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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pour Your Heart Out

          Do you ever pour out your heart?  Some people find it easy to share their deepest feelings and most profound thoughts.  Some are not discerning enough and just spill their guts to whomever others will listen.  It is wise to show discretion. 
          Even in discretion, though, we have the need to spill sometimes.  Human beings, whether we are introverts or extroverts, need to share our dreams.  Even the most pragmatic of people have moments when they need to share their hearts – their dreams, their hurts, their disappointments, and their fears.  Every one of us needs a shoulder to cry on and someone who will laugh deep belly laughs with us.
          Do you ever spill your guts?
          Look at the picture of God in Psalm 62, specifically, 62:8.

          First, the Contemporary English Version – “Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns.  God is our place of safety.”

          Then, The Message – “My help and glory are in God —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God— So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.

          Third, The New Revised Standard Version – “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Selah

          And finally, The New King James Version – “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Selah

          It is mostly for me that I share here four versions of the same verse.  I wanted to be sure it is saying what I think it says; what I hope it says.  God is a refuge.  God is a safe place.  If someone thinks that does not mean “emotionally safe,” then he has not read and experienced and felt the Psalms.  The Psalms are packed with passion.  To call God a place of safety is to say God will take me – all of me, the worst parts of me. 
          As the NRSV and NKJV both say: pour out your heart before God.  I absolutely think this is needed in moments of private prayer.  This “pouring out the heart, spilling the guts,” happens when I am in an alone time, just God and me, my voice silent, my spirit crying to him.  In those most personal moments, I need to reach to God.
          I also need it in community.  God became physical in a new way, in the incarnation.  Jesus was (and continues to be) God in the flesh.  And he was a safe person for others.  He socialized with society’s misfits.  He reached out to those scorned by others.  The hemorrhaging woman, scandalized Mary Magdalene, and unscrupulous Zacchaeus are but a few examples of people the community at large had ostracized.  In Jesus, they each found someone who would love them without judging them. 
Some religious leaders stoned adulterous people to death; they sent interrogators to “trap” Jesus with trick questions.  They imposed a legalism that broke the spirits of common folk.  Not all Pharisees did this; maybe not even most.  We have to realize that priests and Pharisees, in one respect, are not much different than average everyday people.  We all have fears and confusion.  It is a mistake to read the New Testament and caricature everyone in the religious establishment as evil or mean spirited.  Not all priests or synagogue leaders were “bad guys.”  But the gospel writers certainly do, overall, set the establishment as antagonistic to Jesus.  And one of the key differences is Jesus – God in the flesh – was a safe person for others just as Psalm 62:8 proclaims God as a “refuge.”  And the establishment, as an institution, was not safe.
So where is the safety of God today?  Again, we definitely find it when we pour our hearts out in individual, private prayer times.  We also, though, need it in community.  Jesus has ascended and is not here bodily.  Where is the body of Christ?  It is the church (1 Corinthians 12:12).  At least, it should be.  The church family should be the safest place you’ll ever find.
Certainly this is not always true.  Churches are comprised of sinners saved and forgiven by Jesus.  However, everyone is at a different point in understanding forgiveness and receiving it.  Many individual churches are marked by sin; the specifics can be found by going through the New Testament and reading the “vice lists” (Galatians 5:19-21 and 2 Timothy 3:1-9) are examples.  Too many congregations are communities of jealousy, prejudice, gossip, favoritism, deceit, and exclusion.  These are not safe communities.  These are not groups striving to embody Christ.
The church must be the place where you can work out your confusions, ask your questions, be outrageous, make mistakes, and be welcomed when you are at your worst, your ugliest.  The church is called to be as safe for everyone as Jesus was safe for the hemorrhaging woman, for prostitutes, and for those like Zacchaeus whose wealth consisted of dirty money.  Jesus never condoned sinful behavior.  Neither did he rub anyone’s nose in their messes like we do with a dog we want to teach not to do his business in the house.  Jesus met sinners with compassion, mercy, acceptance, and grace. 
Look again at Psalm 62 in The Message.  “God is a safe place to be.”  Today, church is not the only place God hangs out.  But, if a church is to be the body of Christ, then it better be one of the places God hangs out.  And if God is truly there, then it is a safe place.  This is when the church embodies Christ. 
As you read this, realize that it is highly unlikely that you can force your church to be a safe place.  I am a senior pastor, and I cannot dictate that our church will be a safe place.  I can preach it, encourage it, insist on it, and do all in my power to will it.  But it only comes about when the people buy into the idea.  I am grateful that in my church, most of the people do.  We have had the privilege to love a lot of broken people who came because they felt just safe enough.  But it is not because of my insistence.  It is because our people responded to the prompting of God in their hearts.
In your church, what you can do is make sure you are a safe person within your church family.  And you can pray.  Read Psalm 62:8 in the versions I have listed and in others.  And pray this into reality in your home and in your church.  Be a vessel that carries the Gospel.  By the hands and feet of God, walking to find the hurting, opening arms to embrace them. 
Do you ever spill your guts?  I pray you can.

Are you someone who can be there when someone else pours their heart out?  I pray you will.

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