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Western Skies

Recently I ran across a review of Bruce Springsteen’s new album entitled “Western Stars.”  I down loaded the music. He sure is able to express the deep angst in the souls of brokenhearted men. The songs are the stories of older men.  The reviewer, Stephen Klugewicz, writes, “The men of Western Stars are Everyman; they are all of us. They are broken, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and are alone sometimes by choice but often because of their own foibles, some seek redemption by asking for a second chance, others through hard work, or by wallowing in nostalgia and regret.”

The American West is depicted as a “land of sunshine, open roads, and new beginnings.”  But the West is not able to provide salvation for the lost and lonely.  I was moved by what Springsteen called “tone poems.”  Instead of stories of young men wanting to “blow this whole town apart” or middle-aged men experiencing the disillusionment of marriage and the working life, Springsteen sings the laments of isolated, down-and-out, older men, “who have been left mostly broken by their experiences and filled with remorse for their actions.”

The men in these songs need the assurance of a loving God, who is able to heal their broken hearts. Ps. 51:17 declares that a broken heart is pleasing to God. “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.”  In Ps 34:18 we are assured of God being close to the brokenhearted. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  ”The brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” notes The ESV Study Bible, ”refers to the pride and stubbornness in one’s heart being humbled.”

It is Jesus who invites brokenhearted men to come to him. ”A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Matt. 12:20).  He understands the needs of a broken heart and how to mend the wounds.  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light” (Matt. 11:28-29).  There is a place for men to bring their burdens.

“Rest for your souls” speaks of “eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works” (ESV Study Bible).   Jesus will remove a man’s burden, enabling him to live freely.

Here is a sample of the broken hearts in the stories depicted in the songs.  In “Tucson Train” we listen to a man who regrets leaving a woman in San Francisco because he “got so down and out in Frisco/tired of the pills and the rain.”  The relationship was broken – “We fought hard over nothin’/We fought till nothing remained.”  Now he was waiting for her to come on the train to “show her a man can change.”

In “Chasin’ Wild Horses,” we learn of deep regret. ”Guess it was somethin’ I shouldn’t have done/Guess I regret it now/Even since I was a kid/Tryin’ to keep my temper down is like/Chasin’ wild horses.”  In “Stones” we hear about a man who wakes up with stones in his mouth, a symbol of the lies he tells his beloved.  In “Moonlight Motel,” we learn of a man, who is married, recalling a long-ago love affair at a now-abandoned motel.

Gender Fluidity

The Vatican recently released a statement criticizing the culture of gender fluidity and reaffirming a Biblical view of  biological sex.  The official statement, titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” maintains gender fluidity is “often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence.”

While emphasizing the need of listening to others respectfully and avoiding discrimination in matters of gender identity, the statement maintains that “the Holy Scriptures reveals the wisdom of the Creator’s design, which has assigned as a task to man his body, as masculinity and femininity.”  The statement warns that the acceptance of flexible ideas regarding concepts of gender threaten to “destabilize the family as an institution” while in the process ignoring the natural, God-given differences between men and women.

It warns against “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies.”

The statement declares an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality.  The actual process of identifying sexual identity has been made more difficult by the “fictitious (construct) known as ‘gender neuter’ or ‘third gender.’”  The ideas of “intersex” or “transgender” has lead to a masculinity or femininity that is ambiguous.  This represents a “provocative display” against so-called “traditional frameworks.”

As I read accounts of the statement from the Vatican, I couldn’t help but think of Paul words in Eph. 4:14, “Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.” ”Changing minds” has been going on for 2000 years.  But God’s truth remains the same. “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8).

Men, we must always hold fast to ultimate reality as existing from all eternity –  God existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This reality is a relational God, who has communicated his truth and love to us in Jesus Christ.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…..full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Jesus was affirming relational reality when he said, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?  They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female’” (Matt 19:4).

So I applaud the Vatican’s statement on “Male and Female He Created Them.”  They are sticking to the truth of Scripture, which always points us to ultimate reality.  I reject the New York Times suggesting the statement “encourages hated, bigotry, and violence” against transgender people.

As men who are fathers and grandfathers we need to be vigilant regarding “Gender Fluidity.” Again we are challenged as men to become secure in our own sense of masculinity and to be comfortable in articulating our story of faith as a man. We need to be loving and open to dialogue with those who question and struggle with their gender identity.

Further, the statement from the Vatican makes clear the implications of  “Gender Fluidity.”  At stake is the very institution of marriage and the family.  We each can do our part in this epic struggle that will continue to play itself out in our society, by standing in the strength of the Lord as a man of God.

A Soul Mate

I have been going through a less then peaceful  transition, moving from a lake home to a senior apartment complex in Baxter, Mn.  For many in our apartment the transition has been smooth, but not for yours truly.  I do not like the way I have been responding,  but it is the truth.  I write about my experience to celebrate the blessing of having a caring, godly soul mate in my life, who happens to be my wife, Judy.  There will be times in your journey when you will need a caring spiritual friend.

In adapting to a  new life style  we have gotten into the habit of going daily for a three mile walk together. For me it has become a very helpful time to sort out my perspective on daily life.  Our walks together have given me the opportunity to verbalize my emotional and spiritual struggles.   After a few months of our walks together, I came to realize that our talks usually brought me back to into focus on the Lord.  Here is something that I am learning as a rather seasoned wild man, who still has a long ways to go in being a Christ like person.

On those walks I share and take responsibility for where I am on a particular day.  I would express whether I am above water or below water.  There are times when I feel like the Psalmist, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold” (Ps. 69: 1-2)  In Psalm 42 he says, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls…” (7).  Derek Kidner observes the following regarding verse 7. “Here is the picture of all that is overwhelming: his footing gone, and wave after wave submerging him.”

I desperately want to stay above water.  But there are times when I feel I am sinking. I share what I am going through with my soul mate.  Judy can’t lift me up.  She can only clarify, encourage and support me in the struggle.  My intention is to be focused on the Lord, not wanting to fall back into the mire.  I thank God, for a soul mate who listens to my story and reflects back to me what she discerns, being loving and encouraging, yet holding me accountable.

Paul exhortation in Gal. 6:2 describes some of what God has given Judy and I  after 54 years of wanting to be each other’s soul mate. “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  Men, I have asked my wife repeatedly, “Does it bother you that I am so weak at times.”  She never has said, “yes” as long as I am taking responsibility for my condition.

As a soul mate, Judy is a spiritual friend I have needed during this transition.  Hopefully your wife can be that person for you.  It can be one of the blessing of marriage.  But if that is not true for you; consider establishing such a relationship.  Take it from a fellow traveler,  there will be a time when you will need a loving, objective voice giving you perspective, when you feel you are sinking into the mire.

Making use of Lament

Men, did you know that a third of the palms are laments or complaints to God.  (Here is a good sampling: 3, 6, 13, 16, 22., 31, 57,  56, 102, 142). They are a cry from the heart.  I want to highly recommend praying the laments.  Laments give expression to some of deepest, most personal and most wrenching of human emotions.  I have found the praying of lament Psalms beneficial as I try to make sense of my journey in our confused and rebellious culture.

Over the years I have come to realize the Psalms are prayers I can pray, giving me inspired words to express from my heart.  I join the company of believers who have prayed these laments for centuries.  I am able to get disappointment “off my chest” and leave it with God.  For many followers of Jesus, lament has been a heartfelt and honest way of walking with God through the struggles of life.  “My heart longed for the minor-key tune of lament,” declared pastor Mark Vroegog, ”a song for when you’re living between the poles of a hard life and trust in God’s sovereign care.”

David and the other writers of the Psalms were secure enough in their relationship with God, giving them permission to ask hard and even disturbing questions, as they poured out their hearts.  But they clung to their trust in God even when he seemed distant and uncaring.  Instead of remaining silent before God, either in despair or denial, lament gave them words to express their  struggles so as to reaffirm their trust in him.

“The Lament Psalms,” notes Richard Foster, “teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions.  They allow us to shout out our forsakenness in the dark caverns of abandonment and then hear the echo return to us over and over until we bitterly recant of them, only to shout them out again.  They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “There is in the Psalms no quick and easy resignation to suffering.  There is always struggle, anxiety, doubt…..But even in the deepest hopelessness God alone remains the one addressed.”  The goal the Psalms Bonhoeffer believed was to,  “proclaim Jesus Christ to be the only help in suffering, for in him God is with us.”

The Psalmist begins by stating his situation is hopeless.  My favorite lament Psalm is Psalm 13.  It begins with a heart felt cry. “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?”  But after his complaint, David ends up declaring trust in God. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (v 5).

Here are some simple steps to take as you read the laments prayerfully, making them your prayer::

First, when you have questions and pain created by struggles,  pray the lament as a way to talking to God.   Allow yourself to be honest and open before your heavenly Father.

Secondly, express your complaint.  Lament are prayers given to us by God, allowing us to ask questions, voice our fears, and express our frustrations.

Thirdly, ask boldly. Remember your lament is addressed to God in trust.  We dare to hope in God.  Leave the outcome in his hands as you express your heart felt concerns.

Fourthly choose to trust God.  Gut-level, honest prayer is a means of moving through our pain to a new trust in God.

The Man Box

David French recently wrote about what he called a “man box.”  “…… increasingly boys and young men are being taught that there is something wrong with their essential nature.  That it is their task to deny it and suppress it.  That their nature is incompatible with modern life, and that it’s dangerous, especially to women and girls.  And that, since not everyone is the same, arguing that there’s even such a thing as a male norm is inherently oppressive.  It creates a man box.

Men seem to be  more insecure  in their interpersonal skills, either avoiding or totally neglecting relationships with women.  This reluctance  in men is making it more difficult for women to become wives and mother.  If boys don’t become good, dependable men, they can’t become good, dependable husbands and fathers.  The result is not a shortage of males in our society, but of responsible adult males.  Young men do not seem to be  ready for marriage and family.

Anthropologist David Gilmore has noted, “…manhood ideologies always include a criterion of selfless generosity, even to the point of sacrifice.  Again and again, we find that ’real’ men are those who give more than they take away; they serve others.  Real men are generous, even to a fault.  Non-men are often those stigmatized as stingy and unproductive.”  Not being secure in a distinctive masculine way of relating,  men are  simply bailing out of  responsibility.

So how do we recover the masculine in our culture, since it is both a obvious biological and cultural component in interpersonal relationships.  While womanhood comes naturally because of a the female’s biological make-up gives the message about what she is and what she’s becoming, it is not the same regarding manhood.  Womanhood is natural, but manhood is not.  It must be taught, caught and affirmed by other mature men.

George Gilder in his book, “Men and Marriage” writes, “Unlike a woman, a man has no civilized role or agenda. ….His transition into manhood can only come into being with significant, intentional work by other men.  As a behavior, manhood must be learned, proven, and earned.  As an identity, manhood must be bestowed by a boy’s father and the community’s larger fraternity of men. His mother can only affirm it.  She cannot bequeath it.”

Men, don’t let yourself be caught in the “man box.”  Our affirmation as men comes from our heavenly Father, who delights in us.  Don’t let the anti-male sentiment cause you to question who you are. It is our task to “rise up” and  pass on a godly example of the masculine to the next generation.

God told the Israelites to have  wholehearted commitment to the commandments and to pass them on to their children. “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again” (Deut. 6:6-7 NLT).  In other words, model a godly life before your children in daily life.  Be a godly exemplar.

In turn, God instructs a son to listen to his father’s instructions “My Son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in our heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity” (Prov. 3:1-2).  In other words, honor your Father.  Proverbs 20:20 gives a warning for not doing so. “If a man curses his father and mother, lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness” (Prov. 20:20).

Hymn to a Good Wife

This is the title the Message gives  verses 10-31 of Proverbs 31  in praise of a good wife.  It begins with, “A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds” (v 10)  and it ends with “The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God” (v 31).  Today (June 11th) is our 54th wedding anniversary.  Here are a few reflections on my wedding anniversary.

First of all, marriage is a gift given to a man and woman to celebrate.  God said to Adam, “It is not good for a man to be alone.  I will make a companion who will help him” (Gen. 2:18 NLT).  If this is true, then a man can trust God to provide a “companion.” Paul’s advise, ”it is better to marry then to burn with passion” was meant for me.  Judy, has been a God given ”companion” for me.  Her companionship means more to me now when  we are older.  I praise God for the gift of her companionship.  I tell her many times a day how much she means to me.  I could not make the journey without her.  Don’t allow your bride to think she is “a spare tire” in your journey together.  Let her know how much you need her.

Secondly, men learn to be open and vulnerable before the Lord and your bride.  Adam did it wrong when he hid. He replied to God in the garden, “I heard you, so I hid.  I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen 3:10 NLT).  It is not easy to  be spiritually and emotionally vulnerable before the Lord and then your wife.  My advice after 54 years – be transparent before the Lord in the presence of your wife.  That mean a  willingness to express fears and insecurities,  confession of  shortcoming in marriage and being dependent on the prayers of your “helpmate.”  Never, never take her presence in your life for granted. This is so easily done by hiding emotionally in our stubborn, willful “man cave”

Thirdly, men you will have to die daily to your own plans and desires.  Remember the words of Paul, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20 NLT).  Nothing will keep you more humble then your relationship to your wife and kids.  I put it as  straight forward as I can – you have to give up your ego each day. Don’t expect your wife to surrender her ego first. If you are tempted to take control or retreat let the words of Paul be burned into your soul.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:29 NLT).

Fourthly take responsibly.  Again don’t follow the example of Adam.  When God asked Adam about eating fruit from the  forbidden tree he said, “Yes, but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it” (Gen 3:12 NLT).  Not only did Adam put the blame on Eve, but he was even blaming God for his marriage saying to God, “you gave me” Eve.  Men, we are to stand and face the winds of adversity when they appear in our marriage.  There will be times when you will want to run and hide.  Don’t do it.  God will give you strength to stand tall.

Fifthly,  never, never take your marriage for granted.  Work at your relationship as though it were the most important task in your life.  Peter reminds us, “….you husbands must give honor to your wives” (I Pet. 3:7 NLT).  This means that at all times she is first in our life after the Lord.

Men And “Cuddle Groups”

Men continue to be told that they are “toxic” by nature.  With hashtag movements like #MeToo and ‘the future is female” making their continual claims of toxicity, masculinity has taken quite a beating. The dominant narrative is that men are aggressors, women are victims, and patriarchy is to blame.  The cry in the culture is to find new ways to reshape the masculine.  It can get weird at times

One of the latest attempts to address the toxicity of maleness are therapeutic Cuddle Groups for men.  Yes, Cuddle Groups for men.  A Cuddle Group is intended to help men cope with stress, trauma, and the desire to express a masculinity that is not inherently toxic. A Cuddle Group is meant to address men’s craving to touch and be touched.  One of the leaders of the movement observed, “We’re taught that to be an emotional stoic is the mark of manhood.  If you show any emotional weaknesses or vulnerability, that’s a failure to your title of a man.”

Cuddle Groups show how uninformed our culture has become in trying to address the issues of masculinity.  Let me say it plainly, any man dealing with toxic masculinity does not need to learn to cuddle.  What he needs is a strong male mentor, a godly father figure or a firm AA style  group in order to deal with his toxicity.  It is a strong, godly man, secure in his maleness, who will best be able to  help those who are confused and insecure in their masculinity.

Tony Evans, the producer of a Christian movie for men, entitled “Kingdom Men Raising” points to Acts 3, where Peter and John, healed a man who had been paralyzed since birth.  “If you’re a lame man, you need a couple of men in your life to pick you up,” Evans maintains.  “If you’re not a lame man, you need to be picking someone else up.” A lame man needs what Richard Rohr calls “a male mother” that is, a man who can care for a lame man struggling with his male identity.

Toxicity is simply a manifestation of the sinfulness of the male soul.  Men aren’t toxic in their masculinity because they’re poisoned by testosterone, but because they are corrupted by sin.  The redefining of maleness has caused men to question their God given roles as husbands and fathers. Men become confused, uncertain in knowing how to relate especially to women, for fear of being labeled as toxic.

I maintain that men need AA  type care groups.  In these groups there will be “male mothers” who will shepherd younger men by example. These are men like Jacob, who after wrestling with God walked with a limb.  After the encounter we read, “he was limping because of the injury to his hip” (Gen 32:31).  Like Jacob, our limp as men, is a lasting reminder of our dependence on God, with a willingness to show vulnerability.  By example we are to give men permission to cry and show emotions.  Men should be encouraged to have healthy outlets for a full range of emotions.

They certainly don’t need to be cuddled.  Rather men need to have a safe place in the company of  other men to express their emotions, that emerges from the pain of a hidden well of sadness found in the souls of men in our day.  Emotional integrated men, with a heart to pass on their life story, can serve as  role models helping men deal with their confused emotions.

Fueled by Grace

I have been reading James Bryan Smith’s book, “Hidden in Christ.”  He calls attention  to II Peter 3:18, ”But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Smith says the following  about grace.  “I used to think that only sinners needed grace, but now I see that sinners need very little grace, because they are not acting in Jesus’ name.  The great saints consumed an enormous amount of grace.”  He quotes Dallas Willard as often saying, “Saints burn grace like 747’s burn jet fuel.”

This has been a liberating thought for me.  I desire my life in Christ to be fueled by grace, rather then by my initiative and effort. Grace is “God’s loving favor towards me a beloved sinner.”  When I was younger, less mature, full of self confidence  in my ability to life the Christian life, I lived less by grace and more by my spiritual self improvement efforts.

I concur with Paul,  “What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do, we respond to what God does” (Rom 3:27 – Message). I was caught up in “sin management” and “performance orientation.”  It was more of what I could do to improve my spiritual image and religious performance.  I would do the work and then expect God to reward me.  I spent more time monitoring my spiritual growth rather then learning to simply be.

Now I am desperate for grace.  I freely admit my inability to measure up. I need help each and every moment of the day to live for Jesus.  “But sin didn’t, and doesn’t have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.   When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.  All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it.  Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life – a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Rom 5:20-21 – Message).  I choose a spiritual life fueled by grace over spiritual death manufactured by my good intentions

Gregory the Great words are good for me to remember. “Lord, let me “deny myself” by beginning to be what I am not, and cease to be what I have been.”  I need to constantly be on guard for spiritual pride, forgetting my constant dependence on grace.   James Houston give this warning regarding pride. “Pride settles in when we lose knowledge of self and God’s grace.”

I am a work in progress.  I need to be ever vigilant regarding spiritual pride.  There is no room for boasting. When I’m stuck on self, I running on my own fuel not the abundance of grace.  We read in James, “But he give us more grace.  That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).  Oh Lord,  help me to be an ordinary Christian in spite of myself.

The more I die to my old self, the greater need I have for God’s favor.  I simply can’t enhance my new life in Christ.  It has to be all Jesus.  I want to be fueled by grace.  Jesus lets me know, “My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness” ( II Cor 12:8).  Al, keep your heart and spiritual eyes constantly on Jesus, so that you can be fueled by grace and not by human achievement.

The Second Mountain

“The Second Mountain” is the title of New York Times columnist David Brook’s new book.  In it he describes his path between doubt and faith. The book speaks to deep human longings and the issues of loneliness, alienation, social isolation and hyper-individualism.  The author shares his  journey toward religious faith. Brooks describes himself as “a wandering Jew and a confused Christian.”  As he explains, “I don’t ask you to believe in God or not believe in God.  I’m a writer, not a missionary.  But I do ask you to believe you have a soul.” There you have it, men.  A leading journalist talking about having a soul.

Brook associates the soul and heart with our desires.  We have been taught, argues Brook to be  primarily thinking beings. He disagrees.  He maintains the most  important part of consciousness is a desiring heart.   He argues that life on the “first mountain” – the mountain of personal goals, worldly success, career ambitions, and traveling in the right social circles is temporary and does not satisfy. ”We ‘re defined by what we desire, not what we know.”

There is little time for the soul on the first mountain. The soul is powerful and resilient, but it is also reclusive.   Soul will, “….eventually it hunts you down,” Brooks writes, “In this way the soul is like a reclusive leopard living high up in the mountain somewhere.”  There will be times of a haunting appearance of the leopard.  I am reminded of Mark 8:36, “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process.”

The “second mountain” is  characterized by other-centeredness and self -giving which in turn brings joy and fulfillment. The path to the second mountain is often through the valley of hardship and failure. Transformation begins to take place because the “ego self, the impressive rational way of being we constructed for ourselves on the first mountain” gives way to the emergence of the heart and soul.  Heart “is that piece of us that longs for fusion with others.”  Soul, “is the piece of us that gives each person infinite dignity and worth.”

The journey is more like a fall then a climb.  We fall, “through the egocentric desires and plunge down into the substrate to where your desires are mysteriously formed….you are looking into the unconscious regions of heart and soul that reason cannot penetrate.”  In the process we get in touch with what Brooks calls “the Big Shaggy,” that messy thicket that sits below awareness.

As adult men we have the tendency to cover over the substrate and drift off to sleep either ignoring or frightened of Big Shaggy.  We live our lives on auto pilot, thinking that living in our heads gives us a true view of reality.  We need to pay attention to the longing, desires and yearning of the heart and soul. Some of our deepest yearning are to know that we are loved by God and that we have worth as persons.

This book will make men stop and reflect on their personal journey.  Hopeful it will awaken them to the reality of their own inner life. With an awareness of soul, ”it’s an easy leap to [conclude] that there’s some connection there, there’s some flowing force.”  May the light of the gospel break through  the darkness to  inner “substrate.”  “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ in the face of Christ” (II Cor  4:6)

Protection from Propaganda

Recently as I was reading Psalm 12, I wrote in the margin, “Protection against propaganda.” Here  expressed in a prayer, we can find the sentiments  of believers as they encounter the worldview of the dominant media in our day; what we come to call ”fake news.”   The ESV Study Bible notes, “This is a community lament, suited to occasions when the people of God are dominated by liars in positions of authority.  It is not clear whether these liars are unfaithful Israelites or Gentile oppressors; the psalm works for either situation.” How true this is for our day.  Much of what I hear is like propaganda, presented as made up truth to be accepted as fact.

In this short corporate lament (eight verses) the Psalmist asks God to deal with the liars (1-4).  “Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” (v 1).  They say, ‘We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?” (v 3).  The Message says, “I’m tried of hearing, ‘We can  talk anyone into anything!  Our lips manage the world.’”  The question for us today becomes, “Whose narrative is dominating the news cycle?” and whether it is truthful or not.

But then in verse 5 God responds, “I will now arise….I will protect them from those who malign them.”  The Message says, “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the hearts of the wretched.”  Men, our prayer needs to be that of the Psalmist, when he  prayed in Ps 9:19, “Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.”  When you struggle to make sense of contemporary life pray, “Let God arise.”

In contrast to the unreliability of the wicked, the Psalmist reminds us of God’s Word being absolutely flawless or trustworthy.  “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (v. 5).  The Message says, “God’s words are pure words.” Never forget that God has given us a reliable map to guide our journey in our present surroundings.

The Psalmist conclude his lament by expressing confidence that God will protect the faithful community from the wicked who surround them (vs. 7-8).   “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (v. 8).  The Message expresses it well: “God, keep us safe from their lies, from the wicked who stalk us with lies, from the wicked who collect honors from their wonderful lies.”  Pray prayers of protection continually for yourself, your family, your church and your community.

I can take in only so much news at a time.  I have to turn away at times and simply focus on the Lord and his flawless words.  Even when I am trying to make sense out of world news, I continually pray for discernment in seeing the kingdom of  God at work in the midst of the chaos of our day. I pray that God will protect me from the propaganda of so much of the dominant culture.