“Remember Your Why”

img_0986I was watching a movie recently – I think it was on the “UP” channel (Fios 738 in these parts) – in which a character repeated several times, “Remember your why.” (Unfortunately, a google did not reveal the movie title.) But it’s a message that finally got through to me this morning.

Remember those days in the past [or early days of your faith]
when you first learned the truth [were enlightened]. You remained strong [endured; persevered] through a hard struggle with many sufferings.
Hebrews 10:32 EXB

I’ve written previously about how the end of the year holidays had disrupted my routine and knocked me out of a productive cycle. Last month (January) I felt like I was slogging through, unclear about what I had set out to do. (Or I should say, what I had been set to doing by my Lord and Savior.) Today I’m feeling rejuvenated about Sharing God’s Story in my one, little life.

When I kept things to myself [silent],
I felt weak deep inside me [my bones wasted away].
I moaned all day long.
Psalm 32:3 EXB

Here it is: I sinned in the past, grievously. (Sin is sin; it is not relative.) I tried to hide it; to cover it up. This only left me miserable and crying out. My guilt and self-condemnation got so bad that I was driven to end my suffering. That was when Jesus himself intervened and literally took my place, saving me. He brought me to a week committed at the Highlands Ranch Behavioral Health Center, where I spent all my time marveling at the miracle I had been privileged to experience. Have you ever had that feeling where you have finally realized that something you thought unbelievable is instead totally true?

Then I confessed [made known; disclosed] my sins to you
and didn’t hide [cover up] my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my sins [transgressions] to the Lord,
and you forgave my guilt [the guilt of my sin].
:5 EXB

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
Happy are those who are pure in heart. Matthew 5:8
(Celebrate Recovery Principle 4)

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 (Twelve Steps, Step 5)

Here it is: the what that happened was not the miracle. A simple kitchen timer going off is a commonplace thing. It is the when that it happened – exactly at the only perfect moment in time – that is miraculous. I don’t believe in coincidences, because there is something very, very intentional about these events happening when they do. It is God’s timing that we witness, upon which we are instructed to wait.

Happy [blessed] is the person whose sins [transgressions] are forgiven, whose wrongs [sins] are pardoned [covered].
Happy [blessed] is the person whom the Lord does not consider guilty [imputes no guilt to].
Psalm 32: 1-2 EXB

Here it is: the evidence of my life since that day (and, in hindsight, many moments prior to that day), is proof of God’s blessing in my life, and his forgiveness. Many times my life should have been over and myself condemned, yet I remain alive, now with a salvation purpose. And I intend to see to it, staying in thankfulness to God all the while. Nothing else is as important as sharing this testimony with the people I love, and practicing the presence of God every day.

You are my hiding place
You protect me from my troubles [distress]
And fill [surround] me with songs [loud cries] of salvation [rescue; deliverance].

Yes, the Lord is my refuge – in plain sight – and He protects me from my troubles – with the peace and acceptance that faith brings. He fills me with song, which is why I will keep on (literally) singing His praises.

My name is Marshall. I  blog, give testimony, and play worship music in order to Share God’s Story.

Better Than Life

gift4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
1 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

God surprises.

That’s it; today’s message. Human imagination simply can not dream big enough to give a picture of what God can do, of how he will choose to provide.

My situation is case in point. What he has brought my life to be is so far beyond what I expected or even hoped for as to be Better Than Life, itself. And isn’t that more exciting?

My life could have turned out exactly as I wanted in many, many ways. But, instead, God has redirected my plans to be something far more interesting, even though at times it was far less enjoyable.

It’s like the difference between watching a movie which I’ve seen a hundred times before – to the point where I know all the lines – and seeing a well-made blockbuster for the very first time. And, really, I think living through that is far more fulfilling that having every plan fall perfectly into place.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grace-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?”
Romans 8:15 MSG

What might be surprising is that the entirety of my life has been like this; I just wasn’t always so accepting of it. Memory suggests that I have been making plans since I could first think out cause and effect, but, when they failed to come true, I fought back with anger and disappointment. This attitude didn’t change any facts, it just made me unhappy. I would then retreat into an imaginary reality, where I was in control. Of course, when I woke up, real life was waiting for me, and the cycle would repeat.

The when everything changed was only at my surrender of all my ideas, specifically with my confession of all my secrets. Not coincidentally, this was the point of my biggest fear. All my life up until that time I had been in dread of what would happen if I told all. Condemnation and extreme punishment surely would come, I reasoned.

But what happened was so far from that, I simply can’t explain it with words. I think that’s probably why worship songs are so important to me. Music can go beyond thoughts and convey feelings. And miraculous is a feeling.

Because your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify you.
Psalm 63:3

For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord
Proverbs 8:35

God surprises. And I have learned from experience to trust his ways. I believe he has what’s best for me planned – even though that will include my passing from this world. None of it is a bad thing. All of it requires a hard-learned trust.

Better Than Life
Hillsong Live

Better than the riches of this world
Better than the sound of my friend’s voices
Better than the biggest dreams of my heart
And that’s just the start

Better than getting what I say I need
Better than living the life that I want to
Better than the love anyone could give
Your love is

You hold me now in Your arms
And never let me go

You, oh Lord, make the sun shine
And the moon light in the night sky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You because

I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You

Better Than Life

Answer Me These Questions Three…

After the delay in purpose-progress during the recent holiday pause, I find myself in a period of repeating temptation to start the new year. How do I best deal with this?

To quickly summarize, temptations come in three types: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16). Jesus himself was tempted in these three ways in Matthew 4:1-11:

:3 …Tell these stones to become bread (flesh)
:6 …Throw yourself down… He will command his angels [to protect you] (life)
:9 …All the world, I will give you (eyes)

Jesus, being who he is, was able to (calmly?) respond with appropriate Scripture, because that’s just who he “is” Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.

Me? I tend to be more like a deer in the headlights, or the naughty Nazi guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark looking eagerly into a big, big meltdown. So while conjuring up verses is one effective way to counter enticements, I instead try to FLEE!

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality!
1 Corinthians 10:18 Flee from idolatry!
1 Timothy 6:11 Flee these things! (:10 Love of money is the root of many evils)
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth!

Psalm 143:9
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge!

Early in recovery, I implemented this strategy with some “Thou Shalt Not” commandments:

Don’t Touch!
Don’t Look!
Don’t Think!

But I found that I was still focusing on the temptations, because thinking about not thinking about something is essentially the same as thinking about it. I needed a different approach – something that was more a replacement of the whole subject. Eventually, I composed

All thoughts to praise
On Christ to gaze
With hands just raised
Heart and mind amazed!

As I hope you can see, in this way my thoughts, eyes, and hands were directed towards positive things and away from what I needed to escape, and I got an added bonus of a changed heart and mind.

It doesn’t always work, I confess. So, in an entirely practical way, I have another sometimes successful strategy: just start singing (even to myself). I very often have tunes stuck in an endless loop in my head – I’ve heard this can happen to a lot of people. Letting them play full volume can save me.

Psalm 47:6
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our king, sing praises.

I will sing to the Lord,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.

I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify him with thanksgiving.

I will sing to the Lord with my whole being;
I will sing to my God continually!

How about you? How are you able to resist or flee from temptations, so that desire does not give birth to sin (James 1:14)?