Search Me, O God

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The beginning of a new calendar year offers a fresh start. Last year’s failures can be stored in the attic with the boxes of Christmas decorations, to be taken out as needed to evaluate and learn from. But self-evaluation is less important than an evaluation from our Creator. Psalm 139 speaks of this evaluation, this searching of our inner man by the Father, a knowing of who we truly are that we cannot control or hide from.

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lordand you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

He sees us, just as He saw Hagar in the desert. He knows us, not just by our appearance or personality traits, but He knows us more intimately and completely that we can even know ourselves. His searching of us is not for evil, but to show us who we are, who He created us to be. He created us so intricately and purposefully!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

And His thoughts toward us are precious! And He will never leave us or forsake us!

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

We may be carrying grudges and seeking vengeance into this new year, but it is time to turn loose of that and turn it over to God to handle.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Since we now He searches us already and knows us intimately, is it not time to invite Him to search us and reveal our true selves to us? Are we willing to invite His testing of your inner motives? Are we ready to face the the inner muck and offensive ways to get them all cleaned out? Are we ready to humble ourselves to be gently led by Our Shepherd?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Begin this new year with self-evaluation and goal setting if you desire. But more importantly, pray the prayer of these last two verses and willingly invite exposure of your whole self to the Father’s scrutiny that He may bring to light what needs to be shown and you may therefore follow Him more fully.

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Psalm 139 – Search Me O God!

Psalm 139

He sees us, searches our hearts, and knows us better than we know ourselves.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

We cannot go anywhere to escape Him even when we want to rebel and run away. We also cannot go too far in sin as to be out of His reach and unable for Him to find us, love us, and draw us back. We cannot stray to far away, nor be too deep In the darkness of fear or depression for Him to reach us – for He is Light.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

He created us intricately. He made us just the way we are. Every detail about us, from the timing of our birth and life, to our personality, even to that cell in our body that mutated and suddenly caused us to come face to face with a health crisis – He made us and allowed for that. He has determined the length of our days and the journey of life He will allow.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Cherish God’s thoughts. Cherish what He had revealed to using His Word.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Love as God loves and hate what God hates. He will be your defender and your vindication.

If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Let us pray…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

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Known

We live detached, lonely lives even in the midst of an era focused on social events and connections. For all the “social” media offering to connect us, we find ourselves in dark, solitary, depressing places. We know the realities of being lonely in a crowded room or behind a screen which declares we have 700 friends. We feel unknown, forgotten, un-cared for, invisible. The darkness creeps in easily these days. Darkness that whispers the lie, “The world would be better off without you.”

Our desperate hearts long to be known. We crave being seen and heard to the point that many will do anything, even degrading, embarrassing, horrible things to be noticed for their 15 minutes of fame.

We desire to be loved unconditionally…

…Well at least loved…

…Maybe even liked would do…

…Just recognized by someone in the ocean of people around us…

…Anything.

…We’ll settle for scraps: one night stands, drug buddies who would abandon us to the hands of death at the sound of a siren, a bottle that will make us forget the loneliness in the wee hours of the morning.

But the prince of this darkness lies. We are not alone and forgotten.

There is one who notices. Always. One who sees us. One who listens. One who loves us, and who will always love us – truly, completely and unconditionally. The One the Psalmist speaks of who searches us, knows us – all about us  and loves us anyway. The One who knows where we go, what we say, even what we think, and loves us anyway. The One whom we cannot run away from, who seeks us out and reaches into the dark places to find us. The One from whom we cannot hide or escape. The one who holds us fast. The One who meets us in our darkest hour and turns the darkness to light. The One who made us in that secret place and has ordained all the days of our life. The One who does think about us, when we thought no one did.

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

 

Our Father sees us, knows us, loves us, holds our hand, and walks us through those dark places.

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God Doesn’t Make Junk – Only Masterpieces!

Have you ever seen a masterpiece in person?

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Italy a see some of the great masterpieces done by Michelangelo and Leonard da Vinci (the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the sculpture of David and The Last Supper just to name a few).

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_GothicA few years ago, some friends and I went to Chicago for a few days. One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Art Institute of Chicago to see the famous painting by Grant Wood titled “American Gothic.” Unlike our own Birmingham Museum of Art, which has free admission, the cost to enter the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.00, unless you are viewing a special exhibition. My thinking was that it would be worth it. We were going to be seeing a famous piece of art. So we made our way through the museum to the place where the picture was to be displayed. When we arrived, there on the wall was a picture of the famous painting and a sign with the words, “This piece has been loaned out.” I had missed seeing what some consider to be a great masterpiece.

So what makes something a masterpiece? Merriam-Webster defines a masterpiece as “a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.” A masterpiece doesn’t have to be a piece of art, it can be anything done with extraordinary skill. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Some Bible versions use the word handiwork or workmanship. Each one is saying the same thing. We are God’s work of art. He created and is continuing to create us in His image.

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows every single thing about us, and nothing was or is hidden from him. God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t make junk. You are God’s piece of art. We don’t view or value ourselves as masterpieces that have worth. In today’s world we are so quick to compare ourselves to other around us. We focus on the negative in our lives. Don’t view yourself through the eyes or standards of others, see yourself as God’s treasure.

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We may make our lives messy at times because of our sin, but as believers, God’s word tells us he is creating us anew. God has a specific plan for us and we have to let him keep working on us. Isaiah 64:8 says “God is the potter and we are the clay. We are formed by His hand.” We have to let God continue molding us and shaping us and putting us through the fire. It is not an easy process. It takes time. It can even be painful at times. We have to be willing to let Him work. In the end, God will create and mold us into a beautiful piece of art that will display Jesus to others.

One of my favorite skits done by the Skit Guys is called “God’s Chisel” or “God’s Chisel Remastered.” It tells of God chiseling away at the sin in our lives so that when others see us they see Jesus, and when we see ourselves in the mirror we see Jesus. God is creating us into His masterpiece. He is working on us and chiseling out the sin, worry, ugly attitudes, and anything holding us back from being all God wants us to be. So why don’t we let Him work and not fight him. I think some of the reasons are fear, guilt, anger, bitterness, and laziness.

Today, why don’t you turn loose of the ugly sin and let God work on you. When you stand in front of the mirror don’t be disappointed. Don’t plaster a picture or image up of what you want to look and be like and loan yourself out to Satan to beat you down and conform you to this world. Instead, see yourself as the Masterpiece God created you to be. Be open to him chiseling and molding you into His image. Start by letting Him renew your mind into what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) for your life.

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Getting Real!

by Debbie Stovall

(A recently updated blog post that we all need to hear.)

Flashback with me to summer… Grilled burgers. Watermelon. Homemade strawberry ice cream from my Mom’s 50-year-old secret family recipe. It was a typical summer holiday cookout – yummy and very laid back with just the fam.

So after sleeping in late and then a day full of old movies, Nertz, and being totally lazy with just my husband and the kids (who are actually young adults now), it was wonderful to have a couple of friends that we hadn’t seen in a while drop by in response to our Facebook post about the homemade ice cream. We enjoyed the frozen goodness and had a wonderful conversation, ranging from light-hearted catching up, to corny inside jokes, to deep gut-level honest sharing that you only do with REAL friends and family.

It was 30 minutes after they left – probably 7:00 p.m. or so – that I went to the bathroom and noticed myself in a mirror… Yikes! I had not combed my hair after I got up that morning! All day long I had gone around with bed head and never even passed a mirror to notice. What must my “guests” have thought?! But then… I smiled as I realized how wonderful it was to have people I could be REAL with! They didn’t care. They loved me anyway.

Don’t we all long for that?! We want to know and be known at a deep, gut level, and to be so comfortable with friends or family, someone, anyone, that we can smile, relax, and not sweat and fret and fear what they’ll think. We don’t want those insecurities to rise to the surface. We want to be accepted for who we are, the way we look, and the mistakes we make. Not for who people want us to be. Not for who they think we are because we are keeping up pretenses and hiding the REAL us every time we are around them. We long to be accepted… loved… just as we REALLY are.

Some of us will have the rare pleasure of experiencing that with a few select friends or a parent or sibling, but for many of us even family seems to be unable to know us, accept us, and love us as we long to be loved.

But there is Great News! There is Hope! We have a Heavenly Father, our Abba, who knows us intimately, accepts us totally, pursues a relationship with us relentlessly, and loves us unconditionally! Psalm 139 reminds us “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Let’s take off the mask and come out of hiding. The enemy of our souls seeks to separate us, to isolate us, to cut us off from the flock. Why? To weaken us, discourage us, and stir up all sorts of negative thoughts that are contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Remember, Satan comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I believe that much of the vitriol and hate we see boiling over in society today stems from that inner fear that we are alone, unknown, uncared for, unaccepted, and forgotten. That is a lie from the pit of hell.

You and I have a loving Father, Our Creator, who knows us. Intimately. More intimately than we wish even. Scripture tells us that we look at the world as if we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror, but that when we meet God face to face we will “know fully, even as [we] have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) And guess what! Even though He fully knows you, “warts and all,” He doesn’t reject you. God sees you! In all the chaos, fear, or failure that surrounds you. He knows you – the REAL you! And you know what? In spite of all your self-condemnation, fears, hiding, and not loving yourself – God loves you! He REALLY loves you! Come to Him. Just as you are.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3

Enjoy the songs below and allow the Lord to minister to your heart as you listen.

“He Knows” by Jeremy Camp