The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

caged-bird

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses being intimate with our heavenly Father.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks.

 

We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

All of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

 

Should I Take Medication?

What’s Your Take on Christians Using Antidepressants?

by Pastor John Piper

I’m going to say that there are times when I think it is appropriate, but I want to go there cautiously and slowly, with warnings.

Depression is a very complex thing. It’s got many layers. I think we all would agree that there are conditions in which nobody would deny that certain people are depressed in a pathological way because they’re immobile. They’re not even able to function.

And then there’s a continuum of discouragements and wrestlings with having an ‘Eeyore-type’ personality, which may or may not be depressed.

So that means that I want to be so careful not to have a knee-jerk reaction. When you come into my office and describe to me your discouragements, I don’t want my first response to be, “See a doctor and get a prescription.”

I fear that is way too quick today. The number of people on antidepressants as a first course rather than the last course is large.

And the assumption is that you can’t make any progress in counseling unless you get yourself stabilized or something.

So I just want to be very cautious.

As a Christian who believes that Christ is given by the Holy Spirit to deliver us from discouragements and from unbelief and sorrow and to help us live a life of usefulness, what makes me able to allow for antidepressants is the fact that medicine corresponds to physical realities.

And the physical realities are that we get headaches that make us almost unable to think. Migraine headaches can put a man out. And we are pretty much OK if the doctor can help us find some medicine that would not let us get these immobilizing headaches.

And the headaches clearly have a spiritual impact, because they’re making me unable to read my Bible and function in relation to people that I want to love and serve. And so medicine becomes spiritually effective in that way.

So we apply this principle that we all use to depression, and then the fact that the body is included in depression. Whether we should use the terms “chemical imbalances”—I’ve read both sides on that. Some people say that there is no scientific evidence for such a thing and others say that it is a given. Whatever. Everybody knows that there are physical dimensions to depression.

If that physical dimension could be helped by medicine—in the short run especially, sometimes long term—then I think, in God’s grace and mercy, we should take it as a gift from his hand.

 


© Desiring God, desiringGod.org

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

Listening to the Spirit’s Nudge

Did you ever get the urge to call someone you hadn’t talked to in a while? Or to send an email to a friend you hadn’t seen in ages? I know you have — we all get those thoughts and urges seemingly out of the blue.

The more important question is, do you listen and follow through?

 Do you pick up the phone or compose that email? Or do you just let it pass?

The older I get the more I realize that those thoughts and urges to contact someone I haven’t thought of in a long time is really the Holy Spirit nudging me to be there for that person when they need it most. God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others, and He delights when we heed His nudge and provide support to others when He knows they need it most.

This kind of Holy Spirit nudge happened to me just last week.

It had been over a month since I had posted anything here at Broken Believers, and hadn’t really thought about Pastor Bryan or the folks who read this blog for a while because I was wrapped up in my own life. I guess I figured Bryan had it handled and would keep the fires burning here for the many Christians struggling with mental illness and in need of support.

Then last week I had this overwhelming urge to post something here, and the phrase “melancholy beckons me” kept running through my head as a post topic (which I did post last Saturday). I heeded the Spirit’s urging to post something, only to discover that Bryan’s computer had died and he was unable to post anything, and will be out of commission for a few more days at least.

I didn’t know that he was experiencing this problem, but God did. And I believe God knew that it was important for the lifeline that is Broken Believers not be set adrift even for a week.

So I am here to help because the Holy Spirit nudged.

He does that, you know, more often than we’d like to admit. For the broken believers of the world, and those who know and love them, I believe that heeding the Spirit’s nudge is of the utmost importance. He made us to be in relationship — to uphold, encourage, and strengthen one another in times of trial and darkness — and what a blessing it is when we follow His lead.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV).

 

When Teachability Rides a Chariot

I think this post will wander around a bit, we’ll see if the Father will speak to us somehow.

I really think our lives are made up of the decisions we’re making. At least, it sometimes sees that way.

Some decisions are like ‘forks’ in the road.  They’re made and then they shunt us in another direction. Most are minor–(will it be McDonalds or Pizza Hut?) But the biggies really alter us–very quickly we see that the road is going to take us in a radically different path.

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we will admit to backtracking; retracing our route back to the point we turned.  A lot of time it’s too late, and the moment has past. But we will sometimes learn that sometimes even our detours are part of the journey. (Amazing, isn’t? But He controls it all, and that’s comforting.)

I think I’m starting to learn how to receive correction from others. 

I’ve been mulling over the decision of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31, he wanted to understand the truth:

“So when Philip ran toward the chariot, he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet [on his Kindle]. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
 31 He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him.”

We see here such a very ‘thoughtful humbleness’– a teachableness of the heart that this eunuch seems to have learned.  He is confident enough in himself to acknowledge that he just doesn’t know. He invites Philip to a Bible study in the chariot.

We are responsible for our receptivity to truth. 

It’s our personal decision to either seek or not seek, to learn, or not to learn.  No one else can do this for us.  We come to a decision point and we go the way things seem to direct us, or we don’t. Again, we must choose.

Sometimes to not make a decision, is a decision.

The book of Proverbs is saturated with ideas on being guided by our humility when it comes in contact with truth.  Furthermore, there are many warnings about receiving correction and reproof gracefully.  For me, I’m learning slowly to receive hard counsel.

When my wife and I made the decision to work in the migrant camps in Mexico there was one elder who kept saying “no!” At first it was a real issue for us. We sort of resented it. But we began to see the blessing of his resistance. It caused us to really analyze our decision, and “count the cost.” We were stepping into a very hard place, and we needed that voice. We were being called to break in “new ground.” It was to be a challenge.

It seems that scriptural truth is almost always negative when it’s first encountered. It often irritates more than it comforts.

It often will not sit well, and I will try to shake it off.  But truth can be remarkably persistent.  ‘Forgive your brother’, the Holy Spirit says.  And you say right away, ‘Not a chance!’  But, give it time, and the Word will soften rock.  If you respond properly, humbly, you be able to make the right decision.

One more thing, Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3,

“I promise you this. If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

We’ll need to be a complete alteration in our hearts if we are to accommodate His command.  Becoming a child is more difficult as an adult– then becoming an adult is for a child.  Becoming small again takes a great amount of brokenness and it’s never really mastered.

God fully intends to work with you in this. 

God wants you to learn teachableness. He brings others to direct you. The Holy Spirit ignites the Word that’ll light your path. He doesn’t seem to ever give up.  He is wonderfully persistent–He never really does give up.

“The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them.”

Proverbs 18:15, LB

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