For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:24, ESV)Sunday night, before I could forget, I wrote down some notes on what I managed to piece together (so far) about how Jesus is my comforter.
When Jesus was on the cross quoting Psalm 22, he hadn't been forsaken by God the Father. The Father was still there, it just didn't feel like it. Just like when we are so overcome in our trials and cannot feel God's presence and wonder if he really is there. But He was there for Jesus and he is there for us because of Jesus. And Jesus really does know how we feel.There was a brief moment of peace, and the comfort remains. My life circumstances are still as they were, there are still issues unresolved, but I can rest knowing and believing they will one day be resolved, and the broken will be fixed. Even me. Unearned favor. Amazing grace. So what is Christmas all about? Christmas was the beginning of the end. Immanuel, God with us, the Creator came and lived among the created as one of us. Fully human and fully divine. Laying aside the riches and the power and the glory and honor that He rightfully owns and deserves to become the spotless sacrificial lamb of atonement. Born into poverty in a stable. His family having to flee to Egypt to protect him from being murdered by Herod as Herod slaughtered an untold number of innocent boys aged 2 and younger to protect his throne. Ultimately willingly submitting to a sham trial and torturous beating before a horrendous death by crucifixion under Roman authority to appease the religious Jews. Rising to life on the 3rd day showing that His sacrifice for our sins was accepted by the Father so that we who believe in Jesus by faith are granted grace and reconciled to God the Father though Jesus. It's not about our American rights or Western culture. It's not about sex or chicken or reality TV. It's not about whether people say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It's not about our temporal comfort. It's about a Savior come to redeem unworthy and rebellious children.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17, ESV)
I had this little running "joke" with our former pastor on Sunday mornings: Pastor: "How are you?" Me: "Self-righteous and bitter." Pastor: "Alrighty then." (or something to that effect) I always answered it in a joking kind of way, but really, I was/am dead serious. I think he knew it. The result of being self-righteous and bitter is being angry...often. Combine that with out of control (or out of sync) hormones (that's a story in itself, which my doc thinks is more likely linked to my diet and somewhat addressed here), and you have a volatile mix. I'm going off at the least little thing, nit-picking over insignificant things, and emotionally collapsing into tears either from sheer anger or guilt from getting so angry over something stupid. Did I mention I was never much of a cryer? But I digress. The self-righteousness and the bitterness have been there for years, but I never really noticed them for what they were. Generally speaking, I filed them away under a blanket of righteous indignation. After all, I was right to be angry because I was being wronged, or someone I loved was being wronged. The anger wouldn't be such an issue if it was just anger, albeit justified anger and not getting mad over something stupid. But, even if it is "justifiable" anger, it becomes an issue when it is something I'm not letting go of. I keep dwelling on issues when they pop up in my head. The longer I stew on them, the angrier I get, and the angrier I get the more I want to go off on a self-righteous rant letting the "offender" know just how ate up they are. I have finally realized that the things that piss me off the most are things I do myself, and more often than not involve pride. But at the heart of the matter, it boils down to a lack of forgiveness on my part. This lack of forgiveness is most blatantly on display towards my husband. Of all the people/situations I've stewed over and held grudges over, I have mostly held grudges against him, and not well held under control. But it is no more or no less venomous and vile. Sheer poison. It isn't as if he is blameless. Even he will tell people there is only one thing that I have ever adamantly put my foot down about. It's that one hot button trigger that holds the potential to split us up. I've threatened divorce (with every intention of backing it up), and I've wished all kinds of calamity on him from arrest to death. Yes, you read that right. I have wished he would die. That's cold-hearted right there. Completely unloving. I know that my response is every bit as wrong as what he does that prompts it. I can see it coming, and I pray for grace to "shut up and pray", and I quote scripture to myself and swear I will be quiet and let it go. But more often than not, I succumb to the voice that tells me I don't deserve be treated like that, lied to, messed with, etc, and it all goes downhill from there. But then a day or two later, it's over, we pick up and try again or just avoid any mention of what went down...pretending nothing ever happened and all is well. But it's not. The hurt is still there. The broken promises still there. The "I want what I want and I want it on my terms" is still there, even when we confess and apologize to each other afterward. It's a vicious cycle. I'm left with questions. Why can't I let go of the bitterness and resentment, and just forgive? Why do I insist on hanging on to it when I really don't want it and know that it just eats me up?Just to bring this up to date, my diet wasn't the issue with my out of control emotions. In many ways it was a result, and that still remains an issue. Also divorce has been taken off the table as an option. I will add that once that no longer became an option, things got worse. WAY worse. I also have answered those 2 questions, and well, I pretty much had answered it within the original post. Self-righteousness for one, but victimhood also. The solution is constant prayer. Constant preaching the gospel to myself. Constant reminder that the old me died with Jesus, and I've been set free from the bondage of self-gratification. Constant reminder that I am not God, that He sees what I can't, and that He is in control. Constant reminder that He never promised ease and comfort in this life. Constant reminder of 1 Corinthians love. Constant reminder that I live in a broken and fallen world, and I am still a work in progress. Constant reminder to be thankful always.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, ESV)
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23, ESV)There is quite a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Country-clubbing your church isn't fruit of the Spirit. Constantly telling the single mother that she is living in sin and then gossiping about her is not a fruit of the Spirit. Having an angry outburst at a former member who has been picking up food for your food bank every other Wednesday for the last 5 years even AFTER leaving your church because he dared to pick up a bag of food for his son is not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. This is why we need people in the church being counter culture to the church culture so that the church can be salt and light instead of just another one of the world's exclusive clubs that treats the Word of God as merely a rulebook.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV)
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, ESV)And once again, this is where I find myself. There was some tension and stress before I went on vacation, but it didn't really seem that big. My mom has Alzheimer's, so I spent a lot of time with her dealing with the effects of that. And I thank God for family there who are taking care of her. Then I came home to a nightmare. In no particular order, here is what has/is happening: 1. When I got back, my husband wasn't home, wasn't answering his phone, and the house house was trashed like he had partied like it was 1999. 2. The electricity is out in the master bedroom/bathroom. The breaker keeps tripping. I replaced the breaker (because that was cheap & easy), but the new one tripped immediately. So there is a short, and I am slowly replacing outlets and switches before blaming the ceiling fan. Because I don't want to deal with the ceiling fan. A spider lives in it, and we have an agreement. 3. The dishwasher was not cleaning, and I pulled out a bunch of dirty dishes in the cabinet thanks to #1. Finally determined the problem was not enough water getting into the dishwasher. I checked both ends of the intake hose, and after checking the end attached to the dishwasher itself (the other end was way easier), I flooded the kitchen floor when testing. Ah, a leak in the hose! So I went through the trouble of replacing the intake hose (and pretty sure I contracted hantavirus), only to discover it was the drain hose with a huge hole that flooded the laundry room. 2nd trip to Lowes, and rather than replace the hose, I repaired it with some handy dandy emergency hose repair tape. And I had clean dishes this morning. 4. No TP. Ok, there was one roll downstairs, and 3 squares upstairs, but still. This wouldn't have been a big deal if I hadn't written on the white board when I left to buy toilet paper. 5. Broken windows. One is double paned and only one pane is broken, so it's not such a huge deal. The other is a completely broken out single pane. Yeah, I don't know how to fix window panes. The hubster did that. But I have no qualms about throwing up a piece of plywood. 6. The morning after I got home, he finally called. Suicidal & homicidal. So I picked him up and took him to the ER at Duke since he had been seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist there and I knew he would be in the system. They locked him up in the psychiatric ward (which I am sure now has a politically correct name, but I'm old skool), and next day transferred him to an acute psychiatric and substance abuse treatment center. One of the things that contributed to his breakdown was running out of his meds. Naturally he "self medicated", and went way overboard. As he does. And he is demanding long term treatment, but nobody will accept him with a pending court date. So now he has to get with his lawyer (somehow) and get the DWI resolved. And he wasn't answering his phone because he destroyed it. 7. He got the truck stuck, and through the course of getting it out, got it impounded. Fortunately without another DWI or wrecking it. But it cost nearly $400 anyway between the tow and storage to get it back home. 8. He drove the daughter's scooter across town and left it behind a friend's house. That friend took him to another friend's house which is where I picked him up from. No I'm not naming names. Anyway, picking up the scooter was an adventure with #7 that I will eventually blog about separately. But the hubby had someone work on the scooter so now it runs even worse than it did. :rolleye: 9. He lost his wallet. In.The.House. I still haven't found it. 10. We have no money left. No savings. All credit cards maxed out. And the dude he worked for for 4 months still hasn't paid him yet. Which was also a significant contribution to the breakdown. That and when he came back after the last rehab I told him not to get us back in debt again. And he can't blame me this time. 11. The lawn mowers are at someone else's house, and I have to retrieve them soon. Because the yard is out of control. If one friend isn't able to bring them to the house by tomorrow, another friend is going to help me load the riding mower in the truck tomorrow after work. (These have cropped up in the past 3 days.) 12. There is a dead mouse under my fridge stinking to high heaven and I just haven't had the time or motivation (or stomach) to get it out. 13. Evie decided to start puking again. Ugh. A lot on my plate? Oh yeah. More than I can handle. More than I can do. I've pretty much run the gamut of emotions. Fear, anger, despair. I've felt trapped, hopeless, and alone. It has been a constant battle with my emotions more than anything to process them, root out the lies, submit them to truth, and just do what I can a task at a time instead of looking at everything together. All together, it is so overwhelming that I end up sitting (or laying) down and playing minesweeper or whirly word much of the time while accomplishing nothing. This is what happens when you pray "Whatever it takes." The fact that I haven't completely collapsed under the weight of it is testimony to the grace of God.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26, ESV)To be continued...
Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22 ESV)The President of the United States is not a king, nor is he the supreme ruler. His power is shared equally with that of Congress and the Supreme Court. In 2008, Republicans ridiculed the Democrats saying that they raised Barack Obama up as their messiah. After the lamenting I saw yesterday, Republicans did the same thing with Mitt Romney, and were therefore crushed by his loss as if the world is now going to end. There was (and still is) a plethora of derisive blaming and name-calling by defeated Republicans that is nothing short of vile and mean-spirited. And what’s worse is that many of the awful remarks I have seen are from professing Christians. I think what the Christians lamenting the direction our nation is heading fail to realize is that we are not going to be judged for what is happening now or what is going to come now that the Republican messiah wasn’t elected (because apparently now if you are a Christian you have to be a Republican). We ARE being judged for what we have done for decades with our legalistic moralism and prosperity gospel teachings. The legalistic moralism focuses on sins that good Christians don’t do while the prosperity gospel promises us material wealth and happiness in the here and now. So what we are left with is either the self-righteous critical Christian or the selfish materialistic country club Christian, the latter of which pretty much prescribes to moral relativism and only as much backbone as to protect their possessions and personal comfort. So to my fellow Christians I ask this: Which are you? Or are you a combination of both? I think as a whole, Christians here in the US, particularly among the Bible Belt, are known more for what we are against than what we are for. We will attend political rallies disguised as prayer walks, and we will support entrepreneurs when they offend homosexuals, and then pat ourselves on our backs for standing up for our faith and our freedom of speech. But where is Christ in that? We want to pass laws to protect human life and protect marriage, but when has the law ever changed the human heart? We rail against homosexual marriage but turn a blind eye or even justify no-fault divorce. We may not be quite as vile as the Westboro Cult, but we still point the finger at homosexuals telling them that they are going to hell for their sin as if being homosexual is THE sin that will send them to hell, yet we are largely silent about fornication and adultery. Therefore, homosexuals see us just as they see the Westboro clowns because while we don’t picket funerals with “God hates fags” signs, we are just as guilty of not showing the love we are commanded to show to our neighbors. So Christians, you want to “turn our country back to God”? You can’t do that through political means. Once social issues are political issues, the culture war on that issue has already been lost. Laws don’t change hearts; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Engage the culture instead of just condemning and avoiding it. Disciple instead of pressing for a quick decision that amounts to offering a “get out of hell free” card that produces no fruit. Stop looking at evangelism as a way to fill up your church building on Sunday mornings so you can continue to pay for it, and instead be willing to give up the comforts of an elaborate building in order to actually lead the lost to Christ and build his kingdom instead of filling our pews. Pray for a heart that is broken for the lost, and repent of your own self-righteousness. And pray for your duly elected leaders, whether you voted for them or not - not for your comfort, but for God’s glory.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
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Matthew 6:1-4 (NASB)
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. BUY SYNTHROID NO PRESCRIPTION, 2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
What if, instead of exclusively reaching out to the poor, we also went to the rich and powerful, and shared the gospel with them also. How are they going to stop being full of the greed we accuse them without Christ. Have we become so self-righteous as to believe that only we and the poor deserve forgiveness and not all people everywhere.
Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
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I read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand about a year ago, and he said something that stuck with me.
He pleaded with the reader to share the Gospel with the rich and the powerful because it is they who make policies. (I will double-check I read that right and properly cite later.) He wrote:
"We must win rulers, leaders in politics, economics, science, and the arts. They mold the souls of men. BUY SYNTHROID NO PRESCRIPTION, Winning them, you win the people they lead and influence."
The divide between rich and poor will only grow unless we share Jesus with all people and not exclusively the poor.
1. Wurmbrand, R. (1998). Tortured for Christ - 30th Anniversary Ed. Living Sacrifice Book Company: Bartlesville, OK. pg 59.
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