Unburdened

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Let’s get on the same page with a few facts: 

  • Nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. 
  • Being anxious is not a sin but we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our First Source. Notice that David said, “When [not “if”] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). 

We’ve been looking at both the dictionary definitions and biblical definitions of anxiety. One definition is being disquieted, but we saw that coming close to Jesus Xs out the “dis-” and takes us to a place of quiet. A second definition is being insecure because we are so full of cares. Clinging to Jesus Xs out the “in-” and makes us secure when His strong arms are around us. 

A third definition of anxiety is found here: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). This word for cares or anxieties is the only time this Hebrew word is used in the Bible. The idea is a heavy burden, which the Amplified Bible captures like this: “Cast your burden on the Lord—releasing the weight of it—and He will sustain you….”

We can be burdened because we pick up and carry things on our own. But the word for cares or burdens in Psalm 55:22 can mean not only things we pick up, but things given to us by God or allowed by God. You might ask, “Why would God give me a burden?” 

  • Sometimes it’s allowed—God allowed satan to afflict Job within limits, and He allowed Joseph’s brothers to ambush him (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-7; Genesis 50:20).  
  • Sometimes it’s given—God gave Jesus a bitter cup to drink, and He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” (Matthew 26:39-42; 2 Corinthians 12:7). 
  • In every instance, the limits are perfectly measured to accomplish what God wants to do. The way we respond glorifies Him and keeps us dependent on Him (Job 1:20; 2:10; Genesis 50:20; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Hebrews 10:10). 

(Check out all of the above biblical passages by clicking here.)

Still in the middle of this, the burdens can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. That’s why God tells us what to do with these burdens: Cast them off! 

In Psalm 55:22, David gives us the word “cast” in the imperative mood, which means it’s a command. Literally, the word means to throw away or shed the burden. 

How often do we do this? David said he prayed “evening, morning, and noon” for God’s help (Psalm 55:16-17). 

What does God do when we cast off these burdens? He sustains and supports us—“He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

The apostle Peter quotes the opening words of this verse when he writes, “Cast all your anxiety on Him,” and then he tells us why we can do this: “Because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Just like David said he prayed for his burdens to be released “evening, morning, and noon,” the verb tense Peter uses implies the same thing. We don’t just release our burdens once, but we continue to do it again and again and again! 

The word Peter uses for “cast” is only used twice in all the New Testament. The word means not just to drop our burdens at our feet—where we may trip over them or be tempted to pick them up again—but to throw our burdens on someone else. The only other place this word is used is when on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem the disciples “threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35). 

Peter tells us that this casting off of our burdens requires us to humble ourselves before God. Pride makes us think we can handle it on our own, and that same pride robs God of the glory He would receive when He provides relief from our heavy load. We cast these burdens onto Jesus so that we can be alert to the enemy’s sneaky tactics, and help others who are also being attacked. And just as David said God supported and sustained him, Peter said the same thing (1 Peter 5:6-10). I especially like the wording from the King James Version—

But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 KJV) 

Jesus can X-out the instability that comes with carrying heavy burdens and make us stablished, strengthened, and settled in Him. 

Don’t try to carry these anxiety-inducing burdens on your own, but cast them on Jesus every evening, morning, and noon. Let Him carry those burdens so you can live in a way that glorifies Him every single day. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series X-ing Out Anxiety, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Security Beyond Comprehension

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Psalm 93 opens with these powerful words: The LORD reigns. 

Consider this: When we see the word LORD in all capital letters in our English translations of the Bible, we are reading God’s covenant name—Yahweh or Jehovah. This Limitless Power allows us to call Him by His personal name! 

How can our finite minds even begin to fathom this? Listen to the psalmist’s words—

The LORD reigns, He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns Your house for endless days, O LORD. 

You can almost hear this psalmist struggling to help us comprehend the majesty of God. But how does a molecule comprehend the vastness of a planet? Creation sometimes roars and sometimes thunders, but even that only shows us a small glimpse of the Creator. 

Do you see how established, orderly, firm, and secure this universe is? Even it had a starting point. Its Creator, however, has existed for all of eternity! 

Have you ever been to the ocean and felt the pounding of the waves and heard the deafening roar of the breakers? That’s barely a toe-tapping of the might of Yahweh.

In the closing verse of this psalm, we read these words: “Your statutes stand firm.” Jehovah has given us a way to begin to comprehend Him. He has given us His statutes. This God who is unlimited in power has given us words we can live by. We can rely on them because they are backed by this limitless God! His promises stand firm forever. Nothing can shake God or His Word, so that means nothing can shake me when I stand on Him.

Standing on God’s Word means we are standing on Limitless Love and Limitless Strength.

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Not Shaken

“Anyone have a nice, neat, organized life that never gets rocked by anything unexpected?” he asked, not expecting anyone to answer. Let’s be honest: There’s a whole lot of shaking going on!  Not just now, but it’s always been this way. Even in 1000 BC when David wrote Psalm 62. 

Let me walk you through this psalm and offer a couple of observations. 

In the first two verses, David’s declaration sounds very religious. It sounds like what he’s supposed to say in difficult times. Yet some doubt is obviously creeping in because David refers to himself as a leaning wall and a tottering fence. It’s here that David has his first Selah pause. 

Selah—pause and calmly consider what’s happening. “If God is really such a strong rock and fortress, could bad guys really slip by Him? Is it likely that they could be trying to knock me over without God knowing about it?” Of course not! God knows exactly what is happening to me, and He’s allowed it to happen for a reason.  

After pausing to consider this, David makes a statement that sounds like he’s repeating the first verse. But notice that this time David is talking to himself: “I don’t believe God is my refuge just because my parents believed it, or just because it sounds religious. I declare it because it is true!” It’s good to preach the Word of God to our shaking souls! 

Verse 6 is a word-for-word repeat of verse 2 with one minor exception. Look at it in the NKJV: “I shall not be greatly moved” (v. 2). This means that in David’s mind there is still a possibility of getting knocked over. But then in verse 6: “I shall not be moved” has no qualifiers. Or as Matthew Henry commented, “I may be shocked, but I shall not be sunk.” 

After making the declarations of verses 1-2 his own in verses 5-6, David can no longer be called a hypocrite when he now encourages others to declare God’s salvation for themselves (vv. 7, 8). Then he invites everyone to Selah again, this time to weigh the Rock of God with the ways of men. He declares that mankind and his plans are only a breath, not even close to the weightiness of God! 

The word alone” dominates the first eight verses of this psalm. David is emphasizing that God alone is our refuge. As Augustine wrote, “God, You arouse us so that praising You may bring us joy, for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.” And C.S. Lewis added, “So few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.” 

Sometimes God allows unrest or disquiet SO THAT we will rediscover our rest and quiet in Him alone. 

During times of shaking, David calls us twice to Selah pause to reach the same conclusion he has reached—

  • Nothing is stronger than our God
  • No one is more loving than our God

You can stand firm on a God that is powerful enough to help, and loving enough to want to help. HE ALONE is our security! Let times of shaking reveal to you the flimsy supports of this world that you may have come to rely on, and then run to THE strongest, most loving place possible: God’s presence! 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in our Selah series, you can find the complete list of them by clicking here. 

‘Tis I, Be Not Afraid

Tossed with rough winds, and faint with fear, 
Above the tempest, soft and clear, 
What still small accents greet mine ear?
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

“‘Tis I who led thy steps aright; 
‘Tis I who gave thy blind eyes sight; 
‘Tis I, thy Lord, thy Life, thy Light. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.

“This bitter cup fear not to drink; 
I know it well—oh! do not shrink; 
I tasted it o’er Kedron’s brink. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid. 

“Mine eyes are watching by thy bed, 
Mine arms are underneath thy head, 
My blessing is around thee shed. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.“

When on the other side thy feet 
Shall rest ‘mid thousands welcomes sweet, 
One well known voice thy heart shall greet. 
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

From out the dazzling majesty 
Gently He’ll lay His hands on thee, 
Whispering: “Beloved, lov’st thou Me? 
It was not in vain I died for thee,
‘Tis I; be not afraid.” —Anonymous

Poetry Saturday—Jesus, Saviour, Grow In Me

O Jesus, Saviour, grow in me,
and all things else recede:
to You my heart would nearer be,
from sin be daily freed.

Each day embrace my weakness, Lord,
with Your supporting might;
and let my death be lost in life,
my darkness in Your light.

Let faith in You and in Your strength
my every motive move;
may You alone be my delight,
my passion and my love.

Fill me with gladness from above,
hold me by strength divine.
Lord, let the glow of Your great love
through my whole being shine.

Show me Your glory more and more,
Lord, holy, wise, and true!
Your living image I would be,
in joy and sorrow too.

Make this poor self grow less and less,
and be Yourself my aim;
and through Your grace, make me each day
more worthy of Your name. —Johann K. Lavater

Poetry Saturday—The Spirit-Filled Life

O the Spirit-filled life; is it thine, is it thine?
Is thy soul wholly filled with the Spirit Divine?
O thou child of the King, has He fallen on thee?
Does He reign in thy soul, so that all men may see
The dear Savior’s blest image reflected in thee?
Has He swept through thy soul like the waves of the sea?
Does the Spirit of God daily rest upon thee?
Does He sweeten thy life, does He keep thee from care?
Does He guide thee and bless thee in answer to prayer?
Is it joy to be led of the Lord anywhere?
Is He near thee each hour, does He stand at thy side?
Does He gird thee with strength, has He come to abide?
Does He give thee to know that all things may be done
Through the grace and the power of the Crucified One?
Does He witness to thee of the glorified Son?
Has He purged thee of dross with the fire from above?
Is He first in thy thoughts, has He all of thy love?
Is His service thy choice, and is sacrifice sweet?
Is the doing His will both thy drink and thy meat?
Dost thou run at His bidding with glad eager feet?
Has He freed thee from self and from all of thy greed?
Dost thou hasten to succor thy brother in need?
As a soldier of Christ dost thou hardness endure?
Is thy hope in the Lord everlasting and sure?
Hast thou patience and meekness, art tender and pure?
O the Spirit-filled life may be thine, may be thine,
In thy soul evermore the Shekinah may shine;
It is thine to live with the tempests all stilled,
It is thine with the blessed Holy Ghost to be filled;
It is thine, even thine, for thy Lord has so willed. —Lettie Cowman

8 Quotes From “Jesus In Me”

Anne Graham Lotz has given us a delightful book that feels like a living room chat with a friend as we discuss how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. Check out my full book review of Jesus In Me by clicking here. 

“The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a Person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, or His.” 

“Could it be that you have missed the comfort of the Comforter because it has come indirectly through someone or something else? Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, are your tears blinding you to the presence of Jesus right there beside you? Right there within you? My prayer is that He will use these words to comfort you as you experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to open your eyes to the nearness of the One who is, in fact, Jesus in you.” 

“Whether your situation involves a misunderstanding with your neighbors, or a disagreement within your church, or tension in your home, or slander in your school, or gossip in your office, the Holy Spirit is able to defend you and plead your cause. Always. Ask Him. He’s never lost a case.” 

“Multiple times God has told me He would strengthen me through the howling winds of hardship. In Jeremiah He clearly warned me that people would fight against me but that He would make me an iron pillar. Through Isaiah He told me that people would rage against me and oppose me but that I was not to be afraid because He would strengthen me. He encouraged me from Revelation that if I would endure patiently and with humility, He would make me ‘a pillar in the temple of my God.’” 

“It’s a huge relief to know that it’s not my job to convict anyone else of sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Which leaves me free to love people just as they are. Yes, I can counsel and advise if they are open to it. Yes, I can speak the truth in love. Yes, I can point out the potential consequences of their sin. But in the end the most effective thing I can do is to pray for them with a heart full of love. Because the power to transform is His alone.” 

“As we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, pursue righteousness, live by the truth, and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us, sharpening our focus in the midst of life’s distractions and confusion.” 

“Maintaining the fire requires intentionally establishing some common spiritual disciplines. They are simple choices but not always easy. They include daily prayer, daily Bible reading, sharing the gospel, continuous obedience as you live out what God says in His Word, continuous trust as you relinquish your expectations and let Him have His way, deepening surrender to His authority—especially during times of pain and suffering.” 

“He uses all things without exception, not just some things, for my ultimate good. And my ultimate good is not health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, or sometimes the things we associate with ‘good.’ My ultimate good is to fulfill God’s purpose of shaping me into the image of Jesus Christ so I bring glory to Him.” 

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

The Nearness Of God

I think too often we’re in too big of a hurry when we read the Bible. 

Think with me for a moment how much longer it takes to sing the lyrics of a heart-stirring song than it does to just say the words. The psalms were written as songs, and although the melodies that accompanied them have been lost to the pages of history, we would still do well to move more slowly and deliberately and passionately through these inspired songs. 

Let’s slowly consider Psalm 46 from four different perspectives…

First, as a pause from the noise. Selah can be used three different ways: (1) a pause to reflect; (2) a deep breath to crescendo into something bigger; or (3) a contrast between two very different things. There are three selahs in this psalm, and all of them call us to a pause from something noisy. To pause from…

    • natural upheavals—the earth gives way, the mountains fall, the waters roar, the mountains quake
    • political upheavals—nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall 
    • religious upheavals—God has to serve the judgment of desolation, as He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, burns the shield

Selah/Pause from these upheavals and reflect—God is our refuge … the Lord Almighty is with us.

Second, notice the contrasts. The songwriter takes us to man’s mountains that fall and quake, but reminds us that THE mountain of God is our sure fortress. In the imagery of water, we see man’s attempts at refreshing that are roaring and foaming, but we also see God’s river that brings life and makes people glad. And look at how man’s use of power results in an uproar, but God makes wars to cease. 

Selah/Pause and reflect—aren’t God’s ways better than man’s ways? 

Third, notice the nearness of God. Twice the songwriter reminds us “The Lord Almighty is with us.” And then we hear God Himself speak to our anxiety-prone hearts, “Be still and know that I am God.” Those words “be still” can also mean “let go.” Let go of earthly things, negative voices, fears, trying to control events. If your hands are full of that, how can you grab onto God?! 

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is calling me to go—and stay—near to Him! 

Fourth, see how God’s peace and protection surrounds AND permeates me. In our Western literature, we are used to the climax—or the payoff—being at the end of the story. The story builds and then comes to a conclusion where the hero prevails. But in Hebrew poetry, the climax—or the payoff—is typically in the middle. So when we read Psalm 46, it’s tempting to say, “Hallelujah! Verse 11 says God is my fortress. That’s the climax, the payoff!” But really the payoff—the most important part—is the middle. In this psalm, that is verse 6. Everything else builds to this and radiates out from this. 

Read this psalm for yourself by reading the verses in this order: 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, 3, 9, 2, 10, 1, 11.

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is not only IN me, He also surrounds me. I’m invited to come close to Him because He is already in me. Nations rage, but His voice in my heart silences the upheaval. He is with me. He is the Most High Sovereign God that controls the outcome of all nations. Earth quakes and kingdoms rumble, but I will have no fear; I will be still and know He is God. He is my refuge, my strength, my help, my fortress! 

Don’t rush the reading of the Psalms. Slowly “sing” these inspired lyrics and listen to how the Holy Spirit will whisper to your heart. 

I’ll be continuing our series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday, and I would love to have you join me. 

A Very Present Help

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

God is not just present—He is very present! 

God is not merely in the room with you, He is fully attentive to you. He’s never distracted, preoccupied, or disinterested. 

Regardless of the quaking or roaring around you, He is so very present that He knows your quietest sigh. You don’t have to look anywhere else for help because He is VERY present at this VERY moment. 

The rest of this psalm reiterates this promise:

  • God is in the midst
  • God will help
  • The Lord of hosts is with us
  • God is our stronghold 

God Himself speaks the words of the natural conclusion we should draw when we realize that He is VERY present at this VERY moment—

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

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