Tag Archive: psalm 23


pain

DAY 26

Today has been a really hard day for me for two reasons. One has been physical and one has been mental/emotional/spiritual.

Physically i have had a huge splitting headache for most of the day and that is not normal for me, nor has it been fun.

Mentally/emotionally/spiritually today was probably my worst day on Facebook [and maybe being in pain already didn’t help] as i got into an exchange with two people professing to be Christians on the blog post my friend wrote about abortion, who just came across so legalistically and judgementally towards my friend and then to me when i stepped in, accusing me of a whole lot of things which were not true [clearly not people who know me] and just holding so tightly on to law with what felt like a complete absence of love.

“No, I am not condoning sin. What i am saying is that whether the person sinned or not, our response to them has to be a loving one.”

And so on. That kind of stuff doesn’t usually get to me which is why i kept engaging with them for so long i think. But then i think ultimately it did and largely because of the seriously bad name they were giving to Christianity. I came so close to blocking the one guy which i rarely ever do, washing my hands and walking away from it, but deep in my heart i just have such a love and hope for people that i really just keep believing they will change and encounter God and somehow get a glimpse of His transforming Love, that i kept at it for a while.

Task: So the challenge for today is to encounter God through some pain you have.

Now for some of you this may be easy as the pain, like mine, may be in your face. Maybe it is a health issue or maybe it is the loss of someone dear to you recently or a friend who just got really bad news again concerning their health [yup, me too!]. In the midst of the current pain, instead of running from it, take some time today to focus on it and on the fact that in the midst of pain God has promised to draw near and be there. IT MAY NOT FEEL LIKE HE IS. But He is.

Psalm 34.18 ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’

Psalm 23.4 ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’

Joshua 1.9 ‘ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

And more.

There may be some of you who are not facing any pain at the moment. I want to encourage you to either look back to a time when pain was real for you or else to think of someone you really care about who is facing some sort of pain right now. And find God within the pain.

As we observe Lent we are heading closer and closer to the time when we remember what Jesus picked up and took on, on His own accord. We know that He embraced the deepest kind of pain and separation so that we don’t have to. Let that thought direct you as you meditate through the pain.

Let Philippians 2 assist you:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

[For the next post, day 27 of this Lent Observance, click here]

Hm, i really thought God loves you [part I] would go viral…

Godlove

Turns out that maybe that simple thought or Truth or knowledge of that Truth isn’t enough any more.

 

…or maybe we have simply started taking it too much for granted?

…or maybe we always did?

in the midst of gay marriage rights and Jesus feminism and Driscoll plagiarism and a glorious new pope…

in the midst of a world that has gone crazy with school shootings, race-related murders, genocide attempts and rumours of wars…

through the smokescreen of Hollywood comic sequel blockbusters, bad boy/girl singers trying to outdo each other in over-the-top antics both off and on the stage, and increasingly insane amounts of money being thrown at sports stars…

we can be distracted from that simple yet powerful Truth: God loves you.

God.

Loves.

You.

Can you handle the Truth?

We get a hint of it in this passage from the letter to the Philippian church, from chapter 2, where the writer reminds us of just how big a deal it was that Jesus [being God] left the comforts of heaven to become human and in habit our stinky, limited, painful world to walk among us and direct us to the Truth of His Love:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

And it is in this passage from the letter to the Ephesian church where the writer gives us a greater glimpse of just how big the Love of God is:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

And finally, in the letter of 1 John, we see these bold and beautiful statements:

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Don’t skip so quickly to the next bit.

God. Loves. you.

God loves me.

That is so overwhelmingly hugely great and big and amazing and incredible and mind-blowing and we should constantly and consistently be heading back to that thought, that Truth, that essence of our faith [if we have faith in God… if you don’t, well then God loves you as well – He doesn’t wait until you’re clean and doing well and attending church and getting it right before He loves you. This story starts with His Love for you. God loves you now.]

For our good, and His, it is not a thin and shallow do-what-you-want Love, but one that invites us into relationship and calls us to the accompanying commitment, which can look daunting at times [and is, if we’re doing it right!] but also grants us access to living the greatest life imaginable, a life that takes into account all people and not just ourselves.

So take your time on that point, and don’t ever get too familiar with it that you rush over it or casually say it without really being aware of its full meaning.

And when times get tough or doubt sets in or life gets a little overwhelming [as it tends to do at times] or people are mean or unbelief starts to set in… then head back to that safe and comfortable place and be reminded once again, that God loves you!

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

[Psalm 23]

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

[Psalm 121]

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

[Psalm 34]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

[John 3.16-17]

 

this is not a completely happy psalm.

here we see David once again, who was the same guy who brought us this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

As well as this from Psalm 34:

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

But now his mood has changed a lot and there is a lot more of this:

                                                                                                                                                

Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
    hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
    because of what my enemy is saying,
    because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
    and assail me in their anger.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.

Same guy. Same God. Different context. Different feeling. And i imagine those of us who love God and try to follow Him completely get this. The echo of the new testament, ‘I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.’ [Mark 9.24] Being able to totally believe in God and trust that He loves you and will look after you, but also facing a really difficult situation and the feeling of distance from God as if He is not there. These are often wrestling emotions or states of being which go on inside a follower of Jesus. And I think it’s normal. It’s certainly not good, healthy or real to pretend as if everything is together when it feels like it is falling down. Sp definitely facing up to the trouble or the feeling of desparation as David does here feels really healthy and helpful for deep and authentic relationship.

As long as some time in the future, you end up at this place again [which David incidentally does while he is still in the bad place… so struggling, but holding on to this Truth he strongly believes in]

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

this is a short psalm with a big focus on praising God:

‘Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.’
[verse 1-2]

which is a great thing to be reminded of.
especially when times are tough and we feel more at home reading how God is with us even when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death [psalm 23] or that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit [psalm 34] – those psalms are great and a can be a really helpful source of comfort, but sometimes we just need to be reminded that God is great and just get loud and crazy and worshipful and lose it a little bit for Him

which brings me to the word ‘awesome’ – ‘For the Lord Most High is awesome’ – this is a personal thing, but i love sharing it with others in case anyone else decides to make it a personal for them as well.

a couple of years ago [in the midst of ‘awesome’ being quite the much used synonym for all things ‘cool’ ‘rad’ and even ‘wicked’] i decided that i wanted to reserve the word ‘awesome’ for God.

i think i might have gotten the idea from someone else but it hit me that i was using the same word ‘awesome’ to describe an ice-cream on a hot day and also to describe a movie i really liked and then also to describe the Creator and Father God who spoke a word and the whole Universe came into being… and who Loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to die that we might live… it just didn’t seem right.

and so i decided, from that day forward, that i would only ever use the word ‘awesome’ to describe God [or on the rare occasion something God-related as in ‘that was an awesome worship session’] and it has helped the word become more special for me.

i am not suggesting we take this to extremes and hold back all the other words we use to describe God, otherwise we would soon run out of words. but it does feel kinda special knowing that i have one word that is reserved for God. it becomes like an act of worship for me. a gift from me to God. this word is for You. You are the Lord Most High… and you ARE Awesome!

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil,
for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.’

this is quite a short one so i thought i’d write out the whole thing… often with the passages of scripture we know we skim through them or just nod knowingly, but i encourage you to go back and really read it again, line by line, pausing to think about each one. there is so much richness in this psalm.

verse 3 stands out for me – ‘He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.’ – kind of counter culture to the whole church, worship, personal salvation “it’s all about me” message we too often slip into [Val told me the other day about this worship competition invite we received here – so different teams are going to be competing to see who can play a worship song the best. i think that’s when it has become just a song because any worship aspect disappeared the moment competition was brought into it… and you can file that alongside ‘worship song of the year’ which is quite likely determined by looking at the winner of the ‘worship song that made the most money this year’ award – Jesus, ready Your whip]

because it is His name’s sake. the story is all about Him. it is His kingdom. we would do well to remember that. in fact part of signing on for this adventure was something about denying myself, taking up my cross every day and following Him [luke 9.23] if i recall. i am a disciple OF JESUS. i am a follower OF JESUS. if i go in for the old title i used to wear before i started leaning towards follower of Jesus, then i am a CHRISTian. if we could align our lives to live for the glory of God rather than the glory of me [as we so often slip into, guilty as charged] then the world would be completely revolutionised.

the other part i want to focus on and it culminates with verse 5’s ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,’ starts with this section: ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.’ [vs. 4] the idea that while God is completely invested in being there when trouble strikes [and supporting, comforting, strengthening, helping endure, restoring] He doesn’t seem all that committed to keeping us safe from it. And i love that about God. to be honest i definitely don’t always like that about God, but i get that He uses the times to strengthen and work character and build up and also break down some of the garbage and brokenness in me… and so while they may not be fun times, i can rest confidently in the fact that He is there and He won’t abandon me, or let the situation take me down. or you.

this is a long psalm, with much stuff in it, but i am just going to focus on one or two things:

‘He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.’ [vs 34]

when i was young, in a galaxy far far away, there was a song we used to sing that went like this:

‘it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

He gives me a shield of victory, my enemies fall at my feet

praise be to my Rock, He is the Lord of hosts.’

it was a round song which were always fun so while one group sings that verse, the rest of the group sing the dragged out, ‘the Loooooooord of hooooooosts gives viiiiiiii-ctooooo-ryyyyyyy’ repeatedly and then joined together on the last line and it was a lot of energy enthused fun.

it is tough to get excited about a violence-related metaphor while living in a non-violence focused community but i can still take something out of this piece:

the psalm begins with the line, ‘I love you, LORD, my strength.’

the reminder that God is our strength… and that my arms have the capability of bending bows of bronze because He has trained me to do so… a lot of people pray that God will take bad things away from us and I don’t know that that is the route He always chooses to go or even maybe often chooses to go… but as in Psalm 23 where it says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ [vs.4] or Psalm 34 where it says, ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ‘ [vs.18]

so it is not so much that God is removing danger or hardship or obstacle, but rather that He is empowering the person in the situation or accompanying them through whatever it is that they are facing, and that is how i have experienced God more often than not. the bonus on the other side is that, having gone through the tough time you emerge stronger, whereas if God simply removes the problem, you have learnt nothing and not grown at all.

This is echoed in verse 29, ‘With Your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall.’

and in fact, that is where i will leave it – encouragement that when things are hard/crazy/impossible/frustrating/painful that God is close and that He often does not simply remove those things in our life, but rather uses them to give a reason to strengthen us and provide for us and work with us and in us so that we might be strengthened and encouraged and built up so that the next time we are facing a similar thing we will be able to handle it even better, and also so that through us getting stronger we can assist those around us who may not have prevailed through the things we have, which helps build and grow community.

continuing my journey of reading through the psalms at a leisurely pace, making some observations as i go along, inviting you to jump in to the comments section with a verse or idea or question or wrestle that possibly jumped out at you as you were reading this particular psalm:

PSALM 3

‘Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But…’ [verse 2]

i think this stood out for me and possibly not for the same reasons the psalmist intended, but really the sense of a lot of people around him looking at his belief in God and ridiculing it or disregarding it and kind of writing it off… followed by this giant BUT.

As in, people around me may not think there is much significance in the God i serve or call out to or worship, but i have experienced it differently and i trust that my God will come through for me.

that followed by the beginning of verse 5 which interestingly reads, ‘I lie down and sleep’ which, for those who know me, may not seem like a verse i would rush to as sleep has not been a big theme of the recent years of my life… but it stands out because you have this guy who seems like he is on his own and he is crying out to God and yet there is this sense of confidence that when he lies down he will sleep. That speaks of his faith and trust in God and i really like that. Reminiscent of Psalm 23 and ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me and Your staff and rod they comfort me.’

we serve a God who is real. and He is faithful. and that is exciting. and worth writing about and testifying to.

[To continue on to Psalm 4, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms or some other Bible things, click here]

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: