God’s Preference Is You

My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts. 

Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!

Then comes the Selah—pause. 

And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25). 

Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better. 

But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU! 

He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less. 

The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).

In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all! 

God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). 

Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!  

Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.” 

No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He loves you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you. 

Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

The Selah That Keeps Us From Sinning

There is a very natural emotion that we humans have when someone has hurt us, but if we don’t pause (Selah), that natural emotion can lead us into sin. David has good counsel for angry people in Psalm 4. 

Many scholars think that Psalm 4 is a continuation—or a part 2—of Psalm 3. As you will notice in the preface of Psalm 3, David is on the run from his son Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingdom of Israel from him. 

Look at the swing of David’s emotions:

  • Troubled/sad (v. 1) 
  • Anger (v. 4)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Peace (v. 8)

The first time David tells his readers to Selah pause is between verses 2 and 3. The change is almost an about-face: 

Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to Him. Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for His verdict (vv. 3-5 in The Message). 

My friend Josh Schram shared these truths: 

  1. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. 
  2. It’s right to be angry, but it’s not right to sin. 
  3. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to break God’s law. We can almost justify it, but it is a sin to give in to anger. 

“Search your heart and be silent”Selah. This pause gives us hope that we can “build your case before God and wait for His verdict.” 

In Romans 12:17-21, Paul gives similar counsel when dealing with enemies:  As far as it depends on you…

  • Don’t repay evil for evil. 
  • Do repay evil with doing what’s right. 
  • Don’t take revenge. 
  • Do let God handle it. 
  • Don’t mistreat your enemies. 
  • Do bless your enemies. 
  • Don’t be overcome by evil. 
  • Do overcome evil by doing good. 

Since David let his anger go, that also means he didn’t sin! His clear conscience meant he could lie down and sleep in peace. 

You cannot hold a grudge and peace in the same heart. 

Please join me next week as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

The Power To Turn Worry Into Worship

Anxiety makes people feel overwhelmed. We over-burden ourselves with worries like…

  • Can I do it?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Do people really like me?
  • What if I fail?

Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Jesus went on to say that this type of worry and anxiety was exactly the opposite of what His followers should be doing: “People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things.”

Instead, Jesus said, we are to turn our focus on Him: “Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” (see Luke 12:22-31)

Instead of worrying … pray!

My friend Josh Schram said,

“When we worry, we communicate to God that we don’t really trust Him to take care of us.”

OUCH!

You might be saying, “If I’m supposed to pray every time I worry about something, I’d be praying all the time!” You know what? That’s actually a good thing because it’s exactly what the Bible instructs us to do—

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. (Philippians 4:6)

“We have the power to turn our…

  • anxiety into prayer
  • worry into worship
  • struggles and trials into testimonies.” (Josh Schram)

Are you using that power God has given you? Don’t let worry cause you to feel overwhelmed. Keep turning your worries over to God again and again and again and again….

Comparisons Are Killers

It is always a thrill for me to watch a young leader excel so wonderfully! Yesterday I listened as our youth pastor Josh Schram brilliantly illustrated a key component that can kill relationships or build them up.

Trust me: Josh’s opening illustration is worth the watch in the video below!

Here are a few takeaways I had from Josh’s message…

A relationship killer is comparing yourself to others. 

Comparing yourself to others may make you feel superior to them or inferior to them, but neither of these feelings serve a useful purpose, and neither of them honors God.

The fastest way to kill something God is doing in your life is to compare it to what He’s doing in someone else’s life.

When we compare someone else’s highlight reel to our behind-the-scenes mess, it makes us feel less than what God intends because it always increases dissatisfaction. Remember: living this way is comparing yourself to an artificial standard.

Notice how God speaks to us as individuals—Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Galatians 6:4-5, emphasis added)

A relationship builder is examining yourself.

Jesus ran His own race, and we are called on to remove any obstacles that keep us from running our own race too (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

  • Run your own race.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Stay focused on Jesus.

No one can be a better you than you.

Remember: someone else’s success is NOT your failure (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

I need to ask myself: Am I being the best me I can be with what God has equipped me to be? If the answer is “yes” then everyone else gets better!

Don’t compare your relationship with God or with other people to others’ relationships. Instead, examine yourself to make sure you are being the best you God created you to be!

Becoming Spiritually Fit

To me this sounds weird: Jesus grew spiritually strong. Think about that: Isn’t He already God?!

When Jesus came to Earth as a man, the writer of Hebrews says He was made like us humans in every way. So just as you and I have a spiritual health to maintain, so did Jesus while He was on earth.

Dr. Luke noticed this as well when he noted that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Luke notes His spiritual growth by saying Jesus “grew…in favor with God.” In other words, God was more and more pleased by what He saw developing in His Son.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Josh Schram explain the parallels between our physical health and our spiritual health. He said that we all know what we need to do to grow physically strong—eat the right food, exercise, get proper rest, and have some way of monitoring our health.

It’s exactly the same way spiritually! We need…

…a good dietMan does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus repeated this truth when He was confronted by the devil, and lived it out every day.

…proper exercise—All the health food in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we just sit around. It’s the same with the Bible: we can read it, memorize it, and talk about it, but if we don’t exercise it we won’t get spiritually fit. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).

…the right amount of rest—We can’t be in perpetual “go” mode if we want to be healthy physically or spiritually. Jesus knew the value of rest, and frequently He would “withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

…to monitor our progress—James talks about the Word of God being a mirror for us, and Paul advises us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But here was the most important takeaway for me in Josh’s message…

Health is not just one big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.

A good question for all of us to ask ourselves: Am I making good daily choices which will help me grow spiritually fit like Jesus.

I so enjoy sharing the teaching duties with a couple of really solid pastors-in-training in our church. They have helped me develop this series called Wholly Healthy, and have taken part in sharing messages in various aspects of this series. Please watch how Josh lays out the plan for our spiritual fitness.

The Truth About Wise Counsel

proverbs-12-1Pastor Josh Schram shared with us the lessons he’s appreciated about receiving wise counsel from those around him. One of Josh’s opening remarks really hit home with me, because it’s something I still struggle with at times: I have to get beyond thinking that those who are trying to speak into my life are somehow trying to meddle in my life!

A couple of other thoughts that really made me pause and reflect were—

“Ignorance may be bliss, but it won’t last.” How true! I may cover my eyes and ears to the truth, but my ignorance will ultimately lead to my downfall.

“People who will speak truth into my life care more about me than about my feelings.” As Proverbs says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6).

Josh closed with these challenging questions:

  • Am I open to correction from wise counsel?
  • When I am corrected, do I feel like I must defend myself?
  • Are my ears open and am I really listening?

Check out this helpful message for yourself…

%d bloggers like this: