Friday, November 11, 2011

Psalm 16 - Therefore

There's something I left out of my last post about Psalm 16 because I felt like it was a significant enough thought to stand alone and not be buried among other musings.  It's a relatively simple idea based on the word, "therefore."

Therefore is a transition word that not only signifies a switch from one thought to another, but also shows causation.  The following thought is caused by the previous thought.  "I forgot to study.  Therefore I failed the test."  "I forgot to put away the leftovers.  Therefore my dog thought it was acceptable to climb on the table and eat them."  Or, you could read those backwards.  "I failed the test because I forgot to study."  "My dog climbed on the table because I forgot to put away the leftovers."

So, when I get to verse 9, I think the same way.  "My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices" because of whatever is mentioned previously.  So, what is mentioned in the preceding verses?

  • Verse 1 - "I take refuge."  I act.  I have an entire post that talks about this idea of taking refuge.  
  • Verse 2 - I recognize that "apart from [God] I have no good thing."
  • Verse 4 - I do not worship false Gods.
  • Verse 5 - I recognize God as "my portion and my cup."  I admit that He is everything that I need to sustain me.
  • Verse 6 - I praise the Lord because he counsels me.
  • Verse 7 - "I keep my eyes always on the Lord."  My focus is unwavering.
THEREFORE "I will rest secure."

I will rest secure because I keep my focus on God, praise Him, accept His counseling, recognize that he will sustain me, do not worship other gods, realize that apart from God I have no good thing, and take refuge.

Taking refuge, recognizing God's power and provision, praising Him, and keeping my focus on Him will allow me to rest secure.

I think I'm just going to let that sink in for a little while.

Psalm 16 - More About Refuge

If you've kept up with this blog, you will recognize this recurring theme of refuge.  My inability to experience refuge is what prompted the blog in the first place and I've mentioned repeatedly how the whole blog seems to be a journey focused on finding that safe refuge I used to so easily fall into.

To be honest, even with some of the new understandings about refuge that have settled into my heart, I still get uneasy when I come across another psalm focused on the topic.  It's like when you are already feeling self-conscious about the only clean outfit you could find that morning and then you get to work and someone mentions that there is a stain on the front of the shirt.  It makes you cringe and want to pick a fight all at the same time.  That might not be the best analogy, but I'm struggling to define exactly why it is so hard to read a psalm that deals with the purpose of the blog - refuge.

I guess the main reason reading about refuge is uncomfortable to me is because it is so obviously lacking from my life.  I try hard to have faith, but it's not always easy when things are tough and I can't seem to grasp onto the refuge I used to so easily take hold of.  I read about how refuge means a safe place and get frustrated because I can't seem to find that safe place.  Then, I wonder why I can't find refuge.  What am I doing wrong?  Why is God ignoring me?  Is he ignoring me?  When will things finally change?  The list continues and I have no answers.  At all.

So, Psalm 16 is no different than the previous refuge-focused psalms to me.  It's tough.  I see what refuge should look like and I long for it and I become frustrated because I can't reach it.  Then, I beat myself up.  If only I did this or this, God might let me have the refuge I desire.  Maybe if I wasn't so _____ or _____, I could feel close to God again.  Then I wonder, how much of this thinking is God trying to point me back toward him and how much of it is Satan trying to pull me away.

If you know me well, you know that I'm a very analytical person.  I spend a lot of time thinking and making decisions.  My brain and my heart do not handle unanswered questions very well.  I am used to understanding things and understanding them easily.  The current state of my relationship with God, however, seems incomprehensible.  How did I get here and how do I get out?  I think Psalm 16 helps illuminate some of those answers, even if the answers aren't exactly what I'm looking for.

Verse 4 says, "those who run after other gods will suffer more and more."  I could go on for a while about this idea of other gods, or idols, but I'll keep this brief.  While I don't chase down other deities, I do let my focus stray from the true God.  I don't worship things other than God, but I do let other things block the focus that should be directed toward Him.

I want to be able to say that God is "my portion and my cup," like David says in verse 5.  I know that once I am able to say that with honesty, I will be able to stop focusing on the circumstances in my life that seem so difficult at times.  Just like in verse 6, I want to praise the Lord and the instruction of God in my heart always.  I want to keep my eyes on the Lord and remain firm, unshaken, like in verse 7.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Psalm 15 - Mission Impossible

I've been avoiding this one for two reasons: 1) I wrote it once on a piece of notebook paper and lost it.  I was hoping to have found it.  2) It's almost depressing thinking about how short I fall on a daily basis.

In Psalm 15, David starts by asking God, "Who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?"  In other words, who is able to live in communion with God - to have a connection with Him?  Here comes the depressing part: the answer.  To be connected to God, I must:

  1. Walk blamelessly
  2. Act righteously
  3. Speak honestly, but with compassion
  4. Refrain from slander
  5. Avoid wronging anyone else
  6. Abstain from speaking ill of anyone
  7. Despise those who are vile
  8. Honor those who fear God
  9. Keep my promises even when it is beyond difficult
  10. Remain steadfast in my thinking
  11. Lend money to those less fortunate without interest
  12. Avoid accepting bribes against the innocent
If I can do these 12 things, then the psalm says I will never be shaken.  I guess that explains why I have felt so shaken so often recently.  Quick confession:
  1. My walk is anything but blameless.  I stumble so often that it probably doesn't qualify as a walk that often.
  2. Acting righteously means acting in an upright manner, being virtuous, being good and honest.  I can easily think of times today I couldn't qualify myself as any of those things.
  3. Sometimes my honesty comes across as being condescending and judgmental
  4. As hard as I try not to be a gossip or say things about people behind their back, I'd be lying if I said it didn't happen.  In fact, it happened today. 
  5. Anyone who knows me even remotely well can probably think of a time when I wronged them or someone they know, even if it was inadvertently.
  6. See number 4.
  7. I'm not sure about this one, to be honest.
  8. Sometimes I look up to people who fear God and sometimes I think to myself, "It must be easy to have it all together when..."
  9. Judging by the number of times I've been behind with posting, we all know how keeping difficult promises is going.
  10. See number 9.
  11. Not quite sure about this one.
  12. Or this one.
So I guess it makes perfect sense that I feel shaken.  By the way, here are some synonyms for shaken:
  • agitated
  • disturbed
  • jolted
  • perturbed
  • unsteady
  • upset
  • flustered
  • overcome
  • rattled
  • bewildered
  • overwhelmed
  • beaten
  • defeated
  • conquered
  • overpowered
There's no way for me to really put this next part into words, so I think I'm going to have to stick with a few verses that come to mind.  I'm sorry, but that's all I can manage right now. 

"Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them." -Romans 4:7-8

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." -1 Timothy 1:12-17

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." -Ephesians 2:1-10