Monday, November 18, 2013
For all the many times when I have set out to read through the Psalms seeking wise guidance from God, I have always run into a true stumbling block. Psalms 3-7. Psalms 1 and 2 are real favorites of mine. But suddenly I find myself in this quandary of war: David and his son are torn apart into a struggle over who would be the true king. Nearly every line in these chapters speaks of the enemies of David. The descriptions of these enemies are vivid and plain to understand.
But I DON’T HAVE ENEMIES LIKE THAT, so what does this all mean to me.
Let me share with you my journal page from 11-14:
Today has not been productive. My morning focus time was a little disrupted with unfinished things that I have not written. But I did revel in finally finding a way to enjoy the power of God as seen by David in these early Psalms; when he truly had serious enemies. I had always wondered how these even applied since no one was trying to kill me or was hounding me or even putting me down for my beliefs. What pain was I going through in the name of God? None. Nada. These Psalms were not comforting to me. They were confusing.
Now that I have enlisted the help of J. Vernon McGee, I am slowly seeing a picture that carries through to life today. J Vernon McGee could well be called a classic Red-neck: A simple preacher in Nashville who spoke what he thought about God’s Word in such a way that it got him many listener’s on the radio for many years and has blessed hundreds of thousands of people. Even though he died in 1990, he can still be heard in many areas of the country in the broadcast of the program, Thru the Bible. The commentaries that he wrote are what he taught and are grass roots plain. No fancy doctrinal platitudes or theological big words and phrases that are over our heads; just plain red-neck English.
As I was catching up with the theme of 3-7, he sent me to 2 Samuel 15 where we find the story of David leaving the City of David and Jerusalem. As he left, “His head was covered and he was barefoot.” (15:30b) Both of these are signs of sorrow. He knew that this was not God’s plan and he hurt inside greatly. It was very interesting to go back and see once more what was going on when Absalom turned against his father. David also knew that he was being disciplined. He lost favor with his son through his own neglect and previous sin.
But, if I see these Psalms right, David was not struggling as much against his son and the turn of events as he was against his own mind and body. He was weary, very weary; and he stayed that way through out this time period. He was bombarded with mental images of loosing this war with his son. He was bombarded with the excruciating reality that it was his own son that he was fighting. He was overwhelmed at times with realization that he did not have the strength to go on with, let alone win, this confrontation. His mind threw his spirit into turmoil. His spirit would drop steeply and he would find himself pleading for help from God and for sanity during these hard times.
McGee says that there are three ways to look at these Psalms:
1. The personal experience of David.
2. The application to the nation of Israel in the future prophecy.
3. The application to God’s people everywhere at any time in the history of the world.
So looking for some help for ourselves in these Psalms is not as impossible as I have always thought. I have just overlooked the real enemy depicted here: our own minds.
I may not be able to say that I am persecuted in any way, but I can say that my own body is not my friend and my own mind fails to assist me in my daily attempts to keep up with things and words and people. I struggle with it all daily just to keep my sanity and to keep learning and sharing what I know.
Consider memories that come suddenly to mind and defeat, at least for a moment, our attempts to trust what God is doing in us and for us. As I watched a repeat of “Flash Point” yesterday, I was again enthralled with the excellent writing as the leader of the team was finally forced to face his true feelings about what he had done over the years as a Swat Team leader. He was pushed into revealing for the first time about how much of a failure he felt he was because of the situations that ended with someone being killed (neutralized); about how he was not able to make every situation have a good ending. He was led into realizing that their actions are trained into them as black and white, but that it is okay for their feelings to be real and full of color. But they have to acknowledge and share those feelings with one another.
Since being involved with people who have had serious problems in their past, I have come to realize how beneficial it is to just talk about it. I remember the three years that it took for my Dad to come out of what was then called “shell shock” and how he took his feelings out on Mom over that time. He never did talk about the war, but he had PTSD as much as any other soldier, especially those who had any command position at all. WWII war vets were not encouraged to talk. It is only now that Vietnam vets are being encouraged to visit the past that is holding them hostage. And recent survivors of war are not getting much help at all if they just have memories but no visible injuries or dangerous behaviors. Talking is such a relief that it can heal better than any medication; but, who to talk to about such ugly things?
Isn’t that what my enemy looks like, too? Isn’t that what we are all struggling against every day of our earthly lives? Isn’t our overpowering imagination and memories of our past something we have to deal with or be broken by it? Don’t we have to plead with God daily to help us keep our sanity and trust in Him and not let our imagined foes take over our minds and dump our spirits in the drink?
And I am not talking exclusively about the distant past: The things we remember about yesterday’s failures can be just as destructive. That is why we need to discuss these things with God and remember that He does not judge us for our failures like we do. He can lift us up from them and move us along as though they never happened, except that He helps us learn great lessons from them. And, it is important to find at least one friend who will listen non-judgmentally to our horrors and remind us who we are and to Whom we belong.
David struggled to keep his faith and trust strong, and he never hesitated to tell God exactly what he was feeling and why. But he made a serious point to end his conversations with God in praise to God, with thanksgiving for who God is, was and will always be. And, just think: These words were not private; they were written to be sung. He was telling all to all.
It would seem that this is the least we can also do. At this season of thanksgiving maybe it would help us to actually thank Him for who He IS rather than who we are or what we have or can do. Maybe. Perhaps we could daily pick a promise or a divine character trait of God to be thankful for. That might actually be worth sharing and may be less on the level of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other (lowly) men.
Maybe, just maybe, these Psalms are here to remind us of the only truly valuable thing we have on this earth: Our God and Savior Jesus Christ, our Father God and our “mind assister” Holy Spirit. With out all of that, we are without hope and we are hopeless to achieve any worthwhile thing. So is this something to think about? For me it is. And I hope it is for you, too.
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Did you know that in the Psalms, He is never called a personal father as in Our Father or even Father God? He is formally called God, the Father. But Christ gives us not only permission, but direction to call him Our Father; joining us to Himself as siblings of the same Father. We are truly blessed. So, thank you Father for who you are and that you would make the effort to care about us--we who matter so little in the scheme of things--except that you love us and choose to be here for us and with us.
May we all recognize the weakness and danger of allowing our imagination or our memories to become ruler of our lives. May we be always careful to return to your promises for comfort and support; and may we trust in you for everything, praising you for your unfailing Love, no matter what plagues our minds. In Jesus name, Amen.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I cannot contain this secret any longer. I am part of a resonating universe, filled with a resonating God and privy to a resonating, living Word. There. Now the secret is out.
A few weeks ago I was treated to a demonstration of resonating. I did not know about it even though I had experienced it over and over in my life. Suddenly I have an explanation for what has been a true joy in my experiences over the years. Resonating is real, it does exist and it is important to each and every one of us. But first, let me explain the lesson that got me to this point:
In one of her videos, Beth Moore used a piano to insert this concept into our minds. She sat there and hit middle C and began explaining how when she hits just that one key, all of the C keys respond in kind. That made sense to me because, though I do not play the piano, I have had classes on how to listen to music. I thought I was pretty good at it and I was well aware that the right foot pedal on the piano would hold the vibrations of the keys for a longer time so that the chords would be more aggressive through out the piece being played. But I did not have any idea that the other strings in the piano would respond all by themselves to each note played. Not only the other “C” notes but the harmonious notes would respond as well. And that was not all: A woman sang into the piano and the keys in the piano responded by resonating with her voice, in harmony. It was amazing. And it opened my eyes to what had been going on around me which I could never quite put a finger on.
Suddenly my mind exploded with applications of this phenomenon. Jumping out into the universe, I remembered that scientists have declared that it is noisy out there: There is something almost like music or humming that they can hear. Little do they know that this humming is God’s universe resonating together in the harmony of their positions and order of spinning and circling in outer space.
And music—wonderful, wonderful music—the resonating of God created sounds which work together to make such harmony that it can bring shivers to your body. Have you ever sung in a choir or an ensemble; have you ever played in a band or orchestra; have you ever listened to any of these and found yourself suddenly awed with the hairs rising on your arm and neck? If you have you have experienced resonating. You have experienced that moment in time when the sounds came together in such powerful harmonious togetherness that you were actually a part of that harmony for just a moment in time. It is a beautiful experience; one to be remembered.
But the real kicker is living life in Christ. I have for many years realized that no matter what I am studying or being taught through sermons and songs, that it all fits together and each part compliments each other part. I was mystified at first how what Pastor preached in his sermon fit right into the Sunday school lesson and into the Ladies Bible study lesson and into the lesson in my evening growth group. I began to see and be excited about the truth that if you find truth for your life in one place in the Bible you will find it in every place in the Bible. The Bible is totally cohesive. That blew my mind and grounded me in the Bible being infallible, never in error and never short on what is teaches us. Nothing is missing and nothing is to be left out. It is complete. It is without fault, flawless. It is all that God says it is. But have you heard that it is also living? What does that really mean?
It means that the words themselves resonate with each other and the books resonate with each other and that it all resonates with us in our souls when God is speaking to us. It means that when a preacher is preaching and you get startled or feel sudden chills, it is because God is speaking to you. Is does not necessarily mean that God is speaking to anyone else about what He has brought to your attention. It means that He is pointing out to you what you should hear and learn from what is being said. We need to heed that. We need to acknowledge that and we need to praise God for it.
It also means that the Pastor preaching or the teacher teaching or the writer writing will know by the vibrations within that God is leading in what they are doing. And, as our young shepherd leader preached on Sunday, it is not we who matter, it is God and He can use the weakest vessel, who may actually feel like a failure, to bring great blessing to those for whom the words were intended.
Our God is a mighty God and He will vibrate in our lives if we are willing to let Him. We will know when God is speaking to us because we will be one with Him as He does. This is not to say that we must “feel” something emotional to know that God is in us and working through us. What I am trying to say is that we will be in harmony with Him and we will just know it. Things will “click” together in our minds. Things will “click” together in our hearts. Things will “click” together in our lives. Things will make sense. We will have His Peace in what we have come to know. And we will praise Him.
We Praise you Lord for all that you are. We thank you that you are all that we need and all that we can ever want. And we thank you that you are for us, not against us, so that we can work in harmony with you. And today I would like to thank you for being harmony itself and bringing harmony into our lives in amazing and wonderful ways.
May we wake up with a song--and still be singing when the day is done -- Bless the Lord O my Soul. May we worship your Holy name*… In Jesus name, amen.
*10,000 Reasons--Matt Redman
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Despair, discouragement, depression – this is where David is at the beginning of Psalm 13. I know, because I have been there. My bible study notes declare that David is suffering a physical illness from which he expects to die (vs 3) leaving his enemies a reason to boast of winning the battle. I find this ludicrous. It seems our scholars do not realize the impact that physical exhaustion and mental turmoil can have on our psyches.
The crazy thing is that I fell into mental turmoil reading it:
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart…? (vs 2)
Though I am of little consequence compared to David, I also wrestled often with these feelings of despair, discouragement and the paralyzing effects of depression. By God’s Grace, I have found my way up and out of the need to be paralyzed in such a way because He has shown me how to jump back into His arms when the cliff appears at my feet so that I no longer feel the need to jump in. The temptation arises, but He “enlightened my eyes” (vs 3b) so that I can see the cliff and avoid falling or jumping over it into the abyss.
As David goes on with this conversation, God helps him to “transition” from despair, discouragement and depression to trust and praise. This is a powerful reminder that we can bring anything thing that troubles us to God; but we must allow Him to turn our thoughts back to Him in Praise before we finish our talk. We must make sure that we claim His promises and thank Him for what He will do in answer to our prayer. Even if it is a struggle, we must find our way back to the words He gives us about Himself and who He is to us. David did that.
If my periods of depression where that short… Well actually, they can be very short, now, as long as I remember who He is and how much He loves me; I do not need to go there because He will give me the strength not to, and He will catch me when I jump back into His arms rather than over the cliff.
I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me. (vs6)
Perhaps this is why I sing so loud when I have the chance, rejoicing in the fact that I can “trust (His) unfailing love, (and) my heart rejoices in (His) salvation” (vs 5) I plead guilty to making a joyful “noise” unto the Lord, and I hope those who might hear me will not be discouraged by what they hear. I love my Lord and He loves me. What else is there?
May all of us who struggle with any of these weights on our hearts and in our minds, find our way back in increasingly short periods of heavy hearts, and begin to realize how much God can accomplish in our lives regardless of our circumstances. We are His Beloved and He is our lover, our protector and our refuge in time of any trouble, even mental and heart issue trouble.
May we begin to realize that we are not wrong to find ourselves on the edge of despair; we are only wrong to stay there, not asking and not accepting God’s Grace to pull us back out of our errors in thinking. May we end every bout of doubt with reminders from His words that He is always with us in His unfailing love. We are blessed beyond our understanding. May we recognize this and praise Him daily for all that He is and does and will do in us and through us. Amen.
And Lord, may this disaster in the Philippines be used by you to bring richness into the hearts of those who love and trust you and may it also bring many to realize that they have prayed to someone in their fear and that the only one listening was You. Break hearts for your heavenly glory through this earthly terrible disaster. In Jesus name, Amen.