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Psalm 16: No Good Thing

“I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ ” (Psalm 16:2)

One of the major growing-up steps in the Christian life is to be able to say – and believe (much harder) – the statement David makes to God in this verse.

jump_350It’s a dangerous faith statement. To believe it is to leave all the false self-hope behind. To believe it is to say, “Everything I thought I’d given to myself was actually God’s gift to me.” To believe it is to say, “Every good thing I don’t have right now is something my loving Father didn’t give to me – so I must not need it in this moment.”

To believe this statement – and all the implications it brings – is to step into the deeper end of the faith pool. It’s an idea that should fill us with gratitude as we notice all the good things we have. But it’s also one that will challenge our willingness to trust the powerful Father who knows us best to give us what he decides is for our good in his timing.

Think: How convinced are you that you have no good thing apart from God? Is there a difference between agreeing with this idea on paper and actually living like it’s true?

Pray: Thank God that he is the source of every truly good thing in your life. Ask him to help you to trust his timing to provide you with good things in the future.

Do: Read another expression of this idea in James 1:16-18.

Psalm 16: Keep Me Safe!

“Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)

We’re going to spend this next week listening to how the songwriter David worshipped God in Psalm 16. I wish we could hear the music, but the words – written under the inspiration of the subject of the song – hold deep secrets about what it means to trust him and enjoy the life he gives to us.

jump_350Ever wonder what the most popular prayer in history might be? My guess is that these words would make the top 5: “Keep me safe!” David spent years at war, in battle, and on the run for his life from powerful enemies. Aside from armed conflict, I bet this request gets used a lot in heavy traffic, in hospitals, and even in sleepless bedrooms.

David was convinced that God’s answer was loud and clear: “Yes!” And that faith provoked him to put all of his eggs in one basket, all of his hope for safety in the hands of one loving, powerful, and good God.

Think: When are you most likely to feel the least safe? Is your first instinct to ask God for help? Are you convinced that he hears and answers that prayer?

Pray: Ask God for the courage to put all of your hope for safety in his hands. Thank him that he is trustworthy to provide for all of your needs in every kind of dangerous situation you might face.

Do: Make a quick list of 3 of the most dangerous moments in your life up until this point. Think about how God protected you in those moments.

Peace Week 2!: Love Life and See Good Days

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10 – 12)

Would you like to love life and see good days? Sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it? Sounds like someone is trying to sell you something by offering a deal that’s too good to be true. I understand the skepticism, but it’s way simpler than that.

peace_350Peter is quoting David here to make the case that right living is always better living. Right living is usually simpler, too. Saying hurtful things; telling lies; doing evil stuff – it all makes life so complicated. It feels simple at first, because it comes so naturally. But the result is confusion and stressful work to keep all of our evil hidden (sometimes from ourselves).

Instead, David and Peter say: Just do good. Just say right out loud: “My goal is to find peace and do good for God. Oops, I messed up. My bad. My new goal is to find peace and do good.” God is for us when we make that our simple goal.

Think: Why do you think that simply trying to do good and find peace would lead to loving life and seeing good days? Why would doing wrong and telling lies lead to hating life and seeing bad days? Can it really be that simple?

Pray: Ask God to give you the simple desire to do right things for him, to tell the truth, and to chase peace – and ask him to help you to love life and see good days because of that.

Do: Read all of Psalm 34 to hear the full context of David’s psalm.

Peace Week 2!: Who Wants Quiet?

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

These two verses are bursting with big ideas worth talking about, but I want to focus on just one of them. Why does Paul want us to pray for those in authority over us? So we can live peaceful and quiet lives . . . in all godliness and holiness.

peace_350This verse bothered me for a long time. I didn’t want to live a peaceful and quiet life. I wanted to live a life of noisy excitement, great adventure, and action-packed thrill rides. What I learned, though, is that you don’t grow very deep in godliness and holiness on the action-packed days.

You might grow faith in the storm when all you can do it trust God to get you through – but you’re more likely to grow holiness in the stillness. It takes some peace and quiet to know more fully the God we serve.

I don’t know any longtime Christians who don’t have enough action in their lives. But the ones who have embraced the quiet moments with the Father seem a lot stronger when life gets noisy again.

Think: Which appeals to you more today, action or quiet? How can you make the most of peace and quiet, in terms of getting to know God better? Do you have a plan for the peaceful days – or do you try to fill them with more noise?

Pray: Pray for the people in authority in your life to do their jobs well in order to provide you with some peace and quiet in which to practice godliness and holiness.

Do: Find a whole hour sometime this week in which you do nothing but sit – awake! – without any music, TV, Internet, cell phone, or anything else. Use the hour to talk to God about anything and everything – and otherwise to just sit.

Peace Week 2!: Let Jesus’ Peace Rule

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

How do you decide what your response will be to other Christians when there is conflict of some kind? Maybe it’s a simple disagreement. Maybe someone wronged you, hurt you badly. Maybe someone feels offended by your words, though you’re not sure they should.

peace_350The word “rule” in today’s passage means “arbitrate” or “decide the debate.” Paul is saying that we should let “Christ’s peace” decide how we will respond to other believers. And, of course, the peace of Christ will tell us to do the thing that brings more peace between brothers and sisters.

Peace with others in our lives is not free. It costs us something – our right to rule in our hearts that we will get even, that we will not forgive, that we will not apologize or own the part of the conflict that is ours, that we will not let it go unless the other person agrees he was wrong, too.

Peace costs our selves, and peace is our calling.

Think: Who rules in your heart?

Pray: Ask God to help the peace of Christ to rule in your heart when it comes to resolving conflicts with other Christians.

Do: Look up the word “arbitrate” in a dictionary.

Peace Week 2!: Stop Freaking Out

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Rejoice. Dial it down. Look for him. Stop freaking out. Tell Him what you want. Say thanks for what you’ve got. Wait for the peace. Think about better things.

peace_350That collection of very short imperative sentences (commands) has changed my life. It is the path to peace of mind in Jesus.

v. 4: Push your mental joy button because Jesus is Lord. Repeat.

v. 5: Avoid extreme reactions. Remember he’s coming back.

v. 6: Reject your own anxiety. Tell God what you would like to see happen (and trust him to decide if it will or not). Remember that he likes to give you good things – and say thanks for some of the obvious ones.

v. 7: Wait for the peace that doesn’t make sense to show up with the guard that keeps it it from falling out again.

v. 8: Have the bouncer in your brain check your thoughts at the door: Is it true? Is it positive? Then let it in. Otherwise, get out.

Think: If you struggle with anxiety, look for which of these things you might be missing. It’s not a magic formula; it’s how we’re meant to trust God. And trusting God is the key to having peace. Think about a specific way you could practice each item.

Pray: Ask God to help you to obey these commands and to find that peace that transcends all understanding.

Do: Write that first paragraph of short sentences on a card or a sticky note along with the reference, Philippians 4:4-8. Put it somewhere you’re likely to find it the next time you feel like you’ve lost your peace of mind.

Peace Week 2!: What’s Your Part?

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

I like that God knows that we live in the real world. He doesn’t hand out impossible commands and then sit back to laugh at us when we inevitably fail. God gives us loving commands that he knows are for our good – and then he helps his children to succeed in following after Jesus.

peace_350Today’s verse is a perfect example. Built into it is the understanding that some people will just absolutely refuse to be at peace with us. God knows that I can’t control you. If you have declared yourself my enemy, I can’t force you to change that – and he doesn’t expect me to.

On the other hand, this command sets the bar really high for us. If we follow it, it means we never get to be the reason someone isn’t at peace with us. We must own our part of the conflict, even if our part is only 5 percent, and try to make it right. If the other guy (or girl) is willing to make peace, God-obeyers say “yes.” Every time.

We are the peacemakers.

Think: Have you ever tried hard to make peace with someone who just would not forgive you or accept you? How often are you the reason a conflict remains unresolved?

Pray: Ask God to help you to make peace with as many people in your life as possible.

Do: If you have any outstanding conflicts, call, text, or talk to someone who might not be okay with you in attempt to own up to your part and make peace.