Crushed

I can’t remember what I was wearing the night I first reached out to God, other than jeans–but I’m always wearing jeans, so that probably shouldn’t count.  I can’t remember whether or not I was wearing a baseball cap.  I can’t remember what kind of beer we were drinking at the time (there were several).    I can’t remember if we’d gone to the Padres game that day, or were going the next.  I can’t remember if we started drinking in the afternoon, or just that evening, when Ken threw the frog legs on the grill.

But I remember how I felt before I knew God was there, and felt His presence.  And I remember how I felt after.

It was pretty strange, really.  One moment I was contemplating the death of a man named Tim Wakefield, who was the first pastor I ever knew on a personal level and liked.  I was a little sad, but otherwise fine, and blissfully unaware of anything but the little bubble I complacently lived in.

And the next moment I was not.  Somewhere between imagining Tim’s last few moments on an Arizona freeway and picking up two medium sized coolers full of ice and cheap beer, I became aware, fully aware, for the first time in my life.

And I felt.

I had been numb for so long–or tried to be–that the rush of feeling I was experiencing was overwhelming.  I felt the loneliness that had somehow always been there, even while in the midst of friends–the awareness I was the only person on earth that felt how I felt, and had experienced the type of events that had shaped my life.  I was aware that no one understood me.

I felt the pain of my losses anew. 

I could sense my surroundings with absolute clarity, in HD before HD existed.  The Rolling Stones playing two houses down (I later found out it was a live album called Get Yer Ya-Ya’s OUT”).  People were milling around on that cabin’s deck, but the darkness was so thick without the lights of civilization casting even a dim glow, that they could not see me a hundred or so feet away, standing on a dock.

I could hear frogs, and crickets.

And I became aware of two things in close succession.  The first was my sin–and not only could I see in sharp definition all the things I’d done in my life, but I could remember how I’d felt when I’d done them, and why.

I’d consumed alcohol to dull the harsh noise of the world, and numb the clenching pain in my heart.  I’d eaten and eaten and eaten for the same reason.

I’d slept with several women I barely knew because it made me forget, for a moment, how alone I really was.

I’d lied, and cheated, and even stolen on a couple of occasions.  I’d been deceitful to get what I wanted, and had become quite adept at it.  I had not killed, but I’d wanted to.  I’d looked on people and hated them–even my own family.

I’d ignored God my entire life, had slapped away his outstretched hands.  I’d turned a deaf ear to his cries for me, to his calling of my name.

I’d hated him for the life he’d given me.

I felt all of this at once, falling around my shoulders like an immense cloak.  It was heavy, and dark, and suffocating. 

The weight of it literally drove me to my knees, and I could hear the thin fabric of my jeans tearing as my kneecaps encountered the rough wood of the dock I was standing on.  I let go of the coolers and fell forward onto the palms of my hands.  I could hear the river slapping the side of Ken’s dad’s fishing boat.

And then I did the only thing I could, the thing I’d never done before.

I cried out to Jesus, and then I just cried.

And after a few moments, I became aware of the weight of my sin being drawn from my shoulders.  And on the heels of that awareness was another: I did not have to bear that weight any longer. 

I felt the heaviness of that dark cloak being slowly replaced with a lighter one.

I felt peaceful, for the first time in as long as I could remember.

I felt forgiven.  I did not hear a voice, either whispered or shouted, but I just knew.  I knew in the way that a child is aware of their parent’s love, without having to be told.

I felt like a child, like I’d fallen and my Father had picked me up, held me against his chest, and just loved me.

And while I knew I was still the same person I’d been, I also knew I was a

NEW CREATION

and had a clean slate, as far as Jesus was concerned.

I still had the head knowledge of what I’d done, and been through.  But I also had the heart knowledge that in the eyes and heart of the only One whose opinion mattered, those things had dissappeared.

That was the beginning.

The first baby step I took toward the most important relationship of my life.

I was thirty-two.

*******

I’ve had people ask me what’s different in my life now.  It took me a little while to realize the main difference is simply this:  I have hope now.

Hope.

and this is why:

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
       and like a root out of dry ground.
       He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
       nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

 3 He was despised and rejected by men,
       a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
       Like one from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 4 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted.

 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.

                                  -Isaiah 53:2-5 NIV

Advertisements

Psalm 22

(with comments by yours truly)

 1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
      Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
 2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
      Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

It’s this psalm that Jesus quotes on calvary.  The tone of this psalm is just so interesting–it starts off so angry, so resentful, almost like a curse.  Who has not wondered where God was when they cried out for help?  Who has not looked to their father for solace, for comfort, and wondered when or if it would come?

 3 Yet you are holy,
      enthroned on the praises of Israel.
 4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
      and you rescued them.
 5 They cried out to you and were saved.
      They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

Hard to reconcile this passage with the preceding one.   The psalmist cries out that in spite of…turning a deaf ear to his cries, God is still Holy. The psalmist is desperate now, grasping in the darkness, realizing that his ancestors cried out and were saved.  But not him.  Not him.  Why not him?

 6 But I am a worm and not a man.
      I am scorned and despised by all!
 7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
      They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
 8 “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
      Then let the Lord save him!
   If the Lord loves him so much,
      let the Lord rescue him!”

He’s lamenting his lot, and to me, when I read this, I hear a tone of bitter sarcasm in the psalmists voice.  I think he’s starting to believe the voices of those around him and their comments are starting to sound an awful lot like truth.  But something happens, and in the midst of his litany of woes, he begins to turn back…he begins to have a realization–a moment of clarity. 

 9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
      and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
 10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
      You have been my God from the moment I was born.

 11 Do not stay so far from me,
      for trouble is near,
      and no one else can help me.
 12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
      fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
 13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
      roaring and tearing into their prey.
 14 My life is poured out like water,
      and all my bones are out of joint.
   My heart is like wax,
      melting within me.
 15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
      My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
      You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
 16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
      an evil gang closes in on me.
      They have pierced my hands and feet.
 17 I can count all my bones.
      My enemies stare at me and gloat.
 18 They divide my garments among themselves
      and throw dice[a] for my clothing.

In the midst of his pain, he sees.  In the midst of being scorned and mocked, he sees.  So many terrible things are happening to him, and will continue to happen, but he sees.  He’s not simply crying out to God now, he’s yelling at him, reaching out for succor, but not getting it.  But still he sees…in the midst of his litany of woes, he sees:

 19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
      You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
 20 Save me from the sword;
      spare my precious life from these dogs.
 21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
      and from the horns of these wild oxen.

He turns from lamentation to Joy.  Somewhere in his pain, he was reached.  His cries were heard, and responded to.  And his heart softened.

 22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[b]
      I will praise you among your assembled people.
 23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
      Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
      Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
 24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
      He has not turned his back on them,
      but has listened to their cries for help.

 25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
      I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
      All who seek the Lord will praise him.
      Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
 27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
      All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
 28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
      He rules all the nations.

 29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
      Bow before him, all who are mortal,
      all whose lives will end as dust.
 30 Our children will also serve him.
      Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
 31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
      They will hear about everything he has done
.

I just think it’s interesting.  All I ever heard about was reverance for God, and rightly so.   God should be revered, and worshipped, and even feared.  But I just had no idea it was OK to yell at God, to argue with him, to question him.  I had no idea he wanted to hear that stuff.

But not only can he handle it, but wants it desperately. He wants us to cry out to him, however we do it.  He wants all of us, all of our hearts.  He wants to hear our praises, but also our lamentations, our cries of pain.

He wants to wipe the tears from our cheeks, and stitch up our wounds.

He wants us.  Not us perfected.  Not later, when we’re ready. 

He wants us now, when we’re upset, or angry, or sad.

He wants us, in all our imperfect, messy glory.

He wants us.

Us.

Clearing the temple

I grew up with this picture of Jesus in my head.  It was probably the same as many people have–the tall guy in the white robe with the flowing, honey-colored hair and the kind brown eyes.  Sometimes he’s doing things like patting kids on the head and carrying lambs across his shoulders.  The kind of pictures you see on tracts and velvet paintings all over the place. 

But not always.

Occasionally you would get an almost bloodless representation of the crucifixion–with Jesus, arms spread,  staring up at the sky, with a beatific expression plastered on his unbloodied face.

Things like that.

But there was so much more to Jesus.  He walked everywhere.  He built things.  He worked with his hands.  He made over a hundred gallons of wine from clay jars of water for the wedding in Cana–and  I imagine he probably sang and danced a little, too, though the scripture doesn’t tell us about that.  He had a large group of friends, and they probably laughed together, and ate together, and cried together.

Jesus was Lord, and Savior, and El Shaddai, but He was also a man.

And he did not just walk around smiling at people.  Not that he did not do the things you see represented everywhere, but that was not all he did, certainly.  And not all He was meant to do.

Look at Matthew 10:34:

 34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

A sword.

And while it’s true he came to die for us, that we might live, he also came to fight for us, to intercede on our behalf.  He did everything He could to give us an opportunity to choose Him–and to live.  His passion for us was without measure.  His passion for His father was without measure. 

From John 2:

 13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

It must have really been something to see–this Rabbi, this teacher, who prior to that incident, had been simply that–a teacher.  But this man was also a warrior.  This man, upon seeing his Father’s house not just disrespected, but commercialized and filled with….things not of Heaven, but earth, was incensed to such a degree that he made a whip, and used it.

He came to the temple to observe the passover, and found a flea market instead.  His disciples hadn’t seen this side of him before.  It had to have been a little disconcerting.  But then: 

 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

 It was written. 

I had not read that verse before, had not even heard of it.  My NIV tells me it was from Psalm 69–which was a psalm I’d skimmed over, but not spent any real time on. 

 9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
       and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

It was insulting that the…vendors in the temple had no respect or understanding of not really the temple itself, but the purpose of it.  On its own, the temple was just a building, an object.  It was not holy.  But the presence of God made it Holy.  And the people that came with the intent of worshipping in earnest, with all their hearts, should have been able to do it, to be in communion with the one true God, without navigating a crowded marketplace.

They made it worldly.

And that made Jesus angry.  The moneychangers and other sellers of things were taking away from the worshippers time with God.  And even then, even before Calvary, Jesus knew that none of the things being sold in the temple were necessary (or would not soon be necessary) to enter into relationship with God.

Here is psalm 69, in its entirety. NIV translation.

1 Save me, O God,
       for the waters have come up to my neck.

 2 I sink in the miry depths,
       where there is no foothold.
       I have come into the deep waters;
       the floods engulf me.

 3 I am worn out calling for help;
       my throat is parched.
       My eyes fail,
       looking for my God.

 4 Those who hate me without reason
       outnumber the hairs of my head;
       many are my enemies without cause,
       those who seek to destroy me.
       I am forced to restore
       what I did not steal.

 5 You know my folly, O God;
       my guilt is not hidden from you.

 6 May those who hope in you
       not be disgraced because of me,
       O Lord, the LORD Almighty;
       may those who seek you
       not be put to shame because of me,
       O God of Israel.

 7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
       and shame covers my face.

 8 I am a stranger to my brothers,
       an alien to my own mother’s sons;

 9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
       and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

 10 When I weep and fast,
       I must endure scorn;

 11 when I put on sackcloth,
       people make sport of me.

 12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
       and I am the song of the drunkards.

 13 But I pray to you, O LORD,
       in the time of your favor;
       in your great love, O God,
       answer me with your sure salvation.

 14 Rescue me from the mire,
       do not let me sink;
       deliver me from those who hate me,
       from the deep waters.

 15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
       or the depths swallow me up
       or the pit close its mouth over me.

 16 Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
       in your great mercy turn to me.

 17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
       answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.

 18 Come near and rescue me;
       redeem me because of my foes.

 19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
       all my enemies are before you.

 20 Scorn has broken my heart
       and has left me helpless;
       I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
       for comforters, but I found none.

 21 They put gall in my food
       and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

 22 May the table set before them become a snare;
       may it become retribution and [a] a trap.

 23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
       and their backs be bent forever.

 24 Pour out your wrath on them;
       let your fierce anger overtake them.

 25 May their place be deserted;
       let there be no one to dwell in their tents.

 26 For they persecute those you wound
       and talk about the pain of those you hurt.

 27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
       do not let them share in your salvation.

 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
       and not be listed with the righteous.

 29 I am in pain and distress;
       may your salvation, O God, protect me.

 30 I will praise God’s name in song
       and glorify him with thanksgiving.

 31 This will please the LORD more than an ox,
       more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.

 32 The poor will see and be glad—
       you who seek God, may your hearts live!

 33 The LORD hears the needy
       and does not despise his captive people.

 34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
       the seas and all that move in them,

 35 for God will save Zion
       and rebuild the cities of Judah.
       Then people will settle there and possess it;

 36 the children of his servants will inherit it,
       and those who love his name will dwell there.

Hard to follow that with any comments, so I won’t.  Just read it, and think about it.  I still am.  Man, nothing like psalms to practice prayer.

A Daily Prayer

My dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now to be restored in you-to renew my place in you, my allegiance to you, and to receive from you all the grace and mercy I so desperately need this day. I honor you as my sovereign Lord, and I surrender every aspect of my life totally and completely to you. I give you my body as a living sacrifice; I give you my heart, soul, mind, and strength; and I give you my spirit as well.

I cover myself with your blood-my spirit, my soul, and my body. And I ask your Holy Spirit to restore my union with you, seal me in you, and guide me in this time of prayer. In all that I now pray, I include (my spouse, and/or my children, by name). Acting as their head, I bring them under my authority and covering, and I come under your authority and covering. Holy Spirit, apply to them all that I now pray on their behalf.

Dear God, holy and victorious Trinity, you alone are worthy of all my worship, my heart’s devotion, all my praise and all my trust and all the glory of my life. I worship you, bow to you, and give myself over to you in my heart’s search for life. You alone are Life, and you have become my life. I renounce all other gods, all idols, and I give you the place in my heart and in my life that you truly deserve. I confess here and now that it is all about you, God, and not about me. You are the Hero of this story, and I belong to you. Forgive me, God, for my every sin. Search me and know me and reveal to me any aspect of my life that is not pleasing to you, expose any agreements I have made, and grant me the grace of a deep and true repentance.

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and choosing me before you made the world. You are my true Father-my Creator, my Redeemer, my Sustainer, and the true end of all things, including my life. I love you; I trust you; I worship you. Thank you for proving your love for me by sending your only Son, Jesus, to be my substitute and representative. I receive him and all his life and all his work, which you ordained for me. Thank you for including me in Christ, for forgiving me my sins, for granting me his righteousness, for making me complete in him. Thank you for making me alive with Christ, raising me with him, seating me with him at your right hand, granting me his authority, and anointing me with your Holy Spirit. I receive it all with thanks and give it total claim to my life.

Jesus, thank you for coming for me, for ransoming me with your own life. I honor you as my Lord; I love you, worship you, trust you. I sincerely receive you as my redemption, and I receive all the work and triumph of your crucifixion, whereby I am cleansed from all my sin through your shed blood, my old nature is removed, my heart is circumcised unto God, and every claim being made against me is disarmed. I take my place in your cross and death, whereby I have died with you to sin and to my flesh, to the world, and to the Evil One. I am crucified with Christ, and I have crucified my flesh with all its passions and desires. I take up my cross and crucify my flesh with all its pride, unbelief, and idolatry. I put off the old man. I now bring the cross of Christ between me and all people, all spirits, all things. Holy Spirit, apply to me (my spouse and/or children) the fullness of the work of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for me. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my life. Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my new life, my holiness and sanctification, and I receive all the work and triumph of your resurrection, whereby I have been raised with you to a new life, to walk in newness of life, dead to sin and alive to God. I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I now take my place in your resurrection, whereby I have been made alive with you, I reign in life through you. I now put on the new man in all holiness and humility, in all righteousness and purity and truth. Christ is now my life, the one who strengthens me. Holy Spirit, apply to me (my spouse and/or my children) the fullness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ for me. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my life.

Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my authority and rule, my ever-lasting victory over Satan and his kingdom, and I receive all the work and triumph of your ascension, whereby Satan has been judged and cast down, his rulers and authorities disarmed, all authority in heaven and on earth given to you, Jesus, and I have been given fullness in you, the Head over all. I take my place in your ascension, whereby I have been raised with you to the right hand of the Father and established with you in all authority. I bring your authority and your kingdom rule over my life, my family, my household, and my domain.

And now I bring the fullness of your work-your cross, resurrection, and ascension-against Satan, against his kingdom, and against all his emissaries and all their work warring against me and my domain. Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world. Christ has given me authority to overcome all the power of the Evil One, and I claim that authority now over and against every enemy, and I banish them in the name of Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, apply to me (my spouse and my children) the fullness of the work of the ascension of Jesus Christ for me. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my life.

Holy Spirit, I sincerely receive you as my Counselor, my Comforter, my Strength, and my Guide. Thank you for sealing me in Christ. I honor you as my Lord, and I ask you to lead me into all truth, to anoint me for all of my life and walk and calling, and to lead me deeper into Jesus today. I fully open my life to you in every dimension and aspect-my body, my soul, and my spirit-choosing to be filled with you, to walk in step with you in all things. Apply to me, blessed Holy Spirit, all of the work and all of the gifts in Pentecost. Fill me afresh, blessed Holy Spirit. I receive you with thanks and give you total claim to my life (and my spouse and/or children).

Heavenly Father, thank you for granting to me every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.

I receive those blessings into my life today, and I ask the Holy Spirit to bring all those blessings into my life this day. Thank you for the blood of Jesus. Wash me once more with his blood from every sin and stain and evil device. I put on your armor-the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation. I take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and I wield these weapons against the Evil One in the power of God. I choose to pray at all times in the Spirit, to be strong in you, Lord, and in your might.

Father, thank you for your angels. I summon them in the authority of Jesus Christ and release them to war for me and my household. May they guard me at all times this day. Thank you for those who pray for me; I confess I need their prayers, and I ask you to send forth your Spirit and rouse them, unite them, raising up the full canopy of prayer and intercession for me. I call forth the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ this day throughout my home, my family, my life, and my domain. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, with all glory and honor and thanks to him.

AMEN

–John Eldredge

Free Indeed

If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed —John 8:36

If there is even a trace of individual self-satisfaction left in us, it always says, “I can’t surrender,” or “I can’t be free.” But the spiritual part of our being never says “I can’t”; it simply soaks up everything around it. Our spirit hungers for more and more. It is the way we are built. We are designed with a great capacity for God, but sin, our own individuality, and wrong thinking keep us from getting to Him. God delivers us from sin— we have to deliver ourselves from our individuality. This means offering our natural life to God and sacrificing it to Him, so He may transform it into spiritual life through our obedience.

God pays no attention to our natural individuality in the development of our spiritual life. His plan runs right through our natural life. We must see to it that we aid and assist God, and not stand against Him by saying, “I can’t do that.” God will not discipline us; we must discipline ourselves. God will not bring our “arguments . . . and every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 )— we have to do it. Don’t say, “Oh, Lord, I suffer from wandering thoughts.” Don’t suffer from wandering thoughts. Stop listening to the tyranny of your individual natural life and win freedom into the spiritual life.

“If the Son makes you free . . . .” Do not substitute Savior for Son in this passage. The Savior has set us free from sin, but this is the freedom that comes from being set free from myself by the Son. It is what Paul meant in Galatians 2:20  when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ . . . .” His individuality had been broken and his spirit had been united with his Lord; not just merged into Him, but made one with Him. “. . . you shall be free indeed”— free to the very core of your being; free from the inside to the outside. We tend to rely on our own energy, instead of being energized by the power that comes from identification with Jesus.

–Oswald Chambers

Heart

I used to wonder why it was so hard to change my behavior.

Somewhere I got this notion that because I knew Jesus–and knew about him–that everything about me I didn’t like would just sort of melt away and things would be so much easier. I wouldn’t have to struggle anymore. I would no longer doubt. And when that didn’t happen, when struggles still occurred, and doubt crept around every now and then to wind itself around me and winnow its way into my soul, it was like nothing made sense anymore. And I began to find reasons why God couldn’t be real. They were everywhere, it seemed.

While my faith may have been distant, and I allowed the white noise and madness of the world to drown out Jesus, I still had the awareness of my sin. And even when I was sometimes wracked with doubt or pain, and right in the midst of self-medicating, I wanted to change. I knew somewhere in me that I needed to. I didn’t want to be the person I saw myself becoming, because I knew in my heart the man God wanted me to be.

But it was just so hard to be him. I remember praying and praying for God to help me be better; a better Christian, friend, brother–you name it. And to help me stop falling into the same patterns of thought and behavior, time and time again. But it was like Paul said:

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (Rom 7: 14-17)

I knew my behavior was sinful (many behaviors, in many ways), but every attempt I made to change on my own met with abject failure, and it seemed temptation and opportunity were at every turn. Plus, it was easier to please myself than God.

So I did. And afterward I would feel terrible, and beseech God to help me never ever do it (whatever it was) again.

what’s going on inside of me

I despise my own behavior

this only serves to confirm my suspicion

that I’m still a man in need of a savior -DC Talk

But nothing changed, and any victory I won on my own was short-lived, at best. And I knew it would be. I would wonder why God would never change my behavior, no matter how earnestly I entreated Him. It wasn’t until the past year or so, after much healing, and much prayer, that I realized why:

God does not change behavior, he changes hearts. The transforming power of Christ works from the inside out, not the outside in.

Jeff talked about that last night at church, and again this morning. Changing from the inside out. It makes a lot more sense now than it did then.

I needed to change my heart. Or rather, I needed Jesus to change it from within. I needed Him to take away not the behavior that was drawing me away from Him, but to help me understand whatever was at the root of whichever base desire I felt the need to indulge at any cost. And to defeat that desire, and whatever lies the enemy would have me believe about myself and replace them with Truth.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

It was this realization that just…well, shattered me. I could apply it to so many parts of my life, so many struggles. Even now I think about it.

I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you.

So, it was possible to cast off the old man. It was possible for my self-made shackles to fall away like torn paper, and to rise from them free.

Struggling with lust, or pornography, or acting out sexually? Don’t just ask God to change your behavior, and take away desire. Ask him to change your heart, to reach into it and find that Love that transcends all other types of love, and all substitutes for it. There are so many people out there reaching out for something–for anything–that will make them feel whole. Because it’s so damn hard to go through life feeling like you were torn off from the one thing that meant you were real, and loved, and…seen.

It’s been my experience–and part of my struggle–that my own struggles with these things were simply that. A search for something to fill the void–the sucking chest wound–the perceived absence of love had created in my life.

I had to ask God to fill that dark vacuum with light. With Love. And it wasn’t until He did that I began–just began–to become the person He had in mind when He made me. Without that transformation, I would not exist as the person I am today, and my life would be…different. And likely not in a good way.

The funny thing is, there are so many things to fight–so many struggles. And no time to enjoy a victory before the next battle begins…

like my struggles with eating, or diet (which remain). Why is that so damn hard to change?

Maybe because, even though I know better, what I’ve been praying for is for God to change my behavior. To take away desire. To take away my tendency to do what I don’t want to do instead of what I do.

Not to find what is lacking in my heart that causes me to eat like a Roman at a banquet, and replace it with a desire for Him.

Not to find that part within me that causes me to want to please everyone and replace it with a desire to please Him.

Not to find that place within me I retreat to when it gets hard, and dark, and cold, and to speak truth to me there.

Not to find the real me, the ME God wants me to become within the person I am right now.

I want to be that person, and I want to do those things, and I want to struggle less with certain things, and I want to see God everywhere, because he IS everywhere. But to do that, I also need to to this:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
(Proverbs 3:4)

I need to trust in the Lord with all my heart.

I need to trust the Lord with all my heart, every part of it.

I need to be changed from the inside out.

And even though when I think about all the battles ahead, it almost makes me feel like it’s too much, and I can’t go on anymore, I remind myself there is hope.

Oswald Chambers for today

November 14, 2008
Discovering Divine Design
As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me . . . —Genesis 24:27

We should be so one with God that we don’t need to ask continually for guidance. Sanctification means that we are made the children of God. A child’s life is normally obedient, until he chooses disobedience. But as soon as he chooses to disobey, an inherent inner conflict is produced. On the spiritual level, inner conflict is the warning of the Spirit of God. When He warns us in this way, we must stop at once and be renewed in the spirit of our mind to discern God’s will (see Romans 12:2  ). If we are born again by the Spirit of God, our devotion to Him is hindered, or even stopped, by continually asking Him to guide us here and there. “. . . the Lord led me . . .” and on looking back we see the presence of an amazing design. If we are born of God we will see His guiding hand and give Him the credit.

We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less than God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere.

Beware of being obsessed with consistency to your own convictions instead of being devoted to God. If you are a saint and say, “I will never do this or that,” in all probability this will be exactly what God will require of you. There was never a more inconsistent being on this earth than our Lord, but He was never inconsistent with His Father. The important consistency in a saint is not to a principle but to the divine life. It is the divine life that continually makes more and more discoveries about the divine mind. It is easier to be an excessive fanatic than it is to be consistently faithful, because God causes an amazing humbling of our religious conceit when we are faithful to Him.