Saturday In The Psalms—Joy In The Desert

A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah (preface to Psalm 63).

Being in a desert place, you would expect David to say things like, “my soul thirsts,” “my flesh longs,” and “I am in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

But what’s unexpected is what David found that satisfied. Not food and water, but “my soul thirsts for You,” “my flesh longs for You,” and “O God, You are my God.”

David knew that when outward conditions were at their worst, his focus needed to be at its best—and it needed to be on God. So David made the following commitments:

  • Early will I seek You
  • I have looked for You
  • I remember You on my bed
  • I meditate on You in the night watches
  • My lips shall praise You
  • My soul follows close behind You
  • I shall rejoice in God

Because of these commitments, David could reach the following conclusions:

  • Your lovingkindness is better than life
  • My soul is satisfied
  • I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings
  • Your right hand upholds me

David found joy in the desert by changing his focal point!

I can reach the same conclusions that David reached, IF I am willing to make the same commitments David made.

In the desert places, I must deliberately and continually turn my eyes and thoughts FROM the desert TO God’s goodness.

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Saturday In The Psalms—In Over My Head!

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck! (Psalm 69)

Not just up to David’s neck, but he felt like he was in over his head! Ever been there? You feel like…

  • …there’s no solid ground to stand on
  • …you’re stuck in deep muck
  • …the floodwaters are rising fast

David cried himself dry and hoarse because of the troubles ganging up on him!

One of David’s motivations in asking God for help was not just to alleviate his own suffering, but to not be a burden to other God-followers—“Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.”

So David made his prayer to God, believing that God would completely vindicate and rescue him. And as he prayed, he praised—“Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

When you’re in over your head, there’s nowhere else to look but up! 

Our prayer: Holy Spirit, when I feel like I’m in over my head, may You remind me to lift up my prayer and my praise to my Savior. Don’t let other God-followers be ashamed because of me, but let my deliverance be the reason they continue to look expectantly to You!

How To Respond To Bad Pastors

God has ordained that His leaders oversee and administer His ministry. But problems arise in the church when humans change the “His” to “my.”

I read a statistic that 75% of people who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of a problem with their boss. In other words, 3-out-of-4 people didn’t quit their job, they quit their boss. In my personal experience this is equally as true in the church world—Most people don’t quit their church, they quit a bad pastor.

Sadly, those who do quit their church usually do so the wrong way. As a result they become either de-churched (they don’t attend anywhere), or cynical in the next church they do attend.

Who is a bad pastor?

  • One who is no longer effective because he is stuck in an old way of doing things
  • One who is theologically off
  • One who is unwilling to admit an error, ask forgiveness, and make amends
  • One who uses his position to build his kingdom instead of God’s kingdom

We have a great example of how to handle a bad spiritual leader in the story of David and Saul (see 1 Samuel 24). David had done nothing wrong, yet Saul was trying to kill him. At one point David’s men urged David to take matters into his own hands, and he almost did. He got close enough to Saul to cut off a corner of his robe, but quickly discovered that was too close. Immediately after doing so David was conscience-stricken!

Then look how David responded:

  • David rebuked his men as he reminded them that Saul was their “master” and “the Lord’s anointed.”
  • David “bowed down and prostrated himself” before Saul as he apologized.
  • David called him his “master,” “father,” and “the Lord’s anointed.”
  • David said he would leave the matter in God’s hands, allowing God to “judge between you and me.”
  • And twice David declared, “My hand will not touch you!”

This humble reply got Saul’s attention. Saul wept as he said, “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” Saul then asked David to be kind to his descendants.

Then this conclusion—David gave Saul his oath, and then went away to a safe place.

The New Testament captures these same ideas for today’s Christians. We are told not to lightly entertain an accusation against spiritual leaders (1 Timothy 5:19), but to submit and obey to biblically-correct leaders (Hebrews 13:17).

The Bible gives us only two options for dealing with spiritual leaders…

SUBMIT & OBEY or WALK AWAY

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Responding in an unscriptural way to an unscriptural pastor’s way is just as wrong as what the pastor was doing wrong in the first place!

So give the bad pastor your oath that you will not lay a hand (or a word!) on them, and then remove yourself to a safe place. Submit and obey, or walk away and leave them in God’s capable hands.

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

Saturday In The Psalms—God’s Compelling Kindness

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes (Psalm 36:1).

David believes that fear and reverence of Almighty God would deter the sinner from his sin. This is not a dread of punishment, but a fear of missing out on the wondrous, eternal depths of God’s love.

We are not asking sinners to give up something they enjoy for a better thing. We’re calling them to step into a Relationship that is more real, substantial, fulfilling, enlivening, and satisfying than anything they’ve ever experienced or even dreamed of!

How precious is God loving kindness. How trustworthy His provision. How abundantly satisfying is His fullness. How indescribable His pleasures. How endless is His love!

It is the kindness of God that leads men and women to His presence.

Heavenly Father, may I live in Your kindness and reflect it to all around me, inviting them to share in Your bounty for themselves. Amen.

What can equal in costliness the love of God! Its preciousness is measured by the gift it gave, and by the innumerable gifts contained in that One—life, pardon, salvation, peace, the glory to be revealed. In this love there are unsearchable riches—exceeding riches of grace. There are no riches to be compared to this great love of God. Having it we are rich indeed. Without it we are poor, life is blank, eternity is dark. …

“God’s character is then the basis of human confidence. …

“This love which so suits the sinner and calls forth his confidence is that which is exhibited in the Cross of Christ. That Cross is the revelation of God’s love as a righteous thing; and thus appeals both to man’s heart and his conscience. The love furnishes the ground for trust, and the Cross removes every reason for distrust. …

“These wings [of love] are broad, and large, and strong, fitted to shelter all the sons of Adam. And thus stretched out they themselves invite us. They contain their own invitation. They say, ‘Come and be safe, come and be blessed, come and be sheltered from present wrath and from the wrath to come. Come, for all things are ready; the love is ready, the deliverance is ready, the protection is ready.’” —Horatius Bonar (emphasis mine)

Saturday In The Psalms—Overcoming Overwhelming Problems

…whom shall I fear? … of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Not just enemies are confronting David, but entire armies of wicked people had him surrounded! War and trouble are on every side, trying to overwhelm David.

Yet David is not just not afraid, he is filled with joy!

Why? He has heard God, even in the midst of the evil turmoil, say, “Seek My face.” And David responded, “Yes, Lord, I will seek Your face!” In fact, David declared there was nothing more fortifying for him than to be in God’s presence, gazing on God’s beauty and majesty, and learning more of God’s ways.

In this place David has peace, joy, protection, salvation, courage. In this place David’s overwhelming problems are overcome by God.

David’s conclusion is one for all who are experiencing overwhelming problems—

Wait on the Lord;
be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

How Long??

Four times in the opening two verses of one of his psalms, David cries out, “How long, O Lord?”

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?”

It does sometimes feel like the unpleasant season is lasting “forever!” David lays it out: “Every day it seems like Your face is hidden, I’m trying to come up with my own escape plans, my heart is breaking, and the bad guys are taking advantage of me! O Lord, how long will You let this last?”

David turns to prayer again and again. He asks God to hear him, enlighten his eyes, and silence his enemies.

Then I love this transition in David’s outlook—
“But I have trusted in Your mercy; [so]
my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because
He will deal bountifully with me.”

I have … I will … You have … You will!

O my soul, keep looking up. Keep crying out.

The God who has STILL will! 

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