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Praise Befits the Upright

Words cut deep. Depending on their direction, they slice at different angles. Wounds or beauty may be the outcome. When God speaks, beauty.

In reading Psalms 33, I felt a sinking deep in my chest that made my heart ache, conviction.

Praise befits the upright.

Meaning…

extolling, commendation, admiration, exaltation, worship, voicing approval and esteem (of God)

is what’s

appropriate, characteristic of, fitting and suitable for

the God-follower

What’s more characteristic of my life is grumbling, complaining, greediness and idolatry. And, unfortunately, when I “catch” myself, I replace those traits with a mask of cheer, happiness, “I’m fine.”

Do our lives model that of praise? Not only that, but do we even dedicate time of praise of God? When I look back over the last several days of writing on how overwhelmed, overloaded with the circumstances of life and how worn down we’ve become, I can’t help but think no wonder I’m so weary! When all of life is focused on me, when all of life is focused on family or cleaning or shopping or activities, how can I expect less than a tired body and soul? Nothing breeds exhaustion like focus on self.

Amazing how turning our eyes from ourselves lifts our souls!

Not only does praise befit the upright, appropriate praise removes focus from the unworthy and directs it toward the One who is worthy of all praise.

Not only does praise befit the upright, praise/worship of God is what we are created for. So, we are fulfilling our very purpose on earth when he receives our heart first, our first glance and our first bow.

If you are worn out with life, shift your gaze from self and fix your praise on God.

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.

For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (Psalms 33)

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! (Psalms 150:6)

The Damage Is Already Done – A Guest Post

Mackenzi Groff is guest posting today contributing to the series The Fear of Coming Clean.

A fire started in the basement of your house and caused considerable structural damage. No one knows except your spouse and your neighbor. Together, they were able to put the fire out.

The fire department was called but they have come and gone. You come home and your spouse has decided to not tell you about the fire to protect you and for fear that you may go and find another house to live in. On the way home, you passed the fire truck, smelled smoke and wondered, even feared there was a fire in your home. When you get home, there is still the lingering smell of smoke but there is really no other glaring evidence that there has been a fire. Your spouse seems a bit on edge but says everything is alright and never mentions the fire. Walking around the house, you comment on the smell of smoke. Your spouse sniffs the air but says they don’t really smell anything. Going downstairs into the basement, the smell worsens. It is apparent that furniture has been moved around and the floor is wet but again, it is difficult to see where a fire might have been. Thinking you must be crazy, you decide there wasn’t a fire, the basement doesn’t get much use anyway and you move on with your day…

What do you think or how do you feel when you read this story? Absurd right? How is your spouse protecting you really by not telling you that there was a fire in your home? Or securing that you will remain living in this house forever? Granted, you may be protected from the feelings of loss that come from damage being done to your home but you are unable together to explore what damage has been done and repair it. For example, floor boards may be weak and cause major injury if walked on. You are unaware that there needs to be care when walking on them. The damage is already done, the damage isn’t done by you being told.

I had the assumption that the damage done to relationships was in the telling or confession of sin. As long as I sinned in secret or kept it a secret, damage was not done. Then I got married.

In the first two years of marriage, my husband struggled greatly with sexual sin to the point of addiction. Specifically, pornography. He was a young Christian but had been discipled well that confession of sin is part of living out the life Christ has called us to especially in our marriage. As much as I did not want to hear over and over that he had fallen into sin, there was relief in the confession. His confession was an expression of a heart that wanted to turn from sin as well as a reality check for where we actually were…stuck in a cycle.

There were times that he chose not to tell me for days on end that he was stuck in his cycle of acting out. I would have a suspicion that something was off but would chalk it up to me being distrusting or controlling. Then he would confess and I would realize that I wasn’t crazy and there actually had been a fire in our basement.

What also came from my husband choosing over and over to confess was that I was given the opportunity to truly know him, his struggle, to forgive him and to choose to stay. Another fruit of his repeated confession was that I began to see sin in my own life. There had been a major fire in my own basement. I began to realize the level of my self-righteousness, pride, unforgiving heart and selfishness among many other sins.

My husband could have kept his struggle a secret thinking that telling me would hurt me. Much would have been lost. We would not have been able to move out the furniture, repair major structural damage, repaint and redecorate the basement of our lives and of our marriage. It has been hard work but I can truly say that the structure of our marriage is stronger as a result.

A part of the ‘repair’ work we did through counseling was to each make a comprehensive list of all the sins we had ever committed in our lives (you might be amazed at what you remember and how unconfessed sin still haunts). Sounds daunting right? I felt overwhelmed, scared and cynical about creating and confessing this list because it seemed unrealistic and unnecessary. The questions I had to resolve before doing it were: Do I believe God’s promise to ‘heal’ through confession is truth? What kinds of fruit would come from full confession? What was my fear about (rejection, pride etc.)? What if my husband couldn’t love me anyway or I couldn’t love him?

We both chose to do the exercise, and the relief and freedom afterward was amazing. That relief came once the full confession was complete and even before my husband responded. I was in the window of having confessed and waiting for a response, but I already felt great freedom. Now I can say that he loves me, all of me. He has chosen to forgive and stay. I have too. We truly ‘know’ each other. We don’t have to wonder…what if he/she knew? I do.

What do you need to confess to your spouse today? What damage has already been done that needs repair? Will you allow the confession of your sin to shed light on what is true, allowing your spouse to truly know you and bring healing in your most important earthly relationship?

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” James 5:16a.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
I John 1:8-10

Mackenzi Groff, M.A.- married to Lauchlin for 10 years and mother of three beautiful and crazy kids who are 4 yrs, 3 yrs and 3 months. Has a B.A. in Family Studies from Messiah College and an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University. Currently using her education to it’s fullest as a stay at home Mom and homemaker. She loves to read, hike, camp, knit/crochet and cook….she has done very little of all of those since having children, except cook, and loves it.

Thoughts on Repentance

Over the years, Chris and I have had opportunities to counsel with couples in crisis.  We are frequently asked how they can know if their spouse is truly sorry.  They want to know if repentance is real.  There is no formula or time frame, but there are responses that may take place that point toward repentance once trust has been broken:

Taking Ownership – Taking ownership means not making excuses for our actions or blaming someone else.  We are simply free to say I did this.  I am responsible for my own actions.  That means not blaming our parents or past circumstances (although they may be contributing factors).

No Resistance – Showing no resistance means someone is free to check our story and ask us anything without us being defensive.  It may not be comfortable.  We may not want to rehash the pain/shame, but true repentance does not show resistance. (Know that if you are not questioning fairly and “in love” you can push someone who is repentant to resistance).

Recognizing Sin Against God – When the true magnitude of a sin is recognized, the offense against God is realized. The reality of this will drive us to repentance.  David said, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4)  Our sin certainly wounds others when we offend, but we are brought to great humility and woundedness ourselves when we realize the sin is against God Himself.

Righting Wrongs – When we commit an offense, many are left damaged in our wake.  True repentance will show itself in apologies to those we have deceived/wronged.  There is not an attitude of entitlement that says This is my business.  I don’t owe them anything.  God will help us discern which relationships need to be made right.

An Attitude of Inclusion – We’re just private people isn’t really a claim a repentant person gets to hold onto.  Regardless of personality, a person who has been living a lie, and never wants to go back, will include a tight community of brothers and sisters in his life to never walk alone again.  It doesn’t come easy because withdrawal squeezes a tight grip, but the fellowship of true community provides freedom that will never be found in the darkness of isolation.

We can’t know a man’s heart.  Only God knows if someone is truly repentant.  These are simply observations we have made in meeting with couples.  It is not a perfect system.  It’s not even a system.

What’s most important to know is that repentance is not an isolated event.  It doesn’t only come with a major moral failure.  It is part of the identity of a believer.  Our lives bear the markings of repentance daily, not once for salvation, not once for an affair, not once for a big lie, but daily.  Luther said the consistent pattern of the Christian life was repentance and faith, repentance and faith, repentance and faith.

More Than Words

Words are not enough to ensure a certain course of action will not take place.  Steps have to be taken.  Chris and I, in meeting with couples planning to get married, preach this over and over.  Many express their desire to take some of what their parents had to offer and leave some behind.  Some of what they choose to leave behind is lack of communication, infidelity, harsh discipline or abuse, divorce, passivity, lack of passion in their relationships with Christ and a lack of forgiveness.

One friend has continued to share his story to engaged couples saying, “My dad had multiple affairs.  I swore I would never be my dad.  I will not be my dad.  I will not be my dad.  I woke up one morning, and said, ‘S**t, I’m my dad.'”  We cannot will ourselves into goodness.  That’s why this friend fell into the same pattern.  He was seeking his own will and not the will of the Father.

So, what steps have to be taken to change the course of action?  They may be different for everyone, but more than the goal of behavior, the goal is a believing heart.  Are you trusting your own will for change?  The work has already been done on the cross.  Believe and take action.