Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holding back...

I have been holding back on writing lately because I have been concerned about the reactions and assumptions that my next few posts will elicit. So... Allow me first to say this. This blog is merely a recounting of God's loving and gracious work in my heart. It is not in any way intended to judge or criticize others. I am merely stating MY story. Also, keep in mind that while we absolutely ARE shaped by our environment, there are other factors. The "blame" does not all lay with our environment, but also with the filters through which we process the things that are in our environment. Our personalities and mental hang ups, our perception of reality, our own sin nature, our disbelief, perfectionistic tendencies, OCD, ADD, whatever... all combine to form the "filter" through which we process how we view God, and how we view ourselves.

This is a statement about ME, about my perceptions, my "realities" and how a loving God is working in my life to reveal Himself for who He really is.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I am a Failure!

But thank God, HE is faithful!!!

One of the biggest things that I dislike about myself is the constant battle for consistency. Why is it so difficult to live a life of consistently seeking God and His heart? Why does it seem to be so much easier to "obsess" over earthly things, and so difficult to keep God as the center of our focus, and our obsession? (Whether we are talking material things, relationships, jobs, hobbies... We each have our own personal obsession.)

Over the years, I've read several books concerning this very topic. Some of my favorites have been:

"Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed" ~Donald Whitney
"Desiring God" ~ John Piper
"A Hunger for God" ~ John Piper
"When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy" ~ John Piper
"Stepping Heavenward" ~ Elizabeth Prentiss

The one thing that helped me the most in this ongoing battle however, is Psalm 119. I have come to identify with, and deeply love this Psalm.

Quite a few years ago, my pastor announced that we were going to do a miniseries through Psalm 119 entitled "Walking the Way of the Word" It revolutionized my thinking. Pastor Minnick encouraged us to think of the Psalm as a record, a "diary" of sorts of the Psalmist's journey in his relationship with God. This Psalm has since brought much comfort and blessing to my life.

I don't know about you, but I find that my life seems to be a cycle... A time of seeking God's face, soul searching, and deep communion with God, followed by a dry spell that leaves me wondering if I will ever truly know the presence of God in my life, and struggling to find purpose. In desperation, I begin once again to seek God's face, and the cycle begins all over again. I thought it was just me... that I was the only one that struggled with such lack of consistency in my Christian life and walk. Then, Pastor Minnick introduced me to the Psalmist...

Here are just a few notes from this miniseries.

Psalm 119: 1-24 A vision and desire.
David begins with looking at those who are blameless and walk in the law of the Lord and seek Him with their whole heart. He follows this with "Oh that my ways may be established to keep your statues!" What a wonderful heart's cry!!! How often has my own heart cried out to God for such a passion. This is followed by a description of how one can keep his way pure... walking the way of the word. Then comes a part that I LOVE, because it gives me hope! (As an aside, v 11 gives us a remedy against sin: God's Word. "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You."

Psalm 119:25-32 Frustration with self and inconsistencies.
"My soul cleaves to the dust. Revive me according to Your Word...

Psalm 119: 33-40 A Plea For Enabling.
He is begging God to do a work in his heart.
Revive me...
Teach me...
Make me understand...
Strengthen me...
Remove the false way from me...
Make me walk in Your way...
Incline my heart, establish Your word....
Revive me, Revive me, Revive me. This is repeated over and over though the Psalm

Psalm 119: 41-48 A summary of need and desire.
He asks for a fuller measure of salvation in order that he would have:
1) an irrefutable witness v 42
2) anticipated consistency v 44 (My heart LONGS for consistency!!!)

Psalm 119: 49-64 Experiencing that fuller measure of salvation.
In verses 25, 37 and 40 the psalmist begged, "Revive me!!!" In vs 50 that revival has come, but... interesting fact ... With that revival came affliction. Or maybe... through affliction came revival.
vs 50 " This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me."
vs 67 "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word."
vs 71 "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statues."
vs 75 "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me...." In faithfulness, You have afflicted me...

Do I see affliction as God's faithfulness to me? Do I understand that it is for my good? Do I truly believe that EVERYTHING that comes through the hand of my Father is allowed for good... in order to conform me to the image of His Son?

This cycle continues... in verses 81-88 the psalmist is once again expressing frustration and longing, and pleading with God for revival.

Beginning in vs 97 we see the results of the psalmist "Walking the way of the Word" followed by how these results were obtained:
I love Your law... It is my meditation
Your commandments make me wiser... because I make them mine
I have insight... because Your testimonies are my meditation
I understand more than the aged... because I have observed Your precepts
I have restrained my feet from evil... In order to keep Your Word
I have not turned aside... Because You have taught me
I get understanding... I hate every false way

I am not going to continue through the psalm, but if you read it, the cycle continues...
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path" (What a wonderful place to be!)
Followed by a continued description of life as he is living and yearning for God, and his pleas for enabling, strengthening, reviving, teaching...

So... when I am struggling with a lack of consistency... when I am struggling to find once again that deep passion, and obsession for God, I find myself turning back to the Psalms. This is not a new struggle...

So why this struggle? Well, it is my sinful nature. I am a fallen being living in a fallen world. My bent is toward sinning and exerting my own will and desires in my life. Also... There is this, and I heard it so eloquently quoted this last week, that I am not even going to attempt to rephrase it. Here is a quote by Max Lucado that I do believe sums it up beautifully.

"[The Devil] is an expert at robbing the "sparkle" and replacing it with the drab... ... He won't steal your salvation. He will just make you forget what it is like to be lost. You will grow accustomed to prayer and not pray. Worship will become commonplace and study will become "optional." With the passing of time, He will infiltrate your heart with boredom and cover the cross with dust so that you will be safely out of the reach of change." ~ Max Lucado.

That feeling of complacency is what keeps us from being used of God. So... if he can't take our salvation, he is going to try to keep us from being on fire for God, from loving Him supremely and allowing ourselves to be used of Him. This is the prayer of my heart:

I’ve a yearning in my heart that cannot be denied
It’s a longing that has never yet been satisfied
I want this world to know, the one who loves them so
Like a flame its burning deep down inside

To be used of God to sing, to speak, to pray
To be used of God to show someone the way
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire
To be used of God is my desire

When I think about the shortness of my earthly years
I remember all the wasted days, the wasted tears
I long to teach the word to those who've never heard
Of the one who can dispel all fears

To be used of God to sing, to speak, to pray
To be used of God to show someone the way
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire
To be used of God is my desire