Enough

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For Christian women who struggle with feeling like we’re not enough. Warning: I cried.

Are you enough? With God, you don’t have to be. He has enough. His love can make you enough.

The poised, young professional woman in white came boldly before the throne of God, dragging alongside her a battered, bruised little girl in filthy rags. “Lord, I’m surrendering this to you, my broken, wounded heart. I caught her running away from you and thinking wrong things again, so I’ve taken her captive, brought her back, and am presenting her to you again. I know she’s not much, but she’s all I have to offer, and I trust by faith she is enough. I have so much to do for you, and so little time, so I won’t keep you long. Amen.”

With that, the professional adult scurried away to get about the Father’s business.

The wounded child curled up on the floor in the fetal position, trembling, and sobbed. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Son knelt before the terrified little thing and caught her tears in a bottle.

The girl shirked back. “Why are you collecting those? Aren’t my tears bad? Don’t you already have plenty of evidence of how bad I am? Who is she kidding? I’m not enough. I’m a worthless thing trampled on, not a valuable treasure worthy of belonging to the king. I can never live up to her expectations, or the expectations of others. She dumps me here with you so she doesn’t have to deal with my brokenness. All I do is get in the way and make trouble. If I’m not enough for flawed humans, how can I ever be enough for a holy God?”

“This is how.” Compassion in his eyes, the Son showed the wounded child his nail-pierced hands, spread open wide. “This is enough. Your value is not based on works or on the approval of men. What I paid for you is what you’re worth. How much is my blood worth?”

“It’s priceless.”

The Son hugged her. “You are my priceless treasure. You shall be a royal diadem in the hand of the Lord. You are accepted, and you are loved, simply because you are my child.”

He scooped her up and carried her toward an incomprehensibly vast, wide, deep pool full of liquid red love.

The Edgy Psalm’s Invitation

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O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock! Psalm 137:8-9, NKJV

These shocking words are more likely to be quoted by atheists than Christians. Most with even a cursory knowledge of the faith knows this flies in the face of our teachings on revenge.

If you’re reading it in a version that renders “Happy” as “Blessed,” understand why the NKJV turned “Blessed” into “Happy.” Too many verses–many of them right in the Psalms–describe God as gracious, loving, and full of compassion for us to accept the idea of God blessing someone for such cruelty. It can be hard enough for some of us to accept that, over the course of many centuries, entire cultures can become corrupt, unjust, and plain wicked enough for it to become in keeping with a merciful, compassionate God’s character to either order or carryout genocides, before or after the cross.

We hope the cross has changed that by taking all the wrath of God. We know it is Satan’s character to try to find ways to put God in situations that make God look bad to humans from our finite perspective if God refuses to bend the rules God plays by, which are all rooted in the character of an infinite being.

That’s not what this post is about, though. What I want us to focus on is why is Psalm 137 in the Bible? What is it’s real point?

If we read the whole Psalm, we will see, like many Psalms, it is a prayer, God’s people talking to God. This one in particular is a lament. What it’s saying authoritatively is that God’s people said this to him. Psalms isn’t primarily a prayer book, though. It’s ancient Israel’s hymnal. One thing a hymnal does is give God’s people examples of how to worship God in ways acceptable to God.

Psalm 137 is the prayer of a broken heart during the Babylonian captivity. It expresses the grief of a people who’d seen Jerusalem/Zion burned, plundered, and razed to the ground. It expresses the rage of a people who have been carried away as slaves into a foreign land. Their captors love to torment and mock them by asking them to sing the Psalms about Zion/Jerusalem. A very frustrated Psalmist responded to those taunts with Psalm 137.

I say this based on the whole text of Psalm 137. Likely, the Psalmist has also seen the women raped and loved ones murdered. If we read the whole thing, most of us can probably think of a situation that has provoked the kind of emotions the author of Psalm 137 is expressing.

The “formula” for a lament Psalm includes a “but” where after the Psalmist vents his doubts, fears, anger, and grief to God, the Psalmist praises God and starts singing the uplifting verses we love to quote. That is absent from this Psalm. Why? The author wasn’t ready for it, most likely. Don’t force yourself to return to “normal” worship because a formula or cultural script says it’s time to, if your heart’s not ready for that. Pour out grief to God is worship, too. It shows a trust and faith in God that are pleasing to God, if we’re doing it to fork over our toxic waste and are willing to let God fill us with the “good stuff” when God says it’s time.

Christ forbid cursing our enemies as Psalm 137 does, but it remains an invitation to pour out our honest emotions to God in prayer. His grace can handle such confessions and trade us the power to do right.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]Christ forbid cursing as PS.137 does, but it remains an invite to pour out honest emotions to God in prayer. www.christsglory.com/?p=1300[/tweetthis]

 

Humans Make Unsafe Toxic Waste Dumps

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You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none,  and for comforters, but I found none.(Psalm 69:19-20 ESV)

God declared King David a man after his own heart. We might expect to find a man full of the fruits of the spirit. Instead we find a man who suffered much hardship, made huge mistakes (Bathsheba, murder .  .  . ) and who left testimony that he suffered great mental anguish, too.

Not only was this epitome of what God is looking for in a man one who struggled with a nasty temper’s lust for vengeance, he admits to being broken to the point of despair, not only to God, but allowed these words out in public so we can be reading text that give us an intimate look into the heart of an imperfect, flawed man who earnestly desired and sought the heart of God.

David’s writings are full of his pain and anger and all the other things men seek to hide. Most of his actual actions and life choices recorded in the scripture are courageous, true to his convictions, merciful, loyal, and he is known for his exuberant and joyful worship before the Lord.

Today, we often fall into the opposite: hiding our “inappropriate” feelings and unpleasant wounds and forcing ourselves to go through the motions of the godly Christian life, with an increasingly fake smile and increasingly justifying acting out in ways that release the internal pressure by making our problem someone else’s also. We may then wonder what is wrong with us, beat ourselves up, stuff that pain down as well, and repeat the cycle.

If this is you today, you can get victory. Take off the mask. Be honest, starting with God, about who you really are and what you really struggle with. Confess the shame, reproach. Perhaps, like David, you won’t find anyone on this Earth who will or can comfort you, but God already knows what the real deal is. He knows the chains restraining you and where you are needy.

After David had finally poured out before the Lord his bag of toxic garbage, God in his grace then granted David a song of praise and a grateful heart that desired to exalt the Lord by giving thanks. He encourages us then in Psalm 69:32-33, “You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”

Forgive us, Father, for the times we’ve struggled to follow you in our own flesh while holding onto toxins that inevitably will spill over onto others. We recognize that we are not fooling you, that you already know the truth of who we are in our hearts better than we. Give us courage to stop simply going through the motions, to be honest before you about how we really feel, and to confess our struggles with sin. We thank you that you will not despise your people for being captive, and we thank you for where you have freed us and will free us. Revive our hearts, oh Lord. Grant us the grace you gave King David, to truly manifest the fruits of the spirit and live victoriously.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Sincere Love Requires a Purified Heart

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love is a verb
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Love is a physical feeling or emotional sentiment to much of the world, and an empty action or, worse, words about action to too many in the church. Feeling and sentiment alone do no one any good. Words and promises alone do no one any good, but likewise neither does loving actions and a smile on the face while bitterness and anger linger in the heart.

One of the chief reasons we struggle to consistently love is because we’ve relegated love to mere behavior. If we harbor anger and bitterness and resentment in our hearts, life will give us plenty of excuses to be passive aggressive, procrastinate, and avoid the act or the person altogether. It is also true that we can genuinely find ourselves flooded, or we may have physical conditions that make it difficult for us prioritize tasks and control our behavior and impulses in the flesh.

At some point, we need to let love motivate us to stop letting life and our weaknesses push us around, come to the cross, examine our hearts, and lay out before the Lord honestly what we’re really feeling rather than going through the motions. Only there can we get rid of the weights and toxins that hinder us and be filled with his love and forgiveness and grace. That is the place where we can receive spiritual wisdom and the fruit of self-control, the power we need to be transformed and the strength we need to do his will,  to synchronize our heart to beat more in time with God’s and obey out of trust, love for God, and a genuine desire to do righteousness.

Lord, forgive us for pretending and going through the motions. We pray our love for you and others would be genuine and selfless. Search us, Lord, and show us what is truly in our hearts, and strengthen our relationship with you, bring us to a place where we will be comfortable confessing the “bad emotions” that poison us to you. Draw out of us everything that hinders us from loving both in deed and in truth. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Sincere Love Requires a Purified Heart–Love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1JN3:18[/tweetthis]

 

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Rejoice in the Lord Without Pretense

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Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

We discussed these verses previously in light of verse 18. This is a picture of total disaster in an agrarian society, no security and no livelihood, but it is also a picture of barrenness.  His stores are empty, he has a great lack. This is a cause of great suffering, yet he will rejoice.

Let us not miss the will rejoice and that he does not deny the suffering and the barrenness. He does not smile and pretend his storehouses are full and praise God for what he does not have. He does not feel guilty and sub par as a person or in his faith for what is barren in his life. He does put on a show, faking like everything is fine.

Before Habakkuk rejoices, he declares honestly before God (and men, since we’re reading this) what his true state of affairs is. His stores are empty because his people appear to be under attack by their enemies and also suffered severe natural disasters.  In verse sixteen, Habakkuk says:

16 I hear, and my body trembles;  my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;   my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble  to come upon people who invade us.

In context, what he is hearing is the report of the current events that have led to his great losses. This rejoicing in the lord that Habakkuk does is not a Pollyanna joy or a delusional/deceitful joy thanking God for the harvest that didn’t happen. It doesn’t deny the reality of the present sorrow. No, first he acknowledges the losses and suffering and emptiness of the present. He feels honestly, fears honestly, trembles honestly, even questions God honestly (if you read the whole book.)

Through this process, he finds the faith to trust in God to save him and draw near to God and take joy in the close fellowship with the God who is with us even in the darkest hour.

Lord, forgive me if I have drawn near to you to praise you with my lips, while denying the true sorrow in my heart. I pray that I would worship you in truth, being honest before you. Help me not to present a false image, praising God before men when my heart is breaking out of false guilt and needless shame.  Teach me to rejoice in you honestly, drawing near to you from the heart, even though my limbs or heart might be trembling in fear or great sorrow. Should I stumble into temptation in this area, prick my heart and grant me the courage to be honest before you and men about my feelings rather than merely going through the motions of what I think a good Christian in my shoes should say/do.

My Commentary on Today’s Verse of the Day