Step 7 – Day 31

Hebrews 9:23-28

So it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be cleansed with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things had to be cleansed with better sacrifices than these. Christ didn’t enter the holy place (which is a copy of the true holy place) made by human hands, but into heaven itself, so that he now appears in God’s presence for us. He didn’t enter to offer himself over and over again, like the high priest enters the earthly holy place every year with blood that isn’t his. If that were so, then Jesus would have to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. Instead, he has now appeared once at the end of the ages to get rid of sin by sacrificing himself. People are destined to die once and then face judgment. In the same way, Christ was also offered once to take on himself the sins of many people. He will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus’ death provides us a means for handling sin once and for all.  The event happened at a particular time and place but it has ongoing implications for us today.  It does not mean that sin no longer exists, it means that we have a way to deal with it when it happens.  Essentially, this passage shows us step 7 in ancient, biblical language.  Step 7, the month’s theme, teaches that we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.  Now, this passage is obviously not telling us to ask God to remove our shortcomings, but it is telling us that he has made provisions for getting rid of our shortcomings through sending his son as a sacrifice that cleanses us, and washes away our sin, providing us with a fresh start.  And this is a process in which we can continue to partake.  We don’t take advantage of it, by continually living poorly and then trusting that Jesus’ sacrifice covers our wrongs.  We seek to live a Godly life while using the provisions God has given when we slip up.  I basically said the same kind of thing yesterday.

I don’t always do a good job of articulating why I make certain points, so I’m going to try.  I bring this up as a way of illustrating why doing a step 7 is even worth it in the first place.  Why should we have any confidence that God will remove shortcomings?  How do we know that he will do that?  If we’re uncertain, should we even bother?  After all, working through the steps isn’t exactly simple or easy.  But here we see that not only is God willing to remove our shortcomings, or sin, we’ll say, but he’s already been at work in history to make that removal an immediately accessible reality.  In other words, the major action necessary for “shortcoming removal” to take place has already been done.  Good news?  I think so.

Any thoughts?

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Step 7 – Day 30

Psalm 38:17-22

…because I’m very close to falling,

    and my pain is always with me.

Yes, I confess my wrongdoing;

    I’m worried about my sin.

But my mortal enemies are so strong;

    those who hate me for no reason seem countless.

Those who give, repay good with evil;

    they oppose me for pursuing good.

Don’t leave me all alone, Lord!

    Please, my God, don’t be far from me!

Come quickly and help me,

    my Lord, my salvation!

I notice a few things about this passage that might be helpful to think about in our own lives.  For starters, and we’ve seen this a number of times this month, the psalmist has an acute awareness of their own sin.  They also seem to think that their sin has an association to what happens to them in life.  We want to be careful in this point, I do not want to imply that all the bad things that happen to us happen because we sin.  I do want to imply that sometimes this is the case.  Or at least, the psalmist thinks so.  They also seem to think that God might leave because of this.

Let me just pause for a minute here and ask if anyone can relate to any of these experiences already?  I suspect you do.  I suspect most of you strongly feel the weight of the wrong you’ve done, the sins you’ve committed, the things that produce the anxiety that tells us, “Maybe God will leave us all alone.”  That’s a scary thought.  And, sometimes, it might even be right.  I do not believe that God is always present with every individual in every situation.  But I think the psalmist here shows us exactly how we are to respond to God’s silence or God’s absence.  We demand that he come back, and we ask him to do it quickly.  And we ask him to get us out of the mess we’ve made.  I kinda like that.  I like feeling like I have permission to say to God, “Hey, I’ve messed up.  I messed up real bad.  I’m experiencing terrible consequences of my actions.  But you know what, I’m going to recommit myself to your ways and I’m going to ask you to be faithful to me even when I haven’t been faithful to you.”

I should clarify here that I don’t think it’s a good idea to live a life completely independently of God then demand his faithfulness when we’re in some crap.  I suspect he’s less apt to listen and respond to those kinds of requests.  However, I think we can take comfort in knowing that he hears and responds to the faithful, even when we veer off the path a bit.

Day 29

But Christ has appeared as the high priest of the good things that have happened. He passed through the greater and more perfect meeting tent, which isn’t made by human hands (that is, it’s not a part of this world). 12 He entered the holy of holies once for all by his own blood, not by the blood of goats or calves, securing our deliverance for all time. 13 If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of cows made spiritually contaminated people holy and clean, 14 how much more will the blood of Jesus wash our consciences clean from dead works in order to serve the living God? He offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit as a sacrifice without any flaw.  Hebrews 9:11-14 CEB

Much of what it means to love God and understand his mighty works is mysterious. 

Acceptance will help us with this truth too.

Who can understand his ways?

Here’s what I do when faced with such mystery…I take hold of the small pieces of understanding that I have been granted, and I try to practice them in all my affairs.  On the occasions (of which there are many) that I fall short, I take what I have learned about confession, forgiveness, and God’s character, and try to apply those principles in all my affairs as well.

Mystery isn’t a bad thing, unless what we really want is control.  May we embrace the mystery even as we practice the principles!!

Day 28

Everything I long for is laid out before you, my Lord;
my sighs aren’t hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds; my strength abandons me.
Even the light of my eyes is gone.
11 My loved ones and friends keep their distance
from me in my sickness;
those who were near me now stay far away.
12 Those who want me dead lay traps;
those who want me harmed utter threats,
muttering lies all day long.
13 But I’m like someone who is deaf,
who can’t hear;
like someone who can’t speak,
whose mouth won’t open.
14 I’ve become like a person
who doesn’t hear what is being said,
whose mouth has no good comeback.
15 But I wait for you, Lord!
You will answer, my Lord, my God!
16 Because I prayed:
“Don’t let them celebrate over me
or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips,” Psalm 38:9-16

 

God did not hire a marketing team to direct the work of the writing of the holy scriptures.  If he did, many of the psalms would have been deleted, right?  I once thought that if I could just get my faith in line, my life would become fine.  Everything would run smoothly.  Clearly, I had not fully embraced the whole of God’s word.

I appreciate how the psalmist gives me an example of what it means to tell God the truth in all things.

I am thankful that this passage reminds me that I am not alone in my suffering or my life experience.

I also like the suggested path forward – wait, expect an answer, pray….

Day 27

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.   It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world.   At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.  He gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions.  Titus 2:11-14

I love it when scripture makes our calling so crystal clear that even I can see it!!  Yay!

Notice the deal –

  1. God appeared and does the heavy lifting, bringing salvation to all people.  He’s bringing good news, rescue, saving, not judgment (although he is God and he does have the right and responsibility of judging).
  2. We need education, and God’s grace provides us with the education we need.  We can accept that whatever the world hands us, God will use it as an opportunity to educate us.  God can help us remember our past in a new way, reducing the effects of sin and suffering.
  3. We need to reject some old habits, and we must examine and discard anything that the world is teaching us that is in contradiction to what God shows us about living a good life.
  4. All the education in the world, all our efforts to reduce our reliance on ungodly living and worldly desires, doesn’t fix our problems.  We must wait for God to do his thing – to rescue us and clean us up.

Doesn’t that sound like a fairly good description of the seventh step?

Day 26

My wounds reek; they are all infected
because of my stupidity.
 I am hunched over, completely down;
I wander around all day long, sad.
 My insides are burning up;
there’s nothing in my body that isn’t broken.
 I’m worn out, completely crushed;
I groan because of my miserable heart. Psalm 38:5-8 CEB

Some days are like this. 

Isn’t it nice to know that when faced with days when we reek, we have a God who is willing and able to give us a thorough cleansing? 

Step seven invites us to tell the truth with a humble ask.

Day 25

In a mansion, there aren’t just gold and silver bowls but also some bowls that are made of wood and clay. Some are meant for special uses, some for garbage. So if anyone washes filth off themselves, they will be set apart as a “special bowl.” They will be useful to the owner of the mansion for every sort of good work.   Run away from adolescent cravings. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart.  2 Timothy 2:20-22  CEB

Acceptance is part of the recovery process.

I would like to be a fancy bowl.  Seriously, I would.  I want accessories! 

But the truth is, I really do like to run around all day in my gym clothes and no make-up (scary).

I am more comfortable sweating and lifting kayaks and tossing them into the river and jumping in and taking off like Pocahontas maybe did back in the day than going out for tea and crumpets.

I like sitting up high in an SUV more than cruising in a sleek sedan (although I might make an exception for a cool mini-cooper).

The truth is I am not a fancy bowl.  Can I be ok with that?  Only if I’ve decided to trust that my heavenly Creator knew what he was doing when he knit me together in my Mom’s womb.  We live in a world that has made it easy for us to lust after fake and fancy.  Maybe it’s a tiny bit harder to be content with who we are and where we live when we have access via the internet and People magazine into the lives of the fancy bowls. 

Acceptance means trusting that as God has his way with me, ultimately, I am going to be most content being the bowl God had in mind as he crafted me.

What kind of bowl are you?  Can you delight in your Image-of-God bearing self?