Sunday, January 17, 2016

Your Life - God's Masterpiece

Photo by Scott Boomer

Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.

Your Life-God’s Masterpiece

Isaiah 54:11
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
Afflicted. Do you ever feel like that word describes you? I sure did. Sexually abused as early as age three, and on up till age 12. Then years of depression, social awkwardness, poverty, self-harm, isolation, abusive boyfriends, teen pregnancy, and a lonely marriage that ended in divorce. Somewhere in there I had become a Christian, but my life didn’t change very much. Then I came across this scripture and in that moment I felt that God really knew what my life had been like. Before that, I thought of God as distant and unavailable. His strong arms crossed with a stern look on His face, waiting for me to figure it out and finally get it right. He could help me but He wasn’t willing. And I wasn’t able to help myself. I would cry out and beg for His help, telling Him I loved Him. My intellectual theology was correct. Consciously, I knew the Bible says He loves us unconditionally, but below the surface, my emotional image of God was a combination of a self-serving user and an absent abandoner. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I believed my desperate pleas fell on deaf ears.

Please realize that if anyone had asked me, I would never have said these things about my Lord and Savior. I read my bible faithfully and believed in my intellect that God was good, kind, caring, merciful, and loving.  I am sure that in my spirit I also knew this to be true. But where I lived day to day, the way I interacted with the world around me, was based on a foundational belief hiding far below the surface, that I was completely on my own to deal with my struggles, my needs, my desires, my hopes, and my fears.

After I discovered this verse, my attitude slowly began to change. I started to look for God to show up in real ways in my life, and He did. Sadly, I was still too immature to really apply this in very meaningful ways. Once again I sought comfort in a marriage that was doomed from the start. It took me ten years to finally escape and another two years to finally nail the whole thing to the cross and let it go.

Now, my foundation is laid bare and He can actually do what needs to be done. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Because of my faulty foundation, my house was not built upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, but on my own fears and doubts stemming from the belief that I was alone and unloved. It was not enough to read the scripture, underline the scripture, memorize the scripture, and post the scripture on the wall. I had to stop acting like an orphan, sneaking under the table in hopes of catching a few crumbs. It was time to walk in and take my seat next to Jesus at my Father’s table.

I no longer look for my worth and value in what I own, in where I work, in who likes me or loves me, in marriages or relationships, or in any other earthly thing. I have worth and value because He says so. Jesus suffered and died so He could have fellowship with me. No longer frantically searching, I rest in that.

Before this revelation, because of my history of poverty, I was always looking for a higher paying job. When I got a higher paying job, I wasn’t happy, so I went back to school. Then, I had to start over in a new career and I had a lower paying job again. Now, I am in the job that God gave me. It is not perfect, and it doesn’t pay that much, but it's not my end all. Jesus is. I’ll stay until He tells me otherwise because I have learned to be content knowing He is the One taking care of me.

I used to comfort myself about all my perceived flaws and imperfections by criticizing and judging others. We can always find someone who is worse than we are in each area we feel insecure about. There is always someone with worse kids, worse hair, a worse car, a worse addiction, a worse potty mouth, a smaller house, more weeds, a fatter stomach or a bigger nose, and on and on. When we start with the foundation that God loves us and really believe it, we can accept ourselves and love others. When we feel safe and accepted, we are able to admit our faults and ask for help to overcome them. When I was hiding my insecurities behind a wall of judgment, I couldn’t confess or repent. I was too busy hiding and criticizing. Now that I am free from that, I not only can be free from besetting sins, I can help others get free too.

We have to let God touch us deeply if we really want to be free. We have to give Him access to our foundation. We cannot just modify our outward behavior and call it good. We can read our Bibles for an hour every day, pray for an hour every day, go to church every time the doors are open, follow all the rules, don't drink, cuss, smoke, or chew, or go around with those that do, and say we are doing fine, better than most. But I have seen people carry on this way, using it as a wall to keep God at arm’s length. “I’m fine, see? I’m good. I don’t need God to go poking around my foundation.”

Of course, they don’t actually say this out loud. But when it’s time for group discussion and prayer, someone in the group inevitably applies the personal growth topics to someone else, to public schools, the government, homeless people, Hollywood, public figures, politics, or the man in the moon. Anything to avoid being transparent and vulnerable. Once that first person pipes up with an off the topic topic, everyone else in the group heaves a collective sigh of relief and joins the bandwagon, off the hook once again. If we want to grow in love and grace, we have to move past the superficial. We have to take risks.

Our old, faulty beliefs were born out of a need to protect us from something, whether real or perceived. Now that we are God’s children, we have Him to protect us, so we can let go of the old and embrace the new. But it is scary, so lots of people just muddle through their Christian life without victory because the first step feels like it is off the edge of a cliff and we don’t know if God will really catch us. This is the threshold to the victorious, abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10)

It truly is time to allow God to rebuild that old foundation (Isaiah 58:12). What is your foundation made of? Anger? Unbelief? Insecurity? Doubt? Self-confidence? Self-righteousness? Woundedness? Fear? Self-importance?

Are you ready to allow God to dismantle the old foundation and replace those old stones with precious gems?

“Oh, afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.”

Sapphires, or lapis lazuli, are a reference to the heavens, as well as strength. In the Middle East, the use of turquoise in buildings is significant. It was used to signify Heaven, and was a symbol for victory. Turquoise was only used for important buildings.  I had to learn to accept that I was important to God.  Now, I am writing this book so that you too can know you are important to God. He said He will personally take on the responsibility to rebuild you and me.  He will not leave the job to an apprentice or even a journeyman carpenter. No. The General Contractor will show up in person to see that this job is done right.  So, what is our part? We must show up daily to allow our Heavenly Father to dote over us.  Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

If we want to replace those old bricks, we have to choose to meditate on those scriptures that will counteract the beliefs that keep us stuck.  I am a huge fan of reading the Bible from cover to cover in order to stay balanced.  A one-year Bible can make it easy to do that, or you can use a two-year or three-year plan. But in order to counteract those deeply held foundational beliefs that are tripping up our lives, we need to study, meditate, memorize, and confess specific scriptures that tell us the truth about who God is and who we are to Him.  Those scriptures will jump out at you during your daily reading. Underline them, write them down, and memorize them.  As you uncover those faulty beliefs, the Holy Spirit will lead you to the right scriptures for you. It will also help if you personalize them.

For example, if you feel alone and rejected, abandoned and forgotten, personalize this scripture:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.

You might say it something like this:

No matter who else ignores me or forgets about me, the Most High God, Maker of the Universe, is thinking about me all the time, non-stop; He is so in love with me that He has put my name on the palm of his hand. Like a soldier on the wall he is standing guard over me day and night. I must be pretty special and mighty important to Him!

Or this:

No matter who else ignores or forgets about ___(Your Name Here)__, the Most High God, Maker of the Universe, is thinking about  ___(Your Name Here)___ all the time, non-stop; and is so in love with ___(Your Name Here)___ that He has put his/her name on the palm of His hand. Like a soldier on the wall He is standing guard over ___(Your Name Here)___ day and night. ___(Your Name Here)___ must be pretty special and mighty important to Him!

Or this:

___(Your Name Here)__,This is the Most High God, Maker of the Universe. I am here to tell you that no matter who else ignores you or forgets about you, I am thinking about you all the time, non-stop; and I am so in love with you that I have put your name on the palm of My hand. Like a soldier on a wall I am standing guard over you day and night. You are that special and that important to Me!

Or this:

Lord, You are the Most High God, Maker of the Universe. No matter who else ignores me or forgets about me, You are telling me that You are thinking about me all the time, non-stop; that you are so in love with me that you have put my name on the palm of Your hand. Like a soldier on a wall you are standing guard over me day and night. I must be pretty special to you and mighty important to you!

Our God is a personal God, and if we want His word to change our lives, we have to apply it in personal ways. How might your life be different if you are constantly aware that God is bending over you, noticing you, paying close attention to you, protecting you, and looking for ways to bless you?

Yes, we do experience trouble in this life, heartbreaking trouble at times. As long as the world exists in its present form we will have painful trials. But what will you believe about this? What will your foundation be? Will you believe that you are alone, abandoned by God, smitten and afflicted by God? Or will you allow the Cross of Christ to be your foundation, remembering that He was bruised for our iniquities, that 100% of our punishment for sins was placed upon Him, so that he purchased for us eternal peace and total healing? (Isaiah 53:4-5, NIV)

Believing in His tender care gives us the courage to let go of old habits and self-protective mechanisms such as criticism, defensiveness, avoidance, pretending, distrust, hiding our true selves, showing off, putting ourselves down, putting others down, using and abusing others, and allowing others to use and abuse us. Even when painful trials come our way, we have an all-powerful God who is willing and able to comfort, heal, and restore us.

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
What are some deeply held beliefs that have governed your life and decisions that are not in agreement with God’s word? (Examples: I’m alone. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve it. If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. God won’t help me because I’ve made too many mistakes or done too many wrong things. Other people owe me. I’m nothing without a spouse or children. I’m nothing without a job, money, house, car, possessions, etc. I’m destined to be poor, alone, sick, depressed, anxious, in trouble, homeless, etc. Or perhaps you have believed that you are self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-important.)

How have these beliefs influenced your life, health, relationships, finances, emotions, thoughts, and decisions? (Examples: Avoiding relationships with healthy, successful people and instead choosing people who will abuse and take advantage of you or spend your time criticizing and gossiping about others, buying things on credit to make yourself feel better, staying up all night and sleeping all day, watching junk TV and eating junk foods, thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your situation, and your future. Or you might be arrogant, abusive, and selfish in your thoughts, finances, and relationships.)

What unhealthy or unhelpful decisions have you made as a result of these beliefs?

Are your willing to let God replace these crumbling foundational belief systems with Lapis Lazuli, the truth of His word?

Dear Lord,
I ask that you will fill me with the knowledge of Your will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way, growing in knowledge and strengthened in Your power, firmly established in the foundational truth of Your word and the redemption of Christ which has purchased for me a secure place in your eternal family. Help me to fully rely on these foundational truths with complete confidence so that I can move forward in the victorious life You have designed specifically for me.

Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.

Imagine you are inside a house, facing a door that leads to the basement. Your Friend, your Redeemer invites you to open the door and walk with Him down the stairs into the basement. Notice whether He is in front of you or behind you as you go down the stairs together. At the bottom of the stairs, look around. This is your foundation. What do you see? What is your foundation made of? You might see some bricks or stones that represent things like Truth, Stability, Redemption, and Peace. You might also see some weak stones or bricks, or crumbling cement, representing Fear, Doubt, Regret, Inferiority, Guilt, or Shame. Notice that piled in the center of the room are some beautiful blue stones, flawless in strength, beauty, color, and shape. They represent the absolute Purity of God’s love for you and Jesus’ Righteousness imputed to you. Watch as your Redeemer begins to replace sections of the walls and floor of this room, your foundation, with the perfect blue stones. Some of those old stones may be difficult to remove. Will you trust Jesus to replace every one eventually? You might need to come back to this many times as Jesus rebuilds your life foundation and restructures your deeply held beliefs.

And now, take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.

Action Steps
As you go about your day, try to be aware of what you are thinking about yourself, about your situation, about God, and about the future. Ask yourself if your thoughts are in line with biblical truth.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:11 NIV)

Start a journal of promises. Every time you come across a promise from God in scripture or while listening to a sermon or even in a song, write it in your journal. Ask God to show you how this promise applies to your life.

When you notice a faulty belief system, take time to explore where that belief came from and compare it to what God’s word says. Picture Jesus replacing that wrong belief with sapphires from His word.

If you believe you are inferior or less valuable, it will lead to jealousy, competitiveness, and contempt for others. Meditate on scriptures that remind you of God’s love for you, how He cares for you, and how much He values you. (Matthew 10:29-31; Isaiah 49:15-16; Matthew 12:11-12; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 Peter 5:7)

If you find yourself expecting the worst all the time, meditate on scriptures that remind you of how God delights to do you good. (Psalm 35:27; Matthew 6:25-32; Luke 11:9-13)

If you feel alone, think of all the scriptures in which God promises to never leave you. (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20)

Allow the steadfast love of God in Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for you, His provision for you, His devotion to you, to become the foundational belief from which all your life’s decisions are made, whether big or small.

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