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?

The Sabbath is for us

Daily Readings: Joshua 15-16, Mark 2, Psalm 62

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28

Throughout the entire gospel we see a running theme of religious leaders struggling to grapple with the faith they have grown up embracing that was based on black and white rules that needed to be followed at all cost and the type of faith that Jesus spoke of. Religious leaders were most comfortable with a concrete checklist of things to do and things to avoid. Jesus went after the heart. Jesus came with a message of relationship with God. Jesus came to help people understand that God did not simply desire legalism and a group of followers that followed the religious laws to perfection, but followers that understood God’s desires for their lives and what they were called to do with their time here on earth.

Almost the entirety of Mark 2 follows this theme. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, but the religious leaders feel he blasphemed by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus goes to eat with the sinners so that they may come to faith and the religious leaders grumble their disapproval. And finally they see Jesus and his followers simply picking a couple heads of grain as they walk and blow everything out of proportion.

I love the response Jesus gives.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 

I chuckled when I read this passage this morning.

The Sabbath is for us.

The almighty God of the Universe, creator of everything that was, that is, and that is to come is not having his day ruined by us knocking out some work on a Sunday afternoon. The Sabbath is not for him. The Sabbath is for us.

I desperately need the Sabbath. I need a day every week where I unplug, spend time with family, friends, and the body of Christ. I need to reenergize, fill my cup back up, and re-center myself on God.

The Sabbath is for us.

I imagine this applies to a lot of God’s laws throughout the Bible. So often we think of God’s laws and view them as a list of things that are inconvenient to follow and resent that we are “unable, as a follower of God, to just do what we want!” like an immature teenager that thinks their parents are so stupid for all of the rules they put in place until they reach their mid-20’s and realize, “Maybe mom and dad knew a thing of two back then…”

God wants us to live a rich, full, and meaningful life throughout the time we are blessed with here on earth. God want the best for his children. When my wife and I set rules for our kids it is not to try to restrain their fun or make life less enjoyable, they are always made with their best interest at heart. We are imperfect human parents and may occasionally make decisions with our children that we look back on and wish we could have over. Our father in Heaven is perfect.

Following all of God’s word does not guarantee an easy life for us. That is not what we are promised as followers of Christ. However, if we truly seek after the father’s will through studying his word and seeking to live it out, it does draw us closer to him. It does give us peace and perspective. It does keep us away from self-created adversity!

We all have some commands from God that we find incredibly difficult to follow. We all have a portion of his law that we push back against over and over again despite knowing that we shouldn’t. We are flawed and fallen human beings, which is why Jesus came in the first place. However, when we acknowledge that God has so much more for us when we embrace that his laws are perfect and lead us to a better life in the present, not just for eternity, they do become easier to follow.

Start with the Sabbath. It is almost impossible to follow any of other of God’s decrees when burned out and not centered on God. Give yourself that recharge. Have a day that is actually devoted to God and not knocking out an endless to-do list and catching up on things you fell behind on this week.

The Sabbath was made for you.

Thought to ponder

How could I do a better job of guarding the Sabbath?

Speaking truth in love

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 31-32, 2 Corinthians 7, Psalm 55

I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

2 Corinthians 7:4, 8-11

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he did not pull any punches. He was extremely blunt in telling the church at Corinth the ways in which their actions were counter to their proclaimed faith in Christ.

Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.

I have always strived throughout my life to be someone who is unafraid of speaking truth in love, but there are always people in my life, at any given time, where I feel myself pulling back. I don’t want to cause strife in the relationship. I rationalize that they are not at a point where they would be willing to hear the truth. I don’t want to cause sorrow.

…yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

So true!

True friends tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. I want people in my life that are willing to be Paul and challenge me if they see me living a part of my life that is out of step with the life God has called me to live. And I want the courage to be Paul when necessary.

Being Paul starts with forming strong relationships. Paul spent significant time with the church at Corinth pouring into them. He built the church from the ground up. He knew the people and they knew him. There was a bond.

If we desire to be marketplace missionaries, in whatever profession God has called us, it starts with building genuine relationships and not just surface level ones. If we desire to have an impact for the Kingdom, it takes time and effort to build the type of relationship where you can grab coffee with someone and say, “Listen, I love you, and because I love you I have to tell you…”

Then we have to be unafraid to speak the truth in love even if it causes temporary sorrow, knowing that this temporary sorrow is frequently needed to bring long-term repentance.

Eternity is worth it.

In our moment-to-moment, fast paced world, not only is eternity impossible to comprehend, but it is frequently hard to even conceptualize five years from now! And yet, truth spoken in love can have a massive impact on that person’s life here on earth for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years, as well for an eternity. And yet I occasionally find myself pulling back, unwilling to cause sorrow for a week, month, or six month period, in order to help a true friend gain lasting freedom.

Freedom is worth it. Freedom from the lies Satan tells us. Freedom from the bondage of the sin issue that we have fallen into and believed we are unable to kick. Freedom from the rationalizations we have told ourselves in order to believe that maybe, just maybe, God wasn’t all that serious in his word when he said _________.

I want to be surrounded by Pauls in my life and I want to be unafraid to be one as well. Without the willingness to speak truth in love, we also lack the ability to experience the overwhelming joy that comes from walking with a brother or sister in Christ as they come out the other side changed, free, and back walking the path they were designed to walk. While afraid to speak the truth, we lack the ability to have the full impact we were built to have here on earth for God’s Kingdom.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.

I want no regrets, when thinking back on conversations that could have been had, when this life ends.

It is worth it.

Thought to ponder

What is one courageous conversation I have been conveniently avoiding with a friend that I can have this week? Do I value their friendship enough to have it?

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?

Mind dulled or Spirit filled?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 23-24, 2 Corinthians 3, Psalm 52

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage in Corinthians today Paul speaks directly to the trap of religious activity. It is so easy as a Christian in today’s world to fall into religion instead of relationship. It is easy to show up to church, maybe occasionally crack open the Bible, check those boxes, and then move on with the rest of our day without any real relationship with our father in heaven. It was not only Paul that warned against this mindset throughout his ministry here on earth, but heard this directly from Jesus as well.

In Matthew 7 Jesus absolutely eviscerates the religious leaders of that day:

Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Don’t get me wrong; this is not anti-church. I adore the church I am a part of. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a church that focuses on relationship with God, outreach to the community, and discipleship instead of simply religious tradition.

I would submit, however, that there are very few things that made Jesus angrier in his time on earth than religious hypocrites. You can commit a whole laundry list of sins, but if you are willing to admit them, repent, and turn your life over to Christ; Jesus is right there in your corner, arm around you, fending off your accusers and saying, “You who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

However, if you pretend to be righteous, are unwilling to admit to sins in your own life, adopt a religious persona, and lead other’s astray; that is a different story. Now Jesus is ready to walk into the temple and start turning over some tables.

So, the question becomes, are we “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” or are we allowing our minds to be dulled? Do we stand up boldly, speak truth in the face of obvious wrongs, and follow leaders that are chasing after God and clearly spirit filled? Or do we allow ourselves to fall for the counterfeit, with veils over our faces and not truly going after the transformation that can only come through a genuine relationship with our father in heaven?

As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?

Will we be “very bold” as Paul describes today in 2 Corinthians? Or will we be on the other end of Paul’s message, minds dulled, faces veiled, and blindly following along any charismatic leader willing to claim Christ with their lips?

We see a similar message from David today in our readings in Psalm 52. I think this applies quite directly to several prominent political figures in today’s world that would claim to be Christian but look to use Christ as nothing more than a sales tactic. On both sides of the aisle.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
forever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
 

My sincere hope is that Christians throughout our country would stand up boldly, filled with the spirit, face unveiled, walking in true relationship with our heavenly father, and push back against any leaders in this world that would boast all day long, practice deceit, grow strong by destroying others, etc.

I want to live in a world where Christians claim Christ boldly, hope only in his name and not in a political party, and are like the olive tree flourishing in the house of God.

Let’s not allow our minds to be dulled. The stakes are eternal.

Thought to ponder

In the last year have I claimed Christ and stood up for what is right boldly? Have I been walking spirit filled and in a true relationship with Christ or have I allowed my mind to be dulled as Paul described?

Sharing our sin

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 21-22, 2 Corinthians 2, Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

Psalm 51:1-15

David had a long and hard fall. He went from being the shepherd boy chosen to be king, the savior of his people who slay the giant, and “a man after God’s own heart”, to an adulterer and murderer. It is hard to picture a fall from grace more pronounced than David’s.

We all fall short of the glory of God throughout our life. We may never commit adultery or murder, but Jesus told us in his sermon on the mount that, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” And also, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

The question is not whether or not we sin and fall short of the glory of God. The question is; how will we respond?

Throughout large chunks of my life I wanted to run and hide. I wanted to avoid time with God. I didn’t want the shame and guilt that I knew would accompany time with my father in Heaven because of my unrepented sin. This was a common path for me to walk. Sin, feel the weight of guilt and shame, withdraw from God, repeat.

At other times I would go down a different path in relation to sin issues in my life. Often I would just want nothing more than to minimize the sin in my own life as not that big of a deal. “I mean, look at that guy! I am in pretty good shape compared to him!”

I know I am not alone in this.

Having spent a large chunk of my life in careers where I am mentoring others, I will often ask the question of fellow Christians, “What has your heart captive right now? What sin issue have you been struggling with recently?”

One of the most common answers I hear is pride.

I always want to smile. I can relate. For the longest time, that would have been what I said as well. Pride is a nice, simple, relatable, and comfortable sin to confess. No risk of people viewing me differently because of struggling with pride! In fact they might appreciate my spiritual maturity for realizing my own weaknesses!

We all nod understandingly as Christians when someone says they struggle with pride. “Me too brother, me too.”

It is far more difficult for most of us to say:

“I am unbelievably materialistic. I compare myself to other people constantly and never feel that I will have enough. I will never have the house I desire, drive the car I want to drive, have the body I want to have, etc. I have spent far more time looking at Black Friday ads than time in God’s word over the last week.”

or

“I have been addicted to porn for as long as I can remember and it causes me to view women as objects and I hate myself for it. I lust constantly and I don’t know what to do about it. I have repented of it and sworn it off forever more times than I can count.”

or

“I am constantly gossiping about others. I don’t know why I can’t stop or why I do it, but I find myself frequently speaking negatively about other people when I am unwilling to bring up those same items to that person.”

or

“I can’t stop eating. I know that I am in a self-destructive pattern that is not God honoring in any way shape or form, but when I am stressed, felling down, or struggling with anxiety, I turn to food instead of God. I struggle treating my body like the temple God created it to be and I know it is slowly killing me.”

or

“I think I might be an alcoholic. I might not get black out drunk, but it is hard to remember a week where I didn’t have several beers 4-5 nights or the week or more. I certainly turn to alcohol as an escape instead of turning to God. I worry what path I might be on and where it might lead eventually.”

There is an endless list.

Far easier to tell that Christian friend, “I am struggling with pride.”

I love David’s response today.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

David says, Lord use me. Give me strength, joy and a willing spirit. I want to use this fall to help others. I want to teach others your ways and declare your praise!

An amazing thing happened for me when I started being comfortable calling out every sin in my life, even if they seemed small or insignificant. God was faithful.

The battle was so much easier to fight when embracing the truth that the Holy Spirit truly does reside within us and wants to help if we will simply acknowledge the errors in our ways and ask for help.

I also realized quickly that we all struggle with the same things and that all of the condemnation I feared from other brothers in Christ was not coming. I lived for so long thinking that I wasn’t worthy of love, because I couldn’t seem to form good enough habits! I couldn’t seem to achieve Christ-like perfection! What was wrong with me that I would try and try and try again and year after year I struggled with the same stupid things?

“Don’t worry God, I will figure this out eventually.”

But there was no way I was going to confess what was going on in my life to others. What would they think? I am supposed to have it all together. I have worked hard at being a respected leader and mentor for others. How would people respond?

What I have found over and over again is that there is freedom in living authentically with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have repeatedly found my fears to be unfounded and simply an attack from the enemy. In fact, when other people see your willingness to kick shame in the teeth and lay your struggles out there, you will find many people immediately want to follow suit. We all desperately want to be known fully and loved fully, baggage and all.

God can do amazing good through us when we are willing to live authentically with others and open up about what is happening in our lives, regardless of whether they are obvious sins like David’s or if they are quiet sins of heart that we would prefer to minimize as small and insignificant. God wants to use our falls to demonstrate his glory and bring freedom to others that have not yet experienced it fully.

David understood this.

So what will your prayer be today about areas you are currently struggling with? Will it be, “Lord, help me overcome this thorn in my side?” Will you be focused on somehow conquering this on your own?

Or will it be like David? Instead of hiding from your sin, will you write Psalms about it? Will you use it help others struggling with the same battle? Will you use it to bring glory to God and sing his praises because of the work he is doing in your life, how far he has brought you, and how he loves you unconditionally even in your sin?

We will all fall short. There is freedom in embracing David’s approach when we do!

Thought to ponder

If a brother or sister in Christ asked you what your current battle is, how would you respond?

 

 

 

Awake Lord! Why do you sleep?

Daily Readings: Numbers 31-32, Psalm 44, 1 Corinthians 6

We have heard it with our ears, O God;
our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days,
in days long ago.
With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
I put no trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.

But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.

You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
I live in disgrace all day long,

and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

All this came upon us,

though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.

If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?

We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 44

I think we have all been there.

I think we have all been where the author of this Psalm was at when he wrote, “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?”

The thing I love about this Psalm is that it points to the type of relationship that God wants to have with each and every one of us. God does not desire a bland, whitewashed, stereotypical relationship with you and I where we show up on Sunday, sing a couple of worship songs, pray occasionally thanking him for our blessings, and calling it a day.

God wants raw. God wants unfiltered. God is unafraid of our anger, frustration, and hurt. He wants us to lay it all before him, not just what we perceive as the good stuff. To God, it is all good stuff. He wants us to be authentic with him.

When we are feeling abandoned he wants us to cry out passionately.

God already knows our hearts, but he wants us to bring it to him anyway. When my wife is upset, nine times out of ten I already know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want her to still tell me and talk with her about it. God knows us infinitely more.

This Psalm also reminds me that God’s timeline is often not our own and God’s perspective on our lives is far greater than mine. When we are caught up in the moment it is easy to say, “All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.”

And yet if we are honest with ourselves, we are almost always straying from the path in some form or fashion. We are human.

There are times where God is working in our lives through the challenges and we rarely have the ability to see the fruit that will come from this time wandering in the desert. A year or two in our lives feeling distant from God can feel like an eternity. To God it is a blink of the eye and he has more in store for us on the other side of adversity if we choose to continue to follow his path and trust in his will.

Easier said than done, but always worth the fight.

Whatever you are facing currently in your life, don’t be afraid to lay that down before God…raw and unfiltered. You don’t need to polish it up for him. God knows your heart anyway. Let it rip.

The God of all creation loves you so much and wants a true relationship with you. Great relationships start with authenticity.

Thought to ponder

What anger, frustration, or hurt do I need to turn over to God?

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: