Fingerprints

Fingerprints

 

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but I keep coming back to the fingerprints. If my funeral was tomorrow, what would people say about me? What kind of fingerprints have I left on their lives? I hope they’d say I’ve left the fingerprints of Jesus, but I’m not too sure that’s what I’d hear, if I could hear the people speaking at my funeral.

 

I think about the past, and the many years I lived for myself, for my pleasures, chasing the lusts of my flesh. I encountered many people during that time who knew my dad was a preacher, who knew I was raised in church, but who also knew I was “promiscuous” and no different than any other “worldly” person. Those people don’t know me now; they only know the “me” of that time. I wonder what kind of fingerprint I left on their life about God, the Church, and Christianity. Sometimes the thought is more than I can bear.

 

And I think of my husband. I wonder what he would say. Would he describe me as the “Proverbs 31” wife? Would he say I left the fingerprints of faith on his life, or the fingerprints of a control freak that was selfish and an overbearing nag? Would he be able to say he understood a little more about the Jesus I always spoke of, because of my character, or that my character conflicted with the Jesus I preached?

 

My husband has seen me from the beginning to the end, from the best and the worst. He met me in my addiction/eating disorder days, he managed to stick with me through my crazy days of psychotherapeutic drug treatments, he even stuck around when I over-compensated for my failures and became a Pharisee beating him over the head with my Bible. He still stands by me as I serve in church, write, and pursue an education in counseling. He’s a quiet man, but supportive of me in all things. Sometimes I think he’s left more of a “Jesus” fingerprint on my life, despite our differences of faith perspectives. Certainly God has used my husband to speak truth to me in ways I haven’t always understood and sometimes even resented. God is good like that, and I am grateful for all He has taught me through my marriage. I love my husband more every day, and hope that if he were to speak at my funeral, he would say that his wife failed in some ways, but Jesus changed her life for the better, and through that, made her a better wife and better mother. But, if I were to die tomorrow, I’m not too sure that’s what he’d say.

 

I think about my friendships. I have a couple great ladies in my life who have been a huge support spiritually. Though we haven’t known each other long, we are spiritual soul-mates. They sharpen me as “iron sharpens iron” and draw me closer to God just through knowing them. They are leaving the “Jesus” fingerprint on my life. But would they say the same about me?

 

Without a doubt I know some of the friendships of the past two or three years did not turn out that way. I’m pretty sure some of those people would describe the fingerprint I’ve left on them like a crime scene photo. Ugly, bloody, brutal—selfish, argumentative, judgmental. Much like the people who knew me during my prodigal years, these people know the me of the Pharisee years. And sometimes the thought of that is indeed, more than I care to consider. I have tried to “fix” some of these bad encounters, but sometimes the hurts inflicted burn the bridges beyond what can be rebuilt, at least on this side of heaven.

 

And maybe most importantly, I wonder what kind of fingerprint I have left on my daughter’s life? Have I displayed the “Jesus” in the Bible verses she has memorized? Or have I displayed the version that says, “I only approve of you when your behavior is good.” If she were to stand at my casket, could she say her mother showed her Jesus? That her mother was real, honest, authentic, open, and also caring, compassionate, and ready to show grace and mercy?

 

Last weekend Pastor Pat delivered an excellent message (as usual) about “time”. Afterwards we received a sheet of paper to map out our life plan. It contained some key steps like identifying important relationships, our priorities, and how we want to be remembered. I haven’t been able to fill mine out yet. I’ve been somewhat paralyzed as I wait for the doctor to call me with the news. Perhaps the road I thought I would travel will not be what I envisioned even a few weeks ago.

 

Either way, I’m in a time of contemplation. No matter what happens, I know God has used this “illness” to get my attention and get me thinking about the fingerprints I am leaving on people’s lives, what I can do to possibly clean the messy fingerprints off the past and create new ones, and what I must surrender to God today so the new fingerprints reflect Jesus, not Rebecca.

 

 

Finally, I think of a message a great man of God and influential teacher in my life delivered a couple years ago in church. I’ll never forget these words, “The only thing that matters in life is your answer to this question: what have you done with Jesus? What have you done with Jesus?”

 

I’m not sure what’s in my future, but I know this: Jesus has set my heart free, and I hope and pray you have experienced that same peace and freedom that surpasses any human understanding. If you haven’t experienced this full life that Jesus wants for you, won’t you consider doing so today?

 

Having lived life “my” way I can say the end result is never worth the perceived freedom of making your own choices. God’s way is really better, really. It gives meaning to life, and a future beyond the few years we have here on earth. It makes all of this pain actually worth something. And even the happy times are more meaningful when God is present.

 

How do you want to be remembered? What kind of fingerprints are you leaving on the lives of others? What can you do to allow God to change that this very moment? We can’t change the past, but God promises that He will make even our ugly failures work for our greatest good if we would only choose to love Him today (see Romans 8:28). Today is the day to make new fingerprints. Friends, please don’t delay. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but with Jesus, you can know that your tomorrow is safe and secure no matter what life throws at you. And that is the only place to be. His fingerprint of peace rests on my heart; I hope it rests on yours.

 

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for your Word has given me life.” Psalm 119:50

 

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Blameless

Blameless

“May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; then I will never be ashamed.” Psalm 119:80 NLT

When we enter the presence of God are we ashamed or confident? Can we come to him in prayer and feel good about the way we have conducted our lives? The prophet Isaiah got a taste of the holiness of God and declared, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) This account gives me goose bumps every time I read it. How do we view ourselves when we come into the presence of the Almighty? Do we come to him with an attitude of indulgence, demanding what we think we need? I fear much of what has happened today is a lack of self-awareness. We don’t view ourselves as we ought to. We are weighed down with pride. We approach God as if he is our vending machine. “Bless this pursuit, God, thank you!”

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for ever losing sight of the holiness of God!

Yet, God doesn’t call us into a life of shame and regret, does he? He calls us into a life of holiness. He is a Holy God, and he demands holiness from his children.  However, there is a big difference between living a holy life, and living a life of bondage. We can try so hard to be “good” in our own power that we become slaves to rituals, rules, and conduct codes. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and try to live that out. It can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit! Reading the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the law then trying to act them out is a sure way to feel like a failure. We are called to live a blameless life, but we are not called into bondage. The only way to live a holy life is to walk in the will of God, and that involves spending time getting to know Him. As we get to know the voice of God and his leading we get “in tune” with the Holy Spirit and his ways. Over time we see a change in our conduct.

 The behavior springs forth from the relationship, the relationship doesn’t come from the behavior.  If we have the relationship right, the behavior will flow. So, are we walking the “fruits of the spirit”? Are we a living testimony of the Sermon on the Mount? If not, we need to check in on our relationship and knowledge of the Lord. If we are walking in the Spirit, he will lead us into his will.

When I come into the presence of God I do not want to be ashamed.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” 2 Samuel 22:24

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life-when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set my eyes before no vile thing.” Psalm 101:2-3

“He whose walk is blameless is kept safe.” Proverbs 28:18

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 18:13

“For he chose us in him before the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14

All of the biblical knowledge in the world will be put to shame without a right heart. The Pharisees followed all the rules, but their hearts were perverse. They didn’t grasp the fact that their behavior would not earn them anything before God. They had to come to Jesus first, and they were unwilling to do that. No doubt, they were put to shame because of their religious hypocrisy.

If we want to have confidence in our prayer life, we need to be walking the blameless life. We cannot do that apart from Jesus. Intimate dependence on him is the beginning of correct behavior. We start in his word, getting to know him, spending time with him and letting his Spirit change our hearts as we mature in him.

This is the holy life; walking in the will of God.

A relationship with a holy God will lead us into the blameless life. In this way we can enter the throne room of Christ and have confidence in what we ask.

The holy life is the life never put to shame.

Prayer

Jesus, I know every single day I fall far short of your holy standard. I want to come into your presence with confidence and assurance that I am in your will. Help me this moment to see a glimpse of your true holiness. I know you want what is best for me, and that it’s perfectly lined out in your word. Teach me to love your word so I can know your word and follow your word. I need your Spirit to guide me into truth to keep me from being ashamed in your presence. I want to stand before you confident that I am in your will and living the blameless life.

Bonded

Bonded

“I cling to your laws, Lord; don’t let me be put to shame.” Psalm 119:31 NLT

Have you ever gotten super glue on your fingers? I have and it is miserable to try to get off. Once it’s bonded to your skin, it doesn’t want to leave.

How bonded are we to the word of God? The Psalmist said he “clings” to the word. The Hebrew word means “attached to, stuck, adhered to, or bonded with”. This gives us quite a mental picture! Adhered to the word of God, fixed to it, immovable from it; this is the way of the one who is not ashamed.

“You need to persevere.” Hebrews 10:36

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

Do you want to persevere in your faith and be productive for the Lord? The key is to cling, or be bonded to the word. If we are clinging to the promises of God, then we will not be put to shame; in fact we cannot be put to shame because God is faithful to his word! The problem is we want to claim God’s promises over our life without the commitment. We like to hear, “all things work together for good” but we don’t really pay attention to the last part, “to those who love God”. (Romans 8:28) When we come to a place where we truly desire to see God active and abounding in our lives we must come to the end of ourselves and our pride. Lay aside our selfishness in order to know the word of God, understand it, and love it. To love the word of God is to love the character of God. When we love and seek him our desires are aligned with his, and he gives us those desire with much pleasure!

“As for you…never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13

The command to persevere is all over God’s word. It’s not easy to rest on the promises of a God we cannot see, feel, or touch; yet we are urged to do so with determination. Perseverance leads to confidence and trust. We will not be ashamed because we will be resting in the truth of God and faithfulness to his word.

“As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” James 5:11

The Lord finally brought about Job’s deliverance. It wasn’t instant, but it did come, and Job had to persevere in order to obtain the blessing. We are fortunate we are not generally asked to persevere as Job did. For the majority of us we don’t even come close. Job was able to stand before God blameless even in his afflictions, and he was able to persevere without shame. His friends had some interesting judgments over his life, but God knew Job’s heart and that is all that mattered. In the end, all things worked for Job’s good because he loved God and did not give up on his promises.

If we want to stand before God and man unashamed, we need the word in our hearts. We need it to be bonded to our lives with the stickiest of spiritual super glue, or determination. All around us there is a battle for our love and attention, but we must first and foremost keep his word at the center. It takes focus with perseverance.

Prayer

Thank you for your promises, God! I am undeserving of your favor, and yet you are generous beyond measure with what you provide for your children. Many things I know I take for granted, and I confess it. I confess my pride and love for other things over your word. Change my heart! Direct it towards your truth that I may persevere until the day I see you face to face. Let me never become weary in following your laws, because I trust you and know you have designed what is best for me. Continue to teach my heart how to love your word as it should!

Instruction

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 NIV

Instruction

Every day we are learning. We learn from past experiences, we learn from what others teach us (erroneously or not), we learn from what we read, what we watch, what we absorb through various means of media; we are constantly learning.

God can and will use many things to teach us his ways. The Psalmist mentions the use of afflictions as a blessing rather than a curse. “It was good…” How often are we overcome with afflictions and declare, “Wow this is great”? Well, I know I am not usually responding that way. Often it is not until the trial is long past that I can see any good. Sometimes I have never understood the good. There are some circumstances I hope and expect to understand someday when I see Jesus face to face but until then I ask, “What am I to learn?” I don’t want to miss what the trial was teaching. For whatever reason God has allowed the hardness into our lives, we can be sure there is something there to be learned.

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

Afflictions bring us into obedience, and Christ Himself learned this lesson! What a privilege to be tested in the same way as the Son of God! How do you react to the test? Does it bring you to obedience or do you feel compelled to rebel in anger and self-pity?

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15

We can’t talk about afflictions without mentioning Job. Surely, this righteous man of God knew a thing or two about suffering unjustly! What happened? God spoke to him through his afflictions. Which, by the way, God sovereignly allowed to come upon Job for no other reason than the devil asked God if he could test him! No secret sin to be revealed in Jobs life, only the certainty that Job would remain faithful to God and not curse him or fall into the poisonous cycle of cynicism. God delivered him, and spoke to him while he was suffering. God meets us in our affliction, and teaches us there. We must not shut our eyes or cover our ears to his message during that time! Self-pity is the number one silencer to the voice of God. Focus on yourself for a while and you’re sure to lose sight of any lesson God was trying to teach you.

“I applied my heart to what I observed and I learned a lesson from what I saw.” Proverbs 24:32

Are we determined to see Gods message? This is another vital point in the afflicted one. We must press on and wrestle if we are to discover the lesson God has set before us. I don’t want to leave any trial without that “blessing”. I have said as much in my prayers, “Lord, I am not leaving here until you show me what I am to know!” Sometimes he wants us to persevere and show some determination. Do we give up or press on? How focused are we on getting taught?

“We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Romans 5:3

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Peter 2:19

How else can we experience Gods pleasure over our passing the test unless we’ve been put to the test? How else can we mature as believers unless we are stretched like an archers bow? Are we willing to endure trials in faithfulness to receive the prize that is waiting? Do we trust that we will gain what he has promised through the refining fire?

We behave what we believe. If we’re not behaving like we trust him, we need to find out exactly what we believe about him.

“Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” Isaiah 49:13

Know that God is not pleased that we must endure suffering, but he is pleased when we come out of it shining with a crown of endurance! We can be sure he is pleased when we have sought his face and desired to learn his lessons with the pain! We can know that he is waiting to tell us, “Well done!” And won’t that be a marvelous day indeed! Well worth any trial!

Lastly, may our afflictions teach us not only how to trust our Lord, seek him, lean on him, and listen to him, but also to be contented with him.

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, (Every situation!) whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Christ Himself gives us His strength to endure any trial allowed in our path. That alone should elicit a shout of praise, “Teach me more of your wonderful ways!”

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide and for using whatever means necessary to teach me your ways. I confess the times I have indulged in self-pity and loathed over my circumstances. I confess the times I have focused so much on my own misery I have completely missed you in the trial. I don’t want to leave here without understanding your lesson for me at this moment. Teach me your word and help me to trust you more. Bring me to that state of contentment in any situation; that is my prayer. I want to hear you say “Well done” when I see you face to face so I ask for your endurance through these difficulties. You have called me to press on, and I accept this calling with joy!

Preparation

“Before I was afflicted I went astray.” Psalm 119:67 NIV

Preparation

What types of events might you find yourself preparing for? Perhaps it’s a musical performance, teaching a class, taking a test, promoting a product, making a speech, or running in a marathon. At one time or another we have all experienced a time of preparation. If we prepared well, we likely did well in the event, however if our preparation time was lax, our performance probably showed the effort.  I remember a piano recital where I did not give my best. Truthfully, I didn’t even give 50% of my best. I was a teenager, and I was consumed with the object of my current affection; piano recitals weren’t really a priority. Over a decade later and I still remember that day, what a humiliation! It was a dreadful performance to say the least, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I was too focused on what I thought was more important. It may have taken several years for me to learn my lesson, but God has drilled it into my heart that when it comes to musical performance, I can never be “too” prepared.

“…I went astray…” vs. 67

This word should be translated “to sin ignorantly”. We’re talking about a major lack of preparation.  To keep our feet on the path planned for us we need to prepare for the journey. We must know the word of God in order to follow it! If we do not know the word well, we will come under affliction, or discipline, until we have learned what is necessary to mature.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

We prepare for life by memorizing the word, storing its truth in our hearts to be ready for spiritual warfare, sickness, doubt, discouragement, confusion, or any other arrow hurled our way.

Our natural inclination:

“All of us like sheep have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own.” Isaiah 53:6

We prepare for the journey by studying the word of God and being able to discern what’s “good” from what’s “best”. We need to know the difference between a counterfeit happiness and a true joy. We want to stay on God’s path, because our own path will inevitably lead to personal pain as well as pain for those around us.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:3-4

Wisdom foresees temptation and has discernment; humility brings true wealth in God’s economy which leads to the life God intended us to have!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

When we are ignorant in the word we will stray from the path He made for us. We will fall into error and we will be disciplined (Hebrews 12:6) by our loving Father until we return to the life he designed us for.  This doesn’t mean that every “bad” thing that happens is a result of our ignorance, or sin. There is a whole book in the Bible dedicated to this common misconception (Job). However when we do find ourselves in trials, tests, and difficulties we should take that time to make sure our feet are on the path they are meant to be on. We must ask God to search our hearts and make sure we have not wandered away, chasing after a counterfeit happiness. Are we on God’s “best” path, or just our own “good” path?

The Psalmist was thankful for the affliction that brought him back to God’s path, and back in line with where he needed to be spiritually. He declared

“…now I obey your word.” vs. 67

Let us never find that our sin was caused by ignorance of God’s plan for our lives. His will is laid out in his word; it’s our responsibility to be prepared.

Prayer

Thank you for your word that guides my path! Thank you for designing a perfect plan for me and loving me enough to discipline me when I wander from your directions. Lead me to the truth that you would have me hide in my heart and help prepare me for the battles ahead. Give me wisdom and discernment that I might not ignorantly sin against you.

Calculated

“Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” Psalm 119:72 NLT

Calculated

How interesting. I find myself sitting to write and here I am talking about wealth and riches and what really matters in life when my husband has barely worked for the past two weeks. I just finished a prayer, “Jesus, I am trusting You to get us through this, and I know whatever you have in store will be great. I thank you for it in advance,” then I opened my notes and laughed, “Yes, Jesus, Your word IS more valuable than gold!”

Sometimes you need to have your material securities stripped down in order to figure that out.

It’s not always so cut and dry. God isn’t necessarily waiting to take all that you love away from you to teach you some sort of lesson on valuing his word more, or setting your sights on eternity more. Sometimes it is just life. Will we accept pleasantries from God and not the uncomfortable? We must accept it if we truly trust him, because with trust comes understanding that all things work for our greatest good.

Brokenness

Financial Ruin

Sickness

Losses

Pain

God is up to something, he is calculating our every circumstance to work out in our best interest. Unfortunately for us, we cannot see the big picture.

God does.

The Psalmist learned his most valuable possession was the knowledge of God’s character, and that was found in his word. What else brings us peace, joy, and the greatest gift of all, salvation? The word of God! This is the “good news”, this is the “greatest news”!

Sometimes it seems easier to say the Bible is valuable when we sit in relative financial obscurity. Certainly it is valuable, for it is all some of us have! But the Psalmist, he was a man of wealth, worldly wealth and riches, and of all people most uniquely qualified to give a value to the word of God.

He put a price tag on it: priceless.

All of our lives we will suffer losses. We will go through ups and downs, times of gains and decreases, but one thing remains sure, and that is the precious, priceless word of God.

Taking a risk and investing your life in knowing the character of God is a calculated move that will pay off over the course of your entire life as you learn who he is; you will learn to trust him and live a more joyous life in him. There are so many unknowns in this world, but the word of God is a sure thing. Invest in it, and have an eternal treasure you can take to the grave (and beyond!) Knowing the heart of God is something you will not regret.

Have you experienced something today that you don’t understand? Is not fair? Confuses you? Are you tired of wondering why it is so “easy” for some to “cast their cares upon God” while you’re struggling to get what is going on in your daily life? God doesn’t promise us understanding, but he does promise us wealth beyond comprehension. That wealth is in knowing him. Sound too easy? Open the word, find out who God is, where he is, what he is up to, and find out for yourself if that peace he offers isn’t more priceless than millions of silver and gold. I can tell you from my own experience it most definitely IS.

When the money is gone, when the health is gone, when the job is gone, when the niceness of your coworkers (or family) is gone, you will have the entirety of God’s promises in your heart and at your lips.

It truly is a wealth of choice.

Prayer

Jesus, as I bring to you my cares, worries, anxieties, and doubts today, I trade them for the riches you offer me freely. Peace, joy, contentment, purpose, mercy, and everlasting life to name just a few! Thank you for what you are working out in my life, for the things I understand and the things I don’t understand. I choose to trust you in every situation knowing you are in control. Change my heart that I may love you more every day; consume me with the wealth of your word!

Affliction: My Teacher

 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 (NIV)

Affliction: My Teacher

“I never knew the meaning of God’s word until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best teachers.” –Martin Luther

It has been said that Psalm 119:71 is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 which tells us, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Affliction often catapults us into God’s word to find comfort, understanding, answers, to make sense of our circumstances, or to find wisdom to make the next major decision. Without that painful affliction we would not have experienced that faith deepening moment with which God spoke clarity into our hearts. I would venture to say that affliction may even be one of our greatest teachers-often bringing us closer to Christ than any other situation could. In fact, our sanctification often comes through our deepest pains. We need to be at a place of trust where we can say with joy and confidence, “It was good for me to be afflicted!”

No one looks forward to pain or affliction, and certainly we don’t ask that God shower afflictions on us in order to draw us closer to Him, but we can be certain that when we do experience painful circumstances that God is most definitely working them in a systematically ordered way for our greatest good, that we might better learn His decrees. Ask God to open your heart to the character he wants to build in you, and the blessing he wants to bestow on you or others through your trials. You may never fully understand, but you can find rest in trusting His Divine wisdom.