I’m still scared of God

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It was that silent part in today’s service, the private confession, where we are encouraged to share unconfessed sins with our Father, counting on the safety of His promise to forgive us because of Jesus. Something from this morning sprang to mind, surprising me.

Earlier, sitting outside with my coffee and the birds, I enjoyed a time of study and prayer. At some point, I started reflecting and then savoring right now, this particularly SWEET time in my life, in OUR lives. God has answered MAJOR prayers, some going back decades.  What kind? Here are the biggies:

  • Repeated cries for healing from work-induced anxiety for Mike that has affected his body 28 of our 40 years together.
  • Prayers for healing and freedom for me regarding eating, fitness and body weight.
  • Pleas for job contentment for Mike.
  • Repeated requests for release from my difficult job situation.

I can’t recall a time in my life that has been this restful, this satisfying. Ever.

So, what is the problem? What did I confess this morning?

That I am afraid.

That I am afraid that the Lord will remove these gifts that mean so much, that are so wonderful and refreshing. That they won’t last.

Why would He take them away?

  • He has every right to for two reasons: He created us and He redeemed us. We are His possession.
  • I know from Scripture that our Father has committed Himself to sanctifying me, to making me holy like Jesus.  In His wisdom, He might take these gifts away. To deepen and strengthen my faith, testing (for my benefit) just exactly where my happiness is rooted.  In the gifts, or in Him.

So, during the service, those 45 seconds or so, I confessed that irrational fear to my Father.  I called it what it is. Sin. A slap in the face of the One whom I should trust most. (Am I listening to Satan’s lies, I wondered? With malicious reason that enemy of God doesn’t want me to trust the Father’s love for me.) And I asked for supernatural, divine help.  Wordlessly, I off-loaded this weight in those silent few moments:

  • Father, I am so ashamed to tell You that I don’t trust You. That I’m clinging to these gifts that You have given us, not You.  I see now that I fear losing THEM more than I fear displeasing and dishonoring You. Forgive me. You’ve got to help me, though. Help me to trust You. To trust that You are good. That all that You have planned for Mike and for me IS for our ultimate happiness. It’s just hard. And this time You’ve granted us is SO restful. Soothing balm after many years of pain.

After that confession, I didn’t sense any response from Him. But now, as I write, I see how His Spirit is working. Prompting me to use this ‘shalom’ as a springboard to proclaim to others what my Father, the One and Only Living God, the Lord and Giver of Life has done.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I don’t have to fear what He will do.

‘Satan – depart from me. I reject your suggestions. I know that Christ’s Spirit is in me and He is truth and light and He is more powerful than you.  I will not listen to you anymore!’

Here is what I commit to, with help! Instead of meditating on the ‘what ifs’ of circumstances, may I keep declaring my Father’s works to everyone I meet. May I honor His holy name in my prayers, my words and my actions. By faith, I will rely on the strength that He provides to bless Him.

Father, thank You for your promised grace: strength to direct my thoughts and words.

Psalm 126:3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.

What are you most afraid of?

Functional Pauper

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Joshua 5:12: The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

The point of this verse is that God provided food each and every day, even AND MOST ESPECIALLY during the transition from a wandering tribe to a settling-down people.

If God so sustained the complaining, idolatrous, disbelieving Hebrews, will He not all the more provide for me, for whom He has already died?

You would think that I would understand the logic of this example.  I do, but I still don’t trust God.  Not really.

I’m a FIVE on the Enneagram.  I’ve written before how helpful I find this way of understanding oneself.  As a FIVE, I see life and live from out of the lens of scarcity; I hoard time above all.  I also hold tight to money.

God has recently convicted me of what this hoarding represents – the sin of UNBELIEF!  Operating out of insufficient resources is my day-to-day norm.  Whether at school (I don’t think I have enough time to get all this planning done) or in the evenings with the dinner prep (preparing whole foods takes time, and YES, I realize it’s a choice I make) or even on Sunday afternoons, the time I catch up with church committee work and a phone call to a friend or family member. Bottom line, I never feel/believe/trust God that He will provide enough time to get done all that I think is necessary.

Before you think I might simply need some lessons in time management, I want you to know that I have LEARNED to be content with the tasks that don’t get completed. I somehow am able to trust God’s plan for my day regarding what gets done.  The problem is this:  I can’t cast off that feeling of pressure.  I catch myself rushing, attempting to speed up my pace in order to shorten the overall time it takes for each task.  And I don’t LIKE that.

I know rushing is wrong.  I can FEEL it. I hate it. Yet, like Paul, I do the things I don’t want to do.  Even though I know the truth.  And just why can’t I LIVE what I believe? Why do I find it so hard to trust Jesus’ assurance that ‘If one knows the truth, it will set one free’? (John 8:32)

This unbelief spreads tangled roots that smooth the path for deceitful lying. Saturday, I found myself in dialogue with God, planning and carrying out something that would require deception on my part.  I returned a product to a grocery store that I had not purchased there, but one they carried. To make it even more shameful, it was a product I had ordered from Amazon. They had shipped the wrong product and refunded me the $5.76 and said I didn’t need to return the incorrect items.  Somehow I believed that gaining an EXTRA $5.76 would make a difference in my life.  I knew it was wrong.  And I did it anyway.  The self-justifying litany continued OUT of the store, money in hand, all the way to the car.  But then came the Lord’s Supper, yesterday, in church.  As I was contemplating Jesus dying for my sins, He kindly shone the spotlight on yesterday’s ‘LITTLE’ episode so I could confess it and come clean.

Not to drop the matter before He was sure I had internalized the lesson, this morning, Jesus returned to the subject by whispering in my mind’s ear: “You could have donated those two bags of dried black-eyed peas that you didn’t want.”  One of my ‘justifying’ excuses for my deceit had been, “What am I going to do with these legumes I don’t like and that I didn’t order?”

Mike left me an encouraging word this morning on our frig whiteboard.   He had remembered my discouragement last night about my lingering scarcity mindset.  He reminded me to pick a promise from God and then count on Him to fulfill it.

Sure enough, God brought just the appropriate Word during my quiet time: Psalm 23:1

  • The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall lack NOTHING.

What comfort!  What power!  The truth is this; I’m sure you can follow the logic:

  •       If God created all time and matter
  •       and If He has adopted me into His forever family
  •      Then, He will provide for me

He will provide THE precise quantity of time and money that HE knows is best, not what I think.

I’ll let Ken Boa have the last word.  I read in his latest Reflections something that is apparent but which I had never considered.  Quoting 1 Cor 6:19b-20a You were bought with a price; you are not your own, Boa wrote, “God has invested a lot in you already!

What a reassuring fact!  It follows from God’s investment of Jesus, the most valuable person in Eternity, that He is going to take GOOD care of me.

God help me to relax and just be a little lamb moving about and lying down at your direction.

3 Strikes and Still in the Game!

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3 strikes

It was a week for sinning.

Not that I set out deliberately to sin against God and my neighbor.  But God removed some Holy Spirit restraint that operates in those moments when I refrain from saying, doing, or writing something hurtful, self-aggrandizing or unnecessary for building up one another.

First, I wrote a response to a family member’s email to me in which I assumed her motivation.  And I got it wrong, both confusing AND hurting her with the words I chose in my reply.  Had I THOUGHT a bit more and put 2 and 2 together, I would have realized the more likely cause of her reaction.  Actually, the BEST and SAFEST response for me would have been simply to ask her the reasons for what she wrote me.

I asked God’s forgiveness and then hers.  Both granted.

Second, I was in a church meeting and it went longer than I thought it was supposed to.  Irony of ironies. I’ve been writing about how God has been teaching me that delays are part of his sovereign plan to exercise my faith in his promised provision. Yet when the pop quiz came, I blew it. Though I did in fact consider my choices:

  •  I could bank on his ability to stretch my time beyond what my eyes could see.
  •  Or not.

I chose to count on my own pre-set time boundaries.  So I abruptly and obviously left a table of 7 other praying women in the middle of one of them praying out loud and took matters into my own hands.  I knew it was wrong and rude.  And I did it anyway.  Drove home convicted and knew while I was talking to God that I had to contact each one and apologize.

He forgave me and so did the 6 of the 7 women I was able to speak with personally at church today.

Third, the very next day after this second sin, I was talking on the phone with a friend who is coming to visit soon.  She mentioned the possibility of adding an extra day to their trip to visit a mutual acquaintance if he were willing to invite her and her husband to dinner at his house. Instantly savoring some anticipated pleasure in the nasty comment that formed in my mind, I blurted out, “Oh, you don’t want to go to his house for dinner…”  As I was uttering these words, Bam!, God convicted me through the Holy Spirit. But I chose to indulge and finish with the intended mean reason.  I did try to back pedal by tacking on something mealy-mouthed. And furthermore, I certainly did not get the jolt of satisfaction I had imagined.  (isn’t that the way with every sin?)

I knew what I had to do.  I called back my friend to ask her forgiveness (as soon as I got ‘off the line repenting with God!’) She didn’t pick up so with some relief at not having to humble myself personally with her I left a lengthy message.

How EASY and quickly the urge to sin comes on us!

As I’ve thought about these 3 instances: one with my writing, one with my feet and the last one with my lips, I am reminded of 2 verses and an application:

  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.     1 John 1:19

With this first scripture, we have God’s promise that we (who are believers) can be cleansed from each and every sin when we turn to God and confess it.  When we do he restores our judicial righteousness (that we have legally, forensically by faith ever since we placed our confidence in Jesus’ death in our place).  Therefore we don’t have to WALLOW or keep asking and re-asking God to forgive us.  Once sought, it’s granted.  We’re restored straight away.

The real-world application comes from Jesus’ unusually humbling washing of his disciples’ feet. His explanation when Peter remonstrates and almost refuses the Lord’s service is the prompt for how seeing a principle that can be used when we sin. Here is the setting: 

feet washed

  • He (Jesus) came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.

What strikes me, is that believers who have been justified at the cross are clean.  Each time we sin, we get our feet dirty, so to speak.  When we repent and confess to God, he cleans our feet. Fellowship restored. Peace with God renewed.  Relief and joy felt and burden lifted!

But what about ‘the next time’ the urge to sin strikes?  Is it a matter of having to double down and CONTROL my natural impulse to say and to write and to do what is wrong?

If that were the case, I’d have no hope.

No, I think the key is found in Paul’s prescription in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Christians in Rome:

  • And do not imitate this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your minds, – (Romans 12:2a) 

My hope and yours in sinning less is to soak in God’s powerful and living Word, which is infused with Holy Spirit supernatural power. The more we meditate on and look into scripture, the more our minds are renovated or renewed.  Our desires are then changed and out of changed desires come changed behaviors.

The ‘Miracle Gro’ of the Christian life IS the Word of God.  And in Jesus and His word, I rest and place my hope.

Miracle Gro

What do you do when your belt gets tight?

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If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Tight Belt

My husband has extolled belt wearing for years. Being cinched in provides instantaneous body awareness.

 

My spiritual Belt of Truth provides the same corrective feedback.

Each morning as I don battle dress, I linger over that Belt of Truth, Jesus’ filtering grip designed to allow only true beliefs in my inner being.

But it’s not uncomfortable. No, Jesus proffers His ‘inner-self support’ as relief from the chains we would otherwise wear.

Before realizing I had been gifted at my new birth with a Jesus Belt, I unconsciously dressed in ordinary and bewitching chains. You know what I’m talking about – that default worldly thinking we assume is normal. The chain links go by various names such as:

  • Choose your own identity and meaning
  • Seek others’ approval
  • Pursue your bucket list
  • Amuse yourself now
  • Work off your guilt your own way

But Jesus has promised a much lighter load, crafted to fit comfortably, one that He Himself promises to bear, provided we stay attached to Him.

Despite starting the day with the correct belt comfortingly reminding me of Jesus’ presence, by noon I was squirming, aware that something was pinching. Sitting at my computer, finishing schoolwork from the previous week, I fretted over personal tasks and NOT ENOUGH TIME!

That false god called “Enough Time for Maria” was competing with the Almighty for supremacy. I caught myself grumbling while resenting time constraints. Snap!  Ouch – my  Jesus Belt tightened.

What made my belt prick? I had allowed ‘unbelief’ into my core to dilute my happy trust, contentment and peace.

Quick Holy Spirit conviction brought my confession of this sin of unbelief and repentance. I had to flush two of Satan’s favorite lies:

  • God is not sovereign over your life (for me – the day’s hours and their passage)
  • God is not good

Once I confessed and trusted God’s promise of sure forgiveness, my Jesus Belt felt comfortable again. Thank you, Father, for giving me such a life-saving Belt of Truth.

Getting Dressed – Psalm 32

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Currently Psalm 32 is my favorite scripture to recite.  I crave daily the truths it blazes. Unconfessed sins weigh me down.  I bend over to cover them up.  My belt of truth grows tight from this cover up and shameful cower.

Finally I break free and lift my head & hands to God and release the burden of my sin.  The belt is loosened. I’m weightless.  Light warms my face and body – no more guilt TODAY to darken my soul and weigh me down.

In this position, God exhorts and encourages: “Let everyone who has tasted this ‘chesed’ – this loving kindness pray to me”.   When we do pray, we are promised three things:

  • Protection while in the midst of danger with eventual musical rescue
  • Guidance and instruction about where to go, with on-going care as we journey through life
  • Joy as we remember our upright position when freed from sin

The Bible calls the man or woman who knows these truths, ‘asher’.  Asher means blessed….enviable….happy…..joyful.

*

After this daily confession, with my belt of truth comfortably reminding me that I’m secure in the light, I continue to put on my Gospel armor. I slip on my Peace-with-God sandals:  no need to fear that my access to His throne will be blocked.  My stance and confidence in my standing are firm.

I’m covered by Christ’s righteousness…no need to fake being something I’m not. I’m free to confess sin as it occurs; I don’t have to pretend a righteousness that is not mine.  Jesus’ righteousness is comfortable and comforting. I need that secure breastplate over my heart.

I consciously don my head covering marked, “SAVED by GRACE”.  Recalling that I have already been rescued helps me to reject:

  • the fear thoughts of ‘what if?’
  • the depressing thoughts of:  I’m-not-good-enough
  • the lack thoughts: God might not come through TOMORROW!
  • the superior & judgmental thoughts: At least I’m not….

Now I raise my shield of faith and cover not only myself, but the Church that is around me, those Christian brothers and sisters I encounter throughout my day.  I offer them protection by reminding THEM of gospel truth.  And when the going gets tough because the enemy is attacking me or a brother or sister, I pull out my short dagger and yell, “It is written: _____________!”  The demons scatter, horrified and wounded by the power of God’s Word.  ‘We better leave this Daughter of the King alone for now,’ they reason.

Gospel armor: fashion that NEVER goes out of style.  And I haven’t even mentioned the snacks I bring with me to nibble on throughout the day for energy.  We’ll talk about that another day.  But who doesn’t eat at least 3 times a day!

 

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