Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living In the Already But Not Yet.

Every year my church at home asks members to contribute to a Lenten Devotional. We are asked to reflect up on a Biblical Passage and share our reflections to be compiled into a devotional book that is will lead us through the season of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday.

Here is this year's contribution. Hope you enjoy!

Psalm 51
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Prayer for Cleansing and Pardon
To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;[a]
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right[b] spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing[c] spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God[d] is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then you will delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Life is difficult. We face many hardships and disappoint ourselves daily. We live in a fallen world. This is apparent through broken friendships and marriages, betrayal, war, abuse of power, and the refusal to acknowledge another’s dignity. Though it is easy to list reasons how the brokenness of the world manifests itself in everyday life, it is often difficult for me to put myself in the “fallen” category. I am quick to declare that the world is sinful while simultaneously ignoring the parts of myself that are ugly and shameful. 

It is impossible to be human and not sin. Even King David who was chosen by God to be king of Israel, committed adultery with Bathsheba and then ordered the death of her husband Uriah. David, who we expect to be virtuous and Godly, was still prone to sin due to his fallen nature. Tim Keller, pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church in NYC writes, “The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” As David writes in this prayer, “Indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me” (vs. 5). Because of our fallen nature, we are prone to sin, however, there is profound hope in Christ.

The paradox between sin and hope in God is made evident in this Psalm. David acknowledged his sin and repented. Self-reflection is necessary in order to know the depths of ourselves. We must dive deep into the dark parts of ourselves in order to repent and be transformed by the Holy Spirit. We are not to dwell in the darkness, but rather know that we have a God who has forgiven us, all of us, down to the core of our nature. He loves us and “desires truth in the inward being” (vs. 6a). God will cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. What deep meaning that holds after experiencing so much snow this winter. There is hardly a more pure, untainted sight than looking out the window after waking up to fresh snow on the ground. God promises to make us purer than snow!

The words David prays in verses 10-12 are a testament to the hope in the restoration that is happening in each of us and in the world. Paul writes in his second letter, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (vs. 17)  Our beings are being transformed and renewed. Though we are sinful and fallen, we have a creator who is redeeming the world. Dwell in that hope and be joyful!

I would encourage you this week to take time in quiet reflection. Examine the deep, dark parts of yourself and lay whatever you find at the foot of the cross. God wants to bear our burdens and cleanse our hearts. We have a creator who loves us more than we can ever comprehend.


Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm Allowed to be Angry

You hurt me. You really hurt me. You let me in and made me feel safe. I trusted you. Even though it was a new thing, it was natural and easy to talk about the future. You let me into your life. We were so honest with one another. I've never been so honest with a guy before you came along. Everything seemed to be going really well. There weren't any red-flags. I talked to my friends about everything, my best friends who can read me like a book and who will be honest with me, whether I want to hear it or not. They were on board. You seemed to be making an effort to get to know them, which I loved. You talked in terms of "when we date." Whatever it was between us seemed to have a future, a real future. You would stare into my eyes and it would feel like you were looking into my soul. You took me home to meet high school friends. We seemed to work. There seemed to be real potential. I wasn't being irrational or rash, but I was also beginning for form real feelings for you. I was being vulnerable and trusting. You seemed to be doing the same. We were in agreement that we both felt "really secure in this."

Then yesterday happened. The day you dropped the Atom-bomb. "I realized that I still like her and we should just be friends." Woah. That was not what I was expecting to hear when you told me that you had a bad day yesterday. I was so caught off guard. Hearing those words cut deep. I felt like you just slammed on the breaks and threw me out of the car.

It doesn't make any sense. You told me you were over here and you were just "unpacking," and that was the reason you wanted to wait a little while to start dating. When I told you that I liked you, you responded with "I'm interested." There were no red warning signs. Then you hit me with this out of the blue. It doesn't feel like you took my feelings into account. You spent the whole day with her yesterday. I feel forgotten and used. You promised that this was not a rebound. It sure feels like I was  rebound. It feels really rash.

One of my wisest and best friends pointed out that once you start dating someone it doesn't mean that you're immediately going to stop having feelings for other people. You will always be attracted to other people. There will always be residual crushes. That's natural. However, what matters is whether or not you choose to act upon those feelings. You can choose to "pursue" her now. Fine. That's going to hurt a lot. It's going to hurt to see you and her together, knowing all that you told me in these past two weeks.

I just don't understand. It's not fair. This does not feel like how I should be treated as your sister in Christ.

It's easy to be angry, but what makes it so hard is that I sincerely liked you. It hurts to see you around, it hurts to see your friends, it hurts to see things that remind me of you. It hurts to know that our friendship has changed.

However, I do know that my identity is not determined by this. I am grounded in Christ and the love of the Father. I am confident in who I am. That doesn't mean that I can't hurt. The Christian life is not all rainbows and butterflies. However, I have hope. I was vulnerable and trusting and you hurt me. This does not mean that God is not present in this. I know that He is working this out for good and I know I will learn more about myself and about who God is through this.

This is my constant prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come:
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever.