SOAP Journal – 21 March 2019 (Psalm 13)

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6

This psalm seems to divide neatly into three phases.

The first is in verses 1-2 and that is the questioning phase. David finds himself in a time of difficulty and asks God how long He (God) will delay taking action to help him (David). And it sometimes feels as if God is standing back from the difficulties in my life, too. This is not to say that God actually is standing back from the difficulties or delaying taking action any more than is absolutely necessary.

Last night, my daughter and I read the story of John the Baptist and my daughter asked why God did not give Zechariah and Elizabeth a baby when they wanted one so badly. The answer that I found myself giving is that God wanted to give them a baby and He wanted their baby and how he came to them to be extra special; that oftentimes the greatest blessings take the longest time to arrive — they just require more preparation time. That is an answer born of reading the scriptures and learning that God is not slow concerning His promises. It is also an answer born of experiencing God fulfilling the good desires of my heart in good time.

The second phase — verses 3-4 — is the consequence if God does not intervene. The consequence will be that David will sleep the [sleep of] death and his enemies rejoice when [he is] shaken. In essence, David’s adversaries will be victorious and will trumpet that victory. And this has not changed. Human nature is what it has always been: selfish. These adversaries do not think of the cost to David or to the kingdom he rules over or anything else. They think only of their issue with David and their desire to overcome him. If they succeed, then they will not be content with merely succeeding, but will tell everyone what they think they have accomplished.

We are not all that different now. We often make goals without considering their impact on others and loudly proclaim our success when we have accomplished those goals, ignoring those we have hurt or destroyed along the way to our objective.

In the third and last phase of this psalm — verses 5-6 — David transitions to peace and praise. He has laid his requests before God and the peace of God now guards his heart and mind. David can now trust in God’s lovingkindness (mercy), rejoice in God’s salvation, and sing to the LORD. David knows that his own failure or fall is a possibility and that his adversaries may triumph. David also knows God and God’s character. And that is where David finds his comfort. He does not take comfort in knowing that God will act. He does not take comfort in knowing that his adversaries will be thwarted. He takes comfort in God’s mercy and salvation. And, thus comforted, he sings to the LORD.

This psalm reads a bit like a poetic example of Paul’s instruction to the Philippians. Paul instructed them to not be anxious, but to make their requests known to God and promised that the peace of God — which is not always understandable — would guard their hearts and minds. That is David’s progression in this psalm. And this psalm elaborates a bit on the peace. The peace does not stem from knowing that God will do what I ask Him to, but from knowing that God is merciful and has saved me and will continue to save me until I am ushered into His presence.

Which phase am I in this morning? Am I praying at all? If no, then I need to take my cares, concerns, and worries to God.; all of my questions and concerns about what will happen if God does not move. Then I need to rest in His mercy and salvation.

Father, thank You for this reminder of what Paul writes elsewhere. It is good to see the same instruction presented in different ways. Please etch this into my character that I would take my difficulties, with all of my concerns and questions, to You  and then rest in Who You are.

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SOAP Journal – 03 November 2017 (2 Samuel 7)

Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?”

2 Samuel 7:18

God brings King David to a place where he is able to live in his house and have a moment’s peace. It is in this moment of peace and reflection that David notices that he is living in a relatively permanent home while the Ark, the place where God meets with the high priest, is in a tent. This seems wrong to David. It seems to him that God should have a better setup. David shares his thoughts with the prophet Nathan and the prophet encourages David to do whatever he has in mind. But God steps in and has a chat with the prophet. It is not David who will build a house for God, but God Who will build a lasting house for David. God does not fault David’s heart — the king wanted God to have as good as the king and better — but does tell him that he (David) will not be the one to build a house for God. God’s promise to David — a Descendant Who will sit on the throne forever — is a mind-boggling concept. David’s mind is so blown that he goes into the tabernacle and just sits in God’s presence a while before he tells God just how blown his mind is and enters into a sessions of gratitude and praise and prayer all rolled up into one.

This brings me to a place where I ask myself where my mind goes in quiet moments. David’s mind went to God. I also wonder how I respond to God’s promises. Like David, my mind is often unable to comprehend the promises of God, yet they are promises that God has made, nonetheless. David’s response was to sit in God’s presence until he could find the words to thank God and praise Him and pray that He would follow-through on His promise.

Father, thank You for David modeling a good way to receive Your promises. Thank You that You make promises and follow-through on them. Please work in me to bring me to a place where my mind wanders to You in quiet moments and I receive Your promises with the appropriate mixture of awe and gratitude and humility and praise.

SOAP Journal – 02 November 2017 (2 Samuel 6:12-23)

“I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”

2 Samuel 6:22

After the Ark has spent three months at the home of Obed-edom, David brings it to Jerusalem. It appears that he was obedient this time, as the account speaks of the bearers of the ark of the LORD (v 13). David is so excited about being able to bring the Ark into Jerusalem that he is dancing (v 14). His first wife, Michal, saw him and despised him in her heart (v 16), but he knew nothing of that until he got home to continue celebrating. HE made sacrifices and gave gifts to the people and blessed them and headed home to continue blessing people and celebrating and was confronted with a wife who disapproved of what he had been doing.

David’s response — of which this morning’s verse is part — is a good one. Michal says  “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” (v 20). His response is to observe that he was dancing before the LORD Who chose him and gave him every reason to celebrate (v 21) and that he will be more lightly esteemed than this. The word that is translated as lightly esteemed seems to indicate how Michal is treating him rather than how he is perceived by others. It is as if he is saying that he will be treated worse even than she is treating him at that moment — likely by her. He observes that her perspective is wrong. She will be angrier still with him, but the maids that she thinks are tittering about David’s behavior will understand that his unbridled enthusiasm is for the good thing that God has done. They get it. Michal does not.

There will be times when I get so excited about what God is doing that some will not understand. And that is okay. Those who do understand will celebrate with me and glorify God alongside me. If I never get so excited about God’s doings that some people think I have lost my mind, then I have to wonder whether or not I actually understand the magnitude of grace involved in God stooping down to work in a life as insignificant as mine.

And I need to see myself as insignificant. David was after God’s glory and God’s praise and the king could not contain himself. These are good things. David lost sight of himself entirely and was abandoned to God’s praise. I should seek to be so abandoned to the praise and glory of God that I lose sight of myself completely.

Father, thank You for condescending to come down and work in a life as insignificant as mine. Thank You for doing good things in my life and through me. Please stoke the excitement within me that I might be effusive about Your goodness toward me and abandon my self to Your praise.

SOAP Journal – 16 August 2017 (1 Samuel 2:1)

Then Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”

1 Samuel 2:1

Yesterday, I felt drawn to Hannah’s prayer over the thing that was making her bitter. This morning, I am drawn to her actions in the wake of God answering that prayer.

Hannah asked God to give her something that is good in His sight and He gave it to her: her son, Samuel. When she prayed, she promised that her son would be dedicated to the LORD and His service if God would only give her a son to give back to Him. God gave her a son and Hannah made good on her promise. She brought Samuel back to the tabernacle and dedicated him to serving the LORD. The first action of Hannah is that she makes good on her word. She promised God that this son would be dedicated to Him, so she is back at the tabernacle dedicating that boy to the LORD.

Hannah told the priest, Eli, that she was the woman he had seen praying (and mistakenly thought she was drunk) years before (1 Samuel 1:12-14) and the son she was dedicating is the very thing for which she prayed. The second action of Hannah is to share what God has done for her. We might call this witnessing. We might also call this praise, because she is telling others the great thing that God has done for her.

This morning’s verse kicks off the last thing I note: Hannah prays to God again. The first 10 verses of chapter 2 are Hannah’s prayer of praise. She not only makes good on the thing she said she would do; not only told others about the great thing that God had done in her life, but also tells God how awesome He is. And this prayer is a sort of closing of the loop. She began this whole journey into the miraculous by prayer and she wraps up this chapter of it in prayer. The whole story of the beginning of Samuel’s life is bookended by prayer. Supplication on one end and praise on the other.

I feel that there is a vertical and a horizontal application for this.

First, the vertical. Am I making good on the things I tell God that I will do? Am I telling others when God does something awesome in my life? Am I coming back to God and expressing how grateful I am to Him? If the answer to any of these is “No.” then I have something that I need to fix.

Second, the horizontal. Am I making good on the things I tell other people I will do? My promises must be kept and my debts paid. Am I telling others when people in my life do something above and beyond? Praise should be a public thing, both for God and for my fellow people. Am I telling those who do awesome things for me how much I appreciate those things and just how awesome I think those things are? Gratitude goes a long way toward healthy relationships as well as toward seeing the good things that have happened. As it was once put: accentuate the positive / Eliminate the negative.

Father, thank You for Your goodness to me. Please forgive me for being sparing with my praise of You, both to You and to others. Please make my lips ready to praise You to all and sundry.

SOAP Journal – 07 March 2017 (Numbers 2:1-2

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting facing it.”

Numbers 2:1-2

It might seem odd that God had a particular order for the tribes of Israel to camp in. The order and who camps where and what the symbols are for the various tribes is a lengthy study and far outstrips the time I have available of a morning. But there are a few things that seemed noteworthy to me about the camp.

First, the tribe all camped around the tent of meeting facing it. The center of their lives was to be God’s house; the place where they could commune with the LORD. So, too, must the center of the life of the believer be God and His presence and communion with Him. Everything else must necessarily be arranged around that central thing.

Second, the first tribe to camp and to set out when the Israelites struck camp is Judah. The name Judah means praise. The beginning of every enterprise, whether it be settling down or moving on, ought to be praise.

Third, the last group to get moving is gathered under Dan. The name Dan means judge or judgment. Everything ends in a judgment. For the believer. the judgment is of what we did with the resources God gave us. Our works are judged and we are rewarded accordingly. For the non-believer, judgment is rendered on their rejection of Jesus Christ’s work at the cross.

Fourth, the arrangement of tribes could form a cross. The number of men of war camped in eastward is 186,400 (v 9); southward 151,450 (v 16); westward 108,100 (v 24); northward 157,600 (v 31). If each of these groups camped in a column going in their respective directions, this would form a roughly cross-shaped camp with the Levites and the tabernacle in the middle. There is nothing that I can see that mandates that camping arrangement, I simply find it fascinating that it is possible with the prescribed arrangement.

Fifth and final, the standards mentioned are interesting. According to tradition, Judah’s standard is a lion; Ephraim’s an ox; Reuben’s a man; Dan’s an eagle. Each of these tribes include others gathered under their standards, but these four are the primaries. These four standards happen to coincide with the four faces of the cherubim — the angels that surround God’s presence — as seen in Ezekiel’s visions (Ezekiel 1 and 10).

All interesting, but how it applies to me in the here and now must be addressed. And I have a couple bits of application.

The fact that Judah; praise is the first to set out and the first to camp is telling. God wants me to begin my journey and end my journey with praise. When He bids me stop somewhere , I should praise Him. When He tells me that it is time to move along, I should praise Him still. My family and I are in the midst of striking camp. We have been in one place for several years and the time has been good and the relationships formed here well worth maintaining. That said, I can praise Him because He has good things over the horizon where I cannot yet see them. Sure, there are challenges, but these draw us closer to Him and make us stronger.

The fact that God went to all the trouble to embed symbols and pictures in how the Israelites camped means that He will use any and all means possible to get His message across to me and anyone else who has trouble hearing things the first time around (or the second or the twelfth). I can rest in the knowledge that He will get through to me; He will make any effort to communicate with me so long as I am willing to look and see and listen and hear.

Father, let praise lead me out and be my response when You bid me rest. Give me eyes to see what You would show me and ears to hear what You would say to me. Thank You for these pictures — even the ones that might or might not be present. To know that they could be there still makes me smile.

SOAP Journal – 18 November 2016 (Exodus 15:2)

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him.

Exodus 15:2

After the Egyptian forces are overwhelmed by the waters, Moses and the Israelites had a praise session and the song included this verse. The song, like all songs, has a lot more in it than one phrase or the chorus or bridge, but this is the part that caught my attention.

Lately, I have been dealing with a somewhat tiring schedule. Been up early, work a decently long day, and get home to kids who are excited to have some time with daddy. One day has been even longer, as it included teaching a class that often ran until a bit late. None of this is the end of the world, but the first part of this statement — The LORD is my strength and song — has felt more real in the past few weeks than at other times. There have been moments when I knew that I knew that the last vestiges of my strength were depleted and what I was running on was not from my store. There have been difficulties and temptations which have hit and been hit back and I find myself wondering when it happened and how I had strength to so much as nudge those things, let alone push them aside and keep walking. None of it has been me, but has been the LORD. As He is my strength and song; the power and energy that sustains me as well as the joy that keeps me from being terrible to be around, He then [becomes] my salvation; saves me from the temptations and challenges and sometimes (often) from myself.

The song gives the proper response to this: This is my God, and I will praise Him. I see the good things that God does for me and remember that this is my God. This is the God I worship and in Whom I have placed my trust. And I will praise Him. Anyone who asks is going to hear that it has been God sustaining me. Anyone who listens will hear about how faithful my God is to those who are His own. Even me.

Father, thank You for this reminder that it has been You sustaining me through the tiring times and You Who has given me strength to face the various vagaries of life that came along during those times and You Who has given me joy in the midst of some of the most wearying moments. You have been faithful. Thank You.

Mind Set (Colossians 3:2)

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

As I read this verse this morning, I finally caught that setting my mind on something is what produces mt mindset. If I set my mind on pessimistic things, then I will have a pessimistic mindset. If I train my thoughts on the positive, then I will have an optimistic mindset. Better than the best of human mindsets is the Heavenly mindset — the mind that is set on the things of Heaven.

The Bible has a great deal to say about what is in Heaven. The one feature that every description has in common is this: God. The thing that makes Heaven is the immediate, uninhibited, persistent presence of God. This means that the mind set on things above is the mind set on God. Heaven is where God is regularly and freely praised. Heaven is where the prayers of the saints are offered up as incense before the throne of God. Heaven is where service to God is unfettered by the constraints of fatigue and hunger and where obedience to Him is finally complete and easy.

Who would not want to think about that?

Paul exhorts the Colossian believers to set their minds on these things because he knows that the world is full of distractions. As a Californian, I have a great deal of experience with distractions. We have billboards — some of them digital and regularly changing — about every quarter of a mile (maybe less) along some sections of freeway. It is an easy thing to be distracted. Add in the bizarre things people do with their vehicles (some of the things seen painted on vehicles and in stickers affixed to same makes one wonder if the person is not in violation of one law or another), the strange things people can be seen doing in their vehicles (I have seen men shaving with electric shavers, women doing makeup, and all manner of other thing), and the parade of poor decision-making that is the Los Angeles freeway system and the freeways are rife with distraction. The goal is to set my mind on what needs to be done and in that way arrive safely at my destination. Likewise, Paul exhorts me to set my mind on the things above — God Himself, praising God, praying to God, obeying God freely and fully — and make those the goal that leads me through the distractions of this world.

The world is a mental minefield of distractions. My mindset will either send me walking right over those mines and becoming distracted or will guide me safely through.

Let my mind be set on God and the things above that the distraction minefields not waylay me.