Predicaments

Psalm 3 is a beautiful picture of peace in the middle of a predicament.  The first two verses describe this predicament. Verses 5 & 6 pictures the writer as sleeping peacefully. So, what sits in the middle of predicament and peace? The truths of verses 3 & 4 are key.

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.

Lord…you…the one…the Lord…he…his

Once again, I am faced with a decision: when difficult, unpleasant times come, where will my focus be? What will grab my attention? The truth that ultimate victory comes from the Lord alone is to be my focus through these times.

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Lord, you alone are my rescuer and Victor. May I be disciplined to look to you when the unexpected comes.

A call to praise my Lord

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing! He forgives your sins—every one. He heals your diseases—every one. He redeems you from hell—saves your life! He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence. (Ps 103:1–5)

Too often, my attention has been drawn to what my Lord does for me. Verse 2 encourages me to not forget a single blessing. However, this time, my heart is drawn to the repetitive He. He alone does these things for me because it is his nature.

He forgives because he is the forgiver. He heals because he is the healer. He redeems because he is the redeemer. He crowns because he is royalty himself. He wraps me around with goodness because he is good. He renews because he is the renewer.

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In short, I am longing more for him than even what he does for me. I dare not forget his unceasing blessings because they turn my eyes upon the one who blesses.

Lord, all good things come from you alone. Thank you. But, even more than that, thank you for revealing your heart through those things. Forgive me for complaining or ever believing you hold out on me.

Self talk

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer. Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God, “Why did you let me down? Why am I walking around in tears, harassed by enemies?” They’re out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities, taunting day after day, “Where is this God of yours?” Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. (Ps 42:5–11)

Self-examination quickly gets to the heart of an issue. No sugar coating. Just honesty. This is why I love these verses. The writer questions himself and points his heart to great truths. God puts a smile on my face, He’s my God. God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night!

These truths confront all my fears and answer my questions. The writer feels down, crushed, let down, unprotected and abandoned. As real as these things feel, they are not true. And, left unattended, they can fester into an infection. So, what can I do when afraid or down? Simply said, I will fix my eyes upon my Lord. Focus on him.

Lord, I trust and surrender to you. Like the writer of this psalm, take my anxiety away. Point me to the truth about you. May all my worries be fashioned into prayers.

Thirsty

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God. I’m thirsty for God-alive. I wonder, “Will I ever make it—arrive and drink in God’s presence?” I’m on a diet of tears—tears for breakfast, tears for supper. All day long people knock at my door, pestering, “Where is this God of yours?” (Ps 42:1–3)

IMG_4220I have learned that obeying the Lord does not always lead me alongside bubbling brooks and quiet pastures. It most often leads me to depletion. Drought leads me to need him – only him. In this life, a diet of tears. In the life to come, unending joy. But, between here and now, there and then, is life. There are times that I am filled with the sustaining depths of God – heaven on earth – a taste of what is to come. Quickly, I return to the reality of drought all around me. I am not yet ready for there and then.

Dear Sustainer, you alone give me life and promise. My rebellious world cannot do it. I cannot even help myself. As much as I dislike the journey in the desert, thank you for these drought times. You uniquely reveal yourself every time I call to you.

Four Choices

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.  Psalm 9:1-2

Four I will statements. Two are solely between my Lord and me. One is outward expression to others. And, one combines the vertical and horizontal. Each rests upon my determined decision.

  1. I will praise the Lord, with all my heart. I will not give him sloppy thanks with a divided one.
  2. I will be filled with joy. I will not look to others to provide the joy that only he can give.
  3. I will tell others about his marvelous work. I will not hold it back.
  4. I will sing praises to his name. I will not reserve my praise at any time, regardless.

These are decisions I must make and can make today. There is never a day he is not worthy of my praise; and, today is a great day to share him with the world.

Lord, I tend to be very reserved with you and certainly with the world. Help me look to you for my joy and share this with others.

Seeking him

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. God’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you—God’s Decree—bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it. Jeremiah 29:12-14

God has promised to listen to me and respond. When I…He will. He listens, he makes himself easy to find, he guards against disappointment, he turns things around, he brings me home. These are marvelous promises, Completely undeserved. He simply waits for me to seek him.

Lord, what can I say when your promises are before me? I seek you today and trust you to do what only you can do.

A settled heart

Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Worry is never helpful. In fact, if I read these verses carefully, it is prohibited. Don’t is the first word of the first sentence. Instead is the first word of the second. Let is the first word of the third. Don’t – instead – let. When I accept this instruction, and I relinquish my worries to the Lord, he settles me down. A sense of his wholeness (worry always fractures) and a reminder of his promise to bring everything together for good (worry always challenges this) settles everything. If that is not enough, I am reminded of what is in the center of my life. If my Lord is, no controlling worry.

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Lord, you are the only One who can settle my heart, putting it in order again. Please do that. And, when things come to me that could cause me to worry, help me take them to you. You are the only One who can properly handle them.

A quiet place

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. Matthew 14:22-23

As was with Jesus, there must be times that I draw away from everything and everyone to connect with my Father. Intimacy demands this. It is in the quiet place that I hear his heart and understand his plans for me. There, the uncertainties fade into trust and faith.

Something I have come to experience is that he is always there before me. He arrives and waits. I never do. So, I wonder what he is wanting to share with me today?

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Lord, help me find a quiet place to meet with you. And, help me be disciplined to show up. I don’t want you to wait a long time for me.

Live this way

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God wants me to live this way…that grabs my attention. Simple, straightforward instruction.

Be cheerful no matter what – how? By praying all the time. Regardless of the situation in front of me, I can pray, “Come Lord Jesus into this.”

Pray all the time – how? By thanking God. I can be filled with gratitude because he remains the Constant One. I can trust him. I can relinquish what is in my heart and hands into his care. He is more than enough for this day. Keeping these truths in mind, I can be continually thankful.

So, my life is not driven by circumstances but by my responses to them. That’s the bottom line regarding how my Lord wants me to live. Life happens to me like everyone else. How I process life is the issue.

Lord, it’s all yours. Every part of this day I give to you to direct and guide and provide. Thank you for being consistent and steady and faithful.

Role-play

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:6

Jesus is inviting me to come to him, in a quiet, secluded place. It is there that honest relationship is formed. My hurried pace fights this intimacy. In the quiet place with my Lord, I can simply be. No show. No pretense. No role-play.

That is what I want so, I must discipline myself toward it. Turn off. Disconnect. Stop. Only then will my Lord reveal himself. He will not do that if I don’t care enough to slow the pace. He will never speed up his pace to walk with me; I must get in step with his.

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Lord, you know my hurried heart. Demands, distractions, involvements all fight for my attention. And, I let them do so, even encourage them at times. Help me be still through silence and cultivate serenity through times of solitude.