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Singing Psalm 53 to be restored from captivity

people on a sunny beach

You have an enslaving problem.


Jesus is the answer.


The end.


The article isn’t over yet in hopes of addressing lingering doubts that might be lurking in the spaces between the above sentences.


Do you say there is a God with your lips and that you love him yet deny him in your heart by walking out your life as if he doesn’t exist? Without even realizing it, we tend to replace the truth of God and the God of truth with a lie of one sort or another and either make things or other people into gods or become a god unto ourselves.


You can know the answer to the above question by whether you think “Thy will be done” or “My will be done.”


Or by how you answer this question: Is the Lord your shepherd and so you lack no good thing or are you shepherdless and in want of many things?


The most difficult chains to break are the ones that are forged and fortified with our own pride. Thankfully, the Lord of the universe is up to the job of freeing us from our pride so that we are restored from captivity.


Singing Psalm 53 to be restored from captivity to the way to freedom

The fool has spoken in his heart,

    “There surely is no God.”

Unjust, abhorrent works they do,

    Intending to cause harm.

Not one of them does good. ~ Psalm 53:1


What’s the difference between what you say out loud and what you say in your heart? The greater the difference, the greater the hypocrisy, the greater the need for the garden of your heart to be tended.


"The word of God judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” “Guard your heart, for from it flow the springs of life.” Knowing these things experientially from the word of God gives you flow. Without it, you are stuck. Backed up. Clogged. The thoughts of your heart condemn you. Your words betray you. Your actions are stymied. That is until you need to rest, and then those same thoughts in your heart won’t let you sleep.


You race from one thing to the next. Your thoughts of unbelief weary you. I recall the pull of unbelief, like magnet to metal, needing to hide in a bathroom stall, a break room, or a hotel lobby couch every so often throughout the day to try to rest from incessant thoughts of doubt, but wherever I went, there they were, clinging to me, clawing at me, and begging for an answer. Those thoughts of doubt were relentless and wouldn’t stop until they received a satisfying response. But the work day finally ended, I raced over to a continuing education program that promised to unpack the origin and purpose of friendship, to unlock the mystery around how to be and have a good friend, but still no answer was given. Time to hop on the commuter train and start what felt like the draining cycle of merciless thought-whipping all over again. 


I was taking in God‘s word at church and daily on my own, but it was bouncing off my heart. Before I learned that I was called to be a giver at church, I felt like a misplaced misfit among God’s people. I walked past the drug dealer on the street corner and instead went on an all out habitual hunt for Howard Johnson’s baked mac and cheese. Falsely labeled as comfort food, it was my drug of choice and ultimately was neither healing to my soul nor comforting to my body. What I was feeling and thinking would be expressed, though not yet with words.


Is there any end to this madness? Does Jesus have anything at all to say to this? He cuts right through it with laser focus and precision like you would expect only the Master of your soul to do so that you can be restored from captivity to freedom. The only way through is with.* You and I need Jesus with us to get through from captivity to freedom. At all times. In all situations. Every moment. No exaggeration. No exception.


The only way through your problem is to be with Jesus.


The only way through to wisdom is to be with Jesus.


Jesus is the foundational connection to honest expression in any language. ABCs Connection has the high goal of making Jesus the foundation, the “ABCs” in the English language, as we express in words our affection and allegiance to connect with him and to express in words a heart of peacemaking to connect with one another.


The only way through to lasting connection is to be with Jesus.


At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:25-30


So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:31-32


I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.” ~ John 8:37


“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” ~ James 5:17-18


Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“ ~ John 14:6


O Father, help us come to Jesus with assurance of faith and wait for the certain fulfillment of all you have promised us in him!


“From Zion who will come to save,

    And help to Isr’el bring?

God brings His captive people back!

    Then Jacob will rejoice,

And Isr’el shout and sing!” ~ Psalm 53:6


You have an enslaving problem. Jesus is the answer. The end.


Singing Psalm 53 to be restored from captivity to truth


“Humanity’s problem isn’t a lack of information, but a twisted, degenerate heart that results in reprehensible behaviour. Jeremiah 17:9 says, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick…’ Jeremiah goes on to say that this condition of the heart incurs God’s judgment.  Therefore, our greatest need is a Saviour. We don’t need a therapist or a life-coach or a manager, but one who can save us from our hearts and the wrath of God that our hearts provoke.” ~ Wes Bredenhof**


“But these who work such wickedness,

    Do they not know at all?

Do they just eat my people up

    The way they eat their bread?

On God they do not call.

  

“Where once they had no cause to fear,

    There they are terrorized.

God strewed the bones of these your foes.

    And you have caused them shame,

Since God has them despised.” ~ Psalm 53:4-5


What are the steps needed to be restored from captivity so you can cultivate your heart?


  1. Assess the state of your heart. Locate pockets of warring unbelief in God’s word.

  2. Plow the ground of your heart with God’s word.

  3. Plant the good seed of truth from God’s word.

  4. Water it by singing and meditating on the truth of God’s word.

  5. Weed the ground from their roots by combating with God’s word the uninvited lies and atheism that pop up in your heart.

  6. Fertilize your heart with the promises of God to give it the nutrients of faith in Christ, the bread of life.

  7. Guard your heart against predators who come to steal your faith in Jesus, the Word of God.

  8. Harvest from your heart as you walk out with Jesus in confidence the good fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, because there is no law against such things both in God’s law and in civil law.

  9. Live as a peacemaker who brings good from Jesus to others.


“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans 13:8


“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:27-31


“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:7


“Above all else, guard your heart,

    for everything you do flows from it.” ~ Proverbs 4:23


Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks, but often with some adjustments. People hear what you say, but God hears your heart perfectly. 


“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ~ Mark 7:21–23


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.…For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21


You have an enslaving problem. Jesus is the answer. The end.


Singing Psalm 53 to be restored from captivity to life


It is possible to profess faith while at the same time deny God unawares. If I am a believer, why do I, at times, feel, look, or sound like an unbeliever? Speaking truth at the wrong time, speaking truth without love, these are ways you can inadvertently deny the very truth you are proclaiming. Were it not for God’s mercy, the myriad of ways that he displays his constructive anger in our lives to cultivate our hearts, lightning bolts would prohibit sons of thunder from ever having the opportunity to become sons of love. Our weaknesses and sins and those of others create difficulties that endure throughout our lives in this life. Yet God uses them as the very backdrop of our redemption in Christ who took every sin and crucified it so we could live new lives in him.


“The only way to know strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm through severe testings.” ~ George Mueller


"Help! I need somebody. Help!! Not just not just anybody. Help!!! You know I need someone. Heeelp!!!!"*** That someone is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.


Faith initially comes to you from taking in the word of Christ. The answers to my doubts were there in the Bible all along. I was just reading it as if it were a book of unconnected sayings. The words on the page didn't process much further than through my eyes, anxious doubt right there snatching the meaning from being taken in. I skipped around here and there without understanding the individual passages or the full counsel of God within the context of the whole story. It wasn’t till many years later that I began to read God’s word as the coherent, epic love story that it is.


Satan sets out to blind you to the love of Jesus. His greatest goal is to confuse you so that you cannot understand God’s word. This is why Jesus urges to continue in his love, to live in his love: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” ~ John 15:9


What does this look like practically?


“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” ~ Isaiah 55:6-7


“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” ~ Romans 12:16


Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”

        and call insight your intimate friend,” ~ Proverbs 7:4


Wisdom cries aloud in the street,

    in the markets she raises her voice;

at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;

    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing

    and fools hate knowledge?

If you turn at my reproof,

behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;

    I will make my words known to you.

Because I have called and you refused to listen,

    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,

because you have ignored all my counsel

    and would have none of my reproof,

I also will laugh at your calamity;

    I will mock when terror strikes you,

when terror strikes you like a storm

    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

    when distress and anguish come upon you.

Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;

    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.

Because they hated knowledge

    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

would have none of my counsel

    and despised all my reproof,

therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,

    and have their fill of their own devices.

For the simple are killed by their turning away,

    and the complacency of fools destroys them;

but whoever listens to me will dwell secure

    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” ~ Proverbs 1:20-33


    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

        and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ~ Proverbs 9:10


“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,

    and the one who gets understanding,

for the gain from her is better than gain from silver

    and her profit better than gold.

She is more precious than jewels,

    and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;

    in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

    and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;

    those who hold her fast are called blessed.” ~ Proverbs 3:13-18


Replace the personification of the word ‘wisdom’ with ‘Jesus.’ Jesus doesn’t just possess wisdom, he is the wisdom that you read about throughout the book of Proverbs culminating at the end with the Proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord, knows, is like, and points to Jesus. He is the perfect, exact image of God. Male and female were made in his image. It should not surprise us that he is both the bridegroom of his bride, the church, and at the same time, “Lady Wisdom.”**** Jesus was outwardly plain but inwardly the most beautiful man ever to exist. We should not let the fact that wisdom is personified as a woman distract us from understanding that these passages on wisdom portray the Lord Jesus Christ.


When you seek wisdom, you are not seeking a thing or a characteristic to add to yourself. You are seeking a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.***** He is Wisdom. Being with him, wisdom rubs off on you.


Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ~ Luke 24:44-49


Will you listen to, rest in, and wait for him until he clothes you with his power to understand him, acknowledge his presence, and be confident that he doesn’t miss a step leading you to fulfill the good promises that he has made to you?


For by people of strange lips

    and with a foreign tongue

the Lord will speak to this people,

    to whom he has said,

“This is rest;

    give rest to the weary;

and this is repose”;

    yet they would not hear. ~ Isaiah 28:11-12


Will you make a distinction between Jesus and worldly wisdom?


“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:20-25


For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:2, 13


What is it that your heart lays captive to? What lies have you been buying into that keep you stuck?


I turned the radio on and being determined to keep my heart sensitive to deception, I resolved to turn it off after hearing one lie. “I can’t fight this feeling any longer…” W-OFF. Seven little words. And in them the temptation to enthrone my dissatisfied feelings, to think love is based on feelings not actions, to give in to despair, to steal the reins of control on my life from God, to make another person into an idol to worship, and to give up on patience to seek a better way than to have deceitful desires proceed to rule my life and attempt to rule the lives of those around me. The best part of singing or listening to the psalms is the stress relief. You don’t have to wonder about whether the words you are singing or listening to are true or not. You don't have to worry about whether the words you are singing or listening to will influence your mind and heart away from God.


“Each from the right way turned aside

    To have his own way done.

Together they became corrupt,

    Not one of them does good,

No, not a single one.” ~ Psalm 53:3


Could it be that the biggest enslavers are your desire for lesser things and your fear of not having those such that there is little to no room for thinking of the most wonderful thing? 


No longer captive to doubts, anxiety, and relationally demolishing anger in your own kingdom, you are unleashed to progressively become a magnanimous, merciful peacemaker in God’s kingdom. What an incredible reunion we have to look forward to. There, all God's people caring for the good of one another. And that care would be never doubted or rejected but accepted and received with thanksgiving. Each desires the good of the other without thinking about themselves because they are just so completely filled and satisfied with the Lord Jesus Christ, lavishing in the joy of his face-to-face presence that will never come to an end. And there it can be said: "You had an enslaving problem. Jesus was the answer. Therefore, there is no need for an end."


The redemptive story goes on with your woes in the past as the backdrop that tells how you were restored from captivity to the praise of God’s glory!


The Lord himself who is the master gardener will woo you to seek him, root out the foolishness from your heart, and give you himself who is better than life.


“God gazes down from heaven high

    Upon the human race,

To see what their behavior is.

    Does any understand?

Does any seek God’s face?” ~ Psalm 53:2



April 29, 2024 - June 7, 2024


* I am thankful to Tracy “Ty” Moore II for this sentence that captures the essence of this post. Abbie Barrett used it as the title of her article, 'The only way through is with': https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2024/06/a-festive-day-for-harvard-alumni/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Gazette%2020240605%20(1).



*** I am thankful to John Lennon and the Beatles for these crescendoing pleas as they cry to who could only fittingly be God for help in their song, “Help!” that so completely resonates with the theme of not only this post but with all of the Psalms. This song is someone answering Jesus' call to come to him, though Jesus questions the "if you can" statement when any of us attach it to our asking for his help. He indeed causes our "independence to vanish in the haze." May your heart sing to the Lord with John, "I know that I, just need you like, I've never done before."


*****  In addition, Jesus is described in God's word as: the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the prince of peace, the everlasting Father, the Holy One, the Lamb of God, the Lord God Almighty, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, the word of life, the Word of God, the author and finisher of our faith, the way, the truth, and the life, the dayspring, the I AM, the LORD, the Son of God, the Savior, the bishop of souls, the chief cornerstone, the advocate, the morning star, the King of kings, the bridegroom and head of the church, the kingdom of God in your midst, the redeemer of his people, the bread of life, the living water, the son of righteousness, the chief shepherd, the horn of salvation, the governor with all authority in heaven and on earth, the resurrection and the life, the desire of all nations, the alpha and the omega, the good shepherd, the door of salvation, the lowly and gentle giver of rest, the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-in-all, the light of the world, Immanuel, God with us.


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