Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer in the Psalms - ?'s to Consider

With excitement, we enter into a new study of God's Word on Sunday morning.  We will be diving into the rich poetry of the Psalms.  As we learned last Sunday in our introduction of the Psalms, there are certain things to consider when reading and studying this genre of Scripture.  I have discovered a list of ten questions compiled by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey.  May these questions aid in your enhanced study of God's Word and appreciation for the beauty of the Truth found in the Psalms.

1.   What details in this psalms - words, historical references, ideas - seem to require further study?

2.  Which of the great themes of the Psalter do I find in this individual psalm...

  • God's goodness and unfailing love for the righteous
  • the sinfulness of the righteous
  • the mystery of the success of the wicked in God's providence
  • the mystery of the suffering of the righteous in God's providence
  • the confidence in God and in the future despite present suffering
3.  What human responses do I find in this psalm?

4.  Is the character of the psalm primarily individual or communal?

5.  What are some formal poetic features of the poem I am studying, and how do these features illumine its meaning?

6.  Is the central verse of the psalm the heart of its meaning?

7.  How does the individual psalm I am studying relate to the structure and primary character of the book in which it is found...
  • Book 1 - Psalms 1-41 - The King's Confidence in God's Care
  • Book 2 - Psalms 42-72 - The King's Commitment to God's Kingdom 
  • Book 3 - Psalms 73-89 - The King's Crisis over God's Promises
  • Book 4 - Psalms 90-106 - The King's Comfort in God's Faithfulness
  • Book 5 - Psalms 107-150 - The King's Celebration of God's Salvation
8.  How do neighboring psalms illumine the meaning of the particular psalm I am studying?

9.  In what ways is Christ central to this psalm?

10.  How does this psalm speak to the people of God today?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Strengthen Your Hands

Having spent time this past Sunday in the book of Nehemiah, I am reminded again this morning of the response of the people as Nehemiah presented the huge task at hand of rebuilding the wall.  The Word of God says in Nehemiah 2:18, "And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, 'Let us rise up and build.' So they strengthened their hands for the good work." In the last month here in Louisiana, I would venture to say that hands have done things they may have never done before. I made a list below of both the ways I have personally had to strengthen my hands or the ways I have watched others strengthen their hands for the good work around them. Perhaps you too can very much relate. Do you remember...
  • grabbing hold of the hand of someone in need of rescue from the forceful flood waters?
  • gripping a hand of someone rescuing you from the evacuation of your own home?
  • squeezing the hand of a stranger who offered a helping hand?
  • shaking the hand of a stranger of whose hand you helped?
  • wiping the tears flowing from your eyes as you saw the daunting task of so many around you?
  • wiping the tears streaming from your eyes as you stood overwhelmed by the daunting task of demoing your own home?
  • sorting countless donations to setup for those in need?
  • shuffling through countless donations to gather belongings to meet your need?
  • yielding a hammer to begin the sheetrock removal of homes invaded with flood waters of varying heights?
  • yanking up flooring where you once gathered in your living room for laughter and love?
  • Facebooking need after need in hopes of someone being able to help?
  • flipping through the pages of Scripture to feast on the Word before beginning another day?
  • joining hands together as you positioned yourself for prayer with strangers around you?
  • juggling numerous tasks at once for the hope to remain mold-free?
  • dragging waterlogged belongings to the curb?
  • delivering meals to friends, family and strangers hard at work?
  • blowing up air mattresses for those displaced staying in your home?
  • bringing cases of water from site to site to quench the thirst of those overcome by the heat?
  • opening the tailgate of a friend's truck to transport belongings because your truck was totaled in the flood?
  • offering to take the handles of the wheel barrow so someone could take a rest?
And the list could go on and on.  Looking back on August, I feel as if this was the longest month.  But even saying that, I can't imagine what this month has felt for those overcome by the disaster which swept through so suddenly.  

So indiscriminately. 

So overwhelmingly.

Yet, I sit here on September 1 and wonder what still lies ahead.  For what other tasks and good works will I need to strengthen my hands?  What is coming for your hands to accomplish?  And as those answers come, may you be reminded continually of the work our Savior's hands to the point of still carrying the scars from the loving, atoning work He finished to the end.

I don't know how long September will feel, but I know the events of August will still continue to loom nonetheless.  May you today, ask God to help you strengthen your hands for the good works He has laid before you.  And, may His joy consume you as you persevere.  


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pull the Emergency Brake!

Driving home from vacation this past weekend gave me quite a bit of "windshield time," as a friend once identified it.  This time simply involved staring into the vast sky and admiring its beauty, while at the same time, continually pumping the brakes because of the tumultuous holiday traffic overwhelming the interstate.  I found my mind consumed with the reality of heading back into "reality."  The full calendar of events December brings.  The battle against materialism that ensues.  The constant reminder to "Keep Christ in Christmas."

And that is where I camped out in the perplexing array of my thoughts - what does it even mean to "Keep Christ in Christmas?"  Don't use an X and write out Christ in Christmas?  Make sure to have a nativity set on display during the season?  Say "Merry Christmas" instead of the more general appeal of "Happy Holidays?"

I tend to believe that at least preachers mean it to remind us that it would be easy to lose our focus on the One for Whom the celebration of the season revolves.  The One Who left the glory of Heaven to become a helpless babe, born in the most humble of circumstances to one day grow and die the most humble of deaths as the Shepherd laying His life down for His sheep.  How does He remain a focus for us?  

Some attempt to tell us that we need to "slow down."  I admire the sentiment and understand the suggestion.  However, if you are like me, my calendar doesn't get extra days added to slow down the pace at which I run in the holidays.  There is always another event that one feels obligated to attend.  Another run to the grocery.  Another family gathering.  Another gift to buy.  Another text to make.  Another call to take.  The same amount of hours in a day to accomplish more in this time of year than potentially any other.  And it's supposed to be "jolly?!"  So, how?  How do we slow down?

I think the suggestion should shift from "slowing down" to simply making an attempt to STOP at times.  Diligently scheduling blocks of time where we can protect a time to keep Christ as focus.  To engage with the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords in fellowship with His Word and Spirit.  To plead with Him to aid us in focusing less on ourselves and more on Him and others.  To insist that continued devotion expressed to Him actually brings JOY in the midst of the season.  To enjoy Him.  


What a concept.  To ENJOY our Maker.  To bask in His character. To relish in HIs Truth.  To rest in His sovereign grace and purposes.

So, STOP instead of slow down.  Intentional times of pause.  I think about how often we use our brakes to slow us down while driving forward through the terrain of life.  Yet, how often do we use our emergency brake?  Whenever we need to park and protect our vehicles from back-sliding.  Perhaps this is the word picture we need to help us this time of year.  That we schedule a break, pull over in the hustle of life, and utilize the emergency brake to help us ensure a COMPLETE stop - instead of sliding back into the attitude we despise, rest to obtain an attitude we desire.  Perhaps then we can honor the words spoken by the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Friend, I feel the need to declare that I LOVE this time of year.  I LOVE honoring the birth of my Savior.  I LOVE the Christmas cheer of carols and colors.  I LOVE the enjoying of family and the giving of gifts.  But to survive it in a way that truly honors God, I believe its not just about slowing down, it is about taking time to completely BE STILL and KNOW He is God.

May you be able to "deck the halls with boughs of holly" as your heart stays steadfastly focused on the Giver of Life, God Almighty, Lover of your soul.

Merry Christmas.  Truly.  Merry.  CHRISTmas.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Crammed, Cluttered, and Crowded

While sitting this afternoon in the parking lot about to pull out of my coffee run, I observed a car in front of me that was literally filled to capacity in both the back and passenger seats with what appeared to be belongings from home being moved.  The lamp shade was smashed against the front window.  The boxes were being crushed in the back.  Bags and bags were filling any open space (at least from where I was able to see).  The scene was overwhelming.  And I sat and wondered in that brief moment, as the Lord impressed upon my heart, what do I carry around that clutters my life? What past failures do I allow to crowd my present?  What baggage that I should have surrendered to Christ still crams my heart and mind today?

And I said to the person next to me, how is there space for anything else?  Anything new?  Anything fresh?  As Scripture promises, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).  If our lives are so full of yesterday's baggage and mistakes, of yesterday's hurts and sins, then how do we have room to embrace the newness of His mercy today?!  The car drove off carrying all of the heavy load being moved from one place to the next, and I was grateful of the reminder that in the faithfulness of the Lord, He has taken my sin from me and cast it as far as the east is from the west.  Now I move on in the freedom of Christ...still aware of the past, but not bound by it in my present.  He has poured out His steadfast love to ensure that my heart would be His home.  And that the clutter of sin would be trumped with the washing and renewal of His Word.

Friend, let the baggage go.  Christ can handle it.  Then embrace His mercy.  Embrace His love.  Perhaps even better, feel His mercy and love embrace you.  Pray for Him to clean up your heart, so that it is fresh and ready for what today holds.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kingdom Moments

(Adapted from an email I shared with the faculty and administration of the school of which I am employed...)

Question: How many things can you remember from yesterday?  Think about it.  How many details?  Restart your day in your mind.  Try to walk through as many conversations, distractions, meetings, tasks, to-do list items checked off, etc.  Try to make it all the way to bed time last night.

How much do you remember?  I bet you remember some of the highs of your the taste of your home-cooked lasagna or maybe the breeze blowing while you took a walk around the block.  I bet even more you remember some of your difficulties of the day.  Maybe your plans didn't go through as you expected.  Maybe you received a hard phone call or email.  Perhaps you ended the day on a sad note, only to wake today revisiting the stinging emotions.

But amidst what you recall...let me ask another question.  How many kingdom moments do you remember?  How many times do you remember focusing your attention upon the Lord?  Whether while driving or walking from class to class?  How about the times you helped someone yesterday see Jesus in a new way or a real way amidst their circumstances?  When did you acknowledge His glory in creation as you saw the beautiful sunset or the smiles in the precious children we have the privilege to teach?  The reason I want you to remember those because those moments could potentially matter for eternity.  Far beyond the memory of yesterday...Christ's impact through you could have eternal ramifications for someone else around you.  

As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

I pray that if yesterday was not showered with those kind of Kingdom moments...then may TODAY be different.  May today be a day filled with moments that matter for eternity.  That when this day is done, we will look back and remember God's handiwork amidst the craziness of our day.

May today matter for tomorrow.  For eternity.