Friday, April 5, 2024

Is He enough?

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As I continue studying the Gospel of John, I notice the different groups of people mentioned. We have Jesus' closest friends, his disciples. The next group is the disbelieving majority. These people were angry and offended that Christ wasn't who they wanted Him to be. 

    But the most challenging group to read about was those who only followed Him for His miracles. This group reminds me a lot of many of our Western churches here in America: people who are constantly searching for miracles and blessings, people who, if those miracles and blessings were to end, would become despondent and potentially disenchanted with their faith. 

    The members of this group only want the good parts of life; they never understand suffering, and they desperately seek the next feel-good experience through a "move" of the Holy Spirit or an emotive worship conference. Unfortunately, our young people are entirely wrapped up in this lie. The daily act of picking up our daily cross, walking in obedience, and abiding in His Word is not appealing to them at all. And yet, this is what we are called to—every day. 

    Does that mean we will not have emotional experiences as we seek salvation? Of course not! But when those seem few and far between, that does not mean the Lord isn't right beside us. It does not mean that we are not a Christian. It also does not mean that we are necessarily doing anything wrong. Our walk of faith is rooted in the truth of what Scripture tells us.

     Like the crowds in John, this group didn't want His words. They wanted His signs. Ultimately, they decided to walk away from the Light of the World, the Living Water, and the Bread of Life, all because Christ wanted them awestruck with the glory of God and not the glory of a miracle. The irony was that He is the greatest miracle. And He was standing right before them, asking them to "come." The Word of God made flesh who came to dwell with us so that He might redeem us. But that wasn't enough for them. Will it be enough for us?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Kingdom of Heaven

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"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3

What does the Kingdom of Heaven mean?  

Let us look at the Lord's Prayer for some clarity.  There are two petitions side by side.

Thy Kingdom come:
They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Traditionally, the Jewish style to say things twice was in order to amplify certain ideas and meanings.  The Psalms are filled with examples.

I acknowledge my transgressions:
And my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:3

See the double claim?  The second mention explains and/or amplifies the first line.  So if we apply this to the Lord's prayer what do we see?  William Barclay in his commentary on John states it best.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a society where God's will is as perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven.  To be in the Kingdom of Heaven is therefore to lead a life in which we have completely and willingly submitted everything to the will of God; it is to have arrived at a stage when we fully, perfectly and completely accept the will of God."

But how are we to do this?  Certainly not in our own strength or understanding.  Nicodemus's conversation with Jesus in the middle of the night proves this.  Here was a man who was one of the most educated, wealthy, and affluent men in all of the area and he expresses his doubt.

"Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?""" John 3:4

On the surface it looks as if Nicodemus took this conversation with a sort of crude literalism.  But I wonder if there is more to his answer.  Again, Barclay states it this way.

"In the heart of Nicodemus there as a great unsatisfied longing.  It is as if he said with infinite, wistful yearning: "You talk about being born again; you talk about this radical, fundamental change which is so necessary.  I know that it is necessary; but in my experience it is so impossible.""

We are all there at some point in our lives before conversion; before our own new birth into the eternal family of God.  CS Lewis calls this yearning for something which cannot be satisfied in this world Sehnsucht. 

Once we have accepted this new birth into our eternal family by the Spirit of adoption we are now sons/daughters of God (John 1:18). But the essence of sonship is love and the essence of love is obedience(John 14:21).  We cannot say that we love someone and then do things which we know will hurt that person's heart.  So, to be a child of God and to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven are one in the same.  The child and the citizen are both the person who has surrendered completely and totally to the will of their Father and the King.  Savior and Lord.  Forever and ever, amen.    

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Painful Thanksgiving.

                            Empty Hands — Grounds   
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    A gathering of friends and family around a celebratory feast.  Giving thanks for all of the blessings of life.  Smiles and laughter filling the air.  It paints quite a picture.  But what if that doesn't look like your life?  What if.... you have nothing?

    This time of year can be a beautiful reminder of everything that you have.  
    This time of year can also be a painful reminder of all that you do not have. 

So what do we do when the joy of other's fullness collides with a resounding blast into our nothingness?

 The desire to hide away and cling tightly with bare hands is tempting; trust me I can relate.  When my womb remained empty with secondary infertility and others blossomed with new life, when my loneliness was suffocating while I watched on social media the events I wasn't invited to, when the doctors turned me away with more questions than answers, when my pain limited me to a dark room while my children continued to participate in activities I had to miss out on- it hurt.  And as someone who suffers with undiagnosed chronic pain and who lives in a broken world- like we all do- it still hurts.  

    But through the pain and suffering, our eyes can be open in a new way.  It can give us new lenses with which we can recognize others around us who are also hurting.  Unlike those whose lives are so full, we more easily notice the barren and outcast.  We know what it's like to be missed or overwhelmed with the weight of hollowness.  And as the saying goes, "That is not something I would wish on my greatest enemy."  

    And so, we look.  We look up and we look out.  First, we look up to the One who stepped down from everything and into nothing in order that we might have everything through Him.  

2 Corinthians 8:9 "You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich." 

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.  That whoever believes in Him will have eternal life."

    The God of the universe loves us so much (Romans 5:8) that He paid our debt as a sinner deserving death (Romans 6:23) in order that we might be reconciled to Him for all time (1 John 2:2, Romans 5:10, John 11:25).  Even if we don't have anything else in this life, we can have Him- forever.  But we must believe that we are sinners in need of a savior and then we must pledge our loyalty to Him forever so that He will be Lord of our lives.  When we do this- we have a hope that cannot be shaken or removed.  We now can cling to Him as our rock and source of joy.  His love fills in all of those empty spaces and overflows into every area drenching us with His goodness and mercy.  A healing balm of Gilead that soothes every ache, every wound.

Revelation 21 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” "

    What an encouraging promise to hold to when it feels like there is no hope.  If we are in Christ, we have the perfect hope.  The only eternal hope.  

    Lastly, we need to look out.  When we have that perfect eternal promise of healing life we should want to give it generously to those who need it most.  Just as if you discovered a cure for cancer that you would want to share with a dying and despairing world, the good new of what Christ has done will give new life to all who believe and receive.  What a wonderful gift we can give when our hands are empty. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
the new creation has come: 
The old has gone, the new is here!”

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Breakout Notes

                         Speaking Truth Boldly in a Secular Culture 

The truth will cost you something.  What are you willing to pay?

“The Power of the Powerless” by Vaclav Havel

“The greengrocer, posts a sign in his shop bearing the well-known slogan from the Communist Manifesto, stating “Worker’s of the world, unite!”  He doesn’t believe in it.  But he hangs it in his shop as a signal of his own conformity.  He just wants to be left alone.  His action is not meaningless though: the greengrocer’s act not only confirms that this is what is expected of one in a communist society but also perpetuates the belief that this is what is means to be a good citizen.

However, one day something in the greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself.  He begins to say what he really thinks.  And he finds strength to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support.  In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie.  He rejects ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He gives his freedom concrete significance.  His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.  He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie.  He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth.”

“Neutrality is a lie from the enemy wooing us into an apathetic coma of weak convictions and even weaker souls.”  

  • We must believe the Word of God more than we believe anything else if we are to ____________.
  • _____________ is not a short cut for skipping the hard work.
  • It takes consistent work to oppose the drift of _______________.
  • We have to develop the skill of ___________ ______ as a Christian
  • Learn about the suffering faithful men and women in the past.  Be encouraged in their __________.
  • Our standard is ___________.
  • Foster __________ spiritual disciplines
  • Desire Him for His ___________ alone!

How to Suffer Well: ‘TRUST’

  1. Train/Teach yourself and your family what a biblical worldview says about life
  2. Read and study the stories of the heroes of the Christian faith
  3. Understand that there is suffering in this life, but keep your focus on eternity
  4. Study God’s truth & character through His Word, hide it deep in your heart
  5. Testimony- live your life as a testimony and a reflection as an image bearer

A Benediction:

May you grow in wisdom and in stature like our Lord.  Through His Spirit may His overwhelming love for you be made known in a very tangible way.  May you desire Him, not for His benefits or your pleasure but for His holy presence. 

I pray that you will be women who are faithful in the small truths so that you will never waiver in the larger ones.  May you be devoted to make disciples of all who the Lord fills your life with.  I beseech you to become women of courage and boldness, gentleness and truth.  I pray that you will always stay eternal minded for the glory of His name.  May you forever live for an audience of One.  Amen.  

Application Questions:

1.  What have you had to give up for your faith?

2.  What do you fear you will have to give up for your faith?

3.  Have you ever compromised your faith to accommodate the world/culture?

4.  How are you equipping your children to stand against culture?

5.  How do you nurture your relationship with the Lord?  Do you have a practice or rhythm?

6.  How do you prepare for suffering?

Further Reading/quotes:

Natasha Crain- Faithfully Different, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side

Rod Dreher- Live Not By Lies

Trevin Wax- The Thrill of Orthodoxy

David F Wells- God in the Whirlwind 

Elizabeth Elliot- Suffer is Never for Nothing

Personal blog-

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Lament pt 3

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The past two weeks we have developed an understanding of the language of biblical lament.  Through this prayer we have learned to express our griefs directly to God and searched His character for the gifts he offers as a healing balm to our aching hearts.  We have learned that mourning rightly is a rare skill in the modern church but one that is desperately needed and imperative to our spiritual growth.

We have allowed this prayer language to dig deep into our lives and reveal the temporal things we have been clinging to that take precedent over the Lord. We discussed that the root of all idolatry is the rejection of God’s goodness and of His moral authority.  “The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man.” Lament helps us to recognize the idols we have hidden in our hearts when suffering hits and through emotive prayers we wrestled them out with the Spirit working in and through us.  He alone is worthy to be praised.

Lament requires a deep knowledge of God, the world and ourselves.  It is intentional and hard work.  But that effort is always worth it and we do not do it alone!

“If your faith rests in your idea of how God is suppose to answer your prayers, your idea of heaven here on earth, or pie in the sky, or whatever, then that kind of faith is very shaky and is bound to be demolished when the storms of life hit it.  But if your faith rests on the character of Him who is the eternal- I AM, then that kind of faith is rugged and will endure.” (E Elliot)

Today we end this series by allowing our suffering to turn to the mission of lament and the praise that follows.

“Lord give us eyes to see the brokenness around us!”

Purpose of the Church: 

The church is called to display the divine rule (as imagers) on the earth and proclaim the gospel (good news) of the kingdom to the world, to the end that God would be glorified as unbelieving people repent and believe, thereby entering the kingdom and multiplying the divine image on the earth (be fruitful and multiply). (MA notes)

The idea of mission goes all the way back to the garden of Eden when the Lord sets into motion the plan of redemption for humanity after we chose other than Him.  As we walk through the meta narrative of scripture we see his missional blueprint unfold.  Christopher Wright, in The Mission of God, defines ‘mission’ this way, “Fundamentally, our mission (if biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.  The Bible presents to us a portrait of God that is unquestionably purposeful.”  

1 Kings 8:60-61 “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; 

there is no other. 

61 Let your heart [Israel] therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, 

walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Prayers and books of lament are scattered throughout this redemption plan; His story.  There is purpose to take notice within these sections that the Western Church tends to speed-read through.  The uncomfortable and challenging parts of scripture are meant to be slowly absorbed and assimilated into our lives and our daily practices.  ** We cannot ignore these and understand God’s plan in totality.  

Suffering, wisely born through lament, can yield meaning but it wins little applause in the Western culture. In the end we know that it is not our circumstances or even the pain that has the final word.  The end result will prove worth the cost.  

Philippians 3:14  I press on toward the goal to win the 

[supreme and heavenly] prize 

to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.”

He is All, He is good and He is for our good.  Our suffering well is a cosmic witness to the world of these truths.  

We know that all of our prayers pass from our mouths to Christ’s ear and out of Christ’s mouth to the Father’s ear.  

1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, 

the Man Christ Jesus, 

who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

Lament in the Bible is not simply an outlet for our frustrations. Though venting may be proven to be beneficial in and of itself, a lament is a form of prayer. And prayer is not passive. Many of the laments in the psalms are calls to action. They plead with God to pay attention to them and to act on their behalf. 

In fact, many Old Testament scholars identify “petition” as an essential element of a lament psalm. For example, the Hebrew word for “hear”, shema, appears 79 times as the psalmist implores God to listen attentively to their cry. The psalmist appeals to God’s character and covenant and asks for His attention and action.  

The New Testament takes us further. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray (The Lord’s prayer), He wasn’t giving them something to pass the time. He was inviting them to participate in the arrival of the Kingdom. In great times of distress, we should adopt a framework for prayer such as Christ did in the garden, not only praying that God's “will be done", but also praying “if it is possible, let this cup pass.”

In Paul’s epistles, his prayers were not the preamble but the premise for his whole letter, embodying his theology and ethics in his doxology. In fact, for Paul, prayer is one of the ways God is acting. As Professor NT Wright has said, “when we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, then somehow, God is praying within us for the pain around us.”  Paul was even able to sing in prison as he wrote his letters because of this truth.

Philippians 1:29 NRSV “For he has graciously granted you the privilege 

not only of believing in Christ, 

but of suffering for him as well.

He [Paul] considered suffering a gift, not because he enjoyed the pain (that would make him a masochist), but because it was through his suffering he was able to minister well to the body of Christ. The purpose of all of our God-given gifts is to bring unity to the church and glory to His name.

Colossians 1:24 NRSV “I am not rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake.

  I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body,

 that is, the church.”

Private lament with God has the potential to bring healing to your soul and strength to your heart as you walk a lonely road.  And in this [individual] practice, lament is where our deep sadness meets the world’s deep wounds.    We hope for a future but we have a mission for the present.  

“Jesus blesses those who mourn (Matt 5:4) because they are ‘aching visionaries’ seeking genuine goods that escape their grasp.  Who are the ‘mourners?’ They are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who act with all of their being for the days coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence.  They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is no one blind and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing.  They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death.  The mourners are aching visionaries.” - Wolterstorff 

When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken then the church isn’t for Christ. 

Mark 2:17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, 

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

To lament is to long for the shalom of God.  Not just for ourselves, for that is indeed too small for a God so big.  But to lament with and on behalf of others is one of the highest callings of the church.  “You are not alone” is one of the most healing things you can offer a hurting person.  It’s the same reminder Christ gives to us when He shows us the scars in His hands.  “You are not alone.”

The degree to which we are willing to enter into the suffering of another person reveals the level of our commitment and love (agape) for them.  Love requires sacrifice, suffering and servanthood.  The cross was/is a powerful love lament.  It asks us to sit in our grief and to sit with others pain no matter how uncomfortable.

One of the greatest blessings of the fear of the Lord is we learn to think less of ourselves.  Awe must lead to faith and faith must lead to action.  

We see a vibrant example of this in Isaiah chapter 6 as he laments in the throne room before God, 

“5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”

6 Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”

8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”

Once he encounter’s God’s grace his response is to offer himself as a servant to the living God.

8b “I [Isaiah] said, “I’m here; send me.””

We mustn’t downgrade obedience, which is the concrete expression of the fear of the Lord.  Our mission from Christ Himself is…

Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“Jesus doing the perfect will of His Father, transformed all of this (evil, suffering, death) into the triumph of divine love, absorbing and defeating it simultaneously.  Not only did He defeat all the powers of evil, He made them agents of His victory and their own defeat.” - C Wright

Each time we try to balance out other’s grief by offering empty platitudes or worldly “fixes”, we flex our perceived power.  If we can help someone see the good/bright side (by the power of our words or insight) then they’ll be comforted and we will have done some good.  It then becomes about us and not the person grieving or the One who can heal.  

However, we cannot rescue ourselves or anyone else. Only He can save.  As we learn to lament and wrestle out our own sin we are able to share the redemptive news and working of Christ with the world who is in desperate need of a savior. 

Jonah 2:9 “Salvation is of the Lord.”

“Suffering and sacrifice and glory.  That is the [great] principle of the cross: Life comes out of death.  I bring God my sorrows and He gives me His joy.  I bring Him my losses and He gives me His gains.  I bring Him my sins, He gives me His righteousness.  I bring Him my deaths and He gives me His life.  But the only reason God can give me His life is because he gave me His death.” (E Elliot)

Our God is more loving and more powerful than we could ever imagine.  Our own sins no matter how big are not bigger than God’s pleasure in forgiveness.  As we cultivate within ourselves a deep rest in God, then we will find that suffering can sting and cause pain, but it won’t uproot us, overthrow us.  This ‘good news’ is our gift that we share with the world through our suffering.  Lament is missional because it proclaims the gospel story.

In Christ:

The shamed are covered and glorified.  

The threatened are comforted and glorified.

The rejected are accepted and glorified.  

This is our hope, this is our mission.

“Human beings are hope-shaped creatures.  The way you live now is completely controlled by what you believe about your future.”- Keller 

Biblical love is never satisfied unless it is growing (1 Peter 1:22).  It develops strategies, it asks for prayers, it thinks big (spiritually).  

God’s entire mission here on earth is all about love.  He demands the ransom, He provides the ransom, He becomes the ransom.  Herein is His love.  “God’s love for His world is a rejoicing and suffering love.”- Wolterstorff 

“The suffering of God on the cross teaches us that we can trust that God has done and will do everything he can for us. By willingly suffering on the cross, Chris demonstrated that he considered this world, despite evil, to be worth a cost to himself (Romans 8:18, Heb 12:2). In doing, so, he also demonstrated God's righteousness (Romans 3:25-26) and love (5:8), and proved that he always keeps his promises (15:8). What more could he do?” -Peckham

**How can our laments display the gospel message to the world?

When God begins something big He always starts with something small.  A seed, a broken man, a grain of sand, a small boy’s lunch, a widow’s remanent of oil, a newborn baby.  Judging by the outward appearances apart from God’s word, it seems as though nothing would come of them.  This is why we live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God- not every sight.  What God says, not what we see, is how we live our lives and move and have our hope.  

Each individual who lives (and suffers) and dies for Christ is a small seed planted into the harvest field of potential believers.  Our testimony (no matter how small) is fertile soil.  We do not have to do more than what we are able to be faithful with.  It is enough to be faithful in the small because His grace fills in the rest.  

Matt 5:14,16 AMP “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see,

 so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Revelation 21- 22 combines imagery from all the covenants of Scripture. Noah is there in the vision of a new creation, a new heavens, and a new earth after judgment. Abraham is there in the gathering and blessing of all the nations from every tongue and language. Moses is there in the covenantal assertion that "they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God" and the “dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them.” David is there in the holy city, the new Jerusalem, and in the identity of Jesus as the lion of Judah and the root of Jesse. And the new covenant is there in the fact that all of this will be accomplished by the blood of the lamb, who was slain.  

Purged by judgment and the destruction of all wickedness and evil, human and satanic, the nations of the world will join in the praise of God for His salvation. They will bring all the wealth of their historical achievements into the city of God, as Isaiah had said they would. The city that now embraces the full extent, the whole new creation. And the river and the tree of life from which humanity had been barred in the earliest chapters of the Bible's grand narrative, will in its final chapter, provide the healing for the nations which the narrative has longed for ever since the scattering of Babel. The curse will be gone from the whole of creation.  The earth will be filled with the glory of God, and all the nations of humanity will walk in His light. Such is the glorious climax of the Bible's grand narrative. Such is the triumph of the mission of God.”- The Mission of God by C. Wright

This is our joy.  This is our mission.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  He is life eternal.  This is what we are inviting people to when we suffer well for the kingdom because only this provides eternal hope.  This is the only worldview for which we do not suffer in vain.  This is where our pain turns to praise.  

Revelation 21:3,4, 6 “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face…These words are trustworthy and true.”

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, 

And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”

**Let us end our laments with praise to the One who is worthy to be praised.

Personal Lament Pt 2: How long God must I suffer this relentless pain?

My pain is immense but no one has suffered more than you.

I remember.

You are faithful, even when I don’t understand.

In my sin you are still true

You break down all of my alters

You carry all of my mistakes of heart and deed.

Your sacrifice covers and makes new.

You make me your bride, dressed in glorious white.

I do not deserve this gift

Yet you generously offer

You delight in my redemption

Your name is made great among the stars

You ask me to, “come…

Enter into your rest.

You provide eternal rest for my body, my mind and my spirit.

The heavens take witness

The angels take notice

You remain steadfast in your covenant with me

Your lavish love overwhelms

Your goodness overtakes

May the dross be burned 

May anything not of you be stripped away

Open my eyes

To a broken world that needs you

Strengthen me to love the way you love

You are the Great Healer

You are the Kinsman Redeemer

The nations will bow

You are God alone.

** Take notice of who is “doing” the verbs

Practical Tips/Reminders:

Luke 11:46 “Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you,

 because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry,

 and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

The burden of other’s expectations, unmet hopes, and prayers can weigh heavy on the sufferer. Well-intentioned people with well-meaning words can make someone feel more condemned than free.  Short of divine revelation, we do not know reasons that apply to a given situation in suffering. It is futile- and may even be harmful- to speculate. We should remember this warning against speculation, especially when attempting to comfort someone suffering.  Explanations will seem empty and insensitive.  

“There is little worse than suffering a tremendous loss, and while still struggling to cope with it, rather than being embraced humanely and assisted in a tangible way, being told by others that the horrible thing that has happened is ‘a part of God's plan’ or ‘is for your own good’ or ‘that everything happens for a reason’; attempting to explain suffering is often the last thing a suffering person needs to hear in the midst of their distress.”- L Ekstrom

“Having someone simply be present in my pain was the most valuable gift anyone could bring.  Someone to listen.  No judgement.  No answers.  Just a caring heart and a listening ear.”- A Sampson

Romans 8:15b “And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

-God, my Father, is my safe space.  When we have His true nature and His voice first all others are put in their right place.  

“God alone is the place of peace that cannot be disturbed…”- Augustine 

Psalm 25:4-5 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.

5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.

Life, while suffering, is filled with measured living; limitations and processes and constantly needing to maintain the reserves.  Suffering can be an isolating experience.  We must learn to stand on our own connection with God and not just allow others to carry you every time.  (balance) 

Where there is lament and suffering there is a need.  Community helps support your walk with God.  Lament takes time and perspective.  It takes community and grieving with others.  If someone else’s suffering is uncomfortable, remind yourself what God did for you in comparison to what you deserved.  


The grieving person will always be a grieving person from now on

Grieving people are afraid that you’ll forget 

Don’t want a bright side- just validation

Err on the side of coming near

Help them- practically

Scripture References:

Brokenhearted- Psalm 147:3-5

Fear- Deuteronomy 31:6

Discouragement- Romans 8:31-34

Grief- John 16:20-22

Loneliness- Josh 1:9

Pain- Hebrews 12:11-13

Suffering- 1 Peter 5:10-11

Weakness- 2 Cor 4:7-10

Weariness- Isaiah 40:28-31

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Lament pt 2


Photo Credit:idolatrysermongraphic-570x350.jpg

Click here for the YouTube teaching.  

Lament awakens us to a broken world and a holy God.  There is a great tension!

Last week we discussed what lament is and what it is not.  In lament we do not complain for the sake of complaining, but we bring our anguish to God knowing that He hears us and is with us in our pain and that he is in the process of making all things new.  (Already/not-yet)

Today we build on those truths and we will look at how suffering and the act of lamenting to God reveals our heart condition.

Therefore as we journey through the process of lament we learn to recognize what we are actually clinging to as our hope.  Is it Him alone, something else or even God + something else.  As Pastor Andrew (Idlewild) states in his sermon, God+anything=nothing.

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do His best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  CS Lewis

Idols- anything more important than God.

Idolatry-( “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” 

An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God.  It is a matter of the heart and ultimately is rebellion against God.

Hardships reveal deep buried idols.  The true test of idolatry in our lives is our response to it’s loss.  Lament helps us uncover hidden idols by shining a light on the things which we place too much hope in.  As in all idolatry, the idol we choose to worship soon owns us thereby controlling us.

EXAMPLE- “I am terrified to be completely broken.”

-Do I fear this more than I fear the Lord?

-Is it consuming more thoughts/actions than He is?

-If it is, I need to ask myself, why?  

-  Do I not trust His goodness, His ability to sustain me? 

-  Am I truly allowing Him to determine my true needs vs my perceived felt needs, etc?

We need to ask “why”- biblical speaking- do we want a thing.

This is why we write out our laments.  It allows us to recognize what we are clinging tight to and prevents us from walking in denial or ignorance about our idolatry.  Honest, emotive prayers allow us to wrestle- with the Spirit- and dig deep.  It helps us separate real hurt from our own lusts and longings.  (Objective truth vs Subjective feelings)

We must remember, God doesn’t always prevent suffering but He always transforms it.

Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, 

but God meant it for good,

 to bring it about that many people should be kept alive,

 as they are today.”

We cannot judge God’s actions or intentions with the comparison of what a person would/might do.  “for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst…” (Hosea 11:9)

Psalm 9:10 “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. 

Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

What we fear shows our allegiance- it shows who/what is biggest in our lives.  Feelings are a window to what is deep in our hearts.  **Check your pocket for idols. (Syncretism/ Ex. Rachel)

Isaiah 50:10 “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant?

 If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light,

 trust in the LORD and rely on your God.”

Science has proven that we don’t have control over our reactionary feelings- they are instantaneous. (Take every thought captive 2 Cor. 10:5)  Without honest revelation and repentance to God- He cannot work on something we deny even exists in our hearts.  Whatever you think you need most- you will come to fear.  

**Our greatest need however it to be right with Christ.  

If we think that sin in any way is superficial, then we don’t understand it’s true nature. If we elevate ourselves to believe we are generally “good” people- fear of the Lord will be impossible.

“You will never make yourself feel that you are a sinner, because there is a mechanism in you, as a result of sin, that will always be defending you against every accusation. We are all on very good terms with ourselves, and we can always put up a good case for ourselves. Even if we try to make ourselves feel that we are sinners, we will never do it. There is only one way to know that we are sinners, and that is to have some dim, glimmering conception of God.” Martyn Lloyd Jones

Isaiah 33:6  “He will be the sure foundation for your times,

 a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

 the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”

Many if not most of our “needs” are more accurately called lusts and the object of those needs are called idols that we ourselves have created and multiplied.  We are controlled by our perceived “needs” and are living in an epidemic of emptiness. We keep a white- knuckled grip on our existence fighting for control and find ourselves disappointed that that the box we’ve put God in no longer contains Him.  We adopt a sinful attitude that we believe God has actually betrayed us.  But we are powerless to rescue ourselves. 

***What or who controls you?

“A biblical psychology (study of the human mind and its functions) of emotion must begin and end with God.  A theology (religious beliefs and theory) of emotion must begin with God and His self-description in the Scriptures because He is the eternal and Absolute Person, the Creator, the original whose image we bear.  Our theology of emotion must end with God as well since all things, including our emotions, find their fulfillment in Him.  “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  John Frame has aptly noted that we cannot know other things rightly without knowing God rightly, “essentially because the doctrine (set of beliefs) of the knowledge of God implies a doctrine of the knowledge of everything.” -Biblical Counseling Coalition

Jesus didn’t die to increase our self-esteem.  He died to bring glory to the Father by redeeming people from the curse of sin.  He, on the cross, dealt with our “spiritual” needs. Our tree “needs." 

When psychological (affecting the mind) needs, rather than sin are seen as our primary issue not only is our self-understanding affected but the gospel itself is changed.  

Feelings aren’t bad in and of themselves.  They help expose a need or a want. It is an awakening so to speak. As with all created things, they were made to glorify Him. But if you exalt the individual and make emotions the path to truth, then whatever you feel most strongly will be considered both good and necessary for growth. 

Instead of searching anywhere else to answer or fill that need we must look to God and remind ourselves of the gifts He has given to meet each of those needs.  But, when feelings become more important than faith, God becomes less.

John 3:30 TLB “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” 

Excruciating- The word comes from the Latin excruciare, and it was a Roman word meaning “as painful as a crucifixion or from/out of the cross.” The pain derived from crucifixion was so intense that the Romans had to create a new word for it, and that word is the root of excruciating.

On the other side of lament He bids us to heft our crosses and as we bear them, the Spirit labors with us.  Suffering is sanctifying, not for self improvement but for the glory of Christ. Embrace suffering and enter into grief by lament.

The life of discipleship is not about getting stronger; rather it’s about growing more aware of our weakness and the Lord’s strength.  Discipleship is dying to self. We “bear the cross” and it will kill us.  An un-crucified disciple is a contradiction of terms. 

Ask yourself, “Do I not want this because it’s uncomfortable?”  

Being His follower is not about climbing a ladder of spiritual success but being greeted by mercy at the bottom of the ladder by the Lord who climbs down to us.

“So great is the Lord’s faithfulness so personal and sure, that He holds out just the right portion- everything we need for today.  When we wake up to discover his daily, steady, restorative care our hope is renewed and our faith is reborn.”- M Fairchild

The battle is that we want the feeling of adequacy today for what we will go through tomorrow.  But God says, “Trust me.  I will give you what you need, when you need it.”  Part of today’s mercy is the ability to trust that there will be sufficient mercy for tomorrow.

Lamentation 3:20 I will never forget this awful time,

as I grieve over my loss.

21Yet I still dare to hope

when I remember this:

22 The faithful love (hesed) of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

23 Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning.

24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance;

therefore, I will hope in him!”

25 The LORD is good to those who depend on him,

to those who search for him.

The Lord doesn’t tell us to take a blind leap of faith.  Rather, he bids us to step forth onto the solid rock of His promises.  He doesn’t say, “just trust me.”  He says, “Trust me because I am your God, I will be with you wherever you go.  I will bless you and one day I will bring you forth from Egypt.”

Every lament is an Exodus journey.  

1.  Exile (separation- my god my god) 

Isaiah 5:13 “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge”

2.  Oppression (brokenness- my enemies surround me)

Exodus 1:11 “So the Egyptians appointed taskmasters over the Israelites  to                  oppress them with forced labor.”

3.  God enriches at the expense of the oppressors (maturity, sanctification- yet)

Exodus 1:7,9 but the Israelites were fruitful and increased rapidly; they multiplied and became exceedingly numerous... “the Israelites have become too numerous and too powerful for us.”

4.  Leave with more than they entered (redemption- you are mine forever)

Exodus 12:36 “And the LORD gave the people such favor in the sight of the Egyptians that they granted their request. In this way they plundered the Egyptians.”

2 Cor. 12:10 “Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, 

in calamities, in persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, 

for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

The path of God’s love is not without suffering yet it leaves us overflowing.

***How then do I do this when I really don’t want to?

We live in the elusive place of acceptance by watching for, noting, gathering instances of hope and joy in one hand even while wrestling with our darkest hours in the other.  (Already/not-yet). Goodness and evil at the same time.

“Yet” is the paradigm shift of all laments.  It believes Jesus is enough.  “Yet” hopes in God for God’s sake alone.  We need to love God for who He is and not for His benefits.  We must recognize the fleeting substance that our lives are on this side of eternity.  


The term barren [‘aqarah] derived from the Hebrew root ‘qr, meaning “to uproot or pluck up,” the opposite of “to plant”.  This is not just a physical barrenness but it has spiritual and emotional connotations to it as well.  

Three of the four matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel) in the Bible were barren.  Hannah was also barren.  Isaiah personifies Jerusalem as a “barren woman, who has borne no child…who has never been in labor…”

“Yet” our decree from God Himself is to be “fruitful and multiply.”  


Barrenness points to hopelessness and that is exactly where God works. It is here where we have nothing and are nothing without Him.  In our weakness He is made strong.  His glory is on display for the cosmos- not ours.

“Those who believe in the promise and hope against barrenness like those in our past, nevertheless must live with the barrenness.”  

When Eve conceived Cain she wondered if this was The Promise God gave them.  But it wasn’t- not “Yet”- but that didn’t mean it wasn’t being worked out.

Ecclesiastes 3:9,11,14 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 

14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Our hearts are always active either in bringing glory to God or to ourselves.  In this sense the image of God in man in a verb.  Not just who we are but what we do.  People are most similar to God when He is the object of their affection.

As we seek to follow Jesus in our lives and make His name known, His resurrection becomes the universal “yet” to every heartbroken fact of our existence. 

When we see our families torn apart and wonder if there is any hope for the future we say, “Yet Christ is risen.”  When the physical pain feels impossible to bear, “Yet Christ is risen.”  When the brokenness around us seems to overwhelm, “Yet Christ is risen.”  

Jesus died yet He was raised!

This is why our laments turn back to God.  This is who/what our faith needs to be placed in.  He is our anchor in this chaotic, broken world. The Word of God must trump all other words.  In order to believe it we must know it.  If we are misguided in our understanding of God, then we will be misguided in His creation as well.  If we are misguided about a created thing, it will become abused. The knowledge of God can’t truly be denied, it can only be distorted. 

The line between lament and despair is thin but it matters.  De (down from) sperare (hope). It moves down from hope while lament moves us up to hope.  

The object of our hope is Christ; not striving to see the positive or looking on the bright side.  No other God bares scars for us.  He is not a God removed from our earthly turmoil.  

When we read the psalms we must read each one 2xs.  The first time we can allow it to speak for us.  The second time we listen to it as the voice of Jesus to the ultimate enemy.  This helps remind us that Christ suffered even more than any of us.  It doesn’t minimize the pain but it does draw our attention outward and upward.  

Your kingdom come…”

“Where can I find my worth vs why am I so concerned about myself?”

“How can God fill my needs vs how can I see Christ as so glorious that I forget about my personal, perceived needs?”

The most basic question of our lives should become= How can I bring glory to God?

  1. Establish a daily tradition of growing in the knowledge of God. When suffering hits we go to our default ideas about God.  Therefore, we need to be so focused on learning about Him that we forget about ourselves.  When we spend time in the throne room of God, it puts things into perspective.  
  2. Repent of seeking God so we can feel better about ourselves.  

3.  Read Hosea- God says, “your faithfulness will be a replica of mine.”

4.  Ask God to teach you about this (Hosea) love so you can know it and give it.

5.  We have to work hard at formally expressing our grief to God and we have to ask the Holy Spirit for His help. 

The crocus is beautiful little flower that is a harbinger of spring symbolizing the triumph of life over death. Its eagerly awaited emergence from its snowy tomb is a cause for joy throughout our winter-weary land.  Far from hurting the bulb, the snowy winter actually can act as an insulator to keep them from drying out. This magnificent  masterpiece is also known as the Easter Flower, both because of the time of year when it comes forth, and because it may reappear at the end of the growing season.  

Like this flower’s reminder that winter isn’t forever and the hope of new life is coming, we too have Christ’s resurrection to remind us that death is not eternal.  We have a hope to look forward to in the bleak mid-winter of our lives.  We have reminders of the already arriving but not in completion of His kingdom all around us.  These reminders allow us to speak light to our hearts when it feels dark and hopeless.  

Tolkien coined a phrase, “eucatastrophe”. In essence, a eucatastrophe is a massive turn in fortune from a seemingly unconquerable situation to an unforeseen victory, usually brought by grace rather than heroic effort. 

“It is the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears”. 

The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation- it’s the crocus flower.  Maybe there is a sin, an idol, a brokenness in your life and you think “this is just how it is” but the resurrection says, no- that’s not how it has to be.  There is hope and redemption and although it feels painfully slow, it is coming. (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)  We lament in the space between suffering and restoration because God always has the final word! This is our “yet” in our laments.  

1. Father, to Thee we look in all our sorrow,

Thou art the fountain whence our healing flows;

Dark though the night, joy cometh with the morrow;

Safely they rest who on Thy love repose.

2. When fond hopes fail and skies are dark before us,

When the vain cares that vex our lives increase,

Comes with its calm the thought that Thou art o’er us,

And we grow quiet, folded in Thy peace.

3. Naught shall affright us, on Thy goodness leaning;

Low in the heart faith singeth still her song;

Chastened by pain we learn life’s deeper meaning,

And in our weakness Thou dost make us strong.

4. Patient, O heart, though heavy be Thy sorrows;

Be not cast down, disquieted in vain;

Yet shalt thou praise Him, when these darkened furrows,

Where now He plougheth, wave with golden grain.