Thirsting

Psalm 42; Matthew 5:6

Psalm 42:1

Deer are simple creatures. They are usually skittish, running from perceived danger in a zigzag to confuse predators. They hide by melting into the landscape around them. But when the predators press in and neither running nor hiding work, deer head for the water. They instinctively know that water will hide their scent so they will avoid be chased further. Water also quenches their thirst after a long chase.

It is this kind of longing that the psalmist describes. He is exhausted by the attacks of his enemies and by the taunts of his people who challenge him, “Where is your God?” All the psalmist can think about is finding the waters of God’s righteousness where he can find safety and satiety. He knows the Lord is there; he ends the psalm determined to praise Him in spite of his fear, his depression, and his circumstances.

When we hunger and thirst for righteousness in this way, God is faithful to meet us where we are (Matthew 5:6). He alone can satisfy our deepest needs and He alone can calm our fears no matter what our circumstances may be. In Him we find protection and peace. No matter how dark our days feel, He is with us. His righteousness ensures justice; we can trust His faithful love for us. Even when we feel lost in the dark, we can praise Him, knowing that His righteousness will prevail.

Everything

2 Peter 1:3

Everything we need. When we know Jesus, we don’t need to know anything else to live a life devoted to justice, mercy, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Remember that. Remember that when you read angry social media posts so you do not respond in kind (pointing at myself, here). Remember that when stuck at home for the millionth day with cranky kids and work deadlines (even more when the cranky kid is you). Remember that when heated arguments among your friends threaten relationships. Remember that everytime you feel ambushed for your opinions. Remember that when you feel self- righteous about your opinions.

God has given you everything you need. His power (not yours, not denominations, not political parties) calls us to Him for His glory and His excellence. Walk worthy of that call (Ephesians 4).

Blessed are they who mourn

Matthew 5:5

Mourning is more than sadness. It is the gut-wrenching wail of devastation and loss. It is the same Greek word used is Revelation 18 when Babylon falls and the people realize there is nothing left of the great city. Mourning is the attitude of the prodigal, the repentance of Job, and the cry of David at his lowest moment in life (Luke 15, Job 42, Psalm 51).

Mourning is a present and active response to sin, and not just our individual sins, but over the ramifications of human sin on those who live in this world without hope. Mourning laments over the divisions in the Church, the oppressive treatment by one person or group over another, and the chaos that comes from human nature run amok.

Jesus offers consolation to mourners, telling them that they will be comforted. Mourning is not done in vain when it causes us to turn to the One who is the Comforter.

No matter what

Psalm 27

I am calling this the Psalm of “no matter what.” As I read it this morning, all I could think was that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). In this psalm, David lists all the ways God is with us no matter what.

Verses 2-3 No matter what, God knows exactly what is happening to and around us.
V.4 No matter what, we have access to the temple of God.
V.5 No matter what, God will protect us.
V.6 No matter what, we can choose joy.
Vv. 7-10 No matter what, God will not abandon us.
V 11. No matter what, He will teach us
V. 12 No matter what, God is GOOD.
V. 13 No matter what, we can be strong in the waiting.

Wow! Of whom shall we we afraid indeed? (Psalm 27:1; Romans 8:31

Redemption

Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I call to You…”
Seven months into a pandemic followed by multiple catastrophes, both natural and human fueled, there is still no end in sight. Many of us are drowning in the depths of job loss, illness, online school, wildfire/hurricane, and Zoom fatigue. We miss our church families, our large family gatherings, and attending events the way we did a year ago.

God hears.

He hears our pleas for mercy. He hears our cries of repentance when we offer them. He attends to the needs of His children.

“I wait for the Lord “

We wait.

We wait for the Lord as we hope in His word. We know there is forgiveness. We know there is mercy and redemption.

We hope.

With the Lord there is steadfast and faithful love. Even though we may not see the end of the road, we can trust Him. There is purpose in the pain. His love will overcome all the evil around us.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope…Jesus”

Hold tightly to His Word; God is just and true in all His ways. He hears. He knows. He is at work.

Grounded in love

Romans 5:5

“Hope does not put us to shame.” (ESV) What does that mean? Why should hope be shameful?

I pondered this notion until I realized that it happens all the time. Social media posts about prayer become targets for ridicule. Hopeful people are sometimes treated like they don’t know or don’t care about human suffering. Sharing good news gets contradicted by “but what about.”

The hope here is not a blithe Pollyanna response to life and its hardships. It does not ignore the realities of suffering. It does not belittle fear. It understands that people can be cruel, bigoted, and unjust. However, this hope DOES allow us to recognize God at work.

This hope allows believers to act in love in spite of the evil around us. Hope encourages us to reach out to those who suffer with compassion. Hope lets us come alongside others and walk with them through the challenges of living in this world.

In short, hope produced by character through enduring suffering with joy opens the way for God to work in us and through us for His glory. How? He works in and through because we are grounded in His love instead of our fear. God’s love pours into our hearts and we act out of His love.

Endure

Romans 5:4

So, since we have decided to choose joy in suffering (joy, not happiness) because we know it will lead to endurance, we still wonder, why? What is the point of endurance? Especially enduring suffering?

Paul didn’t stop with endurance through suffering; endurance also serves a purpose. Endurance produces character. Endurance makes us better people. It teaches us empathy. Character means we are learning to see God as the Sovereign Lord and we are mere specks in the vastness of time and space. Specks that the Creator has called by name.

Suffering and enduring draws us deep into a relationship with the Father, and it is in that relationship that we develop an accurate view of ourselves. Seeing ourselves from the Lord’s perspective develops godly character and allows us to understand that we are part of a greater humanity.

Our individuality makes the Body beautiful, but as part of the Family of God, we are more than the sum of our parts. The wholeness of our individual character as part of something greater than self- that produces hope.

By faith

Romans 5:2

We have peace with God because Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9.) What does this mean? It means we have ACCESS to grace and JOY in hope no matter what our circumstances may be.

We stand on a foundation of salvation because Jesus did the work on our behalf (Titus 3:5.) Our faith means we have unfettered access to the very throne of the Creator in both good times and hard times (Hebrews 4:16.)

We are justified, not by what we do, but by faith in the grace of God (Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8-9.) Hard times happen to everyone. Sometimes, like with a pandemic or natural disasters, the hard times are shared by communities. Other times, the struggle is an individual one where suffering seems magnified because the world keeps moving forward. Isolation increases suffering.

In faith, however, we have hope because we can be assured that God is with us. That hope gives us the freedom to rejoice, even in the worst of times. Grace to faith to hope to joy: this is the progression of the believers’ mindset in all times. In good times and hard times, God is with us.

Justified

Romans 5:1

We are justified by faith; Jesus did the work. What a beautiful reminder that we can rest in knowing our salvation is already worked out for us. In this ever changing world we can have peace with God, not by our own doing, but because Jesus did.

Today is Labor Day. It is a good day to remember Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”(ESV). The Voice paraphrase says, ” Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.” The Passion translation interprets the Hebrew as, ” Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop striving and you will see that I am God.” The Message hits the point home, ” Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

We all need the reminder that it is by grace we are saved and by faith we are justified. We don’t have to earn our way into God’s love; He loved us first.

SIN and SHIN

Psalm 119:161-168

Psalm 119:164

We are a people of checklists and boxes, aren’t we? There’s nothing like the feeling of striking through some task on paper. Even phone app lists give us that glorious feeling of accomplishment when we finish something.

So, does the checklist life include our praise? I mean, the psalmist says “seven times a day.” The question is rhetorical; of course not. If we did that, our salvation would be based on works, not faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. May that never be our approach to praise!

Seven is a number of completion or perfection. Jesus told Peter to forgive people “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18), meaning that forgiveness has no limit. Likewise, praise has no limit.

Some days, though, it feels hard. 2020 is just a hard year for most of us, and boundless praise seems like a challenge. The psalmist here offers some ways to begin our praise, which I have conveniently put into 7 points

• Stand in awe of God
• Rejoice in God’s word
• Love God’s law
• Seek peace while standing strong
• Recognize the hope of salvation
• Mindfully keep God’s testimonies
• Know God makes a way

If we (myself included) can begin with these precepts, we will find that an attitude of constant praise becomes our normal approach to even the most difficult times. All to the praise of His glorious grace.