Category Archives: Humility

A Heart That’s Prepared

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.  The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.  Isa 3:-16 26

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah, this passage seems appropriate for today.  I’ve seen so many scenes of devastation from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane

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This reminds me of these verses, because it shows how we can be walking around one day, feeling rich and all together, and the next day, find that everything is in ruins.

Now I am not at all saying that the hurricane was a part of God’s judgment, like the disaster forecast in this prophesy.  I’m saying that we need to be careful to not be complacent and full of ourselves, thinking we have it together and taking what we have for granted.

We need to be careful to not be haughty.  God doesn’t look very kindly on the haughty in this verse.  The Hebrew word means, “to raise up to a great height.”  It’s used of King Saul when he’s described as being taller than the other people.  It definitely conveys the idea that you think you are above everyone else.

And that is what the women that God condemed were acting. The passage even goes on to describe them in kind of a comical way, with necks that are stretching up.  I get this picture of society gals with thier noses in the air.

haughty woman

I would enjoy laughing at them, if I didn’t know that I can be that way too.  Oh sure, maybe it’s not so obvious.  But how easily do I get down to the level of a servant? I have to say, as I have served hurricane victims this past week, my heart has some work to do!

Here are some great verses that help my heart in this:

  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:3)
  • Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)
  • But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  (James 1:10)

It also helps my heart to remember that the things I take for granted could be gone at any time.  It could be my turn next.  Here are some verses to help me think more soberly:

  • So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (I Cor 10:12)
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Prov. 16:18)
  • Then [the rich man] said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. ” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:20

Life can change at any moment. I’ve seen that first hand this week.  And at this point, I am thankful for the wake up call to my heart.

Let me do a better job of being prepared, and be better able to say, as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it happen to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

It’s easy to think it’s all about me, that I have it together.

God says that I need to stop stretching my neck, and instead, bow before him.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Luke 12:40)

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Hearts That are Bowed

The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty,

for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),

for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty and all the oaks of Bashan,

for all the towering mountains and all the high hills,

for every lofty tower and every fortified wall,

for every trading ship and every stately vessel.

The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled;

the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. (Is 2:12-18)

This passage talks about a day that is coming when man will be totally humbled, and God alone will be exalted.  Today we call this the “The Day of the Lord.”
On one hand, the Day of the Lord is Judgment Day.  Romans 14 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'” (Romans 14:9b-10)

And Romans 14 refers to Isaiah 45, when God proclaims,  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.'”

But I think there is more to the Day of the Lord.  This chapter we’re reading in Isaiah starts with, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

The time of humbling will not just happen at Judgment Day, it is a part of the “Last Days.”  What does it says will happen in the Last Days?  The Lord will be exalted.  It’s the same theme.

And man will find humility.  The beginning of the chapter goes on to read:  “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’”

People will no longer follow their own ways.  They will look to God to be taught how to live.

Today, I believe we are living in the Last Days.  I believe that it is a time when people can see the uselessness of their idols and their empty way of life, and seek God instead.

Why do they seek God more at this time more than they had in the past?  Because of Jesus.  Look at this parallel passage in Philippians:

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

There’s something incredible in the story of Jesus.  It alone has the power to put us on our knees.

We see his humility.  We see our sinfulness, in comparison to his example.  We see how he took the punishment that should have been ours.  We see how he loved the least, the sinners. We see his power, his miracles.  We see the astounding work of resurrection from the dead.  We see his words, which resonate more with us than anything else on earth.  We see forgiveness, and salvation for our own souls.  We see value, and everything we esteemed pales in comparison.

Under the force of Jesus’s example, we can humble ourselves.

Or we can continue to be caught up in the conceit of our our lives, and be humbled on Judgment Day.

Lately people in our church have been going through some serious stuff!!  So my friend Marisha decided to have a few of us over to pray last Thursday.

prayer-night.jpg

We got on our knees and made fervent petitions to our Father.  It felt good to be on my knees, abject before the All High.  I wanted to kneel lower, and lower still, to be nothing, to put myself completely in God’s hands.

 

Since then, when I find myself awake in the middle of the night, my thoughts racing, I remember and picture myself being yet again on my knees, completely humble before the Lord.

It helps my heart like nothing else.

We are in the Last Days, and the Day of the Lord is coming.  Let us remember to live with hearts that are bowed.

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I Need Thee Every Hour

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.

So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them!  

Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and the glory of his majesty.

The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has a day in store against all that is proud and lofty, for all that is exalted shall be brought low. 

Isa 2:7-11

Here’s another scary and convicting passage.

The sin the people commit is that they are “proud and lofty.”  They exalt themselves. They’re all puffed up about the possessions they have.   They think they’re great because of “work of their hands,” their accomplishments.  This is what they worship, not God.

What sobers me about this passage is God’s attitude towards them.  He says to not forgive them.

This is the strangest thing ever.  It’s not something you see often in the Bible.  Isn’t God the one who punishes, but then relents? “For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful; He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”  (Ex 34:6)  

Isn’t this the God who counseled us through Jesus to forgive seventy times seven?

How does this fit in with this passage later in Isaiah? “‘In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.  . . “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.”‘ (Is 54:9) 

Because many theologans believe that God really is saying in Is 2:8 that he is not going to forgive the Isrealites for their pride.  They quote verses like Ps. 69:27, “Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.”

And it reminds me of how Jesus spoke in parables because, “They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”  Mark 4:12

I don’t know what to make of all that, but one thing I can see is that arrogant hard hearts are a huge problem with God.

And here is what I am thinking. The source of the Isrealites’ pride was that they forgot their need for God.  They attributed their wealth and their success to themselves.

It reminds me of Revelations 3:17: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

It also reminds me of the first verse of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  (Matt 5:3)

How much do we remember that we are poor and needy for God?

Last night, we had planned to have a midweek service at the park, and play games.  As the time for the service approached, the sky began to fill with dark clouds.  When Ken and I got to the park, it looked like a storm was brewing.  Not many people had showed up.  We prayed, and some of us started a game of volleyball in the ominous gloom.

midwk6

Then we began to hear the rumbles of thunder.  Soon we saw flashes of lightening.  We kept staying, holding onto hope, but the lightening got closer.  So finally, Mike, our leader, volunteered his house for us to go to instead.

 

About 15 of us straggled over to Mike’s.  There, we ended up having the best time! We had pizza, and sang songs and played games.

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Now I’m not saying anything about those who decided to not come because of the rain.  Of course that’s very reasonable. But I feel like those who came to the park and the house were those who felt a keen need for the fellowship.   They felt their need for the spiritual.  They felt their need to see God in the faces of their brothers and sisters.

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Ah, I know I need to remember my need for God more.   As the song says, I need thee every hour.  Like the Jews, my heart can get so preoccupied with what I’m doing.   I can think I have all sufficiency in my own little world.

I forget that what I need is that wonderful, harmonious fellowship of being with God in the moment.  I need to see his beauty. I need to feel his goodness.  I need to connect to his peace.  I need to live with his deep meaning and purpose.

Let’s make it our goal today to humble ourselves and bring ourselves low.  Surely it is scarey to think how easily we can be arrogant, and how seriously God takes it when we get that way.

 

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Psalm 35 — Learning to be Needy

“Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.”

That’s how David started Psalms 35.  It’s so encouraging to think that we have a god who will get personally involved in our struggles.  We NEVER have to fight alone.  If we ask, God will be right there at our side, fighting with us.

And that means a lot to me, because I can feel alone as I struggle with depression, health challenges, insecurities and concern for loved ones.

The dictionary definition of fight reads: “to take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons.”

That was certainly what David was involved in, and wanted of God in Ps 35 —

Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. . .

May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away . . .

may ruin overtake them by surprise– may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

But it doesn’t sound like my life.  I have trials, but I’m not in a smack down.

smackdown

And then again, I am.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms..” (Eph 6:10)

There’s a grueling battle going on that Satan wants me to ignore. Behind the scenes, he is constantly plotting, constantly working destruction.

And I tend to coast through life, oblivious.  I mean, I know I’m going through some challenges, but I  forget that I’m under attack at the heart level.

I don’t see the lies and deceptions, which are Satan’s main weapons.

satans-lies

I don’t see the way Satan warps my desires and thinking.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  II Peter 2:11

It’s easy to see some of the desires I shouldn’t have.  I know not to be selfish, like this:

selfish-desires

But other things are harder to identify.  Like this:

self-glorification

These are some of the harmful desires that trick me:  wanting personal glory, to be in control, to please people, to be comfortable, to avoid conflict, and to be perfect.  Ack!  I think I’m doing good, until I take a magnifying glass to my heart and realize how much these desires are tangled in my motivations, taking me in the wrong direction.

So I’m trying to focus on good desires instead:  wanting God to be glorified, his will to be done, to love him and make him smile.

walking-on-sunshine

Another good desire is the desire to see and hear God.  That’s what David asked for in verse 3, “Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’”

David knew God had his back, but sometimes he needed reassurance.  We’re all that way.  Wouldn’t it be great if, right now, God put a hand on either side of our face, looked us in the eye and told us straight out, “I am your salvation.  Calm down.  I’ve got this.”

But we don’t see or hear that reassurance as often as we’d like.  Because, just like Satan, God often works behind the scenes.

I read a great story recently on Facebook.  A sister in Brazil named Taraneh Matos shared that when she became a disciple, her father was very much against it.  He cut her off, and it was heartbreaking.  She prayed for their relationship to be restored.  One day she was looking through some old photographs, and saw a picture of her dad running in a race.  Running next to him was a man in a HOPE worldwide tee shirt. (HOPE is an organization associated with our fellowship of churches.)

running-with-dad

Taraneh cried, and was tremendously encouraged.  She related why in her post, “Often God is working on things even before we ask- we are just not there to take a picture of all those moments.

How many times is the same true for us?  How many times is God working on things, but we’re not there to take a picture? How many times is God running alongside us, or alongside a loved one? I would say a lot!! (Taraneh’s father did come around, and their relationship is better.  Yay!)

God is with us, working and fighting on our behalf, and we really want to know this.  Because we start to see that we’re in over our heads.  David knew that, in the physical battle he was fighting, he couldn’t overcome by himself.  The same is true for us in the spiritual battle.

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:19, 24)

We have to realize how wretched and desperate we are.  Look at what David said in Ps. 35 that he would do when victory came:

My whole being will exclaim,

“Who is like you, Lord?

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

David had been anointed king.  He was a war hero.  Yet he identified himself as poor and needy.

Should we not be the same way?  Look at what Jesus said in Revelation 3:

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Rev 3:17

poor-and-needy

So this is what I’ve been working on this week.  I’m reminding myself that I am poor in spirit.  I don’t have to pressure myself to be strong.  I just come to God as a beggar, admitting my weakness, and asking him for strength.

I’m realizing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I need God for so much more than strength and overcoming temptation.  I need his guidance and direction.  I need his Spirit to fill me with love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.  I need his wisdom. I need forgiveness.  I need connection with him.  I need him to provide for my physical needs.  I need him to watch over my loved ones.

Others need him, but they don’t realize it, so I need him to help me pray for them, reach them, and serve them. I need him to work in the world to bring justice and peace, to help the sick, the poor and the oppressed.  I need his will to be done.

The cool thing is that becoming poor in spirit is helping me to do things with a better motivation.  Because serving God had become about performance, and that meant it was about ME and my efforts.

Now it’s more about God, looking to him always.

I have a long way to go.  I forget often.

And, or course, that’s what Satan wants.  He wants us to forget how much we need God.  He wants us to forget about the invisible smack down.  He wants us to forget that God is with us, and will fight for us.

Let’s help one another to remember!

Let’s increase our neediness.

Because the more we need HIM and not SELF, the more we get out of the way, the more God can work and fight on our behalf.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

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Loving our Neighbors

“I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me,” says the LORD of Armies.  Mal 3:5

It’s  scary to think of being on trial before the Almighty God.  At this trial, God himself testifies against people. Yikes!  And he does it without delay, without continuances, like we can push for in the court system today.

What does God bear witness against?  Largely against mistreating others.

And while none of us may have stuck it to a widow or an immigrant lately, this verse makes it apparent that how we treat one another is uber serious to God.

Because what God is looking for is those who revere him enough to see that they have an obligation towards their fellow man.  As God is committed to us, he wants us to be committed to one another.

Here is how Biblical scholars define righteousness:  “God’s righteousness can be understood as God’s faithfulness to his people, where he fulfills his obligations to them. . . righteousness is also understood as God’s faithfulness to fulfill His obligations to human beings and His creation because as creator He has a relationship with them.”  (Rupen Das)

God sees himself as having a responsibility towards people.  As children of this same God, surely we should see that we also have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.

Look how God spelled this out from olden times:

 ”When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

Leviticus 19 goes on to relate a whole slew of things not to do.  I’m abridging the passage here:

DO NOT: steal, lie, deceive one another, defraud or rob your neighbor, hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight,  curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, pervert justice, show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, go about spreading slander among your people, do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life, hate a fellow Israelite in your heart, seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the bottom line.  It always has been.

“But who is my neighbor?” we want to ask, just as the experts in the law inquired of Jesus in Luke 10.  We’re surrounded and overwhelmed by more needs than we could ever address.

Ken and I watched a movie over the weekend, “Of Mind and Music.”  It was about a neurologist in New Orleans who took some time off to grieve the loss of his mother.  As he walked through the city, he came across a female street musician/singer who was starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s.  The neurologist ended up taking this woman in his own house to care for her, and then finding an assisted living placement for her.  When someone asked him why he was doing this for a random person on the streets, he answered, “Because I can.”

Instead of being overwhelmed, let’s ask, who CAN we help?  Who is in our path at this moment?

Ken and I went to a funeral on Sunday for the great aunt of our daughter in law.  We heard different people share about this special woman.  One was her neighbor, who talked about how much their relationship had meant to her over the years.  They were like family.  The neighbor’s children were always over at the woman’s house, and always came home with cookies or pieces of cornbread.  As the neighbor sat at her friend’s deathbed, she told her over and over again how grateful she was for her.

All of us have people “next door.”  They’re not all going to become our best buds, but some of them could become a blessing to us. And we could become a blessing to them.  I know this has been true for me.  My Latin neighbor down the street, Dee, is a great example.  We get together for coffee, visit when we’re outside, and chat on the phone.  Several times she’s brought her husband over to help with issues with our house.  I had a yard sale, and she came and sat next to me and supported me.  She has told me several times that she is thankful for our friendship.

But even though I know this, I still I get tired and busy, and I stop reaching out.

One thing that has helped me as I’ve been thinking about this is to remember that I have the Spirit, an actual piece of God, in me as I walk around.  It was incredible that God became flesh.  It’s just as incredible that God dwells in us.  When I interact with people, I bring God in contact with others.  The Spirit wants to talk with people.  The Spirit wants to love them through me.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:12

The other thing I am learning is the importance of humility.  I really think one of the things that separates us as human beings is our pride.  We can’t help thinking we are more important than that other person.  We don’t realize that we all exist by God’s mercy.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

I think the story of the unmerciful servant reflects the way God has always thought:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”  Matt 18:32-33.

God’s given us mercy.  That’s why we treat others well.

I have so much growing yet to do in this.  One recommendation I want to make, is that you listen to super convicting lesson by Chuck Pike on helping the poor.  It has really stirred up my thinking.  He says the biggest obstacle to helping the poor isn’t the lack of resources, it’s the lack of motivation.  We’re too tied up in our love of money, pleasure, and self.

We need to look at the scriptures anew, and take a hard look at ourselves.  Because it’s just as true for us as it was at the time of Malachi.  We will be judged by how we treat others.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  Matt 25:41-43

You know, Mother’s Day is coming up.  I’ve been asked to share something a little something at church.  I’ve been thinking about my mother, and the good things she taught me.  One thing my mother really believed, and lived by, is that people are important.  She genuinely cared about people, that was very evident in the way she gave her whole focus to someone when she was with them, and how they were on her heart when she wasn’t with them.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing the people she loved.

My mom loved deeply, and was always videoing people.

In the end, that’s what God wants from us as well, for people to be important to us.

And I’m finding that it’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s care about people more,” but really hard to put into practice.  Because it’s heart growth that needs to happen, and heart growth takes time.

So let’s seek to grow in this.  Let’s take a fresh look at the scriptures.  Let’s look at examples of giving we admire, and seek to imitate that.  And let’s pray.  We can’t help with every need, but we can wake up every morning and pray, “Who is my neighbor today, Lord?  Please show me, and help me to love them as I would want to be loved.”

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? I John 3:17

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;  Deut 15:7

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Being Refined

But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.  Mal 3:2

Malachi prophesied that the coming of the Messiah would not be the wonderful feel good experience the Jews were expecting to have.

It would be tough and scary — a time of refining.

This past week I went out sharing with a sister who had never invited strangers to church before.  “It comes so naturally to you,” she said as she watched me.  I had to laugh.  I told her how hard it was for me when we moved to Atlanta to join a new church.  The church was running this “Just Do It” campaign where everyone was challenged to invite two people a day to church.

Whoa.  I thought I wanted to be a part of this fellowship.  It sounded great to be around people who were joyfully sold out for Christ.  But then we got down to the brass tacks.  It meant that I would have to give up my complacency and do things that were very uncomfortable for me.  I remember looking around at the church service, and thinking, “What have I done?”  I wasn’t sure I wanted to join after all.

We think following Christ is going to be all warm and fuzzy.  But when we actually have to do more of the things that Jesus did, it tests our hearts.

And this is what God intended, that with the coming of John the Baptist and Christ hearts would be tested.  The status quo would be challenged.

You see, the Jews kept going along, thinking everything was hunky dory between them and God.  When Jesus came, he made it very plain that they needed to be purified from the inside out:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

And Jesus especially attacked the religious leaders:  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”  Matt23:15

Jesus came to refine hard hearts.  He came to challenge all of those who thought they were clean with the truth that they were dirty on the inside.  As Malachi 3:2 said, they needed strong soap.

A few days ago, my friend Markeya and I had lunch with a friend who’s studying the Bible.   We sat at a table in the bright spring sun, and ate crepes and stuffed squash, and bonded.  We opened up about the hurts we’d gone through in the past.  We talked about how we’d all hardened our hearts as a result of these pains and shut ourselves off so we couldn’t be hurt again.

We read Luke 7:36-50 about the sinful woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet, wet them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  We discussed how amazing it was that this woman could have a soft heart.  Sin and pain hadn’t hardened her, as it had us.  And we prayed that we would all be more like this woman, able to let down the walls, able to come to Jesus in tears, admitting our sin and our need for his forgiveness.

This is what God is looking for.  This is the goal of refining:  a tender heart that reaches out in humility.

A heart that can see and admit sin.

I read a great passage in The Guilty Soul’s Guide to Grace by David Laing about what our attitude should be towards sin.  Laing writes that in Ps 51 David was essentially saying, “God, I have sinned.  But I want to see it like you do.  I want more than head knowledge.  I want heart knowledge.  I want you to remove all my rationalizations and excuses and show me my sin and myself in all their ugliness.”

The Jews didn’t have heart knowledge.

I’ve been praying lately that I would see my sin as God sees it, that the grime which clouds my vision — guilt, people pleasing and perfection seeking — would be removed.

Create in me a pure heart, O God!  (Ps 51:10)

Jesus came to create pure hearts.  And the process of creating them is intense, it’s a fiery furnace that exposes the truth in our inmost parts and brings to light those weaknesses we’d rather keep hidden.  It shows us the things we need to change.

And we want to run away.  We rationalize and fling out excuses.  We hold tightly to our complacency.

Until finally, we fall to our knees, and understand.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

We need God like the air we breathe.  We can’t do it on our own.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.  II Chron 7:14

We need to be God sufficient, not self sufficient.

That is what Jesus came to teach us, that it’s not the religiously accomplished who are the heroes, or the wealthy or successful, but the widow who gives her last penny, the tax collector who prays for mercy, the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her hair.

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.  James 4:10

The end of the story of me seeking to join the church in Atlanta is that I pushed through.  I found out I could do it, I could share with strangers.  And when I did, I was energized!  That pattern has continued over the years.  Things get hard.  I don’t know how I’m going to continue.  But I persevere, I rely on the Source, and I end up overflowing with joy.

God tests us, but we can put our hand in his and get through to the place on the other side.  And in the process our hearts are strengthened.

This past Sunday we had an AWESOME service.  Our little church of 50 people had 200 in attendance.  We commemorated all God has done for us over the years.  We’ve been through so much, but God brought us through!  We celebrated and praised him with all our hearts!

group

Yes, Jesus came to refine us.  Yes, it will be tough and scary.  But it is so worth it.

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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Humility, Malachi

Teaching My Heart…

spring

I haven’t posted for awhile.  I have been going through some intense self searching.  I have been struggling with something that bothers me.  I have been on the mood roller coaster that is menopause.  So in all of this I have had some great insights and times with God.  But I haven’t felt compelled to write like I usually do.  I haven’t felt ready to share.  My head hasn’t felt clear enough.

But today I am feeling some clarity and inspiration.  I woke up at 4:45 this morning, feeling grumpy about some things that had happened.  So I prayed and talked to God about them.  It is amazing to me how He gave me wisdom and provided an almost miraculous change of mind state for me.

Here is some of what I was thinking.

I thought about the book of Job.  I’ve been listening to Job in the car lately.  I always try to have some Bible CDs to fill the space while I’m driving.  I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament.  And now I’m at Job.

I have to confess that I really didn’t want to listen to Job.  I like the first and last part of the book, but, to me, the middle is so long and boring!   But that is why I listen in the car, so I can expose myself to things that I might be tempted to skip over if I was actually sitting down and reading.

The thing is, as I listened to Job, and took in the repetitious pontificating of Job and his friends, the endless justification, the whining, the sanctimonious advising, it occurred to me that that is what we sound like to God.  We carry on in our self important bombastic way, totally caught up in our conceit.  We whine and complain, so affronted.  We go on and on, we can’t let it go.

I think God doesn’t like to hear all of this any more than I do when I listen to Job.

And I think about how it is said that Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible.  It is one of the first communications, in a sense, from God to man. And what does God want to say?  That we go on and on talking about ourselves, all puffed up in our opinions, all indignant about our situations.  That we are so blinded by our conceit that we can’t respect to Him as the Almighty and All Knowing, who knows so much better than we do the ways things ought to go.

It hit me yet again how His thoughts are not my thoughts, that way that seems so clear to me as how things should happen, may not be the way God is going.   I can’t get indignant when what God does seems counterintuitive.

Instead, I need to be much more like David when He wrote Ps 131:

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.

As I was thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that, left to ourselves, we are terrible disciplers.  Just like Job’s friends, by nature, we have a pretty poor idea of how to help one another.  And  just like Job, we are even worse at trying to reason things out and help ourselves.

And I started to be especially thankful that we have the Spirit.  While I was lying in bed, talking to God, I realized that I could let the Spirit disciple me.  The Spirit was right there, waiting to be called upon, waiting to be the voice of hope, whispering to me that God is good, that He will work out everything for the good.

It really is true that Jesus came to give us living waters.  “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  (John 7:38)  Fresh pure goodness and hope is there, bubbling up inside of us, when everything in us wants to rant at God over and over again.

So I wasn’t crazy about being up at 4:45 this morning.  But I needed to work it out, so I wouldn’t be stewing all day.  I brought my impossible situation to God, and he turned it around.

All I can do is thank God as in Ps 16:7 —

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

 

 

 

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Filed under Humility, Things I Am Learning