God Has Set the Standard for Spiritual Instruction (He Created the Baton) – – Psalms 78:1-3
Being a Bible teacher, I have always loved Psalm 78. If I had to pick a favorite Psalm pertaining to ministry – well, without a doubt, nor a second of hesitation, I would choose this Psalm. It’s been the motivation in my teaching and mentoring ministry to children and women for over 40 years now. I love this Psalm!
In fact, I am of the opinion that every pastor, teacher, missionary and parent should spend some time with this inspirational Psalm. I call it “The Parent-Teacher Psalm” for within its every word, we read about an exciting challenge from God to pass on, to the next generation, the spiritual instruction that we, ourselves, have received. The challenge comes from within the pages of Israel’s history and straight from the very heart of God and His Word (The Scriptures or Bible). It’s a somewhat lengthy psalm. So, if you don’t mind, I would like to break it down into four different parts.
Let’s get started with Part One, shall we?
I love to watch relay racing at a sports track event. The relay course can be set for any variety of lengths. Usually four runners make up a team in a given relay race. A baton is passed between them to mark a change in the runners. There is usually set rules that each runner must follow in order to successfully pass the baton from one runner to the next. It must be passed without dropping the baton. The goal is to cross the finish line with the baton in hand.
Watching all that in action actually reminds me of the art of teaching. A skilled teacher takes what information or knowledge they have and they “pass the baton” – pass that information or knowledge on to their students. Dropping that baton simply means that lessons are not taught, nor learned, which, in the end, results in a tragic loss for the students.
A long time ago, God set the standard of how He wanted His information or knowledge, His instructions and His teachings passed on. He chose to use people as the conduit (the instrument) through which that knowledge is to be passed on. The “baton” holds all the things that we have learned from God that should be passed on to the next generation. And as we make our journey through life, we run the race, knowing that we are sharing God’s information, knowledge, instructions and teachings with those running the race with us. We have to pick up the baton from God, and run with it for a time, striving not to drop it, until we cross the finish line. That’s what I think about as I read this particular Psalm. Passing the baton. That image of runners racing to the finish line, passing the baton from one to another, is very vivid in my mind as I read Psalm 78.
Psalms 78:1-3 tells us about the standard of spiritual instruction as it was set out for us by God Himself. Here’s what it says:
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.”
We will learn God’s standard of spiritual instruction by hearing and listening. God says, “Hear my teaching.” and “Listen to my words.” Sounds simple, right? Perhaps not so simple, my friend.
Think about your communication with your spouse, with your kids, or with a coworker. Do they always hear and listen to what you say? My guess is probably not. You see, there is a big difference between hearing and listening. They may hear your words – hear what you are saying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they listened to what you said. While they were hearing you talk, they easily could have been thinking of something else altogether. Thus, they weren’t listening to you at all. They heard, but they didn’t listen.
Oh, how often I am guilty of doing that same thing with God. I hear His words. I read them from the pages of my Bible. I hear His voice at times responding to my prayers. But that doesn’t mean that I listened to what He was saying. Not hearing, not listening leads to not understanding and not obeying. I miss what God intended for me to know. Please, tell me that someone else out there does that same thing ?
In these verses, God tells us four things that He wants us to hear, or to listen to. I actually like the way He says it in the New King James Version of the Bible, “Incline your ears to the words of my mouth,” In other words, “listen up!”
Hear and listen to these four things: (1) “spoken parables” – to the stories that are being told to you, (2) “the hidden things of old” – I like to think of these as the family secrets, stories only your loved ones would know about, (3) “things others have heard and known” – truths that have been handed down from one generation to another, and (4) “what our fathers have told us” – Dads and Granddads have some pretty good stories to tell their children.
The Scriptures, God’s Word, or the Bible, are full of those four things. Through them all, God has clearly spoken. We are to hear and listen to those things from God (read them in His Word). Hear them read out loud, hear them told in our homes, in our churches; really hear them. Listen carefully to them, so that you will be able to remember and recount them at a later time. Listen to them over and over again. Hear the very heart of God coming out of the words. Listen to His instructions and learn from Him.
God’s standard of spiritual instruction is really quite simple: hear and listen to His words! He has created the baton for us – His Word! He has set the race before us – the race of life. The finish line is just ahead. But, where are the runners? Who will hear? Who will listen? Who will take an interest in the baton God created for His people?
Will it be YOU?
No one likes trials! Can I get a witness to that truth?
But, the reality is, trials come into each and every life. No one is exempt from the trials of life. Unforeseen circumstances that blindside you and threaten to bring you down. Unexpected emergencies that catch you off guard and rock your world. A loss of job and thus lost wages for your family. A medical bill that is too high and you wonder if you will ever be able to get it off your plate. An illness that threatens your very life or the life of a loved one. Drama from the kids, sensing something is wrong with mom and dad but can’t find the words to express themselves. Death hanging about your door, just waiting to snatch a loved one from your grasp. Oh, yes, trials come from every possible side of life. And they come to us all.
The Psalmist David was no stranger to trials. He had them too. Plenty of trials haunted him at times throughout his life. And no doubt, just like all of us, David would have found it difficult to sleep at night for all the trials that weighed so heavy upon his heart. In Psalm 4, David writes of one such time. Within this psalm, we find him crying out to his God:
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. . . But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”
Even though David was going through some sort of trial at the time of this writing, he KNEW with all his heart, that he belonged to God, and that God would hear his servant when he called out to Him. So, in the midst of his trials, in the quietness of the night, David called. With a bold confidence, he called out to his God, knowing that He would hear and answer him.
David doesn’t share the details of the present trial that he was going through. Although verse 2 gives us a little clue: shame, worthlessness, falsehoods and lies. Yes, David’s heart was in emotional conflict. David didn’t have to share all the juicy details. We don’t need to know them in order to learn something from how David dealt with his trial.
In verses 4 and 5, David shares with his readers, through the prompting of God no doubt, some very good advice. Four things to do in the midst of our trials. I want to consider those for a moment.
“Be angry and do not sin.” Some people will look at that phrase and think, “Oh good, this gives me permission to get really angry at the people or circumstances I am in. I can say what I want in anger, I can throw things in anger, I can do what I want because I am angry right now. I can seek revenge because I am really angry. It’s my right to be angry.” But this “anger” is not that kind of “anger”. Dr. David Jeremiah, in his The Jeremiah Study Bible (page 209) describes it this way: “‘Be angry’ can be translated, ‘come to your senses’ or ‘be stirred, tremble.’ Being in this state is not an excuse to surrender to emotions and sin. Anger and sin do not have to go hand in hand.” Well said Dr. Jeremiah!
Now, can we be angry at our circumstances, angry at what someone did to us? I think that is a normal human reaction. And we all get angry at times, in the midst of trials, at the circumstances that we are dealing with, or with someone who has hurt us deeply. But what is important is what we do with that anger. It is not a good thing when our emotions take over and our anger leads us to sin and more sin. Better yet, we should strive to “come to our senses” and take the anger we feel about our circumstances to the God who cares and who will listen. When we go to God with it, we remove the avenue to sin that threatens and tempts us. When we go to God with it, we open the door for God to work through our trials, our circumstances, and through our emotions.
“Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still.” Meditation brings calm, right? Or does it? I think it all depends upon what you are meditating upon. Personally, if I go to bed and lay there, thinking about, meditating upon all that happened that day, my trials, my reactions, my anger, my emotions, etc. well then, I am guaranteed to have a sleepless night. That kind of meditating keeps me awake. It fuels my anger. It keeps the fire of the trial burning within. That is not a good thing. And it certainly doesn’t help me to “be still.” No way!
BUT, when I call out to my God, as the Psalmist David did, then, I have instant access to Someone who not only hears me, but is able to take the stress of the trial from off my shoulders and allow me to rest. He will hear my cry, understand my emotions, and work towards the solution on my behalf. When I choose to meditate upon His Word, His Love, His Presence, His Comfort, then good things start to happen in the midst of my trials. His Word settles my soul. His Love relaxes my mind and body. His Presence fills the room with His everything. And His Comfort brings that sense of calm and a stillness that enables me to simply rest.
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.” What does that mean? Here’s what I know that it means to me: There is only one sacrifice I can offer up to my God. It’s not an easy one to offer during times of trial. But it is a necessary sacrifice for me to offer my God when I want Him to hear and help me through the difficulties I face. That sacrifice I can give to God is “the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). When my heart is broken, and my circumstances are laid bare before my God; when my anger over the circumstances is given to God; when my need for revenge is surrendered; when my thoughts are taken captive; when my fight turns to acceptance; and when “my will” becomes all about “His will” – then I know, I know my heart is truly broken. It is in that moment that I can offer to my God, my broken and contrite heart. I can offer to Him, my sacrifice of righteousness.
“And put your trust in the Lord.” Believe with your whole heart, soul, mind and being that God’s got you! Trust His working behind the scenes of your trial. Believe that He is working all things for your good. Let Him do the work necessary to bring about the perfect resolution. Trust Him! Trust – –
Take your hands off your circumstances,
Rest in the God who holds it all in His hands,
Understand that God’s work is always perfect,
Surrender your need to control things over to Him,
Thank Him for what He is about to do!
Trust! As the Psalmist David surrendered his will and his circumstances over to His God, he would rest better. It would be a peaceful rest. He could clearly see His God. And thus, with his focus now changed from off the circumstances onto His God, David could say:
“Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart. . . I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
I can almost hear God’s comforting voice say, “Rest well, my child! I’ve got this for you!!”
With the start of each new year, I come before my God and ask Him this question: What is our word and our Bible verse for this year?
Throughout that year, I am keenly aware of that word. I anticipate God speaking that word into my life in many different ways throughout the year. I am listening for it in sermons and bible studies, searching God’s Word to learn more about that word, memorizing Bible verses using that word, eagerly awaiting God’s lessons pertaining to that word. In year’s past, together God and I have learned more about hope, love, joy, peace, patience, endurance, purpose, strength, boldness. to name just a few. This yearly practice has been a good spiritual growth motivator for me. It keeps me more focused on God and what He wishes to teach me. I’ve seen a lot of growth in my own spiritual life because I engage in this yearly practice.
For the year 2020, God and I have chosen the word GRACE.
And our verse, uniquely enough, since I am already studying there, comes from the Book of Psalms. Chapter 84 and verse 11. It says:
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Let me unpack this precious Bible verse with you, as God shared its truths with me during our quiet time this morning.
GRACE – I’ve heard it said (and you might have already heard this too) that grace is so often referred to as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” And that is a great way to remember its meaning. Grace is a gift! It’s given to us at the time of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8). God reminded me that my spiritual journey began with His grace! I smile at that thought! It is so precious to me. Without God and His abundant gift of grace, I have nothing! I am nothing! But, my friend, I know, because of God’s grace, I am a child of God! Forever His!
God’s gift of grace is freely given. His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, freely gave His own life, through death on a cross, so that I could freely be given God’s grace. Christ paid the cost. Grace and my salvation, have cost me nothing. I did not have to do anything to earn it. It cost me nothing. I certainly don’t deserve God’s grace, being the sinner that I am. But, praise You dear God, You freely gave me Your gift of grace at the time of my salvation. And, You have been freely giving me more and more of Your grace ever since. What a gift!
GLORY – Our spiritual journey begins with grace. It is going to end in glory! My life goes from grace to glory! I sat and meditated upon that thought for the longest time. From grace to glory! That truth brings joy to my soul. That’s how the story of my life goes: it begins with grace and ends with glory! Not my own glory, but God’s glory! One day I will stand in glory (heaven) in the presence of the God I love dearly. I will enjoy His glory forever and ever. Oh, that will be glory for me!!
Truth of the matter is though, that our journey from grace to glory is a difficult one. God doesn’t promise us an easy life at all, but He does promise that He will be with us in that journey (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5). I’m so glad that I don’t have to walk that journey alone, not ever!
I also love what 1 Peter 5:10 says, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” No one likes to suffer. But the truth of the matter is this; our lives are filled with periods of suffering in one form or another. The perfecting, establishing, strengthening and settling work of God that comes to us, as a result of that suffering, is all done through God’s grace. Undeserved. Unearned. All freely given. God’s got us covered. God’s walking the journey of our life with us, taking care of each and every detail of the journey with His grace. Oh, what a gift!
As we walk this journey with Him, we need to remind ourselves of this truth from Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Another great promise to us. Let’s look at it in more detail.
SUN – It gives light in the dark places. It speaks of provision and sufficiency. As we walk with God, He lightens the pathway of life that He wants us to walk upon. He shows us, step by step, which way we are to walk. With all the ups and downs, twists and turns, bends and boulders that we may face on that pathway, we have to know and learn (and thus love) the fact that He walks with us, so we have no fear of the darkness that looms over us. His light (sun) provides us a valuable resource for the journey. Without that resource of light, we would be in total darkness and fear. In knowing that we have God’s light, and His provision, we also have His sufficiency for the journey. All that we need, He will provide. We walk in light as He is the light!
SHIELD – It speaks of protection and security. Along our journey, we will no doubt face hardships, difficulties, encounter evil, perhaps persecution and other unforeseen struggles. It is good to know that we have a God who is not only walking with us on that journey, but He is our protection and security. He will shield us from all forms of danger. He will be with us when we encounter them. He will forever be our shield!
NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD – As we journey through this life with God, from grace to glory, He will be sharing all good things with us. What are those good things? Whatever He deems them to be! Material things? Perhaps. Emotional things? No doubt. Spiritual things? Absolutely. Spiritual things like: helping us to understand His Word, teaching us to love, trust, obey, and serve Him, opening our eyes, our mind, our heart to learn and love Him more and more. All of these good things (and so many more!) come from our God. Along our journey of life with our God, He will no doubt shower us with His blessings, His promises, His presence, His everything! All good things will be given to us in His time, and in the way He wants to share them with us. And as we wait for those good things to be revealed, we are to walk boldly knowing that “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
WALK UPRIGHTLY – What does it mean to “walk uprightly?” It means to walk in the light, trusting in His provision and sufficiency. It means knowing that He is your shield, protecting you and keeping you secure at all times. It means loving Him, obeying His Word, and serving Him as He gives you opportunity. It means opening your heart to Him and letting Him be your guide through life. It means trusting Him with every aspect of your life. It means walking righteously in His presence.
Grace is a good word for this new year of 2020. Psalm 84:11 contains a very precious promise that I choose to carry with me through the year ahead. We start our true journey through this life of ours with God’s grace. We continue the journey by trusting God’s sufficient provision and protection, knowing we are secure in His presence. And then, in God’s perfect timing, we end our journey by entering into the glory of the Lord!
From grace to glory!
Lead the way, Lord God!
“. . .But my heart stands in awe of Your Word. I rejoice at Your Word, as one who finds great treasure.” Psalm 119:161-162 (NKJV)
I read these Bible verses this morning in my quiet time with God. The very words seemed to jump off the page of my Bible. My heart thumped as I read them, again and again out loud. A very precious remembrance came to my mind and a smile worked its way across my face. I’d like to share the story with you, my blog readers.
It was a cold winter’s day and it had been raining all throughout the night. Secretly I had been wishing for snow. It seemed like everyone else was getting a white Christmas, why not us? But, sadly, I live in a place where snow is not often seen on the ground of my front yard. It just doesn’t look right for a desert cactus to be dressed with snow caps and icicles. But a girl could dream, right? I looked out the window as the rain started once again. It was getting heavier and judging from the blackness of the clouds in the sky, it wasn’t set to let up anytime soon. “I have got to go. I have too much to get done on this rainy day.” So, I put my shoes on and bundled up in my coat and set out on my secret mission. I had shopping to do. Buying the perfect Christmas gifts was my goal. “I have got to go!”
Traffic was crazy, or was it just me. I seemed invisible as cars sped past me, going at a pace far greater than the speed limit. “Oh oh, there’s an accident over there. Whatever happened, God be with those involved. Guide the rescue workers helping the injured right now that they may do the right thing. Help the police officers bring calm and figure out all the details. And God, please protect me from other crazy drivers around me.” Oh, great! Here I am at another red light. Every single light, that I have encountered, turns red before I got to the intersection. Really? Don’t you know I am a woman on a mission. “I have got to go!”
In a space of time that seemed like forever, I pulled my car into a parking spot. I remember thinking to myself. “This place is super busy today. I wonder what’s going on here? Ah, probably just lots of Christmas shoppers like me.” Getting out of the car, I glanced down at the ground as I set my feet in place, getting them ready to walk. “What’s this?” Right there, at my feet, lay a five dollar bill. I bent over to pick it up and instantly my brain started to process all the things I could do with a brand new five dollar bill. Hmmm? “I have got to go!”
Just a few moments later, on my way into the store, I dropped that brand new five dollar bill into the donation bucket of the Salvation Army bell ringer. Someone else needed that money more than me at that moment of time, right before Christmas. “I have got to go!”
I stepped inside the door of a well known, very popular department store, ready to complete my goal. Oh, the sights and sounds of Christmas were everywhere. Beautiful decorations to behold. Christmas carols being sung. Shoppers seeking out their bargains. But wait – “What is all this?”
Within seconds, I realize that I am surrounded by police officers. What? A quick glance around and I realize, with a sigh of relief, they weren’t after me. Whew! But, it was very clear, they too were on a mission! So, I simply paused in the middle of a aisle to take in this unusual sight before me.
There were literally hundreds of police officers in this store, milling around, looking for what? Then I noticed, with each officer was a child. Some just little kids. Others were elementary aged children. I even saw a few teenagers in among the crowd. Then all the sudden I realized.
“Ah, I get what this is!” I said to myself. This was the annual “Shop with a Cop” event. I have often heard about this event, but this – – – this was the first time to actually experience it. “I have got to go!”
My hurried “gotta go mission” just took a slight detour and who knows where it might lead. But this particular detour was okay with me today, because this special event was well worth seeing. For the next two hours, I just roamed throughout the store, watching, listening, laughing, and enjoying what was taking place around me. Every year, our local police officers held this event. Their mission was to take a group of underprivileged children and go shopping for something special for Christmas. They were buying shoes, coats, clothes, toys and all kinds of goodies. More and more I was convincing myself that I just had to – had to check this all out in a little more detail. “I have got to go!”
Look, over there, in amongst the toys. It’s an officer, with a little girl. Ah, she is adorable. All dressed up pretty with ribbons and curls. She can’t be more than five or six years of age. He’s carrying her in his arms and they are rushing (“walking feet inside please!”) over to see the dolls. I cannot help myself, but I just have to rush behind them. He gently puts her feet down on the floor and lovingly says to her, “Now what doll did you want sweetheart?” I listened intently to the precious conversation between them as she educates the officer on the “bestest ever dolls.” I smile at her innocence and his patience. I asked God to bless them both. “I have got to go!”
Laughter caught my attention. Big, loud, belly jiggling laughter could be heard throughout the store. I head in that direction. Yep, there’s another officer (actually he could have part-timed as a Santa look alike). Well, this officer and his child, an elementary aged boy with curly hair and a bright red sweater, were sitting together on the floor in front of the TV screens. There was a children’s Christmas cartoon playing and they were laughing together as they watched. Their laughter was ever so contagious. It drew quite the crowd without them even knowing it. I’m not sure what the cartoon was, but my delight was in watching and laughing alongside the officer and child. Laughter is great medicine to the soul. I pray that child will always remember that special moment with a police officer. I pray that officer will always share his laughter with those around him. “I have got to go!”
“I want a Bible!” Okay, I heard that. But where? Where did that come from? I stood still, listening intently. And then I heard it again. “I want a Bible!” Okay, I think it was that direction. I headed to the east side of the store. Yes, there they were. Another police officer with a rather determined boy. “I don’t want that stuff officer, I want a Bible!”
A quick glance at his face and one could clearly see that he was about to lose his patience with this child. “Officer, I don’t want clothes, toys and stuff. I want a Bible so that I can read for myself the true Christmas story about baby Jesus. I want a Bible!” Ah, that poor officer.
“Listen kid, I don’t even know what a Bible is, and besides I don’t know that this store has one. Now I don’t know what to do.” My heart went out to him in that moment. Police officers are usually pretty quick to take action. But this officer was kind of stuck. His face said it all, as a small crowd gathered to see what would happen next. I couldn’t help myself. “I have got to go!”
I quickly worked my way through the small crowd of people, trying to get closer to the officer and child. I made eye contact with the officer and said to him, “Need a little help officer?” You should have seen his smile! I felt his sigh of relief. Bless him.
Immediately this boy tapped me on the shoulder and says, “Hey Miss, do you know what a Bible is? Does this store have one? Can you help me get a Bible for Christmas?” I turned to the boy, bent down so I could look him in the eye and said. “Yes, I know about Bibles. And yes, I can get you a Bible for Christmas.” There was an applause from the onlookers. Another sigh of relief came from the officer. And the boy, wrapped his arms around me in the biggest hug. “I have got to go!”
The three of us sat down on the floor. We had to come up with our plan of action. “So,” I said to the little boy and the police officer. “I know for fact that this store does not have Bibles.” Instantly, I watched as a frown began to plaster itself on the boy’s face. And I kept watching as that frown was quickly turning into a pout which meant we were heading for some form of melt down. Not on my watch!
“But, do not fear. I have a plan. I know just the right place to go and get your Bible.” Frown instantly turned upside down. That’s better. I continued to share my plan. “So I will go on a mission and get you your own Bible. This police officer here really wants to buy you some other Christmas presents as well. So, why don’t you go with him. Have some fun choosing something special. Laugh together. Share a story about yourself. Enjoy this time of shopping with a cop. I will meet you both back here at this very spot, in one hour, and I will have your Bible. How does that sound?” A quick glance at the officer told me that he greatly appreciated my help. The boy? Well, he was already on his feet, pulling the officer up off the floor, ready to get started on his new mission. “I have got to go!”
“Wait!” I called after the two of them. The officer kindly helped me up off the floor. “Can you tell me one more thing before we go our separate ways? I’m just curious little guy, why do you want a new Bible for Christmas?”
He drew in a deep breath and began to tell his story. “I don’t have a mom and daddy anymore. I live with my Grammy. She has been really sick and I try to be really quiet so she can rest. One night last week, she told me a story. She said it was the true Christmas story about a baby named Jesus. She said that if I ever wanted to read the whole story I should get myself a Bible. She cannot get me a Bible. So, I thought this police officer could get me a Bible. But he cannot do it either. Please miss, can you get me a Bible so I can read the Christmas story to my Grammy before she dies?” Tears are tripping me at this point. I glanced around the aisle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the small crowd that had gathered. “I have got to go!”
The crowd dispersed. I don’t know what all they did. I just knew what I had to do. As I walked to the car, I prayed for Grammy. I prayed for that police officer. I prayed for that little boy. I prayed that the store I was about to go to would have the exact things I sought after. I had just one hour to complete my mission. “I have got to go!”
Yes! There it is! And yes, they have that too. I began to pull my desired items from the shelf. And, oh yes, that would be perfect for the police officer! The sales clerk was ever so helpful. As we searched together for the prized items, I shared with her the story of the morning. She too was in tears. Oh, and even better, everything I wanted was part of a 50% off sale. I just knew that I would have paid any price for the Christmas items I wanted on that particular day. As I headed toward the cash register to check out, the clerk did the unthinkable. “And Ms. Claus,” she says to me. “I am giving you all this for FREE so you can bless those who need to know Jesus this Christmas!” Whhaaat? Are you sure? Yes, she was absolutely sure. More tears, hugs and prayers all around. “I have got to go!”
I made it through the heavy traffic, through the pouring rain, through the parking lot full of cars, back to my destination with just seconds to spare. I walked through the doors. Another police officer greeted me and said, “We’ve been waiting for you to return. Here, let me walk with you back to your destination spot!” Wow! “I have got to go!”
Wow! Oh, wow! What a crowd. Bigger than before. Oh boy, I’m not used to this kind of thing. But, I wasn’t there for the crowd. Waiting for me there was my favorite little boy and his new police officer friend. “Did you get it miss? That’s a really big bag. Please tell me that you got my Bible.” The three of us sat down once again on the floor in the middle of the toy aisle. I was drawn by the fact that this kid wasn’t at all interested in the toys around him. Nor did he care that he could have had his choice of anything there. He was only interested in the fact that he wanted his very own Bible.
I asked the little boy if he would like to sit on my lap. “I have a story I’d like to read to you.” His eyes danced with delight. He sat down on my lap, and then I reached into my bag. I pulled out a Christmas storybook. A hush fell over the crowd. I cleared my throat as the boy started to turn the pages. I began to read. With every turn of the page, I could hear the little boy, softly say, “Wow!” Even the crowd listened to the reading of the Christmas story.
As soon as the story ended, the little boy jumped up from my lap. “Please miss, can I have this book. I would like to read it to my Grammy tonight!”
I gave him the storybook. It was like a slab of pure gold as he held it in his little hands. I also gave him a brand new Bible of his own. He started to cry. He held that prized possession gently in his hands. He jumped up and down with sheer delight. The crowd cheered with him and shared their smiles of approval. After a few moments of rejoicing, he asked me to write my name in the front of his brand new Bible with the red pen that he took from the officer’s pocket. Earlier I had inserted a bookmark in Luke, chapter 2, where he would find God’s version of the Christmas story. I gave him a few Bible story coloring books and stickers and crayons. I gave him a teddy bear with a big red heart that simply said, “Jesus Loves You!” I wanted to make sure that that little boy got his Christmas wish. I wanted him to meet his new friend, Jesus. I wanted him to experience His love in all its fullness. I wanted to give him the opportunity to share the true Christmas story and God’s love with Grammy that very night!
“Wait!” I said with a start. “I have one more thing. And I’m gonna need your help with this one.” I said to the little boy. I led him over to where the shopping bag was laying on the floor. We both peeked inside. I whispered in his little ear, “Thought you might like to give this to the kind police officer who bought you all the rest of your Christmas presents.” He looked right at me. I will never forget that boy’s dynamite smile!
Very carefully, he reached into the bag, and pulled out the last item of my shopping mission. He clutched it his chest and lovingly carried it in his arms. Then he went to stand right in front of the police officer. Once more, the police officer knelt down before the little boy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as we all heard the little boy say, “Mister Police Officer, this Bible is for YOU! Now you can read the Christmas story about Jesus too!” And then, there was the hug that made God smile!
“I have got to go!”
I just love it when God, in His great wisdom and perfect timing, sends us out on a mission, that gives us a blessed opportunity to share with others the real Christmas story of JESUS!!
The battle of life is violently raging around me. It is relentless in its intentional pursuit. Day and night, the frightful and haunting sounds from the battlefield creep in to overwhelm my heart, mind and soul. It gives me no rest. Various enemies, clad with their weapons of warfare, seem to be coming at me from every imaginable angle. From without and within, and often with little warning, they seek to disable, discourage and even destroy.
Who are those enemies that are coming after me?
All too often, in the midst of this waging battle, it seems as though I am just waiting to hit that proverbial wall with an almighty, hard-hitting Splat!
I love what the Psalmist David says about his enemy pursuing him and the proverbial wall that he encountered. “For by You, O Lord, I can run against the troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.” (verse 29) Love the picture that comes to my mind when I read those words.
This Psalm was written on the day that David was delivered from his number one enemy, King Saul. The King relentlessly pursued David, with just one intention – to kill him. Saul’s jealousy was the driving force behind his evil intent to destroy David. And with an unrelenting jealous rage, Saul put everything else in his kingdom life on hold, just so he could go after David. That’s what the enemy does!
David describes his enemy: “. . . my strong enemy. . . those who hated me. For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity.” (Verses 17-18)
David’s enemy was very real. David had come face to face with his enemy and the battle between them pursued. David had to run for his very life. And he kept on running. He had to do everything possible to escape from the evil king who sought after him. David spent time hiding out in the caves, hoping not to be found by the King and his men. So many times, David faced that proverbial wall, hoping he wouldn’t go splat against it. David did what he knew he had to do, in order to keep himself safe.
What David found in the midst of his battle with King Saul, greatly encourages me in the midst of my own battles of life. Let’s read that last part of verse 18 – “But the Lord was my support.”
I love these words of David. I so often have echoed them from my own lips to the listening ears of God. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from the temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (verse 6)
Ah, how good it is to know that we are never alone in the midst of our battles. We all can cry out to God from the battlefield. He will hear us. David cried out to God in the midst of his distress. And David found that God was there with him, right there in the midst of the battle. God wasn’t sitting on the sidelines, cheering him on. God was present, on the battlefield. Right there, with David, making known to him the way that he should go. God gave David all the resources he needed to face the enemy troops. God never once allowed David to go splat against the wall that was put up in front, behind and all around him. Nope, God enabled David to leap over that wall. God strengthened David for the battle of his life.
Here’s what God did for David:
Wow! God did all that for David! Imagine what God can do for you. For me. On the battlefield. In the midst of our battles of life.
My reader, God promises to be with us. He will be present in the midst of our battles. He will be our support. He will give us strength. He will bring us to the place of victory. He will be our solid Rock!
How do we get that kind of help from God?
It starts with a cry. It starts with us acknowledging our need for God. We need His help. Cry out to Him. Call on His name. Invite Him to the battlefield. Let Him gird you with His strength. Take on His helmet of salvation, adorn the garments of praise in the midst of battle. Watch God fight for you, as He holds you tight with His mighty right hand. He will strike each and every enemy. He will be the One who destroys them all. He will bring victory over all the evil within and without. He will not cause your feet to slip, nor to stumble; rather, He will lift you up, to high places, where you will stand strong. You will stand undefeated. The Lord your God will support you!
It’s no wonder that in that moment after the battle was won, that David wanted nothing more than to stand in the presence of His God and sing his victory song aloud:
“I will love You, 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 shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies. . . The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” Psalm 18:1-3 and 46. (NKJV)
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! . . . Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:1-2 and 6 (NKJV)
The Psalmist David is one of my many favorite Bible characters. I love to study his life and times; learning all I can, and hopefully taking to heart some of the lessons that his life teaches. David was known as a “man after God’s own heart” and his relationship with God is something to admire and seek to imitate. While his life was far from perfect (that’s why I can relate to him!) and his relationship with God wasn’t perfect either (so glad that God doesn’t require that of us!), David set his heart on this one thing, and that to seek after His God with all of his heart. I love that. That’s the kind of life example that I desire to follow. There is something though that really impresses me about David. It stands out to me every time I read about David or hear a sermon about him. Throughout his lifetime, David had a heart that wasn’t afraid to burst forth in bold praise to his great God. David chose to praise God!
It didn’t matter whether David was tending his father’s sheep in the field, relaxing at home with his family, facing the giant that no one else wanted to fight, singing before King Saul, running for his life from someone who wanted to kill him, fighting the enemy on the battlefield, encouraging his soldiers as they returned tired from war, feasting at the fully loaded banqueting table, or pursing his kingly duties from the regal palace. One would often find David offering up his praise to God. David chose to praise God!
The Book of Psalms is full of David’s songs of praise to His mighty God. Psalm 150 is just one example; one reminder of a heart full of praise to a worthy and holy God. There are so many ways to praise God – quietly in our hearts, loudly with our voice lifted high, upon any instrument of choice, in a solitary place or in a crowd. We can praise God. There are many reasons to praise God – for who He is, for what He has done, for victories won, for good news received, for answers to prayer, for His creation round about us, for any reason at all. We can praise God. There are different places where we can burst forth in praise – in the sanctuary, in our homes, in our workplace, out in the middle of God’s creation, from a hospital bed, in a jail cell, from any place we go. We can praise God.
But, this is the part of David’s example of praise that gets me; David chose to praise God! Praise for David was an intentional choice! It didn’t matter where he was, he chose to praise God. It didn’t matter what he was doing, he chose to praise God. It didn’t matter who he was with, he chose to praise God. Good time, bad time, joyful or sad time, in time of peace or war, David chose to praise God.
I must choose to praise God too!
Praise comes easy when things are going great, right? Well, for me it does. Praise is good when God blesses me with abundant things. Praise is an outstanding way to thank God for His answers to prayer. Praise is great when I gather with fellow believers and together in one spirit we lift up our praise to God in worship of Him. But what about when things aren’t so good?
I must choose to praise God! In every situation of life, I choose whether to praise or not.
But, do you see what I’m saying? Praising God is our daily choice. It is a moment by moment, all throughout the day kind of choice. Praise should never be influenced by those around us, but it should be instrumentally instructed by the contents of our heart. Praise should never be dependent upon our current circumstances being good, or right, or even fair. Praise is not based on our feelings at the moment. We can feel perfectly lousy, and still choose to open our heart, lift up our voice and burst forth with praise to the God who loves and cares about us.
Praising God is a choice! It is our privilege! It is our way to acknowledge that our great God is present with us (never to leave us nor forsake us!) in the midst of our circumstances. Praising God is a means of giving thanks for all the great things God has done for us, has given to us, and has answered on our behalf. Praising God is boldly declaring His faithfulness, His greatness, His power, His majesty to the world around us. It is an honor to lift up our heart, our voice, our hands, our very being in praise and worship to a God whose heart we seek after.
“Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!”
I choose to praise God today!