Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fearless Inventory

"I praise God to remind myself how little a part I have in the
success of my life and how much I owe to my Creator."
~Mark Brown

     I really like this quote; it has so many things to ponder: Why am I praising God, especially being a part of a worship team? Is it for my enjoyment and benefit or am I singing because I'm hopelessly in love with the God Who saved me and I want others to experience the same?  When I praise am I doing so in remembrance of the incredible miracles He's done in me, through me, and for me? What are those things exactly? Have I also thanked Him for them? What do I consider success to be? Is it the acquiring of worldly things and attitudes, or am I storing up treasure in Heaven? Even though my part in my life is little, it's vital. Am I co-operating with what God wants to do in me? Am I doing my part? How much do I owe to my Creator? What has He saved me from? What has He saved me for? Am I even in agreement that I owe Him an unpayable debt? And on and on it goes.

     In the past few months I've been taking a hard look at my past; the way things were growing up and as a young adult. The years before I met Christ personally. As I've done this I've found some very interesting things, some sad, some down-right tragic. I've discovered roots to many of the things I struggle with in my life now; so many things are making so much more sense. In doing this I've come to the conclusion that the only hope for me is God's grace! You know, His power to do with ease that which I know I could never accomplish in my own power. The one area in which this has been most prevalent in my life is in the act of forgiveness; both of people who've hurt me and for myself. In the Bible it says that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (See John 8:32) I think that "truth" is that I will never know true freedom, peace and joy until I learn to forgive as freely as I've been forgiven.

     Life will never be perfect (at least not on this side of eternity.) Happiness may come and go respectively with the good and the bad. So be it. You see, happiness really isn't what I desire most. I want joy. Joy is different from happiness, I believe, in this way: happiness can come and go with circumstances; joy never changes, it's so much, but the ability to go through the difficult things with a great attitude and with the same gusto that good things bring is one of them. And that, that I can only do with God's grace!

     Recently I've come back in contact with and old friend and it's been interesting. It's just been written communication, but as I started to write that first message I found myself at a loss for words. Really, really, really not sure what to write. As I thought about it, I couldn't even remember or "locate" the thinking patterns I had almost 30 years ago. I'm around other Christians so much that I didn't even quite know how to write so that I didn't scare the crap out of my former friend. It was very weird, especially since I'm not one to be tongue tied very often!

     Eventually, though, the words came; I was hopeful my message wasn't full of Christian-ese, those phrases and words that are unique to Christians that someone of a different denomination or unsaved might not understand. I'm sure some of it leaked through, though; just like Popeye, "I am who I am."  For better and for worse! In the days following, it bothered me - a lot - that I didn't know how to talk to someone from my past. How out of touch have I become? But then I remembered a prayer I'd been saying for weeks preceding that conversation; I'd actually even prayed it that morning.

     I've been attending a program called Celebrate Recovery and participating in what they call a 12 Step Study. It's similar to what I've heard about AA, but there is the consistent reminder of God's power, love and sovereignty. It's been a powerful tool for the last few years as I've been putting to rest many old demons. Well, we're currently working through the Fourth Step: take a searching and fearless moral inventory. To say it's been hard and somewhat painful is an understatement! As I was working through the lesson one day I was overcome with the sense that deep down I hadn't changed much from the person I was 25 years ago. It looked to me, as I filled out sheet after sheet, that I was still that same person!

     Being me, I started to argue with God, "What's the point? I feel as if I'm never going to change. I'm never going to become the person You made me to be! Look! Even after more than 20 years following You, not much has changed" And as I whined to Him I suddenly thought, "Yes you have changed. Ask Him to show you, He will." So I gave up my vain arguments and asked Him to do just that: "Show me how much I've changed. Show me the healing You've brought me. Show me so I can continue to go through this part of my journey, because from where I'm sitting, it really doesn't look like it's worth the effort and pain."

     It took a few days after the correspondence for the connection to click. When it did, well, I really don't know how to explain what I felt... In the experience of writing a note to an old friend, He had answered my prayer and showed me just how much work He has done in me. It was a powerful and exciting moment. I Feel that I can now confidently go through the remainder of this study and firmly know that, though I have a long way to go until I'm fully who I was made to be, I'm thankfully not who I was! And for most of my successes, I really can't take credit beyond, I was simply doing what God (through the Bible) had told me to do; walk obediently. Not such an easy thing to do day in and day out, but it will undoubtedly bring transformation!

     There's an older song that goes, "That he would leave His place on high, and come for simple mad to die, you count it strange, so once did I that He would die to be my Savior." There was a time when I couldn't even comprehend the gift I was being offered. To say I thought the whole thing was weird isn't very close to what I actually thought about it once upon a time. But that's what His love does: it changes broken souls. It was another song we used to sing in church that brought me to a close understanding of the debt I owed. It is one I can never repay! Thankfully, I don't have to! In this world today, that's definitely strange.

     Back to the quote. "I praise God to remind myself how little a part I have in the success of my life and how much I owe to my Creator."  I owe my Creator for "every good and perfect gift" in my life (see James 1:17.) I can praise Him for His goodness and even more so for the mystery of His forgiveness.  I can even go one step further and forgive (with His grace) with the same abandon with which He forgave me. I can choose to allow forgiveness to be the "covering" on my life. While these sound like worthy goals to me; I know I will fail now and then. I'll fall short and make some mistakes; I'm not perfect after all! But, I have experienced His joy enough to know that forgiveness is undoubtedly worth every effort!

     In His perfect love,

Foot Notes

 James 1:17
New International Version (NIV)

(17 ) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

John 8:32
New International Version (NIV)

(32) Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


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