How Long? (Psalm 13)

I am learning to be content in my current season of life. As a single, the LORD is teaching me the blessings of singleness. Still, a desire for marriage remains on the forefront of my mind and heart. At 25 years old and only a short-term relationship to account for, questions of timing loom. Yes, I know everything will happen according to God’s will in God’s timing. But waiting for a relationship to happen sometimes feels like asking, “How long, O LORD?” I am sure you have experienced the same sentiment. Maybe you are not waiting for a relationship to happen. You may be hoping a wayward child will see their error and return to you and to God. You may be praying for your spouse to quit pursuing the lusts of the world and, instead, show their love to you. You may be crying out to God as one who has recently been diagnosed with an illness or cancer. Whatever the situation may be, many of us find ourselves asking God, “How long?”

How Long?

We are not alone in asking this question. Faced with some type of opposition, King David asked this question too. In Psalm 13, we hear King David open up by asking four times, “How long?” He says:

  • “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (v. 1a)
  • “How long will you hide your face from me?” (v. 1b)
  • “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (v. 2a)
  • “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 2b)

In asking these questions, David is not accusing the LORD of unfaithfulness. Nor is David stating the LORD has mentally forgotten about him. Understanding the Psalms as Hebrew poetry, what David is doing here is expressing his feelings. Amid his circumstances, David says he feels as if the LORD is indifferent toward him. Judging by his feelings and surroundings, it appears God has abandoned him, hiding His face from him. What leads David to despair is this feeling. With nowhere else to turn he takes counsel in his own soul and finds himself drowned in sorrow. By the looks of it, David’s enemy has the upper hand.

Dealing with Feelings

How does David deal with his feelings? Because the LORD does not feel present, does David settle into despair? Verse 1 gives us a clue the answer to such a question is “No!” Although it may appear God is in hiding, David still addresses God, “How long, O LORD?” Moreover, verses 3–4 give further evidence David deals with his feelings by bringing them to the LORD. He pleads, “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (13:3). Whether he is speaking figuratively or literally in the second half of the verse regarding this sleep, David seeks to hear from the LORD in the hopes of things being brought to light. The purpose of David’s petition is so that David’s enemies may not boast in seeing David down.

Faith-Informed Feelings

After hearing David’s petition, one may assume to find the LORD’s answer. However, we do not find such in the closing verses of this psalm. Instead, we find feeling informed by faith in God. David’s closing remarks are a blueprint for how we ought to respond when we are faced with trying circumstances in life. When we do not understand what God is doing and when it appears as if He has left the situation, we should respond with David, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (13:5–6). We should not neglect our feelings but neither should we allow them to rule our lives. We must allow our faith to inform our feelings. How do we do this? By looking to the cross. The steadfast love of God was displayed on the cross, where Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins by dying in our place for the forgiveness of sins. If we have trusted in this steadfast loving God, then we can rejoice in the salvation we have received. When we look to the cross, we see God loves us and cares for us. Faith-informed feelings, then, tell us to focus our eyes on the cross, not our circumstances. We will most certainly still have moments where we ask “How long?” but we ask it knowing God is there with us, not away from us.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is a current situation or circumstance in your life where you are asking, “How long?” How does this trial affect your view of the character of God?
  • Why should faith in God inform our feelings amidst circumstances and situations we face?
  • How does the gospel impact our view of God and of our circumstances?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

An Exhortation to Praise God (Psalm 150)

ww_psalmsThe Scriptures possess that peculiarity of being understood by a child while boggling the mind of the scholar, and the last psalm is no exception. After reading it to my three-year old daughter, I asked her, “What do you think our Papa God wanted us to do with this psalm?” Her response was, “To praise Him…with lots of instruments”.

Although praising Him is the central message of the psalm, as Christians we might be tempted to restrict and/or downplay its whole meaning as just a passage about worship time in church. But we should be wary of our own presuppositions! For starters, even though we don’t know who the author was, we can be certain that the psalmist did not write this with a church’s morning service in mind. In God’s providence, He allowed this to be the last of 150 psalms recorded in five different books. Thus, this psalm serves as the ending of the fifth book, as well as the whole Psalter[1].

Two conclusions can be drawn from this: 1) As the fifth book begins and ends with a call to praise God (Ps. 107), we can see praise as a common element within the Christian life in the middle of struggles, enemies’ attacks, times of afflictions, times of prosperity and other topics covered in the fifth book; 2) A similar conclusion can be drawn by taking the whole Psalter, which begins with the two ways of man: the way of life and the way of death (Ps. 1). He who chooses the way of life might go through all the blessings and difficulties described in the Psalms, but at the end of his life, he will be able to praise God. The blessed man will always praise God at the end of the day, but there is no song for those who choose the way of the wicked, and once they pass through the gates of death, there will be no praise in their graves (Ps. 6:5).

Moreover, it is easy to trivialize everything related to music in our contemporary mindset. We automatically classify it in the “entertainment” section of our minds. But the Scriptures don’t approve of such mentality. Take Deuteronomy 32 as an example. Did you know that God chose to warn Israel with a song He wrote? God commanded Moses to write it as a witness to testify against their future wickedness (Dt. 31:19-22), and right after finishing the song, He gave the following warning: “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life…” (Deut. 32:47). Surely there is nothing trivial about this song!

Psalm 150 contains 13 admonitions to praise God. It is rather clear that God wants us to praise Him on a constant basis. In contrast, we read in Romans 1:21 how Paul brings the two main accusations against all humankind and one of them is lack of praise (“they neither glorify God…”). This shows how serious God feels about praising His name. Psalm 150 can be divided into four sections that can be easily remembered: 1) Where to praise (v.1), 2) why praise (v. 2), 3) how to praise (v.v. 3-5), and 4) who ought to praise (v. 6).

  1. Where: God wants us to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. Although space does not allow us to make a deep study, we can easily infer that praise should be made in His presence. Of course, Israel understood this verse as praising Him in the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where heavens and earth met and the most revered place in the world. But now, He lives within our hearts. Thus, it is not about going to a physical place. It is a matter of disposition of the heart, to be face to face with Him and all the spiritual realities that come with it.
  2. Why: Praise is not to be made in an intellectual vacuum. There must be valid reasons for us to come with offerings of praise, and verse 2 summarizes these reasons for us: praise Him for what He has done (acts of power) and for who He is (His greatness).
  3. How: This passage must be a favorite for musicians, because it describes the varying arrays of musical possibilities. There is the wind section, strings, and percussion for a whole orchestra. There is a place for mellow styles (harp and flutes) and upbeat styles (resounding cymbals and trumpets), with dancing and joy. Most of all, God wants us to praise with instruments made by our own hands through our creativity and skill. He even gives us clearance to create new songs, and requires a certain standard of quality (Ps. 33:3).
  4. Who: On account of His creation, God takes the prerogative as the object of praise. Psalm 148 describes not only living beings but the creation as a whole praising Him: trees and animals; angels and mountains; everything that has been created praises the Creator.

Let us then praise the Lord. Praise Him in His holy presence. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Praise Him with music and joy. Praise Him with your every breath. Praise the Lord!

Reflection Questions

  • Do you think God is pleased in the praise you offer to Him?
  • Does it strike you as odd that the Almighty God wants us to praise with music and instruments
  • What conclusions can you make by the fact that the largest book of the Bible is a songbook?

[1] Actually, Psalm 150 is also the last section of the last “Hallel” (Ps. 145-150), which also begins with a call to exalt and praise Him (Ps. 145:1).

huriThis week’s devotional was written by Huri Cañas. Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Huri has been in the US since moving there in 2010. He received his Bachelor degree at Crossroads Bible College in Urban Leadership and is pursuing a Master’s degree with Indianapolis Theological Seminary. He is actively involved in worship at Neighborhood Fellowship and Zionsville Fellowship. Most importantly, he is blessed with his wife Gina and their two lovely daughters, Isabella and Alessia.

God is Good (Psalm 100)

ww_psalmsA thankful spirit doesn’t come naturally, does it? We obviously find it easy to thank God when we are experiencing a shower of blessings in our lives, but quite a bit harder to be thankful when difficulties and disappointments crowd in. No matter which situation we currently find ourselves in, we need to stop and simply remind ourselves who He is and what He is like.

As a child I remember the extent of my thankfulness to God was basically confined to our dinnertime prayer which I remember well, “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” That was certainly a good start for a little kid, but far removed from the thankfulness displayed in Psalm 100! A glad and thankful spirit should become an integral part of our daily walk and not just confined to a November holiday or a child’s dinner time prayer.

I Thessalonians 5:8 is a familiar verse stenciled in on my bedroom wall, “In everything give thanks …” If only this verse would magically seep into my soul as I sleep! Psalm 100 indicates two things easily remembered which we can be thankful for no matter what our situation. First, we can always simply be thankful that the Lord is God! We are not on the wrong track. We are not thanking a God who is not even there. We have found the Truth that can be found nowhere else! He is the only true God, and we have the privilege of knowing Him.

Not only is our God the true God, He is also good! He is the Good Shepherd who continually watches over the sheep of His pasture, infinitely more than any good shepherd would do. He is working all of the events of our lives together for a good purpose – for His own glory and our ultimate good. Psalm 103 follows closely behind Psalm 100 and reminds us of some of the benefits we enjoy from His goodness: He forgives all our iniquities, and crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, just to name a few!

Every day we should remember and be glad that, no matter what the circumstances, our Lord is God…and that He is good!

Reflection Questions:

  • Regardless of our circumstances, how can we find ourselves expressing thankfulness to God?
  • How have you seen the goodness of God in your life lately? Allow your experience to be expressed by thanking God for His work.

tnt_paschallThis week’s devotional was written by Tom Paschall. Tom and his wife, Theresa, have been married almost 34 years and have 3 married children and 3 grandchildren so far. Their youngest son Zach lives at home along with their lively dog Snickers and not so lively 25+ year old turtle named Chip. Tom works in the IT area at UnitedHealthCare and currently serves as a Deacon at Bethesda Baptist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.

A Heart of Praise (Psalm 145)

ww_psalmsHow often do you demonstrate a heart of praise? In this culture it can be challenging to have an attitude of praise because we take what we have for granted. We can become so bogged down by selfishness and pride that we lose sight of the blessings that God has given us. We need to be less focused on what we do not have and more on who God is and what He has done for us.

The word ‘psalm’ means a song or praise, yet Psalm 145 is the only psalm that has the title ‘A Song of Praise.’ The author of this psalm is David, and he is focusing his attention solely on praising God. Psalm 145 begins with him praising God. “1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” When David speaks of blessing and praising God’s name forever and ever, he is not only thinking about doing it here on earth but also when he gets to heaven. Every single day, David is making it his aim to praise God.

In the next verses, we see that David praises God for His mighty acts and gracious character.  4One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

David never loses sight of what is to come after his life here on earth. There is hope for the believer because of God’s everlasting kingdom. All who are saved will be with God for the rest of eternity, and there will be no more death, pain, sorrow, or tears (Rev. 21:4). God’s everlasting kingdom is something to look forward to and is something that David kept in mind. 10All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. 14 The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

David concludes this psalm by showing that the Lord cares for His people, and his resolve is for all mankind to praise the Lord forever. 17The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.”

“Praising God should be our daily work, for God is every day blessing us. His greatness and goodness cannot be comprehended, and when we have said what we can in praising Him, there is more to be said.”[1] We can only merely scratch the surface of all of the blessings God has given us. There is no end in sight to God’s greatness being fully discovered. From now through all eternity, we will not be able to fully comprehend it. It is important that we do not take God and what He has done for granted, but instead begin to cultivate a heart of praise.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do I have a heart of praise or a heart of pride?
  • Do I praise God every day for the blessings He has given me?
  • Do I praise God every day for who He is and what He has done?

[1] Keith Brooks, Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 140.

ethan_thomasThis week’s devotional was written by Ethan Thomas. Ethan is a graduate of Crossroads Bible College, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Counseling as well as in Management and Ethics. He enjoys serving in his local church. Most of all, he is happily married to his wife, Grace.

Blessed Are The Forgiven (Psalm 32)

ww_psalmsWe all desire happiness. We all are seeking joy in all we do. The reason we do what we do is because we are looking for a pleasure that will satisfy. The issue is not in the pursuit but in the things we pursue. We can pursue the wrong things. And we can pursue good things but with bad motives or in the wrong way. This is certainly the spot King David found himself in. As leader of Israel, he stayed behind while the men of Israel went out to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). While he remained at home in his comfort, he sought to find pleasure by satisfying his sexual desire, culminating in committing adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2–5). That act of idolatry led to a snowball effect of sin. David attempted to cover up his sin. Eventually, he was found out (see 2 Samuel 12:1–12). How did he respond? We can see from 2 Samuel 12:13 and from Psalm 51 that David responded with repentance. Psalm 32, too, recounts David’s expression of confession and teaches us what it means to live the blessed life.

The Blessing of Confessing

If we would be honest, we are much like David. When we sin, our immediate response is not to bring it out into the open. Instead, we try to conceal our sin from being known. We do not want others to know that secret sin we struggle with. We may especially try to hide it if we are around unbelievers because we are Christians and we are to be a witness. If we share our struggle, what will they think? The truth is, though, as Christians, we do not cover our sins; we confess them. If we attempt to cover and conceal our sin, then we will feel the way David felt, aching and groaning while facing a spiritual drought (32:3–4). If we confess them, however, we will see as David did that the Lord forgives (32:5). When we acknowledge our sin and confess it, the Lord will be the one who covers our sin and forgives it (32:1). We are not blessed because we have it all together. The reason we can be called the ones who are blessed is because we are forgiven by the Lord. That is why we must go to the Lord in prayer. (32:6). The godly are not those who pretend to be perfect but are the ones who know they need the Lord’s provision and salvation. They look for Him and find Him. The Lord delivers them and forgives them of their sin. He teaches them in the way they should go and gives them counsel (32:8–9). In other words, true confession is not to be done with mere words, but actions are to follow. When we confess our sins, we are not merely saying, “I’m sorry” but we confess with the intention of turning from that sin.

The Blessing is Found in Trusting

When we turn from that sin, we are turning to something, or Someone, else. We turn to the LORD (32:10). Confession of sin and trusting in God go hand-in-hand. Truly, the reason we can confess our sins and find forgiveness is because we trust in the LORD, namely Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for us! It is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ that God the Father can say we are forgiven. The blessing of forgiveness is found in confessing sin and trusting in Christ. For the one who continues to conceal and cover their sin, they will find sorrow (32:10). For the one who confesses their sin and looks to God, they will find gladness and find joy (32:11). The question you need to ask is: which person are you? There is great blessing in being forgiven!

Reflection Questions:

  • When you have unconfessed sin in your life, how does it affect your spiritual life? Can you resonate with David in verses 3-4?
  • Check your heart: are there any unconfessed sins in your life right now you need to repent of and rely on Christ to forgive?
  • Have you ever confessed a sin you had tried to cover and conceal? How did it feel to confess it and trust in the Lord for His forgiveness?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Psalm 46)

ww_psalmsA while back I came home exhausted after a full day of ministry. I was immersed in personal study, administrative work, meetings, and teaching. That was the easy part. Once the work day was over I spent another three hours counseling various individuals about a whole host of issues that were plaguing their lives. One can imagine, when I got home just before 9:00 p.m., that I was spent.

But I wasn’t just tired physically. I was tired spiritually and emotionally. The burdens of the day proved to be too much for me, and I knew I needed a kind of rest that my warm bed couldn’t provide. So, instead of going home and sitting in my recliner to watch the playoffs to get my mind off things, I opened the Bible and read these words from our Lord: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). It was the refreshment my soul needed. After a day of hard work and carrying the burdens of others, I needed to hear that. “God is our refuge and strength.”

Now, how about you? Have you ever been so physically tired that your body wants rest but your mind is so burdened that you cannot sleep? See, this was one of those days for me. Sleep wasn’t going to be enough. I needed rest for my soul. Even more than that, my heart needed a refuge from the burdens of the day.

A refuge is a place where small, frail people like you and me can find shelter. Think of a fierce army pursuing you in the open field, and there is nowhere to run. Their chariots are blazing, their bows are bent, and their swords are unsheathed. Your only hope is to run and hide in the King’s castle. Once you’re in, the gates shut and lock you away. Inside you find rest, safety, and refreshment from your weary travails. The enemy cannot touch you here because you are protected by the King’s army and the stronghold of His fortress.

But, it is not as if you go in and you’re locked away in a room by yourself while the armies defeat your foes. No, God is “a very present help in our trouble.” Once inside, the King Himself comes to comfort you and provide rest for your weary body. He tends to your afflictions and pours the oils of His grace and mercy over your wounds. In this moment it doesn’t matter what troubles the day presented you with, because you are secure within the refuge of your God. He is your strength. He is your helper.

In fact, the Psalmist feels so safe in the Lord’s refuge that he declares, “We will not fear though the Earth gives way” (46:2a). No matter what circumstances surround you, if you are enveloped in the love and strength of God, you will remain safe, even if the foundations of the earth itself were to crumble.

Dear Christian, preach these truths to your soul during times of trouble. When the burdens of the day prove to be too much, remind your heart that, “God is our refuge and strength.”  When the troubles of life pursue you like a fierce army in the midst of battle, hide yourself within the fortress of our God who “is a very present help in trouble.”

Reflection Questions:

  • Where do you turn in times of trouble and when you need rest and refreshment?
  • How will you prepare to preach these truths to your soul during the next season of trials and trouble in your life?

sutton_famThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and as the Director of the Grace House, a Christ-centered men’s recovery home. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

Two Ways of Life (Psalm 1)

ww_psalmsRoads are an interesting thing. Up until the second year of my undergraduate education, I refused to take the interstate on my way to school. I don’t know if it was because of fear of traffic or something else. Those days are gone, though. I have driven on the interstate numerous times and am much more comfortable driving. Because I have taken this step, I have experienced driving on different types of roads, whether it be a two-way street or a 3-lane in one direction. I have found that people think the same way about life. They think that life’s destination can be found driving on any type of road. Many see life as a two-way street, even. I am convinced, however, that life is a one-way street. Sure, you can go two ways on a one-way street, but one of those ways is illegal and will not end well. Psalm 1 uses similar imagery. In Psalm 1, the godly, or right, way of life is contrasted with the ungodly, or wrong, way of life.

The Godly Way of Life (vv. 1-3)

The godly way of life, as it is detailed in verses 1-3, makes it plain that the relationships we partake in reveal which way we are going. The godly person does not commune with the ungodly. That is, they do not follow the ungodly and fall into a progression of a sinful lifestyle. Rather, what characterizes the godly way of life is their delight in meditating on the Word of God. Notice this study, meditation, and reflection on God’s Word is not done out of routine but out of joy. They delight in His Word. They are daily fed on the Word. For direction, they go to the Word of God. As a result, the godly way of life produces a life of fruitfulness, a life that “yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (verse 3).

The Ungodly Way of Life (vv. 4-5)

The ungodly way of life produces just the opposite. Those headed on this way do not produce fruit “but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (verse 4). The psalmist uses this analogy of chaff to stress the point of fruitlessness. Chaff was separated from the grain and usually blew away because it was lighter than the grain. It had no root. So, the wicked and ungodly are, as Derek Kidner says, “rootless, weightless, and useless”. Their end is destruction because they will not be able to stand right before God on the day of judgment and they will perish (verses 5-6).

The Way of Life

But what about the godly? What happens to them? Psalm 1:6 tells us God knows them. He has a relationship with them. They will not perish but will be with the Lord. But who are these godly people? To your surprise, when Psalm 1 talks about the godly, or the righteous, the psalmist is not talking about us. Yes, if we are Christians we should have a delight for His Word, but we do not always. We still fall short (Romans 3:23). It is only when we understand that Jesus is the ultimate righteous man, the one Psalm 1 describes, that we can ever think about living out such a life. 1 Peter 3:18 reminds us that Christ suffered once for sins. He was the righteous dying for the unrighteous, so that we could be reconciled to God. It is only when we understand Jesus as the only Way (John 14:6) that we can live the righteous way, the godly way. We can only begin to live out this godly way of life when we have trusted in the Way of life.

My question to you is this: which road will you take? Life is a one-way street. Will you rebel against the truth and live your life in sin on your way to destruction? Or will you realize you need to turn around and head the right way? The only way to turn around is to repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and He will lead you by His Spirit along the godly way.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which road or way have you taken? In other words, what characterizes your life more: the godly way of life or the ungodly way of life?
  • How does understanding Jesus Christ as the Way inform our interpretation and application of this passage?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis week’s devotional was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.