Monthly Archives: August 2018

That’s †rust!

Ps 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!  Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

“Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (תנ”ך), are *those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.” [Wikipedia] 

I had never heard the word imprecatory let alone of Imprecatory Psalms until this week. Here’s one of the lists I found: Psalms: 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139.  I began at the end of the list because I was more familiar with this Psalm. It had been meaningful enough to me that I’d written a song about it years ago.  When I reviewed the Psalm and my song I discovered I’d skipped right over verses *19 to 22* to the  last two verses pleading for God to search my heart and know me.  Now I’m surprised to discover he’s doing just that with those four verses I’d skipped back then.  

Skipping over those harsh “imprecatory” verses seems typical of the “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” mentality to me.  That mindset is more an indicator of not being willing to admit what God already knows I’m afraid to speak rather than of my own generous nature.  That’s the problem.

That’s what makes me think my reluctance to admit to, let alone speak, such harsh words to God may be his enemy using fake guilt to influence my heart with divided loyalties.  Is it  better to speak words and thoughts that sound so harsh and vindictive to God, than to not speak to him at all about them?  The reality is the only person I’ve been fooling is myself. 

I want my prayers to be like David’s.  I want my heart to be so certain of God’s Sovereign reliability that I am not afraid of the effect my hostile and harsh thoughts and words against his enemies and injustice will have on God’s opinion of me. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  That’s †rust!

The Seed

James 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Seed: a plant’s unit of reproduction, capable of developing into another such plant. 

Patience is a necessary thread that connects my mind to the idea of comparing faith, seed and farming.  James has been challenging me through this whole book as I’ve considered my √ list of traits for a believer.  Patience wasn’t even on my list but I see that it may well be the  seed that reproduces the valuable crop of endurance, need, mercy, personality, relationships, integrity, prayer and happiness in life.  Daily faith is more about seed gathering than crop production.  Plant the seed you have, pray for rain and stand firm.  The Lord will produce the crop.

Double √√

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √
Double √√

I’m struck by how complicated the life of a believer becomes with the reality of needing to submit [accept or yield], and at the same time resist [withstand the action or effect].  Submission and resistance are not as black and white as they may seem at first glance. 

We all know our response to those complications is critical but sometimes the right choice slips by unnoticed in a world of gray.  Ask the right questions.  Comfort can make submitting to the wrong thing seem easy.  Beware!   We’ve all experienced the futility of wasting our energy resisting the “right” thing.
Be aware! 

The right choice is all about the need to  double √√ who you’re submitting to and who you’re resisting.   Submit to the need to ask the right questions of the right person!  Resist the lie this is a simple choice based on comfort or effort. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Personality

James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds… 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √

The big debate about his book has always been verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”  James has taken a lot of flack for those words.  The very human temptation is to make faith and deeds a competition of either/or but here’s how I fit that debate into my √ list of traits for the followers of Christ.  I think James is addressing personality.  

Personality is the fabric of our lives.  The weaving of that fabric is the key here for me.  The process of weaving is always the same: two distinct sets of yarns or threads [like faith and deeds] are laced together at right angles to form the strength of the cloth.  It’s Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that turns those threads into something more than a loose pile of strings when he weaves both faith and deeds into the fabric of a unique personality of one of his beloved. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Mercy is the Beginning

James 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mer·cy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Here’s my checklist from James so far: √ endurance and √ need.  Next on the list is √ mercy.  We learn what it means to endure when we become completely aware of our need for Jesus to work out within us what God has promised.  Even before we “came to our senses” and spoke our own commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was at work revealing our need to do just that.  Walking into the arms of Jesus wasn’t an act of our own making.  Those words we spoke were the result of God’s mercy seeping into the cracks of a stony heart and triumphing over judgment, his and ours.  

Mercy is the beginning of  our own baptism into the Kingdom of God.   Shared mercy has other benefits that are just as real.   “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Love, Jesus

Need

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James mirror reference has reminded me of another important look in the mirror with another Bible friend, Rebekah, from June 12, 2015. That look in the mirror began with a very different emphasis: Genesis 27: 13 “Let his curses be on me, dear son. Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats.”

If you’re a parent those words “Just do what I tell you,” may seem very familiar.  This time though, they bring to mind how frustrated, manipulative and controlling they sound when I read Rebekah’s words…and they are.  I don’t know whether to be consoled by the realization that I am not alone having spoken them or appalled that I didn’t know any better when I uttered them.  It seems like a bit of both actually…the flesh and the Spirit locked in their lifelong struggle.

Rebekah is today’s Biblical looking glass for me to see the reality and opportunity found in her example.  These are lyrics to a song I wrote in bygone days.

In the mirror I see
Two eyes looking back at me.
Two eyes trying to see
A picture of what I can be.

That’s the flesh part and the reflection is not always pretty but my song goes on…

Won’t you picture God for me my friend?
Won’t you be my mirror when I pretend?
Won’t you help me to see?

That’s the Spirit part.  I can’t always see myself clearly.  The reality is there are times when only a friend can help me to see.

Some might say Rebekah is just an Old Testament character, long gone, but maybe she’s in the Bible to be that friend for me today.  A friend who has the ageless ability to show me how God works even when I’m at my manipulative worst…a Kingdom friend who says: “Look in that mirror once more and see what I’ve pictured for you.  This is what ‘not Godless but not Godly either’ can look like.  I’ve shown you my humanity so you can recognize it in yourself and choose something better.”

Epilogue:
Thank God for these Bible friends.  I need them.  I don’t always see the reflection of their faith I’d like when I look into the mirror with them but their lives consistently show me one of the most important aspects of my faith: the challenge of recognizing your need.  I’m not willing to settle for just being not Godless but not Godly either.  I need to look “intently into the perfect law that gives freedom [Jesus]” and continue in it.