Seriously?!!!!

Have you ever wondered if God is really listening to your prayers?  I do sometimes.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Holy Spirit and His role and importance in our lives and our growth and development as children of God.  And honestly as I’ve been reading I’ve been feeling not even a little like a failure.  To the point where last night I was lying in bed and my prayer was specifically about this, about what I can do to listen to, and feel more fully the Spirit in my life.

Normally I start each morning reading my bible, then I’ll read my daily page from Jesus Calling and then I’ll write my blog post.  This morning I ended up doing everything in reverse.  I wrote my post about trusting in God, then since my computer was already open to my ebooks, I decided to read my daily devotional next and then jump into my bible.  These are literally the first words I read.  You can’t make this stuff up.  “Thank Me for the glorious gift of My Spirit.”

So yes, God absolutely hears our prayers, he knows the questions of our hearts and he will absolutely answer us when we come to him with our earnest petitions.  It’s in subtle ways and, in today’s case, blatantly obvious ones that our God reminds us that we are important to Him and how much He loves us.

How is God speaking to you today?

God bless,

Meredith

Mortifying Sin? What the heck does that mean?

This weekend I started reading Sin and Temptation by John Owen.  The book open with the subject of mortifying your sins.  If you don’t know what it means to mortify something don’t feel bad, I had to look it up too.  It means to put something to death.  So this book on Sin and Temptation was opening with the idea of putting your indwelling sins to death.

God is taking me on a journey through his scholars, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and now John Owen.  In each of these men I have felt in my heart the truth and honesty of their reflections on God.  Owen writes that “Sin aim always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind.  Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”   WOW!

How many times have we justified a tiny sin in our own lives only to find that it grows, slower ever larger,  like a cancer in our hearts?  To continue with Owen, “it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind.  This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a falling off from God is already made….”

Robert Deffinbaugh wrote that Satan approached Eve in the garden of Eden as a friend.  He spoke to her in such a way as to convince her that he was someone who cared about her and wanted what was best for her.  How often has sin come into our own lives in that way, convincing us that this is what is best for us, and we listen to that voice, instead of trusting that only God, in his infinite wisdom and love, has our best interests in mind.

I love, and at the same time, am terrified of the idea of asking God to shine his light into the deepest and darkest parts of my soul.  But at the same time, I feel as if that is what God is calling me to do, as I walk this faith journey with him.  John Owen calls upon the believer to mortify their sins daily.  When I think about what he is calling us to do, it goes beyond confession.  Confessing your sins and knowing that you are forgiven seems like the first step, and that’s where I was for a long time.  But I think what John Owen is writing about, is that there is almost an acceptance of our sinful nature when all we are willing to do is confess.  Growth in our spiritual life is about rooting out the sin, “pruning the branches that don’t bare fruit” so to speak.  And the more I think about it, the more I have to acknowledge that this is a daily task.  Opportunities for sin to gain ground happen every day.

The other thing that John Owen emphatically writes about here is that it is simply not possible for us to mortify our sins ourselves.  We can only do it with the help of the Spirit.  I’m looking forward to reading more about that.

I don’t want to be one of those people who stands on the side of the road, holding a sign.  My purpose in writing this blog isn’t to try to convince you to be or to do something that God isn’t calling you to be or do in your heart already.  This blog is about my own journey in faith and my thoughts about things the books and scriptures I read.  And I say this because when people start talking about sin, its easy to tune them out.  We want to read about God’s love, but when we really start getting down into the nuts and bolts of our sinful nature, many of us aren’t willing or ready to have an honest discussion.  There are parts of the bible and God’s word that I’m not ready for yet, and that’s okay.  We all have to take our own journey, but I’m so grateful and thankful to all of you for being a part of mine.

God bless,

Meredith

Flat On My Face.

Do you sometimes struggles with ways to express your contrition before God?  I didn’t grow up in the Catholic church which has an established system of confession and absolution.  I was brought up in the United Church which has a very staid, conservative, and moderate faith.  As an adult I converted to the Anglican or Episcopalian church because I found that the service gave me the sense of peace and sense of communion with God that I had been missing.  I love everything about Anglicanism; the kneelers, the weekly communion, the confessions and Glorias.  Being in my church, and participating in that service, brings me a feeling of being in the presence of God in a way that I didn’t find in other services.  The great thing about faith is that there are enough different styles of worship to suit everyone.

But as much as there are a variety of different ways to worship God, I think that there is really only one way to come before him as a sinner.  With a penitent heart.  I talked earlier this year about how forgiving myself can sometimes be harder than coming to God for forgiveness.  I also think that it’s can often be at those time that we are riding high in God’s grace that we fall hardest, that we feel most ashamed.  We understand how completely we have separated ourselves, from who, and what God calls us to be, by our actions.

I have had an amazing week with God.  I called Saturday my day of little blessings.  I could see God’s hand in my life everywhere I looked.  I guess it seems appropriate that Sunday would be a day I would fall flat on my face.  A day in which I would lash out and react with anger instead of love.  I woke up this morning knowing that I had done the wrong thing, feeling the weight of it in my heart, and needing a way to become right with God.  I thank him that the first thing he did was to take the anger, and resentment out of my heart, and replace it with an understanding that it doesn’t matter if the world at large would consider my actions justified, if I was in the right.  What matters is how I responded, and I didn’t respond with love.  I needed to atone to that other person for that.  I needed to apologize and ask God’s forgiveness for that.

The amazing thing about God is that he already knows what I’m going to need and he provides me with the solution.  I didn’t do my bible reading yesterday.  It literally didn’t even cross my mind to do it.  Because God knew that I would need yesterday’s reading today.  Psalm 51.  This morning I read that Psalm, and then I wrote it out, and then I prayed the verses I have highlighted here as a meditation.  God spoke to my heart, and because I came to him with an open and penitent heart, he not only gave me forgiveness, he also gave me the means to forgive myself.  I guess sometimes you have to fall flat on your face in order to learn to let God to pick you up.  It hurts my heart to know how kind and loving our Lord is toward us, even when we don’t deserve it.  He really is the ultimate Father.  I don’t know what my future has in store, but I know that if God already has the answer before I even ask the question, if he’s always going to be there to pick me up when I fall down, then He’s who I want to have walking beside me every step of the way.

God bless,

Meredith

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. (NIV Study Bible)

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The Conflict of a Spiritual Life.

Today my Lenten reading was Galatians 5:16-26.  For any of you not immediately familiar with that passage (and don’t worry, I wouldn’t have been either) it is a letter from the apostle Paul to the people of Galatia addressing what it means to “Live by the Spirit”.

I’m sure that there are many people who go straight to this passage when they tell you what a good Christian does and does not do.  Paul’s list includes sexual immorality, drunkeness, and witchraft, but it also includes jealousy, discord, selfish ambition, fits of rage and envy.  I can maybe claim to steer clear of the first three, but I would be lying to you, and to myself, if I didn’t admit to feeling jealousy, anger and envy at times.  So then the question I had to ask myself and I can imagine many other ask is “How can I possibly be a good Christian?”  Paul says that these behaviors are the result of our sinful nature, and that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  If that’s the case I might as well give up now.  How can I possibly live up to such a standard?

Likewise when reading the fruits of the Spirit, they include patience, goodness and self-control…all things I know that I struggle with.  So where does that leave me?

I think that there are many people out there who read passages like this in the bible and feel defeated.  Perhaps you are one of them.  I know that, upon first reading this, before I looked deeper into it, I certainly was.  So then what is Paul trying to tell us, or what is the meaning behind this reading?

Robert L Deffinbaugh writes that God is gracious, and unlike a bureaucrat, He deals with you on the basis of your heart.  He’s not as wrapped up in the details of your life as much as He is concerned about your attitude toward Him and your desire for Him.  Deffinbaugh says that the results of the spiritual life are more evident than the reasons. The Spirit evident by his fruits, rather than by His actual visible presence, and “walking in the Spirit” is simply dependence upon God.

I love that interpretation because it allows for, and acknowledges our human weaknesses.  I talked yesterday about Lenten aspirations and I think that is what Paul is doing here…he’s giving the Galatians, and us a set of standards to aspire to.  And those standards are based upon that greatest of Christ’s teaches…”love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:31).  When we love someone, we don’t envy their successes, we celebrate them.  When we love someone we want to lift them up, to see them do and be better and it has no reflection on where we are ourselves.

I think that a life by the Spirit can only happen when we “abide in Christ”.  When we fully give ourselves, and our lives, up to God. When we come to know, and understand Him we find peace, and joy, and happiness, knowing that he judges us by our heart, and and our intentions.  He knows that we will fail.  He knows we will sin.  That is why He  provided us with His son, Jesus Christ; the perfect sacrifice and atonement for those sins.  So instead of reading Galatians and feeling like a failure, see this as something to aspire to.  Something that can only be achieved by trusting in, and walking with God.  Aspire to make God a part of your daily walk and you may find yourself surprised to find how easy and attainable a life lived by the Spirit really is.

God bless.

Meredith