Monday Morning Momentum Minute – Seeing Spots

     Cristine and I both have a tendency to lean toward the Psalms in our reading during troubling times. Isn’t there something refreshing to know that David, a flawed man, yet a man “after God’s own heart” was used to write some of the most God-exalting yet gritty and honest-to-God poetry in the whole canon of scripture? We both find it very comforting that in one line of a psalm, David is railing on about how the wicked prosper or how his bones ache because of his affliction(s), yet a line or two later he’s on about the faithfulness of God or God being a refuge and strength.

     As we walk alongside Brianna, our oldest daughter, through the most challenging season of her life, we’re also engaged in conversation and discipleship with other men and women who are experiencing the same deeply troubling adolescent trauma with their own children. We’re grief stricken at the painful and damaging choices we’re seeing so many teenagers make and the struggles that are so very present and real in their lives, fueled and exacerbated by a media rich, pornified, and bullying culture And, we are encouraged. Yep. Encouraged.

     In Psalm 10, King David is ruling over Israel, supreme in command of the nation next to God alone, yet seeing the injustice and self-centered, godlessness of the wicked in his culture, wonders what you or I might wonder against the same unjust backdrop – “Where is God?! Am I the only one seeing this stuff?!” (rollover for Psalm 10:1) One piece of perspective David never loses, even in questioning God is this: he sees spots, “bright spots” of God’s faithfulness. Throughout, he refers to God as YHWH – “I Am, That I Am”, the holiest of God’s names. “I Am” implies God’s sovereignty and omnipresence and later, David backs off a bit to acknowledge that” 
“you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
   you consider it to take it in hand.”

and lands the plane at:
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;
   the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
   you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
   in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

     In the midst of our troubles and the great struggles Brianna and her peers are experiencing in the midst of a wicked and godless culture, God has repeatedly shown us glimpses of brightness – “You hear, O LORD, the desire… You encourage them, and listen to their cry.”

Where are the “bright spots” in your current strife? Where are the places where God has already shown Himself to be the faithful and just defender of the poor, marginalized, suffering, and/or righteous? If not for you, for others? In light of the fact that God owes us nothing but judgment, yet has given us mercy and grace by slaying Christ on the cross in our place, what do we really have to complain or ache about? (Neither David, Cristine, nor I say this flippantly, but as men and woman currently bearing turmoil, stress, and even persecution.)

Can I trust that though I don’t “see” God coming to my aid/defense/rescue that He is not ignoring, forgetting, or deleting my prayers from His inbox? Are you banking too heavily on rewards for righteousness and punishment for wickedness in this age rather than on the age to come?

 God is still on the throne – if we are followers of the living, resurrected Christ and not mere deists or theists, we worship a God who does not turn a blind eye to our troubles and will show Himself in “bright spots”, if not during the storm, at least after. We do not have a temporal hope, we have an eternal hope – that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2. Cor. 5.10)” The wicked will not go unpunished forever. The righteous will not go unrewarded forever. There will come a day, though it may not be today or even this age, but God is watching and rewards are both His to give and forthcoming.

PRAY: “Lord, You are the great ‘I AM’. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine that You are watching, present, or even good when compared to what is going on around me. Help me to know that You are watching, You are present, and You can be trusted to be good. By the power of Your grace via the Holy Spirit, encourage me in this time – show me a ‘bright spot’ in the storm to remind me of Your past, current, and future faithfulness.”

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

     Every week, I hope God squeezes some truth out of my fingertips and onto our blog that may encourage you. Often, He has given me the dubious honor of telling you about landmines in the road by pointing to the limbs I’ve blown off as a living mine-sweeper. Here’s a lesson that cost me an arm and a leg in a very figurative sense. I hope you don’t step in the same spot now.

The End of Superman
     Last year, I believe God Himself brought me to a low point. Through a season of conflict in our home, confusion in our marriage, near-crisis in ministry, and crushing exhaustion, He made me keenly aware of my own weaknesses and limitations. I looked at my wife one afternoon, actual tears streaming down my face as I grieved the loss of a favorite illusion.
     “What’s wrong?” she asked.
     I pushed four, feeble words out of my mouth: “I’m not Superman anymore…”
     I fought God for years, on this, but had finally begun the process of submitting to Him “one last stronghold” in my life – busyness. I’d heard the Mary/Martha parable for years and reacted the same way every time – “that’s a great story, Jesus.” and walked away from it each time thinking “but, that’s a story for women. It’s not about me.” I’d even preached it to other men… Ironic, isn’t it?
     Oops. Only last year did I realize how narrow was the gap between “busy” and “burnout”.
Desperate for a Word
     Only in that low, exhausted, “feeling like butter that’s been spread over too much bread” time could I become so starkly aware of the fact that I was running on my own steam, my own agenda, and allowing the noisy world to drown out the clear and present voice of my Lord. I recall crying out to him for relief many times over a period of weeks only to run into the same wall again only days later with what seemed like no reply from the Spirit. “I’ve gotta hear from you, Lord.” became the preamble to my every prayer.
    Early one November morning, reading through Psalm 33:16-22 (roll over for reference HT: reftagger) came a reply from the Word and, I believe, a Word from the Lord.
   For some reason I paused at this like a flashing red light – looking both ways to see what was coming – and I swear, I heard the Lord say a bunch of thingsanswering question’s I’d laid out in prayer for the preceding weeks, capped off by three words: “Respond. Rely. Rest”
  1. Are you in a season where you’re so busy doing so many things, putting out so many fires, that the majority of what you do falls in the bucket of “react”? “Respond” carries a far more calculated and prudent meaning with it than “react”, wouldn’t you agree? Are you, somewhere, trying to save yourself by a large army or great strength, when a more calculated, wisdom-based approach could yield smarter, compounded results?
  2. My friend Steve’s favorite question to ask headstrong, overachieving men is: “who ya’ depending on?”  So, “who are you relying on, right now?” If your answer now, like mine then, is anything other than an immediate, resounding “God”, God is your co-pilot, when He’s offered to be your pilot. Switch seats. Rely. Really.
  3. Watching the movie “Grace Card” the other night, I was dumb-struck by a scene where a doctor tells a father he can’t donate his kidney to save his son’s life because he has hypertension. I thought of how badly I’ve treated my own body with lack of rest and a “sleep when you’re dead” mentality, not considering how heart-broken I’d be if a doctor told me I was ineligible to save my own son’s life because I’d abused my own body into some one of those self-inflicted “old people” diseases. Are you stuck in the performance track with no discernible periods of regular rest? Who is standing in your shadow right now that would be impacted by your demise, even if you were “merely sidelined temporarily”?
Be Encouraged:
     You’re not the first idiot to fall into the undesirable place you may be at. You’re not even the first smart, seasoned person to fall for it, either. God’s eye is on you, but you’ve got to fear Him, depend on His faithful love, and position yourself for delivery by waiting on Him, not relying on you, your strength, or false hope in your horse or large army. None of this is based on how long you’ve been following Jesus or how convoluted and confusing your current circumstance. It’s all based on the simplicity of hope in God.