Goodness and Love
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 (NIV)
These last 6 weeks we have been looking at Psalm 23 verse by verse. We learned through this Psalm that the Lord is the source of our contentment. He provides what we need as he leads us — whether that is through the more pleasant places of green pastures and still waters, or whether that is through the dark valleys of life and while we are surrounded by enemies. Either way, He is faithful to us.
David closes the Psalm by reminding us of the goodness and steadfast love of our Lord. These two characteristics are a promise to us as we choose to dwell with God. To dwell is to abide, to sit, to remain. If we’re honest, it’s hard to sit still and abide with God. It takes some intentionality. It is far too easy to be distracted by what seems to be urgent on our “to do” lists. And when sitting with God gets neglected, so does our ability to sense his goodness and love that are our gifts on a daily basis.
So take ten minutes today to sit still before him. What gifts of goodness and love do you see today?
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .”
Recently I was in a phone conversation with a friend and leader who has been going through the treatment stages of cancer. He was on the last day of chemotherapy after a week-long treatment plan. I was not sure what to expect as I called him, but I was certainly worried about his well-being. To my surprise, he expressed the opposite response. Multiple times, he expressed his gratefulness for the doctors, his family, and the support he was receiving. His last comment stopped me. He expressed gratefulness for the process of cancer. This caught me off guard. In fact, it changed my outlook for the rest of the day. In the midst of cancer, he is living out of an overflow of contentment. Amazing. The opposite of worry is contentment.
I know that many of us are facing situations that provoke us to worry, to fret, or to try to seize control. In Philippians 4:11, Paul reminds us how to fight against worry, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Contentment is the “secret sauce” that is guiding my friend through a difficult process. He is living out of a place of satisfaction and sufficiency independent of external circumstances.
How about you? In what areas are you spending too much time worrying, fretting, or trying to seize control? What does contentment feel like in the midst of your situation? Use the following words of scripture to guide you today:
Jesus to Martha – “You are anxious and troubled about many things . . .” (Luke 10:41)
Paul to the Philippians – “do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6)
Peter to his readers – “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
The writer of Hebrews – “Keep your life free from money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5)
David in the Psalms – “Trust . . . Delight . . . Commit . . . Be still before the Lord . . .” (Psalm 37)
Then I heard another voice calling from heaven, “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her.” “The fancy things you loved so much are gone,” they cry. “All your luxuries and splendor are gone forever, never to be yours again.” Revelation 18:4; 14 NLT
It’s garage sale season. Every other year we have accumulated enough stuff which requires us to have a garage sale. It’s embarrassing to think about the amount of access that we have. The last few days I’ve been going through storage, drawers, and closets to prepare for this mass exodus of belongings.
When I put the passage above over our preparation for the garage sale this week-end, there is a collision. The things that I’m selling for pennies of what they were purchased for, were things that I once loved. I thought, “We must have this!” But after Saturday, they will never be ours again.
When John writes about the destruction of Babylon in Revelation 18, it is his metaphorical name for evil in the world. The people in Babylon were known for their lifestyles of luxury and indulgence. When a person is financially independent, it leaves little room for God. One can become engulfed in the myth of self-sufficiency.
Mike Baker mentioned the website globalrichlist.com in his sermon Sunday. Mike said that you can put in your salary and it will tell you how you compare in the world’s economy. So, I did it. We are the 4,267,335th richest person in the world. That puts us in the .07% of the wealthiest in the world.
You think Babylon is far away? We are the wealthiest people in the world.
Are you making an eternal investment with your wealth?
What are you sacrificing today?
Loving the Destination
“Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” declares the Lord GOD. Amos 4:4-5 ESV
Why do we worship? Let’s cut to the chase and right to the heart of today’s devotional. Why do you worship God?
As you read Amos 4 could you pick up on the sarcasm? It’s there and it’s thick. Here God is outlining what the Israelites worship looks like and as he lays everything out for them and for us he ends with tying a nice big sarcastic bow on the end.
He says publish them or tell everyone about how you worship me for so you love to do. See the Israelites were much like many of us that call Jesus our savior. Many of us, I at times included, worship the journey and not the destination. See we can at times get so catchup in checking a spiritual box or loving how others applaud us for being spiritual that we are more in love with our process of following Jesus then we are with Jesus himself.
Today maybe you need to fall out of love with the journey in order to fall back in love with the destination. Our destination is that our hearts might be devoted to one and only one, Jesus. So many times we can love the journey and miss the destination all together. Don’t miss Jesus because you love the journey. How might you renew your love for the destination today?
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11-12 ESV
Lately I have been watching a little too much of one of my favorite show called Fixer Upper. I love the way Chip and Joanne, the show hosts, transform unattractive and often run down homes into amazingly beautiful homes. I can’t help looking around my home and hope for the same kind of transformation. I get ideas and think about which walls I could tear out, but truthfully, because we have a staircase running up the center of my house there aren’t a lot of options. Instead of being thankful for the home that God has provided, deep down I found myself wishing for something a little nicer and for a little while, I found the roots of discontent starting to set in.
As dangerous as it can be to be discontent with the material things in our lives, even more dangerous is when we find ourselves struggling to feel content with the more significant things in life. Whether it’s struggling to feel content with our marriages, feeling inadequate about our parenting, or looking down at our physical appearance, so many times it’s easy to feel like we aren’t measuring up.
When it comes to learning how to be content, the best thing we can do is fix our eyes on things above. All throughout Scripture we’re challenged to remember that this world and everything in it is temporary. The only thing that will remain is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul knew this and fixed his eyes on God and not himself. The most important thing we can do is look up and focus on the One that really matters.
“So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us…”
1 John 4.16a
What is the difference between knowing and believing?
I know that today is Thursday. I know that the month of April is almost over. I know that I’m sitting at my desk as I write this on my Mac (which I know is the superior computer).
Ok, so maybe that last one gets at the difference between knowing and believing. I believe that Apple creates a superior product. Just like I believe that my meeting this afternoon is going to go well and I believe that certain teams will win certain games.
There is a difference between knowing and believing.
How does that difference give shape to what John says about God’s love?
I know that God loves me. I know that His love is unconditional. I know that I can’t measure it. I know that I can’t alter it. I know that I can’t escape it. I know that He loves me regardless of what I do, that He loves me no matter how far I run, that He loves me no matter where I try to hide.
I know that God loves me.
But I also believe it.
I believe that I’m delightful to God even when I don’t feel like I’m all that pleasant. I believe that I’m valuable to God even when my performance doesn’t seem worth very much. I believe that God loves me even when I find myself unloveable.
There’s a difference between knowing something and believing it.
I heard a pastor say one time that “the distance between heaven and hell is about 18 inches – the gap between your head and your heart.” I think that God’s love spans that 18 inches. What I know in my head, I believe in my heart. The love of God is neither intellectual nor emotional, it’s all encompassing.
What does it look like to know and believe the love God has for us?
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 (NIV)
This is another beautiful picture that David paints in Psalm 23. The Lord is a host who prepares a bountiful table for us to sit and eat from. The part that is striking about his bountiful table is that it is prepared and laid out in the presence of my enemies. The enemies are not taken away, but God’s faithfulness to us remains in spite of them.
I wonder what parts of David’s life he is reflecting on when he writes this line. Is he remembering how Saul pursued him and kept trying to kill him? I think of 1 Samuel 24 & 26 when David has the opportunity to kill Saul – twice! – and yet David trusts that the Lord is in charge and he does not take Saul’s life into his own hands. David demonstrates great peace and calm in these circumstances – as if he is seated at the table of God’s provision while he faces Saul. And God always proves himself faithful.
Today our enemies are not likely to be someone seeking to take our physical life. Our enemy is more subtle and will come in the form of Satan’s lies and confusion about our identity in Christ, rejection from those who are antagonistic toward Jesus followers, despair over our suffering, and our tendency to love other things above Jesus. These enemies may always be a part of this life on earth, but our Lord has invited us to dwell with him at his table in the presence of these. His table is Jesus’ body and blood given for us to conquer our enemy. At this table we find internal rest that gives us peace as we face the enemy, and we find his Word that gives us nourishment and strength to stand strong.
Will you join him at the table today?