The Blessed Forgetfulness of God

Your Divine Pass

When it comes to my sins, I am eternally grateful that God has a “memory problem!”

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 25:7

Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t remember the sins of your youth, the indiscretions of yesteryear? For that matter, aren’t you glad God doesn’t count your sins from yesterday against you? I sure am. And so was David.

David knew better than anyone the benefit of God’s gracious forgiveness. Perhaps no other person in history had his dirtiest, darkest laundry aired in public more than David did. Adulterer, conspirer, manipulator, cold-hearted you-know-what, murderer—that’s what David was! Yet David found in God something that you and I depend on for our very existence, something the non-believing world cannot grasp: Unconditional, unlimited, undeserving forgiveness.

Of all the Divine benefits David enjoyed in his life, forgiveness was right there at the top of the list. In that eloquent poetic listing of the blessings of belonging, Psalm 103, forgiveness was the very first one he mentioned in verse 3:

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins…”

David went on in that psalm to describe the scope of God’s forgiveness in 9-14:

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

How does God forgive? According to those verses, in grace and mercy God forgives all of our sins. He doesn’t give us what we deserve—punishment—and he gives us what we don’t deserve—forgiveness. How does he forgive us? Completely—as far as the east is from the west he removes the stain and guilt of our sin. Last time I looked, that was a long way away! How does God forgive us? Out of the compassion of a father’s heart—like a father overflowing with love for a wayward child.

Perhaps that’s why David could write so many beautiful songs about the goodness of God. He, more than anyone, understood the benefits and blessings of being forgiven.

You can too!

Thrive: Perhaps it would do you some good to stop and consider for a moment the benefits and blessings of the gracious, undeserving, unlimited forgiveness that God has extended to you. Maybe, like David, as you realize how much you have been covered by his grace and mercy, you too, will exclaim, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”

The Apple Of God’s Eye

Believe It Or Not - You Are The One God Loves

The good news is that God not only played favorites with Israel, he holds you as the apple of his eye, too. How so? When you came to Christ trough faith, God took all the love he displayed for Israel, and for his Son, and he placed it on you. Now you are the one he loves.

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 17:8

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Did you know that God has favorites? The Bible tells us that he held the nation of Israel as the apple of his eye. Really—you can read that in Deuteronomy 32:9-11 and Zechariah 2:7-9.

The good news is that God not only played favorites with Israel, he holds you as the apple of his eye, too. How so? Through Christ’s blood shed on the cross for you! You see, when you came to Christ through faith, God took all the love he displayed for Israel, and for his Son, and he placed it on you. Now you are the one he loves.

An inspiring writer by the name of Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who was on a walking tour of his rural parish one day. And there by the roadside he found an old man, a peasant, kneeling in prayer. The priest was quite impressed, so he walked over and interrupted the man: “You must be very close to God.”

The peasant looked up from his prayers, thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”

This simple man had a simple faith that revealed a profound self-awareness of his true identity—he knew he was loved by God, and that was all that mattered! Manning developed his own personal declaration from that touching story. He would say of himself, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

It sounds a little arrogant, but he’s actually quoting Scripture. Jesus’ closest friend, John, identified himself in his Gospel as, “the one Jesus loved.” If you were to ask John, “What is your primary identity in life?” he wouldn’t reply, ‘I’m one of Jesus’ disciples—actually one of the three in his inner circle!” He wouldn’t say, “I’m one of the twelve apostles.” Nor would he identify himself as “the author of the Gospel that bears my name. As a matter of fact, I wrote the original ‘Left Behind’ book—Revelation.” Rather, John would simply say, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

I hope that you, too, will take to saying that. More importantly, I pray that you will start believing it in your heart, because when you truly grasp how great the Father’s love for you really is, it will change your entire life! Peter Kreeft insightfully wrote, “Sin comes from not realizing God’s love. Sin comes from thinking ourselves only as sinners, while overcoming sin comes from thinking ourselves as overcomers. We act our perceived identities.”

Friend, your identity is the “one Jesus loves”. Now start perceiving it. You are the apple of God’s eye—that is who you are. In fact, your Father is watching over you at this very moment with great delight.

Now go act like that’s true, because it is!

Every day for the next thirty days, declare this truth when you awaken, when you take your lunch break, and before you fall to sleep at night: I am the one Jesus loves. Do it unwaveringly, because it is true!

Thrive: Every day for the next thirty days, declare this truth when you awaken, when you take your lunch break, and before you fall to sleep at night: I am the one Jesus loves. Do it unwaveringly, because it is true!

I Don’t Feel Like Going To Church Today

Big Deal—Do It Anyway

Biblically speaking, going to church is a decree, not an option for when we feel like it. As Eugene Peterson says, “Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.” The surest way to “feel like it” is by doing the very thing you don’t feel like doing—in this case, going to church to give thanks. When we get up and get going to church to give thanks, by faith and in obedience, the result will be that we will develop the best feelings of all: feelings for God!

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 122:1

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,” my heart leaped for joy.

The psalmist was talking about going to church, and unlike an increasing number of “Christians” in America, he was excited. Among other things, he was looking forward to gathering with God’s people to “give thanks to the name of God,” according to Psalm 122:5 (MSG). That’s just one of the things, albeit a very important thing, that believers are meant to do.

That is a decree, by the way, not an option for when we feel like it. As Eugene Peterson says, “Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.” The surest way to “feel like it” is by doing the very thing you don’t feel like doing—in this case, going to church to give thanks. When we get up and get going to church to give thanks, by faith and in obedience, the result will be that we will develop the best feelings of all: feelings for God!

I am told that the average church-goer in the United States now attends their place of worship just a tick under two times per month. Somehow I don’t think that would cut it with the psalmist, who centered his life around the house of God, and I know it doesn’t cut it with God.

God loves it when his family stops by for dinner, and he has so ordered it that we should do that on a regular basis. (Hebrews 10:24-25) One could argue that nowhere does the Bible say that has to be every Sunday, but I would counter that with, first of all, the practice of the church from the beginning, which was gathering for praise, thanks, instruction and encouragement, minimally, every week on the first day. And second of all, those who make that argument have missed the point: Gladness in going to God’s house. If you are finding reasons not to go, and justifying those reasons, it is highly likely that your reservoir of gladness is empty.

If that is the case, I would suggest you go to God and ask him to fill your tank. He is pretty good about doing that. And if you just don’t feel like going to God, or to church, grab your feelings if you have to and drag them with you. When you do, at some point you will make one of the great discoveries in life, a discovery that great people of faith have known for some time: You can act your way into feeling much more quickly than you can feel your way into acting.

Thrive: Put a permanent appointment on your weekly calendar: going to church. And keep that appointment for the rest of your life.

When You Are On God’s Side

Want A Guaranteed Win? Get On The Right Side!

Your victory, whatever that may mean to you, is guaranteed when you are on God’s side. Are you? Take a moment to realign your thoughts, feelings and actions to the Word of God. Repent where you need to, adjust where you are off, then watch and wait for the hand of God in your situation. If you are on God’s side, you cannot fail. If you are on God’s side then God will be on your side, and your victory has been secured.

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 54:4

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

You will often hear people talk about God being on their side. Politicians, religious leaders, even ordinary people like you and me toss that belief around like a pro athlete guaranteeing a victory in the big game. But just saying it doesn’t make it so!

President Abraham Lincoln was once asked during the Civil War if he believed that God was on his side. His response was one that we would all do well to think about, since it represents the only true guarantee of Divine help and victory. Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side, my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Here’s the deal: If we’re on God’s side, we cannot fail. If we’re on God’s side then God will be on our side, and our victory is guaranteed. David, the future king of Israel, discovered that—the story can be found in I Samuel 23:7-29—which is the basis for this psalm. He was on the run from the current monarch, King Saul, because the king was bent on having David killed. The young shepherd had just landed in the next of what had been too many hideouts, Ziph, when the people of that village turned him in to Saul. Saul seemed to finally have David cornered—it looked like it was game, set and match this time.

But David was on God’s side—and God was on David’s side. Suddenly, just as Saul was ready to pounce, the king got some bad news that enemies on another front, the Philistines, were attacking, so he left pursing the cornered David to tend to that pressing business. And David was once again delivered when there seemed no way possible to escape. (I Samuel 23:27-29)

Was it a coincidence that Saul was distracted in that moment when he had David dead to rights? Not at all! You see, God was at work here, bringing about his purposes in David’s life. David was destined to be king, but through this life and death struggle, God was teaching him how to be a good king. And good kings need to know that God can be counted on for help and sustenance when the king is on God’s side.

God wants you to know that too. Even when there seems to be no way out for you, God is close by; he is working out his plan; he is teaching you how to be a king; he is showing you that he can be counted on to help and sustain you. And there is only one way to really learn that, which like David, means that you will have to have your back against the wall so that the only way out is through a mighty and miraculous deliverance through the strong hand of God.

And when you are on God’s side, sooner or later, like David, that will be your story too!

Thrive: Your victory, whatever that may mean to you, is guaranteed when you are on God’s side. Are you? Take a moment to realign your thoughts, feelings and actions to the Word of God. Repent where you need to, adjust where you are off, then watch and wait for the hand of God in your situation.

God, Where Are You?

He Will Never Leave You High and Dry

The best part of our walk with God is not what he does for us, as glorious as that may be, it is what he does in us! Faith, humility, trust, dependence—all the qualities of Christ-likeness—are best forged in the crucible of adversity. That is what God has done to and for all the greats—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Job, Daniel, Paul… Why should you be any different? Out of the fire of adversity comes the tempered treasures of righteousness.

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 74:9

We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be.

“God, it seems like you’ve left me high and dry!” That is the essence of this psalm. Have you ever talked to God like the writer of Psalm 74 did? I have! I am not talking about being disrespectful, but I am talking about being desperate.

There have been times of desperation in my life—when a loved one far too young to die was on her death-bed, when a conflict arose that seemed to have no resolution, when a financial need was staring me in the eyes and I had absolutely no answer for it, when an attack came from out of nowhere that just sucked the life out of me—and to be frank, I felt all alone. God was nowhere to be found from the human perspective, overrun with fear, anxiety and hopelessness, through which I was viewing all of life.

You have had those moments, too. And if we dared to be brutally honest with God, we said something to the effect, “God, where are you? You are really letting me down on this one!” Or worse!

Well, if you are having second thoughts about your unfiltered prayer to God, don’t fret. Jesus had a moment like that, too: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Perhaps your desperate cry to God has been more general—like the one in this particular verse. Your holy discontent has led you to prayerfully complain to God that he never seems to show up in his power and glory, with signs, wonders and miracles, like he did in days of old—and there seems to be no indication that he will anytime soon. You are desperate for God, but he doesn’t seem desperate for you.

The writer of this psalm most likely penned this prayerful lament after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. The Jews were deported to Babylon, the Holy Land had been overrun and defiled by pagans, and God’s people were in a bad way—with no end in sight. Worst of all, God was silent—he wasn’t acting (“no miracles”), he wasn’t talking (“no prophets”) and there was no game plan except for more of the same (“we don’t know how long this will be”).

So the psalmist poured out his complaint—which is always a good thing. And even though it wasn’t in this psalm, God did give his people some profound advice (I guess his advice is always profound since, after all, he is God) through a prophet that served around the same time as the palmist. His words are recorded in Jeremiah 29:1-23. I hope you will take the time to read them.

Of course, this passage contains the verse that everyone loves: Jeremiah 29:11—I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. But read the context. God is, in essence, saying to them, “this difficult time is going to take a while—and yes, I will see you through it—but in the meantime, bloom where I’ve planted you. Even though you don’t hear me or see me, I am still at work. I’m doing my part, so you do your part by staying faithful and useful to me.”

Here’s the deal: The best part of our walk with God is not what he does for us, as glorious as that may be; it is what he does in us! Faith, humility, trust, dependence—all the qualities of Christ-likeness—are best forged in the crucible of adversity. That is what God has done to and for all the greats—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Job, Daniel, Paul… Why should you be any different? Out of the fire of adversity comes the tempered treasures of righteousness.

Thrive: Frustrating times may last for a long time, but faithful people will endure forever. Restate your unequivocal trust in God. Tell the Lord, that no matter what, you will be faithful to him.

Room For Only One God

And It’s Not You!

There is room for only one God in your life, so let God be God. He has a great track record in that role, you know—and you don’t!

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 131:1

My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

There is only One who is God—and that’s not you! Basically, that is what the King David is saying of himself in this brief song of assent. The Message translates verse one this way:

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.

Yet this business of godship is more prevalent than we care to admit. You see, when we fret and worry over matters we can’t control, when we meddle and manipulate to get our plans fulfilled, when we come to God after the fact for help, when we pray as a last rather than a first resort, when we cut corners in our financial stewardship because we can’t afford to give to the Lord’s work, and when we put our hope in government (or anything else) at the expense of our trust in God, in effect, we have removed God from his rightful throne.

There is room for only one God in your life, so let God be God. He has a great track record in that role, you know, and you don’t.

And by the way, when you allow God to be God, good things happen for you:

  • You become the recipient of greater grace. Recognizing God’s rightful role takes true humility (the opposite of pride and haughtiness), as David describes, “My heart is not proud, O LORD,my eyes are not haughty”—Psalm 131:1a. Of course, the Bible repeatedly tells us this is always the catalyst for greater grace. (Proverbs 3:34)
  • You become the recipient of greater security. You put things that are above your pay grade back into the hands of the only One wise enough to handle them—what David calls “great matters or things too wonderful for me” —Psalm 131:1b (See how Paul describes them in Romans 11:33-36)
  • You become the recipient of greater confidence. Someone else is running the universe, which means you don’t carry that great weight upon your shoulders. David says, “But I have stilled and quieted my soul” —Psalm 131:2a … which is possible only when you first walk with the Shepherd who leads you beside quiet waters and restores your soul.
  • You become the recipient of greater contentment. David describes it “like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” —Psalm 131:2b (MSG) Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6)
  • You become the recipient of greater hope. “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore”—Psalm 131:3. It is by Biblical hope, as Paul teaches, “we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:24) “Hope” as Paul says in Romans 5:5, “does not disappoint us…”

Hmmm…grace, security, confidence, contentment, hope. I think I’ll let God be God!

Thrive: Have you told the Lord lately that you have no God but him? Maybe you should do it now!

Depressed? Practice Hope!

The Sure Path to Emotional Balance

Depressed? Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the positive truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Enduring Truth // Psalm 42:1

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

I am not a mental health expert, so don’t go throwing away your meds if you are under the care of a medical professional. And please don’t take this as the final word on clinical depression. So with that caveat out of the way, let me just say that I think the authors of this psalm, the sons of Korah, David’s worship team, are on to something.

And since we believe this sacred book, the Bible, is God’s perfect revelation of himself and his will for mankind, then let’s lean it to it as our only rule of faith and practice, perfect in all it affirms. Let’s treat it as we should—as the first, highest and best authority by which we will live our lives!

So when it comes to the ups and downs that we commonly experience in our daily existence, this psalm reminds us that the sure path to emotional balance and inner joy is to practice hope. The psalmist says, “put your hope in God.” The Apostle Paul said it a bit differently—but he had the same thing in mind: Put on…hope.” (I Thessalonians 5:8)

Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the positive truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Don’t believe that will work? Well, let me give you just one example of how hope can change you. Suppose you were to receive a phone call later today from an old friend who enthusiastically says, “Friend, I have good news. You can take a 7-day trip to Hawaii with my company that won’t cost you a dime. We have room for two more…but here’s the catch: we leave tomorrow evening at 9:00 PM. The boss is taking us on his private jet, and we’ll be staying at his beachfront villa in Maui.” You tell him you’ll call him right back, and the minute you get off the phone, you and your spouse, who was listening in, start thinking and planning. Out comes the pen and paper, and you begin to prioritize what you need to do to make this happen. Then you call the friend back, and tell him you’re in.

If that were to happen, I guarantee that you would then begin to ruthlessly align your life over the next 24 hours to pull off that all expenses paid trip to paradise. You might say that the hope of Hawaii tomorrow changed the way you lived today.

There’s something even better and more permanent than Hawaii. It’s called heaven. So why don’t you live like you are going there tomorrow—everyday! Here’s the deal: You’ll be amazed at how hitching your hope to the promise of heaven (or the love of God, or the blessings of salvation, or any other truth of God’s Word) will change everything you experience today—even your emotions.

Practice hope!

Thrive: So why don’t you give it a try! As the psalm says, “Hope thou in God!”