Quotes I’m pondering…

The obedience of faith only works when it’s rooted in a person, not a rule. Imposed on its own, a rule invites us to sit in judgement, weighing its reasonableness. But a rule flowing from relationship smoothes the way for faithful obedience. When a child doesn’t understand her mother’s command, the mother’s character plays a strong role in what happens next. A cruel, capricious mother is likely to meet resistance. But an affectionate, nurturing mother inspires trust, because you know she’s on your side, profoundly.

In one of Scripture’s most dramatic tests of trust, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. If Abraham had considered this command in isolation, surely he would not have obeyed. Abraham, however, was a friend of God. When tested, he did not hesitate, because he knew God’s character.

Rachel Gilson, ChristianityToday.com

If God actually provided an explanation of all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains. Think of little children and their relationship to their parents. Three-year-olds cannot understand most of why their parents allow and disallow what they do. But though they aren’t capable of comprehending their parents’ reasons, they are capable of knowing their parents’ love and therefore are capable of trusting them and living securely. That is what they really need. Now, the difference between God and human beings is infinitely greater than the difference between a thirty-year-old parent and a three-year-old child. So we should not expect to be able to grasp all God’s purposes, but through the cross and gospel of Jesus Christ, we can know his love. And that is what we need most.

In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, she shares her journey to understand the senseless death of her sister, crushed by a truck at the age of two. In the end, she concludes that the primary issue is whether we trust God’s character. Is he really loving? Is he really just? Her conclusion:

[God] gave us Jesus…If God didn’t withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold  anything we need? If trust must be earned, hasn’t God unequivocally earned our trust with the bark on the raw wounds, the throne pressed into the brow, your name on the cracked lips? How will he not also graciously give us all things He deems best and right? He’s already given us the incomprehensible.

Timothy Keller, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”, pg. 121-122

What I’m thinking:

Do I trust God’s character? Will I obey Him even when I don’t understand? Will I trust Him in the midst of suffering?

Truth I’m clinging to:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 ESV

Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is a congregational prayer for the success of the king in battle. A strong emphasis is placed on the name of the LORD, acknowledging that Israel’s protection comes from their covenant relationship with God. Just as the people of Israel prayed this psalm for their king, we can pray this psalm for those in spiritual leadership over us.

A contrast is made between those who trust in the name of the LORD and those who trust in themselves or their resources.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm. (v. 7-8)

In times of battle, some trust in the strength of their army.
David knows from experience, however, that victory is not determined by size or strategy. As a young man, David confronted the giant Goliath. David was no match in size or weapons to Goliath, but he was filled with trust in God.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, who you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.  1 Samuel 17:45-47

David defeated the giant that day, not with his sling and stone, but with his trust in the name of the LORD. The giant Goliath had terrorized Israel’s army, but David stood firm in faith that God would give His people victory.

David eventually became king. It was still a temptation for his people to place their confidence in chariots and horses. David wrote Psalm 20 to show his people how to pray for him and to remind them that trust in God, not their army, was the key to victory.

O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call! (v. 9)

In our own battles, we must choose who to trust.
Will we trust our reasoning or resources?
Or will we trust in the name of the LORD?

Some trust in themselves and fall.
But we who trust in the name of the LORD our God rise up and stand firm.

Father, I pray for those in spiritual leadership today. Answer them in times of distress, protect them with your name, send them help from your sanctuary, give them the desire of their heart – You – and make all their plans succeed. Help them trust in you, not their resources or ideas. As they trust you, help them rise up and stand firm when they battle the enemy. With each victory, let the whole world know that You are God. Amen.

psalm 20

Psalm 16

Trust.
Contentment.
Gratitude.

Psalm 16 shows the way.
David wrote this psalm and the people of Israel sang this song to celebrate the inheritance they had received from God and the benefits of choosing the path of life rather than running after the gods of their day. Like all of the psalms, we can read of God’s goodness to real people in a historical context and we can apply the psalms to our own circumstances as we learn to pray.

Psalm 16 has become a very personal prayer for me in this last year of homebound living. Early in the journey, when fatigue was so intense that I struggled to read even a single page, the psalms were a special solace. Because of their familiarity, I could focus on short passages, reading them as prayers. Psalm 16 has given me words to frame my attitude and prayers about my situation.

Trust.

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. (v. 1)

When your immune system is broken, even the simplest germs can cause a dangerous crisis. I studied biology and biochemistry and took an immunology class in grad school. Let’s just say too much knowledge can sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help. By nature, I imagine all possibilities for every situation. This can make me a creative problem solver, but it can also make me worrier as I think of all potential outcomes.

This psalm reminds me to leave “what ifs” behind and run to find refuge in God. He alone is my safety, not my contingency plans.
I can trust Him with my days.

Contentment.

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (v. 2)

It is easy for us to find our identity in productivity, plans, and possessions. My illness is a reminder that I am not what I do, that today is the only day I have, and that God is all I need.

This psalm reminds me to surrender my expectations to the Father, to thank Him that He is my only good thing, and to find my identity in belonging to Him.

As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips. (v. 3-4)

This psalm also reminds me to be careful who influences me, to remember the sorrow and discontent that comes from running after the gods of our day (like productivity and prestige), and to find delight in godly friendships.

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,
surely I have a delightful inheritance. (v. 5-6)

Travel has been part of my dreams for a long time. I dream of Oregon, home of my dearest friend and my favorite landscape, with its majestic trees, rocky coastline, and awe-inspiring mountains. And I dream of travel to other continents, to be a part of taking the gospel to the nations. I remember trips to Romania and Ecuador to serve the global church and long to go again. In my dreams, there are no limits to where I can go.

For this season, however, I am limited. On good days, the boundary lines are drawn at the edges of my yard and can be extended to the interior of our van as my husband drives me through the countryside. On fatigue days, the boundaries are the walls of my bedroom. Thankfully, I have more good days.

This psalm reminds me that I can choose to be content no matter where the boundary lines fall. God has assigned the boundaries for each part of my journey for my good. He is with me wherever I am. He keeps me secure. As a beloved daughter of Abba, Father, I have a delightful inheritance.

Gratitude.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me. (v. 7)

The result of trust in God and contentment with His assigned boundaries is praise.

This psalm reminds me that when I take refuge in God, when I surrender to His plans, He counsels me. Even in uncertain times, He shows me the way. A heart filled with praise is ready even at night, when “what ifs” try to resurface and demand you figure things out on your own.

I have set the LORD always before me.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken. (v. 8)

I get to choose what I focus on: my circumstances, or my God. My limitations, or His provision. My illness, or His strength.

This psalm reminds me to focus on God, to intentionally set Him before me. It reminds me that God is present. With Him at my side, I will not be shaken by changing circumstances. I can give thanks for that.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (v. 9-10)

With the unshakable certainty that God is with me, my heart can be glad, my conversation can be joyful, and my body can rest. When my heart is filled with gratitude and trust in God, my emotions are not controlled by the rollercoaster of changing circumstances. When I am content with whatever the day brings, knowing that God has allowed it, I have no reason to complain. Our emotions do affect our bodies and our physical health. When my primary emotion is gratitude, my body rests better and is more ready to heal.

This psalm reminds me to choose gratitude and joy. And it reminds me that God will not abandon me even if the worst happens.

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (v. 11)

God has made the path of life known.

Find safety in Me, not your plans.
Find freedom in My boundaries, not your expectations.
Focus on Me, not your circumstances.

Trust.
Contentment.
Gratitude.

This psalm reminds me that I find life in God’s presence.
I can trust Him.
I can be content with what He plans for my days.
I can give thanks that because He is with me, I will not be shaken.

Father, keep me safe, for in you I take refuge. I surrender my plans and place my trust in you. Thank you for the security of your boundaries. I am content, knowing this day is a gift from you. Help me to focus on you today, not my changing circumstances. I praise you, Father, and thank you for the joy of your presence. Amen.

psalm 16

 

 

Psalm 9

Written by David, Psalm 9 opens with four “I will” statements, declaring an intent to praise God and inviting all who sing this Psalm to join in praise (v. 1-2).

1. I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart.
2. I will tell of all your wonders.
3. I will be glad and rejoice in you.
4. I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

The remainder of the Psalm recounts the wonders of who God is and what He has done for His people.

  • You are the righteous judge (v. 3-8).
  • You are a refuge for the oppressed (v. 9).
  • You are trustworthy (v.10).
  • You are listening for the cry of the afflicted (v. 11-12).
  • You are a God of mercy and justice (v. 13-17). David asks for mercy and deliverance for himself and describes the justice that waits for the wicked. Psalm 7 painted the picture of a man falling into the very pit he dug to trap others. Here, nations fall into the pit they have dug, get caught in their own hidden nets, and are ensnared by the work of their hands.
  • You are hope for the needy (v. 18).
  • You are God over the nations (v. 19-20).

The heart of this Psalm is found in verses 9-11.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have ever forsaken those who seek you.
Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.

David and the people of Israel knew what it was like to be oppressed. From centuries of slavery in Egypt to the physical and psychological attacks from nations surrounding the kingdom David ruled, God’s chosen people were familiar with times of trouble and pain.

We, too, will know such times. We will be attacked by the enemy, or find ourselves crushed by the weight of suffering or grief. Pain will find us on this journey home.

David writes to remind us that the LORD, the covenant God, is a refuge for those oppressed by pain and suffering. In the times of trouble that inevitably come, God is our stronghold, a place to hide in safety from the enemy, a place of security where we can find rest.

David says God can be trusted in these times of trouble because we know His name – His character and His promise to us. The word “know” here means to know by experience. Because we have God’s Word, we know how God has acted on behalf of His people in the past to provide for them and protect them. In addition to the testimony of the past, we can experience God’s loving care for ourselves.

David also reminds us that God can be trusted because He has never forsaken those who seek Him. The word “seek” here means to study, practice, or follow with care. It conveys the idea of walking in a direction so often you wear a path with your feet. God will never forsake, or leave behind, those who pursue Him like this, those who study and practice walking in His ways.

God is our stronghold and will not ignore us when we seek shelter in Him. We can trust Him and take refuge in Him during times of trouble.

What should our response be?

David gives us two: praise and proclamation.

Praise: “Sing praises to the LORD…”
Oppressed? Running to God to find refuge? Praise Him. Like David did in Psalm 9, make a list of who God is and what He has done in the past for His people and for you personally. Sing songs of praise that celebrate God’s name and describe His character.

Proclamation: “Proclaim among the nations what He has done.”
Tell others what God has done for you. Your rescue from suffering and trial is not just for you. You are part of God’s redemption story for the whole world. Tell your part of it! Proclaim God’s name to people from every nation. Give them the good news that they are not forgotten by God, that He has heard their cries. Share the gospel, the good news that God sent His only Son, Jesus, to suffer on the cross to pay for our sins so that we can know and experience God’s salvation.

Trouble will find us. But when it does, we find out who God really is.

Know His name. Trust Him. Seek Him.
He will never forsake you.

Father, I will praise you with all of my heart. I want to seek you and know you more. I will tell of all your wonders. You are a God of mercy and justice. You hear the cries of the suffering and act on their behalf. I will be glad and rejoice in you. You are my refuge, my security, my stronghold, my safety in times of trouble. I put my trust in you. I will sing praises to your name. I want to be a part of taking your name to the nations. Thank you for your great salvation. Amen.

psalm 9

 

 

trust in the storm

Trouble finds us on this broken planet.

Storms threaten the lives we build, the people we love.

When storms arise, what can we do?

In Psalm 28, David shows us the way of trust.

Trust requires relationship“To you, O LORD, I call; my rock…”

The biblical idea of trust is one of attaching oneself, relying on someone or something else. feeling safe, being confident. To survive the storm, we must trust, or attach ourselves to something.  Too often, we tie ourselves to others, looking to them for rescue, forgetting they too are subject to wind and wave.  Instead, we must look for the Rock, the only immovable One, and attach ourselves to Him.

Trust invites communication. “Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help…Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.”

Securely attached to the Rock, our only help, we can confidently pray in the midst of the storm.  Like the boom of thunder or a sudden deluge, storm prayers are sporadic pleas and cries, punctuated by moments of both desperation and praise.  When we trust, we are unashamed of our cries and unhindered in our worship.

Trust helps.  “in him my heart trusts and I am helped…”

Knowing we’ve been heard, we find strength, not in ourselves, not in our fellow travelers, but in the LORD, Jehovah.  We recognize that He alone is our shield, our covering, our saving refuge in every storm.

Even kings face storms.  In the midst of incredible difficulty, David learned how to trust.

Centuries later, his words invite us to do the same.

Psalm 28:1-2, 6-8 ESV

To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me…Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.  Blessed by the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield;  In him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.