Psalm 14: Corrupt Mankind

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.
Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”
-Psalm 14

In college, I served through a ministry in D.C. for a low-income area to young kids and their families.  It was an amazing experience, but it came with it’s fears and tragedies.  It’s was an awesome ministry, focused on after-school help and Saturday Bible school for the kids, and holiday outreach to the families involving serving up food put together by the church we worked out of.  But there was one time, I was walking around to collect some of the kids from their homes for Bible school, and I got a kid who had clearly been abused.  These were mostly really young kids, mind you.  And the other kids I had with me immediately reacted.  Got back to the complex we were working out of, and had to sit down with the kid to find out what happened.

That talk is always tough- you don’t want to be right.  You don’t want to hear that that child is beaten violently night after night by a parent with drinking problems, or who has anger problems and just sees that kid as a financial burden.  But you also really don’t want whatever it is to keep happening to this kid.  And sometimes, the kids are told not to talk about it, and they won’t tell us.  It’s heart breaking, but it is the reality we live in.  I had such a tough time with this in college- I volunteered as much as I could to make sure those kids got the love they deserved and learned that God would always be there with them.  Sometimes we had to report the happenings to social services, and I could never understand why people committed such cruel acts.

David had this problem too.  How can their be so much evil in the world; evil hearts, evil times, evil works?  He is looking on the character of one who rejects God.  And that means people who call themselves Christian are not exempt- because you can be attending church regularly, but be rejecting God inwardly.  However, David is speaking of those who do not believe at all in God.  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”  He starts off with this because the one who denies the existence of God makes them-self seem a fool- their denial doesn’t negate the existence of God.  It sure does dishearten David, though, as it should.  Imagine for yourself that your Heavenly Creator is looking down at the earth from Heaven and doesn’t find anyone seeking after Him.  And the evil comes from their heart, the place that only God knows.

I sometimes find that I learn more about what characteristics I do want by looking at what characteristics I really don’t want and developing, within myself, a hatred toward those negative qualities.  As you read this passage, do you feel like this is what David is doing?  It is discouraging to see or think on the negative happening all around you.  They do not pray, or seek God.  “Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.”  The poor are those who know they need to depend on God from a recognition of their own shortcomings.  When you witness evil around you, it should upset you.  And it should make you check yourself for any similar qualities, and them reflect on God and see what quality He desires for His children.

In typical Psalm fashion (Psalm is the new black), David closes off by rejoicing in the Lord.  Can you recall a time when you couldn’t see a positive side to a situation and just felt overwhelmed with negative?  When I was 13, my Nonna was rushed to the hospital with a brain aneurysm.  It had burst- I think she had fallen out of bed, triggering this series of events which landed her in the hospital.  I’d spent so many months with this woman of God right before this happened.  My dad had shattered his ankle, so she (his mom- my Nonna) had come to help out our family and take care of him.  Then I spent my 13th birthday with her in Italy, learning about her, having some of the most intimate conversations about God I’d ever had up to that time, and loving every outing that I got to go on and spend time with her through the lovely streets of Italy.  We got the call in the evening that she didn’t survive, a week before Christmas, and when my dad said we should be rejoicing that she was in Heaven, I couldn’t believe it.  I know now that my dad was right, but at the time I saw the loss of this wonderful woman from my life as a horrible injustice.  Why couldn’t the doctors save her?  Why was the world so against me?  Who was I supposed to write to now?  I couldn’t see any positive in this, and my dad was crying with joy in the kitchen with the rest of my family, comforting each other, and now I was just angry.  A day before all this, I had received a letter from my Nonna and she was alive and well, and I had written back to her, if I remember right…excited to have a ‘pen pal’. And now she was gone…

As years went on, and I grew in the Lord, I began reflecting regularly on what God was trying to teach me in events of the past to prepare myself for what may come.  David rejoiced in what he knew.  He knew that God was his refuge, whether he felt like it while surrounded by negative things or not, he knew he could find joy in this knowledge.  And he rejoices in the restoration and deliverance that he knows will come.  He knew that letting himself stay down over these things would not be profitable to the kingdom, or at least not as profitable, since God can do anything through anyone.  But he was determined to not be like those who deny God, so he desired to be as effective for the kingdom as he could be.

Be blessed, loved ones.  Rejoice in the Lord always.

Psalm 13: Prayer of Longing

This week is a double post week- My schedule is currently a bit crazy, and I apologize that I missed last week.

“How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”

Most of us have been in this place- feeling far from God and as though He is distancing himself.  David seems to have been facing some sort of trial.  One thing is certain from the repetition of “How long”- David yearned to be with God no matter what.  We often accept defeat when we feel far from God.  Yet, I think Jesus expressed the same feeling as he prepared for death on the cross, as surely the greatest pain He felt was actually in being separated from His Father.  It is easy to go head first into a trial when we feel God is going with us.  But perhaps your trial is meant to be like Jonahs and you can look back and see how God was really with you all along.  It doesn’t make it any easier.  Of course, God did not forget David, nor was he hiding, but perhaps David had begun to rely too much on ‘feeling’ that God was with him instead of believing it, so for David his words were true and his test difficult.

In feeling the absence of the Lord, David had looked inward.  When I feel troubled or discouraged, looking inward for uplifting has always lead to further disappointment.  I think I have shared this before, but when I focus inward for help, I spiral downward quickly.  The enemy weaves lies, he will bring up things that I thought I’d overcome, but when you feel far from the Lord those truths that you felt you had replaced the lies with are no where in sight.  It’s not until I go to Him in prayer that I feel released. (“The truth will set you free.”)  But prayer isn’t always first on my mind when God feels far.

David even prays for his relationship with God.  Sometimes God needs us to get to the place where we are desperate for Him before He will speak to our situation.  David seeks wisdom, and not only that, he seeks to avoid falling into a spiritual sleep.  He truly is desperate to know that God had heard him.  And in reality, God never said following Him would be easy.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” James 1:2- James got that these trials would be to our benefit and we should rejoice that God would let us experience difficulties for the building up of His kingdom to be realized through us.

David recognizes that his enemies may count his troubles as a victory for themselves, so he determines, as James writes, that he will rejoice.  You remember that talk of truth setting you free?  When you know that God isn’t seeking your destruction, it is easier to determine that the enemy will not claim victory over you.  God had to get Elijah to that place where he could look back and see all the goodness of God and recognize that he was never alone.  And when Elijah knew that he had reason to believe, he found it easier to continue. (Referencing the chain of events in Elijah’s life beginning in 1 Kings 18 and continuing to at least chapter 20.)  Have you ever gotten to that place?  Maybe David was facing a similar sort of trial, with enemies rising up against him, but the evidence of God’s goodness piled up around him.

Psalm 12: Craving God

“Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.”

 

This comes at a great time for me, personally, as my best and closest friend is gone for quite a while so I find myself seeking the comfort of God even more.  In the last chapter, David expressed sorrow for the ones who were telling him to flee from the wicked around him- most likely these were people near him, maybe friends, offering advice based on what they saw.  Now we see David feeling a lack of ‘quality’ comfort from friends so instead seeking God.  Perhaps he has learned that the comfort of friends, while pleasant to have someone physically present to hear his woes and troubles, don’t offer the comfort he actually needs.  God certainly is good to provide us with close friends who can listen and offer solid advice, and if you have such a friend in your life you know they are very dear and spiritually gifted people, but God also calls us to draw near to Him.  It is good to learn when God wants you nearer to Him, and when He wants you to tap into that friends’ gift He put in your life.

As always, David doesn’t beat around the bush.  He begins with the obvious plea to God, “Help, Lord”.  It’s not clear if David had a friend he watched fall away from the Lord, perhaps someone who was part of his regular time of fellowship, even, whom others would have known too and were unable to help.  Maybe he felt the advice he’d received from friends he had perceived as spiritual turned out to not be what he expected.  We also learn that David battled gossip, too, so maybe someone he had trusted with something deep had turned on him and raised strife among his friends.  Whatever the case, it is clear that David had been hurt and his immediate reaction was to turn to God.

Have you ever been there?  Maybe you told someone something you were battling with, and they went to tell someone else, maybe not even in a malicious way but to seek advice from someone they trusted, but it only resulted in unwanted gossip and the breaking up of friendships.  It hurts, when you trust someone with something and it comes back to bite you.  I have a problem with just being too blunt, but I think it has saved me from gossip many times. I also go straight to the source when someone tries to tell me something about someone.  Yet, in my school days, I certainly was part of a lot of gossip within my friendship circle and it resulted in me running to God a lot.  You feel hurt by the ones you thought loved you, and suddenly you’re not sure who you can trust.  It is tough to realize how small the circle of people is that you can really trust, but it is a beautiful thing when God builds you up in trust in Him.  Your best Friend is always beside you and knows exactly what you are feeling, not just because He created you, but because He loves you deeply and desires a deep relationship with you.  I have been most blessed by those who I seek advice from who tell me something like, “I don’t know the answer, I will pray about it, and the best thing I think you can do is to seek God in the matter for now.”  This brings me some of the greatest relief from my troubles, and often helps me problem-solve in a godly way as I reflect on what the Biblical response would be to my situation.

“They speak vanity…”. We’re not sure what David was going through, but let’s look at this gossip thing.  ‘Vanity’ here is translated to mean ’emptiness, nothingness, falsehood, or worthlessness.’  I think we can agree it doesn’t bear fruit.  It is such a hurtful thing to be involved in, especially within the body of Christ.  If a brother or sister in Christ brings up something personal to you in seeking your advice, what reason do you have to doubt that God hasn’t equipped you to help that friend?  This is where the enemy comes in to weave lies and cause trouble among believers.  Instead of feeling confident that we could seek God’s help, perhaps we turn to another friend in fear that we can’t help and engage in gossip. Gossip doesn’t always begin as an intentional attack on another like it is shown in movies- it can be as simple as me saying ‘Oh, that person struggles with _________”, and perhaps I know that person well enough that it is something I have accepted and love about them, but the person I have told hardly knows them and they begin to treat that other person differently.  And eventually that friend I spoke about learns what happened and they are hurt by it because the enemy was working something I couldn’t see.  Understanding what exactly is gossip is tough.  I’ve tried reviewing my words and asking myself “is this gossip?” and can hardly ever tell.  So my new rule is to instead ask myself “Is this something empty that won’t bear fruit or help my friend in the long run?”  This has served me much better, and now if I hear others complain of someone, I always point them to something positive about that person instead.

“with flattering lips…”.  This doesn’t mean they go around complimenting every person they met. This is a big problem today, even in the church among leaders.  These are the people who say what you want to hear.  Within the church, these may be the leaders who only speak things that are good morals that you can agree with, but never speak the truth.  There is one thing we know about speaking the truth, and that is that it will bring division among families and groups.  Jesus told his disciples “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.”  Is the person giving you advice just saying what you want to hear?  Do they give you Biblical advice, or just nice sounding advice that could be generalized to any problem?  Does it sound like it came from a fortune cookie or from a wisdom given by God?

David always prays for a solution; an end to the acts of the wicked.  “Flattering lips” are a huge problem in ‘consumer churches’.  Has your faith been challenged recently?  I don’t mean that you’ve hit a hard time and had to learn to trust God more.  I mean has your church leader spoken some truth from the Bible that you hadn’t come across yet on your own and it made you question your faith.  Has your belief system been tried?  Have you reached that place the disciples got to where they questioned if they really wanted to follow a man whose path lead to death on a cross?  If you haven’t felt challenged recently, and mostly find yourself just nodding in agreement to the ‘good morals’ or doctrine your leader teaches, it may be time to hop to a different church.  If you don’t think your leader is serious about getting the truth into the lives of the people he has agreed to shepherd, I recommend leaving.  Your faith IS life or death, it isn’t just an agreement to not commit adultery and to obey your parents, it is about a living belief that God created the earth, and you and me, and Jesus died for our sins, and that everyone deserves to know the truth.  Sit in your pew and nod all you want, the enemy nods too.  David could see that this would be a problem, that people could easily enter a persons life and speak flattery to a broken world, and he prayed it would end.  He desired that people care enough about the people around them that this sort of thing wouldn’t go on.  Do you believe you are worth it?  Worth the truth?  Are the people around you worth it?  Does your church teach from a healthy dose of the fear of God?

Without the fear of God, those who don’t speak truth feel free to say whatever they please.  But David recalls that God will rise up against these people- those who speak hurtful words.  And He will offer safety to the poor and needy.  David contrasts the empty, worthless spoken words of man to the true words of God.  His words have been tried and stood the test.  Throughout the times and ages, God’s word has stood firm.  And His words will put an end to those who speak falsely.  David was confident in God, and he knew that though he would still encounter the wicked, they would never have victory over His Word.  Do you feel this assurance when you seek God for comfort?  That was a trick question, I set you up for that- faith isn’t a feeling, is it?  David speaks from a knowledge and understanding of who God is and what God desires for him, not a feeling that he had one day while praying.  His comfort was probably ‘felt’, but more than that, he trusted and believed that God would take care of him and that He desired relief for him in the things he was going through.

Thank you for reading!  Have a blessed week, brothers and sisters!

Psalm 9: 11-20 | Everyone Praise

Psalm 9: 11-20 | Everyone Praise

“Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.
When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.”
Psalm 9: 11-20

What a great reminder!  I know I started this blog as a way to really encourage myself to learn more hymns and sing them out-loud whether in public, at home, when happy, or when sad, and it has been working!  These past few weeks my spirit has felt low, not really for any particular reason, I think it is just the stress of my upcoming trip in addition to my daily struggles on top of the things God is working on with me.  I tend to snowball when just one thing upsets me, and I blame myself for any little thing that goes wrong and talk down about myself, and this all results in me seeking to destroy the friendships I have because I don’t feel worth it and I don’t want to bring others down so I decide being alone is for the best…but I’m always proven wrong.  I struggled to keep a song on my lips this week, and just that one thing got to me (I’m going to be honest, it usually has to do with communication, as much as I try to be honest and very upfront, I’m not the most eloquent.) and I snowballed so quick.  At the beginning of the year I wrote something to myself- “When I am tempted to think less of myself, I need to find my validation in the cross and not in others.”  I’m quickly learning that, yes, God gave us friends, they are gifts!  Not to be thought of as something we have worked hard to earn or anything we deserved by our own merit, but a really good friend who stands by you in your darkest hour is a real gift. (Much like the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross on the day of the crucifixion.)  And friends can help us focus back on God when we have gotten off track, we don’t get to suddenly determine that the friends God has clearly given can’t handle the reasons He gave them to us.  But God also calls us to look to him in our times of trouble.  We need to be certain that our joy comes from the cross and doesn’t rely on day-to-day moments of joy.  Blessings are great!  They remind us that in small moments and big that God is God of all and He is watching out for us- but our greatest joy is know that what happened on the cross was the greatest act of love we could ever experience.

So here is David, praising God and encouraging others to do it too.  Because he at least has this sense that praising God is the right thing to do.  Not just sing, but share a testimony of His goodness for you specifically.  It is nice to have some hymns memorized to praise God at any time, but what about the song God is writing for your own life?  You may not feel like it is singable, but how has God shown His faithfulness to you in a way that you can share it with others?  When I start snowballing, and I seek validation from others and I’m sure my testimony in those moments doesn’t look very good.  David’s not saying to cry out for a pity party.  But when you have gone through that long trial and you come out in the end having learned something new and you clearly see how God used what you went through to work for His plan in your life, then you share.

I was reading some books recently, and they were wonderful books, don’t get me wrong, I bought them because I wanted something they offered.  But as I read them, I realized that we talk about brokenness like it is a final diagnoses.  Sometimes labeling things is detrimental to spiritual growth and healing.  And even though I know this, I still label myself with lies from my past.  Reading those books, and studying their language, I realized that what I didn’t need was a book on how broken I am, but a book that taught about living like a new creation and leaving all that baggage behind.  It’s not about living a good life through your broken past, but about leaving that stuff behind and declaring that your new beginning has nothing to do with those lies.  And I got so frustrated at those books, determining that I didn’t need them…then a dear friend sent me ‘Gold by Moonlight’ by Amy Carmichael, and the letter they sent reminded me that maybe I am not reading those books for myself or being healed just for myself, but so God can use me in someone else’s pain to help them.  My life is not for me as a new creation to determine what God can and can’t use in the song He is writing in my life.

I like observing certain wording choices of the Bible.  We see in verse 12 that David says, “…he remembereth them: he forgetteth not…”  A testament of God’s faithfulness.  Though David had some really low points of desperation, he recalls how God lifted him up and he makes sure to include this in his testimony.  So that he can praise and rejoice.  We know, because we have the gospels, that often times what Jesus taught was difficult for people to swallow.  But He didn’t sugar-coat the truth, and His lessons were powerful; simple enough for those who truly sought the Father, but confounding to those who just sought to gain for themselves.  Don’t leave out that human struggle when you share your testimony.  Let others see the healing that has taken place, don’t deny the struggle that God let you experience to bring you to the place you are now.  Remember what it took for Jesus to die for your sins; He didn’t skip the cross, He lived His life intentionally for that purpose so we could look at His story and know that He understands our sufferings.  David didn’t know all that we know now, but He knew He would praise God in the toughest of times, and share the troubles he went through that shaped his praise.

David remembers the bad with the good.  The end of the wicked that God executed at his judgement was part of David’s testimony.  He had witnessed time and again how God delivered him from those who sought to destroy him.  He also recalls how in His time of need, God did not forget him and He uses it in verse 18 to bring hope to others.  And David ends off this song calling out for deliverance.  This weekend I really hit that point where I was so exhausted from the battle I was in I found myself praying for the second coming!  Tired of fighting with myself, trying to remind myself of truths, feeling like I had failed to meet expectations… In a way, I felt like the beloved disciple, looking up at the One whom I had chosen to follow who now hung on a cross.  Stuck facing the hard truth that it was my sin that stuck Him there and I was helpless to do anything.  And I was still stuck struggling with the things He was dying to deliver me from.  LITERALLY. It is nice to remember God’s love, especially around Easter when we tend to focus on that empty grave, but remember the pain that brought Jesus to the cross.  Not just His pain of hanging there, but the pain that you feel when you are tempted to think less of yourself than what God created you to be.  All that stuff was nailed to the cross, so leave it there.  Don’t forget what put Him there, what He endured.  Our joy is not determined by what people say around us, or the acts they do for us, but in the knowledge that Christ died for everything we suffer through so our freedom would be in Him and not in validation we receive from others that has a temporary effect.

When you know a friend who is struggling with something, be that friend who is there for them.  Will to be awkward, sing to them, sing for them, help them praise God even thought it hurts sometimes.  Pray with them and uplift them.  I’ve learned through many things that I can not say I understand what some one else is going through, because everyone is different, but I can be there for them.  But also be able to recognize when your friend is relying on you instead of on God and be willing to cut them off and direct them toward the cross.  You are still helping them, let them know that, but let them know, too, that you cannot meet their expectations the way they want you to. (Trust me, you can’t.  You can’t be a crutch or the solution to the pain they haven’t nailed to the cross.)  I thought I had nailed all my baggage to the cross, but these past few weeks, God has been showing me that I am carrying some of it still.  Songbird pointed out that my burden is heavy, “Alternatively, the yoke of Christ is easy though, and His burden is light.  You shouldn’t have to bear both.”  And Curly Joy came in to visit me and shared much encouragement and many hugs, and a song returned to my heart~  Don’t think you are meant to go through trials alone, just learn when you need to lean on God and when you need to let the friend’s He has given you use what He gave them to lift you up.

Be blessed, friends!  Reflect back and write out a testimony from something new that has happened in your life.  I’d love to hear about it if you feel led to share!

Psalm 9: 1-10 Praise God

Psalm 9: 1-10 Praise God

“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.
When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.
And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
-Psalm 9:1-10 (KJV)

I read this one way in advance this week.  It is amazing how God always provides just what we need, even if it is a reminder that no matter what is going on that we still have reason to praise Him.

David declares right away that he will praise God.  ‘Yehovah’- the Existing One.  Every part of him will praise God.  And David doesn’t just want something on the surface, he desires that his praises will be part of his testimony- that it would flow throughout him into the world.  He knows that his faith and belief in God is worth sharing and should be something that is evident to people who meet him or hear of him.  This second verse really helped me this past week.  So many things were getting me down, and I really felt trapped in this terrible cycle of self-hate and unworthiness to be around people- I really didn’t think I could get out of that place of misery, and I warred with myself over this because I knew that I should be praising God and not staying miserable.  It took a lot of prayer and focus on God for me to reach the place that David is at in verse two when he says, “I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.” (emphasis added)  I have had moments when I was about to lose a friendship that was clearly given by God and decided very quickly that the enemy wasn’t going to win it away from me- that was easier then the struggle of deciding I was worth it on my own.

It was for something silly enough that I don’t remember- it was a disagreement or perhaps a decision to take offense at something not intended as offensive…   And it was with a very dear friend with whom any conversation I have ever had, and continue to have with them to this day, had always kept my focus on God and strengthened my faith.  And then something happened…and it took me less then 24 hours to realize that the enemy was trying to wreck what we had because it was so strong, and I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen and that I wanted to apologize.  It didn’t take me long, because I love my friend and I could see how God was using that relationship for good.  But when this week hit me hard, and I started excusing my self-hate as something that kept me humble and meek, and every action I took to not be in fellowship so I could continue on the downward slope I was on….I could not get to the place where I thought I was worth anyone’s time so as to be lifted up by them.  I was too much of a burden.  Too much baggage.  No one could handle everything that I was experiencing.  I started believing all these lies.  Lies that came from my past, and some new ones.  I fought it.  I did. I asked what God wanted me to learn right now through all this.  I tried to spend my alone time thinking I wasn’t starving my love language by not being in fellowship, but drawing nearer to God. (I wasn’t.  I was beating myself up.)  I really worked hard for a whole week trying to put my focus on the cross.  There were some things that happened during the week that brought me happiness, but they were temporary.  I was looking for some compassion, someone to be a ‘crutch’ that I could cry to and they just check on my every hour to see if I’m doing better (By the way, this does not help the healing process in the slightest, and I was disgusted with myself when I recognized I was doing this.).  I was determined that my eternal happiness really needed to come from the cross.  And this is true!  But it doesn’t need to happen alone.  It took me a week…to get to the place where I suddenly remembered ‘everything happens for a reason’ and knew that all that I was going through had a purpose.  And I agreed to breakfast with my good friend who was worried, and had done everything right and tried to help, and maybe could tell I just needed to talk.  They pointed out that I had lots to be happy about from some things that had happened during the week, and I explained that I felt like God wanted me to know for certain that my happiness was really secured in Christ’s death on the cross, and all those things that bring joy during the week are reasons to praise Him.  I hadn’t done that.  There was no song in my heart, I wasn’t hoping in the cross, I was hoping in any person to just pity me.  It took a week to get to the place where I determined I will be joyful, I will praise God, I will look up.  Happiness is as much a decision you make each day as being stuck in a broken place.  Choose to get up and go. (John 14:31)

The wicked shall fall by the judgement of God.  We often skip over the bad, thinking that only the positive bits of scripture really apply to us.  But had I not realized the sin going on in my life, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to where I did at the end of the week.  Self-hate shouldn’t fuel anything that I keep in my life.  It shouldn’t even be there.  And I shouldn’t see myself as so worthless that I don’t ask friends for a little quality time in fellowship when I feel down.  Isaiah 45:9 “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!  Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth.  Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”  The enemy found that weakness in my armor where I wasn’t seeking my worth from God.  And he found it in a ridiculous way- some guys had walked up to me and started hitting on me, but I was to ignorant to recognize this!  I thought we were talking about faith!  The next thing I knew, one of them was asking after me…I wasn’t even flattered.  I just felt stupid, and I felt like, in my ignorance, I had led them on and sinned in this.  And I let it get me down.  I wasn’t sure enough in my own actions, so I didn’t think that God had allowed that conversation to happen, which led me to experience all these new things.  I continued to be unable to get the message to this guy that I wasn’t interested and it only fueled the enemy.  But you know what?  The enemy can only destroy the material things of this world- he can’t take away our salvation!  God has the final say.  My heart was so guarded in that conversation, looking back at it now, I know I wasn’t at fault for anything I said, but it was something they were drawn to about me.  After sitting down to talk with them, I can say that it’s a good quality (not physical) that led to a discussion about faith (he is not a Christ follower), and that he is just the type to think about the future where I do not do such things.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t things I don’t need to address.  One of the best things one of my friends said to me while I was struggling was “you are free in Christ”.  It was immediately liberating.  Because that I am sure of.  David says in verse 9 “The Lord will also be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”  Then I felt like I lived in the next verse.  I know that I am free in Christ, I know that how I was treating myself and excusing negative traits was bad and I needed to escape that, and I know that I can always run to God.  Just a few words of truth spoken by a friend put me over the edge into trusting God and pulled me from that negative cycle so that healing could begin.  In my days being a mentor, I have witnessed that even if someone is seeking help with something, it is really up to them when that healing starts.  You have to let go of those chains.  It’s not instant, it takes time.  Change will come.  Focus on God and let him direct your paths.

Psalm 8- Magnified Glory

To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
-Psalm 8

I think we can get through this entire chapter in one post!

I had a really rough week recently, and ended up looking ahead at this chapter and finding it really encouraging.  I find as I teach that each kid that I teach has a different background from all the others.  I’ve experienced kids telling me that they don’t want to go to anger management to deal with their problems, or about how they only have one parent raising them and the lack of the other is devastating, but I was not prepared for a kid to threaten with taking his own life 2 weeks ago.  He expressed how tough things were at home, how he felt what he was doing was unnecessary and pointless… my assistant was the one who spoke to him, and I trust she did what was right for the moment, and I notified the school.  But it hit me hard.  I go through my week praising God, thanking Him for each moment I get to spend in His Will changing a child’s life who maybe doesn’t have it all together and just needs some one to tell them they are the best thing since buttered toast.  Then my train is totally derailed and my thoughts are brought back to this reality where I can’t fix anything on my own, especially not those pieces that are missing that take away these kids’ hope for something better.

So this last Thursday, before going to teach the class this boy was in, I sat across the table from my dear friend and read this chapter.  I do my best to not walk around in the brokenness of my life because I believe God is healing me and His Grace is enough, so when a kid keeps coming to me and says something like, ‘My dad is gone and I miss him.’ I try to say something like, ‘I know that is sad, and it hurts, but you are stronger.’ Because if people keep nursing those wounds and feeding that cry for attention, that kid will just stay there.  We can’t accept living out of a broken place if we believe God is capable of healing all our afflictions.  I read this chapter before teaching and I felt this reassurance that where I was weak, God was strong.

David opens this Psalm crying out to ‘Yahweh Adonai’ which is ‘God our judge, director, ruler, and supporter of men.’  He boldly declares, so there is no question, that God’s glory is above the heavens, which to our knowledge is the highest you can go.  God’s strength is even evident in children, and His strength can be used in our weakness to confound the enemy.  Then David looks at everything in God’s creation.  He looks at all the goodness God created, and he knows it is good because God is good, and how amazing he is to have created all of this and still be mindful of us.  He knows what is going on in our lives, what things make us break down and cry, and what things lift us up.  David felt that God not only knew all about us, but that He visited with us.  Notice how in verse 5 that David says we are a little lower than angels, this could also be translated as lower than God because the Blue Letter Bible says the Hebrew here is ‘Elohim’, which is a name for God.  I suppose this would be a way to also say that ‘who are we, that we were created after the likeness of the Creator.’  But either way you look at it here (my Bible says ‘angels’), David is pointing upward.  Not listing all the things we are greater than, but pointing the greater things then us that we are close to.

David does go on to recognize that man was given dominion over the things of the earth, and he echoes a bit of the creation story.  As God carefully crafted each thing, we too should treat all things with such care.  David understood his position in creation, and He praised God for all these things.  As I think about what I am going through, and what that little kid is going through, it comforts me to remember how Great God is and that He is always up to something.  I realized that maybe God didn’t put me in this kid’s life to talk to him about his wish to end his life, but I do get to share God’s love with this kid.  This past week, I got to sit down and just draw with him, helping him smile and hopefully give him something good to cling to for the week.  I realized from these verses and witnessed it in my teaching that there are certain experiences I have had that God brought me from that help me to talk to these kids.  It is foolish of me to think that I would be able to help all these kids with every struggle, that doesn’t feed hope because it is something I cannot do, but God can come into those broken places that I can’t reach into to bring true healing.  The most I can do is just echo the love that He has shown to me.

I hope you enjoyed this psalm as much as I have.  Be blessed, friends.

Psalm 7:10-17 | By Faith

Are you ready to see David’s faith reaction?  I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about how David’s woes and struggles cause him to turn even more into the Father’s arms.

My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
-Psalm 7:10-17 (KJV)

Verse 10 is a key verse for studying uprightness.  God’s defence is given to those with an upright heart.  We are going to see more about uprightness in the Psalms and there are verses on it in proverbs also.  Uprightness goes along with obedience.  I would not say they are synonyms, I recommend studying both separately.  The upright person is most likely to obediently chose the high path in any situation.  If someone needs admonishment, they give it obediently with love.  When temptation arises, they run from it and into the Father’s arms.  David knows that when he fears the world is closing in, if he closes his eyes and seeks God, God will be there to deliver him.

Righteousness is also good to study along with uprightness and obedience.  God judges the righteous.  And just as God’s mercy is new each day, David knows that God’s anger toward the wicked is too.  Because they do not repent, God stays angry with them day after day.  David believes God prepares His sword and bow to bring down the wicked.  In His anger, God will bring an end to David’s wicked attackers.  David trusts in God’s judgement and divine justice when it comes to overcoming what travails him.  Remember, he feels like Cush is attacking him for no reason, so David feels it is best to let God seek vengeance here since he isn’t entirely sure what he did to insight his enemy.  David’s enemies labor in sin.  It isn’t just a lie here or there, or the occasional slip-of-the-tongue.  These people live to commit sinful acts.  Just as living uprightly, in righteousness and obedience, should be our lifestyle, the wicked have chosen to live a lifestyle around sin and mischief and lies.

I want to pause here for a moment to discuss righteousness, uprightness, and obedience.  I’m not going to do an in-depth study here, but I wanted to bring up something to hopefully set some people free.  There are times when God calls us to leave things behind, we may not have thought these things to be sinful, and perhaps God used that thing to teach you something.  Maybe he even let you have that thing so you could then obediently give it up.  Not that God caused you to sin, but this is a point that God can meet you where you are and use what you have to deliver you.  I have walked a long road removing little distractions from my life- things like video games, TV shows, certain foods.  Anything that was revealed to be a distraction from spending time with God.  When you get rid of such things, you make room for the Spirit to come in and fill you.  But you have to be careful, because the enemy will show up to tease you if you just plug those gaps and don’t let God come in to heal those holes.
I recently had to confront something from my past that the enemy was holding over me- something happened in my past that caused me to believe that marriage would mean I was a failure.  And instead of letting God heal that wound after believing that lie for so long, I decided not getting married was my will.  My will.  Yet Jesus said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)  And I realized my train of thinking was so wrong.  God knows that I am not wired like others who imagine their wedding day, or who they will marry, or entertain such romantic thoughts, and I am happy to be single, enjoying studying the word of God in my free time. But if it is His will (and it would have to be obvious, He knows that I am not searching for these things!) then I will be obedient.  The enemy used to butt in and say things like, “You’re not worth their time.  If you start this relationship, you’ll be a failure like everyone thinks you to be.”  And instead of replacing those lies with God’s truth, I let the enemy breed fear into my life.  In this I have turned to God.  And let me tell you something; it is harder to give up on believing these lies I was raised with than giving up TV or games.  But if I hadn’t been obedient to do those small things, how could I have been ready to be obedient when God decided it was time to confront this giant lie?

Verse 15 tells us that those who labor in sin snare themselves.  All the evil they seek to cause comes right back to them.  And they are not left unharmed in the harm they seek to cause others.  Especially when any enemy of ours is an enemy of God!  I cannot imagine waking each day to God’s wrath instead of His mercy- even a seemingly good day would be a bad one.  Maybe David couldn’t imagine it either, but he recognizes that it just gives him more reason to praise God.  For God’s righteousness.  David spends a lot of time reflecting on the holy character of God, so I wonder what his picture of God’s righteousness looked like.  I think it is something lost in the church today that makes church people so complacent.  When you don’t recognize just how wicked sin is, you aren’t moved to do anything about it.  It’s not just complacency, it’s a lack of conviction.  David moved because he was convicted.  He was moved to pray and to praise, to bring about correction and guide others.  But what we need to remember in our convictions is to ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’.

I hope to have time this week to make some calligraphy pieces.  I do plenty of traditional things, but it takes a little extra for the digital stuff.

Be obedient, go in faith. Accept each day as a good day and a blessing, for surely each day we awake is a gift from God.