Psalm 55 – Casting Your Burden

What does it look like to you to cast your burdens on God? When something weights considerably on your heart, how inclined are you to deal with your problems on your own? And when it becomes too much, what does surrendering control of your burdens to God entail? I, for one, don’t do very well with asking for help. When encountering a problem, I always want to find a solution on my own first before asking for help, whether it’s digging through documentation of code for hours at work, trying to DIY a fix when something around the house breaks, or encountering a tough life situation I haven’t been through before. But most things in life aren’t so simple that you can power through on gumption alone.

Psalm 55, written by David, was borne of a time of incredible grief. It was probably concerning Absalom, David’s son who revolted and overthrew David’s rule. Deep, intentional betrayal can be one of the most painful experiences for many of us – moreso when, like David expresses, they were once a trusted confidant. Perhaps even family, or a brother/sister in faith. The language in this passage – “I am restless in my complaint and I moan”, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” – expresses such heartbreaking pain, it moves you just reading it.

Such serious experiences are something each of us can vividly recall from times in our lives – maybe some of you are dealing with this pain as you read this. Dealing with all that hurt on your own can be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Praying desperately for an easy escape as David did is all too relatable. Believe me, I’ve tried shouldering this pain before, and detachment and isolation seemed way more appealing than strength to endure. But what I love about Psalm 55 is how quickly David goes from lamenting his pain and heartache to praising God, expressing at verse 16 how God uplifts those who call to Him: “But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” He goes right from focusing on himself to focusing on God’s sovereign control over his circumstances.

David’s reaction is a great example to me: amidst his desperate plea for deliverance from his pain, he shares His pain with the Lord and thanks Him for redemption. It’s so easy to cling to our human pride, and hold the guilt, shame, embarrassment, betrayal, frustration, and anguish that come with the bad things that happen to us. It can be incredibly tough to admit we can’t handle things ourselves, and it can often feel impossible to consider even asking for help in those times. But God has promised, time and time again, that He is here to bear the heaviest weights His faithful followers carry. And it’s a habit we as believers should practice through prayer, speech, song, and community, so that we may immediately share our troubles with Him when the need arises. Humbling ourselves enough to admit we need His help is a show of strength in your faith, one I believe through experience that the Lord rewards in kind.

In Isaiah 41:13, the Lord says “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter assures us: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Christ comforts us in Matthew 11:28, assuring His followers “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I pray for those of you feeling strained or crushed by the loads their hearts bear, that you can share your troubles with the Lord. I offer thanks and praise to God for helping the hopeless and healing the broken time and time again, and for the relief we can find when we no longer hold to our griefs and sorrows. And I simply want to close with Psalm 55:22 as our reminder: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

One Name

Today’s reading is Psalm 54.

In whom or in what do you trust? In whom or what do you put your faith and hope in?

Last year brought us arguably the most hyper partisan election in U.S. history with each side claiming the other would end democracy as we know if the other won. With the election result nearly a 50/50 split, half the country was really happy with the outcome and half the country was really disappointed.  Unfortunately, most who voted looked at their candidate to solve our country’s problems and also many to fix their own problems and to rescue them so to speak.

If you did not put your hope and trust in one of these leaders, or even if you did, we can likely find ourselves putting our hope or trust in other political figures, leaders, athletes, or celebrities. We can also find ourselves putting our hope and trust in our careers, money or belongings, or even our spouses, parents, or children looking to them to solve our problems. Sadly, most of us we form our identity or measure our self-worth based on our career, our money or belongings, or relationships. The problem is we end up finding out politicians do not solve all our problems, careers end unexpectedly or due to retirement, money does not bring happiness and can run out no matter the amount, and relationships can end due to death or falter no matter how good of a job we do to nourish them because we are all sinful humans who make mistakes. All these things are futile and end.

As I read Psalm 54, what kept coming to my mind was….one name.

“God save me by your name

and vindicate me by your might.”

Psalm 54:1

Life is short..even if we live 90 to 100 years. There is only one thing we should really fear and that is death. There is only one name that can save us from death and give us eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. In only Him should we put our hope and trust.

“It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in princes.”

Psalm 118:8-9

Ross Blumhorst wrote in a Bible Journal post back in January, “God is always right, we never have to guess if He is right or wrong, and you that makes me rejoice-how thankful I am that there’s something in this crazy world I can always know to be true!” Wow..powerful words that are so true. Thank you, Ross. I posted this quote to my social media and my Mom reminded me of this great verse.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

Thanks, Mom. How great it is to know this in our messed up world?!

Earlier I asked the questions, in whom or in what do you trust? In whom do you put your faith and hope in?

We should strive to constantly remember the words of David here in Psalm 54.

“Behold, God is my helper;

the Lord is the upholder of my

life. “
Psalm 54:4

“For He has delivered me from

every trouble…”

Psalm 54:7

Let us then respond as David does…

“..I will give thank to your

Name O Lord, for it is

good.”

Psalm 54:6

By only one name are we saved. Only one name should we call on and put our faith, hope, and trust in. By only one name should we form our identity. And only in one name should we give our thanks, glory, and praise. That name is Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ypXUd_vGmI

 

 

Psalm 53

 

 

Well friends, this is tough one for me to write on. David does a bang up job letting us know that people are corrupt, their actions are evil, and no one does good. He reminds us that God is looking for good people and seeking out the wise, but the reality is that none of us are righteous or wise without God’s work in us. I know that David speaks the truth…none of us are inherently good but this Psalm sounds harsh and cutting.  It exposes the truth that we like to look past so we feel better about ourselves. Who wouldn’t prefer to overlook our true state of being without God’s intervention in our lives? Maybe this dose of reality is exactly what we are to be considering today. If we are willing to get real with who we were before God’s grace and help in our lives, it makes His intervention that much sweeter.

The note in my Bible on this psalm reads, “While God is not affected by what we think of him, we are definitely and eternally affected by what God thinks of us. This Psalm begins with the bold claim that there is no God, but by verses 4-5 the true reason for rejecting God has become clear. The reason people reject God has nothing to do with God’s existence and everything to do with people’s sinfulness. In our desire to do wrong, we treat God as if he doesn’t exist.” This stings! I don’t want to think about myself through this lens. It is ugly and self-indulgent. It is also true. The saddest part for me is that after Jesus’ sacrificial gift of buying me out of my sin, I can still struggle with these thoughts. Sometimes I still treat God as if he doesn’t exist so I can do the rotten things I want to do. This is humbling to write. It is embarrassing to admit this truth to all who read here. I want so badly to be able to say that my gratefulness for what He has done for me stops me in my tracks when I am tempted to be self-indulgent. This struggle is not over for me but I can honestly say that after being in relationship with him for years, I see improvement. I am experiencing more and more times when the temptation doesn’t win. I am starting to see that the break in my relationship with God is not worth the temporary pleasure of the sin. This battle of fighting sin will last until my death on this earth. The perfection of choosing right every single time is one of the draws of heaven.

I want to make note that God chose to love me and make a way for me to be washed clean from the consequences of my sin while I was in the midst of sinning. I never got “good enough” or went a certain number of days without sinning to earn His attention or favor. He loved me in my mess. He reached out to me when I was disregarding Him. He made the ultimate sacrifice for me before I was even born. Where else can you find this kind of love? Who else is willing and capable of taking the punishment for what we have done wrong?

I trust that the more time I sit with the reality of my selfishness, the more I will be changed by His willingness to gift me a way out of what I deserve because of His deep love for me. I am praying this morning that I will become less able to lie to myself about God’s existence when I am tempted to serve myself, and more drawn to the richness of relationship with him instead.

Refuge Found

Psalm 52

We all need refuge.  It’s a wonderful place.  Calm, quiet, and peaceful.  In our refuge, we are reminded of our hope and our renewed hope leads to strength.  This is what we thirst for.  And make no mistake, we will find it.  The question is, will it be worth it?

There is no better way to say it than Psalm 52:7, which reads “see the man who would not make God his refuge but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction.”  Wait, what?  You mean that the refuge I have been seeking and building and longing for and chasing after might lead to my own destruction?  Absolutely, says David.

With that understanding comes new responsibility.  We must determine where it is that we are seeking refuge.  For some, it may be obvious while the rest of us have worked hard to cover our tracks.  For example, do you remember the Bible verse about money being evil?  It’s 1 Timothy 6:10 and says “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.”  If you are like me, you’ve found ways to reinterpret this verse.  Now, we soften it.  Instead of relating money to evil, we relate money to good by saying “money is good for the good it can do.”  Wow, that’s brilliant.  Suddenly, I feel good about money again.  I want to go make more and do some good!   Refuge found.

There is no end to my deceptive heart (Jeremiah 17:9).  If I am to be true to myself and real to God, I must subject my thoughts and actions to Him.  This is done by subjecting them to Scripture, through prayer, and the Church – the community of believers.  There is no other way to find it.  Refuge found.

Confession of Our Wrongdoing – Not So Easy

Making mistakes is a part of life.  At times, we make the wrong choices and there are consequences for our actions.  Sometimes the consequences are small, and unfortunately, sometimes the consequences are immense.

2 Samuel 11 outlines a salacious story about King David, a chosen leader of God.  David, who was king of Israel, saw an attractive woman on the roof of her home.  Being a man of great power, David called on the woman, who he found out was the wife of one of his leading warriors.  Even though David knew of her marriage to one of his loyal fighters, Uriah, David had a relationship with the woman, Bathsheba.  Bathsheba became pregnant. Discovering this, David arranged for Uriah to be sent to the frontline of battle where he knew he would be killed.  David not only slept with a married woman, but he also had her husband “murdered.”

2 Samuel 12 addresses how God sent the prophet Nathan to confront King David about the horrible sins he committed. Nathan outlined to David how God would bring punishment upon him and he would suffer greatly for his sin.

King David was rich, was the most powerful person in Israel, and was accountable to no man.  He was accustomed to getting what he wanted.  He was accomplished and things typically worked in his favor.  His expectations of his life became bigger than his accountability and commitment to God.

Perhaps that might sound like you.  I know I can relate. When things in our lives are going well, we can become comfortable with the good things, and lack appreciation and humility to God.

Whatever the transgression, our God still loves us.  God hates the sin but loves the sinner.  Even though God loves us, He may punish us and hold us accountable for our actions. 2 Samuel 12:14 tells us that Nathan told King David, “the child who is born to you shall surely die.” 2 Samuel 12:16-23 tells the story of the birth and death of King David and Bathsheba’s first son. Although God was furious and punished King David, 2 Samuel 12:13 says “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

That brings us to our reading today which is Psalm 51 “A Prayer of Repentance.” King David poured out his heart to God, acknowledging the sins he committed related to the relationship with Bathsheba and Uriah’s death.

Taking accountability for our actions can be difficult.  Our actions may have negatively impacted a relationship, emotionally hurt a person, physically injured another person, or even worse, killed another person.

God wants us to repent.  God wants us to concede our transgressions and show that we accept responsibility.  God wants us to turn to Him in times of trouble and ask Him for forgiveness.

Admitting we are wrong can be a hard “pill to swallow.”  Humility is not always a common trait. When things are going well for us, we must not “move away” from God.  Life will throw us challenges and strife, along with happy times and hopefully prosperity.  The constant in our entire journey is that God loves us and wants us to give Him reverence and praise for our blessings.

It’s hard to think that God punishes us.  It’s difficult to understand why God would “want bad” for us.  For me, I believe it comes down to responsibility and loyalty.  Everything I have comes from our Lord and Savior.  If I disobey His commands, clearly laid out in the Bible, I expect to be held accountable.

Our relationship with our Lord is no different than the relationships we have on earth.  A relationship is built on love and trust and should be valued and protected.  Our relationship with our Lord is no different.  If we mess up, apologize and ask God for forgiveness.  When things are going well for us, give praise and thanks to our Lord for our blessings.

I Believe: Obedience > Sacrifice

Have you heard the phrase “obedience over sacrifice” before? When I first heard this term – I didn’t know what exactly it was referring to, and almost twenty years later, the Lord is still using it to teach me.

Back then, a mentor was encouraging me to let go of my works as a way to earn salvation. Through prayer and study, he was able to help me more fully understand, that the perfect sacrifice was already completed for me on Calvary. None of my striving was going to be enough – Jesus was enough, and the only sacrifice acceptable.

I’m sure this mentor saw some questionable patterns in my life and identified some growth opportunities.

Logically I knew that God didn’t work like a bank account, adding up our deposits (sacrifices and works) and comparing them to our withdrawals (sin), and look for a positive balance in order for us to earn heaven. While I knew this mentally, some of my behavior would indicate I had bought into this theology found in the world. “Just be a good person”, “Do more good than harm in your life”… those all sound positive and pleasant enough. But that’s not what we are called to as Christ followers.

God’s kingdom is set up completely opposite of that.

From the beginning, when sacrifices were made for our sins, shortly thereafter, the people started abusing it. Empty sacrifices without a heart change.

Then God gave us Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice for each of us. By believing this and accepting this gift, we let go of the constant attempts to obtain salvation by our own doing.

Our reading today in Psalms 50 is God’s response to sinners that are stuck in the cycle of sin and sacrifice. Those that are making sacrifices in vain and using the best of their flocks as a free pass to sin. As you read through this chapter, you can see where God wants our hearts – in a state of gratitude. He wanted the people to have a grateful spirit and let that be their sacrifice. Go through the heart change – which is much more challenging than giving up an animal. And while we might not be picking out a sheep each week, I’m sure there are similar practices or things we give up that we treat as sacrifices, similar to David’s time.

And these practices or holy habits can be great expressions of our faith, when our heart is right. God is calling us to let go of our “sin band-aids and justifications” of giving more, serving more, being more… he can see right through it.

In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells Saul, The Lord delights more when we obey his voice than he does in burnt offerings and sacrifices.

If you’ve ever had to follow through with a tough consequence given to your own kids, you just wish they would have obeyed from the start. You’d rather see them making wise choices, than watch them lose their phone for a week. You’d rather them experience an “ah ha moment” of heart change, than lose out on time with friends.

In Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus (Eph 2:8-9), he explains that we are saved because of our faith in Jesus, and NOT because of any of our own works or actions. This salvation is a gift from God, and we can’t earn it – and none of us have any reason to boast.

One last scripture I will share related to this topic – in God’s perfect timing, the Bible App’s daily scripture popped on my phone this week:

To do justice and judgement is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3.

This was such an awesome study for me this week! I know there are areas I still hold on to my “easy out” with sacrifices. Maybe not overtly, but deep down there are thoughts and even “well at least I…” or trade offs I will make with myself, to try to soften the blow to my own sin. But you know the only thing that actually does that? Jesus. Relationship with him. Drawing us to heart change and complete gratitude for what he did on Calvary.

The meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

I don’t know how people live without a close relationship with our creator.

Have you ever had someone you looked up to and respected, do something completely the opposite of what you would have ever dreamed of and opposite of what they were an expert in? For example, two fire fighters. They both fight fires and teach fire safety and prevention. Then one of them out of anger intentionally starts a fire that causes pain and destruction.

As you might imagine, I’m reflecting on a time where I was wronged by someone, metaphorically as the two firefighters. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about anyone in my family or a close friend, yet I pray that this person might read these words and come to understand true freedom.

The Journey

First, astonishment. It was surreal as my mind was saying “this is not actually happening”. As the thoughts processed, the physical reaction came in. My heart was pounding, hands shaking, and adrenaline flowing.

At the same time I observed another witness to this event with his nostrils flaring almost like a wild horse (I envisioned fire coming from his nose and thought that would be pretty cool), eyes wide open gazing straight at the offender.

Deep cleansing breaths.

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
   when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, (Psalm 49:5)

After the situation diffused there was pain and anger and a sleepless night. I confess to some very dark prayers as to what I thought God should do to this offender. Some of my anger manifested into feelings of hate. Yes I’m human, a sinner.

And this is why I opened with: “I don’t know how people live without a close relationship with our creator.” Without God’s wisdom, I would surely have let the hatred go further, resulting in more damage to myself and others such as my friends and family who are completely innocent in this.

Through prayer, meditation, and conversation with loved ones the healing process started. Multiple interactions with a friend brought so much laughter I had tears in my eyes and my abdominals hurt as we made fun of the preposterous situation. Sometimes if we don’t laugh, we cry! Thank you Jesus for putting friends in my life who know and love me, who help bring joy, peace, and my favorite medicine, laughter.

It was a struggle but I started to realize “the offender” (a human) was not the enemy. As my heart softened I wrote to another friend, “He is not the enemy. Fear, confusion, disorganization, miscommunication and deception are the enemies.” Thank you God for helping me understand.

My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. (Psalm 49:3)

The painful event and the healing occurred this week, in parallel with my assigned reading and sharing on Psalm 49 which specifically describes such times of trouble and how God is with us, how he loves us and frees those of us who follow him.

But as for me, God will redeem my life.
    He will snatch me from the power of the grave. (Psalm 49:15)

This was another divine intervention, one more reason to believe. God is always on time, his word is always true.

Song of Praise

Today’s reading:  Psalm 48

The authors of Psalm 48 were the Sons of Korah, otherwise known as the temple assistants.  Kind of like Shelly started yesterday’s post with the words of a worship song, I see the 14 verses of Psalm 48 as lyrics to a song that the Sons of Korah sang to praise God as they carried out their duties.

Verses 1-8 praise God’s powerful actions by describing:

  • His holy city (Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, where the temple was located); Jerusalem was regarded as the center of God’s presence in the world
  • Him as the powerful defender of his city, of whom other kings were afraid
  • Him as the protector of his city and its inhabitants, for whom he will make it safe forever

Verses 9-11 praise God’s perfect character by describing:

  • His unfailing love
  • His name as deserving of praise
  • His justice

Verses 12-13 praise God by describing evidence of his protection:

  • Count the many towers
  • Note the fortified walls
  • Tour the citadels

Verse 14 closes by confirming God’s likeness to the descriptions in the previous verses, and declaring him as the God who will guide our ways forever.

While I don’t know a hymn or worship song that is specific to Psalm 48, the hymn that found myself singing as I read this scripture and prepared for this post was Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.  I encourage you to meditate on the words of this hymn with me today –

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.  Oh my soul praise him for he is my hope and salvation.  All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near.  Join me in glad adoration (Joachim Neander, 1680).

 

 

Clap Your Hands

Today’s reading is Psalm 47. It is impossible for me to read the first verse without singing an old church song in my head.

“Clap your hands all ye people,
shout unto God with a voice of triumph! clap your hands all ye people,
shout unto God with a voice of praise! Hosanna! Hosanna!
Shout unto God with a voice of triumph! Praise Him, Praise Him!
Shout unto God with a voice of Praise!”

This was a song we sang at church when we were young. It was more about going faster and faster each time and I think there were hand motions involved. I hope some of you are singing it now.
I was feeling very thankful and even hopeful today as I walked in 52-degree weather and sunshine! So much has happened in the past few weeks as we continue to move closer to a sense of normalcy in the midst of this pandemic. School is moving forward, our kids are playing sports, vaccinations are rolling out, cases are down, and the sun is shining! I haven’t felt hopeful for a while so today was a welcome change. While I want things to continue in a positive direction I am also very aware that they could change in an instant. My prayer is that I will remember that my hope is not based on anything in this world, but on Jesus Christ. If my hope is based on the trajectory of this pandemic or anything of this world, I will likely suffer disappointment. God is my hope and my constant. For this I am so thankful! The things of this world will fade, but He remains.

How do you express your thankfulness to God? Regardless of how you express your thankfulness, God will receive it. He knows where you have been and where you are going. He knows the struggles you will have tomorrow and next week. Nothing escapes Him. He is worthy of our praise!

Today, thank God for all the ways He has shown up for you in the past year. My list started yesterday with the sunshine and I was amazed at all the things He brought to my mind.

Psalm 47:7 “For God is the King over all the earth. Praise him with a psalm!”.

Shelly Thomas

Be Still

February 23, 2021

Today’s Reading: Psalm 46

There is so much to pull from Psalm 46.  I will try to bracket a couple of the beginning and ending verses that spoke to me when reading this week.  Let’s start here.

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  

Quick question for you,  “Do you turn to our Lord when you are in trouble or need strength?

I know we all face troubles. Trouble can look like a lot of things. They come in the form of disappointments, frustrations, misunderstandings, unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, great loss, great loneliness, fear, criticism, persecution, conflict.  At one point or another, you may have faced one or all of these scenarios. The pain from divorce, abuse, failure, and many other situations that either happened or I put myself in. I should have known they would come with the nickname “trouble.” (This is another story and need for prayer.)

Recently I talked with multiple family members and a friend who are going through some trials of relationships, depression, and anxiety.  Some have turned to alcohol and others to medications that help with the stress.  Both of these solutions seemed to take away the pain temporarily but had bigger, more negative impacts in other areas besides what they were currently dealing with. In these conversations, we have talked about our hope, refuge, and strength coming from the Lord. 

There are also times when we deal with trials and pain by keeping ourselves busy.  Never taking time to be still and seek Him. As we have read through the Psalms, I’ve noticed how the Psalmist never really asks for the trials never to happen. The request is just delivery us from them.   We know that everyone will face trials.

We need to remember and trust that God is with us in every circumstance. 

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  

I’m going to bracket the start of Psalm 46:10 with the end.

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

In our modern world of noise, busyness, and 24/7 of being on the go, solitude is truly countercultural. It’s a very challenging behavior to adopt. To be with God without an agenda and to just be in His presence. In our trials, we face we can turn to God and find clarity in the silence.

When was the last time you intentionally spent a significant amount of time with God in solitude? Don’t bring your to-do list; just listen to His voice. If you can’t remember, this might be a clue to take some time. In fact, take a few minutes to be alone with God right now. Put your hands on your knees, palms down. Think of any of the concerns you have at this moment and imagine laying them down at His feet.  After you have given Him all your concerns, turn your palms up in a posture of receiving what God wants to give you.  Listen for His voice. Recite Psalm 46:10 now like this.

Be still, and know that I am God.

Be still, and know.

Be still.

Be.

Hebrews 5:11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.