Saturday, December 8, 2018

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad!

I was reading Psalm 40 tonight.

It started when a random verse popped into my head...

"I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit. Out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

As the words played in my head I was reminded of a time when I cried out to God and said, "LORD! I'm waiting for you. Please do this for me. Lift me out of my slimy pit and give me a firm place to stand."

You see, I really could NOT lift myself out of my pit. It was slimy, and I was weak. I knew it would take a God clear things up. I didn't have control of my mental illness, or the circumstances, or the people in my life, but I knew that God was big enough, great enough, and strong enough that HE could muddle through the mess with me and make things clear again, so I prayed for His faithfulness to be evident in my life.

So, tonight, when that verse was pulled from nowhere and plopped into my head, I could recite it to myself without looking it up, but I couldn't remember where it was from in the Bible. I googled and I found it... and then I read the rest of the chapter.

Back then, I didn't read the rest of the chapter. I stopped reading after, "Gave me a firm place to stand" and started crying out to God, "Give me a firm place to stand!" But now I was in a different head space and I was curious, "What exactly did David say after that verse?" Did God just give him a firm place to stand and that was it? Certainly not. There had to be more.

So I continued to read.

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (I liked that. I wanted that)

What would a new song look/sound like? Such an optimistic thought! I loved that. I wrote it down in my journal.

"I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart." (So pure. And good. And right. And, yes, I can honestly say this, so I wrote it in my journal.)

"Do not withhold your mercy from me Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me."

How did I miss THAT verse before? This was a verse I needed back then too!  Why did I stop reading...

"Lord, do not withhold your mercy. Protect me, God, with your love and your faithfulness to me." This will be my new prayer, I thought...

But as I kept reading I realized something really important! "Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me."

"May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for saving help always say, "The Lord is great!"


Here's the thing: Those who seek the Lord - for His saving grace - should never be turned to shame. What a heap of rocks we throw on someone when they cry out for grace and instead are given shame!

Those who come to God, asking for forgiveness, seeking His mercy with sincere hearts, should not in that moment be reminded of His wrath and walk away in shame, clothed in guilt. I mean, if there is stuff to deal with, deal with it... but bring it back to grace... and don't wrap it all up with shame.

Ugh... My heart breaks just thinking of it!

No. This is not God.

Of course, someone in that place would say to themselves, "I'm in a slimy pit!"

Those who come to the Lord for His saving grace, they should only always rejoice and be glad because they have experienced the freedom of His grace and then...

then, they can say with sincere hearts, "The Lord is GREAT!"

No one ever hangs their head in shame and says, "The Lord is great!" 

Please, please, please, Christians, do not be the reason another believer hangs their head in shame when instead you can be the reason they rejoice and say, "The Lord is great!"

Psalm 40:16...

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

Lord, may I never be the kind of person who is heaping extra doses of shame onto those who are already weak with consuming guilt. May they never come away from me discouraged saying, "I'm in such a slimy pit and I can never get out". 

Such a tragedy. And so, so, so far from who YOU ARE!

Instead, Lord, help me to be the kind of Christian who readily offers the kind of grace that lifts spirits and gives others a reason to say, "The Lord is GREAT!" 

That they can come away with hope - that is a gift worth giving! Help me to see others through the lens of your love and grace so it will genuinely flow out of me when the time comes and it matters most. 

Do you want to get the verse stuck in your head too? ... Here you go... 

Monday, May 28, 2018

And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.

Sometimes it takes going through a challenging time to knock off some of the rough edges that we never knew existed in our lives. Peter was one of those people who needed some rough edges knocked off.
Most of us are familiar with the way that Peter failed Jesus by denying him three times prior to the rooster crowing. . . just as Jesus said he would. . . and just like Peter insisted he wouldn't. What many don't catch in the Bible is that Jesus also admitted to Peter that there was a deal made with Satan over Peter's life.

Luke 22:31-32 says,  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Satan has asked to "SIFT YOU AS WHEAT". (gulp) wow! Seriously? Satan wanted to tear Peter apart, to break him down, until there was NOTHING left of the poor guy. Jesus tells Peter that he has prayed for him that he would get through the "sifting", and his faith would not fail, and that he would be instrumental in strengthening others with his faith when he comes out stronger after his ordeal.

I'll admit, the first time I read this I found no comfort in it at all. I couldn't get past the "sifting as wheat" comment, and I questioned why any deal should be made with Satan at all. Like, why does he have to get involved? Shouldn't he just leave the good Christians alone?

Something shifted in my mind after I went through a time of "sifting" myself that lasted much longer than I was comfortable with. I saw those verses differently when I tried to process my own personal sifting experience.

After the sifting comes a breakthrough and from that breakthrough comes a movement of others being strengthened. The trials that Satan wanted to put Peter through actually made him stronger, and because he was stronger, he could use that as a teaching tool that would then go on to strengthen others.

This was the hope I could cling to... that the terrible things that were happening that I couldn't make sense out of could somehow be used for God's glory, and therefore, not be all-for-nothing... or more importantly, not leave me weak, vulnerable, and alone, which is what I feared all along.

How about you?
Maybe you have already been through a challenging time that felt like a "sifting". Maybe you are going through that challenging time right now.

If you are in the middle of what feels like you are being sifted as wheat, take heart, and do these things:
  • Hold onto your faith. God may be using this time to refine some things in your life and that is okay. 
  • Continue seeking God. Pray, and read your Bible. Meditate on God's word, digging for nuggets of truth that speak directly to where you are at in your life right now.
  • Stay close with fellow believers who will help keep your accountable in your faith.
  • Make your question, "What are you teaching me here, God?" or  "What are you revealing about yourself to me right now?"
OH! And take notes... you just might be "strengthening your brothers" someday!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Your mind will always believe what you tell it.