Friday, October 29, 2010

Reflections in Psalms - Post 2

The story of my life: God is merciful!

I'm still reading through the Psalms.  A few days ago, I reached Psalms 78, written by Asaph, about the wonderful things God has done throughout the history of Israel, talking especially about the Exodus and the Israelites journeying in the desert.

It starts off in verse 12, "He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan."

Then Asaph goes on to list the miracles:
He guided them with a cloud by day, and a fire by night (v. 14)
He gave them water in the desert (v. 15-16)
He rained down manna from heaven (v. 24)
He sent them quail (v. 27)


"In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of His wonders, they did not believe.  So He ended their days in futility and their years in terror.  
Whenever God slew them, they would seek Him; they eagerly turned to Him again.  They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.  
But then they would flatter Him with their mouths, lying to Him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to Him, they were not faithful to His covenant.  
Yet He was mercifiul; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.  Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath.  He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return."  (v. 32-38)

It is easy to blame the Israelites, but when I sit down and think about it, this section reads like the story of my own life.  Perhaps it sounds very familiar to you as well.  It struck me as I read that I am guilty of the very same sins as the Israelites.

How many times, in spite of all that God has done, do I continue sinning?  How many times do I worship Him with my tongue, when my heart is far from Him?  The verse calls this "flattery" and "lying" to God.  How many times are my heart and focus drawn to other things, distracted, when my whole life should be totally devoted to God?

Yet... God is merciful.

How wonderful!  God is merciful to me!

The book of Nehemiah chapter 9 also chronicles this pattern of sin-repentance-forgiveness-sin-repentance etc. among the Israelites.  

v. 16-17 "But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey Your commands.  They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them.  They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery.  But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

It struck me that the wanderings of the Israelites from God are exactly the same as our individual wanderings from God.  They forgot what God had done and wanted to return to their slavery.  What?  Why in the world would they want to go back?  But if you think about it, how many times do we seek to go back to the chains of our former life?  Back into sin, back into darkness.

But God is forgiving, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  

We rest in His mercy and grace.  Without them, we would be totally and completely lost.  I am in need of God's grace every single day.  

If you think about it, we have evidence of far greater wonders than the Israelites had back then.  Yes, God rescued them from Egypt, but since then He has done a far greater thing through the blood of His Son.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross and then rose again three days later, He rescued us from the power of sin and death.

We have evidence of God's power and mercy, of His justice and love before us every day in the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from sin.  And yet, like the Israelites, in the face of all that God has done for us, we keep on sinning, we do not believe, our hearts are not faithful to Him.

Yet He is merciful.

1 John 1:9 is a very well known verse, but I'll put it up here again:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Also, we know that we do not face temptation and sin on our own.  God does not abandon us.  I Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

I want to post a couple of verses from the song Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

Without the Lord's mercy and grace, we are lost!

Thank You Lord for Your amazing grace, for Your mercy, Your forgiveness for a sinful people!  We stand in need of Your mercy and grace, in need of forgiveness!  Thank You Lord, for the blood of Your Son, shed so that we might have life.

~ A Servant of the King

Nehemiah 9:5b-6 "Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.  You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.  You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I will go!

"I Will Go!"
as sung by Starfield

To the desperate eyes and reaching hands
To the suffering and the lean
To the ones the world has cast aside
Where you want me I will be

I will go, I will go,
I will go, Lord send me
To the world, To the lost
To the poor and hungry
Take everything I am
I'm clay within your hands
I will go, I will go, send me

Let me not be blind with privilege
Give me eyes to see the pain
Let the blessing You've poured out on me
Not be spent on me in vain
Let this life be used for change

I will go, I will go, 
I will go, Lord send me
To the world, To the lost
To the poor and hungry
Take everything I am
I'm clay within your hands
I will go, I will go, send me

I wanna live for you
Go where you lead me
I wanna follow you
[repeat 3x]

I will go, I will go, 
I will go, Lord send me
To the world, To the lost
To the poor and hungry
Take everything I am
I'm clay within your hands
I will go, I will go, send me

Send me! 

[repeat 4x]

This song has really been running through my head lately... especially since I have recently been granted the opportunity to go on a mission's trip to Haiti this coming January!  I'm so excited about this opportunity!  I will a part of a team of 21 heading down to Haiti to continue work on Jacob's Well - a Christian youth camp, actually the first Christian youth camp in all of Haiti.  We will run both day and overnight camps for the village children and continue on construction projects.  I'll post more on the trip later, but for now, a few verses that the song makes me think of:

Isaiah 6:8 "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying 'Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?'  And I said, 'Here I am.  Send me!'"

Romans 10:13-15 "for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'"

I John 3:18 "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

I will post details about my Haiti trip later on... as well as about my fund raising efforts!

~ A Servant of the King

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflections in Psalms

Psalms 73 - A psalm of Asaph
"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills... 
"This is what the wicked are like - always carefree, they increase in wealth.  Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning." (v. 1-5 and 12-14)
Have you ever felt like this?  Sometimes it seems like the wicked prosper, like nothing ever goes wrong for them.  They seem happy, healthy, wealthy... they have fame and glory.  Meanwhile, we're over here desiring to follow God and do the right thing, yet everything seems to work against us.  Perhaps we are poor, perhaps our health is declining, or life is just plain difficult.  Sometimes like Asaph, we wonder if perhaps we have "kept our hearts pure" in vain.

But the Psalm continues:
"If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children.  When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.  
Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!  As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies." (v. 18-20)
Asaph realized that the easy life of the wicked only lasted a short while.  Judgment was coming, the judgment of God.  And the comfort of the righteous did not rest in a pleasant life here on earth, or wealth, fame, or health.  The comfort of the righteous rests in the following verses:
"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  
"Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."  (v. 23-28)
The comfort of the righteous while enduring the trials and difficulties of life rests on the knowledge that no matter what happens, the Lord is with us, "holding our hand," guiding us with His counsel.  That when the feeble tribulations of this life have ceased, we will be taken into glory to be with Him.  Our comfort is in knowing that everything in this world is "a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord..."  (Philippians 3:8)  All else may fail, but we can have peace knowing that God is our strength and portion forever!

Like Asaph, may we simply say "It is good to be near God."  To think how blessed we are... what a privilege we have been given, that we may approach the living God with freedom and confidence! (Ephesians 3:12)  That we have been forgiven of our sins and now can have a right relationship with God, that one day we will live eternally with Him.  That each and every moment of the day, we can approach the Almighty Creator of the world with our prayers and petitions.  

Oh, it is good to be near God.  Let us continually seek after Him.  He is our hope and our strength, our refuge, our salvation.

~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of His glory.