Shift Gears

Psalm 30: 2      GW

O Lord my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me.

What do you hear when you read this? I can hear emotion and waves of relief. David’s anguish turned into relief. You almost want to take a deep breath for him.

This verse reminds me of 2 Kings 20: 5, “I’ve heard your prayer. I’ve seen your tears. Now I’m going to heal you.” Oh, I love that one. Of course, I believe we should speak words of faith. I think we should be strong in our belief. There is a time, though, to cry out to God. However, one of the things I have learned by reading David’s psalms is that although he may begin with the most forlorn language you have ever heard, he always ends his song in praise and thanksgiving. There is something powerful to be gleaned from that. Cry with all your heart. Bare your soul to the Lord (not to others), but when you are ready, when your grief and despondency have waned, shift into affirmative language about the greatness of God. What does that look like?

You may begin by telling God how sick you are, how bad you feel and how desperate you are. Keep it up, tell him everything. Just pour out until you have emptied yourself. Then, shift gears. “Father, though I feel sick, alone and like I will never fully heal, I know that you are the healer. I know that you sent your word and healed me. Father, the Word tells me that I was healed by Jesus’ stripes and Father, I thank you. Thank you for sending your beloved to earth to take all my sin, sickness and pain. Thank you, Jesus, that you bore, on your body, the stripes by which I am healed. Father, I confess before you that I am healed. Jesus has made me whole. I am not cursed but rather blessed. I am blessed coming in and blessed going out. I am blessed when I lie down and blessed when I arise. I am blessed, Father, when I inhale and when I exhale. You promised your healing power and Jesus has fulfilled every one of your promises. I may look sick, but I am healed. Father, I claim this healing blessing which you have provided for me. I declare, in Jesus’ name and by his precious blood, that the healing power of the Ezekiel river is running through every vein, capillary and vessel in my body. Every cell of my body is saturated with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and I declare and decree, in the name of Jesus, that I am whole. I am healed from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. And I thank you Father. Thank you for your love and for your faithfulness. Amen.”

Copy that down. Print it out. Read it out loud when you aren’t feeling your best and speak loudly. Say it until you feel the belief rising up within you and then say what you wish to see manifested. “My knee is healed, praise God.” “I shall live and not die and will proclaim the goodness of the Lord.”

Cry out to the Lord with a loud voice. Complain, moan, groan and whine, but then shift gears. Get in sync with that power which is within you and proclaim the healing in your body. End with thanksgiving and praise. You are going to feel better. I promise.

Forget Not

Psalm 103:1 – 3

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His Holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget none of His benefits.
3 Who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases.

When we began this series, did you realize how many times God spoke about healing? Health and healing is not one of those topics with only two or three verses. God has been clear from the beginning and has reiterated His position that He is our healer.

So, it turns out that one of the benefits of life with Yahweh is that He heals all your diseases. Apparently, He pardons all our iniquities too. Do you find it easier to believe this one than the former? Certainly, we hear more about the forgiveness of sins than we do healing, so it puts that benefit more in the front of our minds, but we need all the benefits of the Lord.

David, the author of this psalm, was preaching to his own soul. He would not let his internal self deny the grace the Lord had bathed him in. He commanded his soul to remember the benefits God has bestowed on His children but also, he ordered his soul to bless the Lord. I think that shows his relationship with God. He, David, certainly appreciated the benefits like healing, but he always backed it up with adoration and praise for the Father. He clearly was not taking his healing for granted. He wasn’t ignoring it either, and that is a key for us.  Acknowledging the benefits and the benefactor seems to be the key here.

Fully appreciate the benefits. Don’t deny them or ignore them and in the balance be thankful and bless the Lord.

Of Friends and Family

Proverb 18: 24

God’s Word

Friends can destroy one another, but a loving friend can stick closer than family.

NIV

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

I have been thinking about friendship much lately. To capture what I have been thinking I need both translations above. First, a good friend can be a source of tremendous joy and support. There is a type of friend who loves, accepts and supports better than family. They honor their friends and appreciates their achievements without being judgmental of the failures. If you have the great fortune to have this kind of friend, hang on to them. They are a pure joy, a blessing from heaven. David had a friend like this. King Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David like a brother, or even better. Their hearts were knit together.

There is also the other kind of “friend” mentioned in the verse above. Some people call themselves a friend but are more likely to bring you to ruin than to help you grow. They truly have the power to destroy and they wield it. It is sad when friends injure friends, but it happens. In those times, you realize they were not truly friends at all. True friends should be as Jesus, sacrificial. They should exhibit the Christ like ideal of serving others rather than being so self-absorbed. One of the problems we encounter in the world is that people are damaged commodities.

None of us get through this world unscathed. It is only the love of the Father and the healing touch of Jesus which repairs the injuries we pick up as we travel through the world. So, those who do not allow themselves to be healed, will often hurt others. It’s not that they intend to cause harm, but they are so busy protecting themselves and looking after their self-interests that they will cause injury to others. Of course, they have a way of justifying their behavior. Mostly, they will blame the person to whom they owe fealty but abandon. To put it plainly, they will stab you in the back, yet blame you. In their brokenness, they must find a way to excuse their behavior because in their hearts, they know they are wrong.

Most of you have experienced both kinds of friends. The one who love you better than your family is a treasure more valuable than gold. The other kind of friend will cause you deep pain, hurt and confusion. Here is my advice for both kinds of friends: thank God for the former and pray for the latter. Certainly, do a self-evaluation and prayerfully consider whether there is something within you which needs addressing but don’t carry other people’s damage in your heart. Pray for them and let them go.

Spend time with Jesus and become close with him. Actually, spend enough quality time talking with him that he feels like a good friend to, you. Tell him your thoughts and invite him to your events. You may find there are times you don’t want to be around other humans because it interferes with your time shared with Jesus. Don’t apologize for that. You need it and Jesus wants to hang out with you.

I want you to have close human friends upon whom you can rely. I want you to enjoy what those special friends can bring to your life. However, I also want you to be so close in your relationship with Jesus that you are never alone. He is the ultimate friend, the friend who loves you even more than family, the friend who will never let you down. He is the best friend any of us can have.

Better than Sheep

Psalm 145: 21        TPT

I will praise you, Lord! Let everyone everywhere join me in praising the beautiful Lord of holiness from now through eternity!

Now here is someone who really loves the Lord! I bet you can guess who wrote it. If you guessed David, you are right. You can see one reason why God called David a man after His own heart. It was the love David showed Him. I find myself wondering how David developed such a strong affinity for God. The answer is perfect for a trying time of lockdown and isolation.

David was a shepherd. His brothers were older than he and were soldiers. While the brothers were off fighting the Philistines, David was home watching sheep. He spent many lonely nights with those sheep. All that time alone paid dividends though. He learned he was not really alone. He began talking to the one who was with Him, his God. In the lonely watches he learned to communicate with the Father, and he learned to wrap his life around the Father. He fell in love with Father and he also came to know the Holy Spirit, which few in the Old Testament can boast of.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. In this case, David turned loneliness into a close, intertwined life with the Lord. We can do the same. If you are finding yourself still alone a lot, talk with Dad. You could come out the other side of Covid with more than long hair and an extra couple of pounds. You could become a David, knowing and talking with the Father with ease.

Exploding Heart

Psalm 145: 1

I will exalt You, my God, the King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.

How nice. Then again, how dry, tamed and devoid of emotion. Per usual, I took the verse from the New American Standard Bible. Now, see it from one of my other favorite translations, the God’s Word Translation, “I will highly praise you, my God, the king. I will bless your name forever and ever.” That is a bit better, I would say, but when you know more context for this psalm you might still question the uninspired choice of words. This psalm is a “Song of Praise by David.” It sure does not sound like David. Now, allow me to share the Passion Translation’s rendering of this verse, “My heart explodes with praise to you! Now and forever my heart bows in worship to you, my King and my God!” There you go! That’s better. Those words sound like David.

The NASB is my preferred version, but I use many Bible translations in order to get at the fullness of meaning. Today’s verse is one of those times when the NASB needs some help. It shows our stoic, rather constrained, British Biblical heritage. David wasn’t a western thinker though. He was a man who poured out his heart to God in hundreds of songs. He praised God with his entire being, singing and dancing with abandon. I think David would make me a bit uncomfortable. I quite like the restrained nature of some church’s worship. I must ask, though, is it really worship and can it qualify for praise. I find, too, as time goes by, I find myself less satisfied with it and will even admit it feels a bit stifling. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ready to dance like David, but I do find myself wishing I could.

Many of us would criticize people who praise like David. They make us uncomfortable. We used to condemn them as “too emotional.” I have begun to question myself in this regard because we are discussing praise to an entity who describes Himself as what we would define as an emotion, Love. Maybe Yahweh is emotional. Maybe Jesus is. We seem to have made this verse over in our image. We praise God with our hands in our pockets while David danced so energetically that he danced his clothes off. I am certainly not ready for that, but I bear in mind that God called David a man after His own heart. Then I think about how David praised God and sang love songs to Him. Thus, I begin to question my style. Maybe Father would like for my face to look more like there is feeling behind my words.

David could not refrain from shouting and singing. He couldn’t hold still because his heart was bursting with his love of God. There is no way I can criticize him for that, even if I am secretly glad he isn’t standing right next to me in church. Maybe someday, I will praise like David. Maybe someday the whole church will lose its inhibitions. Then perhaps we will all shout and sing our praises to God!

Heart’s Cry

Psalm 142: 1 – 2

I cry out with my voice to the Lord; with my voice I implore the Lord for compassion. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him.

I shared with you Friday that God called David, “a man after My heart,” (Acts 13: 22). That declaration further resonated with me when I read this passage. I was moved at how David poured out his heart to God. You can hear the emotion and passion in David’s cry. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I admire David so highly. He was able to express himself with fervor and meaning. Perhaps I like him because he expresses for me what I am unable to say for myself. I can read this psalm and agree, effectively taking David’s prayer to the Lord with my name on it.

I am moved and impressed by the honesty of emotion with which David addresses the Lord. The situation was that Saul and his army scoured the land in search of David to kill him even though David had been a loyal servant to Saul.  So, David and his followers fled and hid in a cave.  They were desperate and frightened. While hiding in that cave, surrounded by his enemies, David literally cried out to the Lord.

There is another element of David’s relationship with the Lord that beckons. It shows in verse 5 where he wrote, “I cried out to You, Lord; I said, “You are my refuge.” David had an ability to cast his care upon the Lord and put his entire trust in God’s ability and willingness to rescue him. In verse 6 he wrote, “Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me.” His full faith and his confidence were in God. That is not to say he was not frightened. He cried out in desperate fear. None the less, he believed that God would not forsake him.

I believe this trust and confidence in God, along with the intimate familiarity he expressed in communion with Yahweh are some of the key factors which caused God to call David a man after His own heart. David didn’t stand afar and shout at God. He cried out to his Father. He poured his emotions out to the only one who could help him, and even if he cried out in desperation, it was with a desperate faith. He believed God would rescue him. David believed God.

Still, there is more. David shared his heart with God. He bared his soul to God. Many people would find that hard to do, but I believe it was a key element in their relationship. David’s belief and confidence were so strong, his faith so resolute that it drove him into an intimacy that most of us can only dream of. He cried out to his Father, divulging all his deepest emotions and fears because he trusted his Lord. He trusted God from the depth of his soul, and he gave God the care of that soul believing the Lord would never let him down. And he was right. God didn’t let him down. That heart that cried out like a little child is what moved the Father. The love and trust of a child for his father is what ministered to the heart of God such that they became knitted together in an unbreakable bond.

I want that and I hope you long for such a relationship too. We can have it, you know. We just need to break free of the fetters which restrain us. What are those manacles? Pride, perhaps; self-reliance, ego, coolness, guilt, unworthiness, sin. The list goes on. Anything which we allow to restrict our movement towards God or blocks His path to us creates the chains of bondage.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, loose us and set us free. Draw us closer to you today and answer our cry of desperation. Reach out to us, Father, and help us to relinquish any tie which has bound us; any barrier which has prevented pure and uninterrupted communication between us. Help us to give you our hearts. Give us a faith strong enough that we may surrender all of who we are in complete confidence that you will bear us up and protect our emotional as well as our spiritual wellbeing. Father, as many as who will pray this with me today, give them the strength to be weak and the courage to show vulnerability. For this, Father, I humbly pray and offer you thanks. May you be blessed in your children. Amen.

Fallible

Luke 6: 37

Do not judge.

Simply said, not so simply done. It is easy to be judgmental. Why? Because people are fallible. Look at even some of the great Biblical heroes. Take David, for example. God said of him, “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” (Acts 13: 22). What better testimony can one have? God has never said anything like that about me. None the less, we find it pretty easy to judge David. He messed up big time and, for some, that sin has become David’s legacy more than the years and years of trusting God and doing his will. Is he remembered as the man who wrote most of the psalms or as the man who sinned before God and country?

What of Moses? Here is another great heroic figure. He essentially created a new nation out of a group of slaves. He rescued his entire nation, millions of enslaved Jews but, he, too, was fallible. In the end, he failed and, subsequently, didn’t get to go into the Promised Land. He rose to prominence in his own eyes rather than trusting in God’s power and God forbade him entrance to the Promised Land. Wow! Are you kidding me?! This is the guy who parted the Red Sea, who got water from a rock, and more. He, too, had faults, and in the end suffered a major failure.

The point? People are fallible. It is easy to be judgmental because every person you know has faults and weaknesses. The harder thing is to be the instrument of grace. Grace is the opposite of judgment. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ,” (John 1: 17). The problem is, like the Jews of the New Testament, we get stuck in the law. Jesus told us if we live by the law, we will die by it. That is not what any of us want. We all want God’s grace and that is a major reason we should live by grace.

We can look at a person and see their flaws or we can see the work of God. We can cover them with a mantle of grace such that what we see is through the veil of Jesus’ work in us and them. I do not say this is an easy thing to do. In fact, I believe it can be quite challenging. The easiest thing in the world is to focus on the many flaws each of us presents. The grace of God is acceptance in full view of our shortcomings. If Moses failed and didn’t get to go into the Promised Land because of it, what is the likelihood that many of us will fall short of God’s best? Thus, we are all easily judged as failures and miscreants. We don’t show the fullness of Christ’s love. So, if you want to judge me, or most others, it’s just not that hard. What Christ is looking for, though, is the for the love he has poured out on us to be used to spread grace, forgiveness and understanding for others. I think his instruction is pretty clear, “Do not judge.”