The Angry God
Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, Oh Lord;
For although you were angry with me, your anger is turned away,
And you comfort me.
Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation."
Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.
Memories of my mother being angry with me and a short time later explaining what I could do better, as well as being as sweet as she always was, came to mind as I read this passage. I was so fortunate that as a young boy she gave me a picture of God as merciful and loving, forgiving, and encouraging as opposed to the Angry God many were exposed to from their homes and in church.
Of course reading most of the Old Testament can also cause us to get a picture of God as often being angry because we humans behave so badly even when we have been extended a multitude of grace and forgiveness. In that time there was no Messiah to "turn away" that anger, no Messiah to provide "salvation", and nothing to "draw water from the spring of salvation". Only a knowledge of God passed from generation to generation with very little written word to go back and refer to.
Imagine waking up tomorrow without a Bible to read, no devotional to direct our thoughts, only the last conversation we had with one of our elders that spoke of who God was and how he interacted with the human race. What a bummer and how easily misled our idea of God could be.
And without the knowledge that the prophecy of Isaiah 11 would be fulfilled (the coming of a Messiah), we may not see where we could draw that water of salvation from.
Fortunately, the idea of an Angry God can be easily dispelled by what is written and what the Holy Spirit plants in our hearts when we receive salvation. Addicts who used to bury their feelings of unworthiness, can now be thankful that God's anger has been turned aside by Jesus coming and that redemption is close at hand if they just reach out for it.
God is not angry with you, no matter who you are and what you have done. That has been resolved and reconciled. What remains is your decision to stop being angry with yourself, start loving the person you could become, and trusting, not being afraid for the Lord God is your strength and song.
From what I know, he never sings out of tune!
Junction: A point where two or more things are joined.
Cross: A mark, object or figure formed by two short intersecting lines or pieces.
Jesus hung on that old rugged cross over 2000 years ago, but you and I were there. Our dysfunction was hung there with him for the whole world to see. The cross was in two simple words Dysfunction Junction.
It was where our sins were joined with his grace and absolved no matter how bad we were going to turn out. Murderers, rapists, thieves, addicts, pornographers, divorcees, these were all the folks we read about that hung around Jesus the most. Why? Because they saw a way out of darkness into light.
Today this is us, those who are ashamed, those with low self esteem, those of us who beat ourselves up continually, and take it out on others. We are at that junction with a daily decision to make. Do I pick up my cross and carry it or do I ignore it because it is too hard to do good? Is it too heavy a burden to be "normal" and fit in with the "church folks"?
For some reason in Jesus day the worst of sinners were the ones he hung around the most, but in today's churches, it seems the ones who claim to be, as did the Jewish leaders of that time, the righteous ones, are the ones who dominate our church attendance. And they tend to look down on those who are like the ones Jesus spent most of his time with. And, because of that turnaround, we somehow feel like we don't belong in a modern day church. Ouch!
What would Jesus think of how we look upon each other and how churches have become like country clubs for those of similar tastes and backgrounds? I don't know for sure, but it is a good guess that he would be appalled and immediately walk back out into the street to find some sinners who needed help. Great to worship, but not so great to exclude the outcasts of society just because it is comfortable to do so. Ouch!
So maybe our churches should be more like Dysfunction Junction where all those who have had severe struggles could come lay down their burdens and find peace. That old rugged cross is our model that pain paid for our gain, that comfort of religion is only a mask for fear of reaching out. I believe the scripture in Matthew says "Go ye therefore" not just stay back and hang around your pals. Nice to be great worshipper, but how about being great disciples and change agents?
Let us join together the points of faith to be a moving cross of hope, encouragement and love and not hammer people with it as they did with Jesus for being so radical. Yes, we still use those nails today, if we forget where our redemption came from.
Dysfunction Junction, where our sins were covered by his grace. We will talk more about this on this Sunday, please join us!
Just Say No
There are so many moments in life when we are asked a question, offered something or asked to do something special where uttering the word yes brings us great joy. Will you marry me....yes, will you help me.......yes, will you accept this promotion.......yes, will you be my guest at the beach for a week.....oh yes, when are we leaving?
We so frequently say yes that it becomes a real grind to say no. We don't like to be negative or confrontational, but there is a place and time for that word to be appropriate. Like, do you want to get high.......NO, do you want to steal that truck.......NO, no one will know but us.......NO. Or when that difficult question is asked on the important application.......Yes or No?
Let's breakdown that word's use by itself and as a part of other words. I kNOw it's wrong, but it is NOt something anyone else can see, and it is certainly going NOwhere outside this room. Basically that means Nothing except to us. Or does it...
The basic flaw in many folks of an addictive lifestyle or those in denial of such, is that they lie, and they make decisions that are concerning only the immediate and not the long term. So the word yes is always in play. The only time NO is used is when they deny something that is true as in NO I didn't do that. But if we are ever to step forward in our growth after addiction, that word has to be embraced.
In Monday's meeting which I had the pleasure of doing after a few months away, I suggested that we think vertically as mentioned in last week's blog. In simple terms we say "that looks good" from viewing it horizontally, but then we look up and ask God "but, what do you think"? Sounds simple, but most of us are afraid to hear that word, NO. Biblical character after biblical character, most filled with Spirit of God had trouble with this, so it makes perfect sense that we struggle as well.
And it is doubly difficult when folks ask us for assistance, being loving and giving people, that we have to say NO when asked to help. Because we know that the assistance is not for real help it is instead to further a bad situation. And, it pulls us back into a place where we don't want to be.
But think of this, how great we would feel by standing up for what we believe in by saying NO? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago (sic) all said NO when their faith was challenged and they came out of a fire smelling like a rose. I would bet their feet were not even touching the ground when they came out of that furnace because their belief was confirmed.
NO is a growth word, it brings us closer to kNOwing God, it gives us confidence that we can reNOunce our old ways and live a life free of addiction and untruth. It sets us free to be the people God sees us to be.
NO, we can't do it alone, but we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
Just say NO when it ionvolves something He would not approve of!
Horizontal and Vertical
"How do you view the world? Is your perspective stuck in the horizontal plane, or do you account for the vertical dimension by seeking God's counsel?" Quote from Chuck Swindoll's Devotional Faith For The Journey
..........The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8
In reading this from my devotional today, Chuck illustrates the decision making of Abraham's nephew Lot when given a choice of where he would settle down as they traveled to a new land. By human eye the lush fields and fertile plains of the Jordan Valley looked like the best place to raise his family. From a horizontal perspective all looked so promising, especially since it was near the town of Sodom.
To our knowledge the Bible never says Lot consulted God about this, which is the vertical dimension of a decision, and we of course know what happened. So this obviously took me to my conscious level of how often I personally seek both how a situation looks to me, and then how it looks to God. To be quite frank and honest, myself included, we often don't want to make God a part of this because we know what he will say. We think that somehow all the negative around that certain situation will be something we can overcome, because we are strong/smart/fill in the blanks.
Horizontally things can look so good can't they? That apple looked delicious to Eve, Bathsheba looked so inviting to David. Or horizontally, things that God picked for good can look bad for us, like the promised land to the Israelites who saw Giants as too big for even God to handle. They didn't see a land of milk and honey as God had promised, they only saw horizontally more problems.
What we can actually see is so shallow in comparison to God's view. The key to all of this is getting close enough to the Lord that we can hear his wisdom when we seek his vertical counsel, and then we step forward in faith that what is unseen is greater because he told us so. To get to this point takes a ton of spiritual work and conversation with God. If we spoke with him as much as we do our best friends, how soon do you think
we would get horizontal and vertical?
If you are old enough to remember those ancient TV sets they had controls for both the horizontal and vertical and often one was out of whack and needed an adjustment. Maybe that is true for us as well, and the great news is that we don't have to be a Lot, we just have to be a little Less of us and more of Him to get the right picture.
Let's start tuning in!
From the Creedence Clearwater Revival song Fortunate Son
The music blared over our intercom at the Hyundai store here in Daphne and as I sat in my office looking at potential vehicles on the internet to buy, the lyrics to this song really got me thinking. Yes, I was no fortunate one, not born originally into privledge, not given much to operate with in my younger days, but wow has that changed.
We were in such a bad neighborhood in Washington, DC when I was growing up that the paper boy dropped the paper by our front door as we sat outside, then went through our apartment and stole my mother's wallet out of her purse, leaving through the back porch door. Raised by a single Mom at a time when that was unusual, I always felt on the outside looking i,n and that is, ironically ,the way I chose to live my early days. No Fortunate One indeed!
As the song continued, "It aint me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son", I thought of that era when this song came out and how rebellious that nature of our country was, how rebellious I was after Viet Nam and how that affected my behavior. After awhile you can convince yourself that you are not a fortunate one, and as you start behaving that way, it is almost impossible to retreat from that mindse which can lead down a path of personal destruction unless...
Unless you meet someone who has been there, someone who was treated in a similar fashion as No Fortunate One, No Fortunate Son. Then you can relate to them (AA meetings., etc.), and it can help you to see that change is possible.
But beyond that, think of this, how the apostles and believers felt when they watched Jesus hang from that cross. They may have been singing "He ain't no fortunate son" because they only saw what they saw, not what He saw. Think for a moment how God sees you, probably way better than you see yourself, and he sees what you can be, not what you have become. Now, as those folks heard of the empty tomb, as the news spread, they began to realize this was indeed the Fortunate Son!
And because of that we now became the Fortunate One that received the incredible benefits of his legacy, we became his heirs. From poor sinners who had lived in a bad neighborhood, and behaved very badly, to new Fortunate Sons of a loving, forgiving, grace filled God who invites us to His palace when our days have ended.
We can say, "I Ain't No Fortunate One" all we want but that is not what is out there for us if we just believe we can change through His powers of redemption. As Mothers' Day approaches I am sure my single Mom who had to work two jobs just to get us through would be so proud of me, her now Fortunate Son!
Thank you CCR for this song, and thank you Mom for showing me how God never gives up on us. We are very fortunate.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.