“I will bless the Lord who counsels—even at night when my thoughts trouble me.” Psalm 16:7
Oh how I can relate to this. So many nights I have laid unable to sleep with only my thoughts, no distractions. The trouble of the days and weeks attack like an enemy on the front lines.
My dad would tell me when I get in this loop to start praising! God hears the praises of His people and the enemy hates it! I admit I haven’t gotten the best handle on it yet. It is so hard not to let worry, doubt, and the cares of this world consume me, but I can testify that when I choose praise and thanksgiving, my heart and mind quickly start to turn around. The problems may still be there but my peace and joy are not stolen.
How do we fight these battles? It is in communion with God. Remember, apart from Him we can do nothing.
If there is habitual sin in our life that we haven’t confessed this will be a block that will hinder our relationship with the Lord.
So, first get your belt of truth on and examine your own heart to see if there be any wicked way. Always have the belt of truth on—truth of who God is and who we are and the truth of the gospel!
Our faith will extinguish all the arrows that come at us. Our faith is a shield. (Ephesians 6:16)
Don’t let the trouble spin around in your head. Protect it with the helmet of salvation. God has already saved us, no weapon formed against you will prosper. It’s a done deal. It is finished. All we are asked to do is believe it, and put our whole trust in Him.
Read and read and read Scripture—feed on it, soak it in and speak it! It will slice right through anything coming up against you. It doesn’t stand a chance. The Word of God is truth!
Prayer – look no further than the example of Jesus. He fought his battles in prayer to His Father.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise!” James 5:13
If God is for us who can be against us?
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6
Contentment in Jesus, is this not what the Psalmist is leading us to? So far we have seen in Psalm 16 that God is our protector. God is all together good, apart from Him I can do nothing. We delight in God and his people. Idols multiply sorrows. God is my all in all.
I’m doing a little survey of my heart right now and if I’m going to be honest, contentment is easy when things are going good; money in the bank, health is good, no inconveniences, everything in working order, but we all know that if we do have moments like that, they won’t last long before something breaks down or someone gets sick, or relationships get broken, or any number of afflictions.
How our heart responds when the going gets tough is a reflection of our level of discontentment. I don’t mean to say that when things are going south that anger or sadness or depression is a sign of discontent, it most certainly is not. Our feelings are our feelings. Jesus felt all these things, but he didn’t let those feelings rule. He walked in obedience and faith in the midst of his trials. The peace that the world talks about is not the peace that God defines. Peace with God is, though we feel the longing, even the ache, we have full conviction that this is not the final word. Our beautiful inheritance is awaiting. Our God reigns.
Contentment is saying, not I, but YOU LORD!
“If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love; but when I am contented with the hand of God and am willing to be at His disposal, that comes from my love to God.”
Jeremiah Burroughs – The Rare Jewel of Discontentment
I would argue that discontentment is the root of all sin. I don’t want a little discontentment to take root. Lord help me to find my rest in You no matter the circumstances that come upon me. I’m an heir to the King of Kings!
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Psalm 16:5
The other night, I had such an unquenchable thirst. I just kept drinking water and it wouldn’t go away. It was not a pleasant feeling. I wondered how much water I was going to have to drink for it to go away. I just wanted satisfaction!
In reading verse 5, I quickly thought of the woman at the well.
Jesus said to the woman, “if you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”
The woman was confused and only looking at the external. Jesus then went on to expose the spiritual and what he was rightly speaking to.
This lady had had 5 husbands and another one in the works.
This lady clearly was trying to fill her cup with something that would never satisfy.
One husband, then another and another…
Jesus is saying, “I’m that living water, you will not go thirsty again.” He is the only one that fills this excessive thirst within.
There is an old Christmas movie called the Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant. Cary Grant is an angel sent down on a mission to help a couple find their way. In one scene the angel is having a drink with some others and the mortals notice that even though they are drinking, their cups keep refilling, and they never get drunk, but they are so joyful and fulfilled.
I love this scene because it’s a good attempt of an illustration of what Jesus is to us. He is all we need. We will never thirst again. Nothing else, no matter how pleasurable it is will every fully satisfy. Remember verse 4 from the previous blog, we are warned about what idols will do. When we keep drawing water from any other well, it will never do. We will be caught in a downward spiral. Jesus is saying I have a gift for you! What will you choose?!
Our future is sure when we make the choice to drink from the Well–Jesus!
“Fill my cup Lord. I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup. Fill it up and make me whole.”
“The sorrows who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their name on my lips.” Psalm 16:4
A “god” is anything you give yourself over to completely. It occupies your thoughts, time, your money, your talk. A “god” is something that has a hold on you. A “god” is something you serve. A “god” is anything you aren’t willing to give up under any circumstances.
From the beginning, our creator God made us with the desire to worship. We were created to worship God alone.
St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
God has given us so many wonderful blessings on this earth, but our hearts, while always thankful for the gifts, should ever gaze on the giver—this is where our hearts are contented. When we try to fit anything into the place only meant for God, we will add misery, restlessness, and sorrow. The weight and price of sin is too much.
Every breath is given by our creator. We don’t take one step without God giving us the grace to do so. His mercies are new every morning.
I have to ask myself, what areas in my life do I need to examine? What distractions are keeping me from worshiping God with my all my heart.
We are not perfect and God knows this, and he is giving us grace upon grace every moment. We are not alone. Jesus has taken the weight of sin upon himself and we don’t have to carry it. This is the greatest gift.
All glory to God alone for He alone is worthy! In Him is fullness and life! Nothing else compares.
“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom all is my delight.”
“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones”
We, who are in Christ are part of a body and in that body we aren’t meant to be in isolation. A leg or arm is not of much use unless it’s attached to the body. When we are working together in unity there is delight! There is excellency!
Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
Our greatest capacity of displaying Christ to the world is in the whole body of Christ.
When our delight is to love the Lord and serve him with our whole heart, we will delight in being part of the body, working in unity. It feels as right as breathing. When our goal becomes more self centered and our ego gets in the way, this is where the harmony gets broken. The alto wants to be the lead voice, except the alto is no good as lead voice, but what beautiful harmony it provides when it’s glorifying God in its right function. And how missed the alto part is when it’s not providing its function that was set before it.
There is excellency when all is working in unity. No chaos or fighting for position. Each part is special and unique and God created us to walk in the function he set before us as part of the body.
“I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“In whom all is my delight.”
Our joy will be multiplied when we are serving and working together as one in the body glorifying God. We will be strengthened and encouraged. We will grow and mature in Christ when we are in unity with the body. The enemy knows we are stronger together, and he wants to do all he can to keep us isolated. Don’t let him distract you from keeping in step with the body and performing the function God designed for you.
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
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.”
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.”
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?
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?
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.
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!
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!
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.