Archive for June 2015

Anticipation

In my office hangs a poster of a large whale’s tail. The tail alone is seen above the water’s surface, with the other 99% of the whale being out of sight.

I’ve enjoyed this poster for years. I’ve owned it since before I had a good place to hang it.

What draws me to it, I believe, is its promise. What I see is impressive. But what I don’t see intrigues me more. The whale’s tale suggests a bigger being, a completely different type of being, a deeper life, a greater realm. What I see is a promise of what I don’t see, and it fuels my longing to see and know more.

It reminds me of God. What I know of Him is spectacular, but everything I learn promises even more that I have not yet seen or experienced, that I cannot yet fully grasp. As Job said after describing God’s greatness in creation:

Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand? (Job 26:14, NASB)

God’s promise through Paul is even more explicit:

Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, NASB)

God has poured out Himself, His own breath, His own life force, on all of us who simply trust Him. He has lavished on us His power, wisdom, and love, through the Holy Spirit of His glorious Son. But as great as this Gift is, it is only a downpayment, a deposit, a promise of His full gift of Himself to His people:

Having also believed, you were sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14, NASB. See also 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5)

Consider the greatness of God’s gift of His Spirit. Right here and now He can be more and wants to be more than you have let Him be. But also, let this great gift fuel your anticipation for the greater gift that is yet to come: our complete and constant union with God.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Longing for Home
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God Finds Joy in You

Let us rejoice in our Maker . . . For the Lord takes delight in His people.
(Psalm 149:2, 4, para.)

Imagine for just a minute: get a mental image of human beings in their most primitive condition, without all the trappings of education, hygiene, and culture. I picture cavemen. You may think of a friend or relative. But envision the human creature completely natural and unadorned, in its rawest form.

Now realize that God seeks union with that creature. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but remember that many people who were strangers to deodorant have enjoyed intimate fellowship with Him. People with no education have known the Unknowable and shared His wisdom. Human creatures that seem so rough and repulsive at times can fully please a holy God. His Spirit can fill and fellowship with our spirit — that spirit within us that is deeper and more basic than our thin layer of cultural training.

Imagine that a caveman, by simply trusting His Creator, can be fully like Jesus Christ.

Pondering that makes me realize how little we understand the kind of beings we are — how we were originally made and how God sees us from His perspective.

It also makes me realize how deeply He understands us and loves us.

The Lord takes delight in His people (Psalm 149:4, para.).

The Lord takes delight in you.

Yes, we can be so unbeautiful. It’s easy to feel that the constant flow of our failures and inconsistencies surely washes away any good standing we might have with God. But our relationship is much more basic and stable than that. His love embraces us at a deeper level.

Put yourself in this picture: 

The Lord your God is with you . . . He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV).

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5, NIV).

God enjoys just being with you. He takes pleasure in your company, the way a bridegroom enjoys being near his bride.

Pray that way. Talk to Him as One who is delighted to hear from you, who longs to share your thoughts, who deeply loves the most basic “you.”

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Ephesians 1
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My Plans for You

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Jeremiah 29:11-14; 33:3-9

When you are forced to discipline your children, you want to make sure they know that you still love them. God is the same. The deep, long-term sinfulness of His people forced Him to punish them severely. But God wanted them to understand how much He still loved them. For that reason He had His prophet Jeremiah write them a letter while they were in exile in Babylon. Here is a portion of that letter:

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11-13a, NIV)

In the midst of their sin and its punishment, God had plans for them. He was working to draw them back to Himself, to prosper them, to build a future for them.

The same story is told in Jeremiah 33. Even while telling of His horrendous judgment on them, God was dreaming of all the wonderful things He would do to restore them. You can hear the excitement in His voice:

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city [Jerusalem] will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.” (Jeremiah 33:8-9, NIV)

God is excited and passionate about all the beautiful things He can do for His people. His deep desire for them is always complete forgiveness, renewal, and overflowing blessings. His heart is always love, even while that love must be expressed in stern discipline.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Your Ceaseless, Unexhausted Love
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Life

John 20:30-31

All God’s creatures share His life.
It is a beautiful gift from our Creator.

But we people also share His image.
We share His likeness mentally, morally, and spiritually.
We are His offspring.
We live and move and have our being in Him.
We breathe His life in a fuller, deeper sense than other earthly creatures.

But with the freedom and power God gave us, we chose to turn away from Him.
We are still turning away.
We choose life without Him…which is not life at all, but death.

Listen.
God is speaking.
He is calling us to rediscover Him, to reconnect with Him.
He calls us to turn back to Him and begin to trust Him again.
As we do, He grows His life within us.
His own Son, Jesus Christ, joins His Spirit with our spirit.
He is God, but also human—
and what a beautiful human being He is!
He is all we could ever want to be, and more.
As we trust Him, He blossoms in us.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Discover Jesus Christ
Recording
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Chosen

John 15:16, 19

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16, NASB)

God chose us as He chose Israel in the Old Testament.
Our coming to God, our relationship with Him, was entirely
His idea,
His choice,
His purpose,
His intention, and
His doing, out of
His love and by
His personal sacrifice.

Israel proved unworthy of His choice.
God’s purpose for them, His destiny for them
was fulfilled only in Jesus Christ.

So it is with us:
our worthiness,
our destiny,
our chosenness
is in Jesus Christ alone.

Like Israel, we were chosen,
not for special privilege,
but for a special purpose.
We were chosen,
not instead of unbelievers,
but on their behalf,
so that God might
reach them,
bless them, and
draw them to Himself.
We were chosen, not because He loved us more,
but because of His burning, tireless love for them.
He chose us to show them how much He loves them.

We were chosen to be
His personal possession,
His special treasure.
We were chosen to be uniquely, totally His.
We were chosen to be holy,
to be set apart completely to Him.
We were chosen for a life of obedience.
We were chosen for a life of self-sacrifice,
just as was our elder brother, Jesus Christ.
We were chosen to be God’s children,
to live and love like our Father,
to bring Him glory and praise.
We were chosen to share the Father’s
beautiful,
intimate,
seamless relationship with Jesus Christ,
now and forever.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Chosen in Jesus
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Our Pursuer

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Isaiah 65:1-3

When pursuing His wayward children, God doesn’t protect His dignity. He isn’t coy. He doesn’t play hard-to-get.

“I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’
To a nation which did not call on My name.
I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,
A people who continually provoke Me to My face.” (Isaiah 65:1-3, NASB)

They have wronged God, yet He takes the initiative to make their relationship right again. While they blindly, stubbornly ignore Him, He continues to pursue them, calling out, “Here I am! Here I am!”

Many believers have looked back on their conversion and have seen God this way: before they knew Him or cared about Him, even while they ran from Him, He patiently, persistently pursued them.

C.S. Lewis testified to such a God in his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy. But perhaps the most famous testimony is a poem whose very title portrays such a pursuing God: “The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson (1859-1907). It opens this way:

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him…
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after…
With unhurrying chase
And unperturbed pace.”

The poem seems difficult and dated to modern readers, but it poignantly captures how God shamelessly chased His rebellious child. The child fled out of fear and ignorance, afraid of the God who only wanted his best. God pursued him as a hunting dog would, never giving up.

That is the God who pursued you…and still pursues your best. He is pursuing your neighbor, your co-worker, the person ahead of you in traffic, and that one who seems a million miles away from Him.  He is pursuing your children, and He’ll pursue their children, and their children’s children, always calling out “Here I am! Here I am!”

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Seeking Me
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Planting Seeds

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9, NASB)

The Lord had called me to a task, and in spite of personal misgivings and insecurities, I had obeyed. For four years I had done all He led me to do, all He enabled me to do, all I knew to do. I had worked hard. I had believed in the project and its importance. I had financed it with my own money.

The response: almost nothing. As near to nothing as one can get.

I spoke to the Lord about my discouragement, and He answered me. He said that I was planting seeds, and I’d have to trust Him and wait for the harvest.

That helped me see my entire life in a new light. I am planting seeds, trusting God for the growth and the eventual harvest.

Thank You, Father! How much light is shed by a simple word from You! How much broader and deeper is Your perspective!

So, friends:

Do not be discouraged by
small numbers in your work for the Lord.
Be content to plant seeds.
The harvest will come in His time.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Bless This Seed
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We Need You

John 14:10 

Our Father exalted,
holy,
complete in wisdom, power, and love,
forever good,
forever true,
we need You!

I need You.
My dear spouse needs You.
Each of our precious children needs You.
Our pastor needs You.
Each friend,
each unique member of my family needs You.
Everyone I know,
everyone I encounter,
every individual in this sea of humanity
needs You.

O Father, we need Your light in our darkness.
We need Your truth,
Your rightness,
Your glory shining through
our struggling and inconsistent lives.
Lord God, we need Your holiness.
We need Your peace.
We need the patient, selfless love that only You can give.

But Father, more than anything else, we need You.
Help us need You as Christ needed You.
He depended on You constantly and
trusted You with all His heart.
He was completely Yours,
so You were completely His.

Father, in Jesus Christ You are ours as well.
You are ours
as we are Yours.
You are ours as we
trust You,
follow You, and
simply, deeply need You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Need You, Holy God
Recording
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David and Bathsheba: Renewal

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

2 Samuel 12:14-25

Lust. Adultery. Deceit. Murder. Abuse of power.

David had set a dreadful example for God’s people. What’s more, instead of being God’s light to the peoples around Israel, David had shamed God’s reputation among them (2 Samuel 12:14). As a result, God decreed that the sorrow and death David had brought into his home would begin with his newborn son. The child would die. And he did.

But here is where the story takes an amazing turn. One might have expected that David’s illicit union with Bathsheba would be cursed, or at least that no good fruit would come of it. The opposite happens. The Lord blesses their union with another child, a boy, and the scripture says specifically that “the Lord loved him” (12:24).

The child was Solomon. His name comes from the Hebrew word “shalom”, meaning “peace”. He was also given the name “Jedidiah”, which in Hebrew means “loved of the Lord” (12:25). Of all David’s children, he was selected to inherit the throne at David’s death. God chose him to build His house, the temple, and God blessed him with wisdom and riches beyond imagination. What’s more, the Messiah would come from Solomon’s line, from the line of David and Bathsheba.

What a marvelous story of God’s forgiveness! While David’s sin had destructive consequences, God also blessed his line with compassionate, life-giving renewal. This is a foretaste of what God would do in Jesus Christ:

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20, NASB)

As I Begin to Pray

Father,
as I walk through this false and foolish world,
reshape my false and foolish thoughts
by Your reality,
by the beautiful truth of all You are.

Help me see You and know You in Your transcendence.
Purify my desires by the holy breath of Your Spirit.
Keep me joyful in the unending flow of Your pure goodness.
Give me peace in the assurance of Your never-failing love.
Flood my being with the light of Your unspeakable greatness.

Give me a heart and mind that
are conscious of Your presence and
are fully responsive to You, my Father.

Make me like Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God My Father
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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