P.

Psalm 131 Keeps Me From Sinking


In our home for at least the past year we have had a chalkboard sign that Bethany hand wrote Psalm 131 in its entirety on. At only three verses, I have now memorized it. But it hangs right beside our door the garage as we leave each day, and I often glance at it as I sit in our living room. It’s the Psalm that keeps me from sinking. What do I mean by sinking? I simply mean becoming overwhelmed. Or to keep with the original water analogy, Psalm 131 keeps me from getting in over my head and drowning.

Psalm 131, A Song of Ascents. Of David. (ESV)

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
    I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
2  But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3  O Israel, hope in the LORD
    from this time forth and forevermore.

The Psalms are said to give voice to our emotions and this Psalm has become my voice. I am too often proud–that is, my heart is lifted up and my eyes are raised too high. Where this inevitably leads me to is anxiety and stress and a kind of “noise” that keeps me awake at night (as it has this very night of which I’m writing). Why is this? Where does this “noise” come from? It comes from an occupied heart–a heart with no room, or no space, or a heart with one of those neon signs that reads “no vacancy.” But what’s in there? Oh, you know, just things “too great and too marvelous for me.” The NIV of this verse speaks of these heart occupier as “great matters” and “things too wonderful for me.” Eugene Peterson seems to capture the sense of it well when he paraphrases verse 1 like this in The Message:

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.

These great matters, or things too wonderful, or grandiose plans, these are the things of God. These are things that are beyond me. Truly, they are great. They are things I can’t control. I see them as things like issues with my children of which I can’t control. These great matters are relational dynamics of which sometimes I must wait on the Lord to see how he will work them out. They are pastoral counseling issues of which I sometimes need to lay at the feet of Jesus and simply trust him because they are too great. They are political. They are practical. Many of these areas are simply things I have no business meddling in.

So how does it keep me from sinking? David in this Psalm says he’s not proud. So first I need to confess my pride and come to a place of humility, recognizing that I am not God, not in control, and that there are things beyond me of which I’m not supposed to be Lord of. And then in verse 2 David says he’s calm and quiet. Specifically, his soul is calm and quiet. As pride fades, and control is released, the soul is calmed and quieted. The noise is gone. Like a little baby, no longer fussing and whining, but rather resting in the bosom of it’s mother, that’s David’s soul. And when true of me, it’s mine too.

But what about the stuff that I had been thinking about? What about the stuff that caused me anxiety in the first place? What is my soul to do with it all? The answer is verse 3: hope in the Lord. Find rest and hope in God. David Powlison wrote this about Psalm 131:3:

The LORD, Jesus Christ, is your hope. Pride dies as the humility of faith lives. Haughtiness lowers its eyes as the dependency of hope lifts up its eyes. You stop pursuing impossibilities when you start pursuing certainties. This simple sentence distills wonders.

David Powlison

“Pride dies as the humility of faith lives.” That’s the key. When my eyes are lower (pride is dead), hope lifts up its eyes (faith is alive). My hope is in Christ. I don’t have to have control. I don’t need to fret. I don’t need to let the “noise” rule my life, but rather the Lord Jesus Christ is ruler. He can handle the things that are too wonderful for me, in fact, he is handling them. Those things are his business and they’re none of mine. So when this Psalm is operative in my life, I’m not sinking. I’m not drowning. I’m not noisy. I’m composed and calm. I’m actually floating above water, holding tightly to my Lord, resting safely in his arms, without a worry.

David Powlison is convinced that Katharina von Schelge must have had this Psalm in mind when she wrote the hymn “Be Still My Soul.” Along with this Psalm, let these words refresh and still your soul.

Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently, the cross of grief or pain 
Leave to thy God, to order and provide 
In every change, He faithful will remain 
Be still, my soul, thy best thy heavenly friend 
Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end
Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake 
To guide the future as He has the past 
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake 
All now mysterious shall be bright at last 
Be still, my soul, the waves and wind still know 
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below

R.

Ringin’ in the New Year

We made it 10:30pm last night. That’s the latest we’ve been awake in over a week because, well, you know…jetlag. You’d think we would be in the clear by now, but we’re still getting up pretty early. So we were up early enough to set things up on the TV to watch the Rose Parade this morning which was pretty fun. Even though we could watch the Rose Parade on multiple channels, I found a way to watch the KTLA5 (local Los Angeles broadcast) online–the same one I grew up watching. It’s the little things in this life…

New Year's Day (1/1/15)

We had to do some more shopping today, but I think we’re just about done. We’ve been trying to find shoes, shirts, and sweaters for the upcoming wedding next weekend. I was able to find some shoes that I’ve needed for Czech. I’m not use to all the weather over there, so now I have some leather shoes which should help on the wet, cobble-stone streets.

New Year's Day (1/1/15)

American cuisine has been widely enjoyed on this trip and today was no different. We went to a local favorite, Miner’s of Yakima, and had burgers and fries. There was a really fun college football game on, Michigan State versus Baylor, which we ended up watching while enjoying our meal. America! At one point Bethany’s dad and I were yelling at the screen which brought a little too much attention toward our table. Honestly, I’m not a football fan, but that game was really fun and Michigan made an unbelievable comeback.

American football has been a little bit of a theme this afternoon as we’ve continued to watch the bowl games. Bethany and her mom continued to shop later in the afternoon, so her dad and I took the kids back to the house where we’ve been playing in the living room and enjoying some college football mayhem.

One more thing I want to mention is about my Bible reading program. For the past three years I have been enjoying a daily Bible reading program that has been challenging but life changing. It was actually created by one of our professors at The Master’s College and it’s aptly named the Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System, after Prof. Horner. I recreated his printable bookmarks to make them a little more visually appealing, and here’s the link to the PDF that I made: click here to download the PDF (I suggest printing the bookmarks on photo paper). It’s a serious commitment, but I can tell you that my understanding of God’s Word has increased exponentially and hopefully, by God’s grace, I’m becoming more like Christ each and every day.

P.

Peace

We have a children’s album called “To Be Like Jesus” from Sovereign Grace Music. It was released back in 2009, but it was only this past year that we bought it. Originally, we just purchased the title track so Titus could perform the song with his Faith Kids class in the States last year at our church. Somewhere along the line we bought the whole album and lately I’ve had more time to play and listen to all the songs. Sometimes I will turn it up loud and let the kids dance around with me. But a song that has caught my attention is a slower, softer song called “Peace.” Tonight I started to really listen to the lyrics and I heard Titus and Avery try to sing it and I was just blessed. I think I listened to to it six times tonight and learned how to play it on my guitar. Musically it’s intentionally peaceful and the song could probably be a song adults sing on Sunday mornings. I love the lyrics to the chorus which read,

Peace, You give me peace
When the storms come and I’m afraid
Peace, You give me peace
When I trust in the words You say
You give me peace

I encourage you to listen to the entire song by playing the video below.

I guess today that song just kind of, as Bethany put it, “struck a chord with us.” As parents we definitely want our kids to have a Biblical understanding of peace. I mean, I know it’s a fruit of the Spirit but I don’t know if it’s a word we discuss much. Peace is such a strong theme in the Scripture. Think about the Psalms:

Psalm 4:8
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 29:11
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Psalm 34:14
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 119:165
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Peace is even a name of Christ:

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Those are just a few passages, but it’s used throughout Scripture and it’s clearly an important topic in the mind and heart of God. And even though I don’t feel like we’re not at peace here right now, it was just the simplicity of the song and those words that reminded me that peace is something we need to model as parents and is an important fruit of being a Christian. We’re people of peace. Ephesians 6:15 even says our feet are fitted with the gospel of peace. The gospel, the message of the Christ, is what brings true and lasting peace and I need to wear it out like a pair of shoes. I don’t know if the Lord is preparing our hearts for something this week or this month or next year, but it was a nice reminder tonight to think on peace. I love how God uses little things like our kid’s Bible or their worship music to remind me of how I need to think. Thank you, Lord, for bringing peace to my heart at salvation and in my life each and every day “…when I trust the words You say.”

A.

A Slow Jog and Stories That Stick

Ding–early this morning I get a text message from an unknown number. It’s all written in Czech. Just then a Czech friend walked in to the office and I said, “Can you help me read this?” “It’s your gas company…you need to pay your bill.” I promise I’m not irresponsible, but I just can’t win at the whole bill payment thing in Czech. A few more minutes online and my friend was able to help me pay the gas bill, but it’s definitely embarrassing and confusing. That company sent us a letter that we showed to another Czech friend who said they would automatically debit those things from our bank account. I guess that wasn’t the case, so tomorrow I’ll setup a regular online payment. Even as I say that, I have a paper sitting next to me to pay for Titus’ preschool which requires an online bank transfer. If I figure this without losing my mind I’ll turn up “We Are the Champions” and slow jog around the house in victory.

Read the Kids' Bible (10/22/14)

Every night we read the kids their Big Picture Story Bible. We just finished our seventh or eighth time through and have restarted again this week. Tonight we were reading about the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As I opened to the chapter the title read, “A really sad day” which I read aloud to the kids. Avery immediately said, “They ate from the tree…” and followed that with “Adam and Eve disobeyed God and He disciplined them.” She remembered the entire story and I hadn’t even started to read! Now I know kids are sponges, but Avery (who’s almost three) surprised me. I guess it’s the beauty of repetition and stories. Both are so powerful. Like a song chorus that gets stuck in your head, repetition provides an easy way to secure something in your mind. Stories have the same effect with their powerful word pictures and emotional connection. It’s so fun to see it all at work in the lives of our children, and better still, that it’s the truths from the Bible that are sticking.

Read the Kids' Bible (10/22/14)

At the end of the chapter tonight there’s a page about God giving Adam and Eve a glimpse in to how He would one day defeat Satan and sin. Titus saw Jesus standing on the snake and said, “Jesus!” and the kissed the book. Then he said, “He killed the snake!” Yes, He did and by His grace Titus will have a full understanding of what exactly that means in his own life some day. Until then we’ll continue to read to him and Avery the big story of God and trust their view of God will grow too. That’s not just a hope and prayer for the kids, but for Bethany and for me.

J.

Jesus and the Kids’ Bible

It rained a lot today so Bethany got creative with the kids in the house. Titus and her played tennis in our living room and Avery lined up her wooden cookies on a box. We have this kind of second living room where our desks are and there’s a lot of open floor space so hey, why not a little game of tennis?

That cat from yesterday came back today right during dinner time. We were again sitting at our table and it popped up only this time our window was close so it glared at us (like cats do) and was gone as quickly as it came.

Rain and Jesus (8/4/14)

Rain and Jesus (8/4/14)

There have been a lot of “firsts” since we arrive and today was no exception. My team at Josiah Venture had our first official, everyone-in-person, meeting! It was fun to be together in Czech, but we didn’t waste any time with the pleasantries. We have a lot of projects right now and we’re really just trying to stay afloat. I stayed up late this evening trying to finish up one of them because tomorrow we’re off to Bratislava to work on items related to our short-term visas. It’s a 4-hour one-way trip so it’s going to be an 8 hour driving day tomorrow. Not something I’m super excited about but it’s necessary for us to continue to live and do ministry here.

Tonight as I was reading the kids their Bible, I was just reminded of the gospel. I don’t know if you can read the story of Christ on the cross without it realigning your heart. It makes no difference to me if it’s in my regular Bible or the kid’s storybook Bible, the cross of Christ is so important to the Christian faith. While reading I tried to tell the kids, “This is a sad and happy part of the Bible.” Our kids have commented on the pages before but when Avery saw the thorns in Jesus’ head she said, “He has ouchies.” Yes, he does. And it was my sin that caused it.

Rain and Jesus (8/4/14)

These pages (shown above and below) are actually very powerful and I could tell our kids got more quiet as I read. This page below is especially interesting and moving to me. The vantage point from above the cross to the people below is new and the page only says, “On a small hill outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus was nailed to a cross and died.” Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s a kids Bible or not…how can you not stop and ponder the cross in that moment?

Rain and Jesus (8/4/14)

The chapter actually ends right there in the book, and normally I would only read them one chapter a night, but tonight we kept reading. We went on to see the tomb, the then empty tomb, and then Christ revealing himself to the disciples. Avery and Titus’ faces lit up and Titus actually started jumping up and down on the couch in excitement because Christ came back from the dead. I know he’s just a little kid, but I want that excitement. Shouldn’t I be the one jumping up and down? Shouldn’t all Christians be so blown away by Christ’s work on the cross that we’re just ecstatic about it? Oh, I realize that’s not realistic in many ways, but in other ways it absolutely should be. We should be so thankful that Jesus rises from the dead! Because if Christ isn’t raised, then what does Paul tell the church at Corinth:

[17] And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. [18] Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. [19] If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

(1 Corinthians 15:17-19 ESV)

But he does rise! He does overcome sin and death! He declares victory over sin and wipes my slate clean! That’s why I should be jumping up and down on the couch like Titus. And that’s the thing I want to be thinking about as I go to bed tonight. I’m thankful for the work of Christ!