Redeeming Me

God you are redeeming me

You are relentless, like the work of wind and water, never ceasing

Sometimes a hurricane blast, other times a summer breeze, always persevering

A waterfall thundering on the rocks of my heart, or a steady dripping rain

Unstoppable

All you ask is that I open my heart to you and trust you enough to obey

Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do

Holding my hurts and rights tight to my chest

I find this treasure is fool’s gold

You offer me something so much better if I will only let go

When nothing stands between you and me my heart is full of joy

But I constantly put up barriers or become distracted

I forget how wonderful you are

I forget how much you’ve already done and become impatient

Help me to remember

Help me to hold on to you and let go of everything else

I am a vine clinging to you

And you are the rock in a weary land.

Worthy is the Lamb

It’s been a long time since I wrote in this blog, and so much has happened in that time, but reading my old posts I see that some things are still the same. I still have a lot of the same struggles at times.

Here’s a poem I wrote recently. I also set it to music and altered the words a little to make it a song. I’ll post a recording here once I get around to making one.

 

Worthy is the Lamb

May 25, 2020

There are no bounds or limits to Your grace;

No cloud can dim the sunshine of Your face

That looks with love on Your adopted child

Wearing the righteousness of the Lamb of God.

Forever the saints of God will proclaim:

“Worthy, worthy, O worthy is the Lamb!”

 

Thank You, Saviour, that Your mercy found me

Despairing, raging, in my storm-tossed sea.

You spoke into the night, “Let there be light,”

And brought the peace that had eluded me.

You set me free to praise You evermore;

My unfettered soul rejoices in the Lord!

Forever the saints of God will proclaim:

“Worthy, worthy, O worthy is the Lamb!”

 

Now let me walk with you Lord day by day,

Listen to your voice and follow Your ways.

For the world and its desires are passing away,

But a kingdom is coming of bright eternal day.

Forever the saints of God will proclaim:

“Worthy, worthy, O worthy is the Lamb!”

Reaching the Unreached

I recently listened to this message by John Piper about the task of world missions. Yes, it’s more than an hour long, but I still recommend it as being worth your time. The transcript is also available, so you could read it instead if you prefer. I listened to it while I was working in the kitchen.

When there are so many needs and causes pressing in on us, and people asking for our time and resources, we need clarity and vision to know where our limited resources should be going. Listening to this message helped do that for me.

A brief thought on judgementalism

Ignatius Brianchaninov said:

Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God: yourself.

I’ve been spending my time criticising and judging someone in my church, trying to figure out where they are spiritually, praying for them, deeply frustrated by them….

This quote helps put things in perspective.

 

‘I just wanna be a sheep’

This post was first published last year as a guest post on one of my favourite blogs – The Recovering Legalist.  I encourage you to go visit!

‘I just wanna be a sheep’

I come from a country that is famous for its sheep. New Zealand used to have more than 70 million sheep.  Now the number is about 29 million, according to teara.govt.nz.  August is the best time of year to see the sheep, as it is late winter, when the ewes are lambing. It is delightful to watch the lambs gambolling in the fields playfully, so different from their sedate mothers.

Thinking about sheep gets me pondering all the Biblical references to sheep. The way we farm sheep here in NZ is quite different from 1st Century Palestine or how David cared for his father’s sheep before he became king of Ancient Israel. These differences can teach us something about our relationship with God.

Shepherds in the Bible

It’s clear from reading the Bible texts that the good shepherds in those days (like David) had a small number of valued sheep, each one of which was known by the shepherd, and who knew the shepherd and followed him.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. “ (Luke 15:4-6 ESV)

Jesus also talks about the shepherd’s relationship to his sheep in John 10:3-4, where he says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. “

Contrast this with modern farming, where a farmer will often have hundreds, if not thousands of sheep. They live in fields fenced by barbed wire. They are seen as stupid animals, that the shepherd herds by using dogs to make them obey his will. You do not see a shepherd leading his sheep, instead driving them in front of him. They have an ear tag with a number to identify them to the sheep farmer.

To me this speaks of two different ways of relating to God.

What kind of sheep are you?

One kind is motivated by fear, and kept safe by barbed wire. These fences are like the extra rules that we make for ourselves or that others make for us, to keep us safe and away from sin. But they also keep us from following the Shepherd to green pastures. Instead we are boxed in where the grass has been overgrazed, living on stale hay.

Some sheep break out, thinking that the grass looks greener elsewhere, and end up on a busy road or in a ditch. This is like those who break away from legalism to do their own thing, or those who fear the Shepherd and his voice, and shipwreck their lives as a result. Both are far from the Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd’s sheep are motivated by love for their Shepherd. They trust him to keep them safe and fed, and they follow him wherever he leads. He leads them to green pastures and restores their souls. He protects them in the darkest valleys and lays down his life for them. Jesus said,  “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.” The Good Shepherd’s sheep are led by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is not a factory farmer. He wants us to know his voice and follow him out of love. He doesn’t want us to be penned in by traditions or extra rules, but instead to walk with him to green pastures and fresh water.

Will you follow him?

sheep-617128

And here’s a fun kids’ song to finish – one of my 4-year-old son’s favourites!

All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand

When going through another bout of depression, I must hold on Jesus. The feelings come and go, but He is always the same.

The Recovering Legalist

There are times when a hymn can do what nothing else can do.The Solid Rock, written by Edward Mote (1797-1874), has been my favorite hymn for as long as I can remember, but for today it is on the second and third verse I want to focus.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath His covenant and blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood:
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

Darkness does come, whether we want to admit it, or not. There are times when, like Shakespeare, I feel all I’m doing is “trouble[ing] deaf heaven with my bootless cries.” At times His loving face is hidden in the darkness, leaving me to feel like no one is listening…

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Can you rejoice in Me?

Lying in bed, earlier than I want it to be.
The sound of children’s voices when I want quiet.
Grumbles rise to the surface, discontentment chafing.
If only I had a bigger house, quieter children…

Recognising the path my thoughts are taking, reining them in,
Offering thankfulness for this house, these children, this life.
And then His whisper in my mind:

“Can you rejoice in Me?”

Not just thanking Him for His blessings,
But basking in His presence,
Opening my heart to the rays of His love,
Looking past the changing circumstances, good or ill,
And seeing the One who never alters.

I will rejoice in You!

Unless You Become as Little Children…

I would like to share this post from a blog that is very special to me. Three and a half years ago God used this blog to help me to find freedom and peace, to know that I am under grace, not under law, and that Jesus is enough.

8thDay4Life

I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about…

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The Concertos Will Come

 

Nature Boy in the spring, 2013

Nature Boy in 2013

Imagine a nine-year-old boy playing the violin.  He has an excellent ear and almost never plays a wrong note.  He can play any tune he hears.  But the sound coming out of his violin doesn’t match the music in his head.  It is scratchy and weak. Despite regular practice, he does not seem to improve. It is frustrating to listen to him, knowing the possibility of his talent.

That was our son a year ago.  We had taken him to violin lessons, but his teacher had not worked enough on good playing habits, instead forging ahead with more and more difficult music, because of his excellent ‘ear’ and ability to read music.  At first we were pleased with his progress, but as the music got harder his bad playing habits began to hamper him, until his playing was no longer a pleasure for the listeners.  He had poor posture, and his hand was crooked as he held the violin.  His bowing was weak. Something had to be done.

An email came into my inbox from the homeschooling network to which we belong, someone recommending their daughter’s Suzuki violin teacher.  The cost would be higher than what we were already paying, and it was further away.  But I had been praying for guidance.  We decided to leave the old teacher and try the new.

She took him right back to the beginning, back to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.  I tried not to care, thinking, “It won’t be long before she’ll move him on to the pieces he was playing before.”  She worked on his bowhold first, then his hand position.  Week after week, she has been working on his playing habits – making sure the bow goes in the right place to get the best sound, standing up straight, hand in the right position, thumb pointing up at the ceiling not lying down.  Every day when he practises at home I watch him to make sure that he is following her instructions.

Almost a year later, he is still not playing the more difficult pieces he was before, but the sound that comes out of his instrument is a hundred times better.  His playing habits are not perfect, but vastly improved.  I have learned patience, waiting for the fruit of our labours, knowing that this time nurturing his musical gift will be worth it in the end.  The concertos will come, but the foundation must be properly laid.

As I was watching him at his violin lesson recently, I started thinking about what God has been doing in my life, about the bad habits that held me back from His purposes for me:  self-pity, pride, criticism of others, self-condemnation, anger, impatience.  Like me watching my son practising his violin, the Holy Spirit reminds me when my thoughts and behaviour go off the rails.  He is patient and never condemns, but I am frustrated at times because I want to be so much further on than I am.  However as we continue together, the new behaviours will become the norm, and the old will fall to the side.  Already, some bad habits have died, and others are breathing their last gasp.

“Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your dropping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

Hebrews 12:11-13

Letting Go

It seems like I am like an onion, with layers that need to be peeled off.  God does some things in a hurry, and others take more time.  I have been going through an intense spiritual and emotional shake-up since Easter, when I had a disagreement with a family member.  The rift dragged up memories from my childhood, of the feeling of never being good enough, and it was like I could hear my family member condemning me and my life in my head.  Every criticism or perceived criticism by this person and other people came to mind, and it was almost unbearable.

For the last few weeks God has been working away at the festering wound of my resentment and childhood pain, getting rid of it for good.  He’s been working on my thinking about my parents, showing me that I need to focus on and remember the good things about them. He has shown me that I needed to repent and change my attitude towards them (Whatever is Lovely…). He’s been reminding me that my identity is in Him, not in my human family (Pain). He has promised me that He’s filling in ‘the pit’ of depression, so that I will be able to jump for joy (God’s Landscaping Business).  And last week, He showed me how to forgive.

Recently I have been reading the book To Forgive is Human, in this quest to forgive and find lasting peace.  It discusses stages of forgiveness and why people forgive, for example, because of social pressures, or because they want peace in their family.

Reading about human reasons for forgiveness got me thinking about God, and why He forgives.  Obviously there is no outside pressure on Him to forgive – He is the one that makes the rules. I realised that forgiveness is part of who He is – it is His nature. He does not experience the struggle that we often do to let go of past hurts and forgive. In fact, His commitment to forgiveness is so great that He paid the ultimate price so that our relationship with Him could be restored. As Jesus was taunted by his enemies on the cross he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) He had no desire for revenge, only empathy that pitied His enemies and recognised their blindness.

As I thought about God’s forgiving nature, I heard the song “Endless Hallelujah” by Matt Redman, which speaks of Heaven and the perfection that we will know there. All the resentments and grudges we hold here will dissolve in that place. All of our mistakes and wrongdoing will be forgotten. Then the thought came:

Why not let my resentment go, and let Heaven into the dark places of my heart, the not-so-secret corners, where I squirrel away my grudges and bitterness?

As He is, so shall we be.

My Father’s nature is to forgive, and I am His child, therefore unforgiveness has no place in me.

For some time now (for years, to be honest) I had been holding on to resentment for hurts in my past, knowing that I should forgive but unable to find peace. That word ‘should’ is like a weight around one’s neck somehow – all the things that we ‘should’ do but just can not. It had helped to concentrate on the good things about those who had hurt me, but somehow I was still struggling with forgiveness. However as I thought about who God is, and who I am as His child, I was able to let it go. I saw how much I had been forgiven myself, and the sins of others against me were a mere pittance in comparison. He takes away the burden of resentment and replaces it with joy – the joy of a prisoner set free.

All the pain I caused, the lies I spoke, the hate I breathed,

You nailed on the tree

And said, “Follow Me.”