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May 7, 2007

My Benefit Package

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

A couple of weeks ago, Jayme and I purchased an extended warranty for her car from the dealer. We compared the estimated cost of taking the car to the mechanic to have it checked out against the cost of the warranty and felt the warranty was the better deal. Under this warranty, if anything goes wrong we just take it to the dealer and it gets taken care of. We don't even have to think about it. This passage is like reading the "God warranty" on my life. David is telling us, and himself, don't forget the great benefit of being God's child. This coverage is bumper to bumper, from the powertrain to the electrical systems, inside and out. Look at this list.

"(W)ho forgives all your sins..." David wrote these words when there was only the hope of the Messiah. Yet, this was the first benefit listed. He knew that somehow God, because of His love for mankind, would make a way for for our sin to be dealt with. It's important for someone like me who has followed Jesus for most of my life to remember that this is the most important benefit of my relationship with Him. "...and heals all your diseases..." This is both a spiritual and physical benefit. The dis-ease caused by sin is dealt with. And the promise of physical wholeness is a reality as well. I remember these benefits each time I receive communion.

"(W)ho redeems your life from the pit..."
I like to think of this as being free from the hole I would have dug for myself. God has pulled me out of that hole and has even used that experience to re-shape my life. "...and crowns you with love and compassion..." Instead of being marked by shame and rejection, I have been accepted and have become the beneficiary of God's love. It has given my life a sense of dignity, and has charged me with the responsibility to live my life characterized by treating others with the same compassion.

"(W)ho satisfies your desires with good things..." In another place in scripture it says that he gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). There's nothing I want or need that won't be supplied. Even better, I'll experience life satisfaction - not bound by the cravings of lust and covetousness. Like a cool glass of water when I'm thirsty, so will I be satisfied with what I give my life to.

It good to reflect on my benefits package. Lord, I praise you today and bless Your holy name.

June 13, 2007

Humility or Humiliation

2 Chronicles 12:5-8 (NIV)
5 Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, "This is what the LORD says, 'You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.' "
6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is just."
7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands."

Early on in the era of the divided kingdom (Judah separating from the rest of Israel), both sides fall into a religion of self reliance. Jeroboam, in the northern kingdom (Israel), initiated idol worship motivated because of his fear of losing his power. Rehoboam, Solomon's son, allowed it in the south (Judah) because of his relative success; cites in the region became fortified, people moving south because of Jeroboam's religious "adultery," and out of loyalty to the house of David. . Despite Rehoboam's heavy hand, the region prospered. It seemed to validate his authoritarian rule. But like any man who refuses Godly council and chooses instead to secure his own position, any future success is dependent upon one's own skill and wisdom and not on the favor of God. There is a measure of success that can be self-created, but sustaining it where the problems begin. When success is self-created, spiritual complacency sets in. (g)ods of our own choosing, and eventually our own creation, replace our dependence upon the one true God. That's why the phrase "and they did what was right in thier own eyes" defines the Divided Kingdom era.

Early on, the people were still sensitive enough to know when they had violated God's relational principles (usually when they're facing some kind of hardship or attack). In this case, Egypt and invaded and had taken control of Jerusalem. At least Judah knew what they needed to do - they humbled themselves before the Lord. The Lord acknowledged their humility, but allowed them to experience the consequences of their unfaithfulness. This seems to be the pattern. Pride (self-reliance and self-sufficiency) is always followed by either humility or humiliation. Humility is realizing that you're way in over your head and you can't get yourself out. You repent, and God responds on your behalf. He still allows you to experience the consequences of your choices, without bearing the full weight of them. This experience serves as a discipline. Humiliation is what happens when you bear the full consequence of your self-dependence. This punishment is self-inflicted.

I need to be reminded of the difference between serving God and serving the other things that want to rule my life. I can choose humility or experience humiliation.


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