Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Prepare and Hope

This is the first Sunday in Advent; the genesis of preparing for the coming King.
But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.  You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Is. 9: 1-7).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. And the Word became flesh, and [k]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:1-4; 10, 14).

When we truly prepare for the coming of Christ, He fills us with Hope. The Messiah was the hope of Israel; and He silently crept into our chronos in the quiet of the night, in humble surroundings of a stable; The beauty of the incarnation.

We too, have the same Hope with Christ's Second coming, where He will interrupt our chronos with a glorious Kairos. Angels pronounced His birth at the first advent and the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God (see 1 Thess. 4:16).
Rest this Sabbath in the Hope of His coming; the Hope that He came once and the Hope that He will come again. Prepare for His coming and be ready.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne. 

Charles Wesley

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Renewing Your Joy For The Holidays

This year seems to have flown right by—the holidays are upon us once again. It’s been a brutal year; one I do not wish to repeat. 2015 has been a year of struggle in my world, and human tragedy and suffering around the globe. The news and the vignette on my dresser remind me of a prayer assignment for country I long to see; it renewed my resolve to pray. 

Though some events cause us to feel like Sam Wise Gamgee in The Two Towers, “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened?”[1] Even Sam understood that the darkness will pass: “But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer.”[2]
The holidays are a season of joy and thankfulness, yet every year I dread them. Talking with my mother on the phone last week, I hate the holidays, came pouring from my lips. I wish they would arrive and just be over with, I continued. I knew as soon as these words poured out from my lips, that the dread and drudgery had taken control of my mind and my heart. They came too easy; my fallenness finding expression. I sighed deep, and in frustration breathed, I need to figure out some way to enjoy the holidays. Why should I be miserable when I have so much to be thankful for? Why should celebrating the greatest gift ever given to this fallen world, bring dread and discouragement?  The Creator of the universe desired to dwell with humanity and came to the world in human skin. There was no fire or earthquake at His advent, the world slept as the King of Glory entered our chronos to tabernacle with His people, and to reconcile them to the Father.  

I reflected on my attitude, and why the holidays are so dreary for me, I determined that it is not really Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years that steal my joy. They represent the end of yet another year that I did not accomplish all I wanted to—in fact I fell far short of my plans and intentions, and the end of the year reminds me of how I failed. I have promises yet fulfilled, and prayers unanswered, and another year means I am still in the same place. I just don’t want to celebrate another trip around the mountain.

I also realized that my perception of the holidays reflects a stronghold in my mind. I have been stuck in a pattern or cycle of false perceptions for many years concerning the holidays; if I don’t change my perception, I will stay stuck.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. 10:5

I must cast down this stronghold from my mind; the sighing out of I must find a way to enjoy the holidays, caused me to be determined to change my perception. I want to change the way I perceive them. But this change must not be only for the holidays, it must last from January to December, because truth be told, I dread them all year—a hanging cloud on the horizon. This is not just a momentary change for a season, I need to relearn gratitude—as a wise bishop challenged his flock. The way to break the discouragement is to be thankful for everything. When I begin to feel discouraged, I praise Him, I find something to be thankful for. Blessing and cursing cannot come from the same mouth.

From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. James 3:10

We must make the choice ourselves to change our thinking and perceptions. A new day will come—if we choose to have a new day. When we choose to change our thinking, we are breaking the strongholds that keep us locked deep in discouragement. We must develop a habit of gratitude. The bishop challenged the flock to journal the things they’re grateful for. I have been privately, but I was apprehensive to share because it seems to be the theme of most blogs during this season. But how can I thank Him enough? I could write them a thousand times, and still not fully express my thankfulness 
for all He has done.

If we want a new life, or just to get out of the mundane, we have to be grateful for where we are now. God can’t move us to something new when we can’t be thankful in the old. I refuse to be unhappy or miserable during this season, I want my joy to be renewed. The Lord will renew my joy, if I change my thinking and become grateful in the mundane—the Holy often occurs in the mundane.
If you feel stuck return to the Word to relearn gratitude. The Psalms are a prayer tool, and a life line for worship. The poetry and prose of David and the other worshipers are breathtaking.

I have been reciting this Psalm for about a year, in the morning and the evening:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name O Most High; to declare Your Lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2

These are a few other passages that I read frequently:

Give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever. 2 Chron. 20:21

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 107:1

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Psalm 95: 1-6

O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. Isaiah 25:1

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is. 61:10

Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You. Nehemiah 9:5-7

Start by thanking Him for loving you and dying for you…if He does nothing else for me, the cross is enough, and I cannot thank Him enough—had I all of eternity to express it.

#1 Thank you for your salvation. Thank you for loving me, dying for me, and saving me.
 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph.3:17

#2 Thank you for filling me and sealing me with Your Holy Spirit.

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. Eph. 1:13

#3 Thank you for Your Word and Your promises.

Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.Psalm 119:59

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Heb. 10:23

I pray this helps you have a new perception of the season. I pray you will renew your gratitude, not just for Thanksgiving, but the whole year through.

[1] The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, DVD (Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2003) disk 2.

This is my scribbling...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 22—A Cry Of Anguish

For the choir director; upon Aijeleth Hashshahar. A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (v.1)
It was a somber day. The air chilling; death inevitable; hate abounding. Christ is hanging on the cross. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross {see Phil. 2:8}. He is seeking the Father’s face, but for a brief moment in time, heaven turned away. Jesus feels the despair of being separated from the Father. He is nailed to the tree to bridge that gap for all mankind. In His suffering, Jesus reaches back almost one-thousand years to the prophetic Psalm of David;

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” {Matt 27:46 ESV}.

Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning (v.1).

Jesus felt the separation from the Father when He took the sin of the world on His shoulders. It felt as though God was far away. It feels like that for us too sometimes in the midst of our anguish.

O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel (vv. 2-3).

Many times we suffer through trials and heaven seem as brass. Sleep is lost to the tossing and turning, the writhing of the hands, the swirling of the thoughts. But we, like David, must remind ourselves of who God is. He is always faithful.

In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed (vv.4-5).

David begins by declaring His trust in the faithfulness of the Lord, but then in the same breath acknowledges his lowliness:

But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him” (vv. 6-8).

These words are prophetic and evoke the events at the cross. These words ring familiar from Matthew’s gospel:

He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him… {27:43 ESV}.

Don’t buy the lie that God delivered the patriarchs but ignores your cries. When God seems silent, it does not mean He is far away. He is calling you into fellowship with Him. Do you trust Him? Is He faithful? Is He far away? Do you believe in Him? He is deep calling to deep…

David in the midst of his despair, remembers yet again the God of his fathers. He remembers the journey in which God has brought him. Yes, God is faithful even when He seems silent. I may not be able to trace Him in the silence, but I can trust Him. I can trust Him by remembering how far He has already brought me…

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb (vv.9-10).

Before you were born, He was your God. He has a plan and a purpose for you. He did not bring you this far only to fail you now. He will not let you drown:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you {Isaiah 43:2 NASB}.

Believers are not immune to trouble. Jesus promised that trouble should be expected. But He also promised that He has already overcome it {see Jn. 16:33}. He made that promise so that we will have peace. The Lord is only a prayer away. He may not calm the storm, but He may calm you in the midst of it. He wants us to know that He is our anchor. He is our strong tower. He is a refuge for all that come to Him.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help. Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, As a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.  But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me (vv. 11-21).

These words of misery and anguish are attributed to the Messiah, and though they seem hopeless, they are far from it. This prose paints a vivid picture of what Jesus endured on that cross, and it would seem that He felt that God had forsaken Him. We feel that way when we are enduring a trial or a hard season. The loneliness is unbearable at times. It must have been for Christ as well;

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin {Heb. 4:15}.
Christ in all His anguish still trusted in God, even in the moment that He turned away. He still in the end, committed His spirit into the hands of the Father. He knew the dark and the loneliness would be only a moment in time.
Though this poetry has Messianic implications, don’t overlook the poet that penned these words—David. He too is in anguish, surrounded by many who seek to harm him, and their mocking is unrelenting. But like Christ our ultimate example, David reaches past the darkness and anguish and finds words of praise and worship. He recalls the faithfulness of God through the ages. He reminds Israel to stand in awe of Him.  

Read the remaining verses with awe and meditate on His magnificence. He is worthy of all glory honor and power. Cast all your cares on Him. Give Him all your trouble. Praise Him for His deliverance past, present, and future. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is glorious and mighty. He is beautiful. He is spectacular.

I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard. From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him. The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s And He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive. Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness To a people who will be born, that He has performed it (vv. 22-31 NASB).

He does not despise the afflicted, but when we cried unto Him for help, He heard (v.24).

May we never lose our wonder. 

To Read all the Psalms in the series click Here

Don't forget to subscribe to the blog and hit like on my FB page! 

This is my scribbling...