Be Gracious, Lord: A Reflection on Psalm 6

Be gracious, Lord, rebuke me not in wrath,

Nor in Your anger, for I waste away;

My bones, my soul are troubled — heal me, LORD!

How long, O LORD, how long will You delay?

On days I have been devastated by despair, it has been difficult to pray. It is hard to conceive God cares, else why would I be languishing in misery?  Like Elijah seeking shade under a sycamore or Jonah sleeping at sea, waves of hopelessness and despondency prompt me to tune out the world and God along with it.

The Psalmist here shows us a different approach. Rather than run from trouble or responsibility, he calls on the One (and only One) able to help. This prayer acknowledges that God may well be the cause of the hardship. God may well be angry for something the Psalmist has done or failed to do. Be that as it is, the perception of God’s wrath does not keep the Psalmist from crying out to God in confidence that God is still the One who can (and will) deliver him, in time.

O LORD, return to liberate my soul!

And for your steadfast love come now to save!

For no one will remember You in death,

And who will glorify You in the grave?

Having cried out in anguish, the Psalmist moves directly to his plea for rescue. He bases his petition not on any goodness in himself. He does not deserve God’s mercy. Yet, he knows God’s steadfast love can sweep him up to new life beyond the deathly threat — again, not for his own good, but for God’s glory.

This Psalm serves as a prophetic word of how salvation works. Our imprisoned souls are liberated by Jesus Christ thanks to the steadfast love of the Lord. Christ’s resurrection answers the Psalmist’s concern about glory beyond the grave.

I have grown weary with my sighs and moans;

I cry and flood my bed with tears each night.

Due to my grief and all my enemies,

My weeping eyes grow weak and lose their sight.

Having expressed his pain and pleaded for deliverance, the Psalmist returns to describe in more detail the agony he is experiencing. Having suffered from chronic depression, I know too well the weariness of unending sighs and moans, of days and nights tossing and turning in bed, of grief caused not so much by enemies around me, but enemies within. It is something like a spiritual Sheol.

Sheol is a dark bedroom with the curtains closed.

Children playing outside, unwatched.

Disembodied voices on the radio sharing unending bad news.

A lifeless womb,

A tomb of unknown

Lost opportunities.

Time lost in the Sheol of despair and despondency robs us of our sight. And, as the Bible says, “without vision, people perish.”

Nonetheless, the Psalmist does not remain stuck in dark depression. Instead, he chooses to believe in the character of Jehovah Jirah, the Lord who hears and provides the help we need just when we need it most.

The LORD has heard, the LORD has heard my cries;

All evildoers, go, depart from me!

The LORD receives each prayer I make to Him.

Troubled and shamed, my foes leave suddenly.

It is a great relief to know as we lie in the darkness, hiding from enemies within and around us, that we  have a God who hears our prayers and responds when we need him most. God does not leave us in the darkness, but shines a light for us to follow.  And our enemies flee like cockroaches in a dilapidated motel.

bold quotes are from “Be Gracious, LORD” by Frederick C. Atkinson based on Psalm 6 in The Book of Psalms for Worship

the other quote is from “From the Depths of Sheol” by Tony Roberts in Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission

dark and light - black and white - darkness and sunlight - hallway, windows - rustic home

Watching for God: Reflection on Revelation 21, 22

A world without church. What would it be like? Can you imagine it?

John of Patmos vividly describes this vision of a New Jerusalem, prepared by God.

“I saw no temple in the city, for the temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

A world without church, but not a world without faith.

This vision prompts us within the church to behave in such a way that we are working ourselves out of a job. God’s ultimate desire is not for a mega-church institution doling out Christian ideals, producing Christian periphenalia, promoting Christian faith. Instead, God’s desire is that we all might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to live in a personal, intimate relationship with Christ. This, more than anything should be the gauge by which we judge how well we are carrying out our mission in the church. God’s desire is for intimate fellowship, a close circle of faith, and not a flashy performance in huge temple arenas.

Within the church, we are to behave in such a way as to work ourselves out of a job. In my last call, I was talking with an elder about his work in the church. He was doing great things, contributing much time and effort. Yet, he was overextending himself. I had the unenviable task of gently suggesting that he spend more time with family and less time at work and at church. Fortunately, he listened well. One Sunday, I’ll never forget him eagerly telling me of a camping trip he had taken with his family, the first one since the kids had been born.

Our job in the church is not to place more demands that further distances people from their intimate relationships. Instead, we are to create opportunities for these priority relationships to be lived out, to better equip good mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, grandparents and grandchildren.

In the world-to-come, there will be no special place set aside for meeting God, because God will be with us fully in all places. No more will we have need for a sanctuary. Life in the New Jerusalem will be filled with the goodness of God, the light of the Lamb. God and humanity will live together in a peaceful harmony.

So if there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, why have one now? What purpose does church serve? If I can meet God as easily in the beauty of nature, beside a lake, or in the woods, why go to church?

The faith community now is to be a demonstration plot for God’s coming kingdom. We are to help others catch a glimpse of the kingdom so they will know what it looks like when it comes. God desires that we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the glory of God, to work through our differences, to spread good news. We need a faith community now to help us keep our focus. We need the support and challenge of our sisters and brothers to stay focused on God. We need the light that shines within the faith community to make our way through the darkness.

In the New Jerusalem, in that great city, all nations will walk in the light of the Lamb, bringing to God gifts and honor and praise. This image completes the pictures the prophets painted. The prophets pointed beyond the nation of Israel to show that through Abraham and Sarah, all families of the earth have been blessed. Jews and Gentiles alike will come together- all our dividing lines will be broken down. Because of this, it is our present duty to go to all corners of the earth and spread the good news of God’s love.

Chapter 22 moves us to an image of a flowing stream- the river of the water of life – bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. This stream nourishes the

tree of life such that it blossoms with 12 kinds of fruit and leaves used for healing.

This is a vivid image of great abundance, showing us the wonderful ways God provides for us as we drink from the water of life. Water has nourished us in many ways. From the water that surrounds us in our mother’s womb, to the water that quenches our parched lips in our older years. God provides water to nourish us throughout our lives. The waters of baptism symbolize our connectedness to God. Just as God made water to flow from a wilderness rock, God brings nourishing water to strengthen us when we need it most, throughout our lives.

The abundant life God provides us yields much fruit. The tree of life is a symbol of God’s extravagant love, yielding a variety of fruits, producing beyond measure. Jesus as the Spirit produces fruit in us.

In the paradise-to-dome, we will freely eat the fruit of the tree of life and enjoy God’s blessings for all eternity. For now, we wait and watch for God. We see God in the beauty of nature, in the smile of a child, in the sacrament of Baptism. We see the beauty of abundant life and move towards it, enjoy it, celebrate it and wait for it to come to stay.

Cascading stream in the Olympic National Forest of Washington 鈥?photo: Mark Karrass on AllPosters

To the Ends of the Earth: Reflection on Acts 1.1-11

The words for “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit” appear 57 times in the book of Acts.

Christ offered to send his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, but first they had to prepare. They prepared by –

Learning about the kingdom of God,

Waiting together in faith.

Discovering that the Holy Spirit is beyond our control.

Receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to share our faith everywhere.

The Risen Christ has appeared to many people during a period of forty days. He has given them first-hand evidence that death is not the end. There is hope for a better life beyond this life. He has also taught them about the kingdom of God.

[Jesus] presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking to them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

What is it that we have to learn about the kingdom of God? Jesus shared many parables about what the kingdom of God is like. There were two that struck me in my reading through Luke.

First, the kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that is sowed and becomes a great tree.

The kingdom of God is also like a small amount of yeast mixed in, that leavens an entire loaf.

The kingdom doesn’t start off as something huge. It is small, and seemingly insignificant. It is only when somebody takes it and sows it in the soil or mixes it in the dough, that it becomes great, that it spreads throughout.

One thing we have to learn about the kingdom of God is that God is not going to build it himself. Instead, God works through us to build the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

As we look at the depth of need in the world, we can grow impatient with God to do something about it – to fix it. Often, however, God’s response is for us to wait – right where we are.

As [Jesus] ate with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father, about which you have already heard from me. (Acts 1:4)

Hang in there. The Holy Spirit is on the way. God will not leave us alone. As difficult as it is, wait right where you are.

And, while you wait, stick together. John Calvin writes of the disciples – “They were commanded to stay together, because they should all have one spirit given them.”

As we struggle, it is essential that we stay together in the spirit of prayer and fellowship. Too often, we try to go it alone. Someone pointed out to me this week that this is especially true for men. People come to us with problems and we think it’s up to us to fix them. We jump right in and often, make the situation worse. It is so much better when we just wait and pray – not just on our own – but with other brothers and sisters in Christ who can help us receive the spirit of guidance, counsel and understanding.

The Bible says, “Those who wait for the Lord will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”

Wouldn’t it be better to walk, run, even fly – rather than grow weary and faint when we face spiritual struggles? We can do this if we will only wait and pray together as one family of faith.

To wait well, we need to give up our illusion that we are in control. The truth is, not only can we not control the outcome of events; we often have no idea just what’s going on or when it’s supposed to happen.

The disciples thought they had the kingdom of God figured out. They were certain that Jesus would now set things straight and put them in charge. They ask Jesus –

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel? (Acts 1:6)

The disciples, like a lot of us, want to be in control. We would much rather the Lord be on our side than that we work at being on the Lord’s side.

All of us struggle with the need to be in control. Certainly, we need to have self-control. But this is something very different. The Bible talks about self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is not that we can produce self-control. When we surrender to the Spirit, we receive self-control.

And when we have self-control, we can let go of our desire to control others. When we try to exert control over others, we can do great damage – to ourselves and to our relationships.

Growing up, I had a friend who was always bossing me around. He tried to control what I did, what I said, even how I felt. Wanting him to like me, I went along with this – until one day we went our separate ways.

Years later, I ran into this friend. I discovered he had gone through three marriages and his fourth wife was so afraid of upsetting him, she could barely think straight.

When we accept that we are not in control, when we let the Holy Spirit be in control of our lives, we give up our desire to control others. We are freed to live in love and grow in faith.

When we surrender to the Holy Spirit, we receive the power not only to live in God’s love, but also to share this love with others – everywhere. Jesus tells his disciples –

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we can’t do anything worthwhile. We will continue to spin our wheels, keep having the same crises, keep repeating the same mistakes, keep opening up old wounds.

But with the power of the Holy Spirit, anything is possible.

The Holy Spirit gives us the boldness to speak the truth in love. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to do what needs to be done, even when we face great opposition. The Holy Spirit gives us our purpose in life and in ministry.

Al Winn writes – “The power of the Holy Spirit is given for a definite task: the mission of the Church. God does not give the Spirit for the selfish glory or ease of a church or an individual.”

It isn’t easy. You will be persecuted. You may be ignored or looked down upon. You may be talked about even at church. You may receive angry phone calls or combative e-mails. You may be verbally attacked. Your efforts to do what you believe is right may be undermined. When you are faithful to your calling, your life won’t get easier. In fact, it will get harder. The enemy will do everything in his power to prevent you from following the Holy Spirit, from fulfilling your purpose in life and in ministry.

What you need to do is this –

Know that the kingdom of God begins in small ways.

Wait in prayer with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Surrender your will to the Holy Spirit, and

Receive the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out your ministry.

John 6:63 ~ "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."

How Do We Respond to Suicide?

This post was originally published August 11, 2014. 

I hope the man I marry is somewhat like Robin Williams. In that he can make me laugh, isn't concerned with what other people think, has a warm, tenderhearted side, yet still a wild, unhindered sense of insane adventure. I just want a man with his diversity. -Kait.

 

Robin Williams is dead, apparently of suicide after a lengthy battle with depression. My heart is heavy. What a terrible tragedy. How could a man who seemed so full of exuberant life somehow lack the will to live?

I respect the family’s desire to keep details of his death private. There will likely be a feeding frenzy in the press — speculation over his mental state, drug use, relationships with others, every jot and tittle to try to explain the unexplainable — some people (and it can be anyone) simply lose the desire to see another day.

Whenever I encounter suicide in the news or in the lives of people I know, my mind flashes back to one Saturday night in March of 2008. I was feeling flu-like symptoms and had called to get someone to preach for me.

I went to bed feeling weary but otherwise fine. Just after hugging my son good night, I heard a distinct voice say, “It’s okay.” Rather than interpret this as God assuring me all was well, I heard it as divine direction to kill myself. In less than half an hour, I had consumed handfuls of potent psycho-tropics that should have ended my life.

Why did I do it? I have no earthly idea. It makes no human sense. I’ve come to see it as a spiritual attack for which I was ill prepared — in spite of years of faith development, Biblical study, and pastoral service.

By God’s grace, I was brought back from the dead. Others, like Robin Williams, are less fortunate. Why? God only knows. It is foolish to speculate. More than this, it is callous and cold-hearted. Like Job’s friends trying to explain away his suffering, we are bound to get it wrong and only heap verbal and psychological abuse on already hurting children of God.

I don’t know why people commit suicide. I do know how I can best respond — with the strong compassion of Christ. Our God is a God of life and nothing — not even death by suicide — can separate us from his love in Christ. I won’t speculate on the eternal destiny of those who take their own lives — this is in God’s hands — but I will boldly proclaim the power of abundant life that can reach us in the depths of Sheol and remain with us to the highest heavens.

One of the meditations included in my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder, is called “Even Me” and it concludes in this way —

God has brought me back from the dead. In Christ, I have hope for abundant life with him now and forever.

When I came to my senses in the hospital bed after my suicide attempt, I had to face the reality that I had tried to abandon God. At the same time, I discovered God had not abandoned me. I say this not to brag about my standing with God – indeed I have no standing with God. I say this instead with tremendous gratitude and wonder that God would take notice of me—even me.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

A Mother’s Love: Reflection on 2 Samuel 1

One of the most painful experiences women (and men) can face is their inability to have children. It is a great mystery to me why some couples who would be loving parents are unable to conceive, while each year thousands of children are born, unwanted by their birth parents.

In days of Hannah, women who were barren were ignored, ridiculed, often cast aside. They were considered cursed by God for some secret sin. Hannah was made to feel less than human, unloved by God.

Hannah knew God loved her. Still, she struggles. She prays for a child. Nothing happens. Her husband, Elkanah, pays a double offering at the temple. Nothing happens. Hannah endures the taunts and jeers of other women. Nothing happens. In her struggle, she becomes terribly sad. She finds it difficult to eat or sleep.

In desperation, Hannah goes to the temple and calls on the God she knows as loving and powerful, able to do great things. She pours out her heart,

          “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, remember me…and I will remember you. I will dedicate my child to your service.” (1 Samuel 1:11)

It can be miserable for women (and men) to long to give birth to a child and be unable to do so. A woman’s love longs to give life.n Yet, giving life is not just done when you give birth. Giving life can be done when you provide foster care for a troubled child, when you adopt a child with special needs, when you show affection for a child falling through the cracks.

The measure of a mother is not whether you can bring a child into the , but whether you can bring love into the life of a child.

Still, it is a great blessing when a child is born.

The Bible tells us that God hears Hannah’s prayer and answers it. She conceives and gives birth to a son, Samuel. Can you imagine her joy?

When Alice and I discovered we were expecting our first child, we felt incredibly blessed. Those nine months of waiting seemed like an eternity. The week of our due date, Alice and I had been “power walking” three times a day at the mall, trying to induce labor. We were quite a sight – barreling past the senior citizens – one very pregnant woman and one over-eager husband, clocking each contraction with a stopwatch.

Sarah was born (three days late, according to my stopwatch) and our blessing was multiplied, beyond belief. Sarah.

Can you imagine how Hannah must have felt? To be blessed with a child after such a long wait, all her tears, all her pain, her desperate prayers become one bouncing bundle of joy. Samuel.

Then, her joy, her blessedness is tested. Remember her promise to God? “If you give me a son, Lord, I will dedicate him to your service, as a priest.” In those days, priests were raised within the temple walls, separated from their parents. How on earth, after all that she has been through, after such a long wait, could Hannah give up her child?

We don’t know how she does it, but she does. She follows through on her promise to God. She says to her husband,

“… as soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever.” (1 Samuel 1:22)

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us how old Samuel was when he was weaned.   Samuel might have been the first child in history to be weaned and graduate from college on the same day. Maybe Hannah should become the patron saint for La Leche League.

Certainly, we know the Hannah nurtures Samuel at least through his early years. She shows that a mother’s love nurtures life.  And you never stop nurturing your child – even as he (or she) grows older. You just learn to do it in different ways.

This can be a tremendous challenge for parents – particularly mothers. How do you nurture your children as they grow older, as they become more independent, as they need you in different ways?

The answer, I believe is different for every mother. In fact, I think it’s different for every child. The way that we can best nurture Sarah as she grows older is different than for Grace or Caleb or Hannah. Though we love each child as much as the others, we best express this love in different ways – according to their different needs. This is one of the great mysteries (and challenges) of parenting.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for a mother comes in launching her child. After Hannah has weaned Samuel, she presents him for temple service. She says –

For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28)

          I like the phrase here “lent him to the Lord.” I wonder if she has in mind that she could take him back? But then she goes on to say it is for the rest of Samuel’s life, so maybe she changes her mind. Whatever the case, Hannah lets go. She shows us that.

A mother’s love dedicates life to God.

A mother never stops longing for life or nurturing the life of your child, but she also needs to reach this point where she can dedicate her child’s life to God.

I’ve seen countless parents who really struggle with letting go, with launching their children into the world. You wonder if you’ve done a good enough job, if you have provided them the necessary foundation to be not only successful in the world, but faithful in life. You struggle to accept how good a parent you’ve been.

But at some point, you need to let go and let God take over.

This is something we all need to do – as mothers, as fathers, as children, as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let go of the need to be in control – of the lives of others, and of our own lives. Let God take over. Surrender life to God and trust that with God in control, things will be much, much better.

#LostBumblebee ©2015 Bible Verse : 1 Samuel 12:16 STAND: Free Printable : Personal Use Only.

Which Way Will You Go? (based on Genesis 13:1-18) — Throwback Thursday

Abram and Lot

Our Bible story today begins with a family dispute. Journeying with the Lord, Abram has become quite rich in cattle, silver and gold. His nephew Lot, who has journeyed with him has likewise accumulated flocks and herds and tents. Tension is now developing as they seek to manage their growing assets. Not only is there a limit to how much life this parcel of land will support, but there is at least a hint that the possessions themselves are driving these two family members apart. Notice at the end of verse 6:

What does a family do when it has reached this point? It depends on the situation and the faith perspective of the family.   Some situations call for sacrifices to be made. The fact of the matter is that families do not need great wealth to live abundantly. Should God bless a particularly family with material riches and these possessions begin to drive a wedge between family members, a healthy and wise move would be to give as they have received. I’ve known many couples and families with means who, instead of being torn apart by wealth, are drawn together as they share the joy of giving.

For some, this may be the purest peace settlement we’ll ever find. For others, there need be some setting of boundaries, as Abram does. Abram generously offers Lot his choice of land. He didn’t have to do this. As patriarch of his clan, all rights to the land remained in his possession until his death. Like the father of the prodigal son, however, Abram recognizes that Lot needs to try his wings and gives him a chance to make it on his own.

Lot reviews the situation and does what many of us would do. He looks for the choicest land, the best-watered, fertile ground for his flocks and herds to grow. He selects the Jordan valley, a land rich in soil fed by the Jordan River, almost resembling the Garden of Eden in the stories from his youth. So far it sounds like his using good judgment. But then at the end of verse 12, we find Lot’s first fatal mistake. He pitches his tent as far away as Sodom. Lot chooses God property, but bad neighbors. Our bulletin cover shows well how this choice is the first step down a path that will lead to his destruction.

In separating from Abram, Lot does more than create more space for his flocks and herds, he turns his back on contact with the Lord. He walks away from the living legacy of faith that was being nurtured as he worked each day in the fields with Abram. In choosing to live in Sodom and become entangled in the network of sin there, Lot left behind the one and only path that would have led him through this life to the life beyond, in Christ.

Friends in faith, each of us has to carve our own niche in this world. There are times we need assert ourselves –in our families, our schools, our workplaces, our communities, our churches. There will be times where tensions become so high that we need to create more space for ourselves in order to keep growing in faith. Family members need spend occasional time apart to better appreciate time together. Schools need to evaluate how well they are provided education for our children and at times make difficult changes. You may discover a new position at work or a shift in career which best suits your God-given abilities.

Opportunities arise in the community to make a difference and we do well to respond. A growing church like ours certainly feels the tension of trying to be faithful in all forms of ministry to which we are called with the space and resources we are given. At some point, God may lead us to step out in faith and do a new thing.

The key, I think, is to be like Abram and not like Lot. Abram went when he was called by God. Lot went when he was dissatisfied with Abram. Abram journeyed where God led him. Lot chose the land that looked best in his own eyes. Abram cultivated his relationship with God. Lot made a name for himself among his sinful neighbors.

Both Lot and Abram were wealthy by worldly standards. But Lot’s wealth would pass away with the twinkling of an eye. Abram’s would endure from generation to generation and, in Christ, through eternity. The crucial distinction for Lot and Abram is where they looked for the source of their wealth. Lot saw a well-watered field and good relations with neighbors. Abram knew that all good things come from the Lord.

The Great Therapist: Delight in Disorder Tuesday

I cry aloud to the Lord;

I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.

I pour out before him my complaint;

before him I tell my trouble. (Psalm 142:1-2)

A therapist is a bit like God in that they both listen to complaints. A good therapist, though, recognizes that his/her familiarity with God ends there. A good therapist resists playing God. A good therapist avoids becoming too enmeshed in our problems or trying to heal our condition for us. A good therapist draws on the healing power that flows from God yet sees that the Source of this healing comes from beyond him or herself.

I’ve had many therapists – some good and some not-so-good – in my almost thirty-year pursuit of good mental health. I’ve observed that a good therapist shows great patience, listening to cries and supplications, complaints and trouble all day long, day in and day out. A therapist who persistently yawns or watches the clock can give hurting people the impression that their hurts don’t matter. A good therapist helps lift the burden of pain a client carries simply by listening attentively. Being an engaged listener is both a gift and a practiced skill that flows through years of discipline.

While I’ve had measured success with therapists of other faith perspectives in the past, I now see a very gifted Christian counselor. He does a tremendous job of patiently and persistently walking with me through the darkness of doubt and confusion and helps me make difficult decisions, leading me with the light of Christ. I particularly appreciate that he prays with me (and for me), not to manipulate my choices, but that God would guide me to moral clarity.

While I believe God may speak through therapists of various faith perspectives, the best work I’ve done has been with therapists who understand my faith story and appreciate how my faith in Christ is an essential resource for my healing. The therapists I’ve had who have viewed my faith as a crutch or even an obstacle have challenged me to examine my beliefs (which is not bad), but have contributed very little to positive therapeutic change.

While some say “change comes from within,” I would contend that this is only true when the Holy Spirit works within us to produce change. The Spirit, who is One with God, is more than just a good therapist. The Holy Spirit is the Great Therapist. Not only does the Spirit listen to our complaints, but always responds with love.

Good earthly therapists lead us to the great heavenly therapist. By entering into our faith story and connecting it to the story of the Gospel, we learn together to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord so we can lead healthier, holier lives.

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. For a signed copy, directly from the author, write to me — tony@awaywithwordsforyou.com .

God’s Understanding, Not Ours

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7-8)

Last night, I had a dream. I was a pastor again, this time in a large church. People were praising me. Word was getting out about me. My reputation was spreading. My name and photo had even been placed on a Snickers bar. I was getting full of myself. I was heading for a fall.

The dream was not far from the truth (except for the Snickers bar). There was a time when my ministry was celebrated, I was advancing in my career, and my name was recognized. I like to think I gave God the credit, but I fear all too often I didn’t. Then, I fell. Hard. In my case, my mental illness got the best of me. This thorn in my flesh humbled me — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and relationally. I thought all was lost and attempted to take my own life.

But God wasn’t finished with me yet. I have still lost much — my pastoral ministry, my marriage, my financial savings. Yet, I have gained hope and have grown in faith that God is with me in Christ. Even in the darkness. Even in the valleys. Perhaps especially in the darkness and the valleys.

Now, I am intent on focusing on “the fear of the LORD,” reverence for God’s power, awe for God’s majesty. Scripture assures me that as I do this, I will find healing — not just for my body, but for my mind and spirit.

This morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt a huge weight, a burden holding me back. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. My dream had disturbed me. Voices inside me were causing me to feel agitated and restless, spiritually drained.

But I took a deep breathe, and God the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to get up. I dressed for church, made coffee, prayed. And I was uplifted. I wasn’t speaking in tongues, shouting from the rooftops, or dancing victoriously. But I made it to worship where I join the communion of saints and was fed in spite of how I felt.

God feeds us no matter how we feel — when we seek the LORD with open hearts and open minds. God heals us through the Word as we turn from sin and towards Him. We are refreshed for life as we lean on God’s understanding and walk in His ways.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

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