Archive for September, 2012

September 28, 2012

Doubting the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 79:4-5
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 31; Psalm 79

Atheism: In 1955, C.S. Lewis published Surprised by Joy about his accidental discovery of joy. In reflecting on his time as an atheist, he wrote, “I was, at this time, living as so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a world of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”

Contradictions: Many of us, even though we are Christians, still feel like we are living in a world of contradictions. We may believe God and His promises, but we still wrestle with doubt when it seems like our circumstances do not line up with what we believe. In Psalm 79, Asaph, who knows God’s great promises to His people, wonders, “We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us. How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” [1]

Faith: There is a difference, however, between the doubt of atheism and the doubt of faith. Doubting without faith trusts in circumstances more than promises; doubting with faith trusts in promises more than circumstances. It is not sinful to ask, “How long, O Lord?” This kind of doubt is rooted in a belief that trusts God and His Word and, then, looks at life and asks, “I do believe God and His promises, but I do not understand how my circumstances right now are lining up with those promises.” This is an honest and authentic questioning that comes from not being able to make sense of things. This type of doubt is a symptom of believing God, not rejecting Him.

Prayer: Lord, We live in a world that is full of circumstances that are confusing in light of your promises. Yet we recognize that we have such little information to interpret our lives. Therefore, we believe your promises more than our circumstances, even as we honestly ask, “How long, O Lord?” May we approach you as children in faith, knowing that you are good and do good. Be patient with us in our doubting for we are frail and prone to wander. Remind us that Jesus died to cover our doubts and the Spirit lives within us to transform our doubts. For we are saved by the blood of Jesus, not by our (im)perfect faith. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 79:4 – 79:5 ESV

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September 27, 2012

Treasuring the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 78:40-42
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 30; Psalm 78:40-72

Opinion: Recently, Brian Jay Stanley (NYT) lamented that he was just “a pawn of others’ projects” [1]. He wrote, “I am not a name but an account number, a social security number, a customer ID, a ‘current resident’ of this address.” As he discovered this, however, he realized that he treated others as pawns, too: “At every stage of life, we desire to be noticed and affirmed by others … As adults, our successes give us little pleasure unless sweetened by others’ admiration. If we dress up, there must be others to see us or our work seems wasted – no one wears a tuxedo at home.”

Remember: The longing for admiration is not inherently bad. The problem arises when our hearts long for others’ admiration more than the Lord’s. As we saw last week [2], the Israelites rejected God as king because they wanted to be like the other nations. They treasured others’ opinions over the Lord’s. They failed to remember what God had done for them: “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them” [3].

Cross: He had redeemed and loved them. On the cross, we see how far His love is willing to go for us. When Jesus hung on that cross of execution in horrible pain, a thief who had lived a life of sin and was on the brink of eternal death said to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” [4]. What a hopeless appeal! This man had no time to become good before he died. Yet Jesus showed him immeasurable grace and love, saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” [5]. This is a wonder! This was a dying man declaring a life-long sinner accepted, loved and paradise-bound. This was a mercy that swept a lifetime of sin and guilt away in a second.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that oftentimes we chase after the unmerciful and ungracious opinions of others when you offer us your life-changing and infinite love. We fail to remember your redemptive power. Change our hearts to treasure you and your opinion. May we be obedient stewards of your mercy until you take us with you in Paradise. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Brian Jay Stanley. “On Being Nothing.” The New York Times. 9 September 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres. “Arguing with God: His Glory.” 21 September 2012.  |  [3] Psalm 78:40-42 ESV  |  [4] Luke 23:42 ESV  |  [5] Luke 23:43 ESV

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September 26, 2012

Believing the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 78:19, 21-22
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 29; Psalm 78:1-39

Norm: Several years ago, David Brooks wrote about his six-step program for “Kicking the Secularist Habit” [1]. The first step, he said, is accepting the fact that the secularist mindset is not the norm. He wrote, “Western foundations and universities send out squads of researchers to study and explain religious movements. But … religious groups should be sending out researchers to try to understand why there are pockets of people in the world who do not feel the constant presence of God in their lives, who do not fill their days with rituals and prayers and garments that bring them into contact with the divine, and who do not believe that God’s will should shape their public lives.”

Belief: Believing in God may be our cultural norm, but believing God is not. It’s one thing to believe that God exists. It’s another thing altogether to believe Him. To trust Him. To live a life dependent on Him. The Israelites believed in God. They believed He existed. But they did not believe God. As the Psalmist wrote, “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” … His anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power” [2].

Promises: Sin comes from unbelief in God’s promises. Anxiety, indifference, envy, hate, pride, impatience – these come from unbelief in God’s promises. For example, when the Israelites were not tithing, God said to them, “You are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” [3]. When we do not tithe, it is because we do not believe God. Instead, we believe our bank statements or our budgetary reasoning. We do not think that He will provide for us abundantly.

Prayer: Lord, Our belief – like all other spiritual blessings – has been purchased by the death of Christ. The sin of unbelief has been covered by his blood and, therefore, your power and mercy was released through the cross to subdue our rebellion and bring us to you. Forgive us for not taking hold of the cross by believing your promises. Help us to obey you because we believe you and your promises. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] David Brooks. “Kicking the Secularist Habit.” The Atlantic. March 2003.  |  [2] Psalm 78:19, 21-22 ESV  |  [3] Malachi 3:9-10 NIV 1984

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September 25, 2012

Remembering the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 77:5-6, 11-12
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 28; Psalm 77

Crises: Our nation seems to be in a crisis. In his latest book, A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness notes that crises take us back to fundamental questions: “All crises are judgments of history that call into question an existing state of affairs. They sift and sort the character and condition of a nation and its capacity to respond. The deeper the crisis, the more serious the sifting and the deeper the questions it raises. At the very least, a crisis raises the question, ‘What should we do?’ … Deeper crises raise the deeper question, ‘Where are we, and how did we get here?’ … But the deepest crises of all are those that raise the question, ‘Who do we think we are?’ when doubt and uncertainty have entered our own thinking” [1].

Questions: We know this to be true in our personal lives. Things do not go as we hope or expect. We lose our jobs, say goodbye to loved ones, tank on our investments and feel lonely. Then we question ourselves and the love of God. As the Psalmist wondered, “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” [2]

Choice: What should we do? The strategy of the Psalmist was to remember deliberately the wonders of God in history: “I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search … I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Our struggle to feel your favor is typical in our lives. We will go through seasons when we wonder whether your promises are reliable and whether your compassion has ended. In this world, we will never rise above this struggle. But we cling to your Word as our hope to come through the other side of doubt and uncertainty with faith and hope. We make a conscious effort to set our minds to remember. For we want to fight for faith and joy. We do not want to live passively. Make this our strategy for life. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. pp. 13-14. Kindle edition.  |  [2] Psalm 77:7-9 ESV  |  [3] Psalm 77:5-6, 11-12 ESV

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September 24, 2012

Fearing the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 76:7
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 27; Psalm 75-76

Culture: Where is the fear of the Lord in our culture? On Family Guy, God appears as a recurring character that impresses young female admirers with magic tricks. John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.” In Dogma, God is played by Alanis Morissette. Joan Osborne sings, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?”

Storm: The Psalmist sang of the goodness of the fear of the Lord: “You are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” [1] Yet how does this work? Aren’t we supposed to hope in God, not fear Him? John Piper explains, “Suppose you were exploring an unknown glacier in the north of Greenland in the dead of winter. Just as you reach a sheer cliff with a spectacular view of miles and miles of jagged ice and snow mountains, a terrible storm breaks in. The wind is so strong that the fear rises that it might blow you and your party right over the cliff. But in the midst of it, you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure, but the awesome might of the storm rages on and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers” [2].

Cleft: “At first,” he continues, “there was the fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called ‘fear’ vanished. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power. And so it is with God … Hope turns fear into a happy trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it serious. The terrors of God make the pleasures of His people intense” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Through the sacrifice of Christ, which cleanses us from sin, we find boldness to run to you, not from you. We hide from your anger within the safety of your embrace. In Christ, our worst storm has become our greatest comfort. Yet make us fear you in awe and wonder so that we cling to you, our refuge. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 76:7 ESV | [2] John Piper. “The Pleasure of God in Those Who Hope in His Love.” 15 March 1987. | [3] Id.

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