Friday, September 9, 2016

Into the Hands of the Living God

January 19, 2012 Condemnation

All day today I have been caught up in condemning thoughts. I read in Hebrews where it says that he who deliberately sins has no more sacrifice for those sins.

I've read this many times, of course. It's the reason why I never used to read that book. My understanding of those verses caused me terror and shame that never before healed, that I didn't know how to resolve.

However, back when I was first reading through the New Testament this fall, Jesus helped me partly to understand it. At the time, that was enough for me. I worshiped and adored Jesus for lifting me out of the intense agony of self-condemnation and terror that the verse had always held for me.

Today, for some reason, the terror really jumped out and bit me all over again. I was studying "sanctified" when I came across it.

I agonized all over again, because I had deliberately sexually sinned, when I knew it was sin. What if now there was no more sacrifice left to cover that sin?

How horrific to think that I could even entertain such a thought? But entertain it I did.

If that were true, how could anyone be saved? Jesus asked me, more than once. Do you think you are the only one who has sinned after coming to Me?

"I don't know, I don't know," I said miserably. "But it's right here, in the Bible! In the Bible! I sinned consistently, knowing it was and still making the choice!"

Could I be with you as I am, if there had been no sacrifice to cover those past sins? Jesus asked me, a few times.

"I don't know," I said, persistently miserable. "Probably not. But it's right here! In the Bible!"

I forgave you that sin. I don't bring it to mind any further, Jesus reminded me, more than once.

"Then what does this mean?" I asked, desperately.

But that He did not answer. Usually, when Jesus does not answer, it's because He's already given me the answer, and He is waiting for me to return to it. This has happened on more than one occasion, which is how I've learned to recognize it.

The night before I wrote about praying in the Sanctuary with lifted hands, I asked Him what I would be blogging about that next day.

Jesus brought that memory of praying in the Sanctuary exactly to my mind.

I was reluctant to do this. "But that seems so focused on myself- like I'm all puffed up, or something. It looks like I'm glorifying myself," I protested.

It glorifies Me, Jesus said simply.

"Well, yes. I know that, because it was You that called me and You that met me, and none of it could have happened without You. But what if people think I'm bragging?"

No answer.

In the morning, I asked Jesus again, "What shall I write about?"

Immediately, He drew that memory into my mind.

"I really don't want to actually publish that," I protested. "It's like I'm bragging."

I told you to, Jesus replied.

"Fine," I said, resigned. "I'll start there. Maybe it won't end up in the final draft." Lots of things don't.

I started there, and connected it to the memory of the wind and then I was pretty much off and running. When I had gotten it as perfect as I could, I stopped and was still. In the stillness, I wait for the green light from Jesus. I always do this. If I don't get it, I don't publish it. I wait instead, or reread it, or alter it.

In my spirit, I felt the rush of His confirmation, so I hit publish. Then I reread it and I said to Him, "This first part just doesn't fit the rest of the blog. It's really not necessary. I'll just go ahead and take it out... You don't mind... The rest of the blog is great..."

I cut out the entire story about my praying in the Sanctuary and pasted it into another new unpublished blog. I reread the blog, and it seemed much better to me, but something just was not right. Not with the blog, but in my spirit.

"You don't mind, right?" I asked Jesus again. I listened.

Nothing. Nada. The silence became... weightier, you might say. The silence itself was eloquent.

"Okay," I said, in a small voice. "Alright. I get it. You want it in there- You told me so. Back it goes.”

And the silence was suffused with His loving presence, as usual. I cut and pasted the thing back, which took a while because all these huge spaces appeared between the lines and I had to delete all the empty space, which I humbly accepted as a consequence.

That's the first time I understood His silence. It's not even an angry silence or an absence of Jesus. It's just a waiting. His patience really is beyond understanding.

Later today, I became aware that I had such a judgmental attitude toward someone who had written an article stating her point of view on a certain area. Even though I myself had once believed similarly, and even though I knew that Jesus guides us into all truth, and that He doesn't hit us over the head with it all at once, I was still wanting to judge her harshly.

This further grieved me. "I'm so full of judgment!' I wailed to Jesus.

That is because you are mercilessly judging yourself, Jesus pointed out, meaning through my persistent inability to believe Him regarding that section of Hebrews.

It's that same old thought- I cannot give others more grace than I am giving myself. I can't forgive others if I have not forgiven myself. If I am putting myself under an intense, graceless and merciless burden of judgment, than I will want to require the same level of judgment for everyone else. I know this, because I've lived this- I've lived out both with judgment and with grace. Somehow, I had find a way out of the self-judgment.

At some point, I remembered the verse, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." And, for the first time, this caused me to remembered how David had said, "Let me fall into the hands of God, for His mercy is great," when he had sinned by taking a census and had to choose a punishment.

And I remembered that the end of God's judgment is to learn righteousness. So, even if I had nothing to expect but the fearful judgment and flames of God, what does that mean?

It means that I will learn righteousness and have my dross burned away, which is nothing but a good thing, in the long run. So, either way, I have fallen into God, and I must be able to do this with a helpless appeal to His mercy, and I must trust that He is merciful.

January 20, 2012 Unpublished- I wrote this hoping to publish this blog of the previous day's events, but I couldn't.

Yesterday, I suffered under an intense burden of condemnation almost the entire day. I was trapped there. I just get pinned down by them sometimes. I was stuck believing that if anyone deliberately sins -in any way- after knowing the truth that then there is no more sacrifice for their sins.

That's where I was yesterday. It was almost as though I preferred my cage of condemnation over the freedom, forgiveness and grace Jesus was offering me. In the end, Jesus freed me by taking me right into the heart of my fear.

I remembered how that passage ends with the verse, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God." And I remembered when David had sinned by taking a census of Israel and had to choose which judgment he was going to receive:

"And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

I remembered that the judgment of the Lord leads to righteousness:

"Yes, in the way of Your judgments,
O LORD, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.

With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
-Isaiah 26:8-9

I remembered that the Lord is a consuming fire, and what does that fire consume but the dross? I have learned by experience that the consuming of dross is one of the most freeing, relieving experiences possible.

To fall into the hands of the Living God, full of mercy, is to learn righteousness and to be refined like gold. Either way, I fall into the hands of God, and I can say, like Isaiah:

"O LORD our God, masters besides You
Have had dominion over us;
But by You only we make mention of Your name.
They are dead, they will not live;
They are deceased, they will not rise.
Therefore You have punished and destroyed them,
And made all their memory to perish."
-Isaiah 26:13-14

When I settled down into bed that night, Jesus asked me about my day. This is interesting, because He was with me through the entire day, but still, every night, I review it with Him. I look forward to this, especially on hard days, because I know then that it's all over.

Of course, when Jesus asked me about my day, I thought of all the condemnation I had moved through.

And what did you learn? Jesus tenderly asked.

"I learned about the righteous judgments of the Father," I told Jesus, my spirit lifting into wonder, as I thought about it all over again. "I don't have to dread the judgments of the Father, because He is just and right in all His ways. I learned I can surrender myself without reserve into the hands of the Father and completely trust His judgments, because they are right and true, and will lead to healing and making things right."

And then it was as though Jesus took me into His arms and poured out His love on me and cherished me. It was as though He took my face in His hands and put His head close to mine. This was not only because He loves me, but because of His intense love of Abba. Whenever I learn something about Abba, it causes the joy in Jesus to leap up like a flame, I have noticed.

This closeness and love of Jesus caused me to long for Him so much that I actually cried into the pillow. It was almost unbearable.

"Why?" I cried out to Him. "Why am I like this? Why are You doing this to me? What do You want from me?"

He reminded me of something I had read about earlier, in John- how He had wept because of the death of Lazarus and the grief of His friends. I saw a picture of Jesus as though He were standing behind a thin veil, and He was bent over in grief and longing- longing also to be with me, and full of grief because I was in pain.

But the idea that Jesus might Himself be moved that deeply by my pain and longing was too much for me and I couldn't accept it. (Later, I was able to receive this and treasure it.)

Jesus reminded me of what David wrote:
"One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I will look for: that I may live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to look upon the beauty of the Lord, and to worship in His holy house."
-Psalm 27:4

"Your dwelling place is lovely, O Lord of Armies!
My soul longs and yearns
for the Lord’s courtyards.
My whole body shouts for joy to the living God.

One day in your courtyards is better than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather stand in the entrance to my God’s house
than live inside wicked people’s homes."
-Psalm 84:1-2, 10

So I knew that I wasn’t the only one who had felt such an intensity of longing, but that didn't comfort me, because David had such a long, long life. How did he survive all those years and decades, feeling that much longing for God? The prospect was daunting.

Jesus reminded me that it was my choice- I had asked for the longing to remain. It was very true, I remembered like it was yesterday making that choice. And, as I considered this, the same response welled up from within me. I chose it all over again.

"I would rather live my whole life in an agony of longing for You, Jesus, than to have one day of distraction with the shadows of this passing-away world, which are dust and ashes without You anyway," I said.

So, that was that.

January 20, 2012

Yesterday, Keith had an appointment with one of the highest ranking Non-Commissioned Officers on post, for the job opening. He said eight other guys were there, having already made it through other interviews, and now completing for the three open slots.

The NCO there took all their records, disappeared and then reappeared and sent five guys home. But not Keith, because he got the job! This is exciting stuff, because it means we're here for a solid two years and Keith gets a pay raise. So that is a huge open door for adoption.

January 23, 2012

I've been walking through a lot of questions lately. No matter how valuable I know it to be- I don't like being in the middle. It would be nice if I could pretend to be better than I am- more trusting, more obedient, more intelligent and quick to grasp these things, but I won't pretend. If I did, I would be lying.

A few nights ago, I was filled with such longing to know Jesus without this through-the-glass-darkly stuff that I wept. It hurt.

"Why am I like this?" I cried out to Jesus, in desperation. "What do You want from me?"

I did not get an answer in words. What I got was a glimpse of His own suffering, through and with me.

I confessed to Jesus yesterday that I doubted He would be with me if I failed or let Him down or got distracted by something else- I doubted His faithfulness to me in the face of my failure. I had to confess this to Him, because I couldn't deny to myself any more.

So, I was being brutally honest. Which is scary, I know, but I didn't reach this level of intimacy with God by sugar coating anything. I didn't get a clear answer, other than His love and understanding. It's not as if my thoughts ever take Him by surprise.

Later, I sat in bed and read the psalms and my thoughts wandered. I thought about traditional Christianity and for some reason, I thought of Ann of Green Gables.

As an adult, in the later books, she seemed to personify traditional Christianity for me- having good character traits with just enough quirky personality flaws to make her interesting, having a working and almost poetic knowledge of Scriptures and a charitable feeling for the community and, above all, a respectful distance from a kind but formal God.

I was tempted by this form of Christianity. I thought to myself, absently, "That sounds like such a pleasant and undemanding way to relate to God."

And, unexpectedly, Jesus spoke to me, His voice in my spirit clear and quiet.

Not for you, Jesus said.

Allll- riiighty then. Not for me the pleasant and formal distance. No, apparently Jesus wants us up close and personal, with all the messiness that implies, with all the unanswered questions worked through together, over time.

I'm beginning to wonder that maybe Jesus answers our questions through on going and challenging experiences as opposed to a simple answer because He wants our knowledge to be built into who we are, not just dropped into our heads.

I returned to the psalms, and I read this:

"To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause."
-Psalm 25:1-3

I read that over and over again, and as I did, I felt Jesus very close to me. The psalm continued:

"Show me Your ways, O LORD:
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day."
-Psalm 25:4-5

Those words reverberated in me. In my spirit, I reached out for Jesus and took gentle hold of Him, and He willingly bent His head toward me. With all my heart, with longing, with faith, I whispered those requests right into His ear. (I could not physically see this, not was I physically moving, but this is the way I was relating to Jesus in a spiritual way which is perhaps impossibly fully to describe.)

To request that of Him so directly gave me the shivers. I knew absolutely that Jesus would answer me- that He would show me His ways and teach me His paths and lead me in His truth, and that those answers would continue to shape my life inalterably and forever.

This morning, when I stood at the open French doors, I looked up at the sky all swirled with layer upon layer of silver gray cloud. I thought of Jesus somewhere high above that smothering mess of atmosphere- aloof and removed.

I am not far away from you up there, Jesus told me, His voice full of tender love. He drew my yearning heart down from the clouds and back to the present, to the messy reality, to me, where He lives.

But one day, this cloudy curtain will get drawn back, and I will see Him as He is. I will know fully, even as now I am fully known.