Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I don't know how many of you know my story. It is one that I didn't know fully until about 12 years ago - and one that in many ways I will not know FULLY fully until I reach my eternal home. You see, I'm adopted. I've known that as a fact for as long as I can remember. It has never been a big deal, it has simply been a reality. My adoptive parents never hid it from me and they held it forth as a good thing. They repeatedly told me that I was chosen by them.
Now, I have to admit that the "chosen" mantra with which I grew up is not quite as precious to me as it once was. Five years ago my adoptive parents "chose" to end our relationship just as they had "chosen" to begin it 35 years earlier. They recanted on their adoption promise and left me re-orphaned in the dust. No reason was given other than that they just didn't want anything else to do with me. That kind of hurt (OK, understatement) and it ended up putting a whole new twist on the fleshed out, rubber meeting the road definition of love and trust for me. But, I digress...
12 years ago - many years before Mom and Dad bailed - Phillip and I set out to find a little bit of info on my genetic heritage. It was simply out of curiosity and simply out of desire to say "thanks" if that was possible. We ordered the official South Carolina records regarding my adoption. South Carolina is a "closed" and non-identifying state regarding adoption so the 25 page packet we received read something like this.
"_________________, biological mother of __________ ____________, was born on _________ _______ in _________ county. She attended __________ Institute in ___________ where she recieved a degree in sacred music."
TONS of helpful information there! :)
My incredibly wise husband realized that this particular document had been typed on an old 1968ish brand typewriter. "So what?" you may ask. "So everything!" I reply.
An old typewriter means that all of the spaces on the entire document were the same size and therefore we were able to determine exactly how many letters each and every single word in that document contained. My mother's first name had 7 letters. Her last name had 4. The town where she grew up had 9 and the college she attended had 7. We were beginning an amazing investigative journey. We were going to find out, Lord willing, how I came to be.
Long and amazing story made short and slightly less dramatic - we finally determined that there were 2 states mentioned within the document. South Carolina (my home state) and a second seven letter state where my mother had attended school and had worked for a number of years. In God's providence that other state still had the last letter partially remaining on our Xeroxed copy. That letter was an "a" and we now had it nailed down to Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida. Now, what to do with that information?!
Well, I decided to contact DSS and see if my case worker could help in anyway at all. I asked her if she could tell me the other state's name.
"No, against protocol."
"Sure", I said, "no problem. May I ask you another question?"
"By all means and I'll help if I can."
"This other state, could you get grits there?"
She laughed (perhaps at my utter audacity) and then told me "yes." BOOM!! We'd narrowed it down from 4 to 3 - it was a Southern state!!
"Thanks so much for your help, may I ask you one other question?"
"Please do, Lori."
"OK, in this other state - would my biological mom have been more likely to eat peaches, hang out on the beaches, or listen to civil rights speeches?"
With muffled phone etiquette I managed to hear her utter in the midst of her guffawing "hang out on the beaches..." and then she says "Lori, I don't know that I should answer that!"
I let her off the hook but she had already graciously and cryptically answered my question through her stealthish "hang out on the beaches" laughter. I owe her a big thank you because she sent me to Florida - the land of beaches and the possible key to locating the woman who granted me life!!
From there I headed to my trusty State Farm Atlas to track down a Florida town with the same number of letters as the town where her college was located. Found it - knew it might be a possibility because only a year before we had met a good friend (who is also a FB friend) who had attended a college in this very community - providence! Though the name of his 1990's college had changed slightly from the name of her 1950's institute I knew there was a possibility that they were one and the same and that I might just be on my way to a major break in this mystery.
I picked up the phone, called the college alumni office and asked them a few questions about female students majoring in sacred music who were from South Carolina during the years she would have been there. During the time she would have attended, there were only 5 women. Two of them had a South Carolina home town. One of them fit perfectly into every single typed blank on that document. Friends, we had her - name, birthdate, home town, place of employment after graduation, and even married name. Everything fit exactly.
I ended up contacting an adoption investigator whom I had attempted to use eariler - only to find out that adption investigators are VERY expensive and therefore were NOT an option for the Sealy family!! When she found out all that we had uncovered on our own she volunteered to pull up the remaining info for us for free - a phone number drawn off of a driver's license. There was one catch, however - my mom did not have a driver's license BUT her father did. Suddenly I found myself in a bit of a dilema. I had my biological grandfather's home phone number. But stop and think with me, it is not like I can call up and say "Hey grandpa - you don't know me but I am your long lost granddaughter. The one that you may not have even known you had. Could you tell me how to get in touch with mom?!" Wouldn't have been prudent!!
What to do? I wanted to be honest but not foolish. So, after a lot of prayer, I picked up the phone and called "grandaddy".
A kind and ancient sounding voice answered the phone - like a voice I should have known but never got the chance to. I told him I was trying to track down his daughter. "Oh sure sweetheart here's her phone number and street address. She lives in Florida now." OK - that was just a bit too easy! (Sidenote - my biological grandfather died 2 months later. I am so thankful for God's providence in having us seek out this information when we did. It was within 60 days of being an impossibility)
So...here I am...29 years after my birth....holding my biological mom's name, address and phone number in my hands. Talk about surreal!!
I called Phillip at work. "You're not going to believe this... I've got her... now what do I do?" "CALL HER!!" "OK, I think I will - gulp!!"
Just so you know - I wasn't planning on simply blurting out "Hey Mom!! Remember me - you gave me up for adoption 29 years ago and I decided to look you up. How's life been treating you!" Bad move - wasn't going to make it!!
I HAD planned to make sure that she was alone and was able to speak openly, freely and in privacy. I had planned to give a cautious and patient prelude to the BIG KAPOWEY! As a matter of fact I had 3 pages of notes written out in front of me as a help and guide.
"Hello, Mrs. _______. My name is Lori Sealy and I'm calling you from Montgomery, Alabama. Do you have a moment to talk? This is a rather private and confidential subject matter. Are you originally from _____________________, SC and did you attend ________________________ Institute in _____________ Florida?"
I was ready to slowly prepare her for the inevitable bomb blast from the distant past.
RING! RING! "Hello this is ___________ ___________."
I momentarily froze - this could be my biological mom's voice - the source of my own voice. Time stood still.
"Uh, hi. My name is Lori Sealy and I'm calling you from Montgomery, Alabama. Do you have a moment to talk?"
"Oh, I'm sorry not right now I'm teaching a piano lesson could you call back on Monday?"
"Uh, yes ma'am, certainly. Talk to you on Monday!" CLICK!
Wait a minute - MONDAY?!?!?! This was Friday----that means I have a whole weekend to wait!! You've GOT to be kidding me! Nope - no joking on that one - just the facts - the long over the course of 2 and 1/2 day facts!!
Monday came - it took a long, LONG time to get there - and I called again.
RING! RING! "Hello this is ___________ _________."
"Um, yes, Mrs. _____________, this is Lori Sealy calling again."
"Oh yes - is your name Heather?!"
Folks - I just about fell out of my chair. On my original birth certificate was the original birth name of "Heather." It was the name given to me by my biological mother.
Yep - I had found her! I had found her!!
"Well, I suppose my name is sort of Heather. That is the name that my birth mom gave to me."
"Oh sweet child - I am who you are looking for!!!"
I couldn't get a word out. She had more questions.
"Lori, do you play piano?"
"Why yes ma'am I do. I've been playing since I was 5. I was a music major and I write songs now."
"Lori, are you a Christian?"
"Oh, yes ma'am. It was quite a journey for me to arrive in the land of the redeemed, but yes ma'am Christ has saved me from my sins and I am His and He is mine."
"Lori, you wouldn't know this, but when you were born I asked the nurse if I could hold you for just 5 minutes before they took you away. While I held you I stroked your fingers and asked my God to do two things - to let you play the piano and to save you at a young age."
Friends - God heard my mother's prayer!
I also found out from her a little bit of how God - in frowning providence- orchestrated my arrival into this world. My mom had been married and divorced and then found herself in an adulterous affair with a married man - a married man who had 6 children. He took her to have an abortion. There was NO way he was going to have another child - particularly not THIS way. He drove her to the clinic. They went inside, signed the register, and sat down in the waiting room. They sat there for 30 minutes she told me. Then, as she waited, a Sunday School lesson on the 10 commandments - a lesson from decades ago - a lesson she just "happened" to sit in on because she was with her Aunt and Uncle that particular weekend - and they just "happened" to take her to church - a thing her parents never did - that one Sunday School lesson just "happened" to come to her mind.
"Thou shalt not kill."
She told me it was like a lightning bolt struck her and she turned to my biological father and said "No way can I do this. I will find some way to bring this child to term." And she did. She spent 9 months living in a one room hunting cabin outside of Sumter, South Carolina - alone, scared, ashamed, guilty, wanting to die but not about to die because she was going to see that I did NOT die! And I didn't, by grace. She brought me to term and she graciously and sacrificially gave me up for adoption.
So, why am I telling you any of this. Well...here's why. Today I went to my mail box and there was a letter from this precious lady - who is still alone - no family - no husband - no children - ALONE! She gave everything up for me! And this is what I read:
God made you on purpose. You're not an afterthought, you're not on earth 'just because,' and you're not a random act of His creativity. You were given His 100% stamp of approval from head to toe before you were born - and the moment you were born He beamed with joy. I did too! Happy Birthday, Lori!"
We swap letters and pictures fairly regularly and every now and then we swap a phone call, but we have never met. This past Christmas I called her and got her answering machine. I told her that Phillip and I would love to come down and meet her face to face if she was up to it. I never heard back from her - not until today. Her note continued...
"Lori, I loved your call. As much as I would love to see you, I have become mostly blind and crippled so now is not the time. God is helping me to keep working for Him! It's a miracle. He is ever present with you and with me. Blessings from Him to you and Phillip and Joshua and Elizabeth. I love you. In Jesus name, ________"
Friends, I am blown away. Just yesterday I told my dear husband - "You know, I think I may have lost another Mom. _______________ has not called or written back since I mentioned us going down to meet her." My heart was sad.
This day,my heart was made glad and God reminded me - through the dear lady who suffered so much that I might even be here - that I am not here by accident but by Divine appointment and foreordination. He allowed a painfully crooked path to be the course by which Lori Sealy would enter the world - but He allowed it nonetheless - and He allowed it in His perfect wisdom and faithfulness (Isaiah 25:1).
My best birthday note ever ended with a reference to Psalm 139:13 -16 which says:
"For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book they were all written, all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."
My friends - that's my story and in some ways it is all of your stories too. You have been knit and fashioned to be in this world at this time by the Sovereign and Wise and Holy and Righteous and Merciful hands of the Creator God. It is in Him that you and I "live and move and have our being." It is He "who made us and not we ourselves." It is He who has ordered our steps even though we think we have planned our ways. It is for His glory that we are here - whether we want to admit it or not - that is our purpose and it is only in fullfilling that purpose that we will ever truly find peace and contentment and true love and real joy in this life.
Dear ones - Lori Sealy has walked through many a dark valley. I have lived as an atheistic God-hater and have been subdued by sovereign mercy. I have lived as a selfish liar and manipulator in order to gain my own way and have been brought to my knees and re-created as a truth teller. I have spent many a year as a proud and stubborn woman seeking my own self-protection from any further heartache and have been humbled by the Savior who sought not His own comfort but my comfort.
He gave His all for me - sacrificed everything for me - and He did it knowing everything about me. Knowing everything I'd ever done and thought and felt, knowing everything I would ever do and think and feel, He loved me anyway. He loved me enough to take my sins upon Himself and to place His righteousness upon me. He didn't have to, but He did! I did nothing to deserve it, but He gave Himself anyway! "Amazing love, how can it be? That Thou my God shouldst die for me!" More than amazing yet more true than anything else in all of the world!!!! This is the truest of all truths and the loveliest of all loves. This is the ultimate sacrifice - much, much greater than my mom's sacrifice for me is Christ's sacrifice for me!
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.... He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." (Isaiah 53:4-6)
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus, who , although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-11)
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Do you know this One who has given you your physical life? Do you know this One who is the author not only of life in this momentary world but of life everlasting? Do you know this NEW and greater spiritual life that He gives by grace through faith in His finished redemptive work on your behalf?
I have been an orphan. I have been adopted. I have had my physical adoption nullified and have been physically re-orphaned in this fallen world. I have this day been reminded by the very one who suffered for me as a human life giver that I am here by Divine appointment and that my adoption in Christ has been eternally secured by the ONE who suffered for me as the everlasting life Giver.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16).
I have been reminded that my spiritual adoption is NOTHING like my earthly adoption by my adoptive parents.
"For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up." (Ps 27:10)
No, I have in Christ "recieved a spirit of adoption as sons by which I cry out, Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs with God and fellow heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:15-17)
"He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is IMPERISHABLE and UNDEFILED and will NOT fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith...." (1 Peter 1:3-5)
The Lord Jesus Christ has suffered for me as the greatest lifegiver and He who cannot lie has sworn to me that "the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." He swears it to you as well.
How I pray that you know this One - this life giving, life preserving, life enhancing One. You were made by Him and you were made for Him. Flee to Him in faith and repentance. It matters not who you are or where you've been (I am a testimony to that marvelous mercy). Come to the Giver of life that you might find rest and the true and rich and steadfast meaning of life.
Thanks, mom for the reminder that I am no accident but that I have been made with a purpose. Thanks for your sacrifice which was a means to that purposeful end and thanks for praying that I would know His sacrfice and therefore reach that end, by grace!!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
In the first two verses of the "Teth" section of Psalm 119 David has reminded us of the good dealings of God with His people - no matter how things may look - and of our need for Biblical discernment regarding that fact. We are so easily led by the whims of this world, by the circumstances of life, and by the fickleness of our feelings. We need to be led by truth - and God's Word is truth.
These next six verses are a great picture of how things are not always as they "feel" to us. David is once again talking about affliction and here he instructs us on its before and after. I can say it no better than Matthew Henry does in his commentary. His words were poignant and I shall simply direct you to them this day.
"David tells first of the temptations of a prosperous condition. '"Before I was afflicted" or while I lived in peace and plenty, and knew no sorrow, "I went astray" from God and my duty.' Prosperity is the unhappy occasion of much iniquity; it makes people conceited of themselves, indulgent of the flesh, forgetful of God, in
love with the world, and deaf to the reproaches of the word."Second, David tells of the benefits of an afflicted state: 'Now I have kept Thy word, and so have been recovered from my wanderings.' God often makes use of afflictions as a means to reduce those to Himself who have wandered from Him. The prodigal's distress brought him to Himself first and then to his father."
David didn't seek to desecrate those who dogged him and he also didn't give in to the temptation of envying the wicked's seeming prosperity. He considered them to have a "heart covered with fat." Again I turn to Henry:
"The proud are at ease; they are full of the world, and the wealth and the pleasures of it; and this makes them secure and stupid; they are past feeling. They roll themselves in the pleasures of sense. I would not change conditions with them. I delight in Thy law and build my security upon the promises of God's Word. The children of God, who are acquainted with spiritual pleasures, need not envy the children of this world their carnal pleasures."
Thankful for having learned a little bit about the after,
Monday, April 12, 2010
God has been good to His people. He has not treated us as our sins deserve. He has shown us much mercy and grace and lovingkindness. As the Puritans once said - "Anything this side of hell is pure grace." Christ has spared us from the one thing we truly deserve so everything else is icing on the cake - pure grace icing!
David knows this full well and he therefore begins this section of Psalm 119 with an acknowledgment of God's good dealings with him. "Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, O LORD, according to Thy word." I can't help but think of the words of the sons of Korah that are found in Psalm 84 : "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." God withholds NO good thing from His children and if He has directed something in your path - even if at the moment the "thing" seems hard and bad - please trust that He has brought it about to serve ultimately as a good thing for you.
God has planned all of our ways in perfect faithfulness (Isaiah 25:1) even the ways that seem crooked and bumpy and difficult to travel upon. God knows how to make the rough ways smooth and He will do so in His perfect timing for He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
Mr. Henry writes: "However God has dealt with us we must own that He has dealt with us better than we deserve, and He has dealt with us in love and with design to work for our good."
David, who has faced so much, trusts that God has dealt well with Him. He trusts that it is so because the Word declares it to be so - "Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, O LORD, according to Thy Word." The Word of God is the standard by which David will determine what is true. He will not base his belief on his feelings or his circumstances but will let the Law and the Testimonies of His God to be the lens through which he views his life.
Recognizing what the Word declares and believing it to be true, David understandably pleads with God to teach Him to know this Word. "Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Thy commandments."
God has dealt well with Him. He has given Him a new heart and an eternal hope. Knowing that God has granted these immeasurable and imperishable gifts He now pleads with His Father to grant Him a mind to understand and make good use of the commandments. This prayer of David parallels perfectly with James chapter 1. There, James the bond-servant of Christ marvelously echoes David's plea.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
Whatever we encounter - even trials - have a good and perfect and sanctifying result. (Sounds like verse 65, "Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant." ) In whatever perfecting path God has placed us on we have need to pray for wisdom to make the right use of it. We need God to teach us good discernment and knowledge. We need Him to do so and He will do so for He loves to give generously and without reproach those things that are necessary.
Friends do you recognize just how wonderfully well He has dealt with you? Do you recognize that the Scriptures declare His all-wise and all-good sovereignty in whatever path you are traveling? Are you begging Him to help you increase in your discernment and knowledge and faith? It is a good prayer may we be diligent in uttering it.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
David was all too familiar with derision, false accusation and slander. He had taken a good tongue lashing in his time. He had experienced first hand what it was like to be railed against by foes - both familiar and unfamiliar foes. David had been dogged by strangers and by those who were incredibly close to him - friends and family. Even his own son had sought to destroy him with words and with deeds.
Recognize just how much David owns what he is writing. Here is a brother who has been wounded repeatedly by the darts of derision. We would do well to listen to his prayer in regards to it and to heed his advice.
The singing king begins his prayer with a request that God would hear him and not forget the gracious and merciful promises of His Word. David, the servant of God, needs hope so he turns to Israel's TRUE King, the God of hope. "Remember Thy word to Thy servant, in which Thou hast made me hope." In His trying times David turns to God and pleads the promises. God has promised to be a God to him, with him, and for him. He had promised to never leave nor forsake Him. He had promised that the righteous would never be shaken. David, in his distress, is simply taking God's own Words and preparing them as a prayerful suit before the great Judge of all the earth. "This is what You have said, O God, please do what you have promised that You will."
That is a good prayer pattern for us as well. Are we using the Word of God as the compass for our requests? I'm reminded of John Newton's old hymn:
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare; Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid Thee pray, therefore will not say thee nay;
David did find hope in that. In verse 50 he records "this is my comfort in my affliction, that Thy word has revived me." David had, many times, been on the brink of demise but the Word of God quickened him. The law and testimonies truly were his delight and as he meditated on them day and night he found hope and comfort rising within. Is the Word of God a comfort to you in your affliction? Are you turning to it as a resurrecting force when you are "dead in sin" and "dead to duty"? The law of God brings life. Flee to the fount of vitality!
Verses 50-51 continue the train of thought. "The arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Thy law. I have remembered Thine ordinances from of old, O LORD, and comfort myself."
David has prayed for God to remember what He has promised. He has reminded himself of the life-giving power of the Word. Now he is being honest about the insults of his enemines but in the midst of that acknowledgement he still affirms the anchor that the Law of God is to him. His enemies may seek to destroy him. They may laugh and hiss and scorn and rage but David will not turn from the firm foundation that is laid for his faith in God's excellent Word! What about us? In the great gales of persecution, in the midst of being made a mockery, in the times when we are about to be embarrassed by our enemies are we able to say with David "the arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Thy law."
Please note that David is being UTTERLY derided by the arrogant. This is no juvenile "nanny nanny boo boo" type of insult. This is serious. This is hard. These are overwhelming words that have feet to them. But David will not recant.
Matthew Henry says: "Those can bear but little for Christ that cannot bear a hard word for Him." O Lord, help us to bear a little for you knowing that you bore all for us!!
How did David keep from turning aside? He turned even more fully TOWARD that which his enemies sought to tear him from. They wanted to make him forget. He set his sites on remembering all the more! "I have remembered Thine ordinances from of old, O LORD, and comfort myself." When others would have you look away from the Law and the Testimonies that is the time to gaze all the more intensely upon it. Lock in. Load up.
Are you utterly derided this day? Know that through God's word and according to God's promise you are abundantly comforted. Turn not to to the armies of the arrogant turn to the armor of the Almighty!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The theme throughout Psalm 119 is in regards to the Word of God. Here in the longest chapter of the Bible (176 verses) we are granted the privilege of watching David's meditations and earnest prayers regardingthe holy Scriptures. In verses 33-38 we find another prayer. Once again it is quite instructive. These points are heavily drawn from Matthew Henry's commentary this morning.
David begins by pleading with God to teach Him. "Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy satutes, and I shall observe it to the end." What better teacher is there? There is none that teaches as He does. Job understood the excellency of this great Educator. In this midst of his affliction he states, "Behold, God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him?" May we, with David, cry out to the Giver of the law to be the Instructor of the law that we might be conformed to the law.
Secondly, David asks God to shine light upon his understanding. "Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart." If we are to obey we must understand. I can't do that which makes no sense to me. How we need to beg of God to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. May He grant us understanding that we might keep and observe with a whole herat.
Thirdly, David "prays for God to bow his will and quicken the active powers of his soul that he might do his duty" (Henry). "Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments." David knows his proneness to wandering. Therefore he pleads with God to "make" him walk. I'm with you Dave! I need a King to subdue my stubborn will and am thankful for the Shepherd's crook which repeatedly has pulled me back on the proper path when I have strayed!
Fourthly, David pleads with God to not only make him do the right thing but to make him desirous of doing the right thing. "Incline my heart to Thy testimonies and not to dishonest gain." Let us not be only willing but wanting.
"The honors, pleasures, and profits of the world are the vanities which draw multitudes away from the paths of religion and godliness. The eye, when fastened on these, infects the ear with the love of them and so is alienated from divine things. We ought to pray that God by His providence would keep vanity out of our sight and would keep us from being enamored by the sight of it."
Lord, turn me from it or I will run straight to it!
All of these things are important prayer pictures. We need God to teach us, to grant us understanding, to bow our will to His own, to turn our hearts to His ways, and to keep our eyes from vanity. All these things we need and the result of all these things is not merely that we would be more righteous but that He would be more revered. "Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee."
The chief end of all of this is that He would be glorified. Make me love your Word, Lord ,that I might love You!
Friday, April 9, 2010
"Deal bountifully with your servant." Here is another prayer of David. It is a request for God to deal liberally and largely with him. And the specific focus of this prayer is that God would overflow the banks of his life with an ability to walk in the Word. "Deal bountifully with Thy servant that I may live and keep Thy word."
If an inventory were taken of our requests would bountiful blessing that leads to devoted duty be in the top ten? Would it even make it to the top hundred?
As David seeks God's abundant favor regarding his keeping of the statutes of the Lord it is evident that he recognizes that it is God who must grant him all ability. Clearly he understands his condition, particularly if he is left to himself. He understands "there is none who understands" (Ps 14). He humbly accepts with Paul that "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so" (Rom 8:7) and that "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolish to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor 2:14).
David is aware of his utter inability and for that reason he begs of God to do that which only God can do - open the eyes of a spiritually blind man! "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law."
Henry writes: "We are blind to the things of God by nature, til His grace causes the scales to fall from our eyes. And the more God opens our eyes the more wonders we see in the Word of God."
The great shepherd king of old Israel gives us a great model of prayer for our every approaching of the Word of God: Open my eyes Lord, I cannot understand your Word apart from the illumining power of Your Spirit. Grant me that I may take in, absorb, and be changed by the wonderful things of Your law!!
David recognizes his need for God to bountifully deal with him in order for him to walk in His holy ways. He understands that he cannot do it himself but must have God work in him. He also sees the reason that he needs the lights turned on. David is a stranger in the earth. A blind man who is at home may be able to get around just fine in the walls of his own abode. He knows where the coffee table is. He can find his way to the couch. In his home he is safe. In my home he might just fall down a flight of stairs and severly bonk his head!
David is a stranger in this land and Christians, so are we. We need God to open our eyes so that we don't stumble in this fallen foreign field that is our current home. We need the map open to us, not hidden from us. "I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Thy commandments from me."
Turning to Mr. Henry once again:
"David confesses himself a stranger in the earth. Heaven is our home and the world is but our inn. David was a man that knew much of the world and was well known in it. Yet he calls himself a stranger. As a stranger he needs a guide, a guard, a companion, a comforter. Let us have God's commandments always in view, for they will be all this to us. They will be all that a poor stranger can desire."
Oh that God would deal bountifully with blind strangers such as ourselves. And oh that we would long much more that He would so do! David longed. He literally ached to know God's truth more and more. "My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times." Do we?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
There are many things in this world that people hold dear. We have many treasures - things and people that we would be crushed to lose. Is the Word of God among our treasures? Is it really and truly one of our treasures?
For David the answer was a resounding yes!! He treasured God's Word, so much so that he hid it in his heart. He stored it in a place where it could never be taken from him and where it would always be with him.
"He hid it in his heart that it might be ready to him whenever he had occasion to use it. God's Word is a treasure worth laying up, and there is no laying it up safely but in our hearts. If we have it in our heads our memories may fail us; but if our hearts be delivered in to the mold of it, and the impressions of it remain on our souls, then it is safe." (Matthew Henry)
David treasured God's Word. He hid it deep within Himself that He might not sin against the glorious God who had created Him, loved Him, and saved Him. Our God is David's God and our Bible is that Word which David so loved. Do we treasure it? Have we treasured it to the point that it is hidden deep within our hearts? Oh, may we all make room for God's Word and may the space which it takes up be the most treasured room of all!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Familiar words. Poetic words. Important words.
How can I be pure? How can my children be pure? What is the standard of purity? Where is its chart and compass? The answers are all found in the Word of God.
It is in God's Word where I will discover that I have a need to be pure in the first place. It is there that I will learn of my sin which has made me unpure and of the pure and holy God who can not have my sin in His presence.
It is in God's Word where I will find the solution for my sin which is as scarlet. It is there that I will learn of Christ who has died for me as a propitiatory sacrifice, freeing me from my filthy burden, and granting me cleansing forgiveness through His own shed blood. It is there that I will find out how His blood alone can wash me whiter than snow.
It is in God's Word where I will learn what my life is to look like in response to all that Christ has done on my behalf. It is there that I am instructed in the purity that conforms me more and more to the image of Jesus.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word."
"By what means may the next generation be made better than this? By making the Word of God their rule. That will do more for young men than all the laws of princes and morals of philosophers."
Where are you currently enrolled? It might be time for a change of institutions.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
That said, the Christian walk is at times a grand paradox. We are taught that God is sovereign and yet man is responsible. We are told that Man is to walk in obedience to Christ and yet man is to rest in Christ. Contradictions? No! Not at all! Paradox? Yes! Absolutely!
First, David tells us that blessedness comes from blamelessness. "How blessed are those whose way is blameless."
The first secret of blessedness is simply a declaration of our need for the gospel! Do you want to be blessed? Then you must believe the gospel call that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ. He alone is the blameless One. He alone is the spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He alone is the perfect and unblemished sacrifice.
Romans 3 puts it this way:
"There is none righteous, not even one.... all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.... But now...the righteousness of God has been manifested...through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith."
Second, blessedness comes from obedience. How blessed are those who "walk in the law of the LORD" and "observe His testimonies".
Blessed are those who, by grace, live a life that is ruled, guided and guarded by the Word of God. That Word is the rule of faith and practice and in it's precepts true peace and joy are found. We are to do more than simply know it, cherish it, meditate upon it, and esteem it. We are to walk in it and observe it. It is to be our compass and we are to follow where it leads. We are to be not only hearers of the Word but doers as well. Are you among the blessed who are actively walking in the law of the Lord? May the Blameless Christ help us to walk in His ways and observe His testimonies. He has told us "If you love Me you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
Third, blessedness comes from fully searching after Christ. Blessed are those who "seek Him with all their heart."
Half-heartedness is not the stream from which blessedness flows. We are to have "a single eye to God as our chief good and our highest end" (Matthew Henry). Are we seeking Him above all else? Are we seeking HIM or are we seeking what He gives? I suppose to put it bluntly what do we want more HIM or blessedness? He is not a genie in a bottle. He is God and He Himself is our blessedness. Seek Him first. Seek Him wholeheartedly. Seek Him above all other things. Oh Christ, our blameless surety, make us to seek You and not merely your benefits!
Fourth, blessedness comes from staying far away from sin. Blessed are those who "do no unrighteousness."
In many ways this is merely the flip-side of the second secret. Here is a two-edged coin. We are to walk in His ways and we are NOT to walk in world's ways. We are to be clothed in Christ's righteousness and we are to at all costs avoid putting on the rags of unrighteousness. Avoid it, my friends! It will seek to trick you. Its counterfeit claims will seek to deceive you. Do not listen to the siren's song of sin. Unrighteousness seems pleasant for a season but then it rises up as a deadly viper and strikes its venomous blow crippling and crushing and destroying those who sought pleasure in its mesmerizing dance. Do you long for true blessedness? You will not find it in sin. Unrighteousness always leads to death and misery. Christ-righteousness always leads to life and blessing. (Romans 6:23)
Do you long to be blessed? Psalm 119 lets us in on the secrets of blessedness. Christ is the fount from which it flows. His Word is the path by which we follow the blessed stream. He Himself is the refreshing water which we seek. However, beware, there are sneaky, slithering serpents who would seek to muddy the waters of blessedness.
God "has ordained [His] precepts that we should keep them diligently." By grace, through faith, in the blameless power of Christ keep them diligently for in keeping them is the great reward of blessedness.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Thus far in David's 118th Psalm he has called upon us to join him in celebrating the goodness and lovingkindness of our God, has reminded us that this good God is for us, and has exposed the impotent threatenings of our enemies. Our enemies may push violently against us but the good and lovingkind God who is for us is our help. "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation."
In these next four verses we see that the song has become a victory shout in the dwellings of the righteous. Several things got my attention in this short section.
First, among the righteous there should not only be joyful singing but joyful shouting (vs 15). Do we recognize what God has done for us? Do we realize what He has rescued us from? The buzzing sting of death has been removed and the blazing fires of hell have been extinguished by the blood of Christ (Ps 118:12, 1 Cor 15:55-56). There is reason for rejoicing. Let us shout joyfully the victor's cry as a testimony of His mercies to us!
Second, the dwellings of the righteous are here referred to as "tents" (vs 15) That is a reminder to us that this place is not our home. We are merely aliens and strangers who are passing through on the way to a better city - a city of unfading beauty, a land of no tears - the heavenly Jerusalem! May we not plant our tent stakes too deep in this place but always be ready to pack up and move when our Father calls us home.
Third, our valiant and exalted God has spared us from death for a purpose and that purpose is that we would tell of His works (vs 16-17). Over the past year the word Ebenezer has become very dear to me. During my time of testing, God has over and over and over provided me with stones of remembrance - things that have been clear and profoundly sturdy reminders of His sovereign care for me. Verse 17 points to the fact that we ourselves are an Ebenezer. Our very lives are monuments to His mercy and pillars of His providence. My friends are we living as testimonies of His sovereign grace? Oh that He would grant me so to live!!
Finally, God is a loving and wise Father who disciplines His children - at times the spanking hurts "severely". However, the rod of God is always with perfect purpose and is meted out in wonderful wisdom. He knows just what we need to learn the lesson. Remember the words of the writer of Hebrews:
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the LORD, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons..... He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Our good and lovingkind Father may discipline and at times may discipline us severely (I speak as one who is there right now) but it is not to give us over to death it is to grant us new life!!
Beloved, we have much to shout about. The right hand of our God has done and is doing valiantly on our behalf. He has granted us life - eternal life - and we are living Ebenezers. With Robert Robinson, the 18th century hymn writer, I must shout out:
"Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above; praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of God's unchanging love.
"Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I'm come; and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wand'ringn from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
"O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be; let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand'ring heart to Thee. Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love: here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."
Sunday, April 4, 2010
"Give up! You're surrounded! There is no hope! You are undone! Surrender!!" Buzz! Buzz! Crackle! Crackle! Blaze! Blaze! Smoke! Smoke!
Have you ever been pounded by the surrounding whispers of an enemy? Have you ever been "pushed violently so that [you] were falling"? David has. Honestly I have too. Even in the past year I have found myself encompassed more times than I know how to count and record.
These 5 verses give huge hope for the surrounded. Here comes the cavalry of Christ. Look and listen if you are on the verge of raising the white flag of surrender. You may be surrounded, but your enemies are not what they seem.
- They speak of the character of your Captain. "He is good and His lovingkindness is everlasting." (vs 1-4)
- They speak of His hearing ear in your distressing situation. "From my distress I called upon the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a large place." (vs 5)
- They speak of His caring and conquering hand. "The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (vs 6-7)
- They speak of our need to rest in His refuge. "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes." (vs 8-9)
Those 4 truths set the backdrop for these next 5 verses. They lay the foundation for the hope and truth and peace and assurance that we so desperately need in the midst of surrounding schemers. They fence us in with what is real and guard us from the lies of our enemies. Things are not always as they seem and our enemy is a master of smoke and mirrors. God's truth puffs the smoke away.
Here it is declared that even though the nations surrounded David that ultimately the name of the Lord would cut them off (vs 10). David, in his distress, was resting in the strong tower of refuge and safety that can only be found in the King of kings. That City of safety gave him confidence where his enemies were concerned. They were against him. God was for Him. Enough said!
In verse 12 the true character of these boastful, loud and proud persecuters is uncovered. I LOVE what is uncovered about them. David writes: "They surrounded me like bees; they were extinguished as a fire of thorns."
Oh how our enemies love to buzz about and threaten and at times sting. But their stinging will bring about their own demize - just like a wasp who will die after he attacks with his pointy and penetrating rear end. In the grand scheme of things and on the eternal spectrum of existance our enemies are nothing more than noisy bees and the Exterminator will surely cut them off at just the proper moment.
Oh how our enemies love to blaze and threaten us with all consuming fire. But their flames are like a fire of thorns. They will burn and rage for a moment. Honestly, they will flourish furiously for a short while. However, a fire of thorns is the type of fire that shoots up quickly and loudly and frighteningly for a moment and then suddenly vanishes because it doesn't have the goods to keep going. Thorny fires fail. So do all of the threats that rise up against the people of God.
Your enemies may "push violently". They may "surround like bees." They may rise up as "a fire of thorns." But the good and lovingkind God is our help. He is for us. He will cut them off.
And what is our response to so great a Redeemer? Once again the response is praise! "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation." Henry writes: "If God be our strength, if He works all our works in us, then He must have all the praise and glory from us."
Beloved, do you recognize the conquering arm of the Captain of the cavalry? He rides FOR you and you are saved from that which surrounds you. He is our strength. On this Lord's Day and on every day may we praise Him as our song!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Here in Psalm 118 David is continuing his themes of love for God, praise to God, and thanksgiving for His marvelous mercies. In verses 1-4 he is celebrating the greatness of God's goodness and the eternality of God's lovingkindness. Not only is he celebrating but he is spurring others to join him in the celebration. "Come on Israel, house of Aaron and all of you who fear the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting."
David understands God's goodness and lovingkindness first-hand. His entire life is an Ebenezer of those things. In his distress he called out to God and the Lord answered him and set him in a large place (vs 5). David had a need and God more than met that need. He did much more than David was able to even ask or imagine. He "set him in a large place." David had drunk deeply of difficulty and each chalice of suffering caused him to taste and savor more and more of the goodness of God. What difficulties are you having to swallow this day? Are you crying out to the good and everlastingly lovingkind God as David did? In His way and in His time He will answer you and set you in a large place. Trust Him and thank Him.
Trust Him and thank Him because as your good and lovingkind God He has promised that He is for you. Do you hear that? GOD IS FOR YOU oh suffering saint!! All hell may be against you. All of fallen man may rail at you. All of the redeemed yet still sinful saints may hurl insults at you. It matters not because GOD IS FOR YOU!
"The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" What precious words. What a grand promise. God is on my side. And as Paul has proclaimed:
Beloved, let us not fear for "perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn 4:18) and God has loved us perfectly!! Those who hate us are not greater than Him who loves us.
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? ... But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:31-37)
Rest in Him. Rest in His goodness and lovingkindness. Rest in the refuge of His goodness and mercy. They shall surely follow you all the days of your life (Ps 23:6). With David may we recognize that "it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes."
May He help us to give thanks for His marvelously divine character which is "for us". And may we rest in Him who alone is our safety our surety and our song!
Friday, April 2, 2010
27 words. 3 sentences. Here is the shortest chapter in all of the Bible - but in its brevity it packs a punch.
Here the nations are called to praise the LORD. All the nations and all the people are exhorted to render to the LORD for all His benefits - ALL! The duty of praise is all-encompasing and all-involving. It is a universal and un-predjudicial duty and at some point every knee WILL bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Rom 14:11, Ph 2:10).
As David so often does, the command to praise is given and the reason for praise is explained. All the nations and all the peoples are to praise the Lord BECAUSE "His lovingkindness is great towards us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting."
We worship because of who He is and because of what He does. We worship because He is worthy. We worship as a grand reaction to His glorious actions. Our God is a God of great lovingkindness and of eternal truth. Are those things in and of themselves not enough to move us to "praise the LORD?!"
Old Pastor Henry writes: "The unsearchable riches of gospel-grace [are expressed in verse 2] and are to be the matter of our praise. In the gospel those celebrated attributes of God, His mercy and His truth, shine most brightly in themselves and most comfortably on us. God's mercy is the fountain of all our comforts and His truth the foundation of all our hopes, and therefore we must praise the Lord."
David begins this succint Psalm with "Praise the LORD!" He gives us the reason - "for His lovingkindness is great towards us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting." He ends right where he began - "Praise the LORD!"
God's great lovingkindness and eternal truth are a never failing spring that should fill our hearts to overflowing praise. Are you a recipient of that lavish love? Are you a testimony of that tried truth? Then "praise the LORD" with me!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
David has given us many reasons WHY our Lord is to be loved. In cliff note version He is to be loved for His hearing ear and for His saving hand. David has also given us a good picture of HOW our Lord is to be loved - through prayer and praise. The two groups truly wed well. If God is listening we should be speaking. If God is saving we should be thanking Him. The natural reactions to a hearing ear and a saving hand are a praying tongue and a thankful heart!
It seems that verses 16-19 are a further portrait of what our rendering response to God's gracious goodness looks like.
Before I dig in to that please keep in mind just who David is. This is the king, the warrior, the musician - the man!! He has many amazing titles and many awesome roles. However, what role does David glory in the most? Psalm 116 gives us a glimpse.
"O LORD, surely I am thy servant."
David was a king over Israel but his greatest calling was that of a servant to the most high God!! We see the sons of Korah express this same idea of glorious servanthood in Psalm 84 when they write: "For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (vs 10).
Friends, do you delight in being a servant of the Lord? Is that the title you hold most dear? Is being in His service the role you are most grateful for? Would you rather be His bond-slave than your own master?
During those times a person became a servant in one of two ways. He was born a servant - "I am Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaid." Or he was made a servant through the act of redemption from another master - "I am Thy servant, Thou hast loosed my bonds."
I couldn't help but be struck with just how beautifully that mirrors our own salvation.
First we have a picture of the covenant. Here is one born into the service of the King. How I pray that the words of David "I am Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaid" will be the words of my children. That they will never know a day when the Lord Jesus Christ was not their master. Yes, that they will recognize their sin and their need for a Savior - but that it will be through covenantal conviction and not from wicked wandering.
Second we have a picture of the ingrafting grace that comes from the mercies of a seeking, searching and saving God. Christ came to set captives free. He came to seek and save that which was lost. He came to loose our bonds of sin and bind us to the freeing grace of righteousness. Matthew Henry alludes to the fact that the very bonds that Christ has loosed shall bind us all the closer to Him. He who has set us free is precious and we want to be in His courts and in His service.
Oh how good it is to be His servant. Do you know that goodness? Do you know the delight of covenant mercy? Do you know the freedom of gospel grace? Are you His?
If you are then verses 17-19 just make sense!! As His grateful servant there is a desire to praise and glorify and magnify His name - and not just by ourselves but with the other servants who have been set free.
"To Thee I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the LORD. I shall pay my vows to the LORD, oh may it be in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!"
What are you doing this Lord's Day when the other servants gather to render praise and prayer to the great Rescuer? This Sunday is a testimony to the resurrecting power which has loosed your bonds. Do you love Him for all that He has done? Gather together corporately with the King's other servants to lift up the cup of salvation and to call upon His name.
I'll be there. Hope you will too.