Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week #12 Psalm 91:14 "To Rescue and Protect"

"Because he loves Me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name."

So...let me get this straight. According to this verse, if we love God and acknowledge His name, we'll be rescued from calamity and protected from evil?

Well...the veteran of human life and one with better sense would probably say, "no, not exactly." After all, calamity and disaster happen all the time, to both believers and non-believers alike. Earthquakes, hurricanes, nuclear plant meltdowns, terrorist attacks and war are filling our headlines, and God's people are not immune to its effects.

Even on a "small scale" Christians are not without everyday troubles, such as illness, unemployment and home foreclosures. Okay, let's make the scale even "smaller" and say that none of us are impervious to the pain of missed appointments, flat tires and sharp words exchanged between friends or spouses.

So, what is this talk about the LORD protecting us and rescuing us? Is He really promising to protect us from calamity and evil? I say, yes.

Let me attempt a heartfelt explanation.

God has rescued us from the logical consequences of being morally-imperfect, self-centered and (occasionally) God-haters. Okay, maybe we don't really hate God, but we usually love ourselves more. 1 Thess. 1:10 tells us that Jesus rescued us from the wrath to come. Wrath, by the way, that mankind kind of deserves. Does God's wrath qualify as calamity? Yep.

God has also protected us, and continues to protect us from evil. No, that doesn't mean that evil can't do it's destructive work in the world, because it does.

What this says to me is that, while evil has its sphere of influence in this world, God has put protective armor in place for those who believe. Yes, it's the famous "Armor of God" that Ephesians speaks to us about. With it, we can withstand the schemes of the devil and extinguish his fiery darts. Evil can harass us, but it ultimately can't have us.

But, both the rescue and the protect thing can only be put in place when I do the one thing I have the power to do: believe. Oh yes, and the other two verbs in this verse: love and acknowledge His name.

Believe, love and acknowledge God. Yeah....I think I can try to do that. Why? Not because I'm such a superstar of a Christian. Just the opposite. It's because I'm such a non-superstar, and need to believe. My goodness and discipline won't cut it. My saintly behavior and devotion to bible study can't nail it.

God told Abraham that his faith (belief in God's promise) was what rescued him, not his exemplary behavior. So, I need to believe like Abraham did. I need to believe and love God as though my life depends on it.

Come to think of it, I think it does.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week #11 Proverbs 10:18 "When I Don't Love So Much"

"He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool."

As I shared last week, I have a "system" for choosing the scripture of the week: a website that chooses a verse for you. I choose their Sunday verse and try to blog about it on the following Saturday. Here it is Tuesday, and I am a few days late (missed blogging last Saturday).

But, nevertheless, I have pondered this particular scripture verse, and do have a couple thoughts on it.

This is one of those admonishment verses that makes me uncomfortable. I suppose that is the point, from the perspective of the writer, and of God. Correction often makes us uncomfortable. It does that to me.

Hatred and slander are not happy topics. I don't like to think about or talk about such things. They make me feel "bad' or unworthy. But, at the risk of spreading poor doctrine or bad advice, here is what struck me about this proverb.

It really doesn't say NOT to hate anything or anyone. Technically, it warns us against hiding our hate and lying about it. It conjures up the picture of the person who appears calm, but suddenly shouts: "I'm not angry!"

And for the record, this does NOT endorse the campaign that waves horrible signs that state God hates gays.

There will be certain things, and sometimes even a few people, that make hatred rise up in us (such as toward those nasty sign-wavers). These things will happen, whether it is right or wrong. The LORD knows that. But He warns us not to try to fool others or ourselves by pretending the hate isn't there. Because if we truly hate something, it will come out in other ways. We can't help that.

For instance, our rose-colored hatred can come out as slander, even though we think we're appearing neutral or "loving." I've been guilty of that. Maybe you have, too. I know for certain that the gay-bashing sign wavers are guilty of this.

I can't say that your hatred is bad, or that your hatred is justified. That is for the LORD to decide. But I believe this verse is telling us to be honest about what we think and feel when we speak to God. Love, hate, or anything else is nothing new to Him. He's heard it all, and will not turn us out or stop loving us because we might hate something or someone. But, only He can make us more loving.

On that website full of daily bible verses, there is also a quote (from a extra-biblical source) that struck me, and encouraged me. "You are more sinful than you can believe, but you are more loved than you can imagine."

That quote, source unknown to me, wrapped the whole thing up. I might feel hatred that is unrighteous, but I am incredibly and wonderfully loved in spite of that. God loves me even when I can't or won't be loving to Him or to others. Only by that incredible God love can I turn my own hate into love.

That truth, dear Readers, is what makes life worth living.

So...confess to God whatever unflattering thing is in you. And if righteous hatred appears in your heart, know that it is what God feels, too. Either way, we are loved. Forever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week #10 Psalm 25:7 "God Loves Me...Yes, Me"

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O LORD!"

In writing this blog, I use a website that gives you a scripture a day. This is the "system" I use to choose the scripture that I will blog about for the week. I usually choose one of the scriptures featured during the weekend.

So, when this particular verse popped up as my scripture of the week, I was actually glad. Even before meditating on the verse (which I usually do), there were so many reasons I loved this verse.

The first reason is rather obvious. When the psalmist asks the LORD not to remember "the sins of [his] youth," it struck a familiar chord with me. You see, there are so many joyful experiences in becoming a Christian, but one of the "down" sides for a believer is that you also become painfully aware of the sin in yourself.

No, this isn't a statement of self-flagellation or poor self-esteem. It is a fact: we all fall short of the glory of God. We are morally-imperfect beings who don't always "try our best" or even admit our imperfections.

But, my sin, my mistakes, my weaknesses and all those times in my life where I really blew it, are there. And, most of them will still be present in me, at least this side of heaven.

And, if the story ended there, life would be nothing but despair and hopelessness. Fortunately, the story, and this wonderful bible verse doesn't.

Look at the second part of the verse: "...according to Your steadfast love remember me..." (italics mine). Yes, the psalmist pleads with God to remember him, but not his sin.

And, if we let scripture interpret scripture, the counsel of God tells us that He does exactly that. God remembers us, not our sin. We are not defined by our sin. We are defined by His love for us. His Father-ship. Our son (or daughter)-ship. His righteousness that has been reckoned to us.

What do names like John Wilkes Booth, Al Capone or Benedict Arnold have in common? They are men who have been remembered for crimes they committed. Never mind that these men may have been sons, brothers, fathers or friends to someone. That part of history is not recorded or read too often.

Thank God that my personal history written in the Book of Life will not highlight my sins or the poor choices I have made in my life. It will record the fact that Jesus died on the cross, that my sins were nailed to that cross with Him, and that I am included as one of the children of God. Period.

Maybe when God thinks of me, He thinks of Aya the mom, Aya the actress, Aya the wife, Aya the one who loves corn on the cob every summer and drinks soy milk lattes. Maybe He smiles when He remembers that I love to snuggle with my cat Penny and I call my border collie "Poopie Dog."


I just know that He doesn't see the sin, the monumental mistakes and acts of rebellion I've been guilty of. He sees me, only me.

And He loves me. Thank you, LORD. That's the best news yet.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week #9 Psalm 121:1-2 "Focusing on God"

"I lift my eyes up to the hills - - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth."

I often wondered what the writer of this psalm was thinking when he looked to the hills. As I have been told over the years, the hills surrounding Jerusalem were fraught with danger. Thieves hid in the hills, waiting to rob the unfortunate and defenseless traveler. I have been told that psalms such as these are talking about our needing God's help and protection during those times when we are literally or figuratively wandering through the hills of life.

Yes, that makes sense, but that is not all that resonated with me tonight...or during this week as I meditated on this wonderful scripture.

I also read a beautiful story about a woman's eyesight and the advice her doctor gave her. It seems that woman's job demanded constant close-up reading, which was straining her eyes. The doctor told her she needed to rest her eyes more often, and asked her what she could see out her window at her workplace. She answered that she could see mountains and hills.

The physician replied that she needed to look at the mountains for 10-20 minutes a day to feel better.

And thus, it is with the eyes of our soul. We spend so much time focusing on our problems and immediate circumstances. We need to look up, to the LORD, for the proper spiritual perspective and help.

I am guilty of this. I find it easy to be overwhelmed with my immediate circumstances, thinking that those circumstances are my universe. And what advice do I find myself listening to? The well-meaning words of my friends, associates, self-help books and popular culture. Yes, many voices within our culture try to sound "inspiring" and "healing," but I need to keep listening with more discernment. In some cases, I shouldn't listen at all.

Where I live, I have a gorgeous view of the bay. And what is beyond that bay off into the distant horizon? On a clear day, I can gaze upon the Olympic Mountains.

Simply looking up to the mountains reminds me that there is majesty, power and greatness beyond my circumstances. I can see something beautiful that isn't affected by my neighborhood, the gulch below my street or even the wonderful bay beyond that.

In other words, I need to keep on being heavenly-minded. "My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." God is the One who will guide me, provide for me and help me through the circumstances in life that overwhelm me. I need to look beyond myself. I and my problems are not the center of the universe.

Looking at those Olympic Mountains (and if I travel a few blocks away in another direction, I can gaze upon Mt. Rainier) reminds me of that. It comforts and encourages.

Oh, and one more thing. Focusing on God, when we are so spiritually near-sighted is difficult. We can't always see Him in our lives. So it is living in the Pacific Northwest. With all our clouds and rain, I can't always see the mountains. But I know they're there. Just like I know God is there.

Wow...there IS a spiritual advantage to living in rain country! Praise God.