Monday, July 20, 2009

Strong Support

This past Sunday, we dealt with handling conflicts and storms in life as we studied 1 Peter 5:1-11. I stressed the call of Peter turn your eyes to God. I did this because I wanted to make sure the hearer understood the repetitive call of Peter to focus on God during times of difficulty. However, I want to make sure that I do not minimize the gift God has given in surrounding Christians with other Christians. If you recall, in the passage Peter says to consider others that are suffering similarly. What a great help these "others" can be to us.

I believe God has called Christians to be a part of a community of believers that are committed not only to Him, but to one another as well. Dr. Mark Dever is a pastor in Washington, DC. Over the years he has greatly shaped my thinking about the importance of the local church. I encourage you to follow this link and read an article he has written about the wonderful gift that is the called the local church.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Are You Looking At?

Where did the idea originate that God would lift our problems off of our shoulders the moment we pray? I'm not sure, but I have certainly heard it many times. Songs, sermons, and other sentiments all seem to reflect the notion of “take it to the Lord and leave it there”. As if the second your prayer is over you won't have to think about the dilemma again and, even more, it will be instantly solved. While God can certainly bring change or healing in an instant, most often He does not.

A careful look at Psalm 55 finds David struggling against a friend that has turned into his enemy. We hear his grief and fear as he recalls how he struggles with anxiety and worry. He says, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” His fears are rooted deep. They are on the level of life and death. We don't often face fears to that extreme, but even common problems can bring fear and trembling. There is no doubt that there is much uncertainty in the world. In fact, there is great uncertainty in our own lives. When our minds dwell on what might happen we can become consumed with despair and fear. Is that where we should focus?

No, David offers a picture for us of where we should look. He does not spend all day thinking about the potential terrible outcomes. He focuses on the Deliverer, “But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.” David's focus is on God. He is aware of the problems. He does not deny their severity. Yet, his focus remains on God.

Let's investigate further. When does David call upon the Lord with these problems? The answer is evening, morning and noon. See the connection between our discussion about casting our cares on God that was mentioned above? David says in this psalm, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” The word cast is in present tense. He doesn't say I casted or I will cast. No, he says I cast. When does he do his casting? Evening, morning and noon. It was not a one time prayer. It was a regular request of God which led him to be humble before God on a ongoing basis as he sought deliverance. He realized the problem was only going to be solved if God delivered the solution. That is the exact opposite of pride. Pride tells us that we can solve our problems on our own. And, it tells us we can solve them whenever we are good and ready. Pride is absent in Psalm 55.

One other noteworthy piece here is to think about David praying evening, morning and noon. Why would he mention those times? Well, when something is really bothering me it is usually the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake. In the middle of the day, I usually take a break from my other tasks and I have some time to think about the things that are troubling me. That is not to say that I don't think about problems at other times in the day, especially when they are big problems, but those three times are prime times to be overwhelmed with concerns. David's message to us...which is repeated in the book of 1 that our goal should always be to turn our focus from the problem to the Great Problem Solver.

Yes, you have problems. We all do. But, where are you looking? Are you overwhelmed by the problem or in awe of the Problem Solver?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Proud Deception

Does God's wrath burn toward you? Is He angry with you? Serious questions to consider. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God opposes the proud. So I need to be asking, is there pride in me? Is there pride in you? If my answer is yes, then is God totally opposed to me? The answer is yes and no.

What is pride? Ultimately, pride is the desire to be God. That sounds extreme, perhaps, but it is true. Isaiah 14 records that it was Satan's desire to ascend to God's throne that caused him to be cast out of God's angel corp. It was his pride. He desired to sit in God's seat. He desired God's power. We find that this same desire for power was the bait used to entice Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3 Satan claims to know more that God, and says they will also if they will only rebel against God. And, there it is. Our pride calls us to rebel against God.


Because a pride-filled person is one that knows best. A pride-filled person is one that knows best and can accomplish whatever they want to accomplish. A pride-filled person is one that knows best and can accomplish whatever they wish to accomplish and is strong enough to bear whatever consequences may come.

Are you a proud person?

Let's take a short exam. Answer these questions...

-- If you are being faithful to God, are you satisfied with your station in life? Or, do you deserve better?

-- Are you happy with your spouse? Or, should you have someone that pleases you more?
Do your children behave exactly the way you want them to? Do they often inconvenience you? (Even if you would never acknowledge this fact out loud.) Or, do you see your role as one of a servant toward them?

-- Do you deserve better friends? Or, do you see your role as that of a servant to them?

-- Is your stuff good enough? Do you always need the newest or the best? Or, are you thankful and satisfied with what God has provided?

How are you doing so far? Found any pride? Need me to go on?

Truth is, there is pride in all of us. While God is for those that follow Jesus Christ(Romans 8:31-39), He does not love your pride and He will work to get it out of you. That means conviction, frustration, and discontent may be guests in your life. They are tools God uses to get you to humble yourself.

As you turn loose of your pride, don't worry, God is strong enough to fill his own seat. His power and wisdom are sufficient.

The real question is, will you submit to Him? And, in turn submit to those around you so that you can serve them as Christ has served you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tracking the Process

God is orderly. Usually I am not. God has a reason and rhythm for everything He does. I struggle with being random. Have you ever tried to carry a thought through to completion? You should try that sometime to see how many rabbit trails you end up chasing until the final observation is made. It is quite amazing to see how distracted we can be. I think this is why we often worry and feel deep anxiety. We lose track of the process that God is carrying us through. Or, maybe we don’t even realize He is carrying us through a process at all.

For instance, take a look at this passage in 1 Peter 5:6-11,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

What did you read? Did you notice there are two sequence patterns in this passage? So often our minds are only drawn to the call to cast our cares upon God and remember the devil is out to get us. Yet, there is much more to this passage. Look carefully at the call to humble yourself, to cast your care upon Him, to resist the devil and temptation and trust God to raise you up at the proper time. The second sequence comes at the end of the passage. We hear that God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us after we have suffered a little while. So, we see the minute we ask God for His help He does not instantly remove the problem. No, in a very orderly way He uses it to build us up as followers and learn to trust Him more. Through our struggles God desires to teach us that He does have dominion over all.

One way to grow up in the faith is to become better readers and analyzers of Scripture. When we slow down in our reading and begin to look passages from different vantage points we begin to see patterns like this. We begin to see the depths of what the writer desires to teach us and we gain a better understanding of how God works.

God is orderly. Usually I am not. I need to learn how to remain focused on what God is doing. Interesting sentence there so think about it. What do you think about most when troubles come? When I begin to think biblically I am able to keep my focus, better understand what God is doing in my life and learn how I should respond to Him. This week, let’s do that as we take a deeper look at this passage.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Casting Your Cares

In a week or so, Lord willing, we will be working through the passage where we are called to cast all of our cares on God. It is found in 1 Peter 5:6-11. I think this passage is often misunderstand from the standpoint that God will just instantly take these burdens from us and we will not have to work toward the solution with Him. As we think about this passage and ask God to prepare our hearts, click here for an article from Dr. David Powlison that will help you think through this process.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Entertaining Ourselves to Death

I am sorry that Michael Jackson is dead. And, I am sorry that Steve McNair is dead. We have recently seen a flurry of celebrity deaths that has sent the media into quite a tizzy. Do you realize the deaths of these celebrities have overshadowed some major global events over the past couple of weeks? Are you aware of the governmental chaos in Iran and Honduras; and, that there is a great American military offensive going on in Afghanistan while American troops begin a significant transition in Iraq?

Have we lost perspective?

Michael Jackson and Steve McNair certainly provided entertainment, and maybe even inspiration in their respected fields. But it looks as if they both died less than noble deaths. I have been bothered by the bright spotlight that has been cast on them (and others) in the last week. It has been bothersome because I have been tempted to become absorbed in this frenzy.

What do I value most?

I was reading through the Psalms for some perspective and found this from Psalm 144:1-4,

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,my shield and He in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Look at the psalmist’s comparison of God’s eternal strength and fleeting weakness of man. Before we raise up immortal tributes of any human being, let us remember that we are all creatures. That means we have all been created. By a Creator. There is nothing good that we do that is original in us. Creativity, artistry, strength, and endurance have all been created. By the Creator. For the Creator. Did these celebrities use their God-given abilities for the glory of God? Am I using mine for Him? Are you using yours for His magnification? Important questions to consider.

So, before you are swept away by these the glowing memorial tributes to human accomplishment think about your own life by remembering James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."