PSALMS OF ASCENT: Worship  Psalm 122

What are we doing here?  Have you ever stopped to think about that?  I don’t mean the existential question of: what are we doing here on this little blue ball that we call earth?  I’m not asking about the purpose of life or anything all that deep.  I’m simply asking, what are we doing HERE?  At this moment in time, for this hour and fifteen minutes on a Sunday morning.   My guess is you got up—you either set your alarm to get up or someone woke you up.  You woke up, brewed some coffee, went downstairs, ate some breakfast.  If you have kids in tow, you tried to force them to eat, which didn’t go all that well.  You tried to force them into the car.  If you’re like me and have a three-year-old, you got your three-year-old into the car and he insisted on buckling himself in, which means you all sat in the car for five minutes waiting for him to buckle himself in.  You got here and, if you’ve got kids, you went to check them in and you encountered a system that we haven’t quite worked all of the bugs out of yet.  I promise, we will and it’s going to be awesome when we do.  You went over to the cambros of coffee and you may have squeezed out a half cup of coffee.  You came in here, you sat down, and immediately when you sat down I said, “Will you stand up?!”  Then we sang some songs.  Have you ever noticed that this is the only place where we do something like that?!  Throughout your week, there is no other time where you gather together with a bunch of other people and sing songs.  This is unique!!  Why are we here??  Are we here because we’re bored on a Sunday morning and we need something to do?  Why are we here?  Why do we gather?

The passage of Scripture we’re going to look at this morning is going to answer for us, in part, at least, why we’re here.  That passage is Psalm 122.  It’s part of a bigger package of psalms called the Psalms of Ascent.  Psalms of Ascent are Psalms 120 through 134, fifteen psalms.  They were psalms that were uniquely designed for the nation and people of Israel.  They were psalms that the people of Israel read as they hiked to Jerusalem.  Every male, if they were able, was required to get to Jerusalem for one of three feasts every year.  They would go on this trip with a number of other people.  There was somewhere between (depending on whose numbers you agree with) a half a million and two million people that would flood into the city of Jerusalem to celebrate these feasts.  The Psalms of Ascent functioned sort of like a backpacking hymnal.  They were songs that they would sing along the way.  So, if you like musicals, this is for you!!  This was a hike where you’re going along and song just burst out.  If you don’t like musicals, you may have wanted to walk alone and read them as poems.

Psalm 122 is an invitation for us to look towards Jerusalem with the people of God, because the journey in their Psalms of Ascent reflect our journey as followers of Jesus.  They were singing on their way to celebrate a feast, but we are gathering together to remind ourselves of the Savior.  They sang of their protection.  They sang of God’s goodness.  They sang of God’s love.  They reminded themselves of the bigger story that they were found in.  In that way, the Psalms of Ascent ministered to our souls as well.  Listen to Psalm 122, a psalm of David:  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers’ and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.

The theme of this psalm can be found in the very first verse.  Here’s what David said:  I was glad when they said me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”    He’s saying, I’m starting this journey and something within my soul wells up and I’m glad when it’s time to go to God’s house.  I’m glad when it’s time to go to worship.  That’s what David’s writing about in this psalm.  He’s writing about worship.  Just a quick clarification:  there is a general or generic worship that’s simply the gaze and direction of your heart.  You are a worshiper.  You worship 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  There’s never an empty throne on anybody’s heart.  Our devotion goes toward something.  {Look up at me for just a second.}  You do not worship because you are a Christian; you worship because you are a human.  It’s something that we do.  It’s what we were designed for, it’s what we were made for.  BUT that’s not what David is talking about in this psalm.  He’s not talking about the generic 24/7 worship that you were designed for.  He’s talking about the practice of worship.  The specific practice of worship that we’re doing this morning that they did in the temple or the synagogue as Hebrew people.  It’s what we do when we gather together as the church, as the people of God.  He’s talking about the decision that we make to position ourselves under the authority of God and say, “God, we long for you to speak.”  That’s what he’s talking about.

Now the question you might push back with is:  Well, if we’re suppose to live lives of worship, why do we need this one hour every Sunday?  {That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked that.}  Here’s why:  Because the practice of worship (what we do in this time together) shapes the entire life of worship.  What we do when we gather together for the practice of worship is intended to shape and to define the way that we live, every single minute of every single day.  Think of the nation of Israel—they had seven feasts that they celebrated.  These seven feasts took up a small portion of their year, but they were intended to remind themselves of the often clouded realities that surrounded them and that they lived in every single day.  The feasts and going to temple were anchored in the soil of their days, intended to shape and define their entire life.  What are we doing here?Well, we’re gathering for the practice of worship because we believe, as followers of Jesus, that the practice of worship (what we do when we gather together) helps to give texture to, helps give content to, helps give structure to the entirety of the lives of worship that we’re called to live for the glory of God.  That’s why we gather together.  I hope it’s not just because you’re bored on a Sunday morning and I hope it’s not just because you’ve done this for your entire life.  I hope that’s not why you come.  I hope you come because you’re convinced that what we do here shapes everything that you do out there.

You might have noticed that worship is a bit contentious; it’s a bit divisive.  There’s been questions about worship…..only for 2000 years has the church debated about worship.  What type of songs should we sing? Should we sing ancient songs or should we sing modern songs?  How bright should the lights be?  Should the lights be all the way on, should they be all the way off, should they be somewhere in between?  Should the pastor/speaker wear a suit or tie; is he allowed to wear jeans?  What should the liturgy look like?  What should we do with this hour we have together on a Sunday morning?  There’s whole denominations built around the answer to that question.  Do you know why that question’s debated?  Because it’s debatable!!  If anybody says to you, “Hey, we nailed it!  This is exactly what the Bible says this time should look like when you gather together as the church, publicly, to practice worship together.”  If anybody says this is what it should look like, be skeptical and run the other way.  Because there isn’t anything in Scripture that is prescriptive and says THIS is what it needs to look like.  We have a lot of DEscription about what the church does when it gathers together, but nowhere do we find God saying, in his Scriptures, “This is what it must look like all the time, every time.” {This is for free this morning…}  Which makes this one of the most culturally, transferable, beautiful invitations the world has ever seen.  On every corner of the globe, people can take the content of these Scriptures and worship God in a way that feeds their soul and is a reflection of their culture.  {Wasn’t planning on saying that but it’s true, so it’s good.}

Did you know that even in Jesus’s day worship has been debated.  Jesus encounters a woman at the well (John 4:19-20).   This woman identifies Jesus as a prophet of God.  In light of that, listen to what she asks him:  The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. {So I’ve got one question that I’ve gotta ask you. One question that’s been gnawing at me.  One question that’s been circulated around our town and our city and our day.  One question we’ve been arguing about.}  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”    Isn’t that interesting?  She identifies Jesus as a prophet and has one question: Hey, when we gather publicly for the practice of worship, where should we do that?  She’s not asking about how we live lives of worship 24/7.  She’s talking about what we are doing here this morning.  Listen to the way Jesus responds (John 4:23):  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  Here’s his point — it doesn’t much matter the place that you worship, but the person you worship.  That’s what’s important!  And the way you go about worshipping… your head engaged in it; is your heart engaged in it; are you fully in or is this something that you’re just going through the motions and doing.  It was such an important question for her that it gnawed and ate at her.  What are we doing here this morning?  Well, we are intentionally practicing worship, because we believe that the practice of worship shapes and defines a life of worship.

I just want to drill deeper into how David draws that reality out in this psalm (Psalm 122) and we’re just going to walk through this together.  Listen to what he says:  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”   Just a quick timeout.  Don’t you love David’s almost giddiness?  Like, hey, it’s time to make this journey.  It’s time for people to come and to descend on this city to worship our great God.  I grew up in a household where we went to church every single Sunday.  It wasn’t a debate.  It was Sunday…we went!  My father would wake us kids up by singing “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory.  Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory.  Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!”   When I was a teenager, I would much rather have been a child of the pillow!  He always seemed to be glad to come and meet with the church and to declare the glory of God.  I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with him.  I don’t know how you feel about what we do in this space, in this time, but David said, “I’m glad.”  He said let US….this is a communal pursuit.  The tribes are referenced here.  This is people journeying together, going to meet with God.

He said, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”  If you were to come and knock on the door of my house, my guess is that you would anticipate that somebody from my house would come and would greet you.  David’s saying, “God, we’re coming into the space that you inhabit.  We’re coming and positioning our hearts.  We are knocking on the door of heaven, entering your house, because our expectation is that we would meet with you.”  What are we doing here during this hour that we have together?  Well, we’re engaging the practice of worship and worship positions us to encounter the presence of God.  It’s not that God isn’t other places.  It’s that He meets us in a unique way when we gather together as the church.  We are here because worship is intended to stir our hearts with the reality of the presence of the king.  Worship, or what we do on a Sunday morning, is not intended to satisfy our desire for the presence of God.  It is intended and designed to whet our appetite.  We should leave this place going I want more.  In fact, we should leave this place going ONLY every single minute of every single day should satisfy the desires that have been stirred in me to live under the umbrella of the presence of this great God.  There’s nothing special about the place, but there’s something distinctly special about the communal pursuit.

Listen to the way David echoes this is Psalm 63:2 — So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.   So I wanted to ask…..maybe you’re here and you hear this and you say, “Alright, worship positions us for presence,” but that isn’t something you sense when you come here.  That’s not something that you feel.  I wanted to answer the question:  How can we position ourselves better to receive the presence of God that He longs to pour out on his people in worship.  Worship doesn’t happen because you just show up!!  {How many of you know that?}  Worship happens when we show up with a heart that says, “God, I want to encounter you.”  Let me give you three quick ways on how we position ourselves to receive his presence.  (1) We position our hearts through confession.  It means that before we get here we take time to say, “God, would you search me and would you know me?  And if there’s any way offensive within me, would you draw it out, because I’m going to intentionally lay myself before you and if there’s any junk in my life in the way, I want to get that out of the way before we go.”  It’s confessing all throughout.  When we sing songs like “It is well with my soul,” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung that and thought, “It’s not well.”  I sing it, but I sing it as a confession…..God, make it well.

We position our hearts through confession.  Second, we position our heads through intentional focus.  If you don’t come in here with the decision made I’m going to focus….I’m going to think about the songs that we sing….I’m going to think about the words that we say….I’m going to think about the prayers that we pray and the Scriptures that we read, it’s going to pass you by if you don’t intentionally say, “I want to be HERE.”  It is. We live in a culture where our attention span is rapidly decreasing.  In the last 15 years, the average attention span has gone from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.  It’s a rapid decline.  A goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds!  I know, it’s hilarious!  You know what’s not funny?  We’re getting dumber as a species!  We are!  It’s hard for us to focus.  One of the things we do when we come to worship is to say, “God, I want to intentionally come and connect with you.”  It’s the same if you go out on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.  If you have something in between you that’s distracting you the entire time, you don’t get to connect with them, do you? The same is true when you come to worship.

We position our hearts through confession, our heads through focus and finally, our bodies through posture. We are holistic beings, friends.  So when you’re talking with somebody that you don’t like what they’re saying, innately, without even thinking about it, you’ll sit back in your chair and cross your arms and go like this (stare). Why?  Because you’re saying, “I’m closed off to you.”  I’m blocking myself from you.  There will be times when you don’t feel like singing.  There will be times when you don’t feel like listening.  There will be times when you don’t feel like raising your hands to declare the glory of God.  But when you do that, God will trigger something in your soul that awakens you to His glory and His presence and to receive from Him.  So sometimes we act our way into feeling; we don’t feel our way into acting.  Let us go to the house of the Lord to meet with God.

Verse 3.  Here’s how David continues:  Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Jerusalem—-built as a well-built city.  If you’re to go and read about the actual, physical city of Jerusalem, you would see this reflected….the architecture of this city seems to be planned out, seems to have been thought through.  There aren’t a lot of awkward gaps or places where people look at it and go, “Well, I’m not sure what they were thinking there.”  No, it was intentional—every piece of it.  I don’t think that’s really what David was writing about here.  I think the point David is making is actually found down here in verse 5.  He says when go there, when we go to worship, there are thrones of judgment that are set.  The thrones of the house of David.  He’s going when we walk there, we see judgment.  That’s a really negative word in our minds.  That’s a scary word.

We were driving back from California and we drove passed a house that had a big, white cross in its backyard. The cross had John 3:16 written on it—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”   I went wow, that’s one way of getting the word out!  Then, on the very bottom of the cross there was this huge sign, in all caps, that said, “JUDGMENT IS COMING.”  I thought, “Whoa!  The message is:  surrender to the love of God before He judges you for not doing so!”  Right?  I’m going I don’t exactly know if that’s the best way to go about evangelizing….  But judgment IS coming.  It has this sort of negative connotation.  If you look up the word “judgment,” here’s what you’ll find. Judgment is the straightening out of that which is crooked or the healing of that which is broken.  Judgment is God taking all of the wrongs of the world and making them right.

When David says listen, we go to the house of the Lord and it’s a well-built city and there’s judgment there, here’s what he’s saying.  He’s saying God takes us when we’re sort of flying upside down and we’re out of sync and we’re out of joint and in worship, He reminds us of who He is, of what He’s done and of what’s most true of the world that we live in.  It’s the action by which he straightens things out and puts them to rights…..that’s what judgment is.  When we come and we worship, here’s what we’re doing:  we’rereorienting our lives around a greater reality.  A reality that’s often clouded in the day-to-day life.  A reality that often slips our mind. Worship is intended to remind us of the way that things actually are, because I have a tendency to get caught up in the immediate.  I have a tendency to get caught up in the scarcity.  I have a tendency to get caught up in violence of this world and I forget that every square inch of this globe is owned by my Father.  Worship reminds me of that reality.

Look at the way that David draws this out for us in Psalm 63.  There are three things he points to about seeing and looking on and beholding God in his temple.  Here’s the deeper reality that he’s reminded of:  1) God, you are glorious and you are powerful.  I hope every single Sunday we gather, you walk out of here remembering God has never thought ‘I wish I could’ or ‘I wish I didn’t’ or ‘if only my hands weren’t tied, I would fill-in-the-blank.’  Every single Sunday we gather, I want to remind you that Jesus, the slain, risen Messiah, sits enthroned above all of the earth.  He’s comfortable.  All of creation bows down at his word.  I want you to get that every Sunday.  I can get caught up in the fact that there’s some things in this world that don’t go the way that I wish they would.

Second, he says that we’re reminded of your steadfast love.  Your love that holds us even when we let go.  Your love that’s faithful even when we fail.  God, you don’t let go of us.  In worship we’re reminded of that reality, so in light of that David says, “I will bless you.  You’re worthy of it—your glory, your name, all that you’ve done,   all that we see throughout history—-God, you are worthy to be lifted high above it all.   As Saint Augustine so aptly puts it: “A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot.”

So in the practice of worship, we are reminded that we are intended and designed to live lives of worship, and reorienting ourselves around the truth of who God is is one of the things that helps us so that.  Every time we get together, we’re going to read from the Scriptures.  EVERY time.  My mom had this saying, “If I don’t need my Bible, I don’t need to be there.”  I agree.  If you ever don’t need your Bible, you don’t need to be here.  Because I hope you don’t care what I think. You care what God thinks, when we gather to center around His truth and who He is.  Secondly, when we gather together we’re going to sing songs that reflect the truth of who God is.  I love this passage—We went to this well-built city.  Built—as in it stood before we got there.  As we said during our time of musical worship, we aren’t inventing something new here, friends.  We aren’t blazing new ground. We aren’t innovative……we’re ANCIENT. When we worship, we are entering into a well-built city.  We stand on the backs of the apostles and of the saints of old.  We stand on the backs of faithful men and women.  So we read prayers and we say creeds and we sing songs that are absolutely ancient.  Why?  Because we want to remember we’re part of a stream that’s been going for 2000+ years.  But, we also sing songs that were written last week, because we want to remember that we’re part of something distinctly future.  But we enter into a well-built city and by that we mean we remember we’re part of a story that didn’t start today, but that started at the dawn of creation.  This is OUR moment in THIS time where we get to carry the baton.  We do so reminding ourselves that this is a relay, friends.  There were people that ran the race way before we got it handed off to us.  The truth that we gather around is ancient, present truth.  It’s truth that was and that is and it is to come.  I don’t know about you, but I want my life to be built on a foundation that stands when the storms of life come.   When we reorient around reality, what we’re doing is saying, “Jesus, we want you to build a firm foundation, because we know that the storm is coming.”  So that we can say:   “On that day when my strength is fading, when the end draws near and my time has come….still my soul will sing your praises, 10,000 years and then FOREVERMORE!”

Aaron and I don’t pick songs that we hear on K-Love and like the sound of.  We choose songs intentionally with you, the body of South, in mind, with the Scriptures in our hearts, saying, “God, we want one central message for this moment in this time.  Give us the right songs, the right truth that we can sing.”  We want songs that will help you stand on the day when the storms do come.  We circle around a deeper reality.  What if you viewed your time in worship—what we’re doing here—as building a foundation?  A foundation on truth and a foundation that will stand.

Listen to the way David ends the psalm:  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.   I’ve always read that verse 6 and thought we should be praying for the city of Jerusalem and that there would be a ceasing of war in Jerusalem.  And indeed, I do think we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  I also think we should pray for the peace of Paris.  I think we should pray for the peace of Baghdad.  I think we should pray for the peace of Jakarta.  I think we should pray for the peace of Baton Rouge.  I think we should pray for the peace of Dallas.  I think we should pray for the peace of…..the globe.  By saying we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem is David implicitly saying we should ONLY pray for the peace of Jerusalem or that we should pray for the peace of that specific plot of land that we call Jerusalem.  No, we should pray for the peace of everywhere. This is our Father’s world.  What if David the psalmist doesn’t mean first and foremost that you should pray that there is peace in the literal city of Jerusalem.  What if, first and foremost, he means that you should pray for the peace that’s found in Jerusalem to reside in YOU.  Listen to what he says.  He says pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  That’s the Hebrew word “shalom.”  It means peace, but more than that, it’s this picture of healing, it’s a picture of wholeness, it’s a picture of vitality, it’s a picture of the life that happens when God breathes on it.  That’s what shalom is.

This word “security” is the word “shalvah.”  It means security but it means more than just having a bank account that can sustain you, or having an insurance policy that you’re comfortable with, or having a security system in your house that works.  In the Hebrew, the root word comes from the word “leisure,” where you can sit back confident and comfortable with the reality that God is good, that God is for you, that God is over you and that God is within you.  So what if David is saying sure, pray for the peace of the city of Jerusalem, but more than that pray that the kind of peace that’s found in Jerusalem is also found in you.  That’s what worship does. Worship shapes us, makes us and defines us through shalom.  We’re shaped through the peace that we get. When we sing songs like “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise…” we remember that we’re gathered with the church below and the church above.   When we remember that all of our lives that Jesus is worthy of every single nook and every single cranny and every single moment of every single thought…..    When we are reminded of the fact that sin will have no dominion over us because we are no longer under law but under grace…..      When we are reminded of the TRUTH that you cannot out-sin His grace, that His steadfast love is faithful to hold you even in your failure…..   When we remember those things, we step into a peace that just overwhelms us.  I hope it does.

You will never hear me say, “Leave your pain and leave your baggage at the door and come to worship.”  Have you ever heard somebody say something stupid like that?  No offense, but it is!  If we say, “Alright, leave it at the door and come and worship,” what we’re saying is that God can’t handle the real big stuff in your life.  That God can’t handle the pain.  That God can’t handle the doubt.  No, no, no, He can!  I invite you every single Sunday to bring the doubt, bring the pain, bring the hurts, bring the questions, bring the grit, bring the dirt, bring it ALL to worship.  Because in worship we bring our pain and our baggage, but in worship our pain and our baggage meet his provision and his promise.  That’s what happens in worship.  And when THAT takes place we are shaped through shalom.  Peace.

When I was on vacation the last few weeks, I had a chance to read the book called The Nightingale.   Loved it! It’s about World War II.  One of the main characters is Isabelle.  Isabelle is part of the resistance against the Nazi domination of France during the first part of World War II.  She’s a feisty character and pushes back and helps rescue airmen who have been shot down.  She gets them across the border of France and through the mountain passage down into Spain where they can be safe.  As part of their journey, they set up these safe houses along the way.  They’re places that people who are behind enemy lines can come and get a good night’s sleep and can a warm meal.  They’re places where people who are behind enemy lines can meet and connect and look at a map and then go back out for the journey that they’ve been called on.  I picture the practice of worship as a safe house.  It’s NOT the destination.  It’s the fuel stop along the journey of faith.  A place where we can get fed, look at a map and head back out on the journey.  Friends, part of the problem with “The Church” in America is that we’ve started to view church as something you attend.  You cannot attend church!! You ARE the church!  When we gather on a Sunday morning here, you hear me say this, “Welcome, South Fellowship Church!”  Not, welcome TO South Fellowship Church.  This is where we meet, but the church is who we ARE.  This is just the gathering for worship, a safe house along the road of following Jesus.  You don’t attend church… ARE the church.

So you think about this psalm.  They’re singing it while walking to Jerusalem.  They’re walking there to celebrate one of three feasts.  One of the feasts they would go and celebrate is the Feast of Passover.  It would be the feast where they remembered God passed over them in Egypt—spared their firstborn.  It was a feast that was symbolic of the rescue and the redemption and the blood that covered them because they were followers of God.  As part of that, they would have seen all this blood flowing through the streets of Jerusalem because you’d have, arguably, a million plus people descending upon this city and all of them wanting to sacrifice a lamb to remember that there’s a peace that flows in Jerusalem.  As blood flowed through the streets of Jerusalem because of those animal sacrifices, they were reminded that peace is only found in the blood of the lamb.  Centuries after those feasts were set up, you have Jesus of Nazareth who gets on the back of a donkey and walks into the city of Jerusalem and claims to be the Lamb of God.  Writing about that walk the prophet Isaiah said centuries before Jesus came:  He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isa. 53:5)  Friends, Jesus IS the peace of Jerusalem.  As followers of Jesus, we come to worship expecting, anticipating, that there will be a peace that flows over us because Jesus is for us, in us and above us and that He is good and we gather under His banner.

So, friends, I don’t know how you walked into these doors today, but I do know this:  I know that peace is available to you today.  Because peace has a name and his name is Jesus.  When we gather together, we gather to remind ourselves that we are part of a bigger story.  We step back into it.  We don’t step back into it by stepping into a sanctuary.  No.  Our worship is not about a sanctuary.  Our worship is about a savior.  Our worship is not about going and climbing a mountain.  Our worship is about a man, his name is Jesus.  Our worship is not about gathering in a place.  Our worship is bowing at the feet of a person.  That’s why we come together.  When we come together, God starts to, through the practice of worship, shape us to live lives of worship because He meets us here in a unique place in a unique way.  He reorients us around the truth that His grace is sufficient in every season and His love is steadfast and holding us.  He reminds us that there is still a peace that flows from Jerusalem; his name is Jesus the Messiah.  So, friends, I have no qualms about encouraging you to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to do so all the more as you see the Day approaching, encouraging and loving one another, but remembering that the practice of worship frees us and releases us to live lives of worship for the glory of God, for the joy of us his people, and for the good of his beautiful world.  Let’s pray.

Before you go rushing out of here, I just want to give you a moment to take a deep breath.  I don’t know originally why you came this morning.  My hope is that now you know why you came.  Maybe now you realize I came because the practice of worship shapes me for a life of worship.  That’s the goal — that we would do this every moment of every day.  Jesus, I thank you for the way that you meet us in this place.  Thank you for the way that we encounter your presence when we gather together.  God, I thank you for the way that as we circle and reorient ourselves around your truth you awaken things in us.  Lord, I thank you for the peace of Jerusalem, the peace of Jesus, that covers us, that frees us, that heals us and releases us.  Lord, I pray that you continue, as we think about this moment in this time, that it would birth something in us that would last far longer than the hour plus that we have together.  But that it would shape and define our whole lives.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

I was a college pastor for five years before the Lord led Kelly and I back to Colorado to pastor this church.  As a college pastor I would walk onto college campuses and had the chance every single week to engage college students with questions about faith.  I started to hear this resound that echoed off of university campuses all across southern California.  It was this resound:  I used to go to church.  I just didn’t get it.  I started to ask more questions and you know what was interesting?  It’s not Jesus that they didn’t like.  It’s not necessarily even YOU that they didn’t like.  Or me.  What they didn’t like was that church never felt like a safe place to struggle. What they didn’t like was that church never felt like a safe place to doubt.  What they didn’t like was that they felt like, in order to enter these doors in any sort of church, they had to have life figured out and they had to have it together.  In order to come (to church), they had to arrive at a place where they knew intuitively, if they were honest, that they would never get to.  They didn’t know that we all just play games!  Or do we?  They didn’t know that THIS is a safe place to struggle, a safe place to wrestle.  The question I want us to engage with this morning is: What happens when life falls apart?  What happens when we have questions that we don’t have answers to?  Do we push in or do we run away?

I have three kids: seven, five and three.  I have a boy, a girl and a boy.  My boys absolutely love to wrestle with me.  They love it!  My son Reid, who’s three years old, will come and jump on me unexpectedly.  Anybody else have that blessing on a daily basis?  I’m sitting there minding my own business and it’s like a cannonball and he lands on my lap!  He grabs my shoulders and says to me, “Daddy, I’m a jaguar!  Rowr!!”  For a few moments I pretend to be scared and then I go, “Well, I’m a lion!”  Then we’re rolling around and we’re wrestling on the floor.  I had a friend a number of years ago tell me, “I measure my parenting effectiveness by how much time I spend on the ground.”  I like that.   Our kids love that!  What is it about wrestling that our kids love?  They love the contact.  They love the clinging.  They love the physical interaction.  They love to feel you.  I think they also love to know that you’re stronger than them, even though they resist that.  They love to know that at a moment you could just flip them over, pin them, done, no conversation, no questions asked.  They love that! They desire that contact, that interaction.

What if God was the same way?  What if God loved the wrestling? What if far more than answering questions, God loved authentic doubt?  What if faith looked far more like wrestling than it did certainty?  What if?  What if church once again became a safe place to say, “I don’t have it all figured out.”  “I don’t know all the answers.” “There’s some things that haunt my soul.”  “I can’t figure out why we’re following God and they passed away.”  “I can’t figure out why I lost the job.”  Why the relationship crumbled. Why the health report didn’t come back the way we wanted.  I can’t figure it out.   What if church became, once again, a safe place to wrestle?

If you have your Bible, turn to Genesis 32:22-32.  We going to look at a passage where Jacob is going to wrestle with God.  Over the past few weeks we’ve been walking through this narrative of the patriarch Jacob. Remember, Jacob is born as a second born in a first-born society.  He’s loved way more by his mother than he is by his father.  He prefers to cook in tents rather than hunt in the fields.  All three of those things were stacked up against him from birth.  From birth, he’s trying to prove himself.  He’s trying to say, “I’m okay and I’m deserving of any love that should come my way.”  Throughout the course of his life, he has some successes.  He goes and lives with his uncle for 20+ years.  His uncle is coercive and manipulative, but Jacob prospers even there.  God’s hand is on him.  Now, he’s being led back home, the place that he left over two decades ago.  On the way there he’s going to have to encounter his brother, who he ran from 20+ years ago.  It’s this picture of….you and I know this journey….to face the things on the deepest level that haunt our souls.  We can’t run from them forever.  Jacob is throwing things ahead.  He’s sending gifts to his brother to try to appease him and to be accepted by him.  It’s on THIS journey, before he meets his brother, that he has an encounter with God.

Here’s how the encounter looked.  The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had.  And Jacob was left alone.  And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.”  But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”  But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”  And there he blessed him.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”  The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.  Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.

What’s going on?  What a strange passage!!  Can we all admit that that’s a weird passage?!  We don’t have to pretend that the Bible always makes sense at face value!  What a strong passage!  Jacob is camping.  He’s on a solo camping trip, he’s all alone.  He’s got his tent pitched and he’s ready to go and somebody shows up out of nowhere and goes MMA on him.  They wrestle through the night.  At some point, this man/God just touches his hip and he’s out of joint in his hip for the rest of his life.  Couldn’t you have done that earlier?  If all he had to do was touch his hip, was this really ever any sort of wrestling match worth betting on?  What in the world is going on here?!  I think if you read the passage from the perspective of God, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  But if you read the passage from the perspective of Jacob, it starts to make more sense.  Jacob saying: Oh yeah, we were wrestling and it was……we were face-to-face and we were going at him and I almost had him. If you were to ask my kids if they could beat me in wrestling matches, both of my sons, three years old and seven years old…..and I’ll admit I’m not exactly a physical specimen, but I’m pretty sure I can take them…..most of the time they would agree with you.  They’d go hey, I think it’s 50/50.  We’re hearing this interaction (of Jacob) from the perspective of Jacob.  We read it through the lens of our enlightened minds and go, “Come on!  That would never happen.”  God just appears out of nowhere and wrestles with Jacob throughout the night?  Come on!  The Bible is so ancient, it’s so primitive, it’s so out of touch.  And yet….  We’ve all have those seasons in life where we’ve wrestled with God, haven’t we?  We’ve all had those questions that we can’t seem to get resolution for.  We’ve all had these mysteries that sorta sit on our shoulders and weigh us down where we go God, I don’t get why you did that or didn’t do that and God, I don’t understand why that’s happening.  All of us, whether you’re a follower of Jesus this morning or not, have had these questions where we’ve wrestled with God.

My experience has been that those questions revolve around two primary things: 1) God, who are you?  Because I believe you are all-powerful and I believe you are all good and the Scriptures really teach me that.  But if you’re all-powerful and you’re all good, then do you not care?  That’s one of the questions we have.  For well over a year after my mom passed away, I wrestled with this: God, who are you?  The second question is like it. God, who am I?  Who am I to you? Do you love me?  Do I have worth?  I think all of the questions that we wrestle with as human beings—-and those are human questions—-if we were to boil them down and tear away all the layers, what we’d get down to are two primary questions:  God, who are you? and, in light of that, God, who am I?  So here’s what I want to do this morning.  I just want to give you the freedom to say, “I don’t always understand what God is doing.”  I want to give you the freedom to say, “I have questions.  I have doubts.”  I know, I get it.  In modernity and a version of Christianity that’s been entrenched in modernity, we have equated faith with certainty, but I want to assure you the Scriptures never do.  They never do.  People who walk by faith, they wrestle with God.  They struggle with God.  You read through the book of Job, ok?  Job interacts with God.  He wrestles with God.  It’s only when his friends come and they have all the answers that Job gets off track.  His friends start trying to answer the questions that aren’t intended to be answered.  They want to say, “Job, here’s why it happened.  And here’s how it happened.  And here’s a resolution.”  And God goes no, no, no, no, no, just wrestle with me.  This stinks!  Draw near.

David, the man after God’s own heart, will say to us in Psalm 73:3, why in the world do the wicked prosper? He’s like I don’t get it.  I’m trying to do everything right here, God, and the people that are against you, antagonistic towards you, are the ones you seem to be blessing.  What’s the deal?  You have John the Baptist, a friend and relative of Jesus the Messiah, sitting in a jail cell (Matthew 11:4-6) knowing that his days are coming to an end.  In fact, days later his head, literally, will be on a platter at Herod’s party.  He sends his disciples to go ask Jesus, “Hey, are you the one that we were waiting for?  Because this doesn’t look like it’s going to turn out good.”   What’s he doing?  He is wrestling!  He’s wrestling with God.  He’s not settling for easy answers.  You have the apostle Paul, once called Saul, who has this thorn in his flesh and he says:  Three times I pleaded….. (2 Corinthians 12:8).  It’s not this hey, three times I politely asked you, “Jesus, would you please take this away?” In the Greek it carries with it this emotive, deep longing of…..God, COME ON!! ACT! MOVE! DO!  I believe that you can.  Why aren’t you??

If you read through the Scriptures and look at people who follow Jesus, here’s what I think they would testify to you and to me — they would testify that the only faith worth having is an honest faith.  A faith that’s mixed with confidence and questions.  A faith that doesn’t always have it all figured out, but that says I’m unwilling to let go even when there’s questions.  I’m clinging to you.  I’m wrestling with you.  God, I am in this for the long haul.  Here’s the truth of the matter, friends—-Wrestling with God is essential towalking with God.  It’s not some sort of nice addendum to the Christian life.  It is central in who we are as followers of Christ.  That there’s things that are going to come up in our life where we’re not going to have the answers and we’re going to have to enter into seasons of struggling and seasons of wrestling and we are better for it.  I think a lot of the narrative that we’ve embraced as a church culture in the West is:  walking by faith means that you’re always certain, that you’re always confident, that you’re always sure and if you aren’t, then you’ve gotta get it figured out before you really consider yourself a follower of Jesus.  Dallas Willard, sort of tongue in cheek, said the way that we teach theology, typically, is you should believe this whether you believe it or not.   And that’s true, isn’t it?  We know we’re not suppose to doubt, but what happens when we do?  We know we’re “not suppose to question,” but what happens when we have questions?  You show me a strong friendship and I will show you two people who have the ability to wrestle with each other.  To disagree and to still say, “We’re in this together.” You show me a marriage where one person has just shut down and another person makes all the decisions, tells everybody what to think and what to do, and I will show you a straw man of a marriage.  It’s this question, it’s this interaction, it’s this wrestling where we really grow in relationship.

I want to show you the dynamics of how this happens in the life of Jacob.  Genesis 32:22.  Let’s look at this and sort of dissect it a little bit more to see what was going on in Jacob’s life and how did God use it.  This is after he sent all these gifts ahead of himself to try to earn the acceptance back from Esau.  The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had.  And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.”   Not only has day broken, but the narrator of Genesis is so poetic and it’s so beautiful…..there’s this breaking of day that’s happening, certainly, but there’s also the breaking of Jacob. Jacob’s being torn down.  Jacob’s being shown who he really is.  Over the course of this evening what’s been happening his entire life sort of comes to a focal point, to a fruition, and what we start to see is God is lowering him in order to eventually elevate him.  He’s breaking him in order to rebuild him.  It’s often in those unwelcome seasons of brokenness that we see the preceding unprecedented seasons of fruitfulness.

Jacob’s left alone.  He is vulnerable, he’s open and what I have found over the course of my life, and maybe you would disagree, but what I’ve found is when I’m most broken I’m most open.  Anybody want to agree?  I will to cling to my own abilities until I have nothing left to cling to.  Any amens out there?  This is the human story. This is human nature.  When Jacob is left alone, here’s what he starts to do.  He starts to be open.  He starts to be vulnerable.  He starts to interact with God in a different way.  We see that his isolation leads him to a place of revelation.  Here’s the thing for you this morning.  You may be going through one of those seasons of loneliness.  You may be left alone.  The word I want to speak over you is when you’re alone you have two choices:  loneliness or solitude.  It all has to do with the attitude.  God, are we going to wrestle with you or are we going to focus on the fact that we’re all alone.  Loneliness or solitude?  Jacob chooses solitude.  He engages with God.

The second thing we see is that he’s out of joint.  Not only physically with his hip, but life just feels like it’s just been thrown upside down and spun around and thrown out there.  The attempts he’s making to win the approval of his brother are falling short.  He thinks he’s walking into a war that there’s no way he’s going to win.  He is out of joint.  God is bringing him low.  It’s the picture of a farmer tilling the soil in the springtime before he starts to plant the seeds.  The soil that’s gotten hard after a long winter.  He needs to dig deep down into in order to start to break it apart, so that the seeds will take root.  If God just throws the seeds on top of Jacob, his heart isn’t ready to receive them.  It’s this process that God leads him through where he eventually comes to the place where he’s able to receive.  I love the way that John Bunyan, the great Puritan author, puts it: “Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think.  It’s wounding work; without the wounding there is no saving.”  It’s that tilling process.  We don’t like it, but we need it.  The song that Aaron just sang so beautifully for us by Jason Gray, he says, “The wound is where the light gets in.”

All of us get to that point in life where God is tilling the proverbial soil of our soul and here’s what we all have to deal with:  are we going to be the type of people in those seasons who tap out or cling on?  I call my generation the “tap out” generation.  When it gets hard, we leave.  When it’s tough, we’re gone.  What I love about Jacob is he knows he’s not going to win this battle.  He’s already lost it!  He says, “I won’t let go.”  A few weeks ago, I meet with a friend in my office.  He’s been through the valley of the shadow of death.  He’s lost some things that were dear to him.  Sitting with him in my office, I said to him, “Hey, I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know why this all happened and I don’t know why God allowed it.”  To say anything else would have been disingenuous.  I could have gone theological as far as the problem and pain and the reason of suffering, but it wasn’t what he needed.  My encouragement to him was you have two choices:  you can either push away or you can cling on.  That’s the place we all get to in the wrestling with God.  Are we going to be the type of people who cling on or are we going to be the type of people who push away?

Sometimes God invites us into seasons of mourning rather than seasons of knowing.   And that’s okay.  We don’t need to trivialize those things.  As Christians we sometimes do, don’t we?  Here’s one refrain that just drives me nuts — Well, everything happens for a reason.  It’s like the Christian trump card.  BOOM!  What are you going to say to that?!  Well, does it?  Does everything happen for a reason??  If that’s true, we’ve got to find reason for some pretty crazy things, don’t we?  Do you know what the Scriptures actually say?  You can’t find any verse that says “Everything happens for a reason.”  What the Scriptures actually say is that God weaves together good out of everything for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  He’s able to take these things, that maybe without Him would be disjointed, and He weaves them together for your good. You know what that means?  Not everything was good until God got ahold of it. {That’s for free.}

Jacob is alone, he’s wrestling, he’s out of joint, he’s disoriented.  Verse 26:  Then he (the man/God) said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.”  But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.”  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  What’s Jacob’s deepest longing? When we gets ahold of God, what does he want more than anything else?  Blessing.  He wants a good word spoken over him.  He wants to hear the voice of God saying you’re okay, I’ve got you.   I’m good.  I’m in control.  I love you.  He wants to hear that his life matters.  You know what’s interesting?  Jacob’s already been blessed.  If you read back through the Jacob narrative, it starts with him stealing a blessing from his older brother.  Remember, he dresses up as Esau.  He walks into Isaac, his father.  Isaac lays hands on him and Isaac blesses him.  But Jacob knows that blessing was never intended for him.  For the decades that follow, those words, rather than being seeds of hope in his life and goodness, actually start to turn on him, because the words spoken over him he knew wasn’t actually for him.  When He’s wrestling with Jacob, what does God ask him?  What’s your name? You go back to Genesis 27…..Isaac, his father, asked him the exact same thing:  What’s your name?  At THAT point, he did not answer honestly.  He said, “My name is Esau.”  Because I think that’s what I have to do to get blessed.  I have to lie about who I really am.  I have to ignore the deep, painful places of my soul where I didn’t add up.  I’ve got to put on a mask.  I’ve got to put on a show.  In order to be blessed, I’ve got to lie about who I really am.  But when God gets ahold of Jacob, He says, “Jacob, what’s your name?  I need you to say it.  I need you to admit it.  I need you to step out of the shadows.  I need you to come clean, because if you’re going to be blessed, it’s only going to be as you actually are, not as you wish you were.  So, Jacob, what’s your name?”  I imagine Jacob’s mind immediately goes back to putting on all of the clothes that were Esau’s, covering himself in fur that looked like Esau’s freaky hair and lying about his name.  At this moment, Jacob says, “I am Jacob.” My prayer is that some of you will have an “I AM JACOB” moment with God today.  This is who I really am.  And in saying “I am Jacob,” what Jacob’s saying is I’ve been the swindler, I’ve been the cheater, I’ve been the liar; I’ve lived up to everything my name meant and everything my name said.  It’s in this moment—this moment of brokenness, this moment of solitude, this moment of openness to God—God says back to him, “Ok, Jacob. Here’s the thing….drum roll…..your name is no longer Jacob.  You’re wrestling with me, Jacob.  You’re interacting with me.  You’re not pushing me away, you’re drawing me in and you’re saying I won’t let go! Therefore, your name is no longer Jacob, swindler, cheater, liar, thief.  It’s no longer that.  Although you have to come to terms with the fact that that’s reality.  Now your name is Israel, which means you strive with God.” Isn’t it interesting that Jacob’s name goes from cheating people—which is horizontal—-to wrestling with God.

Here’s what we start to see—that you and I, we have to admit that so much of the time God doesn’t answer the questions we have.  We don’t have the “everything happens for a reason and here’s the reason” type of life with God, do we?  If you do, I’d love to meet and talk with you.  I’ve got some questions for you.  I don’t.  We have the type of interaction with God where we go to him with questions and longing…..hey, will you bless me?  Will you make this situation turn out well?  Will you redeem the pain?  I’m going into battle with Esau and all I want, God, is for you to tell me that I’m going to win this battle.  That’s not what he hears.  What God does, so much of the time, is he doesn’t answer the question that we ask, he answers the question underneath the question underneath the question.  He answers the thing that’s deepest within us—the longing that we have most that just occupies it.  If we were to resolve that question the other ones wouldn’t matter quite as much.  Here’s what God does.  He says:  genuine prosperity (or blessing) is only grounded in renewed identity. It’s Him saying this is who you really are.  It’s the only way we can live with and wrestle with the questions of life.  Why does this happen?  Why did that happen?  Why did that person get sick?  Why did that person die?  I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I’m going to wrestle with God and I’m going to cling to God and I’m confident that what’s more important to God is not that I gain something, but that I become someone.  That He starts to change me from the inside out.  Did you know that you’re invited to have an Israel type of faith?  The type of faith where we wrestle with God, where we strive with God.  Why is that a great and beautiful thing?  Because it means you’re clinging to him.  It means you’re saying, “I will not let you go until I hear from you—who am I?”  And, friends, that’s the gospel.  The gospel answers the question: who are you?  So if you walked in here JACOB, my hope is that you walk out ISRAEL.  You walked in maybe cheating and manipulating people.  I want you to walk out wrestling with God.  This is the gospel, because here’s what he says over you—-I have adopted you! (That’s identity, yes?)  I have called you my own.  I chose you before the foundation of the world that you would be holy and blameless in Christ.  That you would be adopted as sons and daughters of the King.  He will not always answer every question, but He always gives his blessing.  His blessing is found in the reality that YOU..Hello!!’re name is child of the one true King!!  You’ve been saved!  You have been redeemed!  That’s your name!!

As Jacob starts to walk away, he walks away with this limp.  It’s the “gospel limp,” friends.  It’s the “I have wrestled with God”….I’ve come with my questions, I’ve come with my doubts, I’ve come with my fears and I still have a lot of those, but I know who I am!  I am loved by Him and I am chosen by Him and I am called in Him and He is the rock that I am building my life on!  Struggling with God always leads to a transformation from God. He goes, “God, I’ve seen you face-to-face.  We’ve been intimate together.”  But that only happens through the authenticity.  It only happens through the wrestling and the struggling.  We often look for answers, but God just wants our honesty.  I don’t get it, God, but I know you’re good and I trust you.  Isn’t it fascinating that when Jacob wrestles with God and he comes out the other side….if you were to look at him you’d go, “Oh, man! He got the worst end of that deal! The rest of his life he’s just dragging a foot!”  But I think if you were to talk to Israel, what he would say to you is….I know it looks like an injury, but I want to tell you it’s a reminder.  It’s a reminder that I’m no longer Jacob but I’m Israel.  It’s a reminder that I can have a relationship with God that’s honest and I can wrestle with him.  It’s a reminder that I’m no longer who I was, but I am who He says I am!   I don’t know about you…I want that limp!  I want the reminder God, this is who you say I am.

If you’re thinking, “Paulson, I’m still a little bit held up on the ‘is it all right to question God?’  Is it all right to doubt?  Well, I would submit to you it is.  Jesus did.  That’s the trump card!  He’s in the garden going to the cross and he cries out, “Father, if there’s another way, let’s do it that way!  Father, I don’t get it!”  Luke 22:44 says he’s sweating drops of blood!  He’s so agonized by what he knows awaits him.  He’s wrestling with God. Then he clings to his Father and then surrenders to him — Not my will, but yours be done.  It’s interesting that in the same way that Jacob was left alone, your King, your Messiah, was left alone.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Therefore, because he was left alone, the Scriptures say that you never have to be abandoned.  The Scriptures are really clear in Romans 8:38 that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Just like Jacob, Jesus was out of joint on the cross.  His bones had dislocated, his muscles moving around.  He was out of joint Psalm 22:14 says, but because he was out of joint, you can be made whole.  The Scriptures are clear in saying that by faith you are made complete in him.  Because he gave up his name…..the Scriptures say that he emptied himself of all that it meant to be God (Philippians 2:7) and that he took on the very nature of a servant and submitted to God, even to death on a cross.  He gave up his name and because he gave up his name and his glory, YOU can be filled with all of the fullness of God.

It doesn’t mean that we always get all the answers.  But it means that we have the most important answer.  The answer to the most important question:  God, do you love me?  And in the midst of all the chaos in the world, of all the pain and all the questions, His cross and His resurrection declare over you—You are loved.  You are chosen.  You’re forgiven.  That’s your new name.  You are redeemed.  So, friends, because of the work of Jesus, we can wrestle honestly with God AND walk confidently in his world!  And I would pray that you do.  My prayer is that this would be a safe place to say, “I don’t get it.”   A safe place to say, “I’ve got questions.”  A safe place to say, “God, I don’t understand why you didn’t heal this way and this time and God, I don’t understand why that didn’t work out the way that I hoped it would.”  Where the cross would hold us in such a way that it would allow us to cling to God, even when life doesn’t make sense.  Let’s pray.

Before we go running out of here, I just want to invite you to take a deep breath.  What’s going on in your life that maybe you’ve ignored and pushed down?  I don’t know about you, but I’m really good at that.  What are the things that if you were just honest with God and didn’t say what you thought He wanted to hear but what was really in you, what would you say?  This just in—he knows anyway!  Jesus, we come to you today. And in all of the brokenness of this world—we don’t have all the answers to it, we don’t have it all figured out, but Lord, in the midst of all of that and whatever life brings our way, whatever storms we find ourselves in, our desire is to be the type of people that say I’m holding on; I’m clinging to you, Lord.  We believe that you’re clinging even harder to us.  Lord, would you help us to be honest with you, to engage you not as we wish life were, but on the terms that life really is.  Father, as we’re honest with you and honest with ourselves, may we hear you speak a better name over us.  Lord, would be hear the truth that we are children of the One True King—adopted, saved, redeemed, made holy—because of the work of Jesus.  May that draw us in in every season.  May we cling to you, rather than running away.  God, as we’re honest, would you do a work that only you can do.  It’s in your name that we pray.  And all God’s people said….Amen.