Just Because (5)

 
When we Fall
 
 
“The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:23,24

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Earlier this year I wrote a 9 week study of Psalm 37–it was a joyous journey in God’s Word.
You can find it here if you’re so inclined.
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Photo of Whidbey Island lighthouse stairway, August 2013, by William P. Collins

What’s eating You?

My neck is killing me.  (The lavender-laced, rice-filled warming thingy helps a bit. )

My massage therapist says my neck muscles are so strained from being in this position they have ridges in them.

Ridges? That cannot be good.

Protocol dictates I come see her once a week for the next six weeks.  I’m grateful for insurance (exclamation point) and I will definitely look forward to the relaxation time, but what about the in-between times?


Without the soothing music and comfortable table and the healing touch of therapy?


I’m left wondering–why am I so stressed?

What is causing this perpetual stretching forward that ignites my muscles into overdrive?

I think it’s the fretting.  The worry about things I cannot control.


There is much that could cause concern living in this fallen world.
Supreme Court decisions declaring blatantly that wrong is right.
National organizations standing by rulings that are anti-God.
Turmoil in Egypt, acquittal verdicts that incite protests, the list goes on.

The fretting and worry have extended to the blogosphere on issues secular and sacred. Opinions have been many–volatile voices and views have been volleyed all over;
righteous anger abounds and many people are torn to take sides.

Closer to home, there is my own flesh warring against my spirit (and my spouse)and we’ve had 40 years of practice. We should know better.

This stresses me out and makes me fret.  Causes me to wonder if I’ll ever change.
Is God really in charge?  Really?

Ann Voskamp said in this post
“When I surrender to stress don’t I advertise the unreliability of God?” 


The other morning I turned back to Psalm 37.

King David declares 3 times in the first 8 verses “do not fret”. 

I looked up the definition of ‘fret’ in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. 

The words brought a discomfiting and illuminating discovery.

“‘fret’—a) to eat or gnaw into, corrode. Also, fray, to make by wearing away a substance, (‘the stream fretted a channel’), b) to cause to suffer emotional strain, vex, 
c) to affect something as if by gnawing or biting, to grate.”

King David spoke about our penchant for fretting in Psalm 37:
            
“1  Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
                                           (No, this sad state of affairs will not last forever)
2  for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away
                                          (THAT’S what you should be doing instead of fretting—
                                          :Trust, Dwell, take Delight:)
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
 4Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart
                                        (:And this, too, instead of focusing on all                                                                         that’s wrong and bad:) 
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun 
                                        (:Remember:)
7 do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes. 
                                        (:And again:)
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Evil is ‘live’ spelled backwards. 

Evil is me taking things into my own small, limited hands and thinking I have the power to do something about changing people.

And I want to live.

The only person or thing I have control over is me….and I can choose to yield that control to the all powerful God who is Sovereign and able to accomplish His purposes in this world in spite of me.  

Even when it looks impossible.

I can choose to trust, delight, commit, dwell and rest.  Choose to digest the truth instead.  I can release my worrying, fretting, my anger to God’s capable hands for Him to do his will and his work.

Instead of letting worries and concerns eat me alive I can choose to feast on God’s living word, eat my daily bread, a portion that will feed me, nourish me and sustain me 

Until that final feast when we eat at the banqueting table with Him, I will choose to trust, delight, commit, dwell and rest. 
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Linking with Michelle for Hear it on Sunday
More wonderful words over there….

Psalm 37–The Finale

Ahhhhh, it’s the last of Through the Word, Through the Week–2TWSquared.

I want to glean all the grain our Father has given us to feast on as we finish our study of Psalm 37.

 For our finale, here are the last 5 verses:

35″ I have seen the wicked in great power, 
and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: 
yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.”  (KJV)             
                                                                                                                   
David ends this Psalm as he began–pointing out that people who are all flower and show really have no staying power.  They look beautiful for awhile, but they’ll eventually blow away.  
Remember verse 1 (from the Message, this time): 
“Don’t bother your head with braggarts
or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings
and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.”
INSTEAD…….
“37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: 
for the end of that man is peace.”
I love how we’re encouraged to ‘behold the upright, ‘the blameless man’ (ESV) because our end will be peace.  
THOTS:
I think my greatest struggles with non-peace come when I have my eyes on everyone else–particularly out here in the Christian blogosphere.  There are so many good writers with profound things to say.  I just don’t speak like they do, live like they do, look like they do…….pretty silly when I say that all out loud.  
But truth is, God is showing me so often how my peace comes when I keep my eyes on HIM and listen to what He’s calling me to do, what He wants me to say.  He wants me to be like Him.  When I let go and relax in who he’s making me, I’m at peace.

The Message version says, “Keep your eye on the healthy soul, scrutinize the straight life; There’s a future in strenuous wholeness.”

Wow. ‘Strenuous wholeness.’  I have to work at letting God make me whole.  Not deciding how it’s going to be done and changing in my own power, but surrendering to God and his plans. 
Sometimes (most of the time) the biggest rock in my way is ME.  God, keep my eyes turned the right direction.
INFO:
“38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” 
That’s The bad news. (The Message version says, ‘the willful will soon be discarded.’
Thrown out. Yikes.)  
And then the amazing “But God…….” (I love those!)

“39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord
he is their strength in the time of trouble,
40 And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: 
he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, 
because they trust in him.”

Our salvation ‘t’shuah’ in the Hebrew–“rescue, help, safety, deliverance” means (I think) that God saves us from ourselves….
and He delivers us, not because we’re perfect
not because we’ve followed the rules
not because we’ve never sinned
but because we trust in him.

In the ESV it says “the LORD helps them….because they take refuge in him.
This word is also rendered trust–‘khaw-saw’ (Heb.) ‘to flee for protection,
to confide in, to have hope, to make a refuge.’

The Message says, 

39-40 The spacious, free life is from God,  
it’s also protected and safe. 
God-strengthened, we’re delivered from evil–
when we run to him, he saves us.”


When we run to him, he saves us…Hallelujah.
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We started out this journey walking along a pathway in the Word.  We will be Pilgrims heading for home together until we see Him face to face.  I’m so glad to have been a companion with you!

“Father, thank you that your hand is there gripping us tightly to catch us when we trip and fall, that your arms are outstretched when we come running, that you’ve given us a spacious, free life.  Help us Father to run in the way of your commands as we get closer to seeing you. For your glory and by your power and in Jesus name we pray…..Amen.”

Ps. 37 Week 8–Safe in the Land


Welcome back to our study of Psalm 37.  Two weeks left!


I’m so glad you dropped by; pull up a chair, a pillow or cushion, grab a cup of something hot and join us as we sit around the virtual ‘living room’ talking about God’s Word together.


Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 4 or 5 verses at a time (maybe more, maybe less), asking questions, defining words, and shining light on some of the gems I’ve discovered.
I hope you’ll join us and leave your thoughts in the Comments.
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The passage we’ll look at this week is verses 30-34.  I’d like to look at them verse by verse and comment as we go along.  

INFO

30. “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom and his tongue speaks justice.”

I don’t always feel righteous. I don’t always act righteous. But the fact is God has made us righteous because of Jesus. Our black sin was covered by his red blood to make our hearts white–the ‘scandalous exchange’ Charles Spurgeon has called it.

But uttering wisdom? Speaking justice?

Do I do that?  Uh, no.  

REAL LIFE

Today I was hollering across the classroom. Not at a student.  At the teacher–our head teacher.  In front of the students (and 3 other assistants).  I was reacting to a comment about a meeting I had not been invited to.  My feelings were hurt, so I blurted out a ‘why wasn’t I included?’ comment.  
Across the room.  Loudly.  Can you believe it?  And I should know better.
Not wise. At all. 

I was driving home and felt so very convicted by the Holy Spirit’s reminder to ‘whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure’  to ‘think on these things’ from Philippians Chapter 4.  

Oh God, forgive me.  Give me your grace so when I open my mouth I would ‘utter wisdom’ and ‘speak justice.’

31. “The law of God is in his heart, his steps do not slip.
The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.”

The King James renders the first line of this verse “The law of his God is in his heart…”

Every year (well, this is the second year in a row 🙂 I read through Psalm 119, all 22 verses.  It takes a number of months to do this as I meditate on the words for God’s law.

In the Hebrew, the word for law is ‘torah’ (‘tore’ ‘raw’, accent on the ‘raw’ part). In Psalm 119 there are 7 different words for ‘law’–God’s covenant revelation for his children.

There are ‘laws’, ‘testimonies’, ‘precepts’, ‘statutes’, ‘commandments’, ‘rules’, ‘decrees’ and last, just plain ‘word.’ (Actually, that’s 8. )

Again, my prayer is ‘God, give me your grace to keep your law on my heart–in the deep, ‘knower’ part of me.’

The result of this keeping?  “His steps do not slip” (no matter what doors they take us through).
God has promised, as we read last week, even if we fall, He’s got his hand on us. 
The second half of the verse, talks about the wicked again who “watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.”
Instead of ‘the wicked’ (as in awful, nasty, mean people—and there are those–but not directly in my sphere) I looked at this as simply our enemy, Satan.
  
If you replace all the mentions of ‘the wicked’ with ‘the Enemy’, it seems easier to wrap your brain around because we DO have an enemy and he is watching.  I Peter 5:8 says the Devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

We, the righteous, don’t need to live in fear because the Enemy is watching–we need to be confident when we are with our God, in His power and His name, we overcome.
So keep your eyes open while you’re on this path of pursuing God.  

33. “The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial”

David repeats this promise of God’s protection–a sure thing….we will not be abandoned to the enemy’s power.  AND, the part I especially noticed, he will not ‘be condemned when he is brought to trial.’

We will be tried. We will fail. We will fall.

I thought about the phrase ‘my words tripped me up’ and thought how appropriate that is.  My words trip me up OFTEN (see above).
But we are never condemned.  The blood of Jesus covers our mistakes. 
Every time we fall.
I just love that this is in God’s word–it shows just how well He KNOWS us.

And, saving the best verse for last….

34. “WAIT for the LORD and  keep his way 
and he will exalt you to inherit the land.”

In the ESV notes for Psalm 119, verses 2 and 3 it says this:
“The person who will keep God’s instructions, ‘shamar’ and ‘natsar’, 
(i.e. attend to them carefully, watch over them, treasure them)  
will find that his “way”, ‘derek’ and ‘orakh’
(i.e. the moral quality and orientation of his life) 
will more and more reflect God’s own character.”

So, as we sojourn with God on the pathway, oriented in the right direction with our eyes fixed on Jesus, keeping his way, we WILL be changed into the same image/likeness–that of our Saviour’s. (II Cor. 3:18)
Mu
And the result–ta da~!
Multnomah Falls Trailhead, Oregon
Not only will you inherit the land–but God will exalt you.  Exalt me?
What does that mean?  I’m so glad you asked–“to raise in status or dignity, to fill with joy or pride.” (Websters New World Dictionary, c. 1990)

YOUR TURN

How many places have we been promised we would inherit the land in this Psalm?  I counted five verses.  (Can you?)

David thought it was important to remember we will receive what God has promised–the territory purchased back from the Enemy.

freedom from __________________

victory in ________________

rejoicing because of __________________

you fill in the blank _______________________

And no matter how many times we fall, even if it’s wet, slippery and dangerous,
we win!

Ps. 37 Week 7–Sowing in the Land

                                                        

Welcome back to our study of Psalm 37….
We’re getting close to the finish line and you’re invited to pull up a chair, a pillow or cushion, grab a cup of something hot and join us as we sit around the virtual ‘living room’ talking about God’s Word together.

Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 4 or 5 verses at a time (maybe more, maybe less), asking questions, defining words, and shining light on some of the gems I’ve discovered.
I hope you’ll join us and leave your thoughts in the Comments.    
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REAL LIFE

Spring is coming.  I can feel it.  The ground is warming up, the buds are bursting on branches of shrubs and trees in my yard, there is more sunlight at the end of the day, the birds are rejoicing.  It is time to plant.

I’ve got my seeds in jars in a big basket on the shelf and my catalog from
Bakers Seeds is open on the counter–I am itching to get started.

But we had a frost last night and it was 29 degrees when we woke up—brrrr….. Still gonna have to wait a few more weekends before I get out in the dirt and start preparing the ground for harvest.

God’s ‘seedtime’ knows no time.  It is always time to plant and be confident of a harvest.  Just as sure as a carrot seed will grow to be a carrot and not a turnip, our ‘seeds’ of righteousness–right living and ready repentance–when planted in the soil of our life will yield a harvest.

God has promised it.

I decided again this week to look at our verses in Psalm 37 in the King James Version.  Many of the words I wanted to study—‘justice’ for instance–were in the NIV or ESV but when I went to my concordance to find them, were not listed for Psalm 37.  So I thought I better go back to the original.  (I know the King James Version is NOT the original…..but as close to what I can get my hands on for word sourcing.)

INFO
So, here’s our passage for the week (we’re getting close to the finish line!):

 25 “I have been young, and now am old; 
yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, 
nor his seed begging bread.

26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; 
and his seed is blessed.

27 Depart from evil, and do good; 
and dwell for evermore.

28 For the Lord loveth judgment, 
and forsaketh not his saints; 

they are preserved for ever: 
but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell therein for ever.”

THOTS
Notice how many times the word ‘seed’ is used in this passage as well as the promises of inheriting the land.  I mentioned when we started this was a ‘pastoral psalm’–from the first ‘pastor/shepherd’ David who spent most of his early years out of doors on the land.

He knew about having a place to dwell and finding contentment there.

Our contentment in dwelling comes in the promises here that when we choose to invest wisely–sow our seed–God promises a harvest. 

What do you have to invest?

  • Your time
  • Your talents
  • Your talk
  • Your tithe (or offerings)
Now, I’m not going to tell you how or what to give your money to.  And frankly, I think these ‘seeds’ David mentions are more along the lines of the intangibles.  What words can you invest today in the life of a child, a co-worker, a spouse? Can you water the seeds someone else has already planted and add a word of encouragement?

What about an investment of time?  Verse 25 and 29 both speak of the righteous–that’s us, purchased by the blood of Jesus and made white because of Him.  
And righteousness looks like something–you can see its fruit. We should be kind, patient, forgiving, other-centered…(am I stepping on any toes here besides mine?)  Those kernels of care will always yield a harvest of results.

Maybe you’re planting seeds of prayer–for your children.  Mine are grown and married but they still keep me coming to the Father with petitions for God’s Spirit to inhabit their lives, for the hearts to follow hard after them.

And what about your talents and gifts?  They been given to you to give away–to hold lightly, acknowledging the Father from whom they come and giving Him the glory when He works through you.

This psalm of promises says we will dwell in the land and our children will also. And our grandchildren, no doubt, as a godly legacy continues.

YOUR TURN
  •  What ‘seeds’ do you have to invest in someone else?  
  • Is it financial–that’s an exciting privilege to partner in God’s work that way. Tell us about it. 
  • v. 25 above says, ‘he is ever merciful and lendeth...’ That one’s hard–has God ever asked you to give away something without ever hoping to get it back?  That’s how we should give–with empty, no-strings-attached hearts.
  • Is it a talentshare with us!  How has God been using you to bring him glory with your gifts?
  • What about time?  Are you giving it away at your child’s school, maybe in Sunday School, maybe helping a neighbor?  There are a hundred small things to do with this precious commodity.

YOUR TURN–look it up 
“…yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken…” 
is cross referenced in Hebrews 13:5 and Deuteronomy 31:6. Go have a look see and share what speaks to you.
  
“Turn from evil and do good” (v. 27) is repeated in Romans 12:9. 
Go look it up for yourself–Romans Chapter 12 is righteousness in action–for sure!

“…Then you will dwell in the land forever.” Look at Psalm 34:14 for a parallel.

“The righteous will inherit the land…”–how about Proverbs 2:21?

“and dwell in it forever.”  See Isaiah 34:17

I so like Eugene Peterson’s translation of this last verse:
“The good get planted on good land and put down healthy roots.”

Sowing, seeds, planting, harvest…..it’s life in the garden 
that God has given us.

I will end with this.  Verse 28 had me stumped in the King James

For the Lord loveth judgment, 
and forsaketh not his saints;” 

Why would God ‘love judgment’?  Judgment connotes something negative to me.  In the ESV it’s translated “For the Lord loves the just….” 
That’s a little different.  Does he love judgment–an action/declaration–or people who are just?
I had to go to the Hebrew and here’s what I can make of it.
‘mishpat’–from a verdict pronounced judicially, 
(abstract) justice, including a participant’s right 
or privilege or due order.’

I think what the Psalmist is saying is that 
God loves doing right by us–his righteous ones,
and to cap it all off,

 ‘he forsaketh not his saints’–ever.

He will bring the abundant harvest of life in people, 
in circumstances, in peace…when we plant and trust in him.
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If you want to catch up with our first six weeks of looking at Psalm 37
“Through the Word through the Week”-2TWSquared-
you can click here.