As The Deer Pants For The Water – Psalm 42:1-2

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV)

I have long loved the worship song “As the Deer” that was written with the verses of Psalm 42: 1 as their text.

“As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.

Chorus:

You alone are my strength and shield; To you alone may my spirit yield.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.

You’re my friend and you are my brother, even though you are a king.

I love you more than any other, so much more than anything. “

Chorus.


The writer of these infamous words, Marty Nystrom, relates the following account of the birth of this popular worship song:

In 1984 I was a school teacher in Seattle, and since I had the summer off I decided to go back to Bible College, but only for the summer term. I headed for Dallas, Texas and Christ For the Nations Institute. Little did I know what was about to happen to me, especially with all that I would be exposed to and the worship emphasis of the school. I had a roommate at CFNI who was a very vibrant Christian. He challenged me to go on a fast – a period of time when a person refrains from eating solid food in order to give time to the reading of the Bible and to prayer.

I took up the challenge, and on the 19th day of the fast I found myself sitting at a piano trying to write a song. I was simply playing chord progressions when I noticed a Bible on the music stand of the piano. It was open to Psalm 42. My eyes fell on the first verse of that chapter. After reading the verse I began to sing its message, right off the page. I wrote the first verse and the chorus of a song, pretty much straight through. The whole of the adventure was completed in a matter of minutes. I then repeated the song I had just written. I wanted to seal it in my mind.”

I had no intention of showing the song to anyone. It was to be for my own devotional time with the Lord. However, before leaving the school to go back to Seattle, I did share it with one person, Dave Butterbaugh. He introduced it to the students of the school and it became a favorite.”

The words and the melody that Marty composed resonated with so many people. Since the introduction of the song, it has been translated into several languages and is sung in churches worldwide. It has become one of my personal favorites among worship songs. I find myself singing it often.

And when I sing it – I picture this in my mind:

A thirsty deer in search of some water. A deer that longs for a drink of cool, refreshing water. Recently I had a conversation with a “hunter” friend of mine who told me some things about deer that I didn’t know. Not being a hunter myself (sorry, no interest there!) I did find what he told me very interesting. He said that deer are very fussy about where they drink. A deer will never stop and drink water from any source unless it feels perfectly safe at that water hole. The environment around that deer needs to be a quiet and calm place. It needs to be free from any foreign scents that would disturb the deer. There should be no sounds of a predator and not any sounds and scents of eminent danger to that deer causing it to run far away. Only when the deer feels perfectly safe, will that deer drop its head toward the water source and have a drink. It’s the peace and silence, the welcome of refreshment, that draws the deer near to the water. I never knew that about deer, but it makes perfect sense to me and makes me respect this beautiful animal even more.

I also think about how this relates to our approaching our God. For me, just like the deer, it is the peaceful, quiet calm of God’s person and presence that draws me close to Him. Happily I can draw near to Him anytime I want to. I can draw even closer to Him when I am free of distractions from the world around me or free from the predator (Satan) who seeks to devour me. I can choose to “draw near” and drink from His source of refreshing water as often as my heart desires.

Yet, these first two verses of Psalm 42 leave me with a question to ponder: Does my soul really “panteth” for You, O God? Does my soul thirst for the Lord as it should?

The Psalmist David, stated his thoughts with a bold confidence that I wish I had. He says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” His desire is really clear. The Psalmist thirsted after God just as the deer pants after the cool refreshing water.

Yes, I believe in God. Yes, I daily read God’s Word and spend time in prayer. Yes, I attend church and serve God in many different ways. But, do I really thirst after God?

Do I seek after those “environments” where I can find true peace and quiet to meet with my God? Do I make sure that there will be no interruptions, distractions, and predators that could snatch away my attention from my God? Once I have gotten to the source of water, do I take a quick lap or do I linger long, drinking in God’s pure refreshment? All questions worth pondering!

Meanwhile, my heart shall enjoy singing once more Marty Nystrom’s infamous worship song – – “As the deer panteth for the water….”

Are YOU singing along with me??

It’s Not Fair! ~ Psalms 57:1-11

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You: And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. . .” (verse 1 – NKJV)

Have you ever uttered those words? “It’s Not Fair!”

It’s not fair that. . .

. . . I didn’t get that promotion that I worked so hard for!

. . . I’m stuck at home with four screaming kids all day!

. . . my family has so many problems and others don’t seem to have any!

. . . we struggle so hard to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck!

. . . we couldn’t go on our dream vacation this year! . . .

What’s your “It’s Not Fair!” moment??

I am confident that every human being on the face of this earth has had (or will have) a particular set of circumstances when those three little words will, without hesitation, roll off their tongue. I know I’ve said it. Often when I was a kid and I didn’t get my own way. Even more so, as a teenager, battling with growing up issues within the family. I’ve even been known to say it a few times as an adult. Bottom line: every one of us think that life is not fair at times! And at times, it’s not!!

When I read this first verse of Psalm 57, I can almost hear David saying, “It’s Not Fair!” David wrote this Psalm at the time he was fleeing for his very life. King Saul was out to kill him. David and his men, quickly fled. They were on the run, trying to outsmart the man who sought to take his very life from him. David was hiding away in a cave, and life for him, in that moment, was not one bit fair. Listen to how David describes his circumstances:

My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and the tongue a sharp sword. . . They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They have dug a pit before me; into the midst of it they themselves have fallen.” (verses 4 and 6)

Yep, “It’s Not Fair!”

And what, my friend, do we do when life isn’t being fair to us? There really is no end to the options. Here’s just a few: we instinctively tend to dig our heels in the ground and kick off some sort of “temper tantrum” because we simply aren’t getting what we think we should have, or what we think we deserve. We begin our own little campaign of protest – not that anyone really wants to hear it, nor participate in it. We have this somewhat crazy idea that “going shopping” is the perfect solution to the chaos we are in. Or we can simply choose to shrug our shoulders, accept the unfairness, and walk away.

I have to tell you this: I have learned a very valuable lesson here in Psalm 57 from David on how to handle those “It’s Not Fair!” moments of life. In fact, David inspires me to look differently at those “calamity” filled times when circumstances are unbearable and hard to understand. Walk with me through the rest of this chapter and let’s have a look at what David does.

Verse 1 – David states, “And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by.” I am a very visual learner and pictures help me a lot to process things. So when I read this verse – – this is what I picture:

What a perfect place to be in the midst of the “It’s Not Fair!” moments of life! Safely tucked under the almighty, powerful wings of my loving God, taking shelter, finding rest, renewing strength, and receiving hope UNTIL “these calamities” (these “It’s Not Fair!” moments of life) “have passed by.” I picture that in my mind’s eye and I simply cannot get there fast enough! Forget the temper tantrum. Never mind the protest. Save the money and bypass that shopping trip. I’ll walk away, yes, but straight under those protective wings that are waiting for me.

But that’s not all David did. Let’s read on:

Verses 2-3 tells me that while he was under the shadow of those wings, he cried out to God. David told God all about his current “It’s Not Fair!” moment. God listened. God took action. Here’s what David said, ” I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.” I just love the truths spoken here. David KNEW that God would receive him into His care and tenderly protect him. David KNEW that God would listen to his complaint – – “It’s Not Fair!” God, that King Saul is seeking me out to kill him. What did I ever do to him?” And David KNEW that God would know exactly what to do. David KNEW God had this. David KNEW all that truth. You and I, in the midst of our own “It’s Not Fair!” moments can know that truth as well. So, why are we spouting off about life not being fair to anyone else but God? I tell you, David inspires me to look at things a little differently! But wait, that’s not all.

Verses 5 and 7-11 tells me that David KNEW God had Him completely covered during his “It’s Not Fair!” moment. God was in perfect control. David could take refuge and not worry. David could let go of all his feelings about the circumstances that were beyond his own control. David could rest assured that he was being protected by a God who dearly loved him. David was confident that His great, almighty, powerful God held this “It’s Not Fair!” moment of David’s tightly in his hand (while David rested under the shadow of His wings) and David KNEW everything would be alright. This “It’s Not Fair!” moment would soon pass by. And so, based on the things that David knew, and from his safe place of refuge, David bursts forth with some worship; He began to praise his great God. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, Let Your glory be above all the earth. . . My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth.”

Does that not inspire you, my friend? Whatever “It’s Not Fair!” moment that you are currently going through, may I encourage you to give it to God, for He knows just what to do with it. Life isn’t fair – but your God is! Your soul can trust Him. He will be merciful toward you. Find your place of refuge, set your focus on the One who shadows you under His wings. Rest assured, your God has this! Relax in His presence, under His protection and simply burst forth in praise!

Our God is Awesome! ~ Psalm 33:8

“Let all the earth, fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”

It was a few years ago that I had the privilege of meeting the most precious, never to be forgotten, little six year girl. She was beautiful inside and out. She had big brown eyes, brown hair tied up in pigtails, a smile that was missing its front teeth, and a personality that just made you laugh. She made sure that I noticed her new, pink dress and white shoes that she was wearing. Yet, what I remember most was her conversation. She loved to talk, with anyone who would listen. I loved talking to her because she had some very good things to say. Have you ever had a conversation with a six year old kid about God? Now, that is one priceless conversation, let me tell you!

She did her very best to describe God to me: “God is smart probably the smartest person in all the world. He’s probably old, older than my daddy and of course older than my papa! My papa says that God is older than dirt. Do you believe that? And God smiles like me. I know because he gave me my smile and see, see what it looks like! And I think God might laugh too, but not as good as me. I work hard to keep my laugh funny. My papa likes my laugh so I think God does too. But, you wanna know what I like best about God?”

And with this, she stood up, spread her arms out as wide as they could go. Her eyes got big and glistened in the sunlight. And she, rather loudly and boldly proclaims: “God is wha-some! He really really really really is wha-some! I tell you he is wha-some!”

Bless her little heart, she couldn’t say the word awesome; it just came out as wha – some! I LOVE that word! It is just so priceless! I couldn’t help but smile and join in on her jubilant praise party! “Yes, my dear little friend, our God is wha-some!”

Now, every time that I am outside, hiking, picnicking, gardening or simply taking the time to sit and enjoy God’s beautiful creation around me, I think of that little girl. And I smile. She’s almost all grown up now, but I am pleased to say that she still thinks her God is wha-some!

God is definitely wha-somely awesome! And He is worthy of all our praise!

The Psalmist David loved to sing out the praises of God’s awesomeness as well. Many of his Psalms reflect his own attitude of worship and praise to an awesome God. One such Psalm is chapter 66, where it says, “Make a joyful shout to God all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God. ‘How awesome are Your works! . . . All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.’ . . . Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard . . . ”

So, what about you, my friend? When was the last time you thought about your awesome God? When was the last time you stood in awe of His creation round about you? When was the last time you burst forth in jubilant praise to your awesome God? Ah, go on, try it!

With the joyful enthusiasm of a six year old, not caring what anyone else thinks, start your own praise party for God. Why not shout loudly and boldly proclaim, “God is wha-some! He really really really really is wha-some! I tell you he is wha-some!”

It’s guaranteed to make God smile!

“Oh, That I had the Wings of a Dove” ~ Psalm 55:1-7

“Give ear to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily, Because of the voice of the enemy, Because of the oppression of the wicked; For they bring down trouble upon me, And in wrath they hate me. My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me, Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me. So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.”

Ever have “one of those days” when everything seems to go wrong, when nothing is going the right way , or when you find yourself wondering why you even got out of bed? You’re troubled and distraught over circumstances beyond your control. You’re overwhelmed and fearful of news that you just received from the doctor. You’re not certain if you will have a job tomorrow. You wonder where your children’s next meal is going to come from. You hope you will be able to meet this month’s rent in time. You simply want to run; far, far, far away from the stresses and struggles of your life. Ever have one of those days?

Take heart, my friend, the Psalmist David knows exactly how you feel! He was no stranger to the tough, discouraging, frustrating, overwhelming moments of life. He faced many a crisis! Psalm 55 records one of those days.

We don’t know the specific details of the circumstances in this Psalm, and we really don’t need to know. But we do know that the problem involved one of David’s closest companions, as he gives us that clue later on in the chapter (verse 13) “But it is you, a man my equal, my companion, my close friend.” Obviously David was betrayed by his close friend. Reading through these first seven verses of the Psalm, we realize that David was deeply hurt. And that hurt, led to the desire to run away. Ever have one of those days?

I am almost certain, that every person reading this blog can relate to David’s emotional heart-cry when he says,

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

David also said he would “wander far off . . . I would hasten my escape.”

Have you ever had one of those days?

My friend, if you could run away from your life hardships and struggles right now, where would you go? Would you – –

  1. Go back to bed and cover your head?
  2. Head for the bathroom, lock yourself in, and have a good cry?
  3. Call your mom or a close friend and meet for lunch and a good chat?
  4. Break out the credit card, get in the car, drive to the mall, and go shopping?
  5. Go to the freezer, grab a container of ice cream, pick up a spoon, and savor every single bite until the container is empty?
  6. Or would you do something else? (Write me a reply and tell me what you would do, where you would go to run away!)

David ran to the place that I’d like to go to. That place I should go to every time I want to run away from life and its struggles, but it’s the one place I don’t run to as often as I should. David ran to God! Listen to this – – “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me.” (verses 16-18).

Running to God, is the safest place to go! He loves! He listens! He cares! He will comfort! He will give advice! He will renew your strength! He will eat ice cream with you!

Oh, that we would hasten our escape to Him! He is waiting patiently for us. He is listening to our cry for help. We really don’t have to be overwhelmed with life. We really don’t have to struggle with the circumstances of our life. Don’t run away! We’ve just got to learn to fly! Fly, my friend, to the God of David. He’s got this! Spread your wings and fly to HIM!

David gives us one final word of encouragement in this chapter, found in verse 22: “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” He’ll take that burden, no matter how big it is, away from you!

Oh, that we all could learn a life-changing lesson from the Psalmist David. When you are having “one of those days” and you simply want to run away from it all, consider following David’s example instead. Mount your dove’s wings and fly! Fly straight to the God who eagerly awaits you. Find your rest in the God who cares for you!

Finding Treasure ~ Psalm 119:161b – 162

“But my heart stands in awe of Your Word. I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure.”

God’s Word is like a giant treasure trove! It is just bursting forth with the best ever treasure that one could ask for or hope to find. All that treasure is right there for the taking. But you won’t really know what is there until you start digging. Dig hard. Dig long. Dig deep. And you will surely find something precious and valuable.

For years now, I have had been teaching kids about the treasures found in God’s Word, the Bible. I tell them that it is kind of like a game of “hide and seek.” God has hidden within the pages of His Word, special treasures that He wants to share with His children. They are hidden in secret places and we won’t know what they are until we begin to seek after them. The Father invites His children to come “seek out those treasures I have left for you.” And with a keen excitement and joyful anticipation we should go and seek out those special treasures left by the Father. “Seek and you will find,” He promises. With a loving heart and a watchful eye, the Father awaits that gleeful shout from one of His children, “I found it!”

So, what kinds of treasures do we find within the pages of His Word? Oh, there are so many, many treasures! But, here is a brief look at four of them:

“Seek and You will Find”

God’s Love! This is an enormous treasure. It shines so brightly within the pages of God’s Word. It’s height and depth, its length and width no one can imagine nor strive to reach around it. It never goes away, it never fades from view and its guaranteed to never tarnish. God’s love is constant, faithful and totally unconditional. There is enough to go around for all of God’s children! Once you find this treasure you will never be the same. You will want more and more of this great love. And in the process of being loved by the Father, you will learn how to love others in the same way. It’s a treasure you can claim as your own, and at the same time, it is a treasure that you can pass on, sharing that love with others. “How precious is Your unfailing love, O God” Psalm 36:7

Sins Forgiven! This starts out as a dark treasure when it is first found. Dark for the sin that it contains. Your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world. The Bible talks about our sin and how that we are all sinners, in need of a Savior. The Father God, sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to this earth to bear the punishment of all our sins upon His body; He bled and died upon the cross to save us from our sins. When we believe in Him, and ask for forgiveness of our sins, He will faithfully forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all our iniquity (sin). The treasure that we find of sins forgiven may start out dark from the very sin it holds. But when we seek for and find that precious treasure, then something amazing happens. If we believe, if we confess our sins to Him, then He will change that dark sinful treasure into something that is whiter than snow. His forgiveness washes us clean. All that sin will be gone. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression (sin) from us.” Psalm 103:12.

Eternal life! There is a story in the Bible of a rich, young man who came to Jesus and he asked this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Great question! It’s one that we all should ask. The truth is that eternal life is not something that we will inherit from our parents. It is not something that we can buy, no matter the costly price tag. We cannot even work for it. But God’s Word tells us that eternal life is a gift – a free gift from God. It comes straight from the Heavenly Father, God, and is freely given to all who will believe on His Son, Jesus. God offers the gift of eternal life to you; have you accepted that gift? “He asked life from You, and You gave it to him – length of days forever and ever.” Psalm 21:4

Precious Promises! Within the pages of God’s Word, are recorded promise after promise from God to His children. Each one so very precious and extremely valuable. One could spend their entire lifetime, gathering each promise and claiming it as their own. And at the end of your life, there would still be promises waiting to be claimed. Here’s what I have learned of God’s promises: They are real and lasting! They are written just for me! They are mine to claim as my own! There are promises for every season of my life! They are something that I can cherish deeply within my heart! They are eternal! And they are never broken! “My covenant (promise) I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” Psalm 89:34

If we were to start with just these four treasures found in God’s Word, then my friend, we are well on our way to building a wonderful trove of treasure from a great God! And yet, here is the good news; that’s not all the treasure! The rest is waiting for you to “come, seek and find” within the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. May I encourage you to pick up a copy today, and start digging! The treasure are waiting!

Fear That Comes Out of Nowhere!

“Be merciful to me, O God, for man (or dogs!) would swallow me up. . . Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, I will praise His word: In God, I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.” Psalms 56:1, 3-4

FEAR! Just the word can cause one to break out into a sweat, or send shivers up your spine, or make the adrenaline start to pump. Where’s the nearest place I can go hide? No one likes fear! So, what brings out the fear in you, my friend?

I’m afraid of the fear that comes out of nowhere! It’s totally unexpected and you are not one bit prepared for it. Do you know that kind of fear? Max and I encountered that level of fear and it was frightful for sure!

Max is my little, two year old, Maltese-mix dog. He loves walking and its not unusual for us to go walking through our neighborhood or at the park at least once a day. It’s his opportunity to meet all kinds of fun! He loves chasing after birds, crickets, lizards and rabbits; dodging cactus, sticker weeds, and certain plants that make him sneeze; stopping to smell the air, sniff at the local fire hydrant, or simply savor someone’s barbecue (that always includes the look that says, “and why wasn’t I invited?”) or on rare occasions, his idea of fun is sitting down in the middle of the street and flat right out refuses to move (and that would be accompanied with the look that says, “Nope, I’m not moving! You can’t make me Mom!) Together Max and I have met many of our neighbors and struck up some new friendships. He is quite partial to the four-legged variety of friends and he can lead you straight to each of their houses, usually pausing to bark out a little “hello friend!” We’ve watched many a sunrise or sunset while walking and admired all the different colors painted in the sky. Occasionally we get to finish our walk in the rain and splash through some puddles on our way home. But only once have we encountered FEAR. And dear Lord Jesus, may it never happen again!

It was 5:30 a.m. Max got so excited when Mom slipped out that little word “walk” in a conversation with Dad before he took off to work. Oops, there it was. No turning back now. How can you possibly ignore that whimpering look? Okay, okay Max! Let’s go for a walk! “Yes, yes mom, but first I gotta race through the house. Do you see my great excitement mom?” Whatever! Let’s see, there’s walking shoes for mom – check! Sunglasses, phone, house keys in Mom’s hands – check! Harness on for Max – check! Hold still Max, let me put your leash on – check! Oh, and don’t forget the poop bag, I’m gonna need that for sure – double check! Okay, now can we go? Please don’t forget the dog; he’s still doing laps around the kitchen floor, hoping you will notice just how excited he really is. “Come on, Max!”

The walk this one particular morning was rather uneventful. Until! Max and I met FEAR! We were just walking along, minding our own business, enjoying the fresh morning air. When out of nowhere – literally – two big German shepherd dogs charged at us! There was no warning! We weren’t sure where they had even come from. Just all the sudden there was this fierce barking, snarling, and jumping. Startled fear is an understatement, let me tell you! In that moment, I was so thankful that my husband insisted we buy a harness for Max when we walk him. I grabbed that harness and lifted my precious dog up off the ground and away from the slobbering dogs that obviously wanted their breakfast. I quickly hid Max under my baggy shirt (oh, so glad I wore that too!) and turned my back to the dogs. “Who on earth is that screaming?” – oh, wow! That was me! I honestly didn’t know I could scream so loud (good thing to know!) Instantly, I felt the dogs’ hot breath, mixed with warm saliva dripping down my arm. the heavy paws thudding against my back as they jumped up, scratching at me with all their energy, trying desperately and hoping to get at Max. “Oh, dear God, help! Please don’t let them bite me.” For what seemed endless moments, the dogs kept jumping, barking, scratching, snarling, hoping to get to Max. Over my dead body, you brutes! I’ve never known that kind of fear. It was intense. But, I gotta tell you, not only did the neighbors hear my screams – God did! He also heard my quick, panic-stricken prayer! And He answered me! He shut the mouths of those dogs and they began to back away. Finally, the owners emerge from the house with a “What did you do to our dogs?” Really? Are you people serious? What did I do to YOUR DOGS?

Thankfully, everyone was okay. The scratches on my back will heal. Yet, in all honesty, I have to tell you, I would choose to not have that kind of fear in my day ever again. Wow, it was intensely scary. And yet, fear is a part of our lives. It comes along with our human nature. Fear is not a gift from God, I can assure you of that truth. Some people grow up in an environment riddled with fear. Sometimes fear comes in waves at various times in our lives depending upon our circumstances. What one person is fearful of, another is not affected by it at all. But it is a guaranteed thing, fear will come to us all. Fear is something we all will have to face at some time or another.

When fear arrives, we have basically two choices. We can – Forget Everything And Run; run away from our fears, pretending that they don’t really exist and never deal with them. And yes, I will admit that some fears truly make you want to run, far, far, far away! And maybe we should run, given some of the fearful circumstances that we could encounter. But then, what do we do the next time, that same fear comes back upon us? Should we just keep running and never really face that particular fear that we are running from? Or we can – Face Everything And Rise; face our fears head on, bring them out of hiding, acknowledge our fear for what it is and rise to the challenge of eliminating that fear for good.

I personally like the advice and example of the Psalmist David. Now, he had some fears! As a shepherd boy, he feared that wild animals could come and harm his father’s flock of sheep that he lovingly care for. He faced that fear and learned how to kill those animals who came after the sheep. Fearing for his very life, David ran and hid from King Saul who sought to kill him. God intervened, protected David, and helped him solve the problem with King Saul. Or what about the time that Israel’s army were cowering in fear when the giant Goliath sought for one (just one!) to come out and do battle against him. In the midst of Goliath’s taunting cries, David volunteered to face that fearful giant. He chose to rise up in the strong name of the Lord his God and with five smooth stones and a sling he went to work on the giant, who was literally laughing in his face at the manner in which David came to him. God gave David the victory! The fearful giant was defeated!

I just love the words of David in Psalms 56:3-4 that say: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, I will praise His word; In God, I have put my trust; I will not fear. . .” David makes a bold declaration of what he will do in the midst of fear. He said “whenever” and that means no matter what the circumstances are that caused him to fear. “Whenever I am afraid” this is what I am choosing to do – “I will trust in You.” David had learned that God was on his side. God was ever-present with David and He knew each and every fear that would rise up within David. While those fears were not from God, nonetheless God was there for him in the midst of those fearful times. David makes the clear, bold choice to trust in God at those times. He knew who God was and that He could be trusted. David trusted in God’s word; He would never say anything that was not truth. So if God told David that He would be with him in those fearful times, then David knew he could trust the word of his God. “In God I have put my trust.” For David there was no other way. He knew he could trust his God. “I will not fear” – that was David’s choice! With God on his side, there was absolutely no need to fear!

Fear or trust! The choice is yours!

What’s Happened to Repentance?

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalms 32:5

That’s such a great question! One that I have often pondered many times before. Repentance used to be taught alot in the churches that I grew up in. But, I’m afraid to say, that the strangest thing has been happening over the years as I have been maturing in my own faith walk with God. I am noticing that we are actually hearing less and less about sin and repentance being taught from the church’s pulpit’s anymore. That saddens me greatly, for we need to hear teachings about it all the more, now that our society is becoming less Christian (godly) and more focused on self and things of the world. We’ve become complacent to our sin. Dare I say that we’ve even grown to like our sin. We’ve come to accept it as a part of our lives, therefore, its okay to do wrong (sin) in the sight of our God. So, what happened to the idea of repentance? Well, I don’t think it crosses our minds too much any more.

It crossed mine this morning as I listened to a sermon by William Graham, who was the guest speaker at Shadow Mountain Church in San Diego, California. And yes, that IS the grandson of the well-known, well-loved evangelist, Billy Graham. He asked that question – What’s happened to repentance? He too believes that it is missing from our churches of today. Early on, in the sermon, he forwarned those listening that they would be given opportunity to respond in some way. Wow, that kind of makes you sit up and listen harder, huh? It did me. I prayed and asked God to open hearts and lead the people to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (and God later on answered that prayer as I witnessed quite a few people going forward in church to confess their sins and begin a renewed relationship with their God!) But I wasn’t prepared for the work God wanted to do in MY own heart this morning. Yep, the Holy Spirit was a working on me too! I will admit that I was convicted and yes, even challenged – I was greatly challenged! I had to ask myself this question: Kathy, what’s happened to repentance in your life?

William Graham used 2 Samuel 12:1-15 as his sermon text. It’s the story of David after his sin of adultery against Bathsheba, after he had killed her husband Uriah to cover up his sin, after he refused to acknowledge his sin before others. After all that, David was confronted by Nathan, the prophet of God, who not only brought David’s sin to light, but shared with him the words of the Lord, which ultimately brought forgiveness and healing. In this sermon, six points were made that helped me look at repentance a little differently.

  1. Repentance starts with God (verse 1). God was the One who sent Nathan to David to be His messenger. God began the work of conviction in David’s heart, even though David wasn’t really aware of that working yet. God brought about the encounter David had with God’s word spoken to him, through the prophet Nathan. God started knocking at David’s heart to remind him of the sin that was committed, that now separated David from his God.
  2. Repentance reveals the stupidity of our sin (verses 1-4). Think about that statement for a moment, will you? Repentance reveals the stupidity of our sin. Sin happens in all of us, for “we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23). Our sin shows forth, all too many times, just how stupid we can be, just how many stupid things we can do in the heat of a moment. It reveals how quickly we can yield to the temptations of sin that is ever before us. If we are not careful, sin will get every one of us!
  3. Repentance arouses the anger of our sin (verse 5). Or so it should! We should HATE our sin! We should desire to turn against our sin and stop doing it! But we don’t! We just keep our secret sins to ourselves, hoping that no one else will know. We would rather that pastors in the pulpit never mention sin and repentance, for then we don’t have to deal with it, right? We would rather dwell with our sin, allowing it to become our invisible friend. We choose to allow any guilt and shame we feel that’s related to that sin, begin to grow into a hard and calloused heart. And eventually, we no longer pay attention to sin. We accept it. We sometimes even embrace it. Let that one really sink into your mind and heart! Ouch, God! Is anyone else feeling a little convicted here?
  4. Repentance is self admitting to our own sinful actions (verse 13). It’s not us showing forth someone else’s sin. Nope, its us, admitting to our own sins. Admitting them to God first and foremost; then, admitting them to others, especially those to whom we sinned against. This has to happen if repentance is going to do any good in our life and restore our relationship with God.
  5. Repentance is a beautiful picture of God drawing us back to Himself (verse 13). That’s what God wants! You and me, to confess our sin, and return to Him. He longs to “restore the joy of Your salvation” to us. He longs for a right relationship with us once again. And the picture of that restoration – well, it’s truly beautiful, beyond any spoken words!
  6. Repentance needs visable consequences before true healing happens (verse 14). Did David confess his sin before God? Yes! Did God forgive him that sin? Oh yes, He did!! David was then let off the hook, right? Oh no, he was not! There were consequences to pay. This sin cost David greatly. And those consequences were visable to all. BUT so was God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness! God drew David back to Himself!

So, what happened to repentance? It might have been hiding for a while from our lives. But it’s right there. Within you. Within me. I personally believe that we, as Christians, have hidden it long enough. It’s time to bring repentance back. It’s time to say we are sorry to those we have sinned against. It’s time we all got on our knees before our God and pray this prayer of David: “I acknowledge my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden, I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ (Psalms 32:5) This morning, I stayed on my knees until I KNEW God had answered my prayer of repentance.

“And YOU forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Oh, Praise you dear God! When we bring repentance back, we will know true forgiveness and restored relationship once again. In that moment, God showers us with His love, mercy and grace! We will know that we are a forgiven people! And this is good! So good! So freeing! So refreshing!

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalms 32:1) I can tell you honestly, God drew me, once again, to Himself through the sermon I listened to by His servant, William Graham. I brought repentance out of hiding today! And it was a very good thing!

What’s happened to your repentance? Are you hiding it? May I encourage you to consider this; Bring it out. Give it to God. Let Him show you His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Allow Him to show you a different picture of you. Receive His restoration today. Be blessed by the God who is seeking after you. He’s knocking right now on your heart’s door. How will you respond?

I’m Overwhelmed, but I Am Here God! ~ Psalm 61:1-4

“Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4 (NKJV)

Have you ever been overwhelmed by circumstances in your life? I mean, REALLY overwhelmed?

I would venture a guess that we’ve all been there, done that before, right? Not a fun place to be. Regardless of what the circumstances are – – lost your job, financial difficulties, serious medical issues, trouble or rebellion from the kids, marriage going through challenges, etc – – we all face tough times at various seasons of our lives. It has often been said that “tough times in life will either make us bitter or they will make us better.” The choice will be ours.

Quite a few years ago I was hit with circumstances way out of my control, that hit me like a ton of bricks! To say that I was overwhelmed by these circumstances, well, that’s just the understatement of the year. After months of pain, agony, rashes, hives, coughs and choking spells, not to mention all the doctor visits and all sorts of tests I had to go through, I was finally given, in 2002, just one week before Christmas, the diagnosis of Toxic Mold Poisoning with Chemical Hypersensitivity Syndrome!

“WHAT? Mold, like in that green stuff that grows on cheese?” I remember saying to the doctor. “Oh, my dear, its so much more serious than that, I’m afraid. You have 14 different types of mold spores actively growing in your lungs. All 14 types (and he named them off) are all at high toxic levels and you are slowly suffocating to death. We have to start treatment right away.” My husband, Andy and I both sat there stunned!

Yep, I was instantly overwhelmed by my circumstances! It was on the drive home from the doctor’s office that the severity of my circumstances started to really hit me. It hit me hard! Trying to figure out where the mold had come from, I realized that I had brought back from my missionary days in Britain two souveniors: (1) my beloved English hubby, Andrew and (2) lungs full of toxic mold spores. Great! This is just great! Now, what do I do?

Well, treatment with large doses of antifungal medications was started right away. I don’t even remember Christmas that year. All my plans had to be cancelled. I was too sick to even care! And just like the doctor had warned, I got worse before I got better! And there were too many days that I really wanted to die rather than fight these “beasties” within me. I was totally, utterly overwhelmed with my circumstances. I remember picking up my Bible, knowing within its pages would be my comfort and hopefully some answers from the God who had allowed these circumstances to enter my life. I immediately went to my “go to” book – the Book of Psalms.

The first Psalm that I read after receiving that diagnosis was Psalm 61. All I could read at that time, was the first four verses. I burst into tears! And I cried like never before. Only this time I didn’t cry to myself, to comfort myself; I cried out to God for help, for understanding, for just a reminder of His presence for I felt ever so alone. In the midst of those overwhelming circumstances, I realized that I truly needed God! I needed Him to be my rock now that I felt like a wimpy lump of helpless clay. I needed to know that He would be my place of shelter when I needed to be alone in my pain and agony. He needed to know that a horrible “beast” had entered my body, wrecking its damage within, and I needed to know that He would be my strong tower that protected me from that “beast.” And I realized that no matter what my circumstances were, I still needed to run to the tabernacle of the Lord to worship, to pray, to read from His Word, to simply rest in His arms. I needed to learn to trust Him in a whole new way, while I rested under the shadow of His Almighty wings. I needed God in my circumstances!

During that time of dire circumstances, feeling isolated from everyone and everything, facing mountains of medical bills, ongoing battles with intensive treatments, and going between life and death – I learned to really cry out to God! REALLY cry out to God! I opened up my heart to Him in a whole new way! I learned what true worship was to be! I learned to cherish His words of hope and comfort as I read them from my Bible. I prayed with an insanely open heart before God! I had never prayed with such words of honesty in all my life, but now, I wanted to pray that way! I even wrote out a prayer to God. My psalm of lament over my circumstances. It’s my psalm to the God who, through my circumstances, quickly became my rock, my shelter, my strong tower, my tabernacle and my trust! I would like to share that prayer with you, my blog readers, in hopes that it might help you through your own dire circumstances.

“God, I am here in the midst of circumstances that I do not like!! This diagnosis is not one bit fair! I find these circumstances very difficult and extremely overwhelming. I know that I am not alone for YOU are here with me, never to leave nor forsake me! I recognize that YOU are the ONLY ONE who can help me right now. I need Your help God, now more than ever before.

In the midst of this overwhelming battle, may I always remember that:

  1. I am here by God’s appointment – – this is all part of God’s plan for my life! (Proverbs 19:21 and Jeremiah 29:11)
  2. I am here in God’s safe-keeping – – surrounded by God’s most perfect love; and so, there are no more pity parties girl! (Deuteronomy 33:27 and Jeremiah 31:3)
  3. I am here under God’s training – – good will come of these circumstances if I just hang on! (Job 23:10 and James 1:12)
  4. I am here for God’s time – – and that is ALWAYS perfect! (Psalm 31:14-15 and I Peter 1:6-7)

God, please help me to embrace this set of circumstances as a gift from YOU! Use this time to guard me from becoming bitter. Use this time to make me a better person. Help me to know that YOU, God, will meet me at my point of need with all the tender loving care that I need. Grant to me the assurance that YOU will still use me in spite of this horrible disease, that my life will still have some value to it. Grant me the opportunity to see YOU at work not only in my life, but through it as well. Oh God, please embrace me to YOURSELF — never let me go — hold me tight when I can’t hang on — and assure me that together we will be victors in this battle.

I am here God – – and I feel YOUR presence right beside me!”

My dear blog readers, I cannot tell you how many times, throughout many years, I have prayed that prayer in the midst of all kinds of overwhelming circumstances in my life. It’s truths have strengthened me for battle numerous times. And every time, it draws me closer to God. I truly have learned that YES – He is my rock! He is my shelter! He is my strong tower! He is my tabernacle forever! He is my trust! And I have grown to love those overwhelming circumstances that come into life’s journey. Because they afford me the opportunity to, once again, seek shelter under His wings. And that is such a comforting place to be!!

Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:3

“From the rising of the sun to its going down, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” Psalm 113:3

Our dog, Max, and I went out for a walk! It was still pretty hot and muggy from the long monsoon summer day. “I just wish it would rain and bring us a little relief from this heat,” I thought to myself as Max and I walked down the driveway and started out for a good night’s walk. Then it happened.

I looked up into the sky ahead as the sun was setting for the evening and this picture is what I saw. I stood there, with Max at my side, staring breathlessly at the beautiful sight before me. I took in its awesomeness. “Wow God, this is amazing!” And in that instant, God brought the verse Psalm 113:3 to my mind. I said it over a couple of times to myself. I couldn’t help it – but in that very moment I just wanted to burst forth in praise to God. Max and I sat down on the sidewalk. Yep, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. I didn’t care what the neighbors thought. After all, God had just given us front row seats to the sunset of the evening. I wasn’t about to miss this opportunity. For the longest time, we sat in silence, both of us watching God’s handiwork before us. And then, I began to praise!

Bazillion different items of praise to God came to my mind – – who God is, what He had done for me that day, all the different things I enjoy thanks to God’s provision, for all the health and strength given to me from God, for my home and luxuries in it to enjoy, for food on my table along with the cupboards and fridge loaded with more, for family and friends and new people that I meet every day . . . and on and on my list of praise went as Max and I sat there, in silence, on the sidewalk. Each phase of that sunset, gave me another reason to praise God. Not only is God’s handiwork awesome. He is awesome! And as the psalmist reminds me, His name is worthy to be praised!!

When was the last time you paused from your busyness to simply sit down and enjoy a sunset? When was the last time you burst forth in praise because you simply couldn’t help it? God gives us opportunities to do that every day. Do we take the opportunity laid out before us?

But then I thought about what my praise is worth to God? God gives me the opportunity to praise Him. I choose to take that opportunity and begin to praise. Something begins to happen within me. (1) I am silent before my God (that’s such a good place to be!); (2) Words of praise rise up within my heart and begin to come out of my lips; (3) There’s a sense of peace that surrounds me as my own heart and spirit take flight; (4) In that moment, God allows me to see Him as He is and I feel super blessed and peaceful in His presence. God uses that opportunity to change something within me.

But what does that moment do for God? As I sat there, enjoying the front row seat to God’s handiwork, I believe a smile broke out upon His face. After all, His child was taking a moment to spend with Him. Me and God time! What could be better than that! That’s got to make God happy, right? I’m almost certain that God was smiling down on Max and me as we sat there in His presence, on the sidewalk. And in that very moment, something else was happening. As I begin to lift up my words of praise to God’s ears, He was exalted! Praise words exalt our great God! They lift Him higher and higher! And I begin to realize anew that I have one marvelously great and powerful and awesome God!! Something else happens with God as He listens to the praises of His child. He takes great delight in what is being said. “Let them praise His name… Let them sing praises to Him… For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (Psalm 149:3-4). I tell you, God is smiling!

“Come on Max,” I finally said as I stood up, tugging on his leash, “its getting dark out here. We’d better go home.” Our walk back to the house was light. My heart was rejoicing. The praise just kept coming. And I realized, once again, through a beautiful evening sunset, just how blessed I am to personally know this great God. Praise the Lord!

“Have Mercy Upon Me, O God” ~ Psalm 51

“Have mercy upon me, O God” was the cry of David in Psalm 51. This Psalm is the perfect paradigm of prayers for the forgiveness of sins. David wrote this Psalm after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12), to make things right with that sin, with those involved with the sin and with his relationship with God. “So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.'” And thus the words of Psalm 51 were penned by David, leaving you and me a wonderful example of what we should do with our sin that so easily separates us from our God. Within Psalm 51, David walks us through a 7 step pathway that restores our relationship with God once we have sinned.

Step 1 – Acknowledgement – This step begins with that cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God!” And you know what, that first step is very often the hardest one to take. It’s hard for us human beings to admit the fact that we are sinners and that we often do things that displease our God. Yet, Romans 3:23 makes that pretty clear when it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us need to recognize the truth that we are sinners. And then we need to acknowledge our sin (make it known to God). Now, some would say that God already knows our sin, and that would be true. But there is forgiveness and healing in the acknowledgement of sin from our lips to the listening ears of our God. David boldly and bravely said, “For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You, and You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight.” I, personally, have learned that once I acknowledge my sin before my God, then a huge weight is taken away from me. I don’t have to carry that sin around with me anymore. I can be free from sin! And that’s a good thing!

Step 2 – Forgiveness – David knew that only God could do something good with his sin. No one else could, but God could take away that sin from David’s life. Thus David asked God to, “Blot out my transgressions,” “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,” “Cleanse me from my sin,” “Purge me with hyssop,” “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” David knew that only God could forgive him from the sin that was weighing him down. In fact, David was confident that God could totally rid him of the sin in his life. And so, he asked God to do just that. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Step 3 – Cleansing – David desired, more than anything, that his sin be washed away from him for good. I’ve been in that place before, have you? Listen to what David asks of God. “Hide Your face from my sin, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a stedfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” I don’t know about you, but when I read those words, I just want to say. “I want that too, God!” What relief there is from having our sins gone, having a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a right relationship with our God!

Step 4 – Restoration – Once that sin is gone, do you know what comes back to you? Your joy and His power! David said it best, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous spirit.” Once that sin is gone, the joy comes back to your life. You can once again rejoice in God’s great forgiveness and you can know that He will remember that sin (or sins) that you have done, have just confessed to, and have just been forgiven from, He will remember them NO MORE! Yippee!! Such joy! Not only that – but you will also see His power as He upholds you by His generous spirit! Restoration happens my friend whenever we cry out, “Have mercy on me O God!” And when we have been restored to a renewed and right relationship with God, we will begin to experience His joy and power once again as well.

Step 5 – Service – Whenever we have sin in our life, and we choose to carry it around with us rather than to confess it, then that affects our service for God. We are then trying to do whatever we do to serve Him, in our own strength, and not in His. That, my friend, is never a good thing. Step 5 in our pathway to forgiveness reminds us that when we confess that sin, make things right with God again, then we are restored to fruitful service for Him. David says, “Then I will teach trangressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” Try to do that in your own strength, under the shroud of sin, and yes, you will fail. But with God’s forgiveness, with His joy and power restored within us, well then, we will be able to do mighty things for Him.

Step 6 – Worship – Once forgiven, even our worship will change. Have you ever tried to sing worship songs, or attentively listen to a good sermon, when you know that you have sin in your heart. It’s pretty hard to do! I know; I’ve tried it before. David says, “My tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. My mouth shall show forth Your praise.” With a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a life of true joy – – oh my friend, there is NO stopping that worship!! It will flow from you to God effortlessly! Your God will hear your worship and be glad in it.

Step 7 – Fellowship – There is nothing greater than a right relationship with God. You will walk together and He will guide your steps on the journey. You will talk together and He will teach you the things He wants you to know. You will fellowship together and He will show you just how sweet your times together can be. You will desire nothing greater. But what does God desire from you on this journey of life together? David answered that question for us, when he said, “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise.”

O God, You put within each one of us a desire to know You as our Creator. You gave to us a heart’s longing for a good relationship with you. And while, each of us may be at different places in that relationship with You, we know that YOU desire a relationship with us as well. O God, today, may we begin, or, if need be, may we renew that relationship with the heartfelt cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God!”