When You’re Unfairly Attacked

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Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. (Psalm 35:1). 

This psalm is in a category called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” 

Does it sound unusual to your ears to pray a prayer like that? After all, aren’t we as Christians commanded to forgive those who offend us? How do we square that teaching of Jesus with these brutally honest prayers that David offers up? 

Always remember that imprecatory psalms are spoken exclusively to God, not to our enemies. So when we pray these prayers, we are really turning the matter over to God. God does the contending and the vindicating—He knows best how to dispense the appropriate judgment. 

David also shares with us several introspective prayers throughout the Book of Psalms, where he asks the Holy Spirit to search him. This heart-searching is interwoven in this imprecatory prayer of Psalm 35, as it should be with our prayers too. 

Notice that David can only say these things with integrity because he had already allowed the Spirit to search his heart, and then he had asked forgiveness and he had repented from any sin (see Psalm 139:23-24; Matthew 5:22-24; 6:12, 14-15). David could point out with a clear conscience what his enemies were doing because David was innocent of these actions himself. Things like… 

  • their attack was without cause (v. 7) 
  • their accusations were purposefully designed to entrap him (v. 11) 
  • they were repaying David’s good work with evil deeds (v. 12) 
  • David had attempted to treat them well (vv. 13-14) 
  • they gleefully piled on more slander when David stumbled (v. 15) 
  • the enemy’s mocking was malicious (v. 16) 
  • they hated me without reason (v. 19) 
  • they invented false accusations against David (v. 20)

After his imprecatory prayer, David resolves to turn his eyes from the bad guys to God. He declares that worship of God will be his comfort (v. 28). What a great example for us still today! 

When you are falsely, unfairly attacked, take these three actions: 

  1. Introspection. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, and then quickly take action where necessary: Ask forgiveness, and repent from sinful thoughts, words, and actions. 
  2. Pray. Remember to share your hurts with God alone. There is no need to unleash your anger on those who have attacked you. 
  3. Worship. As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

Please keep these God-honoring action steps in mind the next time you are unfairly attacked. 

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Raw Emotions In Worship

When someone was out to get David, he turned to God in prayer. And what prayers he prayed! 

He didn’t hold back. He came to God with all of his emotions right out in the open. Raw—but honest—emotions. 

God called David a man after His own heart, so apparently God loved the honesty even when David asked God to break their arms, turn them into jackal food, burn them with fire, give them black eyes, or even blot their names out of God’s book of life (Psalm 10:15; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:22-28)!

Why do we hesitate to express ourselves like this, to tell God what’s really in our hearts? Do we think He doesn’t know? Do we think He’s going to fall off His throne in shock at our brutal honesty? He already knows what’s in our hearts, so the expression of it is for our benefit. We must get it out in His presence because that’s the only way and the only place where true, deep, lasting healing can happen. 

I love what R.T. Kendall reminds us: “Real worship takes place when we are unafraid to express what we feel. Worship ought to bring us to the point where we can be honest. We never need to repress what we feel when we are around Jesus. He will never scold us for our honesty. It doesn’t mean we are right, but if we are being honest, He can help us and bring us to see where we are wrong and to face the truth.” (emphasis mine)

When you hurt, get alone with God and then get real with God. He already knows what’s in your heart, so speak it out. You need to get that poison out of your system so that God can heal you.

11 Quotes From “The Way Of Abundance”

Ann Voskamp speaks lovingly to the hurting and broken. She never condemns them for their brokenness, nor does she encourage them to stay in their difficult place. Instead, Ann brings a new perspective to the path of healing; a path that allows our brokenness to become our givenness to other broken and hurting people. This is The Way Of Abundance. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. Because the world is begging us all to get out of bed and live given, get out of bed and sacrifice for someone hurting, for someone different, for someone forgotten or marginalized, to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look like a us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table.” 

“The real Jesus turns our questions of why—why this brokenness, why this darkness?—and says, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.’ ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’ [John 9:3]. There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light to be lavishly splashed across the darkness. There’s brokenness that carves windows straight into our souls. Brokenness cracks open a soul so the power of God can crack the darkness in the world.” 

“When you aren’t afraid of being afraid, you transform fear into friend. … Feelings can accompany you, but they don’t get to control you. Feelings get to inform you, but they don’t get to form you. Feelings get to keep you company, but they don’t get to keep you in bondage. Only God keeps you.” 

“We are always lost until our heart makes its home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us instead of filling other people’s broken places. The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give. Fulfilling lives happen when we give our hearts to fill other people’s empty spaces.” 

“There are really only two choices when begging temptation looks you square in your twitching eye: there is either the pain of self-denial, or the pain of self-destruction. … They’ll tell you there’s no such thing called temptation anymore, only repressed self-limitation. They’ll tell you temptation isn’t an issue for the sophisticated. And all I want to say: just don’t say you’re a follower of Christ if you’re actually following your own heart.” 

“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. … Shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable.” 

“The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go.” 

“When you feel basically respectable, you want religion. And when you know you feel the brokenness of rejection, you want the gospel. In religion, it’s the ‘respectable’ who search for a God to impress. But in the Gospel, it’s God who searches for the brokenhearted rejected to save.” 

“Never fear the moments you imagine will freeze you: unexpected blasts of cold can be what draws you nearer to the flame of His love.” 

“The body of Christ must recapture its vision as the only collective in the world that exists for its nonmembers. … We are a community that will not dish out condemnation but courage, that will lean in and listen long and love large.” 

“You love as much as you are willing to be inconvenienced. … The brokenness of people is never truly an intrusion. Loving the broken people when it is inconvenient is the way to have fuller inclusion in the life of Christ.” 

The Selah That Keeps Us From Sinning

There is a very natural emotion that we humans have when someone has hurt us, but if we don’t pause (Selah), that natural emotion can lead us into sin. David has good counsel for angry people in Psalm 4. 

Many scholars think that Psalm 4 is a continuation—or a part 2—of Psalm 3. As you will notice in the preface of Psalm 3, David is on the run from his son Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingdom of Israel from him. 

Look at the swing of David’s emotions:

  • Troubled/sad (v. 1) 
  • Anger (v. 4)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Peace (v. 8)

The first time David tells his readers to Selah pause is between verses 2 and 3. The change is almost an about-face: 

Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to Him. Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for His verdict (vv. 3-5 in The Message). 

My friend Josh Schram shared these truths: 

  1. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. 
  2. It’s right to be angry, but it’s not right to sin. 
  3. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to break God’s law. We can almost justify it, but it is a sin to give in to anger. 

“Search your heart and be silent”Selah. This pause gives us hope that we can “build your case before God and wait for His verdict.” 

In Romans 12:17-21, Paul gives similar counsel when dealing with enemies:  As far as it depends on you…

  • Don’t repay evil for evil. 
  • Do repay evil with doing what’s right. 
  • Don’t take revenge. 
  • Do let God handle it. 
  • Don’t mistreat your enemies. 
  • Do bless your enemies. 
  • Don’t be overcome by evil. 
  • Do overcome evil by doing good. 

Since David let his anger go, that also means he didn’t sin! His clear conscience meant he could lie down and sleep in peace. 

You cannot hold a grudge and peace in the same heart. 

Please join me next week as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

The Prayers Of David

The life of David is an open book for us. One of the unique things about David’s life is that we get to read both the historical narrative of his life, and his diary-like thoughts recorded in his psalms, songs, and prayers in the Book of Psalms.

David’s prayers are gut-level honest and full of raw emotion.

His prayers are also very helpful for anyone who desires to be as close to God as David was, to be one God describes as “a man after my own heart, who will do everything I want him to do.”

Join me this Sunday as we begin an exploration of the passionate, personal, powerful prayers of David.

Dear Abba (book review)

Dear AbbaAbba is a term of endearment that a child would give to his father, and it’s Brennan Manning’s preferred way of addressing his Heavenly Father. As you might imagine, then, Dear Abba is an intimate prayer journey.

This is a 31-day prayer journey, utilizing passages of Scripture, a passage from one of Manning’s books, and a prayer that Manning wrote as he contemplated that Scripture. There are two readings each day—one for the morning and one for the evening. Each day’s section will only take you a couple of minutes to read, but the thoughts shared will stick with you all day long.

One of the things I especially appreciate about Brennan Manning’s writing is the realness of his words. He doesn’t write in a churchy style, but in real, raw emotion. Then to read his prayers addressed to “Dear Abba” adds an even deeper level of intimacy with God.

Whether you are a fan of Brennan Manning’s work or not, this 30-day journey will take you to a place of greater awareness of God’s abiding presence.

By the way: if you would like to read a review of The Ragamuffin Gospel, another book by Brennan Manning, please click here.

Ticked Off!

Have you ever been so angry that you couldn’t see straight?

Has someone ever pushed all your buttons?

Have you ever worked with someone who knew how to get on your very last nerve?

I can’t imagine anyone answering “No” to these questions. Of course we all get mad. The really issue is what do we do when we get there?

More specifically: what’s a Christian to do when he or she gets throughly ticked off?

Starting this Sunday, I’m going to be exploring this topic, and I hope you can join me. We’ll be looking at what the Bible has to say about what we are supposed to do with these strong emotions.

Don’t Fake It

Have you ever had someone tell you, “Fake it until you make it”? In other words, you may not feel happy, but just start smiling and soon you will feel happy. Sadly, I’ve heard this type of so-called wisdom given by Christians to other Christians:

  • Don’t let anyone know that you feel scared, doubtful, angry, etc.
  • Never let ‘em see you sweat.
  • Even if you’re down, put on a happy face.

Turns out that this is not only bad advice, but harmful advice too. A recently study by Michigan State University found —

Pretending to smile when you’re feeling bad makes you feel worse and be less productive. …[You] can’t just fake a smile and expect to feel good about it or negative feelings intensify.

(You can read the full report here.)

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you should never fake it. Take a quick glance through the psalms and you’ll see raw, real emotions: anger … depression … anxiety … vengeance … sadness … envy … spite …

Because here’s the deal: You may wear a {fake} smile on the outside, but God knows the {real} emotions in your heart. You’re not fooling Him. And, as it’s been revealed in this study, you’re not fooling anyone else either.

So go ahead and vent those negative emotions when you’re alone with God. Tell Him how you really feel (He already knows, but it’s good for you to hear you say it). And then let the Holy Spirit show you how to deal with those emotions in a healthy way.

Don’t bottle it up — don’t fake-it-until-you-make-it — be real and let God heal you.

Listen To Me

Have you ever been involved in high-level negotiations? The stakes are high. The potential for reward is great, but the chances of crashing-and-burning are also great. Everyone is on their A-game both mentally and emotionally. No one wants to misstep or misspeak.

Sounds like a hostage negotiator, or a government official brokering a treaty, or a business leader finalizing a multi-million dollar business deal, right?

Actually, these high-level, high-stress, high risk-or-reward negotiations happen almost every day. And you’re involved. Whenever you have a conversation with someone where you’re opening your heart to them—or they’re opening up to you—you’ve stepped into a place where wonderful or tragic things can happen.

Think about how your blood pressure rises when you hear…

  • …your spouse say, “We need to talk.”
  • …your boss intercoms you and says, “Will you come into my office.”
  • …your friend says, “This isn’t very easy for me to tell you this, but….”
  • …your coworker says, “You need to sit down for this.”

Here’s a scene from the Bible: Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah has died, and he wants to bury her somewhere special. The problem is, Abraham doesn’t own any land. So for the first time since leaving Ur, he has to negotiate the purchase of land. The Hittites know Abraham is a powerful man. They don’t want to give anything away for free, but neither do they want to anger him. Abraham is a wealthy man. He can probably pay any price for the land, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a sucker.

Let the negotiations begin. Multiple times throughout their conversation a phrase is repeated:

“Listen to me.”

In the Hebrew language, there is nothing unique or noteworthy about these words. But the fact that the phrase is repeated so frequently in so few verses is interesting. In fact, this phrase is only used one other time in all of Genesis.

Both parties are saying, “I realize that one misspoken word here could be hurtful. This is a difficult, touchy subject, but I want it to be a win-win. So don’t just listen to my words, hear my heart.

Here’s my takeaway for my emotionally-charged conversations:

  1. Take a deep breath and ask God for help.
  2. Go slowly.
  3. Make sure I’m in the right place emotionally to listen to them.
  4. Listen to the other person’s heart, not just their words.
  5. Be committed to finding a win-win.
  6. Go slowly.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear one of those blood-pressure-elevating opening phrases. When you hear those phrases, you have just entered into high-level negotiations. You can successfully broker a win-win for everyone if you’ll just hear their heart.

Real Raw Emotions

This week I’ve been writing about my favorite book—the Bible—and why I find it so fascinating. Yesterday I talked about how the Bible helps me mentally. But we are not just mental creatures, we are emotional, too, and I have found my Bible to be an excellent way to express some of my deepest, rawest emotions.

(If you would like to read the other parts of this series, they are here, here, here, and here.)

Humans are created in God’s image, and God expresses emotion. In fact, God expresses emotion more deeply and purely than we humans can His sorrow is more bitter, His love is more intense, His jealousy is more pure.

Emotion is expressed throughout the Bible, but I’m particularly attracted to the emotional responses in the Psalms. These are prayers and songs which express the deepest emotions of angry, loving, hurting people. A few examples—

You know what I long for, Lord; You hear my every sigh. (Psalm 38:9 NLT)

Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. (Psalm 56:1-2 NIV)

God, smash my enemies’ teeth to bits, leave them toothless tigers. Let their lives be buckets of water spilled, all that’s left, a damp stain in the sand. Let them be trampled grass worn smooth by the traffic. Let them dissolve into snail slime, be a miscarried fetus that never sees sunlight. Before what they cook up is half-done, God, throw it out with the garbage! (Psalm 58:6-9 The Message)

O my God, my life is cast down upon me and I find the burden more than I can bear…. (Psalm 42:6 AMP)

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, and am not silent…. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. …But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. (Psalm 22:1-2, 14-16, 19 NIV)

Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man, able to experience the deepest, rawest emotions of anyone. “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows what you feel because He felt it, too: “For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation” (Hebrews 4:15). As a result, “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf (Hebrews 7:25).

Don’t ever be afraid to express your rawest emotions in God’s presence—He knows profoundly what you are feeling. When you are struggling with deep emotion, the Bible knows how to speak your heart’s cry to God.

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