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Embrace the Trial – Part 4

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing more of ‘Who’ God is”

It is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself.

This quote comes from her book, “These Strange Ashes,” where Elisabeth Elliot writes,

Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now … the reward of my obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks into the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo …. It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself. This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.”

As I read these words, I am struck by her raw transparency as she struggles to reconcile Who God is with the reality of the pain of her suffering. God giving Himself to us in the trial speaks of His attitude toward His children, as He reveals more of Who He is. The truths of God bring great comfort in the trial, when we learn to embrace Who He is.

How will my attitude toward my trial change when I embrace the truth that God gives Himself? What changes in my mind when I embrace this truth? How will my response to my trial change when my focus shifts from off my pain to the Person in control of the process?

The shifting of our perspective from off the painful process to the Person Who is providentially seeking to bring about His loving purpose results in worship. In part 3, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” We considered Paul and his response to God’s negative answer to his prayer. His response is one of surrender as he embraces the trial in worship. The reason? He knew and trusted his loving, heavenly Father.

The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too
.”

The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He tenderly taught His disciples, seeking to prepare them for His departure, which was their greatest trial up to this point in their lives. Over and over He teaches them life-changing, stabilizing truths about His Father.

In John 15 we see a comforting word picture of the purging process. It illustrates for us both the purpose and the process of trials, but it also shows us the Person orchestrating the process for His good purpose. Take a few moments and read through these verses noting the Father and Son, as I have highlighted them to draw our attention.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:1-5

Amongst the many stabilizing truths in the passage, two great truths stand out, bringing great encouragement. In this passage Christ speaks of the loving relationships between the Husbandman and the Vine and branches.

The first, in illustration form, is that God is a vinedresser lovingly pruning His vine branches. What I find so encouraging about this word picture is the attitude of God the Father, the husbandman, going about pruning His branches. Picture in your mind a vinedresser coming alongside each vine with his pruning shears as he gets in close to the vine. He is very deliberate and methodical about where he cuts. He desires to maximize the fruit-bearing potential and quality of each branch so he cuts off only what is necessary—he applies only necessary pain to the branch. In this we see the careful attention the Husbandman gives as He wraps His loving arms around the Vine and prunes each branch—like a loving father embracing his child.

The second great truth is Christ’s desire for union and communion with His branches. Through this purging process Christ, the vine, is ever present and calls for us to “abide in Him,” ever seeking to draw us into closer, more intimate fellowship of dependency. From these words we see God’s attitude of love pouring forth like an unending fountain.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s love: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of our God in every action He takes—He is the unchanging, loving God.

In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks of the 70 years of judgment, in Babylon, that the nation of Israel will suffer through. He then reassures and reminds them of Who He is. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [desired] end” (Jeremiah 29:11). He is saying, “Remember Who I am! I Love you, and desire peace for you and not evil. I desire a good and purposeful end to this process. Trust Me, I love You!”

A few chapters later Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee [He lovingly encourages His people into a closer relationship with Him]’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds His servant that His painful actions toward His people are rooted in a love that will never end. It is with this love that He draws His people closer to Himself through the trials of life.

A second word picture has been helpful for me as I consider God’s praiseworthy purpose. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

I find it helpful to keep in mind that God is a master sculptor skillfully sculpting His masterpiece. A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A marble sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.”

This illustration pictures for us the process that is necessary to fulfill God’s praiseworthy purpose. It is a painful process but never forget that it is always with purpose from the hand of a loving God. Remember, “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints” (Warren Wiersbe). It is always for a good purpose.

Just as a master sculptor takes the necessary time to complete his masterpiece, so too, God the greatest, all-wise Master Sculptor takes only the necessary time, and necessary cuts to bring His masterpiece to completion. Remember the end goal for this painful process, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Let’s keep in mind that God’s masterpiece will only be fully completed once we see our Savior face to face, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, God is seeking to sculpt us into the image of His Son, day by day, trial by trial.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 2

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”.

Here in part two we consider the “why” question.

Understanding the “WHY” Question – “Embracing ‘Why’ I Am Going Through This”

God never wastes the sufferings of His saints.”—Warren Wiersbe

Is this statement true? Or could there be times when we go through unnecessary suffering? Is it possible that God could overdue my pain and suffering? Are there times when God steps back and just allows our times of suffering to go too far or for too long? How would you answer these questions? As read each question, do you feel a growing sense of uneasiness asking, “Could God actual fail at something or do something wrong?” Maybe these questions echo those you have already heard yourself asking.

The battlefield of the mind is filled with pathways of thought upon which we have repeatedly walked. These are often debilitating thoughts, tempting us to doubt God’s love and goodness promoting defeat instead of leading us to victory. Far too often, in trials, we find ourselves asking the unproductive question “Why?” instead of the questions that lead us upward to victory.

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

When we face a trial, the biggest question we struggle with is “why?” more specifically, “Why is this happening to me?” As I sought to come to grips with embracing this trial, I am seeing the necessity to look beyond this question of “why me?”. My desire is to encourage us to learn how to get beyond this question by considering its Biblical answer and in turn asking the better question of “Who is God?”.

I genuinely believe that when we learn to look at our trials in the light of Who God is and what His purpose for our trials is, we will then embrace our trials, understanding that they are for our best and for His glory. When we see our trial from God’s perspective we will see the value of the trial and in turn gain from it God’s best for us.

I am confident that “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints,” but what I am also sure of is that we can often waste our times of suffering, in spite of God’s best intentions. Often when confronted with a time of difficulty, whether financial, relational, physical or any other kind of trial, we can become angry and in turn bitter. Often, we rebel against the trial, fighting it at every turn. Instead of allowing God to draw us closer to Himself, we become distant to God and others.

Considering the trial before me, I know I need to be led by God in order to not “waste this suffering.” But how? What is necessary to be a faithful steward of this trial? What is necessary to gain from this trial the truths that God desires to show me and the lessons He desires to teach me?

The first step is understanding what’s wrong with asking the question, “why”? What’s wrong with genuinely desiring to understand the reason why something difficult is happening to me? I believe that in and of itself this question can be innocent, yet it really depends upon the heart and mind behind the question.

The reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s often asked with the wrong perspective. Unfortunately, all too often when this question is asked, it is with a heart that is really asking, “Why me”? When asked this way, we are implying that we don’t deserve this trial based upon any number of reasons that all make sense to us at the time. We may be tempted to say, “I haven’t done anything to deserve this!” The question, “why me” truly is the natural first question but asked with the wrong perspective and attitude. With this statement, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus in on my self instead of on my God.

Another reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s asked with the wrong theology. When our trials are due to punishment or chastisement, in our heart of hearts the answer seems more understandable. It is easier to see that God is dealing with a specific sin. But when the trial seems beyond our understanding, or when it continues on with no end in sight, in weariness we are tempted to doubt the wisdom of God in allowing this to take place. If we are not careful, we can allow the pain of the Refiner’s fire to redefine our theology about the Refiner Himself. We therefore question who God is by questioning His love for us because it doesn’t feel like He loves me. There are other things that we question, but usually we start with His love. This is where we begin to waste the suffering. It is important to listen to what God is saying to us.

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

God responds by encouraging us to surrender. He wants us to stop focusing on the painful process and instead look to His praiseworthy purpose.

The next step is understanding the Biblical answer to the “why” question? Biblically, the why question has a simple answer which gives our times of suffering great purpose. Consider what Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s purpose for our suffering is the development of Christlikeness.

Why would He desire this purpose, one might ask? The answer comes from Revelation 4:11, which reads, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were created for God’s pleasure—that we should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12). The way that we can accomplish this purpose is by submitting to God’s process—His process of developing the likeness of Christ in us, through the trials we face, in order to faithfully display the likeness of Christ, to others we face.

Sometimes this answer isn’t enough for us. Sometimes we still want to know “why me?” As the struggles of the trial continues, we plead with God for answers. We often plead with God, “I can’t do this! This is too much for me! Why does this have to be so hard?” Our conversation, with Him, may go something like this…

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

It is in these times that we must yield our will to the will of God and trust Him. I find that a right perspective, based on right theology, is vital to overcoming this ongoing struggle against embracing the trial.

So, what’s the right perspective?

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”—1 Peter 1:7

The right perspective comes from a proper understanding of Who God is—He is the Divine Refiner skillfully purifying His children like gold. As I study through God’s Word I am amazed at the word pictures that are used to help us learn important truths. Peter speaks of a refiner to illustrate the process of the “trial of our faith.” The refiner heats the gold with fire to reveal the impurities, speaking of the areas of our lives that need to be changed. He then removes those impurities, purifying the gold. The purer the gold, the more reflective it becomes. God, as the Master Refiner, desires to see His own reflection as He looks into the lives of His children being purified in the furnace of suffering. His praiseworthy purpose is to see the likeness of His Son clearly displayed as His children respond in obedience to this painful process.

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

Next time we will seek to begin to look at the “Who” question, embracing “Who” God is to help us as we embrace this “why” question.

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How Long, O LORD?

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever?” Have you ever asked this question? Most of us have said these words in one form or another given the various challenges we may find ourselves in.

So, where do you find yourself today? In what challenging situation of life are you confronted with as you set down to read these words? Do you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand with the struggles of life continuing to go on and on and on and on…? Is hopelessness and despair knocking at your door so frequently that you are on the verge of giving up in defeat? Maybe you have already quit—maybe you have resigned yourself to the thought that this is your lot in life that will never change. I know…I’m often there as well. As of late, my health has been a trial for me that is challenging me in areas that I didn’t think I needed help in. It has been weighing upon me in a way that I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t care to admit. But here I am—coming to grips with my weaknesses and frailties. I’m coming to grip with the reality that I am a man often in need of hope and encouragement.

If you are like me, something is happening where you feel beaten down with the cares of your life? It could be your health or mounting bills due to lack of finances. It could be family struggles—marital difficulties and challenges with your children. Or maybe other relationships are suffering and adding another set of stressors to your already stress-filled life.

Whatever it is, the answer is near. Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is comfort. Although I am in the midst of this battle I have found comfort in the words of my Savior when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The word “labour” speaks of one who is beaten down, fatigued and worn out. One who is “heavy laden” speaks of one who is overburdened with the cares and struggles of this life being “stressed out.” These are the ones to whom Christ is speaking. Notice the promise that He gives, …and I will give you rest. …and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” So let’s go to Him and see His remedy for our struggles—the “rest” for our weary souls. Let’s approach God’s Word with an openness to see the stabilizing truths of His Word and see where they speak to the pain of life—where they speak to life’s difficulties that beat us up, burden us down and bring us to a place where we question everything we thought was true.

Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS help from God’s Word!

It is always fascinating to me, as I approach God’s Word, where I find myself in a passage that is timely and filled with the healing balm of God’s stabilizing truths. I am blessed to know a God who loves me with an unending love; a love that is never distant or faint; a love that is satisfying and real; a love that is genuine and always what I need. I may not always feel these truths about His love, but as I step back and think—as I move from feeling to thinking—I can always find God’s love to be more than enough…ALWAYS!!

Psalm 13 is medicine for the despairing soul—the soul that is on the verge of giving up; the soul that is facing defeat—at the point of hopelessness, wondering, “Is it really worth trying; is it really worth the effort to take the next step?”

In this psalm, David says what I have been thinking, feeling, battling. He articulates the emotional struggle of a trial that seem like it will never end; a trial that often in my eyes has gone on long enough; a trial that at times can seem to be without purpose. BUT has it gone on long enough? It still continues! Is it without purpose? Although it may feel like it, I realize that there is always purpose especially as I look back and see that God is growing me through this. The challenge that I am confronted with is my need to think based upon what God says instead of how I feel.

David’s Plea—Consider David’s questions in the form of a plea to God.

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 1-2)

He is struggling with feeling alone as if God is distant, having forgotten about him. He starts out by pleading to the Lord as he pours out his heart.  His feelings seem to be the driving force as he cries out to the Lord, “Where are you?” and “When will this end?”

In verse 2 David speaks of taking counsel in [his] soul, having sorrow in [his] heart daily. Literally he is speaking about his thoughts that are a source of constant oppression. It is a daily struggle with no intermission—no reprieve as this trial continues without any hope of conclusion. This is a state of hopelessness which stems from both internal and external oppression. The internal oppression is rooted in how he thinks based upon how he feels. The external oppression comes in the form of persecution from his enemies.  For us the external oppression can be persecution, but more often it is something physical, financial or even social.

Often the saint comes to the point of despair as he begins to lose hope. His feelings betray him as he feels that the Lord has left him.  As the trial continues with no end in sight his soul wearies and his faith can seemingly begin to wane.

David’s Prayer—Next, in verses 3 and 4 we see David’s prayer to God.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (v. 3-4)

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts are being driven by emotion and feeling. Now in this prayer we can see David’s perspective changing. As a humble man, he is acknowledging his own need—his weakness. In these words, he cries out to the Lord, praying, “consider and hear me!”  He is saying, “Pay attention to me and respond to my prayer.” But notice what he asks next. He says, Lord, lighten my eyes.” With this request he seems to be saying, “Lord, shed light upon this next step upon this path that You have set before me.”  He is asking for the Lord to help him see with spiritual eyes what God is purposing through this trial. Notice that He doesn’t ask God to take away the pain and suffering but instead he prays for spiritual sight in the suffering. His prayer is for help to look at his own situation from God’s perspective.

In verse 4 his prayer continues with purpose. He speaks to God about what he fears will happen if God does not help him. He says, Lest mine enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him;’ and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. His concern is his testimony. If he succumbs to defeat—if he gives up in hopeless despair—his Godly testimony will be marred. His Godly influence will cease. I believe that his concern is that God will not be glorified through him.

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts driven by his feelings. Starting in verse 3 we see a change in perspective. His thoughts begin to be guided by truth. With each additional verse his mind becomes more and more engaged in God’s stabilizing truths.

David’s Praise—In the final two verses we see David’s praise.

“But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (v. 5-6)

In these last two verses we see three key points of David’s praise. David turns his mindset to truth.  He fixes his mind upon God through the truth of His Word and the peace of God begins to transcend his circumstances, just as God’s Word says.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength [the rock of ages]:” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

He goes from feeling to faith—from how his heart feels to what his heart knows.  He looks back to a point of trustI have trusted in Thy mercy. David knew his God. He knew that He was a God of mercy and that He was the source of his salvation. In the beginning of this Psalm David is feeling as if God is not there; as if God has left. Now his mind rests upon the truth of God instead of his feelings being dictated by his circumstances. He begins to think upon the stabilizing truths of God which dictate his praise to God in his time of suffering.

He then looks forward to a promise of truthMy heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He looks forward with the eye of faith—with anticipation that God will rescue him. His mindset has changed from a perspective of hopelessness to one of patient hope and confidence. In another psalm David writes, “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2). Notice in these words of triumph how David describes his great God. With each description he makes it personal; He is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my buckler, my salvation, and my high tower.” These are stabilizing truths to David as he focuses on each one as God’s benevolence toward him. This is who God was to David.

As a result of his meditating upon the sufficiency of his great God, notice his commitment to praise. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (Psalm 18:3).

Finally he looks beyond to his praise of triumphI will sing unto the LORD.” As David relies upon what he knows to be true about God, the result is worship.  Through the trial, that David had gone through, he felt as if God was distant, but his knowledge of God brings him to see the reality that God cannot be any closer for HE is intimately close to David and through this trial David sees that HE is ever closer.

In closing, consider David’s words in Psalm 40. He says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies” (Psalm 40:1-4).

Throughout Psalm 13 we have seen David move from the pit of “miry clay” to the “Rock” of truth. His mind finds rest in the stabilizing truths of God. In tragedy he triumphs, not because his circumstances have changed but because his mindset has changed. His feelings have been replaced with facts and his trembling has been replaced with truth. Herein lies the victory.

Although the storm still rages all around him, the storm has ceased within him. Through a right perspective he has found the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Though his storm still rages his heart is resting—resting upon the stabilizing truths of God—resting in His precious promises.

Whatever storm you find yourself in, always know that God is there with you. When you take your eyes off the storm you will see your loving Savior walking with you and often carrying you. Trust Him for He is the Master of the storm. He is the God [who] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Let us learn to be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10)—the Almighty God.

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“It Is Finished!”

The last words of a dying soul often tend to be heavy with meaning, weighted with such great significance in their heartfelt genuineness. Especially without the heavy sedation compassionately given by modern day hospice care, these last words picture for us a glimpse into the soul—a view of unobstructed insight into the most important matters of the heart as one awaits their final breath.

Stories are told of the torment of souls as they stand at deaths door not knowing what will meet them on the other side. With gut wrenching agony loved ones have watched them fight the inevitable slide into eternity. But there are also stories told of triumphant songs sung by souls prepared for what lays before them. Souls who willingly and joyfully step into glory with great anticipation and expectation knowing that their Savior awaits them with open arms. With sorrow they leave their loved ones behind but with great joy they look forward to the welcome embrace of their loving Shepherd.

It is the last words of this loving Shepherd that have arrested my thoughts in anticipation of the services of remembrance and celebration that lay before me. With pen in hand, and the unfamiliar sound of silence in my ears, I sit with an open Bible before me pondering His triumphant last words, “It is finished!” The apostle John records these last words of triumph (John 19:30). Words filled with meaning that plumb the unfathomable depths of life, love, and sacrifice of the Son of God.

Approaching this glorious time of the year my mind is flooded with thoughts as I ponder the steps of a Man who undeservedly walked a path and carried a cross that was not His own. A man who carried the weight of the world upon His bloodied back; a man who wore a crown fit not even the worst of kings let alone the King of Kings. He walked my path; He carried my cross; He wore my crown; He bore my sin with each step on His way to Mount Calvary to lay down His life on a cross made for me.

The passage that lays open before me is Isaiah 52:13-53:12 where it speaks of the “Man of sorrows” long before this undeserving world laid its eyes upon the “Word made flesh.” As we allow the Gospels to shed light upon these words of prophecy we see a bruised and broken Man whose “visage was so marred more than any man” yet robed with love and grace, with gentleness and humility as He endured the shame and disgrace that my sin demanded of me. It is in my place that I see Christ walk. It is in my place that I see Him die. It is in my place I see His love on full display unlike the world has ever seen. Such grace so undeserved yet so abundant and free.

Isaiah’s words are rich with theology and meaning. Each time I read through this passage I come to rest on verses 4-6, personalizing it as I read,  “Surely He hath borne [my] griefs, and carried [my] sorrows: yet [I] did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for [my] transgressions, He was bruised for [my] iniquities: the chastisement [for my] peace was upon Him; and with His stripes [I am] healed. Like [a] sheep [I] have gone astray; [I] have turned to [my] own way; and the LORD hath laid on [Jesus Christ all my] iniquity.”

These words cut to my heart to think of the consequence of my sin, my selfishness, demanding my own way. The flood of emotions rush into my heart as at times my eyes begin to overflow. What sadness and heartache to consider the suffering that my Savior chose to endure because He knew that I would choose my “own way” instead of His good and righteous way. My “own way” is the way of sin.

God tells us the consequence of sin is death(Romans 6:23). This death speaks of separation from God. If I would have continued my “own way” I would have been separated from God for all eternity. The reality is that God provided a way by giving His Son. The consequence of my sin brought about death as God sent His Son to die in my place as my substitute. “For [the Father] hath made [Jesus] to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The hymn writer, Charles Wesley so aptly put it:

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me who caused His pain? For me who Him to death pursued?

 Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?”

God’s love is nowhere on display more greater than on the cross of Calvary. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

With great sadness I see the suffering my Savior endured in order to show His love for me. Yet it is also with great joy that I hear Him say, “It is finished!” Just before Christ breathed His last breath upon the cross He stated a single Greek word, “tetelestai,” which is translated, “It is finished!” It was a statement of triumph overflowing with rich meaning. What is so profound about this statement? What is finished?

This word, “tetelestai,” was used in everyday life back in Biblical times. It was used by a priest as he would examine a lamb brought for sacrifice and found it to be faultless. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who was without spot or blemish. It was also used by merchants who would declare that a debt was “paid in full.”

The work that the Father had given Christ to do was now complete—it was finished. While hanging on cross, looking like a defeated victim, He celebrates victory—the greatest triumph in the history of all of God’s creation. With His death He paid our debt of sin in full. He bought our salvation with His blood—with His life. He had fulfilled every requirement that the law had required on the behalf of sinners. Christ’s atoning work was complete thus satisfying the justice of God.

You cannot add to a finished work. Someone once approached the great evangelist D. L. Moody and asked him, “Mr. Moody, what must I do to be saved?” He said, “I’m sorry, sir, you are too late. As a matter of fact, you are hundreds of years too late. All the doing has been done!”

Consider this Gift that has been given. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As with any gift, in order to enjoy it you must first believe that it is for you and then simply receive it as your own. The same is true for God’s Gift of eternal life—the gift of His Son. God made provision for the penalty of our sin but until we believe and receive this Gift it cannot take effect in our lives. The decision is left up each of us. In order to enjoy this gift the Bible tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Do  you see what Jesus did for you? Do you see His great loving sacrifice to provide for you the greatest gift anyone can ever receive? Do you see that “It is finished”?

During this Easter season my prayer is that you too would sorrow in what Jesus went through for you but that you would also rejoice in what He accomplished for you. “It is finished!” Your ransom has been paid in full as the Gift of eternal life is set before you. The decision is yours—choose life!

It is finished!”—the work is done! Simply believe it to be true and receive it on your behalf. Then with great joy you can sing:

“Man of sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God who came,

Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood,

Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He;

Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die, ‘It is finished’ was His cry;

Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah, what a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring,

Then anew this song we‘ll sing, Hallelujah, what a Savior![i]

What will your experience be when death comes knocking? Will you with great joy look forward to the loving embrace of your Savior? Or are you unsure of what will meet you on the other side?

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

For more information please consider reading the article, “How do I get to Heaven?” or you can also write me at pastor@pibcny.com.

[i] Philip P. Bliss, “Hallelujah! What a Savior”

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The Cradle and The Cross

“The Cradle and The Cross” — What do these mean to you? The CRADLE is a picture of new life and the CROSS is a picture of death. As we consider the cradle and the cross we see the true reason for this Christmas season—it is all about CHRIST.

The angel, speaking to Joseph says,  And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

One of my favorite Christmas hymns was written by Ron Hamilton called “Born to Die[1].” Consider the words of the chorus:

Born to die upon Calvary, Jesus suffered my sin to forgive; 
Born to die upon Calvary, He was wounded that I might live.”

In these words we see the cradle and the cross.  As Jesus was born the cross cast its shadow over the cradle. This was the purpose for which Christ was born—He was born to die.

This sounds quite depressing if the story ended here. The great reality is that Christ’s death was not the stories’ end but a pivotal moment within the narrative of Christ’s provision for our salvation. The cross is EMPTY and so is the tomb as it could not hold Him. Christ has conquered death and has risen from the grave, just as He said He would (Matthew 16:21; 26:31-32).

The purpose for which Christ came to this earth was to die, to pay the penalty for our sin—which He did. BUT then He rose again the third day, victorious over death leaving the tomb EMPTY as evidence of a risen, living Savior.

Don’t overlook the journey from the cradle to the cross. Stop and look upon the EMPTY cross and see all the suffering Christ bore on your behalf. Then keep going from that tree to the tomb. Again, stop and look inside and see Him there no more and rejoice for He lives! But there is more…continue on from the grave to the glorious mount as He ascended, returning to the Father.

From the cradle to the cross we see how Christ lived as a perfect Example and He died as a perfect Sacrifice. In that He triumphs over the tomb we see that He lives as a conquering King and He saves as a sufficient SAVIOR.

Remember that there is a CHRIST in CHRISTmas for a reason. HE is the REASON for this season. Celebrate HIM as the greatest gift ever given. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Because of Christ’s death on the CROSS we can enjoy the CRADLE of a new life in Christ—a life with Christ that never ends—a life with Him here on this earth and in heaven for eternity.

Do you have a relationship with Christ? Have you received this greatest gift that is eternal life? Consider Christ’s words to a religious man searching for answers about life. Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) The Bible says elsewhere, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Have you responded to Christ when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [peace]” (Matthew 11:28). Christ’s call requires a response. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) But as many as received Him [JESUS], to them gave He power to become the sons of Godeven to them that believe on His name: (John 1:12)

If you haven’t placed your faith and trust in CHRIST alone for salvation won’t you consider doing that today? This Christmas enjoy the greatest gift ever given—His name is JESUS. He will never fail you for in Him alone is contentment, peace, joy, and love that truly transcends all understanding—in Him alone is true life that never ends. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight.

Join with me this Christmas season and make JESUS the center—allow CHRIST to be at the center of your CHRISTmas.

[1] Copyright 1980 by Majesty Music, Inc.

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Do You See the CROSS?

It is quite interesting to look out upon God’s awesome creation and see reminders of the CROSS—an amazing demonstration of the love of God in sending His one and only Son to pay the penalty of sin upon the CROSS. The Bible tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth [proclaims] His handywork” (Psalm 19:1). The created world in which we live is evidence that there is a God who made it all and reminds us of Himself by what we see.

Take a moment and look at the picture above and see the light of the sun casting its rays east and west and upon the waters below. Do you see the CROSS? The image of a CROSS is unmistakable. This picture is an illustration of the SON of God as the “Light of the world” humbling Himself so as to cast the rays of His light into the hearts of those who by faith trust Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). This light is for all; from the east to the west and from the north to the south as it emanates from Himself on the CROSS upon which He died. And it was from that CROSS that He was buried and three days later He rose from the grave, victorious over death.

In this world, the CROSS is an instrument of cruel death—a very dark reality. But for those who place their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, the CROSS is a picture of life and light. It is upon this cruel instrument of death that our Savior died in our place taking away our penalty of sin and in turn giving us the gift of eternal life.

How do you see the CROSS? Is it just a religious symbol that Christians get all worked up over? Or is it a picture of God’s gift of eternal life and light to you?

If you see it is just a religious symbol, won’t you consider what the Bible says about how much God loves you. How sent His Son to die upon that CROSS to take your penalty of sin upon Himself? The Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Why was this necessary? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of [this] sin is death; BUT the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). We earn the payment of death because we all have sinned.  This death speaks not only of physical death but also of eternal death in the torments of hell being separated from the holy God for eternity.

So what can be done? The answer is simply, nothing! The reality is that payment has been made for you and me—Christ has DONE it all upon the CROSS. We must simply respond by faith trusting in Him to be the only way of salvation. We cannot save ourselves. The Bible tells us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that NOT of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). In Romans 10:13 we further read, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Please think about these words and consider their eternal ramifications.

If, on the other hand, you see it as a picture of God’s gift of life and light to you then “Let your light [the light of Christ in you] so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We have such a privilege of living as lights in this dark world. Be a light that reflects Christ and encourages others to step into the light by trusting Christ as their Savior.

As you walk through this life, look for reminders of God’s love in the form of a CROSS. Let it encourage you as gaze upon the light of the SON until it begins to glow in you.

For more information about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ please read this article here.

Have It Your Way??

Pragmatism has been defined this way, “if it works it is true, if it succeeds it is good.” Unfortunately, this is the moral compass that drives much of our society. In the end the basis for truth is our own determination of whether or not we think it works. The reality is that this kind of thinking leads to a fluid moral system—“What’s right for you is not necessarily right for me.” Where does this lead us—where has this led us?

The simple truth is that we live in a generation of this “my way” kind of thinking. The popular slogan of a popular fast food chain saying, “Have it your way” catered to this “my way” generation. The sad reality is that this “my way” mentality is not new. Frankly it has been in the minds of every soul that have walked the face of this earth since the beginning of time. Where does it lead us—what does it get us in the end?

Consider what the Bible says about this “my way” mentality; “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

The Bible is clear about this “my way” mentality and what that leads to. “My way” is not “God’s way.” My way is selfish and self-serving. It is rooted in pride and self-glory. It seeks what is best for self and we are enticed by what “my way” can bring me, but when it is fully realized, the Bible says that it results in death.

James puts it this way; “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his OWN lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

In context, this “lust” is sin.  The natural progression of giving into temptation due to one’s own lustful desires will eventually end in death if left unchecked.  The biological imagery is very vivid and familiar.  As a person gives into temptation, sin is conceived.  It grows internally for a period of time before it manifests itself, eventually in the form of death.

Death is separation.  Physical death is the separation of the body and soul. Spiritual death is the separation that exists between a soul and God while physically alive. Eternal death is the separation that exists between God and a soul who died in the state of spiritual death.

My way” brings death which separates us from God. Back in the beginning, Adam and Eve went “my way.” They sought the way that “seemed right” to them but ultimately ended in death as their sin separated them from God.

The ultimate death that results from “my own way” is the death of the Son of God. I needed Him to die in my place because I decided that “my way” was best. “My way” is against God’s way. The prophet Isaiah put it this way; “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his OWN WAY; and the LORD hath laid on Him [The Messiah] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

Sin separates us from God BUT salvation reconciles us to God. Through faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of God in my place I can be forever reconciled to God because this is not “my way” but “God’s way.” Jesus said, I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6)

Consider the amazing love of God in sending His Son to die in our place. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“BUT God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [to make us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

What a sad reality but also what a glorious truth! The sad reality is that my choosing “my way” resulted in the death of the Son of God as well as the death of many souls who die going their own way because they lived a life separated from God. The glorious truth is that God’s Son willingly died in our place, so that we would not have to experience the “death” that “my way” requires—we do not have to experience separation from God in this life and for all eternity. Is there a greater truth than this?!?

 

 

The God Who Knows Me and Still Loves Me

How much do others know about you? People tend to be guarded, to varying degrees, about what they share with others as we all have those areas in our lives that we don’t want others to know about. Although I find it interesting how much some people will publicize about themselves whether it is on social media or general conversation.

Have you ever stopped to think of how much God knows about you? Does the reality that He knows everything about you, even all of your shortcomings lead you to the conclusion that “He must NOT love me because of them?”

The challenge for each of us is that we often depend upon how we feel and in turn allow our feelings to determine our sense of reality. If we are not careful, we can allow our circumstances to define who God is and in turn shrink Him down to a size that is too small for our problems. What good is a small God?

Keep in mind that what you know and rely on to be true about the Lord will transform your life! The Precious Truth that we need to consider is that God knows EVERYTHING there is to know about each of us and yet He still loves us!

If others knew you to the degree that God knows you, how would your relationship with them change?  If you knew your best friend to the degree that God knows you would you continue in that friendship? Sometimes the more we get to know someone the more we wish we didn’t know them.

Consider David’s words here in Psalm 139:1-6. “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

To what extent did David realize that God knew him? The first thing that jumps out at me is that David was in awe of the fact that God even knew him. Consider what he says in Psalm 8. “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful [think about] of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest [to pay special attention] him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) Picture David the shepherd lying on his back looking up at the night’s starlit sky speaking to God saying, “Lord, As I consider the great expanse of the universe that You made, how do You even know that I am here?” David was moved in worship that his infinite God took notice of his finite life. In the great expanse of God’s creation, the fact that He is intimately aware of each of our lives speaks of His greatness that is so far beyond my comprehension.

In Psalm 139, as I have pondered the reality that God knows everything there is to know about me, I am amazed to think that He still loves me.  How do I draw this conclusion? Well first consider what God knows about each of us.  David tells us in verses 1-4, “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.”

David acknowledges God’s full & complete knowledge of him. There is nothing hidden from God.  He knows all the secrets that only we know about ourselves.  He knows all our thoughts, desires, intentions, and motives. He knows the hypocrisy and lies that we may live with thinking we are fooling everyone into believing we are someone that we truly are not. In verse 2 we read, “You understand my thought afar off.” God even knows the thoughts that we have yet to think.  He knows more about us than even we know about ourselves. These are the actions of a God who loves us.

With all of this knowledge that God has about us, IS it a wonder to you that HE still loves you?  It is to me!  He knows all the times that I have failed Him and all the times that I will fail Him yet that does not deter His love for me.

The Precious Truth to consider here is that God’s love is not dependent upon who I am or what I do but upon WHO HE IS! God’s love does not change.

Next, consider what David concludes that God has done for him while possessing this knowledge. “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5) With this knowledge God has not run from us but has drawn near to us. He knows that we need Him—we need His grace and mercy; we need His love and compassion; we need His wisdom and protection; we need His presence—we need HIM. God knows our needs and in turn through His grace and mercy has made provision for those needs.

Consider what He has done for us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

God acted upon this knowledge and sent His only Son to make provision for our ultimate need—our need of salvation.  Through faith in His Son, Jesus, we can be united to God in a personal relationship. Through faith alone in Christ alone my heart was changed—my sins were forgiven—my guilt was removed and I came to understand the loving relationship that my heavenly Father has always desired for me to have with Him. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight on how you can enjoy a personal relationship with God.

As David ponders this truth he erupts in such uncontainable joy and worship as he says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6) This knowledge was outside of his realm of comprehension.  It brought David to his knees in humility and awe as he worshipped his all-knowing Savior.

Get to know the God of the Bible. Read God’s Word and then take God at His Word. He means what He says and He says what He means! Our understanding of the knowledge of God should bring us to our knees in worship of Him.  It should humble us and in turn we too should be in awe of Him.

As you consider what God knows about you also realize that He continues to stay with you. When others choose to distance themselves the more they learn of you, consider how the Lord draws near, fully knowing who we are. David continues in the following verses saying, “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

Our intimate knowledge of God will shape our response to the trials of life. In spite of all our shortcomings God promises, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed [or disheartened as you consider your circumstances]; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Is this “knowledge too wonderful for you?” Does it move you to worship your God as it fills your heart with joy? Let us seek to be intentional about remembering who our God is.  Jeremiah writes, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (Lamentations 3:21) “This is what I intentionally remember about my God, therefore I have patient confidence.” The truths of God will stabilize you as you meditate upon them.

Silencing the “Sin Detector”

It’s the middle of the night and you are enjoying a restful night when a high-pitched, piercing sound suddenly breaks through the quiet, stillness and startles you awake. You realize that the smoke detector has been set off by the presence of smoke in your home. But instead of addressing the issue you pull your pillow over your head and try to return to the peaceful rest you had been enjoying just moments before.

Would you ever do this? The answer is obviously “NO!” The situation needs immediate attention.

Unfortunately when it comes to sin, we often are guilty of covering our head in hopes that the piercing noise of our conscience will quiet down and go away. Why do we do this?  Why do we insist on covering our heads and plugging our ears instead of addressing the problem? The problem is not our conscience but sin that has set of our conscience. What then is the remedy? How are we supposed to Biblically address our internal “sin detector?”

Many Christians live defeated lives simply because of failing to Biblically confess their sins and in turn live their lives filled with the noise of guilt—a guilty conscience.  How hard would it be to live in a home while the smoke detector is sounding constantly? How stressful would it be to try to carry on conversations and lead a normal life? How productive would a person be in this environment?

Often we try to quiet our conscience by engaging in something to try to distract us from thinking about our noisy soul—our guilty conscience.  Just as we would never go and remove the battery to silence the smoke detector in order to remedy the problem we must learn to stop trying to silence our conscience by any other means than God’s way—the Biblical way.

Consider with me Psalm 51 as we look to Biblically address our “sin detector.” The title of gives us some insight into the circumstances surrounding this psalm; “when Nathan the prophet came unto [David], after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Nathan comes to King David and says, Thou are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

Has your conscience ever called out to you in a piercing voice, “You are the man/ woman!”?

Here in Psalm 51 we see a “Precious Truth” regarding the confession of sin.  What does true confession look like? It begins with actionturning toward God and considering Who He is and what is He like. When we sin we turn away from God and separate ourselves from Him.

Isaiah tells us what our sin does to our fellowship with God. He says, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities [sins] have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

In order to be in right fellowship once again we must turn back to Him in repentance. This is what we see taking place here in Psalm 51. David cries out to the Lord saying, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions [willful disobedience].” (Psalm 51:1)

Question to answer: “Who is God and what is He like?”

David turns back to God and pleads for mercy—this mercy that is based upon God’s unfailing love. David relies upon what he KNOWS to be true about his God. Keep in mind that God loves to forgive—He wants to forgive us from our sin. It is important to understand who God is, what He likes, and what He dislikes.

The prophet Micah puts it this way, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

Notice that God “pardons sin”—He forgives and He does not hold onto “His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”

Knowing that God is a merciful and forgiving God leads to a peace that surpasses all understanding (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:8-9).

Next we see a request—cleansing is a work of God. David asks God, “Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2)  He asks God to make him clean again as his sin has defiled him.

To be “throughly” cleansed is to be washed repeatedly with intensity. Think of a washboard. Biblically cleansing comes through confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

What does improper confession look and sound like? The most frequent is simply, “I’m sorry!” (for what?) or “I’m sorry that you were offended!” How about, “I’m sorry that you took it wrong!” Each of these take no responsibility for our sin and places the blame on the other person.

So what is proper, Biblical confession? We first have seen two actions—a turning to God and making request for cleansing. Consider with me six steps in the confession process. The first three deal with what we acknowledge while the last three reveals the heart of true confession.

#1 – Confession of sin is acknowledging our personal responsibility.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3)

David takes full responsibility as he “acknowledges his transgressions”—there is no blame-shifting. He says, “my sin is ever before me”—this is the reality of the memory of that sin. When properly dealt with, thus having the confidence of forgiveness, this memory will be a reminder to help to keep us from sin. But when we fail to deal with our sin Biblically it brings guilt, which is by design in order to bring us to repentance.

#2 – Confession of sin is acknowledging who I have offended. (v. 4a)

“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,…” (Psalm 51:4a)

All sin is an offence against God as it is a violation of His law.  When we sin we dishonor the Lord. David was not only sorry for the consequences of his sin. He was sorry for the sin itself as he was grieved over the fact that he offended God in breaking His law. We must always confess our sin to Him as well as others we have wronged.

#3 – Confession of sin is acknowledging the extent of my sin. (v. 4b)

“…and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest. ” (Psalm 51:4b)

Literally the word “confess” speaks of saying the same thing. It is properly defining sin the way God defines it and NOT in the way we define it. We fail to confess when we justify or make excuses about our sin—why it was justifiable under those circumstances. Proper confession only comes when we see our sin as God sees it.

#4 – Confession of sin reveals a change of heart (v. 13)

Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” (Psalm 51:13)

That night on the roof top along with the days following, David was concerned only about himself (2 Samuel 11). He hurt so many people in the process. Now we see his heart has changed as he desires to be used in helping others.

One who has been restored to right fellowship with God can be useful once again in helping others be restored. This can be in the form of openness about our sin and its consequences while giving testimony of God’s mercy. A truly repentant heart will seek to help others. Consider Jesus’ words to Peter about his ministry that he would have after his denial of Christ.

Jesus says, “But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted [restored/ reconciled], strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)

The reality is that God desires to use broken and forgiven people. He sees value in those who have genuinely repented of their sin.

#5 – Confession of sin reveals a grateful heart (v. 15)

“O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.” (Psalm 51:15)

Where David’s lips had been sealed in shame he now asks the Lord to open them in praise. David’s desire is to worship the Lord and tell others about God’s greatness. He sees himself as an undeserving soul whom God spared. His grateful heart is seen in the praise he gives to God as he acknowledges Him for His unfailing love and tender mercy, rehearsing these powerful truths to anyone who would listen.

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

#6 – Confession of sin reveals a humble heart (v. 17)

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise [treat as worthless].” (Psalm 51:17)

The “sacrifices” or worship of God that are acceptable to Him come from a “broken and a contrite heart.” This kind of heart is one that grieves being intensely broken over their own sin. It is seeing sin as God sees it and in turn being truly broken before God.

It is seeing the effects of our sin upon God as His heart is broken when He sees us choose to sin instead of obey Him. It is acknowledging that our sin was the reason that God’s Son chose to take up our cross in order to suffer and die in our place. Being “broken and contrite” is genuinely saying, “Woe is me!” as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:5.

“Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’”

Isaiah saw God in such a real way as to bring to light his own wretchedness in comparison.  Against the backdrop of a thrice holy God, Isaiah realized that even his most minute sin caused him to be unfit and undeserving to be able to stand in the Lord’s presence. Genuine confession reveals a humble heart that sees how unworthy I am to stand, as a sinner, in the presence of an infinitely holy & righteous God because of the perfect work of my Savior.

In all of these aspects of confession we see genuine repentance—we see the change of mind about our sin which leads to a change of life. True heart-felt confession shows change of behavior not just hollow words.

When we humbly read and receive this psalm and see God’s unfailing love, mercy, grace and His willingness and readiness to forgive the repentant soul, it will bring us to our knees in worship being in awe of the greatness of our God.

In conclusion, enjoy how the psalm ends, “Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar. ” (Psalm 51:19)

Be confident that God is pleased when we come to Him, His way! We can then can KNOW that the worship we offer will be worship that He accepts.