Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 46’

In the midst of the storms of life: Remember the miracle of the bread

August 21, 2012

Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating and destructive storms in recent memory, occurred in August, 2005.

Not too long ago, without warning, a series of severe storms swept through the heart of the nation, leaving millions without power in its aftermath.  In thinking about “Storms” I recall a number of original poems that focus on that subject.  In longer poem “A Prayer to Know the Fullness of Your Grace” is this short piece:

Protect Me

 As a child runs to safety in his father’s arms,

 So I, too, run to you, “my shelter from life’s storms.”

 Lord, I long to dwell with you in the secret place,

 My buckler, my shield, deliverer, my fortress,

 Strong tower, defender, who responds to my prayer.

 For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish me

And protect me and deliver me from evil.

Another related work that references storms is also inspired by Psalm 46:

Be Still and Know

Psalm 46

Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.

Though your cherished dreams have faded and long since gone

The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,

As I weave the tapestry of eternity.

Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,

Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,

And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:

Be still and know that I am God.

Though storms may overwhelm and friends may abandon

When diseases surface to assault flesh and bone.

These scenes will reveal the man I thought I could be,

As words of the Psalmist comfort and remind me,

When this life is over and all is said and done:

Be still and know that I am God.

The accompanying video by Steven Curtis Chapman is likewise inspired by Psalm 46:10:

In thinking about the storms of life, I recall the words of Dr. Aaron Parker, who spoke of the cycle of life, whereby, as believers, we are either in the midst of a storm or coming out of a storm and preparing to go through another storm.  The statement was made following one of the most devastating and destructive storms in recent memory, Hurricane Katrina, occurring in 2005. My sister, Cheryl, who lives in Atlanta, sent me the tape series of sermons focusing on storms, by Dr. Parker, her pastor, each of which inspired the following trio of poems:

This Ever-present Truth 

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,

which lifts up the waves of the sea.

They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths;

Their soul melts because of trouble.

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

Then they are glad because they are quiet;

so He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:25-26, 29-30

As we navigate through the stages of our lives,

Mild breezes that caress our days are soon transformed

Into wild gales and floods, as one more storm arrives.

Despite this ever-present truth, we are alarmed

And unprepared for life’s torrential winds and rain,

As the raging storm center races toward our shore,

Gathering force and mounting into a hurricane.            

We find ourselves near the eye of the storm once more.

The whirlwind soon passes over and leaves behind

Rising flood waters that would overwhelm the soul,

But through prayer and strong faith we know that we shall find

Courage to endure, though each storm exacts its toll.

God prepares us to go through howling gusts and rain,

With strength between storms, ready to go through again.

 The Prayer Directive: Strength between Storms

 Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,

 continuing steadfastly in prayer;

 Romans 12:12 [NKJV]

 When it seems that we have reached our outer limits

 Of exhausted options and can no longer cope,

 Wrestling with unbelief, our foe that inhibits,

 God’s Word reminds us to keep rejoicing in hope.

 We know that in patience we possess our soul.

 In the midst of life’s pressures, we remain secure,

 Assured that in Christ Jesus, we have been made whole,

 Watching and waiting with renewed strength to endure.

 As stately palm trees, we yield and bend in the wind,

 And pray in the spirit, with requests that never cease.

 As sweet-smelling incense, our fervent prayers ascend

 In greater measure, as our petitions increase.

 Though storms may overwhelm, we are still in God’s care:

 Therefore rejoice, be patient, continue in prayer.

 Walking on the Troubled Waters of Life   

Matthew 14:22-33

In the fourth watch, long before the sun begins to rise,

A tempest attacks my ship with waves that overwhelm.

My vessel seems abandoned with no one at the helm

When a vision of the Savior appears before my eyes:

Jesus comes walking on the troubled waters of life.

As storms of our times bring conflict, confusion and strife.

May I not be fretful, anxious, cowardly like some,

But like Peter say, “Since you are my Lord, bid me come.”

And step out of the boat to walk on the storm-tossed sea.

While battered by fierce waves, tormented and tossed about,

In the time of my distress I cry out, “Lord, save me!”

He then asks, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

In the midst of turbulent times, may I “get a grip”

  And walk hand in hand with the Master back to the ship.

I recall also lyrics related to storms, such as the following song:

I Will Deliver You

I will deliver you from the snare of the fowler.

As a bird escapes from the cage, so I will release you from captivity.

I will lift you up, out of the hand of your fiercest enemy.

I will draw you to myself and hide you under the safety of my wing.

I will deliver you from the raging deep waters.

The sea shall not overwhelm you, but I will bring you through the storms in peace.

I will lift you up, and bear you up on the wings of an eagle.

I will provide for you and hide you in my secret dwelling place.

These lyrics bring to mind a song of great comfort “You are my hiding place” offered by Selah”: 

Finally, a teaching by Apostle John Tetsola entitled “The Miracle of the Bread” was one of the highlights from Transferring the Mantle, a 3-day conference hosted by Equip U Ministries of Columbus, Ohio. Apostle Tetsola taught on the power of consistency in overcoming adverse situations where there is overwhelming lack of provision during seasons of difficulty, in the midst of the storms of life. He covered a number of accounts whereby Jesus performed a miracle of feeding the multitude with the fishes and the loaves, having an abundance of “leftovers” afterwards. The life changing ministry of the Word inspired this poem which is also the title of his teaching:

The Miracle of the Bread

 For every single problem that you have, 

the answer lies in the miracle of the bread.

Apostle John Tetsola

 

I will trust in the Lord and will not be afraid.

When the storms of life arise and seem to prevail,

When my strength is gone, and I seem destined to fail,

 In these tough times I recall words that Jesus said:

“O you of little faith, tell me, why did you doubt?”

No matter how midnight-black my nights seem to be,

I still access the power of consistency.

Although the world says no way, God will bring me out.

I learn never to elevate facts over truth

But recall past victories and bring them to my mind

When thousands were fed and abundance left behind

From two fishes and five loaves given by a youth.

In times of lack, I will not doubt but have faith instead

And always remember the miracle of the bread.

 

Toxic Fear and the Perfect Antidote–Love

February 10, 2011

A generous dose of love overcomes or casts out all fear.

We all recognize that fear is a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can become crippling and impact our daily lives in a negative way. Unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that limits and inhibits. Proverbs 29:25 makes this clear:

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.

Fear is a tool of the Enemy used as a barrier to stifle our confidence in God, as it attempts to limit our access to the Father’s throne of grace. Satan tries to instill fear in believers in the same way that a ferocious lion roars, seeking to instill fear that paralyzes its victim. We find a similar picture of the ways of our adversary in I Peter 5:8:

 Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[a]in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. [Amplified Bible]

It has been said that fear is the only thing that defeats the promises of God. Pastor Rick Warren describes fear    as “. . . a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

The Bible addresses the issue of fear with numerous reminders that as believers we are not to fear. The comforting exhortation to “fear not” or “do not fear” occurs 365 times in the Bible, indicating a daily memo from God that we are to have no fear.

Isaiah 8:12 offers this powerful reminder:

Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

We also find great comfort in Isaiah 41:10, 13 from which the lyrics to another song are taken, offering these words of encouragement:

Do Not Fear

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

 I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

For it is I, the LORD your God, who holds your right hand;

It is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

“Do not fear, I will help you.”

“Do not fear, I will help you.”

When we encounter stressful situations that cause us to respond in fear, we are encouraged to seek the strength to overcome any obstacle that attempts to block the path to success. Again the Psalmist offers this reminder:

Psalm 34:5

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Some people are overly concerned about the future which can lead to anxiety. We are exhorted not to be overly concerned about the future or anything, for that matter, in Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Amplified Bible]

As with each of the toxic emotions of life, we want to counteract their harmful effects with the proper remedy. In terms of responding to fear in light of moving in the opposite spirit, we find that love is the perfect antidote. The love of God or agape is the highest form of love. It differs from eros or passion or sensuous love of the flesh and is even beyond philos­ or love of friends or family. The root of philos is found in the designation of Philadelphia, which is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” There is a love which is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife;” this close-knit love is known as agape. This particular term which is used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love which is so clearly defined in I Corinthians 13, a passage of scripture that is often excerpted or quoted in its entirety at weddings. This section from verses 4-7 of the Amplified Bible illustrate the distinctive power of the love of God:

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not  boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does  not act             unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self- seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

The first part of verse 8 reiterates that “Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].”

With love, as with any other emotion, there must be a demonstration or manifestation whereby one knows the reality of the emotion in question. We speak of the love of God in manifestation which is so clearly demonstrated in one of the most widely recognized verses in the Bible, John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It has been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Indeed, all love is giving. The essence of love as defined by giving is also seen in this poem by John Oxenham:

            Love ever lives, outlives, forgives,

            And while it stands with open hands it lives.

            For this is love’s prerogative:

            To give and give and give

The book of I John also reveals the “perfect” connection between fear and love, particularly in 1 John 2:5

But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this know that we are in Him. [NKJV]

In those who hear the Word of God and keep it, the love of God is “perfected” or made perfect or complete, wanting in nothing or brought to maturity in them. To be “perfected” is to be brought to a full end. This concept is further discussed in chapter 4 verse 12 which reminds us:

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

Verses 13-16 go on to explain just how the love of God comes to abide or remain or dwell within us:

 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or full in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. Verse 17 elaborates on this reality:
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world

Verse 18 provides the basis for love being the perfect antidote to fear:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

When an individual is “perfected in love” and walks in or demonstrates that love, there no room for fear. The love of God is the key that releases each believer from the bondage of this “self-imposed prison” from which Christ came to set the captives free.

Self-imposed Prison

“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you

 from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

        – Rick Warren

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,

because fear involves torment. But he who fears

has not been made perfect in love.

I John 4:18

This self-imposed prison, not made with bars of steel,

Nor formed with bricks, yet each subtly constructed wall

Restricts the mind, scars the soul and cripples the will

And impounds us to a state of constant free fall.

Held captive by past mistakes that seek to instill

Fear: this deadly acronym binds, confines the heart,

So disguised as “false evidence appearing real”

Keeps us from being all God intends us to be.

But Christ, our sovereign Lord, pardoned each life sentence,

Commuted penalties, declaring not guilty.

With his blood, having blotted out every offense,

Displayed undying love: key to set captives free.

Pure freedom to serve awaits those with ears to hear,

For perfected love destroys all walls built by fear.

Throughout the New Testament believers are exhorted to walk in love, to demonstrate or manifest love, to put on love. Colossians 3:14 in the Amplified Bible puts it this way:

And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which  binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

Every born-again believer desires to be fruitful, to be spiritually productive, and the Scriptures offer keys to living a life of fruitfulness. In 2 Peter 1:1-5 we are encouraged to “Add it all up and put on love which is the finishing touch”:

5For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence),

6And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety),

7And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.

 8For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

9For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.    

 10Because of this, brethren, be all the more solicitous and eager to make sure (to ratify, to strengthen, to make steadfast) your calling and election; for if you do this, you will never stumble or fall.  11Thus there will be richly and abundantly provided for you entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

Last year this passage was part of my Action Plan for 2010: Greater Growth and Development, and it still has application for this year and every year.

I recall learning about the love of God as a counteractant to fear in a very simple yet profound way. One of the first books that my wife and I used to teach our daughters about our Heavenly Father was My Little Golden Book about God. This was a kind of primer for our daughters who memorized the words and associated them with the illustrations long before they could actually “read.” Some of the most cherished lines were these words which closed out the small book:

“Do not fear. I am here. And I love you, my dear. Close your eyes and sleep tight. For tomorrow will be bright.

All is well, dear child. Good night.”

This simple response encourages all children of God to have no fear, for God is ever present, and He continues to say, “And I love you, my dear.”

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we walk in power of God’s love, we will recognize a notable change, not only  in our own lives individually, but we will also experience fruitfulness and favor upon our land, even in the midst of famine. The following poem expresses the two-fold blessing that God generates through “Perfected Love”:

Perfected Love

Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto His people,

Behold, I send you corn, and wine, and oil and

and ye shall be satisfied therewith, and I will

no longer make you a reproach among the people

Joel 2:19

Jehovah, creator, author and finisher,

Who initiates to nourish perfected love; 

Ever-abiding source and resource, publisher

Of declarations of genuine love to move

The soul of man to return to the place of his first

Love, the Beloved, whose heart overflows to give,

For only this passion can satisfy our thirst,

As you refresh us and teach us how we should live.

You have pledged your love through a sacred covenant.

If we maintain our vows of love, you will sustain

Our souls and feed us so that we shall never want.

You will shower with mercy as the gentle rain

And will bless and multiply the fruit of our land

With “corn, wine and oil” supplied by your gracious right hand.

To close this discussion here are three musical compositions based on three of my favorite Psalms that provide great comfort in times of trouble when we are tempted to shrink back in fear:

Psalm 121

Psalm 46

Psalm 91