This week's thoughts' come to you from two different devotional books: Devotions for the God Guy - A 365 Day Journey," by Michael DiMarco,
and "Simply Sacred" by Gary Thomas.
The first has to do with "Being poured out like wine," and the second with "The need for confession." I trust both will speak truth into your heart. Enjoy.
"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad to rejoice with all of you." Philippians 2:17
"When God uses you, he pours you out like wine and he breaks you like bread. But what does all that mean? How can you become wine? How are you broken? Well, it's really an amazing analogy. Wine is made from grapes. But before grapes can be drunk, they have to be crushed, smushed, turned to nothing but juice. Their former shape is destroyed and their very being translated from one essence to another.
Have you ever felt crushed, squeezed, out of all your energy -- even to the core of your being? Don't be so quick to complain. It's very normal for the God guy to be crushed. But it's for a very good purpose: so that you can be poured out as part of the sacrifice of service.
Okay, you can almost handle the idea of being broken by God. But what about when you are crushed by someone else? What then? Can you look at the crushing and still say, "Thank you for pouring me out, dear God." Or do you buck against the torment and turn away from the strain? When you are being crushed by someone other than God, don't start to wonder what you're doing wrong but think about how wine gets made. You can't be poured out as a drink offering until you've been squeezed.
So if you want to be turned from bitter grapes into beautiful wine, then you've got to accept the fingers that are squeezing you even when they aren't God's. If God chooses to break you by letting you be squeezed and smushed by life, then don't start to worry that you've been forgotten or abandoned by God -- quite the opposite is true. When the pressure comes, don't sin because of it, but stand in the face of it -- and then you will be ready to be poured out as a part of the sacrifice."
The Need For Confession
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer shocked the [Protestant] theological world when, as a Lutheran theologian in the early part of the twentieth century, he began advocating that Protestants reinstate the practice of confession. He did so not because he felt confession to a fellow human being was necessary in order to gain forgiveness from God [the point the first Protestants initially rebelled against], but because human confession has a practical purpose -- it makes our sin seem more real to us.
If you question this, ask yourself: "Why is it much easier to confess sins to God than to your pastor? Why is there more shame when another sinful human being observes my weakness than when I pronounce them before an all-holy God?" Could it be because God's presence is so weak in our lives? If we truly understood and cherished the beauty and holiness of God, we would shake a bit more when we approaching him. But his invisibility often creates a buffer, thereby softening the impact of his presence.
In and through another person God becomes real to us in human form. There is a flesh-and-blood person sitting next to me who flinches when they hear or see what should make me flinch, but doesn't -- and I see my hard heart exposed by their soft one."
We might say that when it came to the Catholic sacrament of confession the Protestant Reformers, "threw the baby out with the bath-water." It is one thing to reject confession to a priest as a sacrament that earns us salvific merit; it is another thing altogether to see confession as a helpful and healing practice for our spiritual growth and well-being.
After all, if we take James 5:16 to heart, and realize it is spoken in the imperative or command form, we will see that it's really not optional for our growth in godliness. The thought that I can keep all my struggles secret, or worse yet should, simply stunts my spiritual growth, impoverishes me spiritually, keeps me in bondage to the sins I hide, and leads to self-deception regarding my true desire to move beyond that sin as well as my need for others in the body to hear me, love me, encourage me, offer me godly counsel, be firm with me, help me see past my blind spots, and hold me accountable.
As Bonhoeffer also said (and I'll paraphrase): "Sin is like mold in a dark, damp basement. Keep it hidden in the dark and away from the light and it grows and festers. But open the windows, and expose it to the direct sunlight, and it will soon shrivel up and die." Too many believers feed their sin by keeping it hidden from the brothers and sisters they should be confessing it to as part of the sin-killing process of sanctification.
Just a little food for thought! In His Service, Pastor Jeff