Sunday, April 13, 2014

When the bottom falls out

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! – Psalm 130:1 (The Message)
Has the bottom ever fallen out of your life?
A job layoff. A death. A wayward child. A broken relationship. An unwanted divorce. Sudden or chronic illness. A diagnosis of mental disorder. Insurmountable financial challenges. Addiction – yours or that of someone you love. Your most cherished dreams go up in smoke.
You wonder if God hears your prayers, knows of your pain. You question if there is a God – one who cares what you’re going through. One who has the power to change things.
Like the psalmist you cry, “How long, O Lord? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1–2)
Then you feel guilty for talking to God that way or like a failure because you don’t have enough faith for your prayers to be answered. Your hope is dried up, like the old bones lying in a desert wasteland described in Ezekiel’s vision.
Take heart. Even Jesus, as He hung dying on the cross, cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:35)
Think of how Mary and Martha felt when they sent for Jesus with the message, “The one you love is sick,” and He didn’t come for four days. By then their brother Lazarus’s body was rotting in the tomb.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
I love what I call the “but factor” in the psalms. There the psalmist is, pouring out his heart to God – his anguish, frustration, pain – and halfway through the psalm, he says, “But . . .”
“But” is a word of transition, a signal a change is about to take place, a contrast to what was said previously.
But I trust in Your unfailing love” (Psalm 13:5), “But I pray to You, O LORD” (Psalm 69:13), “But God” (Psalm 64:7), “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me” (Psalm 55:16) . . . are just a few examples of the “but factor.”
Pore through the psalms yourself, looking for the hinge verse where the psalmist turns from despair to hope.
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” El Shaddai asked Abraham (Genesis 18:14).
“Nothing is impossible with God,” the angel told Mary (Luke 1:37).
I like the way the song “God Likes to Work” by Karen Peck and New River puts it: “God likes to work when your back’s to the wall, when facing the battle and you’re just about to fall; so there’ll be no mistaking when He blesses and fills – God likes to work when nothing else will.” (Click on the song title to go to You Tube to watch and listen to Karen sing this beautiful song.)
Has the bottom fallen out of your life? Don’t despair. God’s hands are there, waiting to catch you.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God! (Psalm 42:11).

Special-Tea: Read Psalm 130; John 11:1–45; Ezekiel 37:1–14

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  Read and meditate on the following Scriptures

John 14:1
John 16:33
James 1:12
1 Peter 1:7
Matthew 19:26
Luke 1:37
1 Peter 5:7
Philippians 4:6-7
Jonah 2:2
Isaiah 48:10
2 Corinthians 4:16-17
2 Corinthians 12:9
Psalm 30:11
Psalm 33:20
Jeremiah 29:11
Romans 8:28
Romans 8:38-39
Romans 8:35, 37
Psalm 50:15
Psalm 34:4
Psalm 34:19
Psalm 34:18
Psalm 34:17
Proverbs 13:12
Psalm 30:5b

Have a God-filled week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

God is good

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “G”

Taste and see that the LORD is good. – Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
“I am the good shepherd.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 10:11, 18 (NIV)

As a child, I was strongly encouraged to be good – obey my parents and teachers, respect my elders, do my homework, inform my parents of my whereabouts and call if I was going to be late. I wasn’t to do anything that would bring shame and dishonor to the family name. My parents taught me that “a good name is more desirable than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
I attended a good school – one with a reputation for academics, discipline and a faith-based curriculum. My parents were good people – honest, hardworking, faithful.
I was taught to believe that good will triumph over evil.
Foods may taste good but sometimes aren’t good for your health. A relationship may be good or bad. Ideas may be good or bad, and sometimes we have to wait to find out. Actions are good or bad. Are there any in between? Declaring something “good” requires judgment, and aren’t we supposed to not judge?
But some things are clearly good and some clearly bad. If you read Scripture, it isn’t hard to figure out which is which. God’s Word sets the standard, draws a clear line between good and bad.
In the beginning, God declared all He created “good” (see Genesis 1). How could creation not reflect the Creator? And the Creator is good.
God didn’t become good. He always was good. God cannot lose His goodness. He is, was, and always will be everything that the word encompasses.
What does “good” encompass? My dictionary defines “good” as “excellent; right, as it ought to be; desirable; satisfying; pleasant; kind; friendly; real, genuine; beneficial.” To that I add: “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
I look at today’s world and think we as a society have stopped believing in good. Life and culture have led us to believe that evil has eclipsed good. That good is weak, and bad is strong. That “good” is a thing of the past.
I refuse to believe that. Good is still a force to be reckoned with. Good is still stronger than evil.
How do I know?
Because God is good. And God is not dead. Nor is He passive. He’s very much alive and active in the world today.
I chose today’s Scripture readings, Psalm 23 and John 10, carefully. Meditate on all the Good Shepherd does for you personally: He leads, He provides, He protects, He restores, He refreshes, He comforts, He loves – so much that He lays down His own life so you, the sheep, may live.
“The LORD is good to all,” the psalmist writes, “He has compassion on all that He has made” (Psalm 145:9). Still true.
“The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Psalm 33:5 NKJV).
We need only eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that responds in child-like faith and trust. What you focus on is what you see.
It’s your choice.
Open my eyes, my heart, my mind and my spirit to Your goodness, O Lord. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Psalm 23 and John 10:1–18

Special-Tea: Read Psalm 23 and John 10:1–18