The Key to Being a Human Christian

I love the Psalms.

In my work as a pastoral counselor and occasional preacher, I talk about them a lot. The hope is that by developing an awareness of the Psalms, folks would feel free to start feeling their feelings, talking about their feelings, and perhaps even talking to God about their feelings. That would be a good thing.

But I didn’t know I talked about them this much. As is evident by the lists below, I’ve talked and sung and written a bunch about the Psalms. And I’m not stopping.

Because although the Psalms do not help us to become super Christians, the Psalms do in fact help us to become human Christians. And the world (and global missions) needs as many of those types as we can get…

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Articles
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 1)

The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement (part 2)

A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and Deeper Emotional Intelligence

Some thoughts on how to combine the Psalms with Discovery Bible Studies and inner healing ministries.

Here’s a three-minute video showing one way to interface with the Psalms. You can read more on this method here.

 

Podcasts/Sermons
Despair is Where Hope Lives (Psalm 130)

Pilgrim Songs (Psalms 120-124)

On Peace, Busyness, and Remembering that I’m Not God (Psalm 131)

Teleporting, Editing, and Borrowing (Psalm 31)

On Rest, Loss, and Revenge (Psalm 3)

The Posture of God (Psalm 116)

Psalms – Songs for our time

 

Songs
Follow Close (Psalm 63)

 

Spiritual Warfare Lullaby (Psalm 23, Psalm 91)

 

Psalm 13

 

One Thing I Ask (Psalm 27)

Despair is where hope lives (Psalm 130)

Listen to this message on hope here, or via the trotters41 podcast. (21 minutes)

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Some excerpts and quotes:

“The prophetic poet asserts hope precisely in exile.” — Walter Brueggemann

If you’re not really feeling it. If you’re not feeling happy-clappy-Jesus-is-alive-and-all-my-problems-are-fixed, then take heart, because that’s precisely where hope lives.

“Hope expressed without knowledge of and participation in grief is likely to be false hope that does not reach despair. Thus…it is precisely those who know death most painfully who can speak hope most vigorously.” — Brueggemann

We need this reminder.

We need to remember that true hope is not just optimism. True hope is not a flimsy, fluffy thing. No, true hope, Biblical hope, sees it all. It sees the bad, the hard, the pain. It sees the depths and the darkness. It sees the world’s sin and my own sin.

And it keeps on seeing… all the way to Christ. In the end, deep hope must be securely grounded in the character and love of God.

“Speech about hope cannot be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather, it must be lyrical in the sense that it touches the hopeless person at many different points. More than that, however, speech about hope must be primarily theological.” — Brueggemann

“Hoping is not dreaming.” “[Hope is] a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith.” – Eugene Peterson

“Hope is a projection of the imagination; so is despair.” –Thornton Wilder

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Psalm 130 A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

1From the depths of despair, O LORD,

I call for your help.

2Hear my cry, O Lord.

Pay attention to my prayer.

3LORD, if you kept a record of our sins,

who, O Lord, could ever survive?

4But you offer forgiveness,

that we might learn to fear you.

5I am counting on the LORD;

yes, I am counting on him.

I have put my hope in his word.

6I long for the Lord

more than sentries long for the dawn,

yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

7O Israel, hope in the LORD;

for with the LORD there is unfailing love.

His redemption overflows.

8He himself will redeem Israel

from every kind of sin.

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Five non-missiony books to help you live and minister across cultures

by Jonathan

These aren’t mission-y books. They’re not even about cross-cultural life or transition. Nevertheless, these books have been fundamental to my life (and sanity) abroad. In no particular order…

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, by Timothy Keller
Because if you didn’t have a good grasp on these concepts before moving, you’ll need to get one pretty quick after moving. I very much appreciate Keller’s deeply theological and yet tender writing in this book. Those two things do not often coexist, unfortunately.

Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller
This one makes the list because the basic story is known but the deeper message is typically missed. This book and the truths in it have the power to reshape our understanding of God’s character and of his view of us. In the world of cross-cultural ministry, God’s character and how he views us are pretty big deals. I recommend this one all.the.time.

The Psalms
I had to not-so-subtly sneak this in. Of course, this one is not co-equal to the others, but it’s often overlooked. I’ve written here and here about the importance of the Psalms in the lives of missionaries and cross-cultural workers.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero
There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor at a suburban, wealthy, primarily white church. But this guy isn’t one. So, although he writes from an American context, he also writes from a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, church-centered context. I also love how he assumes that the majority of people are going to be truly transformed and discipled, not through professional counselling, but through consistent and loving relationships.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder, by Kevin Belmonte
Life is serious, the world is a mess, and we need the aged brilliance of Chesterton. His humor, his levity in the face of a world that was no-less troubled, his talk of fairies and mysteries and paradox, it’s all for our time. Get to know the author who pretty much gave the world C.S. Lewis. You’re welcome.

Welp, that’s it. Have a great day! Oh, and if you have a book that you’d add to this list, link to it in the comments section below. Thanks for dropping by!

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*Contains Amazon affiliate links

A Missionary’s Call to the Psalms and a Deeper Emotional Intelligence

by Jonathan

I personally think we missionaries are a smart bunch. Our textbook education is typically high. We’ve been to college, perhaps seminary, and we know some stuff. We’ve figured out how to use our cognition for the King, our intellect for the Incarnated. But while western education is first and foremost intellectual (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), life is lived and people are loved on the street level, not the lecture hall.

The classic quip about people caring how much you know only after they know how much you care is classic for a reason: it’s true. When we approach a hurting, lost world with brains first, we risk showing a skewed image of Christ. We need our hearts too.

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Sometimes I Wonder Where We Put Our Hearts
Hearts can seem to get in the way of missiology, and emotions are inefficient. Emotionally detached workaholics may be great at “getting the job done.” They might not make wonderful spouses or parents, but disconnected, task-oriented, stoic workers can be low-maintenance, efficient missionaries.

Conversely, we must remember that emotions are Christ-like. A missions force with low emotional intelligence is bad for missions, not to mention families, teams, and planted churches. When the DNA of new believers and new churches excludes the sometimes messy reality of the heart, it’s not healthy DNA. Furthermore, a disconnected, task-oriented, stoic missions force isn’t much like Jesus.

Have you ever met a man or woman who seems bottled up emotionally, but the minute they start talking about the lost or missions, they start crying? I’ve met many folks like this, and I’m always baffled. When it comes to their families or other interpersonal relationships, they seem distant and cold, but the minute you mention unreached peoples, cue the waterworks. Something is not right about this picture.

It’s awesome they care about the lost, but how is it that all of their emotional capital got put there? Religion should not be the only place in their life where they really feel emotion.

Building Emotional Intelligence
So, how do we add some heart back in? How do we build emotional intelligence in ourselves and our teams? I believe both the Psalms and the life of Jesus can help us find our hearts. John Calvin in describing the Psalms said this: “What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury, it were difficult to describe…for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.”

To grow in emotional intelligence and awareness, we must practice. Read a Psalm and the Gospels and try to identify as many emotions as you can. Both involve people, and people feel. Ask yourself, “How do the hands of Jesus reveal the heart of the Father?” If Paul helps us to know the mind of Christ (a good thing), the Psalms show us Christ’s heart. It is the Psalms that Jesus turned to and quoted more often than any other book in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But even more telling, the context in which Jesus referenced the Psalms was almost always when he was in a difficult situation.  Jesus was hated without cause, which the Psalms foretold (Ps. 35:1969:4John 15:25). He quoted Psalm 22 while dying on the cross (Ps. 22:1Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34) and when talking about his betrayal (Ps. 41:9John 13:18). These are just a few of many examples. In stressful situations, when he was under duress or attack, Jesus referred to the Psalms. Maybe that’s when we need to remember the Psalms too.

In our own lives, and in the lives of the people we live among, “bad stuff” is common. Corruption, danger, and loss are the daily realities. And so we need the Psalms. As we watch global instability and fear spread, we need workers with hearts that understand grief and loss. We need workers who know Christ as Healer. We need workers who bring their full hearts to the mission field. Not just their work ethic or their seminarian-intellect, but also their vulnerable, wounded, and healing hearts.

If we connected heart and mind, we’d get kinder, gentler, more sensitive cross-cultural workers. And kinder, gentler, more sensitive disciples.

Making Room for Warrior Poets
The foreign field appeals to warriors, and we amplify this fighting spirit with our dramatic quotes and motivational epigrams. But the unreached peoples of the world also need poets and artists, those who see and speak in different tones, with different cadence and quality.

Too often we think of the “soft” qualities as counterproductive in church-planting work, especially among the least-reached. We recruit hard people for hard fields, and we can’t even imagine the artist or highly emotive worker surviving, let alone thriving. We need warriors, go-getters.

But this approach is wrong, and for the sake of the gospel, we must change it. Tenderness, creativity, gentleness, and whimsy are not soft, esoteric qualities. These are qualities flowing straight from the heart of Christ.

Yes, we should study the mind of Christ, but there is so much more. Christ’s death was not by guillotine, disconnecting head and body. His head was bloodied, his heart was pierced, and all of him was raised.

Let’s make sure that all of him is preached. Let’s make sure that all of him is shown:

  • Jesus the advocate and disrupter, the wild one who defied Rome from underneath.
  • The brilliant intellect who befuddled the learned men.

Let’s make sure we preach his heart too:

  • A heart that felt the sting of death and the tip of the spear.
  • A heart that felt abandonment and despair and cared about a widow’s son.
  • A heart that laughed and wept and wrote in the dirt.

Let’s remember a Christ who loved the Psalms, and let’s imitate him. Let’s connect with the heart of God, and let’s show the world a richer, fuller, more complete image of Christ.

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Suggested Resources
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement
The simple tool I use with 90% of my pastoral counseling clients

 

Originally published at www.imb.org. Used with permission.

Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.