A Confession of Sins

We complain. A lot. Turn on the news (any channel) and it is filled with complaints. Everybody is doing something wrong. No one is satisfied. No one is getting along. Even the weather is not as perfect as we would like. Think of your own conversations. How many are filled with complaints. This person was rude and not fully focused on our issues. That person cut us off. This food didn’t taste as good as we had hoped. The store didn’t have exactly what we wanted, or was too crowded or took too much time. The city, the state, the country isn’t spending money and time on what we want. We fight over masks and vaccines. Drug use, depression, loneliness and inactivity are impacting all of us. Many are suffering alone, out of fear. We are not satisfied. We are not happy. We are angry. We are fearful.

Today, the Bible opened to Psalm 106. The Psalm recounts a number of times where God saved the Israelites, only for them to quickly forget his works and crave the things of the world, turning away from him. Hmmm. Sound familiar? We were one of the richest nations, but we were not satisfied. We were founded by individuals looking to avoid persecution for their religious beliefs. Our declaration of independence refers to the rights provided to us by God and our divine providence. But it didn’t take long for us to turn away. The Psalm ends in this fashion:

Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes, and were brought low through their inequity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry. He remembered for their sake his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his mercy.

He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say “Amen!” Praise the Lord!

Psalm 106: 43-48

We are wasting our time and breath (and health) with our complaints. Our worry and fear is powerless and harming us and those around us. God hears us when we cry to Him, when we turn to Him. His mercy and His love is never ending. We need to stop looking to the things of the world to satisfy us or to make us happy. We need to stop thinking (and being disappointed) when the people of the world are incapable of solving our issues. God is our only savior. God is the only answer!

The most common and frequent commandment in the bible is “do not be afraid” or “fear not” — why? Because God is with us… if we allow Him to be.

Save us, O Lord our God! We give thanks to you and praise you. You are good! Your mercy endures forever. Open my eyes, Lord. Open my heart. Open my ears to your word. I am tired and angry and afraid when I look at the world. Help me to turn my eyes to you instead. We are sinners, individually and as a nation. We have turned away like the Israelites so many times before us. Hear our prayer! Heal our land! Heal our hearts! Turn us back to you! I have seen the great works that you do. I have seen your healing and your power. Lord, you are great indeed! Forgive me for getting lazy, forgive me for forgetting to put your first, forgive me for forgetting you and letting the world take over. Create in me a clean heart and fresh start. I want to do better!

In God We Trust: Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

Today, I needed a break. So I got up from my new home-office desk, formerly known as the dining room table, and decided to take a walk outside. It was beautiful. The morning air still had a crispness to it. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the green leaves still had enough dew on them to sparkle in the sunlight. Beautiful. And as I walked and continued to be struck by the beauty in God’s creation, a peace settled over me. And I found myself crying out to God: Help Me! The world you have created is so beautiful. Help me to find the beauty and stop getting caught up in the negativity.

I have noticed that I am becoming caught in the negativity that is plaguing our country. I am beginning to feel more anger and even hate towards “the other side” on whatever the issue may be. As I walked, I asked God to take this away from me, let me focus back on His world, not the mess that we have created. And I began to resolve to stop looking at Facebook, to stop watching the media and to pray more.

And then I came across Sharlene, an older lady who was also taking a walk (a short walk just two driveways down from her house). We said good morning and commented on what a beautiful day it was. And instead of continuing on my walk I paused for a moment to enjoy the beauty with her. And Sharlene, who I had never met or spoken to before, told me that she starts every day by reading the bible. And today she read:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.

Psalm 118:24

My entire being rejoiced as she spoke, because the words she was saying resonated with exactly what I had just been thinking and praying to God. I was uplifted and filled with joy by this chance encounter. We chatted for a while longer and then continued in our opposite directions.

And when I arrived back home to my desk/dining room table, I opened the Bible to read the rest of Psalm 118.  And what a clear answer to my prayer it is:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

Let Israel say:

his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Aaron say,

his mercy endures forever.

Let those who fear the LORD say,

his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

The LORD is with me; I am not afraid;

what can mortals do against me?

The LORD is with me as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on my foes.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

I was hard pressed and falling,

but the LORD came to my help.

 

The LORD, my strength and might, has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous:

“The LORD’s right hand works valiantly; the LORD’s right hand is raised;

the LORD’s right hand works valiantly.”

I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and thank the LORD.

This is the LORD’s own gate, through it the righteous enter.

I thank you for you answered me;

you have been my savior.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

 

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice in it and be glad.

LORD, grant salvation!

LORD, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God and has enlightened us.

Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;

my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

 

Psalm 118

 

“In danger I called on the Lord.”  I have been in danger.  In danger from the world around me.  Not so much the physical danger, as much as my soul has been in danger.  And no mask can protect me or others from that.  But the Lord is with me and has answered me!  How great is our God!!  He has set me free!

The words in this psalm are so powerful!  “What can mortals do against me?”  Nothing.  Nothing if I am right with God. “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.  Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.”  No politician can save us.  We need to put our trust and hope in God, not any politician, democrat or republican.  In God we trust!  If only our country would turn back to this.   I cannot control the country, but I can control me: In God I trust!  I can resist the negative temptations of the world:

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

This is truly the day the Lord has made.  The beauty that surrounds us is all created by God.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Let us stop looking for sorrow and anger.  Let us stop focusing on the negativity.  God is great!  His mercy endures forever!  Thank God for that because our own mercy towards each other is short tempered and short lived!

God,

You are amazing!  Thank you for this beautiful day!  Thank you for opening my eyes and answering my prayers.  You alone are my God.  In you alone I put my trust!  Help me to keep my eyes focused on you!  There is so much to rejoice about with you, so much to be thankful for!

 

My Stronghold in Times of Trouble

I prayed before I opened the Bible today:  “Lord, what do you want me to hear.  What do you want me to share.”

The Bible opened to Psalm 9:

I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.

When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before you. For you upheld my right and my cause, seated on your throne, judging justly.

You rebuked the nations, you destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out for all time.

***

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, LORD.

Sing hymns to the LORD enthroned on Zion; proclaim his deeds among the nations!  For the avenger of bloodshed remembers, does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

Be gracious to me, LORD; see how my foes afflict me!  You alone can raise me from the gates of death. Then I will declare all your praises, sing joyously of your salvation in the gates of daughter Zion.

The nations fall into the pit they dig; in the snare they hide, their own foot is caught.

The LORD is revealed in making judgments: by the deeds they do the wicked are trapped.  To Sheol the wicked will depart, all the nations that forget God.

For the needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.

Arise, LORD, let no mortal prevail; let the nations be judged in your presence.  Strike them with terror, LORD; show the nations they are only human.

Psalm 9

My God, you are great indeed!  You know what I need to hear.  You know the reminder that I need, that likely many of us need.  The last few months have been hard.  I feel persecuted against.  I feel like my faith is being challenged by the outside world.  I feel like we have lost our way as a nation and as a people of God.

The Lord is our stronghold.  No matter what the sins of the world around us.  No matter the sins within ourselves.  The Lord is our stronghold.

I am frustrated by much of what I see in the world and see in our country.  Frustrated by the hate and division.  Frustrated by what appears to be a lack of common sense.  Frustrated by the fear and the encouragement of fear by many.  Frustrated by the lack of faith.  Frustrated by the lack of acceptance of faith.  Frustrated by the attitude that everyone can make their own rules.  Frustrated by society’s attempts to push God out of our lives and the apparent willingness of many to accept this.

This line written thousands of years ago strikes a chord just as strongly today:

“The nations fall into the pit they dig; in the snare they hide, their own foot is caught.”

In a culture in which we love to cast blame, we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We have dug a pit.  We have hidden a snare.  We have made our bed.  Perhaps we need to be struck with terror.  Perhaps we need to see the bottom of the pit we have dug.  Perhaps we need to feel the snare crushing our foot, trapping us from what we think we want to do and where we want to go.

We need this so we will know where our help comes from.  Science has proven to be powerless.  The government has proven to be powerless.  Billionaires have proven to be powerless.

Only God has true power.  Only God can save us.  Instead of fighting over whether the government should do more or whether people should wear masks, we need to turn our attention to the Lord.  “For the needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.”  God alone can raise us from the gates of death.  God alone can ease our suffering.  And despite what we may argue are desperate times, He never forsakes those who seek Him.  Instead of calls for what politician we need or what political orders we need.  We need calls for prayer.  Calls for the country to seek God.  Calls for the country to know that our stronghold is and always will be in God alone.  We are one nation under God and when we return to that belief we will be stronger together again.

My God,

I do not have the words to praise you with all of the praise that you deserve.  You alone are righteous.  You alone are powerful.  You alone know the true meaning of love.  You alone are my savior and my stronghold.  I fall on my knees before you.  I have helped dig a pit.  I have helped set snares for others, and I have fallen as a result.  I have feared standing up for you in every way that I should.  But I seek you now.  With all my heart, I seek you.  I need you Lord.  My family needs you, my community needs you, my country needs you, this world needs you.  We have allowed ourselves to believe too much in ourselves and all of the marvels that we believe we create, and have forgotten that we are only human.  We are flawed and ultimately powerless.  Everything that we create is temporary.  Only you create the eternal.  Be gracious to us O Lord.  We do not deserve it.  But we pray for it.  We need you and you alone.  We seek you and you alone.  We hope for you and you alone.  Have mercy on us and our nation.  Help us all to seek you with our full hearts.

Vanity: This Psalm is About You

Whenever I hear the word “vain,” I think of Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain” about a self obsessed person.  I rarely think about its other meaning: useless.  I am surprised at how often vain or vanity appear in the Bible.  Last week, I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes where we are told all is vanity.  Today the Bible opened to Psalm 127:

Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.

Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.

It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil—all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2

I have built a house (or actually paid to have it built).  It was one of the worst experiences of my life and also one of the best.  It caused significant stress on me and my family.  There was financial stress, marital stress, weather stress and overall building stress.  I did not know what I was doing.  And I did not know what I wanted.  I did not have God involved.  The stress became too much and I reached a breaking point in my life.  And in the darkness of the breaking point, I found God, and my life was saved.  My life was renewed.  I openly welcomed God into my house.  To this day, the only thing hung on the walls of the first floor are two crosses.  The house itself is not perfect, but the home inside is much better.

This Psalm reminds me of  the struggles we had building our home.  Whatever we try to build, whatever we try to create is useless unless the Lord is involved.  It is also useless to try to guard or protect whatever we have unless the Lord is involved.  I cannot help but think of the multi-million dollar homes in L.A. that were destroyed by fire and mudslides or our cities that are riddled with violence.  Everything we have, everything we accomplish is a tribute to God.  When we forget that  — when we become self obsessed, when we become vain, then our labor is in vain, and everything is useless.

Lord, Thank you for pulling me out of the darkness.  Help me to recognize the vanity in human treasures.  Help me to keep from becoming self-obsessed.  I want my focus on you.  I want to be God-obsessed.  I know that only through you will I find happiness and rest.

 

 

God loves you

I was reminded of this today.  A fairly simple thought.  God loves you.  God loves me.  What else do we need?

A friend reminded me of this verse from Joel:

Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.

Joel 2:12-13

God loves us and is always asking us to return to Him.  He is always waiting for us.

Whenever my son did not know the answer to a religion test question, he would answer “because God loves us very much.”  We still laugh about it — but he was right every single time.  Why?  Because that is the answer . . . to everything.

Tonight, I opened the Bible to Psalms:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.

Psalms 22:2-3

Although the Psalm started off in what seemed like a cry of despair.  It actually foretold of God’s greatest act of love: sending His only son to die on the cross for us.  The Psalm goes on to state:

They have pierced my hands and my feet I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.

As Good Friday approaches, the similarities between the psalm and Jesus’ suffering are fresh in my mind.  In the gospels, Jesus tells us that he must fulfill what is written.  This never made sense to me, until I read the rest of this Psalm:

Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the assembly I will praise you: “You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel!  For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise.  May your hearts enjoy life forever!”

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him.  For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.  All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.  The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.

The Lord is great!  Although God may not answer every prayer in the way that we hope (we are often wrong in what we think we need or want), through His greatest act of love He has shown us without question that He does not turn away from us.  He hears us when we cry out.  He hears us, He loves us, He sacrificed for us, so that we would know.

All glory and praise to God! God, I wish I knew how to rightly pay you homage — but nothing seems adequate.  I find guidance in the Psalm: “And I will live for the Lord.”

Lord, may I show you homage through my life!  I love you.