A Psalm of Lament

2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 4:5-18

(3:17-18)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

(4:5-18)
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God I am so tired. I am mad at all the in fighting and division. I am angry at what I believe caused this. It’s so devastating to watch your Church destroy itself. The people you have given the gift of forgiveness, compassion and love. It is not because of one man but the sin inside us all that is causing all this…. But I AM angry at one man. I am angry that one man’s sin has caused others to sin along with him, misleading the flock and deceiving young believers. I am angry that my friends are fighting. I am angry that your character is lacking in us all. I am angry that I feel hurt by it all, and cant at times see through the cloud of confusion. I feel perplexed, beaten down, even persecuted. My heart aches for an unbroken world. A world not scarred by sin, not impacted by the Fall. This life is hard. I ache for you. Like a weary soul in need of water. You are my spring of life. At times this life is too much. Deaths, disease, corruption, brokenness, abuse… and yet your presence has not left your people. I stand amazed that you stay. We are a mess! You CHOSE to enter this mess with us, before we tried to ‘clean ourselves up’. You decided it was worth your very self, your other-ly-ness, your Kingship, to lay aside your honor for dishonor, your perfection for our sinfulness. To hold the corruption in your hands and say, “I will take all this. It is pardoned. You go home clean”.

Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

I will forever stand amazed at that. You think all this is worth it?! I would have chosen long ago to escape the filth of it all. If anyone deserved to not endure the weight of sin and leave, you did, and yet you don’t. So why do I deserve escape when you have given me undeserved grace? And yet you are there to give me the answer. I get YOU. Through suffering, I have found you to be faithful. I have seen more of your glory and purpose. You have made through hardship my heart yours. I still long for the day when that work will be complete. When the sin in my heart will be banished for eternity and I am raised completely anew. But for now I need to trust your promises and your truth. You see the end that I don’t. I love that 2 Cor. 4 brings comfort in the call to an eternal perspective:

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Why do we endure? For the sake of eternity. We live for the one who died. Who gave us good gifts, and called us to a purpose not our own. We live so that God’s glory (the goodness and person we have experienced and know) may be known to all men. We live so that in this fallen and hurting world, others might experience and see the grace and forgiveness that Christ laid out for them on the cross. To declare “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

God is doing his work in a broken world. He IS working out His eternal kingdom in the midst of the mess of our lives. And that is immense grace to us. Thank goodness! Cause you know what, I am still a mess. I haven’t stopped being in desperate need of God. And thank goodness, God has not stopped saving in the mess.

So as I look at the mess of the world – At the Church, at the culture, at broken bodies, and hardship – I look to Jesus who, although invisible, is redeeming and calling his people to himself.

Paul says “for we walk by faith and not by sight”. I walk forward believing that God is not done yet, and his grace is greater than this mess. What Jesus conquered on the cross (disease, death, my sin, Satan) will be completed when he returns. All will be made completely new!

He is not done yet.

A Call to Vulnerability

Vulnerable (Adj) – capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body. 

Why Does the Gospel Provide a Way for and Call Us to be Vulnerable?

I have never met anyone who likes to be completely honest and vulnerable all the time. I think most of the time we are afraid because of our need to control and/or in an effort to protect something other than God. Being vulnerable makes us open to get hurt by people who want to harm you, or even worst, by the people you love. It feels, at times, like there is so much at stake. What is never at stake in being vulnerable is your standing before, relationship with and love from God. In fact, the more open and honest we are before a loving God, the more we are shielded from the attack of the enemy and others. I want to explore why being a follower of Christ invites us into constant vulnerability with God and with others.

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1 . The Gospel Requires Need

The gospel is all about need. It’s grounded in the fact that we need a Savior. Our first ‘parents’, Adam and Eve, chose to be their own ‘gods’ in the garden, rejecting God’s plan of intimate relationship and trusted in themselves, choosing something outside of the safety of a relationship with their Creator. We have lived with the consequences of that first sin since, as now all man are born into sin, desiring to be their own gods. God, in his great love for us, even with the weight of our rejection, sent his Son to die, making a way for us to be united to him once more. The gospel is the good news that we have a Savior who has wiped away the sins of the world. Now we must, in response, die to ourselves (our trust in our own “lordship” of our lives), trust and follow the only trustworthy One who is able to provide for all our needs. We walk in a new understanding that we cannot do it alone. The foundation of our faith is based on the need for a Savior to save us from ourselves. Saving requires an admission of weakness.

2 . The Gospel Calls us to Community

i. God is in Community within the Trinity

  • If you want to have your mind blown read Jesus prayer in John for his followers (John 17:22-25)…. He repeats over and over how he is unified with the Father and he wants that same intimate unity for his flock, the Church.

ii. Honesty in Community is a protection against Pride

  • Our hearts are deceitfully wicked, who can understand them? To assume we will be able to see all our sin, and have a correct perspective of ourselves, others and the gospel all by ourselves is just a little silly. The Holy Spirit does convict us, but God says we need each other to speak truth in love so that we might grow to all maturity. I believe pride is tied in closely with hearts being hardened in sin and falling away from the faith (Heb. 3:12-14). The protection from this is to live in the light with believers who know you, pray for, rebuke and suffer long for your good, like our Father in heaven is doing.
  • “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart [a]that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)

iii. Image of God is complete in the Body not in one part (i.e. you)

  • 1 Cor. 12:12-31

iv. Call to love your Brother/Sister requires knowing and being known

  • My favorite scriptures for this are in John and 1 John. You cannot love someone you don’t know. You cannot truly be loved, without being truly known.

v. Unity is God’s chosen way to display his glory to the World

  • “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22-24)

3. The Gospel is about Truth

  • Let’s just be honest – The naked truth (pun intended ;)) of our desire to not be open is a desire to lie and deceive. We do not want the truth of who we are to be in the light. We do not want to be seen. . . Seen for the broken, hurting, flawed people we are. But we are already seen by God. God sees all and knows us completely. His Son died for our flawed, hurting, brokenness at the cross. Living in light of this reality is that we are able to live openly, honestly unashamed! “They look to Him and were unashamed..” (Ps. 34:5). What a beautiful picture of grace. We are fallen, broken, sin-ridden rebels and yet while we were enemies of God, God loved us (Rom. 5:6, 8:1) If that is not acceptance and love, I don’t know what is. So we can live in the reality and know that nothing we did procured that grace and salvation in Jesus. We are free to live openly, free to follow the Holy Spirit. When we do not walk open and honestly we are living as though God is not enough. We are walking in agreement with the father of lies and deception – Satan.
  • Jesus is our best example of a truth teller and revealer. Jesus revealed people’s hearts and pierced through bone and marrow with the Word. He was not about an image or a task but about the whole person – both physically and spiritually.

4 . Living in Honest Relationships in Community is Evidence of Personal Fellowship with God

  • “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)

5 . Hiding/Shame began at the first Sin of Adam & Eve

  • Whether we want to admit it or not, hiding is a tactic created by our enemy Satan to shame, isolate, divide, corrupt and ultimately destroy. It somehow entices us to believe in the lie that we can hide from an all-knowing God. Walking in the open before God and others, is walking in truth, knowing that God saw our sins and loved us anyway. Our sins, as people who have repented and received Jesus’ forgiveness, have no effect on your standing before a God that chose to die for them. To continue to want to hide or walk in shame, is to want to control our standing before God by our own acts of righteousness and not by the gift of grace.

The primary desire to be “needless” is to be your own god – contrary to a intimate, dependent relationship with God.

The type of relationship God had always planned for his people was intimate. Before the Fall, God walked in all His glory among Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8). God chosen people, Israel, although penetrated with sin (unable to commune with a holy God), was accompanied by the holiness of God in the middle of their tents in the wilderness. God made a way through the law for them to dwell together. GOD chose to come down and dwell with them. And of course the ultimate proof of God’s desire to be with his people is sending “God with us” our Savior Jesus Christ when we were enemies to die for our sins, making a direct way to commune with the Father. Jesus is our physical representation of the invisible God. On top of that, he sent part of Himself – the Holy Spirit – to indwell us. Like literally inside of us! Is it clear yet? God wants to be with us. Not an image of ourselves, our cleaned up version or our sacrifices. He wants us. Our hearts. Our failures. Our victories. Our desires.

Besides the ridiculousness of this reality that God would want to be with us (given who we are), God knows He is the only solution that will satisfy our wandering and needy hearts. His presence, His peace, His forgiveness, and just plain old – Himself. So who else should hold our brokenness, our weakness, failures and faults but the one who forgave, absorbed them in the greatest act of love that will ever be.

Those who look to him are radiant;

their faces are never covered

with shame.

Psalm 34:5

Abba, Father!

Today the Lord reminded me to call him “Father”.

I was driving to meet a friend for a play date, trying to find the answers to my heart being so tired, worn out and generally tending toward negative. I could see it clearly and wanted to “fix” it. I knew that I should have grace and love “flowing out of me” from a heart satisfied and loved by my Savior. But how the heck does one “do” that. It certainly wasn’t happening for me in this moment. After a long day of ‘ministry’ activities, where I was hit by sin, gossip, harshness and hardheartedness I was encountering in others… knowing that if God has called me to do ministry for the rest of my days, that I would need to be able to handle all of this and keep my hope and joy in Christ ….  But today I was not feeling it.

I was asking God to help me. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on all this, I could soon become like those in Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling that give up! I wanted a heart that sees good and not just mistakes. See potential, rather than problems.

I had hoped I would see Jesus’ face in the Church more often. I knew that I had seen him in His Body… but I was having a hard time looking past the all the rest of the crap. My heart was frustrated and loosing perspective.

In a blog I have begun to enjoy describes the difference between loving the universal and local Church:

On the other hand you have the local church.  It’s filled with people.  Actual people who say dumbass things.  Who manipulate out of their aspirations and desires.  Who all to often hurt others and fail to embody love.  It’s much more difficult to love this church. But you can’t love the universal church and not love a local church.  Loving church means loving people, not an idea.  And loving people means loving them when it hurts you to do so.  Sharing in Christ’s sufferings is a brutal reality when you work to love actual human beings.”

See more at here.

I knew the problem and I wanted to fix it.

In the middle of my babbling at God about all of this, what came out of my mouth was “Father”…

 All of a sudden, emotions rushed over me.

Father.

I desperately needing my father. What Romans 8:15 calls,  “Abba! Father”. I am a child. I am in need of unconditional, care of a loving father. I need to be listened to. I need to be taken care of. I need my wounds tended to.

 I cannot heal myself.  Jesus blood is my healing. His forgiveness gives me access to God’s unconditional love. . . his saving grace which makes me free.

And I have collected my fair share of wounds.  From other Christians, family and friends. Only at the cross can they be reconciled, completely and utterly wiped clean. I am being made new each day by the tender hands of my Father. Sometimes I need to get hurt in order for my Father to teach me something. Other times, I fall down and my daddy just wants to hold me as I cry. I have not known an earthly Father like this, but I do know my heavenly Father is one who loves me. Who cares for my every needs, and wipes away my tears.

 I am convinced, this is the only way I can survive the pain that comes from loving a broken Church, my hurting neighbor is by staying as close I can to the loving, compassionate and gracious Father who did everything so that He could be with ME?!

Crazy, awesome grace.