GOD ONLY KNOWS

“Therefore, He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Hebrews 2:17-18

I needed to be reminded of this daily, and perhaps it might be a good reminder for you as well.

Jesus wasn’t made to become like us for His benefit but rather for ours.  He did not need to take on flesh so that He could understand our struggles and weaknesses.  He did not need to experience first-hand that day to day difficulties and trials that we go through in order for Him to say, “Oh, now I get it.”  He has perfect understanding.  He knows the power of sin and the slavery it brings.  He knows the destruction that sin’s wake leaves.  It is because He understands this that He came.  His coming displayed His mercy and faithfulness to a sin-separated humanity who could not satisfy the wrath of a just and holy God.  Jesus took on flesh and became like us, so that He might become the perfect, sinless sacrifice who, by laying down His life, might make all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of sin, fully alive and righteous before God.  

The writer of Romans, the apostle Paul, sums it up well regarding our condition and desperate need of a Savior when he said, “For while we were still weak (helpless and without hope), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6-8

Although His coming wasn’t for His benefit but ours, He did suffer what we suffer daily.  He experienced the fight and the struggle of temptation, yet without giving in to sin.  That’s the difference that made an eternal difference, and qualified Him as the acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  

When we struggle with temptation, we don’t have a God who doesn’t understand what we’re going through.  He’s not a distant or disconnected God.  He knows.  As a matter of fact, the writer of Hebrews says this:  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Hebrews 4:15

The very fact that there is a God who understands and does not abandon us in our daily fight and struggle against the temptations we face, numerous and vast as they are, is beyond comforting.  The God of all heaven knows.  He gets it.  He knows your struggle with self-worth.  He knows your battle with loneliness, depression, anxiety, shame, anger, bitterness, lust, self-righteousness, greed, materialism, apathy . . . and you can list more, here: _________________.  But just as encouraging is knowing He provides us with all we need to not give in, and choose as Jesus did.  We can live like Christ, but not on our own strength.  Even Jesus, when tempted in the wilderness, was strengthened by the words of Scripture and the presence of the Holy Spirit (you can check that out in the gospel account of Luke 4).  In the same way, the promise God has given to all who place their faith in Christ is the indwelling of His Spirit, who leads us into all truth; strengthens us in our weakness; comforts us in affliction; provides a way of escape when tempted; convicts us of sin when we fall; and renews with rescuing and restoring grace. 

I pray you are encouraged today knowing that God understands where you are in your struggles, and He is more than able to help.

NO ONE BUT YOU . . .

There is nothing I need or want more than Jesus. He is the One who fills all the blanks, and gives clarity to all the questions that resonate in my heart.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26

OUT OF THE DEPTHS

Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, but they could be my Psalms too.  And yours. They tell my story, and echo the resonating cries that fill the chambers of my heart.  

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!” Psalm 130:1

Been there.  And it has felt deep because it was deep.  That’s where sin drags you–to the depths of its dark ocean.  Sin doesn’t allow you to float on the surface; it is like a whirlpool, or a tumultuous undertow, that you can’t withstand.  And that’s where David was at times; it’s where we all find ourselves on occasion.  Lest we think it’s the “big” sins that drag us under, don’t forget it was six relatively small holes that filled six compartments of the Titanic’s hull that led to its sinking in just over two hours.  All sin leads to sinking, which is why we all need rescue because we all have sinned. (Romans 3:23)

When we find ourselves sinking, our only hope is to cry out for rescue.

“O Lord, hear my voice!  Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” Psalm 130:2

There’s desperation in David’s cry.  But that makes sense, right?  There’s always a desperate cry when a person recognizes they are in a hopeless situation.

When I was in college, a group of friends and I were doing a concert in northern Arkansas.  We had some free time prior to our rehearsal and sound check so we decided to go canoeing on a creek that emptied into the White River.  The float was uneventful; no rapids and nothing difficult.  It was just an easy trip with some good friends.  

After finishing the float, and while we were waiting on someone to pick us up, we saw three whirlpools formed by fast flowing water feeding into some large ribbed pipes that went under a wide-concrete road that went across the creek.  There was ankle-deep water covering the road, but the creek water fed through the pipes coming out the other side and continued on, eventually connecting with the White River.  For some reason we were fascinated by these whirlpools, and began to throw things in them and watched them be taken under.  Stupid fun, until I got to close to the edge of the moss-laden road and slipped into the creek.  I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but remember the three large ribbed pipes where all the fast flowing water was converging?  As soon as I fell in, I was immediately swept into one of the pipes and instinctively wrapped my arms around the top of the exposed ribbed pipe, clinging for life.  The water was fairly deep, but what made this so treacherous was the water flowing through the concentrated area of the pipe.  The water was so powerful that I couldn’t move.  I had already taken off the life-jacket, so my chest was pressed up against the pipe, cutting my chest and making it hard for me to breath.  From mid-chest down, I was in the pipe.  Because of the pressure against my chest, I couldn’t even cry out for help.  Slipping into the creek happened so quickly that none of my friends saw me, until one turned around and saw me sucked three-quarters of the way into a drainage pipe.  Fortunately he screamed to the others, and as they came over to help I finally had managed to get one leg from the pipe (I’m convinced that I had a guardian angel with scuba gear on that did some stellar work).  While they were grabbing the back of my swimsuit (which gave me the worst wedgie I’ve ever sustained . . .and didn’t mind at the time), and my arms and pulling me up, someone had called a park ranger.  After being rescued, and shaking from fear and exhaustion, the ranger came over to see if I needed any medical attention.  It was then that he informed us that if I had gone into the pipe, I would not have come out on the other side due to a welded metal grate inside the pipe.  It was a desperate situation; even more than I knew at the time. I was trying to cry out for help and fortunately, by God’s grace, my friends saw my dire circumstance and came to my rescue.

Only those who recognize their situation as desperate, cry out desperately to God for help.  Just ask the children of Israel when they were enslaved by Egypt.  Or Jonah. Or a multitude of others we read about in the Scriptures.  

God’s ears are always attentive, and His response is always full of mercy, to those who cry out to Him.  Many a person have allowed the pride of their life be the death-weights that led to the sinking death of their soul.  Crying out for mercy is not a weak thing to do, it’s the wise thing to do when you recognize the weight of sin and the dire consequences that ensue.  

The great news is that God’s mercy is not a one-time offer.  His mercies are new every morning.  “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

Not only is God merciful, but He offers forgiveness of sin and full redemption to all who cry out to Him and turn from sin.  Against God’s righteous and Holy standard, not one of us could stand because of our sinfulness.  

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” Psalm 130:3

But because He is good and gracious, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. (Romans 8:1)  In other words, Jesus took the weight of all our sin so that we could, by placing our full trust in Him for salvation, be set free from the death-penalty of sin.  Such is grace to all who cry out to God.   

“For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him there is plentiful redemption.” Psalm 130:7

His steadfast love and plentiful redemption are more than enough, and all I, as well as you, will ever need.