Psalm 112

Verse 7 of Psalm 112 says:

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm trusting in the Lord.”

The “he” is a righteous person. Many of us in this day and age are a little rusty on our definition of righteous. So let’s replace that word with another to help us in our context. How about follower, a.k.a. follower of Jesus? We’ll swap that out and move on from there.

If you are a follower of Jesus then the Psalmist is speaking of us. That’s right, he is describing us in this verse. Or at least what we should be like.

Here’s the skinny. The point of this verse is that God is in charge of everything. If God is in charge of everything and God is good (and by the way God is good), then by default everything God does is good. The quandary truly comes when we try to define good. Good from our point of view will not always line up with good from God’s point of view. And since our definitions of good don’t align then as a matter of fact our definitions of bad can’t align either.

So news that is difficult, hurtful, life-changing,etc. isn’t inherently bad. For example, someone I know is terminally ill. Life isn’t that high of quality for this person these days. There is pain and suffering. Dying for this person wouldn’t be bad. Some would consider it a relief. This person knows Jesus. Loves Jesus. Is confident they will be with Jesus in heaven upon death. So that wouldn’t be bad, though most of would say that having someone we know pass away is bad. See the difficulty?

So when a verse challenges us to not be afraid of bad news, but to stand firm trusting in the Lord, it should rock us a bit. To me it rocked me to my core.

I know God loves me more than I love myself.
I know God loves my family more than I can love them.
I know God knows better than I what is best for me and my family.
I know God intends good for all of His children.

The challenge is remembering, when circumstances change for the worse, that God is still God. What was true about Him yesterday is still true about Him. Circumstances can’t shape our view of God, but the view of our circumstances must be shaped by our God.

Our God is bigger than anything we face. So my heart stands firm, trusting Him in the face of the next bad news to come.

(That’s a great verse, I think I should get it as a tattoo…)

Stuck in the Psalms

I have been challenged to read through a Psalm or two or three each day as well as my normal reading. I have been enjoying it immensely. The Psalms never get old. They seem to adapt to nearly every emotional state possible as you meander from 1 to 150. I think it’s healthy to remember you can be happy with God. You can be mad at God. You can be scared in front of God. You can be you in front of God and the Psalms give us the permission for that. The various writers are all over the place and it lets me exhale with relief. I don’t have to pretend.

Recently I’ve been stuck on Psalm 112. Psalm 112 is all of 10 verses long. It isn’t necessarily remarkable in anyway, but I have been stuck there nonetheless. It will take me a few posts to get through all that I want to think through, but hang in there with me.

Verse 4 says this, “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful and righteous.”

I’ve been focused on this verse because I have been trying to figure out how to replace the crap in my life with “good”. I’m not sure what good. What am I supposed to look like? I’ve struggled just stopping my crap, because I haven’t replaced that in my heart with anything else. What am I supposed to replace my crap with?

Verse 4 has stuck on me because I think I am supposed to become more gracious, merciful and righteous. Have more grace. Have more mercy. Live more like Jesus. My goal isn’t to become perfect in these areas. My hope isn’t to work these parts of life out to the point that I don’t need Jesus in my life. That isn’t the goal. My goal is to have more Jesus in me and less me in me. Jesus is the King of Grace, Mercy and Righteousness. The King. I just want to be more like Him.

And though I haven’t grown at the pace I wish. I still have hope. Because, “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright…” Each day is a fresh chance because every day the Light overpowers darkness. Each morning I can try again to be less me and more Him. And the next day I know His Light is going to overwhelm the darkness and I have another chance.

It’s so messy being me. I’m a mess and the fixing I need is messy, but these little nuggets of brilliance like Psalm 112:4 are doing their work.

Stay tuned there are 9 more verses to enjoy of Psalm112 : ()

The Autobiography

I love reading about history. I can’t help myself, it is so fascinating to me. My sister recently got me two autobiographies for Christmas. I enjoy both characters that they are about so I am excited to learn more about them. I am struggling with the style of the autobiographical writer. Especially the first one. It’s by Teddy Roosevelt. Such an interesting figure, but he didn’t use an editor to help him write. So he’s off on tangents all the time. He’s all over the board.

But the dude has some great insights. I work for a church so I am constantly challenged to help others. I say no often. Sometimes I feel bad for saying no. Sometimes I don’t. Then I read this quote from Teddy’s autobiography:

“But if either farmer, mechanic or day laborer is shiftless or lazy, if he shirks downright hard work, if he is stupid or self-indulgent, then no law can save him, and he must give way to a better type.” Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography.

He was talking in the vein of making laws to protect laborers from being taken advantage of. In the 1890’s this was important work as immigrants were flooding into the US and many of them were worked nearly to death. We can’t save everyone. Those who don’t want to save themselves, can’t be saved.

Can I give money to everyone who is short of money? No. What role do we play in our own situations? We have a role to play. Have we been given opportunities and then shirked them? Good earthly fathers have told countless sons and daughters that they can no longer help them. And saying no was the best thing that could have happened.

But God always has open arms. We can always come back to Him with confession and repentance. He is a loving and forgiving God even if the process involves some pain for us.

Voice of Hope?

I don’t do a good job of following a Bible reading plan. I have to start at the beginning (Genesis) and just read it through. I know that sounds crazy but if I don’t do that, I lose interest. I feel like there is a purpose to the story and the order its in so I want to see how it plays out.

That leads me to be reading in the book of Jeremiah right now. Not your whimsical book for the holiday season. Jeremiah is tough.

I’ve read this book before, but something that struck me this time through was this: Jeremiah was a voice of hope to the people in his time. He was this voice of hope but it didn’t sound that way at the time. Here is how he sounded: “Hey you, all of you. You are all living a life that will lead to your destruction. All of you and your children will be destroyed. Those of you who survive will be hauled off to a foreign land and you won’t ever see your homes again. And it’s your fault, you’ve chosen this for yourselves.”

That wouldn’t make a very good greeting card would it? But it’s still a message of hope. The only way to have hope is to have Jesus, to know God. Without Him, there is little to hope in. Jeremiah was right even though it sounded a bit harsh.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the what we want, especially in this season of excess. Our hope though isn’t in what we can see. Stuff isn’t going to set us free from the things that bring us down in this season. We’ve tried stuff, we keep trying stuff and we are still not satisfied.

We strive to be a voice of real hope. To speak of Christ and His plan of salvation for the world. You can’t see Him. You can’t take Him home and watch football on Him, but He is the hope we are missing.

Will you be a voice of hope this season?

I Keep Learning

I love learning. I plan to learn my whole life. What is most fun for me is what I learn from things I’ve read over again and again. Something new always seem to pop-up. For example:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

I have read Ephesians a number of times, but haven’t seen this verse. This verse has had a huge impact on me today. Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament of the Bible prayed often in his letters. His prayers have a similar ring to them. Paul wanted those in the churches he had started to know God better. That was his prayer for them over and over.

These people didn’t all have great circumstances. They needed less persecution and more funding. They needed more protection and better housing, but Paul asked for God’s blessing so they might know him better. That for me is pretty telling as to what my prayer life should be about. If I could just know God better, would my life change to where my circumstances don’t matter. If my son could know God better would his actions that frustrate his teachers and us change?

Our goal must be to get closer to God so that we know him more. Knowing him more makes everything better. Our goal in praying for a change in circumstances is to make things better, so why not make everything better all at once?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17 – Beautiful!

Reflections

We can’t help but spend some time during the last days of the year to reflect on how the year has gone. It is bound to happen that we will remember the times we were less than stellar. Where we failed to reach expectations whether ours or another’s. It is good to reflect on our year but we can’t let our missteps derail our progresses. Especially our steps forward in our relationship with God.

I just found this great reminder of this whole thought process in a book of the Bible called Romans. I’ve read it a number of times and just noticed these verses like there were just put there. Check it:

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar…” Romans 3:3-4

The most freeing part of this statement? Our level of faithfulness or faithlessness has ZERO impact on how faithful God is to us. How God treats us, loves us, forgives us is not impacted by our behaviors. Period.

Does God want us to sin? No.
Does God want us to avoid talking with Him? No.
Does God want us to pursue things that keep moving us farther away from Him? No.

But none of these things impact God’s love for us.

So as you look at your year and you recall the victories and the defeats, remember God loves you in both conditions just the same.

What Christmas Is All About

It’s nearly Christmas. Around here Christmas displays have been up in stores since September, so we are ready for Christmas now. During this season different groups of people are always talking about what Christmas is really all about. Everyone has a version.

Kids: Christmas = Santa and gifts
Adults: Christmas = Gifts, guilt and debt
Businesses: Christmas = half the years revenue in 6 weeks (hopefully)

My wife asked me an interesting question last night. She asked, “What did your parents tell you about why you celebrated Christmas?” I answered, “Nothing.” Now that may or may not be true, but I don’t remember a specific conversation about Christmas at any point in my life. We didn’t have any church experiences so no connection there.

I remember watching Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV around Christmas. I remember going in search of Christmas trees, sometimes at a store, sometimes from a ditch. I mostly remember family. We spent almost all of Christmas vacation with our extended family.

I don’t believe there is one answer to the question, “What is Christmas all about?” Because really this is an individual experience and our take on that can’t be wrong. Because it’s our version of what we think. At this point in my life, I think the intent of Christmas is right here:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

What if Christmas was really about this stuff. Sharing the good news of Christ. Caring for those who are broken and broken hearted (not by dropping a few coins in a red can, but actually caring). Setting free those who are captive by sharing the freedom that is found in Christ.

I could sign up for that, but I’m weird.

What about you?