“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before him.
God is our refuge.” Ps 62:8 (CSB)
At first glance you might answer “yes” to the title without actually considering the question. When you are hurting, do you pour out those hurts until they are expressed both in cries for help and tears? When you need answers, do you plead to hear the voice of God? When you fail to find peace of heart, do you seek calm in the arms of the Savior?
Or, do you settle for buzz words? Do you pray in platitudes – “God, I know you’re the Author and Finisher of salvation…”? Are your prayers neat, polished plaques of spiritual piety that lack any sign of life? Those prayers aren’t theologically incorrect, but they’re not always honest. The language might impress, contain correct theology, have sound doctrine, but the heart lies silent, unexpressed and unexamined before God. Somtimes we must tell God that we do not believe in our soul what we know to be true in our heads.
This phrase “pour out” carries with it meaning of “gushing out,” “spilling forth,” even “shedding blood.”* The prayers of the child of God in need are gut wrenching. They sound more like the cries of a drowning sailor than a polished priest. Their language may not be repeatable. It’s sometimes expressed in a tongue only heaven knows (Romans 8:26). They’re intimate, probably even embarrassing for anyone else to hear. You might sound more like a beggar than a child when you pray this way.
So, exile yourself in prayer, and when you’re overwhelmed, pour forth your heart until you have spilled everything within you…until there is no fight left…until you have communed intimately by being honest before the Lord. Do whatever it takes in your prayer to express all that stirs in you. Christ is waiting to listen and act on your behalf. Will you join Him?
“Abstinence focuses attention on what we are not going. When we abstain from something, we often feel deprived. Yet a Christian view of sex, as depicted in the Song’s counsel to the young women of Jerusalem, is not about abstaining; it is about waiting for the right time and context for an experience that is so overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful that only marriage can properly contain it.”*
I am currently preparing a sermon in the book of Song of Songs, and my study has led me to some realizations about the way sex has been taught to young adults in the church. By no means do I want to share a post that is bashing well-intended sermons and counsel by caring ministers. But, some ways in which sex is addressed could be tweaked to be more centered around the way God sees sex and less about our taboos.
Read these three points, and see if you agree with my thoughts.
- Proper sexuality should be embraced. As the commentary above states, our focus is often on the “don’ts” of human sexuality, not God-given “do’s.” My theory is that some ministers fear encouraging proper sexuality on God’s timing because they think it will make teens and young adults with raging hormones even more driven to get satisfaction on their own timing. I disagree. On the contrary, focusing on the “do’s” inspires discipline to take those desires for intimacy to God and to allow Him to meet personal needs while we wait as singles. Such encouragement creates courage and conviction, not lustful passion if the listener is truly a committed disciple. Sure, you run the risk of the one or two using such a view as an excuse to indulge in sin, but that sin rests upon the listener, not the well intended counselor/preacher.
- Proper sexuality requires in-tune discipleship. My dad has always walked closely with me in this area, never probing too much or prying his way in like a bully. Now I have been blessed with additional men who continue to champion the foundation my father laid for me as a child. It takes a capable, mature support system to teach and encourage purity in the life of singles and “daters.” Often people settle for stifling and stiff accountability programs that treat participants as clients of a 12 step rehab program instead of individuals to be cherished and graciously pushed in the right direction.
- Proper sexuality requires guidance in directing passions. What exactly do I mean? Those men that I mention in point two carry out that discipleship by supplementing what the Bible encourages. We are instructed in God’s Word to point intimate passions towards the Lord before he provides a spouse (1 Cor. 7). Often I’ve heard ministers and married Christians tackle this point with stale instructions to pray and read more of the Bible. Instead, there needs to be an a shift of focus, not just to pray and read more, but to seek more honest, passionate, and intimate expression in our prayer lives…to trust that deep intimacy can be obtained with the Father, and then shown how to carry that out.
My desire for this post is not to complain but to encourage a little reform. I believe these three steps could change a lot of struggling single’s lives. If you are mentoring folks in this age group, please consider putting these three thoughts into practice.
*Duguid, Iain M. 2015. The Song of Songs : An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, IL, USA: IVP Academic, 2015. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed November 21, 2017).
Recently, I purchased Eugene Peterson’s newest work titled As Kingfishers Catch Fire. As with every Peterson book, I am inspired to re-think pastoral ministry. He counters much of the American pastoral culture and has earned a reputation as an edgy author because of the convicting bite in his words.
While attending seminary, I love to dive into Peterson’s words because he challenges me to go beyond the academic. He prods the mind to search for the things hidden, mystical, and intangible about pastoral ministry.
There is one thing I am constantly learning from the Lord through Eugene: That pastoral ministry is one of grace, an exercise in patience and love while simultaneously challenging God’s people to see their world from the perspective of the Scriptures.
I love being reminded of this truth. It adds depth to my studies in seminary. It brings life to my sermon preparation. It adds weight to the things I write for this website.
Peterson helps direct my focus on the spiritual formation of the minister. The calling is to do the obvious disciplines: to apply oneself to theological studies and to exercise the gifts placed inside of me. But, there is a deeper draw – one that pulls me into the presence of God and places priority on His activity in my heart…to be aware of the internal work that the Lord is doing, as He teaches me His truths through experience and revelation, adding force to the things I communicate and live.
In other words, I shouldn’t be so busy “doing” and “achieving” for the Lord that I forget the call to be with Him, and to be made more like Him daily thanks to the power of the Spirit. That is the start of successful pastoral ministry. It’s first to be with Christ.
My heart says this about you:
“Seek his face.”
Lord, I will seek your face. – Ps. 27:8 (CSB)
We have a need as believers to cry out to the Lord. If we go for periods of time without communicating with the Father, we will notice. Our moods may be off, our interests redirected, our worship misplaced, our focus lost…it doesn’t matter what the symptom, the issue lies deep within. Our hearts are in need of times where we “seek His face.”
This deep cry from within calls for an obedient response. This response isn’t easy, though. How many times have I, have you, felt the need to press in yet chosen to do something else instead—to decompress rather than to seek, to emote rather than pray, to hurt rather than to seek healing in the arms of the Father? We are all tempted to try and meet our need for communion with the Father from other sources. Still, we should discipline our minds to take our deepest needs not to the quickest fix, but to the One who knows us best. God’s help may feel less tangible, but it is as present as the air we breathe.
Lord, hear my voice when I call; be gracious to me and answer me. Ps 27:7 (CSB)
I love this verse. Can we know that the Lord hears our prayers? Do we trust and believe that the God of heaven and earth, the maker of the stars, the one who forms the cosmos by the word of His mouth, He who knows all and controls every aspect of His creation, isn’t too busy to hear from us? Do you believe that your prayers rip through the chaos and travel directly to God’s ears? Indeed, He does HEAR! He does not strain, but constantly attends to the heartache of His children.
So, take your concerns and your needs to Him. Believe that He hears you, and that He will act on your behalf, the same way He did for David. You need only to “wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord” (v 14).
If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (CSB)
In recent days I was confronted by a question which I believe the Holy Spirit prompted. It’s a probing inquiry, one that requires thoughtful and honest self-reflection.
“Is my faith seasonal?”
Intimacy with the Lord isn’t only for the brokenhearted. It’s not just for the poor, the stressed, the sick, and the depressed.
Do you ever feel so comfortable, so well-off, that you forget the need for daily intimacy with the Lord? I do.
I’m in a season where I see (better yet, feel!) the need. I pray that I don’t leave this place. Ever. Life demands my reliance upon Him; I just see it more right now.
That’s everyday. Let’s not forget that. Let’s live like we need Him, daily.
His beauty drips on the canvas of the artist. His order stands strong and stable through the architect. His comfort covers the troubled like a blanket in the counselor. His accuracy resounds from the lips of the pastor. His love for language dances on the fingertips of the poet. His nurturing nature pours forth from the parent.
His attributes are displayed all around us and through us. God’s character is revealed through the actions, emotions, work, and friendships of His people.
We bear the image of the living God. Let’s do it well. Whatever it is that you do, do it as a revelation of the Creator of all that is good.
He is worthy.