Finding Joy

Psalm 42: 5        NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

This week we are continuing our journey through the psalms with this passage from Psalm 42. Since you seem to be enjoying the psalms, we will continue to do one every Monday.

This psalm is one sad lament and yet, is there one amongst us who has not felt equally forlorn at some point in life? The psalmist had a revelation, though, one which buoyed him even at his lowest points. He knew that a time of praise was coming, a time to thank God for rescuing him from this desperate place and time. Though the shadows darkened his doorway, he knew that light was coming and that the light would overshadow even the darkest dread. From that point of knowing we can shout, “Hallelujah!” Even when situations seem threatening, even in the midst of turmoil, we shout praises to the Father knowing that He is present and will lift us and set us high on a mountaintop.

God is worthy of the praise but what is thrilling about offering praise even when your soul is downcast is that the praise itself has power. It begins to lift your soul and brighten the horizon. Sometimes it is all we need to break the binding darkness. When we lift our eyes and fix them on Jesus, the flood of light fills the space. Darkness must flee in the presence of the light. It is the easiest and most natural thing in the world to keep looking at the trouble which is oppressing your soul. However, we are not of the world. You are of God little children and it is upon Him that you should cast your gaze. Looking at the glory of the Father who loves you more than life, shines joy and hope into our innermost being. We only need become as accomplished as this dear psalmist at recognizing the loving kindness and radiant power of a Lord who is always willing to be our rescuer.

Let not your heart be troubled. Do not give into the worry and fear. Sing your praise to the Father confident that He has your back and is with you always. Sing your way clear of trouble. Shout away your sorrows. Give thanks knowing your savior is near. Put your hope in God and let your joy be renewed.

 Fire for Four

Daniel 3: 25

The king replied, “But look, I see four men. They’re untied, walking in the middle of the fire, and unharmed. The fourth one looks like a son of the gods.”

I saw a quote recently that makes sense to us and can be inspirational. However, taken out of context may also communicate a wrong message. There is so much misunderstanding in this regard that I thought it important to reassure us as to God’s position.

The message of the quote is that God is with us in every crisis. The unfortunate language quoted in this book was, “As sure as God puts His children into the furnace of affliction, He will be with them in it.” First of all, this may well have been lifted from a larger message so we bear that in mind. However, some people may read this and rather than take away the good news that God is with you at all times, even in the roughest of times, they may only hear, “God caused all this bad stuff to happen to me.” That is not the message of the gospel.

Of course the quote brings to mind the three Hebrews who were tossed into the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Do we think, though, that God put them into a fiery furnace? “Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with anger toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face turned red. He ordered that the furnace should be heated seven times hotter than normal. He told some soldiers from his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that they could be thrown into the blazing furnace. Then the three men were thrown into the blazing furnace. They were wearing their clothes, hats, and other clothing. The king’s order was so urgent and the furnace was so extremely hot that the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the flames from the fire. So these three men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—fell into the blazing furnace. They were still tied up” (Daniel 3: 19 – 23 GW).

It wasn’t God who condemned them to burn in a furnace. That was Nebuchadnezzar’s doing, wasn’t it? This is the truth we need to embrace. Although God shows up when we are in hot water, it is not He who turned on the boiler. God is love. That is who and what He is and He cannot act in any way that is inconsistent with a full expression of love. Once you nail down this cornerstone of your personal theology then other pieces begin to fall in place automatically.

Romans 8: 28 is the seminal scripture regarding God turning lemons into lemonade. It reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He takes those bad things and turns them around but He is not the author of them. When you combine this verse with James 1: 13 you begin to have a sustainable personal ideology about God’s role in calamity, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” This tells you that God isn’t bringing these challenges on us but we are assured by Romans 8: 28 that He is the first on the scene, ready to rescue us and to turn the situation around so that it benefits us.

God sent Jesus into the midst of the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar ordered them thrown into the furnace. That is the message I believe was intended to be conveyed in the quote. No matter how hot the fire or deep the water, God will always put Himself or His son right there with you so that you will not burn, drown or fail. He is not only the God of love but He is love. He is the strong fortress and the very first Red Cross agent. God gave His son and Jesus gave his blood so that we never have to face tribulation alone. We are intertwined with the most powerful force in the universe and we shall, therefore, prevail. Praise God!

Sunshine

Job 11: 16 – 17

For you would forget your trouble, as waters that have passed by, you would remember it. And your life would be brighter than noonday; darkness would be like the morning.

This is how I think it is best to conclude our thoughts and musings over Psalm 35. We have a vindicator. Better still, we have a father who loves us with an infinite love. In the end, we win. There may be sorrow today but the sun will arise in the morning. Then your grief, your woe will be as the waters of the river. Yesterday’s water is long gone and with it your remembrance of yesterday’s distress. The sun will shine on you again. So bright will your life be that even your darkness is as bright as the morning sun.

This is God, the Father’s will for you. He wants to be light in a dark place for you. He wants to rescue you from your deepest depression. He wants to give you wings to that you can change your plight to flight. He will give you wings of eagles with which you cease flapping and learn to soar.

For our part, we have to increase in trust and decrease in control. There is ultimate power in surrender but oh, what a strong person it takes to surrender their will to God. Ego is a sounding death knell and that bell tolls for us.

What does it take to actually install God on the throne of our lives? How do we surrender our will and our brilliance to the degree that there is room for Him to work in our lives? Our miracles are in our cessation of managing our lives. Once we finally learn how to let go and allow Yahweh to actually function as the God of our lives, then we will live in peace, power and harmony. This is my prayer for you today.

Rescue Me!

Psalm 35: 17 – 20, 23 -24         NIV

Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye, they do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land.

23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness O Lord my God.

Yesterday we saw David forlorn and depressed. He moaned under the weight of his grief. In today’s portion of Psalm 35 we see David beginning to transition. He is beginning to look for the answer and he knows that his God is the answer. He recognizes God as his vindicator and his own role as praising and thanking the Lord for his salvation.

As you listen to David’s words you may think that his problems are not that different from our own. Perhaps we would be well advised to view our role in the battle in the same way as does David. David understood the lesson from 2 Chronicles 20: 12 – 25. In this great adventure the people learned how to fight a battle. God told them, “You need not fight in this battle” (v. 17). Instead they gave themselves over to praise and thanksgiving while God routed the enemy for them. They didn’t even go down to where the battle took place. They stood on the high ground and praised their God.

Maybe your tormentor, like King Saul, seems misled and unreasonable. That is what David had to contend with. He said his enemies hated him without cause or reason. It is said of Saul that he was influenced by an evil spirit, or that he suffered from a mental disorder. Those who plague us have their own issues. Often, probably most often, their suffering is the genesis for the agony they cause us. This, I believe, is why Jesus taught us to pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5: 44). They have their own pain and it is that hurt that causes them to persecute us without cause.

So what do we have to say to these things? Look to God to be your vindicator. Stand in trust. Pray to the Lord your God giving Him praise and thanksgiving. Sing to Him with a glad heart for all that He is. Expect Him to rescue your precious life from the roaring lion. Stand and see the glory of the Lord.

Direct Dial

Psalm 107: 6

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.

I love this passage of scripture. Talk about good news. It is pretty simply, theologically. When we call on the Lord, He rescues us. It is just that simple. Okay, there are two caveats. First, you have to believe it. There is nothing in this realm or the spiritual realm that is going to work for you without belief. You know this to be true. If you think you are dumb, your internal self is going to do everything to prove you right. If you believe you can do a thing, then you can. We have heard this in worldly circles since we were children. This principle is immortalized in the story of the little train that thought he could. So, that is principle one. If you think God will hearken to your voice when you call, then you are right.

Here is my second caveat though. You need to know how you best connect with God. I pick up my Bible and it is like a big pop-up book. God just pops up with whatever I need. You need to know what works for you. Here is a little self-test. I think once you take this test you will see how your internal self operates. So here it is – if you were stranded on an island and desperately needed to connect with the Lord, what method would you employ in seeking him? Would you pray, take the bread and the cup, or commune over the Word? This self-test will show you what you really think will connect you with God most easily. Maybe meditating over a specific scripture that speaks to your heart (maybe even today’s scripture) is what will move you into communion. Perhaps a song elevates your spirit. Here is the key, though, the secret is in finding what moves you into communion with the Father. He is already there waiting for you to connect. You just need to find what works in your heart. If you picture yourself in desperate need, stranded on an island with few to no resources, perhaps you will find what is nearest and dearest to your heart and what triggers that connection for you.

Dial 1-800-GOD

Psalm 107: 6

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.

My name is Cain Rorie and I am Ivey Rorie’s nephew. I am twelve years old. I am writing to you today because I want everyone to know and feel God’s love.

What I take from this scripture is that God is always listening in good times and bad. He is always there to help you to get through bad times. He loves you, no matter what. God is your Father. He will never leave you.

Even when you are alone and sad, God is listening. You may feel alone but you are not. In times of stress and trouble, He is with you and will help you. He knows your stress and will rescue you. Even in your darkest night, He is the light. God knows your worries and fears. Whenever you cry out, He hears you. He is waiting to help you and heal you.

Never worry. God’s love is with you every minute of every day. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is always going to be there for you. Don’t lose faith. Just call 1-800-GOD.

The Rescuer

Psalm 91:15

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him.
    
This is an absolute promise from God and it means that when you were in trouble, God was with you. Whether or not you were aware of his presence, He was with you. He has promised to rescue you from your trouble. He has said it so he will do it. We have only to believe and receive it.  

We do not receive with our eyes though; we receive with our hearts. We don’t look with our eyes to see what God will do or what he is doing. We receive with our hearts despite the way the circumstances around us appear. No matter what someone says about the circumstances the truth is in God’s promises. You cannot convince me that our Father is not present in my time of trouble. Nothing you say will persuade me. That is what it means to be fully persuaded by God’s promises. We choose to believe God’s promises over any other evidence that anyone can present. God said he is with us in our time of trouble and that settles it.

Just this weekend I was with someone who has been challenged. Some weeks ago her husband fell asleep while driving and their young child was in the car with him. He crossed over into oncoming traffic, crossed back to his side of the road, went into a ditch and flipped the car. He had to be cut out of the car and the child seat is a total loss. Both the father and the child are afraid to get back in a car. I asked her how she would explain to her child that God is looking out for them and protecting them. In response she showed me the photographs of the damaged car. Without the Lord they would both be dead instead of banged up. She has an understanding that God didn’t cause the accident. She also knows how bad things would have turned out if He had not shown up on the scene the instant they needed Him.  

Her recent experience is why you can’t look with your eyes or your reasoning to discern God’s presence and help in the time of need. One with less discernment and less wisdom could easily conclude that God was not with her son and husband on that fateful day but her heart knows the truth and she cannot be persuaded otherwise.  

Thanks be to God who is with us every day and who answers every time we call, who is always with us in times of trouble; the God who rescues and honors us.