I married a girl who leans toward the shy. I grew up in a family that talks loud, argues loud, laughs loud. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m really angry (or I’m asleep).
Over the years, one of her chief complaints is that I talk too loud.
Bear that in mind with the following:
As the world becomes more fractured and divided against itself, we need to be louder.
And be prepared, as the voice of love, the voices of truth and grace and joy in the middle of trouble speak out, the world will say it’s too loud. They will want you to join their voices of hatred and anger and condemnation.
They may even tell you to be quiet or face the consequences.
Jesus said we were to, “be of good cheer,” because He overcame the world. And we overcome, “by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and the word of our testimony.” Revelations 12:11
I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m sick of the way it eats at me.
I have been praying over some difficult situations lately. There are several things that are weighing on my heart. There are so many things that we’ve lost, so many dreams unfulfilled. I am aware of hurting families, lonely singles, broken marriages, the addicted, the depressed, the discouraged.
At my job lately, I’ve been working a lot of hours. Sometimes I am amazed at the strength God has provided. It’s like I am a machine that just goes full steam, nonstop. I did twelve hours yesterday and didn’t feel all that tired. The ride home from work reminded me that I am not a machine. Machines don’t get back pain or have trouble walking into the house.
I thought of the verse:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV)
I just kept repeating the phrase, “we are not consumed.”
Broken hearts consume us, but we are not consumed. Sickness consumes us, but we are not consumed. Hatred, bitterness, fear, sadness consume us, but we are not consumed.
How can we go through life, friends dying, hope crushed, some facing pain and sickness, torture, catastrophe and not be consumed? It doesn’t even matter if you are a Christian or not. Living begs the question, “how are we not consumed?”
And maybe you feel like you are consumed. I feel like that sometimes. “I can’t take anymore. If one more thing weighs me down, I’ll die.”
But, I AM NOT DEAD!
I can take more. I can still move. I will take one more breath, think one more thought. You will too.
All because of the love of God.
As I say this, I see a picture that was posted recently. The guns of Isis warriors pointed at and poking a small child. I do not believe that child lived, and it’s last moments were horror. That is an environment where God’s love has been shoved aside, where man has fully denied God’s heart and run after evil. That is what would consume us all if God’s love was removed.
I will not accept lethargy, complacency or apathy. Depression and despondency will not rule my days. I will wait for the Lord and live in such a way that I bring honor to Him.
When David was young, and not king yet, he surrounded himself with some people who are described in the bible as distressed, in debt or discontented. One of these was a guy by the name of Joab, the son of Zeruiah. Truly we have a case study in friendships, relationships, in this man.
Why did David let him be in charge of the army? Why did David not ever deal with this murderer until the end of his life? Why do we look over gross character flaws in others to salve the consequences of our own sin?
Let’s look at a list:
Joab murdered Abner, the commander of Israel’s army. He did it, supposedly, to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of Abner. It should be noted that Joab’s brother was trying to kill Abner and Abner was just defending himself but at least we can understand this one. Joab assisted in the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. David wanted to cover his indiscretion with this woman and Joab complies. The one person in the kingdom who could have stood up to the king and done what is right. Joab murdered David’s son, Absalom, against the express wishes of his king. David wanted to grant mercy to his rebellious son, evidence of a weak and bewildered heart. Joab wanted him dead, multiple stab wounds from the spears of many but ordered and initiated by Joab. I kind of get this one too, Absalom was bad news. And finally, Joab murders the innocent Amasa, expressing friendship through a greeting kiss and then stabbing him in the abdomen so that his intestines spill out. He further shows his cruelty by leaving Amasa to die a slow painful death, “wallowing in his blood,” the bible says. And still David did nothing.
Then on his death bed, David finally wants to deal with things. “Don’t let his gray head go down in peace.” And Joab, himself, is then murdered in the temple. Tragedy, sorrow, buried hatred.
This is not the intent of friends, partners in ministry, fellow soldiers in the Kingdom. And yet, if we look at those we work with, how many fall into this category. The ones we gossip with, the ones we share secret bitterness, hidden sin. All the while, we hate them and they hate us.
You can’t always choose who is on staff with you. We are a part of a body and the parts are chosen by the Master Designer. We get to choose how well we function, what input we will have into the body. Whether we will draw from the resources of the cells around us, or contribute our resources.
A cancerous cell needs to be removed. A heart of bitterness should be dealt with. Hatred, sin, selfishness are tools that satan would use to divide us, to thwart what God wants to do. Things that cause disunity, anything that works to tear us apart, should be eradicated.
And let love, real, honest, heartbreaking, heart-healing love lead us as we work together.
I’m reading in Leviticus right now and finding that I’m responding emotionally to the Law. So many things made you “unclean.” And if anyone touched you or your clothes or your bed or the pot in your hand, they became unclean too. Rules that made everyone treat disease as if it was the sick person’s fault, dictums that made everyone treat each other with distrust and distance.
So why did You do it God? Why make rules that could only lead to hatred of each other, hatred of self, hatred of life? Why enforce a weight that no one could bear?
The Priest could touch goat’s blood to purify the altar. But if a man touches the seat that a woman has been sitting on during her period, he is unclean. It just seems crazy. We’re left with either isolating ourselves from humanity, being unclean or lying about it. We become unloving, unworthy or a hypocrite.
And, though it seems unrelated, why did You let Jesus be flogged before He was crucified? Why did He have to wear a crown of thorns? Wasn’t it enough that He died for us? Did He have to bear so much pain before being nailed to the cross and bearing the excruciating weight of our sins, my sins?
Holiness. The righteous demands of a Holy, Loving Father. The Law that can only lead to failed attempts at self-righteousness or abdication of our place at His side.
On Valentine’s Day, in the year 2014, I live because Your holiness was so exacting that I had no other choice than to accept the blood of Jesus, not just dripped out of the sealed wounds on His hands and feet, but gushing out of His head, His back, His shoulders, His side. I weep because You took this for me, my Jesus. And I live because God’s holiness is answered.