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.

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 Dead Dog

1 Samuel 9

That is horrible imagery!  Nobody wants to envision a dead dog.  Ever!  But, it wasn’t always that way.  In fact, in the time of Mephibosheth, wild dogs were a nuisance.  They ran in packs terrorizing everyone.  So, seeing one lying on the side of the road dead, was less than a sad moment.  In other words, a dead dog was the lowest of the low.  So, why does Mephibosheth refer to himself as a dead dog in today’s reading?  Because he too, was the lowest, of the low.

Consider these four reasons that Mephibosheth considered himself a dead dog to David.

  1. Mephibosheth’s family tried to kill David.
  2. Mephibosheth is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel
  3. Mephibosheth is handicapped.

As I think about this situation, I have to wonder why David wants to help him.  I mean, it makes sense that David would want to tread him like a dead dog, right?  But, that did not happen.  Instead, David does the unthinkable.  He shows him kindness, restores the land that is rightfully his and brings him into his own house, like family.

Why would David do such a thing?  Mephibosheth’s question in verse 8 is an appropriate one.  He asks “why would you show such regard for a dead dog, such as I?” After all, he knew his worth.  But David’s plan was love, not revenge.

If you didn’t notice, this story is a familiar one.  It’s about a man that gave his life so we could live.  He did it despite our family history or our physical insufficiency.  Like David, Jesus did the unthinkable, taking our burden upon himself so that we might be restored and become who He created us to be.

Fickle

/ˈfik(ə)l/
adjective
changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.

Hosea 10:2 says  “The hearts of the people are fickle.”  What does that mean?  It means that we cannot figure out what we want.  In fact, when what we ask for, we decide that we want something else.  Has that ever happened to you?

The prophet Jeremiah comments on our fickleness as well.  He says, “The human heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know why he said this.  It’s because we often do things with full control and complete intentionality while we are fully aware of the consequences.

Guess what?  God knows this about us too.  No, he does not like it.  No, he will not tolerate it.  He does, however, love us.  He loves us enough to send his son so that even in our fickleness, we can have life.

 

How Could He?!

Ok, you have to read Hosea 1.  Are you in disbelief?  I am!

How could a good and perfect God command such a thing for the prophet Hosea?  Seriously, this is His good and faithful servant. Yet, God asks him to marry a prostitute and raise the children that she bears that are not his!

What?!  This angers me and makes me question if I really know God.  The life given to Hosea is not what he deserves.  Why God is paying for good with evil? How can this be?  Maybe God is not who I know him to be.

No, God is exactly who he says he is and God does exactly what he says he will do.  His promises are real.  Consider another man named Jesus.  He was righteous.  He was perfect in every way.  He loved God more than every other man, ever born.  Yet, God asked him to do the unthinkable.

Just like the life of Jesus, Hosea’s story does not end with pain and suffering.  Thankfully, he was willing to be used, in any capacity that God chose.  This faith and obedience give birth to hope and that hope gives way to true life.  This is when God is again able to call us “my people,” and “the ones I love” (Hosea 2:1, NLT).

With All Your Heart

What do you love?  Today, in Mark 12:18-44, Jesus reminds us that we are to love the Lord your God with all your heart.  So if you answered “I love Jesus,” do you love him with all your heart?  Let’s look at the evidence.

Our choices provide the evidence of our love.  You’ve probably heard that the easiest way to show what you love is to look at your calendar and your bank statement.  In other words, the things that we love show up in our priorities.  There is one more place, however, that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much and is far easier to hide.  Our thoughts.  What do you dwell on?

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to be perfectly honest answering that question.  Partly because I know the “right” answer and partly because I don’t want to face the judgement and wrath that comes with the full truth.  Problem is, it shows up either way.  In his book Winning the War In Your Mind, Craig Groeschel explains that “our lives is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts.”

If Groeschel is right, the quality of our lives is directly correlated to the quality of our thoughts.  Now, consider this.  There are at least four voices in our heads.

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. Satan, or the unholy spirit
  3. Spirit of my fears and desires (Jeremiah 17:9)
  4. Spirit of the times

I find that this list helps me evaluate the quality of my thoughts.  More importantly, it helps me honestly answer the question, “what are you dwelling on.”  You see, if I am not dwelling with the Holy Spirit, I cannot possibly be loving Jesus with all our heart.

Thankfully, today is a new day.  And…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new, every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

 

Whatever It Takes

Habakkuk 1

I have a business coach.  Part of her job is to hold me accountable to my goals.  Often that means making sure that I do something that I do not want to do.  Her method is an interesting one.  She will ask me to send her a check for $1,000 made out to my competitor.  Now, if I perform, she will tear it up and we move on.  If, however, I fail to do what I said I would do, she will mail it.  Clever strategy, huh?  We see a similar use of accountability today in Habakkuk 1.

Let’s start with verses 1-5, it’s a familiar story.  The Israelites are acting up, again.  The prophet, Habakkuk, lists several things in his lament to God.  He complains of violence, evil deeds and misery everywhere.  He is exhausted by people that love to argue and fight.  It’s so bad and there are so many wicked people, he continues, that justice no longer exists.  What, he laments, will you do about it God?

This is the ironic part.  God answers Habakkuk’s prayer, just not in the way he expected.  Instead, God says don’t worry, I’m on it.  Then he proceeds to tell Habakkuk about how he will have Israel destroyed by the Babylonians, their worst enemy.

Habakkuk is stunned.  How could God use such a horrible people to do his work?

His argument makes sense to me.  But so does God’s.  I mean, do we really expect God to look away forever?  When I think of how many promises, I have made to him – and broke – I get it.  At some point, there must be accountability, and beware, God is willing to use whatever means necessary to get it.

Get What You Want In 3 Easy Steps

Luke 11:1-13

Today, in Luke 11, Jesus promises to give us whatever we want.  So, what do you want?  What are you asking him for?  What?  What did you say?  Did you say that that’s not really what Jesus meant?  I did.  In fact, I’ve been contemplating this scripture and come to the conclusion that I am wrong.  My doubt is not a product of God’s failure to perform, but the result of my failure to complete the task.  Let me explain.

Think of something you have prayed for, but not gotten.  Don’t filter it.  What did you pray for?  Was it money?  Maybe love?  Health? Now, consider Jesus’ teaching about prayer.  First, he tells us to ask.  This is the simplest part.  But, we must be clear.  If you want health, what is that exactly?  Whatever it is, Jesus promises in verse 9 to ask, and “it shall be given.”

That’s too easy, right?  Maybe.  Jesus does provide us with another step to get what we want.  He says that we need to seek.  This is altogether different than asking.  Seeking is active.  Have you ever lost your wallet?  I bet you “seeked” all over the house until you found it!  Unfortunately, many of us are good at asking, but lousy at seeking.  For those that are willing to learn, however, Jesus promises that if we seek, “we will find.”

So maybe you asked, and were even diligent in searching, but still, you got no answer.  I wonder, did you knock?  I like the way Google defines it.  To knock is to strike something noisily to attract attention.  Hmmm….that’s a little more aggressive. But that’s not all.  According to Jesus, it’s the “impudent” knocking that gets results.  Read back through verses 5-8.  Jesus describes a man being rewarded for his impudence.  That trait is depicted as cocky, contemptuous, and disregarding others.

As I consider these activities, it becomes more clear to me why God does not always answer my prayers.  Worse yet, I see how my previous failures have fostered doubt about who God is and what he wants for me.

Today, in Luke 11, Jesus promises to give us whatever we want.  So, what do you want?  What are you asking him for?  What?  What did you say?  Did you say that that’s not really what Jesus meant?  I did.  In fact, Ive been contemplating this scripture and come to the conclusion that I am wrong.  My doubt is not a product of God’s failure to perform, but the result of my failure to complete the task.  Let me explain.

Think of something you have prayed for, but not gotten.  Don’t filter it.  What did you pray for?  Was it money?  Maybe love?  Health? Now, consider Jesus teaching about prayer.  First, he tells us to ask.  This is the simplest part.  But, we must be clear.  If you want health, what is that exactly?  Whatever it is, Jesus promises in verse 9 to ask and “it shall be given.”

OK, maybe that’s too easy.  Jesus does provide us with another step to get what we want.  He says that we need to seek.  This is altogether different than asking.  Seeking is active.  Have you ever lost your wallet?  I bet you “seeked” all over the house until you found it!  Unfortunately, many of us are good at asking, but lousy at seeking.  For those that are willing to learn, however, Jesus promises that if we seek, “we will find.”

So maybe you asked, and were even diligent in searching, but still you got no answer.  I wonder, did you knock?  I like the way Google defines it.  To knock is to strike something noisily to attract attention.  Hmmm….that’s a little more aggressive, but, according to Jesus, it’s not enough.  In verses 5-8, he describes a man being rewarded for his impudence.  That trait is depicted as cocky, contemptuous, and disregarding others.

Believers ought not to be discouraged, if they do not immediately obtain their desires, or if they find them difficult to be obtained: for if, among men, importunity of asking extorts what a person would not willingly do, we have no reason to doubt that God will listen to us, if we persevere constantly in prayer, and if our minds do not slacken through difficulty or delay. ~ John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries

I Do What I Want

Be careful what you pray for.  Have you ever heard that warning?  It’s often followed up with the phrase, “because you might get it.”  But, that’s not all of the story.  Far too often we pray for God’s intervention, his help, and his guidance only to reject the answer.  Consider today’s reading of Jeremiah 42.

You recall that our reading has been covering the invasion, and now occupation of, Israel by the Babylonians.  Well, in chapter 41, a man named Ishmael and 10 of his buddies went to see their Babylonian governor.  During dinner, the men jumped up and killed him.  Now, this seems like the kind of thing you do when your city has been seized by the enemy, but it still comes with consequences.  Specifically, someone is going to come looking for you.  Ismael and his buddies got scared.  Real scared!

Have you ever been so scared that you started to pray?  That’s exactly what they did.  In fact, they went to Jeremiah, the prophet, and asked him to pray for them.  They were specific too.  They asked God to “show them what to do and where to go” (v3).

Of course, God answered.  That’s what God does.  He always answers us, we just are not always listening. Or, at least not openly listening.  In this case, God’s answers were empowering.  He said “stay here” (v10), “do not fear the king of Babylon” (v11), and “I will be merciful” (v12).  It’s the perfect answer!

God is promising to return them to their land.  He is offering them peace and freedom.  But, if you read on through chapter 43, you will see that they reject it.  Instead of staying, they flee to Egypt!  Why? Why? Why?

The answer seems so easy as I sit here and read the story.  But in my heart, I know that it is not.  We all fall victim to this scenario.  We pray for the answer, but when we get it, we do what we want anyway.  Not because we think our way is better, we know that it’s not.  It’s just easier.  Sadly, it also perpetuates our pain and suffering.

So now, be careful what you pray for.  Better to know this before you start asking.  God will answer your prayer.  And, his answer will require that you become someone bigger and better than you are today.  It will take courage, surrender, and faith.  If that’s not what you want, maybe you should consider not asking.

Heart and Soul

1 Kings 3:1-17

I’m always on the lookout for a good book about leadership.  It supports my goal to become a better leader.  According to today’s scripture, I am chasing the wrong goal.  What if, instead of trying to be a better leader, I wanted to become a better person?  What would I look for?  Probably books about character, integrity, and love.  These traits are not skill-based, yet they are still developed but they don’t point to the mind.  They come from your heart.

King Solomon knew this.  In fact, he worked first to develop his heart.  We see that in verse 6.  Solomon went to the “bronze altar before the Lord, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered one thousand burnt offerings on it.”  This is where Solomon’s wish originates from.  A pure, worshipful heart.

Today, I’d like to ask God for better things.  I’m starting with “today, how will I fill my heart so that it overflows with the love of God?”