Up and Down

Psalm 30

Teeter-Totter Faith

In most elementary school playgrounds sits a teeter-totter. Using simple physics two people can go up and down repeatedly only requiring a minimum expression of physical energy. Something about the feeling of traveling up and down can be quite mesmerizing.

Many believers live on a teeter-totter. Today they may be experiencing the heights, “Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. Lord, You brought me up from Sheol; You spared me from among those going down to the Pit.” (Psalm 30:2–3, HCSB). Tomorrow the same believer may cry out, “Lord, I called to You; I sought favor from my Lord: “What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your truth?” (Psalm 30:8–9, HCSB). Up, then down.

I have spent much time on this teeter-totter. Up now, but wait a few hours and then I’ll be down again. Certainly our adversary pushes back when we are up. ‘Is this the pattern for which God designed us? Is this the way He would choose us to live?

The title of the Psalm, “A psalm; a dedication song for the house of David” hints that these words may be David’s prayer after some grievous challenge to his faith. Sickness, family rebellion, enemies from the nations surrounding Israel – any of these could have been the cause of a sense of failure and a call for rescue.

We don’t always choose to be up or down on the teeter-totter. Circumstances beyond our control confront us regularly. The key to a successful teeter-totter is the center point. For David, and his faith descendants the pivot point is the unfailing power and presence of God. Whether up or down, God is present and able.

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PSALM 29

Sometimes God speaks in thunder and trumpet sound as He did when Moses led the Israelites to Mt Sinai. Other times God speaks in the whisper of the wind as He did to Elijah after the defeat of the prophets of Baal. In the New Testament, we read of at least one occurrence when God spoke and some heard thunder (see John 12:29).

We agree with the New Testament author who wrote: [I]n these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, HCSB).

I wonder though. If God were to speak as the psalmist describes in Psalm 29 how would I respond? The psalmist describes God’s voice as powerful enough to be heard above the raging floodwaters, strong enough to destroy entire forests, capable of causing entire groups of people to react, potent enough to cause animals to give birth, and forceful enough to eliminate the woodlands.

The psalmist isn’t describing God’s voice. Rather he describes the result of God’s voice. Maybe we should stop seeking to hear the voice of God, listen more carefully to what He has already spoken and let His all-powerful word once for all delivered and ask ourselves, what has changed in my world because of the word God has spoken?

 

 

 

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Silence

Psalm 28

From waking to falling asleep we are bombarded with noise. Traffic on the streets, music playing in public spaces, televisions demanding our attention. Most people, it seems,  are wearing some sort of earpiece as we navigate our way to work, home, and running errands. We arrive home and turn on the television, we ask Alexa to play our favorite music, or we switch on our favorite radio station. If we avoid those then we hear the noises our home makes or the happy (or unhappy) noises of our family.

But when God is silent?

The psalmist prays, “Lord, I call to You; my rock, do not be deaf to me. If You remain silent to me, I will be like those going down to the Pit” (Psalm 28:1, HCSB). To not hear from God is to find one’s self totally cut off from life. This silence is not comparable to the absence of sound. This silence is, as the psalmist understands, the absence of life.

Creation itself exists only because God spoke. God spoke, and whatever He spoke came into existence. He speaks and we are called to be.

Note that the psalmist does not celebrate having heard from God but rather that his prayer has been heard (vs 6). Jon Bloom, writes

The silence, the absence is phenomenological. It’s how it feels, it’s not how it is. You are not alone. God is with you (Psalm 23:4). And he is speaking all the time in the priceless gift of his objective word so you don’t need to rely on the subjective impressions of your fluctuating emotions.[1]

Take a moment. Quiet your world. Listen carefully. God is speaking. God is not silent.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-god-seems-silent, accessed on 10/9/19.

 

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Sleep-Stealers

Psalm 27

What keeps you awake at night? Is it financial worries? Perhaps you are anxious about what the next day holds for your family. Are you uncertain about your relationship with your spouse, your children, your extended family? Perhaps you are worried about whether or not you are adequately prepared for whatever life might bring. Maybe it’s just indigestion?

The psalmist lists several types of circumstances that might keep even the strongest among us awake at night. ‘Evildoers,’ ‘foes and enemies,’ an ‘army,’ ‘war,’ ‘adversity,’ abandonment, ‘adversaries,’ and ‘false witnesses.’ Somewhere on this list all of us can identify something that causes anxiety and stress in our lives.

When we are threatened by any of the circumstances the psalmist mentions we do have a choice. Our instinct is to hide, to run, to avoid the challenge. Since the Fall even when God seeks after humans, their response is to hide!

What if instead of hiding we acted as the psalmist suggests: seek the light of God’s presence – the One who is with us in the valley of the shadow of death? What if we placed our circumstances in God’s hands – the One who is an impenetrable fortress and stronghold? What if we turned our eyes off the problem and onto the source of all solutions – the One who is capable of meeting all our needs according to the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ? What if we looked past the present and saw the ultimate promise of God – a new heaven and a new earth, filled with abundant resources for all of life, a place where God’s presence is not just claimed by faith but evident by sight?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14, HCSB)

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Psalm 25

My wife and I just finished watching the PBS series, Downton Abbey (yes, I surrendered my ‘man’ card long ago, and yes, we were very late to the party). Two parallel worlds are portrayed in this series. The Earl of Grantham and his extended family live upstairs in the slowly dissolving world of Edwardian England in the early 20th century. The butler, housekeeper, valets, footmen, lady’s maids, cooks, and various servants live downstairs and serve at the pleasure of the upstairs family. We see glimpses into both worlds of typical family behavior – sibling rivalry, striving for affirmation and position, gossip, romance, despair, and defeat. One thread seems to tie the two worlds together: the dissolution of the known social order and the birth of a new way of being and doing.

In one way or another, all of us are experiencing the dissolution of one way of life and the birth of another. As believers, we are living in the in-between of Jesus’ announcement that the Kingdom of God is at hand and the full unveiling of the Kingdom at His return. As families, our lives are in constant change as children are born, raised, grow, move on, have children of their own and so on. Our communities change as businesses die, new businesses are born, new leaders emerge and old leaders retire.

In the constant change of life, we can hold on to one unchangeable truth-

The Lord is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” (Psalm 25:8–9, HCSB)

God’s unchanging nature, His promise of guiding every step, His abundant forgiveness enable us to live with confidence, with assurance, even as the very world around us constantly changes.

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Joining God in His Work

Psalm 24

Years ago I was privileged to hear Henry Blackaby speak to a group of church leaders. After hearing him I led several groups through the material he developed called, Experiencing God.’ A key insight from that study is this: God is already at work. Our responsibility is to discover where He is at work and join Him.

In order to be of the generation of those who seek the Lord (vs 6), a basic requirement is to be aware of God’s presence in general. As I look at the world where I live, I can see God’s presence in the beauty of creation, in the provision, He has made for the needs of the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field (see Matthew 6:25-34).

It is vital that I not only be aware of His presence but I need to be welcoming of His presence (Psalm 24:7-10). Being aware of Him and welcoming Him are not always the same thing. When Jesus entered Jerusalem for His climactic visit the crowds roared their approval. Yet mere hours later the same crowds demanded His crucifixion.

The generation of those who seek the Lord are aware and welcoming of His activity, regardless of where He is at work. Even if it is through another fellowship of believers. Even when He is clearly at work in the lives of other believers, fellow pastors, and even (gasp) other denominations!

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Providence, Power, and Presence

Psalm 23

I find well-known Psalms like Psalm 23 hard to process. The familiarity of these words obscures their power. I have quoted the Psalm at funerals and memorial services, shared in the public reading of the Psalm more times that I can remember.

Reading the Psalm daily over the past few days, I see just how important God’s providence is. He alone has the power to restore or renew my soul because He alone exists outside of time, unbound by the seasons of life. His presence in my life is the one constant because of His eternal nature. His power, unlimited by the challenges I face, is the source of the strength I need for those challenges. The promise that His “goodness and mercy” will pursue me till I experience His presence in eternity may be obscured by dark days, but when the darkness lifts I find Him present as always.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (KJV). Since God is the author of all good things, His providential care reminds us that He already has all that I need.

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