Singing in the Cave

Singing comes natural when life is good, the bills are paid, the family is well and the future looks bright. However, when the news isn’t good, singing often escapes us. David taught us in Psalm 57 to sing in the cave. Running for his life, with his enemies camped all around him, he wrote:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1, ESV)

Before David sang, he cried out to God. His singing never glossed over his fear, never ignored his dilemma. When you’re in the cave, there’s no need to pretend life is good. Problems are problems. Hurts are hurts. Bad news is bad news. A troubling diagnosis is a troubling diagnosis. David calls his enemies lions, fiery beasts with spears for teeth and swords for a tongue!

But he doesn’t stay there.

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (Psalm 57:7, ESV)

This is the same Psalm! David is still sitting in the same cave. Saul is still pursuing him. None of that has changed. When you’re in the cave, you will have to will what you do not feel. David reflects on the character of God (he wills to see God in spite of his circumstances) and as a result reflects the character of God (he feels God’s presence).

What is your song? When life unravels, what fills your mind? Your house? Your car? Beginning today we will release songs we have recorded here at Grace. Savor them. Memorize them. Sing them!

Here’s one we sang recently at Grace. Worship. Enjoy.

 

The Christmas Present for Myself

This year I bought a Christmas present for Trent–well it was really for both of us. I bought Tiles. Most likely you’ve heard of them–small square pieces of plastic embedded with a chip that allows them to be tracked. Trent occasionally (that could be an understatement) loses his wallet. He now has a small tile in it. I often (that could be an understatement) lose my keys. I now have a tile hanging on my keychain. The tiles serve one purpose–to keep me from having to waste time looking for things. I spent way too much time looking for my keys–wasted time.

We tend only to seek what we’ve lost.

Yet Psalm 105 says we should do otherwise:

 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (Psalm 105: 1-6, ESV)

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Why are we instructed to seek who we already have? Because we are constantly tempted to make other pursuits and people the object of our seeking. The word seek literally means “to frequent a place.” We tend to seek our favorite restaurants, people and pastimes. Scripture is replete with commands to seek the Lord. Why?

John Piper says, “His face — the brightness of his personal character — is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.”

How do we practically do this? Psalm 105 gives five ways: give thanks to Him; call upon Him; sing to Him; glory in Him; remember what He has done.

So this week, Psalm 57:4 is my memory verse: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” Will you join me in memorizing Psalm 57:4 this week. I am bound and determined to worry none and seek always.

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, here goes: (https://www.facebook.com/1828113320739340/videos/1962061687344502/)

 

Prank Called by Worry

Worry is like an unwanted sales call, an untimely bill, an annoying interruption in cell service. It doesn’t seek permission, doesn’t give advance warning, and stays longer than you want. It cares not for whatever else has filled your day and will take all your brain and heart space.

How do you close the door when worry knocks? How do you hang up the phone when worry calls?

Micah gives an answer in 7:7, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”

I said this Sunday and it bears repeating: there must be “but as for me” times in your life. Some will be bigger than others. However, if you’ve determined that worry has to be gone, that it is a sin you are no longer willing to tolerate (I have), then I’ll share with you what I’m doing.

I’m memorizing Micah 7:7. Sounds simple I know. Just yesterday, worry called–interrupted an otherwise pleasant drive down Highway 70. And when it did, I answered with Micah 7:7. I prayed out loud, “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Worry left.

I’m not trying to be trite or dismissive. I’m simply saying that worry is no match for God’s word–and that I’ve got to learn how to answer worry’s call. I’m not sure I can ever avoid worry’s calls–perhaps one day they will come less and less. I do know how to answer them.

Will you join me? Answer worry with God’s Word.

Ero Cras

I am no Latin expert, not by a long shot.  However, one of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Consider the first verse:

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The outline for the entire hymn dates back to a thousand years ago. A week before Christmas,  Monks would chant poetic verses to commemorate the arrival of Jesus. In the 1800s John Neal took those chants, turned them into a song and called it “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.” The significance of the Gregorian chants are their names for Jesus: wisdom, Adonai (Hebrew name for God), root of Jesse, key of David, dayspring, King of the Gentiles, and Emmanuel.

If you take the first letter of these words in Latin, and read them backward, they spell “ero cras,” a Latin phrase meaning, “I will be present tomorrow.”

That’s the point of Christmas. Christmas is a promise that God will be present tomorrow. Belief that God will be present in all of our tomorrows makes today more bearable. We worry about tomorrow. We fret over the unknown. What if you had a choice: you could either know all of your tomorrows or you could have God with you in all of your tomorrows. You couldn’t handle knowing all your tomorrows at once. The weight of the suffering and the anticipation of the joy would overwhelm you. Having God with you through all of them–that enables you to enjoy today and anticipate tomorrow.

For today, thank God that He is the God of tomorrow.

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!