Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Psalm 4

Psalm 4

       “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer” (1). Have you ever said “listen” to God? I rarely do, but in essence when we pray we want him to hear us. We are calling on him to include us in his agenda. David didn’t seem to be shy about asking the Almighty not only to listen to him, but to answer him. When was the last time you asked God to answer you? I quit asking when I learned that he always answers the prayers of the righteous. Yes. No. Maybe. Later. David sought what we all mostly seek when we pray. Relief! We need to be rescued from anguish, pain, sorrow, distress and the evil that surrounds us daily. God knows this before we ask, but he seems to enjoy the communication. My earthly father knew I needed some extra cash while in college, but he also wanted to hear from me now and then.

         “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false Gods” (2)? David needed to have the support of his flock. He was a shepherd king. The people begged for a king like the other nations. God gave them Saul. Then he gave them David. A head of state is either blessed or cursed by his constituency. The same is true with today’s national leaders as it was for David when he led the nation of Israel. Our moral leaders often have what could be glory turned into shame. And the reason for it is the same as it was for King David. The people loved delusions as well as false Gods. We have delusions by living fantasies, many of them pathetically immoral. We pretend to have affairs online. We escape with movies so bizarre that they deny description. We even escape now in a plethora of self-medication, whether booze or dope. And false gods surround us. We get more excited over the Super Bowl and the NBA playoffs than we do over our lost neighbors. Money and ease have become false gods today. We need not erect totems in order to be guilty of worshiping false idols.

       “Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call him” (3). We are told elsewhere that the Lord’s ears are forever open to the righteous. God knows who his children are. We can’t fool him. We can’t fake discipleship and suppose God won’t notice. There are sheep and goats. Before we are born God knows which we are. But this foreknowledge does not negate our free will as some "predestinationists" assert. But in his omniscience, God knows whether you will give your heart and soul to him or whether you will live a life of selfish indulgence. As Laura has often reminded me, if we are lost we deserve it. And I might add, and usually do: “And if we are saved we won’t deserve it.” But it will mean we have chosen to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and to live in the will of our Father God. Every one of us should feel extremely special knowing that we have that significant place in God’s heart as we continue in a holy relationship with him living out our lives in his merciful grace.

       “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (4). I love the comfort of a safe bed. We are blessed in this country to be able to afford such luxuries. Many in the world have no bed or private chamber from which they can be silent and meditate on holy matters or any other matters for that matter. But the point here is that we can sin even in the silence of our bedrooms. And also we note there is a place for anger, but that when we are angry, it should not involve sin. Anger, in and of itself is not sinful. Elders of the flock of God are told to be angry, but in that anger not to sin. Jesus was angry with the money changers in the Temple. There is a place and time for all of us to be righteously indignant. Living in the kind of sin that surrounds us, it’s hard not to be angry. But as we consider holiness in the midst of chaos, we search our hearts and make sure they are right with God.

       “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord” (5). We sacrifice to God in various ways. Jesus told us to take up our crosses daily, to follow him, and to be living sacrifices. We do this by obeying his commandments. We do it by giving of or time and means and resources. I noticed that the taxes of one of our highest government officials was released to the public. He made hundreds of thousands of dollars but only gave $4,000 to charitable programs. I remember in the 70s the man who was running for VP, and was a preacher’s son to boot, had only given $400 to charity. Maybe God isn’t troubled by that kind of sacrifice, but I sure am. Of course, a million dollars given with the wrong intent and unholy attitude isn’t worth the ink used to print it. But a widow’s mite is a great sacrifice to God if the spirit of the giver is right. Have you noticed as you grow older how little you need to be content? All of the things that we have felt necessary to feather our nests are not all that important.

       “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine up on us, O Lord” (6). Someone recently said to me that he could rarely find any good to life and that he would rather be dead than to go on living in a world as evil and chaotic as ours. I reminded him that God was still the boss and so long as he was with us we had reason for living. Our purpose is not to be surrounded by constant good. Our purpose is to make sure goodness is available to those we influence and come into contact with daily. Do we allow God’s face to shine upon us?

        “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” (7). To have our storehouses filled gives some measure of comfort and security. But that is never enough. Our genuine joy is not in a full cupboard or a fat bank account. The presence of God in us in the person of the Holy Spirit is a constant joy and delight, or should be. I think we sometime forget we are Spirit-filled children of God on a short-term mission before eternity is ushered in. One heartbeat away. That’s it. That’s how close eternity is. That is how soon time and space and reality as we know it will be replaced by the real deal. Are we ready?

      “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you along, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (8). Let’s accept reality, church. We aren’t safe. We live on the third rock from the sun and have been told a meteor could wipe us out instantly. When we lie down in restful slumber, it isn’t because we know we won’t get the flu or have a heart attack. It isn’t because we know our money will always be strong in the open market. It isn’t because we have a promise that we will all live to be 100 years old and die with our boots on. Nope. Our God in Jesus Christ is the sole reason for our ability to live and sleep in peace in a world out of step with heaven.    

Friday, April 8, 2011

Advice From Psalms

Great Advice From the Psalms
(Psalm 1)

      “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (1a). Where do we seek out good advice? When we need serious counseling, where do we go? Do we go to the bartender or the man who engages in deceitful business practices? Do we seek out druggies and swindlers when we are in a jam and need words of encouragement? Would Bernie Madoff be a good financial advisor? Think about it, church. Our Lord tells us we will be blessed when we see out the counsel of godly people. I have often gone to Jere when I felt I had no other place to go. Of course, we are always just one prayer away from getting the best counsel in the world. “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance” (Pro 20:18).

      “…or stand in the way of sinners…” (1b). Who are our best friends? Consider who you hang out with most. I knew a couple who were having constant financial problems and were always seeking marital counseling. Sadly, their best friends weren’t Christians and had a negative influence on them. Our best friends should be children of God whose very presence lends positive encouragement and reinforcement. Hanging with people of questionable character and bad behavior will only drag you down. Run from sinners. “Evil companions corrupt good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). I just behave myself better when I am in good company. So get out of the way of sinners.

      “…or sit in the seat of mockers” (1c). Do we really enjoy being with people who make fun of others? I even grow weary of the pundits who poke light at our elected officials. Some of them surely do need some advice from their constituencies, but mocking them and making light of them doesn’t help. We had a kid in school who had a severe speech impediment. Many of our classmates would tease him by mimicking his speech defect. Remember in 2 Kings 2 when Elisha was mocked by 42 youth? They made fun of his bald head. Two bears came out of the woods and mauled these young people. A hard lesson to learn. We don’t want to be made fun of, so we should never do it to others.

      “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates both day and night” (2). What do we spend most of our time dwelling on? I saw where people were weeping because some singer got bumped from American Idol prematurely, according to those who enjoyed her talent. This is not world-shaking concern. We watch TV dramas that provide horror and angst that is merely faked by actors. Don’t we have enough tragedy in the world than to look at make believe trauma and mayhem? All of God’s children should be thinking of godly matters, meditating on his word, praying to the Father of lights. This is what we do and who we are. Both day and night. We are into the word of God and living it out in our lives. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal: it stands firm in the heavens” (Psa 119:89). It is far better to concentrate on eternal matters than to focus on the transient and temporary.

      “He is like a tree planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (3). Our purpose on earth is to honor God and bear much fruit to his glory. “By this is how my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). A fruitless tree isn’t worth taking up space. Jesus had a fig tree cut down for not bearing fruit. We yield fruit for our Lord by doing good deeds and aiding others in coming to Christ. We bear fruit when we come to the rescue of those in need and who are found in the throes of hardship and grief. We have a promise that God will prosper those who live such lives.

      “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away” (4). I was mowing my lawn on Thursday. The wind was blowing so fiercely that every other row I found myself breathing and spitting the dust and grass that I had kicked up from cutting. I had to literally stop and let the dust settle in order to take a breath. Those who live evil and selfish lives will be no better than the dirty grass clippings blow away by the wind. It will be as if they had never lived. There presence to the Father will be so useless that he will “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). We will trim trees and rake up clippings soon at our workday on Saturday. After a while I will set fire to them and burn them up as if they had never taken up space. The Bible says this is the end of those who are wicked. They become chaff.

      “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous” (5). Have you noticed that typically the wicked don’t present themselves in our assemblies? They don’t do church. They do world. They do whatever they please. They become ends unto them-selves—self-serving and inwardly focused. We have gotten out of the sinning business. We’ve taken down our shingle and have risen to walk in newness of life. The last great day will not be enjoyed by those outside of Christ. They won’t get to sit in the assembly with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and all of the saints of ages past and present. Church, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to think of what it will be like for the wicked at judgment day. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Pet 4:17,18)? I’m not planning on finding out, are you?

      “For the Lord watches the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (6). Throughout he Bible we are told the wicked will perish. They will not have eternal life as those in Christ will enjoy. We have the Lord’s promise that he will look over the way of the righteous. He cares for us. He wants our very best. Even in hardships, which he allows, he is able to make us stronger and better able to serve him and others. But the wicked and unbeliever has no hope. He is fit for the burning dung heap outside Jerusalem. It will be like being tossed into the Valley of Hinnom where the trash and carcasses were disposed of. The very word for “hell” comes from the Greek word Gehenna, a reference to this very garbage dump at the outskirts of Jerusalem. It’s our choice. We can be dumped and destroyed and forgotten, or we can be with the Lord forever. “I my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2,3). These are comforting words for believers.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jenny Gosch Memorial Fund

Both Carl and Gail Gosch graduated from ACU where they met over 30 years ago.  Carl is currently an elder at the Blythe Church of Christ here in Blythe, CA where my husband, Steven Clark Goad, has been minister for 25 years. The Gosch's raised 3 lovely Christian children, the oldest of whom, Tyson, married a beautiful God fearing woman, Jenny, and they had five little children ( currently ranging in age from 3 months to just 8 years old). The family recently moved with Tyson's business from Simi Valley, CA to the Austin, TX area. While in Simi Valley, Tyson served as a Deacon, published the church bulletin and made missionary trips to India. They had already established a warm fellowship with the congregation at their new locale when a severe headache (which proved to be due to an anurism) sent Jenny to the emergency room . Within just a few days she was dead!

Below is the Christian Chronicle site with the entire story and photo.

Jenny leaves the five babies and a grieving husband along with extensive medical bills. On behalf of the family, we have established the Jenny Gosch Memorial Fund to help pay for childcare, medical bills, college savings, funeral expenses, etc. Would you be kind enough to publish this information to ACU students, faculty and alumni who might want to contribute to this fund? Checks and money orders can be sent to:

The Jenny Gosch Memorial Fund
325 Village Drive
Blythe, CA 92225