Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Week Forty-Four - Seared and Rejected

I recently joined my first virtual book study. I've done Zoom meetings and Facetime and other online groups, but never to do a book study. I have to admit, my motivation was not necessarily for the book because I had read it before. What I really wanted was to learn how this is done. Also, my daughter-in-law was leading it, and I wanted to be an encouragement. But even though my motives were not solely focused on learning, God's purpose remained.  I was there, not by chance, but by sovereign design.

When you do a virtual book study, you do prep work ahead of time. My assignment was to read the first three chapters, complete the questions in the workbook, and listen to a video from the author. Well, my brain started collecting a plethora of ideas and insights from the reading and teaching. I was almost on overload when the time came to meet with my fellow virtual learners. I worked hard at containing my excitement and listening as each shared their responses. Somehow, I managed to be considerate, but honestly, I felt I could have taken over the whole lesson sharing all the Lord had placed on my heart.

So today, dear reader, you are going to get a portion of my brain-dump. The book we are considering is Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. The subject of the book is rejection; which all of us have experienced at varying levels throughout our upbringing, schooling, marriages, and life. None of us are exempt. Let me share a few quotes.

Lysa says, "Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what's been said to me." Haven't you found this true? Someone makes a comment and their words sear your heart and soul. They replay over and over until you begin allowing them to become the label you wear. Over time, they become like broken floorboards making your walk unsteady. And when life gets hard, the lies and rejections we have seared on our hearts make life harder.

"The beliefs we hold should hold us up even when life feels like it's falling apart." But when we have built our life on the negative, rejecting comments of others, we do not have a level place to stand.

Thankfully she says, "I don't have to figure present circumstances out. I don't have to fill the silence left behind in another person's absence. I don't have to know all the whys and what-ifs. All I have to do is trust. So in quiet humility and without a personal agenda, I make the decision to let God sort it all out. I sit quietly in His presence and simply say, 'God, I want Your trust to be the loudest voice in my life. Correct me. Comfort me. Come closer still. And I will trust."

And all of this is just in the first two chapters. Well, I drew aside to look at the rejections I have seared in my heart, to the voices that tell me "You can't, You won't, You'll never" and I laid them before the Lord. You know what? God had another word to say-a word I had never heard HIm say before.

As I thought about replacing the negatives and rejections with truth, God whispered His word to my heart. "You shall know the truth." He will reveal the truth to me. The truth about who He is. The truth about who I am. "And the truth," He said, "Will set you free." Free? I can be free from these seared words? "Yes," He said. "the truth will set you free. Not your truth, but My truth."

Oh, my heart rejoiced. I was set free right there! God placed His word in my heart, His love upon me, and set me free. That's why I was bounding with joy as I came to that first meeting. That was the truth I tried to share with those in my little group who were so hurt by the things they had experienced. God's truth sets us free. We not longer need to live under the curse of our experiences. We can stand on a sure foundation and reinforce ourselves with His word - His truth.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the book study and I'll share along with you as we go because I know we all need God's truth to heal the wounds seared upon our hearts by rejection.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week Forty-Three - The Pity Party

Do you remember the song, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to?" It might make a great theme song for 2020. We've certainly had plenty to moan and cry about.

Asaph wrote a psalm with similar lyrics. "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak"  (Psalm 77:1-4).

Obviously, pity parties are not new.  Ahab had one, Absalom had one, and even King Saul had a few.  But when I read these first three verses of Psalm 77 my eye catches several specific phrases that make me think.

"My soul refused to be comforted." Have you ever refused to be comforted?  Refused someone's offer of help or kindness because you were too busy pouting and crying?  Have you ever turned your back on support because you enjoyed your misery or were too stubborn to admit you needed help?  This idea of refusing to be comforted paints such a picture.

"I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." Have you been complaining?  I know I have. 2020 gives reason to complain, but what happens when we give over to a complaining spirit?  We get the feeling of being overwhelmed.  The negatives loom larger and larger.  The nightly news, Facebook posts, and general confusion leave us flabbergasted, exhausted, and weary with the whole process.

"Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak."  I don't know what Asaph was crying about, but he was definitely struggling.  He was not sleeping--that's what "mine eyes waking" means.  And he was dumbfounded by the trouble in front of him, he saw no solution.

In verses five and six he grows nostalgic and introspective. "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search."  Has this been your experience?  I know it has been mine. 

Pity parties usually lead to looking back and looking inward. We begin wishing things were as before.  We long for the good ole days and start looking inward to find encouragement or the answer to why we feel as we do.  Then, just like Asaph, we start accusing God of abandoning us. Look at verses 7-10a.  "Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity."

"Poor me!" Asaph is saying, "Poor me.  God has forgotten me.  He doesn't love me anymore. I am stuck with my weakness, bowed down in my depression. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." But I'm so glad Asaph didn't stop his song here.  It's a really sad place to be.

In verses 10b-12 he cancels his party and changes focus. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

Just like Asaph, we might be down in the dumps, refusing to be comforted, facing sleepless nights, and an overwhelmed, complaining spirit, but.  And there is the keyword - but.  But - there is another way to look at things.  There are things I am not taking into account.  I don't have to stay in my weakness. I can think back on how God worked things out for me in the past and I can meditate on the greatness of all He is doing and begin talking about His goodness.

Asaph had a choice, and so do we.  We can cry and whine or adjust our thinking and attitude. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy pity parties for very long.  They are hard work and soul-destroying, but when I allow my mind to think about my good, good Father and all He has done for me, the spirit of complaining lifts and I begin partying with praise.

If you read the remainder of Psalm 77 you will find Asaph begins praising God, too. He points out God's greatness, and ends with, "thou leddest thy people like a flock." God led Asaph to a brighter prospect and a happier party full of hope.  God will lead us thee, too, if we lay aside our pity and put on the garment of praise.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Week Forty-Two - Be Prepared

As a child, I learned the motto of the Girl Scouts - Be prepared. We know that being prepared means, don't we?  It is the state of being ready, organized, and equipped.  This truth of preparedness is taught in Scripture, exemplified by our Lord and one for which we should strive.

Look at these examples from Scripture.

Mary came to anoint Jesus before his death and burial.  Mark 14:8

The disciples found the upper room already prepared for the Passover.  Mark 14:15

Jesus had a meal prepared before the disciples came to shore.  John 21:9

After the resurrection, the bewildered disciples heard that Jesus was already in Galilee.  Matthew 28:7

In John 14:1 we read Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us.

And in 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

God is prepared.  He has everything thought through, everything prepared.  He doesn't make a new plan for each day.  NO!  He is always in advance of time.  As we woke this morning, He had our day already ordered and planned from the beginning of time and was waiting for us to join Him.

He is there in the hours ahead, in tomorrow, and in eternity preparing the way for us.  He will bring us to our appointed place and we will find our appointed resources along the way. As we follow, we discover His insight, His oversight, and His foresight.  We might not see HIm, but as we walk by faith, we know He sees us, and we trust Him because we believe He is already there with everything prepared.

As I meditated and pondered this beautiful truth, I saw a few more encouraging things.

Preparedness is the teaching of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25.  Five were prepared to join the bridal party, five were not.  1 John 2:28 admonishes us to be prepared so we won't be "ashamed before him at his coming."  The unprepared Virgins were ashamed.  Let's not be likewise!  He is coming soon, and we have a duty of preparedness.

Over the years, I have learned to ask God to prepare my heart for things ahead.  I pray ahead of time when I anticipate facing resistance or fear. "Lord, prepare my heart and mind for what I am about to face.  Give me your Spirit of wisdom, calmness, and foresight as You direct my words and reactions."

And, when I ponder the future, when I wonder how things will all work out, I pray, "Lord, I know you have my future prepared; that you are already there.  Help me to entrust my future to you and live each day in faith keeping my focus on what you have given me to do today."

I have yet to see Him fail to answer my prayers for preparedness.

So, what about you?  Are you prepared for today?  Are you trusting and believing that the Lord is ahead of you, leading and preparing your life?  Should He come today, are you ready?  Or would you be ashamed?

In Ezra 7:10, Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the law."  Other verses also teach us to prepare our hearts to obey, seek, trust, and hear what God says.  Is your heart preparing?  Are you prepared to meet your God?

2 Chronicles 27:6 says, "So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." 

Let's follow Ezra and Jotham's example and be prepared!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Week Forty-One - Weeds and Seeds

"There is a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan kept his seed ready to be sown in the human heart and on finding the seed of discouragement more numerous than others, learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere.  When Satan was questioned, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could never get them to thrive. "And where is that?" asked the man.  Satan replied sadly, "In the heart of a grateful man." (Springs in the Valley, p 281)

Oh, dear friend, how true this is.  Seeds of discouragement appear in every area of our lives.  We get discouraged with ourselves, our jobs, our children, our marriages, our church, our pastor, our lot in life, and many, many other things.   But when we turn our discouragement into the seeds of gratitude, things grow into something much more beautiful!

It's all a matter of amending our perspective.  Instead of thinking negatively about our job, let's be thankful we have one.  Instead of despairing about our children, let's be grateful for the little lives under our care and the young people we are raising.  Instead of lamenting our marriage, let's be thankful we have opportunity to work on it.  Instead of growing discouraged with our church or pastor, let's get in and volunteer, hold them up in prayer and serve with a willing heart as unto the Lord.  Instead of complaining and growing discouraged with our lot in life, let's take it to the Lord in prayer, thank Him for where we are, and plot our course more closely to His design.  And instead of growing discouraged with ourselves, let's remember we are but flesh, and yet loved with an everlasting, and ever-patient Love.

You see, if you remain discouraged and choose to stay disgruntled, Satan's seeds take deep root.  They start to blossom into evident weeds and reseed themselves.  They poison your relationship, create havoc, and mar the beauty and spiritual health of your life.  Remember, the enemy comes only to kill and destroy.  Don't let his weeds take over!

Jesus came to give us life, and that abundant life grows from a grateful heart.  It is a choice we make - a conscious choice.  Each day we have the opportunity to sow seeds of thankfulness.

As you read Psalms, you see a man who learned this secret.  David knew gratitude played an essential part in worship, drawing strength, and living a happy life.  Even in his darkest hours, he sang the praises of God.  "When he was in despair, he called on God, and his praises soon mingled with his cries of anguish, showing the victory accomplished by his habitual thankfulness."  (Springs in the Valley)

Do you make thankfulness a habit?  Let me challenge you.  Each day, record three things for which you are thankful.  Write them down and pin them up where you can see them.  Do this every day for a month, and see if your weeds of discouragement aren't withering away!  And then, keep weeding, by sowing seeds of thankfulness. You will reap what you sow!