Christianity 201

August 12, 2018

A Year of Sunday Worship

53 Weeks ago I introduced our Sunday Worship feature, and then 52 weeks ago, we began including a number of articles on the subject of worship which introduced us to a number of new writers. Our first stop was Ascents and while we won’t return to each and every one of our sources as this series continues, this one is no longer active and I wanted to include a third and final article from writer Tim Adams.

Before you start reading, click here to read Psalm 74.

Psalm 74 – How long, O God?

Can there be a more desperate state than to think that the creator of all that exists, the singular infinite power, has cast you aside? To feel as though God has rejected you?  I can think of nothing more desperate than to see myself forgotten by God.  Psalm 74 informs us how to respond when those thoughts overtake us, and we find ourselves full of despair—feeling useless.

I struggle with the 74th Psalm; particularly, with phrases such as “…why have you rejected us forever?” or, “remember your congregation which you have purchased”.  Does God reject His own?  Does God “need” us to remind Him of His promises? Does God forget?  These notions seem to challenge what we know to be God’s divine attributes, and what we see as absolute Biblical certainties.  Certainly, the psalmist cannot be affirming these ideas, but there is no question that he is struggling with feelings of abandonment by God, and those feelings can be consuming.

In this prayer, I see four stages that the psalmist goes through in his despair.  In the first three verses, he expresses to God his feelings of abandonment—feeling that God has forgotten him.  He feels that God has forgotten His promises to His people.  Even though we know that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20, John 14:16, Heb. 13:5), there are times in our lives when we don’t feel the closeness of God.  There are times when it seems like our prayers bounce off the ceiling right back down on us, never to find the ear of our Creator.  I have actually prayed, “Dear God, I don’t know what to say and I don’t feel like you’re listening… amen.”  I’m not proud of it, but I’ve said it.

In the second stage, vs. 4-10, Asaph recounts the circumstances God’s people find themselves in. Their enemies have taken over the sacred meetings of God’s people and arrogantly “roared” in defiance of God.  They have burned the sanctuary to the ground, and there is no one to speak for the Lord (v.9) to tell them when this time of tribulation will end.  So, the psalmist asks again, “How long, O God?”.  Certainly, God doesn’t need me to tell Him what’s going on.  He knows better than I.  But, honestly and humbly taking stock of my troubles helps me to acknowledge that He is my only hope for deliverance.

The third stage is praise (vs. 12-17), and this is also one I tend to miss in my prayers.  It’s not that I don’t tell God how great, how powerful, and how marvelous He is.  But, far too often, those are just words I’m obliged to say.  The fact is, praise is hard when life is at its low points and God feels far away.  The importance of Asaph’s praise is that it not only ascribes God’s worth, but it also serves to remind Asaph who he’s talking to.  It renews his awe, and strengthens his faith.  It prepares his heart for the fourth phase of the prayer.  He knows that His Lord and Savior can, and will, deliver and care for His chosen people.

In the fourth and final phase, Asaph tells God precisely what he desires Him to do.  With confidence and faith, he petitions God to remember His people and avenge His holy name.  Asaph’s request is not only for the oppressed nation, but also for God’s glory.  Again, God doesn’t need our insight, our wisdom, or our perspective on what needs to be done.  Nor does he need our permission to do what He has promised.  The need, rather, is ours.  We need to remind ourselves of what is true, what is honorable, what is righteous, pure, and so on (Phil. 4:8).  It is then that …the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:7).

Something that needs to be noted is that when the psalm ends, there’s no indication that the trials are soon to be over.  There’s no indication that Asaph “feels” any better about the circumstances he and the nation are in.  The fact is, feelings can deceive us, and distract us from what is true about God’s character.  Let’s not forget that God wants the best for us, and only He knows exactly what that is.

He will always bring about His perfect will, and even though His will may be hard, He is always a good Father who hears and cares for His children.

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

“Sometimes He Calms the Storm” by Kevin Stokes & Tony Wood,
©1995 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Songs 

 

August 11, 2016

Yet

Today we’re paying a return visit to A Simple Christian. The author is unnamed, but is a pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. Ca. You may click the title below to read this at source.

17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,  18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.  NABRE – Hab 3:17-19

Yet – 3 Powerful Words of Powerful Faith.

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.” Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.

Nothing is wasted!   What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria!

Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!

“Life Sucks!  YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!”

For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God.

That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.  Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town,  Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.

Nothing is wasted.

Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions.  Where are you, my God?  Why did You abandon me?  Why did I have to go through this?  Why do I see it repeated?

Nothing is wasted.

Not even the times of emptiness.

Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.

Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith.  The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promises I can’t believe are true for me.

“Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.

“You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.

“You are here!”

So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promises through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.

Yet… a powerful word.

One I need to pull out and use… often.


November 2, 2014

Replanting, Rebuilding, Repaying, Repairing

Isaiah 51:3 NIV

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Psalm 69:65 NIV

for God will save Zion
    and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it

Joel 2:15 NIV

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you. 

Amos 9:25:11

11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
    I will repair its broken walls
    and restore its ruins—
    and will rebuild it as it used to be,

Many times in the poetic and prophetic literature we see what I would call the language of restoration.  Other writers have picked up this theme and noted the promises to “build highways in the desert”1 and the concept of Christ’s return constituting “the restoration of all things.”2

In the verses provided for today, we see the replanting and refreshing of a waste place (KJV); the rebuilding of walls (in other passages and here implied) and cities; the regaining of lost years, whether stolen or squandered; and the repair of something broken (of the four, the one perhaps with an analogy most waiting to happen).

There have been times in my life when a project seems to be in ruins, a dream appears to have been shattered, time and energy seems to have been expended for nothing, and everything I have been building toward is simply broken.

Your life is no different; brokenness happens to everyone at some point.

But God is in the business of restoration. Replanting, rebuilding, repaying, repairing is his modus operandi. He’s in the grace business.

God’s desire is to put things right. When circumstances of career, relationships, finance, health, vision, purpose or security come crashing down, somewhere in time and space these things in your life will be restored and God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to you seeing that restoration in his complete fullness of time.

Deuteronomy 30 (The Message)

3 God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. 4 No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there 5 and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed.

I Peter 5:10 (NLT)

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Go Deeper: 21 Verses on Restoration from the blog Jolly Verses (seriously!)

Have a comment to add? I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface on this topic. Regular readers and subscribers are encouraged to use the comment section on the blog.


1An Introduction to the Bible By Robert Kugler, Patrick Hartin p.234
2How to Study the Bible By Greg Herrick p.19

November 1, 2012

Life in the Wilderness

This post is from Claire at the blog, One Passion, One Devotion.

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. 1 Samuel 23:14

From the promise of kingship to the day David got the crown on his head he was in leadership training.  the wilderness may be tough and rough but it is where some of our greatest life lessons are learned.  It is the university of life.  many great people in the bible had some wilderness time before they were promoted to a position of power and responsibility.  Abraham.  Moses.  Joseph. Jacob.  Job.  John. Jesus.

Don’t underestimate or despise the wilderness season in your life.

It is essential that we “get” is that sometimes great time can pass between the call and the living that call. During this time God is shaping us and forming us and dealing with the crud within us. He is renewing our mind and making us into a vessel of honour (2 Tim 2:20-21)

Take for example Saul and David.

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 1 Samuel 9:2

They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” 1 Samuel 10:23-24

When Saul was chosen king he was the most handsome and stand out guy in the nation. He had all the gifts and talents and personality. Samuel anointed him and he immediately began ruling as king of all of Israel. Yet he ended up failing as king and turning away from God.

“While king Saul was truly the best man Israel had to offer when they demanded a king, his heart had not been groomed through testing before he assumed the throne. As king, Saul was entrusted with a measure of anointing to lead the armies of Israel to victory and shepherd the people. Yet without the strength of character that only comes by winning private battles, these public victories exposed the previously hidden weakness of Saul’s heart towards God. That weakness, combined with his growing appetite for favor of man, led him to bring glory to himself and disobey the Lord.” Bill Johnson – Strengthen Yourself In The Lord

David however was anointed and then spent about 14 years in “training”. In those training years he endured more difficulty, persecution and rejection that many of us face in a lifetime. He probably didn’t expect it to take so long for him to be king. God didn’t want another king Saul and so took His time to mould David into a king and man after His own heart.

The wilderness always reminds me of this quote:

“But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

The wilderness is a place of preparation in our lives, a place of transformation.  a place where we are reliant on God and trusting Him.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

It may be a place of delay – the delay between the call and the living the call, the delay between the promise and the position.  delay has the capacity to bring up things that are hiding in our hearts that will restrict and sabotage us.  better out NOW than later!  delay reveals sin and brings it up to deal with now.  delay is a time of preparation.

There are lessons to be learned in the process, in the wilderness. Lessons about ourselves, lessons about how to work with others, lessons about how to relate to God.

God will open the right doors at the right time.

“Its not about knowing who holds the right keys but its about knowing the KEEPER of the keys”– Peter Robertson.

God can promote us at the right time. But I also believe He will also hold us back if we are not surrendered and transformed. God is full of grace but He is also holy. He uses flawed human beings but that doesn’t excuse compromise and a heart that isn’t fully leaning to God… God wants us to be intentionally following Him not intentionally following our own self and self desires.

The great things God will do through you are going to grow in the soil of persistence, prayer, obedience and sacrifice.  That means there will be plenty of plowing and pruning.  That’s the way living things grow, whether you’re talking about vegetables or vision. The process is a time of strengthening.  The process is the place where you lay down your pride and learn to rely totally on God.  Most importantly, the process is the way we grow to know God.  And that’s really the whole point. Steven Furtick

David’s time of wilderness prepared him to be king, the most renown king in all of Israel’s history, and most importantly, a man after God’s heart.

This is one of several posts Claire has written on the the wilderness theme as found in scripture. To see more, click here.