Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cold and Calloused

Sometimes, it seems like my heart has callouses.  I've asked the Lord to cleanse my heart, remove the old oil--the bitterness--and fill me anew with the Holy Spirit. I believe He has done this, but still I know there are hard, crusty places that He needs to work on.  I still have a struggle with being hard-hearted at times.  In other words, sometimes I'm more like a cold-hearted snake than a caring, compassionate believer.  How did this happen?  I have a theory.

The cold and unfeeling state is my normal state if I allow genetics --the flesh--to be in control.  I never met my paternal grandmother, she died many years before I was born, but I'm told that she was a little on the hateful side.  In my younger days, I'm afraid I was pretty hard on her.  I didn't know how she could be so cold and still claim to be a Christian.  Oh the foolish words of youth!  I'm sorry I ever judged her, because now that I have experienced more of life I have discovered something about my grandmother from examining my own character.  Even though I never met her, I have a feeling that she was simply reacting to the storms of life.  She developed an edge because life ran over her, then backed up and ran over her again.  She had it really hard, in a time when women weren't treated with very much respect by our society.  She was a single mom and did the best she could with what life gave her.  She just ended up a little hard and calloused in the process.

How did I figure this out? The revelation came to me as I was praying a little while ago.  Lately, I have been asking the Lord to show me the truth, and set me free.  Well, the truth I saw tonight wasn't very pretty.  I saw that I have been living in circumstances similar to my grandmother.  She was divorced when my dad was a teen.  She lived with some of the same heartbreaks as I have.  She made the best of a bad situation, just as I have.  I'm sure she made her share of mistakes, as I have.  I am humbled by the picture I got when I realized this. 

I have a granddaughter now, and I don't want her to look at my life when she's a little older and say I am mean-spirited and bitter.  The hard truth is, in an unregenerated state, our flesh will repeat the patterns set in place from previous generations.  Without the Lord's saving grace and regeneration of my heart,  I would be doomed to live in a state of misery, not allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my heart to transform me and the end result would most likely be very much the same.  Thank God for the cross of Jesus Christ!  Because He took the curse of my sin on Himself when He died for me, I don't have to live in that cursed state.  

So, as I spend time in His presence, the hard, calloused places in my heart will soften.  I will be become more like Jesus as I spend more time with Him. It's a work in progress, denying the flesh and living in the Spirit, becoming a "new creation in Christ."  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." Romans 8: 12-16 (NIV).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Hope Is You

1 In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.~ Psalm 25:1-3 (NIV).

This is how one of my favorite scriptures, and perhaps my very favorite Psalm, begins. In earlier posts, I have touched on this Psalm and mentioned that it is very special to me.  Tonight, however, I am going to reveal a little bit of what this Psalm means to me. Anyone who has walked with the Lord for any length of time will encounter some scriptures along the way that have deep and special value for them.  It isn't usually a happy time, though, that causes them to become so special.

Adversity, pain, sorrow, brokenness--I could go on, but you get the idea.  Yes, the entire Bible is our love letter from God, meant to be our roadmap, our instruction manual, our final authority on life and how to live it.  But we are basically a stubborn lot; we seldom learn anything the easy way. So many times in life, it is those scriptures that we find ourselves clinging to for dear life, the ones that we use to hoist ourselves up out of the pitfalls we find ourselves in--those are the ones that have special meaning to us. And so it is with Psalm 25 for me. Let me explain how it came to be so personal to me.

When I was first saved, God showed me very clearly that He was calling me to be an encourager.  He often gave me words of knowledge and scriptures to encourage others.  He put the desire in me to write, and use writing as a tool to be this encourager He had called me to be. But the storms of life blew, I went through a divorce, and my world came crashing down around me. Instead of continuing to fulfill His purpose in me, I wandered into a spiritual desert, away from the calling He had put within me.  I justified to myself that I couldn't encourage anyone, since I was divorced.  I fell for the lies of the enemy, and I began allowing his venom to poison my thinking.  

As I wandered along in this wilderness, I lost sight of God's plan for me. I was a Christian, blood-bought and heaven-bound, but I was so full of pain.  I had been hurt so much by life, and the damage was probably fairly obvious to others.  Those were dark years, and at times I felt I was suffocating in the fog of depression and fear that surrounded me.  God sent people along the way to help me find my way out of the bondage and help me realize I was free in Christ, and I accepted some help here and there.  I was so severely depressed, though, that I lashed out at the very ones that were trying to help me, as is often the case with people in pain.  It grieves me to admit this now, but though I was called to encourage I allowed my warped perception of my life to affect my ability to hear from God.  Instead of lifting others up, I started inflicting damage with my words.  And so, the writer's pen turned poisonous. It appeared that satan had won, and had disabled me from ever doing any good again.

When I realized that I had used for evil the gift of writing that God had placed in me, I was distraught, and was determined never to write again. One day, I was at an all time low as I turned to God in my prayer closet seeking direction, asking forgiveness, trying to figure out where to go from there.  That day, in my daily Bible reading I came across Psalm 25. Suddenly it became alive, a Rhema word from God.  His Spirit was a very real Presence in that little closet that morning.  The words jumped out at me, and I realized I did have hope.

"In you, LORD my God, I put my trust, " I read.  Yes, I do trust You, Lord I told Him.  I knew He  was all I had. I was drawn to read more: "I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me." Yes Lord, I prayed, please, PLEASE do not let the gift You gave me be used by the enemy ever again. Do not let him win!

"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause." HOPE.  The word "hope" went all the way through me in a flash.  I hope in GOD, and HE will not let me be put to shame.  There it was, the promise straight from God. Like a bolt of lightening, God's Spirit touched my heart.  Tears sprang to my eyes when the truth suddenly came alive to me. I was sobbing as I continued reading:

"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."I knew I definitely needed God's guidance and to be grounded in His truth. I was on the right path, at last. I knew the Lord was going to lead me out of the desert and do a miracle in my heart and mind.

I continued reading, and came across verse 15: "My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare."  Not only would He forgive me and not let me be put to shame, but He would untangle the mess I was in and get me out of satan's trap. "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish." Even though at that moment I couldn't imagine not having a troubled heart or being free from anguish, I took the words to heart and chose to believe them to be true.

I have never been the same since that day in my prayer closet.  Things didn't get better overnight, but little by little, God's redemptive work began to unfold in my life. It was several years before I had the courage to write anything again, but I am happy to report that I am once again writing, pursuing God's purpose for my life as He gives me words of encouragement to share.

But there's one more wonderful thing that God did for me through Psalm 25.  Not only did He touch my broken heart and start the healing process through His word, He did something very personal for me, something that I know He did to give me hope and show me that He was with me:  Our praise team started learning a new song that week at practice.  Perhaps you have heard it.  It is Third Day's My Hope Is You.  Years later, I still cannot sing that song without tears, and extreme gratitude to God for what He has done for me.

If you are hurting as you read this, let me encourage you to put your trust in God.  Your hope is in Him, and Him alone.

"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame." Psalm 25:3