Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Song For the Climb- Devotion 2

You have to start with the mental image of yesterday. Broken and bruised, bloodied and weary- you have to make a choice.

Psalm 120 begins with the most honest prayer we can ever utter:
 I’m in trouble. I cry to God,
    desperate for an answer:

Have you ever been there? Eugene Peterson labels this Psalm "Repentance" which is a fundamental piece of any real change. Even our introduction to the Kingdom of Christ is born out of true repentance and true saving faith. The reason I add 'true' is that we can be fooled by our emotions and deceived by self rationalization. "True" means from God, and bears fruit of the substance of that repentance and faith, albeit over time and through trial.

When we say to God, either for the first time as a cry for salvation, or frequent other times as a believer as a cry for rescue- "Help me, I'm at my end"- it is a heart breaking but beautiful moment. Things are about to get real.

This is why Jesus cries out in Matthew 5- "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven"- And the reality is this- All real change begins with pain or disillusionment. But the pain needs to drive us to the source of our help, and it is not found in us, nor the world, nor our 'friends', not even our family or church- the source of this is the Almighty God, King of All, and the Supreme Lover of Your Soul.

Now... I hate that I have to get to this point over and over. But I have to say this prayer WAY MORE than I should. But it is a reality. 

I say with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7- "For I know that nothing good dwells in me".
Peterson drives it home this way:
A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the anxious uncertainties of the life of faith.
So where are you? Are you tired of seeing that same person in the mirror day after day, a victim of your own bed of circumstances? How long are you going to believe in that idol that drops you time and time again? Do you still have hope that those people will come through? That that job will matter? That that trip will fulfill? That that program will produce?

When we fall down and finally say, "Lord, I'm in trouble" then the journey can really begin. And unfortunately it 'begins again' time and time again. But the Lord is too good to not hear the true cry of His child.

“Deliver me from the liars, God!
    They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.” Psalm 120 vs 3
This is so hard to write about. The premise of the hit TV show, House is "All people lie". I have to reluctantly say...'True!' and that means I am guilty. Some lies are more subtle than others. Broken promises hurt. The spreading of untrue or inaccurate gossip wounds. Betrayal and infidelity are consistent piles of rubbish in the wake of human interactions.

But again- though the pain be real, the reality is a useful tool. Because in brilliant juxtaposition is the COVENANT KEEPING GOD. Jehovah never breaks His promise, even to the point of suffering and death. It males Him hard to deal with because He is a 'man of His word'- but it means that He is trustworthy when all men are not.

Do you know what’s next, can you see what’s coming,
    all you barefaced liars?
Pointed arrows and burning coals
    will be your reward.
The Psalmist here drips with anger. Real hurt brings raw reaction. I am not sure it is healthy, but it is reality. The key is what to do with the anger.

I read a facebook post the other day that said:

No need for revenge - Just sit back and wait...those that hurt you will eventually screw up all by themselves ...and if you are lucky, God will let you watch.

Remember, we are in step 1 of a change. Hopefully, in time the anger will be harnessed under  the streams of grace. But the Psalms are always so true to real life existence.

I still laugh at how anger fueled my drive to train and complete a marathon. I remember completing one training run from mile 8 to 15 with ease because my pumping arms were fiery fists of fury. To this day I am amazed at the depth of that hurt and anger... now tempered and  restrained. And I don't exercise nearly as well.

But I also need to know that I too have caused hurt that results in that type of hurt and anger. Mostly unintentional... but at times with full knowledge of my wrong.

The good news of the gospel must always be in line with the bad news as well. It is clearly here. THERE WILL BE UNSPEAKABLE PUNISHMENT by the Just and Holy God of the Universe.

It is contained even in the most beautiful proclamation of grace in the Bible:

For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him SHOULD NOT PERISH, but have eternal life. John 3:16

This REALIZATION is two fold:

1)There are bad people who will not ever repent and grow colder and bolder. These are the liars and mockers. Wolves in sheep's clothing. Men of evil intents and iniquity. Manipulation and deceit. Insatiable selfishness. Shakespeare said: "He will speak more in a minute than he will stand to in a month".

These men will have to drink the fury of God's Holy wrath to the last drop for all eternity.

He will not back down from that promise either. And the 2nd realization is.......

2) There are bad people who come to/or brought to their senses and they desperately cry out for mercy. They SEE the Lamb of God who was slain and fall down in awe of what was done. HE drank the cup of that fury and wrath.

Because this is true- why stay in the mud of depression? Get up and walk uphill in praise to this King of Grace! Bring someone with you along the way! Proclaim this all who will hear. Leave this broken place behind!

 I’m doomed to live in Meshech,
    cursed with a home in Kedar,
My whole life lived camping
    among quarreling neighbors.
I’m all for peace, but the minute
    I tell them so, they go to war!
I like how this Psalm closes because it is a daily dose of reality that keeps me from going back to where I was. In fact, I love that this Psalm closes with Kedar and the next Psalm opens in worship.

The reference to Meshech and Kedar are parallel analogies to nomadic wandering in barren places. We walk dust trails in the remote outposts of a cursed land.

Do you want to stay in the valley of your little pity party? There is nothing here for you.

No ... cast your eyes to the mountain. The upward journey that ends in an eternity of no more tears and no more pain and freedom from regret and shame.

You will not find peace here. Your job, marriage, stock portfolio, or weekend activities will not be without thorns and mosquitoes!

You are a pilgrim... a royal ambassador... but serving in a place that is not your ultimate home. Enjoy the journey, but never be in anything but a tent. Even your body is a temporary structure.

For we know that if kthe tent that is lour earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, ma house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent nwe groan, longing to oput on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on1 we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal pmay be swallowed up by life.He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, qwho has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that rwhile we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for swe walk by faith, not tby sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we uwould rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to vplease him. 10 For wwe must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, xso that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.    2 Corinthians 5

So this first song for the journey is a song of pain that leads to repentance. No one really likes sad songs, but they are representative of real life.

My sad songs help me REMEMBER where I was and motivate me to never want to return.

Thank you God for hearing my desperate cry for help! Time to move on.........

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