Sunday, September 23, 2012

Help in our Weakness (soap journal #5)


S) Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin. So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. (Heb. 4:15-16)
O) I will believe that Jesus understands what I'm going through, even though he came to earth as a male. He has compassion, and he will help me.
A) I'm going to really try to start memorizing scripture--starting here. I need to fight my thoughts--they are like poison! God has given me hope through His word.
P) I know you will help me--thank you for your promises. You are my salvation, and I put all my trust in you.

When I wrote this, I was really struggling with depression, as I so often did back then. It's hard even now, when I get stuck in that dark cloud, to fight the thoughts about what a failure I am. But something that has changed is how much God has convinced me that He is on my side. I don't feel the shame I used to for struggling with depression, and I am much quicker to "come bravely" to God seeking help. And even when I don't find help...or at least I'm not understanding how to be helped...I do find comfort.

I find it interesting that the above translation says we will find "undeserved kindness".  Isn't it awful to think of ourselves as not even deserving to be treated kindly? It sure is hard to come boldly to God when we think He can just barely stand our disgusting presence. But in the Young's literal translation it simply says, "we may come near, then, with freedom, to the throne of the grace, that we may receive kindness, and find grace -- for seasonable help." 

So many Christians I know have very, very little patience for other people's weaknesses--and they are not ashamed to convey how disgusted they are at people's behavior. This whole passage about Jesus being a high priest on our behalf is pretty tough to wrap the brain around--especially because most people (including myself) do not understand Jewish customs of sacrifice. But look how beautiful the following verses are when Paul is describing what a priest is: (I'm using "The Message", only because the Young's Literal is quite cumbersome at times--especially in this passage)

Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it’s like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the peoples’.
No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!”(Heb 5:1-6)

Jesus--the high priest, as well as the sacrifice. And God, instead of being so angry at people because they are such sinners, chooses only those who can deal gently with their failings--and says they are honored to do so! Such compassion and grace! No wonder we can come with boldness, and have assurance that God is for us no matter what kind of failings we have. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Boasting (soap journal #4)


S) The scriptures say, "if you want to brag, then brag about the Lord." You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord's approval. (2 Corn. 10: 17-18)
O) Everything about this world urges us to make a name for ourselves. We feel less than nothing if we cannot point to something and boast "this is what I do". I know I long for people's approval in everything I do. I do not need to be a slave to that!
A) I may not always know what God wants me to do--but I have God's approval. And it has nothing to do with what I accomplish...but what He has accomplished. That's all that matters--and I can brag! Brag about how good my God is. He deserves all glory and praise, not me.
P) I get depressed because I'm so focused on myself. I am sick to death of thinking about what a failure I me stop! I will look to you and find contentment. You are all I need--help me live it!

Looking at this now, I want to only point out one thing. I wrote that "the world" urges us to make a name for ourselves, and I still think that is true. But when I looked up this scripture in it's context, Paul is once again at war with religion. All this boasting he's warning of has to do with religious superiority.

I still fight with depression about feeling bad about myself, but not nearly as much as I did when I was a fundamentalist. It seems back then it was a sin to ever feel good about anything. The security I find in God's love for me--this is still what wins that battle in my mind. But I no longer have to worry about feeling guilty over feeling good about accomplishing things (or guilty about not accomplishing things...sheesh, talk about a no win situation)'s more of a freedom knowing that is not where my value lies.

Where does my value lie? "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."(Col. 3:3) My life hidden in true self, not yet revealed or known. What a beautiful mystery. 

I'll end with a quote a found on a website I really enjoy:

Instead of striving for significance in titles, honors, and success, as if those might gain us favor with God or man, we enjoy the knowledge that we are simply human beings loved by God. To live as a child is to live free of the self-justifications that adults use to prove their worth, and the heavy burden of self-consciousness about our status. To live like a child, says Jesus, is the only way to enter his kingdom.