Psalm 16 Part 2

Psalm 16:2

V2 “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

“You are my Lord.”

I’m quickly drawn to John 15 where Jesus talks about Himself as “the vine”, and we are the branches. We are chosen! We cannot even say, “you are my Lord” without Him revealing Himself to us first. We were dead in our sin—dead branches, but God spoke and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1

He is first. He is the Cause. He is the First Cause; our choosing is only in response to Him calling.

John Piper put it like this:

“What if Jesus had said, “I did not choose you; you chose me?” What would most likely be the point of saying that? Wouldn’t it mean, “I’m not bound to you. You wanted to come along. If the going gets rough, don’t come whimpering to me. It’s your choice, man. I didn’t stake anything on your success.” But Jesus said the opposite: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” And so the meaning probably is: “Your presence here is my doing and so I take full responsibility.”

I love that last line and I take great comfort in it. He takes responsibility. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to fret that God will abandon me. He will never leave me or forsake me. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you.”

“I have no good apart from you.”

We were chosen to bear fruit. We were created to bear fruit, but a branch can’t bear fruit apart from the vine. We aren’t the source, He is. Just like I can’t even say, “You are my Lord” without Him calling first, likewise I can’t bear fruit without the Source giving me resurrected life. Whatever good I do, it is because He has given me the grace to do so.

God is the source of all good, God is all together the definition of good.

What have I to give?

Spurgeon wrote, “The work of our Lord Jesus was not needful on account of any necessity in the Divine Being.”

Father God, in his great love, for our sakes redeemed us through the work of Christ.

So I needn’t worry about what I can do. He has finished it. I can rest in Him and let Jesus work in me.

I love this last verse of this beautiful Christmas Carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

“What can I give Him,

  Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

  I would bring a lamb,

If I were a wise man

  I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give Him,

  Give my heart.”

Psalm 16 Part 1

I have broken down Psalm 16 and it has edified me and helped me see God and His character. I hope it may be a help to you.

I will break down each verse into a separate devotional.

V.1 “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge”

Do I believe that God is going to keep me safe and in him I really can find refuge? I admit that I take matters in my own hands much of the time. This one verse requires faith, but it also requires patience and waiting on Him. We have our timing and God has his. Being still and waiting on God is not easy. Our patience wears thin and we jump in and say, “well God you don’t seem to be coming through, so I better step in.”

“Preserve me”

Who can preserve, but the one who breathed life in me? Who knew me in my mother’s womb? Who knows every hair on my head? I don’t even know myself like God knows me. Only the creator can preserve. Every breath I take is sustained by the grace of God. I must remind myself of this. When I remember this, I know that I am hiding under the wings of my savior and Lord.

“For in you, I take refuge”

Refuge is shelter, but I also see it as a safe home. When I was a kid, being home with my family, I felt safe. The old phrase “There is no place like home” rings true. As a Christian, I realize that our home is not on this earth, and the more we try to make it home the less we look to God as our ultimate refuge. He has set eternity in our hearts. He is our refuge and shelter from trouble and danger. Nothing that this world can offer will give us this. I can’t do one thing on my own to give myself refuge.

Do you believe God is preserving you? And do you believe he is your refuge?

He is.

God-Fidence

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I love this verse so much that I have it hanging in my hallway. The thought occurred to me that even though the Apostle Paul says, he boasts gladly in his weakness, he isn’t saying focus on your weakness or talk about it all the time.

I don’t believe God wants us walking around prefacing everything with “I’m so weak” or “I’m so incompetent.” He doesn’t want us lowering our head and beating ourselves up about our weaknesses. This is just another way to draw attention to ourselves and keep us from ultimately pointing to Christ and giving Him glory. If we keep rehearsing our weakness and focusing on that we can’t effectively have our eyes on Him and serve Him with all our hearts.

God has given us gifts, and he entrusts opportunities to utilize our faith, but faith always looks to Christ. Our faith is exercised when we recognize the deficiencies and weakness and we step out joyfully with confidence in the midst of it, looking to Christ alone not looking down at our circumstance or ourselves.

God wants us holding our heads, hearts and hands high with confidence in Him. Not hanging our heads low with sackcloth and ashes, announcing our weaknesses and incompetencies all the time either to ourselves or to others.

I know my need and I’m willing to step out in faith where God leads me. When I do this I know God’s grace will sustain. The attention will point to Christ not on the weakness.

So when the Apostle Paul says boast in your weakness, we need to read what came before that. It wasn’t just boast in your weakness. The Apostle Paul wasn’t focusing on the weakness; he was like, Wow!!! Look at what God has done! His power is made perfect! God is getting glory! If my weakness is part of this equation, I’m all for it! Let’s do this Jesus!

I see the verse in a whole new light now. I see it as Paul was excited at what God was doing and he just said, yes Lord, I am all in! I will gladly boast in my weakness because you are being lifted up!

Step out in joyful “God-fidence” declaring Christ; not in and of ourselves but knowing that God is getting the glory! Isn’t this what loving the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind means?

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Theological Reflection On Forrest Gump

Ken Harris & Johanna Russell, A Father/Daughter Team Presents:

LOVE NEVER FAILS

“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17B-19 HCSB)

Johanna’s Theological Reflection on Forrest Gump: Part 1

A LOVE STORY

Have you seen the movie, Forrest Gump? All good thoughts in it show that filmmakers know what is good and what is bad. The goodness we see is God’s own, for all of it comes from Him. (James 1:17)

I like to look for ways that stories reflect the greatest story. Don and I watched Forrest Gump recently. I haven’t seen it all the way through in a long while. During this viewing the thought occurred to me, ‘What makes this story so amazing is seeing a selfless, child-like man go through a life that is often not good and innocent; but through the good, bad, and the ugly Forrest selflessly impacts the lives around him. Now, that is good! This is Christianity!

GIFT-LOVE

The major theme throughout the movie was Forrest’s relationship with Jenny from childhood and into adulthood. His unconditional love for Jenny is such an example of selflessness. He always treated her with kindness and never kept a record of wrongs. He was always seeking her good. If he thought she was being hurt or mistreated, he didn’t think twice to defend her. Time and time again she treated him pretty badly and used him. Jenny, in all of her messiness, told Forrest he didn’t know what love was, but in fact he knew it better than she did. He just kept loving her in all of her mess. I’m sure it’s not too hard to see the reflection of Christ and His love for us in this story.

ACCEPTING HIS LOVE

How many times have I mistreated Jesus? Like Jenny, getting mad at Forrest; she said, “Forrest, you can’t keep trying to rescue me all the time.” Jenny was doing what she wanted and didn’t want anyone interfering, but Forrest saw that it wasn’t good and he couldn’t just sit back, he said, “I can’t help it. I love you.” God knows what’s best and He is working everything together for good, but we stomp our feet and say, “No, God, I know better! I don’t want you coming in and rescuing me all the time.”

It breaks my heart to know that I respond to my Savior in this way. God is saying, I love you too much to let you do this or that. I love you too much to just let you sit in your mess. I’m coming in to rescue you, because I love you. Shortly after my husband and I first met, Don and I were out on a date, and Don couldn’t resist anymore to declare his love for me, he said, “ I’m going to love you whether you like it or not.” That won my heart!

NEED-LOVE

God wants your heart. He is going to love us whether we are going to like it or not and sometimes that love means that God is going to step in where we think He shouldn’t; but if we will trust that God truly loves us unconditionally and has our best in mind, we can freely say, “I love you too, and I will accept your loving rescue.” “If God is for us who can be against us….Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:31b, 35a)

Pray for this love in your own heart.

The Via Dolorosa

The health and wealth prosperity gospel is appealing. I get that. We all long for Eden. We long for ultimate happiness and fulfillment. We long for all to be right. We wait for the day when we don’t have to suffer. No one wants pain, but this gospel is not The Way. There are no shortcuts. You can’t tithe yourself into utopia here on earth. You can’t self motivate yourself into fulfillment.

Do we really want just a beautifully wrapped package that gives us good feelings for a moment and then when the the contents are exposed, we are left wanting?

This is what Is at the center of false doctrines of alleged Christianity and it’s also at the center of other religions.

The Via Dolorosa is the thing that makes Biblical Christianity different. The Via Dolorosa is believed to be the route In Jerusalem that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixton.

Jesus walked in suffering, not because he wanted to. Jesus even said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Yet, He gave himself in obedience, knowing that the Via Dolorosa was the only way for us to have reconciliation with God the Father.

Biblical Christianity offers a hope and a comfort of a God that is not distant or beyond comprehension as some other religions. God knows our pain, our suffering. He doesn’t like it. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

The God of the Bible knows our pain. Jesus went to the cross on our behalf and because of this we do have a way out, but it’s not the prosperity gospel way or through any other religion. Our way out doesn’t mean all our pain is vanished on this earth but it does mean that our eternity is secure and we have a God on our side that is taking us through the storms of this life to prepare us for the next.

I want a God that empathizes and is giving me the grace and strength to endure the race, don’t you?

That God is the God of the Bible. Through Jesus we can take hold of that which took hold of us.

Recently you probably saw the news about the young 18 year old black guy that forgave and poured out his love and grace for the white cop that murdered his brother. This response could only be done through the power of Christ!

The Via Dolorosa is the only way. He has walked it and he is carrying you as you make your journey.

To God be the Glory great things he hath done! So loved He the world that he gave us his son! Who yielded his life, an atonement for sin

And opened the Life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Let the earth hear his voice; let the people rejoice. Oh come to the Father through Jesus His Son and give him the glory; great things he hath done!

A Childless Christian

It is the cultural norm for married couples to have kids, so when you are married with no kids it can be isolating, where those around your age, much of their lives are centered around raising kids.

There is nothing wrong with this of course, but I turn that around…..does that make something wrong with me or us as a married couple to be childless?

Sadly, as Christians, I think the judgment might come even more.

Being fruitful and multiplying was a command in the beginning for human flourishing, but nowhere in the Bible does it mean that it was the will of God for everyone. I believe it is for most.

I have mulled this over in my mind for years. I’ve had many wilderness moments over it. God has always given me the grace to deal with the isolation, the judgments, the feelings. I truly believe that God is working this out in our lives for good according to His will.

I have prayed to God, about it, asking am I being selfish or unloving? Will my life not be fulfilled here on earth without children? Will I have no one to care for me when I’m old? Will I never know real joy the way those with children say?

On being selfish and unloving, I have a follow up question, is having children automatically the cure for selfishness and not being loving? I’ll leave it at that.

On an unfulfilled life due to not having children, my follow up question is much like the last, who is our ultimate fulfillment? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” No amount of kids will fill the void that is meant for Christ alone.

On wondering who will care for me as I age, I am thankful that God has given me a husband and we care for each other in sickness and in health, the fact remains that one of us will be left. My follow up question is two fold, we really should not have kids with the thought of just having someone to care for us when we are old, that would be in itself a little selfish, and who can say that the kids won’t put you in a home only to carry on with their busy lives?

Who can we really depend on? The answer is God. He will provide, he will supply our needs. Do not worry about tomorrow for today has troubles of its own.

On will I never know real joy, Isn’t the joy of THE LORD my strength?

I’d like to make it clear, I love kids. Don and I are both teachers, and I don’t see my job as a surrogate to having kids, but I do see it as my ministry and kingdom work. God has ordered this whole thing in my life I am convinced of that. I won’t go into the whole story of how I became a piano teacher, but it was a God thing and He has shown me so much of Himself in this journey, and He has taught me more treasures than I can count. As Christians, it’s not having kids that is our number one commandment, it is being followers of Christ and shining His light to all the world.

Before she passed away, I talked with my childhood piano teacher/friend who also never had kids. She mentioned to me that she often wondered if she would have been able to give of herself to her students and families the way that she did had she had kids of her own and I could really relate with her on this.

What I see in my life so far is places God has taken me that have required total dependence on Him. If I would have had it my way and my comfort style, I would not have known the loving graciousness of God and my total need for Him. My feelings of isolation and not fitting in, my anxiety, my feelings of incompetence, these are all places God has brought me to know Him and trust him more fully. God also knows me better than I know myself and he knows what is best for me and how I will be the most fruitful in His kingdom. Some things He says yes to and others He gives a resounding no.

So I am here to say, God may or may not have children as part of your future. I know one thing, we can rejoice in knowing that God has a unique plan for everyone and it is good!

We all will face our places that God will bring us to and through, whether with kids or without. God knows our need.

He is our ultimate fulfillment!

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction …..Or Can I?

I have a thorn in my flesh….and it hurts. It gets bruised. The pain comes in waves, but it seems like it is always there.

I struggle with competition, need for attention and if this gets out of control, the result is jealousy. Jealousy is one of those sins that might be the hardest to admit. It’s one of the ones we are the most repulsed over and causes much shame.

I feel a need for something to dull the pain, to forget—a distraction; maybe, work, tv, drink or food, entertainment.

The torture. The shame. I don’t want to be that person. I hate it. How unbecoming. How unattractive. So I torture myself for even feeling it. I condemn myself. “You are a bad person for feeling that. You are ugly. You are a miserable soul.” The assaults never stop.

The assaults are not coming just from me but my adversary.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”

John 10:10

“The devil prowls around seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The enemy loves to turn our struggles into shame and guilt. He holds it over our head and says, “and you call yourself a Christian? Ha!”

I’ve always enjoyed attention. The age of social networking has not helped this, I’m afraid. I have used praise and compliments as a way to boost my self worth, except it never works. It’s like a cheap false satisfaction, like eating junk food, you feel full for a minute but it doesn’t stick long and you’re hungry again. Ravenous. There was no nutrients in it, so it was of no real benefit. You get a cheap high and then the crash comes.

I long for love, affirmation, and admiration; there is nothing wrong with this as this is a basic human desire. I want to be valued. I want to be affirmed, and found worthy. The insatiable ache!

I’ve been taught and told that I am of immense value. I was bought with a price. I am the apple of His eye. I’m a royal priesthood. I’m the daughter of the king. He knows every hair on my head. I’m loved beyond measure by the God who created me. I’ve been taught about grace from a young age. So if I know this and believe it, why is the ache so intense? Why must I continue searching in things that I know don’t satisfy?

Simply, we aren’t in Eden. We have not fully arrived and we won’t in this life.

The truth is, the struggles will continue, and this might seem to be a reason to lose hope, but all hope isn’t lost because, in the midst of the struggle God is redeeming and restoring what was lost. This isn’t the end. God is working all things together for good.

If we look to this world as trying to be ultimate fulfillment, it will be dismal. All our struggles will be for nothing if this is all there is and we never finally arrive.

We will live and die with the motto of The Rolling Stones, “I cant get no satisfaction.”

The fact is, because of the fall, the struggles were always there, the void, the ache, but the difference is I have become more aware, and while this is a good thing, being more aware made the struggles more intense, but before you tell me, “gosh you sound so gloomy.” I’d like to assure you that whatever gloom I may feel, it is not the last word. It’s only making the light brighter and this is giving me blessed relief and peace.

“Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

How am I to be healed, to overcome this thing, except through realization, admittance and finally, surrender.

Like a silent disease, denial is the single most deadly disease—denial of who I really am, and who God is—a suppression of the truth. This is to have no hope, dying a slow death by staying in my own way.

I am seeking the great physician. I’m taking heart, and facing it head on. There is only one way, bring it to the surface and kill it. My way might seem less painful in the short term, but His way is the cure!

I don’t want to be a follower of Jesus that never admits to struggle. First it would be a lie and second the world needs to see Christ exalted not man exalted. If Christians pretend to be perfect and all together, we set up a false belief about who God is.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The story of grace is only really seen in the presence of brokenness.

Let’s help each other, encourage each other, in the midst of our struggles. Let’s practice grace. Let’s make it clear to the world that it’s God that works in and through us while we struggle, giving us the strength to overcome.

Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

So The Rolling Stones can have their motto. God has something else in mind.

Psalm 107:9 “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

Isaiah 58:11 “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Jeremiah 31:25 “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”