Psalm 150 – Praise God (It’s Not an Option)

3 04 2013

praise god

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!

Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 

Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!- Psalm 150 (NRSV)

I have to admit lately praise (for God or anything else) has not come from me easily.  There are a number of reasons for that, but I can’t genuinely rationalize any of them.  If the Apostle Paul could claim to thank God regardless if he were hungry or fed, free or imprisoned, then I can at least take a moment and thank God and praise Him simply because He is, no matter what temporary misery I might be experiencing.

I’ve been focusing on my own circumstances and forgetting that God is beyond my circumstances, which can lead to a pretty dismal existence.

Circumstances are temporary, but God is permanent.

jennifer-pugh-praise-the-lord

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NRSV)

Today might look dismal, but God has good plans for me just as He did for the Israelites when they were exiled to Babylon.   I just might be in a place where I can’t see God’s plans.  Or maybe He is keeping them a secret from me, so that I don’t go and ruin them in my own ignorance and ineptitude.

I love the book of Ecclesiastes, because Solomon was a guy who had it all, or was as close to having it all (as far as material wealth goes) as anyone could ever be.  I remember a wealthy friend of mine (who was also very much an agnostic, at least at that time) who commented that, “Money can only buy one the kind of misery he likes the best.”   I wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to put his theory to the test, especially these days, but his sentiments echo Solomon’s as well:

“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God;  for apart from him, who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NRSV) 

Happiness is fleeting, but there is real joy in God that is far deeper and way beyond our trials and difficulties.  A big part of faith is trusting that God is fulfilling His good plans for us, even when we are despondent of the future and are having a really hard time holding on to hope.

Praise God

Lord, I pray that by Your grace, You would give me the voice and the heart to sing Your praise, in good times and in bad times.

Advertisements




Matthew 16:21-23 To Suffer and Die

19 03 2013

 

jesusgarden

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’”  Matthew 16:21-23 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

How is your mind’s focal point reflected in your attitude toward suffering and death?

I don’t think anyone (other than  masochists) looks forward to suffering or dying.  Even when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed that God would take the cup from Him.

“Then he (Jesus) said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.'” Matthew 26:38 (NRSV)

jesus-in-garden-of-gethsemane

If Jesus, the Son of God, was so distressed by the prospect of His own bodily suffering and death that He sweat blood, then how are we ordinary, weak, fallible people supposed to take it?

(As Jesus was anguished in the garden of Gethsemane)

“Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.  In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.  When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.'”  Luke 22:43-46 (NRSV)

This isn’t the reaction of a guy heading off to summer camp.  This is unspeakable terror.  Given what would happen to Jesus as He suffered and died, His reaction was more than understandable.  He knew exactly what He was walking into.

The fact is that those of us who follow Christ will also follow Him (in varying degrees and manners) into suffering and bodily death.  While one need not be a Christian to either suffer or die, for the Christian there is a purpose in suffering (even when we don’t understand it) and there is hope beyond death.

The key to that purpose is in what Jesus says in Matthew 26:38: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’

That’s the very same conundrum we face when we pray the Lord’s prayer: “thy will, (not my will) be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I don’t know what God’s purpose is in either suffering or death.  I have to wonder why suffering is necessary at all.  Is it merely to build people’s endurance and character? There should be an easier way to do that.  If suffering is meant to build human endurance and character, why do animals suffer?  Is it part of the curse brought on as the punishment for original sin?

And what about physical death?  If God’s all about this Kingdom business, why not start now and forgo the preliminaries?

The only answer that even begins to make sense to me is God’s answer to Job. (see Job 40-41) In synopsis, God is saying to Job, who are you to question Me?  Where was Job when God created the universe?  Where were we when God brought animals to life?

Doubt is part of faith.  When we question God, He does answer us, just not always in the manner and timing that we expect, which is exactly the point.  God is God, we are not.  He is the One Who did the creating.  He is the One Who brings that mysterious process of life together in the secret depths as the psalmist tells us:  “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” Psalm 139:15-16 (NRSV)  

He is the One Who keeps that slight electrical charge that causes one’s heart to beat going.

It is His prerogative as to when to turn off the switch, because He is the One Who turned it on to begin with.