Preserve Me, O God – Psalm 16:1

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.”
Psalm 16:1

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him;
for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”

1 John 3:19-20

Reading this morning, my heart saw a new application in this verse from Psalm 16. A cry not only to be protected in difficulty or held together through heartache, but, “O God, preserve me as Yours.”

For the times when I want to follow consistently, to live a life marked with righteousness and worthy of Christ’s gospel, but feel so aware of my failures. When, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7, I do not do the good that I want, but rather I do what I hate. Those moments when my heart condemns me, when my iniquities seem more than the hairs of my head and I feel helpless to overcome (Psalm 40:12).

And then there are the seasons when I struggle to feel much of anything…when numbness seems to pervade my spirit and I feel as Job did, “Behold, I go forward, but [God] is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive Him; on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him” (Job 23:8-9).

Yet it is in this same passage in Job – in the next line, even – where we can see hope break through: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

Because our God still sees us. Even if we can’t perceive Him, He is at work, for our good and His glory. And He is still here, even if we feel trapped in condemnation. Then – even and especially in these times – we can take refuge in our God. The One who died for us. The One who has remade and is remaking us. Who has saved and is saving and will save – because He will never lose one of His own. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

We can come before our God, asking Him to preserve us in His love. To preserve us in His life. To preserve us in salvation and in the hope – the confident, steadfast hope, grounded in His unchanging word and absolute promise – that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Every space within us filled with light. No crevice overlooked. All filled with all the goodness and glory and fullness of Christ, our Savior God who fills all in all.

We take refuge whenever our heart condemns us, because our God is greater than our heart and “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For God has done what the law could not do – through His Son, He made a way to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (Romans 8:1-3, 1 John 1:9).

So we can say, in humility and faith, in brokenness and thankful praise, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.”

“I have set the LORD always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let Your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16:8-11

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:33-39

No Other – Isaiah 45:22

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.”

Isaiah 45:22

I’ve been pondering this morning the goodness of God.

How is it that the living God, Creator and Most High of the universe, He who made and rules over all things – the only God who exists – is so perfectly good?

That in Him is light, and no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

That He is holy and righteous and pure and good, gentle and loving and kind (Psalm 145:9, 17).

He shows grace, compassion, and mercy (Psalm 103:8, 11-13).

He desires relationship with us, to heal all our brokenness and make us whole (Acts 2:39).

So that in relationship with Him, we can be assured that we need not seek approval or value through anything or anyone else. We are loved greatly, steadfastly by the personal God whose magnificence and power and goodness are unsearchable.

We can rest in Him, secure. Because He will never leave or fail or forget us, even for a moment (Isaiah 44:21).

Amazing, isn’t it, that this is the God who is real? A God who draws near to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3)? The God who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in His majesty (Deuteronomy 33:26)? The God who calls out each star by name and who has your name engraved on His hands (Isaiah 40:26; 49:16)?

He is the God who knows us. He is the God who wove us together in intricate detail (Psalm 139:15). He is the God who sees us, hears our cries, and captures our tears in a bottle (Genesis 16:13; Psalm 56:8). He is the God who saves us – not by mere distant command, but by sending His only Son to endure the end consequences of our rebellion.

This is the God who created galaxies. Who set the stars in place. Who paints sunsets and sunrises across our skies. And who makes the sun rise in our hearts, filling our dark spaces with His glorious light when we choose to trust Him and accept His offered salvation through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Wherever you are today, whatever circumstances you face, however your emotions may be wavering, let your heart rest in this: the one, true, living God sees you. He desires a relationship with you. When we trust in Jesus Christ, we can approach God’s throne without fear, knowing we will find only love, grace, and compassion in His presence (Hebrews 4:16). And no matter what you’re going through, no matter how you feel in a moment, He is always with you. His love is constant, and His Spirit abides in you.

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
He upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 146:5-9

Justice and Salvation – Luke 15:10

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:10

“…As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways”

Ezekiel 33:11a

Reading a devotion by Charles Spurgeon this morning, two lines really resonated as I read them:

“…that He, the offended God, should then be willing to receive the vilest of the vile, this is marvelous.”
“When Jesus receives sinners, He has not some out-of-doors reception place…
but He…receives the sinner right into Himself.”

What great hope is here. What great love. The great, infinitely holy God – Creator of all, Giver of life, sovereign Ruler of the universe – willingly and rejoicingly receives sinners.

This extends beyond those who commit “small” sins, though they need salvation just as desperately. It reaches – He reaches – to include “the vilest of the vile.” Those whose eyes many of us would refuse to meet. Those who have committed acts so wicked, our hearts cry out for justice and break for those so wronged. Those we might rejoice to see destroyed, declaring justice done.

Jesus Christ came for them as well. God reaches to receive them as well, if they will hear His call, turn from their wickedness, and trust in the marvelous hope that is Christ. These will be received and all of heaven will rejoice: a sinner has been saved, a child brought home, a soul awakened to life! Glory be to the Lamb whose blood has ransomed and rescued this soul for God!

And for all who trust Him, whatever our level of darkness and sin, Jesus receives each of us personally. It is not a casual reception; He receives us into Himself. One with Him and with God, abiding in the vine and in His love, that our joy may be full.

Our desires and our actions for justice are not wrong – they are a reflection of the image of God in us, our God who is just and will one day right every wrong and rid the world of all darkness. But let us rejoice greatly that the cross is justice as well. It is justice for me, for you, for each one who turns to Christ. God extends grace and mercy to us, life and freedom, because justice has been fully satisfied. Christ’s death was enough. Christ’s death was required, and it covers us fully. Justice will be fully done, either finished at the cross, or in an individual if they reject this great and costly salvation.

Oh, let us pray fervently for each to accept Him! May our heart’s cry be that they will turn to Christ, for the salvation of their soul, the redemption of their story, for the glory of God.

Lord God, give us a heart for all people, that our greater desire will be that these people whom You love so greatly and for whom You gave Your life will accept the salvation offered through Your cross. May we abundantly rejoice to see sinners – even the vilest of the vile – give their lives to You, forever covered by the grace of God. This is Your heart.
O Lord, make it our heart as well.

God of Mystery – Romans 11:33

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!”

Romans 11:33

“I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.”

Isaiah 45:19

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13

Our God is one of mystery. As I began reading Scripture this morning, I was reminded that I cannot peel back the layers of God’s glory on my own. Revelations of who He is must come from God Himself – for He is infinite. He is great and glorious and so much more than our eyes can see and our minds can comprehend. So we search for Him and we try to understand, but our understanding is entirely dependent on what He enables us to see.

This could cause one to feel helpless or desperate. But praise God, He wants us to know Him! He has placed the desire in our hearts, and as He said in Isaiah 45:19, He does not tell us to seek Him in vain. No, we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. But it must be real. We can’t half-heartedly seek to know who God is and not put it as much of a priority. We need to be determined here. Making the choice to seek. Crying out to Him, reading His Word, humbling our hearts at His throne. When we truly do so, He will unveil His glory. And it will only take the briefest glimpse to fill our hearts with wonder and make our souls rejoice.

While contemplating this, I read Hebrews 3:15: “As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’” It occurred to me how hurtful it would be to have someone harden their heart when you try to reveal a part of you. And I started to think through moments when we might choose to harden our hearts against God’s revelation of Himself.

– Hardening against difficult circumstances, which were purposed to show us how personal and faithful and powerful our God is.

– Hardening against His Word because it challenges us to make different choices, to live and act and react differently.

– Hardening because we want more control.

– Or perhaps simply choosing not to come to Him. Not considering a closer relationship – and the opportunity to behold His glory – worth making the time.

How sad. That we would miss out on glory and wonder and the revelation of who God is by hardening ourselves against it or choosing something else. I know I’ve done it.

But there is hope here. Because God has not given up on us. “O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:21b-22).

We have a God whose splendor exceeds that of the heavens. One of whom is written, “He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:4-5). Yet He is ours. He is not distant, but chooses to draw near. Near enough to dwell within us as Spirit, revealing truth and glory to us if we will only seek Him and listen.

This great God, Creator and Sustainer of all that there is, the One who knows the beginning and end of all things and has purposed each season according to His goodness, grace, and wisdom – He wants to be known by us. And for us to be filled with all the fullness of God as we realize the depth of His great love which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).

So let us seek Him today with our whole heart. May the verses below be our prayer as we come to Him not out of hopeless desperation, but in faith that when we truly seek Him, He will be found.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of Your law…
The unfolding of Your word gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.”
Psalm 119:18, 130

“Morning by morning He awakens;
He awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.”
Isaiah 50:4b-5

Righteousness and Grace – Romans 10:4

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Romans 10:4

In a devotion I read this morning, dwelling on the covenant God has made with us through Christ, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “[God’s people] see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but this [new covenant] they perceive to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the strain, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the topstone.”

It is all grace.

My mind was drawn to the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans. For so long, the law was the measure of righteousness. But Christ brought an end to this. The law is no longer our righteousness – He is. It is as the prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries before: “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:6).

The LORD our God is our righteousness. Because Jesus Christ has ascribed His righteousness to us. Our hope, our salvation, rests not on what we do, but on who our Savior is. Our Savior who chose to be perfected in that role through deep suffering. Our Savior in whom is no darkness, no sin, no betrayal or failure or change. He is enough, and His sacrifice is enough to cover our every wrong.

It can be so easy to measure ourselves by how closely we’re keeping the law. But let us remember – that is not who we are. Our identity is in Christ. We are the people and the family of God. Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We are loved and indwelt by the Spirit of God Himself. And we are righteous because we have chosen to believe in the Righteous One, whose blood has covered our sin and who has turned God’s wrath to favor toward us. Only favor. Only grace. Only steadfast, constant, unimaginable love.

I’ve heard Andy Stanley say in a sermon that living according to the law is following a set of rules, but living according to the Spirit is following a person. How true that is. We are followers of Christ. Our task is to trust in Him, look to Him, learn His voice, be sensitive and obedient to His Spirit, and we will find ourselves looking more like Him. Acting like Him. Speaking like Him. For “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Rejoice today. Let the weight be taken off your shoulders. The law, with all of its expectations and requirements, is not your righteousness. Jesus Christ is, and He is with you in each moment. Strengthening you, guiding you, walking with you, and loving you without fail.

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 3:5

Mindful of Us – Psalm 8:3-4

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You care for him?”

Psalm 8:3-4

What is man, that the God who created the heavens, the earth, and all that there is, is mindful of him? What am I, that He is mindful of me?

In Psalm 139:17-18, David declares, “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.” Earlier in the psalm, he writes of how personally God knows him, watches over him, and how constantly He is with him. “The Lord takes thought for me” (Psalm 40:17).

Having known God for a number of years, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of forgetting how wondrous it is that He thinks of me. One person in this world filled with so many. In this tiny speck of time compared to His eternity. Yet He wrote this Word for me. This Bible has words of truth for me. Words which His Spirit makes come alive, resonating their truths in my heart, if I will but listen and allow them to sink in.

He knows my thoughts. He knows my needs. He knows my fears and longings and doubts. And He wants to speak into each one. As He knows and wants to speak into each of yours. Because to Him, to this great God whose glory exceeds the heavens, we are not merely one among many. We are His.

Intricately woven together, with purpose and love. Each quality chosen with specific grace and wisdom. And as we walk through our days, His desire is that we will know Him. That we will seek Him out, as He has sought us in our wilderness.

Jesus died once for all. But the call issued to our hearts is a very personal one as God seeks to draw us to Himself. Not only in an initial moment of our salvation, our first choosing to trust in Christ, but as we walk forward in faith. Because we falter. His purifying, transforming work isn’t finished yet. And so His pursuit continues. Not satisfied to leave us in rebellion or complacency. His love is greater. He wants us to be joy-filled and whole, and He will not let one of His own fall away unnoticed.

He takes thought for us. Right where we are, every moment. Prepared to fight for us, to seek us out, and to carry us back into His presence of peace and hope.

May this bolster your faith today, knowing that the Lord is on your side. He is mindful of you and ready to fight for you and to strengthen you for what is before you. And may it also be a challenge, that there is purpose in your life. There are purposes for which this God has made you, a life into which He is calling you. Listen to Him and respond in obedience and faith. For it is in this faith that you will find the fullest joy and the greatest peace – it is there that you will find Him.

By Name – Numbers 1:1-16

“The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…saying,
‘Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel…
And there shall be with you a man from each tribe…And these are the names of the men who shall assist you…’
These were the ones chosen from the congregation, the chiefs of their ancestral tribes, the heads of the clans of Israel.”

Numbers 1:1-16

The Lord listed these men by name. They were the men chosen for this role. Chosen, by name, by God Himself.

I want us to dwell in the wonder of this.

Because isn’t this how specifically He fits together His church? Seeing the whole picture of what He will accomplish in His kingdom, and piecing each detail, each role together perfectly. Planning far in advance how you, how I, how each one of us will fit.

The Lord intricately wove us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-15). Knowing already the strengths and passions and personality and weaknesses which would fit us into the roles He had planned.

Upon our salvation, our choosing of Him and the Spirit’s making us alive in Christ, He recreated us in Christ Jesus, further equipping us for the good works He had planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

And in 1 Corinthians 12, we see a reference to this beautiful puzzle He’s piecing together: “But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as He chose…Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:18, 27). He arranges each member of His body – each one of us – as He sees fit. In wisdom and authority and grace. He leads us to the place we were made to fill, the place where we bring encouragement and strength and building up to the body of Christ and where we will experience fuller joy and greater satisfaction as we trust in and follow our God’s leading.

The God of heaven knows who you are. He knows your name. He knows your history. He knows your passions and strengths and weaknesses and fears, and all your details. He wove you together in exactly this way, mindful of the roles He would have you fill. Knowing precisely what was needed – and precisely how you would need to depend on Him in the midst of it all.

Because He also doesn’t design us to handle it all on our own. He will equip and empower, but it is in His daily mercies that we must walk. With confidence rooted not in our ability or our training, but ultimately and firmly in who our God is – who this God is who led us here, who made us, who put His God-sized dreams in our heart and has promised He will never leave us. He is our God who opens doors no one can shut and who shuts doors no one can open (Revelation 3:7). Our God who goes before us and is our rear guard (Isaiah 52:12). He does not leave us to go forward on our own, and He will not fail to provide exactly what is needed.

So let us trust Him. Let us cast aside fear and doubt and intimidation, and instead let our heart take courage knowing who our God is, following Him down the path He sets us on and in the roles He calls us to. He knows our name and He has placed us here for such a time as this, choosing our place in His story. And so we confidently join Him in the beautiful, God-glorifying work He has set out to accomplish.