Cry Out!

Psalms 130

This world is a mess.  Ten minutes on your favorite news channel will remind you.  There are wars, droughts, economic turmoil and threats of depression, inflation, stagflation, diseases, murders, and thousands more problems.  Most of the time, I am able to narrow my focus from that macro view and pay attention to my own little world.  But, that’s not always enough.  Eventually, world events come to infect our own backyard.  They can no longer be ignored.  

You can no longer ignore world events when they begin having an effect on you.  Yes, that could be physical, or circumstantial.  If for example, you became sick or unemployed.  There are other effects, however, that are more insidious.  These are the things that affect our souls, our inner lives.

Maybe you know what I mean.  We have all experienced it.  The pressures of the world rob the joy from our daily lives.  It seems that nothing will restore the joy and vigor that we once had.  Today, in Psalm 130, this is exactly what we see.  The author cries out “from the depths.”  That means he has sunk low.  So low, in fact, that he cannot see a way out.  The light is disappearing.  As he sits, watching the light fade, he is reminded of his shortcomings, his sins, and iniquities.  Maybe you know how he feels.

Thankfully, this is not the end.  The Psalmist knows that this is merely a passing moment.  His hope is not in the things of this world, or even it God’s immediate rescue.  No, the Psalmist relies only on the promises of God. He is keenly aware that forgiveness and salvation await.  Someday.

As I read this Psalm, again and again, I am struck by his ability to wait.  “My soul waits,” he says.  Waits for the promises of God to be fulfilled.  Maybe that will be today, maybe tomorrow.  Either way, he watches and waits.  Ironically, it is in the waiting and hoping that the Psalmist experiences God’s love and the promise is once again fulfilled.

Sometimes, when our soul is tired, the hardest thing to do is cry out to God, and dwell on his promises, but that is precisely what he expects us to do.

Look Up

Have you been on any trips lately? Maybe you have some summer plans to take a vacation somewhere.  In our household, the process of a trip can go awry, starting with the items selected for travel, the route, time, or expectations of plans for the upcoming journey.  There is also a difference in our packing styles between Jennifer and my packing style.  Although Jennifer and I can both get everything in the space we have, the way it is put in the car can vary.  Often my pack job is repacked.  An earlier version of myself would take this to heart and kick off a long journey with us both being in a bad mood because of my desire to be correct.  (I’ve matured a little)

Today’s reading of Psalm 121 talks about a journey taken and where we should place all our trust.  It makes a difference when you take every journey, trip, and vacation and lift it up to the Lord.  Instead of my internal focus on the desires, I plan to happen, and I can look up and know He will provide.  As a family or on our own, we are seemingly on the go constantly.  (that’s another prayer) but still, even in these moments through the hills and valleys, we can look to Him for guidance, patience, hope, and love to put us exactly where we should be instead of panic or the power struggle of constantly feeling like we need to be in control.

On our journey, once you have looked up at Him, he reminds us in verse three that He won’t allow us to go off course once we have put our trust in Him. He will never sleep or leave or side.  That even when our eyes want to shut or we feel like we may need to pull over and get some rest.  He will be up waiting for us.

Any help we need in whatever real or metaphorical journey we take can be found in our Lord.  Whether you are looking ou the windshield of life, the rearview mirror of the past, or lost on the side of the road, Look Up! Our Lord is right there.  Our journey in life each of us is on today is God’s handiwork.  We can have the assurance and protection He provides throughout our journey in life when we look to Him and trust.

He made the mountains and the valleys.  He is with us in these moments in our lives. We will never reach any earthly destination that will look, feel, and be like it will in our eternal home in heaven.  Even as you read this today, God’s untiring watch over our lives is present.

Our coming and going routines of life can feel like going through the motions.  Look up! He’s right there, ready to go.  So are you prepared for your next trip? You are not alone. 

 

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

Today’s Reading: Psalm 103

 

Psalm 103: 1- 5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

    and all that is within me,

    bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

    who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

A brief outline of David’s life: 

  • The youngest of six brothers
  • He was placed in complete isolation from the family as a shepherd.
  • Serving his brothers in the midst of war and not being able to fight.
  • Defeated a giant.
  • Becoming a musician to the king.
  • Becoming best friends with the prince.
  • Becoming the son-in-law to the king.
  • Running for your life from the king.
  • Committing adultery.
  • Committing murder.
  • Losing your child as a baby.
  • Losing another child.
  • Running away from your son trying to murder you.
  • Having a kingdom.
  • Loving God.

This is just a brief outline of the life of David, the king of Israel. Throughout his life he experienced so many lows and highs. Some of the lows and highs that he experienced gives us a glimpse into his heart and his devotion to God. By no means, did David have an easy life. The majority of David’s life he was running for his life, literally. He did have some peace, but many times in his life he was being tripped and tried and trapped by the “fowler”. He did not have true peace that he was able to give himself. The only peace that he could get was from God. It may be because of all of his tribulations that is why he loved God so much and was able to truly understand God.

The 103rd psalms is a reflection of his true devotion and his love for God for everything that he had experienced through his life. We can have days, weeks, months, and years of tribulation and hardship and sometimes we question how this is working for God. When we think of David and look at this song we have to be encouraged that we will endure many things. Hopefully we won’t have to endure the same trials and David did, but we will have our own trials and tribulations that we will be faced with. We have to understand that it is not through our own peace and understanding that we are able to get through these hard times, but it’s only through God’s love that is within us.

But…

It is easy to read Psalm 102 because it is so relatable. If you can’t personally relate to the trials and tribulations this psalmist records, you definitely know someone near you that is facing hardship. We can all identify with the frustration and discouragement we read in this chapter.

The first eleven verses of Psalm 102 describe the trials we face…

102:3 – my days disappear like smoke, my bones burn like a furnace
102:4 – my heart is struck down like grass and has withered
102:5 – because of my loud groaning, I am skin and bones
102:7 – I lie awake, lonely
102:8 – my enemies taunt me day after day
102:9 – my tears run down into my drink
102:11 – My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass.

BUT…..

The the psalmist gives us hope and changes everything with this one word…”but”.

But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever. Your fame will endure to every generation.
Psalm 102:12

This life gives us challenging and scary circumstances, BUT one day, it will change! When Christ returns to rule and reign for 1000 years, it will all be different. He will have mercy on those living.

You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem – and now is the time to pity her, now is the time you promised to help.
Pslam 102:13

The city and the people have endured much hardship, but will be restored. Jesus will appear and rule and reign again. The prayers of those with little hope will be heard. The Lord will be praised. Life on earth will be different.

Let this be recorded for a generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion, his praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.
Psalm 102:18-22

We will face struggles, fears and trials, BUT we have God’s promises to hold onto. We have the promise that life on earth will be different. We have hope when we put our trust in Him. Jesus promises that He is with us to the end of the age. This is His promise to us.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

Shelter of the Most High

Reading Psalm 91 this week, I have been comforted by the reminders of the qualities of God’s nature that bless those who believe & are faithful in Him. It is a great comfort to know that in my times of need, in all the spiritual darkness and danger and weight of this world, the Lord will always be my refuge; as verse 2 says, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” I feel grateful to know He will:

– protect us & deliver us from destruction

– answer our pleas for help

– be with us through troubles & trials

– rescue us from evil

– honor our faith in Him

– truly satisfy us

– lead us to salvation

I am further glad this passage does not tell us life is without trial for the faithful; I think of James 1, counting it joyful to find trials in faith to steadfastly receive the crown of life. We know in our lives, we’re not exempt from disease, pain, heartache, emotional upheaval, even death; but we know we do not need to fear these things, because the Lord offers spiritual richness, deliverance from evil, joy, hope, peace, and life everlasting, far greater and more powerful than fear or worry or anxiety about our own situations.

I reflect on Psalm 91:1; “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Not he who has dwelled, or will dwell; but he who dwells, actively living and being in the Lord’s presence. You can’t live in sin and still live within the Lord’s presence: I think of Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” All these wonderful, comforting qualities of the Lord: in my own struggles, am I still actively seeking the Lord’s presence and living in Him, or am I living disobediently, hostile to God? We all have things inside us we are grappling with in our lives right now; being honest with yourself, what are yours? For me, anxiety and depression are daily difficulties. So I ask myself: is my love of the Lord and thankfulness of His honoring my faithfulness being held back & kept from being properly expressed by these worries & negative feelings? Do your conflicts – inner and outer – get in the way of your dwelling with the Lord, or are you using these conflicts as a measure to express joy and display your strength found in the Lord? Whatever this conflict looks like in your life, I pray that you too would recognize how you can more firmly live within all blessings of the Lord’s presence.

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

Today’s reading is Psalm 57 where David is hiding in a cave from Saul who is trying to kill him.

Have you ever had something “really bad” happen to you in your life? Perhaps someone close to you has died young or unexpectedly, you or someone close to you has had a serious illness, job loss, financial challenges, or divorce. How did you feel during the midst of it or after? How do you feel today? Of course you were sad, but beyond that were you feeling sorry for yourself or perhaps even mad at God. If yes, that’s ok. I would say these reactions are all normal and human nature. I’ve been there and felt that way as well.

Recently I heard someone say that one of the differences in great leaders and successful people is how quickly they recalibrate and get back to their vision and putting everyday good habits first after something bad happens or they are feeling down. In a similar way, I have to say I really admire Christ-followers who I’m sure initially feel upset, but who quickly turn to God for strength, help, and recalibrate to focus on how God can use them in their circumstances for His greater purpose and glory.

While David was fleeing for his life and hiding with seemingly nowhere to go he says in Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” Jesus taught us that we must ask for what we want from God in prayer and have the faith to truly believe that it will happen. He does so in Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 17:20. David asked God to rescue him in Psalm 57:1 and 57:3 and believes this will happen. David also says God’s purpose will be fulfilled either way in Psalm 57:2. Jesus tells us to ask for what we want and that’s the only way it will happen, but that God’s Kingdom and will are most important. He instructed us to pray about this and keep it on the forefront of our heart in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 when He said, “Your Kingdome come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Jesus didn’t just tell us to do this, He modeled and did it Himself in His toughest moments when He knew He was going to suffer the wrath of all the sins ever committed through a brutal scourging and crucifixion. In Luke 22:42, He prayed, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” He asked for what He wanted, but in the end put God’s will first despite the incredible suffering he was about to endure. Did God remove the pain and suffering? No. And I can’t promise you God will remove your suffering during your current or next challenge. But, God did send an angel strengthening Him in that moment in Luke 22:43. I can promise you that God will be with you always through every storm and challenge. David later became king and Jesus was raised 3 days after his death to give all who believe in Him eternal life in Heaven. He can turnaround the worst of circumstances through miracles and in ways on He could do. There cannot be a miracle without a setback! And whether we actually see it or not, He’s working all things for His good and His purpose through us. We must remember that “His good” and “our good” may not be the same, and although we may suffer through tough circumstances, we should be humbled that He would think enough of us to use us for His glory even in our challenges in a similar manner to how He used His Son Jesus.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

In God We Trust

I am ashamed to admit that I still find myself questioning God and not fully trusting Him and His promises.  I am definitely getting better at it, but it is not 100% natural to turn directly to Him first.  When I have to face my fears in certain situations, I find I battle in my mind before I turn to God.  

Today in Psalm 56, we read:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

“In God We Trust” can be see on our money.  We say these words in our pledge of allegiance and our national anthem.  It is easy to say in the pledge, or sing about, or even read.  But, is it that easy to apply to our lives when we face a fear?

King David experienced all kinds of fears, anxieties, and pain.  Just because he loved the Lord didn’t mean his life was easy.  Psalm 56 shows us that he was fearing for his life.  It proves to us that when he was afraid, he put his trust in God.  

When we believe in God we have a choice.  We can choose to live in fear, or we can choose give our fear to God and let our faith turn into trust.  When we turn to God our perspective changes.  We can focus on how big God is instead of how big our fear is.  Our faith will grow as we remember that God is for us and we can trust in His promises.

Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.  This I know, that God is for me.  In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me?

Pslam 56:9-11

Refuge

Psalm 52

I’ve become very good at setting goals. In fact, I follow an entire process that ensures my success.  That process includes engaging in and tracking specific activities that will bring about the results I desire.  Today, as I read Psalm 52, it occurs to me that I don’t always consider what happens at the end of success.  Is it really sunshine and rainbows?

The answer is that it depends.  To be more specific, it depends fully upon the object of your goal.  For example, every year I set a sales goal.  Realizing the goal assures me that I will have enough money to live the life I want to live.  It’s safety, security, and even a little bit of luxury.   You might say that the money I make becomes my “refuge.”

Here is where the Psalm comes in.  Verse 7 says, “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.”  Hmmm…. did it really say that the refuge I seek will lead to my own destruction?

You know it did.  So do I.  So why did this particular verse stand out to me today?  Perhaps it’s because of an imbalance in my life.  You see, that’s the way the Holy Spirit works.  If we are really listening, we will hear him softly calling.  We will feel his loving nudge to come into his love.

Do you hear it?  What is your response?

 

 

 

A Prayer of Repentence

Psalm 51

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence.

And do not take Your Holy Spirt from me.

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.”

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.

What gives us a “moral compass” to do the right thing? How do we hold ourselves accountable to what is good and what is bad?

Acknowledging that we need guidance and admit when our life goes “off track” is imperative.  The inspiring part of this story is that David acknowledged his sin and prayed to God to “cleanse him” of his sin and help him be a better person.  We will sin.  We will make bad decisions.  God wants us to acknowledge our sin, which we call repentance, and apply His commands to our lives.  God will allow us to sin. He does not control our actions. The most vital decision for us is to admit and acknowledge when we have done wrong.

Admitting we are wrong can be a hard “pill to swallow.”  Humility is not always a common trait. Life will throw us challenges and strife, along with happy times and hopefully prosperity.  The constant in our journey on earth is that God loves us and wants us to give Him reverence and praise for our blessings.  Even when we sin, God loves us.  He is a loving Father that wants what is best for us. But as a loving Father, He allows challenges and strife in our lives so we will appreciate and acknowledge His love and grace for us.

The most spiritual thing you can do today.

“The most spiritual thing you can do today is to choose.” – Erwin Raphael McManus

My interpretation of that quote basically boils down to trusting in God or trusting in ourselves. It is so easy to fall into the trap of worry, to let our minds wander into a place that tries to control situations based on what we know of the past or what we fear of the future. This life is a journey with many opportunities to choose. God has a plan. Our choice: Trust and obey even when it doesn’t seem logical, or go at it on our own/disobey and therefore face the consequences.

In 1 Kings 17:8-24 we read about a widow who is starving. Widows in that time were generally poor and had to rely on others for daily sustenance. This widow was no exception. She had enough food for one last meal then after that, death. To make matters worse, while preparing for her last meal she is approached by Elijah who asks her for some food.

Verse 9 says that God instructed (NLT) or commanded (ESV) a woman to feed Elijah. The scriptures do not tell us how he instructed or commanded her, we just know that he did. Her response wasn’t “oh, you’re the guy God told me about”, it was simply something to the effect of “well I have almost nothing, and what I do have isn’t even enough for me”. That was her reality. Give it away and die now, or consume what she had and die a little later.

Elijah then encourages her saying not to worry and shares God’s promise:

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” (1 Kings 8:14)

The most spiritual thing she did in that moment was to choose. Through God’s miraculous power, it was on her heart to make the decision to comply even though apparently she didn’t know Elijah, and her decision came with a cost.  Maybe you’re like me. If someone came up to me on the street and said to give them all I have because God said so, I’d dismiss them and keep moving (and a bit quicker).

She trusted. She obeyed. God honored her choice by delivering abundance.

The power that filled the container of oil is the same power in Jesus to feed thousands, turn water into wine, raise the dead, heal the sick, and ultimately to resurrect his dead body. This same power is ours as well if we choose to follow Jesus. As he forgives our sins, he resurrects us to a life with him, and as we live for him, he “fills our jars with oil” for eternity.

Jesus is calling. What is God calling you to trust and obey today and how will you respond? There is an abundance of joy and peace on the horizon that only comes from him.

May the Lord prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. May he anoint your head with oil. May your cup overflow. Amen.