was cranky for most of the day today and I have no idea why. It was just one of those days where I felt
enclosed by a variety of things and the way I can tend to react to those times
is just retreat. Most times when I get
into that mode, I feel like I need to be rescued … rescued from the
encasement. Often, that encasement is of
my own making.
my daily reading this week through Numbers 22 – 28, Psalms 139 – 145, and 2
Kings 13 - 19, I was reminded of a time when David was stuck in an encasement …
a cave. In his case, he was hiding from
the lunatic King Saul who was on the hunt for David.
I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s
mercy. I pour out my complaints before
him and tell him all my troubles. When I
am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for
me. I look for someone to come and help
me, but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are
too strong for me. Bring me out of
prison so I can thank you. The godly
will crowd around me, for you are good to me.
was literally in a cave, hiding for his life from a king who wanted him
dead. He was in mortal danger and was in
a place where the world literally felt like it was encroaching on his ability
to breathe. In fact, the very person
from whom he was hiding found him in that cave.
The anxiety and fear that was gripping him as he ran to safety was only
budding more and more. In fairness, that
was NOT my situation today. Few of us
ever experience that real sort of suffocating pressure, fear or stress.
life does dole out its strain and anxiety.
Sometimes it’s immense to the point of near-paralysis, and other times
it’s just enough to put us in a crabby mood.
Admittedly, most of the time for me … I just get crabby (ask Helen …
set aside for the moment the fact that most of the time the situations we let
hang us up are insignificant at best … innocuous circumstances that we nurture,
water, fertilize (word chosen purposely) into giant seemingly world-ending
events. In short, we make mountains out
of mole hills and seek out the first cave we can climb into. Whether the occurrences are real or
contrived, David’s words in Psalm 142 provide hope for us … a rescue rope to
pull us out of the cave.
did David acknowledge from the get-go that he needed to reach out to in his
anguish? He said, “I cry out to the
LORD.” No matter where we are … or how
real or imagined our state of affairs might be … God is there for us to “pour
out [our] complaints before him and tell him all [our] troubles.” He reminds us, “when I am overwhelmed, You
alone know the way I should turn.” David
was in hiding for his life and he was wise enough … even in his youth … to know
that God was the first person he should seek out, not the help of last resort
like many of us do.
love watching the show Survivorman. Les Stroud, the star of the show is
astoundingly able to survive in the craziest places and under the most
unbelievable circumstances. For him,
during a survival situation, a cave is a haven.
It provides protection and cover from the elements. However, a cave in and of itself is
insufficient to provide long-term care and sustenance. In the same way, the cave for David’s hiding,
and the caves we construct for ourselves, cannot provide for us provision or
nourishment forever. For this reason,
David reached out to God, and by virtue of his words, he admonishes us to do
the same. I love how David expresses
this in the Psalm: “You are my place of
refuge. You are all I really want in
life. Hear my cry, for I am very
low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for
they are too strong for me. Bring me out
of prison so I can thank you.”
wants to be our hiding place, our place of protection. Not just for the short-term, but for
good. Not just in times of trouble, but
always. Not just in (seemingly) little
affairs, but in the grand schemes of life.
Not just to the kings, the privileged, the “holy”, but to all His
creation and those of us that call Him our Lord.
matter what mood you’re in, or how heavy the weight of the world may seem,
don’t run to your cave. It might seem
like a comfortable place, but it won’t last.
It can’t provide for you over the long haul … its protection and cover
only last a short while. God wants us to
run to Him, and for us to allow him to be our cover and protection always. Retreating may seem to be the safe thing to
do, but the things we’re running from will ultimately find us there too. When we run to the Lord, His cover and safety
is lasting. The things that trouble or
irk us can’t survive. God will solve all
and provide peace, because, “You are good to me.”
ask the Lord to reveal to us this week the caves we’re running to and hiding in
… and let’s ask Him to remind us that only His care and fortification is
lasting. Think about committing some or
all of Psalm 142 to memory so that you’ll forever be able to draw comfort from
way, run away from the cave and to the source of REAL safety!
I used to coach little league baseball I would often marvel at the attitudes
that needed adjusting … not the kids’ attitudes, but the parents’. In fact, I used to say (and still maintain)
that little league baseball would be amazing if there were no parents
allowed. Okay to that’s just a joke …
is the issue at hand that made it so frustrating? My reading through Numbers 15 – 21, Psalms
132 – 138, and 2 Kings 6 – 12, this week provided an example of the issue and
also a bit of realignment that I would propose we all need from time to time.
Numbers 16, we read about a guy named Korah who embodies some attitudes and
attributes that … if we’re real honest … we can probably identify with … IF
we’re real honest. While the Israelites
are still on their wandering ways, Korah one day incites a bit of a rebellion
against Moses and Aaron. In verse 3 we
They united against Moses and
Aaron and said, “You have gone too far!
The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is
with all of us. What right do you have
to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?”
inflammatory attack by Korah comes from nothing short of pride. Essentially, in saying “what right do you have” he’s saying “I deserve it just as much as
you.” Just as people say “there’s no ‘I’
in ‘team’” we can just as validly highlight that “I” is at the center of
“pride”. In other words, when I’m overly
focused on me, it comes from a heart filled with pride.
isn’t so much worried about why Moses and Aaron were the leaders of the
Israelites (and frankly, if he’d thought it through he would have remembered
that God Himself called Moses up on Mount Sinai to appoint him to the task …
but anyhow …). He’s jealous that he
wasn’t assigned the honor and responsibility.
a little like how parents used to come up to me and ask me why little “Johnny”
wasn’t pitching or playing shortstop. In
some more extreme cases, parents would have the audacity to wonder why little
“Jimmy” was playing a position when little “Johnny” was better. Seriously?
Well, at least that last group was honest about what they were really
us, when we really peer into our motivations at times, do we see the same
underlying motivation? Do we look at
others in positions of authority or esteem and question why that person
deserves to be in the position they’re in?
Inherently, we’re wondering less about them and more about ourselves …
and asserting essentially that we deserve whatever recognition or position more
than the other person.
heard a story about a pastor who was approached by a congregant who shared that
he felt called into ministry. No doubt
the congregant expected the pastor to take him under his wing, encourage him,
perhaps recommend seminary training, etc.
Instead, the pastor handed the congregant a broom and instructed him to
go out into the parking lot and sweep it up.
He had him repeat the task week after week until the congregant was
finally “ready” for ministry.
more we look to put ourselves on top, the less we deserve to be there. Korah was so concerned that he should have
been leader of the Israelites, that his attitude demonstrated how little he was
equipped to be there. If we have to tell
someone we are a leader, we’re not. When
people notice that we’re a leader without our telling them, then we’ve arrived.
along in Numbers 16, Moses sets Korah straight, and provides us a little wisdom
we can put to use ourselves no doubt … in verses 9 – 11 …
Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of
Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near him so
you can serve in the Lord’s Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister
to them? Korah, he has already given
this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites. Are you now demanding the
priesthood as well? The Lord is the one
you and your followers are really revolting against! For who is Aaron that you
are complaining about him?”
basically says, “Korah, be grateful for the job you have … that you have any
job at all. God gave it to you, so it
must be important to Him. Your griping
is basically griping to God, who gave you the opportunity to be in the role …
any role … in the first place.”
too, should be grateful for whatever job, responsibility, recognition, etc., we
get. Whether we get to play in right
field, or pitcher, if we’re on the field, we’re on the field because God allows
us to. On His team, there are no
unimportant positions. What Korah
neglected was that He was being used by God in an equally important way, just
not in the way Moses was.
many stories have we heard in the past of athletes who had to ride the bench
and play 2nd or 3rd string before they got their ultimate
shot? It’s like how God works with us …
preparing and preparing and preparing until one day, he puts us in the game …
and then we get our shot. Beforehand,
though, we have to be willing to be on the bench and do our part in
preparing. It doesn’t mean we’ll always
get a shot, but we should prepare like we are just in case; and be grateful
even if we don’t.
are no insignificant roles, just people who treat significant roles
insignificantly. God forbid that be us! Let’s ask God to prepare our hearts this week
for whatever roles he has in store. Ask
Him to help us be as joyful in the sweeping of the parking lot as in being the
senior pastor. To God, all the jobs are
the same … and they’re all His.
morning we leave for San Francisco … ironically, Helen, Courtney and I on the
same flight. I have to be there for
business and Helen and Courtney for an appointment during which Courtney is
going to get fitted with her brace. If
I’m totally honest about it, and I am, I’m a little more than reticent. Not for Helen or me, but needless to say for
Courtney. I see her about to get put
into this thing that is hard, uncomfortable, intrusive, and possibly visible to
others. On one hand, I struggle for her,
but on the other I know she is going to need Helen and me to be supportive and
that’s what she’ll get from us. As the
dad, I will be granite … my little girl (and my wife) need that.
I read through my daily plan this week (Numbers 8 – 14, Psalms 125 – 131, 1
Kings 21 – 22 and 2 Kings 1 – 5) I was moved in a couple different directions
and was actually thinking about writing on another passage until I was just
flipping through my Bible app and came across Psalms 126. As I did, something about it made me stop on
it. When that happens, I know it’s time
to pay attention. When I looked at it
again, it was all too evident that I needed to write it for myself, sort of the
opposite of a “take my advice, I’m not using it” type of deal.
When the Lord brought back
his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing
things the Lord has done for them.” Yes,
the Lord has done amazing things for us!
What joy! Restore our fortunes,
Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those
who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but
they sing as they return with the harvest.
we’re going through right now is rough … not life-threatening, but hard on the
heart for our daughter. We all have
situations where it feels like we’re going through a tunnel … no lights, no
ability to see around us, uncertainty about which direction we’re going, and no
idea how long we’ll be in the dark. When
the Israelites returned from exile to Jerusalem it was as though they were
being freed, as if they’d finally reached the end of the dark tunnel and were
able to be once again on the outside, with light, safety, and the ability to
see around them.
now we’re about to head into the tunnel.
We don’t know how long we’re going to be in it, we won’t be able to see
around us, it’ll feel dark, and things will be uncomfortable. Courtney most of all. I guess what hit most about this Psalm wasn’t
the hopefulness it provides me,
it’s what it does for Helen and most of all for Courtney. God’s blessed me with the ability to remain
calm in squirrelly situations. But 13
year-olds aren’t always blessed with that.
I think Courtney is pretty resilient over all, and is facing the
upcoming tunnel like a true champ. But
there will be times when the tunnel will seem longer than it should be, the
darkness thicker and the discomfort unbearable.
Helen and I will now have the opportunity to share with Courtney some
foundational skills in living a life through challenge trusting in God. Among God’s many promises, I’ll be able to
share that hopefulness that He provides … that just as he restored the
Israelites to their home and from the darkness of bondage and exile, He will
restore us through the challenges life brings.
the Israelites returned to Jerusalem, look at their response. Joyfulness!
Laughter! Singing! Celebration!
They didn’t dampen the moment by reflecting backward, they looked at
their new reality. The past was no less
real, but God gave them the ability to see their NEW state in light of their
OLD one. He was gracious in not leaving
them in the darkness and scariness … He finished the job and brought them
through to the other side. He will do
that for Courtney as well, and a year or so from now when her brace is off and
(God-willing) her scoliosis has stopped progressing and maybe even reversed,
there will be joyfulness, laughter, singing and celebration in the Rodriguez
home. Because He will have brought us
all the way through.
there tunnels you’re in the middle of right now. Do things seem scary, dark, obscure, and
longer than you’d expected? Take heart
in knowing that God is working to bring you all the way through your
situation. Ask Him to remind you that He
is busy at work, not sleeping on the job.
He’s 100% focused on YOU not someone else who has a problem bigger. God’s got the ability to focus on your
situation and mine all at the same time and He is no less omnipotent with
either one of us.
God in prayer to give you His peace, His comfort, His love over the situations
you’re facing. Ask Him to remind you as
you meditate on Psalms 126 and other portions of His word, that He will finish
the job. He will bring you (us)
through. In fact, He will share in the
celebration with us when He does. Count
Jesus through all circumstances,
the past month and a half, we’ve been struggling through some medical matters
with our 13 year-old daughter who was diagnosed with a progressive thoracic
scoliosis at the end of March. Her
degree of curvature is not quite enough for surgery (praise God), but it could
progress. The unfortunate standard of
care for scoliosis today seems to be surgery for those that require it (a curve
of 50-degrees or more, Courtney’s is about 40) and for others … pretty much
nothing, or at best a bunch of stuff that no one agrees actually works. We are not “do nothing” people.
has been so good during this time … it’s been a huge burden to bear. Yes, we realize there are many other maladies
with which we could be contending, but when a teenage girl has to wear a pretty
invasive brace, and could still face surgery, and may have to impede the
progress of her huge love for dance, it’s difficult. Through this, He has faithfully provided us
answers. He has granted us a peace
beyond our ability to understand (Courtney included). He has loved us. Even if we have to go the surgery route, we
KNOW He’s there with us and that there’s a purpose in it.
has been the frame of mind for us for six weeks, but all the more poignant this
week as I read through Numbers 1 – 7, Psalms 118 – 124, and 1 Kings 14 – 20. Allow me a brief detour …
the following, as I did while reading this week in particular:
- How many chapters exist before Psalm
- How many chapters of the Bible exist
after Psalm 118? 594
- Add the two together and you get 1188.
What is the verse at the very center of the Bible? Psalm 118:8
brings me to the verses that moved me this week … not surprisingly, culminating
with Psalm 118:8 … Psalm 118:4-8 say …
Let all who fear the Lord
“His faithful love endures forever.” In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
Lord answered me and set me free. The
Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
I will look in triumph
at those who hate me. It is better to
take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in people.
last verse, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people,”
is Psalm 118:8, the geographically-central verse of the Bible. I’d argue it’s the central point in
general. For me, this week, it was a
point that centered me.
we’ve battled with perhaps most over the course of the situation with
Courtney’s health is trying to find someone to provide us “the” answer. What’s “the” best thing to do. The first doctor we saw was dismissive and
basically belittled Helen and told her just to come back in six months … and
“we’ll see.” No thanks. Then, Helen scoured the Internet (and I mean
the WHOLE Internet) researching options, found several women whose daughters
went through the same situation (and who, ironically, were also ballet dancers
… a couple very accomplished in fact).
There were myriad different experiences, opinions, cautions, etc. There were a whole host of potential
treatment options. None of them seemed
reliable with any degree of certainty. But
by little, God’s voice began to speak to us.
Not audibly, but clearly. As we
slogged through the overwhelming amount of unclear information, God began to
direct us. A clarity and confidence
began to emerge. Before long, we settled
on not only a course of treatment, but the solid ground of God’s peace. We went to Him distressed. He answered.
He set us free. He reminded us
that He is for us, and so we will have no fear.
His faithful love
endured when we couldn’t. Talk about a
verse that literally spoke to my heart!
we worry about in life rarely happens.
You ever notice that? Even when
it does, does worrying ever accomplish anything or help us conquer the
circumstances? In my experience …
never. Not once. Sure, some will say that worrying at least
prepares you for the outcome.
Hogwash. Letting go of the worry
is the best preparation, as long as you have Someone to whom you can let it
go. For us that Someone is our Father.
reminder in all this is the central point … for this week and for all
time. It’s also the central verse of
scripture … “It is better to take
refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”
are often well-intentioned. They can be
experienced and educated. They can be
our friends, relatives, trusted advisors.
But they’re not God. Not
holy. Not omniscient. Not omnipresent. Not omnipotent. People can and will let us down …
unintentionally, but nevertheless. God
will NEVER let us down. He … and his
faithful love … endure forever.
you haven’t trusted Him … or are not trusting Him now … why? Who or what alternative is better?
verse was a great reminder that I need look no further than right beside me
(where God is ALWAYS) to find my help.
As the Bible says, “an ever present help in time of need.” I can’t imagine a more empowering and
ask Him this week to reveal to us the things that we’re not entrusting to Him
and perhaps looking to men (women) for our trust. Ask the Lord to center us on the central
point of His word … to take our refuge in Him in all the situations we face!