Can’t Get No Satisfaction?

Psalm 63

When I’m riding in my car
And a man comes on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no
No, no, no
Hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no satisfaction –

55 years have passed since Mick Jagger recorded that song. Musical styles have changed but many of today’s lyrics sound a similar theme.

What does it take for ‘satisfaction?’

David, a musician as well as shepherd, warrior, and eventually king expressed his desire for satisfaction with these words: “God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory.” (Psalm 63:1–2, HCSB)

In David’s song he not only shares his longing for satisfaction, he identifies a real source of satisfaction. Many are seeking some sort of spark to ignite their seemingly mundane and ordinary lives. Listen to David’s assurance: “You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips. When I think of You as I lie on my bed, I meditate on You during the night watches” (Psalm 63:5–6, HCSB).

At the end of the day what truly satisfies can only be found outside ourselves. The land in which we live is dry – figuratively as well as physically (Oregon continues to experience drought like conditions). The satisfaction for which we seek is not found in an ocasional rainfall, nor is it found in the ways of the world. Real satisfaction is ours as we remember God’s goodness, meditate on His graciousness, and hold tightly to His good promises.

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Too. Many. Words.

Psalm 62

            While our son was in school one common remark from almost every teacher went like this: ‘A pleasure to have in class. Spends too much time talking.’ Our son was a great student, and still loves to talk! (Love you, son!)

            The New English Translation of the phrase “For God alone I patiently wait…” includes this note:  Heb “only for God [is] there silence [to] my soul.”[1] That phrase intrigues me. What if, instead of pouring out word after word, phrase after phrase, we learned to sit silently in the presence of God?

            Years ago in my seminary training I was introduced to the writings of Richard Foster. These words I read so many years ago still linger in my mind:

To still the activity of the flesh so that the activity of the Holy Spirit dominates the way we live will affect and inform public worship. Sometimes it will take the form of absolute silence. Certainly it is more fitting to come in reverential silence and awe before the Holy One of eternity than to rush into his Presence with hearts and minds askew and tongues full of words.[2]

            In my journey through the Psalms I often find the words I need to express my inner turmoil to God. I wonder, though, if more often than not, God wants me to be silent instead of full of words. Like a student in a classroom who may miss important information from the teacher/professor because of his/her many words (even those whispered conversations), perhaps I’ve missed what God was truly up to.

            David, to whom the Psalm is ascribed, had time for silence. Years as a shepherd, alone with his father’s sheep. Years spent in the wilderness evading the death wish of his father-in-law. Time spent fleeing from his son, Absalom, who sought to seize the kingdom for himself.

            These past few months of ‘social distancing’ should have provided ample time for silence. However, I have found other distractions. The meetings that used to fill my days and nights were easily replaced by social media feeds and online conversations.

            Would you think me strange if I wished for more silence? Too. Many. Words.


[1] https://netbible.org/bible/Psalms+62; accessed on 6/8/20.

[2] Foster, Richard J.. Celebration of Discipline: The Path To Spiritual Growth (p. 167). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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COME HOME

Psalm 61

            Homeless. One can be homeless even while have necessary shelter. One can be homeless even surrounded by family and friends. To be homeless can be a spiritual malady. As David, king of Israel, was forced to flee for his life from his son Absalom. From east of the Jordan River, forced from his own land, David was ‘homeless.’

            “Hear my cry…from the end of the earth I call to You” (vs 1,2). Though David had travelled a few miles from Jerusalem, he felt as though he had arrived at the ‘end of the earth.’

            “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…” (vs 2). David found a physical place of refuge as he fled from his son. David needed more than just a place to hide. David needed a confidence that can only come with a profound sense of God’s presence. A ‘rock’ often suggests a fortification that cannot be destroyed, impenetrable by the enemy. David needed more than just a place to lay his head. David needed a place to rest his heart.

            The last stanza of the Psalm (vs 6-8) is celebratory. David’s prayer changes tone. Having found a ‘home’ for his heart in the presence and purpose of God David could once again celebrate all that God had done in establishing his line of succession.

            Recent events have created a sense of homelessness for many. Protests unsettling cities around the county. Covid-19 numbers are growing in some areas, decreasing in others. Unemployment hangs over our economy as a dark cloud. The ‘home’ where we once felt comfortable is now a little unsettling. The ‘home’ we thought was secure appears to be less so.

            Come home – not to the way life used to be, but to the promise of God’s protection even when the world around us seems to collapse. Come home – wherever you are is never too far for God to reach.

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As It Is Well With Your Soul

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 2, ESV)

            This morning as I read this verse I was stone-cold stopped by the last phrase: ‘as it goes well with your soul.’ These past months have been devastating to my soul. The absence of face-to-face meetings, the sudden clearing of my calendar, the abrupt change to my summer routine – no Vacation Bible School, no camps at Fir Point Bible Camp – have confounded my soul.

            This week I began a new round of physical therapy for some arthritis pain. I am diligent to do the exercises, to attend the therapy sessions. I am diligent in following the recommendation of my family care physician and the therapist. All in the hope that the pain that has inhibited me from walking will somehow disappear.

            But what about my soul? Is it well? I don’t think it’s as well as it should be. My guess is many of you (all 3-4 who read this [yes, sarcasm]) are in the same place. We spend tons of time and money on trying to recapture the physical freedoms of our younger years, while we occasionally glimpse into our soul.

            Let me suggest that we reverse the priority. Take care of your soul, then take care of the body. Spend time looking inward by evaluating your heart by standards such as those Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). Ask yourself if the blessings Paul enumerates in Ephesians 1:3-14 are really yours? Make time to find other believers who can walk alongside you, ask the hard questions about your soul.

            I can’t be the only one whose soul needs tender loving care after these months of  the relentless invasion of a virus still a mystery to many.  

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FROM DESPAIR TO DEDICATION

Psalm 60

            Some days start with less than a bang. Some days just waking is a challenge. Once up circumstances seem to conspire against us. Nothing fits, nothing seems to go according to our well-thought out plan of the night before. The commitment we made that today would be the start of a new pattern falls by the wayside.

            We’ve all experienced these kind of days. David, king of Israel during episodes of conflict with other peoples, within his own family had one of ‘those’ days. Not only did threats to the peace and well-being of the nation come from people, nature itself seemed to conspire against Israel (vs 2). Whatever morning this Psalm was composed David sensed God’s absence. David read the signs of the times as God’s distinct displeasure.

            God speaks. Just when David is most disillusioned, disheartened, and discouraged, God speaks (vs 6-8). Just where does God not rule? Is there any place known to David where God has not exerted His omnipotent authority?

            David’s response to God offers us a pattern for ‘those’ kind of days: “Give us help from trouble, For the help of man is useless.” (Psalm 60:11, NKJV)

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I Haven’t Been Asked

            No one has asked for my thoughts on the recent ruling of a Baker County Judge regarding the Gov’s orders about staying at home and limiting the size of public gatherings. But I’ll share my thoughts anyway!

            First, I am grateful for fellow believers who are willing to put their convictions into action. I am thankful those churches and leaders took action. I applaud them for having the courage to publicly display their convictions.

            Second, I understand the frustration Gov. Brown’s orders have birthed. I share those frustrations. Staying home as much as possible. Not gathering with fellow-believers in person is costly to the entire community. So much is gained when believers meet together for prayer, for worship, for exchanging of ideas and caring for one another. I feel the frustration every time I look into the camera on my iPhone instead of the faces of those who gather at Community Baptist Church.

            Third, I am not surprised by the Oregon State Supreme Court’s order to stay the ruling of the Baker County Judge. Even those who filed the suit must have expected the state to respond in some way.

            Finally, I am content with the decision the leaders of our church have made to not re-gather until June 7 for worship and to begin re-gathering on Wednesday evenings in a much smaller group. Even if the order from Baker County is upheld and the Governor is found to have exceeded her authority, our church will not re-gather until June 7.

            There are several reasons for this decision. First, we want our building to be prepared. We are gathering supplies of hand sanitizer to be positioned at various places in the building. We are building a team of people who will disinfect all surfaces in between each scheduled meeting time. We are stretching our worship team to lead in two services instead of just one. We are purchasing new technology in order to continue to provide a live-stream of our Wednesday and Sunday opportunities.

            Second, as good citizens and neighbors, we seek to protect the health and welfare of not just those who walk through our doors. We are working to protect the community. Many of our attenders are over 60 (as am I) and have what are politely called ‘underlying conditions.’ Research indicates we are more prone not to have Covid-19 but to struggle with Convid-19 because of other health concerns. Even more significantly, many in our community are over 60 and suffering with underlying conditions. One person who might be an asymptomatic carrier could expose all of us who gather as well as all those we come in contact with in a short amount of time.

            Finally, as much as I applaud the efforts of those fellow-believers, I am uncertain if the Governor has exceeded her authority. Much has been written about a need for a legislative session to support or to hinder her executive actions. Frankly with a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate I doubt that either chamber would even try to check her authority,

            All of us would like to return to normal, whatever that might have been. I for one, am looking forward to a new normal, whatever that might be. The [C]hurch has never been silenced by any government, by any earthly authority. As a part of the larger [C]hurch, I look forward to what God is up to in the midst of His people and in the days to come.

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Praying Against Darkness

Psalm 59

             Once again, David has reason to fear for his life. Men sent by Saul, his father-in-law and longtime nemesis hid in the dark to capture and kill David. David’s wife, Michal (the daughter of Saul) recognized her father’s men. With Michal’s aid David successfully eluded this threat on his life.

            David moves from praying against the few that Saul had sent to a general prayer against all the enemies who stood against him, and against God’s people. The repeated refrain of the psalm (vs 6-7, 14-15) reminds us that night, darkness, seem to be the cloak for those who would act on evil impulses. Vs 4 and vs 16 are reminders that dawn scatters darkness. As the darkness of evil fades in the light of God’s presence praise is always appropriate.

            Most of us have never been scrutinized as was David.  Our homes have not been surrounded by those who seek to destroy us. However, in a sense all who believe are constantly surrounded by evil. It may not be in the form of threats on our life. It may not be  enemies acting as a pack of dogs (scavengers). Yet the enemy is ever present. Peter, one of Jesus’ followers likens our enemy to a roaring lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8).             Harassed by enemies within and without David managed to find words of praise. He acknowledges God as his ‘Strength’(vs 9, 17, ESV) or Stronghold (HCSB). Even as David on the run he never lost sight of God’s ultimate purpose: “Then people will know throughout the earth that God rules over Jacob. Selah” (Psalm 59:13, HCSB). To long for God to rule, even when darkness reveals the presence of our enemies, is to know that whatever may come, God will be known, God will be praised.

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A Passion for Justice

Psalm 57

            That we live in an unjust world is no secret. Turn on any newscast, browse any social media feeds and you will be overwhelmed with the injustices occurring in our world. The question that opens this Miktam, which may indicate a song of lament, is a cry from the heart of one who seeks justice.

            The word ‘gods’ (HCSB) might better be translated ‘rulers’ since none of the typical Hebrew words for God are used. If this psalm is from the period when Absalom, the son of David chased his father briefly from the throne, we can hear David ask – do you so-called ‘mighty ones’ really understand justice?

            I am uncomfortable with this psalm. David’s imagery in vs 6-9 seem out of place from a godly man, a man described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22, NKJV). The punishment which David asks from God in vs 6 – 9 bring images difficult to imagine.

            I wonder though, if in our passion for justice we have really pondered what punishment God has in store for the unjust? We certainly want people to experience the love of God He gave in His Son – “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.” (Romans 5:8–9, HCSB). Notice the word ‘wrath’ in Paul’s marvelous declaration. It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, particularly for those who have rejected God’s offer of life in Jesus Christ.

            David, in hiding from his son, recognized that ultimately justice is not his to administer. Rather justice can only be dispensed by God. He alone as the absolute definition of justice is capable of determining right from wrong, justice from injustice.

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Darkness

Psalm 57

            My family visited Carlsbad Caverns when I was around ten or eleven. Our guide took great care in pointing out the unique features of the huge cave. The Great Room in the cave is over eight acres in size. What I remember most vividly, though, is when the lights were turned off and those of us on the tour were plunged into the deepest darkness I’d ever experienced.

            Psalm 57 begins with David in a cave. Though it wasn’t as large as the caves in the New Mexico region I’d visited it was just as dark. David was in the cave hiding from Saul who was seeking to kill David. Saul, chosen by God to serve as king, had been told by Samuel (a judge/prophet) that due to his sinful choices he had thrown away any chance of his family continuing to reign. Saul refused to accept God’s verdict and saw in David a direct threat to his family’s ability to keep the throne.

            David, chosen by God as king even as Saul continued to serve, spent years running from Saul. This prayer finds David in darkness, physically and spiritually. Hiding from Saul, maintaining a small army of faithful followers, caring for his own family have drained David.

            David cries out for God’s mercy ‘till the storms of destruction pass by.’ Even as the storm rages David calls for more than God’s mercy. Note vs 5 and 11: “God, be exalted above the heavens; let Your glory be over the whole earth.” (HCSB)

            Instead of darkness David delighted in a light that transcends physical light: the glory of God. There are days of darkness in our lives. God, in His glory, fully revealed swallows up the darkness.

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WHEN I AM AFRIAD

PSALM 56

David, King of Israel approximately 1,000 years prior to the life of Jesus, writes vividly of the challenges in his life.  He writes of being captured by a hated enemy, running from the king who preceded him, ignored and even despised by his family. His written prayers are the nucleus of the song and prayer book of Jesus and His early disciples. They learned to pray, in the synagogues of their hometown, by reciting and singing David’s prayers, many of which were birthed in some sort of crisis.

            Psalm 56:3-4 contain an intriguing phrase:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4, HCSB)

‘When I am afraid…I will not fear.’ How does that work? When I am afraid, telling myself to not be afraid increases the fear. Rarely can I ‘talk’ myself out of fear. I find it comforting to know that David, a strong warrior in battle, a powerful military leader who – even prior to assuming the throne – gathered an army, and a prolific writer (at least 14 Psalms are identified as his, while a host of others are often ascribed to him), often experienced fear.

I wonder, did David ‘talk’ himself out of fear? On closer observation the power for overcoming fear is not in David’s self-talk. The freedom from fear is a result of a deliberate choice. In the midst of circumstances that create fear, David chooses to trust God. The Hebrew word translated ‘trust’ in Psalm 56 suggests more than confidence. To trust God, as used in the OT, particularly in the Psalms means to devote one’s self fully to God, to choose to exercise a confidence in God’s presence and power that seems foolish to others, and to choose to look past the present and express hope that the future will be different than the present.

We are living in an era when fear runs rampant. Don’t talk yourself out of fear. Choose to give your fear to God, to devote your time and energy to seeking His presence, and knowing that the future, which is fully in God’s hand, will be different than the present.

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