Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Journey of Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will  You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
Lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
I think I've had four friends discuss depression these last two weeks. And I battle it occasionally myself.
Anger over life's circumstances leads to depression.
Guilt over life's circumstances leads to depression.
Fear over life's circumstances leads to depression.
In short, sin leads to depression.
Oh sure, our hormones or our diet or our health can make us more susceptible to anger, guilt, and fear.
But that's just another way of saying that our hormones, our diet, or our health make us more susceptible to sin...
Because depression is nothing more than the failure to trust in the goodness and the sovereignty of God.

So we throw diet or exercise or medication at it.
But we are rarely honest enough to get to the source.
The sin.

I've been studying the Psalms with the kids this year.
There's something brutally honest,
and gut-wrenching,
and raw
about the psalms.
They are the heart-cry of sheep in trouble.
Sheep who have wandered into toxic weeds
or who hear the howl of wolves in the pasture.
Psalms are the plea of the sheep who recognizes his need for his Shepherd.
And I am amazed by how many psalms start with hopelessness--but end with hope.

It is diametrically opposed to this beast called depression.
It is the antithesis.
It is the solution.

And where, dear sheep, do we find this hope?
In our salvation.
Consider the journey of the sheep in Psalm 13 with me.
He is depressed
Because he thinks he is forgotten by God...
"Will You forget me forever?"
Or he thinks he must fix himself...
"How long must I take counsel in my soul?"
Or he thinks he is overtaken by an all-powerful enemy.
"How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"

But walk with this depressed sheep.
Where does he turn?
To the Shepherd.

"Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.
Light up my eyes..."

And the faithful Shepherd does just that.
Continue as the sheep discovers...

"My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation..."

Isn't it interesting that the Psalm says Your salvation?
Not my salvation.
When we are depressed, we need to remind ourselves that salvation belongs to the Lord.
Not to us.
When we treat depression like a cause, rather than an effect, we miss the fight entirely.
But the sheep discovers that depression is the symptom of sin, and the only answer for sin is Salvation.
We do battle with depression by preaching the Gospel to ourselves.
That is the journey of Psalm 13.

When we start in a place of hopelessness,
we must make sure to end at the Gospel.
We hunker down in the shadow of the Cross.
We declare to ourselves and to the Lord,
I am a great sinner; Christ is a great Savior.*
And then we rejoice in His finished work and the emptied tomb and our eternity secured by Him.
That's when our hearts are overtaken by the potent light of God's salvation that pierces our darkness.

As I write this, Mr. Obama has just been elected to a second term.
And the people of God are struggling with depression.
Dear sheep, our destiny is not determined by the next four years.
It is determined by the sovereign Lord.
The sovereign Lord who uses nations to write history is the same sovereign Lord who hold you and hides you in the shadow of His wings,
the same Sovereign Lord who made you right with Him.
Understand that, and your depression will be undone.

Then you can sing with the sheep of Psalm 13:
"He has dealt bountifully with me."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let Me Get This Straight...

I should have known my political views would take me off the broad path. And the signs were there as early as my very first trip into the voting booth. It was the Republican primary in Florida in 1988. I was 20 years old and had been waiting for this moment since Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.

Afterwards, a fellow Christian voter asked, "So, who did you vote for?"
Triumphantly, I replied, "Jack Kemp."
She looked at me. "You didn't vote for Pat Robertson?"
"Pat Robertson? Why would I vote for Pat Robertson?"

There had been an assumption among many Christians that year. Pat Robertson is a Christian. Therefore, Christians will vote for Pat Robertson. But I didn't think Pat Robertson was very presidential. I thought Jack Kemp was very presidential. (Turns out I was right about Pat. Turns out he's a fruit loop.)

Over the next few election cycles, though, I was the Republican whore, voting for whomever the GOP powers-that-be told me to vote a lemming over the cliff. sigh. I voted for ReadMyLips Bush. Twice. I voted for Dole because I really liked his VP choice.  I voted for Bush, Jr. Twice.

In 2004, I was simpering condescendingly over my friends who were 'throwing their vote away' in the Constitution Party. In 2008, I was ready to vote for a fellow named Romney in the Texas primary. But if I remember correctly, he had already dropped off the ballot by that time, so I voted for a Texan named Ron Paul. Then the general election arrived, and I rolled my eyes at my friends who split hairs over McCain's support for embryonic stem-cell research and the fact that Sarah Palin was a mother with five very needy children at home. Was I swayed? Nope.
I was not swayed by the fact that McCain was not pro-life.
I was not swayed by the fact that McCain had authored the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold bill.
I was not swayed by the fact that Sarah Palin had one special needs baby, one pregnant teen, and a horribly disordered home. Hey, she's a Christian. (Wait... This was sounding vaguely familiar.)
The important thing was that McCain was not Obama.
A girl's got standards.

Then Election Night '08 came. And as I watched John McCain give his concession speech, twisting himself into an ideological pretzel in his zeal to 'reach across the aisle,' I thought, "Yikes. I just voted for Mr. IStandForNothing."

My jaw was dropping. This man could have won...and I would have been responsible.
I need a hero.
I need a statesman.
I need someone who will look into the eyes of every compromising, deal-making, weak-willed, principled-in-rhetoric-only politician on Capitol Hill and say,
Bring it."

I found him.
A man of principle whose record matches his rhetoric. (What a concept.)
A man who understands individual liberty and the free market.
And if there is ever a lone dissenting vote or a lone voice of reason on Capitol Hill--well, it's usually his.
He's not afraid of gridlock.
He scratches no one's back.
He's a hero.

But there has been another kind of gridlock this time around, and it's nowhere near DC.
It's in the American church.
What a ghastly election cycle this has been. And I think it would be helpful, just for myself--and maybe for my readers--to try to at least understand the arguments of the different political factions in the church in 2012.

So, let me try to get this straight.

Faction One: "I'm not voting at all." These friends have explained to me that they think the Christian should be above politics. That ushering in God's kingdom is our priority. That government is an evil and a distraction. That our focus should be alleviating injustice around the world. Government is an institution inherently fraught with evil.

Faction Two: "I'm voting for Mitt Romney." These friends are politically involved and love their country. They tend to view America as a Christian nation. They want to get back to a truly free market and the rule of law. And, mostly, they really, really fear President Obama and the damage he can do in the next four years. Of paramount importance is getting him out of office.

Faction Three: "I'm voting for Virgil Goode." They call themselves theonomists. They want a Christian leader, a Biblical legal system, and a Biblically moral nation. The idea of putting a Mormon in office to place this nation back in the favor of God is not just laughable; it is anathema. A Christian governor for a Christian nation is not the best hope; it is the only hope.

Faction Four: "I'm voting for Ron Paul." The priority of limited government for the State restricts the power of the State to protecting citizens from each other--not from themselves. The priority of self-government for the Individual puts no restrictions on personal liberty--no matter how ugly that looks. He will not let the State do the job of the Church or of the Family. And as long as the president understands that, he can be a Muslim or a Mormon or anything else.

Meanwhile, one faction tells me God will judge me for not voting for Candidate X. Another faction tells me God will judge me for voting for Candidate X. Godly preachers tell me to be pragmatic. Godly preachers tell me to be principled. One faction claims there's Biblical support for voting. Another faction claims there's no Biblical support for voting. I got one message telling me to stop trying to interfere with the election and that my arguments won't sway anyone. I've gotten so many messages thanking me for talking and telling me that they're thinking critically for the first time that I've lost count.

Gridlock, indeed.

Fortunately, I don't have to keep it all straight.
There is a King coming back.
He'll correct my heresy...
and yours, too.
He'll straighten it all out for us...
every crooked path.

No matter who is president, Jesus is King.
Worship the King.

Every valley shall be filled,
And every mountain and hill shall be made low.
And the crooked shall be made straight,
And the rough places shall become level ways. Luke 3:5 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sunday's Coming

"I think we created a monster," my mom whispered to me one Sunday after church. She had asked Brett and me to Sunday dinner that night. And when it comes to cooking, my mom's no slouch, let me tell you.
Still, Brett hesitated.
I gave him the evil eye.

But to no avail.
Nothin' doin'.
Today was Sunday.
He was going home to take a nap, watch some football, maybe...putz.
But, no, he was not going out.

And to think we had done all of this to him...

When Brett and I were dating/engaged, we would go to church and then head to my parents' house for some R&R.
Steaks on the grill.
Maybe some reading.

At first, all the sitting still nearly drove him mad. Sunday, to him, was a day for running errands, fixing stuff, hitting the grocery store.
What do they know?

So when he started hanging out with my family, he thought all this 'resting' was wasting time. But then... started to grow on him. And by the time we said, "I do," he was a Sabbath convert. Big time. Which is why he politely but firmly declined my mom's invitation to Sunday dinner.


And for the past 24 years,  Sunday as Sabbath has taken a firm root in the Adams' home.
He likes it like that.
And so do I.

We love our church, and we love our church family.
But after we've gotten in some fellowship time, he and I are both sneaking glances at the clock and edging towards the door.
"Fenuccis!" he yells, and all the shorter Adams' (and the taller ones, too) start heading for the Blue Whale.
And the Blue Whale starts heading for home.

That's where Sabbath, properly observed, is spent. At least in our family.
If we're spending Sunday with you, and you are not related to us, it's because we like you. We really, really like you.

We pile into the kitchen, and it's a flurry of kicked-off shoes, dropped purses, ditched Bibles, and "I'm hungry!" We eat enough to get the little guy happily off to nap time and
Book pages fluttering.
Disney movie going upstairs.
Afghans and football and...quiet.

Then, my favorite part of Sunday: dinner.
No matter what we've been doing the rest of the week, how many meetings or practices or activities or ...or...or...Sunday arrives. And so does Sunday dinner. It's the one night we're guaranteed to have everyone at his place. Candles. Stemware. Yea, even sometimes cloth napkins (that is, when I have failed to replenish the paper variety).  This is serious business, people.

And there, around the table, family happens.
Sermon talk.
Foodie observations.
And while we tend to guard family mealtime during the week, there's just something about Sunday dinner that makes us all linger a little longer around the table.

When we were married, the pastor exhorted us to be faithful to establish traditions.
We listened.
Sunday is one of our most foundational traditions.

This past Sunday, dinner lasted a little longer.
A cold front had blown in, so we piled the dinner dishes in the sink and moved to the backyard.
We lit a fire in the fire-pit; we pulled out lawn chairs; we roasted marshmallows and drank hot cocoa.

The troubles of the day and the worries of the week faded in the moonlight.
We told stories.
We did screaming yellow zippers,
and Cincinnati fire kites.
We laughed and chattered under the full moon.

Sunday is the day we join in the fellowship of the saints and corporate worship and the preaching of the Word.
But Sunday is also the day that reminds us that we can rest.

Rest is a privilege.
Rest is for those whose trust is in the Lord.
Rest is a good gift from a Great Redeemer.

No matter how crazy or chaotic or fragmented or worrisome the other six days of the week can be...
our family celebrates the grace of rest on Sunday...
...because we need the reminder not just of weekly rest
but of the eternal rest that was secured for us at the Cross.

And Sunday has a way of doing that.