Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why we dare...

Guilt.  Failure.  Weariness.

All these are reasons why we sometimes don't go to God.  Or maybe we do go to God but we do so without expecting much.  Or we start our prayers with lists of what we need forgiveness for.

We feel unworthy. Or rather, we know we are unworthy...and we're just not sure how to get past that.  Even when we know Jesus died for our sins... even when we know that His sacrifice is why we can go to God... sometimes it seems that Jesus' sacrifice bridged the gap for God, but for us, it's still there and we just don't know how to get around it.

Perhaps this is why certain phrases keep jumping out at me when I read in the Psalms.

Psalms is my “go to” place when I'm overwhelmed, fearful, happy, unsure, confident, confused, blissful... You name it, and Psalms is a great place to keep (or get) your heart centered on the Awesome One.

And lately, I keep noticing how the psalmists make their requests to God.
Psalm 69:16
Answer me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; According to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me.

Psalm 143:1
Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!

Psalm 25:7
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Psalm 106:45
And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:149
Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.

Psalm 119:170
Let my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word.

Do you see it?

All of these psalmists know that, in themselves, they have no right to even approach God.  Yet they dare anyway, and they ask God to heed their prayers, not because of anything they've done or according to their own own sacrifices or goodness. They dare to ask things of this great and perfect God of the universe because they know the greatness and perfectness of Him. 

But even beyond that... they ask that He hear them and answer them according to His lovingkindness. They ask God to provide His answers to prayer according to the measure of His lovingkindness...which is is endless!

This is David, right after Nathan, the prophet, has come to him and his sin of adultery and murder and betrayal is revealed:
Psalm 51:1
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
He is saying, "Lord, here I am, and I'm daring to ask that You will be gracious to me... not because of anything good I've done. I'm asking You to measure your grace to me according to the standard of Your lovingkindness and compassion, instead of measuring it according to what I deserve."  He's saying, "Give me the amount of grace and forgiveness and restoration that matches the greatness of You, instead of giving me some smaller amount that could be measured any other way."

How about you?

Do you dare? 

Psalm 103:10-18
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Hope for America...

Tonight, Billy Graham gives his last message. He has been working on it for months, from what I hear... having it filmed in small segments as his strength allows him to share what he says is his last message from God. Unsurprisingly, it is the same message that my heart yearns to give Americans... hope... in something more than the American dream.

I encourage you not to miss this. It will be worth watching, for many reasons.  His site has this video, as well as local listings.


Saturday, November 02, 2013

Before I formed you...

 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you; - Jer. 1:5
These familiar words were spoken to Jeremiah when God was calling young Jeremiah to be a prophet. And Jeremiah responded like a lot of us do when we think of doing anything great.

My pastor read those verses a few Sundays back, and the instant he did, the Lord asked me a question.

What is the significance of that statement? Why is it important for you to know that I knew you before you were conceived?

I acknowledged that I had never thought about it much beyond the fact that this was only possible because He exists outside of time. And in that moment, God opened my mind to understand something amazing.

He reminded me of another verse we know very well.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” - Ps. 51:5

David said this when he was confronted with his sin. He knew this to be a reality – that every aspect of his life was touched by sin in some way or other.

We're no different. When we think about ourselves, we usually think primarily of our faults and failures. We look in the mirror and we see our wrinkles and zits and scars... the physical effects of age and time and mistakes. We look deeper and we see our weariness and weaknesses. We see the things that others have done to us that have wounded us. The devil reminds us of a host of sins that are part of our history.

These things are our reality, for this is all we have known since our earliest memory. Why? Because of sin – our own sin, sins committed against us, and the side effects of sin that began during the generations before us.

This is who we have been since the day we were born. Not only were we born into a world of sin, but even when we were conceived, we were still “in” sin. Surrounded by it so much that we can't get out of it.

But God knew us before that moment of conception when we entered this world of sin.

He knows the you without sin!

He knows exactly who you are without all those failures of yours. He created you before you were conceived, when you were perfect in His thoughts and intentions, and that is the you He knows.

Yes, He's aware of this sin-filled and sin-scarred version of you. That's why He sent a Savior! Because this version of you that you knows is not the same one that He knows. Yes, I say “knows” and not “knew,” because to Him, that version of you exists again!

This is the whole story of redemption. It is not about merely saving us from hell. It's about restoration!  And not restoration to some unknown quantity that doesn't yet exist. God is restoring you to the you that He created and knows, though it is entirely a new creation to us, since we're locked into Time in a world where we have always been in sin.

Romans says we are dead to sin now... not that sin is dead in us, but that we are dead to it. Paul talks about the self we have known all our lives before we accepted Jesus's sacrifice. He says, “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” When we accept what Jesus did, His death becomes our death... the death of the sin-ravaged version of us that we've worn since we were conceived.

But here is the glory and the promise...
“But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” - Rom. 6:8

Did Jesus live in sin? No! He is the only One ever born into this world of sin who was not in sin. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Yet we now live with Him.

This is the miracle of Christ's death and resurrection!

The you without sin that God knows, exists again. In Christ.

Yes, we still see in a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12), so this isn't something that we can see in ourselves the moment we accept salvation. Yet we are being changed from glory to glory. This is what Galatians 2 talks about when it says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

This is who God has called.

He hasn't called the you that you know. He's called the you that He knows! The one that He sanctified and glorified. The one that exists in Christ.

Isn't that an amazing thought?

Can I encourage you to thank Him for what He's done, even if you can't see the reality of it? Seek Him until you do begin to see Christ in you, the hope of glory!  (Gal. 2:20)

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