Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Psalm 32 Blessings


Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  (Psalm 32, NIV)


The first two verses speak directly to the topic of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a two-sided coin.  We all need to forgive others for messes they’ve made, and let’s not forget, we all have the need for others to forgive messes we’ve made.  That’s because we all become offended, and we all become offenders.  On the one hand, it is a blessing to receive God’s forgiveness.  On the other hand, we often fail to receive this blessing because we fail to recognize, acknowledge, and deal with offense.   Please see my earlier articles on the blog site to see how to change from the inside out to reap the benefits of forgiveness.  
Verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 32 speak to our greatest enemy without using the word they describe.  The enemy is shame.  Shame thrives on hiddenness (silence).  Shame keeps us from forgiving and being forgiven.  Hiding and hiding behind our offenses literally causes our “bones to waste away.”  Recent research is proving the extreme damage our bitterness, resentment, and blame causes to our physical, mental, and emotional condition.  Worst of all, it kills our spirit.  To learn more about this I recommend two books by Dr. Timothy Jennings called The God-shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life and The God-shaped Heart: How Correctly Understanding God’s Love Transforms Us.  
Verse 5 shows the solution.  The remedy is vulnerability.  Psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson authored a book I highly recommend called The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves in which he has an entire chapter on vulnerability.  For a follower of Christ, addressing shame takes the form of confession and repentance.  When we confess (speak out our acknowlegement) our sins (offenses), God is faithful to forgive.  See 1 John 1:9 for a text written hundreds of years later in the Bible confirming this truth.  When we repent (turn around) from our sin, our guilt is washed away.  We are as slaves given freedom to live in a new way as forgiven.  Again, how this happens through life with Jesus is described by Paul, another writer in the Bible hundreds of years later (see Romans 6:16-23).  
Verses 6 amd 7 describe how to live out this new found freedom.  Instead of enslavement to shame, we are shielded from shame.  In as much as we make Christ Jesus our Refuge, the chains of shame are broken.  Instead of relying on self to protect from exposure, we place our trust in Christ who has already born the guilt of shame for us.  Jesus conquored shame, and our safe place is hiding with him instead of trying to hide with shame. Whatever and whenever the source of shame in our lives, it is not too great to be overcome by the salvation of Jesus.  
Verses 8, 9, and 10 address our stubbornness and rebellion.  Vulnerability begins with self-honesty, and relates closely with teachability.  Openness to the need for inner life change (the very core of our beliefs), allows God to shine light on areas we have deceived ourselves and kept hidden from the truth.   Replacing our false beliefs with truth paves the path to freedom.   It’s not easy for us to give up our old patterns of thinking and feeling, but making choices to cooperate with Gods ways (instead of demanding our own way), literally grooves new pathways in our brain so we can function as originally designed before the human race was corrupted by sin.  For more on how this works, see the book Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  
Verse 11 of Psalm 32 is the finale.  Praising God and choosing to be grateful for who God is and what he has done on our behalf, gives us true cause for joy.  Re-orienting our focus from self to God always guarantees good results.  Glorifying God is our true purpose for being.  We will always find meaning and satisfaction in turning our own hearts towards God, and helping others do the same.  
Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews in the Bible is a summary of many ordinary people who followed God and give us great examples of how God expresses his love for the human race.  Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).   Perfecting our faith is a process of releasing more and more of our demands (including the demand to understand) so that our belief and trust in God can grow.  Note here how joy and shame are contrasted.  Shame being conquered through Jesus is cause for great joy!  
  Jesus has accomplished forgiveness.  When we forgive, we cooperate with the Refuge God has provided.  By surrendering our shame for the shield of Refuge, the Father is glorified and our fellowship is joy-filled.   

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Romans 8 and Sanctification


In the Bible, the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans contains some verses often quoted as favorites.  For example, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”(Romans 8:28, NASB). This is a wonderful reminder of God’s sovereign provision and protection for all those whose hearts are fully committed to following God and his ways.  
I share a few thoughts here that struck me recently while digging into Romans 8 afresh.  This chapter is a description of how to resove the classic struggle of the previous 3 chapters.  It follows Paul discussing the tension of living in a sinful, earthly body with a personal spirit that has been awakened to the nature and power of God Almighty.  “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  Wretched man that I am! …” (Romans 7:22-24, NASB).  So how do we free our imprisoned inner person from this wretched condition?   
The answer is sanctification. That is, a process of allowing God’s Holy Spirit to overtake our personal spirit, so that our inner being takes on the nature of how God originally designed it to be.  More of God and less of me.  God’s will, not mine be done.  God’s  plans put ahead of my agenda.  God’s desires, ways, and outcomes sought regardless of whether it looks “good” for me or not.   Trusting Romans 8:28 quoted above to be absolute truth.  Embracing inner life change so I can believe the Truth without reservation.  Focusing on being, ahead of doing.
LIfe is breathed into our spirit by God’s Spirit.   Believing in Jesus invites the process to begin.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11, NASB).  A born again experience initiates the new life.  We become more and more alive to our purpose and destiny as we choose to yield more and more of our inner thoughts and feelings to God. The transformation and sanctification of our soul is necessary for increased growth and satisfaction in life. God’s Holy Spirit ilving in our personal spirit overtakes more and more of our flesh as we grow with Christ.  This is a progressive thing.  
As our spirit grows, it has more control over our being, and satisfies the dilema of chapter 7 (torn between doing what’s right and dealing with the limitations of flesh).   Romans 8 continues,  “… for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Again, “putting” to death speaks of an ongoing process of progressive change.  
Our being becomes more and more alive, as the Holy Spirit takes control of us by expanding the function of our personal spirit to bring our body into submission and alignment with God.  We get rid of things opposed to God, and take on new thoughts, actions, and habits pleasing to him.
Romans 8 continues, ““For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”(Romans 8:14-15, NASB).  Paul ties transformation and sanctification into sonship.   Our identity is wrapped up in how willing we are to change from the inside out (not outside in).  It’s not about behavioral rules, but being “led by the Spirit” as sons, is about personal relationship with Father God.  We are adopted into a family relationship.   We are not only legally adopted as sons, we are receiving (and must continue to receive) the “spirit” that goes with it.   Our changing condition inside brings the peace, rest, and freedom from the fear of slavery.  
Again, this all hinges on our willingness to change.   Do we hold on to the familiar belief systems, patterns, habits, etc., or do we let God show us what freedom is really like?  
Romans 8 continues,  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17, NASB).   All that comes through our freedom in Christ  (our adoption, identity change, character change, sanctification, etc.) comes at a price.  You’ve probably heard it said, “Freedom is never free.”  The word “suffering”” implles struggle.  It requires giving up something (things), to gain something else.  But whatever we are holding on to is really not worth much anyway.  Without God we are broken, and the sooner we can admit it, the better off we’ll be.  There is no “quick fix” or “magic solution.  It’s a long haul commitment.  The good news is that Jesus Christ has done the work for us.  It’s not about doing the work of salvation, but cooperating with God to allow Christ’s finished work to be worked out in our inner being.  
Sanctification is the process of putting the pieces back together.  Sanctification is how “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (quoted above from Romans 8:28).   Sanctification is the way back to the original design of our Creator. I discuss the “what” and “how” of sanctification in many previous articles.  For example, click the link to read how it can be compared to:
It can be viewed as a way for safely navigating across a bustling stream:
Sometimes we run into barriers (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2017/07/four-barriers-to-better-living.html , and http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2017/08/religious-barriers.html ).  Sometimes we need help to make a breakthrough.  
If it seems like you are stuck somewhere, I encourage you to seek help.  Seek help from someone who himself or herself understands and practices inner transformation and  sanctification.  Some counselors focus on merely managing symptoms rather than rooting out the problems.  Anyone who tries to tell you that healing and character growth is painless is not qualified to help others.   Seven easy steps and four guaranteed principles are vain promises.  Methodology is NOT the way to wholeness and lasting results.  A counselor with a changed inner life through the power of the Holy Spirit is the best choice for help with typical life issues.   
I encourage you to read Romans 8 repeatedly over the next few weeks.  Listen for God’s voice speaking to you personally as how to apply the truth and wisdom found in these verses.  If you find it a challenge to “hear” God and wish to receive help, please contact me.  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry