Preach Unto Thyself!

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 97v – Psalm XLI the Musée Condé, Chantilly.  U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1925.

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival. – Psalm 42:1-4 (ESV)

We’ve all been there. Troubled, alone, feeling the world is against us. We cry out for God, but He’s silent.

The psalmist who penned the 42nd Psalm was far from home. He was used to going to the sanctuary in Jerusalem to be close to the presence of God. He understands God is with him, but he struggles.

The people around him give him a hard time about his faith. He longs for the experience of God’s presence. The internal struggle between his hurt and anxiety twists around in his mind with his knowledge that elohiym is present.

As the psalmist laments his situation, he stops to begin preaching to himself;

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

He continues in his sorrow – even recognizing God is his rock, yet feeling abandoned by Him – only to stop again with the same rejoinder:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42:10 (ESV)

The expressions of grief turn to hopeful prayer in Psalm 43 (which is, most likely, simply the end of the same piece that made up Psalm 42). He ends his prayer these words:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 43:5 (ESV)

Anyone see a pattern here?

When we are tempted to wallow in our circumstances, it is good to keep God’s Word hidden in your heart. This way we can use it to preach too ourselves.

To remind us God’s promises.

To remind of just Who He is – and who we are.

To remember God’s grace, mercy, love and strength are limitless.

And, look… God said three times to not be downcast but, instead, hope in Him! To quote my friend Rick, “If God says it three times, you’d better listen.”

So trust the Lord. Trust Him completely. Trust Him entirely. Trust Him alone.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter where you are.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word. – Psalm 119:9-16 (ESV)

(c) 2020 by Chris Courtney. All rights reserved.

Please feel free to share this message with someone who could use a boost.

Please visit http://www.bouvillediarist.com.

Awake and Not Alone

Anxiety, depression and worry are awful to deal with. They can make the world seem hopeless. They drain a person spiritually, mentally and physically. They can cloud our ability to see God, to trust Jesus, to know He is always with us (which He is).

They also can make a sufferer feel profoundly alone. Especially in the middle of the night. There are few things worse than a 2am panic attack or mindful of worrisome thoughts that keep us awake, feeling alone.

If this is you – if you find yourself feeling anxious and alone in the middle of the night – please remember this: you are not alone.

You are never alone.

God is always with you. He will never ever abandon you. He loves you more than you know.

Talk to God. Cry out to Him. Tell Him your fears and doubts. Cast your cares on Him. Trust Him. Trust Him. He is there.

He is with you always.

Rest easy friends. Sleep well. Trust Jesus.

You are loved far more than you know.

And, when we’re awake in the middle of the night, let’s stop and pray for each other.

I pray God’s peace and rest for you.

Trust in Troubled Times

Ahhh… sky so blue. Water so still. If you stop and “listen”, you can almost hear the quiet. The peace. The occasional bird song, or splash of water as a bass swims to the top, briefly breaking the silence.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyday were this peaceful, filled with utter bliss and not a care in the world?

Unfortunately the idyllic is not the norm. Our days are harried and hurried. We have plenty of opportunities to worry and feel anxious. And – let’s face it – the past three months haven’t exactly been easy.

I used to think I’d make a great monk. Removed from the world. Secluded. Separated. Besides, with my balding head and scruffy beard, I already had the whole Friar Tuck look going.

File:The friar took Robin on his back by Louis Rhead 1912.png
Rhead, Louis. “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band: Their Famous Exploits in Sherwood Forest“. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.

I now have a new appreciation for regular, face-to-face human contact.

Even from six feet away.

The truth is, these times are far from peaceful. So many have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, homes… More recently we’ve witnessed racial unrest of unsettling magnitude. (No human being deserves to feel afraid or inferior in a democratic society.)

It’s easy to look at the world around us and think, “Where is God?” The simple truth is: God is still here.

Where He’s been all along.

He’s still the same loving God He’s always been.

And He has it all under control. Nothing will cause His plans to falter. Nothing will make His will fail.

Whatever you are facing today, God is here.

It’s important to remember that God is God and we are not. We are His children, His creation. And just as the clay doesn’t question the potter, neither do we question the Creator.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

It will be health to your flesh,

And strength to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 [NKJV]

Good or bad, everything happens for a purpose. And despite how awful COVID-19 and the riots are, we see God working through His people. People giving of what they have to those who have not. Folks stepping up to help where they can.

That’s not just us. That’s Love. That’s God.

It’s easy to look at our world – sometimes our own lives – and see plenty to worry about. Maybe we just need to learn to say “no” to our worries and anxious thoughts and, instead, choose to trust God. See the beauty of Jesus working through His people.

The message here is simple: keep trusting God. Don’t worry about troubles. Be anxious for nothing. See the Lord even in the bad. Remember all the times God’s been with you in hard times.

Yes, God may give us more than we can handle on our own. He will never give us more than He can handle. So focus on Jesus. Do good in His name.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 [NKJV]

Please feel free to share this piece with anyone you believe would be blessed by it! And, if you haven’t already, please take a moment to like and follow The Bouville Diarist on Facebook and/or Twitter (@bouvillediarist).

Please visit bouvillediarist.com

©2020 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

Immediately Jesus

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:25-32 (NIV)

One of the aspects of studying Scripture I find fascinating is how, no matter how many times you read a particular passage, God reveals something new through His Word.  It never gets stale.  You can apply the lessons of the Bible in so many places, so many ways…

With everything going on these days, this passage from Matthew practically leapt out at me.  The first word that came to mind: focus.  To set the scene, the disciples have just participated in Jesus’ amazing feeding of the five thousand (which was probably more like 15,000, since only the men were counted – not the women and children).  Once this was done, Jesus immediately sent the disciples away on boat (Matthew 14:22).

Why immediately?

Perhaps, like us, His disciples had a tendency to forget the miraculous whenever things got tough.  The troubles of life – and the anxieties and worries these problems bring – are like driving past the scene of an accident.  We can’t help but gawk at the tragedy.

So, while the memories of seeing thousands of people fed with a mere five small loaves of bread and two small fish, of picking up leftovers from this feast, were still fresh in their minds, Jesus – knowing of the impending storm – sent the disciples off by boat immediately.

Immediately.

The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee.  The winds are strong, the storm raging.

And they see an apparition – a ghost out on the choppy waters.

And they are freaked out.  Wouldn’t you be?

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Immediately.

Peter – you gotta love the apostle Peter and how much he loved Jesus – wants so badly for this to really be Jesus that he asks Him, “If you really are Jesus, tell me to walk to you on the water.”  And when Jesus says “come”, Peter jumps out of the boat and goes.

He’s walking on water.  Not just water, a stormy surging lake!  Peter is focused on Christ, and he is walking on water.

But then, shifting his gaze from the Savior to the storm, Peter suddenly realizes he’s walking on water in the midst of a storm.  Fear sets in as he begins to drown.  He cries out for the Lord to save him.

And immediately Jesus grabbed Peter and saved him.

Immediately.

There’s a lot going on these days, a lot of bad – scary – things to grab our attention.  We can easily get caught up in the news and the doom and the gloom.  The situation is rough.  Downright stormy.

And we’re all out in the middle of it, in one way or another.

But look carefully in the storm.  God is there.  He’s never left us.  He hasn’t changed.  He still loves us.  He wants us to walk to Him.  He wants us to keep our focus on Him.  Not what we hear on the news.  Not the turmoil the world is going through right now.

The Lord wants us to step out in faith, knowing He has us in His grip.  Trusting that, if we do find ourselves overwhelmed by the storm, all we need to do is cry out to Jesus to save us.

And He will.

Immediately.

Understanding Beyond…

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonablenessd be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learnede and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

The peace that surpasses all understanding.  A peace of heart beyond our grasp, beyond what makes sense to us.  This is what Jesus offers those who trust in Him.  It is peace that doesn’t rely on circumstances.  Instead, even – especially – in times of trouble, with Jesus we have peace.  We find rest.  We know He is with us through times of uncertainty and anxiety.

Tonight, trust in God.  Rest in His peace.  Let the above passage soak into your soul.  Don’t mull over the troubles we face today but meditate on His Word and the Greatest Truth of God, our Creator and Sustainer.

Sleep well dear friends.  Let God’s love fill you, knowing everything is in the Lord’s hands.

Pinto Beans, Collard Greens and COVID-19

Last night’s family excursion to a nearby Super Duper Bigley Mart was interesting.  The store wasn’t overly busy – certainly not packed.  The mood was calm – not so much peaceful as subdued.  There were no shoppers brawling over the last jar of creamy Jif.

However, at 8:30 on a Saturday night, there wasn’t much on the shelves to fight over.  The bread selection was sparse.  The flour was gone, except for the oddball varieties like quinoa flour that cost $7.00 per 8 ounce package.  Hamburger, hot dogs (except for a few packs of Nathan’s), cheese… gone.  Frozen vegetables?  Fogetaboutit.

Canned veggies didn’t fair much better.  Although the couple in front of us at the checkout managed to load up a cart full of canned pinto beans and collard greens.  I’m thinking new furnace filters may be in order there as well.

We talked with the cashier as she rang up our groceries.  “It was a lot busier earlier today”, she told us.  “It was crazy.  But people were pretty nice.  Nobody got worked up or anything.”  I began to feel a little better about humanity and all the hoarding we’ve heard about.

“Well, I guess there were a couple of fist fights out in the parking lot earlier.”

So much for feeling better.

Here in America, we were okay for the most part with just hoarding paper goods, respirator masks and water.  But then we received the unbelievable news.

Tom Hanks tested positive for coronavirus.

If America’s favorite human being can get COVID-19 then, surely, we are all vulnerable.  Our reaction?  We did the only reasonable thing we could as a society.

We bought up all the frozen vegetables, boxed pasta and flour we could find.

We cleared the stores of peanut butter faster than store employees could say “but we have plenty of crunchy in the stock room”.

Like a plague of locust, we descended upon the canned good aisles of our markets, leaving the shelves bare of all but the off-brand canned pinto beans and collard greens.

Ok.  Lest I go too far out in the weeds, let me stop and reel this in a bit.  COVID-19 is serious.  Limiting exposure to large crowds etc. is the wise, prudent thing to do.  Stocking up to be prepared is also smart.

My 13 year-old son unwittingly put this whole thing in perspective for me as we stood in line to check out.  “Dad, is this just like the Great Depression?”  (Oh, where are my grandparents when I need them?)

“No, son”, I explained.  “This is nothing like the Great Depression.  There is plenty of food in this store.  Nobody should worry about going hungry over this.  This is more like the Great Inconvenience.  You may have to wait a while to get exactly what you want to eat, but there is plenty to eat.  In the Great Depression, people went hungry because they couldn’t afford to eat.”

Again, I am not making light of what is, in it’s face, a frightening unknown.  The Corona Virus Pandemic will – indeed already is – change how we do things.  The impact on lives will be great and permanent.  There’s the health impact, economic impact… how we go about our daily lives and leisure time will be forever changed in some ways.

But there is one constant: God will not change.  “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6, ESV).  And, despite the maelstrom that swirls around us, God is still in control.

What we all need to do as followers of Christ is remain faithful.  Trust fully in God.  Rest in Him.  Prepare?  Absolutely.  Be wise?  Always.  But be ready to help a neighbor in need.  Be ready to follow the lead of the Lord.  Pray.  Pray.

Pray for those who contract this virus.

Pray for those whose jobs put them at risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 (medical workers, rescuers, police, airport employees, etc.)

Pray for those who face difficulties through this pandemic (quarantine, loss of income, etc.)

Pray for our leaders, for wisdom and guidance.

Pray for one another.

And, friends, it’s ok to keep a sense of humor about things.  Being cheerful in faith will do those around you far more good than being dour, sour and fearful.  Be glad in the Lord!   Stand fearless in faith!  Remember all the Lord has done for you!  And show the world your unshakable faith – be salt and light!

In other words… keep doing all the things we as Christ followers should be doing anyway.

And, to the lady at the store last night pushing the cart weighed-down with bottles of Diet Coke: what are you thinking?  There’s still plenty of Coke Zero on the shelves.

(c) 2020 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone who could use a boost.  And please be sure to visit our website: http://www.bouvillediarist.com.

Mindfulness

Phrenology1

This picture is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.

I wish I could crawl into your brain.  I’d love to worm my way into your lateral prefrontal cortex and convince of the hope you have through Jesus Christ.  I wish I could say the magic words to make your soul explode wide open with faith and joy.  I wish I could make you understand that we don’t need to understand all that’s going on in and around our lives.

There are times aplenty when I wish someone could crawl into my frontal lobe and do the same for me.

But, the truth is, no matter how strong and wonderous our brains may be, none of us is omniscient.  None of us can know all the whys and why nots and ifs and whens of life.  We simply are not God.

However, we can have the mind of Christ.  That doesn’t mean our thought processes are even close to on par with the Almighty.  (Even if I could, I definitely wouldn’t want the responsibility!)  What I mean by “the mind of Christ” is how we process what we perceive, where our focus lies, how we choose to see the world around us.

Consider this:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:1-11 [ESV]

What is Paul saying?  We are called to see the world the way Jesus sees it.  He didn’t fear the future.  He didn’t wonder if He was on the right track.  He didn’t second guess His every move.  Jesus followed the Father as the perfect example / personification of love.

Jesus did nothing out of selfish ambition.  Rather, His thoughts and actions were in lock-step with the Father.

If we can do the same – not merely as individuals, but as the community of believers, the body of Christ – we will find the answers we seek.  We’ll discover our worries are in vain.  We’ll be changed – transformed – into the people God created each and all of us to be.

Concerns of self-interest shrink when we live for others.  Our burdens are lighter, our joy full when we approach life as Christ did – with no condemnation, no worry, no doubt, no confusion.

It’s all about following the example of Jesus Christ, right down to how we think about our lives, ourselves and others.  Before you begin to worry, think about all the Lord has done.  Before you begin to doubt, look at His beautiful creation and consider the Creator.  Before you are overcome with anger or jealousy or bitterness, think of all you have been forgiven for.  Then apply these thoughts to your approach to life.

Live peacefully.  Love completely.  Believe with abandon.

Fishbowl Faith

goldfishPhoto attribution: Souravgg8 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Well… so much for my presidential aspirations.  It appears I’ve been shut out at the Iowa causus.

Again.

And, really, I’m okay with it.  It’s better to be a goldfish in one’s own aquarium than a clown fish in a cesspool.

It can be disappointing to set a goal and go for it, only to miss the mark and “fail”.  However, when we’re following Jesus and setting our sights on Him, we’re not going to truly fail.  Sure, maybe we don’t get the job or promotion.  Maybe we don’t quite hit the mark we set for ourselves (or had set for us).

Maybe we don’t feel like we are where we ought to be in life.

Relax.  Here’s some good news:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 [ESV]

Wherever we are in life, we are not alone.  God is always with us, working for our good.  And – here’s the tough part – we have to trust that God knows what’s best for us.

Even when His best for us isn’t what we think is best for us.

Especially when His best for us isn’t what we think is best for us.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30 [ESV]

You see, what’s important to God is what needs to be important to us.  And, frankly, the Lord is not impressed by our job titles.  Or our bank account balances.  Or our station in life.

What is important is that we are salt and light to world around us, wherever the Lord has us.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16 [ESV]

It isn’t where we are in life that is important.  It’s what we do where we are, with what we’ve been given by God, that matters.  It is how we love the people who cross our paths.  Understand that we are not nearly in control as we like to think.

Looking back on my life, I can see times when God pulled me to safety as I stubbornly stood on the tracks with a speeding, runaway train barreling toward me. It would have been certain disaster had things gone my way.  If I had to guess, you can probably relate.

God can – and will – bless us where we are.  He equips us to fulfill His plan for our lives.  He meets us where we are.  So there’s no need to worry about failure, or any aspect of our lives.  

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 [ESV] 

Follow God with enthusiasm.  Love God and others with purpose.   Trust God with abandon.  Live like the Lord God, Creator and Sustainer of all, is with you always.  Because He is.

As for politics, I’m grateful I’m not called to be a goldfish in a carnival game, stuck in a small bowl with lids throwing ping pong balls at me.  I am thankful for the aquarium God has placed me in.

Sleep Well

There is nothing beyond God.  You cannot surprise Him.  You cannot stump Him. You cannot run so far that He can’t reach you.

He is bigger than any trouble you face.

He is greater than whatever’s plaguing you.

He is with you.  You are not alone.

Hang on with faith, dear one.  Go to our Father God.  Talk to Him.  Trust Him.  

Know He loves you.  Know the Lord is your hope.  Rest in Him.

Sleep well, dear friend.  Rest easy in the love of Jesus.

Good night.

Camping in Philippi, Part 2

FWS-831

No, this is not me in the photo.  Nor is this campsite in Philippi or anywhere else in Greece.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – the source of this picture – this is a Junjik Valley Man with his wall tent.

The Junjik River Valley is in far northern Alaska.  I’ve never been to Alaska.

Or Greece.

But I’d like to someday.

When I say I’m “camping” in Philippi, I simply mean I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and meditating on the book of Philippians.

But you already knew that.

As I was sitting reading Philippians 4:4-9, I was struck by the absolute, emphatic, all-encompassing language Paul uses.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9 [ESV] – bold italics added for emphasis

There are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” here.  No “maybes”.  No “sometimes”.

We are to rejoice in the Lord always.  Not when we feel like it.  Not when everything is nice and tidy in our perfect little lives.  No, we are called to rejoice always.  When we’re hurting, or worried, or down.  Rich or poor, healthy or ill, calm or stressed, we are told to rejoice.  Always!  This fact is so important, Paul repeats it for emphasis.

We are to be anxious for nothing.  Not “nothing but…”  Nothing!  Again, Paul emphasizes the point, this time with the opposite side of the coin: in everything, go to God.

It may not make sense to rejoice or refuse anxiety when you look at your circumstances.  But, that’s the point.  We aren’t meant to look at our circumstances.

We’re meant to look to God, to fix our gaze upward with joy and thanksgiving.

Paul even admits that such behavior is illogical from our limited earthly perspective.  But seeking true peace with God is seeking the peace beyond all understanding – far deeper than a mere calming of our life’s storms.

Finally, Paul tells what to think about.  Note the six “whatevers” and two “any(thing)s” in verse 8.  These are the thoughts God wants us to have.  All of these are thoughts on the ways of our Lord: truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, awesomeness, excellence, praiseworthiness… in their truest forms, these are reflections on God.

It all boils down to this: we are to focus on the Lord, not  ourselves.  We have to not let life get us down, but rather let God lift us up.  And let all the world know Jesus is our hope!!

Rest in Jesus.  Sleep well dear friends. Trust in God’s grace and love.  And know the Lord is in control.