Don’t Quit: You Shall Not Be Moved

Psalm 21 is a royal Psalm, a classification of Psalms written by or for a king. King David wrote the Psalm from a king’s point of view. And lest you think the Psalm only applies to King David, I would encourage you to consider the apostle Peter’s words:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

Since you and I are royalty (wow!) consider the prayer of Psalm 21:1-7…and make it yours. Where you see the word “king” put the personal pronoun “I.” Here’s how that prayer would go:

O Lord, in your strength I rejoice, and in your salvation how greatly I exult! You have given me my heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of my lips. For you met me with rich blessings, you set a crown of fine gold upon my head. I asked life of you, you gave it to me, length of days forever and ever. My glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on me. For you make me most blessed forever, you make me glad with the joy of your presence. For I trust in You Lord, and through your steadfast love, the steadfast love of the Most High, I shall not be moved.

“Has God really done for me what he did for King David,” you might ask? He has, and more. The New Testament mentions five crowns!

The Crown of Life  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, ESV)

The Imperishable Crown Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25, ESV)

The Crown of Righteousness  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV)

The Crown of Glory  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4, ESV) This crown appears to be for faithful pastors.

The Crown of Rejoicing Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1, ESV) This crown is those you lead to the Lord, those you disciple.

So don’t quit. Years ago, in college, I came across this poem and memorized most of it. It’s worth the read.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

John Greenleaf Whittier

The Day of Trouble

Psalm 20 doesn’t avoid reality. David opens the Psalm with these words: “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble.” He doesn’t say if the day of trouble comes–it is sure to come. The day of trouble is an untimely death, an unexpected job loss, the disappointment of a wayward child, the devastating news that your husband or wife is cheating, a bill you never saw coming, a diagnosis that stopped you in your tracks, the unwelcome depression that crept into your life, your unrelenting boss.

Whatever your day of trouble, Psalm 20 is for you. Pray it for yourself. Pray it for someone you know.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.
O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call. (Psalm 20:1-9, ESV)
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. There isn’t enough blog space to recount all his names, but consider these.
When you struggle with the meaning of your life, he is Elohim, the God who created you.
When today seems like the worst day you’ve ever experienced, He is Jehovah, the Great I Am.
When you are weak he is El Shaddai, God Almighty.
When you need healing he is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord your Healer.
When you are in the valley, he is El Elyon, God most High.
When you are battling he is Jehovah Nissi, the banner flying high.
When your needs outweigh your resources, he is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord your Provider.
When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he is Jehovah Raah, the Lord your Shepherd.
When your life seems out of control, he is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord your Peace.
When you cannot defend yourself, He is Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts who fights for you.
When you don’t measure up, he is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord your Righteousness.
When your tomorrow seems more daunting than today, he is Jehovah Shammah, the Lord who is There.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

I Once Was…But Now I

John Newton’s famous hymn includes the well-known line, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Paul encourages us in Romans 12:2 to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice in view of “the mercies of God.” Newton never lost sight of God’s mercies. We shouldn’t either.

So I’m wondering, how would you fill in the blanks? I once was ____________, but now I _______________.

I once was drunk,  but now I’m sober.

I once was greedy, but now I’m generous.

I once was an adulterer, but now I’m faithful.

I once was self-centered, but now I’m compassionate.

I once was addicted, but now I’m clean.

I once was a cheater, but now I’m honest.

I once was angry, but now I’m content.

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, warned them about indulging in unrepentant sin. Those who do will not experience heaven here…or in the life hereafter.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

And then he makes an astounding observation!

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV, emphasis mine)

And such were some of you. He’s writing to reformed idolaters, homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, verbal abusers (revilers) and cheaters. They once were _______, but now they are ___________.

Live today in light of God’s mercies. We all need a gracious memory of the sin from which God has saved us.

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.—John Newton

Amazing Grace

As promised here are notes to accompany this morning’s sermon. If you’d like to watch the sermon go to our Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/gracecommunitymarion/).

Here is the link to the four benefits of the mercies of God from Robert McGee’s book, Search for Significance. Meditate on these. God will use them to remind you of who you are in him. Performance Trap

I also highly recommend Paul David Tripps’ Devotional, New Morning Mercies.

The video I was going to share from the movie Amazing Grace is attached here. Enjoy. What a changed life!

Jesus, It is You

Fridays are not always fabulous. Sometimes they’re downright frightening. Marriages don’t magically get better on Fridays. Friendships don’t suddenly work out because the weekend is approaching. Pain shows up Friday mornings just like other mornings. So, on this Friday afternoon, I’m compelled to share with you how Jesus sat down in the Jeep beside me on the way to Montreat this morning. It was moments of glory, minutes of worship.

This is the song that was playing. It’s 8 minutes long. If you don’t have that much time right now, a few minutes of it will give you the idea. The ONE THING TRUE is Jesus. Enjoy.

When Silence Isn’t Golden

ntsI am not a politician. I am not a political junkie. I watch the news 2 to 3 times a week. This is not a political post. I simply cannot be silent.

In two weeks we (Grace Community Church) will host Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs. Night to Shine will involve hundreds of volunteers, cost more than $10k, and require remarkable energy from every level of leadership at Grace. Why do we do it? Because people with special needs matter. Their lives are valuable to God and to us.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV)

In 2017, CBS traveled to Iceland to study the impact of prenatal testing on Down’s Syndrome. The title of their article revealed the horror they felt:

“What kind of society do you want to live in?”: Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing(see article here)

I felt the same horror when I heard of the New York Senate’s decision to allow abortion all the way up to full term–if the baby is no longer “viable” or the mother’s “well-being” is at risk. When the bill passed, the Senate erupted in applause. Why do I find their applause horrifying? The ambiguity of the phrase “well-being of the mother” provides an open door for unprecedented late-term abortions. Wellbeing refers to “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.”

We are at a standstill over border protection. I value the lives of people who desperately want to get into this country. This is one reason I’ve traveled to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras and Africa on mission trips. People matter to God. All colors, all tribes, all people groups. He loves none of them more than any other.

But we cannot have it both ways. We either value the voiceless life of the unborn, the sometimes muffled voice of the person with special needs, the unrecognizable voice of the immigrant who does not speak our language, and the weak voice of the aging Alzheimer’s patient who no longer knows her name–or we don’t value life at all. Throughout all of Scripture God clearly calls us to speak up and provide for 3 kinds of people:

At the end of every three years, bring all your tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, NIV, emphasis mine)

I am not suggesting that we go soft on the border. I have no desire to wade into that political minefield. I am saying that we must NEVER go soft on life, on its value to those who have no voice, who cannot speak for themselves either because they are resting in their mom’s amniotic fluid, or their intellectual development prohibits them from speaking up, or they cannot speak our language, or they can no longer articulate…because disease has attacked their minds. They matter to God…and they must matter to us.

 

 

My Heart, His Dwelling Place

This one is spaced better. Sorry!

Enough for Today

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.” (Psalm 132:13-18, ESV)
Psalm 132 is clearly about David’s desire to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem. When David became king, the tabernacle (and by extension the Ark of the Covenant) was in Shiloh. It took two years for David to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the ark there.

However, the Psalmist is also clear that God had chosen Jerusalem…

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My Heart, His Dwelling Place

For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.” (Psalm 132:13-18, ESV)
Psalm 132 is clearly about David’s desire to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem. When David became king, the tabernacle (and by extension the Ark of the Covenant) was in Shiloh. It took two years for David to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the ark there.

However, the Psalmist is also clear that God had chosen Jerusalem (Zion) before David brought the ark there. David was simply doing what God had already ordained. So how is this Psalm applied to you and me today?

This morning, in my time with the Lord, this is what I did. I do not think I’m off base with this. The reality is, if you belong to Jesus, it is because God chose you. He called you and redeemed you. This is not a treatise on predestination and election. Books have been written to tackle the profundity of the passages on both election and the free will of men and women. I believe both.

But read this passage like this:

For the LORD has chosen me;
he has desired me for his dwelling place:

Then God speaks…
“You are my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless you;
I will satisfy you with bread.
You I will clothe with salvation,
and you will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for you;
I have prepared a lamp for you,
Your enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on you my crown will shine.”

In the New Testament, our hearts become Christ’s home. He no longer dwells in the temple, but we become the temple. What if we truly believed this! Lived out of it! Appropriated this into our lives!

Is your heart His resting place? Has it occurred to you that, if you are born again, He has desired to dwell in you. He longs to satisfy you. He longs to clothe your naked sinfulness with his salvation. Your enemies (the world, Satan and your sinful nature) he will clothe with shame.

We are, of all people, most blessed. Dwell on this today.

Your God is Too Small

Our God is too small…because our enemy is too small. I’m afraid we think too little of God because we think too little of the enemy of our soul. Before you think I’ve lost my way with this, listen to David’s words in Psalm 124:

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters. (Psalm 124: 1-5, ESV)

What struck me as I read Psalm 124 was not David’s assessment of the Lord, it was his evaluation of the enemy. He talks more about the enemy than he does the Lord. Notice the words he uses to describe the intent of the enemy: swallowed us up alive, anger kindled against us, flood that swept us away, torrent gone over us, then over us would have gone the raging waters. We’ve had enough rain recently to see the effects of raging flood waters. Water is a force to be reckoned with. Satan is too. So is the world. And our sinful nature.

I’m afraid our God is too small because our enemy is too. Listen to Jesus’ words:

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

Satan’s goal is not to trip you up–his goal is your total destruction. The world wants to twist how you think, affect your heart’s desires, and infect your relationships. Your sinful nature craves sin, delights in it, can never get enough. Don’t go light on the enemies of your soul. They’re real. They are raging waters and rushing torrents. They want to sweep you away. Again Jesus’ words…to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV)

And how did Peter respond?

Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:33-34, ESV)

Peter underestimated the enemy…and paid dearly for it. He denied the very Christ he loved so much. So what do we do? Focus on the enemy? Live in fear? No!

Notice how David ends the Psalm:

Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:6-8, ESV)

David ends by blessing the Lord. The enemy is great. God is greater. The enemy entraps. God breaks the snare. The enemy is strong, God is stronger. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” David appeals to God’s greatest act–that of creating. You must too. If you belong to God, you are a new creation–the old has passed away, behold the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

How might you echo David’s words: “My help is in the name of the Lord who made me, made me new, and now lives inside me.” The aged apostle John wrote, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, ESV)

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let _____________________ (your name) now say…”

 

Why Flash Mobs Remind me of Immanuel

I watch this video every year. It’s my favorite, and evidently it’s the favorite of a lot of others too. More than 52 million have watched it! But before you look at it, consider Jesus’ own appellation: Immanuel.

Isaiah predicted it. Matthew affirmed it. His name shall be called Immanuel. But did Jesus embrace it? What did Jesus think of Immanuel? Jesus’ fulfillment of his own name can be summarized in three statements:

I was with you

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23, ESV) Before you and I were ever born, Jesus became one of us. He took on our flesh, and more importantly and drastically, took on our sin. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

I am with you

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20, ESV) “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV) He is with you in the delivery room, the operating room, the courtroom, the classroom, the living room and the solitude of your bedroom when tears quietly drop from your eyes. He is with you in the celebrations and the humiliations.

You will be with me

Listen again to Jesus’ words: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” (John 12:26, ESV) “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3, ESV) “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24, ESV)

Flash mobs are a welcomed but surprise visit. Passersby don’t expect them, but are glad when they show up (if they can sing!). That was Jesus. Unexpected by most. Welcomed by some. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..”(John 1:12, ESV)