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Be Thou My Vision

As a college student I lived on the edge of the dangerous cliff of pleasing men and pleasing God. I wanted others to like me, yet knew I wanted God to like me too. I wanted to do God’s will and peoples’ will too. I was part of a men’s college choir with a remarkable director who brought out the best in us. We wore crisp tuxedos, traveled to mostly Methodist churches and performed. My hypocrisy wasn’t so obvious…it was internal. The hypocrisy of others was very obvious. They would get drunk the night before, show up the next morning and sing hungover.

Ironically a song I learned for the very first time as a member of Wofford’s Glee Club was Be Thou My Vision. I knew better than living the double life I was living…many of my fellow Glee Club members didn’t. Thankfully God didn’t give up on me. Naomi knew better than to be bitter over what happened to her–but she was bitter anyway. Be Thou My Vision should have been the song she sang on the long road back from Moab to Bethlehem. Maybe it needs to be your song today. Pray these words to God today:

  1. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
    Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
    Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
    Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
  2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
    I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
    Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
    Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
  3. Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
    Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
    Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
    Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
  4. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
    Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
    Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
    High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
  5. High King of Heaven, my victory won,
    May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
    Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall,
    Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

If you have four minutes, Fernando Ortega sings it beautifully: 

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Kept By God

Slowly and deliberately pray this prayer to the God “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…”(Jude 1:24):

Jehovah God,

Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things, I cannot escape from your presence or control, nor do I desire to do so.

My privilege is to be under the agency of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace.

You are love with more than parental affection; I admire your heart, adore your wisdom, stand in awe of your power, abase myself before your purity.

It is the discovery of your goodness alone that can banish my fear, allure me into your presence, help me to bewail and confess my sins.

When I review my past guilt and am conscious of my present unworthiness I tremble to come to you, I whose foundation is in the dust, I who have condemned your goodness, defied your power, trampled upon your love, rendered myself worthy of eternal death.

But my recovery cannot spring from any cause in me, I can destroy but cannot save myself.

Yet you have laid help on One that is mighty, for there is mercy with you, and exceeding riches in your kindness through Jesus.

May I always feel my need of him.

Let your restored joy be my strength; may it keep me from lusting after the world, bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts, enliven me in the valley of death, work in me the image of the heavenly, and give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality, such as angels and departed saints know. (The Valley of Vision, page 106-107)

I Will Not Be Greatly Shaken

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 61:1-2)

Waiting can be exhilarating or excruciating. Airports unveil both the excitement and the misery. I once sat in an un-airconditioned plane for more than an hour on the tarmac because we couldn’t “take off yet.” On the other hand, I have watched moms hug their sons they haven’t seen in months, seen children run into the arms of their fathers and watched a soldier relish the embrace of his wife. Waiting is both exhilarating and excruciating.

What changes how you wait is who you’re waiting for. In Psalm 62 David says, “For God alone.” Often we wait for what God brings, not for God Himself. At this time of year it is a timely reminder that God is not a divine Santa, He is a dear Savior. David says, “from him comes my salvation.”

On this Sunday morning as you come into worship we will have a time of silent waiting.  As you wait reflect on the God who is your salvation. If you are a born again follower of Christ, He saved you. If you have gone out of darkness into light, He led you out. If you were “sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore” then his “love lifted you.”

When God rescues you, you are secure. You can say with David, “I will not be greatly shaken.”

Whatever seems to have a hold on you stands no chance. God’s grip is greater than your strongest temptation, your bitterest enemy, your greatest fear.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Joseph went to sleep with a plan: a quiet divorce. Mary was out of her mind to blame her pregnancy on God. He loved her but couldn’t buy her story. Then God showed up in a dream. Mary was pregnant and God had done it. It was no ordinary baby. Jesus would be his name. Joseph, as the dad, normally had the right and privilege of naming his child, especially a firstborn son. But this wasn’t Joseph’s boy. God was Jesus’ Father, Joseph an earthly surrogate! Joseph was an integral part in Isaiah’s prophecy: God was visiting earth through the birth of a baby boy called Immanuel.

Joseph woke up and did what God told him to do. He obeyed immediately by marrying Mary. He obeyed later by naming their boy Jesus.

What is God asking (no telling) you to do today? Don’t hesitate. Obey him.

Joseph Could Have Divorced Her!

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.  Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Things could have turned out so differently. Joseph had options. After all, Mary, his fiancé was pregnant. Joseph was a good man, described by Matthew as just and unwilling to embarrass Mary. He thought he knew her until she showed up one day with the off the wall explanation for her unexpected pregnancy: God did it! She had to be out of her mind! Joseph was stuck between a rock and hard place. The love of his life was pregnant and blaming God. He loved God (and her) enough not to want to embarrass her. A quiet divorce was the answer–until God showed up.

But as he considered these things. Aren’t you glad God invades our space “as we are considering things.” Our “considering” is so limited. God knows what we don’t know, sees what we don’t see, and can handle what we can’t handle.  Joseph woke up with a new vision.  We’ll see exactly what that entails tomorrow!

What are you “considering” today that God wants to weigh in on?

God is With Us

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:10-14

Ahaz was king of Judah and found himself in a difficult spot. He was threatened by Israel and Syria to the north. Their kings threatened to join forces and invade Judah to the south. God wanted to speak to Ahaz regarding this but Ahaz was afraid to ask for a sign from God. God gave Ahaz infinite parameters: the sign could be as high as heaven and deep as hell! Ahaz saw asking God for a sign as putting God to the test.

God ignored Ahaz’s hesitancy and answered him anyway! As a matter of fact, the language suggests that God was wearied by Ahaz’s refusal to ask for what he needed. So God answered the question Ahaz never asked! His answer: I will be with you. The sign was both for Ahaz and for us.

For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. Isaiah 7:16

In Ahaz’s day, a woman conceived and gave birth to a boy and named him Immanuel. By the time the boy was weaned Israel and Syria had fallen and were no longer a threat to Judah. God made a promise and kept it.  Tomorrow we will see how Joseph struggled just like Ahaz…and again God showed up and answered.

What do you need to ask God for today? What are you afraid to mention? Embarrassed? Shy? Hesitant? Don’t weary Him…ask!