Thirsting

Psalm 42
Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses
(1)”As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
(2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
(3) My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
‘Where is your God?’
(4) When I remember these things
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
(5) Why are you cast down, O my Soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
(6) O my God, my soul is cast down within me,
Therefore I will remember You from the land of Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon
From the Hill Mizar.
(7) Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
(8) The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.
(9) I will say to God my Rock,
‘Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’
(10) As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’
(11) Why are you cast down, O my Soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
Today’s mediation from Our Daily Bread is about this Psalm. Which is an amazing piece of work if you look and take it deep inside you. It is, obviously, a psalm of thirsting for the Lord; of thirsting for something beyond what this world can physically offer us.

The first line in this psalm struck me with surprise. No one talks like that any more. I have noted a downward trend on the level of passion in this culture. When was the last time you spoke to the people in your church about hungering for God on this level and at this depth? I will admit that even though I feel this sort of hunger I am embarrassed about always expressing it. There are times in church when I want to stand up and shout, to praise Christ Jesus for something my Pastor or my Sunday School Teacher just told me, taught me, or shared with me.

MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD, FOR THE LIVING GOD!! WHEN SHALL I COME AND APPEAR BEFORE GOD?!?! Drink those words in. Think about them. They are true inside me. I do thirst for God. I do desire Him and His grace. I yearn for His love and counsel. I want so desperately to be like Jesus, to love as He loved, and to be the sort of person someone says ……HOLY COW! Now THAT is a Godly woman! But what is keeping me back? Is God hiding from me? Is Jesus playing a really serious game of Hide and Seek with me? No. He isn’t hiding from me. He isn’t eluding me. I just don’t always act on my needs. I can’t rightly explain why I don’t. I somehow always manage to convince myself that something is more important in my life. Something takes priority. When will I finally get over myself and come and appear before the very living God I so need and desire?

While I hunger and thirst for God I feast on my tears. I feed on the fears and doubts unbelievers, and sometimes believers, thrust on me. I have been kicked and beaten many times by others, and by myself, when I am in a dark place …my mind filled with the mocking words…Where is your God now?! Where was your God when you got cancer?! Where was your God when you were raped?! God is the one who broke your ankle! …..Each of these things has been thrown in my face like some all powerful weapon. As if these statements hold any meaning or weight behind the blows they swing at my heart and my head.

So what did I do? Where did I go? Did I give up? Did I turn my heart into a hardened heart? No. I did the exact thing this Psalm tells me to do. What was true thousands of years ago is still true in the believers heart today! When the sinful come and knock at my door….I go to God’s house to rest. When unbelievers scream at me I put on the headsets of the Lord and sing His praises. I go to Church every Sunday because yes it is commanded of me…but also to feed on the Lord with others who share my hunger. When I can’t go to Church I think about my Church. I think about the people in my Church. I think about those who are saved with me. I open my Bible and I scream back……MY GOD IS HERE!! HE IS IN MY HANDS. HE IS IN MY HEART! HE IS ALL AROUND US!! HE IS EVEN IN YOU!

Even though I know that I can come back to verse 5. Why do I allow myself to feel such pain, such worry, such doubt? Even though I can scream those words at the top of my lungs; even though I can dance them in my heart and before anyone who can watch through the laughter at my dancing skills…..i can still find myself coming back to verse 5 at times. So I ask myself……soul, heart, why are you suffering? Why are you so sad? Don’t give up. Don’t be disheartened for I shall praise Him in this storm. I shall worship Him. I will seek His help to get us out of this mess. And I will seek out my peace in the shelter of Christ’s arms.

I will seek Christ out and I will remember all He has done for me. I will remember that I lived through my rape and found myself stronger and blessed in ways I could never imagine because of it. I can help other women who have been abused. I will remember that my cancer brought me into new lives that helped lead me to my salvation, and I survived a nasty disease with nothing to show for it but a scar and a lifetime of tiny purple pills. I will remember that through the pain of this nerve condition I am still walking today. God has given me a great new direction with my life if I but submit to His will! I will remember He NEVER gave up on me in the darkest hours of my life. He loved me then, even when I scorned and mocked Him and His children. He loves me now.

And He will cover me, thrum through me, and inculcate my very being with His love, wisdom, strength, and protection. Again I am in awe of the passion in verse 7. The call Christ has over my soul is deep. His love and mercy covers me from head to toe. No part of me is left expose to this world and the evil that lives within it. There is nothing in this world that can hurt me, not really. Any pain I feel in this life is fleeting, it will end when my life ends. But when my life ends I will begin a new life for the rest of existence with God. In the end I am going to heaven. God has marked me as His. He has protected me and kept me for His own. No amount of mockery, pain, or persecution can change that. It is done. I was done when Christ died for my sins.

And I will remember that. You should remember that. No matter what dark place you are in, remember that. God has already won. I am already saved. My ticket is bought and paid for. And whether the laughter comes from the unbeliever or the believer…there is no reason for me to keep the thirst for my Savior in a toned down version. There is no reason for me to keep it a secret.

I am thirsty for the love of Christ and the mercy of God. Like one who wanders in a forgotten desert. And I am not ashamed. For my Living God is mighty. His Kung Fu is STRONG!

Chief among Sinners

(12) “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, (13) although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man: but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (14) And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (15) This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to ‘save’ sinners, of whom I am chief. (16) However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (17)Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
I was not saved at a young age. I knew about Jesus, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him. God always held a special place in my heart, but my heart was not devoted to Him. I became saved December 31, 2008. It was that night I begged Jesus to fill my heart and guide me in the right direction. It was a very hard and strange night for me. To become a Christian was such a long leap for me. For all of my adult life I had been anything but a Christian.

Before I became saved I was a practicing pagan. I was as sexually immoral as you can get. I didn’t believe in monogamy. I thought marriage was nothing more than a piece of paper. I openly mocked “Jesus freaks” to anyone who would listen. I corrupted the souls of many to sin, even the soul of the man I love. I swore frequently. I believed all Christians were hypocrites and verbally persecuted them due to the persecution I received from them. An eye for an eye, right? All in all I was very, very far from a Godly person but I believed myself to be so righteous.

All that being said I find myself relating very well to Paul. He went a step further than I did; he hunted down Christians to have them stoned to death. God not only forgave him, but Jesus made Paul into His disciple. This seems to be a common theme in the love of our Lord. Moses, the author of the first books in the Old Testament was a murder. Look what God did with him. Then there is Judas. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him to His torture and death. Christ still took Judas in, taught him, loved him, washed his feet, and considered him a friend. He did all of that knowing what was in Judas’ heart.

God’s love for us is impossible to really comprehend. Every day I give Him at least 15 new reasons to turn His back on me. Every day, every second, He washes me clean in the blood of His Son. Every moment He welcomes me into His arms to comfort me from the destruction my own sin has caused. Paul says He is chief among sinners, but I think I would give him a run for His money. And it breaks my heart to know that tomorrow I will do at least 15 more things to break Christ’s heart.

I don’t say any of this with pride. I say it with humility and shame. I have been asked several times how could I possibly be turned into a Jesus freak when I, once, so vehemently hated them. I don’t know if people expect some miraculous answer or explanation. There was no great thunderbolt from the sky, no parting of the sea, nor any burning bush. I went to a good, God loving, Bible teaching Baptist church. I picked up a Bible and actually read it. I got to know Jesus, the man who so eluded me and frustrated me before. In finding, and knowing Christ I became saved. It changed everything. My Lord and Savior completely changed me.

Despite the very fact I am saved I still sin. Despite the fact I have begged Jesus into my heart; I still sin. Despite the fact I have devoted my life to God; I still sin. Despite the fact I seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis; I still sin. I am a sinner. There is no escape of that. There is no changing that. I am just like every person reading this. We all sin. I am not worthy of the love Christ Jesus so freely gives to me. I am completely undeserving of spending eternity in Heaven with my heavenly Father and my Savior; but Christ gave up His life so I could.

And that is what the devotional in “Our Daily Bread” is about today. It is about all the things I am guilty of, but still I am saved. Being saved doesn’t make me better than the unsaved. I am not better than you. I am just forgiven. I am saved from an eternity in hell. The grace of God has washed me clean. I am not washed clean of my sins through any act of my own. The blood of the Lamb keeps me white as snow. I can’t forget that. I can’t let you forget that. No matter how far I am from the life I lived before, it is no where near the perfection it should be.

So thank you Lord. Thank you for loving me with a love more intense than what I can understand. Thank you for never giving up on me. There you for always being there for me. Thank you for always humbling me through Your words and teachings so that I may be a better witness for you and to you. Thank you for all my blessings. Thank you for my friends and family. Thank you for the man I love. Thank you for being an unchanging God who always seeks out the good in all of us. You alone are worthy of our worship and praise. You alone are the One true, and ever living, God. Amen.

Forgetfulness

(16)”Then I said: ‘Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. (17)Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. (18) Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good.’” (Ecclesiastes 9:16-18)

Today’s Our Daily Bread concerned the book of Ecclesiastes 9:13-18. As shown above it is about how we all too soon forget the wisdom of the people who help us. We forget too quickly the good in people. I, myself, am guilty of overlooking all the good in someone so I may focus on the bad. It is usually the bad that people remember. It is the wrong in people, the wrong in how people treat us that sticks with us during the day rather than the people who made us laugh or smile.

Some people think this is because the bad is stronger. I disagree. We are the ones who give the bad, the wrong, and the evil the strength. We are the ones who take the power and strength away from the good. The power of the foolish is only as strong and influential in your life as you make it to be. And the hard truth is you can only affect the strength of wrong and evil in your own life. You can’t control how powerful the people around you make it to be. But I’m not telling you to give up. The power you, me, or the people around you, give to the bad and evil in this world…the foolish…isn’t beyond your reach. It isn’t beyond my reach. It is before me, behind me, beside me, and within me.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave me every tool I need to remind people. Christ blessed me with the Holy Spirit so that I may shine His light on the forgotten, ridiculed, and cursed. And this is the blessing in God’s wisdom; I don’t fight for the forgotten, the bad, and the evil, all on my own. I have the strength, grace, forgiveness, and wisdom of the Creator of heaven and earth on my side. When I come face to face with the foolish I am not overwhelmed by their personal strength in the darkness. It is up to me, it is my DUTY as a Christian, it is my VOW as a servant of Christ Jesus, to shine His light so bright that the darkness creeps back into the shadows. It is my place to bring a smile, or a laugh, or a tear stained hug to the people who are inching along, bound in the chains of the foolish. I will not forget them or the moments when they gave me wisdom.

They are not alone when they are forgotten. You are not alone when you are forgotten. I am not alone when I am forgotten. We are forgotten because He is forgotten. Our good deeds are looked over because His good deeds were ignored. Jesus was forgotten by His people. For a moment in time Jesus was also forgotten by his disciples. Christ forgave them for that moment. He forgave you for your moments before you even had them. Our Lord and Savior KNEW He would be forgotten by so many and He died for them, for you, and for me anyway.

Why? Because He loves us. Because we are that important to Him. Because we matter. Because He wants us. His love is that strong. His love is that intense. He didn’t die on the cross for recognition. He didn’t die on the cross for money. He didn’t endure torture to gain popularity. He did it out of love. He did it to save your soul and mine. Love, His love for us, was enough. Why can’t love be enough for us then?

I can’t count the number of times I did something nice not only because it was nice; but because I wanted recognition for it. I wanted something out of it. I am shamefully guilty of keeping a score card when it comes to wisdom, grace, and love. I have bitten my tongue in sharing Christ’s wisdom and love out of fear, and because others have wronged me. I have kept my peace concerning the wisdom of God’s word because I knew I would get nothing out of it except ridicule, spite, and cruelty. I have kept myself in the shadows before because I knew I wouldn’t be remembered in a day or maybe even in an hour. And in all these cases it was about me. It was about how I felt, how I thought, and about my own forgottenness. It wasn’t about His love. It wasn’t about you, or how I could help you. It was about what I would get in return.

Life, love, mercy, grace, and wisdom shouldn’t come with our own personal price tags. God, in his mindboggling mercy, has given this to us for free. What right do I have to charge someone else for it? Who am I to make someone else pay for what my Savior has given me for free? I can’t care about whether my wisdom will be noticed or praised or recognized. All I should care about is that maybe someone will smile rather than frown. Maybe I will wipe a tear away rather than watching them flow. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have been blessed with a moment to plant the seed of Truth and Love in the heart of someone who desperately needs it.

The Good Story

Today I am going to try to start forming a new habit. I read a small booklet thingy called “Our Daily Bread”. It gives you a small section of the Bible to read, and then gives you a small snippet of thought on that section. I have read books of daily devotionals before, but I never held on to the habit of reading them every day. I want to change that. I think I need to change this. So to help me not only read the daily devotional, but to help me really hold on to what I just read, I will be writing these. Just my two cents worth of thought about what I read.

Today the devotional was about “The Good Story”. We love telling the bad stories, the embarrassing stories, the gruesome stories, and the scary stories. And with the way movies these days are going, and with the poor state of our media, I think the importance of a good story is becoming as forgotten as God Himself. And the story God tells us in the Bible is the best story there is. It is a true story. A story that can save your soul for eternity. A story that can change your whole outlook on life. A story that can feed you in so many ways that you will finally feel full and complete. God created, designed, employed, and then gave all of mankind the best story on Earth: the story of Christ Jesus.

Christ’s story is also probably one of the more difficult stories to tell. The reason for this is obvious. It is a story concerning how people act, behave, live, and view their lives. It is a highly personal story that deals with such powerful themes as where we come from, where we are going, and why we are here. It is a story of life lessons and rules. It is a story that guides our outlook on life, our mental attitudes, and our emotional states. Christ’s story is one that will start a fight quicker than any other story. It is personal. Even to people who don’t believe in God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit find themselves affected in some way by this story. It riles some and soothes others. The story of Jesus is the most powerful story.

So why don’t I tell it more? Sometimes it is fear. I have already lost a number of people in my life by becoming a saved Christian. Some of it is confidence. Who am I to preach to others when I have been saved less than two years? Some of it has to do with my submissive and passive nature. I don’t want to start a fight. I don’t want to start a confrontation. Then there is awkwardness in me on how to do it. I don’t want to be a person who shoves Christ down someone’s throat. And I know many people will take it that way, no matter how delicately I broach the subject. And I really, REALLY don’t want to give Christ, and Christians, any more of a bad reputation.

I sit here and I look at all those reasons and I realize they are nothing more than excuses. Excuses I give myself to keep this Great, Perfect Story all to myself. Is not any one of those excuses worth the risk if it means that I might plant a seed in your soul that saves you? Is you spending an eternity in Heaven rather than an eternity in hell not worth that risk? I mean seriously. If I don’t tell you the Good, Great, Perfect story who will? Every person reading this is worth it to me. I want you all in heaven with me, playing Clue with Christ.

So with all that said, what is this story? I will go through the Gospels with you to give you the details over these next few months. But an overview is that the One True God. The God who created the world in six days. He loved us sinners so much He gave us His One and Only Son. Jesus was the first born son of the Virgin Mary. Jesus lived a sinless life. Satan tempted Him in ways you and I will never understand. Jesus was tempted with greed, lust, gluttony, and all the horrific sins the Roman and Greek culture could think of. Christ Jesus never gave in to any of them. He performed miracle after miracle. He healed the sick. He made deaf men hear. He gave sight to the blind. He cast out every horrific demon. He brought Lazarus back from the dead. He preached and taught from the Old Testament. He calmed a storm with His hand. He befriended, loved, taught, protected, and served a man who would betray Him to the death.

Jesus is the Son of God. He held all the power in the world. He didn’t lash out at the guards when they beat Him. Jesus didn’t curse and scorn the men when they flogged Him. He quietly endured it all. He carried the cross on his flayed back. Even after they hammered huge nails through His hands and feet, and hung Him on a cross …He didn’t look on them with disgust or with malice. Christ asked His Father to forgive them. Even after He was betrayed, beaten, tortured, and crucified …He had compassion and love for us, and for the ones who did it to Him. He forgave them. And Christ Jesus died on that cross.

Christ’s body was taken down off the cross. He was wrapped in linen and carried to a tomb. Jesus was dead for three days. For three days He was locked in a tomb in the middle of a desert. The rock was rolled in front of the tomb to keep predators out, and to keep the smell in. There is no doubt He was dead. But on that third day when the women came to wash His body with oils they found this huge, massive rock rolled away from the opening. The linens were not strewn about, torn, nor displayed any signs of a struggle. They were simply empty.

Jesus did appear to the women. He was alive. He still had the wounds in His hands, on His feet, and in His side. He defeated death. Christ is our living God. He has no grave because He is not dead. He does not answer to death or to Hades. They answer to Him. Christ did die for our sins. He died for my sins. He died for your sins. His blood has washed every last one of us—past, present, and future—completely clean. Jesus has already defeated Lucifer. Jesus has already won. Jesus will come again, end it all, and then reign forever with those who believe in a new heaven and a new earth.

And that is a good story. It is a great story. It is actually the best story because it means we have nothing to fear. If you believe. If you believe in who Jesus is you will spend the rest of eternity with our Savior. But you have to believe. Christ repeatedly says that the only way to the Father, to God our Creator, is through Jesus Christ. No amount of good deeds, no amount of happy thoughts, and no amount of good living can buy your way into heaven. Only the blood of Christ can pay for your ticket. Nothing else. Nothing more. It is that hard and yet that completely simple. Christ has paid for a ticket for every last person ever to exist. Most of those tickets won’t be cashed. I hope yours will. I hope you stand with me, in a new and perfect body, to spend the rest of existence with the Holy Trinity.

I will do more to spread this Good Story around. This is Great News. And I would rather have people upset with me, angry at me, or abandon me now if it means I have given you a chance to stand with me in heaven…rather than suffer alone in hell. You are worth it to me. Every last one of you. Because I love you all.