Monday Morning Meditation: The God of Restoration (Psalm 71 Series)

We are (finally!) continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Verses 19-20:

Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
You have done such wonderful things.
Who can compare with you, O God?
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
but you will restore me to life again
and lift me up from the depths of the earth.

I am starting this post 5 days before I will run my first marathon.

Running does not come naturally to me; it never has. It has always been hard work. I’ve never had that “light” or “fresh” feeling that runners talk about.

I initially just ran for the quick exercise, to maintain a large weight loss.  I didn’t have access to a gym. I kept running because it’s good for clearing my headspace.

I met some crazy runners in mid-2011. By that point, I had run a half marathon, so I distinguished “crazy runners” as people who ran more than 13.1 miles at a time. They asked me, Why don’t you consider a marathon?

I figured I’d pray about it.  
2 months later, God spoke. How about running for a cause?
By the time you read this, I will have (Lord-willing) ran 26.2 miles to trample on child sex trafficking.
It will not be easy or quick or painless.  But I will do it, for the kids.
Kids like Madel.
Who can compare to You, God? the psalmist wonders.
No one.
Not a single one.

Even when He allows us to suffer hardship, He restores us to life.  Even these young kids whose families often sell them into prostitution – God has something amazing for them.
Whatever depths you are in, there is a God who longs to rescue you.  Call on Him today.
If you’d like to give toward the cause for which I am willing to attempt a marathon, you can learn more here.

Freedom Friday: The God Who Protects

I’ve written a couple of blog posts on the character of God. I’ve also done 2 posts on the theme of “The God Who” (bends & sustains are past favorites) and will continue that today with The God Who Protects.

I wrote in the Monday Morning Meditation this week about the following verse:
“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Psalm 91:4
Before we dive any more into the concept of God as protector, let’s revisit some questions I asked in Monday’s blog post.

What do you wear as armor?

Do you self-protect, or allow God to be your refuge and tower of safety?

I tried to protect myself for much of my life. I thought I could be safe if I were skinny. When that garnered too much attention, I gained 50 pounds. That didn’t work either. Pushing people away with my behavior only left me hurt and desperately lonely.

“The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.” Psalm 116:6 (NIV1984)

I tried to protect myself by hiding. Hiding my feelings, my fears, my struggles and insecurities. This would eventually backfire, as I’m an external processor and everything I tried to keep in would burst forth like a beach ball held under water.

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

I continued to try to self-protect while following Jesus. I thought, “I can’t tell anyone about same-sex attraction, the fact that I self-injure, or that I hate myself on a regular basis. I’ll project the image that I have it all together so no one questions me.” This facade is not something that I could maintain healthily for lots of reasons, the bottom line being that God didn’t want me to protect or trust in myself.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.” Psalm 91:15 (NLT)

How have you self-protected? Maybe more importantly, why?

Stop and think about your fears. What would happen if you chose to allow God into all areas of your life?

Grab your Bible and look up some of these psalms I’ve quoted. Consider what they have to say about God’s protection. Ask Him to reveal the ways you have tried to protect yourself, and be willing to lay those down. Ask God’s forgiveness for your unwillingness to believe He is able to preserve and protect you, and trust Him to care for you in the area of protection.

“He is my loving ally and my fortress,
My tower of safety, my deliverer.
He stands before me as a shield and I take refuge in Him.” Psalm 144:2

The God who protects.

Freedom Friday: The God Who Bends

Every once in a while, I stumble across a characteristic of God, an attribute of His, a behavior, a response, that catches my breath.

I wrote a few months ago about the God who sustains, the God who stoops to make us great.

I’m still reading the books of 1 Chronicles and Psalms, and yesterday’s psalm was Psalm 86 (a prayer of David).

The Psalm begins:

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer.

The God who bends.

I had to pause as I was overcome with this image. Our Heavenly Father, all-powerful and all-knowing, able to speak just one word and entire universes are created – this awesome God. Was He really the God who would bend down to hear our prayer?

First, I wanted to learn more about this word that is translated “bend”.

The transliterated Hebrew word is “natah“. Here are some other ways it’s translated:

to bow
to bend, turn, incline, to bend down
to stretch out, to spread out
to incline, influence, hold out, extend

I then went to the Word to see if there were other mentions of God bending (using my Life Recovery Bible, which is the New Living Translation).

Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!” 2 Kings 19:16

“Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.” Psalm 102:1-2

“I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.” Psalm 17:6

Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!” Isaiah 37:17

Thus far, these are all declarations from people, requests that God bend down and hear their prayers. These are desperate cries from people desperate for God to show up. Psalm 102 even contains the description: “A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble, pouring out problems before the Lord.”

And then I read Psalm 116:1-2:

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

The God who bends. He bends down to listen. He inclines His ear. He stoops, and then He sustains. He rescues. He comforts, and He answers.

He is the God who bends.

The ultimate picture of God bending is when He sent His Son, Jesus, to carry the cross in order to correct the problem of sin and disconnection from our Source. The perfect picture of Jesus, literally bending under the weight of the cross, so that we would be freed to become the people God created us to be, His flawless sacrifice of love, so that we would walk in the freedom and abundant life that only became possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Verse 5 of Psalm 86 says, “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” Verse 15 says “You, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”

That is a picture of the God who bends.

Ready to forgive.
Full of unfailing love.
Slow to anger.
Again, full of unfailing love.

The God who spared no expense, who gives, and gives, and gives some more.

Today, the God who bends is calling you to call to Him. Stop trying to become “good enough” to come to Him. There is no such thing! As the song “I will arise and go to Jesus” states, “If we tarry till we’re better, we will never come to all.”

Come. As you are. It sounds trite, almost too simple. That’s the beauty of grace, the beauty of God’s character.

We serve the God who bends.

Freedom Friday: The God Who Sustains

We are back from the conference! It was an amazing time, refreshing and yet tiring (I’m sure being in the car 24 hours over the course of 3 days added to that!). There is a lot to think about & reflect on. In addition to that, there are several situations within my circles of family & friends that require lots of prayer & attention.

Yesterday, as I leaned against our chest freezer, wondering what to make for dinner, I became keenly aware that God alone is my Sustainer. I went to a Bible search tool to remind myself of Scriptures that speak to this.

I came across a gem:

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:35

Since returning home, Holland Davis’s words on the last night of the conference have been at the forefront of my mind (he lead worship). He reminded us that the devil comes to kill, steal & destroy, and prayed that we would not allow him to take away from us what God did in us at the conference.

So I’ve been praying for myself and others, that whatever God spoke and/or called us to at the conference, that we would stand firm and tell Satan he has no power in our lives. That we would obey what God has called us to & the areas He may have challenged us in.

But I was missing an important piece.

I am now also praying that God the Sustainer would fulfill His Word, being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it (also translating “carry it on to completion”) until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

The God who leaned down to earth, who stooped down, to rescue us & make us great.

God is our Sustainer. But we need to accept His gift of sustenance. We need to allow Him to maintain and nurture those things He’s deposited into our hearts.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7

I need to be reminded that Satan wants to steal God’s best out from under me, just like he did in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s power is limited; God’s power is unlimited.

So my prayer for all of us today is that we would continue to cling to Jesus, that we would allow God to sustain and preserve the good work He has begun in us, that we would be aware of the work of Satan, but not intimidated by him.

God is Sustainer.

Read these Scriptures. Pray through them. Memorize them. Devour them. Soak them in.

Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 89:21
My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.

Psalm 119:116
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Psalm 119:175
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.

Psalm 146:9
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 147:6
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.