Comfort Care

We have a status in our hospital which we call Comfort Care, which essentially means to keep a patient comfortable while they are in the dying process. I know, probably a little too morbid for a Friday morning. You are just starting your day. You need a bit more encourage than that, am I right? I mean, you are probably not reading this to feel worse, or ponder the meaning of life so deeply that you forget why you are living. Well, ok.

This thought occurred to me this morning because this verse is talking about the care that God shared with us when we are filled with cares and anxieties. I think there is a hopelessness and defeatism in this world that we struggle with as Christians. We have to make hard moral choices, especially in healthcare, that we may not agree with personally, but policy and protocol say different. We experience what I have heard termed, “Moral Injury”, and we suffer incongruity. One the one hand we believe one thing, but must do something else contrary to it in order to be employed or continue to be an influence. I cannot sit here and tell you what the answer is. As a Christian healthcare provider, you may refuse to perform abortions, and I hope you do, but you must provide your patients with all the information about pregnancy options, which includes abortion. As a Healthcare Chaplain, you may see someone in spiritual pain, but you are not allowed to advocate for a particular faith unless the patient asks the question. A Chaplain who has been called by his God to preach the gospel and tell others about Jesus is not allowed to evangelize. That’s a moral quandary. But I can sweeten my tongue with the Word, and be loving and kind and compassionate, and draw deeply from the Well that is deeper than me to help me love when I am exhausted.

I can’t tell you how to live or offer specific advice. Christians living in the world have to make tough decisions when it comes to morality. But nothing is worth your eternal soul. Remember that. Keep your eternal perspective ever before you. Don’t let the enemy wear you down and make you forget whose you are.

God bless you on a Friday!

All I Want

Around the Meritt House this week, we are in the process of celebrating two birthdays. We are still waiting on gifts to arrive from Amazon for the first and a decent day for family to be together for the second. Preparing for birthdays typically involve the question, “What do you want for your birthday?” In today’s verse, I think we have found the official Christian answer.

The Psalmist’s request is to live, delight, and meditate in the Lord’s Temple. The Temple in the Psalmist’s day was a massive edifice of stone and cedar line with gold. It represented the physical glory of the Lord with all the wealth Israel could muster at the time. But it contained the best of the best they could offer. It represented Heaven on earth. The Psalmist humbly prays that he could be included among its citizens. With all of life’s concerns and hardships, he wishes to simply be at the Temple, being in the presence of God.

What is your chief desire? I wouldn’t mind being on a beach somewhere spending quality time with the Mrs. or spending time in a great museum being amazed at history. But the one thing that we can all do regardless of where we are is to spend time with the Lord, and isn’t that the one thing we long to do? Don’t we long to meditate on Him, spend time with Him, just be be in His comforting and protective presence, where nothing can harm us,, nothing can steal our joy?

We may not agree on what we want, but we all need this. I would encourage today to seek that moment of joy in His presence.

Search, Test, See and Lead

in this Psalm the author asks the Lord to do four things, each one requires a complete surrender to Him. Search, test, see and lead.

Search me and know my heart. – Surely the Lord already knows the heart. This isn’t the request. The request is, Lord I open my heart up for your examination. I open all the dark closets of my heart, places where I have kept all of my darkest secrets. I hold nothing back to the Lord of my life. I surrender with the knowledge that you will not recoil or shudder at my secrets. You will love and heal my brokenness. You bring light to dark places.

Test me and know my concerns. – the Lord already knows what I care about, but am I honest with myself. The Lord will indeed test and refine the heart. He will show what you truly care about. What will you carry out of the fire?

See if there is any offensive way in me. – Offensive to who? Is there anything in me that is offensive to God, whose judgment is true? Is there anything I carry in me that offends God? Maybe in my sinful heart I have treasured something that only comes out when I am weak and unprepared. Root out these places Lord.

Lead me in the everlasting way. This last, after the long process of cleaning out the closets, leads to training and instruction, but not by someone who tells us, but someone who shows us. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we have someone who shows us what righteousness looks like. What Love looks like. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Offer yourself completely today and let Him clean out the dark corners of your soul. Then let His light shine into them and through them. I can’t count the number of people who have victory over their sin through Jesus and offer it to others as testimony and encouragement to others. May you be one of them today.

God bless you this morning.

Christian Depression

When I counsel those who are in depression, or tell me they are depressed, I assure them they are in good company. David, the author of this Psalm, says over and over again that he too is depressed. It is possible to be a devout believer in God and the hope of His promises and still be depressed. I find some comfort in that, because I suffer from depression. There is a phrase from this Psalm “deep calls to deep” (vs 7) that gives me a reason why this is so. Depression comes from a deep place within us, a fundamental discord about our lives and abilities.

Like a slow moving river, depression moves slowly within me, I feel like life itself slows down, because the depths of my soul are being stirred. Depression speaks to the core of my being and tells me I am worthless. Tells me that for all my vaunted skill and training, I still suck at being a good person, at being significant.

David remarks that he remembers the triumphal procession of worship, remembers the heights of the Lord’s presence, and I do too. And perhaps it’s because of such heights that I also know the depths. “But no temptation has overtaken you but what is common to man.” (1 Cor 10:13) The Lord Himself will provide a way of escape. “Oh for the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom 10:33) Here is One who will match the depth of my depression with the depth of His riches. My depth of depression calls to the depth of the presence of God. So as the deer pants for water, ever seeking for a stream to slake its thirst, so my soul thirsts for God, in the depths of my soul crying rivers of tears.

My life is bleak, a mere two-dimensional black and white portrait of someone that I used to be. Depression strands us in that wilderness and leaves us desolate. Depression abandons us to the worthlessness of our own thoughts. Depression itself is no good companion and we become stranded in the corridors of our thoughts looking for a way out. As Paul once wrote, “O wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” Who can?

Deep calls to deep. The depth of our sorrow calls to the depth of God’s love and comfort. This Psalm has no resolution. There is no great triumph at the end that show that David overcame his depression. I think we need to hear that. Depression is a part of who we are, and it forces us to confront the deep parts of us. We would be so stirred if we had no depth. And some of the greatest self-reflection can take place there. But we do so in the knowledge that it is ok. God has not abandoned us. The Valley of the shadow of death is still a place where His rod and staff, his gentle leading and correction, comfort us. We need to traverse the wilderness to experience the wonder of the verdant gardens. Because we feel so strongly in our pain, so too will feel strongly in our worship, a far deeper appreciation for the glory and wonder of God. I would not give up my depression, because it moves me to a profound sense of worship. Depression is but for a season, for God calls to us in our depths, meets us there, walks with us there, and guides us back.

Praise be to God for His glorious gifts! Praised be the Lord!

Good Grief

Loss is usually the signal for grief. What Joel describes this morning are three common symptoms of grief, fasting, weeping and mourning. We fast because we don’t feel like eating. We weep because stress often finds its way out through our eyes. Mourning is about meditating on the loss itself, looking at the open wound in our lives. And this kind of grief isn’t just about losing a person. It can be about losing a job, a spouse (through divorce), a pet, possessions, or even hope for the future. Grief is a natural human reaction to loss of any kind. The degree of grief is according to the perception of the loss.

Now Joel sets his focus on national sin. The Lord is calling to the people of Israel to come back to Him, leave off worshipping false gods, and come back in grief to the Lord. If grief is a response to loss, then what are they grieving? Maybe loss of innocence? Loss of relationship to God? Loss of God’s blessing on their nation and His Divine protection?

May I submit that this text is entirely appropriate for our nation today, though few are aware of what we have lost. We have lost moral authority. We have murdered the innocent, allowed it over and over again. We have protected the guilty. We have promoted immorality and abomination in the form of gay marriage, an absolute mockery of God’s original institution. We have those that fight for the right to be immoral, and I wonder how soon until the Lord vomits us out of his mouth.

We ought to grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. For we know God is gracious. He welcomes back the repentant. May your prayers today be for the repentance of God’s people.

God bless you today.

Not Right in the Head

First of all, I love this picture. Wow! God’s Love is at the heart of our mission and witness, “For God so loved the world”. So this image is a perfect opener for what needs to be said today.

I will be honest. I think I’m right a lot. I don’t intentionally set out to do the wrong thing, unless it’s avoiding writing this blog. Because sometimes you just don’t feel it. This isn’t one of those days because this is the Lord’s Day, and I am finally back in the house of my spiritual family after having to take a break last week. I love being in Church. I feel at home here. And I know I am in the right place.

But the rest of the week, I feel like I’m on my own, and like you, have to make a number of decisions day to day. I like to think I make those decisions based on Scripture, but honestly, I don’t. Not every life issue has a “thus saith the Lord.” I don’t believe the Lord intended it that way. There are major course corrections we learn to make, moral decisions about life’s direction that He gives us wise counsel, but there are countless minor decisions we make everyday that don’t have a moral component, or do they?

Take for example, brushing your teeth. Seems like a minor thing, right? You squeeze the toothpaste onto the toothbrush and brush vigorously. Rinse and spit. Where was God in this decision? Why did you brush your teeth? To have clean teeth, right? Why is that? So that I don’t offend people when I talk to them. So that my appearance is unmarred at least for a while. Keeping teeth in our culture is often paired with affluence, lack of drug use, and a standard for wholesome living. Having a full set of clean white teeth offers strangers a quick insight into the kind of person you are. And then you pair that with Christian witness, and you have a positive effect upon others. Was brushing your teeth a Holy work? Maybe today it is.

All of the billions of tiny decisions we make have. Cumulative effect on the kind of person we are. If we think that we can skip a day, we have declared something about our character. We may think we are “ok”, but God knows the motives of the heart.

How is your heart today? God Bless!

Even a Little Matters

I’ve read this verse dozens of times, usually with Ephesus on the righteous side of it. Being faithful in a few things will lead to God giving you more things to be responsible for. It’s a sign of wisdom. If you are faithful to produce in a job of $10, you can be trusted with. Job of $20, $100, and so on. When little things matter, you can be trusted with bigger things.

But the back half of this verse hit me this morning. Being unrighteous in little things means that bigger things will be a problem. Sin always starts small. Sin makes the initial investment so tiny that you might not give a second thought to compromising your integrity. While being faithful in a small thing is a big deal, being unfaithful, like telling a lie when it really doesn’t matter, can lead to big trouble. If you see the dog’s feed bowl empty, do you stop and fill it up, or wait and let someone else do it? If you see a picture with a bit of skin, you go back and look at it, or do you let it scroll on by? Do these little hits to your integrity matter? Yes. Any small opening you allow for sin, even to be tempted, is like the camel’s nose in a tent. Before long the camel is moving in.

Small things matter. Never forget that. Be mindful today of the small things, things that only you know about. God is watching.

God bless you today.