A Soul Only a Father Could Love

Perhaps it is a cultural value, this need we have to impress others. It starts at home, the desire to make our parents proud, as if we have to prove our worthiness to justify their admittance of us into their family. We may have siblings, and we fight to prove we’re cool enough and fun enough to join in playtime games.

We learn to make friends by showing off our skills, or toys, or unique personality traits, and we never really grow out of it. We enter school, and we’re tested and graded on our intellect and learning abilities to determine if we’re worth graduating and sending out into “the real world.”

We start dating, and we struggle between the balance of “be yourself” and “be someone worthy of his love,” believing the two could perhaps be the same if we’re seen in the right light. We get jobs, and we work hard to prove ourselves worthy of the tasks entrusted to us, worthy of raises and promotions and hard-earned retirement parties.

At some point our lives end, and–I haven’t experienced this first-person–I imagine we leave this earth wanting to know we’ve made a difference in someone’s life, that our time on earth wasn’t wasted, that our life’s work was worth the time we were given to live it. We hope and pray we’re found worthy enough to advance into an afterlife of bright lights and joy and comfort.

And all along, we spend our whole lives overcompensating for the one truth we’re not willing to admit–we’re not worthy. We’ve never been worthy.

We are ugly, sinful people. If you cracked each of us open, you’d find layers of disgusting filth and grime in our souls. You’d find lying souls and cheating souls and adulterous, murdering, idolizing, thieving souls. You’d find souls who shamelessly covet and crave the most dangerous and harmful elements of this world. You’d find souls only a Father could love.

We do not deserve blessings and peace and admiration for our accomplishments. We don’t deserve to be included in a family or circle of friends. We simply are not worthy to take accolades from anyone, because anything useful or worthwhile we have to offer is a gift from God to bless others and be used for his glory, neither of which we care much about when we’re focused on using them for our own glory and for others to bless us.

But–

There is hope. When God looks at me, he doesn’t see me for the lying idolator I am. He sees Jesus. He sees me as worthy of an eternal relationship with him, not because of any inherent worth, but because of Jesus’ worth. Because when I said, “Okay, God, I believe you. You are the only God, and you saved me through your son’s sacrifice,” I took on the righteousness of Jesus. At that moment, the dirty, old soul inside me was changed into a clean, new soul reflecting the love of Christ. The habits of the dirty, old soul remain, and will continue to linger until my dying breath on earth, but the soul is all-new.

And now we return the favor. We extend to others the same courtesy God extended to us when we were at our very ugliest. We love others, we show grace to others, we make amends for others. Not because others are worthy of our love, but because we aren’t worthy of God’s love. We love others as an offering back to God, an appreciation of his grace.

It is only when we surrender our need to be found inherently worthy that we can “lead a life worthy of [our] calling, for [we] have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1). And this call, of course, is to love.

What are some areas in which you constantly struggle to be found worthy? 

about this thing we call spiritual warfare

Let’s talk about it.
I had no clue what it was until one of my friends mentioned spiritual warfare on our trip to China a year and a half ago. I was raised in churches and exposed to lots of different opinions and traditions about God and Satan and angels and demons, but I thought that was all out there and this is all down here and in the back of my mind, I have to confess I thought, “He’s totally over-spiritualizing things.” And now, after having been under siege in just about every way imaginable, I’m beginning to realize it’s nearly impossible to over-spiritualize anything.

I deal with repeated attacks as simple as mentioned in the previous post, when I full well allow Satan to lie to me as I give him an ear to listen. But it goes beyond that. Things like being attacked through my dreams, dreams that go further than “bad dreams” or “restless sleep,” although even in that I think there’s something to be said of attacks when we’re weak and vulnerable, when doing so can impact our focus on Christ and our effectiveness in working for the kingdom. Things like being physically pinned to my bed, unable to move until praying for Christ’s rebuke of whatever was attacking me, or feeling an overwhelming uneasiness while praying for someone so tightly held in bondage by the devil she hasn’t spoken in three years. Things like, while praying on location for a group of people I have a huge burden for, hearing an audible explosion while seeing nothing, feeling an intense heaviness, my Bible falling out of my hands, the praise music suddenly turning to static, and the Holy Spirit speaking to me very clearly and very loudly the words, “Go. Now.” Things like right before I see amazing movements of God, being attacked by friends, being hurt by family, being overcome by physical pain or sickness, or even on some occasions and more frequently as of late, all three.

I could say more, but I know even now some people will read this and think it’s all in my head, it’s just normal aspects of life, I’m over-spiritualizing everything. But the thing is, scripture would disagree.

I’ve had the amazing experience in the past year and a half of working for our church and seeing God move in ways I never thought he could. I have heard testimony after testimony of how God has radically impacted people’s lives, and it’s an incredible honor I love being part of. On the other side of that, I have also seen Satan try radical ways of keeping people from God. I’ve seen the way specifically he’s attacked our pastors and their families, especially right before big weekends where many people were able to meet Christ for the first time. It’s almost predictable at times. I say that but I don’t mean that we welcome it or look forward to any spiritual attacks or persecution. I say that we expect it because scripture tells us it’s going to happen and we need to be prepared. You don’t just run into the middle of a war without being prepared. You put on your armor; you stay alert; you stay persistent. The Bible tells us the same thing. Ephesians 6 tells us to “put on the full armor of God,” because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 2 Corinthians 10 tells us that “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” We know what we’re fighting against, and we know how to fight it. The Bible makes it very clear.

So we recognize it for what it is, and indeed if we pray for the wisdom to see it, God will grant us that wisdom. But, like I said, we don’t desire persecution. We definitely don’t taunt the devil. Jude tells us that not even Michael mocked the devil but instead allowed Christ to rebuke him.

We can, however, be encouraged by persecution and spiritual attacks. We’ve noticed that the times Satan works the hardest to push and pull people away from God is either right before they make commitments to Christ or as they’re being effective for him. So now, having experienced more attacks as I draw closer to Christ and more attacks as I’m able to serve others around me, I begin to find encouragement by these experiences. In fact, Christ told us in Matthew to be happy about it because “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. […] For a great reward awaits you in heaven.”

And not only do I know that these things suggest I’m doing something right for the kingdom, I also continue to find encouragement in Joseph, knowing that what Satan intends for evil against me, God intends for good. God isn’t surprised by Satan’s attacks. God knows how to protect his people and he knows how to use any evil to work out for good. Christ already won the victory, and he’s coming back to defeat Satan once and for all. I praise God that I’m able to assist in working out a continuous victory for God.

Do I like all these things going on around me? No, in fact, I do not, and I’d prefer if life was a cakewalk for here on out. But even Christ, before the crucifixion prayed that, if it be possible, his cup of suffering to be taken away from him, yet not his will, but God’s be done. And still, knowing what he was in for, he allowed himself to be tortured and murdered for my sins. The least that I can do is stand by him while I have this life and celebrate with him in the next.

I could probably talk for hours about these things, but I’ll leave it to Paul, who said it best in Acts 20: “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

about blessings and curses

Paul, in Ephesians, talks about not giving the devil a foothold by going to bed angry. True, of course, but the idea of a foothold goes beyond that. I’ve noticed in recent months how easy it is for negativity to snowball in my mind or heart when I give the devil a foothold, so to speak.

Anytime I take my focus off of Christ and put it on myself, the world, or others, I start to slip like Peter in the ocean. Each sin not only injures my relationship with God at that moment, but also manages to give Satan a foothold with regards to the time after the sin. The devil uses it to tell me that if I sinned once in a certain area, I’m bound to do it again. I might as well just face it and give in, acknowledge my sin and give up. He uses it to cause guilt and condemnation and shame, none of which are in any way godly. I beat myself up over things for days, weeks, even years knowing how my disobedience to God has hurt him, unable in my human mind to forget the sins Christ has already forgotten and Satan has just begun to use against me.

My biggest struggle is anxiety. I once heard a powerful sermon that anxiety and fear are doubt in God that he’s capable of working things out. Henry Blackaby would say that my anxiety says more about my faith in God than about myself. If I was to be completely honest, I’d say it’s a pride issue. It’s faith in my own ability to get things done or work things out. God routinely checks me on this, and I’m thankful for the humility but only after I’m through the lesson. In fact, this is not at all my point in this post, but he’s used sickness and other unforeseen circumstances to show me again and again that our church is God’s church and not Rebecca’s church; our small group is God’s small group and not Rebecca’s small group; my life is now the life of someone with Christ living inside her, not Rebecca’s life. The church still functions even when I’m not around, the small group still functions when I’m not around, and as for my own life? It’s so much better when I focus a lot less on myself and a lot more on Christ.

But I digress.
Example time. Last week, I hadn’t done my quiet time first thing in the morning like I usually do because I had so many other things that I “needed” to get done first. Focus on the I. I realized it was just over a month until our wedding, and instead of being excited, I was overwhelmed. Like I mentioned in the previous post, I flat-out hate this mono crap because I spend a lot of time lying down, thinking about everything that needs to be done. So getting stuff done for the wedding, getting stuff moved in and settled and cleaned in our new house, and getting stuff done for work were all these foreboding clouds of doom I couldn’t get out from under. And it was the foothold issue again. As soon as I let anxiety about one very small thing–in this case trying to afford groceries for both the house I live in and the house I will live in next month–sneak into my mind, the devil shoved his foot in there, pried open the door of my mind, and took off running into my head. I ran one more errand and drove home, already in tears and only half-praying because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

I sat down, pulled out my Bible and journal, and said, “Okay, God, let’s start this over. I can’t do all this.” And, without missing a beat, the Holy Spirit instantly brought to mind one of my recent memory verses, John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Eek.
All of these things–wedding/marriage, house, work–are things God has given to me as gifts, as blessings. But when I took him out of the picture, or at least let him blur into the background, they were quickly becoming curses.

I often thank God repeatedly for my fiancé, knowing that (next to that whole free gift of salvation thing) he’s the greatest gift God has ever entrusted me with. We have kept God a prime focus since before the start of our relationship, both individually and as a couple, and his blessing is all over our relationship and our upcoming marriage. Same thing for our house. God blessed us with a house that is perfect for us, a house we love, and a house that worked out so flawlessly for us from the beginning that it could only be a supernatural gift. My job has always been, since Day One, God’s very specific plan for me at the moment, to both use me and grow me, to minister to me and through me. Each of these things, these huge blessings in my life, are all intended to glorify God AND to work together for MY good.

And of course I can’t do everything or anything to make these things thrive, to make weddings and houses and churches run successfully. Of course I can’t be effective for them, not apart from him.

I’d like to say that the past two weeks since the nice Holy Spirit wake-up call have been smooth, anxiety-free sailing. They haven’t, of course, but there’s always improvement. Gradual, baby steps, but improvement all the same. And when I do screw up, and I do allow the devil that foothold into my thoughts, I at least have ammo to respond to the lies he tells me and the lies I tell myself. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing. And to be honest, after knowing Christ the way I do, I don’t want to do anything apart from him.