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)
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.
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.
Life is from the Lord. I wrote that in bright pink in my journal. Nothing I do or think or say gives me life. No matter what the circumstances may be, my life is secure in Him. There will be difficulties, challenges, and sorrow upon sorrow during my sojourn on earth, but I know my Redeemer lives, and in Him, I have life (Job 19:25).
This section of Psalm 119 also clearly connects deliverance to obedience: give me my life (because the Lord gives life) according to Your promise, Your rules, and Your precepts. Over and over, life is entwined with God’s character. It is His mercy and His steadfast love that binds us to a living and vibrant relationship with our Creator.
We must never believe that we have the power to save ourselves. Humans prove over and over that anything good in us is easily spoiled by a little bit of power. You don’t have to look farther than the daily news for evidence of people’s inhumanity to one another. The only deliverance available from the human realm is to exchange one marginalized group for another. There is no egalitarian utopia possible if human beings are involved.
God’s salvation is according to His mercy. God’s redemption is according to His promise. Our acquiescence to His word and His righteousness through Jesus is our hope for life.
God’s commands, precepts, and rules are grounded in His mercy, truth, and steadfast love forever. We can abide in Him, knowing that our lives are hidden in His grace.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Lord is with his own in this time. When humanity is at its worst, God’s compassion offers comfort to the afflicted. We who call ourselves believers must embody the Comforter, standing for what is right and embracing those who have been wronged.
Let this be our prayer: Lord, make me a person who is active in providing comfort to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let those who are afflicted feel safe in my presence. Thank you, Father, for being Jehovah Shammah. Amen.
Teachers know that every student learns a little differently. Some like to take copious lecture notes, while others prefer a hands-on discovery approach. Some work best alone in a quiet room; others thrive in a vibrant group activity. No approach is wrong, which is why the best teachers employ a variety of learning opportunities.
The God who created each of us while we were yet unborn knows best how we learn (Psalm 139). He allows our experiences to first teach us and then affords us the chance to use that learning to testify of Him.
How we respond to life matters. What we say and what we do becomes our testimony. The psalmist here wants to be an example of how God is magnified in our lives, but he knows that he can only be that example if he consistently trusts the Word of the Lord. He intends to spend his time meditating on the Lord’s precepts as he is comforted by God’s promise of steadfast love and mercy.
We who claim Jesus as savior would do well to imitate the psalmist. If we consistently meditate on the Word, we will learn what the Father wants us to know. Our testimony of His goodness will be made known by our responses to the world around us. Do we seek justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8)? Do we care for the orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27)? Do we abound in love for each other (1 Thessalonians 3:12)?
If we continually walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we can know that our testimony is one that can be useful for teaching and leading others (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10). This time in our history seems to be an excellent time to make sure our testimony of God’s word is accurate, consistent, and compassionate (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
For many of us COVID19 quarantines are beginning to lift. More people are out and about, some businesses are reopening, and churches are making plans to start modified gatherings for worship. For some people the reopening of society is a relief; for others it represents a new kind of uncertainty. The cultural narrative changes almost every day: wear a mask or not, dine in at a restaurant or not, return to school classrooms or not. When the experts are divided, the opinions of non-experts become battlegrounds for argument, mud-slinging, sweeping generalizations, insults, and fear-mongering. The cultural narrative also infects the Church.
We are human. We fail to consider the impact of our words. We lose patience when we feel like we are not being heard or understood. We lash out in frustration with those who disagree with us. Real life can be aggravating. It’s real enough under normal circumstances, but aggravation seems to be elevated when our communication is limited to social media, text, and the occasional video chat meeting.
When we find ourselves consistently feeling annoyed with other people, it may be time to refocus our attention. The psalmist in this section is in the middle of an affliction, insulted by the indolent, and indignant about the evil he sees. He doesn’t wallow in self-pity or frustration. Instead, he turns to the unchanging promises of God. The Word gives him life and hope, and comfort.
Hope and blessing (joy) are inextricably woven with focusing on the Word of the Father in hard times, uncertain times, and in pleasant times. No circumstance changes God. No wickedness or folly of humankind changes God. God’s unshakable promise gives life when we sing His statutes and keep His precepts. When our focus is right we are able to be kind in our words to each other. We can avoid being part of the uncertainty that induces chaos. We can keep our mouths shut when we should and we can avoid feeling insulted by others. Our source of validation is Jesus. We can be confident that He is the same no matter what is happening on earth. His Word is enough.
It seems like every blockbuster movie or popular novel tries to create a sequel that matches the drama and characters of the original. Most of the time, the sequel falls flat. Either the original writers don’t return or there’s some formula that they try to squeeze the story into or they just run out of ideas. Now and then, however, there is a sequel that not only maintains the energy of the original, but adds to the initial storyline in a meaningful way.
The prophet Nahum was responsible for the sequel to Jonah. The setting is the same, Nineveh. The characters have changed, from Sennacherib who called for repentance to Ashurbamipal, who reigned over Assyria at the height of power. The conflict is also the same: defiant and evil people running into the omnipotent God.
Jonah may have been upset at the Ninevites repentance, but God relented on destruction for that entire generation and the one that followed. However, by the time Nahum preached, the Ninevites had returned to their old ways with a vengeance. They were more cruel, more violent, and more evil than ever before, and God said, “Enough.” This time there is no offer of repentance. There is only the promise of utter destruction, which history verifies. God made a complete end to Assyria as a world power.
In the middle of Nahum’s description of Assyria’s utter destruction, he offers comfort to those who take refuge in God. His name means “consolation” and he lives that name even in the middle of catastrophe. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power. The Lord is good. The Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble. The Lord knows those who take refuge in Him. The Lord brings good news and peace. We can trust Him I the middle of the chaos. That is good news, indeed!
At the church I attend here in Las Vegas we are working through a study of what it means to be a Jesus follower. This morning’s reading included then section of Matthew where Jesus walked on water. I went back a few verses for context and I think someone who reads this may find comfort.
Matthew relates how Jesus taught crowds and crowds of people. 5000 men did not include the women and children there who listened to His teaching and received healing. I’ve heard estimates of up to 20,000 individuals gathered there by the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Tiberius). No matter the number, it was a lot of people in close proximity. In this particular case, evening came and the people grew hungry but didn’t want to miss Jesus. Instead of letting them go, Jesus told the disciples to feed them. And they did. Five loaves of bread and two fish become enough to feed everyone to satisfaction with 12 baskets left over.
Immediately after, Jesus told the disciples to take the boat across the lake while he dismissed the crowds. There’s no word about how long that took, but when then people dispersed, Jesus went to the mountain alone to pray. Jesus took the time he needed to isolate himself for time with the Father.
In the meantime, a storm broke out over the lake. It’s a big lake, and pop up storms are common. Many of the disciples were familiar with the sea and its storms, but evidently, this one was exceptionally strong. As the men are rowing with all their might to maintain control of the boat, they looked up. There was Jesus, walking on the water.
WALKING ON THE WATER IN THE STORM.
The disciples couldn’t believe what they saw, but Jesus called out to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. “
It is I. Do not be afraid.
Maybe this current pandemic feels like the most terrifying storm you have ever seen. You feel like you are in the middle of it, rowing with all your might just so you won’t capsize.
You are not alone. “Take heart,” Jesus said. “Do not be afraid.” Whether it’s feeding a crowd or walking on a raging sea, Jesus is with us. Trust. Breathe. Pray. Love. Help one another. He’s got this.
So, one might think Jonah would get excited when the whole city of Nineveh repented of their violence and false religions. But no. Jonah was ticked off. Why? Because he decided the God was too gracious, too merciful, too patient, and too loving. He certainly didn’t think so when he was surrounded by digestive juices! But this was Jonah’s problem- and often ours.
We tend to think that God loves us for our sakes. We are good, so God loves us. Evil people aren’t worthy of God’s love and mercy. Jonah was so mad he said he would be better off dead (again.) We may not go that far, but do we (I absolutely include myself) truly rejoice when God works in a mighty way for someone else? Someone that we don’t think deserves it? It’s one of the dangers of check-box Christianity: we think that because we perform X, we are more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than someone who doesn’t.
That’s not God’s view. God’s ways are so much higher than ours that we can’t possibly understand His work (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jesus told Peter to focus on his own work and not be in John’s business (John 21:22). As believers, our responsibility is to work out (not for) our salvation and do the work he laid out for us individually (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:12-13).
God gave Jonah the object lesson of a plant. When Jonah huffed and puffed his way out of the city, certain that their repentance would be short-lived, God made a plant grow up overnight to give Jonah shade. The plant pleased Jonah, and he sat back to watch the destruction of his enemies. But God then cause the plant to die off and blow away on hot desert winds, which again made Jonah want to die. God then pointed out that Jonah was more interested in the plant than the people of Nineveh. And then we hear no more of Jonah. There isn’t an explanation of what happened to him, but he doesn’t show up anymore as a prophet.
I have to wonder. If his attitude was that the people of Nineveh did nor deserve God’s mercy even AFTER all that God did for him, how could he continue to speak for the Lord? Or maybe he did get himself together and become part of Nineveh’s culture, showing them how to worship God. Could be either. Or neither. Eventually Nineveh is destroyed for good, so their repentance didn’t endure, but God extended every opportunity. He still does.
For those who are believers, the question remains, are we motivated to do the work God appointed for us to do out of love for the Father or out of duty to some invisible check list? Our attitudes do not keep God from working, but they do prevent us from enjoying His work. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be part of God’s work cheerfully and experience the joy that comes in walking with Jesus.