Archive

Archive for November, 2008

Restore My Soul

November 30th, 2008

November 30, 2008, Chicago, Illinois

 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
       he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.
       He guides me in paths of righteousness
       for his name’s sake.

 

Question: Am I allowing God to restore my soul?

 

Psalm 23 is a precious passage for Christians. It affirms the watchcare of God over his children and reveals his purpose for us.

 

David was a shepherd before he was a warrior or a ruler, and he knew what it meant to tend to sheep. The imagery of God as a shepherd was already used in the Scripture before David, but he developed the thoughts further, as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

The name used for God is Yahweh, the covenant name given to Moses in the burning bush experience, sometimes translated in some English Bibles as Jehovah, normally translated with all capital letters in English, LORD. For the Old Testament Israelite community, it instructed them of the faithful and gracious way God would provide for Israel and for the individual Israelite believer. In the New Testament context it teaches us about Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10) who redeems and cares for his own. This covenantal God, who has called us to enter into relationship with him also promises to do more for us that just save our souls after death.

 

But the thrust of the psalm is spiritual in nature, for that is where real life is lived. After making the introductory statement of God’s watchcare, in these opening verses he mentioned five ways the believer experiences the goodness of God. First, he feeds us lavishly with abundant spiritual food, referring to the Word of God. Second, he refreshes us with the fellowship of his Spirit. Third, he rebuilds, restores, redeems our very souls from the damages caused by sin. “Soul” here means not just the life beyond the grave, but our very selves, our mind, emotion, and will. Fourth, he guides us in his righteous paths. Fifth, he uses us for his name’s sake, that is for something more profound that we could ever imagine or achieve on our own.

 

The heart of these verses is the phrase, “He restores my soul,” for this is the center of God’s work in our lives, to redeem and restore us. How can I be restored within? By letting God do his work through his word and Spirit.

 

My Shepherd will supply my need,

Jehovah is his name;

In pastures green he makes me feed,

Beside the living stream.

He brings my wand’ring spirit back

When I forsake his ways;

And leads me for his mercy’s sake

In paths of truth and grace.

 

When I walk through the shades of death,

Thy presence is my stay;

A word of thy supporting breath

Drives all my fears away.

Thy hand in sight of all my foes

Doth still my table spread;

My cup with blessings overflows,

Thine oil anoints my head.

 

The sure provisions of my God

Attend me all my days.

O may thy house be mine abode,

And all my word be praise!

There would I find a settled rest,

While others go and come,

No more a stranger or a guest

But like a child at home.

 

Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

 

Lord, we have each been scared by the world and by our own sinful choices. Yet you are a redeemer and with you there is forgiveness and hope. We pray for your Spirit’s work in our hearts this day, restore our souls by your Word and b y your Spirit. Give us rest and strength and then grant us the grace to follow you as you lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.  Amen.

Evening Devotionals

Choosing Not to Be Afraid

November 29th, 2008

November 29, 2008, Chicago, Illinois

 

Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me;
       all day long they press their attack.

 My slanderers pursue me all day long;
       many are attacking me in their pride.

 When I am afraid,
       I will trust in you.

 In God, whose word I praise,
       in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
       What can mortal man do to me?

 All day long they twist my words;
       they are always plotting to harm me.

 They conspire, they lurk,
       they watch my steps,
       eager to take my life.

 On no account let them escape;
       in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.

Record my lament;
       list my tears on your scroll —
       are they not in your record?

Then my enemies will turn back
       when I call for help.
       By this I will know that God is for me.

 In God, whose word I praise,
       in the LORD, whose word I praise-

 in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
       What can man do to me?

 I am under vows to you, O God;
       I will present my thank offerings to you.

 For you have delivered me from death
       and my feet from stumbling,
       that I may walk before God
       in the light of life.

 

Question: Am I learning to trust in God in fearful times?

 

Two basic instincts from our fallen nature drive each person: fear and anger. By the grace of God we can live above both. By considering all that God is and placing his faithful love and majestic greatness alongside of every problem of life, we can have the confidence to know that nothing can separate us from his love. No problem is too great for God, and as his children we can expect his protection.

 

The person who tends toward fear is normally the introvertish, who prefers to organize or design, to work behind the scenes. Fear drives them normally to delay decisions for concern that they will make the wrong decision. In moments of pain they tend to lick their wounds and retreat to the safety of less threatening thoughts or environs. They can become very bitter and even vengeful.

 

The person who tends toward anger is normally the extrovertish, who prefers to tackle tasks or connect with people, to work on the front line of situations. Anger may drive them toward impetuousness and they can be very impatient. In moments of pain they tend to strike back and often they are motivated to change for change’s sake alone.

 

But even the angry person is, if we pull back the layers of his heart, driven by fear. It is often the fear of fear that makes him angry.

 

David knew both of these emotions and found that by seeking God he was delivered from their terrors. He knew that the real solution to any problem involved not just the change of unpleasant outward circumstances but also inward thoughts. He could often think his way though crises if his heart was at peace, and only God could grant the level of peace he sought.

 

Fear destroys our peace, distorts our perspective, robs us of hope, and damages our relationships with others. Fear makes us trust no man and suspect all people all of the time. Fear wears out our resources to handle problems, brings emotional fatigue upon us, and then often leads us seek refuge in the very camp of the enemy himself.

 

To not be afraid is a choice, the choice of faith in God. David wrote, “When I am afraid I will trust in You.” Faith leads us not just to the exercise of prayer, but also to a deeper relationship with God. We find we can bring to him our deepest concerns, not just the surface problems but the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. Being in the presence of a “great person,” will often have an affect on us, as these achievers and thinkers among us can awe us with their charisma, but with God this is infinitely more true. In fellowship with God not only are we exposed to true greatness but also immeasurable love. He might act outwardly to remove the problem. I have seen him rescue the godly from many problems, and have often experienced it myself. Or, he may choose to give us the inward peace and confidence we need to think our way out of a situation. Either way the victory is his and we give him all praise.

 

Faith in God is the first step of resolving any crisis.

 

Lord, we praise you for your unfathomable greatness and wonderful majesty. We thank you because you concern yourself with us and our problems. What disturbs us is a concern to you. Give us peace in our hearts this day, and give us victory over the problems and the threats that would rob us of peace. Remove the physical and material burdens, we know you are able, and renew our faith and perspective of life. Deepen our relationship with you, and if this would bring you more glory, let us with renewed minds and fresh perspectives see a way out of our dilemmas. Amen.

 

Evening Devotionals