Release from Self-condemnation

Devotions for those who are weary of feeling not good enough, regardless of the source of those feelings.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Day 8 The Lord is Sovereign

...the Lord is the sovereign authority over all roadblocks in our path, some quite depressing or frightening. It is difficult not to cry out “Why?”
From day 8: We are allowed moments of transient joy that are a foretaste of Heaven, brief seasons of time when we bask in the light of ecstasy that has its source off-world, but for now we can’t keep these pleasures as our own...Earth is where we live for now, but Heaven is our home.  
At around 3:00 this morning, I came awake, upset about the various physical ailments that have caused me inconvenience, discomfort, or pain over the years.  It seemed very clear to me that the enemy of our souls, the devil, has been behind all the difficulties I've faced.  "I'd better get prayer partners to intercede for me," I thought.  It just seemed very logical that if I am to break free of the sorrows that have held me in their grip for too long, that I needed intercessors to run interference for me against the enemy.  

I composed a carefully worded email requesting prayer.  An hour later, when I (belatedly) opened my heart to the Lord in prayer, these thoughts came:  
The Lord shares His glory with no one. He is the prayer partner who will not let you down. Pray for your friends, but do not depend upon their prayers to do for you what only the Lord can do. He is your healer. He is your intercessor. 
Fear the Lord.  He is the One who holds your future in His hands. The ailments you have suffered have not been of the enemy, but are from the Lord, and are custom-tailored for your need to turn fully to Him.  How can you learn to be happy in whatever circumstance you are in if you have no challenges to face?  The Lord is in your challenges, and He is in the resultant, overcoming blessings.  
Prayer is powerful,  and our prayers for one another make our lives here easier. But today the Lord reminded me that He doesn't need anyone to help Him accomplish His will in my life. My best way of hastening the work He is doing within me is to abide in Him.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Day 7 Bearing Fruit

I've been thinking about Scriptures that warn us to spend our time on things that will bear fruit both in this world and the next.  It's so easy to become focused on things that just aren't important in the long run.

This looks just like my ride, except mine is covered
with dust from our gravel road, and the grill is held in place with
baling wire because of that deer that jumped out in
front of me....
Example:  I drive a 2004 Ford Escape.  It runs well, has never broken down, and I like the way it drives.  But I'm a little embarrassed by it.  Most of my friends have nicer, newer cars.  Should I spend $30k or so on a nice new vehicle?  No... our budget wouldn't stand the strain right now.    But...sometimes...

The Lord tells us to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).  Jesus tells us not to worry about clothes or food, but to seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:29-33). And remember the story of the fig tree in Mark 11:

The lack of fruit on a tree that ought to have spent its energy growing figs rather than leaves angered our Lord (from the day 7 reading).  

All this doesn't mean we are to be slovenly in our appearance, or careless about cleanliness, or never to spend time making our surroundings pleasant and beautiful.  But we are to beware of making these things the primary focus of our lives.

The Lord is pretty straightforward about how to bear fruit for His Kingdom.  1) Love God first and best, and 2) Love others.  If we gain the habit of beginning each day by asking "How can I show love for God and for others today?" I think we are on the right track.

One of these days the Lord will provide us a new or at least a newer car, and I'll be happy about it, and I'll enjoy driving it.  Meantime I'll be grateful for Ol' Red, and work at putting my focus on things above.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 6: Obedience Is a Response, not an Initiative

Day 6 includes a thought that is a little bit revolutionary:  
Obedience is a response and not an initiative. We don’t have to mount a grand obedience effort (jaws clenched, minds determined)... His love ignites our own. Obedience flows from our love for Him, a love that exists because He first loved us.  
This isn't how we think of obedience. "Do as you are told," is our first, childish concept of what it means to obey. As the years roll by we as Christians change the wording but not the idea of having to do what we do not want to do: "God's way and not our own."

This way of thinking of obedience puts the onus for behaving ourselves on our own shoulders. We can choose whether to do what's right, or not, and that's accurate as far as it goes. This is the way the law was given to God's people, and the law is good and holy. But if we look no deeper, we miss the significance of the miracle that changed the world: the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

In Louisa May Alcott's book, Little Men, the wise and loving Professor Bhaer carries out a unique punishment for a little boy who has lied. He hands the boy a ruler and tells him to strike him, the professor, the child's mentor, friend, and provider.  The child sobs as he tries to obey and begs not to have to hit this kind man he has grown to love. The child promises never to lie again.  

When our disobedience becomes linked in our understanding with blows that fall upon the back of the Savior who died for us, our hearts break with the sorrow of repentance, and our desire to do better becomes associated in our hearts with love for our Lord rather than with fear of punishment.  
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thoughts from Day 5...

Quotes from day five:

Legalism calls us to obey in order to be saved, but grace through Jesus offers salvation so we are able to obey... 
There are as many ways of navigating our way to freedom as there are beautifully precious and unique human beings, but there is only one path, and His name is Jesus Christ.
Psalm 119:37 is a prayer that God will turn the Psalmist's eyes from worthless things. The second part of his prayer touches my heart when I'm in the throes of disobedience-fueled fear over possible consequences of my inability to control my eating habits:  ."..preserve my life according to your word." 

Just because our troubles are our own fault doesn't mean we shouldn't pray that the Lord will preserve us according to His promises rather than letting us suffer deserved consequences.  This, after all, is what grace is all about: unmerited favor.  

We are not to continue in sin so that grace may abound. By no means! (Romans 6:1).  But when our sinful flesh has caused us to stumble once again we can say, with St. Paul, "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25, NLT).  

At the close of a day that has found us dominated by our own sin once more,
our forgiveness, peace, and hope for tomorrow are in Jesus Christ, our Lord!