Monday, April 29, 2013

Feeling Overwhelmed? Read Psalm 23


The twenty-third Psalm has to be one of the most familiar passages to--well, just about anyone. It's so often heard quoted at funerals and consequently used in those types of scenes in television shows and movies. So, even someone who may not be familiar with the Bible has probably heard this verse. It's really quite a shame that it's been relegated to funerals, though. The text is so rich and relatable to every day life!

Last weekend this psalm came to mind as a multitude of concerns bombarded my thoughts. April has been a difficult month for friends and family. I've had sick friends, others having surgery, some have had tragic deaths or near-deaths. There have also been a few horrific events which have made the headlines. I have a "threshold" of just how many pressurized events I can process at one time before feeling overwhelmed. I get to a point of wanting to "Cry Uncle." Is that just me or does anyone else feel that way? When it gets like that, I just keep thanking God that He never gets overwhelmed by these circumstances. He's got it all under control.

When I thought of this psalm, the line that came to my mind over and over was verse four. I memorized this psalm in the King James version, so I heard this in my head...

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff 
they comfort me.

But, rather than thinking about this as a funeral verse, I pondered what David was really saying here. Basically, he is saying that no matter what--NO. MATTER. WHAT.--is going on all around him, he has absolutely no reason to fear the evil happening. Why? Because God is there.

I took great comfort in that verse several times this weekend. And to punctuate all of that comforting goodness, God decided to bless me with a few more reminders of this great Psalm. Two of my favorite Bible teachers posted about it on their Facebook pages today! So, I just have to share this quote from Tony Evans,

"It's 'yea, though I walk through the valley.' 
Not 'yea, when I sit down and whine in the valley.' Keep walking."
 

So, take a few moments and read this psalm with fresh eyes. Think about the love and care of aShepherd, for His beloved sheep (that's me and you). And even when we're in a dark valley, even when the news around us goes from bad to worse, we can talk to our Shepherd about it and He willingly and lovingly comfort us. He will lead us and renew our strength.  

 

Psalm 23... A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.
New Living Translation

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: A Prayer

The past couple of weeks I have seen evil in the world. I have witnessed devastating explosions and fires via television and internet. Death and destruction. Sad doesn't begin to describe it. I have also seen a family's world turned upside down in a moment because of a wreck and injuries. It seems like each day there's more bad news in the world. The bad news won't go away. But, we are not without hope. Like David in this Psalm, we can cry out to God and plead for His mercy and trust Him to be there--our place of refuge--no matter what is happening around us. Hold onto Jesus.


Psalm 142

I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord's mercy.
I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.
For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.
I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.
Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, "You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.
Hear my cry, for I am very low.
Rescue me from my persecutors for they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of prison so I can thank you.
The godly will crowd around me, for you treat me kindly."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

More Than We Can Handle?


Today I want to share some really interesting quotes from the sample chapters of a book entitled Emtpy by Cherie Hill. These sample chapters were included in the eBook I've been reading called Hope Being Gone by this same author.

~~~

"God has never said that He won't give us more than we can handle. 
What He has shown is, throughout history, 
He always gives people more than they can handle." - Cherie Hill

This is the very thing I've been grappling with for months. I wrote about the topic of "burdens: how much is too much" before. You see, there's a phrase that's used a lot in Christian circles: "God will never give us more than we can handle." It's bandied about as a source of comfort when we're "under the pile" of life. It's said by well-meaning individuals and meant to encourage. Although the source of this saying is based in truth, it's been twisted a bit. 

The temptations in your life are no different 
from what others experience. 
And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation
 to be more than you can stand
When you are tempted, he will show you 
a way out so that you can endure. -1 Cor 10:13 

This scripture is about temptation, not trouble in life. The Bible is full of real people who experienced difficulties that were more than they could bear. Remember our man Job? He definitely endured a series of hardships that caused him to finally say it would have been better if he had never been born (Job 3). Then there's our friend Paul who was overwhelmed and crushed beyond his ability to endure (2 Cor 1:8-9). If you and I stop and think about it, we can probably cite a personal example of someone we know--even ourselves--who may be/or have been under the weight of severe illness or other extreme hardships. It seems more than they/we can bear on our own. How can this be? That takes me to my 2nd point to share...

~~~

"God always gives us more than we can handle, 
in order to reveal what He is able to do through our faith in Him.
...Without situations in life that we can't handle, 
we'd never need God to show up. 
Why would we even need to pray at all?" - Cherie Hill


Interesting. Paul says that his own weakness demonstrates God's great power (2 Cor. 12:8-10.) It's at this point that I have to bow to God's soveriegnty to know how much is too much for any one person to handle. He knows just how much pressure it will take to accomplish what needs to be done. He created me and you and knows us even better than we know ourselves. I won't pretend that this is an easy subject to explain away and I'm not trying to do that here. Suffering is a bitter pill to swallow. I feel as if the Lord is challenging my thinking about this faith walk I call life. Keeping the Word in context of scripture is vital to understanding.

~~~

My final thought to share is not a quote from the book, instead it's an explanation of the difference between a cistern and a well. I've read the following verse about cisterns and even studied it briefly in the past. For whatever reason (maybe being a city girl), I never really understood this verse.

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns t
hat can hold no water. - Jer. 2:13 

A well
A cistern is an artificial reservoir--sort of a modern-day rain barrel. It's usually above ground, but it can be placed underground. A cistern is designed simply to store water. But, it has to be filled by an outside source. As we all know, a well is dug in the ground, with supporting walls, and usually has a natural source--a continuous flow--of fresh ground water. The cistern water doesn't have that continuous natrual source of water. It can will dry. If it's cracked, the water will leak out. We can never be completely satisfied with water from a cistern. Water in that cistern can get stagnant. Yuck. In life we often fill our "cisterns" with things that may satisfy for the moment (money, relationships, drugs, food), but eventually all of those will leak out through that broken cistern. It's only when we go to the source of this Living Water that we will be truly satisfied and refreshed. That source is Jesus (John 4:11). I think really understanding the difference between these two vessels and the sources of the water helped me. I hope it helps you.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wordy Wednesday



The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.   
Psalm 37: 23-24 




Sunday, April 14, 2013

When Temptation Knocks



I saw this image being shared on Facebook. It was meant to be funny (and it is amusing), but I saw some interesting spiritual application in it.

Bears are beautiful creatures, but never turn your back on one. With one swipe, a bear can change your life. The caption to this photo says that "Some bear attacks begin with a polite knock on your door." That's the way some temptation begins--a polite knock on the door.

A polite knock on the door seems harmless enough when compared to banging and pounding. Our guard is up when someone is pounding on our door. Our sensible side reminds us to take precaution before answering. However, a polite knock on the door may cause us to assume that whatever is behind that door is safe and harmless. Maybe it is, maybe not.

Temptation is a lot like that polite knock on the door. Satan is very subtle in how he approaches us with temptation to sin. He can convince us that sin is not so bad as we think. Remember what he told Eve ? (Genesis 3) Even Jesus was tempted, but His weapon was scripture. (Matthew 4:1-11) Good thing to remember.

So even if a cute and cuddly bear politely knocks on my door, this serves as a good reminder that I should be on guard and not assume he's bringing me an innocent picnic basket full of goodies.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. - Ephesians 6:11


But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. - James 4:6-8

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nuggets of Wisdom: Blessing Behind Every Storm

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I began reading a book called Hope Being Gone (Trusting God in the Tough Times) by Cherie Hill. I actually borrowed it through an eReader lending program. I finished it about a week ago and I'm still processing it all.

This eBook contains bonus chapters from two other books by the same author. One is called Be Still. If you've been reading any of my previous blog posts, you may recognize how that phrase has been weaving its way in and through my spiritual life for the past year. Be Still, Kristi, and Know that I am God. How amazing to have this as bonus material! I'll share more from the second bonus book another day.

Today I thought I would share a few meaty quotes, from Be Still.


"When we're resigned to God's care, we won't be frightened by undesirable news, and we won't be trying to constantly figure out the next step. If we have faith in God, we will simply trust, wait, and expect God."

"Don't make the mistake of basing your faith on a particular outcome. We've all done it. We've prayed for God to answer our prayers with very detailed expectations, and we've seen our faith crumble to pieces when things didn't happen the way we thought they should....Faith that grows us trusts in 'Someone' rather than 'something.' "

"God has assured us that there is a blessing behind every storm. When God allows a storm in your life...it has great purpose; if you miss the purpose, you may miss God's will for your life."

from Be Still by Cherie Hill


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wordy Wednesday



And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28



No doubt, you are familiar with this verse. Sometimes familiar verses are easy to just gloss over because we've heard it so often. This verse is often quoted to us following a disappointment or time of testing. Internally I say to myself, Yeah, yeah, heard it before.

Take a moment to look at it with fresh eyes (and I say this to myself most of all).

We know.
All (every single thing that happens)
Works for His good (not necessarily my good)
For His purpose.

Whatever is going on right now, today, has already been filtered through God's loving hands, and He has a plan that fits His purpose. If you've royally screwed up, God will use that somehow, some way. That's a promise. You may still suffer the consequences of that major mess, but if you love God and dilligently seek Him, He will work it ALL for His good--and ultimately your (and my) good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Will Not Be Forsaken

Have you ever prayed and felt as if you're not really getting any answers? It can be a little frustrating, especially if you're accustomed to getting answers.

There seems to be a lot written about the times when God is silent and you can't sense His presence. From what I've read, those are often extreme times in which believers struggle to hear anything from God. One Old Testament example of this is when God was silent for 400 years before the birth of Jesus. Uh, 400 years is pretty extreme. However, I haven't seen a lot written on the those less-extreme times when you can still sense God's presence, but answers seem to be few and far between.

That's sort of where I've been living in the past few weeks--in the dark. There's light just outside my "door" so I can see enough to keep on doing what I'm supposed to do. I just seem to be stuck here. Tried to step out of that darkness briefly and soon realized that wasn't the right place to be. Hmmm. What to do? I guess I'll just keep waiting here. I've heard that if it's not clear what you're supposed to do, then stay put.

The really fascinating thing about this place is that God keeps reassuring me that the dark is the correct place for me to be--for now. He shows me through scripture and by the things I hear godly people say. About the time I need some encouragement, I see or hear some great quotes like this one from Tony Evans which I heard and quickly wrote down on the chalkboard in my kitchen:






I've also seen scripture which reminds me of God's faithfulness...


Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, 
for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. 
He will not fail you or forsake you. Deut. 31:6

For the Lord will not abandon His people,  
nor will He forsake His inheritancePsalm 94:14

...and heard some great songs, such as After All by Meredith Andrews. I really like the words to this song which remind me that God is constant (never-changing), He is only good, and He is sovereign.


So, God is here and is "speaking to me," but He isn't giving me the answers I'm looking for. I do appreciate the fact that He continues to remind me that He's still here and He won't forsake me even when things are not at all clear. From the things I've read, these dark places seem to be where God is working to conform us to His will and prepare us for what lies ahead.

That gets me to thinking how many seeds are germinated underground, with very little light. That's where the really important growth takes place. One time I was even given seeds which required scoring before it could be planted. Without cutting open that seed, no growth would happen and the seed would just sit there. However, the scoring process allowed the new life to begin coming out of the ground.


Sometimes a little pain, a little dark, and rain is required for new growth. But... the farmer is still there tenderly coaxing that seed into new growth.