Lent Reflection: Ongoing salvation

sky

We all need a place to go to when we’re stressed or sad, tired or lonely or discouraged. Psalm 91 is an expression of the believer’s confidence in divine protection and deliverance. When we feel insecure and inadequate we need a refuge, a shelter. As with many passages and verses in the Bible, you cannot claim the promises unless you meet the requirements.

There are conditional and unconditional promises of God found in the Bible. Most promises that begin with the word “if” are conditional. God promises to do something if we do something. Psalm 91 can be very encouraging. If you live according to Psalm 91:1 then the psalm is yours. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 93:1 (NIV) We are to dwell in the place of refuge provided by God.

In this secret place there is special protection and provision for those who believe God and trust Him to be their God in every situation and circumstances. God’s miracles of protection and His power to keep the people of God in the face of great difficulties are seen time and again throughout the Bible and many know that power and protection today. Psalm 91: 2: says, I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” This is an act of your will. You have a choice whether you say it or not. You also have a choice as to whether you do it or not.

I know that there have been times in my life when really I have been deceiving myself. I have said that I trust in the Lord, but hidden away to everybody, except the Lord and myself, is fear and uncertainty. Sometimes my words have not been true. I have said that I’m not worried, but really I am. That is the time when I need to go back to the Lord and see what His promises and assurances are.

Verse 3 of this psalm says “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” This is an ongoing deliverance. It is not something the Lord will do; it is something that He is doing. The word salvation is also the word deliverance. The Lord’s salvation is ongoing. Not only did He save us. But He continues to deliver us because He is also interested in our lives right now. That is why He has given us the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and to work with us during times of trouble.

The fowler in verse 3 is the devil. He is constantly trying to cause us difficulty. He is trying to trip you up, or entrap you. However, the Lord is delivering us. It seems to me that often the Lord is delivering with His angels working on our behalf without us being aware of it. We have no grounds for fear, or any reason to doubt as we can draw close to God. Remember that God is not only our refuge but also our ever-present deliverer.

Robert Ralph is the pastor of New Brooklyn United Methodist Church and has served at camp as a teacher. Image credit: Lianne Triavarthen, via CreationSwap

Advent Devotion: Seeking a closer walk

desert

When David composed the ancient hymn found in Psalm 63, he was not in a temple or worshipful tabernacle; rather, he was in the Desert of Judah. There in the desert he was alone, removed and separated from every comfort and friend. There he suffered thirst, hunger, pain, loneliness, and exhaustion. There in the desert David had many needs, yet David lets us know that none of these are his biggest need.

David tells us what his greatest need is when he states in Psalm 63:1:

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Right away we see that David is not first of all seeking food, water, comfort, or rest even though he is in the desert and badly needs all of these things. What David hungers and thirsts for above anything else is God. David is searching for a deep communion with the Lord. David, we could say, wants to have a closer and dearer walk with God.”

Why is David seeking God? David mentions a “dry and weary land.” As far as his relationship with God is concerned, David has reached or had reached a dry spell. He wasn’t as close to God as, for instance, when he was a shepherd boy. At that time he played his harp while he sang God’s praises and at night he marveled over all the stars God had put in the night sky.

The “dry and weary land” mentioned by David is also a picture of much of the church today. Very few believers seem to seek God above anything else. So many are caught up in seeking the “stuff” of this world. As a result, their souls are empty and barren. So what we need today are Christian men and women and young people and children who desire God, men and women and young people and children who want and seek a closer walk with God.

In his ancient song David tells us five elements to a closer walk with God. David knew what he had to do and what we have to do to have a closer walk with God.

In verse 2 David says I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. David longs for a closer walk with God. David reminds us of why we go to church.
We come to church to be in the presence of God.

A David’s second way for a closer walk with God is found in verses 3-5: (Ps 63:3-5) “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. (4) I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (5) My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

David mentions glory and praise. And, he also tells us how and when to do this: with lips, mouth, and hands as long as we live. To have a closer walk with God one of the things we have to do is always praise and glorify Him with all of our being and in all of life.

A David’s third way to achieve a closer walk with God is found in verse 6:(Ps 63:6) “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”

To have a closer walk with God one of the things we have to do is meditate upon God and the things of God. To have a closer walk with God it is important that we fill our mind and our thoughts with the right things. David’s suggestion: meditate upon the Lord and the things of the Lord. Think about God. Or, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:2). Those who want a closer walk with God make a point to seek him and him only. If you want a closer walk with God even in difficult situations you are to “rejoice in the Lord.”

Robert Ralph is the pastor of New Brooklyn UMC, teaches at Camden County College and collects stadium seats.