Monday, December 24, 2007

My prayer today...

Psalm 143:8, 10-12
8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for on You do I lean and in You do I trust. Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my inner self to You.
10 Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me into a plain country and into the land of uprightness.
11 Save my life, O Lord, for Your name's sake; in Your righteousness bring my life out of trouble and free me from distress.
12 And in Your mercy and lovingkindness cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my inner self, for I am Your servant.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Learning to lie down and rest...

God is so good and so wonderful! Not only does He shows us the sins that are in the way of getting closer to Him, but He also provides a way out of them!

As I spent time praying and asking God to help me quiet myself this past week, I was reading out of book called, "Powerful Promises for Every Woman," by Elizabeth George. The book is focused on Psalm 23 and explains the "12 Life-Changing Truths from Psalm 23." The chapter, "God's Promise of Rest," is about Psalm 23:2: "He makes me to lie down in green pastures." It also talks about the reasons why sheep won't lie down: 1) Fear. A sheep that is afraid will not lie down and get the rest it needs. It takes the presence of the Shepherd to dispel all fear; 2) Hunger. It's a fact that a sheep that's hungry will not lie down and receive the rest it needs. Instead, it wanders about restlessly, frantically searching for food; 3) Fighting. A sheep that's involved in or even witnessing fighting also cannot lie down and receive the rest it needs. As I thought about how these truths apply to my spiritual life and my struggle to "lay down and luxuriate in God's green pastures," I asked myself, "Why won't I lie down? Is it fear, hunger, fighting?" I knew fear was a huge factor; I felt constant anxiety about "lying down." I fear that God will just leave me here and forget about me, that I will cease to exist in His mind and heart. I know He has promised to never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), therefore, I know that my fear is not based upon truth or what is real, so I needed to just remind myself of this. Hunger: I knew it wasn't hunger as I have been regularly feeding on God's Word and thoroughly enjoying it! Fighting: I knew some of it was fighting. Although God has promised to fight my battles for me, I found myself going out there and fighting life, the "bears," the "wolves," and the "lions of life, and Satan and all his cohorts. God, as my Shepherd is fighting and will continue to fight them for me, but somehow, somewhere, I felt I had to go out there and fight too. But when I do so, I end up feeling battered, wounded, and unable to rest. It leaves me feeling uncared for.

Then God gave me a picture in my mind of His green pastures, beside the still waters (second half of Psalm 23:2). I found myself wanting to lie down, but still not able to as I anxiously looked up at the cliffs on the other side of the stream. I kept looking at the future, worried that He might not take me there (provide a husband for me). Throughout that day, while I mentally/emotionally tried to picture myself lying down and forgetting about the future, not looking anxiously at it, I couldn't do it. Again, that night and the next morning, I found myself praying for help to let go of the anxiety about the future. The following morning, while getting ready for work I started thinking about Isaac and how he must have felt waiting for his father's servant, Eliezer to return and wondering if he was going to bring back a bride for Isaac. I went to the Bible and read the story again and realized that although Isaac probably looked longingly at the horizon for Eliezer's return and the hopes of a bride being with him, it wasn't with anxiety that he waited and watched. In fact, in Genesis 24:662-63, it says, "62 Now Isaac had returned from going to the well Beer-lahai-roi (that is, A well to the Living One Who sees me), for he [now] dwelt in the South country--the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate and bow down [in prayer] in the open country in the evening; and he looked up and saw that lo, the camels were coming." First, Isaac went about his work with a "business as usual" attitude and then he proceeded to "meditate and bow down [in prayer]." I recognized that God was calling me to do the same in regards to waiting for a husband. I can look longingly in hope toward the future, but I'm not to be anxious about it. Instead, I am to "be about the business of my daily life," and continue to "meditate and bow down in prayer" and trust that just as He (God) fulfilled Isaac's need for a wife, God will fulfill my need for a husband.

Over the next day or so I found it easier to think about lying down and didn't experience as much anxiety about the whole situation, but I still was having trouble with emotionally/mentally lying down to rest. I knew the other thing that needed to be dealt with was the anxiety about my finances. So, again I turned to God in prayer.

Sabbath morning, after getting up and even during and after my study and prayer time, I felt so drained, so empty. In fact, I ended up reading Psalm 38 and much of the Psalm was exactly how I felt, but in particular, verses 8-10 "8 I am faint and sorely bruised--deadly cold and quite worn out; I groan by reason of the disquiet and moaning of my heart. 9 Lord, all my desire is before You, and my sighing is not hid from You, 10 My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also is gone from me." And then, Psalm 139, in particular verse 7, "Where could I go from Your Spirit? [and where would I want to thoughts]. Or where could I flee from Your presence? [Please don't let thoughts, again.] All day I struggled with my feelings of despair and loss in regards to my finances.

This morning (Sunday), during my prayer time, the Lord really opened up the windows of my mind and heart and spoke to me directly about my finances through the reading of His Word in Zechariah 2 and the book Prophets & Kings (pages 573-575). Both of these readings were all about the return of the exiles (Israelites) from Babylon. They were to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. But they met with opposition and became discouraged, went to their own homes and began restoring their own homes instead of the temple first. This only created more problems for themselves as the thing they feared the most (poverty), is exactly what came upon them because they didn't obey God and rebuild the temple first in faith and trust. God had promised to prosper them, as long as they obeyed Him and put Him first in their lives, which involved restoring the temple.

What a lesson!!!! I knew that God was speaking directly to me and my financial sin. I have for many years put my "own house" (personal wants and needs) above "restoring God's temple" (giving back to Him in Tithes and Offerings) as He has commanded. Therefore, the one thing I have dreaded more than anything else (poverty) has come upon me. But, thankfully, God didn't leave me there. He went on to show me through the Israelites experience that all they needed to do was repent and step forward in faith and obedience and He would turn things around for them. God also gave me a verse that reassured me that He will rid me of this sin in my life. In Zechariah 3:4-7, it says, "4 And He (God) spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And He said to Joshua, Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel. 5 And I [Zechariah] said, let them put a clean turban on his head. So they put a clean turban on his head, and clothed him with rich garments. And the Angel of the Lord stood by. 6 And the Angel of the Lord solemnly and earnestly protested and affirmed to Joshua, saying, 7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then also you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts, and I will give you access [to My presence] and places to walk among those who stand here." My burden was truly lifted from my heart and my prayer became, "Lord, please teach me Your ways that I may walk in them and Your charge, that I may keep it."

By the grace of God, I am now able to lie down and rest. At times, I still find myself, out of habit, trying to toss and turn and not rest, but all I have to do is remind myself of what He has shown me, how He has taught me to lie down and I can once again lie down and rest.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learning to quiet myself and wait...

The Sabbath School lessons this quarter have been truly excellent! Every week there has been something I can apply to my life and this past week was no different. The theme of last week's lesson was learning to wait upon God to act on our behalf and we studied about David and Saul and how David didn't do anything towards the fulfillment of God's promise to make him King, even when he had several opportunities to kill Saul, who was the King of Israel at the time and trying to kill him (David). Instead, in faith, David waited for God to act on his behalf and at the appointed time, after Saul had been killed in battle, David was given the throne.

As some of you who have read my latest updates may know, I'm in the midst of waiting upon God for a husband and for the financial resources (above what I am making through my work, which is not enough) to live on and make restitution. Internally, I found myself feeling "strapped down;" feeling as if someone had me on a gurney in the hospital and had me strapped down so I couldn't move. I felt frantic, tossing and turning, trying to break free. As I looked to God, I kept begging Him to loose me from the gurney, but He wouldn't. As I struggled emotionally throughout the week, I was reading about David's waiting and I couldn't seem to grasp what I needed to do to enable myself to wait or how I was to do it.

Thursday morning, as I was contemplating the lesson and how to apply it to my life, a thought came into my mind, "What did King Saul need to do when he was waiting for Samuel (God's prophet) to arrive at Gilgal to offer up sacrifices to God, that he didn't do because he was impatient, and which ultimately led to his downfall?" Instead of quieting himself before the Lord (and the people) and continuing to wait for Samuel to arrive, he "broke forth" and made the sacrifice on his own, a sin.

So, what do I need to do? I too need to quiet myself (emotionally) before the Lord and wait for God to act on my behalf. The longer I take to quiet myself, the longer I'll have to wait for Him to act on my behalf. Otherwise, I'm liable to act rashly and sin and hurt myself.

Upon realizing the significance of this "picture" God had given me, I now could understand why God was saying, "No," to my plea to be released from the ties that bound me to the gurney. I also could understand why I was seeing a gurney in a hospital. God couldn't/wouldn't loose me from the gurney until I quit striving and fighting Him as He needed to perform "heart surgery" upon me. But, I couldn't seem to stop. I was too scared to stop. I was afraid if I stopped that He would leave me there forever, all strapped down (emotionally and financially). Even now, as I'm trying to quiet myself before Him, I'm still scared; I'm still asking Him, "For how long, Lord, how long? How long and how painful will this 'heart surgery' be? Will I die (emotionally and financially)? Will I be a cripple when You are done? Do You really love me? Will You give me an abundant life (emotionally and financially) or will You forget about me and let me die? Do You really, truly love me?

He answered me and said, "Yes! I really, truly love You and I won't let you die and I won't leave you here forever, but I have to remove the 'stony heart out of [your] flesh' and 'give [you] a heart of flesh' [a heart that is sensitive and responsive to My (God's) touch], so that I will 'keep His statues and ordinances' and 'I will be His people and He shall be my God'" (Ezekiel 11:19-20) .

God is requiring me to go through these trials of complete singleness and financial deprivation for a time (not forever) for two main reasons: 1) So that I will come to abhor the sins that have caused this and never want to commit them again, and 2) So that I learn to quiet myself before Him and trust Him and be willing to wait for Him to act on my behalf.

So, with these thoughts and with this prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," I am learning to quiet myself before the Lord and wait upon Him to act on my behalf. When the appointed time has come, when I am past the point where I will act rashly or hurt myself, He will loose the ties that have strapped me down.