When we are full of bitter anger how do we respond to grace and peace?
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Acts 9:3-4
Saul is on his way to vent his anger. There he meets Jesus who speaks tenderly to him, “Saul, Saul” the tender call to a child who has lost his way.
Saul has met Love. In his self righteousness he cannot tie together the call of love with the accusation of persecution. Jesus has to spell it out.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”Acts 9:5
Now Saul’s world has been turned upside down. He had thought of himself as the star doing God’s work. Now he realises has been opposing the Messiah.
“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”… when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. Acts 9:6-9
Saul was not told to fast, yet he did not eat or drink for three days. Maybe a response to discovering that his whole life had been a violent lie?
Do we have the courage to hear disturbing truths from Jesus?
Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash
As we endure lockdown, consider what lies ahead-
“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Isaiah 65:17
The current crisis helps us see the value of moving on from our current realities to something far better.
Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. Isaiah 65:18
We are driving our current earth to destruction. We will be so grateful to start again. Our current cities destroy the soul. The Jerusalem Jesus creates will be a place of happiness. His people will be joyful in fruitful lives.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more. Isaiah 65:19
Consider a time when, being with Jesus, we will be spared from grief.
In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards. Isaiah 65:21
We can look forward to a time of creativity and rewarding work. Consider how much easier life could be without protecting the fruit of our labour from those who would steal and kill and destroy. Looking at what we have to endure, consider how much easier and more joyful life would be if everyone knew that everyone else would do what was loving and kind?
That is what we have to look forward to!
What is the heart of worship? When we feel far from God, what are the ways to his presence? Psalm 100 can help us-
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. [Psalm 100:1-2]
The call to worship is not some heavy legalistic demand but a shout of joy and gladness. If this is not how we feel, what might help us to get there?
Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. [Psalm 100:3]
Worship of God as God is appropriate because he is our creator and shepherd. Am I fighting against this reality? For whom is my life lived?
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. [Psalm 100:4]
The password into his presence is thanksgiving and praise. Sometimes our life circumstances make these attitudes a challenge yet curiously, thanksgiving to God for the things we fear brings us to the place of true surrender and worship. It helps us align our hearts with his.
For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. [Psalm 100:5]
This thanksgiving and praise come from a recognition that the Lord is good, loving and faithful. Sometimes a resentful or self-pitying heart will fight against this. Am I willing to surrender my frustrated desires and receive his desires for me as a more perfect good?
I have just written a book. It is called Godfulness. It’s aim is to help people read the Bible in order to gain and live out these kinds of insights. If you want to check it out, follow the link.
I was awakened each night to pray leaving only a couple of hours sleep. I became sick, losing weeks to poor health.
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 38:1-NIV)
I asked the Lord, ‘Why am I being persecuted?’ He showed me it was a rebuke.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; … (Psalm 38:2-4-NIV)
I tried defending myself by going to bed earlier, but I awakened even earlier. Finally, I saw the issue: I was defending myself from God.
My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly … I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (Psalm 38:5-8-NIV)
I had become resentful. It was not as if these were good times of prayer. Was it worth the pain? Yet who am I to tell God what is productive or good?
All my longings lie open before you, … my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. (Psalm 38:9-10-NIV)
The light was going from my eyes with the frustration of standing in God’s presence and nothing seemingly happening. It felt a waste of time.
Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour. (Psalm 38:21-22-NIV)
All I could do was call on God for help that this season would pass – as it did following these realisations.