Category Archives: Wednesday

Short and Sweet

MSG Ephesians 5:1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Jesus view on life: live discreetly, love loudly
The world’s view: live loudly, love discreetly

Juxtaposition is the placement of two or more things side by side, often in order to bring out their differences. Get it?

But as for Me

Psalm 109:19 Now may those curses return and cling to him like his clothing or his belt. 20 This is the Lord’s punishment upon my enemies who tell lies about me and threaten me with death.  21 But as for me, O Lord, deal with me as your child, as one who bears your name! Because you are so kind, O Lord, deliver me.  22-23 I am slipping down the hill to death; I am shaken off from life as easily as a man brushes a grasshopper from his arm. 24 My knees are weak from fasting, and I am skin and bones. 25 I am a symbol of failure to all mankind; when they see me they shake their heads. 26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me because you are loving and kind…29 Make them fail in everything they do. Clothe them with disgrace. 30 But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord, praising him to everyone. 31 For he stands beside the poor and hungry to save them from their enemies.

I began this journey through these Imprecatory Psalms because of my frustration about being unable to pray about ugly circumstances beyond my control because the only words I could come up with were ugly too. It was a faithful pastor and friend that pointed me to these Psalms with the caveat they were not easy but they might help me understand my own situation. I’m certain that’s exactly how the Bible works and why it’s still such an important book.  So today I’m going to quote words of my own lessons from this series of posts.

“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.”

“God ultimately chose to intervene in his global creation through the life of Jesus and with the Holy Spirit for one specific reason: to make that same kind of freedom, personal relationship and aggressive faith with the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God available to each of us.” 

“Here’s the thing the giant slayer came to understand: Life is just another giant you can’t fight alone.  That’s the reality of Sovereign reliability.” 

“The  power of God was revealed  “for Heaven’s sake” in the imperfections of this king BECAUSE he knew exactly what to do with the ugly stuff!”  

“God’s justice IS going to defend the righteous but just as surely it’s “still” HIS righteousness that’s our right reward to enjoy, not the judgment of others.”  

“Life is our power struggle in which we constantly have to choose whether we’ll give the power to circumstances or to our intimacy with God to effect our response.”   

“Circumstances won’t always change but perspective can make all the difference in our response.  “The humble shall see their God at work for them. No wonder they will be so glad!” 

This week life has dished out some physical pain for me.  I read these harsh words from this man with a direct line to God’s heart with my own pain reminding me of the powerful challenge circumstance and perspective have on life, even in our intimacy with God.  Then I realized David’s prayer can be mine too.  “But as for me, O Lord, deal with me as your child, as one who bears your name! Because you are so kind, O Lord, deliver me.”

Power Struggle

Psalm 59 – Written by David at the time King Saul set guards at his home to capture and kill him.

1 O my God, save me from my enemies. Protect me from these who have come to destroy me.  2 Preserve me from these criminals, these murderers.  3 They lurk in ambush for my life. Strong men are out there waiting. And not, O Lord, because I’ve done them wrong. 4 Yet they prepare to kill me. Lord, waken! See what is happening! Help me!
9 O God my Strength! I will sing your praises, for you are my place of safety. 10 My God is changeless in his love for me, and he will come and help me. He will let me see my wish come true upon my enemies.

11 Don’t kill them—for my people soon forget such lessons—but stagger them with your power and bring them to their knees. Bring them to the dust, O Lord our shield.
16 But as for me, I will sing each morning about your power and mercy. For you have been my high tower of refuge, a place of safety in the day of my distress.   17 O my Strength, to you I sing my praises; for you are my high tower of safety, my God of mercy.

David writes of his personal “power” struggle in these imprecatory Psalms.  His is a struggle between real circumstances and real intimacy with God.  You can see that in the verses above.  Over and over his conflicted thoughts demand my thought because that’s my power struggle too.  Circumstances do not operate independently of intimacy with God.  

There’s no way to get around the fact our power struggle is just like David’s.  Life was his connection between real circumstances and real intimacy with God.  Maybe God is using David’s Psalms to make us look at life in a more realistic way.  Life is not a sentence because of circumstances or a slam-dunk because of intimacy with God.  Life is our power struggle in which we constantly have to choose whether we’ll give the power to circumstances or to our intimacy with God to effect our response. 

BECAUSE

Excerpts from Psalm 55 NIV
1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;  2 hear me and answer me.  My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught,
17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 18 He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days.  But as for me, I trust in you

This Psalm reads as if it must be the apex of David’s anguish.  I hope the remaining four on my list are not as intense.  My brain and my heart can’t handle it.  This powerful and imperfect king has given me an appreciation of what the desire to trust God so completely really looks like. These Psalms are sort of like reading David’s personal diary of ugly stuff.  Over and over no matter what, or whose, sin David was dealing with, his choice was to depend on God’s integrity not his own.

I can understand the need to write down his intense and troubling thoughts knowing no one else needed to know them.  I can imagine him reading and editing them at length to distill them into as truthful a representation of his faith before God as he could.  What is so much braver than I can imagine is his choice to write down the reality of his fears, flaws and failings to be sung from the mouths of others for heavens sake!

That’s enough to bring tears to my eyes as I type.  After 40+ years of following Jesus I still have ugly stuff.  I’ve not written it down for anyone to sing about but there are family and other people in my life who’ve seen what I couldn’t write and they surely could.  

These Psalms have become a lesson for me.  The  power of God was revealed  “for Heaven’s sake” in the imperfections of this king BECAUSE he knew exactly what to do with the ugly stuff!

Connection

Psalm 7:6 Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies.  Awake, my God; decree justice. 7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high.  8  Let the Lord judge the peoples.  Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. 9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.  10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

The NIV describes this Psalm as a “Shiggaion of David.”  The specific character of such a Psalm is no longer really known but perhaps it means a “wild, mournful ode.”  It certainly is a picture of a man who is so confident in his relationship with God he’s free to advise God and demand action.  It sort of feels like David is bossing God around doesn’t it?  David trusted so completely in God’s Sovereign reliability there was nothing he ever felt he had to hold back. He had an aggressive faith and a uniquely personal relationship to God.  That’s the connection between this Psalm and our story.

God ultimately chose to intervene in his global creation through the life of Jesus and with the Holy Spirit for one specific reason: to make that same kind of freedom, personal relationship and aggressive faith with the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God available to each of us. 

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.

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.”