Day 2: Not in Kansas Anymore

not-in-kansas-anymore

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Hoping is easier when all is well. But when it seems the ground beneath you has not just been shaken, but disappeared altogether, where is the Christian to stand? On higher ground.

At first this higher ground is on our knees, desperate for understanding and compassion from our God. With no fight left, surrender to God might seem easy, but depression or fear try to keep us from hoping at all.

Maybe we quote some verses or sing a song to try to help pull ourselves up in our new reality. Maybe we get angry, or cry or call friends – anyone who can offer a tonic to numb our pain. Maybe we stare blankly at the walls around us, pinching ourselves to see if we are awake.

We can’t go back to the place we were before the pain entered our lives. We can’t move forward, either. Daily functioning becomes an exercise in futility and feels like walking in mud. Our hearts are gripped with shocking horror that threatens to paralyze any movement at all.

A crisis happens when we encounter this moment when life simply hurts. We grasp for any sense of “normalcy”, whatever that is, and secretly in our hearts can begin to question God’s love and goodness.

Ever felt this kind of hopelessness? Sorry if I paint a grim picture. We have to be real, though, and honest – in order to see our need for a hope that is tenacious in the face of suffering.

The day God revealed to me the sin of the father of my children I could not breathe. The shame, horror and complete shock enveloped me. I did what any sensible woman would do. I ate chocolate. A lot of it. Buffalo wings, too. I spent out of our budget just to try to bring joy to my children. I wept and wept some more. I cried out for understanding and suffered the shunning and new social status that threatened to steal my joy. How did I get there?

This was not supposed to happen. I had waited for marriage and married a Christian man. I had promised to protect my children. In a state of grief, I could not feel my hands or feet and was dragged to court incessantly by the one who inflicted on us all our pain. Trying to homeschool five children while being falsely accused was a mess. But still I had this thing inside of me – what was it? Hope.

Hope that the God who promised to use everything for my good and His glory would do so. Hope that my God saw me. On the witness stand. On the floor, crying out for His deliverance. I read His Scripture night and day, trying to find answers that would help me to hold on just one more day. This hope was a constant anchor that I had to cultivate in God’s word.

If you have never gone through something traumatic that has rocked your world, hang tight. This world does not promise a perfect life. If you have suffered something that has left you disillusioned, you are in the right place.

Suffering is common to man. There are lots of books on the subject, but having genuine joy, hope and victory when the trials continue is uncommon. Finding hope in the midst is not just about coping, but about reinventing our idea of hope and navigating disillusionment to find real hope in God’s sovereignty, promises and character rather than in our circumstances.

So how do we let go of Kansas? It may have been all we ever knew. The grief process of letting go of our perception of what we thought our life in Christ should look like is not easy, but it is a well worn path by many who can testify of God’s miracles reaching into their circumstances and transforming their heart and hope in the midst.

It is not until we are submerged in the most challenging trials of our lives that we realize where our hope is placed. The former hope was based conceptually, this new hope experientially. The former hope was developed when we were surrounded by blessing, this new hope was developed in the fire and is no longer dependent upon circumstances.

Our innocence gone, our hope in the happy fairy tale ending smashed to pieces on the floor, we have to find a new hope that is not manufactured by rote, but rather fashioned in the fire. Tough questions need to be asked to find hope again. Authentic questions that pour out our heart before God.  At this place of raw suffering and crying out to God we present an honest offering – a sacrifice of praise, that becomes an internal hope that cannot be put out.

Paul understands. He wanted everyone to know the fire he had passed through – not to be a whiner, but to be real and to give God the glory. He shared his secret, too. He found his hope in relying on the One Who rose from the dead. Anyone Who can do that can handle our problems.

While we are not in our Kansas anymore, the new place we are at is deep. Deep in Christ. We understand His suffering. We understand that He left Heaven to come and suffer for us. He understands what it is like to leave perfection behind for those He loves. He left Heaven and we had to leave our Kansas.

We cannot get back what we thought we owned, but when we see the amazing treasures God gives us while we process trauma, we would not want to go back there, anyway. In its place is now a genuine desire and acceptance of what God has for us, which far surpasses our former hopes and dreams.

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling. Supernaturally, God enables us to hope when it seems ludicrous to do so.

Recently, I had the joy of thanking Sara Groves for a song she wrote that embodied what I felt during this season of searching for hope in my life. I thought you might enjoy it, too – Painting Pictures of Egypt.

Lord, I pray for each one reading this blog – that you would fill them with your inexpressible hope and give them Your promises whispered to their heart. You are forever faithful and we worship You!

Thoughtful Thursday: Purposeful Parenting

Parenting Purposefully

Photo credits: John Florbant

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When our children come to know God as their Savior, they understand that walking in obedience is not a punishment, but a blessing.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 78: 5-8

“He established a rule in Jacob; he set up a law in Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, 6 so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. 7 Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands. 8 Then they will not be like their ancestors, who were a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that was not committed and faithful to God.”

Parenting advice from the Father of all creation is worth listening to. In fact, it was not just advice – but a command. God knew the importance of remembering His activity. We are desperately wicked and constantly need a compass to point us toward Him. Our children are no different. When we remind them of the wonders God has done, we point them to the One Who is greater than us – the only One worthy of worship – Who is able to guide them and be their constant companion through this life .

Worshiping One Who is greater than ourselves keeps us from worshiping lesser things that cannot save. When my children were little, I would read Scriptures to them before they could understand a word. When they were old enough to understand, we began devotions and bible studies together. I was always amazed at how the Holy Spirit would guide me as I taught my children. I did not have to be super organized – I just needed to open His Word and study it with them.

The Lord placed home education on my heart as the means to achieving what He had asked me to do – to raise my children to know Him. Not to be religious. Not to be outwardly obedient and inwardly disobedient, but to know what it meant to walk with God.

I got so much flack raising my children in the LORD; that they were damaged because they were home educated, that they were “missing out”. They did indeed miss out. On a lot of extra junk that would have burdened them. We have enough troubles in this world, let alone ascribing to the belief that parents need to let their kids “figure it out” on their own.

God is telling parents to be purposeful in their parenting, to make sure their children know what He has done for them and this world that He loves – with the purpose of them having confidence in Him. This confidence becomes a living faith that knows God is their ever-present help in times of trouble.

When our children come to know God as their Savior, they understand that walking in obedience is not a punishment, but a blessing. Choosing a life of walking after the flesh only leads to deep sorrows and God wants to spare us that.

Parenting is not for wimps, and God knew we would need His wisdom to be able to raise His children for Him in a way that pleased Him. He also knew we would need to examine ourselves regularly to be able to see clearly enough to recognize sin in our own lives as well as theirs. Parenting a path full of battles when we choose to go against the flesh and raise our children God’s way, but it is a battle worth fighting and He already won the war for us.

Lord, help us to be godly parents who never give up mentoring our children with Your love and truth. Cause the hearts of our children to crave righteousness and may they be faithful to raise their children to love you, too.

Denise Pass Promo PicDenise Pass | Author | Speaker | Worship Leader | Singer

http://www.seeingdeep.com | http://www.denisepass.com

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Generous God

God is generous

1 Corinthians 1:5-7

For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge– 6 just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you– 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25:14

“The LORD’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

We worry about provision in a world system that requires payment for everything. Yet God says that if he takes care of the grass, flowers and a small sparrow, He will provide for us, too. Trouble is, flowers don’t spend well in our economical system and sometimes we don’t know how God is going to do it, but He always comes through.

His provision is vastly more than we could ever imagine and lasts for all eternity. What kind of God is that? The richest person in the world according to the world’s riches could not compare with the riches God has for those Who would call upon His name and be saved.

We were (past tense) made rich in EVERY way – but it might not always appear to be the case. Man looks at the outward, but inwardly God is at work in amazing ways. We received everything we needed when we were saved, but sometimes we do not perceive it.

When my kids were little, I wanted to instill in them a love of learning.  I wanted them to treasure knowledge and wisdom, for wisdom opens our eyes to see the truth, and knowing God and His truth is the greatest gift of all.  When other kids were getting electronics, my kids got books. When I would come back from Homeschooling convention, they would run up to me and wonder what devotion or new journal I got them.  I pray that sticks with them their whole lives through.  Knowing God is our greatest treasure.

When we don’t understand, we can come to Him and He will generously give us wisdom without finding fault. When we lack faith, we can run to His Word and to Him and He will give us hope.  When we are weak, we can cry out to Him and He will strengthen us. When we are depressed, He gives us the gift of joy.  When we are hurt, He comfort us. Once again we come back to the word, “relationship”.  Access to these precious gifts He has bestowed is given when we come to Him and He does not withhold.

Lord, thank You for giving us everything we need, and most importantly – the gift of Yourself and Your only Son.  Help us to be a grateful people, recognizing your generous provision for your children.

The Politically Incorrect Jesus

Mark 12:14-15

“When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you show no partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?  But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

John 18:38

“Pilate asked, “What is truth?” When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders and announced, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.”

Psalm 51:6

“Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom.”

Proverbs 29:25

“The fear of people becomes a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD will be set on high.”

With flattery they approached Jesus, couching their questions with seeming adoration of Jesus’ reputation of being truthful. He knew their hearts.  He did not seek fame nor popularity with them.  The people who had eyes and ears to understand the truth Christ shared listened with delight.  The ones who were jealous, racked with guilt over their sin or even self righteous – plotted to murder him.

Jesus was not deterred by their mocking one bit.  He did not fear them, either, but longed for them to know the truth and just kept living the perfect life before them.  He was more concerned about their salvation and did not try to utilize “seeker sensitive” means to win their hearts.

Truth accomplishes one of two reactions in those who hear it; it is either received and embraced or infuriates the one who does not want to be convicted by the truth.   It seems truth is an instigator.  We have to do something with it – we cannot hear it and have no response.

As believers in a very politically correct charged society, we have a dilemma.  To be all things to all people does not mean to compromise.  How are we to reach this world when absolute truth is no longer recognized or accepted?  Living a righteous life speaks volumes more than just telling someone else about it.  But what about when we make mistakes?  Even in those moments, we can respond in an honest way and repent and glorify God.  Living in truth does not mean we are perfect, but honesty is refreshing and what this world needs more than politically correct empty words.

We must put forth God’s truth in a manner consistent with the grace that has been given to us and we must not shrink back. There are those who have not yet bowed their knees to the peecee police – may we not drink the Koolaid, either.

Avoiding persecution is not a righteous choice and persecution is certain if we live in accordance with God’s truth.  We will not be understood.  We will be mocked.  Labeled.  Jesus was too.  But the peace that comes from Knowing God, searching out His truth and asking Him to help us walk with Him faithfully far outweighs the hollow, temporary acceptance from fickle man.

Lord, help us to live like You did.  May we recognize truth and settle for nothing less in our personal lives.  May we not try to curry the favor of man by worldly means, nor fear them, but love them and guide them to You – truth personified.

The Goal of Selflessness

Photo Credits: followpics.co

Photo Credits:
followpics.co

Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

Worshipful Wednesday: The God Who Teaches Us

Psalm 25:1, 4-5, 8-9, 12, 14

1 “O Lord, I come before you in prayer. 4 Make me understand your ways, O LordTeach me your paths! 5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.  For you are the God who delivers me; on you I rely all day long8 The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live9 May he show the humble what is right!  May he teach the humble his way!  12 The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. 14 The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

We have all had teachers we have admired and ones we could have done without.  Some inspired us and some discouraged us.  Although teaching is not always a lucrative career, teaching is valued highly by God and near to His heart. David knew where to get wisdom on how to live.  He cried out.  Those who want to know more of God or how to live in order to please him just need to ask Him.  He is willing to teach us!  To be tutored by the Most High God is no small thing. Today, I worship our Almighty God and Shepherd, the best teacher of all, Who will personally guide each of us and instruct us through his Holy Spirit.  His rebuke is life-giving, but only the humble can receive it.

As a homeschool mom for 18 years, teaching brings an inner delight to me.  God called me to home educate the children He gave me before my first child was born.  I chose to home educate out of obedience and also because more than anything, I cared deeply about my children’s character and knowledge of God.  To be able to convey a truth to my children and have them perceive and comprehend it on deeper and deeper levels over the years has never ceased to amaze me. The first time my oldest was reading at age three was thrilling!  A door had just been opened to her – though it could be for knowledge of good or bad – she was most importantly able to gain insight into her Creator and into life.

I vividly recall when we were doing a bible study out of the book of Romans and the look on my oldest daughter’s face at age four conveyed her understanding for the first time that “no one was good, no not one”.  She wept and realized that she needed a Savior.  Wow.  God instructed her through His living word.  Over the years, all of my children have had crowning moments of academic success as well as difficult moments of realizing they still had so much to learn.  So do we all.

The paucity of knowledge is not to be lamented, however, when we have a God Who has all knowledge and He wants to give it to us. Even knowledge that appears unimportant can become a treasure.  Each station in life offers opportunities to learn something new.  When the subject or trial we are in appears mundane and inapplicable to life (like some school subjects my kids tell me are not important), God uses it all.  Education equips us for future endeavors or callings on our lives that He wants to use to enable us for that season and for His glory.

I have always loved to learn new things, so it is difficult for me to comprehend someone not being fascinated with the opportunity of obtaining more knowledge.  Knowledge is a doorway to wisdom, when correctly applied, and to be able to understand more of God is the highest privilege.

Sometimes, though, teaching is not a delight.  Burnout can occur, of course, but when the pupil is lazy, not teachable or not desiring to learn, teaching can become a daunting task.  I imagine that our lack of zeal to instruct as a teacher or to search for more insight and understanding from God as a student hurts His heart.  He is ready to teach us, to show us more of Him, and we often do not even arise to knock on His door.

As a teacher, our children might not be crying out for wisdom, but we can also ask God, Who is the wisest teacher, to help us to provoke them to want to learn.  When I consider how good God is, that He would not just command, but would show us how to obey by walking among us as a fragile human, I am completely undone.  We have no excuse – we have a God Who is alive and Who has not left us without instruction.  He was also willing to live it out before us.  Ignorance kept us in sin – but God did not leave us in that place.  Our flesh may often tire, but we can still cry out for God to give me a hunger to learn more of Him.  If we feel discouraged or unmotivated to continue educating others or to to be inspired to learn, God can meet us at that place and ignite our hearts again with deeper truths worth exploring – we just need to ask Him.  His knowledge knows no end and He promises to give wisdom to those who ask Him.

Lord, thank You for teaching us daily and in Your mercy showing us our faults and sins, that we could become more like You.  Helps us to be teachable and to yearn your correction, for it brings life – and that abundantly.

Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!

Worshipful Wednesday: Cleaning House

Joshua 7:10-12

10 “The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”

I know, I know.  It is Thursday.  But I could not neglect Worshipful Wednesday, now could I?

Cleaning our house is one of those tasks that is achieved best when under pressure.  Guests are coming – suddenly every dust bunny is evident before our eyes.  But what if we just stopped caring about the cleanliness of our homes?  Eventually filth, dilapidation and maybe even disease would darken our doors.  So it is with us.

Praise the LORD that He does not leave us in our sins.  Praise God that He disciplines us and opens our eyes to see the iniquity in our lives that is bringing destruction on our own heads and separation from Him, the lover of our souls.

Our flesh does not enjoy discipline, but where would we be without it?  I shudder to think about it.  Aichan’s disobedience wrought severe consequences not solely for him, but for those around him, as well.  Before we are tempted to be angry with Aichan, though, we know we are just as culpable.  We are all easily deceived and the sins of self righteousness blind us from seeing our own errors.  Save the grace of God.

When sin is revealed the punishment meted out can seem harsh in our eyes, until we understand just how vile sin is.  God knows it destroys us and produces profound pain and consequences for His children.  If fear of punishment from a Holy God serves to motivate us to abstain from evil, praise God!  There is a standard in Heaven.  It is a Holy one, and it is unchanging.

Just like we are never completely done maintaining cleanliness in our homes (especially if you have young children in the home!), so our souls and our walk with God must continually be examined be our Holy God.  Is there something that has slipped into our lives that does not honor Him?  Do we make excuses for a behavior or a choice instead of bringing it before Him and His word, to determine whether it pleases God?

The humanistic wave of doing whatever you want will not stand before God.  We must eradicate from our lives what is displeasing to Him, for our own good.  God is not a killjoy – He is the source of all joy.  What we so often cling to is our greatest source of pain.  We can ask Him if our lifestyle or media choices please Him.  He will answer.  He loves us too much to leave us clinging to death.  When we let go of what we thought was life, we find Him and what we were really made for – to know and worship Him.

Lord, praise Your Name!  Thank You for revealing our sins to us.  Please help us to never tire of seeking You and being examined by You.  You are good!

Worshipful Wednesday: The Blame Shame Game

Genesis 16:3-6, 13

16:3 So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to her husband to be his wife. 4 He had sexual relations with Hagar,and she became pregnant.  Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me!  I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, but when she realized that she was pregnant, she despised me.  May the Lord judge between you and me! 6 Abram said to Sarai, “Since your servant is under your authoritydo to her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so she ran away from Sarai. 13 So Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said,“Here I have seen one who sees me!

Genesis 17:1

17:1 When Abram was 99 years oldthe Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the sovereign GodWalk before me and be blameless.

Blame is a funny thing.  We somehow think blaming others will vindicate us, all the while inwardly it is an inner child trying to avoid the shame that is welling up inside.  We want the problem to be someone else’s, because we try to convince ourselves that we don’t have problems, or “issues” as they are called today.  Blaming does not achieve the goal of easing our consciences – instead, it serves to create even more baggage to sort through.

Sarai was a bold woman.  Many regard her as submissive, and she was, but in this moment she felt shame that she could not bear a child for her husband.  That shame motivated her to manipulate to achieve God’s promise and bypass the process of God’s blessing.  God said it, she would see it done!

The problem is, she did not go about it God’s way.  Waiting can be painful, especially when we have something to look forward to.  An uncomfortable station in life might motivate us to try to escape and maybe dull the pain.  Or maybe blame others around us that we are not where we should be.  Looking to the future too much, though, can steal our joy in the present.

Maybe we are on the receiving end of blame.  Not fun at all.  I am encouraged when I see how God treated Hagar, the maidservant.  A slave woman used to birth a son for another woman, then blamed for it.  And God saw her.  God sees when we are mistreated and He also sees when we use people for our own glory or desires.  When others manipulate us, in His sovereignty He will take all things, good and bad, and use them for His purposes.  Amazing God.

Whichever end you are on in the blame/shame game, there is hope.  If you are excusing your shortcomings and placing them on someone else, acknowledge that guilt and lay it at His feet.  If you are the one accused by others, lay it down at His feet.  We are all guilty, all desperate before our God Who took all of our blame.  We are all messed up – even the heroes of the faith made mistakes.

We have hope in a God Who sees all, forgives us and HOLDS US BLAMELESS!  God is so gracious, that He still granted that promise – a precious son, Isaac, to Abraham and Sarah.  This son would be a part of fulfilling the blessing of salvation for the whole earth.

LORD, You are awesome, Holy and Perfect in all Your ways!  Thank you for taking up all of our burdens, shame and blame.