Thursday, January 17, 2013

Living Life Backwards

"This is what my father used to call, 'too-big-for-your-britches," my husband coached one of our children.  I listened with humility.  God and I just had the same conversation.

The holidays made devotional time difficult.  There just isn't a routine from one day to the next and my spiritual appetite (which decreases with time, unlike a physical one), had waned and wavered. 

Sunday was a busy day of ministry--Sunday school, choir, youth, worship.  A wonderful day.  I crawled into bed, ready for the end.  Before I knew it, my review of life was more about me and less about others.  The downward, negative spiral carried over into a wrong-side-of-the-bed start to Monday.  Realizing I was overly critical of others, I prayed, "God, please make me more aware of my own sin than the sins of others."  It was a dangerous request.

After everyone left for school and work, my heart said, "Your know what your problem is: you don't love people enough." Lie. Loving others isn't the problem; loving God is.

I answered, "I know I haven't been reading my Bible enough.  I should start with prayer and Bible reading.  That will help."

"But you've been reading Isaiah.  That's part of the Old Testament. That's not going to help."  Lie. God never changes. "You should skip it until you've figured out the love-thing." Lie. "Not by righteous works which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us...."

"The New Testament.  1 Corinthians 13.  I should review and meditate on that."

"Phtt.  You already know 1 Corinthians 13.  What good's it going to do to read it one more time?" Lie.  "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God."

So I read 1 Corinthians 13 by God's grace.  And repeated it.  And prayed.  And meditated on it, focusing on Jesus love for me.  Instead of me loving others, I could see God loving me and realized I was backwards in the saddle--looking at others instead of Him.

Sin is ugly.  And deceitful.

But God, in His goodness, allowed me a closer view of my need. 

Miles J. Stanford wrote, "There will always be a degree of 'labor' involved [in sanctification].... because self will never change;  it will always be sinful, never possessed of one good thing.  We must count on the exchange of the cross to separate us from the influence of self, freeing us to rest in the life of our Lord." (The Complete Green Letters,  p. 234)

Instead of standing with my back to the cross, looking at the shadow it cast on the lives of others, God turned me around.  To face Jesus.  And there, gazing upon the cross, I saw my failures in the light of God's incredible love, lost in the wonder of God's glory.  Filled with the love of the Father and Son, I was empowered by the Spirit to love others with abandon and sincerity.

My britches are a little more comfortable--and it's easier to move forward when you're facing the right direction.  The busyness has calmed.  I am regaining an appetite for God's Word.  And Jesus continues to be more gracious, more wonderful, more generous, more loving, kind and gentle than ever before.

"Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.  And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

"There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, 

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)

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