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As Christian leaders it is easy to become overwhelmed with the busyness of life. There’s not enough time in a day to accomplish every task. Not enough space in one lifetime to complete the Great Commission. As a Christian, I often feel overcome by the pressures of trying to reveal Christ’s character to the world on a daily basis. Am I fulfilling my call? And do I balance being truly present in the lives of my family members on a consistent basis? How do I accomplish all of my tasks before the 5pm deadline? These thoughts bombard my mind constantly, increasing my anxiety. Most days, time feels like a commodity that constantly eludes my grasp. Yet in the midst of this calamity, I often hear a still small voice that says, “Be still”. When I am feeling pushed to take more action, join more movements, or pursue more ideals, I hear again the quiet whisper to “Be still”.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of those who paint too rosy a picture of the life of faith. Early in my Christian journey one of the popular evangelical sayings was that God has a “wonderful plan for your life.” Turns out, “wonderful” must have meant something entirely different than what I thought the word meant!
Each of us has a history – personal, familial, organizational. Psalm 78 tells Israel’s history with stark honesty. No attempt is made to “spin” its story to make God’s people look good. The bulk of the psalm is a long litany of Israel’s failures despite God’s mercy and continued faithfulness. If for no other reason, I like this psalm because it reminds me that all my history can be faced. In a contemporary leadership culture that tends to hide its failures and weaknesses, this is refreshingly good news.
The writer of Psalm 79 envisions God’s future activity along the lines of an action movie. The bad guys are the nations who have conquered Israel, defiling God’s temple, destroying Jerusalem, and slaughtering the people. Yet the Israelites will not pay back those who have scorned them. Rather, Psalm 79 calls out for God to be the hero who pours out his wrath on the nations and saves his people.
Psalm 78 focuses mainly on the sad history of Israel’s persistent rebellion against the Lord. Though he showed them mercy time and again, and though he disciplined them for their disobedience, the children of Israel regularly turned away from God and failed to keep his covenant.
When we feel discouraged, when God feels distant, when we run out of prayers, what should we do? Psalm 77 answers this question, but not in a way we might expect.
Keeping your head down at work — while perhaps unavoidable on occasion — is not a good, long-term posture. Instead, Psalm 111 reminds me that thankfulness—an upward orientation — is the key to a truly human life, to truly human work.
Psalm 76 celebrates God’s victory over his enemies. Though we don’t know the specific events that inspired Asaph, the writer of this psalm, it surely commemorates some military victory of Israel over an army that sought to invade Jerusalem.
When we read passages like this one in the Psalms, how are we to use them in our worship?
As I read Psalm 75:3, I can’t help but remember how it felt when the earth was literally quaking beneath me. I also recall similar feelings at other times in life, times when the quaking wasn’t literal, but metaphorical. I think of when I learned that my father had terminal cancer, or when my infant son ran a fever of 106 degrees. Most people have experienced this kind of quaking. Some have known turmoil far beyond anything I have experienced, as victims of violent crime or war, as people who have lost loved ones tragically, or similar “earthquakes.”
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