My little green prayer notebook wears a sticky syrup spot and bent cover to prove its usefulness over the last couple months. It’s not just my notebook, but my optimism for our beautiful country feels… More
“Fret not because of evildoers.”
As I’ve studied Psalm 37 with my sisters in Christ this summer, I’ve quoted the above verse often. Opportunity upon opportunity for anger and worry rolls my way, but the truth always wins out.
This is a summer where one headline can make your heart heavy for hours. Friends of mine are facing a clear and present danger as they seek to escape from evildoers. We’re surrounded with those who are prompt to call good evil and evil good. From Olympic platforms to the offices in D.C., the wicked are spreading themselves out like luxuriant trees in their native soil.
This earthly soil is the wicked’s turf . . . for now.
Can I draw your attention to Psalm 37 for the encouragement carrying me today? There’s nothing better than a soul-watering reminder from the One in charge. God won’t leave His throne for one moment of break or flee the scene when “the wicked have drawn their sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, to slay those who are upright in conduct” (Ps. 37:14).
The wrongdoers are quite busy prospering. They’ve plotted and eagerly carry out violent schemes. Teeth gnashing, they gather in envy-worthy abundance, borrowing without paying back, spying, and certainly seeking to kill.
Though they appear to have the strength of a Redwood, their roots are like a dandelion. They’re making themselves at home in the earth’s soil, reaching their roots in all directions, but the LORD laughs at them.
He sees the day coming when they’ll be no more. Cursed. Cut off. Broken bows. Perishing. They’ll vanish like the smoke from wildfires finally snuffed out. They’ll wither like autumn grass, fade like the herbs, shrivel like a neglected garden. The Lord loves justice and giving us visuals for it.
Not only will God one day destroy wickedness, but He is protecting the righteous with unending promises. He is One who gives the desires of our heart and honors our trust in Him. As sure as the noonday, right judgment will be seen. Our King sustains us. He knows our days, each of them. Establishes our steps and delights in our way when we keep His. He holds our hand so we won’t be hurled headlong. He’ll never forsake His godly, but preserves and exults us a gift of inheritance. He is our saving refuge.
Psalm 37 also addresses the righteous in this war-torn world. We are described in this way:
“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of God is in his heart…”
We’re not to be busy taking up revenge, but dwelling in the ground we’ve been given. Our role is to boldly utter wisdom and speak justice amidst the chaos. This won’t be easy, but He sustains us.
Instead of fretting, we cultivate faithfulness. May we be faithful in prayer, in cleaning the kitchen, in worshiping God through the ordinary, in sharing our faith with unbelievers. The passage calls us to do good, delight in the Lord, and commit our way to Him as we keep His way. Cease from anger – vengeance is the Lord’s.
Our friends close enough to hear the gnashing of the wicked’s teeth hold these same promises. We can rest that He won’t forsake His righteous saints who are in danger, nor their children. Our descendants do not need to beg for bread. They will have nothing to be ashamed of in this time of evil. We are inheritors, holding the hand of a Kingly Helper and Helping King, who won’t allow our steps to slip.
Can we forsake wrath against those who desperately need the righteous robes we wear? Can we wait patiently as God unfolds His Sovereign plan, responding graciously to others? Can we trust and wait when we wish we were the ones prospering? Can we wait in meekness for the Lord to bestow our grace-purchased inheritance? Will we speak the words of wisdom and justice we have from hiding God’s law in our hearts? In God’s strength, yes.
As we picture the blameless man, the upright and the afflicted in the line of the enemy’s fire, may we stand boldly for them and uphold them with faithful prayer.
And let’s not forget:
The wicked seem to have the center stage. But God’s eyes are on His people, delighting in our way, and we delight in Him. One day soon we’ll look for the evildoers, and they’ll be no more. We won’t find them in all our searching.
The evildoer and the righteous couldn’t have a more perfect diamond-cut contrast in Psalm 37.
So fret not. Wait patiently and rest in the Lord, because we know that the little of the righteous is much better than the wicked’s temporal abundance. Today we carry on with God’s law in our hearts, deliverance in our futures, and strength in time of trouble.
I think it must be hard to be an artist,
To guide each stroke and gentle brush,
Paint swaths of sky, the sea the largest,
Each drop of color shades loud or hush.
She must pour her heart on a canvas bright,
Displaying carefully curated inspiration,
Perhaps painting the scene here in her sight,
Or relying only on clear imagination.
But when her creation is done, delight or duty,
She gives or sells the loved artwork away,
To part with it to one who also sees the beauty,
And she’ll start with blank easels the next day.
I brought home with me a small blueish sailboat frame,
Now it lives above my desk, drawing me to the shoreline,
In the corner signed “Henle” is the artist’s name,
Somewhere she found the courage to surrender her design.
I can write dreamy sonnets or let my pen discover new pages,
But my own written words never truly venture out of my sight,
I wonder if Henle misses her watercolor etched in stages,
So I admire the artist’s goodbye to her gift taking flight.
by Abigail Rehmert
You’ve been a long time coming.
Lately, it seems like most times I poked my nose into the great outdoors, the wind whipped me back in. So much wind, it feels like it could take a baby’s breath away. It snowed on our Easter trip. Then spring downpoured on graduation Saturday. Every time I ventured to wear shorts, it was a mistake, and we wondered if our tiny plants would freeze that night.
But last evening, while I drove home from a backyard baby shower, I remembered why you’re worth the wait.
The window down, I smelled summer arriving. The cool desert breeze ushered out the day that had baked our cars.
I rejoiced at the sacred scent of mint fields. Passing a neighborhood, I could pinpoint a BBQ party, which reminded me of smokey campfires. On the edge of town, I spied a full-fledged high school baseball game with whole families in the grand stands and the smell of popcorn wafted through my window. The air nearer home smelled awash with sprinkler water from the canals.
I saw the summer coming, too, in the indigo mountains sketched against a broody blueish sky. I foresee summer for the shape it is, holding anticipated outdoor weddings and getaways to the crested lakes. Memories yet to be made in a cross-country road trip! And I bet you our skies will drip with fireworks on the 4th.
Creamy iced coffee captures the taste of summer. Or mint leaves floating in lemonade with a pin-striped straw. Soon we’ll be tempted to buy a watermelon each time we enter the grocery store. We’ll set to work on corn on the cob and tomatoes rinsed of garden dirt. I guarantee Luke and I will hear the hum of Braum’s air-conditioning as we order ice cream as a reprieve from the midwest heat. Dip my yogurt cone in chocolate, please!
I feel you, summer. Grass like cool carpet. Stiff, rosy skin from too many hours floating the stone-clear river. A textured picnic basket full of sparkling water and egg salad croissants. A smudged pair of flip flops. A book and a fishing pole, plus the hammock and Star River. Heartfelt fellowship underneath sparkly strings of Edison bulbs.
Summer, we hear you, too. Cicadas and crickets. A snowy birch log breaking in the smoldering ashes. The thrill of hearing an outdoor musical underneath the stars and a quilt. The rush of melted mountain snow pushing through the ravines. Praises sung in a backyard for all the neighbors to hear.
Little Judah, in the backseat, can you smell it? It’s summer, and you’ll be meeting it for the first time, just around the corner.
“What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?”
I sat at my grey kitchen table, pink-rimmed tulips wilting in their vase. The sunlight seared the pages of the book of James spread out before me. A friend on the other end of the phone shared she was afraid to submit to God and say, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do” because it would most likely result in her working some place she hated, or moving to a dangerous foreign country, or abandoning a relationship she valued.
Many church members consider full obedience to be certain punishment.
It can feel like that, but – blessedly — this isn’t true.
Know His Heart
Are you afraid to surrender to Him completely?
First of all, we have to clear our head from the me-approach to Scripture. Realize “the Bible is a book about God” as Jen Wilkens reminds us. Too often we’re searching our Bibles to find out how we can feel better. “Where am I in this?” we ask of Isaiah’s poetic chapters.
Good news! As we stare intently at His Word to simply know Him, we’ll be granted more knowledge of Who we left all to follow. Just from the first chapter of James we learn He is wise, righteous, generous, a promiser of the crown of life, can’t be tempted, giver of good and perfect gifts, Father of lights, never changes, speaks words of truth, wrote a law of liberty, and blesses doers of the Word.
Sounds like a God who is trustworthy of our utmost submission. Do you believe the intentions of His will toward you are always kind? Ask Him for the faith to believe His capability to grant wisdom and to weave together His goodness into your story.
As we notice who is He is, we see His heart for us and for His world. And the more time we spend with Him, the more He starts to peel away our fleshly desires and replace them with His set apart ones.
Stare intently at His Word to be unified to His heart.
Know His Will
But what if you can’t figure out the thing He wants you to do?
Thankfully, God doesn’t hide His will from us in a big divine guessing game.
“Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. And how would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation.”
― John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will
Need to know God’s will? See the Bible. Need to know how to plan for the future? Acknowledge Him in your plans and He’ll direct Your paths (Proverbs 3:6).
Of course, knowing me and you, we just would resort to worrying about the few decisions not lined out in Scripture, like who we’re going to marry or where we’ll live.
You’ve heard the missionary stories like: “I told God I would go anywhere except Asia, and then He sent me to Asia!” I used to worry that God would make me marry someone I didn’t like.
Ah, dear younger me, God doesn’t work like that. His ways are not a forceful, grit-your-teeth burden – they’re a joy. He’s a friend and father who guides us gently, who knows us intimately. He doesn’t plan devastation for His children. Joyless, fruitless futures are not ours.
But what about the scary country He could call us to?
What’s important to know is that if God asks us to sacrifice, He equips us with the giftings, passions, help, support, and any other provision we need. We’re never left and high and dry without His strength. He leads us beside still waters for His own name’s sake. There is always plenty of grace for tomorrow’s problems. As Hudson Taylor put it, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.”
He gets the glory that way.
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Stare intently as His Word to know His written will, and don’t worry about where He’ll lead you or if you’ll miss out on His direction. He’ll provide.
Know His Hatred for Sin (What the Flesh Hates, The Spirit Loves)
God gently aligns us to His straight and narrow way when we acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6). Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes. But is it worth it?
I had braces as a teenager. As I parted the orthodontist’s office for the last time, they instructed me to wear my retainers at night. I did faithfully for a while. Then the habit loosened. Now whenever I get convicted about how my teeth could move back into their original jagged state, I pop the retainers back in. But it hurts! I have to take them off in the middle of the night just so I can sleep. But the next night it’s better. Then…well, if I would just keep wearing them periodically, I wouldn’t have to repeat the pain, and my teeth would stay aligned!
Alignment of the heart is something beautiful, though, it can also be difficult. The end result is far better than staying on crooked paths.
When we first start following Christ, we don’t hate all of our sin as much as we should. But as we gaze at His holiness longer and longer, we start to view disobedience to Him as He does — undesirably. We begin to see the goodness of walking with Him, and the wickedness of our own ways.
We certainly get the better end of the bargain. Sure, God will lead us to do things our flesh despises. Alignment is uncomfortable, like barely-used retainers. But holding onto our sin patterns won’t bring anything remotely good. If you think your will and way is fun and worth it, be aware it’s a lie from the world and the devil.
Our flesh would NEVER choose suffering or denying itself. But submitting to Him is freedom and joy. Reward and fulfillment.
The spirit is WILLING. The flesh is what’s weak (Mark 14:38).
Know His Correction
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
2 Timothy 3:16
Correction might conjure up images of traditional teacher blackboards and humiliation. But James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote this:
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
Who looks at a mirror and doesn’t correct the messy hair and the mascara smudge or the crooked tie? Mirrors lead to something better than before.
Jesus also states the blessedness of correction:
But He said, “On the Contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”Luke 11:28
Being a doer of the word brings blessing! The world’s burdens will enslave us to our own passions reaping the punishment of death, but His law is a law of liberty.
What to Do
First, know the One who asks for your obedience, how He is trustworthy and kind. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing the Person He is.
Second, He won’t lead you anywhere without His abundant provision. If you’re afraid to obey Him, Your missing the point of His will.
Third, God will absolutely ask You to do things that your flesh will hate (like denying yourself). Take courage, however, God’s spirit in you is willing. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing a place in your life for His spirit.
“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13
Read Psalm 119 until you begin to agree with God about how good His commandments are.
PC: Photo by Joshua Earle, Yellowstone
You don’t want to be this person.
A clear depiction of the ungodly lies in Psalm 36. If you could see inside his heart, you’d find transgression speaking to it. He’s so wound up in deceit, when others discover the secret webs of his wrongdoing, it brings him flattery. He’s flattered even further by the fact that his actions are hated (vv 1-2). Appalling!
The wicked wellspring of the heart will bring forth both deceitful thoughts and words. This man has ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. When he lies down at night to rest, he uses this time to plot. He sets himself on a path that is “not good.” He doesn’t despise evil like God does. The fear of God is absent (vv. 3-4).
Such an ugly painting.
The psalmist whiplashes from this lose-your-appetite kind of wickedness to a dazzling description of the Lord.
He writes of God’s lovingkindess reaching to the heavens and His faithfulness reaching to the swaths of watercolored skies.
“Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.
Your judgments are like a great deep.”
When the sinful man meets the mountains of God, an acute contrast appears. Close your eyes and picture the biggest mountain you can imagine. For me, I see the Teton mountain range, doubling in size when it mirrors in the clarity of Jenny Lake. How grand is God’s righteousness if earth’s mountains express it! They are immovable, enduring, strong, never to be shaken, planted, and rooted to be established across time.
“Firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime. As winds and hurricanes shake not an Alp, so the righteousness of God is never in any degree affected by circumstances; he is always just. Who can bribe the Judge of all the earth, or who can, by threatening, compel him to pervert judgment? Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver. Right across the path of every unholy man who dreams of heaven stand the towering Andes of divine righteousness, which no unregenerate sinner can ever climb.”Charles Spurgeon
The wicked man has much to fear if His righteousness is like mountains, and His judgments are like the great deep. Who can search out the great deeps? Even to this day we do not know the depths of the ocean and are continually making big discoveries. So it is with the judgments of God. They are deep, unsearchable, uncharted; they are too great for us to comprehend.
He alone is the One who preserves man and beast — so obvious. His lovingkindness is precious, and His children take shadow in His wings. The wicked one takes a sick satisfaction in the discoveries of what is a shame to even speak about.
But the children of God drink their fill of abundance in His house. They drink the river of His delights. He owns the fountain of life, far superior to the path of death chosen by the one who doesn’t rightly fear God (vv 7-9).
The psalmist ends with a prayer:
“In Your light we see. O continue Your lovingkindess to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”
We might look at the first verses of the chapter and thank God we have not done anything to make scandalous headlines. Gratefully, we’re not to the point of enjoying and bragging about evil.
But we must keep our eyes on the mountain of God and ask like the psalmist:
“Let not the foot of pride come upon me.”
Our eyes behold the grandeur of God, and note the foolishness of the foot of pride, so subtly deceptive. In verse three, we know the wicked man ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. He used to be good and wise. Any of us could take subtle steps of pride.
Let not the foot of pride come upon me!
Instead, remember the judgments of the great deep and the faithfulness reaching to the sky. Meditate on Christ’s work of rescuing us from the judgments our own wickedness deserves. “Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel.” (Milton Vincent)
What are mere men and women compared to the mountains of God?! What is man that He is mindful of us? Like the immovable Alps, His holiness is sure. Christ’s death and resurrection is the only way we can be spared from pride and know the abundance of His house and drink the river of His delights.
Thoughts from Psalm 36