Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Rock Eternal

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:32)
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job13:15)

Monday, 21 October 2013

All That God Has Done

...then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. (Ecclesiastes 8:17)
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) 
Father, here I am. I don't understand, but I confess that all that You do is Good. Give me Your best. I am willing for pain. Crush my idols, and draw me close to You. Show me Your mysterious way. I bow.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Agony of Agape

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews & all the decorations, too
Until the congregations few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

We must not worship something that's not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

'cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong
And you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2John 1:6)
Alan Redpath says that the English word "agony" comes from "agape". It's not hard to believe. There is a cost, a real agony, to loving agape-style, sacrificing on purpose, without expecting anything in return. I know that God asks us to do this, but I haven't been able to. I want to, but I can't. I find myself running from the agony of it every time.

If I loved God most, I could love others more. If I trusted God, I could allow people to hurt me. What is it that has risen in my heart and blocks my way to freedom in Christ? What robs me of the glorious mystery of "Christ in you"? What sucks my joy and saps my strength and terrorizes me with darkness in weak moments?

Father, let me worship you. I have failed to love You best. I have withheld the worship You deserve. I have given in to fear. I am ready for You to change me. I am ready for this agony, because it is better than the bitterness that overtakes me when I don't have Your love. I will trust You. Do what You will with me, and tear out every idol that raises itself before you in my heart. Let me love You so I can love the people around me. Let me see Your beauty. Let me see the beauty You have placed in the most obnoxious and frustrating people in my life. Restore me. I hunger for this power.

Love suffers long, and is kind;
I can be kind for a while, but it wears thin. I am certainly not kind after suffering too long.

love envies not;
I envy. I feel hurt and frustrated when I see others in the place I want and think I deserve.
love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,
I get puffed up and feel the need to defend my qualifications, my right to the treatment I think I ought to have.
Does not behave itself rudely,
Oh. I find myself not caring about other people's feelings. All I can think about is my own.
seeks not her own,
And I go running after what's mine, what I think I deserve.
is not easily provoked,
How easily I am provoked these days! A word or two out of place and I am raging...
keeps no record of evil;
This is the bitterness that sets in when the suffering has gone on too long: I take satisfaction in counting it up and reminding myself of it, because it justifies my anger and my pain.
Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
Bitterness always gives way to taking satisfaction in the wrong things. I am pleased when I see others making the same mistakes as me, because it justifies my own wrong.
Bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails...

Father. I am failing. I long for the power to agape-love. My way isn't working. It isn't giving me any power, any satisfaction, any strength. Come and set me free from myself. Tear every root of bitterness from my heart. Renew worship in me, and let me love you with my mind. Fill my thoughts. Overcome me and remove all that I have placed above You in my heart. I am willing to be changed. Clear the stage, and set the sound and lights ablaze. I will seek You. I will wait for You.

Monday, 14 October 2013

My Expectation is From Him

And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
Lord, I have been blind: blind to Your goodness, to Your purpose. I have been groping in the dark. I am still unable to see You as I long to see You. I don't know exactly what it is that I'm looking for, but I remain unsatisfied, though I know that You can satisfy me. I do believe that Your way is the best way, for this life as well as the next one. I do believe that the reward is here and not just in eternity. I do believe that following You is the rich life, the exciting life, the full life. I will hold on.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall you encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored on Pharaoh, and on all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. (Exodus 14:1-4)
 What is interesting in this story is that God is so specific. He doesn't just send them to the bank of the sea and then leave them there to wonder what He's doing with them. He tells them exactly what He is going to do, and what they need to do, and what the purpose is. Sometimes I just feel like if I had this much information, I wouldn't be struggling the way I am. Isn't the hard part not knowing? But then, maybe I'm being unfair. After all, how long did the Israelites wait in Egypt, aching for deliverance, before they packed their bags and ate the Passover? They waited for God to lead them out; waited while a generation of baby boys was drowned in the Nile; waited while Moses grew up and ran away and hid in Midian and learned how to control his temper. No, it's not fair to compare. And after all, God may do as He pleases with each of us.
These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens. (Revelation 3:7)
Father, change my circumstances or change my heart, whichever You will. You alone are able to open doors and shut them, and no one may oppose You.
 My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
I lean in to You, Father. Give or take away. I am afraid, but I look to You. I cannot make my own way. I will receive it from Your hand. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Love Suffers Long and is [Still] Kind

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Love suffers long, and is kind... (I Corinthians 13:4)
 It takes something different than what we've got to remain kind after long suffering, to make no threats against those who hurt us. I am ambitious for this kind of power.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Though He Were a Son

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
Emmanuel, God with us. God suffering and learning hurt and the cost of obedience. How I am thankful for Jesus.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

An Unexpected Grace

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26)
The window is open, and outside somewhere, someone is playing a cello. It's a mystery in this neighborhood of neon signs and massage parlors and the grace of it mingles with the smell of car exhaust and of stale frying oil from the take-out downstairs and the distant, wobbly sound of someone singing off-key in the karaoke rooms on the next street. And strangely, wound in and around my tired, tangled thoughts, there is the sudden sweetness of gratitude. Here in my struggling heart is thankfulness for a gift I couldn't imagine and didn't wish for, and the music brings me an understanding that words and my internal remonstrations have failed to work up: the sense, and not just the cold knowledge, that God is good.

I have been discouraged. With everything, and, more humiliatingly, with nothing at all. I have told myself to be strong, and reminded myself that God has a purpose in everything that He chooses for me, but I have failed to overcome. I am full of stumbling and confusion and frustration. I am all running and flapping, and no rising up on wings as an eagle. I am ashamed of my weakness and and worst of all, disappointed in God for not rescuing me from myself. The enemy is always there to point out my blasphemy, and then it's a smooth twist from there to the dark suggestion that God doesn't really care about how I feel - a thought I know to be foolish, but it resonates and lodges in the dim corners of my heart just the same.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
(Psalm 42: 9-10)
But others before me have so failed. Elijah sat under a juniper tree and begged God to kill him. John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus if he was really the one. The answers they got are the same ones that God gives me: silence, scripture, and sleep. Maybe my job is not to overcome the discouragement, but to be willing to endure it. Then the enemy will see that my merciful God uses broken things.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth justice unto victory. (Matthew 12:20)
When I am tired and discouraged and cannot feel that God is kind, I will hold tight to His kindness anyway. I will believe that He loves. I will wait for Him to restore and to make sense of this waste. And for tonight, there is the sound of the bow drawn across the strings. It goes on and on, and this night the unexpected grace of the music, and the sense of gratitude that comes winding with it, is enough.
And I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, and the consuming locust, and the cutting locust, my great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25)
Until I can see, I will wait. 
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)