An Awful Lot Of Scandal: Part I

Heartbroken by NanFe

Heartbroken by NanFe

I have a past that includes promiscuity and adultery. I believe this fact is one of the things that drives me to love Jesus so vehemently. Like He said to Simon the Pharisee, one who is forgiven much, loves much but one who is forgiven little, loves little.

Lately, though, my past has been driving me in another direction: performance-based faith. I’ve been subconsciously trying to “earn” God’s love or “pay Him back” for His gift of Jesus’ life, with my actions. All the while, in the back of my mind, is the belief that I’ll never be pleasing to God because of my past; I’ll never be worthy of His love; He’ll never be able to use me powerfully because I haven’t been able to walk the straight and narrow (like Joseph…or Daniel…). This has been a pretty crippling issue lately; it keeps me from reaching out to the people around me. It also keeps me from fully using the gifts and talents He’s given me to reflect His glory; I figure I’m not worthy, so why bother?

Well. Yesterday, I learned a very, very interesting thing about Jesus’ past.

You know how the Bible calls Him the Lion of Judah? He’s called that because He was a descendant of the tribe of Judah. Do you know who Judah was? I didn’t. I mean, I’d read about Judah before but I never made the connection that 1.) he was Joseph’s brother and 2.) he’s the man that God chose to continue Christ’s lineage. So let me tell you about Judah.

1. He participated in the plan to murder his brother Joseph. (Genesis 37:18-28) Reuben suggested they spare him by throwing him into a pit, rather than killing him. Apparently, Reuben intended to return Joseph to his father later. It’s noted in my Bible’s commentary that Reuben may have been trying to get back in his father’s good graces after having slept with one of his father’s concubines. It seems that at some point, while Reuben was not around, Judah suggested they sell Joseph because “what is our gain if we kill him and cover his blood?” So Judah was the brain behind selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. (That’s only ten pieces less than the price that Jesus was sold to the guards for, by Judas.)

2. Judah’s firstborn son was evil. In fact, he was so evil that God put him to death! (Genesis 38:7)

3. He was not a man of his word. It’s a long story, so I’ll let you read it for yourself, if you like (Genesis 38), but the short version is, he promised his daughter-in-law something and didn’t deliver.

4. He apparently visited the local prostitutes rather frequently; this is how his daughter-in-law was able to deceive him and manipulate him into keeping his word — which also resulted in illegitimate twins!

The Bible is very clear about God’s sovereignty; He does what He wants when He wants through whomever He wants. He is not bound by man’s choices. Knowing all of that, don’t you find it interesting that He *chose* to go through Judah’s line in order to bring Jesus into the world? And get this: not only did He choose to go through Judah, He chose to go through one of the illegitimate twins birthed between him and his daughter-in-law!

If you take a closer look at the lineage of Jesus, there are some other noteworthy characters:

1. “The wife of Uriah” – Bathsheba, the one that David committed adultery with.

2. David himself, an adulterer AND a murderer.

3. Guess who else? That’s right, Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and David!

God, despite being sovereign, did not choose to keep the lineage of Jesus free from scandal. Why is that? Since God is holy and righteous, and since He despises sin, wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would use the most moral and righteous people to bring His Son into the world?? People like Joseph, who despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, did not hold it against them? Why would God CHOOSE to use people like Judah, Bathsheba, Tamar, and David? People with pasts and pretty scandalous ones, at that.

This is the question I went to bed chewing on last night. And God gave me a few insights. But I’m not going to share them with you today because it’s a question worth chewing on and I want you to have a chance to see what God would have you discover through that question. For some of you, the insights seem obvious. I will tell you, there were obvious insights to me too, but God nudged me last night to go deeper and doing so eventually brought tears to my eyes. So I would encourage you not to settle for the obvious. Sit down with God and take it a little deeper.

Mind you, there is not ONE right insight. And you may or may not come up with the same ones that I did. But I *do* think you’ll come up with More Than The Obvious if you give God a chance to speak to you, and I’m positive it will be a joyful experience.

Later this week, I’ll share what I gleaned from chewing on this particular question. I think I’ll even take the opportunity to chew on it some more.

Feel free to comment on this post or send me a message sharing the insights that God gives you. (And let me know if you’d be okay with me sharing them in my next post.)

For now, I will leave you to your chewing. ;)

 

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The Cure for Anxiety – Part II

via Google image search

I have long used Psalm 4:8 to help quell anxiety at night, as I’m falling asleep (that seems to be when it hits the hardest).

I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It helped a lot of the time, but there were also a lot of times it didn’t help. This morning, in my Bible study, I learned that part of the reason it didn’t always help was due to a lack of context for Psalm 4:8.

Didn’t I mention earlier that context is everything? ;)

There’s a verse that comes before Psalm 4:8, that I was previously oblivious to:

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.

Wow.

After the season we’ve come through (unemployed and living with my parents for 10 months with 95% of our belongings packed away in a storage unit during that time), I have a brand new understanding of joy. Despite the hardships we experienced over the last year, God literally poured joy into our lives the whole time. There was always something to be thankful for; numerous times that He displayed His powerful provision and gracious compassion. I spent a surprising amount of the past year filled with exuberance and gratitude! How weird, right? But it seems the tapestry of trials is God’s favorite backdrop for displaying the power of His joy. Coming out of this past year, I am more aware than ever before of the “tiny treasures” that He has peppered my life with:

  • hot water and showers
  • tea with cream and sugar
  • my bright and adorable children
  • internet access
  • a smartphone
  • video games
  • a comfy bed
  • more than 5 outfits to choose from
  • nail polish
  • the beautiful landscape of New England
  • the crisp and cheerful air of fall turning into winter
  • tv shows that make my husband and I belly laugh together
  • music
  • a variety of textures and flavors in food
  • books
  • sparkly things
  • and the list goes on!

Dwelling on these types of things on a daily basis has increased my joy such that, I don’t freak out when things go wrong (the check engine light is on in my van right now), and I’m more peaceful, calm, and content.

Despite the increased sense of peace and experiences of joy, however, I still suffer nights when my anxiety is extra-tenacious. Last night, it was fear of my children being taken from me while they sleep. I was exhausted after a long week of unpacking but that didn’t stop me from getting out of bed two different times to check the door locks and then to check the window in their bedroom. The second time I crawled back into bed, I breathed a fervent prayer to my Heavenly Father to “please quiet me with Your love”…I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep without His help that particular night.

My time in God’s word today expounded on this issue for me, pulling two different areas of my life together — the joyful part and the anxious part — and sewing them together beautifully.

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It’s not just focusing on the Lord that keeps me anxiety-free; it’s also soaking in the joy that He has graciously poured into my life! This is where the aspect of mental discipline comes into play — a pivotal part of managing anxiety. Trusting in my Heavenly Father’s goodness and sovereignty is a huge part of the battle, but the other part is taking ownership for what my thoughts are about.

Can I make an embarrassing confession? Last night’s anxiety was my own fault. My husband and I watched a show together that made a reference to a “classic” horror movie. Against wisdom and sound judgement (and mind you, the Holy Spirit definitely nudged me on this one but I ignored Him), I looked up this horror movie on Wikipedia. Right before bedtime. Really. And of course it involved sweet babies and helpless mothers. So you can make a very educated guess as to what my thoughts were about as I was trying fruitlessly to fall asleep!

Last night, Psalm 4:8 was not sufficient to bump my train of thought off the tracks and my JOY was derailed.

God’s compassion never ceases to amaze me; He didn’t let me suffer long. He answered my prayer last night and not only quieted me with His love before sleep, He continued the process in our time together this morning. “Here,” I could hear Him saying. “This part is important and it would have helped last night.”

It’s not the first time I’ve received the gold nugget of truth that my thoughts are a powerful component of anxiety but for some reason, it hit me anew this morning. God is merciful and ever so kind to me, teaching me this lesson over and over, in a myriad of different ways and I think this time, it’s going to stick.

I have a hunch tonight’s sleep will be even sweeter…

Making God Really Real

One of the hardest things for me, growing up, was being unable to see God as a flesh and blood person. I’m very relational, and I connect best with people face-to-face. Nevertheless, in spite of this handicap in my relating to God, I’ve grown tremendously in faith and in my understanding of His Word over the years.

Recently, He has started to unveil Himself to me, in ways that make Him “really real”. One of those ways was through the revelation that people “being made in His image” indicates that we can learn a lot about Him simply by looking at the neutral and positive aspects of males and females. (The negative aspects reflect sin’s effect on His perfect creation.)

There’s a little exercise I like to do now, where I pick a friend or family member and examine them for the ways in which they reveal the image of God. I’ll show you what I mean and then you can do it for yourself; you’ll see how real God gets! :)

1. God loves to color. He has quite the artistic streak, actually. He can sculpt, paint, draw…but He doesn’t brag about it or make you feel bad if you can’t do those things. And He loves putting His stuff out there for other people to enjoy, without signing His name all over it in giant letters. I learned this from my friend Noble.

2. God has tremendous insights into people and what they’re *really* about. He sees the hidden reasons behave certain ways and He understands what our strengths and weaknesses are. He won’t hesitate to give us insight into the people we’re trying to love, if we just take a minute to ask Him for it. I learned all this from my friend Siobhan. She has an uncanny ability to see into people and it makes her less judgmental and more compassionate than the average person — definitely the image of God.

3. He loves it when people tell stories about Him. He’s quick to chime in with His Word and make sure we have all the details right and He even loves to take us a little deeper into the story, if we show the slightest interest. I learned this from my daughter. She loves hearing us tell stories about her and she’ll even reveal parts of the story we didn’t know about when it seems like we’re sincerely interested.

4. He has a *great* sense of humor. He loves to laugh and He loves to make other people laugh. He relishes a long story with an excellent punchline and if you want to hear a favorite, He doesn’t mind telling it again. I learned this from my daddy.
5. He loves to provide for us and even take it a step further, surprising us with little gifts that we don’t technically NEED…they just make life a little more pleasant. And He loves it when we receive these gifts with joy, excitement and gratitude. It bums Him out a little bit when we don’t notice a gift or we complain because it wasn’t quite what we were hoping for. I learned this from my husband.

6. God has mothering characteristics, even though He’s taught us to refer to Him in the male person. He loves creating life and He loves taking care of it. You’re His favorite creation but so am I — just in a different way. It breaks His heart when we make choices that hurt us. He wants to spare us from the consequences — and sometimes, in His mercy, He does — but most of the time, out of love and a desire for our ultimate well-being, He allows us to suffer the consequences of the choices we make. But He’s quick to soothe us, even in the suffering we bring on ourselves. I learned this from my friend, Kari-Lynn, and from being a mother myself.

7. Did you know that Jesus intercedes for us in prayer and the Holy Spirit prays with us, when we don’t know what to say or how to say it? I’ve actually known this about God for a long time but just recently, He’s further revealed this part of Himself through my friendship with Kristen. She is always willing to pray for me when I ask her to, and she often prays for my requests in ways I hadn’t even thought of doing. I’ve taken to asking Jesus to pray for me when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed or “beside myself”. And I am immensely comforted when I’m struggling to pray for someone my heart is heavy for because I know that the Holy Spirit is lifting up my requests in ways I hadn’t even thought of doing.

I could go on and on. There are so many people in my life who reflect the character of God — the music minister at my church who loves music so much, he can’t stand still; my grandmother in California who generously lavished a trip to Disney on us ‘just because’; my friend Becky who makes time for me even though she has a MILLIONTY things on her plate right now — on and on and on, people who reveal aspects of God’s personality and character, making Him really real in ways I never experienced before.

Nothing puts me in better spirits than to examine the image of God all around me *and* to realize how many wonderful people He’s put in my life!

Try this exercise yourself and see if it doesn’t put a little more joy in your day. ;)