Desiring a Psalm 71 perspective

Daily Readings: Judges 11-12, Mark 12, Psalm 71

As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Psalm 71:14-21

My wife and I were sitting on the back porch recently talking about some of the questions I would love to ask God one day in Heaven. There are so many things I would love answers to. There are so many circumstance in life, in the world, and throughout the Bible where I would love to be able to sit across from God and ask, “Why did it have to unfold that way? What was the bigger picture reasoning there? Was that event from you for a purpose or was it simply something you allowed as the result of us living in a broken and fallen world?”

I think we have all probably been there. Two days later I came to Psalm 71.

God has a great way of speaking to us in the moment through his word when we choose to listen. It never ceases to amaze me.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.

I want this to be the unceasing posture of my heart. I want to be a person who praises God and tells of his righteous deeds regardless of whether or not I feel equipped with all the answers. I want to be singing his praises even if I cannot understand how to relate them all.

It is so natural as a Christian in our modern world to feel uneasy sharing what God has done in our lives because we feel the need to be able to articulately answer any question that might be thrown our way. The desire to be an expert has crippled so many potential evangelists. We want to be experts first and THEN we will share our faith with others around us. Contemplating what we might say when the tough questions come can be absolutely paralyzing.

Psalm 71 goes on to say:

Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

This is one of the ever-present struggles that most Christians have relating to God’s ways. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why was this challenge put in my life or allowed in my life or in the lives of people I care about?

It can be so difficult in these tough times to remember that we have a Father in Heaven that will always restore. What we are going through, while extremely difficult at times, is temporary. God’s restoration will be eternal. His comfort will never end.

I want to live like Psalm 71.

I want to always have hope. I want to always praise him more and more. I want to tell of his marvelous deeds and declare his power to the next generation. I want the emotional strength and spiritual maturity to do all of this through all circumstances, not just the good. I know this level of perspective and spiritual maturity can only come from a deep, intimate, daily relationship with God. It is something we must desire so strongly that we are willing to pursue it the same way we pursue the other tangible desires of our heart.

It is worth the pursuit.

Thought to ponder

What has occasionally held me back from sharing the miraculous deeds of God, praising him more and more, and sharing him with the next generation?

I think of you through the watches of the night

Daily Readings: Joshua 17-18, Mark 3, Psalm 63

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:3-8 

Even since I left college, I have never been a good sleeper. I always marvel at the concept of sleeping through the entire night. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t wake up at least 3-4 times throughout the night and then roll around attempting to get comfortable.

If this last more than 20-30 minutes, now my mind starts wandering, responsibilities start flooding in, the to-do list for the day, week, or month begin to keep me up, and falling back to sleep seems an insurmountable task.

In the middle of last October God did a wonderful thing for me and asked me to stop fighting it. He asked me to just abide in him in these moments. He asked me to use that time in bed to spend time with him, thank him, lift others up, and just enjoy the presence of my heavenly father in the comfort of my bed.

There have been some nights since then where I have completely forgotten this prompting from God and failed miserably at this, but there have been many other nights where I have chosen to turn those seemingly frustrating moments of not being able to fall back asleep because of a sore back and active mind into beautiful time with my father.

I have imagined being curled up in his lap the way my children snuggle up to me around bedtime when we are reading books on the couch. I have imagined his smile as he puts his arm around me and enjoys the time we have together with no agenda other than being with his treasured child.

I don’t always fall back to sleep immediately when I shift the posture of my heart to one of abiding in these moments, but I wake up refreshed.

Psalm 63 was a great reminder this morning to choose to abide more often. It was a great re-centering of my heart on praising him on my bed and not just with my waking moments.

When I embrace that his love truly is better than life, as David writes today, and use those quiet moments to allow my heart to sing his praise, glorify his name, and cling to him; I leave fully satisfied.

Thought to ponder

When are moments throughout the day or night when I allow my mind to be cluttered and heart to stray from God, where I can actively choose to imagine this physical manifestation of God right there with me as a loving father looking down on his treasured child?

“My grace is sufficient”

Daily Readings: Joshua 7-8, 2 Corinthians 12, Psalm 60

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My grace I sufficient for you.

On Sunday February 11th at 7 PM our family had just wrapped up a birthday party celebrating our amazing daughter Sophie turning 4 years old. Sophie is a cancer survivor that was diagnosed at just 2 months old with a rare form of cancer and, at this moment, is nearing 3 years cancer free.

Praise God!

It wasn’t more than 30 minutes after the last guest left that my wife called me upstairs and said we needed to go to the hospital. At the time we were 7 months pregnant and she had started bleeding significantly. We quickly called my parents, who only live a mile away, to come stay with our other three kids as we rushed to the hospital. The bleeding stopped by the time we got their, but the doctors told us they would be needing to keep Naomi there for observation for 5-7 days, because if it started again Naomi’s life and our unborn son’s life would be at risk at that point, and they would do an emergency cesarean section.

After being their several hours, they told me to go home, but to leave my phone on just in case. 90 minutes later, shortly after I had fallen asleep, the phone call came that I was desperately hoping to avoid, and I was driving as fast as I could back to the hospital, running inside, putting on scrubs, nervously waiting in the hallway, and finally entering the operating room with my wife.

Needless to say, it was an emotional several hours. That second drive to the hospital at 1:30 AM was the most scared I have ever been.

I threw out a group text at 8:08 PM when we were first heading to the hospital to a group of men that I do life with. Christian brothers in arms ready to go to battle with me and for me. The prayers began.

These are the moments earlier in my life where I would have waited until I knew more before sharing what was happening with anyone in my life.

“No point in worrying everyone. What if it is nothing? How will I look if I am just scared over something minor? Besides, they are busy, and I don’t want to burden them with something that might ultimately be no big deal.”

Lies crafted by an enemy with centuries of practice.

Satan wants us to do life alone. He wants you to believe that you are a burden to others, that no one really cares, that you are strong enough in your own power, and the power of prayer isn’t real anyway.

It isn’t until those moments in life where you have a child diagnosed with cancer, a wife being rushed into an emergency surgery, an infant taken up to the NICU, or any other extreme life event completely out of your control; that you realize what a complete illusion “control” is.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God has blessed our family with a fair amount of worldly success. We have an amazing family, I run a successful company, we have incredible friends, and by lots of worldly standards, we are a success story.

Rarely has any of our worldly success given us the ability to minister to others and speak about God’s glory in the same way we have been able to because of Sophie’s cancer. Already, in just a short week and a half, I believe that the experience spanning February 11th-12th has already allowed us to give glory to God more than any career accomplishment ever could.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Naomi is recovering well from her surgery. Andrew, as of Feb 23rd, is still in the NICU and will most likely remain there for another week or two, but is moving in the right direction faster than we could have hoped for.

God is good.

However, God is not just good because of this individual result. When I sat outside the operating room while they prepped Naomi my prayer over and over again was, “You are a good God. You are a good good father. Regardless of the outcome, I know this to be true.” I prayed that same prayer when we first got the news with Sophie.

God already knows this. This prayer was necessary for my own heart.

In a perfect world, I would rather not have our newborn need to spend the first 3-4 weeks of his life in the NICU. I would rather that his sisters (who are super excited to meet their baby brother!) not have to wait a month to meet the newest addition to our family because kids under 18 are not allowed in the NICU. I would rather everything had gone beautifully according to plan.

Our plan.

However, Paul said it perfectly today:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

We have always said as a family that we want to live out James 1:2-4 when James wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We decided about five months ago that our son’s middle name would be James in honor of this book in the Bible. We never expected he would live into his name so quickly!

However, we are considering it pure joy.

I know this trial will be far from the last we will face as a family as we journey through life, and this one is still not yet over, but his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in our weakness.

Throwing out your mismatched socks

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 27-28, 2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 54

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 

I am sure I am not alone in the challenge that lay before me this past Sunday night. It was a monster a didn’t want to face, a personal challenge I had been putting off tackling, an ever present stress that resurfaced once or twice a week that I simply didn’t want to ever deal with…

It was our mismatched sock box.

At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!

In any case, every time we do laundry and a new sock exists without a match, into the box it goes. In theory there will be a day where we tackle this monster. Unfortunately, like most challenges we put off facing in life, the longer you put it off, the larger it grows.

Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it. After getting 100% of the laundry done, scouring the girls’ bedrooms for any strays that were tucked under dressers, lost in a corner, etc. I was confident I had 99% of the socks I would ever find ready to be matched. Then I went to battle.

By the end I had found an additional 45 matches between the five of us. Success!

And there were 91 socks left over…

What?!

First of all, how did we ever get to the point over nine years where we accumulated 91 unique socks between our entire family? Secondly, how could we possibly have lost 91 socks? Mind-boggling.

I gathered them up and finally did what I should have done a long time ago; I threw them out.

I started to think Sunday about how much less annoyance I would have experienced over the last nine years if I had been comfortable throwing away one sock a month when the pair came up missing as opposed to clinging to the lone remaining sock. Instead, every time a new sock was added to the box, I grew frustrated. I watched it grow and grow and felt like an idiot. How does this keep happening? And why am I hoarding these?

As I was lying in bed Sunday night I began to smile thinking about the fact that we tend to do that with almost everything in life as Christians.

In 2 Corinthians today, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Whatever struggles have existed in our lives, Jesus wants to wipe the slate clean and make us into a new creation. Whether these be self inflicted challenges and sin issues that we struggle with, or circumstances that occurred in our lives that we had no control over, Jesus wants to give us freedom. He wants to release us from the bondage. He wants us to walk out of that prison cell into freedom. He wants us to truly be a new creation and not just pay lip service to that notion. He wants us to genuinely turn these things over to him.

So much easier said than done, but worth fighting for!

I know that I personally find it hard to find that perfect balance in life when it comes to processing the things that have happened, considering why I am wired the way I am, and digging into these issues to understand myself better; and letting certain things go so that I can really embrace that the old is has gone and the new is here.

I think there is a healthy balance that can be struck.

I wish over the last nine years our sock box had a one-week limit. Throw it in the box temporarily and if the missing sock turns up over the next week as we do the rest of the laundry, great! If not, throw it out. Don’t be a slave to the thought that, “Maybe one day, the partner will return!”

I think the same general principle applies to giving things over to Christ. I believe it is critical to really process events that have happened in our lives, ask God to show us what lies we believe because of these events, what negative thought patterns arose because of them, and what habits we have formed as a result that keep us from living full lives with him. However, there are times where I think I have processed these things to death and it is just time to give it over to God and let it go.

It is time to throw out the socks. It is time to believe Jesus and trust that we really are capable of being a new creation. We don’t need to remain in bondage. We don’t need to fall into the same old habit pattern. There is freedom. The prison cell door is standing wide open. We really do have the ability to just walk out at any time if we choose to fully submit to him.

Again, easier said than done. However, I believe that one of the weapons of the enemy is telling you to hoard the socks. “Don’t let go of that event just yet. Don’t fully forgive that person for what they did. Don’t fully release yourself from the guilt and shame you feel over that decision you made and trust that the blood of Christ is enough to cover it. Plus, do you really believe you are a new creation? Save the socks. There might be a day where the other one shows up. Just tuck them away where you won’t see them all of the time.”

Unfortunately, when we refuse to turn things over to God, every time we lose another sock, we once again find ourselves confronting the entire box all over again. Every negative emotion, self destructive pattern, forgiveness we have been refusing to give, guilt, shame, frustration, anxiety, etc. comes flooding back immediately. They were just sitting there waiting in the closet waiting to remind us that, “we really aren’t a new creation”. They are sitting there telling us that we will never be enough.

Throw out the socks.

Jesus paid it all and freedom is waiting there.

If you have one more load of laundry to do in your life and you really need to dig into some issues that you have refused to deal with for the longest time, do the load. Don’t be afraid of what might come out of it. Get with a trusted friend, a counselor, a pastor, etc. and dig in. Let’s find whatever matches we can so that healing can take place and we can accept the free gift that Christ has given to us.

Then throw it away. Stop letting whatever it is control your life. You really are a new creation! Freedom has been waiting there all along. We just need to stop believing the lies that we still have a little more to fix in our lives before we can fully experience it.

Thought to ponder

What socks have I been hoarding? What laundry is there to still do in my life so that I can find some matches and then let it go?

The God of all comfort

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 19-20, 2 Corinthians 1

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

There is so much power in these 9 verses.

When we read Paul’s encouraging words to the church at Corinth, who were clearly going through some hardships at the time, the first thing that pops out to me is how powerful our stories are for encouraging others. There are few things that can give someone more strength in their current battle than a brother or sister in Christ coming alongside them and saying, “I have walked this same path you are on.”

There is power in our story.

However, something struck me towards the end of the passage this morning in a different light.

For a lot of us it takes years or even decades to get to a point where we are able to come to terms with the challenges that have occurred in our lives. Some of these are things that happened to us, and some are self-inflicted challenges. Once we are willing to share these experiences with others, we have a huge opportunity to comfort and assist people facing the same life challenges. We can relate!

This is not what struck me this morning.

Towards the end Paul says, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Paul was not just speaking to them about the time he was imprisoned 10 years ago and telling them to hang in there because it eventually gets better. He wasn’t saying, “Listen, in a different life, I struggled with that too. I can relate!” Paul was saying that this is an ongoing battle. We are still facing the exact same challenges that you are facing today, and we will most likely continue to face them. We have full expectation that God will continue to be faithful and the fact that we are still in the midst of our struggle will be a testimony to God’s unfailing love and others can then see the manifestation of the power of their prayers as they lift us up in our battle!

Wow.

This changes the game. I know for me personally, no matter what I am struggling with during any season life, it is always helpful to have people in my life that can relate and say, “I went through that also. Here is how God helped me deal with it.”

It is even more powerful when someone is able to say, “I am right there in that battle with you…still. Today. This is a fight I am currently fighting and God is going to continue to deliver us. On him we can set our hope, together.”

There is serious power in battle partners that you go to war with against an enemy who is cunning and knows exactly how to attack each and every one of us.

Just because your battle may be lessened from where it was at it’s peak, there is still serious power in your willingness to be open about it. You don’t have to still be stuck in, what seemed like, a bottomless pit of shame and self-defeat. Friends of yours that are still early on in their particular battle are able to take extreme comfort knowing that they are not alone.

We have all struggled with any number of things, anger, jealousy, alcoholism, pornography, gluttony, pride, drug addiction, adultery, lying, or coveting; and we are still tempted in some form or fashion every day. Being able to tell a brother or sister in Christ about your still present struggles instead of talking about them in an academic, past tense way, gives so much more comfort.

That doesn’t mean you have to be losing the battle to be of comfort to another. It just means that there is power in admitting a battle still rages. When people see us as perfect, having it all together, never struggling with anything, and having conquered all of our past demons; it sets a false standard that no one can live up to and creates hopelessness. None of us can achieve perfection, which is why Christ had to come in the first place.

What do you struggle with? It doesn’t mean that you need to have lost that fight recently. Maybe you have been abiding firmly in Christ, and when those temptations have come recently, you have reminded yourself of your true identity and allowed God to strengthen you. That is fantastic!

But it doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there.

Maybe you are still in the midst of a battle that you have been losing more times than not in recent weeks and months. God loves you like crazy exactly where you are. He is a God of comfort and a God of compassion. He wants to rescue you each and every day if you will allow him.

As Paul wrote today, God not only desires to rescue us, but he also wants to use our past, present, and future struggles to comfort and encourage others. He wants to show others, through our unending faith in God’s rescue, the hope that exists in him.

So share your story. Not just of the past and God’s powerful redemptive work, but also be open with the present battles you are fighting today.

Our God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 

Let him use you, along with your troubles, to be a source of comfort to others this week!

Thought to ponder

What are my current struggles? Am I willing to lay them out there for others so that they can comfort me and so that I can be a source of encouragement for others who then realize they are not alone as well?

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