Undissected Praise

magnifying glassWe humans have a tendency to dissect things to the point that what was once whole becomes a pile of unrecognizable pieces.  

We think that looking at things from every angle helps us see more clearly, but I wonder sometimes if it actually puts our focus in the wrong place.

 

I’m not sure if this has always been the case, or if it is one of the effects of modern technology. Our access to information can be a curse as much as it can be a blessing. We watch and discuss and listen and post and read and tweet, taking the pieces of life apart to discuss them, not realizing that we might not know how to put them back together.

 

We do this with the Bible. And it pulls apart our faith.

 

Yes, we should come to the Scriptures as educated pursuers of its truth. We need to realize that how we read things will be shaped and misshaped by our own experiences. We should remember that the words are thousands of years old, from a culture vastly different from our own. We ought to do some work to understand how different translations approached the original text, and maybe even do some language study.

 

But also? We should remember that the same Holy Spirit that was with the authors of the Books as they wrote their words is within us as we read them. We need to sometimes leave the questions on the table and let our heart be captured by the wonder of an unfathomable God. We ought to worship our God alongside the worshipers of long ago, without worrying about whether the words are translated precisely for  our modern day.

 

So yes, Psalm 47 is a Psalm written by and for Israel. It is praising God for giving them victory over their enemies and a safe city in which to dwell. We could dissect whether it is appropriate for believers today to use its words. We could question and argue about how to translate its words, like “maskil.” (Does it mean “psalm of praise” or “skillful psalm”?) We could get into long theological debates about what it means for God to be king over the earth, and how that joins together with the existence of human free will.

 

Or, we could just sing it.

 

We could sing Psalm 47’s words of praise to God without dissecting them to pieces. We could join with those who have sung words throughout the ages that praise God for His strength and might. We could clap our hands in joy that this God is the One who Reigns is the One who Loves is the One Who Died is the One Who Rose Again is the One Who is with us in all things is the One who Forever Will Be God.

 

Clap your hands, all you nations;     shout to God with cries of joy.

For the Lord Most High is awesome,     the great King over all the earth.

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,     the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;     sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth;     sing to him a psalm of praise.

God reigns over the nations;     God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble     as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God;     he is greatly exalted.

- Psalm 47:1-2, 5-9

 

Amen.

 

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.

 

A Way of Truth and Life

Ever since I decided to do a Lent series on the “I am” statements of Jesus, I was nervous for this post. I decided to take the statements of Jesus chronologically, so that I could not avoid it. So that when the day came, I would have to write about John 14:6.

““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6

These are narrow words. They are words that bring some to their theological soap boxes and others to their word grenades. These words are the cause of many lying wounded on the battlefield of religion.

For today, I want to pretend the word “the” is not in this verse: just think of it as “a.” Let’s leave the arguments and theological posturing for another time.

Am I taking the easy way out? Maybe. But I think there is grace here that is often missed in the discussion. I don’t want to miss it today.

I want to see the grace found in Jesus as way, truth, and life.

When I was growing up, it was not uncommon for me to lock myself out of my house. I would get off the bus, reach in my pocket, and feel my stomach sink. Angry that I made the mistake. Afraid because I now had to live with the consequences.

I lived in the country and beat my mom home from work by a few hours. This was before the days of cell phones, so my options were limited. Wait on the front porch in the cold or go to my scary neighbor’s house to use the phone? I usually picked the option of waiting it out.

I remember the day my brother discovered there was a particular place you could kick the front door when it was locked, to make the door open. This was an hallelujah moment. There was a way in. I did not have to sit on the chilly hard porch anymore if I forgot my key.

Faith can feel like that. Like God is hiding behind a locked door. Like if we make a mistake, if we forget the key, we will be stuck out on the front porch, waiting in the cold.

Jesus says no. A mistake does not lock us out of a life with God. Jesus, God Himself, provides a way.

Yet now, my analogy breaks down. The reason I was excited about the door kicking option is because it meant I didn’t have to own up. I could get into the house without ever confessing to my mom that I had forgotten my key.

But the way of Jesus is truth. This is frightening, but also life-giving. It means we do not have to hide.

The way of Jesus means facing the truth of who we are. Admitting the mistakes. And, in perhaps the hardest step, trusting that this is enough. Believing that Jesus takes care of it for us.

The door is open. The hard part is trusting that we can walk through it.

And then comes the assurance that goes against the grain of our society. That when we honestly own up to our mistakes, when we choose to trust instead of posture, when we choose authenticity above appearances, that this way, this way of Jesus, is life.

I do believe Jesus is referring to eternal life in this verse, but I also believe He is referring to something more.

Keeping up appearances can be exhausting. Striving to be good enough. Working to earn favor. Hiding from the past. Fearing for the future. Hoping no one finds out about our secrets.

It is a trap that drains the life right out of us.

Yes, if we have chosen the way of Jesus, our lives should reflect Him. We should be people who follow His model of righteousness. But not at the sacrifice of grace.

The way that provides life is the way that gives permission to be our true selves. Everyday.

This is what Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth, and the life" reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, Are Confidence and Humility Opposites?