Our Sorrows Call Us into The Kindness of God

My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of your love.
Your waterfall of weeping sent waves of sorrow
over my soul carrying me away,
cascading over me like a thundering cataract.
-Psalm 42:7 (TPT)

Our sorrows call us into the kindness of God.  Our grieving is an opportunity to know God.  The deep pain we have experienced is filled by God.

For those who have experienced deep sorrow, a deep experience of God’s kindness is available.  The experience begins with the realization that God has been with you in your suffering.  And God is here today, to wash you with tears.

For the one who has experienced great sorrow, God has a washing and cleansing journey.

Some of us deal with sorrow by saying or living either:

  1. “It did not happen.”
  2. “It happened, but should not have.”
  3. “It happened, but it’s no big deal.”
Number one is denial.  Number two is a calculated life, that is “tit for tat”, “cause and effect” or a sort of legalism; and may include unforgiveness and the bitterness towards others, God or yourself.  Number three is minimizing, where I might see myself as more than human, or less than human: “that did not hurt”, or, “I must have deserved it”.
All three of these are dysfunctional.  Dysfunctional means that our functioning is blocked.  When our functioning is blocked, we become stuck as smaller people than we could be; and we impose on ourselves a constricted life.
The fourth way is to say, “God is good and His kindness is more than I know.”
  1. “It did happen, and God was with me and experienced all of it with me.”
  2. “I don’t know why it happened, but I know that God was with me and loved me in that time.”
  3. “It was a big deal and hurt, even excruciatingly; and God was with me.”
As we get the revelation of God’s kindness and that God was with us in whatever painful experience we went through, we might circle back to “why?”, many times.  That is simply the wrong question.  And the wrong answer is that God is not good or is bad.
When we come out of denial, blaming and minimizing; and embrace the reality of our pain, loss and sorrow; the next step or stage is a deeper revelation of God:  God is kind, God is good, God is compassionate and God is merciful to me.
That God who is The God, is the one I can be real with and let my sorrows flow before.  God’s deep kindness, deep love, deep comfort and deep healing has always been available.  There is a time in our journey, when we come to realize this and begin to call to God for God’s deep kindness.
Our lives with the deep pain and the deep need for healing and wholeness, become a prayer.  The revelation that comes is that God weeps with us and for us.  God has intercessory tears for us.

Our sorrows call us into the kindness of God.  Our grieving is an opportunity to know God.  The deep pain we have experienced is filled by God.

For those who have experienced deep sorrow, a deep experience of God’s kindness is available.  The experience begins with the realization that God has been with you in your suffering.  And God is here today, to wash you with tears.

The Deeper Life

Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.

-Psalm 42:7
I am a person who is interested in going deeper.  As a young man, I devoured books on the deeper Christian life.  My quest for depth took me into the experience of so much joy, that I smiled all the time.  I was also introduced to the experience of deep sorrow and pain.
I found out that deeper means the whole package: joy and sorrow.  I found out that the reason Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted is that many people, including me, have had broken hearts that need Jesus.  There is a tension in seeking the deeper life in God, in that when God takes you deeper, when you go deeper with God, you experience the depths of joy and sorrow.
When I first looked at Psalm 42, as a young man, I thought it was just about hunger for God.  And it is true that it is about hunger for God.  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you”, is about hunger, longing, and desire for God.  But the rest of the Psalm is harder to digest or face, because it is about deep pain and sorrow.
Psalm 42 is about weeping, loss and depression, along with seeking God.  “As the deer pants”, is a beautiful, poetic picture.  The deer is thirsty, and so are we.
Another interpretation, is that the deer is panting, longing for the protection of the stream, where it’s scent will be hidden from predators.  We also desire to be in God’s presence, which is the place of immunity from the enemy.  We want to escape the taunting, the attacks, the abuse and the temptations of the dark forces; so we seek to be closer to God, where we find safety and comfort.
Psalm 42 is about, “let is be over”, and the ‘it’ is the pain.  The Bible is a book filled with stories of victory and joy, but also defeat and sorrow.  The Bible teaches and models going through and experiencing both fully.
If we are full grown believers, we will know how to have full joy and full sorrow.  Most of us have not grown up into knowing how to experience either, and we might even judge those who do as ‘extreme’.  Many of us have learned to be stoic and even live out of touch with our emotions.
My desire is to experience the depths of joy and the depths of sorrow.  Let us be people who weep, grieve and groan, and people who  cry tears of joy, dance for joy and vocalize their joy with shouts and laughter.  This is what the authentic people of God have always been like and what we will be as we go deeper.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me”, is a picture of the deep life in God.  Whatever the depth of my sorrow, God goes there with me.  His presence is in my deepest sorrow, grief and loss.  I have always been asking for more joy and more love and more power too, but not more pain.
But I have immense pain, immense loss; and while I do not minimize it, I also do not inflate it and I know that others have had much worse tragedies and immeasurable suffering.  But pain is pain and loss is loss and suffering is suffering; and whatever mine or yours has been; the great revelation is that God goes there with us.  God wants to walk through the door and into the feelings of pain, sorrow, depression, loss, anger, grief, hopelessness and suicide.  
Yes God does want this for us.  He wants to come into the darkest, most painful places in our hearts, in our memories, and in our past that haunts us.  God wants to be there with us.
This is what the calling out is to, the prayer up is to and the cry of Psalm 42 is all about.  God wants to come into the painful places.  To all of our losses, suffering, disappointments and experiences of injustice is where God wants to go with us.
We often want suffering to just go away or disappear and we ask God for all the good things, the blessings, to replace all the bad things.  And God does lavish upon us many blessings and many good things and even joy and happiness.  But if we do not grieve our losses, mourn, feel, cry, and let it out; then we can not fully experience the good things, because part of us is missing and non-functional.
God wants to walk with us, through our sorrow and pain, so that we have the security to know we are loved in our ugliest, most shameful, depressed, hopeless, trapped rage places of our hearts.  We will see God there and know that he is Lord of the low and the high places.    When we live with and deeply experience God in sorrowful times, our lives in joyful and blessed times become richer, because we know we are loved at all times and in all places.

This Is My Country: Is Nationalism OK?

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance and divided the human race,
He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the people of Israel.

From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

-Deuteronomy 32:8, Acts 17:26-27

I woke up one morning, this past week, with the song, “This Is My Country”, going through my heart.  You might know this song, which speaks of national pride and national unity.  We are, in America, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.  These are very powerful words that we say.

I believe that we are entering into a time when these words will be more meaningful and come alive to all of us in America.  I, personally,  am proud to be an America and I love the United State of America.  But I also love God first and His Christ and I also love all the other nations.

But this is my country.  If I were a citizen of China or Scotland, I would say the same thing.  Nations are a good thing and were invented by God.

And we love our nation and we love the nations. And believers are a nation within the nations.  Only God is a citizen of the whole world and the gospel, from God and through God’s people, is transportable to all the nations.

We are not citizens of the world.  Some people, through the circumstances of their lives, hold dual citizenship, and perhaps it is possible to hold three or more.  Many of us can trace our roots back to a number of countries, where we have our family lines, and that is a part of what makes us who we are.

But from wherever we came, we are now here, and we have a nation we call our country.  This is how it is and is part of God’s design, which we see throughout the scriptures.  If nations were invented by God, then is nationalism ok?

We have to understand that nationalism is not racism or a hegemony.  We can and should be nationalistic without racism or hegemony.  Nations should be good neighbors and there is a saying that goes, “fences make for good neighbors”.

We do have allegiance to our nation, but after our allegiance to God.  We are one nation, under God; whether we act like it or not.  And many of us do put our trust in God, even if we don’t act like it, taking God’s name is vain often.

We are a nation of sinners and saints and saints who sin and sinners who are saints.  With all our flaws and outright missing the mark, we are God’s people even when we don’t know God.  
God created nations and nations are a good Idea.  Nations, plural.  When we become believers, our national identity comes under God, just as everything else about us does.
I am a Christian, who is proud to be an American.  That is very different than saying and believing that I am a proud American, who is also a Christian.  Everything about us, including our ethnicity and our nationalistic identification and our sexuality comes under God and under God’s Christ.
The idea of ‘one world’ or ‘no borders’, is distinctly not from God, not from the Bible, and has never been a part of the story of the people of God.  Because of the sins of nations and governments, that have caused wars, famine and poverty throughout the earth; humans have come up with the solution that we should all get along without the many tribes and many nations, with their boundaries, borders and distinctives.
Through the entire Bible’s story, when we finally get to the last book, Revelation, we read that there are nations that God has been working in:

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.
-Revelation 5:9 and 7:9

Being from and in a nation is a good thing.  Loving your nation, your people, and either the people your nation has adopted or the people you have been adopted into, is a good thing.  Christians are citizens of the kingdom first and then citizens of earthly nations.

Nationalism is good when it is woven through with kingdom values like love for others.  But the nations on this earth are not the kingdom of God, and the church is not the kingdom either.  The church comes out of and flows in the kingdom and we all live in nations, whether we serve the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan.

God and Satan are both working in the nations, as a battle field, on the earth.  Nations are turf, where people live, that God is working to save and Satan is working to corrupt.  People who do not believe, who have not repented, or are not ready are apt to have an unclear understanding of nations and might gravitate to the extreme of national pride, exclusive-ism and un-neighborliness that may even include war against others.  Or, they might believe in moving toward a world where there are no nations, no boundaries and we are all one.

Both of these extremes are wrong, and the correction is that God redeems nations.  The human answer is to either be proud and unloving towards others and live in narcissism, or to become ‘enlightened’ and find a way to get along, through ‘human ingenuity’.  Both of these are wrong, because they leave out or set aside the loving God.

Believers are challenged to live in the world, but not of the world: as sojourners, who are on their way to living forever with God.  And believers are all about taking as many people with them into God’s family.  That mission is what drives the Christian, who lives on earth, in a nation.

What God has ordained or created is something I also like.  And one of those things is nations.  Nations is plural and God loves the nations, all the nations.

But I live in a nation and I love my nation, that God also loves.  God is saving and redeeming people inside of nations including my country.

I can not tell you about other nations or your country, if you are in another nation.  But I can tell you the good things about my country.  I can sing it’s praises and I imagine you can sing the praises of yours.

One of the great things about my country is that we are of many ethnicities, yet we are one nation.  We also hold many different opinions, but we are one nation.  Love for America in it’s truest sense is love for all of America and love for who we all are, together, living in this land.

Here is the song:
This is My Country, by Dan Raye and Al Jacobs
This is my country
Land of my birth
This is my country
Grandest on Earth
I pledge thee my allegiance
America the bold
For this is my country
To have and to hold

What difference if I hail from North or South

Or from the East or West?
My heart is filled with love
For all of these.
I only know I swell with pride
And deep within my breast
I thrill to see Old Glory
Paint the breeze.
With hand upon my heart
I’m thankful for my native land
For all I love is here within her gates
My soul is rooted deeply within the soil on which I stand
For these are mine, my own United States.
This is my country
Land of my choice
This is my country
Hear my proud voice.

I pledge thee my allegiance

America the bold
For this is my country
To have and to hold.

Happiness, Anger, and Your Liver

  • Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely. 
  • That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety.
  • This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest.
    Who could want for more?
  • So my heart rejoices and I am happy;  My life is safe.
  • Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.
  • Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
  • Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.

-Psalm 16:9 (HCSB, CEB, MSG, NET, NIV, ESV NKJV)

A secure person has healthy emotions –  healthy happiness and sadness, joy and anger.  Our heart is the seat or inner place of our love and our liver is the seat or inner place of our anger.  Healthy, normal people experience love and anger, and because of this, they walk securely.

Having God’s protection, living a life of worship towards God, loving your neighbor, declining to live in idolatry, making the Lord your life, receiving and living in your inheritance in contentment, receiving counsel from God even while sleeping, and living in 24-7 intimacy with God.  These all lead to or produce the fruit of a secure life, from the inside out, symbolized by a healthy heart and liver.

David says that three aspects of his life are good, and I looked at seven different translations, because the second part, aspect number two, is translated differently, in different translations.  He says his heart is good, and something else is good, and that his flesh, body, or life is good.  That something else is translated:

  • my spirit
  • my mood
  • my soul
  • I
  • my tongue
  • my whole being
  • my glory
The King James has “my glory”, as does the NASB and many other older translations.  But we simply do not say, “my glory rejoices”, today; so translators had to choose other words.  It probably tells us that the Hebrew is difficult or obscure here.
I found a note, in the NET Bible notes, that makes the case that this word, and they translate it “I”, is synonymous with liver.  Again, we do not exclaim, “my liver rejoices”, so no English translation says that, but the writers of the NET Bible notes make the exegetical and anthropological case that this is what the original statement meant.
We have to remember that we are in the West, but David and the other authors of the Bible lived in the East.  Sometimes people do fear-talk and say, “watch out for those eastern religions”, and  I imagine they have in mind Hinduism and Buddhism.   But Judaism is from the middle-east, and is closer to China and India than to London, New York, or Los Angeles.
Even though Continental Europe is closer than those, it’s western, modern ideas of psychology and medicine will not help us with Hebrew as much as looking at Eastern anthropology.  And, from Chinese medicine, we find out some things, from the eastern mind, about the liver.
Some of our bodies’ organs are connected to our emotions.  It is believed that the liver is connected to our anger.  How you feel, deal with, or process anger is connected to your liver.  When we have a weakened liver, it is more difficult to deal with anger.
Overeaters or compulsive overeaters often eat because something is eating at them, which is often anger or resentment.  Alcohol and drugs, including Tylenol, are hard on the liver.  Ironically, people take drugs and alcohol to cope with anger, and actually weaken their body’s built-in anger processor. 
Anger is a secondary emotion or a reaction.  Anger is healthy and normal.  A robust life includes healthy anger.  David might have been such a person: a passionate warrior who had fiery anger that regularly was processed through his inner man or liver.  He had a bright light, we could say.  He might have been a person who changed the atmosphere in a room or place, just by his presence, which included his passionate, fiery personality.
Anger includes irritability, resentment, and frustration.  We get these, but we do not stay in these, but process them; which is the inner role the liver plays in our body’s emotional processing system.  If we do not process or allow our system to process, or if our system is blocked somehow, and we can not process the anger that comes, then we have a back-log of anger and we become angry easier at smaller annoyances in our lives.
Headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, stomach, and spleen problems can be the result of anger backed up in your insides.  There are actually about 100 conditions that could be connected to your liver’s health.
The liver is the blood filter.  The liver stores sugar, for energy.  The liver works for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues.
The liver is in charge of your body’s peripheral nervous system.  People with dysfunctional livers have difficulty relaxing and with balance.  Dysfunction also results in lack of drive, ambition, and creativity; and feelings of anger: frustration and rage for no reason.
The liver and gallbladder work hand-in-hand.  If one is unhealthy, it affects the function of the other.  A healthy life-style for one is helpful for the functioning of the other.
Most of these things are the negatives of an unhealthy liver.  But, in Psalm 16, David says, “my liver is great!”  So what are the positives about a healthy liver, that David must have been experiencing enough to say this?
In Chinese medicine, the liver is “the general”, or “the chief of staff”.  The liver is the general in charge of strategy.  We are talking about vision, planning, and creativity.  
A person with a healthy liver is vibrant in their kindness, benevolence, compassion, and generosity.  This reminds me of the fruit of the Spirit. A healthy liver function, according to Chinese medicine, results in the feelings of ease, harmony, and peace.  
The macro functional idea of the liver’s role is to make you go somewhere, to set you free to be creative, to live going out, up, and forward.  “Carpe diem!”, with peace, is what your liver wants to say.
__________________________________________________________
Bibliography

Net Bible, Liver
The Liver Doctor: Your Emotions Can Effect The Health of Your Liver
What Are The Seven Emotions?, by Shen Nong
Liver: Wood-energy yin organ

Some Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

We must meet hate with love.

I’m talking about a type of love which will cause you to love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. We’ve got to love.

Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it.

I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater. […] when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

Jesus is not an impractical idealist; he is the practical realist.  I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.

Let us be practical and ask the question: How do we love our enemies?  First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us.

Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words “I will forgive you, but never forget what you have done” never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing totally for his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, “I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.” Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can ever love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.

Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry.’ I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.

Here are two of his sermons:

‘Love Your Enemies’ November 17, 1957

“Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool” August 27, 1967

Lament

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.
Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will surely come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves.

-Psalm 126:5-6

Lament.  Do we know what lamenting is or how to do lament?  Lament is a response to loss.

Anger and lament are related, but not the same.  Anger is a response to the “ouch”, that might be a loss.  We get angry when our feelings are hurt.

But staying angry is bad: it is unhealthy for us and for others that we are in relationship with.  Staying angry disconnects us from everyone, including God and our true selves.  If I can not get over it, can not get past it, I might just need to let it go, forgive, release it, and just move on.  Maybe and maybe not.

There are some people who are out of touch with their anger and have hidden or repressed anger, that influences their lives and has become part of how they live, that is not healthy or functional.  There are anger groups and anger therapies out there, that try to help people with their anger.

One of the funniest things (ironic) psychological therapists have done, to try to heal anger, is called “Bataka Work”.  Bataka’s are foam bats.  These first came out in 1960’s, as far as I know.  Angry people would hit the bat on the floor, on a couch or chair, or on other people, and attempt to release their anger.  Another variation on this was to throw china plates against a wall and call out the anger.

The bottom line is that it does not work.  It is a placebo, at best; but usually just feeds the person’s anger and does not resolve it.  If a person has hidden anger and gets in touch with it, maybe that is good, but then what?

Studies were eventually done, and they were printed up in Psychology Journals, and the Bataks disappeared, for a while; but then came back.  We can only speculate why.  Today, you can buy a pair of “Encounter Bats”, for $199.99 on Amazon.

If you are a therapist or a counselor, you may have an opinion, perhaps positive about anger therapies that involve violence, even punching pillows and screaming.  I am not against you, if you are a healer.  I just disagree with you.

I believe in grief work, mourning, and healing from God for broken hearts.  I believe in lament.

If I am stuck, I may have work to do.  Something happened to me.  It was probably a loss.  I might try saying, “bleep happens”, or “I’ll just get over it”, or “I forgive everyone”, but when I climb up the ladder from the pit I fell into, and things are still not the same, not back to normal.  Things are slow, things are dark.  Maybe I forgot to, or neglected to mourn or do grief-work: saying goodbye, having the funeral, and letting it go; which includes lament.

Bigger losses are not the kinds of things that just get us angry or make us stuck in anger.  They do make us angry, even enraged with anger; but that is just a part or what we need to do to process and heal from the loss.  And when the big loss occurs, in the shock of it, we do feel like we might be angry forever, because the rage is so acute.

Yes, but we will need to heal.  The appropriate response to big losses is grief and mourning, which includes lament.

In his book, Hurting With God, Glenn Pemberton writes that 40% of the Book of Psalms are “lament psalms”.

How many songs do we sing that are lament songs?

Negro Spirituals are an  example of lament songs.  When the songs says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”, it is serious suffering that is being sung about.  There is something lacking today when Christians do not know and sing songs of lament.
If Christians have sadness that is bottled up and not let out in lament, where does it go?  The Biblical worldview is one of suffering.  Suffering was not just for the Old Testament believers, but is part and parcel of the Jesus follower’s life.
The gospel actually promises you that you will suffer.  Lament songs are not “downers”, but are healing.  God designed us to grieve, to lament, to complain and ask for help.
What does lament mean?

Lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.  “his mother’s night-long laments for his father” 

synonyms: wail, wailing, lamentation, moan, moaning, weeping, crying, sob, sobbing, keening.

Lament: a song, piece of music, or poem expressing sorrow.

Lament: a dirge, requiem, elegy, threnody, monody; keen: “a lament for the dead”.

Lament: an expression of regret or disappointment; a complaint: “there were constant laments about the conditions of employment”.

Lament: mourn (a person’s loss or death): “he was lamenting the death of his infant daughter”.

more synonyms: mourn, grieve, sorrow, wail, weep, cry, sob, keen, beat one’s breast: “the mourners lamented”.

Lament: express one’s deep grief about: express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair: “she lamented the lack of shops in the town”.

more synonyms: bemoan, bewail, complain about, deplore, rue; protest against, object to, oppose, fulminate against, inveigh against, denounce: “he lamented the modernization of the buildings”.

When Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow in tears”, it is talking about people who have cried.  The whole psalm is about restoration.  But, it was a given that folks had mourned, grieved, and lamented; because it was a part of their culture, that we can see, just by browsing through Psalms 1 to 125.

About 40% of The Psalms are laments.  Why?  Because life is filled with loss and we need to process those loses.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.”

That sounds paradoxical.  It is.  Believers, faithful ones, or followers of the Lord; have scars where life has hurt them, but they are filled with a depth of joy.

“Let me see your scars”, is something that should be a staple of Christian community and communitas.

Many believers have wrestled with things, before the Lord, and some have wrestled with the Lord; and have a limp, for life.  We have fallen on the rock and been broken.

I come from a family that did not lament, that did not grieve and mourn well.  I imagine that there were many funerals that we were invited to that we did not attend, in my childhood.

I did not start learning about healing through gracious grief, until I was an adult.  When I did not know how to grieve, the Lord was gently shepherding me; and one of the things I did was to fill notebooks with pages of lament and go for long walks and just ponder.

I know that ‘meditate’ is a bad word for some believers, but one of my favorite verses is the one where it says that Isaac was out in the field at twilight time, meditating, when he saw the camel train coming in the distance, that contained his wife (Gen. 24:63).

Looking back, I have had the experience of doing ‘lament walks’, ‘lament talks’, and writing my laments.  I do believe in the value of journaling!  It is funny that no one taught me to journal.  I journaled as a kid, and when I got in touch with some pain, as a young adult, I filled stacks of them with what?  Lament.

A bridge grew in my life of my pain and God’s love.  I met God in my grief, sorrow, agony, and emptiness.  Out of my pain, that I expressed in lament, came God’s life.

I smiled so much that people noticed.  I reaped a harvest of joy.  I have experienced loss and jaw-dropping restoration.  I know what it is like to feel low and go through the grief, mourning, and lamenting; then to come out and into a new space, that I did not know existed.

But, the thing is, I became transformed and was a different person.

And so it goes, over and over.  Life is cyclical, a process, with seasons.  Lament is a part of the full life.

The Move of God

God arises. His enemies scatter, and those who hate Him flee from His presence.

-Psalm 68:1
We are beginning to experience a move of God.  I wondered about that term we use, “move of God”.  This idea contradicts the notion that God is fixed and static.  But the idea captured in Psalm 68:1 is of The King standing up, from his throne.
The immediate affect of God moving is his enemies scattering.  When God comes, the enemy has to go.  Much of the good that happens when God moves, is all the bad that has to go.

There is a war that has been going on, since the beginning of time, between God and his enemy.  The enemy has taken territory, and when God moves into that area, the enemy scatters and flees.  People who make friends with the enemy of God become God’s enemies as well.

In the New Testament, we are told by James that becoming a friend of the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4), and John tells us that we are not to love the world nor the things of the world and if we do, we do not have Father’s love in us (1 John 2:15).  We learn that there is a serious distinction between loving people who live in this world, and loving just “the world”.  The bad side of the world, that we are to avoid is the desires and pride in the world (1 Jn 2:16).

The world has been the battlefield, with people as targets and captives of God’s enemy, since the beginning.  The way that the enemy lures and captures people is first demonstrated with Adam and Eve; when the serpent tempted them to fall.  Since that time, men and women have been falling into the enemy’s traps and becoming captive.

But, God has been on the move and has had a plan to crush the enemy, which God did in Christ (Gen. 3:15).  We know that the reason Jesus Christ came was to destroy the works of the Devil (1 Jn. 3:8).  And those evil works are all the wrecked lives that God redeems in Christ.

The essence of the move of God is that the enemy is routed.  All kinds of human suffering is relieved.  This is described in Luke 7, when John the Baptist was in prison and very discouraged.  He sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was God’s Messiah.  Jesus replied that these are the markers of his ministry: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.”(Luke 7:22)

This is Power Evangelism.  Notice that the power is first, then comes the good news.  When God moves, there is power released.  That power brings deliverance, healing, and salvation.

The work of salvation was finished on the cross, but we are seeing salvation appropriated into lives when they come into contact with the living God.  This same God is the God that David and the Israelites looked to, in the Old Testament times, back to Moses, and through the Prophets.

Back to the idea or concept of the move or moving of God.  The first time we see God moving, in scripture is in Genesis 1:2, when it says that the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the earth’s waters.  The King James Bible has it written, that the Spirit of God moved on the surface of the waters.  This is our “proof text” of God moving.

You might have heard or noticed that in “moves of God”, which have also been called revivals,  awakenings, or visitations; that people’s bodies react.  We fall, we shake, we cry, we cry out, and even do acrobatics.  This is perfectly natural that human bodies are going to react in the presence of God.

God is omnipresent.  God is everywhere and sees everything.  But there is a manifest presence of God, when God draws near, comes, visits, dwells, and moves.  Even though it was in the Old Covenant times, we see this phenomenological dynamic with God on the mountain in Exodus.

God met with Moses and wanted to meet with everybody, up on the mountain.  God, being God, is and was omnipresent, but on the mountain, he was manifestly present.  The same principal holds true today, that God can move to be more present or increased in presence.

We say, “Come, Holy Spirit”, and we are inviting God to come more.  He is already here, but we are asking God to increase his presence.  When we say, “Let it come”, we are are speaking with the authority of Christ, to make or give an authorization for God’s power to manifest among people in a space.

“Let it come”, is not a command to God, but an announcement, command, and invitation to people, to the natural realm, and to the demonic, if they are present; to let the power and presence of God come.  It would be like a police officer saying, “Make way”, because someone is about to come through.

The same authority that Jesus gave to the original disciples (Matt. 10:1, Luke 9:1), he gives to all of us through the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20).  God comes and God moves and there is an increase in God’s activity through the authority given to the church, which are the people of God.  And that authority is over the works of the devil, which includes demonic activity and all sicknesses.

When God moves, people get saved, healed, and delivered; and often healed and delivered before saved; which we call power evangelism.  Evangelism still goes on, even when there is not a move of God, because the good news is always true and is powerful.  But during the moves of God, like some are starting to experience: when God draws nearer, and when God moves, the enemy flees easier.

The enemy flees from Christians always, but we are not always walking in the same degree of power, from God, which makes it harder to make the enemy flee.  Remember the story of when the disciples could not get an exorcism finished, and Jesus remarked, “This kind does not come out, but by prayer and fasting”(Matt. 17:21)?  They needed more power and fasting increases or multiplies prayer power.

Let God arise!

These are various translations of Psalm 68:1

May God arise (NIV)
Rise up, O God (NLT)
God shall arise (ESV)
Let God Arise (NASB, KJB)
God arises (ISV)
God springs into action! (NET)
God will arise (God’s Word T.)
Let God rise up (CEB)
Up with God! (Msg)
Do something God! (CEV)
May the true God rise up and show Himself (Voice)

Here is the whole of Psalm 68 in the HCSB:

God arises. His enemies scatter,
and those who hate Him flee from His presence.
As smoke is blown away,
so You blow them away.
As wax melts before the fire,
so the wicked are destroyed before God.
But the righteous are glad;
they rejoice before God and celebrate with joy.

Sing to God! Sing praises to His name.
Exalt Him who rides on the clouds —
His name is Yahweh—and rejoice before Him.
God in His holy dwelling is
a father of the fatherless
and a champion of widows.
God provides homes for those who are deserted.
He leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a scorched land.

God, when You went out before Your people,
when You marched through the desert,Selah
the earth trembled and the skies poured down rain
before God, the God of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You, God, showered abundant rain;
You revived Your inheritance when it languished.
Your people settled in it;
God, You provided for the poor by Your goodness.

The Lord gave the command;
a great company of women brought the good news:
“The kings of the armies flee—they flee!”
She who stays at home divides the spoil.
While you lie among the sheepfolds,
the wings of a dove are covered with silver,
and its feathers with glistening gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings in the land,
it snowed on Zalmon.

Mount Bashan is God’s towering mountain;
Mount Bashan is a mountain of many peaks.
Why gaze with envy, you mountain peaks,
at the mountain God desired for His dwelling?
The Lord will live there forever!
God’s chariots are tens of thousands,
thousands and thousands;
the Lord is among them in the sanctuary
as He was at Sinai.
You ascended to the heights, taking away captives;
You received gifts from people,
even from the rebellious,
so that the Lord God might live there.

May the Lord be praised!
Day after day He bears our burdens;
God is our salvation.Selah
Our God is a God of salvation,
and escape from death belongs to the Lord God.
Surely God crushes the heads of His enemies,
the hairy head of one who goes on in his guilty acts.
The Lord said, “I will bring them back from Bashan;
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea
so that your foot may wade in blood
and your dogs’ tongues may have their share
from the enemies.”
People have seen Your procession, God,
the procession of my God,
my King, in the sanctuary.
Singers lead the way,
with musicians following;
among them are young women
playing tambourines.
Praise God in the assemblies;
praise the Lord from the fountain of Israel.
There is Benjamin, the youngest, leading them,
the rulers of Judah in their assembly,
the rulers of Zebulun, the rulers of Naphtali.

Your God has decreed your strength.
Show Your strength, God,
You who have acted on our behalf.
Because of Your temple at Jerusalem,
kings will bring tribute to You.
Rebuke the beast in the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those with bars of silver.
Scatter the peoples who take pleasure in war.
Ambassadors will come from Egypt;
Cush will stretch out its hands to God.

Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth;
sing praise to the Lord,Selah
to Him who rides in the ancient, highest heavens.
Look, He thunders with His powerful voice!
Ascribe power to God.
His majesty is over Israel,
His power among the clouds.
God, You are awe-inspiring in Your sanctuaries.
The God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.
May God be praised!

Your Life on The Shelf

Do you feel like your life is on the shelf?  Do you feel like you are not living the life you were designed to live?  Do you feel like a big question mark, sitting on the sidelines of life?

Photo: pixabay

If you have this awareness, it is actually a good thing.  Somehow, you are in the wilderness, in some aspect of your life.  The wilderness is a common motif in the Bible.

Life on the shelf is where you suffer the loss of something.  You lose your job, you lose relationships, or you lose your place.  You go from active to in active.

Now what?  On the shelf, things shift from outer to inner.  Rather that doing things going outward, God shifts you to intensive inner work.

When we get put on the shelf, there is a dying that occurs, so that God can form Christ’s life in you.  God teaches us to live in his love and be accepted by him, and not live for the applause of people.  A purging happens that can not happen when we are constantly engaged in activities with people.

When we go through a stripping where things are taken away that gave us esteem, it is time to embrace God and find our whole worth in him.  We get to and have to decide how we will spend our time on the shelf.  Will we exercise faith and press into God, even if God seems distant or absent; or will we misbehave?

The choice is ours, bitter or better.  Waiting on God, when there seems to be no tangible reward, because the reward is not immediate, is the test we face.  If we lean into the experience that God puts before us and learn what lessons he is wanting us to learn, then we will be able to say that we were refined and when we come out on the other side, the gold was left.

The time on the shelf is a time to grow in loving God.  It is a time to discover God’s relationship with you: who God wants to be to you and who you are to him.  When we first get put on the shelf, we might view it as punishment or disfavor or failure.  Actually, it is a blessing.

Consider this song:

Ain’t Misbehavin’

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

I know for certain
The one I love
I’m through with flirtin’
It’s just you I’m thinkin’ of

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don’t go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin’ for

Believe me
I don’t stay out late
Don’t care to go
I’m home about eight
Just me and my radio

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you
Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don’t go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin’ for

Believe me
I don’t stay out late
Don’t care to go
I’m home about eight
Just me and my radio
Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

Writer/s: RAZAF, ANDY / BROOKS, HARRY / WALLER, FATS

Being Sick

I was sick and you took care of me…
-Matthew 25:36b

Photo: pixabay

I have been sick.  Many people have been sick, much worse off than I have been.  In the real world, we all get sick.

Jesus told his disciples, “Heal the sick”, when they went on mission, proclaiming the kingdom of God.  But, he also said that taking care of sick people is part of practical discipleship.  So, we live in the tension of believing in divine healing and practicing it, while also taking care of the unhealed.

A calling card of the disciple of Jesus Christ is kindness.  We love one another and that love is shown through kindness, with compassion.  The same hands that offer a blanket, chicken soup, or help to walk down the hall, also are hands that God uses to heal people.

We pray for healing and take care of the sick among us.  When healing does not manifest through our prayers, we just keep going.  Keeping going means humbly taking care of the sick ones and suffering through the sickness, while taking a stand against it, and praying again.

Perhaps the biggest blunder, for those who pray, is to get bitter towards God or blame the sick person for their lack of healing.  Please do not do that.

I know about healing from God, that is beyond the normal, built in, healing process of our bodies.  We put our hands on the sick person, gently 99.9% of the time, and pray healing.  We don’t petition God to heal, but we speak healing to the condition.

Some churches publish prayer lists of folks who are asking for prayers.  What about hands on prayers for healing?  All that I would encourage is to do what is in the New Testament.

In the New Testament we have the laying on of hands, we have Jesus saying, “Heal the sick”, we have the enjoinment from Jesus’ brother that if, “anyone is sick, call the elders to pray over them and anoint them with oil, in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”, and we have Jesus’ command to kindly take care of the sick people.

That is the full spectrum.  And part of being a disciple is being able to say, “I don’t know”, a lot.  We say, “I don’t know”, and “I trust God”, and “God loves me and you”.  These three go together.

Time To Fight For Your Life

“Make every effort (Strive, Strain, Fight your way in) to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door.

-Luke 13:24-5 (ESV, WNT, Knox)
Photo: Pixabay

There comes a time when we must fight for our lives.  Other people can support us, but only we ourselves can choose to fight.  It is true that Jesus saves, but we we must fight to enter into salvation.

Striving has a reputation as a negative word.  We say to each other, “stop striving”.  There is bad striving, where we are not resting in God, and are following our impulses, rather than abiding in the Lord.
Good striving is when we fight for our lives, for our salvation, that Jesus has already paid for.  The door of salvation can not be entered into passively.  There is going to have to be a fight.
The song, “This is it”, by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, is a song about fighting to live, that Loggins wrote for his dad.  Kenny’s dad was very sick and Kenny wanted to encourage him to fight for his life.

There’ve been times in my life,
I’ve been wonderin’ why.
Still, somehow I believed we’d always survive.
Now, I’m not so sure
You’re waiting here, one good reason to try
But, what more can I say? What’s left to provide?

Living in “why?” is a place of stuck-ness.   God does not usually answer our “why?” questions.  But what God does is redeem us, transform us, heal us, always giving us hope in him, and God always loves us.  The who and the what are active in our lives, now.

We might have a lot of disappointments and still believe.  We might even be like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, but help my unbelief”.

Waiting is good, if it is waiting on God.  Waiting on God is active, like a waiter, who is on his or her feet, attentive to those they are serving.  Waiting on God requires action, but is still waiting for his move.  Waiting is good, but there comes a time what God says, “what are you waiting for?  Get up and fight.”

(You think that maybe it’s over,)
(Only if you want it to be.)
Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle?
Stand up and fight.

The fight for your life depends on you.  God has made provision, but you have to fight for it.  You must choose to fight, if you want to live.

Signs and miracles are good, but it is a fatal mistake to not ‘strive to enter in’, to not ‘make every effort to enter in’, and to not ‘fight your way’ through the door of your salvation.  A person who refuses to fight for their life, who says they believe God is going to do a miracle or give them a sign, is a fool who is not going to make it.

The Christian life only works as you work it.  You must stand up and fight for your salvation.  This is not to say that you are saved by works.  We are saved only by faith, in Christ.  The faith of the New Testament that is saving faith is a radical giving of your life to the one who saves you, and to do that will be a great struggle and fight for you.

(This is it.)
Make no mistake where you are.
(This is it.)
You back’s to the corner.
(This is it.)
Don’t be a fool anymore.
(This is it.)

There comes a “now time”, a “karios moment“, when you have to do something, when you have to decide to fight.   That is the “This is it” time.  Time to fight for your destiny.

The waiting is over, no, don’t you run.
No way to hide.
No time for wonderin’ why.
It’s here, the moment is now, about to decide.
Let ’em believe.
Leave ’em behind.
But keep me near in your heart.
Know whatever you do, I’m here by your side.

There comes a time when time catches up with you and it is time to make your decision if you will fight, and you must fight.  There comes a time when you can no longer run or hide.  The doorway is in front of you and says, “You must fight to enter in”.

There comes a time when you must stop looking backwards.  God wants you to look forward.  You and God today.  God is always “present-future” with us.

We encourage each other to the fight, to the struggle, to the striving to enter in.  Love is the calling card of Christians towards one another.  So, we can say that we are rooting you on, and whatever you decide to do, we are by your side.

(You say that maybe it’s over.)
(Not if you don’t want it to be.)
For once in your life, here’s your miracle.
Stand up and fight.
(This is it.)
Make no mistake where you are.
(This is it.)
You’re goin’ no further.
(This is it.)
Until it’s over and done.

Be encouraged that the battle is not over.  But your miracle requires for you to fight for it.  You can’t live in passive, delusional, denial any longer.

(No one can tell what the future holds.)
Oh-oh-oh-oh.
(Who makes the choice of how it goes?)
It’s not up to me this time.
(You know.)

Comes a day in every life.

(This is it.) 

Faith is always optimistic.  We reason, without God, when we are hopeless and pessimistic.  Faith, hope, and love always are optimistic about what God might do, can do, and will do; in response to us.

No matter how bad your past has been, no matter how disappointed you have been, and no matter what your dire straights are right now, God can save you.  But you must fight for your life.  God has provided the doorway of salvation, but we must struggle, strive, and fight our way in.

Go for it.

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