Psalm 63:1 For the weary and thirsty

Parched and weary ground. Bared to the merciless sun beating down upon it. Thirsty. Longing for relief. Exhausted of resources. Ever feel like that?

Scorched earth
(Photo Credit: William Warby, Flickr CC)

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
             Psalm 63:1

Psalm 63 is the prayer for pilgrims trudging through parched and weary lands.

For those times we feel we’ve wandered too far away from home,
and we want only to sit close to our Father and soak up His love;

For the days we feel depleted, empty, exhausted…
with nothing more to give
and no resources for what still lies ahead;

For the days we want to stand in awe once again
and we beg for a new glimpse of the greatness of our God.

Several years ago I worked at memorizing this prayer and praying it during my early morning walk. Verses drift back to me now whenever particular circumstances call forth some of these cries from my heart.

I’d like to refresh my memory and share that refreshment with you. We’ll take one verse a day (with one exception), ponder it—your thoughts may be different than mine—and pray it. Pray it aloud — speaking it helps me internalize the Scripture.

The Lord is our God, and we long for Him, we search for Him—because we walk through a parched, barren land, and what else will water our thirsty and weary souls?

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When we wonder if it’s worth the effort

Have you ever said it?

“I may as well give it up. I’ve spent years working, praying, waiting, hoping … and nothing has changed.”

Or,

“This really won’t make much of a difference. Why even bother?”

**

As a college student, I had a summer job that was funded by a grant. The tasks I was given filled a need, but I didn’t have enough work to fill the hours; almost every day I had to search for something more to do until the clock released me to leave for home. Later in life, I held a job that was often overwhelming simply because there was too much to do in each day. I worked long hours, often nibbling at lunch as I worked at my desk.

I much prefer the second kind of job, even though it’s more stressful. At the second job, I knew that everything I did counted for something.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT).

It seems a simple statement, but doesn’t this promise inject you with just a few more ounces of energy? Doesn’t it make a difference to know that everything—everything—we do for the Lord is important? We are not just putting in our time, going through the motions of discipleship. Everything we do for Him matters in His Kingdom!

This puts all those “small” acts of obedience in a new light. How can we shrug off as insignificant anything the Spirit asks us to do?

Or how can we abandon hope and give up in discouragement if we’ve been given this promise?

One of Satan’s most effective strategies to derail our discipleship is to convince us that what we are doing has no or very little importance. Or perhaps he whispers other lies to you: “You’re not qualified to do this; someone else could do this better; what you do has had no effect; all your effort has meant nothing. Might as well give it up.”

No! Stand strong and immovable against the lies! If the Spirit is producing fruit in your life, if He moves you to do anything, no matter how small it might seem (remember the cup of cold water?), do not give up, because nothing you do for the Lord is useless.

The hope held in this verse grows even fuller when we look at its context. The verse is often quoted, but we find it in an unexpected context.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul has just written long paragraphs about the promise of the resurrection of our bodies and the certainty that we will live forever. He ends it by saying, “So don’t give up. Stand strong. Whatever we do for the Lord is very important.”

The effects of what we do here on earth will not be limited to this hour, this day, or the dimensions of earthly life. What we do for the Lord has effects that reach into eternity.

So let us not allow discouragement or setbacks or unseen results immobilize us. Paul writes in another letter that we can be certain we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9).

This is our hope—even when tired and discouraged or feeling insignificant and ineffective: Nothing we do for our Lord is ever useless.

May this promise pick us up again and again, to keep us standing strong and immovable.

He knows what He’s doing … even when I do not

I like having my ducks in a row.
But sometimes I can’t even find all my ducks.

I like knowing The Plan — what the goal is and how we’re going to get there, a neat and direct road map.
But sometimes I feel as though I have no idea where I’m headed and I’m just hacking my way through the thick underbrush.

I like lists. Even more, I like scratching things off my list. Knowing I’ve accomplished and I’ve progressed.
But sometimes all I can see is that I’ve taken two baby steps forward and five giant steps backwards.

I have been reminded constantly this week that God uses everything in our lives for our good. “Every crumb,” someone else wrote.*  Yes, even the evil meant to harm us.  The weakness that frustrates us. The failure that we lament. The thorns in our lives that we think limit our growth or our ministry and we wish God would remove. Those thorns in our lives are often our own shortcomings, the areas in which we are weakest, or wounds that do not seem to be heal.

C. S. Lewis  wrote, “Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.”**

I would like to add that the mysteries of our lives — the whys and the why-nots are no mystery to our Father. He is working through all of it, even though we feel as though all we get done some days is hack through a few more inches of underbrush. God has a much bigger view of what is happening to us on those days.

These two Scriptures are so familiar that I fear the words often flow in one ear and out the other, and the heartbeat of God found here never has a chance to settle into our brains and then reverberate into every part of our souls. As you think about these words today, ask God to hear His heartbeat of love for you.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

 

 

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* I am sorry that I cannot remember where I read this. If that Someone Else was you, please know that your words were part of God’s message to me this week. Thank you.

** From The Problem of Pain

Birth of Hope

Now what?

We have just paused in our year to commemorate the birth of the one we say is King.

Now what?

After that night in the stable, Mary and Joseph still had to tend to the business that had brought them to Bethlehem. Could Mary rest while Joseph reported to the census officials? Did they find a room somewhere for a few days? Or were they faced the next day with a long trip home? We know the shepherds returned to their flocks (although they were telling everyone they met about what had happened), and I’m sure the innkeeper was busy with all his other guests and the constant traffic in and out of the town. Life went back to …busy life.

And today we go on with our daily lives.

Last year, I wrote about our “ruined” Christmas. Through everything that happened, I  caught a glimpse of the real story of Christmas—Christ the Light coming into our darkness and Christ our Hope coming into our hopelessness.

This year, the message of good tidings of great joy that has been with me all month is that Christ the Answer comes into my every day.

Prophecies foretold the destiny of the child who would be born:

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6 NLT).

While those prophecies were given to a nation and spoke of one who would rule on a grand scale, they are also meant on a very personal level for each one who believes God’s promises.

The government will rest on his shoulders. This transforms our view of the world and our own lives. He is the King! Our allegiance is to one who has authority over all of heaven and earth. Our lives go far beyond earthly realms, worldly principles, and political systems. Our King rules all!

He is Wonderful Counselor. We jump from recognition that the universe is under our King’s command to this comfort of a very personal, intimate relationship with the King. He knows us, through and through. He holds all wisdom and truth. His counsel can be trusted to be wise and loving. Don’t we all need just such a Counselor?

He is Mighty God. I need a mighty God. I need to know that I can trust in something mightier than human effort and influence. I need to know my God goes beyond all natural, social, and political “laws” I observe at work in this world. I need to worship Someone greater than our own man-made idols.  

He is Everlasting Father. I just finished a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize. I read as a writer; that is, I was fascinated at the skillful techniques the author used, especially to develop characters. Yet I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and flat. Why? Because the book held so little hope. There was not even a whisper of God. Characters grew old and some died. And what hope did they find in life? Only a greater “self-awareness.” Sorry, that’s not enough for me. I need eternal and everlasting. I need hope in a loving God who says “Come to me, and I’ll give you life. All of life, as I intended you to have when I birthed you.”

He is Prince of Peace. Whether it’s on a world-wide scale or private and personal, we all crave peace. Jesus said, “I give it to you.” The world knows nothing of peace—not how to create it, give it, or maintain it. The Prince of Peace holds the key, He is the only Way, to the peace we all seek.

And so this Christmas season, the old prophecies have rung in my ears to tell me this baby born in a stable came to bring me everything I need, every day of my life.

Another of God’s promises concerning Jesus is that He is “a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken (Isaiah 28:16).”

Good tidings of great joy! We have a precious cornerstone on which to build our lives, and we need never be shaken.

That birth in Bethlehem was the birth of hope for all of us.

An eternal covenant with the God of peace

You know, just typing that headline above raises a longing in my heart and soul. We long for peace. We yearn for things sure and dependable. We ache for God. The eternity He has planted in us calls out to His eternity.

May I pray this prayer for you who are reading?

Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT:

Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.

May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.

   All glory to him forever and ever!

      Amen.

The God of peace. Isn’t it good to know that He is the God of peace? Not the God of punishment, who will crush you because you have failed. Or the God of perfection, who demands the impossible. Or the God who is beyond and apart from us. He is the God who has come to live with us and bring us peace.

The One who raised Jesus from the dead, the God who has power that can defeat death, has extended the invitation to you: Come, I will make this covenant with you. 

He has not left us helpless and hopeless. The great Shepherd came to earth to gather in and care for those who belong to Him. And then the blood of the Shepherd sealed the deal. The covenant God offers is the covenant of grace, paying the penalty for your wrongs, adopting you, and giving you all the privileges of God’s own child.

This is an eternal covenant! It will not be revoked; there is no expiration date; He will not change His mind or alter the terms.

He bought you back from the kingdom of darkness to make you a part of His own kingdom.
He promises to equip you with all that you need to live the life He’s inviting you to live.
He will produce in you the good things that please Him.
What a covenant! There is no fine print that says you must deliver and you must produce. He will produce in your life those things that please Him.

You can never do that on your own. All of your own resources will not equip you sufficiently to do these things. You do not have the power. But God’s covenant with you promises that Jesus’ own power will flow through you and He will do it. Beyond our imagining!

And that covenant stands forever.

He is faithful and will do it. And the glory will all be His.

Amen.

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