Remembering July 7, 2016 (Psalm 22)

Two years ago, at the end of protests on the night of July 7, 2016, a lone shooter ambushed a group of Dallas police officers, killing five men and injuring nine others. The ambush came amid high tensions across the nation concerning a rash of police shootings that received massive media scrutiny and sparked nationwide outrage, particularly in black communities.

Dallas is a city that has witnessed horrific events before. In 1963, JFK was assassinated here. After September 11, 2001, the skies above DFW, normally filled with flying machines, hovered quietly and somberly for days on end as the nation attempted to come to grips with what had happened that fateful day.

Two years after the shootings in Dallas, tensions and dissension remain. Yes, the focus and topics have changed, but the societal gaps have widened. We are not a nation that has been drawn closer together. The cohesiveness and unity of the day after 9-11 are a distant memory.

In the days that followed the cowardly attack, I had the privilege of attending several of the funerals for the officers. Pulling up to park at the memorial service for Dallas Police Sergeant Michael Smith, my friend Mark Jones and I were blown away at seeing the thousands of police cars and motorcycles lining the streets around Watermark Church. Mark and I lamented the state of race relations in America, discussing how, as ministers, we should respond to the ever-increasing tensions between our two respective races.

While we did not assess people by their skin color, we knew that people in the world did. We both believed in law and order and supporting those who protected our families and communities. Our hearts ached for the fallen officers and their families and the tensions splitting our nation apart. Walking to the church, neither of us knew that the Lord would call my friend Mark home the following year, days before the one-year anniversary of the ambush.

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The focus of those days has shifted. The vitriolic venom, though, has not subsided. Our country is not any more united today than it was on that day. The divide still exists. Protests continue. As a nation, we are weary. Weary of the terrorism, tired of war, fed up with the drug epidemics, and frustrated by the unending protests against seemingly everything and everyone.

Psalm 22 The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

22 1-2 God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me
miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

3-5 And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
  leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
    they cried for your help and you gave it;
    they trusted and lived a good life.

6-8 And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!”

9-11 And to think you were midwife at my birth,
setting me at my mother’s breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
since the moment of birth you’ve been my God.
Then you moved far away
and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.

12-13 Herds of bulls come at me,
    the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
    like a herd of buffalo on the move.

14-15 I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled,
every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
in the dirt.

16-18 Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.

19-21 You, God—don’t put off my rescue!
    Hurry and help me!
Don’t let them cut my throat;
    don’t let those mongrels devour me.
If you don’t show up soon,
    I’m done for—gored by the bulls,
    meat for the lions.

22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.

25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”

27-28 From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

29 All the power-mongers are before him
—worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
—worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
—worshiping!

30-31 Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

The Devotional Guy_preach the gospel

In Psalm 22, we find David weary and frustrated, feeling despondent, and wondering if God had forsaken him. Yet, he remained confident that God would look after him. Frustrated by God’s apparent lack of response to David’s prayers, he found encouragement through remembering God’s past faithfulness and goodness.

David teaches us a valuable lesson through his response. We see David demonstrating attitudes and concerns in similar ways that we do when the world seems to be piling problem after problem at our door. Amidst the turmoil swirling around his situation, David steps back long enough to remember the Lord’s previous mercies and grace. This made his present troubles appear small in retrospect.

David outlines his dire circumstances and then confidently expresses his personal trust in the Lord and belief that the same God who provided for him before will deliver him from certain death now.

When we find ourselves mired in the valley, we forget what we experienced on the mountaintop. My late friend Mark would often say something like “Don’t forget in the darkness what God showed you in the light.”

Yes, in this life we will have trouble. But, as we see in this Psalm written by David centuries ago, we can be confident that we serve a God who is trustworthy. God is able. With an able and faithful God on our side, we have nothing to fear in this life.

As a nation, I pray we will remember what we share in common is far greater than that which divides us. We must move past the vitriolic discourse and begin having honest conversations about what ails us. In my lifetime, I have seen our nation move far away from God. We have forsaken and forgotten Him, pushing Him out of virtually every facet of our lives. We’ve taken the wheel. We’ve become the pilots now. At best, we ask God to be our co-pilot, to ride along with us, as we pursue our will and seek out our own ways. Along the way, those who have pledged to protect and serve us are slaughtered on the battlefields far away and those close to home.

DPD Memorial 2016Please checkout Gary Miller and I discussing “Everythingness” on the WorshipMinistry.com podcast.

Psalm Saturday: Psalm 86

Psalm 86 is a prayer written by David, the shepherd boy who became King over all Israel. Based on his experience of God’s goodness, David asks the Lord to show His strength by standing against the proud who are exalting themselves over him. It is the only psalm ascribed to David in the third book of Psalms and contains familiar quotes from other psalms, often mirroring them verbatim.

David spends the first 10 verses asking God for His protection. The request for protection is followed by David’s request for greater understanding in verses 11-13. In verses 14-17, he closes his psalm with a request for strength to fight off his enemies.

In this psalm, we see a mighty king, bending his knee to almighty God, demonstrating his dependence on the Lord, and showing us that he trusts Him and is ready to obey Him. David asks for grace, acknowledging it is not something God owes him. David rested with the confidence that God would answer his plea because God was the only one who is able to do great things. David trusted God because he knew that God was able.

David had personally experienced God doing tremendous things in his life, like calling him up from the fields into Saul’s palace to serve the King, and helping David slay the giant Goliath. David knew that he did not do these things in his own power, but rather because God was with him. What situation or circumstance in your life needs you to show dependence and trust in the Lord?

When we cry out for greater understanding for those things in our life that happen unexpectedly and that escape our ability to understand, we must mirror David’s call. David did so with humility, knowing God did not owe him an answer. He did not question God’s goodness or God’s plan, but sought to understand so that he could give God the glory. David knew God loved him and was the source of his salvation. He knew that it was the Lord who sustained him. It is okay for us to ask God questions, provided we remember that He alone is God and that He is holy and mighty. God doesn’t owe us an answer. Do you desire greater understanding? Have you asked God to provide it to you?

RB_Psalm Saturday

People were rebelling against David and God. Man’s rebellion against the Lord is nothing new. It was true before David, during David’s reign as King, and it remains true for us living in the 21st century. David looked for a sign from God, just like we often do. David asked for strength and that the Lord would deliver him from his troubles, just like we often do. David trusted that God would answer his plea. When you ask God to help you overcome the problems you are facing, do you trust Him to answer you?

God is for us, not against us. He is trustworthy. We can trust in Him. He hears our prayers and He is willing to answer them. Are we willing to faithfully obey His call on our lives? We must recognize our utter dependence on the Lord Almighty and acknowledge that God owes us nothing. Everything He has given us to date is sheer grace.

Blessings.

 

Psalm 86

A Prayer of David.

1 Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. 4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. 6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. 7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.

8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. 9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. 10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. 17 Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 63: God is Trustworthy

Hard to believe that it is Saturday again already. Has your week flown by like mine? The temperatures sure are creeping up here in Texas. I’m not sure we’re quite ready for triple-digit days here in the DFW metroplex, but ready or not, they have arrived. There’s something about sunny weather that makes me smile. I love the sunshine. My guess is most of you do too. But sometimes, even when the weather outside is beautiful and sunny, our circumstance or disposition inside is shrouded in darkness. Such was the case with David when he wrote the words to Psalm 63. He was in a world of hurt. He found himself in a dark, difficult place. David had gone into hiding in the wilderness of Judah, and far removed from the Ark and his regular place of formal worship. I’m sure that this made him feel disconnected from God and separted from worship. Have you ever been in a place like that during your faith journey? I have. And it’s no fun.

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David laments his situation in Psalm 63, pouring out his heart and soul, praying that the Lord would hear him. He hungered for God. His soul was thirsty for a word from the Lord. He felt spiritually dry and his body ached from weariness. But he refused to let his current plight prevent him from praising God. He rested in the faithfulness and steadfast love of the Lord. He knew that God had his back and that David’s enemies would not prevail against him, even though in that moment, thinks looked bleak. Read an meditate on the words of David’s lamenting psalm:

Psalm 63 (ESV)

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; 10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

Even though he was many miles away from the Ark and a long distance away from his regular house of worship, David trusted the Lord. Throughout his lifetime, he had found God to be trustworthy.

The other night, when we were with our group ministering down at Union Gospel Mission, I talked and prayed with a man who had been struggling to find God trustworthy. He wanted to trust in the Lord, but he remained unconvinced. I shared my experience with him. I have witnessed God at work. Like David, I have found the Lord to be trustworthy, far beyond any definition of trustworthiness I could ever fathom. Even when our days are difficult, God is good. He remains trustworthy. His faithfulness is steadfast and everlasting. The Lord will not drop you. He will not forget you. God cares for you. He loves you. He’s got you.

As Christians, we can take comfort that our prayers don’t go unheard. God listens to us. He delights in our prayers. The answer we get to prayer doesn’t always look the way we anticipated. There are times that we think we didn’t get an answer because we don’t see God’s response in a tangible way from our current position. Yet, later, as our perspective shifts, we discover God did answer. And yes, there are times when the answer is no. In all instances, we can trust God with our prayers.

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Meditating on the person and works of God refreshes our soul and invigorates our spirit. It is important for us to spend time focusing on God, reminding us of His goodness, His greatness, and His grace. Meditating on the Scripture, God’s revelation of Himself to us, helps us serve as a blessing to others, as well as feeding and nurturing ourselves. It’s what we call a “win-win.” Prayer helps us tap into all that God has to offer. Through prayerful meditation we can discern God’s will for us, as well as deepen our relationship with Him.

As believers, like David, we can rest in the assurance that the Lord is trustworthy. We can celebrate His faithfulness and shout in praise of His steadfast love for us. God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Blessings.