Archive by Author

Sad but Stubborn: Pour Out Your Soul

“My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” (Psalm 42:3-4)

The writer of this song is about to get stubborn in his sadness, but first he pours out his soul to God. It’s the right approach for all of us when locked in a battle with sadness or depression or even just feeling down. You can’t make the best use of your sadness if you can’t tell yourself the truth about it.

sad_350“Why isn’t your God doing anything good to help you?” That’s what is implied by the taunts of the unbelievers in the writer’s life. They noticed his sadness and challenged his faith in God.

But the songwriter refuses to give in completely to despair; he refuses to give up on God even though he is overwhelmed by loneliness and sorrow. He makes a stubborn choice to remember a happy moment of being caught up in the worship of God (probably at the temple in Jerusalem).

That choice of what to dwell on with his mind seems to lead to the determination we’ll see in the next verse tomorrow.

Think: What do you choose to dwell on when you’re sad? Have you noticed that choosing to think about happier moments and worshipping God helps you to keep from giving up completely?

Pray: Ask God to help you when you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed or depressed to have the self-control to dwell on worshipping him and on some joyful moments he has given to you.

Do: Write a quick two or three sentences about one of your most joyful memories that included worshipping God.

Sad but Stubborn: Homesick

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2)

It’s a vivid memory. I was in college at the time and sitting in my car in a Wendy’s parking lot and listening to Rich Mullins sing “Be With You.” And out of nowhere I felt like crying.

sad_350I’d been thinking a lot about what was missing in my life. I’d been a Christian since kindergarten. I’d pretty much done everything I knew to do as a Jesus follower. Why didn’t it feel like enough? Why was I wondering if I’d been wasting my time? Wasn’t following Jesus supposed to take away all the emptiness?

Then I heard Rich sing that song and it hit me: “I’m not home, yet.” I’m not with God, yet. Not in the way I will be. What I was missing was being with my Father – and that loneliness made perfect sense.

The writer of this psalm is probably describing getting “home” to the temple and his worship of God there, but the emotion resonates. Paul described it, too. We were made for the Father and we won’t be fully satisfied until that moment comes.

Think: Have you ever had that sense that something was missing even though you had done everything a “good Christian” should do? Have you ever connected that feeling with being lonely to be with God?

Pray: Ask God to help your loneliness for him to draw you closer and to deepen your love and worship for him.

Do: If you haven’t, yet, read Paul’s description of this feeling in Romans 8:22-25 – and how the Spirit helps us turn that healthy sadness into prayer in verses 26-27.

Sad but Stubborn: Thirsty for God

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

How often do you feel sad? Sadness can be a fleeting feeling in the middle of a busy day, or it can overwhelm us for weeks and months. We’re going to talk about sadness (or depression or “feeling down”) this week – but we’re not going to talk about how to fix it.

sad_350Psalm 42 is a song about sadness apparently intended to be sung in public. The writer admits to being deeply “downcast,” but he responds to his sadness in a weird way. More on that later in the week.

He starts the song with the picture of a thirsty deer looking for a stream. It might be easier for us to imagine a dog coming in from a long walk and making a bee line for it’s water dish. The writer’s point is that he was thirsty for God like that – needy, eager, desperate.

More tomorrow about feeling lonely for God.

Think: Do you ever feel so lonely for God that it feels like a thirst, like you’re desperate? Would it be weird to feel sad because you can’t be with God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to increase your thirstiness for him.

Do: Think about being needy for God in your soul next time you feel physically thirsty.

Grace for Sinners: Now What?

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

How can you possibly respond to the grace of God? Once you really understand what it is – that what seems way too good to be true really really is true – what is the only logical response to the God who gives love and forgiveness to those who have earned rejection and hell?

grace_350One response makes sense: Worship. That’s it. You can’t “pay God back” for saving you. You can’t get busy “earning” his gift of eternal life. He doesn’t want you to spend the rest of your life focused on yourself, anyway, feeling guilty for what’s been forgiven or feeling determined to prove yourself to him.

The only logical thing for the grace-receivers to do is to spend our lives focused on him. That’s what worship is, and it’s what Paul turns to in today’s verse after telling his story of grace.

Honor and glory to the forever King, the only God, forevermore.

Think: What are some lousy ways that Christians might be tempted to respond to God’s grace? How have you participated in the worship of our good God this week?

Pray: Tell God about his greatness and about your love and appreciation for him.

Do: Make a quick list of three things you could do during this next week to express worship to God.

Grace for Sinners: Unlimited Patience

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

“If God can save that guy, he can save anyone.” Maybe you’ve heard that idea applied to a murderer or a rapist or a drug dealer. But that’s not quite what Paul was saying here. He wasn’t talking about who God “can” save – God can save anyone he wants to, right? – Paul is talking about who God is willing to save.

grace_350If God is willing to save even a guy who rejected faith in Jesus, a guy who participated in killing Christians, a guy thirsty for the blood of Jesus-followers, then the grace of God must be huge. It must be bigger than we imagined. His patience must be “unlimited,” outlasting even the worst of all my repeated sins.

Paul’s salvation was a billboard for the grace of God. His message was his life: “Believe on Jesus and receive eternal life no matter what you’ve done. God forgives it all.”

Think: Is your life a billboard for the grace of God? If you are a Christian, how could your life NOT be a billboard for the grace of God?

Pray: Thank Jesus for his mercy, for his unlimited patience, and for the gift of eternal life for all who believe on him.

Do: Write 2 or 3 sentences describing how your life is evidence of the grace of God.

Grace for Sinners: Even the Worst

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

Think Paul wanted to make sure his readers where paying attention? He did everything but underline and circle this statement. And since every statement Paul wrote as Scripture was “trustworthy” and deserved “full acceptance,” this one must be huge.

grace_350“Jesus came here to save sinners.” He didn’t come to condemn sinners. He didn’t come to evaluate sinners for potential. He didn’t come to give sinners a little help so they could maybe stop sinning and make it to heaven eventually. He came to save sinners, from the “best” to the “worst” of us.

Paul said, “I am the worst.” Not “was” the worst, even though he had been a Christ-follower for quite a while when he wrote this. Jesus didn’t wait for Paul to stop sinning – or become less of a sinner – before saving him. Jesus saved Paul while he was still a sinner.

That’s grace; it’s what Jesus does for every believer.

Think: Why did Paul call himself the worst sinner? Does being less of a sinner make anyone more or less likely to be saved by God? Why?

Pray: Thank God for sending Jesus into the world to save sinners like you and Paul.

Do: Read what Jesus said about why he came into the world in John 3:16-21.

Grace for Sinners: Poured

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14)

Paul just got done listing what he had to offer Christ: blasphemy, persecution, violence, ignorance, and unbelief. Now he describes what Christ gave to him: “superabundant” grace, faith, and love.

grace_350If you are in Christ, he has done the same for you. The best of your goodness was worthless, evil, impotent. You had nothing to trade for God’s help. You had nothing of value to offer in exchange for even a little, tiny taste of his love.

So he gave you the ocean of his acceptance and forgiveness as a gift through faith in Christ. For free. Because he loves you. Anyway. He took your unbelief and gave you faith. He took your love of violence and gave you an unlikely love for him and his people.

He is rebuilding you not to make you acceptable to him, but to make you who you were always intended to be. Tat looks a lot like Jesus.

Think: Why is it so hard for some of us to believe we have no goodness in ourselves to make us acceptable to God? Why is it so hard to believe that he pours out his grace on us for free?

Pray: Thank God that he pours out his abundant grace on believers, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Do: Think about memorizing this short verse and kicking it around your head for the next week or two.