A Short Lesson that Takes a Long Time to Learn

I have been preaching this summer on the “Songs of Ascents”—Psalms 120-134. I felt months ago that God was leading me to preach through these Psalms. As has happened many times in my preaching ministry, I now sense that God has prepared us for the Flood through this series. Sunday, August 14, I was supposed to preach on Psalm 131. Since we were not able to meet that Sunday, I preached from this text Sunday. God knew.

I titled the sermon “A Short Lesson that Seems to Take a Long Time to Learn.” Go Read Psalm 131. The Psalm is only three verses. Each verse seems to make a statement and each of the statements build upon each other.

In verse 1, we see the pride that we all need to lose. The first step in really trusting God is to lose our pride—to come to the end of ourselves. I have sensed people coming to the end of themselves as they view devastation everywhere.

The short lesson that seems to take a lifetime to learn is that there will always be things that I want to change, but I cannot change; things I want to do that I cannot do; things I want to know, but I cannot know; things I want to control, but are beyond my control.

In verse 2 we see the peace that we all need to have. Notice the way this peace is introduced. “Instead” links back to verse 1. Only when I have relinquished pride in my life, can I calm myself in God’s peace. Understand, we can’t do verse 2, if we have not done verse 1. There is a link to trusting God and not trusting ourselves.

Jesus used a similar metaphor as the Psalmist. As usual, the disciples were arguing about greatness. “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus gave them an object lesson. He called a little child and had the child stand among them. Then He said, “I assure you. Unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-5)

Now in verse three, having seen the pride we must lose and the peace we must have, we see the position we all need to take.

If we have seen in verse 1 the conviction to lose pride and in verse 2 the contentment when we are at rest with God, now in verse 3, we see a simple conclusion. Put your hope in the Lord. And it comes in the way of an invitation. “Israel, put your hope in the Lord.” We could say today, “Louisiana, put your hope in the Lord.”

Note well, that this is both now and forever. I have often thought how tragic it is for us to put our hope in the Lord for eternity, but not be willing to put our trust in Him now.

Put your hope in the Lord Today!

(This post is based on the message “A Short Lesson that Seems to Take a Long Time to Learn” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

Reflections on this Week

About this time last week is when we began to know that this week was going to be one like we have never seen. Though my personal home was spared, we are hurting for so many friends scattered across South Louisiana who have suffered devastating loss. We have had a variety of emotions for sure. Now, a week later, I want to share some random reflections.

1. We need each other. We knew this already, but we seem to forget this too often. Seeing people help each other from every walk of life has been rewarding even in the midst of such tragedy.

2. We need God. Without a spiritual compass that points to an empty cross, an empty tomb, and an awaiting eternal glory that far exceeds any temporary affliction, I don’t know how you make it through times like this.

3. There was a lot of hurt going on in the world before last Friday and that has not changed. And, for some, more bad things have happened this week. In the midst of all of the disaster relief, let us not forget that people still have cancer, still are having heart attacks, some have died this week totally unrelated to the flood, people are still unemployed, and others have suffered many other overwhelming circumstances of life. Let us not forget all of these hurting people. In fact, let our own hurts cause us to be more sensitive to their hurts.

4. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of friends scattered across the nation. I can’t tell you how many friends have called and texted to say, “What do you need?” Better yet, I have had friends call and say, “Here’s what I am doing.”

5. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people who don’t even know me or our church, but are sending help our way.

6. There are some horrible stories, but there are some good stories. No, check that, there are some GOD stories!
All of this and more is why I posted on my facebook page earlier this week: “My heart is heavy, but my heart is happy!”

Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b HCSB)

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There’s a Place for Lament

Saturday, August 13, 2016, is a day we won’t soon forget in South Louisiana. I am using a guided reading plan this year to read through the Bible in the year. My assigned reading for the day was the book of Lamentations. I am comforted to know that there is a whole book in the Bible devoted to the subject of weeping. Though our circumstances are vastly different, just as Jeremiah wept over his beloved city, Jerusalem, many of us are weeping over our beloved cities.

The book of Lamentations contains the cries of the prophet Jeremiah over the fall of his beloved people and his beloved city, Jerusalem. The literary structure of the book is striking. Jeremiah used the Hebrew alphabet in the first four chapters of the book of Lamentations. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 all have 22 verses. Verse 1 in each of those chapters begins with the Hebrew equivalent of “a.” Verse 2 in each of those chapters begins with the Hebrew equivalent of “b.” This continues through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 has 66 verses instead of 22. In chapter 3 the same pattern flows except that it is tripled. Verses 1-3 begin with the Hebrew equivalent of “a.” Verses 4-6 begin with the equivalent of “b.” This pattern continues through the Hebrew alphabet to verse 66. For an unknown reason, this pattern does not exist in chapter 5. Chapter 5 has no striking literary structure, except that it has 22 verses like chapters 1, 2, and 4. The author’s intent for the structure is not known for sure, but most interpreters certainly feel that the author, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, took his time to make this happen. The implication most usually noted is the complete anguish that this structure shows. That is to say, Jeremiah is implying from “A to Z,” I am in mourning over what has happened.

Lamentations 2:11 is a good verse that captures the emotion felt by Jeremiah and by us. “My eyes are worn out from weeping; I am churning within. My heart is poured out in grief because of the destruction of my dear people, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.”

But, Lamentations is most known for the faith statement of 3:22-33. Even in the despair, desperation, and depression that consumes Jeremiah, he is still able to say, “His compassions never fail” (v. 22) and “Great is Your (God’s) faithfulness.” (v. 23)

What a wonderful reminder for each of us! Even when things are at their worst, “Great is God’s faithfulness.” We can wake with this confidence each day.

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