The pain is real!!!

Have you ever been hurt by someone else?  

Now, even in asking that question, I must admit that it’s a bit silly cause I know we’ve all been hurt by other people.  Human beings are sinners.  We’re selfish and don’t naturally look out for the good of others.  We don’t naturally sacrifice our desires in order to benefit others. 

I know you’ve been sinned against.  

What I don’t know is the degree of that pain.

For some of us it’s major.  We’ve been violated sexually or assaulted physically or abandoned as a child or verbally abused in ways that go beyond comprehension.

For others of us it’s fairly minor.  At least it seems fairly minor but those little cuts have added up over the years to create pain that is real.

We live in a fallen world which is marked by evil.  Sometimes the caricature of Christians is that we blissfully walk through life pretending everything is wonderful because Jesus is with us. But the Christian scriptures speak to the reality that life is hard.

The bible is brutally honest with the evil in this world.  We see suffering by God’s people all through scripture culminating with the ugly death of Jesus.  We even have songs written – we call them Psalms – which can help us cry out to God in our pain.

Listen to how David expresses his frustration in Psalm 69:
I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God. (Ps 69:2–3)

Let the Psalms of lament give you words to express the fact that you’ve been sinned against.  There are many Psalms which fit into the “Lament” category – read Psalm 3 and 13 and 22 and 28 to get started.

These poems express anger and sadness and even despair.  They can give you voice to the valid frustrations you have.  When you have feelings that God doesn’t care and that life isn’t going the way you planned.  Go to the Psalms of lament to give you a voice to express your feelings in a God honouring way.

Summer Reading Recommendations

Today, I was looking at my reading list for 2017 and it’s been a pretty good 6 months. 

If you’re looking for some good books to pick up over the holidays, here’s a few which stuck out in my mind in no particular order:

Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K.A. Smith   I picked this one up on Kindle because Smith teaches at Calvin College where my daughter goes to school.  He highlights many of the joys and sorrows I see in the reformed world.  I’d recommend this to both those new to Calvinism and to those, like myself, who are “covenant children”.

 Seeking refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman   There is plenty to read online and in print on the refugee situation the world is now facing.  Here we have a book seeking to answer the question: “How does the church respond to the refugee crisis?”  It’s thoughtful, balanced and full of hope.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray   I first read this 25 years ago and picked it up again this spring. Murray is a Scot who taught at Westminster in Philly for many years.  He’s theology is deep but this book is small enough to be read at the beach!

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall   This book has come up in conversations again and again this spring.  It’s a fascinating look at how the physical features of a country impacts politics.  I’m not sure we’re “prisoners of geography” but there’s no denying that the physical space around us impacts our lives.

Silence by Shusaku Endo   I’ve only read a couple of novels this spring but this Japanese historical fiction deserves a mention.  There’s loads to be frustrated with as well as admire here.  This story of Portuguese priests seeking to bring the Christian faith to Japan in the 1600’s will make you angry, sad and encouraged.

Our Mobile World Offers Opportunities and Challenges

This month New City Church will be welcoming visitors for New City’s R7 Week, as well as the “Philly Team” who are returning to assist us in our annual “Kids Club” at White City. I’m thankful for these groups as they bring energy, money, and a passion to serve the Lord. It also provides us an opportunity for all of us to expand our understanding of God’s Kingdom.

The mobile world we live in offers the opportunity to travel like never before. And with this travel comes wonderful joy as we are able to visit places former generations only dreamed of. But our mobile world also brings challenges as people leave their country of birth for new opportunities or to flee hostilities. Differences in language, cultural background, and belief systems can lead to conflicts that just didn’t happen in years past.

For the church, the mobile world has been used by God to bring people into the Kingdom who had absolutely no connection to Christians in their home context. Josephine and I know a number of people who have come to faith here in England because they finally met a follower of Jesus. And we all know that London is a city where this mobile reality is multiplied to the extreme.

My prayer is that New City would be a community for all people to worship and serve King Jesus for the time they are with us.

 

My name is Leah. This is my story.

         Tonight at New City Church, I did something I’ve never done before. I preached from the first person perspective in order to help us “get inside” the Old Testament story of Leah. Here’s a portion of it:

You’ll find my story in Genesis 29. Finally, Jacob did make it to our village. I had always heard stories about beautiful Aunt Rebecca but here was her son – standing there at our house!

Honestly, I was a fairly shy teenager so I wasn’t there when Jacob showed up at the local well.  When I went out in public, people made fun of me because my eyes were funny looking.  Those were painful teen years.  My father wanted me to get married first as it was the custom that the oldest daughter married before the younger.  But no one wanted me.

This meant my sister Rachel went to the well with the camels to water them.  Of course, she loved doing that because she was beautiful.  Apparently, Jacob heard about Rachel from some of the guys at the well and then she showed up. He was “in love” immediately and kissed her right there in front of everyone!

Dad was so excited about seeing Jacob – my father actually “ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house.” (verse 13)

But Jacob didn’t have any money nor family to help him. My dad knew that he loved Rachel but normally a man must give a dowry to the family before a daughter could be married.  Instead, Jacob offered to work for 7 years for Rachel.  “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (verse 20)

Those were hard days as my little annoying sister was so excited about her upcoming wedding.  It didn’t look like I was ever going to get married.  I really wanted to have children, especially boys.  Every woman in our area wanted to be the mother of a mighty man who would be a hero in the community.

As the years went on, my father, Laban came up with a plan.  Jacob is tricky but honestly, I think he met his match with my father.  The time finally came for the wedding.  The food was great and the wine was flowing.  The party went on and on into the evening.

As you know, there were no electric lights and a bride in my culture wears a heavy veil.  As the night wore on, my father switched me and Rachel!! Jacob didn’t know the difference that night of the wedding.

“And in the morning, behold, it was Leah!!! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?” (verse 25)  Jacob was mad.  I could hear him yelling at my father. But the deed was done.  I was his wife – we had taken vows and slept together.

My father, Laban, tried to act like this was normal.  He told Jacob  “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.  Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” (verse 26) 

I can’t say that I loved the idea of both Rachel and I being married to Jacob.  I was just the odd girl who was thrown in as a package deal.  Jacob sparkled when he was with Rachel but for me he only did his marital duty.

But you know – our God is merciful.  God didn’t forget about me.  “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (verse 31)

Being a mother was the most important thing to me at that time, especially, to be the mother of Jacob’s first born son.  I named him “Reuben” and said: “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”  (verse 32)

I desperately wanted to be loved by Jacob. But he still didn’t pour out his affections on me.  Later my second child, Simeon, was born afterwhich I said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” (verse 33)

And yet, Jacob still loved Rachel much more.  But then I got pregnant a third time and bore a third son! “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” (verse 34)

But no – the pain continued.  Jacob could not bring me the love I so desperately wanted. I needed to be loved deep in my soul! I struggled with this for years but over time the Lord met me at my point of need.

I then conceived a fourth baby boy.  At this time I was maturing in my faith.  I was beginning to understand that my self-worth must come from God alone.  Yes – I wanted Jacob to love me.  But there was a slow change in my life.  After my fourth baby boy was born I said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” (verse 35)

It is true that I’ve seen sorrow and pain over the years. But you know, I lived a life that was blessed by God.

God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and my husband, Jacob, did come true.  And God used me, even with my messed up eyes and broken heart, to bring redemption to all the world.

The descendants of my fourth son, Judah, became an entire tribe of people.  In fact all my sons became tribes of the nation of Israel. But Judah was special.  Over the years, I came to understand that God brought a true and righteous King though my son, Judah’s, bloodline.

If you look in the first chapter of Matthew, you’ll find the genealogy of Jesus.  The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, (Matt1:1-2)

Jesus, the savior of the world, came from my line of people!  He has my DNA! Can you believe it?  Me, the forgotten sister, became the mother, so to speak, of the King of Kings.  The book of Revelation even says:  “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev 5:5)

My “son” Jesus conquered sin and death – we don’t have to weep anymore.  And that’s good news cause I weeped loads during my lifetime. I know sorrow.  But my sorrow was not in vain.

May my story encourage you.  For King of Kings has conquered.  Your story, just like my story, does not have to end in sorrow.

My name is Leah.  And that is the story of God’s grace to me.

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