Self talk is what we tell ourselves in our thoughts. Self talk is what we tell ourselves about the people in our lives, the experiences we have, the circumstances we are in, the decisions we have made. It is all the words that we say to ourselves all the time.
Sometimes self talk is good. When self talk is wholesome and positive, it can create good mood, heighten our self esteem, and bring about change. With good self talk, we can tell ourselves positive things about ourselves and about others that can strengthen our relationships. Positive self talk can motivate us into action, lead us towards helping others, help us in accomplishing our goals, and enable us to build a positive future. Self talk can be a very positive aspect of our lives.
On the other hand, negative self talk can be very destructive and harmful to us in so many ways. It can cause mood swings and slumps in attitude and outlook on life in general. Our self worth can plummet down into the pit of despair, making it difficult to cope with life and drag ourselves up out of the pit we created for ourselves. Our body will feel sluggish and out of sorts. Our will to accomplish even the smallest of tasks can feel flattened and lifeless. Even our actions can defeat us and turn against us, leading us onto destructive pathways.
All too often, I can find myself, if I’m not careful, falling into that trap of negative self talk. Whether I just keep those thoughts tucked tight inside my head, or I say them out loud, I am doing myself harm every time I circle that trap. Those “words” tug at me, trying to lure me into the trap of saying them over and over again, silently or out loud, to myself or to anyone else I wish to bring into my pity party.
I’m sure you are familiar with the “words” I am talking about. My guess is, that you, my blog reader, might have uttered these same words to yourself at some point of time. “I am so ugly.” “I am so stupid.” “Nobody loves me.” “Nobody wants me.” “I can’t do that.” “I’m such a failure.” Oh, and that mantra of negative self talk goes on and on and on! Sadly, once those words cross my thought pattern and flow out of my mouth, then I am trapped! Trapped in the cycle of believing my own self talk, believing the negative words that others utter about me. And, the more I repeat those words to self, the deeper I go into the pit of “poor me!”
For years, I have struggled with negative self talk, and trying to stay out of the pit that intentionally seeks to trap me in its never ending cycle of destruction. It hasn’t been easy. But I am finally learning that in the midst of that struggle, I need to hit my reset button. By that I mean, I need to reset my thinking. Change what I am saying to myself. Clean up my self talk.
That is where the amazing teaching from the Psalmist of God’s Word comes into play. God’s Word is my reset button. Reading it will change the thoughts and words that come from my mouth and my heart. I find great hope and encouragement in the words of Psalms 19:14. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
You see, when I am in the cycle of negative self talk, not only am I doing harm to myself, but also to those who are listening to me. The Lord my God, my Creator, is with me everywhere I go. He listens to every conversation I have. Whether those conversations are directed to Him, toward others, or in my own head and heart, my God is listening! He hears my self talk, whether it is positive or negative; He is listening!
So, whenever I say, “I am so stupid!” – my head and heart might want to believe that at the time I say it, and other people in my life might be telling me that I am stupid, but is it really true? NO! It’s not true! In all honesty, it’s insulting to the One who created me. Because He didn’t create me to be stupid, and He never sees me that way. So, why am I telling myself that?
And, whenever I say to self, “Nobody loves you, nobody ever could!” Well, that too, is just not true. The Lord my God, my Creator loves me more than anyone ever could. He loves me unconditionally! And He loves me forever, no matter what I do or how I feel or what I have accomplished in my life.
I am learning, whenever I’m circling that negative self talk trap, to say out loud to myself the words of Psalms 19:14. I want the words that come out of my mouth, to be words from my heart that I actually believe. I want the words that come out of my mouth to be pleasing to my God. And when I start saying the words of the precious psalm out loud to my God, then change happens. The negative becomes positive. The mood swings in the opposite direction, my motivation alters, my attitude improves, and my self esteem changes course. My self talk runs away from the pit.
I begin to say words that I actually believe. My self talk becomes words that are true and trustworthy and uplifting and positive. Words that remind me who I am to God. Words that honor the One who created me to be something different than negative. Words that lighten my heart, uplift my soul, and strengthen me as a person. I find myself saying, “You are loved, You are adored, You are redeemed, You are chosen, You are beautiful, You are worthy. Because in God’s eyes, I am all those things and so much more! Those are the words that are acceptable to the ears of the Lord my God! Those are the kind of words that make self talk a valuable thing, because those are the kind of words that changes me as a person.
So, with all that in mind, let me tell you a story – –
A few weeks ago, I went for a walk at a nearby park. I love to go there and walk laps whenever I have a lot on my mind, have decisions to make, have circumstances to sort through, or just need some fresh air when I’m upset about something. This park is one of my favorite places to practice my self talk, be it out loud or quietly in my heart as I walk.
On this particular day, I not only went to the park for some lap walking therapy, but I was also venting over some extremely negative talk that others had given to me. What was given to me were very hurtful words. Words that crushed my spirit, and made me doubt myself and my accomplishments. Words that stung to the very core of my being. Words that could never be taken back. Words that were set to do their destructive work in my thought processes. Words that made my steps heavy and cumbersome. Words that brought an unavoidable ache to my heart.
During the first couple of laps around the park, I rehearsed those words, over and over again, out loud, trying to determine if I wanted to believe them. Maybe the person who said them was right. Maybe I am that way. Maybe I am a total and utter failure, with nothing to offer anyone. Maybe I should just shut up and go away. Maybe… !
All of the sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks on that pathway. I just stood there for the longest time, unable to move forward. The words of Psalms 19:14 came washing over my heart and soul. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I began to say those words out loud, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable….” and I stopped. Wait! Wait just a moment. These words that I have been uttering are far from acceptable. They are hurting me! These words, that I am uttering are hurting me over and over every time I say them. They are hurting the very ears of my God as He listens to His child. I burst forth with a prayer to God, saying, “Oh Lord my God, I am circling that trap once again. I am seeking to believe what other people are telling me, when, what you want me to believe is that their words are not even true. Forgive me God for believing them, for rehearsing them over and over in my mind, for allowing that negative self talk to even roll off my tongue. Forgive me please my God!”
As I stood in the middle of the park’s pathway, I looked up to the heavens and I felt God’s presence. Right there, I experienced His forgiveness. I felt His loving arms, as I gained new strength. I knew in that moment, I could move forward.
With my next step, I became to recall to my mind, the words of the Lord my God that would honor and please Him. Words that would heal my wounded heart and soul. Words that would turn myself away from the pit, toward the Lord my God who is “my strength and my Redeemer.” Words that made God and my self smile once again. The words kept coming as I walked several more laps around the park. I was getting a great workout!
Well, unbeknownst to me, I was being watched this entire time. There, at the park, walking laps in the opposite direction, passing me often during my litany of self talk, was another lady about my same age. She stopped me. At first I was really embarrassed by what she had to say to me. “I’m sorry dear, but I just have to stop you and ask if you are alright?” Did she see my face turn red? Ugh, I was so embarrassed!
Before I could even answer, she continued. “I have passed you multiple times as we’ve walked this morning and I’ve listened to your self talk. At first you were pretty hard on yourself and I wondered what was wrong. Then I would pass you again and you were still going at it. I wondered if I should stop you and offer you some help, but I was afraid to interrupt you. Then I saw you stop. I passed by you then too and I realized that you seemed totally oblivious to anyone else around you. You were talking out loud and I couldn’t figure who you were talking to. Then the last two laps I have realized that you were talking to God. That’s when I began to pray for you, asking God to give you the help and peace that you needed. So, now I will ask, are you alright?”
Thankfully, this dear lady was willing to look past my red face of embarrassment, the tears streaming down my cheeks, the craziness of talking to myself out loud and she was able to see a person with a hurting heart. God bless her! I’m not sure how many laps we did that day, but she walked with me and I didn’t even know it. But, God bless her for caring!
It was then that we sat down on a park bench and began to talk to each other. I learned that she too does the self talk laps around the negative trap of destruction. Thank God I was not alone in that! I was able to share with her Psalm 19:14 and how I turned my negative thoughts and self talk towards words that God would accept. Words that would change my heart and thinking. Words that I could believe in.
She listened intently, shaking her head in agreement often. Then she looked at me and said, “But why, if you don’t mind my asking, why do you say those words out loud?”
I paused and thought for a moment, choosing my next words very carefully. I smiled at her and boldly said, “Because, sometimes my ears need to hear my mouth say what my heart truly believes.”
That, to me, is what self talk is all about!
Go on, say those words out loud to your self. Your ears need to hear your mouth say what your heart truly believes!
Go on, say those acceptable words out loud to the Lord your God. He is listening to you!
“Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” Psalms 10:1 (NKJV)
Is there any one else, besides me, that feels at times like God went out to lunch and left you standing all alone?
You know, that feeling like God isn’t really there. When you pray, and He seems silent. When you search for Him, but He seems to be hiding. When you go through difficulty, and He seems to have left you alone. When you are overwhelmed with life’s happenings, and He seems to have gone out to lunch.
Or, has He really gone out to lunch?
In your mind’s eye, think back to the last time when you felt that way. Let your mind go back to that moment when you were so overwhelmed by the powerfully traumatic event that life gave to you. I know, all too well, I know that it can be painful. And perhaps you really don’t want to go there. I totally get that, I do.
But, I would like to share with you, a powerful lesson that God taught me, at that very moment when I thought He had checked out on me in the midst of trouble and He seemed to go out to lunch. The lesson came to me as a simple reminder of a biblical truth I had known all my life. Yet this reminder, this lesson really changed my thinking during a recent event in my own life. As I share this, I pray it will help you too.
Think about the last overwhelming, difficult circumstances that was going on in your life. Think about that last time you wondered if God had left you. That time, when you thought He had abandoned you. That time, when you felt all alone, helpless and hopeless. Go ahead and identify your most recent upheaval, the blow you felt, the trauma you endured, the wound you are licking, the diagnosis received. Identify that “thing” that woke you up from that “everything is going smooth in life” dream you were having. Are you in that moment?
Did you call out to God at that time? “Where are you, God?” “Why have you left me here?” “How am I suppose to deal with this, God?” “Are you listening to me God?”
Did your heart sink, thinking that God had left you alone? Were you afraid of going at it by yourself? What if God walked away, and went to lunch?
In that moment, you must have felt all alone, powerless in fear and completely overwhelmed by the circumstances that life just dealt to you. Oh, I must honestly admit, I have felt that way too many times to count them. It truly is a horrible feeling!
BUT, let’s change our mindset for just a moment. This was my lesson learned. A much needed reminder in the form of a simple Bible truth. It was delivered with hopeful encouragement that blessed my heart.
Consider, for just a moment, that God was there in the fullness of that event that devastated your life!
The simple Bible truth is that God WAS there!
He is always there!
In the darkest moments of our life. In the upside down circumstances that frighten us. In the overwhelming events that leave us feeling alone and abandoned. In the times when we feel afraid, helpless and all hope seems to be gone. He was there!
He saw the very shape of your crisis. He felt the weight of it as it settled upon your life, as it crushed your very being. He could hear it as it began to break your heart. He sensed your fears, frustrations and feelings in that very moment. He was there!
He knew the exact size of the wrecking ball that hit your life with a thud. He felt it as you were knocked to the ground. He understood when your world fell apart. He knew in advance that things in your life might never be the same. He was there!
He knew your heart would be broken. He knew that the phone call would come during breakfast with your friends and interrupt the laughter. He knew that the car accident would happen that very afternoon. He knew just how your doctor would phrase his diagnosis that needed to be delivered to your listening ears. He was there!
He knew how your boss was going to explain your job away from you. He knew how your arms would tremble as you stood reading that note left by a loved one. He knew what horrid pictures you would discover on your computer screen. He knew who would be standing on the other side of the door when you opened it. He knew the numbing pain you felt as you stood at the graveside. He knew the pain of your circumstances that just rocked your world. He knew! He was there!
But, in that moment of your crisis, there is something else that He knew.
He knew that you needed for Him to draw near to you. He knew that you wanted Him to hold you tight and just let you cry. He knew to lovingly wipe away your tears. He knew you wanted Him to take away your fear. He knew that you needed His help and comfort. He knew to be gentle in the words He spoke to you. He knew in the midst of your pain, that He would whisper to you, “My child, I am right here with you!” He knew!
He knew that when He reminded you of His presence, when He began to give you His love, His strength, His peace and His hope, then you would collapse into His arms. He knew that He would offer you a safe place of refuge; a place to abide with Him during the course of the storm that raged in your life. He knew that He would carry you through the circumstances. He knew that He would set your feet, once again, upon solid ground. He knew!
He knew that it wasn’t lunchtime. In the midst of your darkest moment, He never left you. He was in those circumstances with you. He was waiting for the right moment to speak, to act, to perform that miracle, to provide that blessing, to bring encouragement. He waited for you to acknowledge His presence with you. He was there with you!
He knew that His child needed Him. He knew! God knew all about your life event. He knew all about His child.
He knew! Because, He was there! He was right there with YOU!
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, for the Hill Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me – a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalms 42:5-11 (NKJV)
I saw her in the hospital’s surgical waiting room. My eyes were drawn to the woman in the corner of the room, sitting alone, crying. I really wanted to go to her right then, but someone was waiting for me; someone who desired to sit with me while my husband was having surgery. This someone could only stay for a little while as work was calling for their attention. I appreciated the fact that someone loved me enough to come and sit with me so I wouldn’t have to sit alone. But still, my eyes were drawn to the woman in the corner of the room, sitting alone, crying.
The surgical waiting room was populated with plenty of comfortable chairs, sets of tables and chairs, many of which were occupied by a person waiting. Several televisions within the large space were vying for one’s attention. The noise from them was a little distracting, but then, perhaps those waiting really wanted that kind of distraction. A person could watch the news, or over there, on the other side of the room, was displayed a fitness and health program. One television had a children’s cartoon playing. Two children sat close by, quietly laughing together at what they were watching. I would have enjoyed watching the cartoon with them in an attempt to totally take my mind away from the present circumstances, if only for a few moments. Their laughter made me chuckle to myself. One man sat all alone, by the window, working diligently on a crossword puzzle. There was a family huddled together, sharing memories, laughing at pictures collected on their phones. Right in the middle of the room was a fairly large group of people, circled around two people who were standing in the middle. They were all holding hands and praying together. One young mother sat with her young boy, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years of age. She comforted her son in her arms, as he softly sobbed, asking, “Is Daddy going to be okay?” Another lady, sat reading a book, her face bearing a widening smile and then a audible chuckle; obviously responding to what she was reading. I turned around to see an older couple come into the room. The wife, fussing over her husband, telling him where to sit and that “it will be just a few moments before they call you back.” I loved the compassionate look of love that the husband gave to his wife, as he patted her hand. He gently reassured her, “You are going to be just fine as you wait. I will be in the good hands of my surgery team. We will be back together soon.” I smiled at the preciousness of that relationship. I watched as a volunteer worker came to get a young man, whose girlfriend had surgery and was coming out of the recovery area. “You can come with me sir, I will take you back to your party and together you can prepare to take her home.” All of the sudden I realized that my “party” was waiting for me. I went over to where they were sitting, hugs were exchanged. I then sat down and we started talking. But still, my eyes were drawn to the woman in the corner of the room, sitting alone, crying.
It didn’t seem like that long before a volunteer came for me. “The doctor will meet with you now and tell you how your husband’s surgery went. Would you like to follow me?” She led me to a little room, where after a few moments the doctor came to tell me the details of the surgery and to give me the assurance, “Everything went well.” Hubby was moved to recovery and I would have some more time to wait. My “party” excused themselves saying that they had to get to work. We hugged and I thanked them for the time they had spent with me, waiting together. I walked back into the main waiting area, and once again, my eyes were drawn to the woman in the corner of the room, still sitting alone, and still crying.
This time I walked right over to her, sat down in the chair beside her and placed my hand upon her shoulder. “I’m sorry to bother you, but…” I gently said to her. Without any hesitation, she welcomed me. “Oh, you are not bothering me,” she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. I handed her another tissue and said, “I have been watching you for some time, but couldn’t come over to you until now. Do you mind if I ask – – Are you alright?”
With tear stained eyes, she looked me in the face. I couldn’t help but notice just how tired this dear lady appeared. She cleared her throat and introduced herself. I then told her my name and a little something funny about me and hospital waiting rooms. We both laughed. Instantly I felt like we had known each other forever. The conversation that pursued was precious, as two people came together in the beginnings of a new friendship. We were comrades in waiting. Both of us were waiting for our husbands to have their surgeries, spend their time in recovery and hopefully not have to wait a long time before they were sent to their rooms for the night of observation and care.
In the course of our conversation, my new friend asked me a series of questions. Prior to asking her questions, she had shared that her husband had been ill for a long time, had many surgeries and this one, well, it was “the last hope” of any help for him. My heart just ached for this dear lady as I listened to her story. No wonder she was crying. It just broke my heart that she had to sit there all alone. I wrapped my arms about her. We cried together.
After a few moments, through the tears, the questions began.
I held her in my arms, her body shaking with her sobs. As I tried to comfort this dear woman, sitting alone in the corner of the room, I began to pray. Out loud, I prayed for my new friend.
“What are you doing?” she said as our tear-stained faces met. “I’m praying to the God of all hope! I’m asking the God that I know, the God who has given me hope in many dreadful circumstances, to meet you right here in this surgical waiting room. I’m asking God to wrap His loving arms around us both and give us comfort, peace and hope for the situations we both find ourselves in. I’m asking God to be your light at the end of the tunnel, to be the One who wipes away all your tears, to be your source of hope.”
She sat silently, looking right at me, but not responding. Perhaps she was pondering over what I had said. I was hoping that I hadn’t offended her. Finally, she calmly and gently said, “No one has ever prayed for me like that before. Thank you! Is your God really the source of hope? Can you keep on praying for me?”
I started praying again, out loud, to the God I know so well, who was listening at that very moment to my heartfelt prayer. God was present in the corner of that surgical waiting room, and He brought comfort and peace to this dear lady. For the next hour, we prayed. We cried. We talked about God, about His great love, about His Son, Jesus Christ, and about hope. Together, we talked to God. There was an indescribable preciousness to that conversation. One I will never forget.
Truth of the matter is this, my dear blog reader. Every one of us are faced with difficult times when we wonder what happened to hope. We might face seasons of disappointment, bouts of depression, periods of despair, cycles of doubts and questions. These can come as a result of health issues, job loss, financial stresses, family difficulties, relationship battles, or any other major experience that life likes to throw at us.
We have all been, or will be at some point of life, in the place where we search for hope. We will be in the place where we wonder what we did wrong, or where we question the circumstances, or where we feel like the tunnel just got very dark. We find ourselves asking, “Where is God now?” or “What happened to hope?”
The Psalmist faced a time like that. In Psalms 42:6, we have recorded for us the Psalmist’s cry to God, as he searched for hope. He writes, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me.” I can assure you that God heard that cry! We aren’t told what the circumstances were; we don’t really need to know. Yet, we can relate, can we not? I know I can. I’ve been there. Many times. I’ve been in the midst of circumstances when all I could do is cry. I’ve been in the midst of troubled times when I simply didn’t know what to do next. I’ve been in the pit of despair and depression when I was certain that pit would swallow me whole. I’ve been in the tunnel when it suddenly went dark. Very dark. No glimmer of light was to be seen. There was no hope of it ever shining again. Hopelessness became my shroud. I understand what that feels like.
And yet. . .
I craved for hope! I needed hope! I had to find hope!
It is within that very moment – that moment of searching for hope – that we can turn to the God of all hope. The Psalmist said it well, in three simple words, “Hope in God!” God is the source of our hope.
You see, God meets us in the darkness of our circumstances. He knows when we feel all alone. He sees our tears. He hears our cries of anguish. He comforts us with His peace. He is the light at the end of our tunnel. He is our source of HOPE!
So, how do we tap into this source of HOPE? How can we bring HOPE into our difficult circumstances that life throws at us? I would like to suggest four things that will lead us closer to the source of HOPE:
Hang on to what you already know about God and believe that He is with you. You don’t have to know everything about God, to know that He wants to bring you hope in the midst of your difficult circumstances. God is simply waiting for you to call out to Him. He will be right there with you. In fact His promise to you is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). Even if you don’t acknowledge His presence, He is there. Even if you can’t talk to Him or don’t know what to say, He is there. Even if you’ve never talked to Him before, He is there. He is there for YOU! He is your source of Hope!
Open your heart to the fact that God wants to use your present circumstances (no matter how bad you think they are) for your good and for His glory. Yes, it is true, our bad circumstances in life can actually be used for good in our life. It is through the bad, difficult, or hard times of life that we turn toward God. And that is a really good thing for us to do. It is at these times, that we can learn a lot of good lessons, like character development, dependence upon God, patience, self-control, understanding of others, forgiveness and the list goes on. We learn valuable lessons during our difficult circumstances that we could never learn any other way. We can carry these lessons with us throughout the rest of our lives, using them to help us the next time we are facing difficult circumstances. We can even use the lessons that we learn to help and encourage others who are going through the same kind of difficulty. God receives glory through our circumstances when we have a heart that seeks after Him. God receives the glory when we allow Him to do His perfect work in our heart during that time. As we open our hearts to God, during our difficult circumstances, He shows us more of who He is and what He can do. Through our open heart, God is glorified!
Pour your heart out to God often in prayer. Learn to talk to God during your difficult times. Talk with Him often. He will always be listening. While He already knows all about your needs and your circumstances, He still takes great delight in hearing from you. Every time you begin to pour your heart out to God, in blatant honesty, we open the door for God to do His perfect work in our life, in our heart, and in our circumstances. Every time you begin to pour your heart out to God, you will be reminded of His presence with you. He is there in the peace that comes to your heart. He is there in the people who come alongside you to offer assistance and help. He is there in the provisions that come your way to meet your needs. He is there in every comforting hug, in every word of encouragement, and in every prayer that is offered up on your behalf. Every time you begin to pour your heart out to God in prayer, He is there for YOU. Allow Him to embrace you with His great love. Receive His love with open arms and a welcoming heart. Embrace the light that He brings to your darkness. Hang on to the HOPE He offers you.
Expect an answer to your prayer, to your cry, to your heartache, to your search for hope. God will answer! Perhaps not always in the way, or in the manner that you might expect. But He will answer. In His perfect timing. In His perfect ways. And in His perfect means. His answer to you will be perfect, because the God who is answering is perfect. He’s a Sovereign God and He knows what He is doing on your behalf. During your difficult circumstances, you can trust Him. He knows what He is doing in and through your circumstances. And while you wait for His answer, hang on to the HOPE that He is offering you.
I saw her in the hospital’s surgical waiting room. My eyes were drawn to the woman in the corner of the room, sitting alone, crying. The God of all HOPE met her in that corner. He wiped away her tears!
Book Recommendation – –
I just finished reading an excellent book about hope that I recommend to anyone who is searching for hope in the midst of life’s difficult circumstances. It will give you lots of “food for thought” and inspire you to seek after hope until you find it.
The book is: Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light. Written by Nika Maples. Published by Worthy Inspired.
Shepherding the Next Generation (Pass On the Baton) – Psalms 78:65-72
In a quick review – – We have learned that God set the standard (He created the baton) for spiritual instruction to be pass down from one generation to the next. The standard is His Word. Through hearing and listening to that Word, we will know more about Him, His teachings and His instructions for all of mankind. God’s desire is that those of us who know Him, “pick up the baton” and willingly share it with our children, their children and the generations to come. We also learned that God gave a stern warning that there are consequences if we “drop the baton” and fail to tell the next generations of our God. Simply put by God – We will have “a stubborn and rebellious generation. A generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8)
As we come now to this last portion of Psalm 78, in verses 65-72, we see that God intervenes on behalf of this “stubborn and rebellious generation” and brings about a plan of hope.
Verses 65-67 says, “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a mighty man who shouts because of wine. And He beat back His enemies; He put them to a perpetual reproach. Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.”
God chose NOT to use this stubborn and rebellious generation. His blessing was not upon them. The tribe of Ephraim and its children were so against the Lord God that He chose to not use them at all in accomplishing His plans and purposes for Israel. God totally rejected them because of their ungodliness! He had to reject them. Their stubbornness, rebellion, ungodliness and hardheartedness went completely against the ways of God. He wanted nothing to do with them. To be totally rejected by a Holy God is a terrible thing.
God chose to use a different tribe. Verses 68-69 tells us, “But He chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which He loved. And He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has established forever.”
Judah was not a perfect people either. Not by any means. They disobeyed and dishonored God at the best of times. But, they were willing to repent and return to God though, where the tribe of Ephraim never did. The difference with Judah was this; they had a heart after God! They had a heart’s desire to love, obey and follow after the things of God. And that is what God saw in them. God saw their heart! Judah loved God!
Out of that tribe of Judah, God chose one man to “pass the baton.” Verses 70-71 says, “He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young. He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.”
David was the man of God’s choosing. God took him from the sheep pens, from tending his father’s sheep and brought him to the place where he would shepherd God’s people. Out of all of Israel, God picked this man of His choosing to do the most incredible task of shepherding His chosen people. What an honor for David. What a blessing for the people of Israel.
The word “shepherd” in this passage is the word meaning “a teacher or a guide.” David became Israel’s teacher, or their guide. God passed the baton on to David. David joyfully received the baton, and thus received the challenge of a lifetime. “Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (verse 4). David passed on to the children of Israel the things that he had learned about God, about His teachings and about His instructions. He was careful not to “drop the baton” at any time. He was faithful to the task God had given him to do.
Verse 72 tells us what kind of a teacher, a guide he was. “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” With integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands, David “passed the baton” on to the next generation of God’s people.
Could YOU be a David within your own generation? Do you know and love the Lord God? Could you take what He has taught you and “pass the baton” to your children, their children and the generations to come?
I just think we need more people like David to join the relay race of life. Time is getting short. The finish line is in plain sight. We need more people to accept the “baton” from God and run with it. We need more people who will not “drop the baton” and fail to teach our children about God. We need people who will make sure our next generation is not a stubborn and rebellious generation, but one that has a heart turned toward God. We need people who will shepherd our next generation with “integrity of heart and a skillfulness of hands.”
Is that YOU?
God’s holding out the baton. Will you accept it and run?
Consequences of NOT Teaching Our Children (Don’t Drop the Baton) – Psalms 78:8-64
God desires that each and every generation of people be told about Him. His information, His knowledge, His teachings and His instructions should be passed on from one generation to the next. That was God’s plan for mankind. When God created us, He created within us a desire to know Him and thus our journey towards a relationship with our Creator God begins. Sadly, over the years and throughout many generations, interest in God has waned. Families don’t attend church as much as in days gone by. Individuals have given up on the search for knowing God. Talking about God, reading His Word, and even praying to Him is now forbidden in many public places. The quest to know God, to learn more about Him and to have a relationship with Him is no longer a strong heartbeat among the various generations. How this must break the heart of our God!
I meet people all the time, to whom God or His Son, Jesus, is nothing more than a swear word. There is no interest within some people to even know God. And if the senior members of a family do not know God, then they certainly won’t be “passing the baton” of God’s knowledge, God’s teachings and God’s instructions on to their children and grand children. That has to break the heart of God!
God, in His Word, warns that there are some rather serious consequences whenever we withhold teaching our children, their children, and the generations to come, the things of God. Psalms 78:8-64 spells out those consequences in detail. This happens to be a rather lengthy portion of Scripture to write out in this blog posting. But I do greatly encourage those who read this blog, to take the time and read it in the Bible for yourself. In this post, I will share the highlights though.
Verse 8 is the summary of all those consequences. It says, “And may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation. A generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Simply put – if we do not “pass the baton” of God’s spiritual instruction on to our children and their children, then we will end up with a “stubborn and rebellious generation.” We will have a generation whose hearts are not one bit loyal to God, for they have no desire to know Him. We will have a generation whose spirits are not faithful to Him. Hmm, does that describe our generations of today?
But God doesn’t stop there. In verses 9-64, God paints the most vivid picture of what a “stubborn and rebellious generation” looks like. I must forewarn you; this is not a pretty picture! God, through the writings of the Psalmist, tells us about the children of Ephriam (one of the twelve tribes of Israel). Let me share with you some of the highlights of that generation:
Does this, my friend, sound like our generations of today? Does this break your heart? It breaks the heart of our God!
But, here’s a tougher question that I wish we would all consider. Do we want that to ever be said of our children, and their children, and the generations to come?
The good news is this: It never has to be said of our children, IF we are willing to “pick up the baton” with a determination that we will be the ones to tell the next generations about the Lord our God. It never has to be said of our children, IF we “don’t drop the baton” we are now holding in our own hands. If we know God, know His teachings, know His instructions, we hold within our hands, (and hopefully within our hearts!) the obligation to tell our children, and their children and the generations to come. God wants us to “pass the baton” of spiritual instruction on, so that we do not have a “stubborn and rebellious generation. A generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
God wants something better! Do we want that too?
Why God Wants Us to Teach the Next Generation (Pick Up the Baton) – Psalms 78:4-7.
“We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony to Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
In Part One, we learned that it was God, Himself, who set the standard (created the baton) for spiritual instruction. We learn what that standard is through hearing and listening to His Words. Through His words, we receive His teachings and instructions throughout this race of life. It is those very words that God desires us to pass on to the next generation.
I believe that there are three things that God wants us to do first, before we “pick up the Baton” and run with it. If we do these three things, then we will have a successful experience of passing on the spiritual instruction that we have been given:
Are you inspired yet to “pick up the baton” of spiritual instruction?
Perhaps, this will help encourage you a little more.
Why should we do this? Why should I “pick up the baton”? Why should I teach my kids and grand kids? Why should I be interested in passing on God’s Word to the next generation? Why??
Verses 6 and 7 gives us five reasons:
We can’t really argue with those five things, can we? Hey, I didn’t say it. God did! I read that list of five things – five wonderful reasons why I should be actively involved in “picking up the baton” and passing it on. They are great reasons for why I should be sharing God’s words, His teachings, His instructions, His commands with the next generation.
Forty plus years ago, when I first began my Christian teaching career, I purposed in my heart, I would “pick up the baton” and run! I determined I would tell the next generation! I know I am commanded by God to do that! But more than that, I WANT TO!
I am in this race for the rest of my life. Are there any other runners with me? Have I inspired others to join me? Anyone else willing to “pick up the baton” and run with me?
The next generation is waiting to hear, wanting to listen!
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!