Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16

In a world so full of pressure, stress, uncertainty and anxiety, it’s hard to believe that anything is secure. Powerful leaders come and go, nations rise and fall, banks and high level companies bite the dust, role models and figures lose their credibility in the public eye – is anything really secure in this world?

Well, I can think of one thing. If you answered – “The promise of eternal life in Heaven for those who believe in Christ,” we have a winner! This is a promise you can take to the bank, take out a safety deposit box and put away, because God doesn’t break His promises.

I love David’s choice of words, describing his feeling when God is beside Him. “I will not be shaken.” The confidence he had in God, especially in some of the circumstances he faced, persecution from Saul, his sins with Bathsheba and the subsequent fallout – to say “I will not be shaken” in the face of th storm can be hard! Sometimes I feel like I just crumble like an old chocolate chip cookie, unwilling to reach out to the LORD, asking for help, praying and speaking with God.I just throw up my hands in exasperation and give up on whatever is facing me instead of dealing with it. The easy way out.

Through everything that life has thrown my way, in times of great stress and even in times of success, I have confidence that God’s promise of eternal life – the hope of something greater – will never be shaken, and in return, I too will never be shaken, especially when it comes to standing up and defending Christ! He will never abandon me at the grave, leave me in times of great trial or desert me when I need Him most. Although it may not feel like it sometimes, He is always watching, working and loving. How comforting is that?

It’s funny, I was just having this conversation with a friend today. We get so caught up in what we have, what we can buy, which status we are involved in, and then get depressed when something doesn’t go our way. Instead, we should focus on Christ, because He is the only thing we need to survive. Not cars, houses and toys. Jesus. In this, we can take confidence and great joy, because our Savior is enough!

So take heart today! Jesus loves you, and that’s all that matters. Even when things seem like they are bumping around, moving around the board and shuffling uncontrollably, the fact of the matter is if you believe in Christ, you are about as safe and secure as it comes! Amen! I will not be shaken!

Don’t let the title of this post fool you, I’m not saying that the book of Psalms is a book of clichés, it’s actually quite the opposite. The reason why I settled on this title is because Psalms is truly the polar opposite of many of my own prayers to God, you know which ones I’m talking about!

“Dear LORD, I thank you for this day and everything you bless us with. Thank you for [insert praise here]. Please be with [insert prayer request here] …”

Sound familiar? God hears our prayers, but I wonder how much feeling goes into the prayers when we use the same template for everything we do? It’s interesting to think about. Psalms are a collection of praises, prayer requests and songs of worship that defy every cliché because each one is spoken from the heart and with meaning. The language is so rich and filled with passion (mostly from David in tonight’s reading), it’s easy to see that the authors mean what they are saying.

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor; You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth! – Psalm 8:4-9

It would take forever to go through he many examples that stood out to me, not only because of the sheer quantity, but also there are so many different types of Psalm – requesting justice, praising God’s name, predicting Jesus’ arrival (Messianic psalm), and others, there is just too much to talk about, so what’s the point tonight?

In tonight’s reading, I go back to David, and compare his honesty to my own before God. Here is a man who bore it all before his God. He let it all hang out! He wore his heart on his sleeve, said what wa son his mind, and got it all out to God, who heard him and blessed him. I may not be a King of Israel, but when I pray to God, where is my passion? Where is my earnestness? Where is my zeal?

Most of the time, it’s probably not even there. It’s easy to get sucked into a routine of prayer. Isn’t that an oxmoronic statement? Prayer is anything but routine! We are talking directly to the creator of the universe! That’s routine?

This was a good intro tonight into the lengthy book of Psalms. I get the feeling this will be a good lesson for me as to how to pray, how to worship and praise, and how to approach our God in times of great joy, as well as great sorrow and trial. It’s good to repeatedly thank God for the blessings in my life, but I see the danger in creating clichés that take away from the earnestness of my one-on-one interaction with God. It’s time to avoid the same old clichés, and approach the LORD with my soul available, no secrets, no lies, no routine!

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken. “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. – Job 38:4-18

The world revolves around me. My knowledge of the world and the circumstances I experience are all that I know. It’s such a limiting statement, and kind of makes me sound immature. The phrase “The world revolves around you,” is a sarcastic way of reminding someone of their arrogance, conceit or self-involvement. If someone were to come and ask us if we are any of these things, I bet many would deny it. But the truth is, in the grand scheme of existence, we are all defined by the experiences we endure and enjoy.

When Job and his friends finally finish speaking to one another, God explodes onto the scene in a great storm cloud, reminding Job about who He is, peppering him with a flurry of questions no human can answer. Who created the heavens and the earth? Who else has the power to control the elements, nature, creation, the tides and the mountains? Who else has dominion over the earth? Who else can create the stars and constellations in the immense vacuum of space? Who can count the grains of sand on the earth and the clouds in the sky? Who controls the storehouses of snow and hail and lightning? Who else has dominion over the beasts of the earth? What is man compared to the strongest of animals on the planet, nevermind God Himself?

It’s a lengthy lesson for Job, and really, for us, in establishing just how superior God is in comparison to man. God’s words here were not meant to boast to Job or make him feel any smaller. They were spoken to teach Job that God controls everything, and nothing is too big or too small for Him to care about, including Job. It’s interesting to note that God never explains Himself to Job. He never has to, and that, I believe is the most important lesson here. God may never give us complete, or even partial, answers, but the lesson is simply to trust in the God that created everything, including us.

Tough lesson! There have been so many times I have longed for answers for why certain circumstances have come my way. Knowing they may never come this side of eternity has been a struggle, but I know I serve a God bigger than my worries, a God larger than my sorrows and worries, and a God who reigns sovereign over everything in existence. Who am I to question? The wounds may be painful, but my entire life, everything I know, is only the smallest possible piece of the pie compared to the glory of God who loves me.

Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you. – Job 40:8-14

It may hurt our pride to admit it, but we have no right to question God’s decisions, as much as it hurts, we don’t have the power to judge God or the right to ask why. God actions have no dependence on our own. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care – it simply means that God has the entire picture on his view screen, not the minuscule slice of life we are able to see. Next time you are struggling with a tough situation, a desperate time, or a time of great sorrow – don’t demand answers in your pride. Draw close to God, submit in humility, and He will provide His comfort in the best way He sees fit. We are merely the smallest piece of the puzzle. The sooner we recognize where we stand, the sooner we can come to a place of acceptance that God is sovereign! Take heart in this, and be comforted!

Job was an interesting read. It took me a little longer to get through it than I expected, but I suspect that was for a reason. Perhaps God wanted me to meditate on Job for longer because of some of the circumstances I have faced in my own life. Job’s speeches seemed like exaggerated versions of things I have said to God in my own time during especially tough times … it’s funny because after reading this, I feel that from the beginning, I should have said only what Job said to God and left it at that – but I guess hindsight is 20/20:

“I am unworthy, how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.”

Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge? You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind,can you join him in spreading out the skies,hard as a mirror of cast bronze? “Tell us what we should say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness. Should he be told that I want to speak? Would any man ask to be swallowed up? Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart? – Job 37:14-24

It has been a while now since I have updated the Odyssey. It has been a combination of things really, to many to list here, but I suppose they could all be considered excuses. So, rather than list the plethora of issues that kept me away from my Odyssey, I will simply say, let’s get back to it! You know, it’s funny how Satan tries to keep me away from God’s Word. Well, maybe “funny” is the wrong word, because it’s very serious. But looking back on the last two weeks since I have given an update, I can see how Satan has worked to keep me away, and I have to say, I was an easy target, so here’s to a renewed commitment to this Odyssey, and a steadfast spirit as I continue to navigate through God’s Word.

I am continuing in Job for the next couple days, than it’s off into Psalms (where I should be a few chapters deep by now, I have some catching up to do!) – but nevertheless, these last few chapters in Job are offering up some valuable lessons we can all glean from. Job’s young friend, Elihu, who is speaking in the passage above, is reminding his friend – unlike his trio of other friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – that God is God, and Job is not, and it is wise to simply trust that tha all-powerful God of the universe, the all-powerful God that created everything, is in control. It’s a statement that must be accepted on faith alone, and Job knows, underneath all his grief and sorrow, that his young friend is correct.

All too often, we think we have all the right answers and we presume to speak on God’s behalf, whether it is backed up by Scripture or not. We put words in His mouth, take Him for granted and in Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar’s case, they assumed that God’s silence meant that God was either not there or felt no concern for Job at all because of his sin. But God makes it very clear that He indeed does care. Why would He create the world, and all living things in it if He didn’t care? Elihu was spewing a ton of spiritual truth toward Job – that faith in God is far more important than his desire for an explanation for his suffering. It’s interesting that God chooses this point in the discussion to break in directly. Tomorrow’s reading will take me through the rest of the book, in which God directly speaks to Job, comforts him and eventually, restores him. But for tonight, Elihu’s words hit Job in the face like a right hook.

Who are we to demand answers from God?  If God decides to give them to us, He will give them to us. Do we claim to be on the same level as God? Do we know how to make the clouds in the sky? Instead of demanding answers for what has happened in our lives, we need to hold fast to the faith that God is working everything out for His glory. It’s simply a matter of faith.It will make accepting our circumstances a whole lot easier once we recognize who we are, and where God stands in comparison.

What more can be said about Job’s situation that hasn’t already been said? Today’s reading, which was pretty much one long, continuous speech by Job maintaining his righteousness before God, was walking a fine line between bragging about his lack of sin and truthful confessions of innocence. One can see the struggle present in Job’s heart as he grappled with his suffering despite his righteousness. He knew that contrary to his friend’s assertions, the trouble that was befalling him was not because of some great unforgiven sin that was lingering in his life. Little by little, he was coming to the understanding – while still longing for an explanation – that he may never get one.

Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud. “And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest. In his great power God becomes like clothing to me; he binds me like the neck of my garment. He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes. “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm. I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living. – Job 30:15-23

Is that not one of the most depressing pieces of Scripture you have ever read? So many things wrong with this picture, but I find myself understanding this brutally honest assertion more and more once I put myself into his shoes. To a man who has lost everything despite being a righteous man, one can only then assume that God has made him His enemy. It isn’t true, obviously, but Job was desperate, and although he believed in the LORD, his faith in his saving grace was beginning to falter, it seems.

I have to give credit to Job here. These feelings may have been irrational, but they were honest! Confessing these things before God is what He wants. He wants us to bring our problems to Him, the raw, brutal feelings we feel in our darkest moments, God can help us heal when we bring these things to Him! Even if they are irrational God will eventually set us right if we focus on Him alone.

On a more encouraging note, I found a great few verses earlier on in the passage that almost have a motivational quality to them. Obviously, we live with sin in our lives, but this is a great proclamation of a man who lived according to God and proclaimed His name. Speaking in response to his three friends (“I will never admit you are in the right”) he refutes their claims of hidden sin, speaks honestly about his innocence before God, and holds true to his faith. Although I can’t claim to be “righteous” by any means, I hope I too can someday say honestly that I will “not speak wickedness” and “utter no deceit.”

As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. -Job 27:2-6

Moving along through Job over the last couple of nights, I am really starting to get an understanding about how fundamentally flawed the thinking was of Job’s friends as they argued with Job about his alleged “sinful life” that deserved the wrath that was being poured out on him. Why was this happening? Why to Job, a man of God?

The simple answer? Maybe Job isn’t as close to God as he claims. Maybe he has some forbidden sin he is hiding that is wreaking this havoc in his life. That’s the only explanation isn’t it?

Not necessarily. It is clear in Scripture that the things that happened were a test of his faith, and Job was walking dangerously close to the line of doubt. But his motives were pure. Underneath it all, he believed. He was broken by his circumstances, but instead of giving in to the foolish “wisdom” of his friends, he stuck true to his beliefs, held fast to the promises of God, as hard as it was, and drew close to Him.

The simple truth is – sometimes God allows terrible things to happen to His people. It’s a fact of life that we should accept, and I think I have a good reason why. Picture this life. You are an unbeliever, and the Holy Spirit works in your life, and you find yourself on your knees at the Throne of Grace, and Jesus comes into your heart, making you a new creation. Now, your life is great. Your house suddenly has a mortgage paid in full, your health immediately improves, everyone likes you, your bank account multiplies exponentially, your boss gives you a raise, you lose 50 pounds overnight, life is good! God blesses you like no one ever before. Does that sound like a life that requires faith? It sounds like a life filled with fulfilled superficial wishes and a god in a genie’s bottle. But where’s the faith?

Faith comes in when all other explanations fail. True faith expresses itself when the world labels you irrational, when all the chips are down and you find yourself facing trials and tribulations. To you, God’s voice may be faint, or even seemingly nonexistent. The storms are so loud and turbulent, you feel like you are going to get thrown overboard. Faith is the lifeline that connects you to God when nothing else will, and as it says in James 1:3, “…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” In a perfect, charmed life in a perfect world, where is your faith ever tested? What good is faith if we are never expected to use it?

So many people think that when they start living for God, that their lives are going to get “easier,” when actually, the opposite hold more truth. The difference is that when crises hit, we have a God that we can rest in and give us peace, that can calm the storms in our lives. For Job, it took some serious soul-searching, and judging by the chapters that lie ahead, he is nowhere near done with his deep, dark thoughts, but like Job, we can rest in the fact that God is God, and we are not, and even when bad things happen to good people, it is part of a bigger plan that we may not understand. And once we come to the realization that we can and will not understand everything that happens to us, the more comfort we will  be able take when those bad things happen to us.

These next few days, I’m continuing on in Job, more specifically, the discussions Job is having with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, about the reasons behind his great suffering. Is it wrong that part of me is screaming at these three “friends” to just SHUT UP!? My goodness, talk about piling it on!

There is one key element that sticks out to me in these three chapters, and it’s Eliphaz’s explanation of what wisdom is: Here’s a snippet:

What do you know that we do not know? What insights do you have that we do not have? The gray-haired and the aged are on our side, men even older than your father. – Job 15:9-10

Just because someone is old doesn’t make them wise. Sorry to all you grandpas out there! If you are 80 and your wisdom doesn’t come from God, then you aren’t wise! Simple as that! The problem with the three “Super Friends” in Job, was that for some reason, because they were pretty successful dudes, they were looked upon as prosperous and wise in God’s eyes, thinking that their earthly success meant that they were living their lives correctly. Human successes have nothing to do with it. Some of the most evil people in the world are successful, wealthy, popular and live an easy life. That doesn’t make them right with God.

Job pointed out these flawed point of view to his friends – bringing the point home that his help comes from the LORD, even in the tough times, and in his case, the absolute toughest of times.

As a quick sidenote – The conversations between Job and his friends last for nearly 30 chapters in Job. Obviously, the conversation gets more and more heated, his friends aren’t very helpful, and Job even calls them “miserable comforters!” Let’s put ourselves in Job’s shoes here. If you have just lost everything, and instead of being comforted, you find yourself being berated and accused, wouldn’t you exit this conversation much sooner than Job did? Job must have shown extraordinary patience, but it also perfectly set up God’s intervention (which is coming up later) and rebuking of the three friends. If Job simply left the conversation, his friends could have just gone on living the way they were living. Funny how God sets everything up for its natural resolution.

By the way, this book is pretty depressing so far! is a ton of dark imagery. Job is bordering on suicidal at the moment, welcoming death with open arms. Pretty dark stuff, but for Job, even though he is miserable, it isn’t about what he had and what he lost, it’s about Who he knows, and there is a reason why Who has a capital W.