Categories
endurance God God (nature) Psalms

The Lord’s Endurance

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

IMG_0806

Carl Pollard

Some people may not know this, but I’m not much of a runner. In fact, I’m not a runner at all, period. This is because my endurance is terrible. I once tried to go on a run to the kitchen, and I gave up right outside my door. Very much unlike me, Serge Girard, a French ultra runner, has run 14,031 miles in just under a year! To break that down, that’s 1,169 miles run in a month or 39 miles a day! This ultra runner has incredible endurance, and we could even say it’s almost superhuman. Serge Girard has amazing endurance, but it is nothing at all compared to the endurance of God.

Psalm 111 is a beautiful description of how God “Endures Forever.” I’d like to suggest that by reading this Psalm we see that the LORD endures forever. In this Psalm we see three aspects of the LORD’S endurance.

The Lord Has Endurance Through His Righteousness (vs. 3). The Psalmist sets the stage to this psalm by using the Hebrew word for “Hallelujah,” then says, “I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart.” When the writer of this psalm says “with all my heart” this seems to imply he is coming with every intention of giving his all to the LORD.

Applying this to our ourselves, when we come together to worship God are we there with the full intentions to worship God? Or do we just put half-hearted effort into worship? Verse two says, “Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them.” If we as Christians truly delight in the Lord, then we should be studying the works of the God!

Verse three reveals the first quality of the Lord’s endurance. “Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.” As One who was unerringly faithful to His covenant with Israel, God constantly executes justice on behalf of His people. In the bringing of Israel out of Egypt, His works declare His righteousness. This impeccable character of His nature does not and will not ever change. Keeping this verse in mind when we are going through difficulties in our lives should cause great comfort. We know that the God who delivered Israel from slavery listens to us when we pray, and He is always there for us.

The Lord Has Endurance Through His Precepts (vs. 7-8). The writer says, “The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness.” This word “precepts” literally means “things God has appointed.” Applying this to the time when this was written, this is talking about the Law given to Israel on Mount Sinai. But applying this to us as Christians today, God never wavers in His promises. He is unfailing just as He was when He wrote the Law on Mount Sinai. What we should focus on is this idea of “forever and ever.” It is hard for us as humans to put this into perspective because we can’t seem to wrap our heads around this idea of someone having no beginning or end. But that is how the Psalmist describes the precepts of the Lord. They will never fail.  As Christians we can take comfort in knowing that the God that we serve is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow! We don’t have to worry that God will change His mind on how we get to Heaven or what is and what is not a sin. Unlike us imperfect humans, God will forever be the same.

The Lord Has Endurance Through His Praise (10). He says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” The Lord not only deserves to be praised forever, but He receives it. Whether it’s from His creation, or through us, the Lord’s praise endures forever!

If we keep these aspects in mind as we go throughout our daily lives, we may realize that we aren’t always living the way we should. We must ask ourselves, “Are we praising God with our Lives?”

3244_1152072760143_2041966_n
Taken on Carl’s safari to the Ngorogoro Crater, 2009.

 

Categories
forgiveness Psalms restoration Uncategorized

After Cuts Become Scars

Neal Pollard

David was broken and battered by sin. He would feel its effects from his public life to his private life for the rest of his life. In the aftermath of his actions with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up, the wounds of sin left visible scars. Nathan’s accusing words perhaps ringing in his ears, he sits down to pen by inspiration the haunting, but hopeful, 51st Psalm. We often dwell more on the first part, the multifaceted description of sin and the more beautiful pictures of forgiveness. But, to me, the most beautiful part of the psalm is when David starts using the word “then.”

Satan would love for sin to defeat us. He would like the guilt to overwhelm us, to keep us from the restoration David longs for here. David is speaking prospectively, asking for a clean heart, renewed spirit, spiritual fellowship, joy and sustenance from God. But, he asks for it for a purpose. In doing so, he shows us what God wants to do with us and for us after our “cuts” become “scars.”

After the cuts become scars…

REACH OUT TO THE LOST (Psalm 51:13). On the other side of repentance, David was anxious to help others reeling from their spiritual wounds. As we overcome through God’s help, we can be a tool in His hand to relate to and rescue others struggling just like we did. It would be far better to have never gone down the road of sin, but having truly come back we can understand the desperate, dark place transgressors are walking. 

BE A FAITHFUL WORSHIPPER (Psalm 51:14). David, the master musician, had lost his song in the far country. He yearned for joyful song. Worship loses its power and purity in our lives when we are living in darkness. We feel hypocritical and empty, just going through the motions. But, back in His glorious light, we can experience that lifted up feeling once more. David shows us the blessing of restoration, a spirit renewed to enjoy further renewal in faithful worship.

GIVE GOD SACRIFICES (Psalm 51:15-17). David mentions the sacrifice of praise, a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. It is obvious, from context, that these sacrifices would reveal themselves in his service to God and to others. This is not merely guilt-driven service, an effort to make amends for the evil influence of his sin. Having been made whole, David has a clarity of purpose that appreciates better what God wants from him. We can be fruitful and useful to Him, scars and all. 

ACCEPT GOD’S DELIGHT (Psalm 51:18-19). How many times did David relive those moments from the rooftop to the prophet’s visit? How often did he wish he could just go back and undo it all? How long did he wrestle with accepting God’s forgiveness and wondering if God could take him back? He shows an appreciation for the prospect of God’s delight. He rightly feels responsible for others, and he wants to lead them to do what’s right. But, I love what he anticipates. He knows God will be delighted with the offering.  Did you know that? Did you know that God can delight in you again, when you bring him your sin-scarred life and offer your righteous sacrifices? He doesn’t want to discard you. He wants to delight in you!

It must have continued to be hard for David. He had reminders everywhere. He could not undo his past. But, he did the right thing. Having dealt with his past, he focused on the present and looked to the future. That’s what God wants us to do after our cuts become scars!

people-2566201_960_720

Categories
Psalms Uncategorized

An Oasis In The Desert

Neal Pollard

I’ve been to Palm Springs, west Texas and east Africa, and these places are the closest I’ve been to the desert (though I have looked out from an airplane over the Sahara Desert and seen the endless miles of brown sand). These provide me with the best visual picture of the desolation and cruelty one would have to endure in its midst.

Psalm 63 is a psalm of David, and the uninspired inscription over it indicates he wrote it while in “the wilderness of Judah.” David ran there more than once, pursued by Saul. Near the time of Christ, the Essenes and revolters against Rome hid there, and after the corruption of the New Testament church monasteries were established there (Negev 206). Negev describes, from archaeological discovery, this wilderness.  “The eastern slopes of the Judean Hills, which fall steeply toward the Dead Sea, are almost devoid of vegetation. The meager rainfall and porous rock of which the hills are composed produce a rugged landscape, and the descent of some 3000 feet over a distance of less than 15 miles form deep gorges with precipitous waterfalls, dry for all but a few days in the year. The steep banks of the gorges contain numerous caves that are difficult to reach and therefore ideal hiding places. Springs are few and small and the only oasis in the whole region is at En-Gedi, where a copious spring fosters lush vegetation” (ibid.).

With that setting in your mind, imagine David, moved by the Holy Spirit, writing the 63rd Psalm. The odds were against his writing on a rainy day, though we do not know. In the dry and thirsty land of persecution, opposition, fear and doubt, David had God. Because he did, David’s love and gratitude overflowed in a fountain of praise and worship to his God.

  • He expresses relationship–“You are my God” (1)
  • He expects relief–“My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You…My soul shall be satisfied” (1,5)
  • He experiences refreshment–“Your lovingkindness is better than life” (3)
  • He excitedly rejoices–“My mouth shall praise you with joyful lips…I will rejoice” (5,7).
  • He exerts responsively–“I will bless You, lift up my hands, praise You, remember You, meditate on You, My soul follows close behind you” (3-8).

God was David’s ever-present oasis, no matter how dreary the setting of life around him was (9-10). He was confident in God’s love and care and strengthened by that to fight life’s battles.

God’s oasis is still flowing in our dry and thirsty land. His power and glory continue the same today. Look for Him where He is found, among God’s people as well as in the Book that bears His authorship and the sanctuary of prayer where He always awaits you. He is more than able to quench your spiritual thirst and shelter you in His care.

libya_oasis_in_the_desert