Sunday, February 26, 2012

The gospel according to Psalms

This afternoon, I started to memorize some new verses for this week (this is the 3rd week of working on my goals), and decided to go back through those verses that I'd worked on over the past few weeks to refresh my memory and call to mind the things God had shown me in the process. These verses are some that I actually started memorizing a week or two before, and I wanted to share some thoughts...

"Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (Psalm 32:1-2 NKJV)

To me, this is the gospel, right here in Psalms! Or at least, it points ahead to it. How can my awful sins be covered, my transgression be forgiven? What does it take for the Lord not to impute my iniquity to me? This all points to His mercy and grace through Christ and His finished work on the cross. There is no other way for man to be forgiven by God except on God's own terms, and the only provision He makes is through the gift of His Son Jesus. This past week, I was also struck by the similarity between the expression here "does not impute iniquity", and the one I memorized last week from 2 Corinthians 5:17, "not counting their trespasses against them."

Maybe I am seeing these connections more because I am often conscious of my own sins of lust and deceit, and the impact they have had on my marriage with Cherie. What amazing relief and peace comes, when considering my deep dark sin, to know that it is covered. How great it is to know that my every transgression has been forgiven; that God Himself does not count my iniquities against me any longer, having laid them all upon His own dear Son at Calvary. What a wonderful Savior. Thank You, God!

I mentioned "deceit" a minute ago, and perhaps that made you remember the same word in the verses quoted above. Yes, the man is truly blessed whose spirit does not have deceit in it. I want and need to have my spirit free from any deceit, and I am especially conscious of that because I have seen its ugly roots and fruits in my life and marriage. How am I to get that freedom from deceit? The exact same way that I get my sins forgiven -- it is through the grace and mercy of God in the work of Christ! God not only cleanses me from sin at salvation, in order to make me fit for His presence, but He gives me new life in Christ and deliverance from sin in everyday practical ways. Specifically here, He gives a love for the truth by His Holy Spirit; a conscience to detect deceit in my heart; and grants repentance to turn away from lies to His truth. And so I have the key to deliverance from deceit (and the blessedness that goes along with it) -- it is in the practical application of the gospel to my life; trusting God for His sanctifying work in me on a daily basis.

And of course deceit is only an example of the sin that God delivers us from. But it is more than that too, because deceit is at the heart of every sin. Satan lies to us about the reward and the consequence of sin. We believe those lies and deceive ourselves by rationalizing sin as something we deserve somehow. Then we tend to lie to others about what we have done or its seriousness, or else we spread the sin by joining Satan in wrongly depicting it again.

So deceit is serious indeed, but God has provided practical everyday freedom from it through His perfect salvation in Christ. I am so thankful for His working in my life in this area, and I am already experiencing the blessing that comes from deceit being removed from my spirit. I trust God to continue this work until the day that I am completely free from deceit - in heaven!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Things New and Old

The verses I've memorized this week are as follows:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthains 5:17-19 ESV)

Our past is hard to forget, and it tends to steal our joy and strength from the present, and rob us of hope for what is to come. The last couple of weeks have been a little bumpy as Cherie and I have struggled to put the past behind us, because it is so easy to see the the present through the dark lense the of our past. And yet God has poured much grace into our lives these months, and so we have much to be thankful for. He has had to remind us of His work, to assure us of its reality, and see that we can trust Him to continue His work of grace in our lives.

These verses have been an encouragement to me in this regard. "The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!" That's right, my old sin-saturated ways are gone, even though there is still a remnant of the corruption that they caused. And the new way of life has come -- I am enjoying being faithful to my wife, and have a passion for righteousness and a hatred of sin -- and these emotions are growing. God is so good! And the next part of this portion reminds me of that -- "All this is from God... through Christ!" What mercy and grace He has shown me. God's purpose is to reconcile the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us, and then entrusting us with a ministry of reconciliation. Wow! He is such a gracious God!

And I can see how He is working out reconciliation in Cherie and I individually with Himself, and with each other through this season of life. It is a ministry of His grace to us and through us, and it is all of Him. He has not only reconciled us, but in doing so, He has taken away the old and brought us new life in Christ. New desires, new thought patterns, new perspectives, new humility, new grace, new appreciation, new worship, new communication, new cares and concerns for others, and probably a whole lot more that I am forgetting!

Thank You, Lord, for your ministry of reconciliation in our lives!

And I must close with this verse that came to mind when pondering, "All this is from God" from the above verses... "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36 NKJV)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Goal accomplished... with a lighter burden!

Remember I had set some goals for myself starting this week? Well, by God's grace, I was able to meet my goals for this first week as of yesterday morning -- a whole day ahead of schedule! :-)

One of my goals was to memorize 3 Bible verses, and Cherie had suggested these, which proved to be an excellent choice. Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (I am typing them here from memory, with a little corrective action after the fact!)

Here are some ways that these verses proved meaningful for me this week:
  1. Our pastor's message on Sunday was about Jesus being Lord of the sabbath, and I finally gained a clear understanding of why it is that the sabbath is no longer expected to be kept by God. It is because the sabbath was a day of rest that pictured the coming "rest" from sacrifices, ceremonies, and the keeping of law which had been required of God. This rest would only be possible in the giving of His Son Jesus to bear our sins and the wrath we deserved. This was particularly meaningful for me because I grew up with a lot of legality and am still learning what it means to be free from my own efforts at righteousness and to rest completely in God's saving mercy and grace. It also strikes a chord as I learn how to fight against my sin in a new way -- one which requires my participation/obedience, but is largely dependent on the Spirit of God for motivation and implementation, and dependent on God's working to transform my heart and mind as I trust and obey Him.
  2. Cherie and I got to talking about guilt this week, and I realized that I have always carried a lot of guilt around, and still do. Guilt is a pattern of mine that developed as a result of un-combated sin, along with a pressure to keep myself to some level of perceived holiness. Now, even though God has turned my heart and is giving me a large degree of practical daily deliverance from sin, I still sometimes feel guilt -- for example, I feel bad that my corrupt flesh still desires to sin and tries to weasle its way into my thoughts. After our conversation, I also met with our pastor yesterday and we talked a bit about it. He pointed out that guilt has a purpose when there is truly sin, but that misplaced guilt or proper guilt that is not properly addressed both tend to hang over one's head and do 2 things: keep me feeling bad and thinking unnesccesarily about my sin instead of about God and good things; and prevent me from loving my wife (and others) the way I should. Guilt is self-focused and love is other-focused. Taking my sin to God, and availing myself of His forgiveness and delvierance, frees me to humbly seek the same mercy and grace for others, and desire to participate in the demonstration of God's mercy and grace to them. Especially to Cherie!
  3. It occurred to me that I struggle with being humble without acting weak (this probably goes along with the guilt issue). For example, if I am feeling freshly humbled by the realization of some additional current impact from my past sin, I am apt to feel discouraged and act defeated. I need to learn how to be strong and courageous and ambitious to move forward, while doing so humbly and respectfully and with true godly sorrow over my sin. As I worked on memorizing these verses, I saw that Christ Himself is strong (He bears the much heavier side of the yoke, and carries my burdens) and yet He says that He is gentle and lowly in heart. His strength does not come across as arrogant, inconsiderate, condescending, or impatient -- as fleshly strength often does. No, His strength is shown in my weakness, and it is shown with humility, grace, and gentleness. I need to sit at His feet and learn of Him, and thus have a better perspective on my own life and others' (especially Cherie's). I need to humbly press forward with God's strength while acknowledging my past sin and remembering His gracious deliverance -- past, present, and future!

Scripture gives us hope in God. I guess it is time to find some more verses to memorize for next week!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gotta start somewhere...

It is hard to know where to start when beginning to blog here. On one hand, we would like to write our whole story in order to give you enough context to understand current events, thoughts, and struggles. On the other hand, I (Christophe) am anxious to get started; to put in writing what is going through my head; to try and share my heart and work out the implications. Given that we start without a large following, there isn't so much room for confusion by starting in the middle and filling in the background as we go along, so here goes...

Having said that, here's a little background so that today's entry will make at least a little sense. A few years ago, I slowly fell into an emotional affair with an acquaintance from church, a friend of my wife's. This woman didn't/doesn't know about my feelings for her, but I finally confessed them to my wife last May, not long before our 14th wedding anniversary. My willingness to speak the truth, and subsequently to turn from my sin, was all of God's grace, and was part of a long and intricately braided ribbon of His goodness that we so often have taken for granted; misunderstood; or missed altogether. In the past nearly 9 months, we have had to rely on Christ's gospel-grace in ways that we never did before, and have learned a lot about our sinfulness and constant need of Him. As you can imagine, a short paragraph like this one does very little to convey the depth of the impact to our marriage that my sin has had -- mostly unseen before my confession; deeply felt but far from understood on that explosive day; and increasingly devastating in the difficult days since as we have worked through the implications and roots.

Back to the present. God has really changed my heart to give me a deep love for Cherie and a passion to be 100% faithful to her. I still battle against thoughts for the other woman, but not as one who is enslaved any longer, but as one who has tasted freedom and has experienced Christ's victory in ways I never thought possible. But it still bothers me that she comes into my thoughts at all; that my mind sometimes drifts in her direction -- sometimes without obvious provocation; that I have some fear of seeing her or hearing about her; that there is any leakage of precious resources towards her which have been reserved by God exclusively for my wife. Cherie has been through so much heartache at my hands, and has shown such God-given patience and strength through all of this, and it only makes me long for complete deliverance all the more. I ache to truly meet her needs and desires; to bring her strength instead of weakness; and to rain blessings instead of burdens upon her.

With Cherie's support and encouragement, I am endeavoring to fill up my mind with good things, to employ my mind in profitable ventures, to set goals and work towards them in a way that provides plenty of opportunity to scheme and process and polish up thoughts that are helpful. And all the while, I am seeking God and trusting Him to work in my heart and mind, to deliver me from these old sinful thought patterns. Here are the goals that I have set for myself, to accomplish every week, beginning today:

  • Memorize 3 relevant Scripture verses that I can challenge and encourage myself with throughout the week, and in the days ahead.

  • Listen to 3 hours of audio books, and share observations and reflections with Cherie.

  • Write 3 blog posts, which might be here or on a couple of other blogs we have, one of which is just for Cherie and I to share with each other, the other is a personal blog for some family and friends.

  • Write to encourage and update a Christian friend or missionary that we know.

That's a total of 10 things each week, due on Saturday. As you can see, there is plenty to do and think about here, especially with two little children at home and full-time job. Thankfully, my work includes a fair amount of driving each week, which allows time to listen to books and think creatively, but it also makes it all the more needful to focus my thoughts intentionally.

God isn't finished with us yet, and we know that He will complete the work He has begun. We are so thankful that He included us in His plan of salvation, and even included my failure as a means to working deeply to deliver from sin and transform our marriage for His glory and other good purposes. I hope and pray daily for this transforming work to continue and bear fruit.

If you're reading this, I hope you will pray for me and for us, and share your own thoughts or Scriptural principles that might be helpful. Thank You!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Why did we start this blog?

As you might have guessed from the subtitle, we are Christians, and much of this blog will reflect that. The "one thing" that Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14 ("One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.") is very meaningful to us, as we see the gospel of Christ worked out practically in our lives. Another "one thing" verse that is behind this blog is Psalm 27:4, "One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple." Both passages speak of a pursuit of God and His rewards and what He is doing, and that is our desire for our own lives, and to share with you some of that here.

Another verse about "one" that will work itself out here is Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Yes, we are married, and we know firsthand that marriage is both a blessing and a challenge, and can only be truly rewarding with God's blessing, direction, and abundant help. We will be sharing some about our journey and the challenges and victories we encounter along the way.

An additional "one" passage that comes to mind and embodies one of our aims is John 17:20-21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." We want to connect with other believers for mutual encouragement, challenge, and blessing, and the practical outworking of the gospel in our everyday lives.

Thanks for reading!