But God!

 

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Several years ago, we had a particularly full year and a half or so – a whirlwind of highs and lows.

We saw our daughter marry, our youngest son graduate college, and our oldest son completely change career paths, setting in motion significant change.

Then and even now…

In and outside our family, we’ve seen beauty and brokenness.

Relationships flourish, even restored, and relationships end.

Health return and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

Sometimes the roller coaster of happiness and weariness has felt overwhelming.

BUT GOD!

Oh, how I love those two words that hold such truth! For in them is abiding joy…regardless of circumstances.

His call is to lay down our burdens. He may not always give the answers we want, but HE will BE our peace and HE will give us rest in the midst.

How many times have we watched things happen seemingly out of control?

How many times have we or someone we love been hurt by another?

How many times have we known what God was asking us to do, and, yet, our response has been a whiney, “But, God…”? And, in that instant, we are the petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations, what will make us “happy,” or how we believe we should respond to hard people. In general, we plow ahead, confident of how we think we should react to life with its occasional (sometimes feeling more like routine) curveballs regardless of God’s direction.

Yet, it is also in that moment that, if we will be still and listen. If we will run to His Word and not harden our heart to His voice, we will hear the Spirit of God speak as He reminds us that He isn’t surprised by any unexpected turn, any unmet expectation, any physical pain, or any hope deferred, even if unforeseen or unanticipated by us. Our Lord and King, our Adonai – God, whose tender love for His children never ceases, is actually doing so many more things than we can see.

Because of that we can say in a different tone and with a humble, submitted heart, even if through tears, “Yes this…BUT GOD!”

And it is good!

He may be disciplining us, His beloved children, who often need a reset, yet sometimes fail to see it.

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule that directly or indirectly affects us or others.

He may be preparing something far greater for us than we can know or begin to imagine.

He may be using circumstances and even wounds from others to make us more like Himself and able to empathize with another, help another heal, or show the same grace and mercy we have been given.

He may be teaching us to forgive even if the hurt is never acknowledged and we are never asked for forgiveness.

He may be teaching us to die to self.

He may be working through our response to our circumstances to point a watching world to Himself.

There are myriads of ways that He uses the most difficult times for His glory and our good. But always He intends that we set our gaze on Him instead of what we see with our eyes or feel with our hearts.

Always, He is seeking to draw us near and set our feet on the firm foundation of Truth.

So, He calls us to “not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

As redeemed children of God, we have the privilege to not grow weary as we pray, as we set our hope on the faithfulness of our El Shaddai – our all sufficient One, the unchanging truth of God’s Word, and the “LIVING hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” so that we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:3, 8) even when, at times, our hearts are breaking and the very breath of life seems to be sucked from our lungs.

We have the responsibility and the power to not grow weary as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to the contrary, to do it our own way or respond to hurtful people in like kind.

We have the God-given charge to not grow weary as we re-format our thinking, not allowing the temptation to think outside God’s Word to set up camp in our hearts and minds but rather, to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It may be that we are to ask the Lord to show us our faulty thinking in the moment and intentionally remind ourselves of what is true and/or it may be a proactive choice to change what we allow and choose to put in our minds and dwell on which then permeates our thoughts and how we respond to our emotions and temptations.

We have the opportunity to not grow weary as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances, trusting man, or gaining our identity from another’s opinion or treatment of us, but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.

Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

We do not rest on what we see. We do not rest on what we feel. We rest on truth…

He is faithful.

He is merciful.

He is Redeemer.

He is the Mender of the brokenhearted.

He is Healer – sometimes of our broken bodies but always of our broken souls as we call on and submit to Him.

He is the Father who disciplines and sometimes lets us have our own way to show us the deceitfulness of sin and our need of Him.

He is our Abba Daddy who is ready to restore us to Himself and draw us near as we repent and return.

He is unchanging.

He is our peace.

He is good.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  (C.S. Lewis, Aslan being a character picture of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin), made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”  Ephesians 2:4-7

 

Finding Freedom Together in Leaving Some Things Behind

IMG_0113 manualOpportunity has never been greater.

Hope and true healing, not just lip service, are needed now as much as, if not more, than ever.  We live as one writer says, “in an alien land.”   Even more so, we, as the Bible says in I Peter 2:11, are urged “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

The headlines speak of a world giving into and even increasingly embracing ungodliness.  We have the occasion, then, to use it as a springboard for the unbeliever as well as for the believer.

For the one unredeemed by Christ but in unity with the Word of God about the issues of the day, we can point to the fact that “’There is none righteous; no not one” (Romans 3:10) and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We all need the redemptive work of Christ.

Many unbelievers and believers alike justify their own sin as “not as bad as…” because so many, even in the church, are engaged in the same instead of, as Jerry Bridges says, “confronting the sins we tolerate.”

For the redeemed believer, we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love and call them to repentance, to a victory in Christ over sin that a person has long resigned themselves to as being insurmountable and unbeatable.  We don’t sell just ourselves short; we sell our Savior short when we believe we either can’t be free of it or we can’t be forgiven for it.

But truly, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  (Galatians 5:1)  Not a slavery to the world’s perspective on God’s truth, to a false view of salvation, or to the sin from which we now have the power of God to say “no” for a greater “yes!”

Sometimes, we simply love sin too much; we grasp it with white knuckles because we don’t know how we ever could or we don’t want to live without it.  We are afraid to be “aliens and strangers,” to be “set apart” as God calls us to be – not legalistically and in an attempt to earn salvation, but because God calls us to be in the world not of it, to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” through the Word of God, not “conformed to the patterns of this world.”  Ultimately, we are hesitant to live out the grace we have been given as a response to that grace, that redemption!  Being “odd” because of our obedience sometimes feels too great a price to pay…but is it?

God, who created us,  knows us better than we know ourselves, and thus knows how life is best lived.  He also knows that to live otherwise is to set ourselves up for a battle against our soul and a longing that is never satisfied.

Among some, we are glad to be courageous and to be different.  On certain issues, we will boldly declare “This is what God’s Word says; live it” or “This is right and good, do it.”  On matters of little significance, we will be resolute.  But on some issues and among those we want to please, those whose approval and love we seek, we are often silent.

Trying to wait for the right moment and words so they don’t come across offensive, our words remain unspoken.  Where there is need for accountability and speaking the truth in love, we back down for fear of alienating or being rejected.  But that is the enemy’s lie.  Yes, we need to consider our words and the timing, but more specifically we need to ask ourselves whether we are seeking God for the right time to say the hard things or whether we wait because we don’t want to face the possibility of being rebuffed.

None of us like rejection, but God’s Word tells us that when we do “speak the truth in love” (and that includes motive and literal words), “we (will) grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)  It’s not a matter of do we want to; it’s a matter of will we do what we are called to do?

Do we love someone enough to gently but firmly point them to the truth so their lives can be changed by the redemptive as well as the transforming work of grace in their life?  Do we then love enough to walk with them through their wrestling and restoring process?  Will we ask the hard questions as we humbly acknowledge our own sin and struggle, laying ourselves bare for the sake of another who has chosen to be wounded by sin, not once but on an ongoing basis?

The Bible says when we do, we will grow in Him, through Him, and by Him as individuals and together; His Spirit, not us, does the miraculous work of restoration when we are faithful.

Maybe we have rejected someone in the past because they dared to speak the truth to us and so we fear that what we did to another will be done to us?  It may be time to lay that burden before the Lord as well and seek the forgiveness of the person to whom we refused to listen.

Perhaps we will be rejected for a time.  God says that may happen, but if we obediently do what we are told to do, not rashly or harshly but prayerfully and out of a deep love for the other person, how rich the reward if the other responds in repentance and, by grace, is drawn more deeply first to the Savior and then to us.

Our prayer must first be for the Holy Spirit to cover the conversation, that the other person’s heart will be soft, for our words to be full of love and acceptance yet seasoned with salt which may sting for the moment but also bring healing, and for the redemption and/or freedom of the other from a slavery to a sin held tightly for so long.

The tentacles of that sin may have become so entangling, it may be hard to break free, and it may be frightening to consider what breaking free will mean for a time; the wounds that have come from them may have left scars so deep.  Yet, no entanglement and no scars are too great for the Savior to heal and we all need to hear that and be reminded of that truth!

Will we believe the promise of God’s grace for them and, perhaps, for ourselves?

For it is possible, as we face the sin of another that the enemy wants to remind us of our own failings, our own ensnaring sins either in the past or that we still battle and have yet to fully lay down.  Or maybe we still allow the enemy to condemn us and we do not think we can speak to an issue where we have failed.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  (I Corinthians 15:57)

What a blessing to let God redeem our past failures, not to condone another’s sin but to bring His healing for them in the present.  When we are in open rebellion, choosing “what seems right to us,” and refusing to confess it and leave it at the cross, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is meant to bring us to repentance and the liberty found in that.

But when we have turned from sin and have been redeemed from it through the work of Christ on the cross, not continuing in a pattern of picking it up and playing with it,  the enemy of our souls wants to rob us of the peace of Christ and remind us of our failures in an attempt to take our eyes off the finished work of Jesus and His daily transforming power in our lives.

The enemy’s goal is to make us ineffective and afraid to use that victory in Him to more and more often say “no” to sin ourselves and to lead others out of the same.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Oh the joy of leaving our past at the cross and our present failings at the feet of Jesus; how good and precious is it to do that with another believer rather than to bury it without true healing offered by the grace of God that forgives, frees, and transforms us and them.

“’Cause when we say ‘no’  to the things of the world, we open our hearts
to the love of the Lord and
 it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”  (Michael Card)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5:3-5

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Dare to Be a David

dare to be a david

I’ve often heard the question:  If David was a murderer and an adulterer, how could he be called a man after God’s own heart?  And yet, according to the Bible, he was!

Yes, David acted on his inclinations and there can be no mistaking his deep guilt.  But his response to confrontation – the accountability he received from Nathan- and his subsequent choice to repent and submit to God is what leads to that designation.

He was broken, but he did not remain there.

He was guilty, but he did not defend his sin or justify it.

He confessed it to the Lord and was forgiven.  He agonized over his sin in the face of the Holy God whom he knew to be loving, yet also just.  The consequences of his choices remained – his son from that liaison died and another son sought to kill him, but before the God who knew him, he was restored and transformed.  He acknowledged his guilt, repented, and sought the heart of God.

From that day forward, David chose to follow hard after God who forgave him so much.

He asked God to CREATE in him a clean heart.  To create something, it must be lacking.  So he was asking God to instill in him something he knew he did not have – a clean heart.

And David asked God to RENEW a right spirit within him because he knew his spirit was beaten down, tainted by his sin, and could so easily again be led astray.  He knew, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.”  To stay steadfast, it was clear to him that he had to be hidden in God Almighty.  At his point of surrender, he did not run and hide as Adam and Eve did in the garden but came clean before God, for he knew he could not cover himself.

David humbled himself before the God of Eternity, before El Elyon – the Most High God, before Yahweh His Lord!

And God restored him.

Indeed, in terms of a sinful heart, none of us are any different.   For each of us have sinned against the three times Holy God in a myriad of ways, both in actions and thoughts that we have nurtured and not given up to the Lord.  So, Jesus says that in our hearts and with our hands, we have sinned against God and deserve judgement.

But praise be to Him when we have exercised the self-control that is a fruit of the Spirit, a gift from Him in the first place, and not acted on those thoughts and desires leading to sin with greater consequences.  But make no mistake, thoughts contrary to the law and truth of God that we feed and nurture rather than submit and confess, are sin.  We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!”  (Romans 3:23)

It is not for us to compare ourselves to others and think we look pretty good.  Our only comparison is to be against our three times Holy God and in that we are found sorely lacking, every time; it’s why we each need a Savior.

The great joy is that our God has provided Jesus to redeem us, to pay the penalty – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)  And that same Savior died and was raised to life to free us from the power of sin as well – “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness…and to live self-controlled…lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Just like David, we can humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledge rather than justify our sin, turn away from it, and be restored to the heart of God where there is true freedom.  And where there are consequences for our actions, as David had to face, God gives the strength and the courage to walk through them and even use them for our good and His glory!

When I was a child, there was a song, “Dare to Be a Daniel,” and that we are to do.  In Daniel of old’s footsteps, we are to model his faith and courage in God and  be people of integrity who dare to stand against the culture (and to our own self-promoting ways) when it is contrary to God’s heart.

But I also think we must dare to be a David; I must be.  As a Daniel, I am to stand boldly in God’s strength.  As a David, I will seek to be a woman after God’s heart; a woman willing to say “Show me my sin, Lord, and create in me a clean heart, O God!  Renew a right spirit within me!”  (Psalm 51:10)

Then will I be restored and refreshed and able to bring that restoration and refreshment to others.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”  Acts 3:19