Abandoned – Reflection on Psalm 44

Psalm 44:1-26

Confused and Abandoned

Sometimes all we can do is cry out to God. Life, as wonderful as it can be, also brings difficulties and confusion. Even our best attempts end up leaving us wondering what went wrong. We believe and hear that God loves us, but at times, we wonder what it means to be loved by God. On a surface level, we may believe that being loved by God means that things will work out, but then they don’t.
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Disturbed and Downcast

Psalm 42

Disturbed

Twice the Psalmist asks, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”

Can you identify? Something’s wrong, deep within. Perhaps, like the psalmist, we can’t figure out what’s wrong. The psalmist asks his soul for answers, but gets none.

Maybe we all have these experiences. Life comes at us hard and fast dragging us down to the depths of despair. When we come up for air we realize, something isn’t quite right.

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Psalm 37: How to Future-Proof Your Life

The Right Thing

“So, what’s my reward?” he asked expectantly. “Well,” the reply came, “your reward is knowing you did the right thing.”

Have you ever had someone say that to you? Have you ever said that to someone else? Perhaps your kids?

While the sentiment sounds good, deep down hearing, “doing the right thing is its own reward” isn’t what we want. We would rather get something tangible for doing the right thing, but often we just get a nice saying to cherish.

The Hardest Thing

The Fray sang a song with the lyrics, “The hardest thing and the right thing are the same” which rings true. Doing the right thing can be hard. Sometimes doing the right thing means sacrifice of our comfort, resources, or energy.

wrong-way-429723_1920On the other hand, the wrong thing can be easy. Parking in a handicapped parking space so we don’t have to walk as far to the store is easy, but if we are not handicapped, parking in that space is wrong. There are some who do anyway and, as long as they don’t get caught, could care less that they are doing the wrong thing.

Perhaps we have thought at one time or another, “What’s the point? I do the right thing and life still doesn’t work out. Where’s my reward for doing good? I guess that’s what they say…‘No good deed goes unpunished…’” When we gaze at those who care nothing for doing good or God, and it seems like they have all they could ever want…or at least all we could ever want, we wonder why we even try to do the right thing.

Now and Later

The Psalmist argues we shouldn’t be concerned, or envious about the prosperity, success, or advantages of wrongdoers because they will soon be forgotten. They only concern themselves with what they can get now. Whether it is cheating, disobeying laws, or living selfish lives, doing the wrong thing may work out now, but the Psalmist sets his gaze on the future.

The Psalmist encourages us to not be short-sighted. Yes, wrongdoers may have advantages now, but he writes, “they will soon fade like grass…” He knows that in the future, they will regret their actions.

Following

The Psalm reminds us that those who trust in the Lord find security. Those who delight in the lord receive the desires of their heart. Since fulfillment of our desires may come at a later date, he encourages us to wait on the Lord in patience and to not fret over those who are prosperous. Ultimately, the godly are blessed, their children are blessings, and they will not be forgotten by God.

Often doing the right thing requires us to denying ourselves. Jesus talked about “listening” to his words which means obeying his words. Those who “listen” to Jesus’ words are those who put his words into practice. Jesus said that to follow him meant we would have to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34), which is a hard practice.

Jesus said, those who “listen” build their house on rock rather than the sinking sand of those who do not. Choosing to follow Jesus means difficulty and sacrifice in the present. We will have to move out of our comfort zone and do things we may not want to do. We may need to sacrifice our comfort, our resources, our time, and our energy, to fully embrace Jesus and his will.

Future-Proof Your Life

Talk of sacrifice and moving out of our comfort zone doesn’t sound very appealing, especially when we see those who throw caution to the wind and do whatever they want, even when their actions come at the expense of others. The Psalmist counsels us not to envy the prosperity of wrongdoers, or focus on our short-term losses and difficulties. No. Our faith reminds us that regardless of our current situation, our lives are future-proofed through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

The Psalmist knows that following God and doing the right thing, in the end, brings joy unspeakable, so he says with full confidence:

“It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,but the Lord takes care of the godly.” (Psalm 37:16-17)

Our reward is more than “knowing we did the right thing.” Our reward is God himself revealed through Jesus, his love, presence, peace, security, joy, and blessings poured into our lives. You can future-proof your life as you embrace Jesus, looking to his provision rather than the prosperity of wrongdoing!

Off the Treadmill – Reflection on Psalm 127

Reflection from Psalm 12723844169_a01041cb9c_b

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
(Psalm 127:1-2 NLT)

Man Behind Me

He darts in and out of traffic like a jockey trying to get an inside position. Hurried and harried, he races by one car and then another. I wonder what he will do when he reaches the construction zone where two lanes become one. Sure enough, he continues to pass people trying to get as close as possible to where the two lanes join while others wait patiently in an ever growing line of vehicles.

Most people, not liking his technique, tailgate the car in front of them prohibiting him from pulling in front of them causing him to grow more aggressive, frustrated and angry.
I wonder why he feels the need to pass by others. Do rules not apply to him? Does he believe he has found a loophole? Does he feel he more important than all those he cuts in front of? Or, does he have an agenda, a schedule to keep, in order to attain all he desires?

The Pursuit of More

The man in the car behind me, well, now in front of me, causes me to pause; Why am I in such a rush? I can always justify my rushed life; deadlines, distractions, interruptions. But if I’m completely honest, I just want more.

There, I said it. I am rushed, busy, and hurried, because I want more. In order to get more, I must up my game, squeezing more minutes out of my hour, more hours out of my day, and more days out of my life.

Since I want more, I say “yes” to opportunities that come my way. Not wanting to miss out, I add one more responsibility to an already overbooked life. I want more for my family and kids, so I fill up my family’s calendar as well. The more I want, the faster I go creeping toward rushed and harried and finding myself passing others as I drive to the front of the line.

The Psalmist confronts me by telling me I labor in vain. I get up early and go to bed late, trying to gain a few more hours, but the Psalmist says it is for nothing. I believe that if I can squeeze more time out of my day, or more life out of my time, I can finally have peace and relax.

Happiness No Longer Lives Here

The Psalmist, living in a much different time, describes me perfectly. I would love to believe that my endless pursuit of more reflects contemporary culture, but given the Psalmist’s comments, I can’t say that. I suffer from a human tendency to forfeit God’s peace for false promises of peace.

I am really pursuing “what I think will make me happy.” While seeking happiness, happiness moves, sometimes without a forwarding address. The quest continues.

What Scripture tells us, research confirms; we are horrible of knowing what makes us happy. We believe we know what will make us happy, but once we ‘get’ whatever we seek, we are still unhappy. Spending time reflecting may reveal how we seek this, then that never finding what we truly desire.

If we find happiness, it lasts only for a short time. We get a new house and a few years later we want a better house. We get a new car and in a few years, rusted, dented, and breaking down, we need a new car. We get a new spouse… you get the idea. Time after time after time we prove that we don’t know what will make us happy, but we are unable, or unwilling to confess it. Madness. We live pure madness.

Off the Treadmill

The Psalmist shows a different way. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the soldiers watch in vain. In vanity we anxiously forgo what our body needs seeking to make “it” happen, believing if we simply get this one thing, then our life will be complete, finally make sense, and we will be happy. Here’s the sad reality: IT WON’T!

We get up early and go to bed late eating the anxious bread of toil for what? Why do we endlessly pursue more? Do we really believe that by pursuing more we will one day “arrive” and finally find peace or happiness? What are we ultimately chasing after? What would happen if we stopped chasing after the more and began seeking the “more than” resting in God’s loving arms?

We can get off the treadmill. Abiding in Jesus brings clarity and vision so we no longer have to pursue the “more” but rather pursue his “more than” bringing rest to our weary souls and lives. In Jesus we find peace, joy, and happiness.

Review – Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

I received an electronic version of this book free in exchange for a honest review.

There’s not too much I can say about this book, other than Max Lucado continues to do an excellent job. Those familiar with Lucado’s writing will find another inspirational and moving work. In the course of twelve chapters and a conclusion, Lucado takes a look at our hearts and how we can become more like Jesus. As a seasoned writer and pastor, Lucado encourages the reader to take a look at their own hearts in light of the heart of Jesus. He reflects on how the reader can cultivate their hearts to be more like Jesus. Lucado shows his heart as a pastor as he attempts to pull his readers into a greater devotion to become more like Jesus.

At times the book encourages while at other times it challenges. Whether encouraging or challenging, Lucado does so with humor and always with love. In the end, he calls the reader to fix their eyes on Jesus and finish the race well.

The book was well written with plenty of illustrations. It is not a difficult book, but it is a pleasure to read. The study guide at the end of the book is helpful for individual or group study. I recommend this book to those individuals or groups who want to strengthen their devotion to Jesus, so that their heart might become more like his.