Wednesday, May 27, 2009

LAY DOWN YOUR HEAVY BURDEN

"Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you
rest." - Matthew 11:28

It seems like I've been battling the same old battles week after week, year after year, for almost half a century now, and wondering why it's so hard to break bad habits. Seems like I'm forever setting goals and declaring new beginnings, only to fall short time and time again. I can so relate to what the great apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15--"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." That describes me to a tee, and I spent much time this week pondering why that should be so.

Well, a few days ago I took one of my neighbors to an Alpha course. This week's session was all about the Holy Spirit. Nothing new that I haven't heard or read about before. My mind started to wander a bit, but all of a sudden I was sitting bolt upright in my chair. It was one of those moments when you see something you've seen a gazillion times before, but this time it jumps off the page and knocks you right between the eyes.

The Lord brought something to my attention that was so obvious, I couldn't believe it hadn't impacted me sooner. All along, without realizing it, I have been trying to do what the "Law" proved it was impossible for any of us to do. I have been trying to transform myself, when the Holy Spirit is the only one who can set me free from my various bondages. Hello!!!

The whole purpose of the law was to show us our need for grace. Nobody was able to keep all the commandments, ever. The old covenant was constantly being broken. However, God promised that one day He would make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33) and the law would become something inside of us instead of an external thing. Instead of all those rules weighing us down from the outside like a heavy sack of potatoes, we would be energized by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

According to Isaiah 59:1-2, we have all done wrong and gone astray, and the things we do wrong cause a separation between us and God. No one can bridge that gap by their own efforts. Jesus is the only way. On the Cross He took all our wrongdoing upon Himself (Isiah 53:6) and paid the price for our sins.

The moment we come to the foot of the Cross and receive the gift Christ offers us, we receive complete forgiveness of our sins. The barrier between us and God is removed, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and He begins to transform us from the inside out. This takes time. Only rarely, if ever, does it happen overnight.

Victory comes when we stop trying to gain it in our own strength. It comes when we lay our heavy burden at the foot of the Cross, turn our lives over to the Lord, and are willing to let the Holy Spirit take the lead. Only then can the process of transformation begin, for it is God "who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13). All good things we have or become, whatever the world's explanation may be, are a result of His grace, and His grace alone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AND THEN SUDDENLY...

Only yesterday I posted about how calm I was feeling, calm that surprised me, given my financial circumstances. And then suddenly--I just love those suddenlies--the unimaginable happened. Unimaginable in a truly awesome way.

For several months now I have been dreaming of some day owning a Wii. However, given my downward spiraling financial situation, that hardly seemed realistic. So imagine my surprise when a certified letter was delivered to my door, and inside the letter was an unexpected check for unpaid royalties, long written off, that not only enabled me to catch up on the bills and pay off my overdraft protection loan, but it enabled me to purchase a Wii and a Wii Fit too. Is that awesome, or what?

I have had many incredible experiences of the Lord coming through for me at the 11th hour to meet a pressing need, and I've always been very, very grateful, but what melts my heart and humbles me the most, is when He chooses to indulge me with a totally unnecessary want.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TRUSTING IN THE FATHER'S LOVE

"When you pass through the waters, I
will be with you, And through the rivers,
they shall not overflow you. When you
walk through the fire, you shall not be
burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you."
(Isaiah 43:2)

Lately we seem to have been bombarded with an awful lot of bad news. And yes, like so many others, I too have been impacted by the economy, as well as by a couple of large, unexpected expenses that threw me completely off course. If I were to be moved by what my eyes see, what my ears hear, what my intellect tells me, and what my circumstances are looking like right now, I would be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, even panicked. And yet I'm not. I'm feeling unbelievably calm.

Surely this must be the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding," that is mentioned in Philippians 4:7, and that comes when we put our trust in the Lord. I can do that now because of all the times in the past when I have experienced His faithfulness. There has never been a need that was not met, and more often than not, met in some awesome way that could only have been orchestrated by Him.

A few days ago I attended a memorial service for a friend of mine who put all his trust in the Lord, despite the cancer that ravaged his body. After the eulogy, his widow read the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of passage, which so beautifully illustrates the love of a father who never leaves or forsakes his child, no matter what things may be looking like in the natural. It goes like this:

When the youth becomes of age, his father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him, and then leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night through without removing the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help, even though he is naturally terrified by all the noises he hears, and he cannot tell the other boys of his experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

Wild beasts must surely be all around him, and maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blows the grass and shakes the stump, but the boy remains stoically on his perch, never removing his blindfold, because he knows this is what he must do in order to become a man.

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appears and he removes his blindfold. It is then that he discovers his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

We, too, are never alone. Just because we can't see God doesn't mean He isn't there. No matter how bad things may seem, He is right next to us, watching over us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.