Psalm 3: Here Comes Trouble.

But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.
(Psalm 3:3)

Don’t you just love those days? The kind of days where if its not one thing, its another. If it can get messed up, it will be. For me, these are usually Mondays, especially ones proceeding an amazing, powerful Sunday. I wake up a little too tired, shower a little too long, make my coffee and forget it on the counter, and get out the door just in time to get stuck behind the school bus. Ah, yes. Those days.

I think David wrote Psalm 3 in the midst of one of those days. It seems like everyone is out to get him. Things are looking pretty grim, people are even questioning whether or not God can help the poor guy.

And then? Selah.

Selah. I spent a significant amount of time this week hunting down a meaning for that one little word. After consulting a multitude of pastors, biblical commentaries, and the handy-dandy Google, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. No one is really sure what “selah” means.
  2. God ordained it into the Word, so it must be significant.

I’m very fond of how one source defined it as “pause and reflect”. It is also summarized beautifully in this commentary:

…the subject to which the word is attached should be spread out, meditated on, and attentively considered by the reader.

In other words, God is saying, “Mmm, that was juicy. Go ahead and soak that up for a few.”

So David is going through a pretty tough time. He could break down and fall apart. He could react violently. He could throw his hands up and surrender. But what does he do? Selah. He pauses. He reflects. What he says next blows my mind!

“But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” David has just considered his circumstance and chose to turn His eyes to the Lord. He doesn’t begin whining to God. He doesn’t start praying for his circumstance to change. He testifies what he knows to be true: God will protect me. He will glorify me. He will restore me.

There is so much that can be unpacked in that statement. He is your shield. He is the one who glorifies you, that He might be glorified. He is the one who lifts your head back up and sets you back on your feet. Selah. Spend some time just thinking about these truths. How would your tough days look different if you responded like David does?

Sometimes our circumstance is more than just a “bad day”. Sometimes its almost impossible to look up because the pain is just too intense. If that is your circumstance, I believe that verse 5 is for you. There were a few days this past autumn where I really disliked my circumstance. I had reached a realization that teaching was challenging and I was not nearly as good at it as I hoped to be. My family was experiencing significant hardship. We were also in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Sandy. My life was not what I thought it would be. I felt like a loser and a failure. Everything I knew was falling apart.

It is on those days were Psalm 3:5 may be all you can do. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. Sometimes our days are a series of merely getting by and then finding the strength to get through the next one. But the Lord does sustain us. He is mighty. He is tireless. He is ruthless.

Regardless of what trouble lies ahead of you, choose to react in praise and know the Lord will sustain you.

Father God, Help us to remember to just ‘selah’ in the moments of trial we face. May we be quick to praise You and trust Your strength. May we rely on Your might to sustain us. Help us to find peace in You through all our storms, Your incredible peace which transcends all understanding. Amen.

Biblical Truth I Learned Through Teaching: Tough Love

I’m a first year teacher and there is an immense sense of victory I have coming to the end of my first year. It has been a long, challenging, and nonetheless awesome year. While I’m paid to do the teaching, I must admit that I did quite a bit of learning. And despite the ‘separation’ of church and state, many of those lessons where biblical truths, teaching me more about myself, my faith, and leading me closer to the heart of God. 

Lesson One: Tough Love

“You know I’ll always love you but right now I just don’t like you..”
Which To Bury; Us Or The Hatchet, Relient K

I love my students. I love getting to know them. I love when they run into my room and start talking about science. I love watching them help each other. I love getting to be part of the moment when they finally “get it”.

But if I’m being honest: I don’t always like my students very much.

They are not always easy to handle. They sometimes disrespect me, don’t feel like working, don’t do their homework, don’t want to be in my class, and sometimes they just don’t like me.

But there is an overwhelming certainty even when things are hard: I love my students.

I’m reminded of God’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). If a neighbor is a person who is in your immediate surroundings that you “do life” with, aren’t my students really just neighbors?

Here’s where I get stuck: how on Earth do I love someone who I really don’t even like sometimes? In John 12, God gives us instruction on how to love each other.

John 12:15

As I have loved you. This is the most difficult, beautiful, arduous task God could possibly give a broken, sinful, selfish, prideful gal like me! I mean, think for a moment about how He has loved us. He made us, gave us everything, and set our lives in motion. We disobeyed Him. He then continued to love us, correct us, send His Son to die on a cross to bear the weight of our sins, and through grace, offers us eternal life. And we are supposed to love people who are hard to like that way. Whoah.

So how do we do that? I think there are a few simple ways we can try to emulate the love the Father has shown us.

1) Pray for your neighbors.
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone. (1 Timothy 2:1)

2) Forgive your neighbors.
…accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

3) Serve your neighbors.
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45)

And when all three of those seem difficult to do, remember that you do in fact love them and that God loves them. Its not always going to be easy, and its going to take practice, but it always feels better when we are living a life that brings glory to God.

Father God, You are so patient with us. Help us to remember your graciousness toward us and extend that same grace to those in our lives. Help us to love with Your love and see others as you see them. It is Your will for us that we love one another. Help us to live within Your will. In your name, Amen.

Psalm 2: God Laughed.

A wise friend once told me, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I can imagine that is a splendid sound – God’s laughter.

Psalm 2 opens in the description of quite the hostile nation. The author, ascribed to be David in Acts 4, openly questions the futile efforts of the rulers. We see that this nation is all puffed up and feeling powerful as they are plotting and planning. This is the face of a people who are seeking freedom.

I recently saw Les Miserables, not once, but twice. Amidst all the heart-wrenching romance, I was surprised that the scene that brought me to tears wasn’t poor Éponine singing of lost love in the rain, but the ballad of the young boys giving their lives for freedom. Twice. Emotionally, I had joined the struggle of these boys, wanting them so badly to find the freedom they were fighting for. I watched as they stood up to a great nation of France, longing to be free. Freedom, a powerful gift to be acquired.

But what is the nation in Psalm 2 seeking freedom from? The Lord.
We all serve someone or something. It is a desire built into us to please and serve a master – the Master. But we perverse that with a longing to serve other masters (money, fame, pleasure). The problem, as seen in Matthew 6:24 is, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So we have a choice – serve God or serve the world.

Don’t be deceived, a life serving the world is not a life of freedom. As a fish out of the water or a tree out of the soil is closer to death than freedom, likewise we are helpless when outside the life God calls us to. Let’s be clear: the only way to freedom is through God.

But in verse 4, we see God’s response: laughter. I don’t believe this is a cruel, maniacal laugh. I can imagine the gentle, almost sorrowful laugh of a father watching their child’s fruitless efforts to overpower them in strength or might. Just as a father knows the limitation of his own child, our Father knows our limitations. We cannot overpower the Omnipotent.

So David offers us some advice. He calls us to be wise and serve the Lord with a righteous fear. He tells us to “kiss the Son” (v. 12), a beautiful, symbolic gesture, meaning to fully surrender yourself to Him. The lyrics of a favorite song by Jeremy Riddle, Sweetly Broken, come to mind:

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.

How are you, like the nation of Psalm 2, trying to break away from God for freedom? What things are you fighting to hold on to? Beloved, it is never easy to surrender, but a life in Him is the only life of freedom.

Father God, You are omnipotent. You are the creator of all power, with the right to give it and take it away. Help me to recognize areas in my life where I am fighting You for power. Help me to be sweetly broken, wholly surrendered. Open my ears to Your laughter. Help me to serve You all my days and live a life of freedom. Father, it is only in You that we live and move and have our being. In Your mighty name, Amen.

My Strong and Mighty Warrior.

I have been enjoying reading Wild At Heart before beginning a women’s study on its counterpart Captivating. Today I really got to revel in the image of Jesus as a mighty warrior, which is quite different from the calm, peaceful, and gentle man he is often seen as. I don’t know if my being woman or being a woman in this culture has told me that I should always seek and pray to that gentle Jesus, but today I was invited to share in how good the mighty Christ is.

Eldridge shares examples from Luke 13 and Job 39 of the strong, rugged, warrior side of Christ. He then goes on to share an awesome poem by Ezra Pound, “Ballad of the Goodly Fere”. He prefaces, as should I, that ‘fere’ is an Old English term meaning mate or companion. As you read this, picture one of Christ’s close disciples telling you a story or sharing with you their inner knowledge of His persona.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.
A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

Read the whole poem here.