Christianity 201

July 23, 2016

They Forgot

Do Not Forget The Works of the Lord5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.

9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really
spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”

In this post at RedeemerNJ.com, Tim Bowditch looks closely at some material from Tim and Kathy Keller on Psalm 78. Click the title below to read at source.

Spiritual Forgetfulness

In their devotional book on the Psalms, The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller serve up a helpful and thought-provoking meditation on Psalm 78. In that psalm, one of the major issues was the forgetfulness of God’s people: “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them” (v. 11). Failure to remember God’s activity and promises is far from an “innocent” matter in the Psalms, as shown here and in many other places.

Spiritual forgetfulness, according to the Kellers, can cause our growth to stagnate. The antidote “is to have a heart constantly vitalized by deliberate remembering of the costly sacrifice of Jesus.” And is this not a primary purpose of the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our congregation? We do it in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice on behalf of his people (Luke 22:19). God has accommodated our forgetfulness by giving us this command.

The Kellers include a prayer at the end of their meditation on this portion of Psalm 78, and it’s this prayer that I’d like to elaborate on briefly, a phrase at a time.

Lord, I worry because I forget your wisdom. We know the verse in Philippians 4 about being anxious for nothing, but as often as we remind ourselves of that, the anxiety of life—financial concerns, health worries, family matters: the list is endless—presses in, disrupting our sleep, robbing us of peace, and generally making us miserable. How we need to remind ourselves that worry is caused by forgetting that God is infinitely wise, that he really does know best what we need and has promised to provide it. Worry is an implicit denial of our Father’s all-encompassing wisdom, and a taking on ourselves of a responsibility he never intended us to bear.

  • I resent because I forget your mercy. How does resentment show up for you? For me, it has to do with believing I haven’t gotten what I deserve. And it’s complicated by the observation that someone else has. In other words, God has been kinder to someone else than to me. Think of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. They resented the generosity of the vineyard owner when he paid everyone the same. They forgot that if the owner hadn’t come to them offering work, at a wage they agreed was fair, they’d have had nothing. So they grumbled, and resented. The owner corrected their perspective with these words: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” You and I belong to Jesus, and he has dealt with us better than we deserve, farbetter. We need to be thankful for his mercy, rather than resenting it when others are the recipients.
  • I covet because I forget your beauty. When I first read this, it didn’t immediately connect for me. But the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Forgetting the beauty of Jesus leads to desiring something else I think will satisfy more. If Jesus is the all-satisfying, supremely beautiful Lover of my soul, how can I think that something, or someone, else will be more satisfying or fulfilling than he? I need to continually ask the Lord to give me the heart of David in Psalm 27:4: “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.” How do we “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD”? By immersing ourselves in his Word, which is where we see Jesus most clearly.
  • I sin because I forget your holiness. My tendency is to trivialize the holiness of the Lord, which enables me to minimize the seriousness of my sin. I understand on some level that all sin is cosmic treason, as the theologians express it, and that even our culture regards treason as a capital offense. But that isn’t an awareness I keep in the forefront of my mind constantly, as I should. I read recently about a woman who was extremely allergic to peanuts, so much so that when her boyfriend kissed her after eating peanut butter, she actually died. Apart from the death of Jesus on my behalf any sin is punishable by my death. Such is the holiness of God. May we be more continually mindful of this sobering truth.
  • I fear because I forget your sovereignty. We are all subjects of a kingdom; that’s what sovereignty implies. If there’s one who is sovereign, he rules, and that describes God. He rules us and everyone in the world. In this kingdom, the Ruler always gets his way in the end. That’s good news for those of us who are sons and daughters of the King. Nothing happens in this kingdom that’s ultimately outside the control of the King. And he intends, he relentlessly intends, to do good to those who are in his family (Ps. 84:11; cf. Jer. 32:40-41). So fear is bound up in forgetting that our heavenly Father is the sovereign ruler of everything that exists, and ordains everything that happens, and is in it all for our good.

The last line in the Kellers’ prayer is this: “You always remember me; help me to remember you. Amen.” And may all God’s people say, Amen!

July 6, 2011

Inspiring Ideas on Worship from Matt Redman

Matt Redman is the author of over 200 worship songs including Heart of Worship, Once Again, I Will Offer Up My Life, Blessed Be The Name; and coauthored the song Our God which is being widely used in churches across North America.  (It’s the song that begins, “Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind, there’s no one like you…”)

His book Mirror Ball is releasing later this month from David C. Cook.  It’s 84 pages of text rich in depth and elements of Christian tradition that also includes a 52-page study guide.  While its target audience is adults, many teens and twenty-somethings know his music and I believe this book has a huge secondary audience awaiting in that demographic.  Here’s a sample:

The life of worship for Christians is … a life of wandering and wondering — journeying from scene to scene and taking time to explore the magnificence of God.  With the eyes of our hearts fixed upon Jesus we will always be amazed by the things we see. Literally, always.  We will find his splendor, power and love inexhaustibly captivating. 

Archbishop William Temple once described worship as

The quickening of conscience by His holiness
The nourishment of mind with His truth
The purifying of imagination by His beauty
The opening of the heart to His love
The surrender of the will to His purpose —
And all of this gathered up in adoration.

William Temple’s words here sum up so well the rhythm of revelation and response that we find in our worship of God.  He names three ways we receive revelation of God in worship: consciences quickened, minds nourished and imaginations purified, and then he names three ways in which we bring a response to all that God reveals: opening our hearts, surrendering our wills and engaging in the adoration permeating all.  We see, and we sing.  We explore the ways of God and we express our responses to Him.  We wander out into the vastness of His glory and we wonder how One so high and holy could involve himself with the likes of us.  Every step of the way we find another reason to declare his praise.  We have never met One nearly as loving and we have never encountered another remotely so glorious.  In Jesus Christ we find majesty fusing with mercy and kindness with flowing with Kingship.  We see generosity streaming with humility and grandeur infused with grace.  Time after time we find ourselves making a joyful surrender of our hearts and offering up serious-minded adoration in his honor. 

One of the qualities I most admire in a person or indeed in a church congregation is a readiness to worship.  The writer of Psalm 65 declares that, “Praise awaits You, O God;” (verse 1) and that is a fantastic posture of the heart for us to adopt when it comes to bringing devotion to the living God.  In our worship of Him, ideally, we should need warming up or any amount of coaxing.  We should be there, ready and waiting, mindful of the many, many reasons there are to praise Him.

~Matt Redman

June 30, 2011

Lord, May I Be Worthy of You

Jim Greer has a whole series on his blog called “400 Year Old Prayers.”  This one ran recently, and I’ve included his introduction, and also his link to the entire series which appears at the end.

The following prayer is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It testifies to the richness and color of evangelical thought and language, as well as their devotion to the Savior. This prayer and others can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet. I have included them in this blog so that others can use them in their own prayer life as a springboard to a more faithful walk with Jesus. These prayers are 300-400 years old! They were written in old English, but that should not get in the way if you don’t let it.

Need of Jesus

Lord Jesus,

I am blind, be my light,
ignorant, be my wisdom,
self-willed, be my mind

Open my ear to grasp quickly your Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after His beckoning hand;

Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to your wounds,
and there cease to tremble at all alarms.

Be my good shepherd to lead me into green pastures of your Word,
and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

Your cross was upraised to be my refuge,

Your blood streamed forth to wash me clean,

Your death occurred to give me a surety,

Your name is my property to save me,

By you all heaven is poured into my heart,
but it is too narrow to comprehend your love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel
but your cross has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me your Father’s child,
has admitted me into your family,
has made me joint heir with yourself.

O that I may love you as you have loved me,
that I may walk worthy of you, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.

May I always see your beauty with the clear eye of faith,
and feel the power of your Spirit in my heart,
for unless he move mightily in me
no inward fire will be kindled.

For More of these old Prayers, visit our prayer page http://notforitchingears.com/prayer-of-the-week/400-year-old-prayers-1/

June 18, 2010

Finding a Worship Moment

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Today I got to share my “worship moment” place with a guy who was visiting our town.   It’s a spectacular path through a wooded ravine that is always impressive.   You could go back in an hour and the sun would be at a different angle and it would look totally different.   You could go back at the same time the next day, but the colors would be different.   It’s just that amazing.

I wish I had a camera that could do it justice.   I don’t.  Here’s Psalm 19:1 in The Message:

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.

The strange thing is that the rest of the day was terrible.  Nothing went right.   Nothing at all.   But at least I’ve got that morning walk to remember.  Here’s some photos I didn’t take!!


Well, okay; one picture.   I found a few pictures of the kind of ravine, or woods, or forested area I’m talking about, but every single one of them was a copyrighted image.   Every one.   I spent about 15 minutes on it.

Hey Mr. Photographer, did you make those trees?

I’ll have to get a good camera and take some pictures.

For more devotional reading today, check out my other blog, Thinking Out Loud.