When life is an open wound

Many think prayer should be dignified as if God would take offence at our saying what we really felt.

I yell out to my God … with all my might, (Psalm-77:1-Message)

Sometimes life demands prayers that yell.

my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.

Constant pain, aggravated by the least stress presses our character. Our world collapses to pain management and love for others is challenging. Yes, we yell to God.

When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
I didn’t believe a word they said. (Psalm-77:2)

Others, who have not suffered, patronise us with words they want to be true to protect their theology.

I go over the days one by one, …. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together. (Psalm-77:5-6)

Such pain is a lonely place. We are alone with our thoughts and our music.

Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders. (Psalm-77:11-12)

When we realise we are unable to put our lives back together we seek God again. We need to rediscover who the God of the Bible really is.

You … walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you … hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, (Psalm-77:19-20)

Our pondering from pain brings us to new understanding of how God works.

I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. (Psalm-77:1-Message)

No explanations are given, but we do come to know him deeper, and are assured that he is listening.

 

For a more in depth study – The undignified prayer

Enjoying Darkness

It is easy to see the darkness creep in. It is harder to admit the reason: We like it that way.

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practise every kind of impurity. Ephesians 4:19

In our greed, we harden our consciences against the pain inflicted both on ourselves and others as we indulge our sensuality and impurity.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. V18

The callousness of our hearts impacts our spiritual lives. We cannot harden our feelings without creating barriers against the life of God. In our self-justifying hardness we become alienated from God and ignorant of what is really important. We are darkened in our understanding.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. V17

In the end such thinking will be proven futile. We give ourselves to what we enjoy and discover that from an eternal perspective it is nothing.

So, how do we find our way back to God? One way is to listen for the demands of self-indulgence. This exposes where we have hardened our hearts. Then pray for the Lord to give grace to be softened and for his light of life to shine there. Allow him to expose the pain and/or the sensuality that led to the hardness and seek him for his restoration of life.

 

See also “Encroaching Darkness” blog of October 6th 2015

Refreshment

I can find the urgency of a task so great that I struggle to stop.  I can be driven by the expectations of others, or even myself. This is not the pattern of our Lord. He stops for refreshment mid battle.

But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way. (Psalm 110:7 NLT)

The one who receives power from on high needs refreshment! This begs the question: Am I willing to stop at the Lord’s brook to be refreshed?

This admission of need seems incongruous with the beginning of the Psalm –

The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem (Psalm 110:2 NLT)

The Father exercises power to extend His Kingdom. In modern parlance we see signs and wonders. Why would the God of power leave his servants in need of refreshment? Surely war has no let up, it requires concentrated effort. Why would the Lord break off from the urgent need?

When you go to war, your people will serve you willingly. (Psalm 110:3 NLT)

We live at a time when few serve willingly.  Ministry leaders all over the western Church feel obliged to drive their people to action. Yet maybe it is in this stopping at the brooks along the way for refreshment that our people can endure the challenges of an age that sucks the life out of everyone.

Am I willing to acknowledge that stopping to be refreshed by the Lord is equally urgent as the ministry he has set before me?

Freedom through salvation

What are the knock on effects from God rescuing us?  Psalm 116 shows God’s rescue begins a process for developing trust in God. The Psalmist begins with the anguish that overcame him and the joy when the Lord heard and saved him.  What follows?

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. v7

When anxiety comes he chooses to settle his heart to be at peace as he reflects on how the Lord has shown goodness.

… that I may walk before the Lord …. I believed; therefore I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” And in my dismay I said, “All men are liars.” v8-11

Life looks out of control but he chooses to walk with God. This needs faith that God is greater than what is seen brings courage to acknowledge how challenging his reality is.

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. v12

How does his life honour the Lord who took a risk with him? Letting go of the false security he clings to, he chooses God’s cup (often representing suffering) of salvation.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. …  you have freed me from my chains. v15-16

This cup can look like death, and yet beyond such death is freedom! When we have faced death with God, we are free to do what is right.

For a more detailed view of this follow the link – ‘Trust in the light of rescue’

Looking for God to restore

We complain about the demise of the Church and ask God why He is not advancing the gospel. We do not realise that He is! He is returning us to reality! We live in a time of disgrace for the church of God. The cry of many is –

Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:4-7NIV)

In times past, the hope of the church seemed to be the Evangelical Movement bringing Christ. At the time we were criticized for a shallow approach: “All you need is to receive Jesus, and God will do the rest.” What we failed to appreciate was the context of a culture striving but failing to live for God. In this context the simple message was good news.

Now our culture has little interest in seeking God. The old message is exposed as simplistic. Many have taken it literally and with their ticket to heaven secured they abandon God and give themselves to sensuality.

The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. (Psalm 85:12-13)

Are we ready for the Lord to do new things, preparing the way with His righteousness, bringing fruit as He understands fruitfulness?

God’s Dwelling

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His dwelling.” Psalm 132:13

I desire to live with Christ. Here however, the Lord desires my heart for the dwelling He has chosen. This begs the question, “What kind of dwelling does He come to?”

The answer has developed –

When first a Christian, after enduring 5 minutes embarrassed silence with God, not really knowing what to say, time was up.

Then I met John. He opened the Psalms and showed me the delights of digging deeper in Bible study. Now when the Lord came, I would take Him into the sitting room. We would face each other and converse somewhat formally about Him – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I would tell Him about what I had learned and He would show me who He is.

Then I lived in a full on student ministry community. I wonder if the Lord’s encounters with me were like a military briefing room. After the usual pleasantries we would get down to the business of the day, how each person was doing and how the Lord could help their development.

Then the Lord revealed that I was trying to use Him to gain what I wanted. He does not behave this way. He loves us. Thus I began seeking God for His own sake rather than mine. Now we sit and reflect on life from many different angles. We are comfortable with one another. What He reveals overflows into prayer for others. I hope He enjoys our time as I do.

Captured by dark thoughts

How can I stand when I am being played by the tempter of my soul?

I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. (Psalm 88:3)

Issues takes hold, I am overwhelmed as if waves sweep over me so I cannot stand. Whenever I pray, my mind goes to this capturer of my heart. God is side-lined; all is darkness.

You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. (v6)

The Lord initiated this process. He saw my weaknesses and wished to teach new pathways to Himself that could only be learned through this darkness.

I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits … praise you? (v9&10)

He who began this is also the way out. I call to Him in prayer even though my mind is so overwhelmed I am unable to experience God’s wonders or praise Him.

You have taken from me friend and neighbour – darkness is my closest friend. (v18)

A frustrating aspect of this darkness is that my friends don’t understand, but try to set me straight. The only companion I have left is darkness.

Amazingly the Psalm begins with hope.

 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. (v1)

The one hope is the Lord Himself. He has proven Himself over time as the God who saves. I have faith He will save again because He is faithful.

A fuller study of Psalm 88 can be found in Overwhelmed by thoughts

Price of abundance

8 Praise our God, all peoples, …

13 You brought us to a place of abundance.

These verses of Psalm 66 begin and end with something we desire: To overflow with praise at God’s abundance. The road to abundance however, runs through fires of refining.

11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12 You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,

These fires might push us towards bitterness in our frustration. We question how the Lord can be glorified through such situations where the unrighteous are winning and our response is far from good.

10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver

The point of refining is to expose rubbish so that it can to be dealt with. Without heat, we imagine ourselves to be godly. Only when heat exposes poor character can we become aware of our need to ask the Lord for help to deal with issues that He was always aware of.

Often the way to refining is opened by a poor decision. It is a necessary step for without the refining we would be unable to appreciate or rest in the forthcoming abundance.

9 he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.

The Lord encourages us that He will preserve us. We may stumble, but the Lord keeps us from slipping. In this hope we can face the challenges that come our way with an assurance that He will bring us through to a place of abundance.

 

For more detail – Price of abundance

What do we value?

Our culture has only one question to determine value – “Does it work?” Jesus takes a different view. After feeding the 5000 He leaves.  Most would have continued the ministry. When the people find Him, He challenges their motives –

  ‘… you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  (John 6:26)

What is the difference between eating bread that came as a miracle and seeing signs? The difference is in the focus. If I look for Jesus because I ate, then I am looking for myself and the focus is on me. If I look because I saw miraculous signs my focus is on Christ and I am looking to worship Him.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’ (John 6:27)

This focus is seen in our relationship with God. If the focus of my spirituality is on what works, then it is subject to men’s evaluation which inevitably is temporary and ultimately spoils. The fruit Jesus is looking for is the fruit of lives changed by faith. Faith is proven through trust even when things don’t seem to be working –

‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:29)

Are we able to trust Jesus in how He directs rather than try to use Him to get what we want? This is food that endures to eternal life.

 

A fuller study

Live for eternity

Jesus’ unearths His followers’ motives following the feeding of the 5000 because it is here that the eternal value of what someone does is seen.

‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. John 6:26

What is the difference between eating bread that came to people as a miracle and seeing signs? They were the same event! The difference is in the focus. If I am looking for Jesus because I ate the bread and had my fill, then the focus is on me. If the focus is on Jesus, then I am looking for Him in order to worship Him. Jesus’ statement asks questions about my direction and focus in life –

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ John 6:27

In our materialistic age I can be caught up with what is ultimately material, even if it seems spiritual. Paul identified Faith, hope and love as the three that persist. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Jesus asks questions of our motives too. Seeing our lives through the lens of ‘faith, hope and love’ helps us see if we are trying to use Him to get what we want out of life or whether we are working for the food that endures to eternal life.

 

See a more complete study