Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 56:8

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
(Psalm 56:8 ESV)

One of my favorite verses ever! I know that if you don't have an ESV, it might not read that way (I know that the NIV doesn't say that) but I personally think that this is the most beautiful way this verse can be translated. It clearly shows us that God cares for us, and He will never let our "foot strike a stone" (Psalm 91:12). What better promise than this?
There is a footnote on "tossings" that doesn't show when I copy and paste: an alternate translation. "wanderings." Either one is a "correct" translation, but I think rather than choosing one, we should take in the complete translation of the word. He keeps count of our troubles, He keeps watch over us, every time we are upset. But He also sees our wanderings, He sees when we fall away from Him. He is still watching us, He is still keeping us safe, and He is still giving us mercy and keeping His eyes on us even when our eyes are turned away from Him! Praise the LORD, for He is merciful...the God "of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Then, one of my favorite lines in the Bible: God has "put my tears in [His] bottle," and they are "in [His] book." It reminds me of the verse in Lamentations 3, verse 33, "for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men." Or as my Bible says, "for he does not willingly afflict the children of men." (same translation, just one is a later version.) Does that not comfort you? He puts your tears in His bottle. He knows every tear you have ever cried, when you were in trials and when you felt far from Him. Each tear is recorded in His book, and each tear that someone has caused you will be repaid. God knows and remembers ever tear you have ever cried, and He is faithful to comfort you in your pain. "For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5 ESV). God never leaves us in the darkness forever. Always remember that whatever pain you experience, He does not do from his heart: He does it because He loves you and wants to draw you closer to Him in the process. For He is strong in our weakness. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV). Finally, I'll just finish with this verse from one of my favorite Bible chapters: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 ESV).

Friday, October 21, 2011

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
I found this verse today and I was stunned. It may see a little confusing, so let me break it down. First, it says that God comforts us in our affliction. Isn't that amazing! And it's not just "God," it's God, The Father of our Lord, Jesus CHrist, the Father of MERCIES and God of all COMFORT. Wow. When I read that, I was a little in shock. God gave us His Son to DIE for us! He gives us mercy! He gives us comfort! The verse begins with "Blessed be...". It's so true! BLESSED! We must bless Him!
Usually people would stop there.
But the verse doesn't.
How do we bless Him? That is what next comes into our minds. So is the point of the next verse: "so that we may be able to comfort those are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
Listen: God doesn't give us comfort so we can sit back in comfortable lives. God gives us comfort so that we can COMFORT OTHERS.
Wait...doesn't that mean giving up our comfort? That's what the verse says..."WITH the comfort..." That makes no sense, why would God give us comfort just so we could use it all up helping others? Why? Doesn't He want us to be happy? Doesn't he want us to be fulfilled?
The answer is that God does want us to be happy. And that is why He gives us comfort to give it; because true joy can only be found in serving others instead of yourself. "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”(Acts 20:35 ESV). Paul urges us to serve others, because it is more blessed to give than to receive! And do you know what happens if we give?
We receive.
The Bible is clear that when we help others, we will receive our reward. "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 ESV). Even the smallest action of love for God and people will bring a reward!
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, self-pity, selfishness, worry, trouble with your Christian life, and many, many others-try helping others. Other people in the world have problems too, and when you absorb yourself in THEIR life, helping with THEIR needs, and using your comfort for THEIR comfort-you will find true peace. This is what it means to "bless" God-to love Him, and to serve Him-by loving and serving His people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Romans 13:14

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:14 ESV)
I stumbled across this verse yesterday and I was stunned. For the last week, the issue that has been weighing on my mind has been dying to self. Now, most of us may be inclined to shrug it off. "Self obsessed?" we balk, "Oh no, never! I'm not at all like that...what's to worry about?" But in true and full honesty: most of us are.
Romans 13:14 contains one of those rare "magic formulas" for intimacy and a true love for Christ-dying, completely and fully, to self. When we measure ourself up against the culture, we feel fine. We may not be proud or arrogant, we may not put ourselves at the very first point in our lives, and we might not literally love ourselves. Actually, we may hate ourselves, and we think, "Well this isn't my problem, because I'm terrible, and there's no way I put self first!" Well let's look a little closer.
As you probably noticed, this verse does not say "self." It says "flesh." Desires of the flesh are not just things that we do with our bodies-in essence, flesh is the opposite of spirit. But what does that encompass? Obviously it covers the really bad stuff, the givens, like murdering, stealing, etc, but honestly, what does the verse say again? "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." There are two options here, and we find this all throughout Scripture: The Lord Jesus Christ, and flesh. Let's expand on "flesh" and "self."
"Flesh" and "self" are pretty much the same thing; if you are walking in the desires of the flesh, you are putting self first. As I said before, you may not see it that way. But anything and everything that is not eternity-oriented that you are making a priority in your life is self-oriented. Even if you don't only look out for "number one," think: if you think yourself of no worth, you are still thinking of yourself. Everything that is not of God that has a reigning position in your life can be traced back to self, no matter what it is.
There is a clear theme in the Bible: to live in Christ, you must die to self. Dying to self means this: putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not listening to the desires of your flesh, as the verse says. This means that you have to bring Jesus Christ into the place of honor in your life: the throne, but to put Him there, you're going to have to kick self off first. And not just that, but you'll have to make sure that self doesn't make an army to kick God off your throne again. What does that verse say again? "...and make no provision for the flesh." That means NONE. So knock out the army metaphor I just used. It means that every single time self (flesh) tries to round up just one soldier, you squish them both and change so they can't come back from that direction again. Kicking self off and bringing God in is the ONLY way you can ever discover a true intimacy with Christ. I'm not saying that if you kick self off, you'll automatically discover Christ-but if you try and give it effort you will. But you won't discover Christ unless you kick self off the throne-that means throwing all your expectations out the door for His expectations-so getting rid of your dreams, desires, and ambitions. That doesn't mean they won't be fulfilled-but the only way for them to be truly fulfilling is in Christ. The only way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lamentations 3

So I thought that since "Lamentations3" is the title of my blog, my first post would be about Lamentations 3.
Lamentations 3 is one of those jewel chapters of the Bible that no one ever reads because it's not where most people would go to find a jewel chapter. First, it's in the Old Testament, and it's in the end of the Old Testament, near all the minor prophets which not many people seem to read. It's in the middle of a what we may term a "depressing book" and even a "depressing chapter." But most of the chapter is entirely beautiful. When I've told people to read it, their faith has been strengthened, their heads lifted, and they've returned to it again and again. I encourage you to read it right now-it's posted below in case you aren't near a Bible. I've posted sections that mean to most to me because of the post limits-to read the whole thing (which I encourage you to do) just go pick up a Bible. Love you all, Cayley.

(Verses 21-41)
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
To crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the earth,
to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
(Verses 55-59)
“I called on your name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’
“You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD;
judge my cause.
(English Standard Version)