Have you ever read Psalm 63? If you have or have not, here is a brief summary of what took place in this Psalm. David was on the run from his son Absalom so he fled into the Wilderness of Judah. Being an extremely visual learner, I started doing some research on the Wilderness of Judah. I wanted to get a better idea of what David eyes would have seen during this time. One source describes the Wilderness of Judah as being, “Bleak, inhospitable, stark, and harsh.” A lot of places have changed in Israel but the Wilderness of Judah has for the most part remained the same for thousands of years. The beginning of Psalm 63 starts off with David saying, “O God, You are my God. I will look for You with all my heart and strength. My soul is thirsty for You. My flesh is weak wanting You in a dry and tired land where there is no water. So I have seen You in the holy place. And I have seen Your power and Your shining-greatness. My lips will praise You because Your loving-kindness is better than life. So I will give honor to You as long as I live. I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul will be filled as with rich foods. And my mouth praises You with lips of joy…” (vv. 1-5 NLV).

Can you picture running for your life in a land as unforgiving as the enemies that have arisen against you? For a minute, can you imagine the emotions that would have captured your thoughts? Here, David’s first words to the Lord were not “Why! How could my own child betray me?” or, “Lord, give me water, food, and shelter.” Here, he opened his mouth, and what came first were words of praise and thanks so deeply felt in every part of this man for His God.

When reading Psalm 63, I kept coming back to this idea. Here was this mighty king and warrior who knew what it felt like to be satisfied financially, emotionally, and physically. Yet, when he found himself running for his life in a desert land he DID NOT long to be reunited with his riches. He was physically aching for more of what his soul and flesh were wanting–God.

As I was looking through pictures of the Wilderness of Judah, I sat and wondered about all the possibilities that he would have encountered on his journey. How hot would it have been in the Wilderness of Judah? Would his skin be burning from the heat of the sun beating down? How long would it have been before his lips began to crack from the desert air? And from those lips, how was David able to open his dry mouth to tell God that his flesh was weak wanting to be in His presence once more? More sources say that this wilderness went on as far as his human eyes could see, and yet we don’t read that he even placed his focus on his surroundings. David was able to direct his eyes on things above.

I had to go back and re-read Psalm 63 because for the first time I was understanding for myself what it meant for God to be someone’s all in all. David’s eyes, heart, soul, mind, and flesh were fiercely loving God as one. Yes, David was an imperfect man. Nonetheless, in the book of Acts Paul explains concerning him: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22). Even though David had committed many sins, was still “a man after God’s own heart.” I love the MSG version of this: “He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.”

Friends, I want my heart to beat with God’s heart. When I say, “O God, you are my God,” I want to say this with all my heart, mind, and strength. I want to obey Him despite what I feel or what my eyes may see. No matter what may come while I live in this world, I want to worship Him with abandon and speak truth to my soul in every moment. He is my refuge and reprieve no matter where I many find myself in this life. Like David, I want my God to be my all in all.

All for His Glory

Oh, Christmas time! There are many parts of this season I love! Decorating. Putting up the Christmas tree. Visiting and sharing meals with family. Enjoying festive lights. Receiving Christmas cards and hearing from friends and family. Giving gifts. Singing and listening to Christmas music. Celebrating Jesus’ birth.

This Christmas, as I thought about Advent — a time of anticipation and longing for our Savior’s birth — I became more aware of the word “yearn.” I started to think about yearning and longing as we studied Psalm 63:1 in our last Bible Study, Falling in Love Again with Your Lord. The psalm starts with David longing for God: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You” (Psa. 63:1 NASB). “Lord,” I asked, “what does it mean to yearn for you?”

The Lord, in His lovingkindness, opened my eyes to how hard it is to know what longing looks like unless you have experienced the opposite: not having, not wanting. The example He used for me was through my children this Christmas. When I asked them what they wanted for Christmas, neither of them could give me helpful guidance. Parents with small children are still in the phase of their kids wanting a long list of toys, games, or electronic devices. But my children are teenagers. The “magic” is long past. And the truth is there is nothing they really want because they already have it.

Humans are experiential creatures. It is hard for us to understand that which we have not experienced. God, our loving Father, our Creator, knows this about us – and so He sent Jesus, His only Son, to come in human likeness so that we could relate to Him. Jesus’ life, His actions, His words, His death, His resurrection – all were observed and experienced by real people and recorded for generations to come, so that we, too, might experience Him, encounter Him in the written record of the Scriptures.

After thinking through all of this, I am beginning to develop gratitude for the valleys I’ve endured in my life. I’m grateful for the trials and the sorrows. I’m grateful I have known times of suffering, because without them, I would not know what it is to long for change, for deliverance. I am grateful that the Lord has opened my eyes to my sin or I would never long for the Lord to rescue me from that sin. I can relate to Paul as he writes: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).

I am in a season of life in which I do not yearn for God. It saddens me to admit this. I think the reason I do not yearn for Him is because I am too self absorbed, too dedicated to serving my own wants and needs and feeding my flesh. I yearn for what is easy and comfortable. I do what I want to do, and as a result, serving God and others are distant priorities. A.W. Tozer said, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.” I am guilty of the sin of complacency.

I need the Lord. I need time with the Lord. These statements are facts, they are truths. I am guilty of trying to remove God from His throne and sit there myself. I make time to text and email family and friends but not to spend time in God’s Word and pray. God tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psa. 16:11)! Why do I not believe Him?

A friend told me about a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life. She explained that the purpose of the book is to help the reader choose one word to establish the core of the reader’s focus and intention for the coming year. I have not read the book, but I already know my word: yearn. I pray that God will give me a fresh desire to know Him. 2016 has been a very hard year. But I trust God will use the hard times to carve out in my heart a deeper need for Him, to help me yearn for Him, first and foremost.

Growing in Grace

I just recently started my workout routine again. I used to be pretty disciplined in this, but taking a six week break after my baby and then having a totally new schedule altogether threw me for a loop. I’m starting with just quick 20 minute workouts I find on YouTube. Twenty minutes is not that long and I’m not that out of shape; I should be able to endure. The Lord revealed something to me the other day as I was doing one of these quick workouts. As the instructor counts down with the last bit of that particular move, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, I quit before the end. It’s like I see the end in sight and so I just stop then because (let me be honest here) whatever particular body part being worked out is burning. Maybe I’m not as in shape as I thought I was ;).

I started to think more about this, how I wasn’t finishing strong with each workout. The very last few reps are when the move gets particularly hard. The first rep, not difficult, but the more reps you add, the more your muscle burns and that’s precisely when I quit. Just recently I was doing a workout where you do a move ten times and then you hold the move for ten seconds and then repeat that sequence three times. As the instructor was encouraging everyone to keep going, she said that continuing when your muscle is burning is when you’re going to see real progress.

This just really struck me. I was seeing how weak I was in my workouts, but also just how weak my belief was in the Lord as He was teaching me through my dinky 20 minute workouts. I’ve told you before, but I’ll say it again, when things don’t go my way or according to my expectations, I’m just a brat. I will be angry or annoyed or will pout, but try to put on a fake smile because I know I shouldn’t be acting that way. And because I don’t want to confess, yet again, that I want my way over the Lord’s. It’s when things don’t go my way that my faith can really be tested. It’s when things don’t go my way, and I see how unrealistic my expectations are, that the “burn” is experienced. But that’s when my faith can actually be strengthened.

I just recently read the NIV version of James 1:2-3 which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Laurie commented in one of her lectures this past semester during Falling in Love Again with Your Lord on David’s statement in Psalm 63 where he says he was thirsting for the Lord like in a dry and weary land where there is no water. She said that when we don’t drink the amount of water our bodies need, it is like we believe we don’t need it. But then the more water we drink, the more we actually want. We discussed this also in my small group and someone else compared this also to working out. It’s hard to start working out, but the more we work out the more we want to do it. I believe this relates so much to James 1:2-3. If I were to actually believe, actively believe that the Lord is in control of all my circumstances and that He loves me, I could be joyful when things don’t go my way. Not a fake happiness that is thrown up even though something I wanted didn’t happen, but a true joy that could come only from the Lord knowing that He is working everything out for His glory and my good. The more I believed in His love and control, the more I could persevere, and that would lead to believing even more. And then my faith in Him would grow, all by His grace.

I want to trust in the Lord completely. I’m thankful I have that desire. My flesh is weak and gives in when circumstances aren’t perfect, when things start to burn. The burning may seem like a bad thing, but just like the workout instructor said, that’s when real progress is taking place. The testing of my faith will produce perseverance and it will for you too! Let’s all pray for grace to believe in the Lord and trust in Him when the burning is taking place.

Planted for His Glory