Monthly Archives: February 2018

Psalms 12-16; Using A Plumb Bob

When my dad first got a CB radio for his pickup, he had to come up with a “handle,” something that would identify him to other CB radio users without using his name. Dad was a plumber. His name was Bob. And he adopted the handle “Plumb Bob.”

Do you know what a plumb bob is? It’s a weight, usually with a pointed end, tied to a string. When you hold the string end and drop the weight, it will form a perfectly straight vertical line. No matter how many times you drop the weight, it will always create that perfectly straight line. Perfectly straight. Every time.

I thought about that today as I read these psalms. David speaks of “flattering tongues,” manipulation, outright lies passed off as truth. He talks about people who say God doesn’t exist, others who are evil and lure God’s people away to destroy them.

We live in a society where we are told truth is fluid, that it is personal, relative, subjective. And those who will tell you that often also say if you don’t agree with them, then you are a fool, or intolerant, or a hater.

How do you even know what is true any more? Or is there truth at all?

Let me get one thing straight. Truth is NOT fluid. Truth is NOT subjective. Truth cannot, by definition, be one thing for you and another for me. Opinion can be. But opinion and truth are not synonymous. Do not mistake that fact.

12:6 says, “And the words of the Lord are flawless…

And there’s your plumb bob. Whatever you hear, whoever you hear it from, no matter with how much authority it’s said, check it out with the Truth of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

And that’s the Truth.

 

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Psalms 8-11; Crumbling Foundations

There is so much unrest, so much evil, and hatred, dishonesty and self-seeking people in our county, I could almost take the advice of David’s friends in Psalm 11, and fly away. The wicked are winning. Is it time to fly the white flag?

The school districts in the county where I spent 37 years in public education, have had more than their share of tragedy since school started in August of last year. Nine adolescent suicides and one adolescent murder-suicide have devastated this average American community.

Last week’s shooting in Florida is yet another tragedy that has rocked our world. I am heartbroken as are many of you. Too many of our youth are living like there is no hope.

But this time, in my grief, I am angry. When adults use grieving, impressionable children to further their own political agendas, we’ve sunken deeper into the mire. Those who organized this field trip to Washington are the lowest kinds of abusers, as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s what needs to happen: Instead of focusing on guns, we need to focus on what’s inside the hearts of those who have no hope, who have no respect for life, who cannot see beyond themselves.

You’ve heard it said, it’s not a gun issue, it’s a heart issue. And it is.

I don’t want to glorify the “anti-bullying” mentality, because that whole movement has made victims of everybody. Teaching children that people should treat you fairly has done more harm than good. But I wonder if the classmates of all of the kids who either kill themselves or others, have a responsibility. I wonder if the parents of the classmates of those kids have a responsibility, the school employees, the neighbors of those children. You. Me.

We’ve spent so much time and money teaching kids how to stick up for themselves. Maybe we should turn our efforts into teaching kids how to stick up for one another. In our efforts to stamp out bullying, we’ve given children the idea that they have the power within themselves to stop an evil person from being evil. (If you say this, or do this, they’ll stop being mean to you) And we are lying to them. The truth of the matter is you can’t.

I wonder how many of the students who enjoyed their little trip to D.C. ever reached out to that classmate. I wonder how many of them spoke to him after his mother died. I was in schools long enough to know the cruelest words are often cloaked in niceties. I wonder how many of those survivors said things, laughed at things, saw his social media posts and did nothing, or simply went about their day acting like this boy didn’t exist.

And I wonder how many of their parents, knowing this boy’s situation, ever encouraged their own children to include him. I wonder how many adults reached out to this boy.

I know there were some. And I also know that this adolescent was a troubled, lost boy. One kind word would not have changed the outcome, because there were some people who did speak those kind words. But I wonder if placed on a scale, would the kindness out weigh the cruelty?

I wonder the same in the lives of those ten dead children in my hometown. Has our country become so self-absorbed that we don’t even see the children who are desperate to be heard?

I will not talk about the “system” that failed, or the FBI, or the security guards, or the gun that was used. All of those are byproducts of the problem, not the cause of the problem.

The problem is us. We need to start teaching children how to take responsibility for their actions, that treating others the way they want to be treated is hard, but right. We need to stop making everything a political issue, even though doing that conveniently allows us to blame someone else for our own failures.

We need to boldly proclaim that there is hope. There is forgiveness and unconditional love. There is peace, and joy, and a real reason to live regardless of situations. We need to introduce people to their Savior, Jesus, the giver of life.

The foundation of our society is crumbling, as is seen in the perceived hopelessness of our children. David asks:

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? (11:3)

Rebuild the foundation! Ezra did.

Dear one, we are all guilty about what happened in Florida, and in other parts of our country. Too many of us are either actively destroying the foundation of our country, or we’re sitting back and watching it crumble.

And our children are dying while we play politics, or bury our heads in our phones.

God forgive us.

 

 

Psalms 5-7; Waiting in Expectation

David certainly knew what it was to be mistreated, alone, physically and emotionally drained. In Psalm 6 he says things like: my bones are in agony, my soul is in anguish, I’m worn out from groaning, I weep all night.

My sister Peggy’s son Geoff died in a car accident in 2012. I have had losses in my life, times when I felt alone and defeated, agonizing over circumstances. But Geoff’s death is the single most devastating thing I have experienced. I, like David, had sleepless nights when tears drenched my pillow. I ached all over, and groaned uncontrollably.

Now I don’t want to compare my grief to anyone else’s. It’s not a contest. This aunt grieved deeply for the loss of my dear nephew. But who can touch a mother’s grief?

I watched my sister die that day, too. There was no life in her eyes. Smiles were forced. Laughter would occasionally break the mood, but it was short-lived. I will say her faith and hope in God never wavered. That deep trust enabled her to get out of bed each day, and has sustained her to this day. But the sadness was there, too.

I began to pray that God would restore her joy. Every day I’d pray that Peggy would know real joy once again. Then, over a year after Geoff went to live with Jesus, I was talking to Peggy on the phone when she said she woke up that morning and felt joy for the first time.

I was shocked!

“I’ve been praying for that,” I said.

Now why did that shock me? Why would I be surprised that God would answer my prayer?

My pastor shared a while back that he prays Psalm 5:3 to God every day:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation(emphasis mine)

I picture a child sitting in front of the Christmas tree, presents wrapped, waiting excitedly to see his wish list fulfilled.

That’s how David prayed. I think sometimes I pray because I’m supposed to, or because someone asks me to. I pray knowing God can answer prayer. I’m not sure I always pray expecting Him to.

Listen to what David says about God in Psalm 7: I take refuge in You, my shield is God Most High who saves the upright in heart, God is a righteous judge, and

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (vs17)

David had confidence in God. He could lay out his troubles before God and believe that He would hear and answer his prayers perfectly. Then he would look for the ways God was working throughout the day, expecting to see His hand. Expecting God to answer His prayers.

My Dear Heavenly Father, let me tell you what is on my heart. I want to lay it all out there, and then wait expectantly for the ways You provide exactly what I need, the way You answer my prayers according to Your will. Make me aware of Your hand today, Lord. I will give thanks to You.

 

Psalms 2-4; Good Night

Who has never laid awake at night and fretted over a problem? Who has never wakened in the morning and felt beat up instead of rested? And have you ever wondered how someone who is going through hard times can seem so together? What’s up with that?

David had enemies. David hid out in caves for years so Saul wouldn’t find him and kill him. David’s own son wanted him dead. And David never knew from one day to the next whether the people would be for him or against him. How did that man ever sleep?

Psalm 3 is called a morning psalm. Let’s look at how David greeted his day:

Lord, it seems like I can’t get a break. Things were hard yesterday and it looks like they’ll be hard today, too. But You sustain me. You keep me going. You encourage me and hear my prayers. I won’t fear today because You are with me. Take care of my problems, Lord, because I know my deliverance comes from You.

Then, in Psalm 4, an evening psalm, David said this:

God, I’m going to trust You to relieve my stress. Be merciful to me and hear my prayer. Instead of sinning in my anger, I’ll search my own heart, then I’ll be still. I trust You, God. You give me such joy. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (4:8)

Sounds like the first thoughts David had each day, and the last thoughts before he went to bed were directed toward God. And that sounds like a good example to follow myself.

Someone has said: If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd.

Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

I find that turning my problems over to God, and trusting Him to bring about the best solutions, is so much better than me trying to solve things myself. He’s so much better at it than I.

Do you trust Him? Tell Him. Then have a good night, and an even better day.

 

Psalm 1; The Pursuit of Happiness

The book of Psalms is the go-to for many people when they are sad or discouraged or feel far from God. And many find comfort in these precious chapters.

Honestly, I haven’t been one of those people. The Psalms have never been my favorite book of the Bible. Usually, as I get to this portion of God’s Word while reading through it each year, I plow through as many psalms a day as I can, just to say I’ve read them. Oh, I’m blessed by a verse here and there, challenged or convicted by others. But in general, I don’t let it speak to me like I do other places in the Bible.

My pastor has been going through the psalms with us on Wednesday evenings, and that has given me a new appreciation. So today I read Psalm 1, a psalm I memorized in my youth, and I’ve been sitting here chewing on it, praying about it, then reading what some others have to say about it. And… WOW!

We all want to be happy. I mean, come on. Doesn’t the US government even give us the right to pursue happiness? So why is there so much sadness? Why so many people medicating to mask unhappiness? Psalm 1 has the answer.

First of all the happy (or blessed) person doesn’t listen to the world’s idea of what happy looks like. It’s not found within us, or in having bigger and better things. It’s not found in relationships or self-satisfaction. People who suggest that the answers to life’s problems are situational or a matter of mind control are wicked counselors, sinners, and mockers. (vs 1)

The blessed man is the one whose life is grounded in Scripture, who loves God’s Word, who has made the Bible such a part of his life, it is with him day and night. He is like a tree whose roots are deep, nourished by living water, refreshed, and fruitful.

The psalm says the wicked man, the one who denies God or ignores Him, has no roots. He’s based his life on shallow ground that won’t stand up in the end. Like chaff, or dandelion seeds that blow apart in the wind, he has no standing with God. And he doesn’t even realize what an unhappy state he’s living in.

The dandelion looks at the sturdy oak and says, “I’m just like you.”

No, you’re not.

The blessed person, we who are happy in our relationship with God, grounded in His Word, know that this life is only a blink in light of eternity. The problems of this life are temporary, but the rewards of knowing God will last forever. We can afford to be happy in that truth, regardless of situations we face here in this lifetime. We are blessed!

Dear God, thank You for slowing me down as I study Your Word today. I pray that as I spend time in the psalms You inspired men to write, I will listen to what You would say to me here in 2018. God, I want to be grounded in Your Word, rooted in Scripture, bearing fruit as a result of my relationship with You. I’m looking forward to getting to know You better, loving You more, and serving You more effectively as I let these psalms penetrate my heart and soul.

Job 38-42; Final Answer

The whole book of Job is a series of questions and answers. Job had questions: “Why is God doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? Where is God in my suffering?” His friends had answers (or at least what they passed off as answers): “You have done something bad and God is punishing you, Job. You deserve this, admit it.”

So after 37 chapters of this sorry exchange between friends, God is going to finally speak. Job is going to get his answer. But it’s not at all what he expects. Because God never addresses the “why” of anything Job is experiencing. God never tells about His conversation with Satan in chapter one. God never explains His reasoning, or plan to Job and his friends. The answer to Job’s suffering isn’t about the “why” at all.

It’s about the”Who.”

And it’s the same for us. If we are looking for answers to understand our pain, or our circumstances, we are looking in the wrong direction. Looking horizontally prevents us from looking upward.

A Swiss psychologist, Dr. Paul Tournier wrote, “For God’s answer is not an idea, a proposition, like the conclusion of a theorem; it is Himself.” (Guilt and Grace; Harper and Row, p 86)

God doesn’t owe us answers. He Himself is all the answer we need.

Unless you’ve experience His Presence and peace in the middle of a storm, you probably think this is just another example of “church speak,” that it doesn’t hold water when the reality of suffering sets in. And you would be wrong.

Warren Wiersbe (With the Word, p 303) said, “God cannot do much for us as long as we are busy telling Him what to do.” Sometimes we just need to shut our mouths, stop with our demands, and just be still and know that He is God, bowing before Him in complete surrender.

I hope you read these chapters in Job today, and ask yourself how you stack up when compared to God. I know I don’t come close. And it humbles me that the Creator and Sustainer of life wants a relationship with me, wants to spend time with me, wants to be everything I need in good times and in the worst of times.

God.

Final answer.

Job 32-37; Elihu

Ahh youth. Many of us older folk may wish we could go back to the days when we knew everything, too. Elihu, the youngest of Job’s friends, speaks boldly. He brushes off the arguments of the other three as though they were crumbs on the front of his shirt. “Pay attention, Job,” he keeps saying.  “I will teach you wisdom.” (32:33)

Of course Elihu is going to talk about the “why” of suffering. But he puts a slightly different slant on the subject than the other three did. He suggests the trials of life are not always about judgment, reaping what we sow, or God’s discipline for sin. He says in chapter 36 that sometimes God is “wooing (us) from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction...”

Maybe God allows the trials of life to serve as a means of preventing us from sinning. I think of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Did that pain (physical or emotional) keep Paul from pride, or self-satisfaction? Did that affliction help to keep Paul grounded so that he could be the fruitful evangelist he was?

Here’s what I get out of Job:  Trouble and hardship and sickness and grief are a part of life on planet Earth. Accept it. Then, instead of wasting time trying to figure out “why?” ask God, “what?”

What is it You want me to learn?

What do you want me to do with this that will help someone find You?

What danger is this situation keeping me from?

Then, Elihu speaks these words in 33:23-24:

Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, “Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him”…

Did you hear it? We have that mediator, that One who has ransomed us and keeps us from going down to the pit.

Yesterday my pastor shared from Mark 4 in God’s Word, where Jesus calmed the storm. Where were the disciples during this storm that frightened even those seasoned fishermen? They were in the boat with Jesus!

What did those disciples do when the storm became so violent? They called on Him!

Storms, battles, hardships, trials, pain, whatever you call it will come. But we never have to go through any of it alone. If you know Jesus as your Savior, He is in that rocking boat right there with you. He may choose to calm the raging storm that surrounds you, or He may command the waves of doubt and fear within you to “Hush, be still.”

But God, who does all things well, promises to never leave you or forsake you in good times or bad. Call on Him. Lean on Him. Surrender to Him.

Because in Him is joy and peace that transcends even the worst situations. I’ve seen it in the smile of a woman fighting cancer, in the eyes of a mother who buried her son, in the selfless actions of a widow, in the song of  man mourning the loss of his dear wife.

My prayer is that, if you are going through a storm, you will let go of the “why,” and turn your eyes instead on Jesus. He will teach you what you need to know, He’ll be your strength, and He’ll calm the storm as only He can. You can trust Him.