Saturday, October 31, 2015

Psalms 5:11 "But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult you."

In the two verses before this one I find David asking God for justice on his enemies. Asking him to "make them bear their guilt" because their transgressions are many, they have lying mouths and destructive hearts. They have rebelled against God and deserve no good.

Without fully comprehending these verses, a part of me cringes. The justice of God is a sobering realization. Condemnation will whisper, telling me to look at all myself and my multitude of sins. Sins that deserve nothing less than what these evil men deserve. Yes, their judgement is fair.

But. The chapter does not continue to tell me that, those who are good enough, those who have no transgressions, these are the ones blessed of the Lord. No it says, "But let all who take refuge in you rejoice." All who take refuge. It's like this cover of protection, for surely I deserve the wrath of God. I dont deserve redemption, peace with God. I dont deserve him. But Jesus covered me with himself, a place of refuge. As I look out the window of this refuge, the judgement for my sins still rains down around, but it cannot touch me because Christ is covering me, and he is bearing it. There is my sin and all I deserve. But there is this beautiful refuge of grace.

Justice is a sobering thought without seeing his great love. Verse 7 comforts me also. "But I, through the abundance of your love, will enter your house..." Again right before this verse, a picture of all who cannot stand before God, the wicked, boastful, evil doers, liars, bloodthirsty,  deceitful. How will I ever stand before God? "But...through the abundance of your love." Nothing of me, like, through the abundance of my goodness. No, only through his love.

I try, oh I love to try to conjur up something of myself to fix myself, to make myself more worthy. But I hopelessly despair. The reality is that, the only rest that there is lies in that shelter, that refuge of grace which is Him. This refuge of grace doesn't require any goodness, of which I am so painfully lacking, to enter. It only bids that i come and in it find shelter.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

In the earlier part of the chapter Paul tells of visions and revelations that he has been allowed to witness. Things so surpassingly great, 'things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.' And thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble, because the privledge of these visions, the amazing experience of them was a temptation for conceit. However this thorn he was given looked, I do not know, but Paul wanted the thorn to be taken, he asked the Lord several times that it would be removed. Yet the Lord did not remove the thorn, He only revealed himself as enough.

The Lord didn't allow Paul to have it all together. He allowed this thorn to remain so that Paul would keep coming back to Him, looking to Him in dependance. How much like Paul am I. I may long for and desire that he would just take this away, just change this. Just take away my desire to sin in the first place! But no, he does not promise to just give me the easy way. He allows these hard things that painfully show my insufficiency, so that I am forced to look outside of myself, to Him, Jehovah, Great I AM.

"...we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us..." (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

How freeing it is that the Lord uses weak creatures! The hopelessness and despair comes when I try to be that which I am not: strong and able to carry myself. Like Roy Hession pointed out to me in his book "We Would See Jesus," I love to try to climb the wall when all Jesus asks me to do is go through the door, himself. I love to try in my own power to work for something that he has already accomplished. I try to improve myself by myself, and utterly fail. If only I can admit my nothingness, my inability, he is there waiting to fill with himself, He IS everything I need.

To practically apply this verse, I will write out some ways in my life where I see need and weakness. I will admit to Jesus my nothingness to fill these places, asking him to fill them with himself.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synoguogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

The hypocrites, they pray to be seen. He seeks an audience when he speaks to God. This act of godliness looks pure on the outside but the motive of the heart is far from the words. The words may praise God but the heart is seeking only for his own praise. Their heart is far from true worship to God, true humility before him. And their reward has no more depth than their prayer.

The next verse exemplifies how we are to pray instead. "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6).

I don't think that the proper application of this verse is to never pray in front of others. But it is defiantly an exhortation to check the motives before prayer. Doing to be seen by others is hypocrisy, as it is praising God with the mouth, but the heart being far from him. When I worship or pray with other beleivers I need to focus on God and not be self conscious of the others around me. I dont need to be so careful to use nice words and language, all that needs to be said are words of sincerity from the heart.

This sincere prayer, when the consciousness of God is on the fore front of the mind even when praying in front of man, will come easily when praying in private is already a habit. When I regularly take time to go by myself and pray, my motive will not be so tainted by man's approval and I will be able to pray sincerly from the heart.

I desire to apply this personally next time I pray in front of others by being intentional about keeping the consciousness of a God on my mind instead of the people I am praying in front of.
Matthew 6:4 "so that your giving may be in secret. Then your heavenly Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

My Father will reward me. It will not be other man. When I look for man's approval, or broadcast what I've done, it's like acting like the Lord's opinion or waiting for the Lord's heavenly reward are not worth it.

The confirmation of the Lord, the Lord approving me. I must change my hunger and desire for man's approval, desire to please people, into a hunger and desire for the Lord to confirm  me. He is my reward. Why is it difficult to do this? I do try to please God, but I am realizing that often it is more of a desire to appease God. When I see myself so sinful, I try hard to put it right before him because I know that he doesn't like sin. But often I lack that simple desire to please him just because of the grace he has given to me. I suppose it all goes back to living in grace. I do not need to try to appease God, Christ has already done this for me. And it is because of grace that he has because I have absolutely no thing in me that could in any way appease for any of my sin, only in claiming the blood of Christ, can I be set right before God.

The character of the Lord is loving or else he would not have provided the appeasement for sin and he is the giver of grace because he knows we are weak. I do not have to try to appease God, this is what Christ has done, all that is for me to do is live in his grace, my desire to please him extending from the realization of his grace.

"...The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gain through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:20-20)

Like Paul, I too do not wish to set aside the grace of God and enslave myself to the letter of the law. He has been so faithful in revealing his grace to me, and I will continue in my prayer for fresh realizations of grace.
Matthew 6:3  "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,"

A heart that is truly serving the Lord will embrace this anonymity. Good deeds done in secret purify the motives. No longer is there a chance for others to look at them and commend them. The sacrafice is truly made unto the Lord.

Since deciding to come to the IGNITE program I have been blessed in huge ways by people who have chosen to give anonymously. They have sacraficed even the desire to be recognized or appreciated by me, the recipient, because their desire was purely to serve the Lord and to bless me. They even forfeit the right of me feeling in a way like I owe them something because of the sacrafice they made, even if all I could give them was a thankyou card.

Because of so many people's generosity, especially the liberal gifts of the anonymous givers, I feel like the best way for me to personally respond in gratitude is to give to others like the gave to me: liberally and anonymously and also to remember that these secret people need to see too how I have been blessed by the money they gave.

Because of so many people's generosity, especially the liberal gifts of the anonymous givers, I feel like the best way for me to personally respond in gratitude is to give to others like the gave to me: liberally and anonymously. Their generosity has inspired me to want to do them same for others. And also I need to  to remember that these secret people need to see too how I have been blessed by the money they gave.
Matthew 6:2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synoguogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

The ones who announce their good deeds, who seek glory for themselves, whose goal is the approval of man, these are called hypocrites. A hypocrite does one thing yet is another. I can't help but think of the godless and self seeking men described in the book of Jude: they are shepherds that don't feed the sheep, clouds that don't give rain, trees that don't bear fruit. They look like they are serving Christ but have nothing to show for it. And Jesus describes the Pharisees (Matthew 23) as hyprocties who are like blind guides, white washed tombs, and cups cleaned only on the outside.

And now I see more clearly why Paul says (Galatians 1:10) "...If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." I can look like I'm serving Christ to others but the Lord looks at my heart when I serve him and if I am only serving myself, this is not service to him at all no matter how it may look. And there is no reward for the hypocrite beyond the trite approval of man, the temporary confirmation of self.

This was a convicting verse. I did not see how much hypocrisy there was in looking for man's approval while I am serving God. I cant be looking for both. I cant be serving the Lord and on the side be hoping to gain approval and confirmation from man. Because it is totally a heart matter. And I see it so much in my life.

My application is to go before God in confession and ask him to purify my heart's motives.
Matthew 6:1 "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."
This goes back to my motive for service. So often in my selfishness, even acts that seem good, seem like they are dying to self, are really done for an ulterior motive. Maybe I am even subconscience of it but how many times do I secretly hope that my good deed did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. This is far from the attitude of the servant in Luke 17 who did his duty without regard to what it personally cost him and didn't even expect a thankyou.

It is clear in this verse that I cannot serve myself and God at the same time. If I relish the approval of man, I will desregard God's. Paul says in Galatians 1, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Is my motive out of gratitude to please the one who I owe everything too? Man's approval is temporary and trite. But approval from God has eternal worth.

I am more naturally a people pleaser. I want to make others happy, I crave their approval. But the Lord's opinion is the only one that counts. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" And later Jesus also says, '"I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"

These verses are heavy. It shows how my true love and service for God will be measured by my love for the least, the very least. The proud one, the one who is looking out for his own reputation will not bend the neck to serve the least. It costs something to serve the least. It costs a lot of ourselves and takes love that can only come from the God of love.

I want the love of the Lord to flow through me so that I will serve him with abandon to all else, including approval from man. Why should I serve the least of these? Because I am the least of these, yet Jesus extended his love and grace to this pitiful, feeble, blind, and wretched human, who was lost yet didn't even know it.