Psalm 69 : May Your Salvation Protect Me

imageOn the cross at Calvary the perfect innocent was crucified. Though charges were leveled and accusations screamed about Him, there was no guilt in the verdict of the ultimate Judge. The Savior knew and trusted in the ultimate outcome of The Plan.

Though our voices ring with affirmation of our trust in God and His Plan, the immediacy of the struggles we face excite the doubting voice in our hearts. Why God? Why do you allow your saints to be falsely accused while the mockers go free? No answer has ever been given except, “trust me.”

Save me O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.

I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.

I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail looking for God. (Psalm 69:1-3)

Along with Psalm 22, this scripture is found most often in the New Testament. The authors (as well as modern Christians) found the parallels with the innocent suffering of Christ to be the perfect descriptive words. John speaks of Jesus’ rejection by His own people (Jn 15:25) and his motive in driving out the traders from the Temple (Jn 3:17). The other gospel authors heard the words of innocence being put to death ( Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23; Lk 23:36; Jn 19:19-30) and Paul related the meaning of His suffering (Rom 15:3) to this psalm.

for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. (Ps 69:9)

For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Rom 15:3)

Trusting that our struggle is for the greater good is one of the greatest challenges that we face. Our innate sense of what is fair doesn’t have a category into which we can organize our pain in the face of the guilty walking free of injury. We must simply trust.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. (vv 30-31)

Grace and peace to you.

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Ten

imageThe psalmist expresses his despair in Psalm 129 as he speaks of his (their) oppression from youth. His enemies have not given a moments rest in their persecution and he prays to God for their destruction. We can identify with these feelings so many centuries later. Who among us has not wished evil on someone else?

We’re often puzzled as we read near the crucifixion event when the crowds are given a choice to free Jesus or Barabbas and they choose the murderer. Were the crowds more evil than us? A better question for reflection today is whether or not we do the same thing in our daily life. Do we deny Christ in favor of something else? God knew our ways as He spoke through the prophet Isaiah:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.

He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (vv 52:2-3) 

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Randy Alcorn Addresses the Toughest Issue : If God is Good

clip_image001[4]Christians and Atheists alike voice the same question over and over again; if God is good then why are evil and suffering so prevalent? The believer may be led to think that the life of the Christian is to be free of pain and suffering only to find that, in most cases, the opposite is true. The Atheist uses the reality of struggle and horror as a foundational argument against the existence of God only to discover adversity strengthening the belief of the followers of Jesus. Is suffering a punishment for sin or an experience that God could readily remove from the world? Is there a bigger picture seen by the Creator of the universe where our troubles serve a larger purpose that we simply cannot see? Randy Alcorn enters this swirling discussion with his excellent new book If God is Good and the core challenge to the reader, what if suffering is God’s way of asking us to trust Him?

The problems of evil’s existence and the suffering of human beings are extraordinarily complex subjects but Alcorn has devoted 500 pages to examining the problems from numerous different angles. He looks at evil and suffering from the perspective of a believer and as a nonbeliever and examines these problems historically, theologically, and philosophically. Alcorn’s writing is what sets this book apart from denser scholastic examinations. He writes for the Christian struggling to understand why God allows evil and suffering to continue in the world. Each of the topical sections is divided into short chapters that address a single issue or question making the book a go-to resource that the reader can open to a specific topic and begin to find the answer.

Randy writes with a pastoral heart and an eye for connecting the truths of Scripture with vignettes of real life. Readers can often encounter a verse such as Isaiah 48:10—See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.–and be unable to understand how it applies to their lives. Would God actually do this? Would he actually allow us to suffer pain and strife for His glory? When the pain is so close and personal, this seems to be anathema but this is where the book shines. Alcorn’s special talent lies in finding just the right illustration to bring the truth home and he puts that talent to great use throughout these chapters. For example, by showing how the pain of the death of a missionary looks up close, Alcorn can then pull us back to see the effect that he or she had on numbers of people who witnessed their faithfulness and came to know the God they worshipped and embodied.

This is a must-have book for anyone who questions the issue of suffering. This will find a prominent place on my shelf so that I can refer to it often. It is accessible, well structured, and so moving that I often could only read short sections before putting it aside to think about what I had just read. If you have been fortunate enough to have avoided struggle and strife in your life, reading this book will prepare you for the inevitable moment in which it arrives because it will. If your life has been marked by great tragedy, struggle, pain, and suffering, read this book alongside your Bible in order to understand how your pain serves God, His eternal plan, and His glory.

For more information about If God is Good, go here.

Lent 2009 – 14 Steps to the Cross

PeterStepsDear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 5:12-13)

One of the ideas that is found throughout the Bible is the notion of the privilege of suffering. Whether it be persecution or a difficult ministry situation, or even personal disability, the Christian is to rejoice at the idea of being considered worthy of the suffering that we must face.

Frankly, most of us would gladly pass on this privilege.

Suffering for the glory of the gospel runs counter to our survival mechanism. We are wired to avoid pain and difficulty if at all possible and yet Peter, like other authors before him, exhorts us to rejoice at any sudden challenges that appear in our lives. Reading the rest of the verse gives us a clue that helps to change our attitude toward suffering. He reminds us that we are sharing in the suffering of Christ, in however small a way that the Lord deems appropriate for us to do so. Just as our promise awaits us in the distant future, we must also view today’s challenges as having an effect in the future of God’s plans.

Somehow, we still struggle.

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Psalm 22 ~ Why Have You Forsaken Me? Part 3

The psalmist turns in the final section of this psalm to the nature of steadfast faith. In the middle segment we encountered the voice of despair as the believer found himself facing travail from every direction. Despite the struggles he knew who would save and redeem him from these challenges. In the closing verses, he praises the Redeemer for the future good that the will bring.

I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him all you descendants of Israel! (vv 22-23)

Instructive for us is the expansive view that the suffering man proclaims. It is easy to dwell on our personal issues and troubles at the expense of looking outward to others. The Christian must face the possibility that their suffering is for the good of another, either as instruction and example, or to directly benefit them at your expense. A true and deep faith looks beyond today toward the promise of tomorrow and our eternal time with the Lord.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him – may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. (vv 25-28)

Faith always look forward.

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