January 9, 2019- Silence, Hope, and the Gospel in a Psalm- Psalm 62

fortress

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. *Selah

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. *Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man according to his work. Psalm 62 (ESV)

The holidays are over. School is back in session and people are back into the normal non-holiday routines.  The constant barrage of activity and marketing pitches and hustle has slowed down and life has settled down into an awkward silence for many of us.

Silence can be a comfort, especially for those of us who could use more of it, but it can also carry anxiety with it, a feeling of dread or trepidation over not knowing what’s next.

The psalmist reminds us that silence is a place in which we can take great comfort and rest because we are waiting on God. It’s not the nervous kind of hope we have when we are waiting on a ride or for an important appointment, but a joyful hope because we are assured what we believe is true. God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is our fortress, the One we can rely upon, the One who created us and brings us to eternal life. This is a wonderful message of comfort and joy!

There is prophecy throughout the Psalms. Today’s Psalm that we are studying, Psalm 62, is no exception.  We learn of both the sovereignty and the suffering of Jesus. As we pray this Psalm, it points us directly to place all of our hope in Him.

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, (Jesus) like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him
(Jesus) down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. *Selah

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

He (Jesus) only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

These verses speak of Jesus and how He will be attacked and rejected and sacrificed, yet our hope is in Him alone.

We are easily intimidated by the situations and the people in this world. We see people “getting ahead” by trampling on others, ignoring justice and not caring about how God would have us behave.  We are guilty of those things as well and we do not live perfectly either.  The psalmist reminds us we need to keep our eyes on Jesus as our hope, no matter what others do or even when we fail.

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Jesus is the One who covers us. We do not earn or deserve anything good from God, but Jesus comes to us with salvation as a free gift.

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man according to his
(Jesus’) work.

On the surface these two verses appear to be contradictory, however, in Christ HIS work upon the Cross became our work. The power belongs to God to save, to defeat death and restore.  When God looks at us, His named and claimed baptized children, He sees Jesus’ perfect work on the Cross.

Our hope is in Christ alone. As we pray the Psalms, we see Jesus and we put ourselves in agreement with Him. In the silence we can take comfort that God is very much with us and that our hope is in the Way, the Truth and the Light.

February 1, 2018- Light in the Darkness- Hope for Those Touched by Suicide- Isaiah 42:16, John 1:5, Romans 8:37-39

loving god

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)

In Tuesday’s study the subjects of chronic anxiety and mental illness were mentioned. There are times in which we need to seek help from those around us, including those professionals in the medical community. As Jesus followers, we are called to interact and respond to a fallen world. God put us here for a purpose, and to make a difference in the world.  Sometimes we may literally be the difference between life and death for someone close to us.

Death is a difficult subject for all of us. No one wants to face his or her own mortality, or the mortality of our loved ones, even though all of us will face the death of our earthly bodies.

American culture is particularly silent on the subject of suicide.   Christian tradition has not always given us a helpful or merciful approach to those who are at risk for suicide or for the loved ones left behind.  For much of the history of the church, suicide was labeled as a “mortal sin” for which there is no forgiveness offered.  However, there is nothing in Scripture that indicates there is an “unforgivable sin” save for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12:31, Luke 12:10)  Can we place arbitrary limits on the ability of God to redeem and save His people? Is it more congruent with what we know about God to assume that God’s default plan for His creation is redemption?

There is a taboo and a silence that surrounds the subject of suicide, so that people don’t bring it out in the open. We can be quick to rush to judgment, but only God knows the depth of the pain and anguish that would compel someone to seek his or her own physical death.

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was bringing dark things out into the open to face the light. When we recognize something isn’t right it needs to be exposed- not to pass judgment- but to do what we can to make it right. We can help make people aware that there are better options available to work through their situations and their pain including seeking help from health professionals when necessary.  We can stay in touch with our loved ones. We can take time to make sure they know how much we love them, and we can always pray for them. We can have understanding and mercy for this fallen world and for fallible humans like us.  We can do everything within our power to prevent suicide, and to offer help and hope to hurting and desperate people.

The truth is that we are not called to pass judgment on anyone. We are not called to blame the person who succumbed to the desire to end his or her own life, or the people around him or her, or ourselves. Each person is intimately known by God, and only God is qualified to judge. We are called to forgive and to have mercy upon others- as well as upon ourselves.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide there is help. There are life-affirming and life-saving options.

1-800-273-8255 –National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– is available 7 days a week and 24 hours per day.