This Thirsty Soul Cries

Psalm 63 is so precious to me.  Do you know why?

Because I know what it is like to be in a spiritual desert.  Most of us do, don’t we? 

David wrote this Psalm when he was running for his life.  A refugee in the middle of the wilderness, hiding in caves.  He had enemies that wanted nothing more than to see him dead.  Sometimes he didn’t know which friends he could trust and which he couldn’t.  

Sometimes I feel like Satan is after me like that.  Sometimes I feel like he wants nothing more than to see me dead, or at least spiritually immobilized.

And in the middle of the desert where David was living perpetually hungry and thirsty, his thirst drove him to God.


“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my flesh longs for you; my soul faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

He longs for more than just facts about God — He longs for the near presence of God.  Facts about God apart from His presence are lifeless and dry.  Theology that is satisfying is infused with the nearness of God.  David’s physical thirst reminded him of how thirsty he was for God.  He was desperate.  As desperate as a parched person who will drink from the most disgusting water sources simply because they are wet.  I think of the American soldiers forced to march 65 miles on Bataan to prison camps during WWII.  They were forced to march day and night without stopping, or eating or drinking, and they were immediately shot if they fell out of line.  But some of them were so thirsty that they jumped out of line at the first sight of water because their thirst had driven them crazy.  They were shot in an attempt to get a drink from pools of water that were rank from animal waste and stagnation.  How many of us have ever wanted God that desperately?  God is the Fountain of living waters, not some stagnant pool, and He invites us to come and drink without fear of retribution.  When was the last time we would have done anything to have more of Him?


The amazing thing is that David doesn’t end with his desperation.  He offers the response of his godly heart to his thirst for God.

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”

His response to his longing for God was to gaze on God.  He went to the place where the presence of God was most likely to be found — the sanctuary.  But David was in the wilderness!  How could he go to the tabernacle when he was running for his life?  The answer — David’s own life had become a sanctuary.  His heart was directed toward God so that it became a place where God could draw close.  Do our hearts have that same sense of sweet God-ward direction?  Oh I want mine to!!  David beheld God’s power and glory.  He remembered the way that God had powerfully worked in his life to display His own glory — and then he spent time gazing, meditating on God’s glory. 

That gaze revealed a singular truth to David that caused his heart to praise.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”

David spends time gazing and gazing on God’s power and glory, and what does he come away with?  GOD LOVES HIM.  God’s glory and power don’t alarm him; they showcase God’s love to him!  What kind of love?  One that is better, of higher quality, sweeter, more excellent than life itself.  And suddenly he can do nothing but praise.  Hand raising is biblical!  It is a response of worship to seeing God for who He truly is.  To gaze on God’s power and glory for ourselves, we lift our eyes to the cross — where infinite power and glory are displayed in the defeat of hell and death, all out of LOVE!  Beholding God is where we begin seeing Him for who He truly is, and seeing Him engenders praise.  What a new way of reading the Bible!  When we see God in His Word, we begin to desire His presence, to see His power and glory;  and that vision translates into praise.  Do we want to praise Him?  If not, it is probably because we haven’t spent enough time looking at Him, seeing Him, worshipping Him.  It is probably because my vision of God needs to be adjusted to be more in line with Scripture.

Then David changes his metaphor from thirst to hunger.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,”

 After weeks in a cave in the middle of a desert, I am sure he had days when he didn’t know where his next meal would come from.  But even while the pit in his stomach grew, his soul sighed with the deep satisfaction.  Meditating on God was a feast to David’s soul.  In the middle of the night, when for whatever reason he was awake, he shifted his gaze to God.  He turned his anxiety and hunger and pain into satisfaction and praise by thinking on God.  I know there are nights when all of us lay awake  anxious, sad, afraid, and longing?  How often do we turn those moments into sweet meditation and joyful praise?

“for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

David’s praise once again arises from God’s character and work on his behalf.  David had such an unshakable confidence that he was being held in the loving protection of God. God’s shelter and support let songs of joy flow from him in the middle of the desert, in the middle of his race for his life.  He was confident that God was on his side, helping him, protecting him, upholding him.  How much more should we have that same confidence when God has explicitly promised those things to us and secured them with the death of his Son? God always over-delivers on His promises.  And when we think about how extravagant those promises are, we have every reason to hope in Him! David was clinging to God, but realized at the same time that his security wasn’t dependent on his grip.

He ends the Psalm by talking about the way that God will utterly defeat all of his enemies.  No one can stand against him because God is for him.  Paul says the same thing about us in Romans 8:32 — “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

You know why we feel so discouraged so often? Because so many times in the desert, we don’t run to the sanctuary.  I have found that so often my first response is to turn to the world instead.  So thirsty, I run to the world to alleviate my thirst rather than looking to the glory and power and beauty of Christ.  It is the same thing that Jeremiah talked about, “My people have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and have hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”  (Jeremiah 2:13).  The devastating result is that the world dulls my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and makes it harder to see the beauty and satisfaction of Christ, the only thing that can truly satisfy me.  I feast on the world, and in doing so forfeit my only chance to find true satisfaction and true life. 

The solution: the same solution for every spiritual ill.  Look to Jesus.  Run to Jesus.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
(John 4:13b-14).

The Brokenness that Heals

Have you ever felt acutely aware of your own brokenness?  Like something very deep inside of you is broken, and irreparable?  Do you ever feel like you have tried every day to fix yourself, just to wake up later and realize that you are more broken than you were before?

That is where I was at about 1:00 this afternoon.

I found myself there, crying in a professor’s office, trying to face doubt and cynicism with courage and faith, and failing miserably.  Lately I have found myself trapped in a cycle of cynicism and unbelief, unhealthy life patterns, and hopeless pride.  What kind of life do I want?  A vibrant faith expressed in indomitable, feminine courage and compassion.  What do I feel I have? Exactly the opposite.  I desperately needed the fatherly hug and encouragement my prof offered.

Also in that moment, I desperately needed a glimpse of Jesus’ attitude toward people like me.

The Paralytic and Me

I was reminded of the story of the paralytic in John 5.  He had been lying beside a pool for thirty-eight years, hoping that somehow its rumored “magical” powers would heal him.  But his solution failed.  He was too paralyzed to get into the pool fast enough to be healed, if it would have healed him at all.  On top of that, no one even cared enough about him to help him.  Then Jesus came along.  The renowned Healer looked at that crippled man and said, “Do you want to be healed?” (I believe, “Um, YES, duh. And thank you,” is the correct response.)  But the paralyzed man was still so stuck in his human solutions that he said, “But I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool.  How can I be healed?”  He said that to God.  Like, the One who could raise dead people — so dead that they stunk (aka Lazarus).  The paralytic didn’t think he could be healed, not unless Jesus was there to put him in the pool.  He wanted Jesus to empower his man-made solution, but he couldn’t see that Jesus had a much bigger plan, one that didn’t include his superstitious, futile resources.

The truth is, I am just like that guy. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get myself out of my mess so I can get back to Jesus.  But Jesus has come to me.  Jesus came to that man while he was still broken, when he was hopeless, when he had exhausted every human healing resource.  Now Jesus has come to me, and I am trying to use Him to empower my own human answers, when He is looking at me and saying, “Do you want to be healed??”

What I need is not another fabricated solution.  I need Jesus Himself.  I need to say “YES! I want to be healed!” And then I need Him to reach down His hand and lift me to my feet. To say, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”

The LORD Who Heals

Jesus is Yahweh Rapha — the self-sufficient, promise-keeping God who heals.  He has reached so far into our brokenness that He even took on the likeness of our sinful flesh in order to restore us.  He is no stranger to the fragmented nature of our existence — “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  The most happy, most perfect One, entered into our pain and restored us by being broken Himself.  “He took bread and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body that is given for you’” (Luke 22:19).  “With His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).  The hands that reach down to heal us are scarred, and their mutilation is their deepest beauty.  Jesus feels the deepest aches of our humanity, the desperation of our ineffective self-efforts to find peace.  And He doesn’t deride us for the duct tape that we put repeatedly on the cracks of our souls because we thought it could fix everything.  Instead, He gently peels it off and says, “Do you want to be healed?”

Every morning I wake up and take an anti-depressant pill.  I have a tangible reminder every day that my body and my mind and my emotions are broken.  Part of it is humiliating — I am too proud to admit that I need help.  The other part of it is thankfulness-producing — God has used the miracle of man-made drugs to help me.  However, my hope does not lie in resources crafted by human ingenuity.  It lies in my Lord Jesus.  He is the master of metamorphosing our pain into beauty.

Yet the fact remains that in this fallen world, part of me will always be broken, and I will constantly desire to be fully restored.  That final restoration will come, in the glory of heaven where in perfect wholeness I will worship at mutilated feet, be lifted up by pierced hands, and hug a body with a gashed side.  There, where I will forever be reminded of the brokenness that healed me.

It Starts with Us

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“When?”  The whisper in my soul is louder than a jet plane.  For weeks I have been irritated — no, beyond that — I have been deeply disturbed by how much hate I see in the name of love.  And not just from the world; from those who claim to be followers of Jesus — the one who said His people would be known by their love.  I have even felt traces of this sentiment in my own heart.  I want to see change, but I’ve wondered what can be done.  We are afraid.  Living in the middle of a seismic culture shift, we are afraid that the ground is disappearing beneath our feet, and so we are grasping at anything that will maintain our fantasy that this nation is somehow still Christian.

Again I heard it. “When?”  When what?  I see marches and protests in the name of everything anti-Christian on TV.   When will all this be over?  When will Jesus’ kingdom come and true peace be experienced under His perfect rule?  This cultural earthquake is part of the groaning that I feel, groaning for the creation to be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

When?

But the question goes deeper than that.  It is personal.  When will I?  When will I what?  What could I do anyway?  I didn’t know.  So I did what I sometimes do when I have a question I can’t answer but I’m feeling too lazy to think through it.  I ignored it and got on Facebook.

How many more articles did I see outlining everyone’s opinion on women’s rights, the refugee crisis, abortion, politics… you know what I mean.  I have no idea.  But I do know that in the middle of my frustration, the answer started to dawn on me.   

When will I let my desire for change change me?

Then the answers in the form of questions flooded me so fast that I could hardly keep up.

When will I personally choose to not be afraid but to courageously love the person who seems to be threatening me?  When will the Gospel take priority over my comfort?  When will my heavenly citizenship take priority over my earthly one?

When will I care more about the person sitting across from me than I do about the rights I think I deserve?  When will I audaciously fight for the Biblical rights that person should have no matter the effect on my own?

When am I going to look into the eyes of the desperate refugee, and see a person rather than a stereotype?  What about the illegal immigrant, my LGBT friends, my Muslim neighbor, the unwed pregnant girl, her unborn child?  When will I refuse to jump on a bandwagon shouting “Black Lives Matter” or even “All Lives Matter,” and instead look a person in the eyes and say “Friend, YOUR LIFE MATTERS.  You matter, because you are loved by God. You are important, and I love you.”  Because the truth is, often our rhetoric is just a socially beneficial way of saying “my life matters.”  And our lives in service to Christ have never been about us.

When?

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When will I relinquish my “right” to be well thought of?  When will I love people by speaking the truth even if I am misrepresented as a bigot or a homophobe or a culturally-irrelevant, Bible-thumping zealot?

When will I step back from the hate and the mockery, and find the true Gospel love that popular culture cannot comprehend?  When will I realize that love cannot be sacrificed on the altar of conviction, and that I must do the work to hold the two in tension?  When will I realize that our freedom cannot be maintained by denying freedom to others, and that we will be most hopeful when we are a beacon of hope to the world?  

When will I, like Jesus, lay down my life for others, rather than grasping for it as it slips through my fingers? 

When will I realize that a culture shift starts with one person choosing to make the right decision and inspiring everyone around them to do the same?  

When will I realize that I am the only person whose actions I can control, and that the change has to start within me before it can ripple out? 

The time is now.  You and I are the next generation.  It starts with us.  Love, freedom, truth, grace, and evangelism in this generation start with us.  We will live in fear until we learn to love freely out of our titanium confidence in God’s secure hold of us.  Perfect love casts out fear.

When?  When will I?

When will you?

Liquid Life

I gave blood today. It’s now the fourth time I’ve done it, and every time I’ve been so sweetly reminded of the gospel through this beautiful picture.  We give blood, “liquid life” as the phlebotomist called it, and there is no substitute.  Man has not to date been able to come up with a material that has the ability of God-made blood to keep us alive. It reminds me of Horatius Bonar’s statement, “No other blood will do” (“Not What My Hands Have Done”).  As I watch them stick a needle under my skin, into my veins, that dusky fluid begins to flow — flow from my veins into those of someone else. Healthy blood, taking the place of sick blood. Rich, dark life and health flowing into someone whose only chance of living lies in someone else’s life.  It makes me stop and think; and then turn away my eyes from my own sacrifice to see one far greater.  With my soul’s eyes I behold the lifeblood of the holy Son of God running down a splintery piece of wood.

And He didn’t just give enough to be okay as long as He ate a Little Debbie cake afterwards. No, He didn’t give just enough to be safe; He gave it all. He gave every last drop of life in His body. Oh, and His blood is so much more valuable than mine.  Mine gives life to one person, and even then, that person’s life will not last forever. His has given life to millions, and will never lose it’s glorious, life-giving power until all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more. I give my blood because He gave His. His righteous blood pours over my sin-sick soul and restores health.  It covers and washes away my sin, as my Father looks at me and sees only the life of Him who died for me.  Life — liquid life, and more than that — flowed from His death, and brings life to my self-inflicted death.

“My God, why would you shed Your blood, so pure and undefiled, to make a sinful one like me Your chosen precious child?” (Sovereign Grace Music, “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed?”)

I bore a needle.  He bore three nails and a spear. Mine was a humanitarian gesture that cost me thirty minutes and earned me a t-shirt.  His was a sacrifice beyond comparison that cost more than can be imagined and earned the souls of the redeemed of all ages –people who will stand around His throne and forever worship Him for the scars from those nails.

My arm is wrapped, and every time I see this purple bandage, I see an object lesson of the most precious blood ever given. I am reminded of the most glorious sacrifice ever made. And I bow my head in worship and grateful adoration to Him whose blood was was much more than blood cells and plasma — it was the hope of the world.

“O the blood of Jesus washes me!
O the blood of Jesus shed for me!
What a sacrifice that saved my life.
O the blood of Jesus washes me!”
(Selah, “O the Blood”)