A Visit to the Doctor

By popular demand, here are two clean videos that will get your laughter going…

I hope that you all have an enjoyable and restful weekend…and don’t overdo it on the pop tarts…

Enjoy

Doctor Visit

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUU9CqrtFiU]

Pop Tarts

Announcing “Operation Ufa – 2009”

In 2005 Don Ott and I had the privilege to travel to Ufa, Bashkortostan, in partnership with Slavic Gospel Association, to teach a Homiletics (Preaching) class to the National Pastors and Missionaries and to look at beginning a relationship with the regional church there. What we found was a remnant church that is eager to share the Gospel with their Muslim neighbors and desiring our partnership and help.

In January of 2007 we continued to develop our partnership by sending a team. Pastor Matthew Blevins and I team taught another class on Homiletics, and our team was able to spend time serving at the Street Kids Ministry, in orphanages and at the Sterlatimak Rehab Center. Add to that the Youth Workers Conference that Matthew taught and the times we spent in the local churches, our team was very busy and able to further develop important relationships for the purpose of building up the kingdom.

That following summer we also sent three of our College Students to jointly serve with our Nor-Cal Antioch Coalition Camp Team. Their hard work and testimony continued to reinforce our commitment to support and equip the body of Christ in Bashkortostan.

Our partnership in this region has continued this summer through our own Jamie Atkinson who served for five weeks, assisting with the children’s ministries, in particular the summer camps.

Opportunity Knocks…

That brings us to our next opportunity. In Jan/Feb of 2009 I will be going to Ufa again to teach a seminary class on Homiletics to the pastors and missionaries.

In conjunction with our teaching ministry there is also an opportunity for 4-6 adults from our church family to join us on this trip to assist our Russian brothers and sisters in a number of ministry contexts.

  • Street Kids Ministry
  • Orphanage Ministries
  • Rehab Center

This will be very similar to our successful 2007 ministry in Ufa, and will continue to be a great opportunity for our church to selflessly serve and equip the churches in the region of Bashkortostan while we still can.

If you are interested in joining us…

There will be an informational meeting on September 7th (Next week) after the 2nd service in Room 3. Also, please contact me, Pastor Rod.

Also, if you speak Russian, we could really use your help, so please seriously consider coming to the meeting and trusting God in this.

Trip Info…

  • Dates: January 27th-February 10th (tentative)
  • Cost: $3500 – $4000 – Trust God here!
  • Who: Regular attending College Students/Adults
  • Need: Passport secured by October 15th.

Web Blogg can be fount at… (www.norcalantioch.wordpress.com)

More information about our efforts in Russia can be found at the www.norcalantioch.wordpress.com blog.

A Loving Rant…

This afternoon I was driving in my car for just a few minutes and decided to check in on the local Christian Radio station.  Now, usually in the afternoon the programs tend to be more along the lines of “Live Call-In We want to help you” programs rather than the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.

Well, I am listening to the two commentators talking and one begins to praise a new book having to do with “brain power” that talks about the findings and testings of the brain and what makes a healthy brain.  He stressed that the conclusion of the book was that our brains are healthier when we are “loving ourselves for who we are and loving others for who they are.”  Then, they both began to talk about how that is exactly what God teaches in His Word.  How amazing it is that man spends all this time and effort and comes to a conclusion that God has been teaching all along.  Now, you have heard about righteous anger, well, I let out a righteous “you’ve got to be joking!”  when I heard those comments.

Nowhere in Scripture are we told to “love ourselves for who we are.”  No, in fact, the Word of God teaches that it is the love of self that is our problem.  God doesn’t say, “Rod, your problem, and the reason that your brain isn’t healthy is because you just don’t love yourself for who you are.”  You won’t find it.  Now, certainly, Scripture does tell us to love one another, but self love is always portrayed in Scripture as a sinful attitude.  It is selfishness, pride and results in me not loving my brother and sister, neighbor and enemy.

The confusion comes from a weak and twisted interpretation of Ephesians 5:28-29 where Paul says…

28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, Ephesians 5:28 through Ephesians 5:29 (NASB)

There is no command here to love ourselves.  No, Paul simply assumes the natural fleshly reality that we do love our own bodies, that we naturally care for them and give ample attention them.  So, in the same way we husbands should love our wives.

Now, allow me to nit-pick for the purpose of Biblical clarity.  God does want us to have a healthy self-image, however, that image comes through looking at ourselves through the clear lens of God’s Word, not from bringing psychological trends into Scriptural understanding and then creating an interpretation that the Scripture is not teaching.  The Word of God tells us that we are enemies of God, blind, naked, helpless and defiled.  That we are walking in darkness and are miserable and desperate for a Savior.  Enter God, who gives His grace to those whom He, by His good and perfect drawing, calls to Himself through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ on the Cross.  We who are now His children are still struggling with the flesh, but we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  We can certainly love Him, and we should.  We can hunger and thirst to grow in our relationship with Him and we must.  But, to love self is to digress, is to return to old ways of thinking, to legitimize our selfish, self-love desires.  It is to return to sin.

So, what Scripture does teach is that a healthy view of self that is fashioned and shaped by a clear understanding of what God teaches in His Word will bring health to your walk and will give you freedom to live and grow for the glory of God.

We must be careful to not allow such unbiblical teaching concerning self-love to be in our diet.  It creates all sorts of confusion and distorts the joy of who we are in Christ as being central.  We must think through what we hear from well meaning but unbiblical teachers on the radio.

Rant over…sheesh….!!

Paradox and Chicken Pox…

Children are truly a gift from God.  I have been blessed with four:  Vanessa (17), Gavin (14), Deanna (12) and Adam (9).  As I am sure you can imagine, our home can get quite noisy and active at times.  Thankfully God has graced us with a home that has a small yard in the back and a cul-de-sac in the front where on a regular basis one can see children racing around on bikes, skateboards, skates or chasing various balls of differing shapes and sizes.

Of course, with children there are the inevitable struggles that they must face.  Well, last night we were visited by Mr. Chicken and his little family of pox.  So, my Adam is now breaking out in a rash and I am sure that my daughter Deanna will soon follow.  So, I ask for prayer and encouragement for my wife who will be spending much of her time serving these little gifts from God over the course of the next week or so.

Somehow, just writing this and thinking about it makes me itch all over.  I must be having flashbacks to my childhood…

But, let me ask you  a question…

Have you  every stopped and thought that God, through His Word, speaks to us with the metaphor of children?  It seems that He wants us to be a child in one passage, and then, in the next passage He warns to not be children.  Let me give you an example of what I am talking about…

In Matthew 19 we read that parents (lit. some, i.e. parents) were bringing children to Jesus so that He could touch them and bless them.  This was a common practice.  Parents often sought the blessing of their local rabbi’s.  What is interesting is that the Disciples rebuked the parents.  Now we don’t know exactly why, but it could have been because they were simply trying to protect their Master – good intentions, but a bad move on their part.  It may have been much more sinister, however, because Jesus gets righteously angry with the Disciples (Mark 10:14) for their behavior and says…

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. 16And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (Mark 10:14-16)

So, Jesus is telling us through this passage that in order for us to receive the kingdom of God we must enter it like a child.  But what does that mean?  What He is telling us that only those who possess childlike qualities like absolute dependence and simple trust can turn from their sin and rest upon Him alone.

Then, in the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul warns us to not be children saying…

… we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; Ephesians 4:14 (NASB)

So, on one had we “are” to be like children and on the other hand we “are not.”  Is this really a paradox?  Well, no, not at all.  Both Paul and Jesus are using children and their behavior as a metaphor, but in two different ways.  Jesus is encouraging us to be childlike and Paul is warning us to not be childish.  The two are vastly different.

  • Believers must be childlike – they must trust and believe God without hesitation, just like little kids trust their parents.
  • Believers must not be childish – never having anything more than an elementary knowledge of the faith.  Young and old alike must be growing in their knowledge of God, trusting Him like a child while maturing in their doctrinal comprehension.

Even Peter, impulsive and childish as he could often be, exhorts the church with the following words…

1Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Just like the chicken pox, as children we will face natural struggles as we grow.  They are inevitable, however, God wants us to keep growing toward maturity, avoiding childishness and embracing a childlike trust and dependence on Him.

So, grab His hand and trust Him without hesitation…

Medal Count

You know, I love the Olympics. I have been watching it this year and enjoying all the drama, the amazing accomplishments and the heartbreaking endings to people’s dreams. Is it just me or is there some difference in philosophy as to how to view the medals in the Olympics? Here is what I mean, if you are to look at the medal count on, let’s say, ESPN you will find on the top of the list the USA with a total of 98 medals (as of today, Aug. 21)

USA 29 35 34 98
CHN 46 15 22 83
RUS 16 16 19 51

Now, if you go to a European site this is what you will see…

Pos Country Total
1 China 46 15 22 83
2 United States 29 35 34 98
3 Great Britain 17 12 11 40
4 Russia 16 16 19 51
5 Australia 11 13 14 38

Now, do you see a difference? Is it really about the “total” medals won or is it about who has the most “gold” medals?

Well, if you are an American, you want to save face in light of China’s 46 medals, so, you will focus on the total medal count. It’s the typical “bigger is better” American thinking that is so prevalent in our culture. We always feel that we have to be #1, so we will tend to spin the facts to make us look good.

If you are China or even Great Britain, you want your Gold medal count to lift you up the ladder of prestige. Now, I know, the Olympics is still ongoing and there are still medals to be handed out, but do we really care about the total count? Do we care how many Gold’s, Silvers or Bronz’s are heading home to the USA? In my humble opinion, I think that it is best to take each sport or event individually and give credit to the participants, whatever country they are from, for their hard work and accomplishments.

Think about it, how much coverage have you see of Olympic activity taking place between two teams that are not the USA or likely to play the USA. Sometimes I really like to watch the obscure events, the ones that we here in the USA don’t specialize in: Badminton, Handball, Ping-Pong, etc.

Well, these are my observations…What do you think?

Worshipping God Through Crisis – Part 4

We have been immersing ourselves in Psalm 77 where we see a servant of God wrestling during a time of crisis.

We have seen Asaph pour out his heart before His God, but not feeling that He is being heard, seen or understood.

We have seen him even question the character of God by asking questions that are so far removed from Asaph’s true theology (understanding) of who God really is. Crisis often challenges our view of God.

  • This has all been what I have called “Asaph’s Condition.”

We have also seen how Asaph struggles up with determination to move from a religious – feelings oriented – approach to God’s presence, to a true understanding of the relationship that all of His children have with Him. He is a God who cares, is strong with His mighty right arm, and whose deeds are recorded throughout Scripture.

  • This is what I have called “Asaph’s Contemplation.”

So, now we find Asaph, having turned the corner and resting on the truth’s gleaned through his willful remembering, musing and pondering.

What is it that has taken place in Asaph? What has changed?

  • This is what I am calling “Asaph’s Conclusion.” (vs. 13-20)

First, we notice that Asaph is confident in the person of God. After his musings on God’s mighty right hand, His deeds and works, Asaph’s view of God is refreshed and the fog has lifted…

13 Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah.

We can summarize the character of God revealed in these verses as the following:

  • God is Holy
  • God is Unique
  • God is Powerful

This should be a lesson to us, to look for God’s character as we read His Word. To allow it to help fashion and shape how we view our crisis and to be confident that God’s character is at work even when we don’t see it.

Next, notice that Asaph is clear as to the sovereign power of God.

This is evident in his reflection of Israel’s flight from Egypt recorded in verses 16-20. But let’s set the stage for what He is going to say…

The Israelites had been “let go” by Pharaoh as a result of the 10 plagues. They had reched the Red Sea, but Pharaoh had a change of heart and sent his army to destroy the Israelites. They were literaly between a rock and a hard place – hopeless and helpless. But then, they experience the Mighty Right Hand of God…

16 The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were in anguish;
The deeps also trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
The skies gave forth a sound;
Your arrows flashed here and there.
18 The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was in the sea
And Your paths in the mighty waters,
And Your footprints may not be known.
20 You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

We must be careful here that we don’t get lost on the specifics of this “Work of God” and try to follow the same methodology that the Israelites were experiencing. For example, just because Joshua marched Israel around Jericho 13 times doesn’t mean that we go and prayerfully march around a home we are looking at, or a woman we are considering for marriage and expect God to do the same thing. No, what we are always looking for is the character and attributes of God revealed in His works that we can appeal to in our time of distress and crisis.

So, we see that God was still sovereign in His dealings with Israel, just like He was in the troubled life of Joseph (Gen. 36-50), and as He was in the life of Job, and then finally as He was when the Disciples’ world had crumbled after Jesus was hung on a cross.

What we can be certain of is that God’s “invisible footprints” are always present in the lives of believers. Verse 19 reminds us of this certainty when it says…

“Your footprints were unseen”

Get this…Just because we can’t see or feel His footprints doesn’t mean they are not present. No, on the contrary, His footprints are unseen – very present, but unseen. It is what we know to be true about who God is that gives us the assurance that He is always present during our times of crisis.

We can be sure that He does hear, that He does see, that He does care, and that He does understand.

So, are you ready for a crisis? Are you going through a crisis right now? If God were to give you a homework assignment based on Psalm 77 would you be ready? Would you be able to pull yourself up, would you know how to adjust your weight on the inner tube ad fight to hold on to His never changing character and promises?

There is a chorus we used to sing a number of years ago…

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way

He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me

He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side

With love and strength for each new day

He will make a way…He will make a way

So, my friends, whatever crisis you may be facing today…or tomorrow, remember this. His footprints, His presence is always with us, which means that He is with us with His complete character to be to us and for us everything that we need.

Let’s allow our sovereign God to be the God of our lives, to learn from Him, to love Him and then to live for Him while He conforms us to the image of His Son.

Worshipping God Through Crisis – Part 3

Having looked at the first nine verses of Psalm 77 and Asaph’s condition – (despair…disillusion…doubt) we now turn to Asaph’s Contemplation.

We were left asking the question, “How is it that we see Asaph in the pits of depression in verses 1-9 and seemingly in the heights of praise and confidence in verses 13-20?” What is it that God wants us to see in this Psalm that will bring about change, that will bring us out of the pits of despair or that will be critical during our times of crisis?

What we are about to see is a shift in focus from man to God – from feelings to faith. You might even say it is moving from a place of being religious to the place where we are truly resting in our relationship with God.

10 Then I said, “It is my grief,

That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;

Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

12 I will meditate on all Your work

And muse on Your deeds.

  • This is not a haphazard shift, but one that is muscled into place with great diligence.

Notice the repeated expressions, I shall…I will…I will, which are the volitional muscle needed so that Asaph could remember, meditate and muse effectively.

A few years ago I had the privilege of going inner tubing behind a speedboat on one of the many lakes in Michigan. As we began to skip across the water some basic realities became crystal clear (as you read them the current application may become crystal clear):

1. First, the handles were there to hold on to. That sounds rather basic, but any thought of staying on the inner tube involved applying the basic principle of “hold on to the handles.”

2. Second, I realized that as I encountered waves and the slinging of the speedboat I had to adjust my weight. I couldn’t just stay in the same spot and expect to ride smoothly. No, it was important for me to learn to adjust my weight as different waves and wakes headed my way.

3. Third, I learned the basic principle, “Avoid the water at all costs!” It was clear that once my foot began to touch the water that it affected my whole body and would eventually suck me off the tube and into the water. Especially when I was tired I had to fight to stay on the inner tube and, in particular, to keep my feet from dragging in the water and pulling my body down.

4. Finally, and most importantly, I learned that I needed to make sure that my kids were not watching when I wiped out and went head over heels into the water – because I will never hear the end of it.

Now, on a number of occasions I found myself slipping off of the inner tube, being dragged by the water, hanging on for dear life. At that point I had a choice: Give up the fight by convincing myself that I had no strength left, let go, and face the heckles of my family and friends; or, Hold tight, and determine to pull myself back on the tube.

Now I realize that this is an illustration from the realm of entertainment and pleasure, but the principles still apply in the realm of the spiritual.

We must at this point, however, remember that we are talking about a believer, a worshiper of the God of Israel, and we are not talking about salvation, but progressive sanctification. Salvation is all God’s doing. We were dead and by His grace He breathed new life into our souls. But, sanctification is not a “letting go and letting God.” Rather, it is a joint effort with God.

  • He works through us, but He requires something of us.

Listen how the apostle Paul give us the responsibility to be pursuing our walk with God as he writes to the church in Rome (12:1-2)

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Notice again the same stress as it relates to the battle of the mind found in Ephesians 4:22-24.

22that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

It is not what you know about God, but how you apply what you know!!

And that takes some work and effort on our parts. Paul again uses very expressive language to describe our efforts when he tells Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7) That word “exercise” is talking about spiritual sweat.

So, even in the middle of a crisis God wants us to be working to keep ourselves on the inner tube of life.

But what is it that He wants us to remember, meditate on, and muse on? I think Asaph identifies two areas where we need to pause before our great and sovereign God.

1. The Right Hand of the Most High

That expression draws us back to a very dark era in the life of Jacob. He and his wife, Rachel, are traveling against God’s instructions to wait at Bethel. And we find them two miles south of Jerusalem where pregnant Rachel has had enough. The journey had been too much for her and she insisted on a halt. And then we read these words…

18It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

Benjamin is born; Rachel dies. This is crisis for Jacob! But how does Jacob respond during this time of crisis? Well, in her trouble Rachel named her son “Ben Oni” which means “Son of my Sorrow/Trouble”. But, Jacob reached down and took his newborn son from the arms of his dying wife says, “No, his name is not “Ben Oni” (son of my trouble) but “Benjamin” which means “Son of my right hand.”

  • Get this! What Jacob experienced was “real grief” but it was complemented with “real faith.”

The “right hand of God” is an expression appealing to the power of God to deliver. So, Jacob is appealing to God, to be His powerful God in the middle of his crisis. Here we are reminded of Isaiah’s words…

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,

Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)

2. God’s Deeds, works and miracles

Asaph continues by drawing our attention next to God’s deeds, works and miracles…

11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;

Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

12 I will meditate on all Your work

And muse on Your deeds.

Like Asaph we must choose to remember, meditate and consider the deeds, wonders and works of our great and sovereign God. This refers to His acts of judgment and redemption recorded for us in His all sufficient Word. Here is just a highlight of the landmarks he is referring to:

  • The salvation of Noah and his family
  • The providence of Joseph in providing for his family in Egypt
  • The bondage of Israel as slaves in Egypt
  • The battle of impregnable Jericho
  • The impossibility of Gideon overcoming the Amalekites with so few men
  • The foolishness of David taking on mighty Golieth
  • The doom of Daniel in the lions den
  • The terror of a fiery furnace
  • The challenge of Elijah and the priests of Baal…just to name a few!!

Yet, in all of these circumstances God took care of His people with his mighty right hand. And that is why God instructed Israel in Deuteronomy 32:7 to…

“Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you.”

J.B. Phillips reminds us that “there comes a time when we have to take ourselves in hand and make a deliberate decision to talk, act and think like believing people.”

You see, God wants us to know Him, but then to apply that knowledge to our crisis. For example…

  • Since He is immutable (never changing), then __________________________
  • Since He is omnipotent (all powerful), then ____________________________
  • Since He is sovereign (absolute ruler/total control), then ________________________
  • Since He is creator (the one who created me, etc.), then _________________________

So, at this point it will be helpful for us to ask ourselves some questions:

1. Am I in a crisis, and if so, does God hear me, see me, know me in my crisis?

2. How have I allowed my crisis to affect my thinking? How has the crisis drawn me away from trusting that God is who He says He is and that what He says is true and trustworthy?

3. What spiritual handles do I need to hold on to and pull myself up with?

4. Am I functioning in a Religious theoretical world or am I truly leaning on the God who is My Lord and Savior?

Worshipping God Through Crisis – Part 2

Psalm 77 is a Psalm that is born out of crisis.

We don’t know what the crisis is for sure. Many believe that a National crisis was taking place or on the horizon, i.e. that it was written just prior to the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 586 B.C. Others believe that Asaph was going through a person crisis of some sort. The beautiful thing about not knowing for sure is that our crisis fits right into the Psalm. We can read it with both a historical understanding and with a contemporary application.

One thing is for sure, however, God has included this Psalm in His word in order to be a help for His children as they anticipate, face and endure crisis.

What we will see in this Psalm is a child of God struggling to understand his crisis in light of a Sovereign God.

Psalm 77 begins wholeheartedly in the minor key. God wants us to see man in his desperate condition. This is one of the strange things that makes the Psalms appealing…they describe human hearts and emotions with which we can identify.

So, we join Asap and we observe his condition…He is in great despair


1 My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;

My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.

2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;

In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;

My soul refused to be comforted.

Now, it is really important to note that Asaph turned to God. We can so quickly skip over this elementary truth, but notice that he knew enough to not turn to substitutes…ways in which our world often attempts to drown out the pain and sorrow that they are feeling. They turn to substitutes like business and activities to avoid the pain of the crisis, or to drugs and alcohol to drown out the pain, suffering and reality of the crisis, or maybe in an attempt to ignore the crisis before them they turn to pleasure and entertainment. They are at best cheap and non-sticky Band-Aids for their true needs.

So, instead of substitutes Asaph turned to God for help, to be heard and, with outstretched arms, to be seen. Yet, there was uneasiness about it all. His soul refused to be comforted. Is God deaf? Is He blind? Doesn’t He see my distress? Doesn’t He care about my crisis? He was without comfort – He didn’t feel any better.

And his despair led to his disillusion…because there was no seeming answer from God.

You can hear the anguish in the words he uses in vs. 3

3 When I remember God, then I am disturbed;

When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.

Selah.

As I think about this text I am reminded of Elie Wiesel’s record of him and his fellow Jews during the Holocaust. He recalls one incident…

“On that day, horrible even among those days of horror, when the child watched the hanging of another child, who had the face of a sad angel, he heard someone behind him groan: “Where is God? Where is He? Where can He be now?”

It is not an unusual question, even from a child of God, in the midst of crisis…

Notice next how his disillusion affected him physically and mentally…

4 You have held my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I have considered the days of old,

The years of long ago.

6 I will remember my song in the night;

I will meditate with my heart,

He couldn’t sleep…He couldn’t speak…and when he put his head on the pillow at night his mind raced…

Let me ask you. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been so consumed by a situation, some trouble or crisis that you could not rest at night and your mind wouldn’t stop racing?

Notice also that he was doing the right things – thinking about the days of old and his song in the night…but it didn’t seem to be bringing him any comfort. In fact, his feelings of despair and disillusion led to his doubting the very character of God…

Doubt is a tool that Satan loves to use…and it reminds me of the story of a salesman, who…

…one dark rainy night a salesman had a flat tire on a lonely road. But to his dismay he had no lug wrench. Seeing a nearby farmhouse, he set out on foot. “Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench,” he thought. “But would he even come to the door?” “And if he did, he’d probably be furious at being bothered. He’d say, ‘what’s the big idea of getting me out of bed in the middle of the night?’

This thought made the salesman angry. “That farmer is a selfish old fool to refuse to help me.” Finally the man reached the house. Frustrated and drenched he banged on the door.

“Who’s there?” a voice called out from the window overhead.

“You know good and well who it is,” yelled the salesman. “It’s me! And you can keep your old lug wrench! I wouldn’t borrow it if it was the last one in the country.”

The person who is spiraling in despair and disillusion is often like this salesman. They look at their crisis and their unanswered questions and begin to doubt the very promises of God. What they “know to be true” is questioned and they begin to convince themselves about a distorted view of the nature and character of God.

This is where we find Asaph…

Read the next three verses very carefully…It is an incredible window into what is going on in his heart (and ours) during crisis.

And my spirit ponders:

7 Will the Lord reject forever?

And will He never be favorable again?

8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?

Has His promise come to an end forever?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious,

Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?

Selah.

Can you believe that he is asking these questions? Look at the top of the Psalm and notice who Asaph is. He is a choir director in the Temple. He is one who is wired by God to lead celebrations of praise to God. How could he even get these questions out? Well, he didn’t. They were the thoughts of a desperate and struggling heart…they were what his spirit pondered…

Three questions summarize what Asaph is struggling with…

  • Has God changed?
  • Is God touchy?
  • Is God fickle? And, of course, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “No!”

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

So, in the first nine verses of this Psalm we are confronted with a man who is in crisis, and he has been spiraling into despair, disillusion and doubt.

It is very important for us to pause at this point and remind ourselves that the person before us facing this crisis is a believer in the God of Israel. We have before us a believer’s heart sliced open with a diving scalpel. This is your heart. This is my heart.

May I say this carefully and clearly…

God knows that we are emotional creatures – He created us that way. Therefore, we should allow our emotions to execute their purpose during times of distress and crisis. God also knows that during crisis, when it seems like God is not watching or hearing, and our feelings are overwhelming us, that questions and doubts will surface. He understands the frailty of our humanity.

Now, this is also why it is critical for us to press on in this Psalm by asking the question…

  • How is it that we see Asaph in the pits of depression in verses 1-9 and then he is in the heights of praise and confidence in verses 13-20?
  • Or, to put it another way, “What is it that God wants us to see in this Psalm that will bring about change, that will bring us out of the pit of despair, that will be critical during our times of crisis and trouble?

That’s what we will continue to look at next time…

Now, as you continue to think through Psalm 77, in particular vss. 10-12, here are some questions to ponder…

  • What does it mean to “work out your Salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12)
  • Is the commonly quoted statement “let go and let God” a true Biblical principle?

Worshipping God Through Crisis – Part 1

This has been an incredible week for our church family with the tragic loss of Clark Wright. Our hearts continue to be heavy and burdened for the family as they grieve their loss.

Sadly, in God’s providence, Clark’s homegoing is the fourth that has affected my family personally and our church in the past month. A few weeks ago, 14 year old Dylvan Gonzalez was hit by a car while riding his skateboard and died. He was friends with my sons and my daughter at school. Miss Jones, my son Adam’s 2nd Grade Teacher at Crossroads Elementary, ended her bout with cancer by being called home to glory, and just a few weeks ago one of CVFirst’s faithful, Jean Cox also stepped into heaven.

These are all times of crisis…for the direct families involved and for those who knew the people who have left this earth to be with Jesus.

As a pastor…

  • I have cried with a widowed mother at the news that her son has been killed in a freak snowmobiling accident.
  • I have held a weeping husband in my arms at the news that his wife is having an affair via the internet with a man across the world and that she is moving out to be with him.
  • I have personally rushed home to find my pregnant wife writhing on the floor with abdominal pain in the care of the local emergency, and waiting as the doctors at the hospital attempt to determine the cause of pain and the racing of the baby’s heart…wondering if she would make it…if the baby will survive.

These are all real stories of crisis that God’s people have faced at various seasons in their lives. They are but a few illustrations of the dark storms of life that brew up unexpectedly and run their ruin quickly to leave desolate the place where they have been.

These are times of crisis.

Webster defines a crisis as “a serious or decisive state of things, or the point of time when an affair must soon terminate or suffer a material change; a turning point; a critical juncture.”

Please, let us remember that much crisis is subjective. What seems to be critical to one may not be to another, or at least, we don’t want to admit it.

Some of you reading this might be thinking… “I’m not going through crisis right now.” But let me remind you that a crisis is not something we schedule in our “I Phones”. No, crisis creeps up on us unexpectedly, suddenly, and usually in an overwhelming way.

It is in these times of crisis that I find comfort in the Word of God, especially the Psalms. And, it is to Psalm 77 that I find myself turning – for personal strength and to guide others in their struggles.

Although I have preached through this Psalm on a number of occasions, I want to share the soul food that is so precious to me when I am facing crisis. I want to be a help to you and to draw your attention to our all sufficient God who knows and cares for His own. I want you to grasp that although we can’t see Him clearly, that He is very present. I want you to see that God understands our human limitations, our grief and our suffering and expects us to be emotional creatures during times of crisis.

So, let me invite you to open up your Bible and read Psalm 77… In the next three posts I will deal with…

  1. Asaph’s Condition (1-9)
  2. Asaph’s Contemplation (10-12)
  3. Asaph’s Conclusion (13-20)

Here are some things to take notice of as you read…

  • How does crisis affect you physically?
  • How does crisis affect your thinking?
  • What happens when you are doing the right things but don’t feel any better?