are so gracious, and so sweet the way that you have drawn me to you. I am proud and stubborn and I want to assess my good works. And when they are lacking, I am surprised? In the midst of my pride, you have led me to the blessed truth once again. He who has promised is faithful! I am not faithful, and I cannot expect to be, YOU are faithful. And the reason that you had to make such great a sacrifice is because I can't be trusted. Thank you for the freedom found in renouncing my ability to reform myself. Let me rest in you, for your burden is light. Shine through me and allow my children to see you, and not me. Oh, go ahead, show them how spiritually bankrupt I am! And let them see that they are the same. But then show them that the debt has been paid!!

I adore you, Lord, and I long for more and more of you until one day... my joy will be full in your presence."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Real Servants Have Empty Hands

For the last week I have been drawing the Living Water from a slightly different well than usual. I have been reading Comforts from the Cross and meditating and praying through the scriptures given and the wisdom with which God has blessed Elyse Fitzpatrick. My mother-in-law, Nancy (who also happens to be one of my dearest friends,) has been my drinking buddy. We both read a chapter in the morning and email one another any thoughts or insights. This morning, I was deeply moved by the reading and I wanted to post my thoughts here, but couldn't seem to find the words. When I read Nancy's commentary, it seemed to be just what I wanted to say! So I asked her if I could share here. I hope you are blessed by it, and I hope you can feel the joy in her words the way that I can.

(Our reading today was based mostly on Luke 23: 32-43. Jesus and the two criminals crucified beside him. If you haven't read it recently I invite you to click on the link above and read it.)

I am feeling closer to God with each chapter I read from this book! I am getting closer to that place where I was the day I called out to Him, "Jesus, remember me..."

I am learning to come to Jesus, each day, each hour, each minute in the same standing I came to Him the first time I came... destitute. Because in reality, nothing's changed without the work of the Lord! I haven't cleaned myself up one tiny bit! None of my own efforts at righteousness can ever get me past the point of destitution! Oh... doesn't that make God all the more glorious!!

Both criminals on the cross beside Jesus asked to be saved! I had never really seen it from the perspective Elyse showed. I can see now, that I have lived as both of these persons! The first time I came to Christ, I was the humble and contrite sinner, asking Him to remember me. As I became more legalistic in my approach, I became the proud and arrogant sinner, wanting to be sure Jesus recognized all I was doing to prove my love. Yes, you have saved me... I want to make you glad you did!

Then I read from this chapter... and I quote, " He doesn't even wish I were a bit nicer..." That would have seemed utterly preposterous to me a month ago! Now I see it differently. When God desires me to be nice, it is He who causes it to be so. The glory is always His...never mine! I know I have used the expression, "All the glory goes to God". But didn't really understand what I was even saying.

I haven't felt for a very long time that I could tell Jesus I loved Him and was thankful for my pardon without feeling obligated to Him. But in the beginning, I sure did. At the moment of my salvation, I felt more love and gratitude for God than at anytime since! Standing there with empty hands... I couldn't help but express it! My heart cried out to praise Him!
Standing before God with empty hands, makes His grace so much much more humbling.

I'll never love Him perfectly until I'm with Him face to face. But I can still express it today! I can still say to Jesus, " I really do love you with all that I am in the flesh, in the only way a redeemed sinner is capable of..."

Based on the peace and joy I receive from Him, I know He's still answering me today, the same way He did then, "I know you do...I believe you, because it is I who has given you that ability to know me, love me, and worship me as your Savior."

I'm seeing servanthood in a new way. I'm seeing my act of servanthood as always remembering who God is, and who I am. I'm seeing servanthood as an act of keeping my heart inclined toward Him and not myself. I'm seeing my servanthood wrapped up in "being for Him" and not "doing for Him". By my being a child of God, He has my works laid out for me. All of my abilities and acts are prepared for me beforehand according to God's will... not mine.
And yet in the end, knowing it is God who has done it all, He'll still say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" !
How great is our God!
~Nancy Livingston

Thank you, Nancy, for helping to incline my heart back toward Christ and away from me!

"Lord, today I thank you for your amazing grace. It becomes more and more amazing to me each time I look at it. Thank you for being a fountain of Living Waters that never runs dry. You are never boring! I never tire of seeing who you are. Just when I think I have it figured out, you show me more. I thank you that when you gave me the perfect husband, you threw in a bonus that not everyone gets, a mother-in-law that is a dear sister in Christ who can encourage and lift me up, and turn me to the cross! I thank you for the gifts you have given me in this life, and, Lord, I pray that you would continue to incline my heart more toward you, so that the gifts that you have given me will flow freely back into Your Kingdom!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Rescue

After sharing a burden with a dear friend this week, she encouraged me to read and meditate on Romans 7. I did. Then I came across the very same passage and encouragement in my devotional today. Since I'm overflowing with these thoughts, I think it is time to share!

Romans 7

7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Without much thinking, we can see that the language concerning the law here is pretty radical. We are "released from the law, having died to that which held us captive." The law here sounds like an oppressive dictator. You get the feeling that you were like a Jew who narrowly escaped the clutches of Hitler and his Nazis and you were taken to a free country never to return. Or that you were a slave living in the household of a cruel master who used you and abused you, and your true love has given all that he has to bargain for your release, and put you in a white dress, and carried you away to a life of love that you didn't even have the capacity to dream of!

This concept amazes me anew every time I allow it to penetrate my stubborn mind. Think about the slave example. How would your true love, now your husband, take it if instead of basking in his love, you are constantly trying to find a way back to that slavemaster to fulfill your duties to him? That would be ridiculous! This is the point that Paul is making in Romans 7 about the law. We are FREE from it. Why do we keep returning to it only to be crushed under the weight of its condemnation? The law has absolutely no power over me and I am not bound to it. My true love came to rescue me, and I don't have to go back!

Now, if you're like me, you're getting nervous for me about now. You're wondering what grievous sin I'm going to fall into after allowing myself to think this way. Before we go down that road, let's look back at the text.

4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Even though, in our flesh, we fear that straying too far from the law and rules and boundaries will cause us to stop bearing fruit for God, Paul says that we are RELEASED from the law so that we CAN bear fruit for God! Amazing.

He goes further.

5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

According to verse five our sinful passions are aroused by the law and bear fruit for death! So, maybe holding ourselves under the law doesn't produce good fruit at all. If you haven't read it lately, I encourage you to read all of Romans 7, it is wonderful. Paul illustrates the vicious cycle of sin, guilt, and more sin that takes place when we focus on the law.

So, if we can't impose rules on ourselves, how can we produce fruit for God? Elyse Fitzpatrick puts it this way in Comforts from the Cross. "It is utterly impossible that my sinful heart could ever be conquered by anything but God's love and lavish grace." 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

"Thank you, Lord, for rescuing me! Thank you for riding in on your white horse and stealing me away from my oppressor, the law. Forgive me that I keep trying to go back to it to fulfill my duty when what you want from me is to see that I delight in your love. Help me to trust you, that you have prepared the good works that you want me to walk in, and you will guide me to them as I delight in You! I do not need to seek out rules to follow in order to bear fruit for Your Kingdom. Lord, you are amazing. Everything about you is so far above me and beyond my capacity to understand. Allow me to fall on your grace and just trust you. My own reasoning always leads me astray. Thank you for opening my eyes to more of your beauty today!"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Comforts from the Cross

I have begun a daily devotional called "Comforts from the Cross" by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I thank God for gospel-centered books and authors. It is so refreshing to read books and articles that point me to the gospel rather than leave me looking inward at myself and my sin. And this is one of them.

I know that there is a time for self-examination, but it should never overshadow meditation on Christ and the cross! Here is a quote from Robert M. M'Cheyne that really touched me this morning as I thought about self-examination and the cross.

"Now, do not look so long and harassingly at your own heart and feelings. What will you find there but the bite of the serpent? You were shapen in iniquity, and the whole of your natural life has been spent in sin. The more God opens your eyes, the more you will feel that you are lost in yourself. This is your disease. Now for the remedy. Look to Christ; for the glorious Son of God so loved lost souls, that he took on him a body and died for us--bore our curse, and obeyed the law in our place. Look to Him and live. You need no preparation, you need no endeavours, you need no duties, you need no strivings, you only need to look and live... Do not take up your time so much with studying your heart as with studying Christ's heart. 'For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!'"

That 1:10 ratio of looking at self and looking at Christ seems to be the opposite proportion of what we see in bookstores and on the internet. The How-To and How-Not-To books seem to far outweigh the Here, Have a Drink of the Living Water books. Reading and contemplating how to be more Christ-like somehow doesn't quench my thirst the way that reading about and contemplating Christ does. I think maybe it is designed that way. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit," 2 Cor. 3:18.

According to this text, as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into His image. So, in contrast, if I am constantly beholding myself, looking inward, into what am I being transformed? Scary thought! I certainly don't want more of myself! "Jesus, Savior more of thee, Come and ruin me with Your love, So no other is enough."

Lord, do come and ruin me with Your love! I am so weary of contemplating myself. Thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who point me to You. Not only the ones near to me, but the authors and teachers who have labored for Your glory and have kept You at the center of all that they write and teach. Show me my sin for what it is, Lord, dark, disgusting and wretched. But I will be devastated if you don't then show me Your glory, bright, infinitely beautiful, and given to me at the cross! Let me be transformed into the image of Christ as I gaze on His beauty."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wash over me, till I can't be seen

Friend for life, Who took my pain

The cleansing flood, You remain
Wash over me, Till I can't be seen

Living Water swallow me
Deepest river wash me clean
Jesus, Savior more of thee
Jesus, more of thee
Come and ruin me with Your love
So no other is enough
Come and leave Your mark on me
Jesus, more of thee
Jesus, more of thee

Friend for life, I'll carry on
Through the power Of this flood
Let it spill over, over, Till I can't be seen

Deep is the stain, Inside of me
But deeper the river, That washes me clean
I've been the one Who cries in the night
But you've been, The friend of my life

This is an older song and was never a single, but the words are so precious.
Lord, I join Watermark in this prayer today! Swallow me, wash me clean, wash over me until I can't be seen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Getting Drunk

Ephesians 5:15-21

8 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit...

Confession: I love wine. I don't think I've ever tasted a wine that I didn't like.

I don't get drunk with wine, but there was a time when I did (well not wine, but similar things.) Today, after one glass or two, I know that's it. Limit reached. No more. God has graciously taken away the screaming voice inside my head telling me I need more. But there is still a whisper. I have to exercise self-control every time because I know that it is best for me. I know that one more glass will not bring the joy that it promises, in fact it will bring the opposite, guilt and misery. Over indulgence in alcohol is at the center of so many bad memories and regrets in my past.

But what I meant for evil, God meant for good! (Gen 50:20) Because of my past, when I read this passage today I am intimately familiar with the deep desire for the good feeling that comes with too much wine. I also know that the good feeling only lasts for a little while, usually followed by thoughts or acts that bring destruction and depression. Isn't it interesting that alcohol can make you feel so good for a short time, when it is really a depressant? It actually brings you down. Maybe God did that on purpose. To me, alcohol is symbolic of everything that this world has to offer. It promises happiness and fulfillment, fun and excitement, and what it truly brings is misery and emptiness, death and destruction.

I love it that God, through Paul, uses this comparison here. Do not be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit. It is proof that God uses His commands not only for His glory, but for our joy. The wine brings empty promises, but the Spirit brings that life that we are longing for when we go after the wine! The Lord doesn't want us to be satisfied with just wine, that's a sissy drink! Sure, wine is enjoyable when taken in moderation, and I believe that He gave it to us as a gift, to "gladden" our hearts (Psalm 104:15). But, as with all of His gifts, it serves to point us to the giver. He invites us to come over and drink the real thing, the drink of the King.

So, where can I find this drink? How can I be drunk (filled) with the Spirit? Easy. How do I get drunk with wine? Drink it. Drink a lot of it! Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit... (John 7:37-39)

To drink of the Living Water we need to pick up the bottle (the Bible!) And because this drink (the Spirit) does not submit to us as a bottle does, but goes wherever He pleases... we also need to pray for it!

With wine, I feel the desire, but I have to exercise restraint. With the Spirit, the Lord says, drink freely, drink often, drink much! What a freedom! The one thing in life that will deliver what it promises and I am allowed to get drunk on it!

"Lord, teach my heart not to be satisfied with what this world has to offer. There is so much more! You have given us life-giving water, and so many times I refuse to drink! If you set a bottle of good wine before me and told me to drink, I doubt that I would hesitate. How childish are my desires. Teach me to have "child-like" desires instead. Give me the child-like faith that believes you when you say that if I drink of your water I will never be thirsty again!"