Well, God did a significant number last night in bringing some clarity to a lesson called Grace. I mentioned yesterday I was teaching this lesson for our Celebrate Recovery group last night. Before teaching the lesson we sang in worship the song: “Lead Me to the Cross.” In the chorus of it the words tell us about the grace God gives from Christ going to the cross. As the chorus ends the words tell how Christ leads us to the cross so we too can give love/grace. This song is teaching the same message as the lesson. I told the group I’d always seen Grace as something God does in giving it to us. The lesson’s purpose is to connect grace with our making amends. When we do amends with ones we have hurt in our past we offer them grace without expecting anything in return. God gives us grace even while we are still sinning. This kind of love is what He wants us to offer when we offer amends.
Harder than all of this is that I CANNOT do anything to earn or achieve the worthiness of grace. Oh how I’ve tried! I’m finally to the point where I don’t automatically step into work of the day hoping it will be worthy of God’s expectation. This action of mine has been in my subconscious all of my life. I’ve never achieved it, but I’ve always had hope I’d get there someday. Well, I’m finally to the place where this truth is sinking in.
Now I want to tie this morning’s bible reading into this new clarity. I was reading Ruth. In it we know that Ruth accompanied Naomi back to her homeland after Naomi’s husband and two sons die. Ruth goes with her and the other daughter-in-law stays in her homeland. As Naomi gets to her own people they greet her by name and she tells them to change her name to one meaning bitterness. God has been harsh to her and her life has become one of bitterness. Joyce Meyers, at this point, has a footnote in the text explaining the work of bitterness in our lives. Bitterness has deep roots in us. When we let them grow by not addressing them Satan will use them to entangle us. We begin to develop all kinds of character defects/beliefs which are not true. One of these character defects is sense of worthiness. Bitterness breeds self-defeat. I write this because I’ve spent my life battling this and working to find worthiness. God has tried to give me grace but I hadn’t ever accepted it as a gift for in my eyes I wasn’t worthy of it. I HAD to earn it for the sake of worthiness. All of this became abundantly clear today.
I thank God for having me teach last night’s lesson, having our worship leader choose the song he did, and having me read Ruth this morning. God is faithful to the end. I want to be this kind of person for Him too. How Great our God is!
I don’t know if this is the “peace in the midst of the storm” or if it is simply peace. I don’t often get up sensing peace, yet this morning I do. I’m going to a half day training in another hour and then have an afternoon and evening committed to recovery work. Usually my mind is preoccupied with details. However, today is one of those anomalies. I’m just going to trust in God. When I asked God what He wanted me to know for today He simply said to know He is in all things. Obey Him when I sense His nudging. This I will do.
Tonight I am teaching the Celebrate Recovery lesson on Grace. It is an amazing lesson to learn. Grace is not built on our works. It is built on God’s nature. Satan has done a hazardous work convincing man he needs to “be” and “do” in order to deserve God’s Grace. I believed this for years. God is showing me over and over how His Grace is a Gift for me to receive. My nature hardly knows how to simply accept it, yet this is what I want to learn and help others in the process to do the same. God’s Grace is amazing just as He Is Amazing.
Much of yesterday went as planned. I went out and spent a couple hours pruning the raspberry patch for my sis. Eventually she came out as I had told her I didn’t need her help getting it done. I don’t mind if someone is with me, but I love working in the outdoors alone. We cleaned the pruning and then repaired the high fence she has around the patch. The deer love to get into any garden or flower bed and eat the young morsels there. This fence is about 12 feet tall and had partially fallen in one corner. We were able to get it repaired in spite of my limited carpenter skills. What we needed most was a 16 ft 2×4. A neighbor had one which was a 2×6 and we said, “close enough!” We got it repaired.
The rest of the day was spent moving some patio furniture and cleaning flower beds which are mostly empty except grass and weeds. Any flowers one plants are destroyed by the deer so Mary has given up with trying to plant something the deer won’t eat. By 3:00 pm I was done and relaxed finishing the book I Can Only Imagine. I had read most of it before coming but wanted to see how it ended. I had also seen the movie a month or so ago. I like to know the story a movie doesn’t tell, especially one like this one. The move is excellent, but the book tells the details one like me wants to know. When one lives through abuse as a child, one knows God can be found and is present, but to an onlooker, it isn’t often the same as in a normal upbringing. The book brings out these details and that is what I wanted to know.
God always proves Himself faithful. God’s gift to mankind of choice is often used to hurt and harm due to man’s selfish nature. However, God’s way of escape is there if we faithfully stay with Him and not lose hope. He does provide this in life. I will always love this about Him. Counseling and therapy is often tied to this way out and if it is needed, never let our pride stand in the way of getting it. I’m living proof of it.
The day topped off with Mary fixing her famous wiener wraps. Afterwards we watched “The Sound of Music” with popcorn! A day couldn’t have ended nicer!
Today is Memorial Day. We drove to Oregon yesterday after church to spend a couple days with Kathy’s sister in Joseph. As we passed through Wallowa we took the back road and went by the cemetery where her parents and a host of relatives are buried. It’s a pristine setting but it always leaves me with a sense of emptiness. I don’t like to revisit thoughts of ones I’ve loved. It is easier to simply bypass them and stay focused on the day’s events whatever they are. However, God wants me to never let go of the truth that no relationship is to be treasured as the one with Him. His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us is absolutely true. It has taken me many therapy and counseling sessions to find this truth, but now that I have it I sure want to help others who struggle to know this about Him. I never did get to have the relationship with my dad and mom I always hoped to have. However, God has brought peace to replace the anguish I use to carry. I praise Him for this.
My selfish incentive to come to Joseph is I get to prune my sis-in-law’s raspberry patch. I’ve already scoped it out and it won’t take long. There are probably other yard chores I can help with. Sometimes it is nice to simply be away for a moment to regain a perspective we didn’t know we had lost. God was reminding me of this when I asked Him what He wanted me to know for today? He is virtually in everything and has created all we see. This lovely country of Wallowa Oregon is a perfect example of His created beauty. I forget the effects of it on me when I’ve been away for a year. I just want to say, “Thank you God for having us take a moment to reawaken to the majesty of your handiwork!”
As I’ve already written in previous blogs, I’m reading Judges right now in my scripture time during devotions. Today’s entire reading was God calling Gideon to tackle the heckling problems of the Midianites. I already knew Gideon had a fear issue because I’ve not only read it before, but heard many sermons built on this topic. Gideon didn’t let the fear stop the outcome of God’s Work, but he did need much reassurance before fully stepping into the fire.
I find it interesting that God called Gideon to lead the Israelites even calling him “a mighty man of courage.” (Judges 6:12) This comes out in the verses preceding Gideon needing the continual reassurances God is with Him in what He keeps designing for him to do. When Gideon begins to obey God’s calling, he first does his work at night so men don’t know it is him. Then, he asks God to give him the fleeces indicating God is fully in control of what He is asking him to do. Lastly, before he leads the attack on the Midianites, he goes into the camp to overhear what they are saying. In all of this he finds the confidence to move forward with God’s direction for him.
As I read this I begin to think like others have said, “Wow, he does struggle with fear.” However, from the beginning God called him a man of courage. Today, as I write this my gut is tight and my stomach is churning. All my life I’ve struggled with this same fear. God has asked me for many years to step into what I’m now doing. Along with this, he has been opening doors for others to join in and He has also provided several insights of the same work going on all around–I just didn’t know it yet.
I think the most touching thing about this entire story is found in Judges 6:34. It reads: “But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with Himself and took possession of him….” Talk about the intimacy of God–He clothed Gideon with His own Spirit. This is what God does for us when we accept Christ into our hearts except He doesn’t clothe us with Him, He actually places His Holy Spirit within us. As we obey God’s calling, we allow The Holy Spirit to have the freedom God wants in using us for His Kingdom Work. This is what I want to do. God has been most gracious and patient getting me to this point in my life.
It is a quiet morning. The sound of the birds outside my den window is all I’ve heard while experiencing my devotional time with God. Last night a wind/rain/lightning storm passed through our region and following it–the calm.
Today I’m back to real life again. I’ve begun to read Judges. I hate the reality of real life. In it we find man falling away from God and seeking pleasures from all sorts of means–none of which have any connection to God and His Grace. The reality of life simply cannot be determined only by man. This is exactly what happens to us when we remove God from the helm of our life. This happens over and over in the book of Judges. God sends a new judge to the people to fight the bondage of another people group. The Israelites rejoice and as soon as that judge dies, they drift back into worshipping something other than the One True God.
What I’m also finding amazing is the strength of music. God seems to love music. Somehow it goes from His heart right to ours. It melts anger, it softens hurt, it penetrates what man calls sound judgment so we can hear the whisper of wisdom’s message. All of this is very true for me. Music takes the reality of real life and provides hope, focus, and a renewed spirit for trusting in The One and only True God.
I’ve just finished reading the Bible book of Joshua. I think it is one of the most inspiring books in the Bible. It starts with hope and it ends the same way. There are so many encouraging words in it God has given Joshua to share with the different tribes of Israel. The one that seems to rise to the top for me is simply obedience. The battles they have won over the many people groups is amazing. They simply had to be present, obey the commands God gave them and He did most of the destroying. The book ends with Joshua’s death and the direction to stay obedient to all that they had been taught. They were a new generation. Their parents had been the slaves to Egypt and had been unable to let that mentality go. This new generation of Israelites found it easier to obey and trust.
This book has challenged me in so many new ways as I’ve read it this time. To not have the mentality of a slave is huge. Satan so wants to keep us enslaved to the bondage of sin. Boy do I recognize that character flaw in me. I’ve fought it all my life. More recently learning to not fight it but to let it go giving it to Christ is a huge step. Fighting it is much more like hiding it. I have to do it on my own strength when I’m hiding it. I didn’t even know I was doing that for many years. However, in learning that I was, I still had to recognize that having the lie told still didn’t do away with this grueling habit. I needed to release it to God so the work His Son Jesus did on the Cross took care of it. God had to delay the Israelites entrance into their Promise Land until He had a group who truly believed and trusted Him.
The spiritual reality I am gleaning from this is that God has given to each of us a promise land. It may not be our present circumstances but it is our spiritual/mental state. When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River at Jericho they were being faced with foes all around them. Yet, they crossed believing. God is asking us to not let the foes in our lives set what we believe about Him. I’m getting a better hold on this as I continue to stay in this life of obedience and believing. I hope you will too. God is such a patient and merciful God.
Yesterday morning I was meeting with a state dept. of education person who organizes some of the consulting work I do. We were at a coffee house in Nampa. As we were finishing our work in walks someone I’ve known for a few years and had moved to Colorado. I jumped up to give them a hug to find she’d moved back. We had actually met because she’d read my book and contacted me. Over the next couple years I spoke for a couple events connecting to her work. She has now moved back and in a new position leading a major non-profit work in our valley. As we were catching up the man she was to meet arrived and we spent a few minutes connecting also. He is the associate pastor at a large church and in charge of community outreach and recovery. He heads the Celebrate Recovery at their church but is new to it. I enjoyed a great deal connecting with both of them. God is good this way. I have no idea if our ministries will reconnect, but we will see what God may have in mind.
I’ve been doing OK introducing myself at Celebrate Recovery adding the words: “I struggle with homosexuality.” However, as I got to share group there was a man who came who hasn’t been with us for several weeks due to a conflictive schedule with his kids track at their high school. It is now done so he returned. I found myself not wanting to use my new introduction with him present. He hadn’t heard why I was adding it and I felt intimidated saying it with him present. We have known one another for many years. Even though I know he knows this struggle, I had my pride jumping in the way. It is a frustrating thing to see just how weak I can be when something like this comes up. I’m calling him today to let him know of the incident. We will end up laughing about it likely, but I do need to confess this moment of weakness to him. God is a good God and I want to do His bidding in all my life.
All day yesterday the word reproach was staying with me. It is actually rearranging some very critical things in my thinking. The impact of Christ’s reproach to our sins and misbeliefs is most important if we are to live today in His Freedom. As I was reading in the Bible this morning Joshua was facing all of the mighty kings in the land they were to now occupy. God had given him a plan to move forward and had promised Joshua that He would provide the victory. He didn’t tell how, He just said He would. If you go back to the start of the book of Joshua and read Joshua 1:9, it says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua, now a few years later in chapter 9 is being told to prepare for the mighty kings that had pooled their resources to attack the Israelites. He had not forgotten what God told him from the very time he first crossed the Jordan and faced the walled city of Jericho. He stayed strong in his belief and acted on the insights God gave him.
What has paralyzed me more than anything in my life from obeying all God has asked me to do is the possible revelation of my past and people knowing I struggle with gay thoughts. Today, however, God is having me not only face this, He has promised me that Jesus’ reproach of my sins replaced the disgrace with God’s Grace. Now I can tell my story not with shame, but with victory. Just like God was trying to show the Israelites they were now victors and they were no longer slaves to man as they were to the Egyptians; so He is showing me I am no longer a slave to the fears of man knowing my past. I am a victor helping others find their way to Christ’s reproach and ultimate victory for them.
Praise the Lord!
Today’s devotional time has been an eye opening experience. It all started with my Blackaby devotional reading where they talked about the consequence of David’s sin when he had the affair with Bathsheba. God forgave his sin but sin still had consequences for him and his family which plagued him for the remainder of his life. We need to know this about sin and intentionally stepping into it. Secondly, as I began to read in Joshua 5 it said God told Joshua to circumcise the children of Israel. Since their 40 years of wondering in the wilderness, none of them had been. The ones who had been born in Egypt had but they were now all dead. God goes on to tell Joshua that the circumcision is to roll away the reproach of Egypt on them.
I had not ever looked into the word reproach. I think I first heard it in the old hymn–The Old Rugged Cross where it says in the 4th verse: “To that old rugged cross I will ever be true. Its shame and reproach gladly bear….” As I saw this word in scripture reading I was wondering just exactly its meaning. When I looked it up I found that it means removing the shame, disgrace and blame. The children of Israel had been slaves for 400 years in Egypt and God wanted all of these men to now know He had cut away all of their shame of being slaves to other men. They were to become victors in the land they were being given by God their Father. They were no longer slaves, but they were now to be victors.
This hit me like a tidal wave with understanding like I’ve not had before. I’m sure these people needed to learn what it was to be independent of man’s ownership. They had been dependent on someone else for 400 years. I had my own beliefs about my value to man and being a slave to what I thought in my head–believed about myself. God has been trying to give me His reproach for years but I couldn’t see it. I’ve been too blind until the blinders were lifted this morning. So, I gave this belief I’ve had to Jesus so He could bury it once and for all where He had already done it so many years ago.
I’m sure there is more God will be teaching me now that these blinders are gone. Satan has wanted me to be blind to God’s Grace by only seeing my own disgrace. That is now gone. I see and accept God’s Grace. Join me if this has been a life-long struggle for you.