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.

TAW

Psalm 119:169-176

Psalm 119:175

This final section is a synthesis of what has gone on before. In it we read about what God does, what we do, what we desire, and how God responds to us. The whole of Psalm 119 is this: Let my soul live and praise You, and let your rules help me. It’s pretty simple, but oh, how hard it often is!

So what does God do? He gives us understanding, He delivers us, He teaches us, and He helps us.

Our role is to cry out, plead, praise, sing, choose, delight, and remember.

There are no excuses, extenuating circumstances, or circumstances that can interfere with our focus on the Lord. When we cry out, He gives understanding. When we choose His testimonies, He delivers. When we remember His commandments, He teaches. And when we praise and sing of Him, He helps us.

We must desire His salvation, seeking to abide in Him and longing for Him to find us when we go astray.

He responds to us according to His Word. His word is life (Philippians 2) and truth (2 Timothy 2). His word is both seed and sword (Matthew 13; Hebrews 4). And in Jesus, His Word is made flesh (John 1).

No matter how tumultuous the times or how complicated the circumstances, God is faithful to be with us. He speaks to us through His Word. When we remember His promises, we will live and praise Him with all that we are forever.

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.

Qoph

Psalm 119:145-152

Psalm 119:145-152

Pandemic life keeps getting harder. What should be open? Do we send kids to school? Is this nagging cough allergies or Coronavirus? How long is this going to go on?

It’s hard enough it the daytime with incessant news and social media panic posting, but at least during the day there are distractions. It’s at night when anxiety rears it’s ugly head. Sleep evades us and fear of the unknown begins to dominate our thoughts. I see people struggling with anxious thoughts all over my social media fees, and there are a number of studies showing that depression is on the rise. And it seems to be the night hours that are the worst.

The Lord is there. In the dark, before the night watches and in the nautical dawn, He is near.

Our hearts can wholly call out to Him in the night, knowing that He hears us. We can listen to Him without the distractions of living and we can meditate on His promises. Our hope for the future is in His just and faithful words. Find rest in His eternal sovereignty. His promises, protection, and provisions are founded forever.

SAMEKH

Psalm 119:113-120

Psalm 119:114

The Lord is our shield, and our faith is how we hold it up as protection against the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Without God, we have no hope. Hope in His word is not a wish, but a sure conviction and assurance that it means what it says, and that God’s promises are true (Romans 5:5). There is no shame for trusting in the Father.

Hope and faith are inextricably woven into our shield of protection. As long as we hold fast to it, we can withstand any assault against us. This year seems to be the year of assaults. A worldwide pandemic, nationwide protests and riots, and individual job losses and uncertainty definitely challenge our faith if we are not well armed with the promises of God. The Father will hold us up and keep us spiritually safe no matter what the world throws at us. Our responsibility is to stay true to His statutes and build up a strong defense.

There is another reason to be perpetually prepared to hold tightly to the full armor of God. The first 7 verses of this part of Psalm 119 proclaim God’s protection of the faithful, but the last acknowledges fear of God’s judgment. If the psalmist has faith, why does he fear?

God is holy, perfect in all His ways and only He is righteous to save. If our faith is misdirected to our intellect, our creativity, our humanity, or our policies, we will be subject to the judgment on those things; they cannot protect us. Faith that keeps us safe is in the Father who loves us so much that He sent His Son as our redemption (John 3:16). Nothing else matters if Jesus is not our perfect redeemer as He claimed to be. If we want to be confident in hope that doesn’t disappoint and in faith that shields us, we must examine ourselves and make sure our trust remains in Christ alone (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10).