Archive for August, 2016

Psalm 116:9 – “I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”  (NASB)
Psalm 111:10 – “The good life begins in the [reverence] of God…” (The Message)
Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days…teach us to live wisely and well” (NASB and The Message)
How a man walks in life (how he lives) reveals his heart, his passion, his love.  Some live only in regards to the judgments and opinions of other people.  Others are concerned with living in light of the fact that abundant life, meaningful life, a life that leaves a lasting legacy for others is found in walking with God and in light of Him as our Creator.
An article I read a few years ago highlights this well.  From Dr. Jim Denison (with some slight editing):
A Tale of Two Armstrongs
Lance Armstrong is one of the most remarkable people of our generation.  Diagnosed with cancer at the age of 25 and given only a 40% chance of survival, he went on to win 7 Tour de France cycling titles.  But with them came accusations of cheating through doping (taking performance enhancing substances).  Recently, after years of fighting these accusations and proclaiming his innocence, he decided to stop fighting the allegations; in response, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong from professional cycling for life and recommended ALL his Tour de France victories be vacated.
In spite of the many things he has done, and is doing, to raise money for cancer research, it’s hard not to be shocked at the way his amazing cycling career has ended.

Another Armstrong made the weekend news as well: Neil Armstrong died Aug 25 at the age of 82.  When he set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, he made the statement heard around the world: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  The Apollo 11 moon mission was his last space flight.  He left NASA a year later to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Armstrong refused all offers to use his fame for personal advancement.  Life magazine described his legacy well: he “was one of those rare, genuine heroes whose legend grew larger with passing years not because he nurtured the myths that attached to him as the first human to walk on the moon, but because he quietly, resolutely refused to play the role of the publicly lauded Great American.”  His humility was both genuine and remarkable.
One Armstrong finished well; the other may yet forge a great legacy but today lives in the shadow of scandal.  Their stories prove the truth of the old adage: it’s not where you begin the race that matters, but where you end.  The same is true for us.  Jacob stole his brother’s birthright; Moses killed a man and fled as a felon; David was a murdering adulterer; Peter three times denied knowing his Lord; Paul persecuted Christians to the death.  But try writing the story of human history and redemption without them.
Their common secret: they learned to define success by faithfulness.  Our culture defines it by fame and fortune, popularity and possessions, but God knows better.  If we live in light of the truth of God, confident of His calling on and purpose for us, abiding in Him and our identity in His Son … when our days are done we will say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  Whose race are you running today?

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Awhile back, my son had done something wrong — probably not a huge thing in isolation, but troubling because it seemed to be becoming a potential habit.  As we talked about it, I could tell he was troubled and knew he was wrong.  But he wouldn’t admit that wrong nor seek my forgiveness.  It was difficult for me not to just say “Oh, it’s all right, don’t worry about it.”  It was difficult because I could see, as the hours passed, that he was very down, morose, quiet, had no appetite. It was guilt and my chastening that was having this effect.
Finally, I asked, “Is something bothering you?”  He nodded with tears in his eyes.  I asked him, “Are you bothered that things aren’t right between us.”  Again, he nodded with tears.  Then I asked, “What do you think you should do?”  And at that point, he confessed he was wrong and asked forgiveness — at which point I rushed over to him with my arms open wide and held him close.  I reminded him I loved him and would always love him and would forgive him always when he confessed and was truly sorry (a godly sorrow we might say :-)).  And I reminded him what repentance was really about — changing direction, acting differently in the future. Our relationship was restored — the effect on him was like night and day. Appetite returned, smiles returned — he knew he was forgiven and that he could count on my love.

Someone else had an experience like this — and at a much deeper level.  He tells of his experience in Psalms 51, 32, 130 and 103.  There is much to relate to and learn.

Key Points in Forgiveness/Restoration

Psalm 32:5 – “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” (NIV)

Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  (NIV)

Psalm 130:7-8 – “O [Jeff], put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.  He Himself will redeem [Jeff] from all [his] sins.”  (NIV)

Psalm 103:11-12 – “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who [revere] Him, as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  (NIV)
These four Psalms contain so much truth regarding sin, forgiveness and restoration that bring hope, joy, and a deeper faith it is hard to know where to begin.
Perhaps the best place is with the fact that it is foolish to try to ignore or cover up our sins.  

Warren Wiersbe points out that “Guilt is to the conscience what pain is to the body: it tells us that something is wrong and must be made right, or things will get worse.”  David felt that guilt for some time as he tried to pretend everything was all right.  But he (David) describes vividly in Psalm 32 the effects of guilt and God’s chastening.  He became a physical and emotional wreck.  I can personally attest to such effects of ignoring sin and refusing to confess it to God (and, if needed, to others).  

But David, through this guilt (which is in itself a form of God’s grace and mercy) and God’s calling in it, does come back to God and confess his sin.  And from there, the wonder of God’s love and grace is well chronicled in these Psalms.

1) David is forgiven.  A burden is removed from David’s soul and psyche.   

2) David was cleansed and restored.  He was able to make a new start.  David was terrified that God would reject him.  But God responds to godly sorrow and a broken heart!  Truly, there are consequences of sin which cannot be eliminated, but God can and does renew and open new doors.

3) David wants to tell others of God’s grace and mercy and lead them home.  Forgiveness should result in a life with a new direction, a walking in the way of God and in accordance with His calling on our lives.  God doesn’t forgive us so we can go back to sinning.  Forgiveness is not a blessing to be taken lightly or for granted – it cost God His Son.  As Wiersbe reminds us: Salvation is a serious and costly transaction.

4) Renewal of a sense of joy, wonder and awe as a result of what God has done.  David had lost hope and lost freedom, but God restored the joy of his salvation.  The burden of sin was removed, the debt was paid (by another), and the record of sin blotted out.  If it were not, who could stand before God (Psalm 130:3)?

I, personally, have experienced the guilt, despair, depression and the wondering if I’ll ever be “good for anything or anyone” as a result of sin I have committed in my life.  I, like David, have been a physical and emotional wreck because of sin in my life.

How can I experience what David did?  When I, like David, cry out to God, confessing my sin with a repentant & broken heart — because of Christ’s blood, my faith in His death and resurrection, and God’s love for us — God the Father will bring forgiveness, healing, redemption, and renewal.

God is so wonderfully and mysteriously good!  The depth of His love seemingly beyond understanding and inscrutable.  May we truly put our hope in the Lord and His word and His Son — and experience the joy of restored relationship, renewed vigor, and deepened faith and hope because of His forgiveness and love for us.

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for my ever wandering heart
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me
Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are
I am a flower quickly fading here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling, Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
And You’ve told me who I am — I am Yours, I am Yours
                                                                     — “Who Am I,”  by Casting Crowns

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