Jan 9 2015

Tested Tips For Seeking Grace

Today I was reflecting on David . . . you know, the shepherd, musician, warrior, king of Israel. David, the “man after God’s own heart,” one of the most relatable, influential characters in the Bible. As I continue preparing and working through our current sermon series on Grace In The Everyday, I find myself thinking that David was a guy who really had an operational sense of the grace of God.

Through the “ins” & “outs”, the “ups” & “downs” of David’s life, he seems to generally keep his gaze on God. God provided the strength, the resolve, the comfort in all of David’s circumstances. Whether moments of triumph like winning battles or moments of sorrow like guilt over sin, David runs to God – regularly and completely. And with God, David finds what he needs.

So I asked myself, “What qualities of David’s life may have contributed to such a consistent leaning on the grace of God? And can I (and C!C) emulate that to better tune our lives to God and His grace?”

Here are three practices from David’s life as seen through the Psalms that helped David keep his eyes on God:

 

  • David sought God in His temple.

 

The Lord is in his holy temple (Ps 11:4)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Ps 27:4)

In addition, there are many Psalms of Ascents which functioned to help focus one’s worship while approaching and entering the temple. I think we can interpret God in His temple as the seat of His Presence and source of His revelation. For us today, this is primarily accomplished through spiritually discerning God’s Word. Saving faith in Christ initiates the Holy Spirit dwelling inside the believer to enable intimate relationship and communication with God! Seek Him where we know He can be found. Spend dedicated, introspective time in the Bible, praying and meditating about what it says and how it might influence your life. Such sacred time will pave the way to experiencing more of God’s grace.

 

  • David sought God in nature.

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps 8:3)

The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. (Ps 19:1-3)

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Ps 29:9)

I can’t help but be inspired by how consistently nature responds to God by doing what it was created to do. If only I could so naturally respond to God’s promptings. Even in the deepest days of winter (and sometimes especially there), a walk in the woods with my dog awakens affections for Christ that my to-do list somehow renders dormant. Spend some time outside. Get in the woods and look up, letting the Spirit lead you deeper into grace. (He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Ps 103:10-12)

 

  • David sought God by being with God’s people.

 

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. (Ps 16:3)

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! . . . Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Ps 34: 1-3, 11)

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! (Ps 122:1-2)

I love this one. Between work, family, leisure, social networks, etc., it can be easy to give a backseat to initiating spending time with other believers. Let me be clear to say that spending time together on Sunday morning is NOT enough for growing in grace through being with God’s people. For the sake of God’s kingdom, we should make time to have one another over more often. We should attend various functions together. We should share with one another. It may be difficult and/or awkward at first – but most of life’s best things start that way. Take the initiative to meet someone new at church this week. Then go out of your way to contact and/or meet up with someone from church. Talk about a Bible verse that you’ve found encouraging. Share what you find special about grace. Do this and get ready to experience a special blessing as the One Spirit that you share leads you deeper into the joy and grace of the Lord.

Let’s all “go after God’s heart.”


Aug 14 2014

Help From the Hills

“big flex”

“big flex”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.

Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

The Maker of heaven and earth.

 

He will not allow your foot to slip;

Your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel

Does not slumber or sleep.

 

The LORD protects you;

The Lord is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day

Or the moon by night.

 

The LORD will protect you from all evil;

He will protect your soul.

The LORD will protect your coming and going

Both now and forever.

(Psalm 121)

 

Have you ever tripped?  Ever had sunburn? If you answer yes to either of those questions and you love Jesus, does that mean that the above Psalm is untrue? Is the Bible unreliable?

 

Hopefully you know innately that the answer is NO, that God and the Bible are true and reliable even if we occasionally stumble and get too much sun. But WHY is the answer no? How are we to understand a passage like the above Psalm?

 

We need to understand that it is a song representing an important truth about the character and protection of God. David is communicating that no matter the circumstances, our God is powerful enough and loving enough to perfectly sustain us to an end that is profoundly good. It’s not to say that there won’t be troubles along the way. The fact that the Psalm begins with God as our “help” points to the fact that there would be some circumstance where “help” is needed. The love and purposeful protection described here is more of a principle to be trusted than a literal promise to be tested. Here’s how theologian Matthew Henry prefaces the Psalm:

 

. . . wherever we are, at home or abroad, we are exposed to danger more than we are aware of; and this psalm directs and encourages us to repose ourselves and our confidence in God, and by faith to put ourselves under his protection and commit ourselves to his care, which we must do, with an entire resignation and satisfaction, in singing this psalm.

 

For whatever “dangers” or afflictions you perceive right now, or for whatever may be lurking down the road of life, gather yourself under the unchanging principle of God’s perfect power to protect His beloveds. Put your confidence, your faith in Him, commit yourself to his care wholly.

Consider with whom in your life you could share this psalm.

To whom can you give a testimony that your help comes from the Lord?

 


Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”


May 25 2012

Pausing to Pray

The university that I attended (Berry College) is pretty old — founded in 1902.  Back then it wasn’t uncommon for colleges and universities to adopt a school hymn or psalm.  The school being uniquely situated on the largest campus in the world in the foothills of the Appalachians in northwest Georgia, the setting gives extra relevance to Berry’s Psalm:

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Lately, I have found myself leaning towards despair when trying to wade through the tasks and responsibilities in front of me.  I so deeply desire to be the right kind of worshipper, husband, father, pastor, friend, and disciple-maker that God wants me to be.  Yet sometimes the task just feels insurmountable, and failure seems inevitable.

In these moments, there’s a still, small voice that whispers from the corners of my soul: “Jason, this isn’t freedom.  Come to me.”

I’d like to say that I always listen . . . but I don’t.  Often I forge ahead on my own power, destined to run out of steam at some point.  Other times, though, I resist my flesh’s impulse to just “work harder” and I pause to pray.

The wonder in this is that pausing to reflect, meditate, and talk to my Lord in heaven doesn’t practically accomplish anything on my to-do list.  And yet, the “peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7) begins to accompany my heart and mind as I turn over the tasks, the responsibilities, and the implications of whether I do a good job or not.  In those moments, I’m amazed that I can ever NOT make time to pray and turn over my heart, my task list, and my time over to Jesus.

What’s more is that consistently, days where I spend such time pausing to pray, I seem to get more accomplished . . . and with a much better attitude — to the worship and glory of God.

Will you write down the above Psalm somewhere that you’ll see it regularly, and will you make time to pause and pray?


Oct 26 2011

A Thing for Shepherds

I had a great time at !group last night.  Though we’re not a big group, and I’m not sure that Denny’s knows exactly what to think about us, it just feels good to be together.  And it feels even better to talk about things that matter – things that matter to God and things that matter to the group.

In the midst of discussing the text for this week (Luke 2:8-21 … you can check it out yourself and listen to the sermon online!), we noticed something sort of amusing, unique and special:  God seems to have a “soft spot” for shepherds.

As we noted how striking it is that the Heavenly Host would deliver the Divine Birth Announcement to a bunch of shepherds, we realized that shepherds often pop up as having a prominent role in salvation history.  Here are some examples that we discovered:

  • Cain and Abel: Abel tended sheep, and his sacrifice was accepted
  • Shepherd/Nomad was the “profession” of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the patriarchs
  • When Joseph was in charge in Egypt, Israel immigrated as a nation of shepherds, introducing the dynamic that would lead to them flourishing and eventually being expelled as per God’s plans
  • King David was a shepherd boy, and that period of life greatly informed his view of God
  • Psalm 23 relays that “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . .”
  • In John 10:7-18, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, explaining how He knows, loves, and provides for His sheep
  • Jesus tells Peter in John 21:17, to “Feed My sheep.”

See?  God seems to really like shepherds!  As I meditated on this fascinating theme, one of the ways I felt that this is significant is that it reflects the Perfect Paradox that we spoke of this past Sunday.  Jesus is Perfectly Powerful, and He is Perfectly Humble.  Historically shepherds are looked down on and seen as extreme “blue-collar” labour.  Yet their job is one of significance and power.  The shepherd often holds the power of life and death over the sheep.  The shepherd leads them to food and water; the shepherd keeps them together; the shepherd protects against attacks; the shepherd loves the sheep.

So what’s the application for us?

Well in light of the truth of Isaiah 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned each one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all,” here is what I believe to be some application.  God is calling us to be enlisted shepherds.  He has mustered a spiritual family of shepherds to lead people to the Good Shepherd.  The flock is scattered, malnourished, deceived.  We’ve been given the Power of God in the Truth of Jesus.  And we’ve been given the Call of Humility in the vocation of shepherding.

Take some time to look around your world and find where you can practice some shepherd-skills.  Remember that the flock is on the move and the enemy on the prowl, looking for someone to devour.  We can’t shepherd while napping in the shade, we’ve got to be purposeful and proactive.  How will you respond?

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. Matthew 18:11-13