Psalm 100–We Are His

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The verses of this psalm strike a note of familiarity with the reader and the reason for this is twofold. The themes of praise for God, membership in His flock and the ultimate truth of His enduring love are all present. Because the truths present are all encompassing, the words of the psalm have made their way into countless hymns, choruses and prayers.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

Placed in the cultural context of Israel, there are also theological lessons that take root in the subconscious. The Lord is God, not one among many, not capricious and prone to tantrum as the imaginary gods of those surrounding Israel. Knowing this truth and the truths about God make worship and the joy inherent second nature. Unlike the way in which one might approach an idol—hoping but never knowing—approaching the gates of the Shepherd comes with assurance.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Assurance despite any temporary travail or circumstance comes through knowing God. The psalmist doesn’t speak from book knowledge here, he writes from the heart of one who has searched both his personal history and that of the people of Israel, knowing the peaks and valleys. Knowledge brings level to these ups and downs. Knowledge reminds us that time belongs to God and that the contours may only soften over time. Knowledge reminds us that we can still be joyful in this truth.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 77 – I Cried Out to God to Hear Me

image I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands

and my soul refused to be comforted. (Ps 77:1-2)

We are all familiar with these dark nights in which we cry out to the Lord but seem to receive not a word in return. Our distress deepens with the silence but moreover, our thoughts return to times of blessing. Why does God bless us here and leave us in distress there? These thoughts drive the psalmist to say:

I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.

You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days, the years of long ago;

I remembered my songs in the night.

My heart mused and my spirit inquired: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?” (vv 3-7)

Our greatest difficulty comes in the limited time span of our thoughts. We only see tomorrow and the end of our days but God looks into eternity. Our travails which seem unending and insurmountable to us are but a second in His vision. Our difficulty in facing the struggles of today is our inability to look beyond, to know a time when it will be all blessing and no sorrow. Can we look that far?

Grace and peace to you..

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Thirty One

image We plead with God for mercy and security, ratcheting up the intensity when we feel that we might be treading on especially dangerous ground. When the voices were raised to free Barabbas, there is no doubt for whom we would have been calling. Like the psalmist in Psalm 140, we see ourselves clearly on one side:

Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence,

who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. (vv 1-2)

Does the mirror tell a different story? The Cross offers salvation but it also acts like a mirror, requiring us to look deeply and to realize that we are the people of evil, the people who caused the Lord to be crucified. The observation of Lent is intended to focus our hearts on not only the glory of the resurrection but on the brokenness that lies within that made the Cross necessary. Perhaps our plea should be “Lord, rescue us from ourselves.”

Grace and peace to you.

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Thirty

imageWe all know the feeling, even if we are unable to bring forth the words:

Why have you rejected us forever, O God?

Why does your anger smolder against the sheep in your pasture? (Psalm 74:1)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. (Psalm 22:1-2)

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

God has not turned his back on you, it can only be that in some way, you have turned your back to Him.

Grace and peace to you.

image Sean Dreilinger

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Three

imageThe focus of Lent is often on the deprivation that Christians volunteer to engage. The question “what are you giving up for Lent?” is often an introductory comment heard. I believe when we answer this question and go no further, we diminish the depth of this season of the Church year. To see the days as simply a fast from something runs dangerously close to self glory in unsophisticated eyes, even though this is not our purpose in the response. A better response perhaps is to say simply, “I am relieving myself of those things that fall between God and me.” Today we turn to Psalm 126 for a brief reminder of why we rid ourselves of worldly burdens.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (v3)

That single verse sums up our life in Christ. Even if the only(!) thing He ever did for us was to open the avenue for a restored relationship with Him, we would know unending joy. Earthly blessings and daily sufferings would both vanish in the passing of time as we process the magnitude of what we have been given to us through Calvary. We have been brought back from the wilderness.

When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (vv 1-2)

Let one person know see this joy today so that they too can say, the Lord has done great things for you.

Grace and peace to you.

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Practicing the Discipline? of Celebration

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Christians are supposed to be serious and dour all the time, right? Isn’t this what the Bible teaches us?

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. (Mt 9:9-10)

Was Jesus hectoring and lecturing the guests at Matthew’s table or was He allowing His joy to infiltrate the gathering, making it a celebration?

When Jesus went to the wedding in Cana with Mary, did He take the jugs of cold water and dump them on the proceedings or did he genuinely celebrate the joyous event? The answer to both of these questions is yes, of course Jesus celebrated to the fullest. The Holiest man ever to tread the planet was no stranger to joy, happiness, and celebration despite the burdens that He carried. With this kind of joy in the head of the Church, shouldn’t the body be following?

Pleasure is not our enemy unless it becomes an end unto itself. We dishonor God by fearing and avoiding it when He has so clearly commanded it and demonstrated it in human form. Celebration is the completion of worship and can be an act of piety in its expression. Celebration is second nature when we have appropriately rooted our attitude by proper thinking:

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. (Phil 4:8)

If your mind is centered on these things and grounded in the faith of the ultimate goodness of the Lord you won’t be able to resist celebrating. It will become your nature rather than a forced act. Joy will become your trademark.

Joy, Joy, Joy and the Discipline of Celebration

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . .

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . (Ecc 3:1,4)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22)

 

Holy delight and joy is the perfect antidote to the difficulties we face in the world and from pure and honest delight comes genuine gratitude. Joy is the end result of the spiritual disciplines, the fruit of a soul transformed by God. Without the effect of the disciplines that we engage, true joy will evade us and we will settle for the shallow waters of fleeting pleasures and mud pies. As C.S. Lewis preached in the Weight of Glory,

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The modern Church has made an idol of adversity and trouble, misunderstanding the role of evil. We have taken the Lord’s promise of troubles (John 16:33) to be the whole of our lot in life, making it into something to be endured until we can reach the other side. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We were created to have joy and know the bottomless depths of happiness that come from living within the Lord’s kingdom and knowing restored relationship with Him. Pleasure is not a sin. We dishonor God by avoiding and fearing it as much as we would by living strictly for its pursuit or becoming dependent upon it. God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 14 points the way:

Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. (Dt 14:26)

As His children, his servants, his worshippers we are to know joy always (Phil 4:4). It is to be our mark but instead, we have become dour and puritanical, fearing that any joy or pleasure will lead us into a temptation from which there is no return. We should be thankful that God chooses to challenge us in the various ways that He does. God works all things for good over the span of His view and finite nature of our understanding can lead us to suspect otherwise. Worse yet, in our narrow view it becomes easy to deny the way in which evil infects our world and our minds associate the Father with the source of the most horrible tragedies.

Celebration is the core of the way of the follower of Christ, a perpetual Jubilee rooted in the trust we have in God. Discipline is the way to get there.

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