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Hope from Psalm 107

September 3, 2013

Some were fools through their sinful ways,

and because of their iniquities suffered

affliction;

they loathed any kind of food,

and they drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He sent out his word and healed them,

and delivered them from their destruction.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast

love,

for his wondrous works to the children of

man!

Psalm 107:17-21

I don’t do this whole blogging thing much, but when I do, my aim is usually to take something I’ve learned or am learning, that I think that other people could benefit from or be encouraged by, and put it into words.

We all sin. And maybe it’s just me, but I go through times in my life where I feel like I’m just constantly in sin. I know that the things that I’m doing, thinking, saying are sinful, but I do them anyway.  And after a while, it just begins to build up and beat down.  I carry this burden of guilt around with me like it’s my best friend, and tell myself that God is probably pretty disappointed in me.  And it’s in those times that my tendency is to run from God.  I stop praying, stop reading, stop seeking and just try to make things work without God, because how am I supposed to go to God after I sin in the same way time after time after time?

Lately I’ve been there. Maybe you have too. But I came across Psalm 107 which has some very hopeful words to share with those who feel defeated by their own sin. The Psalm talks about thanking the Lord for his steadfast love over and over. And there are four different circumstances described where people are in distress and God delivers them from their distress. Two of these circumstances describe people that are in physical distress: hunger, thirst, life-threatening situations. The other two seem to be more spiritual in nature. Verses 10 and 11 say,

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Psalm 107:10,11

Hmmm…. Sounds a lot like what I described above. But then you get to verses 13 and 14 and look what the Bible says,

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
Psalm 107:13,14

YES! They had rebelled against God and in their pride said that they could do things on their own. They didn’t want his help. But once they had gotten to the end of their rope, they turned to God, and he delivered them from their distress.

If you read the passage I quoted at the beginning, the same thing is true. These people were sinful fools and because of their sin they were suffering the consequences. Life was bleak, to the point that they hated food (and that’s pretty bleak). But the Bible says the same thing. They cried to the Lord, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them.

So my natural tendency is to shy away from the one whom I feel like I’ve disappointed. But the Bible says to do the exact opposite. Come to him. Cry out to him. Remind yourself that he has dealt with our sins already and extends forgiveness and repentance for us to live in. He gives us the gospel so that we can preach it to others but also to ourselves and let it transform our desires so that we don’t want what is wrong anymore but what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). Remind yourself that his love is steadfast and that he really does love you. Paul even prays that the Ephesians would have strength to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that they would be filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 4:18,19). So we need God’s strength just to even begin to comprehend how much he loves us. We can’t get that strength if we’re running from him.

To end, I think the last verse of the psalm is very appropriate:

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
Psalm 107:43

Quick Thought

January 31, 2013

Here’s something I thought about tonight after reading Judges 11:29-40 and talking to friends and thinking about life. When we see how big and great God is, worldly troubles seem to melt away.  Or at least they do for me in those times when I am able to focus on who He is and what he is capable of rather than my circumstances.  I won’t go into all of the passage I mentioned above, but if you read it, you’ll see a man that does something most of us would think is absolutely crazy because of how He sees God.  And a daughter who condones her father’s craziness at the cost of her life because of how she sees God.  You can’t help but realize how much reverence they have for Him.  I want to see God like they see God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

 

Searching for Satisfaction

December 5, 2012

for my people have committed two evils:  they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:13

There are some passages of scripture that I seem to be reminded of over and over again.  Jeremiah 2:13 is one of them.  I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it, which means it must have left quite an impression on me.  I was in junior high, and even then, at an age where I didn’t really know a lot about the Bible, the truth that this verse holds was challenging to me and held promises that I knew were worth grasping.

To give a little context, Jeremiah is writing to his own people, the Jews who lived in the southern kingdom of Judah.  In the first chapter, God calls Jeremiah to speak to Judah for Him.  In the second chapter, Jeremiah begins to speak what God has told him, and from that we learn that the Jews had forsaken God. And the language there is sharp.

2:5 says,

What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

And 2:7 says,

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things.  But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.

So the Jews had forsaken the God that had given them all that they had.  He had taken them out of Egypt long ago and brought them to a plentiful land and commanded them to love Him and obey Him in return.  And yet they were worshiping idols as you’ll find out if you read on.

So then we get to verse 13 where God, through Jeremiah, tells his people exactly what they have done wrong:

1. “they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters”

2. “and hewed cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns can hold no water.”

So God paints this picture of Himself as a fountain, which can also be translated “spring.”  Springs are naturally occurring sources of clean water.  And not only is God a spring of water, but living water. Jesus also uses that same term with the woman at the well and tells her that she will never thirst again after having this living water.  And what is the evil that the people have committed?  They’ve turned their backs on this pure, clean, thirst-quenching source of water.  They look at it and decide,”I want something else.”

So what do they do?  According to the rest of the verse, they go and hew or carve out cisterns.  In that time cisterns were basically holes that were carved into the ground meant to collect rainwater.  But the Bible says that these cisterns were broken and weren’t able to hold any water.

Now, when I first heard this verse talked about, it was discussed in the context of satisfaction and joy.  Being satisfied with the person of Jesus Christ leads to deep joy, and that’s what the Israelites were after – satisfaction and joy.

So God is saying,”I am the fountain that is able to satisfy you.  I’m here.  All you have to do is come to Me and drink.”  But the Israelites said no.  They didn’t think that God was what would ultimately satisfy them.  They thought they knew of something better.  So they went and dug their holes and waited for rain.  And rain came, and it filled their holes, but only temporarily.  The water would leak out of their broken cisterns, and they were left empty.

So here we are in 2012, thousands of years after this was written.  And yet, I don’t think that the human heart has changed.  God is still the fountain of living waters.  He is still able to satisfy the human soul like nothing else.  And yet there are times when we turn our backs on Him and dig our cisterns and expect them to stay full.

If you think about how this would look in a literal way today, you’ll see how silly it is.  Imagine that one of your closest friends decided to never drink from the kitchen faucet again.  Instead, he or she went out into the yard and dug a hole and was determined not to drink any water unless it was rainwater from that hole.  A couple days will go by and your friend will probably be severely dehydrated if it hasn’t rained or very sick from drinking dirty water.  Either way, it isn’t good.  And that’s exactly what happens to God’s people when they look for satisfaction and joy in other things.

I could go on for hours about all of the things I’ve tried to find joy and satisfaction in – relationships, money, possessions, and on and on.  And it’s not that any of those things are bad.  But they were never made to quench the thirst that God is able to quench.

So I just want to encourage you to look at your hearts and look at what you’re seeking after to satisfy you and to make you joyful – to make you happy even.  Is there something you think,”Once I have this, I will be satisfied.” Is it another person?  Is it financial security? Is it new toy? The Bible says that nothing will satisfy like Jesus Christ. He is the fountain to whom we must leave our cisterns and turn.

“Encourage Your Brothers”

October 23, 2012

In the fall of 2008 I became a freshman at Mississippi College.  MC is a small, private (Southern Baptist), Christian university so naturally there are some differences between it and larger, public, secular universities.  One of those differences can be summed up in three words: clubs and tribes.  Rather than Greek life, MC has it’s own social system.  Service clubs, for men, are somewhat comparable to fraternities, and social tribes, for women, are MC’s version of sororities.  They all have strange names that have nothing to do with Greek letters so I won’t even get into that.  Long story short, I decided to join one of these service clubs called Shawreth.

Yes, you read it right – Shawreth.  It’s a Hebrew word that is used in the Bible in three different ways.  It can mean servant, minister, or worshiper.  The name was chosen to be a sort of picture of what the guys in the club were striving to attain.  So I spent 5 weeks rushing (or pledging, as most schools call it) in order to become a member of Shawreth.

The point of rush was to build a sense of brotherhood between the pledges (or associates, as they’re called in Shawreth). This was done in  various forms and fashions which were sometimes difficult forms and tedious fashions (which are often what guys need in order to form friendships that they wouldn’t otherwise choose).  During those 5 weeks there was a phrase that I heard over and over again – “encourage your brothers.”

Fast forward a few years to present day.  I’ve graduated from MC and am now employed by the the University.  This means that I qualify to be a chaperone for the clubs and tribes at their events (Yes, they have to have chaperones). As I have chaperoned rush events for Shawreth, I’ve once again been hearing the phrase “encourage your brothers” over and over.  And I’ve often thought that while the application of that phrase is important during rush events designed to challenge guys, it is even more important in a Christian’s daily life.

There are several passages in the Bible that deal with encouragement, but I just want to point out one passage that is a direct command to encourage our brothers (and sisters) in Christ daily and then cite a couple of supporting passages.

Hebrews 3:12, 13 says,

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The writer of Hebrews is well-versed in his knowledge of the Old Testament, and he is recalling how the Israelites would at times forsake God and fall away from Him, always to their detriment.  So he is encouraging the recipients of his letter to exhort (encourage) each other every day so that they will not fall away from God – more specifically that they would not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

And therein lies the problem.  Sin.  Sin is deceitful.  It tricks us.  It makes us think that we know better for ourselves than God does.  It makes us think that we know how to get what we need to be happy better than God does.  It subtly leads us to rationalize our sinful desires and to act on them and think that we’ve done nothing wrong.  In fact, we tell ourselves that we’ve only done what is logical and what any normal human being would do.  Right?  And so we are deceived into thinking that we’re okay and that we don’t really need a Savior.  And that is a scary, yet common, place to be.

Romans 1:21 says,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

And Romans 1:28 says,

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

 

Paul is saying that mankind’s problem is that they know who God is yet they ignore Him, which leads to debased minds, foolish thinking, and darkened hearts.  The natural consequence of ignoring the Savior is a hard heart and a dull mind – “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

So we’re called to encourage our brothers and sisters as long as it is called “today”.  Why?  Because we need it.  Sin is always after us just as it was after Cain in Genesis – “…sin is crouching at the door.  It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).”  It wants to steal the honor that God deserves from our lives by deceiving us into thinking that we can successfully run  our lives.

So my point in all of this is to say that we have a responsibility to remind our brothers and sisters of the truth of the Gospel so that they will not be deceived by sin and have their hearts hardened toward God.  And I’ll be the first to say that this isn’t always an easy or comfortable thing to do at first.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like the right time or place to try to encourage someone.  Or maybe it doesn’t seem like some people even need to be encouraged.  But from a personal standpoint, I know that I can always use a reminder of the truth.  I find it easy to get distracted by everything else that I am surrounded with and life, and I often appreciate those around me that are intentional in talking about the truth.   So I’m challenging myself to become a person that seeks to encourage those around me.  Because we need it.  Because I need it.

I Believe; Help My Unbelief

October 18, 2012

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

I think if there is any verse in the Bible that I can relate to right at this moment, it is Mark 9:24.  And really, it isn’t anything new.  I’ve heard lots of sermons on the subject of unbelief and it’s something that everyone struggles with every day.  I’ve even heard people say that the root of all sin is unbelief, and I believe that to be true.  And for me, it’s not unbelief in the sense that I don’t believe that the Bible is really God’s word or that it is somehow not authentic.  It’s not an intellectual unbelief.  It’s more that I have the tendency, maybe even habit, to believe that I know what is better for myself than God.  It’s a selfish unbelief.  And so for a while I’ve found myself in this place where I am the one running the show.  I want to make my own decisions based on how I feel, and that is the deciding factor.  It’s this “I’m going to do what I want” mentality.

So I’m in this place where I believe in God and in my head I know that He is the only path to life (John 14:6), and He is able to bring a fullness of joy into my life (Psalm 16:11), and He is able to do abundantly more than I can ask of think (Eph. 3:20).  But in my heart there is a spirit of unbelief in those promises.

So then I read stories like the one about David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.  We all know it, right?  But when I read it through the lens of Mark 9:24 I noticed some things that I hadn’t before.  David shows up to the battlefield on orders to bring food to his 3 brothers that are in the army.  While he’s doing this Goliath steps up and throws out his taunt to Israel to send someone out to fight him, which he had been doing for weeks.  So David starts talking to the men in the army and says, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God (17:26)?”  One of his brothers even gets mad at him and accuses him of leaving his duty to tend to the sheep just to come and watch the battle.  But the story progresses and David ends up telling Saul that he will fight against Goliath. Saul is all like, “You’re just a kid.” And David explains that he has killed lions and bears with his bare hands and then says, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine (17:37).”  And so Saul let’s him go up against Goliath.

David goes out with his sling shot and stones and, after being made fun of by this monster of a man, says, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”  And then he does just that.

And I read that. I read the things that David says, and honestly, it bothers me.  How is he so confident?  The army of Israel had been out there for weeks and no one had stepped up with the same confidence in order to face Goliath.  Aren’t these God’s people?  Why aren’t any of the others putting their trust in the Lord and just going for it?  But David did.  He apparently knew some things.  He knew that God had delivered him in the past from dangerous animals, and he apparently knew that when God says that He is with his people, then He is truly with His people.  So in complete faith he goes out to Goliath, pronounces victory over him in the name of the Lord, and kills him. I honestly think that he could’ve just thumped him on the knee and he would’ve fallen over.  I don’t think it was so much the stone hitting him in the head as it was God using something that seemed foolish to bring Himself glory (1 Cor. 1:21, 28-29).

But, all of this to say that David’s faith is astounding.  He just believes that God is with His people, like he has said, and that He will bring Himself glory by defeating this Philistine.  He doesn’t waver in doubt of his victory like the rest of the army.

So this challenges me to have this kind of faith.  It’s a simple faith.  He knows what God has said, and he believes it.  And he acts on it.

If we look back at Mark 9, we see a man whose son has a demon and he asks Jesus, “But if you can do anything have compassion on us and help us (9:22).”  And Jesus replies with, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes (9:23).”  Jesus is astounded that this man really just asked him if He could heal his son.  And he should be.  And so the man tells Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

I would say the same thing. Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.  Give me faith like David to know that you can do what you’ve said, and that you know better for my life than I do. I know in my head that You know better than I do.  Make me know it in my heart.