Graceful Christians

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our Advent series this year has been called “People Will Talk,” but we have one more person to learn from who says nothing. We have none of her words inside quotation marks, and yet Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to share her story with us. Her wordless message speaks volumes, if we’re willing to listen. 

Anna, like Simeon, was one of the “Quiet in the Land.” Luke describes her as “very old.” The Greek phrase can either mean that she was a widow for 84 years after seven years of marriage, or simply that she was 84 years old. In either case, we don’t see her sitting withdrawn and inactive because of her old age, but we see her taking the initiative. She is the one who comes up to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. 

Luke also calls her a “prophetess.” Not someone bitter about her widowhood, but someone who truthfully and lovingly spoke God’s Words. Throughout the Bible, we see that a prophet or prophetess is less foretelling the future than they are forth-telling the promises of God. Of course the “-ess” at then end of “prophet” reminds us that Anna is a woman. As a woman she was excluded from certain parts of the temple, but instead of picketing or making a scene Luke says she spends her time worshipping, fasting, praying, and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah.

I imagine that her mere presence must have changed the atmosphere wherever she went! 

I’m not sure if Charles Dickens had Anna in mind when he wrote A Christmas Carol, but the way the Ghost of Christmas Present added his blessing to busy people is what I imagine Anna’s role being in the temple—

“But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revelers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!” 

Both Anna in the New Testament and Hannah in the Old Testament mean graceful. Or as I like to remember that word: someone full of grace. When she approaches Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Luke says she “gave thanks.” This comes from a unique Greek word in the New Testament. The root word is usually translated confession, which means saying the same words as others. But the prefix Luke adds means “in place of.” This means that Anna was speaking thankful words in place of the other words being spoken around her. 

Anna spoke counter-culturally. Instead of being a cultural thermometer, she was serving as a thermostat to change the culture around her. This is the same kind of lifestyle that Jesus calls us to live. And it’s a lifestyle that Paul sums up in one succinct verse: “Let your gentleness [or we could say ‘grace-fullness’] be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). 

After Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounter with the three spirits, his life was transformed—

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.… He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. 

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. 

“…And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” 

As Christians, may both our actions and our reactions be so grace-filled, and may our gentleness be so evident to everyone all year long, and may we live so counter-culturally that people cannot help but see that we are grace-filled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this Advent series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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Honk Your Thanks

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If anxiety kills joy, what kills anxiety? Anxiety—the joy-killer—is itself killed when joy is expressed.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of what you don’t have.

Being thankful for what you have kills the fear of what you may be missing.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of the bad stuff that may never even happen.

If joy kills anxiety, how can we develop more of it? Most people would say, “If you’re happy, give thanks” or “If you’re happy, honk.” But really it’s the other way around: “If you want to be happy, honk!”

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Honking your thanks is not only good for you, but it’s good for everyone around you who hears your “honk! honk!” of gratitude. David experienced this in Psalm 34:1-3. Even when he was at a low point, when he started praising God other anxious people began to experience joy as well.

This is a snippet from a longer message, which you can find by clicking here.

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It’s A Big Deal

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I get a little leery when people are advocating for a government that is friendly to Christianity. In biblical history and world history, Christians tend to backslide when things are going smoothly for them. 

Difficulties and even persecution cause us to evaluate if what we’re standing on is really a sure foundation (2 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 4:10-13). 

As the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon, things were going fairly easily for them. And as they had done so many times before, they began to backslide. The Archeological Study Bible noted, “This generation was not guilty of the gross idolatry of its forefathers. Rather, these Israelites embraced a kind of dead orthodoxy, in which they tried to get by with the minimum that their faith required.”  

Onto this scene comes a prophet named Malachi. Malachi means “My messenger,” and we don’t know if this was actually the prophet’s name or not, but he took it on as his nature, delivering the heavy words of God. In fact, he held the words of God with such respect that when he says this is “an oracle,” he literally is saying, “This is a heavy burden to bear!” 

Malachi uses the phrase “LORD Almighty” (or LORD of Hosts in the KJV, and Lord of Heaven’s Armies in the NLT) twenty-four times. By contrast with the other minor prophets…

  • Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah use this phrase zero times 
  • Micah and Habakkuk each use it once
  • Nahum and Zephaniah each use it twice
  • Haggai uses it 12 times (or 32 percent of the total verses in his book) 
  • Zechariah uses the phrase 46 times (which 22 percent of his total verses) 

But Malachi’s 24 times is 44 percent of his total verses! In other words, he wanted his audience to be crystal clear that it wasn’t him who was speaking, but the King of kings was speaking to us through Malachi! 

God is still speaking through Malachi to us today! Just like Israel in Malachi’s day, I think Christians today run the very real risk of backsliding. Just like Israel, when we forget the weightiness of the glory of the LORD ALMIGHTY we can begin to slip into an it’s-no-big-deal attitude. 

By contrast, when we’re honoring the LORD of Hosts, and reverencing Him, and desirous of His glory being seen, it’s a very big deal that we listen to His voice and closely follow His commands.  

So Malachi’s six warnings to the Israelites of his day should still be heeded by Christians today. We should examine ourselves very closely to see if we have the same it’s-no-big-deal attitude. We should ask ourselves, “Are we…

(1) …offering less-than-our-best sacrifices? Are we just giving God the leftovers?”  

(2) …listening to church leaders that don’t reverence God’s name?” 

(3) …honoring the sanctity of marriage?” 

(4) …self-seeking instead of neighbor-loving?” 

(5) …withholding the full tithe from our local church?” 

(6) …following God only for personal gain?” 

(Check out all of the verses for these questions by clicking here.) 

If this study of the minor prophets—especially these last three—has told us anything, it’s that God keeps His word. When He says He is coming back as the righteous Judge, that will happen. In fact, it could happen at any moment! 

We must be ready! We must guard our hearts against the it’s-no-big-deal attitude. We must reverence our awesome God. The things of God are a very big deal indeed (see Hebrews 10:37-39; Revelation 22:12-16). 

To guard ourselves against this backsliding attitude, we must live every day reverencing the awesome, weighty, majestic name of Jesus! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring the powerful lessons in the the twelve minor prophets, please click here to get the list of all of those messages. 

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Confident, Bold, and Joyful

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Zechariah pronounces more messianic prophecies than any other biblical writer, with the exception of Isaiah (and he wrote 66 chapters!). These prophecies are fulfilled in Christ’s First Advent, and promised for His Second Advent. Check these out for yourself…

(All of the biblical references for the above chart can be viewed by clicking here.) 

(All of the biblical references for the above chart can be viewed by clicking here.)

Why is it so vital that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies? 

(1) The historicity of these fulfilled prophecies gives us a confidence for the future. 

These fulfilled prophecies assure us that God is sovereign over all history. There are no accidents, and God needs no help from anyone else in fulfilling what He has promised. As a result, no world event—no matter how big it may seem—should be able to rattle us! 

(2) The authenticity of what God has done gives us boldness for today. 

When God does the miraculous, He authenticates His Word. This authenticity has always made God’s people stand out (see Genesis 41:39). It’s also why people recognized Jesus as the divine Son of God (John 3:2; 9:30-33). So we can live with the boldness to know that what God says He will do, He will do! 

(3) The exclusivity of God’s promises and fulfillment of those promises gives us joy for our testimony. 

Only Jesus could have done all of this (Luke 24:26-27, 44), so only Jesus can fulfill what is still remaining to be fulfilled! We can have supreme joy in knowing that only Jesus is our hope of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). 

It’s vital that we know this is true so that we can live confident, bold, and joyful! Our confident boldness and our bold joy both glorify God and attract seekers to Him. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series looking at the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access all of those messages by clicking here. 

You may download a PDF version of the above charts by clicking here → Zechariah prophecies for the First Advent or here → Zechariah prophecies for the Second Advent

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep Moving Forward

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Keep Moving Forward  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     God does not say to us, ‘This is the way,’ and then stop. He says, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ We are always to be making advances. We are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections, from faith to assurance, from assurance to full assurance. And from there, we are to go to the full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding, always forward, waxing stronger and stronger. …  

     The Christian’s motto is ‘Upward and onward.’ Not as though he has already obtained, either is already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. …  

     Can you perform the common activities of the household and the daily duties that fall to your lot in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking—and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man—that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. 

From Faith Versus Sight

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “Keep moving forward.” But the back of the t-shirt has the real-life challenge: “Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not!” 

How true! 

I think the problem for many Christians is that they have an unrealistic expectation of growth. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our Christian growth is a constant upward trajectory to maturity, and that if there are ever any stumbles along the way, that means we’ve blown it. (By the way, Oswald Chambers has some helpful thoughts on our stair-step growth.)

But Paul tells us, “We walk”: We keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times of stumbling, or a plateau, or even a pause to catch our breath. Paul tells us that an important aspect of our walk is that we forget what’s behind us and we keep moving forward—keep walking—keep going. 

Every single day, let us say along with Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT). 

My friend, keep moving forward in faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is with you—maturing you, strengthening you—on every single step on your Christian walk.

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Heart Rate Recovery

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

A few years ago Mark Schultz wrote a song about someone living a go-go-go, overly-busy life and he entitled the song “Running just to catch myself.” Ever been there? 

There’s a Hebrew word that shows up 70 times in the Bible (mostly in the Psalms) that, sadly, many English translations of the Bible have relegated to a footnote. That’s too bad because Selah is such a powerful word. Unless we want to live our lives “running just to catch myself,” we all need a take time to Selah. Look how some have translated this word:

  • “Stop there and consider a little” (Matthew Henry) 
  • “the sacred pause” (Charles Spurgeon) 
  • “pause and calmly think of that” (AMP) 

Whether it’s a planned exercise time or just something that frightens or excites us, our heart rate is designed by God to increase—this is how we prepare for fight-or-flight. Doctors say that one of the most vital statistics they now look at to gauge overall cardio health is heart rate recovery (HRR). Doctors want to see a significant increase in HRR after exercise, fright, or excitement. 

A few of the factors that boost HRR:

  • Regular, planned exercise 
  • Getting the proper amount of quality sleep 
  • Reducing stress 

Respond-and-recover is part of a health-building cycle. But if we’re “running just to catch myself” all the time, this time of recovery isn’t happening. Not only are we not recovering well, but we are not properly prepared for the next time our heart needs to start beating faster.   

This HRR is just as vital for us emotionally and spiritually as it is physically: We cannot always be stressed or always be “on.” We need a Selah—a time to stop and consider, a time to take a sacred pause to calmly think. 

This is what David teaches us in Psalm 68. Check out the “bookend verses” where he reminds us that when God arises His enemies are scattered, and that God is awesome and He gives power and strength to His people (vv. 1, 35). And look a the middle verse where David says that when God ascends in victory He gives gifts (v. 18). 

This tells me two things: (1) God is sovereignly in charge (not me or anyone else), and (2) In His love, God delights to use His sovereign power to bless His children. 

The question is not IF I’m going to be confronted by difficult things or difficult people, but HOW will I recover from these confrontations? 

May I suggest a 3-step process to increase your spiritual HRR? 

  1. Acknowledge your situation—don’t try to cover it up or justify it 
  2. Selah—pause to take a deep breath  
  3. During that breath, redirect your thoughts from the difficulty to your awesome God (see 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:4-8)

Look at David’s example in this psalm:

Reflect Worship
God defeats enemies (vv. 1-2) Be glad, rejoice, sing (vv. 3-4)
God is a Father and Deliverer (vv. 5-7) Selah (v. 7)
God is sovereignly in control (vv. 8-18) Praise and Selah (v. 19)
God defeated Death (vv. 20-23) Join the procession of worshippers (vv. 24-27) 
God uses His strength to care for His people (vv. 28-31) Sing praises and Selah (vv. 32-35)

As you breathe deeply in this worship of recovery, think on this: “Your sigh can move the heart of Jehovah; your whisper can incline His ear to you; your prayer can stay His hand; your faith can move His arm.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our Selah pause leads to proper perspective, which allows us to recover more quickly. That, in turn, helps us to be better prepared for the next time we’re confronted by difficulties. 

To check out the other lessons we’ve learned in our ongoing series called Selah, please check out the list I’ve compiled here.

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Ruth + Boaz—The Father’s Day Version

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

On Mother’s Day that we saw how Ruth’s obedience allowed her to realize God’s favor, part of that favor is being included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to her son Obed without there being a father, which makes Boaz’s part in this story just as important. 

[This whole story of Ruth + Boaz is just four short chapters, so I’d encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read it.] 

When we first meet Boaz, he is described as “a man of standing.” Some Bible translations say “a man of wealth,” which is an acceptable definition. In fact, the word can mean strength, wealth, valor, or prominence, but the root word means something brought forth out of travail and pain. That tells us that Boaz wasn’t born a man of standing, he became a man of standing by going through difficult times, not giving in to the downward slide of culture, and remaining true to God. 

Boaz had a steel-forged integrity! 

Believe me, it would have been easy for Boaz to compromise! This was a dark time of selfishness in Israel’s history. A time where just doing the bare minimum was acceptable because most of the Israelites were selfishly doing whatever would benefit them (Judges 21:25). 

The other description we read about Boaz is that he is a “kinsman-redeemer.” This same word is used in this verse: “Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me and give me life according to Your word” (Psalm 119:154). A redeemer is one who is close by to help, has the strength or resources to help, and is willing to help. Of course, the perfect example of a Kinsman-Redeemer is Jesus, who became our human kinsman so that He could rescue us (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:7-8). 

Boaz was given the opportunity to do this for Naomi and Ruth, and he seized the opportunity with gusto. Far from being a “bare minimum” man, Boaz always went the second mile to bless Ruth and Naomi:

  • he practiced the “hospitality clause” plus he protected Ruth and gave her more than was required 
  • he provided food for his workers plus he provided food for Ruth and Naomi 
  • he blessed his workers plus he blessed Ruth in the name of the Lord 

Ultimately, Boaz did indeed become the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi (by paying off all the debts of her deceased husband) and for Ruth (by marrying this non-Israelite woman and bringing her into the family line of Jesus). 

Boaz was King Solomon’s great-great-grandfather. When Solomon was completing the temple in Jerusalem, he erected two pillars at the entrance: one was named Boaz, and the other was Jakim (with means “God will establish”). Taken together these pillars proclaim the message: By His integrity and faithfulness, God establishes and makes firm. 

Boaz exhibited integrity at every opportunity, which is what forged his character and made him “a man of standing.” Boaz demonstrated that integrity is really faith in God plus faith-filled, second-mile, others-focused actions.

“Faith without works is just wishful dreaming.
Works without faith is just religious posturing.
Works with faith is God-glorifying!” —Craig T. Owens

Men of God, please remember this: 

  • Every Word of God that you read or hear is a test—will you obey Him or will you compromise? 
  • Every setback you go through is a test—will you learn and grow or will you sulk and shrink back? 
  • Every success you experience is a test—will you bless others or will you hoard your blessings? 
  • Every decision you make in a dark culture is a test—will you just have faith, just have bare-minimum works, or will you exhibit the steel-forged integrity that comes from putting your faith to work? 

God’s blessing on your life of integrity will show others a picture of Jesus. God’s blessing on your life of going the second mile will show others that it is God who establishes and makes firm. 

Don’t rob your family, don’t rob us, don’t rob future generations of the outpouring of God’s blessing because you are selfish or compromising. Stand strong, trust God, go the second mile, be the kinsman-redeemer for those in need, and then watch for God’s blessings! 

If you missed Ruth’s vital part in this story, please check that out by clicking here.

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The Deity And Divinity Of Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Some really silly guys did a series of videos called “Neature Walk” because they wanted to share how neat is nature! In episode one Vic sees a tree that he really likes and says, “Score! This is an aspen tree. You can that it’s an aspen tree because of the way it is.” This is either circular reasoning or an obvious statement. “Just look at this thing. You can tell it’s this thing because it looks and acts like this thing.” 

I feel a lot like this when I look at the first part of our third foundational truth statement: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (As a side note, I covered the second part of this statement—“As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine”—in another post, which you may find here.) 

Check this out: the definition for Deity is the divine character of God, and the definition for divine means things relating to the Deity. In saying we believe Jesus is God we are really saying, “You can tell that Jesus is God because of the way He is.” 

In order to make this definition work, we need evidence for both the divinity and the deity of Jesus. That being said, let me remind you of J. Warner Wallace’s instruction on faith. There is:

  • Blind faith—believing in something without evidence 
  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence 
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence 

Here is some evidence that I think makes it reasonable to believe that Jesus is divine:

  1. Virgin birth—Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:22-23 
  2. Sinless life—Isaiah 53:4-6, 9; Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 2:22 
  3. Miracles—Acts 10:38; 2:22-24 
  4. Death, resurrection, exaltation—Isaiah 53:10-12; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 1:3 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.) 

I think the best evidence for the Deity of Jesus is the connection He Himself made between the “Jehovah” titles of the First Testament and His “I AM” statements in the Second Testament:

  • Jehovah Jireh (I Am Your Provider) → I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  • Jehovah Rapha (I Am Your Healing) → I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  • Jehovah Nissi (I Am Your Source) → I am the Vine (John 15:5)
  • Jehovah Shalom (I Am Your Peace) → I am the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  • Jehovah Raah (I Am Your Shepherd) → I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (I Am Your Wall Of Protection) → I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  • Jehovah Tsid-kenu (I Am Your Righteousness) → I am the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6)
  • Jehovah Shammah (I Am Here) → I am the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.)

The Jewish leadership understood perfectly what Jesus was claiming! But the more pertinent question is this: Do we understand what we must do with this evidence? 

We cannot claim that Jesus was born of a virgin, or lived a sinless life, or did miracles, or died and rose again and then not believe He is God. We cannot pick and choose the parts of Jesus we want. 

The apostle Paul reminded us that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11-12). 

Every knee will bow to Him one day: Either in worship of Jesus their Savior, or in abject terror of Jesus their Judge. 

I pray that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior today… don’t wait another moment! 

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If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Foundational Stones series, which is exploring our foundational beliefs, you may access all of them by clicking here.

God Delights In Me

It’s been said that the bookends of success are starting well and finishing well. I believe that! 

David started well when he lifted up a prayer of thankfulness to God when he became king over the united nation of Israel. Prayer at the the beginning puts us on a path toward success. 

Have you ever begun to assemble a child’s toy or a piece of furniture, gotten completely stumped, and only then read the instruction manual? We’ve all been there! There are many things in life that we start on our own and then hit our knees in prayer only after we’ve exhausted all of our human resources. Fortunately, after we pray and God answers, we often end up finishing well with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The question is: what do we do when we again get ready to start something else? Do we pause to start well with prayer, or do we dive in on our own again? 

I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t go to prayer quickly is because we feel unworthy to go into the presence of a holy, righteous God. 

One commentator said about Psalm 18 that David probably prayed this “before he committed his terrible sin” with Bathsheba and Uriah. That may be, but with very few minor changes, David prayed this exact same prayer (2 Samuel 22) at the very end of his reign. His reign as king was bookended with the same prayer. 

Between the bookend prayers of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, David prayed another prayer—this one was after he had sinned against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah. David truly believed that God forgave that sin and wiped the slate clean, so much so that he noted this great blessing on his life: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. 

He rescued me because He delighted in me?! Yes! 

David knew that God had told us that He delights in those who obey Him. The example of God’s delight was seen in Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of my sins, I can be completely cleansed. Then Jesus comes in me, and takes me into Him, and takes both of us into the Father. So now when our Heavenly Father looks at a forgiven sinner, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus—something He utterly delights to see! (Check out all of the biblical passages I’m referencing by clicking here.)  

David said his sin had been washed “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), So now look at what he could claim—

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight” (2 Samuel 22:21-25). 

…according to my cleanness in His sight. 

In GOD’S sight! The devil wants to accuse me. He wants my sight to dominate. The devil doesn’t want me to see myself as God sees me. But I declare it out loud: I am clean IN HIS SIGHT! 

This cleanness allows me full, bold, confident access to Almighty God! I can take everything to God in prayer because I am clean in His sight! 

If you would like to read more of the posts in our prayer series called Be A First Responder, please click here. 

Learning Contentment

A mark of a maturING saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! Even the most mature Christian you know hasn’t “arrived”; we are all a work-in-progress. Going through the dark nights is one way God helps mature our understanding of contentment. 

You know the differences between a need and a want: a need is something vital, something I require to survive; a want is something that would be nice to have. 

In good times I can convince myself that my wants are really the same as my needs. In the bright, sunny times a lot of wants mistakenly get called needs. But in the dark nights, this confusion is quickly clarified! 

In Philippians 4, Paul explains what he has learned about needs as he went through some very challenging, dark times. When he says he knows what a need is, he isn’t exaggerating a bit (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). And yet the Amplified Bible has Paul saying, “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want.” 

That’s because Paul was learnING contentment. The verb tense here means I have learned, I am learning, and I will keep on learning. It was an ongoing process that helped him clarify needs from wants. The word Paul uses for content is unique in all the New Testament and it means independent of external circumstances, or as the Amplified Bible says, “satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am. 

Paul uses another unique word in verse 12 when he says “I have learned.” This is a different Greek word from the previous verse. This time it means disciplined by experience to know how to respond. In other words, Paul disciplined himself to reflect on the lessons he learned in the night. The cliche “Experience is the best teacher” isn’t necessarily true. Lots of people go through experiences and never learn a single thing. Instead, we should say, “Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” That’s exactly what Paul is saying here: “I have learned lessons in my time of meditation after going through a dark night.” 

The English dictionary defines contentment in two important phrases: 

  1. Satisfied with what I have. In Psalm 16, David learned that he had everything he needed in God, and Jesus reminded us that “your Father knows what you NEED before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
  2. Satisfied with who I am. Paul knew that “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased” (Galatians 1:15). God made Paul on purpose and for a purpose, and Paul was satisfied with who he was in Christ. God made you on purpose too! 

Our relationship with Jesus is a maturING one. It’s only IN Christ that I can be satisfied with what I have, and satisfied with who I am. It’s only IN the night that my wants get separated from my needs, by learnING contentment.

I can be thankful in the night because I am learning contentment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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