This prayer was inspired by the song Our God by Chris Tomlin.
How would you finish this sentence? Our God is…
Our God is Compassion and Love
Our God is Unending Grace and Mercy
Our God is Hope, Eternal and True
Our God is Mighty to Save
Our God is Holy
Our God is Everlasting to Everlasting
King of kings, Lord of lords,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
Our God is making all things new
Nothing can stand against our God
No sin, no death
No evil, no injustice, no oppression
No doubt, no confusion, no need
Nothing can stand against our God
So, God, we call on your Mighty Name
And we claim your promises
That we may stand and withstand and stand firm
Help us to stand in your truth and your grace
Help us to stand in what you name us, not what the world names us
Help us to stand in community, breaking down dividing walls
Help us to stand and withstand and stand firm
Great are You
Holy are You
Worthy are You
We love you and we honor you and we need you
Come and open our ears and open our eyes and open our hearts
To your presence, your grace
Open us that we may be yours
How do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?
I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.
My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”
I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.
What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole, Reconciling All Things
Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)
I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)
Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help.
Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.
Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.
1/3 of the Psalms are laments
Much of Job is lamenting
Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? – Jeremiah 8.21-22
If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.”- Jeremiah 9:1
An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.
Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)
Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.
Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.
How to Practice Lament
To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.”
Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God
2. Direct our cries to God
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)
3. Make your Complaint
express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
ask heartfelt questions
“How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.
4. Make Your Request
Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)
5. Affirm your trust in God
God’s power in the past
The attribute/character of God
The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming
Psalm 130:5-7 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
All week long we wrote Belong on each other’s palms. We wrote on our fingers, too. Needed and Loved. Safe, Understood, and Purpose.
We wrote it because they’re our deepest longings. Every single one of them in every single one of us.
We wrote it because we wanted to hold on to their truth and each other and the One who would help us find them.
You can hold on, too, with us and with Him. You belong.
Ephesians 2:13-18 Now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
You are our peace
You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near
Without you there is
No identity rooted beyond this dust
Without you we are
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned
Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood
What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace
Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love
This reflection came from a week leading middle school worship at the Warren W Willis United Methodist Summer Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida.
It feels especially needed given the hate and division being promoted in our country.
Should you ever want a gentle ear to listen, or a gentle heart to pray, I would be honored to be that for you.
Sermon Series: Spirit Filled Message 4 of 5: Pour Out Your Truth
Scripture: John 14:16-17, 25-26
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 6/30/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
Saints QB Drew Brees Shares his testimony
John 14:16-17 Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God with us right now.
The Spirit is with you and in you. Now and Forever!
God’s presence, sustaining, and blessing is all around us. You have the power to ignore and push away the Spirit. You have a choice. The Spirit will not be forced upon you.
The Holy Spirit is the Advocate = Helper/Counselor/Parakletos. One set from the Father. Exactly like the Father and Christ.
The Presence of God is a Help. The Presence is for you.
John 14:25-26 Jesus said, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
The Spirit Teaches us and Reminds us
One of Jesus’ main missions was to teach. Jesus would refer back to the Old Testament, reminding his hearers what it really meant and really said. Jesus brought the promises of God into his time period and thus our time period. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will continue to do that.
What the Spirit teaches us and reminds us is seen in how the Spirit is revealed in the Scriptures. Think 4 B’s: Bird, Breath, Blow, Burn.
We are named and claimed by God in our baptism. Our true identity is found in Christ Jesus, rooted in the eternal, not in how the world wants to label and stereotype us.
The Love Dove of Jesus’ Baptism- The heavens were opened to Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. This is my Son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)
The fire of God reminds us of passion, our mission/calling from God, and the refiner’s fire which burns away what isn’t good for us so the gold is revealed.
Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
The pillar of fire leading God’s people through the darkness and across the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13-14)
God consuming the offering in the battle between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)
Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by a lump of burning coal from the heavenly altar
God companioning and rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
God described as a Refiner’s Fire (Malachi 3)
John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3)
The tongues of fire dancing on the disciples’ heads at Pentecost (Acts 2)
When you think of Fire, what comes to mind?
Fire takes- burn down the house, forest fire, burn my skin- sunburn, radiation treatment. Devastation. Destruction. Consuming. Devouring. If I surrender to the Spirit, what will he take from me?
Fire gives- candles on Christmas Eve, campfire, warmth, light.
We get scared of the Spirit. Not sure if we want it.
What the Fire Gives by Jan Richardson, from her book Circle of Grace
You had thought that fire
only took for itself,
leaving merely ash
you had believed,
if not permanent,
would be long enough,
to be nearly
So when you felt
the scorching on your lips,
the searing in your heart,
you could not
at first believe
that flame could be
that when it came to you—
you, in your sackcloth
it did not come
to take still more
What surprised you most
were not the syllables
that spilled from
though that was miracle
to have words
what had been numb,
to find your tongue
aflame with a language
you did not know
no, what came
as greatest gift
was to be so heard
in the place
of your deepest
to be so seen
within the blazing,
to be met
with such completeness
by what the fire gives.
Holy Spirit, Pour out your truth
“That flame could be so generous.” I needed that reminder.
What we believe about God matters. If we believe God is angry, ready to punish, always watching, distant it will color everything. But if we believe God is generous, strong, good, and near, then the gift of the Holy Spirit is generous, good, and near.
We have our normal we know really well. It’s comforting and comfortable in a world that’s always changing. But, what God offers us is a new normal beyond circumstance. It is generous.
The first thing God always offers is to be heard and seen. Being before doing. God knows me just as I am. God sees me just as I am. God loves me just as I am. God invites me into all I can be.
I long to be known and seen and understood like this. That’s what I find in the presence of God. No need to hide. This knowing and seeing are so generous you can surrender to it. It is trustworthy and it is truth.
What do you most need today from the Spirit?
What do you most need to be reminded of?
Washington Post columnist, Gene Weingarten, and world-famous violinist Joshua Bell worked together to answer this question: If one of the world’s greatest musicians played some of history’s most beautiful music on one of the world’s most expensive instruments, but in an ordinary place, would anyone notice?
Video of Joshua Bell playing in a Washington, DC metro station
What did you notice?
Bell played for 45 minutes, playing 6 or 7 classical pieces, earning $32
Very few people stopped. 1,097 people passed by. Only 7 people stopped. One stayed for 3 minutes. One stayed for 9 minutes. The woman who recognized him stayed the last 2 minutes of his performance.
Everyone was busy.
7 years later, in 2014, Joshua Bell played in Union Station again. What do you think happened?
Why was it different this time?
Both times he played the exact same music
He had more people helping him
It was announced. They recognized him and his gifts. They knew who he was.
There was a sense of expectancy.
They acknowledged his presence.
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote, Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
What great extravagant gifts do we pass by- not expecting it, not acknowledging it? We’re picking blackberries with our face in our BlackBerries.
Even more so, we’re passing by the presence of Almighty God. The world is afire with the power, presence, and beauty of the Holy Spirit. Are we expectant for it? Are we awakened to it? Are we acknowledging it?
Who is the Holy Spirit? God’s presence with us now
Have you acknowledged the presence of the Holy Spirit? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to awaken you to the beauty and power of God all around you?
John 14:15-18, 23
This passage is part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. (John 13-17) Jesus is speaking at the Last Supper, the night of his arrest, less than 24 hours before his death. He’s preparing the disciples and reminding them of the promises of God.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit, God’s Presence
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you anotherAdvocate, to be with you forever.
Another = Just Like the First
We continue to have access to the presence, wisdom, healing, grace of Christ
Advocate = Parakletos in Greek, One sent from the Father, called alongside you
The parent who climbs in bed with a scared or sick child to comfort him or her
The person who takes the hand of a friend to walk alongside them through the situation
With you forever
Jesus walked this earth for a specific period of time. The presence of God in the Holy Spirit is with us forever.
We can see and know the Spirit. The Spirit is here! There can be expectancy, awakening, opening, acknowledging what others are just passing by. (John 14:17)
With you forever- with you and in you
Abides with you (John 14:17)
Will not leave you orphaned (John 14:18)
The disciples were feeling abandoned and orphaned by Jesus’ reminder that he must go. Jesus sends another just like him.
I am coming to you (John 14:18)
The Spirit comes to us. We don’t have to go searching. God always makes the first move.
You will see me (John 14:19)
We will come to them (John 14:23)
Make our home with them (John 14:23)
Consider the intimacy and immediacy of someone moving in with you
God makes a home with us and in us
Abides in you (John 14:17)
You in me, I in you (John 14:20)
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
The Holy Spirit abiding with you and in you. How do I get the Holy Spirit?
Consider your baptism.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Family language, making a home with us and in us, belonging
Through the Sacrament of Baptism,
Sacrament means mystery. We can relate to God the Father as Creator. We can relate to Jesus Christ, who walked this earth and shared our experience. The Holy Spirit is a mystery.
we are initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth by water and the Spirit.
We’re part of the Body of Christ, the Family of God, the church. We receive a calling on our life and are empowered to fulfill it. We are given new birth. We are made new.
All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.
In Baptism we recognize the Holy Spirit is already at work in our life, has a plan for our life, already knows us, loves us, is working and calling.
When we receive baptism and the Holy Spirit as babies, we don’t know what we don’t know because we are babies. When we grow up, we may still not know what we don’t know because no one has ever talked to us about the Holy Spirit.
That’s why we’re doing it now. It’s a tremendous gift. The promise of presence that we can know now. We can acknowledge now. That’s how you get the Holy Spirit because the Spirit is already there.
Lord, give me eyes to see. Lord, give me ears to hear. Holy Spirit, I want you in my life.
John 16:7 Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
You have God with you here forever and ever and ever. You have the Holy Spirit.
Will you acknowledge? Will you receive? Will you awaken? The world is afire and there is One who wants to abide with you and in you. Will you say, “Yes!”
Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Last week we read the story of Pentecost. (Acts 2) Over and over again it talked about pouring and filling and pouring and filling. Romans 5:5 is another scripture which talks about the Holy Spirit being poured into our lives.
These scriptures draw us to a very important question: Why do you want a relationship with God? Has your why changed over the years?
Some would say, “It’s the right thing to do.” Others would say, “I was raised this way. I was carried into the church in the arms of my family. I’ve always had a relationship with God.”
When I first started pursuing a relationship with God, I was 15 years old and I didn’t want to burn in hell. I was scared to death and scared of death. I’d seen a TV show about the end of the world. There wasn’t an adult around to tell me this was opinion, not necessarily fact. The idea of “turn or burn” was reinforced at the neighborhood church I began attending.
Over time my why has changed. Instead of being a fearful slave of God, it changed into a relationship of grace, love, and hope. I’m eternally grateful for that.
The “why” of us wanting to have a relationship with God is really important because it colors everything.
How we see God and understand God
How we read scripture
How we look at serving, grace, hope, and eternal life
It’s important to check our motivations from time to time. Our motivation can be like a faucet. It can direct the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life. If our motivation is twisted in the wrong way, it can turn off the flow of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we’re reading a cautionary tale. The scriptures are full of examples to follow and examples to avoid. This is one to avoid.
Side Note: There is nothing wrong with magic. The problem is Simon’s heart, not that he’s a magician.
Simon the Magician desired a relationship with God so God could be a means to an end. Jesus was a Divine Santa Claus to give him everything on his wish list. The Holy Spirit, a Cosmic Insider to hook him up with power, fame, and social status.
Am I like Simon? Simon’s story is a cautionary tale – full of wrong motivations. When we come across a story like this it’s important for us to pause, hold up a mirror, and ask, “Am I like Simon?” What’s my motivation for desiring a relationship with God? Why do I want the Holy Spirit?
It matters. It matters a great deal. It can be the difference between the Holy Spirit flowing in our lives and the turning off of the Spirit of God.
Wrong Motivation: Draw Attention to Yourself
Right Motivation: Draw Attention to God
Acts 8:9b-10, Simon likes showing-off. He is hungry for attention and fame. [Simon boasted] saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”
Acts 8:12-13, Philip draws attention to God 12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
Phillip is filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news and perform real signs and wonders, not magical illusions. Lives are being transformed and he keeps pointing them to Jesus. He does nothing for personal gain or status. He’s like Vanna on Wheel of Fortune, he points to the Word, constantly pointing people to Jesus.
Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
We let our light shine so others say, “Look what God is doing! Yay God!”
Example: Trinity Director of Traditional Music, LaTerry Butler, always replying to a compliment with, “Thanks be to God… Glory to God… Blessed be the Name…”
Wrong Motivation: Be THE Leader (Not be a leader. Phillip, Peter, and John are all leaders.) Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?
Right Motivation: Follow Jesus
Acts 8:10, 11 both report the crowds listened eagerly to Simon. The people followed him and treated him like a god. Simon did not correct them. He liked it.
God is my co-pilot. No, God is the pilot.
Wrong Motivation: Build up Myself
Right Motivation: Build Up Others
Acts 8:18-20, Simon wants to buy God’s power for his own benefit 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!”
Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuwirth, Michael Mcclure
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends. So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me. I wait for delivery each day until three. So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town? I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down. Prove that you love me and buy the next round. Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
What are we to do? Phillip, Peter, and John model it for us. They are always following Jesus and always pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the leader and forgiver of their lives, their Lord and Savior.
Peters speaks the truth in love to Simon. Your heart is wrong! You need to repent. You need to turn away from this and turn towards God.
Simon says, “Pray for me.” (Acts 8:24) Simon is open to change and that’s the good news for all of us.
God keeps reaching out to us again and again and again. To create in us a clean heart, to renew in us a right spirit, to restore to us the joy of our salvation, and place in us a willing spirit.
It is a journey. We can turn and learn and become the people we were meant to be.
There’s good news in the awakening. There’s good news in realizing I haven’t given that over to God yet. There’s time to do it.
Why do you want a relationship with God? Who’s sitting on the throne of your heart? How can you more and more point to Jesus?
Psalm 51:10-12 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 to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Holy Spirit, pour out your power
Holy Spirit, pour out your presence
Holy Spirit, pour out your truth
Holy Spirit, pour out your life
Grace upon grace
Strength upon strength
Life upon life
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Holy Spirit, come again as Guiding Fire,
Lighting the way though our wilderness
Come, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come again as Cleansing Fire,
Burning away all that is false and fruitless
Come, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come again as Refining Fire,
Making our words, our ways, and our hearts pure
Come, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come again as Prophetic Fire,
Releasing the Gospel shut up in our bones
Come, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come again as Empowering Fire,
Granting gifts to heal and transform the world
Come, Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come again as Unifying Fire,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven