Category Archives: Strength in God

Living Victoriously

taking-the-plunge

he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.  Isa 4:4b

You know, by the time Isaiah came around, it was clear that the people of God had a problem. They kept messing up.  Over and over again, through the flood, the Exodus, and living under judges and kings, they fell into serious sin.

So that is why this little verse in Chapter 4 of Isaiah is significant.  Let me break it down, as best I can.

First, it talks about bloodstains.  What are they? I believe the bloodstains represent guilt.  The Israelites are guilty of hurting the needy, instead of helping them.  “Righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers  . . . They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. (Is 1:21b, 23b)  They are guilty of defying the Lord.  “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” (Isa 1:2)

Next, what is the spirit of judgment?  We certainly know that God exercised judgment all through the Old Testament.  He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.  He flooded the earth in the days of Noah because every inclination of man’s heart was evil. (Genesis 6:5) Joshua’s acquisition of Canaan was God’s judgment on those nations. (Genesis 15:16) And much more.

And then, what is the spirit of fire?  When we investigate the Old Testament, we see that God used fire to execute his judgment, most famously, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah.  “Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Genesis 19:24)

And God uses the imagery of fire in this passage in Deuteronomy to describe what will happen when people go against him: “The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur–nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.  All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”  And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.” (Deut 29:23-25)

So we see that God has a fiery wrath against those who show blatant disrespect to him.

And as we read Isaiah, we see that this fiery wrath was to be poured out on the Jewish people once more as a consequence for their guilt.  A complete reading of the Bible tells us how this was fulfilled as they were destroyed by foreign armies.

The application for us today is that we should be a part of this cycle.  We are also guilty of sin and, thus, the targets of the Lord’s wrath. “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”  Eph 2:3

And we don’t think of it this way, but Jesus actually came to bring this wrath. He said in Luke 12:49, “I have come to bring fire on the earth,” referring to was the time when he would return, and all mankind would be judged.  “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.” (Luke 12:40, 47)

But, of course, Jesus also came to be our savior.  What’s so cool about Isaiah 4 is that it predicts the time that the cycle of wrath and punishment would be broken. God would “cleanse” the bloodstains.  And although on one level, this can be applied to the war that purged the land of the sinful Israelites, it also is a prophesy of Christ and his work of salvation.

This verse sums it all up:  “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? . . .  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Cor 6:9, 11)

We were set to go to hell, but Jesus made a way for our sins to be washed away.

And the most mind-blowing, encouraging thing is that the wrath is now directed to Satan.  “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)  

And the consequence is that Satan loses his control of us.  Jesus told Paul, “I am sending you to (the Gentiles), to turn them from the power of Satan to God.

He loses control of the world. “Then the end will come, when (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” ( Cor 15:24)

He is condemned. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  (Rev 20:10)

We are free!  Free of the cycle of sin and punishment.  Free of the bloodstains of guilt.  Free of the power of Satan over us.

And God wants the knowledge of this to give us incredible strength to persevere and serve him wholeheartedly.  I Corinthians has a monumentally heartening conclusion: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor 15:57-58)

To those under the old law, at times, it must have seemed like their efforts were in vain.

But our efforts are not in vain!

And when we get caught up in feelings of defeat, and wondering how the things that need fixing will ever improve, we need to remember that we can live victoriously!!  We have God on our side, and Christ still working on our behalf.

Good will prevail.

Let’s live all out for God today.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Having the Right Heart, Isaiah, Strength in God

Needing a Mountaintop

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus . . . Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”  Mark 9:2-4,7

Do you suffer from year-end fatigue?  I know I do.  And it doesn’t help that the pace of life picks up between September and December like a roller coaster racing downhill.

roller coaster3

I start to expend more than I take in. I begin to feel like there are parched neglected places inside of me.

Whew!  What to do?  Well, there’s all this wonderful holiday stuff, guaranteed to lift my spirits!  So I immerse myself in shopping,  decorating, baking, feasting, and special activities.  And I start to experience this sort of a strange mix of euphoria and depletion — like eating a diet of sweets.

christmas cookies

After awhile I realize I need something more.

dog who ate cookies

That’s why I think Jesus went up on the mountaintop.  He needed something more.

And in doing so, he was showing us that we all really need mountaintop experiences.  We need times of extra connection with God, and extra assurance that he is with us.

I don’t think it was just random timing that Jesus went through the transfiguration six days after he told his disciples that he would have to die.  He deliberately went up on a mountain, as he had on other occasions, to be strengthened by God for his coming ordeal.

And he was strengthened in a huge way.  First of all, he was strengthened as he prayed.  According to the parallel account in the book of Luke, as Jesus began to pray, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”

Jesus was also strengthened because God gave him two of the biggest spiritual powerhouses, Moses and Elijah, to talk with and encourage him.  Luke lets us know what the conversation was about, “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31)  Jesus had some hard times coming, but he got to benefit from the experience of two men who faced challenges with faith and humility.

Finally, Jesus was strengthened because God spoke from heaven and gave him a massive verbal affirmation.

But Jesus wasn’t the only one who was strengthened by this time.  It made a huge impact on Peter, John and James.  We know this because Peter mentioned it in his second letter.  “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ And we ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain”  (II Peter 1:16-17)  

What’s really cool about this is that Peter came to have the same mindset as Jesus had, in looking towards his death. “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”  

Peter knew that life on earth was in preparation for the next life.  This is true for us too, and that makes it especially important that we have times of strengthening so we can carry out our mission and make it to the finish line.

So let’s plan a mountaintop experience!  Any time of getting away to spend time with God is good.  A day of fasting is good.

But there’s just something about praying in the midst of God’s creation.  I’ve found that it’s especially powerful on a mountaintop.  When I lived in Atlanta, there were times when I felt like I was at the absolute end of the rope.  Then I would drive to Stone Mountain, holding back tears the whole way, and hike up the mountain.  There, at the top, I would find a solitary place where I could see the whole city.  I would open my Bible, read scriptures and pour out my heart to God.  I always felt the weight lifting, and my mind clearing as I did so.  The Spirit would lead me to just the verses and truths I needed.  I would be completely refreshed and invigorated.

We may not realize it, but we’re thirsting for that!   It’s wild.  I find myself surfing different sites on the web, and I realize that I’m reaching out.  I’m hungry for a connection with something. Ha! Why do I think  that I’m going to get this need met electronically?

God is standing ready to meet our needs for more.  And here is one more encouraging thing about that.  We think it was supernatural that Jesus became radiant when he prayed on the mountain.  But II Corinthians 3 promises us that we can become radiant.  “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”   (II Cor 3:18)

We are going through a transfiguration as well!  Ours is just taking more time.  But think about it.  We live in a time when we can come into God’s very presence, the Most Holy Place, that only the high priest could enter.  “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.” Heb 10:19

Every day, we have an astounding opportunity to be transformed by the very presence of God.  We just need to draw near to him.

This past weekend we put on a little Christmas show for church, and I performed a piece on Naomi.  Naomi came to a place in her life where she felt completely empty.  But as she got on the road to return to the land of her God, the Lord remembered her and began to bless her abundantly.  She was redeemed.

Me in play

God is the one who redeems us from hopeless places!  He takes us from emptiness to fullness, from depletion to invigoration, from the valley to the mountaintop.

Let’s deliberately go to him, as Jesus did.  God will strengthen us in a huge way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark, Strength in God, Transformation

When the Bottom Drops Out

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”  Mark 9:1

I am so grateful that we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my daughter and friends.

IMG_0928

Thanksgiving 2017

We also had a super encouraging baptism of a young Tuskegee student who is dear to me.

IMG_0905

IMG_0880

But then it was like the bottom dropped out.

Travis and bill

Travis looks like the bottom dropped out here, but it really didn’t. It’s just a funny picture.

My husband had some major problems at work.  He had to work from home the rest of Thanksgiving vacation.

By fire

Here I am having a lovely morning by the fire. You can just see a bit of my husband wrestling with a situation on his work computer in the background.

And many other challenging situations arose for my loved ones:  a broken engagement, constant pain, attempted suicide, late term miscarriage, mental health issues, quitting church, substance abuse, raising grandchildren, marriage in crisis.    I myself experienced a couple of episodes of emotional overload that were discouraging.

Today’s verse can help with all of this.

To understand it, we need to realize that Mark 9:1 belongs sequentially at the end of Chapter 8, beginning with the passage where Jesus had told his disciples that he would suffer, die and be raised again.  This is followed by Peter rebuking him.  Then Jesus gathered his followers and told them all this heavy stuff — that anyone who wanted to follow him would have to deny themselves and take up their cross.  That they must lose their lives to save them.  That there would be dire consequences for anyone ashamed of him.

But Jesus closed this all out by saying something positive.  The kingdom was coming!  It’s like he was saying to those who were looking for him to be their king, “I know I’ve told you a lot of hard things, but take heart.  You are going to see the kingdom. And it’s going to be awesome!”

I don’t pretend to understand everything about the kingdom.  I used to teach people that the kingdom came when 3,000 people were baptized in Acts 2, and that the kingdom is the church.

Now I realize that the kingdom is a lot more.

kingdom

There’s this mind blowing book called “The Kingdom of God” by Tom Jones and Steve Brown.   It says,  “In Jesus’s teaching, the kingdom was seen as the now, but was also as something that was not yet here in all its finality.”

The scriptures bear this out.  Look at Matthew’s parallel passage to Mark 9:1.  Jesus leads into it by saying,  “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”  (Matt 16:27)  That speaks of a time still to come.

But then Jesus also made statements like, “But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.”  (Luke 11:20)  It’s plain that the kingdom was also present at the time Jesus was on earth.

Do you know what is exciting about this?  It means our king is  reigning, and will reign exponentially more in the future!!!  “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”  (Romans 14:11)

It means that we are living in a time of power, because Jesus said that the kingdom would come power.   John the Baptist also spoke about this.  He said,  “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  (Matt 3:11)

baptize2

It means that we, as citizens of the kingdom, have power.  In fact, we have incomparably great power.   (Eph 1:19)

We have power because we have the  indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  

  • “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  I Tim 1:7
  • “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”   John 4:4
  • “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”  Romans 8:13

We have power because Christ is interceding for us.

  • Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  Romans 8:34
  • (Jesus said) “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

But there is one more aspect of this power that I want to mention, which is perhaps most important of all.   None of this power would be available  if Christ hadn’t died.  Through the whole passage we’ve been studying, Jesus was telling his disciples that death was the essential ingredient.  No wonder he got in Peter’s face when Peter rebuked him.  Jesus was trying to say, “If I don’t die, you won’t have the kingdom.  If you don’t die, you won’t be the kingdom.”

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  John 12:24

wheat

Death is the source of power.

That means a lot of things, but what does that mean to us when we are going through major struggles?  The first thing I tend to do is start turning the situation over and over in my mind to figure out a solution.  Or I start doing things to fix the situation.  It doesn’t have to be my personal troubles, I do this to try to help others as well.  But it makes me constantly restless and anxious.

But lately I’m realizing that the best thing I can do is to die completely to having any control over matters, and instead to plant prayers, like kernels of wheat, in the soil of God.  Only as I give them over to God completely, will his power be able to work them out.

seed

seeds

Let’s remember that we’re living in a time when we can see the power of of the kingdom. That fires me up!  Let’s pray to see it more.  Let’s die more, so it is more available to us.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know . . . his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  Eph 1:18-21

Leave a comment

Filed under Mark, Power, Strength in God

Psalm 34 — Praising At All Times

What a harrowing time it was when David wrote Psalm 34!  He was fleeing for his life.  He tried to hide in some region called Gath, but people there were wise to him.  So David started acting like he was stark raving mad!  Here’s how the Message version describes it:

When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard.  I Sam 21:13

Can you imagine?  David really threw himself into his performance.  He was smashing his noggin on things and slobbering.  It would have been funny to watch, if it wasn’t so scary!

And in the midst of all of this, he wrote something astounding:  “I will praise the Lord at all times.” (Ps 34:1)  How could he write this while he was in fear for his life?  He could because he wasn’t fixated on his troubles, he was fixated on the awesomeness of God!

Several years ago I put the first part of Psalm 34 to music.  Here is the first stanza of my rendition:

I will praise the Lord at all times

His praise will always fill my voice

My soul will boast in the Lord

The righteous will hear and they’ll rejoice

Oh magnify the Lord with me and lift high his name in harmony.

Join with me to praise the Lord, exalting his name with one accord.

I love that David was determined to not only keep praising God, but to even boast in him, even magnify him.  That means that David kept on singing about how magnificent God was, and the more he did, the greater God became in his eyes.

Do I do that? Do I magnify God?

It has been a challenging week for me. I found out that my daughter and grandkids are moving to Chicago.  My beloved uncle in New Mexico passed away.  Another family member is going through some struggles.  My emotions are all over the place.

So what do I need to do?  I need to do what David did!  I’ve been working on being thankful, but I need to take that a step further and praise God more and more!  I need to start boasting that he is with me, and he’s going to take of me and my problems.  I need to get others to praise him with me for all the incredible things he has done and will do.

I sought the Lord and he replied, delivered me from all I dread

Those who look to him are radiant, and shame shall never bow their head.

Just as David could be radiant when he was in mortal danger, I can have a heart of joy when I focus on God, and not my problems.

And David was right to be radiant.  He knew God was the deliverer, and God did deliver him by allowing him to escape Gath unscathed.

“Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.”  (I Sam 21:14- 22:1a)

Will God deliver me as well?

The poor man cried, the Lord heard him, delivered him from all his woes.

The Lord’s angel encamps around the men who fear him, he rescues those.

Taste and see that the Lord is good and blessed is the man who takes refuge.

Lions grow weak and hungering, but those who seek God lack no good thing.

Isn’t it incredible to think of an angel protecting us on all sides, vigilant and ever ready?

Why then am I so insecure, so fearful?  Why do I navigate life like I’m walking through a minefield?  Why do I hunker down and protect myself?

God is the only protection that works!  Can I taste and see that he is good? Can I walk towards him instead of retreating and hiding?  Can I climb trustingly into his invisible arms?

And who among you desires life, and longs to age and see many good days?

Then keep your tongue from all evil words, and let no falsehood from your lips stray.

What a minute!  David is changing directions here.  The focus has moved from looking at the greatness of God, to looking at what a man’s behavior should be.  The song I wrote ends with the couplet above.  But the psalm David wrote goes on in this vein:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

David had to have be thinking about his own life, thinking of the battles he fought to not give into the dark side, to not be hateful, to not be overwhelmed with anger and bitterness.

David must have seen how God took care of him as he held onto his integrity.  This motivated him to rally others to fight for their integrity as well.  “Good leads to good, and bad to bad!” he exhorted them.

Evil will slay the wicked;

the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

It sounds like a no brainer.  Of course we need to keep doing the right thing.  So why is it hard?  Why is there a spiritual principle of entropy?  We do we blink and find ourselves going the wrong way?

For me, I get tired and overwhelmed.  I start slacking on taking the positive steps.

So these words of Psalm 34 are a great reminder.  As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  If I let up the fight and give into the dark side, there will be repercussions.

As I close this blog, I want to talk about two lines of the psalm near the end that have been puzzling me.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The lines seem like they don’t fit in.  David’s done such a good job of praising God, and talking about how God takes care of the righteous.  I have the impression that David has it figured out and feels great in spite of his challenges.

Then he talks about the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. Whoa.  This is gut level raw.  It’s like the hidden pain in David’s heart erupts.

And as I meditated on these words, in the end, they rang true.  David had to leave his wife and his best friend.  He left his home and his career.  His former friends and family were stalking him.  He was forced to run from place to place, and do things to survive like bang his head against walls.  His anguish went deep.

Trusting in God doesn’t instantly mend a broken heart.  It helps, but we still bleed inside.

I would have been different than David.  I would have told myself, “God is awesome.  So you’re supposed to have faith and be doing better.  Don’t let yourself give into despair.”

But David was the opposite.  He let it out and gave name to his pain.  He saw that his pain showed him how desperately he needed God.  He was confident that God wouldn’t be repelled by his mess of emotions, but would instead draw closer to him.  He knew God’s heart would be moved to help him.

That inspires me more than anything.  Yes, I want to magnify God.  Yes, I want to do the right thing.  But what I really want is to be gut level honest with God and say that I hurt.  I’m scared.  I feel lost and abandoned.

And when I do, I want to hear God saying, “It’s okay.”  I want to feel him drawing me into his embrace.  I want to know that he’s marshaling his heavenly armies to deliver me.

That is what truly inspires me to praise God without ceasing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battle Against Evil, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Psalms, Strength in God

Ps. 52, Finding Strength in God!

Today, I’m looking at Psalm 52.  This Psalm was written by David when Doeg the Edomite told Saul that David had gone to see Ahimilek the priest.

So I read the story of what happened with Doeg in I Samuel 22.  What a gruesome tale!  Saul is upset because Ahimelek helped David.  “Saul said to [Ahimelek], “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?”

“I’m loyal to you!” Ahimelek insists to Saul.  “David’s come to me before to inquire of the Lord.  It wasn’t unusual for me to help him.”

But Saul only sees treachery, and he orders Ahimilek and all the priests in the town of Nob to be killed.  Saul’s  soldiers won’t kill the priests.  So Doeg, the very one who betrayed David, does it himself.  He slaughters 85 priests.   Then, he spearheads the massacre of all of the men, women and children in Nob, along with all of the cattle.

So when David writes Ps 52, he has some pretty strong words to say about the one he calls sarcastically “mighty hero,” the one most people think is Doeg.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?

Why do you boast all day long,

you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

You who practice deceit,

your tongue plots destruction;

it is like a sharpened razor.

You love evil rather than good,

falsehood rather than speaking the truth.

You love every harmful word,

you deceitful tongue!

Let me focus on one thing David says here: “You love evil rather than good.”

Doeg did love evil.  And we can all think of people who fit into the category of loving evil rather than good.

But could this ever apply to us as well?  I’m reading “Radical Restoration by F. LaGard Smith, and he raises the question: “Given the materialism, immodesty, immorality, unauthorized divorce and remarriage, and shallow spirituality which has become endemic among us, can we assert with assurance that we have no need, as an entire family of God, to let the words of his Book rebuke us?  As God’s covenant people, do we not, even now, need to renew our covenant to follow the Lord?”

It reminds me of the verse in II Timothy where Paul indicts those of our age who, as he says, are not lovers of the good.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  II Timothy 3:1-4.

Some of this stuff is me!  I am a lover of pleasure.  I can wear things that border on immodesty.  I watch things on TV that are immoral.  I love stuff too much.  I love glory for myself.  I want to make things all about me.

So this verse can be speaking to me, to all of us, even while it was written about a man a long time ago.  We need to be constantly taking stock, constantly reassessing our spirituality.

Ken read me John Porter’s latest blog last night, and it kicked my booty.  It talked about the importance of being grateful. (Ingratitude is one of the sins listed in II Timothy.)  I’ve been struggling with intermittent depression lately and I’ve lost touch with thankfulness.  Here is some of what Porter wrote which was like he was preaching to me!

“In my personal journey, I have struggled immensely to remain grateful during my trials.  It seems to me that gratitude is the first thing “to go”.  The unfortunate consequence of this decision is a lack of awareness of God’s presence with me during my trials.  As Christians we are not just called to suffer, but to suffer well.  The key to “suffering well” is to remain aware of God’s presence with us during our struggles as was modeled for us by Jesus during his final hours before his death.  Unfortunately, many of us have the tendency to pull back from God and from others when we are suffering.  This can cause our pain to evolve into trauma.  The path to recovering the desperately needed connection to God is gratitude.”

It’s so true.  I was losing my connection with God because I wasn’t being grateful.  And gratitude is what I needed to reconnect.  I started telling God, “Thank you, God, that I am feeling depressed.  Thank you that it is forcing me to dig deeper for strength from you.”

Because that, really is what God is all about, all through the Bible.  He puts people through wilderness times so that they will build a steely strength of reliance in him.

You know, God could have put David straight on the throne.  But he had David go out to barren places and be a fugitive for years, so David could learn to rely even more on God.  The same is true for Joseph, for the Israelites, for Daniel, and, of course for Jesus, who was tempted in the desert for 40 days.

So look how Psalm 52 goes on to chronicle the building of David’s character.  He starts by quoting what others will say about Doeg, and ends speaking of himself:

“Here now is the man

who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree

flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love

for ever and ever.

David compares the strength of Doeg, who grew strong through wealth and deposing others, with his own strength in trusting in God’s love.  David says this strength is so real and so great, he is like a prolific olive tree!

That is what we can be in God.

I love to make plans.  I come up with ideas and ways to achieve goals.  Many of my plans don’t come to fruition.  I’m not disciplined.  Things go wrong.

But as I was praying yesterday, I saw how God has a plan, and it is so much more solid and substantial than my plans.  It stretches into history and into the future.  It doesn’t crumble or have weaknesses.

Yet when things go wrong, I think everything is falling apart!  How foolish I am!  The firm girders of God’s plan are in place, just as they always are, and God is building on them every day.

In conclusion, let’s make sure that we don’t love evil, but reassess our spirituality every day.  Let’s be grateful.  Let’s remember that even when evil seems to be winning, God is still working his good plan.

As David says in the close of the psalm:

For what you have done I will always praise you

in the presence of your faithful people.

And I will hope in your name,

for your name is good.

Leave a comment

Filed under Psalms, Strength in God