Archives for May 2013

Like a Weaned Child

IMG_1803O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.

Surely, I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:1, 2

This is where I have been “marinating” for a few days now. Every time I have started reading the next Psalm or digging into other portions of my not-so-structured Bible reading plan, I have felt a tug back to these words. This morning the tug was stronger than ever. So I did what any self-respecting Bible teacher does when God has her sit and soak in one place for a while – I read, re-read, contemplated the words, and prayed. Then, I went and got Spurgeon.

Here’s a portion of what I read (and underlined, and highlighted, and starred, and read again) from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David this morning on what it means to quiet your soul “as a child that is weaned.” What a powerful metaphor and a much needed reminder that my battle against selfish desires can only be won as I seek and savor my all-sufficient, all-satisfying Savior:

The task [of weaning] to the mother is trying and troublesome. The infant cries and seems to sob out his heart. He thinks it very hard in her and knows not what she means by her seeming cruelty, and the mother’s fondness renders all her firmness necessary to keep her at the process; and sometimes she also weeps for the importunity of his dear looks, and big tears, and stretched-out hands. But it must be done, and therefore, though she pities, she perseveres; and after awhile he is soothed and satisfied, forgets the breast, and no longer feels even a hankering after his former pleasure.

But how is this weaning accomplished? By embittering the member to his lips; by the removal of the object in the absence and concealment of the mother; by the substitution of other food; by the influence of time.

So it is with us. We love the world, and it deceives us. We depend on creatures, and they fail us, and pierce us through with many sorrows. We enter forbidden paths, and follow after our lovers, and our way is hedged up with thorns; and then we say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; and now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee.”

The enjoyment of a greater good subdues the relish of a less. What are the indulgences of sin, or the dissipations of the world to one who is abundantly satisfied with the goodness of God’s house, and is made to drink of the river of His pleasures? (words by William Jay, quoted in Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, Volume 2)

With mouth wide open, heart bowed down, and hands lifted high this is the cry of my heart today:

“Satisfy us, Lord Jesus!”

 

If You Were Loved “Even When,” You Are Loved Even Now

 “It’s pretty bad when you cancel on your housekeeper because your house is in such disarray that it doesn’t deserve cleaning.”

That gem of a status update from a lovely high school friend showed up on my Facebook newsfeed a few months ago. Before you peg me as a creepy Facebook stalker who keeps a personal log of every interesting post that she sees, let me explain why this one still stands out in my mind.

First, I had a housekeeper once so I can relate. Kathy came every other week for a couple of years – wonderful, glorious years! The night before her scheduled arrival my husband would stand in utter disbelief as I stormed through the house making sure it was clean enough to be cleaned the next day.

Greg: Don’t we have a housekeeper?

Me: [spoken in a somewhat sassy tone as I am wiping down the toilet] Um, yeah.

Greg: Don’t we pay her to do that?

Me: Yes, but I don’t want her to think we’re a bunch of disgusting pigs!

Greg: That makes no sense at all.

Me: It’s called a “pre-cleaning cleaning.” Everyone who has a housekeeper does it. I can’t believe you don’t know this.

[Cue husband eye roll now.]

The second reason this Facebook post is etched in my mind is because it clearly communicates how I sometimes feel in my relationship with God. I have a really solid grasp of the gospel. I understand the oh-so-precious concepts of redemption, justification, propitiation, grace, and God’s unconditional forgiveness. But there are still times when I struggle to take them personally – times when I feel like my life is in such disarray that I don’t deserve God’s presence, His grace, or His cleansing. Sometimes when  I stand back and look at myself all I see is a lazy, fearful,  uncreative, underwhelmed, irritable, emotionally unstable woman who has utterly failed to live up to the expectations of every single person she loves, especially God. Here’s how things often look from my perspective: As a wife, I’m not exciting enough, as a mommy I’m not engaged or patient enough, as a homemaker I’m not efficient enough, as a friend I’m not invested enough, as a church member I’m not involved enough, as a Bible teacher I’m not prepared enough, as a Christ-follower I’m not in the Word enough, as a witness I’m not bold enough . . .

Whether real or perceived, it doesn’t take much for these “not enoughs” to morph into “not wanted”, “not worthy,”  “not useful,” and even “not loved”  – four things a blood-bought child of God can never be. Left to itself, this heart of mine will actually begin to believe it. The result?  Instead of running to Jesus and His fountain of all-sufficient grace, I switch into self-help mode, try really really hard to do better, and then beat myself up when my self-improvement project inevitably fails.  Instead of welcoming God’s redemptive activity in my life, I stubbornly continue to resist His help and cleansing until I start to feel I’ve earned it. Days, weeks, and maybe even months go by without any meaningful interaction with the Lord. Sadly, my resistance doesn’t make me feel any cleaner, just dryer . . . and more ashamed.

Here’s why: I may be able to pre-clean my house before my housekeeper, but I can’t pre-clean myself before Holy God.  (see Is. 64:6, Rom. 3:20)

Here’s the good news: I DON’T NEED TO!

Ephesians 2: 4 and 5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, EVEN WHEN we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (also see Rom. 5:6-11 and Col. 2:13, 14; emphasis added)

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Every single word of those verses is worth “marinating” in, but the two words I want to focus on are “even when.”

Even when you were dead in sin . . . He loved you.

Even when you were His enemy . . .  He purposed to save you.

Even when the only god you worshiped was yourself . . . He desired to make you a vessel of HIS glory.

If He loved us even when we were dead, rebellious, idolatrous sinners then it stands to reason that He loves us even when we are lazy, irritable, disengaged moms . . . even when we are moody, selfish, entitled wives . . . even when we are weak, half-hearted, undisciplined Christ-followers . . . even when_________________________ (fill in the blank with your most recent failure).

Knowing that God loved us “even when” does not free us to keep on sinning (see Romans 6). We can’t stay moody, selfish, entitled wives! Rather, it frees us to swing the doors of our sin-soaked hearts wide open to the cleansing, renewing, restoring presence of God. It frees us to take all of our “not enoughs” to the one and only place where they cannot bind us in shackles of shame – the cross of Jesus Christ. It frees us to face our failures with the confidence that not a single one of them has the power to undo what God has already done for us by grace alone.

Your life is never too messy, your heart is never too dirty, your hands are never too lazy, your steps are never too clumsy, and your emotions are never too crazy for a God who loved you even when” to love you even now.

No “pre-cleaning cleaning” required. Ever.

 

 

 

When God Withholds

IMG_1672As a mom I have become a master at killing time, particularly those 3-4 hours in between nap time and bed time. For me, those are the hours that drag on forever. That’s the part of my day when I am most likely to end up putting myself in time out. It’s also the part of my day when I am most likely to raid the chocolate chip stash in the back of the freezer. (I’m way too healthy to buy candy, but I always have a secret stash of “ingredients.”)

So for the sake of my sanity and my waistline, it’s best that Shep and I go somewhere in the afternoons. And what better place to kill some time than Super Target? It is perhaps the one place on the planet where mother and child can experience equal amounts of happiness. Shep knows the drill: Starbucks, women’s shoes and accessories, then toys.  It’s a classic “win, win” scenario.

The other day we were in the toy section. I gave Shepherd 15 minutes to look around, told him that we were NOT buying anything, and clarified the consequence if he threw a fit. About 5 minutes in, he spotted a truck he really liked. It was a great truck. It was only a few dollars. He really, really wanted it. I had the ability to buy it. More importantly, I wanted to buy it. I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to grant his wish. I wanted to hear his sweet little voice say, “Mommy, you’re the best!”

So I stood there in the toy section incredibly conflicted – torn between the desire to give him what he wanted (the truck) and the desire to give him what he needed (a lesson in restraint).

As we walked out of the store that day (truck-less), it struck me that God never has that experience with His children. He is never conflicted. He never struggles to choose between what He wants to give us and what He knows is best for us. He never ever thinks to Himself, “Man, I really would like to give her ________________, but I probably shouldn’t.” He is utterly incapable of prioritizing our wants over our needs.  He absolutely cannot desire lesser things for us. Here’s why:

1)      He is sovereign.

That means that He is in absolute control over all things. He does whatever He pleases. There is not a single event in the entire universe that can occur outside of His domain.  The same is true of the small, ordinary events of your life. The Bible is replete with references to this amazing attribute:

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. (Ps. 33:11)

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand. (Prov. 19:21)

There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the LORD. (Prov. 21:30)

Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him. (Ps. 115:3)

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Is. 46:9-10)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:35)

 [He] works all things after the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11)

Is God is in complete control over which “trucks” you get to take home and which ones you have to leave in the store? In other words, does He have absolute dominion over how and when and where the desires of your heart are fulfilled? Does He get to decide what’s best for you? YES – because He is sovereign.

2)      His wisdom is perfect.

Even the wisest among us are plagued with limited knowledge. We all know what it’s like to stress over an important decision, wondering if we’re are doing the right thing. We make our pro and con lists, seek wise counsel, get as much information as we can, and then do the best with what we know. Oftentimes, what we know is sorely insufficient. If you’ve never experienced that, you will when you become a parent!

God doesn’t have that problem – ever. He knows everything – past, present, and future. He can see what no human eye can see and understand what no human mind can understand. He never has to consult a source outside of Himself. As Jerry Bridges puts it in his book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, “His wisdom is intuitive, infinite, and infallible.” Again Scripture makes this ever so clear:

With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding. (Job 12:13)

His understanding has no limit. (Ps. 147:5)

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Is. 40:28)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Is. 55:8,9)

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. (Dan. 2:20)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom. 11:33)

So not only does God have the power and authority to arrange your life, He has the wisdom to arrange it well. Perfectly, in fact. Because God is sovereign, He ultimately gets what He wants and because He is wise, He always wants what is best. He cannot desire something for you that is not in keeping with His perfect understanding of you, your life, your future, and (most importantly) your role in His overall redemptive plan.   

3)      He loves you.

Because He loves you He cares about you and delights in doing you good:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Ps. 84:11)

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Ps. 86:5)

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103:2-5)

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matt 10:29-31)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:35, 37)

There’s something incredibly sweet in knowing that I belong to a God who not only knows what’s best for me, but sincerely desires what’s best for me. He cannot want lesser things for His children. His perfect, unfailing, abiding, immeasurable love won’t allow it.

I don’t know about you, but I need to know that. As I wait for God to answer the cry of my heart in a very specific area of my life, I need to know He’s not conflicted. I need to know He is ordering my steps with an unwavering commitment to my good, which is ultimately for His glory. I need to know that when He says “no” He never regrets it or second guesses Himself. I need to know that He’s not the wimpy dad who gives in when His daughter throws a hissy fit. I need to know He loves me too much to give me want I want at the expense of what I need.  I need to know He wants much, much more for me than I want for myself.

So in those moments of doubt . . . when my unfulfilled longing threatens to undo me . . . when I am at a complete loss to understand what God is doing – I throw myself on the solid rock of who He is.

Upon that rock His sovereignty assures me of His absolute control, His wisdom assures me of His perfect guidance, and His love assures me of His faithful provision.

Together, they remind me that every “truck” withheld is both an act of divine grace and an oh-so-precious opportunity to deepen my trust in the One who holds my life.

Behind every bitter providence lies the promise of a better future. The very nature of your God guarantees it.

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