June 13, 2018

Today you should read: Psalm 109

Psalms like 109 are hard for us to read.  David is distraught. He’s tired, frustrated and angry.  He’s being hunted down like an animal and he’s done nothing wrong.  You can read the emotion in David’s words. His prayer to God is basically: Kill them and make it hurt real bad!

Have you ever felt abandoned?  Felt like you were getting an unfair deal?  Like people were out to get you? Things were not going well – even though you had done your best?

I love my job.  One of the things I get to do on a regular basis is talk to and try to help people in crisis.  Sometimes it’s 3-4 in a day. Crisis is a relative term, but when you’re in it – whatever it is – it’s a crisis to you.

If you’ve ever been there – you can understand how David feels.  He’s exasperated beyond what he can bear. When you’re in that place, even though you know in your mind (and even fully believe) that God is good and kind, you may not fully feel that in your heart.

I’ve been there. I’ve walked through some dark times when I wasn’t sure where to turn.  Let me share some of the strategies I learned with you.

  1.  Hold onto truth.  One of Satan’s number one strategies is to get us to lose perspective.  When that happens, we can come to wrong conclusions and make very dumb decisions.  Make no mistake – Satan will kick you when you’re down. Hold onto Truth – it’s an anchor – a compass that points to true north – it’s a rock to stand on.  
  2. Stay faithful to reading God’s Word – even though you may not want to.  The Psalms are a GREAT place to land.  Read a couple every day and meditate on God’s goodness and faithfulness even if you don’t feel it.
  3. Cling to God’s Promises – they will get you through.  Even if you don’t feel them, believe and claim them:

God is Sovereign – this means that God can do anything He chooses and that He’s in charge of everything.  That may be hard to swallow given your current circumstances but believe that God is good and He’s able to deliver you.

God loves me – more than I can even understand love.  His love is perfect and complete. It’s never ending and full.  God loves me!

God has a plan for my life – He’s not caught off guard by your circumstances. He’s not surprised or worried.  He’s carefully working out a calculated plan for your life. Although you may not understand it (or appreciate it) now, you will.  It’s for your good from the hand of a good God.

  1. Stay in Community – I know it’s easier to pull away and isolate yourself but don’t do it!  You need people now more than ever before. Cling to those who know and live for God.  Listen to their words. Allow yourself to be loved and cared for.
  2. Utilize Worship – We can only think of one thing at a time.  Right now, many of your thoughts revolve around your problem.  You dwell on it; it’s controlling your thoughts and your emotions.  Try worship. Put together a play list of the worship songs that move your heart the most; put in your earbuds and listen.  Allow your mind to focus on the goodness of God.
  3. Cry out to God – it’s therapeutic.  It brings peace like nothing else can to cast your cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:6-7).  Don’t hold back; share your emotions with Him, your sadness, your anger, your joy and your peace.  He can take it. Cast it upon Him, cry out to Him and leave it with Him.

Remember, you can become bitter or you can become better because of this trial.  Choose better! This may be one of the greatest learning times in your life. You may find that you are closer to God now than ever before and that you will emerge having conquered a giant and grown tremendously.  

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

June 12, 2018

Today you should read: Psalm 108

Donald Whitney, avid spiritual growth author and professor, wrote something that has resonated with me for a number of years now. He said, “There is a psalm for every sigh of the heart.” Today, we experience how true this quote is. The psalms aren’t just expressions of gladness and praise. They are often filled with deep anguish, emotion, pain, anger, and sadness. Guess what? More often than we’d like to admit, these sentiments are the “sighs of our hearts”.

Today’s Psalm is a lament, but it has a different tone to it than that of a traditional lament. It’s actually more of a combination of lament and praise. If I could summarize it in a simple thought, it would be this: proper perspective in the midst of trial. David opens with “My heart is steadfast”, “I will sing praises”, and “I will give thanks.” Doesn’t sound like much a lament, does it? Yet, I would contend that David started in the proper place with the proper perspective. It reminds me of another famous prayer in the Bible… Remember how Jesus taught us to pray?

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

Regardless of what came next, the prayer began with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” In other words, Jesus is saying to us, “Get your eyes on me! Focus on me and I’ll help you figure the rest out.” How fitting is this for us today? No matter what comes our way or what kind of day we have, if we fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12), the rest will fall into place. Even when things don’t go our way, we look to God with a “Your kingdom come” frame of mind.

The verses that ministered to me most today are 5-6:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
Psalm 108:5-6 ESV

They spoke to me because those verses drove my mind to the thought that the God of heaven and earth chose to provide salvation for us through Jesus and the cross. Not only was salvation given by God’s right hand, but left as well, when Jesus’ hands were pierced for you and me.

Praise God.

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

June 11, 2018

Today you should read: Psalm 107

As I am sitting in the van heading to Washington D.C. with our students for our mission trip I am truly seeing the meaning behind this chapter. This is a Psalm of thanksgiving. At first thought when we say thank you it is because someone has done something nice for you or given you something. This Psalm says give thanks to the Lord “for He is good.” This is us as His creation recognizing that God is God. When we recognize fully who God is and His attributes, our response can only be complete devotion.

This entire chapter walks through all of the reasons that the people as well as individual members have for being overwhelmingly thankful to God. There is a back and forth that happens. We see what was going on in the lives of the people and how God showed up.

It would be very easy for them or any person to simply list what has been hard or difficult in their lives. We tend to dwell on the difficulties and become very prideful in the good things. We don’t recognize God’s grace in bringing us through and we think that we are the reason for our prosperity. This is a challenge that we ALL face. So today as you read this chapter, I would challenge you to read it through a second time. Then take some time today to write down things that are good in your life and give thanks to God for those things. Also write down difficulties you have experienced and praise the God who has brought you through.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

June 9, 2018

Today you should read: Psalm 106

Yesterday, as we read Psalm 105, the psalmist recorded God’s many acts of covenant loyalty to Israel. God was faithful to Israel at every turn. The first 5 verses of Psalm 106 seem like it might be a continuation from 105—so much so that Psalm 105 ends with the same word that begins 106, “Hallelujah,” which is transliterated from the Hebrew meaning “Praise the Lord.”

We see a reminder in verse 1 that God’s “lovingkindness” (NASB, or loyal, covenant love—hesed) endures forever. The next several verses go on in hymnic fashion to praise the Lord and plead with Him to “remember” and to “visit with Your salvation.” It is here that we begin to notice a turn from Psalm 105. While 105 declares God’s fidelity, verse 6 sets the stage for Israel’s continuous infidelity. Psalm 106 tells story after story of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, and God’s continued patient discipline to call His people to repentance.

In many ways, Psalm 106 acts as an overview of Old Testament history. The story picks up with “Our fathers in Egypt…” in the days of Moses. There is a telling line that is the lynchpin for Israel’s unfaithfulness found in verse 21—“They forgot God their Savior.” In forgetting the God who delivered Israel from the crushing weight of Egyptian captivity, Israel wandered from the “justice” and “righteousness” that the psalmist esteems in verse 3.

Israel’s forgetting takes them to the point that the psalmist refers to them as “sinking down in their iniquity” (43), interpreting Israel’s oppression by their enemies rightly, as the consequences of rebellion. This, we understand, as the Babylonian Exile. The Exile, outside of the Exodus, is the most important event in the Old Testament when God removed His people from the Land He had given them. This punishment is spelled out clearly in Deuteronomy 28. However, verses 44–48 call upon the Lord to act upon His promise in Deuteronomy 30,

 “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” (Deuteronomy 30:1–3)

Psalm 106 closes one of the major divisions in the book of Psalms, book 4. Each book of the Psalms was added to the psalter at various times. Book 4 was added toward the end of the Babylonian Exile (if not around its conclusion), and it’s a clear cry to God of confession and repentance. Likewise, the people cry out to God to remember His promise as He renews His people to covenant glory (4–5).

In what ways have you “forgotten God your Savior?”

When you look back over your past in what ways do you see God’s love overcoming your own disloyalty?

Is there any sin you need to confess and repent of? What promises of God are you hanging onto today?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate