Joy in This Madness, [Troubles]

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“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NLT

The issues we face can be hard and formidable. Our relationships, our circumstances can present daunting obstacles to joyful Christlike living. We live out at times from unpleasant realities and less than ideal situations. We are broken believers who follow Jesus through our minefields.

Struggling with mental illness is a challenge as with any other handicap. The young man struggling with bipolar disorder or someone else who faces a clinical depression, may seem to be tangled up in something quite brutal and very hopeless. “Will I ever find normal again?

I know that struggle, at times it has ripped me apart. I suppose the grinding hopelessness is the worst part of that.

I want to encourage you in this. The issues you face on a daily basis are hard. Don’t minimize their complexity or diminish their bitterness. But the Holy Spirit is with you in the midst of your issues.

I believe that their constant presence produces a faith and tenderness that can’t be just prayed for. The work is being completed even as you read this post. There is a wisdom emanating from the fire.

We walk through the trials, not around them.

I did not choose this path I’m on. But I’ve discovered a joy in them— more precisely a joy because of them. But alternatively, our illness is not meant to destroy us. That is not why God has allowed you to be afflicted.

“And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.”

Luke 7:21

Jesus has special spot for the afflicted, we see him repeated touching them. He drew them like a magnet draws iron. And he is the same today in our time. It is comforting to know that he cares and that we are understood so. Let him draw you into his caring presence. Disabilities do not trouble him.

Yes, the issues are formidable. But your obedience is an exquisitely special commodity. It is precious in his sight and will hold its value for all eternity. Understanding this should be a cause for joy for the broken believer. Having the lightness of heart, right in the middle of our disability, often transforms it into a lighter burden. “We are  beaten but not totalled. Incredibly challenged but not completely devastated.”

Bless a thing and it will bless you. Curse it and it will curse you. If you bless a situation, it has no power to hurt you, and even if it is troublesome for a time, it will gradually fade out, if you sincerely bless it.  There is a deep joy waiting in these ashes for those who choose to do this.

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Roadside Assistance, [Word]

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A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Psalm 121, New Living Translation

“A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.”

Travelling in biblical times was not easy, everyone walked. Pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem (three times a year) would travel in large groups for safety and companionship. For many the journey would take five or six days, and it meant about 20 miles a day. This ‘song’ was sung corporately as the people walked; it contained truths that would encourage them. Perhaps these are lessons are still living for us today.


 I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!”

The hills or ‘high places’ are centers for pagan worship, so a singular question is asked. “Is this where help will come?” Verse 2 gives an affirming answer and declares a confidence in the Almighty God.


3 “He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.”

God is very protective, He is hyper-vigilant over those who call on His name. There is never been a time when He is caught off guard. It is good for our souls to meditate on this constant security. He doesn’t sleep, ever.


5 “The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.”

 

I once had the ‘joy’ of sacking bags of rock in the blistering sun in August. I caught myself scanning the sky, wishing for just one cloud to block out the baking heat. In the tropics, an umbrella is commonly used to shield oneself from the sun in the middle of the day. The reference to the moon is the idea that over exposure to it was as harmful as the sun could be.


 7 “The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.”

One of the most common images of God is that of a diligent shepherd watching over his sheep. The metaphor is used frequently and carries the connotation of continual care and attention. When I think on this it gives me great comfort.

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These all are conditional promises that, although they are true, they won’t give you a pass through heartache and trial. But God promises to measure out each affliction with pain-staking carefulness. He is always, always, always present no matter what.

“What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Psalm 84:5

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A Jubilate Discipleship: Psalm 95

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A Psalms Study

“Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
    Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let’s sing songs to him,
because the Lord is the great God,
    the great King over all gods.
The deepest places on earth are his,
    and the highest mountains belong to him.
The sea is his because he made it,
    and he created the land with his own hands.

Come, let’s worship him and bow down.
    Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us,
because he is our God
    and we are the people he takes care of,
    the sheep that he tends.

Today listen to what he says:

Psalm 95:1-7, NCV

Such joy: it just bubbles through the words. This is a psalm saturated with excitement. These first seven verses are ‘carbonated joy.’ They pronounce an excitement of a living God that excels in every way. These are simple words made to escort us into a true worship, unlike any other. We might use the word, “jubilant” when hearing this psalm. And we wouldn’t be far off.

“The Lord is the great God,” and He is the King of any ‘so-called’ gods. Everything concerning the earth is His doing– for He created it, with His own hands! And our creating God is also our Shepherd, tending and caring for us as His very own flock.

These verses extol our God, to the point of exuberance. It channels us to the point of worship upon our knees, with the realization of the greatness of God. But this Psalm continues for four more verses.

Today listen to what he says:
“Do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah,
    as they were that day at Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me
    and tried me even though they saw what I did.
10 I was angry with those people for forty years.
    I said, ‘They are not loyal to me
    and have not understood my ways.’
11 I was angry and made a promise,
    ‘They will never enter my rest.’”

Psalm 95:7-11

There are two parts to Psalm 95. The first is of jubilant worship. But the second part emphasizes a solid obedience. The phrase, “Today listen to what he says:’ welds these two sections together.

Worship must always lead to obedience. You can do ‘cartwheels’ on Sunday morning, as long as you follow Him on Monday.

The issue is an history lesson that goes back to Israel’s days of Moses and the days following the Exodus. Because they were so hard and stubborn, they would wander for forty years in the desert. Their continued ‘stubbornness’ not only closed off the Promised Land, but also closed off their relationship with God— a relationship that would’ve been ‘jubilant’ and  profound (at the same time). They missed out on verses 1-6 and settled on verses 8-11. How tragically sad.

There is a thread that works through scripture called “the rest of God.” The book of Hebrews uses in 12x usually as a warning:“Now, since God has left us the promise that we may enter his rest, let us be very careful so none of you will fail to enter.” (Heb. 4:1).

 “Let us try as hard as we can to enter God’s rest so that no one will fail by following the example of those who refused to obey.”

Heb.4:11

To be in God’s rest is to be in harmony with Him. It is a mixture of confident faith mixed with a careful obedience. When you combine these two, you have the recipe for joy.

I believe this rest is the believer’s place of joy, peace and confident faith. It obeys because it really wants to. It is Psalm 95:1-7 in action. It is for the jubilant Christian.

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