Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"In the Lord"

"Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright."
Psalm 33:1

There are so many reasons to shout for joy. But I find it interesting that the Scripture says here "shout for joy in the Lord". It's not just that there are things to be happy about, but things to be joyful about in God. What else would there be to be happy in God about except things that relate to who He is?

God, the Creator, gives us life and breath and sustains us. He holds all things in His hands. He is the just and the Justifier (Rom. 3:26). My Redeemer and Savior (Is. 43:11). He blots out transgressions for His name's sake (Is. 43:25). He is compassionate and kind, patient and merciful (Ps. 78:38, 2 Pet. 3:9). He is generous and loving (Num. 14:18). He is the One who gives counsel (Ps. 16:7). My Rock, fortress, Deliverer (Ps. 18:2). All-powerful and mighty (Ps. 50:1). Sovereign (Acts 4:24).

These are just a few of the things we can rejoice over in Him. He is worthy of all our praise!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Interacting with the Psalms

Psalm 23 is one of those familiar Psalms that is frequently quoted in times of death or great sorrow. It’s so familiar to many of us that it’s easy to skip over the truth or miss what God is saying to us. There is so much application of Psalm 23 to everyday life, so let's try to see Psalm 23 with an open heart to what God wants to teach us.

What does this Psalm teach us about God?

He is our Good Shepherd (v. 1). He leads us wisely and faithfully, gently and lovingly. He knows what is best for us, and all His ways are right and good.

He is our Restorer (v. 3). We need this so often because we get bogged down with life, and we need His restoration.

He leads us in ways for His name’s sake (v. 3). God always is bringing glory to Himself. It’s about His Name being spread, His power being manifested in Your life, not your comfort, happiness, or temporary pleasure, as we so often want it to be. 

He is our Comforter (v. 4). God often uses the valleys of life to reveal areas in our hearts that need to be refined, wrong motives that need to be confessed, idols that need to be destroyed. Yet in the midst of those valleys, He comforts us. Isn't this an amazing God?

Truth about God can never be mere head-knowledge, because knowledge puffs up.  
So in light of those truths about God, what should our response be?

If He is our Good Shepherd, we should trust Him wholeheartedly. If He was an unreliable Shepherd we'd have reason to doubt, but God never fails and He never does anything that isn't perfect and right. 

If He is our Restorer, we should find Him to be our source of joy. Our treasure, our life, our all. He is the only One who can meet the deepest needs of our hearts.

If He leads us for His name's sake, we should follow Him, no matter the cost. If He did things for our sake, than it would be a small, short-lived glory. But we're following a King that is worthy of all our devotion and obedience! Because it's for His sake, we can obey Him when He commands us to love unconditionally. To serve joyfully. To give sacrificially. To fight sin. To pursue unity. To embrace accountability. To be vulnerable. To deny ourselves and live selflessly. To spread the gospel. To give our earthly lives. Every circumstance in your life is meant to bring you into deeper fellowship with Him. If God is more glorified in your life by bringing great trial or difficulty, wouldn’t you want to embrace it?

If He is our Comforter, than we can comfort others. What we’ve been given, we can then give. God works in our lives, not just so we can keep it to ourselves, but because He intends for it to be spread, through the body of Christ in the local church, and through the globe, as believers passionate about God's glory spread His name and share what He has done in their lives. But you can’t give what you don’t have. So if you aren’t experiencing these truths about God, how can you expect others to experience them?

How can you praise God for who He is today? What response and application should that bring?


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Know Him and Make Him Known

Our greatest desire should be to know Christ and make Him known. But life is filled with messy situations, broken people, unreconciled relationships, interrupted plans, unexpected disasters, hurt, pain, and sorrow. The stark reality of life in a broken world captures our attention and causes us to become discouraged and sometimes despair. There are so many things to pray for, so many needs to be met, so many problems we're involved in

So how do we keep our focus on God and not the circumstances? How can we use those circumstances to turn ourselves to God (know Him) and turn others to God (make Him known)?

  • We need to see that God's greatest desire is for us to know Him in deeper ways. (1 John 5:20, Job 26:14, Psalm 73:25-26, 28) You know this, but do you live in a way that displays this truth? I find that in the midst of challenges, I want to pray selfishly for a particular result or for the change I desire. But recognizing that God desires for me to walk with Him more deeply changes the way I pray. Praying isn't about changing the circumstances, but positioning my heart so that God can change me. Are you praying that God would help you to experience Him in deeper ways?
Ask yourself:
"Do I know Him where I am today?" Oswald Chambers

This is not a trite "Do I know God is with me?" type of question. It is much deeper. Do you see how He as at work where you are right now? Do you see areas He is wanting to refine in you? Conviction of His Spirit? Do you know how, practically, you can make God known in your current circumstance?

  • We need a greater realization of God's presence. (Psalm 70:4, Col. 1:27)   If you had an important friend and counselor, someone who had poured much into your life, wouldn't you be inclined to introduce everyone you know to them? What about Christ, the one who took on your sins and cloaked you in His righteousness? Who demonstrated His love in that while you hated Him, He loved you? Who through His abundant mercy regenerated you and justified you and still continues to sanctify you? This infinite, righteous, sovereign, trustworthy, faithful God has graciously given His chosen children the gift of His presence in us. Do we remember that His Spirit is with us as we deal with difficulties?

  • We need a deeper passion to know Him and make Him known. (Psalm 96:3, 67:4) If you know Him, your deepest desire should be to know Him more, and then share that joy and passion with others! Do you represent Jesus well as you speak of Him to others, or does your lack of interest in Him and His Word reveal that He really isn't your life, He's an addition to your life? You can't help others see their need for God and make Him known to them if they don't see that you are convinced that your greatest need is to know Him more. Do others grasp a passion from you that God is your greatest treasure? 

  • We need to surround ourselves with people who have this same passion for Christ. (Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:24, 1 Thess. 2:12) We need to spur one another on towards lives of holiness and godliness. The Christian life was never meant to be lived in a vacuum. That is why God created the church, the community of believers to press on towards the goal of knowing Christ together. Do you have to have other godly people in your life that encourage and exhort you in your faith and help you see your need for God?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Review

“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, Your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, but they are more than can be told!” Psalm 40:5

This is how I feel right now. My heart is overflowing in gratitude as I think about the things God has done and His greatness. It’s been a joyful and rewarding summer. I want to proclaim and tell of the things God has done, but they are more than can be told! I spent the summer at Life Action camp, serving in a leadership and discipleship role. It was a new experience for me, and that brought challenges. I knew I couldn’t prepare for everything, which made me a bit nervous. But it was exciting prospect too in light of my passions and things I had been studying.

There were many things God did in my heart while serving, specifically growing me in obedience to something He had begun working in my heart months ago, guiding me to recognize my dependence on Him by strengthening my prayer life (particularly intercession), stripping away things to help me treasure Him more, and showing me how to extend grace towards others.

I learned …
  • To look to God, Him being my source
  • See my work as His divine power at work within me
  • The joy and privilege of ministering and pouring out for the sake of others
  • To pray more as God burdened my heart for specific people or situations
  • To be thankful that God uses me, even though He doesn’t need me

Ways God clearly worked:
  • Prayer answered
  • Regenerating hearts
  • Divine opportunities to share the gospel or other truth about Him
  • Conviction and clear direction

I love how God works. I went to camp to minister and help others grow, yet I'm the one that God refined and grew. I'm so blessed.

How has God been working in you this summer? Have you told others?