Monday, October 20, 2014

PSALM 141 - Shame On You?

Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against evil deeds. When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
(Verses 5-7)

Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you. Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser. Teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.           Proverbs 9

They sit outside and look through the window at our family dining together. It's intimate and sweet, our time with our Father. Served up for us is joy, peace, wisdom and understanding. The aroma of it floats outside, wafting into the nostrils of those who would break the glass and intrude on our serenity. My brothers and sisters are there. Because we have the same Abba, are born of the same Spirit, we tend to think alike about the things that matter to God. However, we are not all alike by any means. I have a sister whose gift of leading worship draws us all into the Presence of our Father when we are far away. A brother whose generosity has saved many of us from defeat. We need each other. And when a sister comes to me to tell me where I fall short, I listen. Knowing she loves me and hears from our Father. Also usually knowing I have missed the mark and Abba has sent her to me to draw me back in reverence to Him. It's how our family works. But our table has been prepared in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23). Let's not forget they watch in scorn as we dine with the Creator and Lover of our souls.

I had a long night of prayer last night. I really needed to be with my Father. There comes to me sometimes an overwhelming desire to crash into His presence and lie at His feet. Last night He seemed to want me near His chest. To hear His heart. And it was, in part, this: The judgment of the world creates shame. It is the tool of the enemy from the Garden of Eden until now. I think it is why Jesus said, in John 3, that He didn't come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. In their hiding from God after they disobeyed, Adam and Eve were ashamed. Covered their naked bodies with leaves and hid from their Creator. Shame told them they were vulnerable. Disobedience stole their freedom. Jesus got that freedom back for us. Slapped shame across the face. Crushed it with His heel. So that the enemy can no longer define us. The Spirit does. And the Word. It is for our benefit that we are corrected and convicted of the things we do that offend God. But there is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).

Correction isn't meant to foster shame, but blessing. To correct our paths. To deepen our love for God. And in my time with God last night, praying for myself and others, I felt the eyes of the enemy who would encroach in judgment jealously watching the scene. Banging on the windows to scream an invective against me and those for whom I prayed. Abba silenced him. No judgment before the Father because I am His child. Bought at a very dear price. But I am aware that this table set before me, where I fellowship with my God, makes the enemy mad. Just as our relationship with God makes the world hate us, too. We are judged as phony, hypocritical, self-righteous...on and on. And we can listen to that and cave to the politically correct, or we can hold to the standards of our faith, accept correction and discipline from the Head of our family, and eschew shame.

In the end, when the fields are plowed and all of our bones are dug up from their graves, God will be the final judge of where we belong eternally. It is for us who know Him to live before our Father in holy reverence and communal joy, not taking on the judgments of a world that laughs at us, ridiculing our faith. It is not for us to judge them, either. Nor to be frustrated that trying to correct their thinking gets us nowhere. Scoffers hate us for trying to do that. Believe we are stupid. That we don't think correctly. What we are called to do is press into the Father's heart, seek Him, learn from Him. There will always be those looking on from the outside and misinterpreting our family time. May they see a thing for which they yearn instead of an elite dinner to which they weren't invited. For our Father will open the door to all who knock (Revelation 3).

Friday, October 17, 2014

PSALM 141 - Feeling Squeezed?

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!  (Verses 3-4)

Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity.  Romans 12

Feeling squeezed today? A square peg trying to fit into a round hole? I think the question here is, "What are we willing to compromise to get what we want in this world?" It's more nefarious than it seems. This pressure to be successful, be loved, be beautiful, be powerful, be admired, be all the world claims makes us worthwhile. There is subtle and not-so-subtle pressure put on us from all sides. Magazines, billboards, movies, television and even social media define who we ought to be. Skinny, tall, smart, know the drill. Are you gluten-free? A gym rat? Politically correct? Are your jeans designer? Coffee snob? What's squeezing us today?

I just read the story of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her crime? She dirtied the vessels of the berry pickers with whom she worked by using the same cup as they were drinking from. As a Christian, she is "unclean" and her lips defiled their water. The women began to argue over the situation then went back to work. Later the Muslim women told a local cleric about the altercation and soon an angry mob stormed Asia's home and savagely beat her and some of her family. She was then arrested and charged with blasphemy. Sentenced to die by hanging. Two prominent political figures who tried to help Ms. Bibi were assassinated. In her book, Blasphemy, Ms. Bibi wrote that she was tired of being a second class citizen because of her religion and was weary of always being told she must convert to Islam. She stood up for her faith. That is her crime.The local cleric to whom she was then dragged told her the only way out for her was to convert to Islam and obey Sharia law. She could not. The Lahore High Court of Appeals upheld her death sentence yesterday.

It would have been the easy route. Denying her faith in Christ. Asia has a husband and three children. Since 2009, she has been away from them. Because of her unrepentant love for Jesus. I doubt she's worried about whether her coffee is designer or whether she got to her workout at L.A. Fitness today. Her goal isn't to be the most beautiful thing to hit the prison in Pakistan nor is she fretting over whether or not the meal shoved under her door is free of MSG. Because she didn't take the easy way out, her way is very hard. And those uncompromising men who tried to help her are now murdered. It matters that she preferred her faith over the delicacies of those who would make her recant.

The things we do aren't evil in and of themselves, of course. I work out. I have designer jeans. But when they begin to define me, I've sunk from the higher things that matter to God. He's not so concerned that my triceps don't flap as He is that my heart doesn't falter. God doesn't go out of His way to make sure I get my grande latte from Starbuck's, but He is wanting me to gulp living water by the cupsful. We will be challenged for our faith even more than we are now. Houston mayor Annise Parker just made that clear. Preachers must show her their sermons if they mention gender differences. Don't be squeezed. Suffocated because you love Christ. Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4), let's grow up, mature into a body that is unwavering in our commitment to Him. Not nodding in agreement, joining in the conversations of the world, looking just like it, when we know we are only passing through.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PSALM 141 - What Is That Smell?

O Lord, I call upon You. Hasten to hear me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
(Verses 1-2)

Ever had a morning when you woke up with a heavy heart? This is one of those for me. I was praying before I even opened my eyes today. So much I can't control. So much I yearn to see my Father do. Bill was up and at work. The room was quiet. So I cried out. For our nation. For my kids. For all our hearts and lives. Prayed that our Father would equip us for these times, and my children and grandchildren for their journey on what appears to be the Titanic, nationally and internationally. I read yesterday of the seven bowls the seven angels will pour out (Revelation 16) in the end times. How the Middle East will be central and (verse 19) the cities of the nations will fall. Doom. Yet in my praying, I couldn't escape the fact that since my Father knows our times--and the end of them seen from the beginning of them--it is for me to trust and hang on. I was not surprised, in light of my early morning conversation with God, that this is the verse I should come to. Be quick, my Father, to hear me. To know that in this clamoring, fighting, unsettled world noisy with dissent and hate, I am heard.

The altar of incense was set right in front of the veil that hid the Most Holy Place from view. It was to be lit morning and night, never to go out. And ONLY with fire from the sacrificial altar. Coals splattered with the blood of the sacrifices, smoldering before the dwelling place of God in sweet aroma. The incense was a very specific blend of spices and perfume that could only be used on the altar. When one walked into the Holy Place, it was to smell like God. The aroma of our Lord. Our aroma to Him. It is our prayers, this incense (Revelation 5). Fueled by the coals taken from the altar of our Lamb. Precious to the Lord. Can you see Him breathe it in when we come to sit with Him in prayer? The sweet aroma of a child of His coming near. How much sweeter still our privilege to be heard.

Two lambs, perfect, without blemish, were sacrificed each day on the altar outside of the tent of meeting. One in the morning; one at twilight. A continual offering up for the atonement of our sins. The offering also included grain, salt, oil and grape juice (wine). Both offerings were an acknowledgment that God's people needed Him, His forgiveness and love. It was a picture of God's ability to preserve us, the power of the Holy Spirit and a constant reminder of the fact that our sin is costly to the point of shed blood. I understand this morning why David asked the Father to see his lifted hands, surrendering to Yahweh, the Almighty, as an evening sacrifice. I need the atonement offered by the sacrificial Lamb of God in order to be forgiven and heard.

It was the presence of the incense and the sacrifices that made a way for us to meet with God. "It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you to speak with you there (Exodus 29)." There are no more sacrifices being offered in the tabernacle today. There is no tabernacle. Destroy in 70 A.D., the temple no longer exists. The sacrifice of the Lamb was enough. Once for all. God tore down the earthly dwelling place. He now dwells within all who lift their hands and hearts to Him as they inhale the fragrant sacrifice of the His Son. Little tabernacles alit with holy fire, ignited by the coals taken from the bowl outside the Tent of Meeting. God speaks with me in this holy place where His Spirit dwells. The incense of my prayers reaching His nostrils; the lifting of my surrendered heart a precious reminder of the Lamb. I am heard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

PSALM 140 - Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

I know the Lord will get justice for the poor and will defend the needy in court. Good people will praise His name; honest people will live in His presence.  (Verses 12-13) Italics, mine

Enemy, don't laugh at me! I have fallen, but I will get up again. I sit in the shadow of trouble now, but the Lord will be a light for me. I sinned against the Lord, so He was angry with me, but He will defend my case in court. He will bring about what is right for me. Then He will bring me out into the light, and I will see Him set things right.  Micah 7:8-9  Italics, mine

What do you know the Lord will do? Will is a faith word. Spoken in confidence. "I will be there at 8." You can count on it. Don't give it another thought. If I have a habit of not showing up on time or at all, then my saying I will be there won't mean a thing to anyone. As in Kay never does what she says she will. That would be a character flaw that often makes me out to be a liar. Based upon my history with my Father, there are things I know He will do. I know God will fight for me when I'm the underdog. I know, though imperfectly, that He loves me. That is the thing that changes me every day. I know I will see Him someday. God feels just that close. And He promised I would. My Father keeps His promises. These verses have to do with knowing that God is just and that He is a God of mercy. A dichotomy of terms. How can One be absolutely right and still give us mercy?

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus got away from the crowds that followed Him wanting healing and deliverance. With His disciples, Jesus climbed to a mountaintop and sat down to just be with them. His twelve. Jesus had some things to say; some things He had to teach the men who would carry on after His death. And this is the first thing out of His mouth. "Happy are those who know they need God." The poor. In spirit. Bankrupt and empty without God. The real indigent. The pearl of great price gives riches to everyone. If money is the idol, the man is destitute. If Jesus is the prize, the poor  man has it all. For every need. The kingdom of heaven, here and eternally, is for those who know they are bankrupt without Him.

I am intrigued by the mention of God's defense of us in court. What court? His, I believe. He is The Judge. It is up to God to decide our fate, ultimately and in the short term. I memorized these verses from Micah when I was far away from Him, slopping around in the mud of my miry pit. I'd virtually jumped into it. No fault of God's. If I'd cried out for justice in that moment, I'd not be here to write this blog post. My God had every available reason to leave me just where I was. But I looked around and understood the degradation of my circumstances, the pain of my pit. And what I knew my God would do was save me. Knew it with all my heart. No Why would I come down there and get you? response was on His tongue. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13) My father prefers to rescue me. So sitting down there in the dark I cried out for some light. Just a little, even. Enough to see Him again. Oh, He wasn't pleased with me. Angry, in fact. But He loves me. This I know. Dragged into court with the enemy to accuse me (rightly), I had an advocate Satan can't win against with all of his prosecutorial skills. My Father if the Judge. And with all the evidence against me, Jesus is Who God saw. Standing there, pleading my case. This one belongs to Me. Gavel sounds. Case dismissed! And I walk free. Consequences, yes. Guilt and shame, no. Someone already went to prison and the cross to pay the eternal penalty for all my obvious and not so obvious sins.

Jesus wasn't finished with me, though. I still smelled like my pit, carried the detritus of my mire. It took a while to clean me up. To set things straight again. But He did it in me. Shone the Light on what needed rearranging. What defense attorney does all that? Only One Who took my place on the dock. See why I trust Him? Why I know He will do all He says He will? We have a past that assures me of the present. God is a merciful Judge. A loving Father. And a lover of those who are poor and know it.


Monday, October 13, 2014

PSALM 140 - The Right Side of Wrong

As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into the fire, into miry pits, no more to rise! Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
(Verses 9-11)

If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12   Italics, mine

Well, that's just hard! Really. It's much easier to think like David did in the Old Testament times. Kill 'em! After all, they have offended us, nearly ruined us...or ruined us..., gossiped incessantly about us, taken our husband or our wives, or murdered us, cheated on us, stolen from us! We deserve to be haters! And, actually, we probably do deserve revenge if those things have come our way. I don't know if I can say I've ever wanted burning coals to fall from heaven and burn up someone who treated me wrong. Didn't really want to see them smoldering in a smoky pit like a pig on the beach in Hawaii. But I have harbored resentment. That imprisons, too. Me and the offender. And the whole idea of God's vengeance being speedy is a thing I've never seen. I've definitely seen it be sure, though. In time. Not my time. His. But when the shoe is on the other foot and it is I who have gotten on the wrong side of God's rightness, I want Him to slow down the flying coals until I can repent.

More than once, recently, I have been deeply hurt by the actions of others. I think if I told you the stories from my viewpoint, you'd agree that what happened was at least unfair, if not disgusting. As one who is unafraid of confrontation, it has been my plot of late to say nothing. Commanded by my Father to keep my mouth closed. Hard enough when things are going well, but now...sheesh! I have lain awake at night discussing these things with the phantoms of my mind, setting the stage where I confront and talk. And it always comes back to: There's nothing you can say or do that will change an outcome that is already an outcome. Except to love the others involved.

So I'm in church a while back and praising God with all my heart. I can say unequivocally, praising God is one of the delights of my life! Hands raised, eyes closed, seeing in my spirit the very throne room where unapproachable light beckons me in. There, in His Presence, on that Sunday, my God asked me a question: "What would Hannah (not her name) think if she saw you right now, praising Me? Would she think you genuine?" Way to ruin the mood...I had to think about it for a few minutes, because I hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, I'd handled it all very well. But my heart wasn't right. Though outwardly I'd done just fine, and that's important to my Father, inwardly I knew Hannah and I weren't right. And it was obvious from how our incident had come down that Hannah wasn't really capable of making it right all by herself.

Of course, then there's the sermon by a visiting preacher who shows a comic strip character on the overhead. The character, a kid, is challenged by his big cat alter-ego to seek forgiveness from a neighbor kid he'd wronged. The kid sat in silence for a frame, a quizzical look on his face. The last frame shows a resolved child saying, "Nope! There's got to be another way." And that is what I knew Hannah thought. And God told me to make it right from my side. I, who had not made it wrong to begin with. But I kept seeing me before Him, hands up, heart open, and I didn't want anything in the world to get in the way of that flow. Offense isn't worth it. So I bought her a gift. Said let's just start over. And I wasn't trying to heap coals of fire upon her head. I just wanted to please my Father, Who, I think, is her Father, too. I leave the rest up to Him. With the other tests of my integrity, too. Some things, as my friend Marilyn says, are ONLY GOD things. What I can do to live in peace, I should do, even if it looks like I'm eating crow. God sees it in an entirely different light.

As for ISIS and the horrible evil of our day, there is a holocaust coming that will scorch the whole earth with holy fire. Unrequited, unavenged deaths through the ages will end in a fire that burns eternally for those who reject God. School shootings, serial murders, rape...on and on it goes and the end doesn't seem as speedy as we hope. Pastor Saeed Abedini languishes in a prison in Iran, jailed for helping orphaned children in that country. Beaten and abused, Abedini is in his third year of imprisonment. In a letter to his eight-year-old daughter, Rebekka Grace, Pastor Abedini summed up his suffering this way:

"Jesus allows me to be kept here for His glory. I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY in your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn't answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.The answer to the WHY is WHO. WHO is control? LORD JESUS CHRIST is in control."

Life isn't fair. In our desire to right the wrongs and injustices against us, we need to be very careful that we don't find ourselves on the wrong side of the will of God, Who, as Pastor Abedini says, knows everything, including how He will right all wrongs. The cross of Jesus is the most unfair and inhumane execution perhaps the world has ever seen. God Himself, The Word Who fashioned the very hands that nailed Him to the cross, allowed gross injustice in order to bring about a prodigious righteousness that saves those who believe from every miry pit, every smoky dungeon, every hellish death we all deserve! Nothing I face will ever by that unfair. I can trust a heart that big to avenge wrongs done against me, but more importantly, I can trust He will help me to be salt and light so that those who have hurt me see Him instead.

Friday, October 10, 2014

PSALM 140 - Closet Wars

O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle. Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted.   (Verses 7-8)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in high places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.    Ephesians 6   Italics, mine

I know what it's like to fight with the enemy! I propose there are four things we Christians tend to do in battle. Stand and fight. Play dead. Run and hide. Die. As in any war, training sure helps. Drilling. Marching. Disciplining our bodies in readiness for the day when the enemy appears. Learning to be focused. I watched the Band of Brothers series recently and was struck by the thought: How did anyone survive that war? Running into enemy fire with their rifles out, dodging grenades and mortars from tanks. The battlefields were afterward strewn with bodies of the dead from both sides of the conflict.

We Christians wake up to war every day. It's the hope of our enemy that we don't know it...or think about it. So off we go without our armor, forgetful of our training, one shoe on and one shoe off...oops, no helmet. Is it any wonder we get obliterated? And much of the time we don't know what hit us.

I was engaged in the battle of my life a few years back. A captive behind enemy lines for a while, I was relearning and retraining for this constant battle in which we exist as Christians. I had a prayer closet in my house. Dark and safe with the coats that hung unused in the southern California climate touching me with their edges and the many boxes stored around the baseboards of the closet closing me in in a cocoon of sorts. There I fought my way back to life. Every day. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Christ and He has given it to me, so Satan, I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the presence of the God of All, my Father, no weapon formed against me will prosper. Here, I literally took up a phantom sword in my right hand and lifted a phantom shield in my left. Covered my heart with the shield and pointed the sword toward the enemy. Crazy, maybe. Effective. Yep. You have been stripped of all your authority at the cross of Christ and you have none over me. So I command you to be gone, to stay completely away from my path and to shut up! Always, always...I actually felt the enemy back off. Some days it took a bit longer with me articulating things thrown at me from him, but always Christ in me was larger than the blackness of the battle. I still do this to this day.

One morning right after my closet wars, my phone rang. It was a friend who knew my struggles and made them hers. It was Marlana. "What have you been doing?" she asked. "Praying." My response. "I've been praying for you," she went on, "and...I see you...well, what is that you have in your hand? When I was praying I saw you with your hand straight out in front of you were holding something."

Marlana lived in another state. Couldn't see me in my closet physically. No one could.

"It's my sword." She knew what I meant.

"Oh...makes sense now," she replied.

I wasn't in my battle alone. Only God could have my friend praying for me as I fought against the enemy. Only God could have opened up my battlefield to her. Had her come along side me even though she wasn't physically present. My war buddy. Dodging bullets with me in this literal war we fight. An interesting fact about us. I introduced Marlana to Jesus when I was a twenty-one-year-old high school teacher and she was a freshman. I taught her the Word of God and was given the privilege of training her up. And when my conflict was too heavy for me to bear alone, she was there to help me deflect the barrage of artillery.

God is the strength of my every battle. In fact, the battle is really His (2 Chronicles 20). And He's won it. The final outcome is set. He does, however, want us armed and ready to stand in the day...not play dead, actually be overcome and die or run and hide. Stand. Be ready. And cover your most vulnerable parts, head and heart, with your sure salvation and with the Word of God. "Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed at this great horde," said our God. "Stand firm and hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf!" ( 2 Chronicles 20)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

PSALM 140 - Trick or Treat in Reverse

Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet. The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, and with cords, they have spread a net. Beside the way, they have set snares for me. I say to the Lord, You are my God. Give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!  (Verses 4-6)

So brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that will turn you away from the living God. But encourage each other every day while it is "today." Help each other so none of you will become hardened because sin has tricked you.   Hebrews 3

It's kind of like "trick or treat" in reverse when it comes to our enemy. He knocks on the door, offering up lots and lots of candy and we eat like little fiends from his sugary bounty before we realize we will pay a huge price for the indulgence. We have sold our souls and lie holding our stomachs with a cold rag on our heads as he carries us into captivity. He's looking for us--the enemy. Waiting for just the right, vulnerable moment to trick us into the trap he's set. It's age-old. His ploys don't change much. Booze. Sex. Drugs. Power. Money. And Satan tries to get us on either end of the spectrum: pain or prosperity.

I don't think our hearts have to be necessarily evil to be unbelieving. That was the trap in the very beginning. Believing the lie of the enemy that God isn't good. That He isn't interested in our best interest. That something else or someone else will really make us feel better. It makes us cynical. If we knew there was going to be a robber waiting at some point in the day to attack us at work, the grocery store or at school, wouldn't we be ready? At least have pepper spray. Or even avoid the place altogether? Our enemy "prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5)." That should be pretty obvious, but he hides in places we often least expect.

I think sin is a politically incorrect word nowadays. Morality to the world has some very blurred lines. Biblical wrong has been legislated to be "right." So what am I talking about when I say "sin"? Anything we take up that becomes more important than our relationship with God. Idolatry traps us. Call it whatever you want, but if it's bigger than pleasing the one true God, it's, to you, sin. And the longer and more completely we bow down to and embrace our "sin," the more cynical about a merciful God we become. It's only logical. Idolatry captivates the mind and fetters the soul. That thing that is all we live for, all we can think about. Whatever drives us. Fulfills us. We are ever chained to it without God's mercy, which we are loath to call on in our prostration before our sin. And often we blame God for the mess we are in!

I love the example of the monkey in the jungle. Trappers don't even need a difficult contraption to capture monkeys. All they need is a bright, shining object which they place within the cage. As the sunlight catches its rays seeping through the bars of the cage, the monkey approaches in curiosity. The little creature looks around. Then back at the shining object. Captivated. Charmed by the brightness. Without much more thought than that, in goes the monkey's hand. It grasped the shining object. It will be mine! When the monkey attempts to retrieve his prize, he discovers he can't get his hand out of the cage. It's hopelessly stuck! Trapped! Outside the cage! By his own idolatry. Because...the monkey won't let go.

I've been trapped, monkey that I was. Tricked by an idol that left me more bereft than the pain that had me grasping for a panacea. Cynicism followed as I held onto the idol and blamed God for my pain. But there comes a time, when you've known the precious love of God, that the idol makes you sick, literally and/or physically. It drops hollow into the vacuum your soul has become. Unsatisfying. Tarnished and abused. Snared by the wayside, I cried for mercy from the God I had abandoned. Pled for help that it would even be possible to let go of my shining object. My Father peeled my fingers, one at a time, from my grasp, and took my hand, now free, into His. I just took a very deep breath here at the computer. It's good to be a child in the house of God.