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Fearing the God of Compassion

2 Sep

As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.  Psalm 103:13

This morning we listened to a message online where the three main points were taken from the book, Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips.  There are three misconceptions we tend to have about God:

1.  God is a policeman,

2.  God is a parental hangover–in other words, we tend to think of God in the same way we think of our earthly father, and

3.  Since God is perfect, we set up absolute standards for ourselves (which we can never satisfy and which are a menace to us as they lead us into bondage).

Thinking about which of the three is my most active area of misconception, I would have to say that it is number 3.  Sure, my image of my father affects my image of God, but I know that I am constantly striving to meet impossible standards I set for myself in my life.  When I read the verse from Psalms 103 the other day my pride reacted–I don’t like to be pitied.  After hearing the message today, I looked up the word “pitied” in my online helps and found that it means “compassion,” which in turn means “a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for other people’s suffering or bad luck and a desire to help.”  Fearing God means to have reverence, worship, and awe toward Him, while some definitions add hating sin.

If you add all this together in what turns out to be a combination of the New International Version and the Amplified Bible, we come up with this:  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who reverence and  worship Him.  I need Him to know me in all my ugly self-sufficiency.  I need God to do a work in me so I can rest in Him and stop laboring.  I am so grateful that He cares enough to do this.

Andrew Murray says we need to say, “‘I never, by any effort, can take hold of God, or seize this for myself; it is God must give it.’  Cherish this blessed impotence.  It is He who brought us out, who Himself must bring us in.  It is your greatest happiness to be impotent.”

There is a definite cognitive dissonance here between what I believe (that only God can do–anything) and how I act.  I act and react as if I could do all of this Christian life on my own with just a leetle bit of help.

What misconception tends to pop up in your life?

(By the way, Mike’s Crocodile Dundee adventure [see last post] was pretty mundane, although very nice.  They drove to a village and had dinner with a number of pastors and their families.  Mike shared from the Word and the pastors are quite excited about Bible College.)


Fear of Not Changing

15 Sep

The wood, hay, and stubble of self are so close, and living the crucified life seems so far away

I was thinking this morning that this whole “series” of posts on self have really been on the fear of not changing.  Not growing.  I’ve been grappling with this, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Gal. 2:20 (Amplified)

Andrew Murray discusses the reality that I’m grappling with.  Do you ever feel your “self” elbowing its way into the forefront?  My “self” has been disgusting lately.  The battleground has been at my school.  I have been so aggravated with students, work load, and even some co-workers.  I know this sounds dramatic, but in some ways I feel like a grand battle is being played out on a very small battlefield.  I’m going to paraphrase what Andrew Murray says here:

1.  First we must know the truth in Galatians 2:20.  We must know have died to sin.

2.  We must accept this truth in faith.  “And what then?  When he accepts it in faith, then there comes in him a struggle, and a painful experience, for that faith is still very feeble, and he begins to ask, “But why, if I am dead to sin, do I commit so much sin?”

3.  We must accept the answer to the question, which is simply this, “We do not allow the power of that death to be applied by the Holy Spirit.”  This begs the question, “How?”  We’ll take a look at that in a few days.  Do you ever feel like hollering out, “Easier said than done!”

Sabbath Rest

10 Sep

Enter into a child-like trust: Sabbath rest

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Hebrews 4:9.10

The word for own in Hebrews 4:10 is auto in the Greek and means:  Himself, herself, themselves, or itself.  When we have rested from the works of the self, we can enter that lovely Sabbath-rest that God intends for us to have.

When we enter that rest, a life of rest, we have learned to trust God.  In other words, we can truly say, “I believe that God keeps me every hour in His mighty power.”  My heart longs for that reality!

One Task Beyond . . .

10 Sep

Last night I was cooking a GREAT dinner, but lo and behold my multi-tasking went one task beyond my actual ability to multi-task.

Let me paint the picture:  I’ve been trying to recreate my favorite dish from Carabba’s, which is Chicken Bryan, for a year.  Some attempts had a measure of success and others not so much.  I tried using the Carabba’s recipe which you might think would be a sure thing.  No deal.  I’ve gradually decided on a chicken recipe from my favorite Italian cookbook for the chicken portion, a new goat cheese that melts well and is not grainy that my husband found, home-dried cherry tomatoes, and a sauce from Julia Child that is reduced vinegar with butter beaten in.  We think the combination even surpasses Carabba’s recipe.

But when I cooked last night I was reducing the vinegar while creating a fruit salad while keeping a watchful eye on the melting goat cheese while listening to a phone conversation Mike was having upstairs on Skype.  Like I said, just one task beyond my multi-tasking ability.  Suddenly my vinegar reduced to a charred, smoking mess in the saucepan.

It was an easy fix as I could start over the the vinegar would reduce in minutes.  But what I realized is that is how I approach life in my human strength.  I multi-task until there is some sort of meltdown and THEN ask for God’s help.

God save me from operating in my own strength!

Trusting God = Deep Rootedness

28 Jul

God’s Message:

“Cursed is the strong one
who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie,
out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless
in a land where nothing grows.

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.  Jeremiah 17:5-8  The Message

Mike recently preached on this passage and I can’t stop thinking about it.  There are two sources and two results depending upon the source we choose.  Adam and Eve had no needs because of their oneness with the Creator–until they chose the wrong source.  Making a quality choice about source (moment by moment) is the key to living fearlessly.

What is Your Identity In?

2 May

We are like fresh and new blossoming bluets in Christ.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  I’d like to say that my identity is 100% in Christ.  While that’s true positionally (Due to His death on the cross and my acceptance of the free gift of salvation, I AM in Christ.), I’m on a journey toward that happening practically speaking in my life.  My identity is in being a good mom and wife.  I’m proud that people even outside of the family call me Mama Sue.  However, it’s easy to be crushed in that identity.  Another identity of mine is in being a goodhardworker.  What happens now that my vertigo interferes with my work ethic.  A crushing.

Many men have their identity in their athleticism or sexuality.  What happens, then when the knees give out or the prostrate gland starts causing problems? Crushing.

I’m thinking that this crushing is not a bad thing.  That it leads us to finding our identity in what matters:  in our relationship with Christ.  I am His.  He is mine.  I am fresh and new.  It is a process that begins with initial salvation and continues forever.  My prayer today is to learn from the crushing to find my identity in Christ.

Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 Amp.

Waiting in the Lord

5 Jan

When I hope in the event, I feel like these flowers which always look semi-collapsed!

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Is. 40:31

To hope in the Lord is to wait for Him and expect Him.  The tense could be written more like this:  but those who are waiting in the Lord.  The promise given to people who are waiting is that they will renew their strength. I always thought about “will renew” as being in the future because waiting on the Lord can be so exhausting.

The tense renew is written in is used many ways, but as I reread it and think about it the following usage seems to be the best:  “The kind of progression or imperfection and unfinished condition  of the action may consist in its frequent repetition”.  (Online Hebrew Lexicon)  In other words waiting on the Lord results in renewed strength now and in the future.

One of the meanings for strength is wealth of soil.  This makes me think of Matthew 13:23:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I want to be fruitful and have a wealth of soil!  Iwas listening to Beth Moore the other day and she said that she realized that waiting is so exhausting because she was waiting on the event and not in the Lord.  Oh, did that ever clobber me upside the head.  That’s exactly it.  I’ve been waiting for my loved one to change/to live close to my grandchildren/my vertigo to stop instead of simply waiting on the Lord.  My focus has been on the event and not on Christ.  Help me refocus, Father, please.

Fear of Loneliness: Part 1

2 Jan

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5b

The holiday season can be a difficult time for us.  We miss friends and family from whom we are parted–either by distance or death.  We can be lonely, even in the midst of much activity.  I’ve been struggling with loneliness during this time and so I grabbed Elizabeth Elliot’s book about loneliness from my “to be read” pile of books.  Speaking of a man who wrote of his loneliness, she writes:

I wonder if, for a moment or two, he might have felt as I sometimes do:  I will not relinquish this misery, not right now.  God has taken away what I most wanted.  I have a right to feel sorry for myself.  I have been wronged.  I will refuse, for a while at least, any offer of comfort and healing.  don’t speak to me of joy.  You pour salt in my wounds.  Let me lick them for a while.

I’ve been there the last few days.  Wallowing in self-pity like a hog in the mud.  But the power of the cross is not freedom from suffering, it is the transformation of suffering.  Yes, I miss my parents, brothers and sisters, children, and grand-children, but Jesus has called me to a place of transformation:  the cross.  That place where I set aside my own will and choose His will as my own.  Sometimes that is not an easy thing to do.  It means looking up from my own loneliness and taking Christ’s hand that is offered to me.

I looked up the word “leave” in the dictionary and it set my heart to pounding.  It is raphah in the Hebrew and it means that He will never become feeble, will never fail, will never weaken, will never go, will never forsake us, will never relax or let us drop OR become disheartened.  I wrote about this word  in its opposite sense just the other day:  “Be still and know that I am God.”  We can relax because we know HE NEVER WILL.

Forsake, or azab, means leave, abandon, or neglect.  I’ve felt neglected lately and it’s my own fault.  I’ve been looking at my own self and not to Him who is forever there.  I can just hear my mother saying, “Stop navel gazing, Susie.”  She’s right.

Lessons in Prayer

27 Dec

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

We spent last week at the beach.  Yes, the week before Christmas.  Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, our church related duties (for lack of a better word) were completed early and so five days at the beach was our Christmas present to each other.

It was the best pre-Christmas week ever.  I spent most of my time reading in the hammock under the gazebo.  We walked the beach, prayed, listened to messages, and watched some movies.

The most important lesson that I got was a lesson in prayer.  From a bird.  A flock of green parakeets of some sort came often to the clumps of beach roses surrounding our cottage.  I watched them while relaxing in the hammock, alternating between prayer and frustration due to how easily distracted I am when I pray when one of the parakeets left the group to perch near me and sang and sang and sang.  Her song wasn’t beautiful, and although distracted occasionally by the appearance of a hawk or a friend, she returned to her perch at various times throughout the day and sang some more.  I love object lessons and that’s what this was for me.  An object lesson in prayer and praise.  Prayer is a choice that we make as we go through our days.  It does not have to be perfect to “count”.  On the way home from the beach on Christmas Eve, I read this quote which is the grace message on prayer in a nutshell:

A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms.  As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep.  Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms.  Our prayer is much like that.  We settle down in our Father’s arms, in his loving hands.  Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will.  It is very simple prayer.  It is very childlike prayer.  It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom. — M. Basil Pennington

The Anxiety-Producing List

5 Dec

I was reading a book for upper elementary students last night called Becoming Naomi León by one of my favorite authors, Pam Muños Ryan, when I came across this quote which made me laugh out loud because it sounds so much like me:

Chewing on the end of my pencil, I got back to my list, which Gram said was one of the things I did best.  I had all kinds of lists in my notebook, the shortest being “Things I Am Good At” which consisted of 1) Soap carving, 2) Worrying, and 3) Making lists.

There was my “Regular and Everyday Worries” list, which included 1) Gram was going to die because she was old, 2) Owen would never be right, 3) I will forget something if I don’t make a list, 4) I will lose my lists, and 5) Abominations.

I am the kind of person who takes the Scripture about redeeming the time so seriously that my to-do lists tend to have tyrannical rule over my life.  I have always taken the Scripture to mean that I should use each minute well.  I haven’t been so careful to distinguish what “using well” actually means.  I make my lists and categorize them, either under area (church, school, family, personal) or importance (imperative & important; not imperative, but important; imperative & not important; or not imperative & not important). 

I tend to put everything I can think of on lists and so I am overburdened before I even begin.  My lists can not be completed in any reasonable amount of time.  I’ve done two things to ease the pressure.  1) I started using to keep my lists.  Not only can I access it at any computer (which, of course, makes me want a Smartphone) but when I don’t complete a task the computer automatically rolls it over to the next day.  Thus, I no longer look at my list through the eyes of failing, but with a brand new start each day.  2) I pray each day for God to set my priorities within me.  Thus when I finish the day, I figure I’ve done just what God wants me to.  I HAVE redeemed the time. 

To redeem the time is to to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are as it were the purchase money by which we make the time our own. –Online Bible Greek Lexicon 

Wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good means that I’m going downstairs to watch football with Mike rather than cross more items off my list.  What does redeeming the time mean to you today?