Category Archives: Sunday

Fearless Inspiration

NRSV Ephesians 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

• God has created you in the likeness of perfection to insure you will be of value and succeed.
• He’s trusted you with abilities and talents unique to you.
• Your whole way of life is the inspired field of operation God has prepared for your good works.

Do you believe that?

Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t it sometimes seem the entirety of life from birth to death is graded on some sort of curve that eats away at the joy of “doing” because of the aspiration to be of value and succeed?  There are certainly times when that aspiration has negatively dictated my choice of whether to proceed in what I was doing.  I’m still learning the reality of good works and doing everything “heartily as unto the Lord.”  Sometimes you succeed beyond your wildest dreams…and that’s a blessing.  But, sometimes you fail so “heartily” you’ll never be asked to do that again…and that’s a blessing too. 😍. 

Artist: Gail Stanghelle

I’ve owned this piece of art for many years now but I’m still touched by the words “Do not be afraid to use what talents you possess…” I move it time to time from one prominent spot to another so that my eyes are reminded not to miss it’s inspiration.  It’s good to aspire to be of value and succeed but that’s not a required part of “good works. ” Fearless inspiration  is.

This is the fearless inspiration that transforms our aspirations into good works: NLT 2:13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

Perspective

Psalm 69:5 O God, you know so well how stupid I am, and you know all my sins. 6 O Lord God of the armies of heaven, don’t let me be a stumbling block to those who trust in you. O God of Israel, don’t let me cause them to be confused,…13 But I keep right on praying to you, Lord. For now is the time—you are bending down to hear! You are ready with a plentiful supply of love and kindness. Now answer my prayer and rescue me as you promised… 30 Then I will praise God with my singing! My thanks will be his praise— 31 that will please him more than sacrificing a bullock or an ox. 32 The humble shall see their God at work for them. No wonder they will be so glad! All who seek for God shall live in joy.  TLB

Circumstance and personal struggle have sapped all David’s energy.  He’s exhausted from his constant need to protect himself but something new has happened to him in the midst of his distress.  He’s seeing his circumstances from a new perspective.  He’s seeing and praying beyond himself to the impact his struggle may have on others who trust in God’s reputation.  

It’s that perspective, not his circumstances, that has changed everything.  “Don’t let me be a stumbling block to those who trust in you. O God of Israel, don’t let me cause them to be confused… I keep right on praying to you, Lord. For now is the time—you are bending down to hear!”  That’s his  source of comfort and praise…and now that’s my inspiration. 

Circumstances won’t always change but perspective can make all the difference in our response.  “The humble shall see their God at work for them. No wonder they will be so glad!” 

The Right Reward

Psalm 58:6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!  7 Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.  8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun…10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

This Psalm is really hard to read because of David’s frustration and anger about the injustice, violence and lies of the wicked.  Me too, but… It ends with what reads like a gruesome emphasis on how good the righteous will feel when God steps in and wipes out those wicked people. 

I understand the need for the assurance “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;  surely there is a God who judges the earth.” Those assurances are absolute and timeless truths but all I can think of is how important is is to not make the mistake of enjoying the wrong reward.  God’s justice IS going to defend the righteous but just as surely it’s “still” HIS righteousness that’s our right reward to enjoy, not the judgment of others.

Sovereign Reliability

Psalm 35 – Here are some verses grouped to show both David’s contentiousness and his wisdom in realizing his relationship to God was interactive. NIV

:1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. 3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. [AND] Say to me,  “I am your salvation.”

:4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay…8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. [AND] 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. 10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord?

:17 How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. [AND] 18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

:22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord.  23 Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; [AND] do not let them gloat over me.

:26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. [AND] 28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.

David’s interaction with God was a private place where he could pour out his words of frustration and fear about circumstances beyond his control.  His words to God were often controversial, even contentious. It’s interesting to note these Psalms are filled with David’s contentious words AND they’re the same place he came to his undeniable certainty of the Sovereign reliability of God.

David knew God was there to “contend” [to fight] for him when his own righteousness was clouded by contentiousness and fear. Here’s the thing the giant slayer came to understand: Life is just another giant you can’t fight alone.  That’s the reality of Sovereign reliability.

No wonder David was a man after God’s own heart. 

That’s †rust!

Ps 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!  Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

“Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (תנ”ך), are *those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.” [Wikipedia] 

I had never heard the word imprecatory let alone of Imprecatory Psalms until this week. Here’s one of the lists I found: Psalms: 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139.  I began at the end of the list because I was more familiar with this Psalm. It had been meaningful enough to me that I’d written a song about it years ago.  When I reviewed the Psalm and my song I discovered I’d skipped right over verses *19 to 22* to the  last two verses pleading for God to search my heart and know me.  Now I’m surprised to discover he’s doing just that with those four verses I’d skipped back then.  

Skipping over those harsh “imprecatory” verses seems typical of the “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” mentality to me.  That mindset is more an indicator of not being willing to admit what God already knows I’m afraid to speak rather than of my own generous nature.  That’s the problem.

That’s what makes me think my reluctance to admit to, let alone speak, such harsh words to God may be his enemy using fake guilt to influence my heart with divided loyalties.  Is it  better to speak words and thoughts that sound so harsh and vindictive to God, than to not speak to him at all about them?  The reality is the only person I’ve been fooling is myself. 

I want my prayers to be like David’s.  I want my heart to be so certain of God’s Sovereign reliability that I am not afraid of the effect my hostile and harsh thoughts and words against his enemies and injustice will have on God’s opinion of me. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  That’s †rust!

Double √√

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √
Double √√

I’m struck by how complicated the life of a believer becomes with the reality of needing to submit [accept or yield], and at the same time resist [withstand the action or effect].  Submission and resistance are not as black and white as they may seem at first glance. 

We all know our response to those complications is critical but sometimes the right choice slips by unnoticed in a world of gray.  Ask the right questions.  Comfort can make submitting to the wrong thing seem easy.  Beware!   We’ve all experienced the futility of wasting our energy resisting the “right” thing.
Be aware! 

The right choice is all about the need to  double √√ who you’re submitting to and who you’re resisting.   Submit to the need to ask the right questions of the right person!  Resist the lie this is a simple choice based on comfort or effort. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Mercy is the Beginning

James 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mer·cy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Here’s my checklist from James so far: √ endurance and √ need.  Next on the list is √ mercy.  We learn what it means to endure when we become completely aware of our need for Jesus to work out within us what God has promised.  Even before we “came to our senses” and spoke our own commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was at work revealing our need to do just that.  Walking into the arms of Jesus wasn’t an act of our own making.  Those words we spoke were the result of God’s mercy seeping into the cracks of a stony heart and triumphing over judgment, his and ours.  

Mercy is the beginning of  our own baptism into the Kingdom of God.   Shared mercy has other benefits that are just as real.   “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Love, Jesus