Results for category "Faith"

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This is my Prayer

There is something uniquely encouraging and powerful about the prayers Christ and the Apostles prayed for the church and followers of Christ. Those prayers don’t have a shelf life and to realize in the eternal church of God these prayers apply to you and I in the present day.

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One of the most notable of these prayers is the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus found in John 17:1-25 but as I’ve been reading Philippians I keep returning to the Apostle Paul’s powerful prayer at the beginning of this letter written from prison,

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

That your love may abound more and more

Which love is he referring to? All of them. If we speak about love for one another then we are also speaking of our love for Jesus, for our sincere expressions of brotherly (horizontal) love are born only thru authentic love for our Redeemer (vertical). But it is also true that for me to have love abound I have to feel loved.

For me personally, this is where I often interrupt this cycle. I too easily focus on my own failures and listen to the whispers of the Evil One, “you are unlovable.” I feel unworthy and unacceptable and the fruit is frustration and lack of fellowship (vertical and horizontal, again these are always connected). To combat lies you must expose them to truth. The truth is

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

When I’m convinced that I’m unlovable then I’m wrongly denying the power of Christ. I’m unworthy of love but being loved is based on who He is, not who I am.

If my love should abound more and more then:

  1. I need to return mindfully to the Cross of Christ and see his love demonstrated to me. His life, his willing sacrifice, his resurrection, and ongoing involvement in my life are proof that I am loved.
  2. Next I need to repent of the sin that is choking my fellowship with him and ask for a fresh view of Christ. When you see Him as he is you cannot help but confess, worship, and obey. Just ask Isaiah – Isaiah 6:1-8
  3. Lastly, when I’m walking in the center of His love and daily worshipping and seeking Christ (note that this ability and desire are both a gift of God, not something we conjure up out of our own ability) then I will naturally love those around me.

It’s a beautiful circle of love abounding more and more. From Him to me, from me to Him, and through me to others.

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
   To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

Amen indeed.

Today

Lord help my love abound for you. Remind me how much you love me. Forgive me for my doubting and help my unbelief. Wash me so I can simply sit in the midst of your love and return it to you and then pass it on.

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Hand Raisin’ Worship Tips

Being raised Missionary Baptist “widescreen TV” is about as far as I go (unless I’m in the sound booth where no one can see me and I’ll break out a “Rocky”)

found via @challies

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Old Words, New Worship

I’ve been singing hymns most of my adult life and with a few notable exceptions I never cared much for them. Chalk it up to contempt bred by familiarity or the arrogance of youth but either way they didn’t reflect my words of worship.

In the presence day I’m still more likely to turn to worship styles favored by Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, and Phillips Craig and Dean. (Sidebar: Worship isn’t about us so don’t let our preferences get in the way of worship.) However, what I’ve discovered is after years away from many of these hymns I’ve found my soul now leaps through their words.

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It is easy to just go through the motions of worship. Sometimes you have to strip away and step away to find fresh worship in old words.

An interpretation

“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliot, 1835

Just as I am
With no hope for tomorrow or beyond.
I cling only to the truth that you died for me.
That you stand there arms open wide beckoning me to come.

Just as I am.
Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

I’ve been shackled in this darkness long enough.
I grasp only to the power of your blood to wash me.
Cleanse me O Lamb of God.

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

I’m tossed about as though I were asea. Life has battered me.
My ways result in conflict and frustration.
I don’t know what to believe sometimes.
I’m scared.
Scared of who I am.
Scared of where I’m going.
yet…

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

You have promised that you will
Welcome me
Pardon me
Cleanse me
Save me.
Love me.

This I believe.

I come. Just as I am.

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I com

My apologies to this great hymn and its author Charlotte Elliot.

Take a fresh listen to this stirring and simple rendition by Johnny Cash.

May you rediscover some beautiful old words of faith that give rise to your own worship.

I’m considering doing a series of “Old Words” so if you enjoyed this post I’d love hear from you. Please leave me a comment or tweet me. I promise I won’t paraphrase very often.

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A Powerful Pause

Too often I act on impulse. I speak or act without hesitation and more often than not find myself regretting my hasty reaction.

pause

I found too much of myself reflected in zenhabits’ post “The Pause Upon Which All else Relies

When we fail, it’s because we act on urges without thinking, without realizing it…What if instead we learned to pause after each urge? What if we stopped, looked at that urge, paid close attention to what it feels like inside our bodies, but didn’t act?…

If we can pause, we create space. Space to breathe, to think, to be without acting.

Leo does an excellent job of mounting an argument for being mindful of our urges and intentional about creating pauses but as a follower of Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit I’d like to add this encouragement.

This Pause creates space for the Holy Spirit to speak.

My urges are sinful, selfish, and prideful and when I act immediately I’m doing so with consideration for only myself. When I pause I provide an opportunity for God to breathe truth and perspective into the moment.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21

As we ingest God’s Word daily into our lives let us give God room to breathe that Word back into us and make us mindful. That is the power of God to transform my actions. That is the power of God’s Word to save me, even from my own urges.

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

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How can I…?

Time to play word association. Tell me what you think of when I say this name-

Gideon.

You probably thing of words that speak to the great strength, faith, and leadership of Gideon. How he led the Israelite people in battle and brought down the walls of Jericho. But take another look at the man you think you know.

Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:11-12

There is more going on here than first meets the eye. Notice where Gideon is threshing wheat. Threshing involves tossing the chaff into the air so the breeze can carry it off leaving the seed to fall back down. It would make much more sense to thresh wheat on a hilltop or at least in an open field but we find Gideon hiding in a winepress. (Understandable when you look at the Midianite oppression in the preceding verses). But look at what the angel calls him,

“O mighty man of valor”

While the angel knew of God’s call on Gideon’s life I can’t help but think these words might have been said with a sly grin. Gideon certainly didn’t appear to be a mighty man. He was a scared farmer in hiding.

The angel proclaims that that Gideon will be employed to save Israel from their oppression. (Judges 6:14) now look at his response.

To paraphrase – Me? I’m the least in my family and we are the weakest clan of my tribe. I’m the lowest of the low. You want me to do what?

In God’s response you can almost hear him whisper… I know but I’m God and I will be with you.

He whispers the same thing to you and I when we begin to protest that we don’t have the strength or skills to be of use. God does not use the able, he uses the willing.

Just look at what he was able to accomplish through a willing man called Gideon.

Let my prayer be to have a willing heart.

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The Universal Progression of Sin

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. (Genesis 3:6 NLT)

She stopped and gazed upon the forbidden tree. 90% of the battle was lost right here. The moment we detect sin we must avert our eyes so desire can has less ground in which to root.

Then she examines the fruit, which means she walked near to the tree. Instead of moving away she moved toward the fruit and discovered the great truth about sin- It looks delicious! Always.

Finally, Pride kicked in. It says she wanted to have the wisdom. I’ve long said there is no sin but pride. All sin is a manifestation of selfishness. I know better than God & this is what I want-

The we commit sin.

How much more faithful would we be if we interpreted this process early on with a call to an accountability partner, or voicing memorized scripture.

See the steps & stop early.

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Plans of the Diligent vs Hasty

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

Compass

Too often my efforts are of the hasty variety. Look at the contrasting definitions:

  • diligent: characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort
  • hasty: fast and typically superficial

What distinguishes superficial from earnest and steady?

I think thoughtfulness and pre-action prayer are major components to a diligent and sustained effort. We will soon find our resources and motivation quickly dissipate if our plans are not of and for the Lord.

Let me be careful not to rush ahead of God, but slow down and seek Him initially and continually so that he’ll provide the means for His servant to be diligent and therefore abundant.

Abundant in Spirit, Abundant in Fruit, Abundant in Joy

What plans do I need to give back to God?

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Rediscovering the Sabbath

I’ve discovered that I often think I understand an instruction in the Bible simply due to familiarity but when I actually search God’s Word for an accurate answer I discover I held an incorrect or too narrow of view. Notably the former method of understanding is much less demanding. Such is the case of Isaiah 56.

The first 8 verses of Isaiah 56 issues a divine directive to “Keep the Sabbath” and specifically twice in vs 2 and 6 elaborates by saying,

“Keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it” Isa 56:2

This begs the question – does this apply to me today? If so, what does it mean?

Does this apply to us?

Well it’s the 4th Commandment (Ex 2o:8) and we find Holy Day observances continuing through the New Testament so there is no cause to conclude this prescription has expired. So…

What does it mean?

Let me pause for a moment and say that this isn’t about how you observe the Sabbath. This is not meant as condemnation of judgment on anyone but a challenge to examine scripture and ourselves to rise up to this commandment. I simply offer that Christians are not called to the bare minimum but always called to more… the process of becoming more like Christ, sanctification, should be a continual expanding of our understanding and challenge to our ways.

Let’s look to God’s Word to begin an understanding of “Keeping the Sabbath”

Sabbath Instituted

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:1-3

Don’t let our familiarity with this passage gloss over its significance. Does God need rest? I’ve often heard the refrain “Even God took a day to relax”. Yes there is an example for physical restoration set but the idea that God set aside the Sabbath for our needs is ludicrous. Shall we reduce this understanding to a divine power nap? No.

So why did God rest? It was time to be mindful and observant.be_still

It’s the first hint of a common theme in that bears out instructions for us to be still and be mindful and I might dare suggest this is the heart of many of the following passage concerning work and food preparation. When I’m overly concerned with this temporal life or physical things then I’m not concentrating on God. Hence God made the Sabbath Holy to draw us to Himself.

Working on the Sabbath

"’Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Deut 5:12-15

A very serious instruction that we will see applied strictly. Let it be said that we are under Grace and in my humble opinion the point of this is to draw me spiritually and that takes time, study, reflection, meditation, and worship all of which are battling for time during our working days. But let us return to the hypothesis that we are called to more. Shouldn’t my life reflect these instructions?

Sacred Assembly

“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD Lev 23:3

There isn’t much gray area here. God’s Holy day should find me with God’s people in corporate prayer, study and worship. A sacred convocation.

Ways and Words

Fair warning this is getting ready to get uncomfortable

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD,” Isa 58:13

Not going your own way… that squarely defeats any flimsy excuse I might offer. Say what you like but we like to find exceptions for deer stands, golf, and NFL football. Those seem petty and childish in the light of a great God.

Idle words… perhaps I should hush, listen, meditate, study. Be still

Commerce Condemns Us

“Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day… “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day” Nehemiah 13:15-18

Nehemiah looks at the people and their buying and selling of food and rebukes them harshly. I taught this morning with a gas station coffee cup in my hand and we go out to eat 75% of the time for Sunday lunch. I must admit this caused me to stop in my tracks and examine how I “keep the Sabbath”. When I combine this teaching with Deut 5 which involves requiring others to work on my behalf I find myself at a new crossroads.

Now I do not dare suggest that eating out or buying coffee is evil, sinful, or detracts from the Sabbath. However, I am saying that in my own life making a concentrated effort not to purchase anything, including food, would make me more mindful of the day. I think that would be a good thing and may be getting back to the heart of the Sabbath.

If I choose to make Sunday as distinct as possible from the other 6 wouldn’t that cause me to be mindful of my practices and motivations? I think maybe so.

How serious did God take the Sabbath?

“On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  Exodus 16:22-26

The miracle of the manna in the wilderness, and yet God expected His day to be so “set aside” that He didn’t even want them to gather bread on the ground that day. The Israelites were expected to gather extra on the 6th day and do all the cooking and just eat the left overs on the Sabbath.

…but wait

If I can’t eat out and can’t cook on Sunday I might starve so let’s interject a very important point.

Don’t get legalistic about the Sabbath. (hint: See Matthew 12:1-13)

This isn’t a set of check boxes and regulations to be followed but a day that God asked us to set aside, to focus on Him, to worship Him and to think on Him.

How serious do I take the Sabbath?

I’m not sure what my Sunday’s will look like moving forward but its high time I put as much emphasis on God’s desire for Sunday as I do on my Sunday afternoon nap. I’m still praying as to how I’ll observe the Lord’s Day but I can assure you I take it much more seriously than I did just a week ago.

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The Servant’s Song–a study of Isa 50

1293270_82604170My exuberance for the scripture we studied this morning in Sunday School spilled over into a lobby conversation with a dear friend and a gentleman I regard as a true lover & student of God’s Word. Our time was brief so I promised to email him the passage and a few brief thoughts. Instead I’ll just share them here. (Don’t worry I’ll send him a link.)

The text I’m writing about is found in Isaiah 50:4-11, and is commonly known as the third of the “Servant Songs”. Let’s unpack and dig in.

The Servant Songs of Isaiah

There are four very unique passages in Isaiah and in my uneducated perspective they stand alone as the clearest expression of Jesus Christ in all of the Old Testament. While all of God’s Word and the OT prophets are pointing to Jesus these are set apart as Jesus is speaking in first person.

The 4 Servant Songs are:

  1. Isaiah 42:1-9
  2. Isaiah 49:1-13
  3. Isaiah 50:4-11
  4. Isaiah 53:1-17

Note that the final Servant Song, Isaiah 53 is essentially the pinnacle of the entire book of Isaiah. It is where prophecy becomes pure gospel evangelism. It is the ultimate prophecy – a coming Messiah.

As you review these passages you should be able to easily identify a change in speaker. It’s as if the prophet Isaiah, who is mostly used as the voice of God, suddenly becomes a conduit for Christ Jesus himself. These words are a very direct expression of Christ is the midst of a larger prophecy.

Namely: You are in bondage due to sin. I’m sending a Savior.

Brief Historical Context

Israel is in Babylonian captivity because, as God states often, their refusal to repent and be obedient. He has permitted (Isa 47:6)  this time of suffering to cleanse & purify His people (Isa 48:10-11). Now King Cyrus has been prompted by God to begin a victorious offensive against the Babylonians (Isa 45:1-7). God is making a very clear point.

  1. I am God, why do you doubt me?
  2. King Cyrus is doing my will and will bring you freedom and restoration.
  3. Cyrus is only a picture. You are in need of an ultimate redeemer and I’m sending the Messiah.

Isaiah 50

A few quick notes on the verses leading up to the Servant’s Song

God is reminding Israel they have no cause for complaint. God did not divorce her or sell away His children. Remember that a man could divorce a woman for most anything in these days as well as sell their children to repay a debt. God challenges them by saying He had done neither.

Why, when I came, was there no man;
why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver? Isa 50:2

None were found faithful or heeded the call of the Lord. Hence, His righteous judgment permitted them to be taken into captivity.

Now onto the Servant’s Song

The Servant’s song begins is verse 4, I hope you hear the change in pronouns and perspective of the speaker.

The Lord GOD has given Me
    the tongue of those who are instructed
    to know how to sustain the weary with a word.
    He awakens [Me] each morning;
    He awakens My ear to listen like those being instructed

Isa 50:4

God gave Jesus the words of wisdom so that he could not only comfort but sustain the weary. Also notice that Christ says, “He awakens me each morning; He awakens My ear to listen” Jesus Christ, who is in complete fellowship with God and is completely God speaks of daily fellowship with His father every morning.

What’s your excuse? Are you spiritually stronger than Christ? So how much more should we cherish and prioritize our time with God in the mornings. Let us seek daily fellowship so when He speaks our ears are ready to listen.

The Lord GOD has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious;  I did not turn back.  I gave My back to those who beat Me,  and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard.  I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting. The Lord GOD will help Me;  therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Isa 50:5-7

Verse 5 should be a clear reminder that Jesus Christ has free will and his willingness to obey God’s will enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. Only a blameless and willing sacrifice could bridge the gap between our sin and an Holy Father.

Isa 50:6-7 should leap off the page concerning the identity of the speaker, it can only be Jesus. This is Christ  speaking of being spit upon and having his beard pulled out. This is the humiliation of the cross but Jesus says “I did not hide my face from scorn…” I bear this humiliation willingly because…. watch this.

The Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Isa 50:7

What the world intended for evil and humiliation of Jesus would backfire because the Lord God is His help and will use even these cruel acts to become a testimony of grace. Therefore, because God is with me and is my help Christ says that He has set his face like a flint, a stone, headed directly to honor and worship God.

Verses 8-9  are thunderous that translate essentially into, “What now? What do you have to charge me with know? I am the Messiah.

Verse 10 STOP. Slow down and digest this:

Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His servant?
    Who [among you] walks in darkness, and has no light?
    Let him trust in the name of the LORD; let him lean on his God.

Isa 50:10

This verse is a balanced spiritual equation. Requirements=Results

  • Requirements
    • Fear the Lord – An over-simplified understanding of Fearing the Lord is to be in awe of God’s power, divinity, and righteous judgment.
    • Are you listening? – Do you know the voice of the servant? John 10:27 – In our present day this is studying God’s Word and through prayer and meditation allowing the Holy Spirit to speak the truth into our hearts
  • The Results of Coming into the Light
    • This is the invitation of Christ – If you are walking in darkness without the light of Jesus then come and trust the name of the Lord and lean on God.
    • You get to lean on God. – How beautiful is that? Your respect and listening will lead to increased faith that leads to leaning further and further on God.

This servant song takes a dramatic turn in verse 10 and it’s almost as if Jesus is turning the the audience (us) and asking “Who among you fears the Lord?”, Do you know him? Do you know My voice? If not, you are walking in darkness with no light.

I really like verse 10 because it serves as a template for living the Christian Life:

  1. Fear God
  2. Spend Time in daily fellowship so you can hear and know His voice as expressed through the Bible and applied by the Holy Spirit
  3. Trust in the name of YHWH, GOD ALMIGHTY
  4. Lean on the God.. Lay my problems and weakness at His feet so I can lean fully on my Heavenly Father.

This would make a great verse to memorize and apply to our daily lives.

Conclusion

Start in Isa 42 and just read through Isa 53 – See the larger picture of God’s merciful and redeeming love.

Jesus himself issued the invitation, don’t miss the warning in Isa 50:11 of trying to live in our own light.

Who among you fears the Lord?

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