My Dear Wormwood

My Dear Wormwood

What I Learned Last Sunday

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  – 1 Corinthians 12:21

***Inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.***

The deception that church members can be autonomous

My Dear Wormwood,

I would warn you to not be overly obvious as you work to place the Patient and his church gathering fully in our grasp. You must subtly cause him to take his focus off of our Enemy’s Son. If he keeps that Crucified One at the center of his idea of church, you will lose any sway you once held.

I suggest slowly redirecting his focus, helping him remember the many flaws in the church (you will have many examples to choose from). Then move the Patient’s mind specifically to that member in his church who neglected to reach out when the Patient was in need. Then remind him of the church member who cut him off at the four-way stop last week. When he listens to gossip about his church, cause those false words planted by your coworkers to ring true. Cause him to think of the many differences he has with his local church and let them fester. Remind him of the music and how he doesn’t like its style. Remind him how irritating the pastor’s voice is. And above all else, keep in his mind the beliefs that there is no one in the church like him and that the church devalues him and ignores him.

Then remind the Patient how simple it is to gather information from the Enemy’s other children online. Let him feel how clean and refreshing it is to be alone as a follower of the Enemy. Yes, you can even twist the Enemy’s very words in His Book to draw your Patient away. If doubt creeps into his mind about missing church gatherings, remind him again of how messy church can be and how different your Patient is from them. Then, reinforce in the Patient’s mind a sense of self-worth and a heightened understanding of the Enemy’s ways. Remind him of that great line, “The Church isn’t a building” and reinforce that he does not need the fellowship and accountability of those Followers of the Enemy in his church.

The deception that views other church members as dispensable

If the Patient is unwilling to abandon the local church, you still have ample opportunity to cause catastrophe. You can cause much division if you again keep him from looking to the Enemy and His Son and erode your Patient’s relationships with other church members through delicious, savory comparison and sweet self-exultation

In his church, remind him how much better he serves than that other member. Have him tally up the number of Bible studies he has led. In comparing himself, the Patient will find all others below his level of devotion, tedious and less useful. Then encourage him to create a sense of separation in his mind from the most uninvolved members to view them with indifference. In thinking of those lesser members, let him add to that list those members who are poor and those who may cause rumors in the community about the church. Let the Patient also add that person who doesn’t hold to his views on the end times. Have him throw in the person who offended him and the one who was given recognition for the project the Patient did all the work on. Lastly have the Patient add any who he deems annoying, too charismatic, too bookish, too selfish, too different than him, and the mooch, and the one who is just an oddball. To any on this list, tempt him to feel a twinge of joy when they suffer loss. When they are humiliated, let your Patient feel vindication, even the slightest amount. Slowly he will create divisions in his heart between those he deems valuable and those viewed as unnecessary.

Dear Wormwood, you will reap full rewards and make the Enemy’s children unuseful in the current war if they feel they are autonomous and others, dispensable.

Your affectionate uncle, 

Screwtape

We Are Christ’s Church

We Are Christ’s Church

What I Learned Last Sunday

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  – 1 Corinthians 12:12

“…so it is with Christ.” I love that Paul solidifies our definition of  “church” from social club status to its infinitely greater, intimate connection to Jesus Christ. There are many parts of a body (head, hands, feet) just like Christ—Christ’s body, the church. Christians are a part of God’s body, so every action we take says something about Jesus. Any thought or desire or direction that the local church and its leaders and members make should be out of the understanding that we are a part of Christ’s body. What a high calling!

Let’s reflect on Sunday’s sermon application of 1 Corinthians 12:12-20. Spoiler alert, doing so will lead you closer to Jesus and further from selfish ambition.

1. If you are in Christ, you are a part of the body of Christ.

Think about the implications of that. I am a part of Christ’s body. This should lead to both ownership, investment and great humility. Owning that part, I should tremble at doing anything to make Christ less. Understanding the light of life found in Christ, I am propelled by the Spirit to invest in Christ’s body. “Christ, take all of me!” The same understanding can only mean great humility knowing the grace on which I now stand. It causes you to say, “Why me?” I am a part of Christ’s body (blood bought, no righteous standing on your own, filled with grace and mercy). What wonder! I am a part of Christ. Therefore, I must check all selfish desires for worldly gain at the door when I think about my part in this body. I should question my motives and weigh them against God’s Word. 

Question: Is my church a social club with a nice clubhouse dusted with a little Jesus? Or do I view the church as Christ and base all my desires for her and actions on that belief?

2. You have a God-ordained part to play in the body of Christ.

You are a part. Your part does not consist of the whole. You have a role and it interconnects with others who are also Christ’s. This is the foundation for a diverse body of believers.

And you really have a role to play. God does not ordain useless members. Your role may not include an official title (though there is nothing wrong with church offices). If the church is Christ, and you are a part of Christ’s body, the very unwillingness to invest in the body would be unChristian.

You are Christ’s. Playing your part in His body makes much of Him.

Question: Do I believe that God has gifted me in a way that would be honoring to Christ and helpful for His Church? What is false in me that is preventing me from seeking to surrender my talents to Christ for His body?

3. Every single member of the body is significant.

From wiping down toilet seats, to wiping away the tears of a brother or sister grieving loss, all members of the body have an essential role that the world cannot quantify. Don’t believe me? Open the Word and be awakened to the things that God values. God values those downtrodden who cling to Him. He values little children. He values the meek. God loves the widow who gives her two coins over the vast treasures of kings. He seeks for the one lost sheep out of the other 99 in the fold. He chases after the fools of the world. And God loves desperate sinners over righteous pharisees.

God does not love the things that the world loves!

We must stop using the world’s exchange rate to define the value of our investment and role in the body.

Question: Have I fallen prey to placing value on what only the world might find significant in the body of Christ?

4. We should show the world what the true body of Christ looks like.

If you are in Christ, you are a part of Christ’s body. For, you are no longer your own, bought at a great price.

You have a part in the body and must not neglect it for the glory of Christ among the nations. For, your investment in God’s Church says something to the world about your Jesus.

Your role should never be given a value based on that of the world. For, God values above all else the glory of His name. He is glorified if you are fulfilling your role. Therefore, your role is eternally significant more than you will ever know in this life.

To Action!

If we keep our focus on Christ and fight off any sinful thought of selfish entitlement to a building or group of people, we will make Christ great.

If we seek to invest in Christ (His body the church), Christ will be made great.

If we view each role in the body with a Spirit-empowered lens, the world will marvel at a people enraptured with Christ over worldly gain.

What if I’m Hopeless?

What if I’m Hopeless?

Word in Season

What if I’m hopeless? What if you’re hopeless? What if a dear friend, or your child is hopeless? Recently, for many days in a row,I woke up without hope and went to bed without hope. One of those nights I lay in bed half talking to myself and half talking to the Lord and trying to put my finger on this desperation. Hope- I am without hope. What does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope, what does the Bible say about hope? Hope. Hope. Hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope. You were once without hope.

There it was; the living and active Word was starting to come alive- if I could just concentrate enough on this thought to see where the Lord was taking me. Ephesians 2, that was it! Paul is reminding the gentile believers in Ephesus of a time past, a time when they were without God and thus without hope. Separated from the holy and living God without a way to get to him. The Bible’s definition of true hopelessness (Ephesians 2:11-13). 

Past tense. The Ephesians were once without hope because they were once without God. So what is present tense? Verse 13 makes it clear. “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” From hopeless to hope- filled. From far off to brought near. 

We who have our faith in Christ and the work of his sacrifice are also in this same state. Once hopeless, now hope filled. Once far off, now brought near. Now what? What if I’m still hopeless? The scriptures have fallen flat. This verse isn’t quite living and active. Keep going. This is a battle that is not easily won. If you are doing battle, you are on the right path. 

How about starting with the obvious, but some of the hardest, words for our prideful hearts to mutter. “Jesus help me. Help me believe this. Forgive me for not believing this. Help me to see this, breath this, live this. Jesus, will you help me?” 

Now we push deeper. What does it mean at this moment in my life that I have been brought near to God? If this is the foundation for my hope, I need to lean into this. God has brought me near to him. Who is this God to whom I’ve been brought near and why is that hopeful? 

This is the God that brings things to life by his words. He is powerful and I need someone powerful when I feel so powerless.

This is the God whose ear is mine. He is present and I need to not feel so alone. 

This is the God who is patiently waiting for me to speak to Him about my fears, sorrows, and hopelessness. He is compassionate and I need His mercy.

This is the God who gives me His Spirit. His power in me is greater than my weak flesh.

This is the God who has brought me into his honorable household. He has made me his and I belong to him. 

This is the God who knows what I suffer in this fallen world. He is sympathetic and can relate to my struggles. 

It starts to matter a bit more that we have been brought near to God when we add this depth. I’m starting to feel the hope building; how about you? 

Now what? We pray these things, we speak to this near God, and rehearse them over and over again. We thank Him for Christ. We call a trusted friend and share how hopeless we’ve been feeling and tell them about the scripture we are trying to cling to. We ask that trusted friend to pray and walk with us. Maybe we take another path and dive deeper into what it means that God has given us His Spirit and brought us into his household. And we keep doing these things over and over again. 

There’s no formula. There’s no quick fix. But there is hope to be found in Him. I’m sure of it.

Consider This

Consider This

Word in Season

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24

People of Joy

There are two words that I have been thinking about often over the last couple of weeks: fear and shame. We are in a time when much of what we hear, see, and read are rooted in one or both of these emotions. Fear of getting sick, shame for acting selfishly, fear of destroying our financial future, shame for being afraid. Even if we ourselves are not feeling afraid or shameful, many of our friends and neighbors are. As Christians we should not be ruled by fear and shame, rather we should be lighthouses for joy. Joy should be seen as the trademark mindset of Christians especially in the worst of times.

Why is this? Why are Christians able to be joyful and excited even when life is not going our way? Look at 1 Peter 1:8:

Though you have not seen him (Jesus), you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.”

The emotion of salvation is inexpressible joy! Paul is writing this to Christians that are being persecuted for their faith. He encourages them to see the truth of their salvation in Christ and root their emotions in that eternal truth, not in the temporary. Christians radiate joy because we have a salvation in Christ which gives us all hope. 

When considering how to stir up one another in love and good works we need to consider how our words and actions affect the attitude of those with whom we come in contact. Do we foster an atmosphere of fear and shame, or one of joy and hope? In Philemon 1:7 Paul says to Philemon, Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”  Look at the influence of Philemon’s love! Not only does his love refresh the hearts of God’s people in his community, it also brings joy and encouragement to those who hear about it. As God’s people we are meant to create atmospheres of joy wherever we are. We are to have a reputation for bringing joy.

You have the opportunity today, this week, and for the rest of your life to bring fear or bring joy to your community. Which will you choose? You can tell others that they should be afraid of what is to come or shame them for what they are doing. Or you can give them hope. You can live in such a way that fear and shame neither come into your heart nor out of your mouth. You can speak of your hope in Christ and your dependence on him alone. You can lighten up a room with your reliance on scripture rather than your reliance on the media. I pray this week that God’s people use every word, action, and thought to bring joy to our communities so that the world may know the hope that we have in Jesus.

Just As He Said

Just As He Said

What I Learned Last Sunday

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  John 2:19

(Jesus speaking) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:31

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Matthew 28:5-6a

What an encouraging reminder from the Resurrection Sunday message that Jesus’ words are always tied to action. Jesus is never flippant or careless with His words. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And just as He said (Matthew 28:5-6a) Jesus accomplished His words that Sunday morning defeating the power of sin and death and leading to our belief and hope in this risen rock solid Christ (John 2:22).

How do I know that I can trust this Jesus, and what do I do with Him? 

First, trust him because he adamantly proclaims truths and makes those proclamations come to pass. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31). No human in existence could ever say that. Our words fall flat. We make promises and fail to keep them. Many of the “I’m sorry’s” expressed to my loved ones are due to that exact failure to keep my word. Our words along with every human, save one, will pass away. Jesus’ words are steadfast. His words will NEVER pass away. He is the holy Son of God who accomplishes the things He says He will do. And there is no  accomplishment greater than His bodily resurrection from the dead just as He foretold. 

Additionally, follow him! There is no compass pointing more directly to the risen Jesus than the statement, “My words will not pass away”. His words are rock solid because they are always fulfilled. We can boldly run to and rest on Jesus. Only Jesus. Not simply the moral principles of a 1st century crucified odd-ball. We don’t need to be simply good, moral people who try to appropriate the nice words of Jesus into our cultural moment. Jesus said we needed Him (John 14:6). We need Jesus to begin and to endure to the end. We run to and soak up Jesus. It is what He called us to. No one is more steadfast. 

The wonderful solution to whatever situation you presently find yourself in is to find your joy in Jesus. Trust and follow the Father glorifying; way, truth, life embodying; and yoke carrying Savior whose words will NEVER pass away.

It is Finished

It is Finished

Word in Season

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

The Son

It is finished to the fullest and complete. Brutally beaten and torn. I came into this world Holy God-man but now scorned and mocked. Replaced by a criminal for fear that I may cause mutiny from false religions based on human merit.

The righteousness that I proclaimed was impossible to achieve apart from the intervention of a Holy God (Mark 10:27). I showed to evil men the true nature of the law but all they saw was a usurper of their own control over the definition of “righteous”.

Submissive to My Father’s will, I drank the cup meant for my enemies. The ones who spat upon me and divided my clothing I cried out for them to be forgiven (Luke 23:34). They did not know they were crucifying the Savior of the world. 

Forsaken by my own Father. I cried out to Him but for one time in eternity He would not hear. My Father turned his back unable to look upon the most sinful sight the world will ever see—the combined filth of all the saints pouring down on me from Adam to my second coming. I hung on that tree damned. 

Yet from the world’s founding, I was the lamb slain (Revelation 13:8). I did not make a mistake in my creation. For all time I knew that the place of the skull would be the place where wood and nails and mockery would mark the only hope for humanity to identify sons and daughters of the living God (John 12:27). 

It is a good Friday, for I finished the work.

The Father

It is finished to the fullest and complete.  My holy wrath poured on the most innocent One. My Son (Romans 3:23-25). 

Finished. His body has fulfilled in perfect unique form payment in full for sinners. 

My back is turned on the Son. My triune Son and equal. The God-Man. Willingly subordinate and willing to die. He cries out “Father” but I will not hear Him (Matthew 27:46). 

It was my will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10).

I have seen in his blood the perfect payment fulfilling my wrath against unholy man. The blood of countless bulls and goats could not satisfy like Him (Hebrews 10:4). Perfect, spotless, holy God-man. Countless sons and daughters will be brought into my fold of glory (Hebrews 2:10). I will look upon my torn, mocked, and scorn Son in place of their iniquity.

It is a good Friday, for my righteous judgment of sin is poured out on My Son.

The Adopted Son and Daughter

It is finished to the fullest and complete. The debt of sin I owed, at great cost, has been removed from me. The righteous God-man hanging on that tree whom I whipped and mocked has paid in full what holy God held against me (2 Corinthians 5:19). All of it. My deception and pride and the secret dark marks that riddle my life. And the things I would have called righteous (Isaiah 64:6). His wrath is no more coming after me for my unholy deeds.

And oh, I see it now, praise God! That crucified man, Jesus. He is not foolish anymore. He is life. He is breath. He is everything to me. His cross is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). I see my sin, MY sin, hanging on His shoulders running through the cracked torn skin mingling with His blood.

Where once I trusted in myself and in my wealth and success and own righteousness for comfort in this life. I now count them as rubbish just to know this Christ better (Philippians 3:4-11). “Grace and mercy!” I scream at the top of my lungs. For the grace and mercy of God is what has rescued me (Ephesians 2:1-10). He has not counted my sin against me, that pile of filth and shame I lived in. He has given me life and calls me now “son”. He has filled me with joy which I  cannot contain. From now to eternity, I tell the world, “Not I but Christ in me”. Him I follow in humility.

It is a GOOD Friday. I am a child of the King of kings.

Don’t Waste Your Digital Worship

Don’t Waste Your Digital Worship

Word in Season

…when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:5

When Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonian church, he was reflecting on his painful struggle to return to the church after being torn away from them in persecution. During Paul’s absence, the Thessalonians underwent the persecutions common to the early Church. Paul was desperate to return to them to see if their faith was sincere. Were they still standing on the firm foundation of Christ, or had the pressures around the Thessalonian church proven them to be frauds? They were still clinging to Christ, praise God!

May that be said of Ridgeview Bible Church today and in the coming months. It would be wrong to compare COVID-19 to what our forefathers underwent (See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But, in this time we must not be naive of the things that will draw us away from Christ and his Church. 

So, be vigilant, church! Take this time to seriously pursue Christ lest we like so many walk away from what we once claimed to love.

In honor of a previous blog title aptly named after a well known book, let’s not WASTE these opportunities to digitally worship together. I have five challenges for us all that have convicted me in this new mode of church the past few weeks.

1. Pray

Fill your Saturday evening and Sunday morning with prayer to God for our Sunday gathering and others. Pray for the pastors that God would give them wisdom and incite to know what to speak to encourage us, challenge us, call us to repentance, and magnify our God. Pray for God to remove distractions in the livestream. Pray for the Church that their needs would be found in Christ. Pray for the musicians to play with humility and reverence, directing our hearts in worship. Watching a service on a screen does not negate the need to pray ceaselessly.

2. Stand and Sing Your Heart Out (if able) 

I don’t say this because standing is the only proper way to sing in church. But I do think attempting to imitate our orderly worship service as much as possible in this time is a great way to remind us what we are doing when we gather in our living rooms to sing together, apart. Remember who you are singing to. It’s not to a screen but to holy God. Fill your home with your voices of praise.

3. Don’t Eat Breakfast During the Service

This is only one example of many distractions that must be removed when we gather digitally to worship together. Plopping down on your couch with a big meal and consuming the Sunday service on your TV will only distract from seeing and worshiping God. In the same way, turn your phone off. Remind your children that worshiping together through a screen is NOT the same thing as watch the latest Disney flick.

4. Proclaim

Set a goal to reach out to a handful of congregants to encourage them Sunday afternoon or throughout the next week. Share what you learned. Ask them the same. Ask how you can pray for them. Seek ways to serve them. Be intentional with them.

5. Serve

Use your hands and feet to identify needs and seek ways to meet them. Give of your time and talents. Give financially. Give sacrificially. Serving the church under restrictions will look a little different of course, so we need to be creative in order to maximize our time and talents. As Pastor Mike said Sunday, we are all needy people. COVID-19 did not make us needy. We have always been needy, so those of us who have hope in Christ must share that hope to our church and community.

Why We Won’t Be Applying for Stimulus Assistance

Why We Won’t Be Applying for Stimulus Assistance

Announcements Word in Season

Recently, the President of the United States signed into law the CARES Act, known informally as the Coronavirus Relief Bill. There are many provisions in the bill that are intended to assist small businesses as well as faith-based groups like churches. The most relevant to Ridgeview is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Basically, this program makes it possible for churches to take out a loan equaling 250% of their monthly payroll. It is more assistance than loan, as the debt is 100% forgivable, so long as the funds are applied to the payroll and the payroll remains the same (no layoffs). Ridgeview researched this program with help from our primary banker and then we sought guidance from our elder team. On Sunday, the elders met to decide whether we will apply for this. And, as you can tell from the title of the post, we decided that we will not. For the good of the church, I think it is worth sharing our reasons.

First, no one on the elder team was convinced that we should participate in this program. Not all the elders were against it, but no one was clearly for it. And two of the elders felt strongly that we shouldn’t do this. To move ahead on something like this, we would need a strong and unified conviction that we should, and we are nowhere near that.

Second, while we do acknowledge that churches can trust God to supply for them AND also apply to these programs (seeing these programs as a means of God’s provision), we also believe that we can trust God to supply for the church through normal means; i.e., through the believers who make up this local church.

We believe that God would be more glorified by our looking to him alone to provide for our church through normal and biblical means – through the body of Christ.

Third, we feel that we, as a church, need to grow in our theology of giving. God calls us to be cheerful and sacrificial givers, not merely people who give out of our abundance or prosperity. These are trying times, but in these times we are not called to be any less cheerful or sacrificial in our giving. Taking advantage of this assistance would not help us grow in this area, and it could even hinder us, as we look to the government to do what God has called us to do.

Fourth, and most important, as an elder team we believe that God would be more glorified by our looking to him alone to provide for our church through normal and biblical means; through members of the body of Christ. Honestly, it would be easier for us to turn to this program, and it can feel more secure to do so. Yet God is not always honored when we take the easy path. He is glorified when we find our security and our rest in him alone. And more than anything, we want to glorify God.

None of this is to say anything about churches that decide differently than we did. We recognize that there are coherent and valid arguments for choosing to apply for these programs. These are simply our convictions, before the Lord. We also sincerely pray that many small businesses (especially local businesses) and individuals receive the help they need through the CARES Act.

For the Glory of Our Risen King,

Pastor Mike

What I Learned Last Sunday

What I Learned Last Sunday

What I Learned Last Sunday

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice, Pray, Thank, Repeat.

Rejoice
Rejoice in the Lord Always
Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS
Rejoice in trials
In sickness
In loss
Find your strength in Christ
For in Christ’s joy He went to the Cross (Hebrews 12:2)

Do not be bitter
Do not fear
Do not rejoice in your own strength
REJOICE! Your God is near

Pray
Pray without ceasing
To pray is to be dependent
Dependent on our granite God
Who never fails
He never fails so come boldly with every need and align your heart with His desires

Pray!
Do not be anxious
Pray!
Do not fear
Pray to our God who is the Lion
Pray!
You will find Him near

Pray without ceasing in COVID-19
Pray without ceasing in times of ease
Dependent prayer will be the difference
To pray means you are dependent
Thank
Be not thankful for medicine or savings in the bank
Thank our God for saving your soul
In everything Him should you thank

Thank our God
He is a foundation
Not like that of shifting sands
Thank our God
He is a shield and sword
A shelter in times like these
Thank our God
Who is our peace
He holds His own in unwavering hands

Repeat
Rejoice!
And the peace of God, surpassing understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus.
Pray!
And the peace of God, surpassing understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus.
Thank!
And God’s mind-boggling peace will protect you from anxiety because you are His blood bought child only in Christ Jesus

The Worship of Lament

The Worship of Lament

Word in Season

I have been thinking about worship this week. What does it look like to worship in the midst of a global pandemic or personal tragedy? How do we approach God when things are less than OK? Often we react in one of two ways: we shut off that connection and turn away from God, or we pretend that all is fine and continue on, ignoring hardship and suffering. But what would it look like to worship while acknowledging deep pain and difficult circumstances? To neither deny God nor the realities we are facing? In his book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Mark Vroegop puts forth a pathway toward hope, even in the darkest circumstances. This pattern of lament is seen all over the Bible and helps us when we don’t know how to move forward.

The first step is to turn. Turn to God in prayer! It takes faith to call out to God in the middle of our suffering; to keep talking, to keep praying through pain. Using Psalm 4 as an example, we see in verse 1:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

The psalmist, David, is crying out, calling for God’s attention to his circumstances. He acknowledges God and his work in his life in the past, despite what he is going through now. This may seem obvious and overly simple, but moving towards God in our pain is where all hope begins.

Next, after we cry out to God, we are to bring him our complaints. This might seem illogical or just plain sinful to us. We have absorbed the admonishment to “do everything without grumbling or complaining”, which is, of course, good and true. We are not to bring our complaints and grievances to other people, who have no power to change our situations, but to God, the one who has all power. We see David all over the Psalms bringing his complaints to God and in Psalm 4:2 he says,

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?

He names his specific problems to God- namely that his reputation has been destroyed by the lies of sinful men. Many times, these statements begin with “How long..” or “Why…” before they name the individual grievances. Of course, even as we bring our complaints, we need to come with reverence and humility- we are addressing the omnipotent, living God. Yet this sovereign Lord cares for our every specific need.

But we don’t stop there. After we have brought our complaints, we are to ask boldly. In the lament Psalms, we see this change often marked by a “but” or a “yet.” The psalmist will move on from focusing on his complaint and set his eyes on God.

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

Here in verse 3, David is calling on the Lord to hear his cry. In this sense, hearing means answering; he is putting his trust in God responding to his prayer. He doesn’t sheepishly petition within the framework of “if it’s your will”, but rather asks boldly and allows for God to answer in accordance with his will.

Finally, after we have turned, complained, and asked, we are to choose to trust. This trust is not a shallow hope that what we have prayed for will come to fruition, but rather an “active patience.” Not a one-time choice to trust God, but a continuing, day-after-day decision to see God as worthy of our faith.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

The rest of Psalm 4 is, I think, devoted to that choice to trust God and what that looks like. Not sinning in our anger about the situation. Offering right sacrifices, which in other places in the Psalms is defined as thankfulness (50:14, 23, 107:22, 116:17) and a broken and contrite spirit (51:16-17). Remembering that all true goodness and joy comes from the Lord, who has given us the ultimate cause for joy in Christ: reconciliation to God! And seeing that peace and safety only come from the Lord, and not temporary circumstances. This trusting acknowledges that God alone is God, and will answer all our cries in a way that is both for our good (Romans 8:28) and his glory (Isaiah 48:11).

You may be thinking, as I once did, that you may have no personal reason for lament. Maybe you have nothing “grievous” in your life and you feel like things are going well. However, lament is not just for the “big” problems of life, although it certainly is. It can be practiced in the small things of this fallen world, like the grief of my kids missing their favorite sports season or the daily sin that creeps into my heart, just as well as the momentous things of a global pandemic that disrupts all sense of public normalcy or being diagnosed with a chronic disease that does the same privately. All of these occasions offer us a chance to turn to God, bring him our complaints, ask him boldly, and choose to trust him. And that is worship. Praise God!