When the Headlines Mention Crematoriums and Mass Graves

You consider yourself a fairly positive person.

You don’t load every text with smiley faces or wish everyone a nice day, but you’ve made it a habit to live by faith, to open your eyes to the good that God may be working through trials, to praise God in the storm.

But, when the evening news rolls footage of those who stagger, displaced, along the Syrian border,

when the headlines contain words like “crematoriums” and “mass graves,”

when weeping mothers appear on screen and you don’t need to hear the translation to understand their agony,

positive fades in the rear-view mirror of your soul.

These are Psalm 120 times. Times of distress, of lying lips and deceiving tongues, when even pew-sitters sense the urge to call upon the Lord. Continue Reading →

The Geography of God

Ever been annoyed by a passage of scripture?

Why should I pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Why should I care?

When I open my Bible wanting comfort and guidance for my life, for my day, for my moment, what help is it to read that I should add to my concerns the goings on of some city I have never seen?

And why Jerusalem? Are we talking the actual city or is this spiritual code that now I have to decipher? Seems like more work than I was planning for a devotional time.

What about prayers for the peace of Paris? Detroit? Cairo? Or Port au Prince?

And seriously, don’t I have enough on my hands seeking peace within the walls of my own home and workplace? Why must the Lord bother me about Jerusalem first thing in the morning?

This is why I didn’t turn on the news and opened my Bible instead.

And yet, there it is.

As I read the first two Psalms of Ascent I was feeling it, I was going with the Lord higher and higher but when I reached Psalm 122 I nearly stumbled in my climb. The entire passage is devoted to Jerusalem. Why should I care and how can this help me at all?

So, I wrestled this through with God because I wanted to write something deeply insightful here about Jerusalem, the city and the symbolism, so everyone who read this would say “Ahhhh, so this is why I should care.” But the issue of peace in Jerusalem is complex and huge and there are others far better at explaining it than I – like my friend, Mid Stutsman at http://theisraelconnection.blogspot.com/

Plus, this is not what I learned from God this morning. Instead, He showed me my own heart and His.

I want to follow God and I want to climb higher but I often have very worldly ideas about what that looks like.

Sometimes I go to God like He’s a guru seeking insight into myself and my life. He is not the “Eat, Pray, Love” God. Insight happens but that’s not what this relationship is all about.

God is not seeking my “self-actualization” or my “inner enlightenment”. He cares about me personally but He’s bigger than that and He wants me to expand my vision, my heart, my concerns as well. He wants me to follow Him so I can know Him and understand how He thinks.

When we climb higher, when we ascend, our perspective changes. We see more.

We are moved from our own sphere to one with greater landscape.

In the Psalms of Ascent, God warns us early on that His thoughts are not our thoughts. That His concerns are wider than our prayer cells and farther reaching than our own spheres of influence.

If we want to go with Him, we most open ourselves to the geography of God.

Perhaps this is why, in the preceding Psalms, He assures us that He will take care of what concerns us because now He begins to ask us to concern ourselves with greater things.

To open ourselves to His perspective, His concerns, His point of view.

Psalm 122 is an early warning in this journey higher that it is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those seeking simply their own interests but only those truly seeking to know God.

I want to keep following Him. I do want to ascend.

So today, I will pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” Psalm 122: 6b-9

I’ll probably pray for peace in Port au Prince and Detroit, too.

Ad augusta per angusta – To higher places by narrow roads! Amen?

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