Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week Forty-Three - The Pity Party

Do you remember the song, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to?" It might make a great theme song for 2020. We've certainly had plenty to moan and cry about.

Asaph wrote a psalm with similar lyrics. "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak"  (Psalm 77:1-4).

Obviously, pity parties are not new.  Ahab had one, Absalom had one, and even King Saul had a few.  But when I read these first three verses of Psalm 77 my eye catches several specific phrases that make me think.

"My soul refused to be comforted." Have you ever refused to be comforted?  Refused someone's offer of help or kindness because you were too busy pouting and crying?  Have you ever turned your back on support because you enjoyed your misery or were too stubborn to admit you needed help?  This idea of refusing to be comforted paints such a picture.

"I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." Have you been complaining?  I know I have. 2020 gives reason to complain, but what happens when we give over to a complaining spirit?  We get the feeling of being overwhelmed.  The negatives loom larger and larger.  The nightly news, Facebook posts, and general confusion leave us flabbergasted, exhausted, and weary with the whole process.

"Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak."  I don't know what Asaph was crying about, but he was definitely struggling.  He was not sleeping--that's what "mine eyes waking" means.  And he was dumbfounded by the trouble in front of him, he saw no solution.

In verses five and six he grows nostalgic and introspective. "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search."  Has this been your experience?  I know it has been mine. 

Pity parties usually lead to looking back and looking inward. We begin wishing things were as before.  We long for the good ole days and start looking inward to find encouragement or the answer to why we feel as we do.  Then, just like Asaph, we start accusing God of abandoning us. Look at verses 7-10a.  "Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. And I said, This is my infirmity."

"Poor me!" Asaph is saying, "Poor me.  God has forgotten me.  He doesn't love me anymore. I am stuck with my weakness, bowed down in my depression. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." But I'm so glad Asaph didn't stop his song here.  It's a really sad place to be.

In verses 10b-12 he cancels his party and changes focus. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

Just like Asaph, we might be down in the dumps, refusing to be comforted, facing sleepless nights, and an overwhelmed, complaining spirit, but.  And there is the keyword - but.  But - there is another way to look at things.  There are things I am not taking into account.  I don't have to stay in my weakness. I can think back on how God worked things out for me in the past and I can meditate on the greatness of all He is doing and begin talking about His goodness.

Asaph had a choice, and so do we.  We can cry and whine or adjust our thinking and attitude. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy pity parties for very long.  They are hard work and soul-destroying, but when I allow my mind to think about my good, good Father and all He has done for me, the spirit of complaining lifts and I begin partying with praise.

If you read the remainder of Psalm 77 you will find Asaph begins praising God, too. He points out God's greatness, and ends with, "thou leddest thy people like a flock." God led Asaph to a brighter prospect and a happier party full of hope.  God will lead us thee, too, if we lay aside our pity and put on the garment of praise.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Week Forty-Two - Be Prepared

As a child, I learned the motto of the Girl Scouts - Be prepared. We know that being prepared means, don't we?  It is the state of being ready, organized, and equipped.  This truth of preparedness is taught in Scripture, exemplified by our Lord and one for which we should strive.

Look at these examples from Scripture.

Mary came to anoint Jesus before his death and burial.  Mark 14:8

The disciples found the upper room already prepared for the Passover.  Mark 14:15

Jesus had a meal prepared before the disciples came to shore.  John 21:9

After the resurrection, the bewildered disciples heard that Jesus was already in Galilee.  Matthew 28:7

In John 14:1 we read Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us.

And in 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

God is prepared.  He has everything thought through, everything prepared.  He doesn't make a new plan for each day.  NO!  He is always in advance of time.  As we woke this morning, He had our day already ordered and planned from the beginning of time and was waiting for us to join Him.

He is there in the hours ahead, in tomorrow, and in eternity preparing the way for us.  He will bring us to our appointed place and we will find our appointed resources along the way. As we follow, we discover His insight, His oversight, and His foresight.  We might not see HIm, but as we walk by faith, we know He sees us, and we trust Him because we believe He is already there with everything prepared.

As I meditated and pondered this beautiful truth, I saw a few more encouraging things.

Preparedness is the teaching of the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25.  Five were prepared to join the bridal party, five were not.  1 John 2:28 admonishes us to be prepared so we won't be "ashamed before him at his coming."  The unprepared Virgins were ashamed.  Let's not be likewise!  He is coming soon, and we have a duty of preparedness.

Over the years, I have learned to ask God to prepare my heart for things ahead.  I pray ahead of time when I anticipate facing resistance or fear. "Lord, prepare my heart and mind for what I am about to face.  Give me your Spirit of wisdom, calmness, and foresight as You direct my words and reactions."

And, when I ponder the future, when I wonder how things will all work out, I pray, "Lord, I know you have my future prepared; that you are already there.  Help me to entrust my future to you and live each day in faith keeping my focus on what you have given me to do today."

I have yet to see Him fail to answer my prayers for preparedness.

So, what about you?  Are you prepared for today?  Are you trusting and believing that the Lord is ahead of you, leading and preparing your life?  Should He come today, are you ready?  Or would you be ashamed?

In Ezra 7:10, Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the law."  Other verses also teach us to prepare our hearts to obey, seek, trust, and hear what God says.  Is your heart preparing?  Are you prepared to meet your God?

2 Chronicles 27:6 says, "So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." 

Let's follow Ezra and Jotham's example and be prepared!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Week Forty-One - Weeds and Seeds

"There is a legend of a man who found the barn where Satan kept his seed ready to be sown in the human heart and on finding the seed of discouragement more numerous than others, learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere.  When Satan was questioned, he reluctantly admitted that there was one place in which he could never get them to thrive. "And where is that?" asked the man.  Satan replied sadly, "In the heart of a grateful man." (Springs in the Valley, p 281)

Oh, dear friend, how true this is.  Seeds of discouragement appear in every area of our lives.  We get discouraged with ourselves, our jobs, our children, our marriages, our church, our pastor, our lot in life, and many, many other things.   But when we turn our discouragement into the seeds of gratitude, things grow into something much more beautiful!

It's all a matter of amending our perspective.  Instead of thinking negatively about our job, let's be thankful we have one.  Instead of despairing about our children, let's be grateful for the little lives under our care and the young people we are raising.  Instead of lamenting our marriage, let's be thankful we have opportunity to work on it.  Instead of growing discouraged with our church or pastor, let's get in and volunteer, hold them up in prayer and serve with a willing heart as unto the Lord.  Instead of complaining and growing discouraged with our lot in life, let's take it to the Lord in prayer, thank Him for where we are, and plot our course more closely to His design.  And instead of growing discouraged with ourselves, let's remember we are but flesh, and yet loved with an everlasting, and ever-patient Love.

You see, if you remain discouraged and choose to stay disgruntled, Satan's seeds take deep root.  They start to blossom into evident weeds and reseed themselves.  They poison your relationship, create havoc, and mar the beauty and spiritual health of your life.  Remember, the enemy comes only to kill and destroy.  Don't let his weeds take over!

Jesus came to give us life, and that abundant life grows from a grateful heart.  It is a choice we make - a conscious choice.  Each day we have the opportunity to sow seeds of thankfulness.

As you read Psalms, you see a man who learned this secret.  David knew gratitude played an essential part in worship, drawing strength, and living a happy life.  Even in his darkest hours, he sang the praises of God.  "When he was in despair, he called on God, and his praises soon mingled with his cries of anguish, showing the victory accomplished by his habitual thankfulness."  (Springs in the Valley)

Do you make thankfulness a habit?  Let me challenge you.  Each day, record three things for which you are thankful.  Write them down and pin them up where you can see them.  Do this every day for a month, and see if your weeds of discouragement aren't withering away!  And then, keep weeding, by sowing seeds of thankfulness. You will reap what you sow!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Week Forty - Waiting Collectively

This past couple of weeks, I have studied, read, and meditated on the subject of waiting. Monday's video included some of what I learned, and we will talk about waiting again this coming week, but I wanted to share one thought with you here Beside the Well because it was something I had never considered, and it challenged my heart. I hope it challenges you, too.

Isaiah 25:9 reads, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

Precious thoughts come from this verse. The first one I noticed was the people were waiting on God. They believed He would save them.

While we are all in this holding pattern of a pandemic, are we waiting on God? Do we anticipate Him showing up? Do we see Him at work? Do we believe He can save us?

The children of Israel were waiting--waiting collectively. They were in a hard place, exiled from their homeland, but anticipation held them together as they waited for God to restore them to their land.

I think this element is missing today from our spiritual lives and in many of our churches. We are waiting, but are we waiting collectively? Are we expressing our anticipation of the Lord's return to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we preparing for His coming? Or are we keeping it to ourselves? Are we guilty of doubting that God will do anything about our situation? Do we feel stuck and alone wondering if He will really show up?

The other thought is that the fruit of waiting is God revealing Himself, so the people could joyfully express, "Lo, this is our God.  This is the Lord." There is power and blessing in united waiting!

We, as fellow Christians, are to unite in waiting for our God. We ought to draw together and lay aside all ideas of human hope or help, and with one heart, set ourselves to wait for God.

We wait for the sound of the trumpet - and we should be doing that. It is sooner than we think! But we can also wait for Him to meet with us, to answer prayer, to increase our fellowship, to forgive sin, and to heal our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Can you see the plurality? The people are collectively repenting, collectively waiting, and God promises to show up!

I'm afraid we aren't expecting God to show up. We show up. We show up to "do" worship, to lead, to preach, to teach, and to serve, but sadly, we fail to show up to see God. And if we are looking for Him, we are not waiting collectively. We are looking for an individual blessing. We are waiting for our part of the pie.

Let me challenge you to not only wait for God yourself but express that hope to others. Create an atmosphere of encouragement and anticipation in your church, your family, our group, that looks for the moment when we all sing, as a confident chorus, "Lo, this is our God, this is our Lord. We have waited for Him!"