Known And Unknown Threats

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I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me (Psalm 120:1). 

What power and love is packed into this short verse! “I call…He answers.” There’s nothing else I need to do—just called to my God. There is no delay or deliberation on His part—He answers me. 

Distress” comes from the root word that can mean a tight spot, or it can mean a hard pebble. The distress we face may be a full frontal assault or it may be a nagging, almost indefinable, annoyance. Since Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, whatever the distress is, the psalmist feels like it is keeping him from going up into God’s presence. He lists three known distresses: 

  1. Deceit—people around him were lying or distorting the truth. 
  2. Separation—he wants to ascend into God’s presence but feels held back by those among whom he lives. 
  3. Turmoil—he’s looking for peace, but everyone around him wants to stir up trouble and controversy. 

What about those annoying, hard-to-identify distresses? In the next Psalm of Ascent the call is for us to trust God and to not worry. But in this psalm, there’s no calling to God for help because no specific threats have been identified. Still we learn that our Heavenly Father, who does not slumber, perpetually watches over us. Our Father knows our needs before we can even perceive them, and He is fully prepared to handle them. 

So we are promised: 

  • I can sleep securely
  • I can travel safely
  • I can work each day confidently
  • I can pass through the night unharmed
  • I can move around without having to look around
  • The LORD will watch over my coming and going both today and forevermore! 

Father, may any distresses I experience today send me ascending into Your presence. Whether I know what the threats are or not, I know that You are watching over me and will answer me whenever I call to You. I thank You for this confidence that I have both today and forevermore! 

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Poetry Saturday—Why Art Thou Weary?

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Sad heart, why art thou weary
With anxious strivings drear?
Thou hast no cause for sadness,
No cause for restless fear.
Thou longest for thy Master,
Then cease and be at rest;
For shall not He who made thee
Know what for thee is best? —Oswald Chambers

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Still Being Fashioned

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Psalm 119 is a fascinating chapter of Scripture. Not only is it the longest chapter in the Bible (at 176 verses) but it is divided into twenty-two 8-verse sections, corresponding with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the verses in the different sections all begin with the same Hebrew letter of that section. 

In the section called yodh, the psalmist wrote, “Your hands formed me and made me; give me understanding to learn Your commands” (v. 73). There is just one Hebrew word for “Your hands” and it also happens to be the name of this section of Psalm 119: Yodh. The psalmist sees God’s hands all over his life, and he welcomes God’s continued involvement in every aspect of his life. 

This yodh section is presented to us in alternating verses: the odd-numbered verses are a declaration, and the even-numbered verses are a corresponding prayer. It looks something like this…

Declaration: You made me

Prayer: May I be a hope-filled testimony to others by my reverence of You

Declaration: You continually discipline and fashion me

Prayer: May I continually find my comfort in Your unfailing love

Declaration: Your compassion is my life and my delight

Prayer: May You deal with those who afflict me while I remain focused on You

Declaration: You bring people into my life on purpose

Prayer: May I be a blameless witness of Your love

In light of this section I declare in prayer: “God, You created me on purpose and for a purpose. What You create, You complete; and what You complete, You complete perfectly. May I remain sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and malleable to Your touch, so that You are glorified through my obedient life.” 

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Two Perfect Prayers

Friends, I recently shared a message in which I talked about how the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer life, specifically how the Spirit reminds Christians that we have been adopted into God’s family. 

In this clip from that sermon, I talk about the only two times that we can pray perfect prayers, and I make reference to two passages of Scripture: John 14:26 and Romans 8:26-27. Take a listen… 

The Spirit of Truth reminds us of everything God has said to us in His Word, and He helps us turn those promises into prayers (see John 14:26). 

The Spirit of Intercession gives us a prayer language unknown to our logical mind, whereby we pray in a language in which we have no control over the words being spoken (see Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10). 

Only when we pray God’s Words directly back to Him, or when we pray in tongues as the Holy Spirit enables us, are we praying a perfect, unselfish, God-glorifying prayer.

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Powerful Childlike Prayer

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I was at a friend’s house and interacting with their two young children. Their son was very energetic and playful, but not very talkative. When the tikes climbed up to the kitchen counter for lunch, their mom asked them what they wanted to eat. The little girl placed her lunch order and then said, “He wants PB&J with milk.” I asked him, “Is that really what you want?” He smiled a big grin and nodded his head. Isn’t nice to have someone give us words when we are lacking in our own vocabulary? 

Last week we learned how the Spirit of Truth would help us speak truthful words to those who were antagonistic to the Good News of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit will do this when we are speaking to people who are enemies of the Cross of Christ, how much more so will He help us when we are speaking to our loving Heavenly Father! 

Here’s something we never have to doubt: God’s love for us. We don’t have to try to get our Father’s attention because He wants to lavish His love on us (Matthew 6:7-8; Luke 11:9-13; Ephesians 1:5). 

Jesus likens our coming to God as a child coming to its father. Sometimes we come with fears or tears, sometimes with hunger or thirst, or sometimes just to feel His closeness. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Adoption, and He loves to keep on reminding us how much our Father loves us (Romans 8:14-17). 

“When our perplexed spirit is so befogged and beclouded that it cannot see its own need and cannot find out the appropriate promise in the Scriptures, the Spirit of God comes in and teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance whatever our Lord has told us. He guides us in prayer and thus He helps our infirmity. … He will write the prayers that I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I will see them there and so I will be taught how to plead! It will be the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our loving Father is not looking for well-polished prayers; He’s looking for real, childlike prayers. Let’s be honest: Not even the most educated person in the world has a vocabulary sufficient enough to accurately communicate with The Almighty God! So He wants us to come to Him in simple, childlike anticipation. Jesus reminded us, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Our Father wants to answer our prayers, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us pray in a way that He can answer (Romans 8:26-27). 

The Holy Spirit turns our tearful, childlike prayers into powerful, poetic prayers!

Don’t try to spruce up your vocabulary before you come to God in prayer. Just come to God in prayer, trusting that the Holy Spirit will make a beautiful prayer even out of your childlike groanings! The Holy Spirit turns our groans into prayerful poetry in our Father’s ears! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, I’ve shared the complete list here.

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Poetry Saturday—Affliction IV

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Broken in pieces all asunder,
                      Lord, hunt me not,
                     A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
               A wonder tortur’d in the space
               Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
                     Wounding my heart
                     With scatter’d smart,
As watring pots give flowers their lives.
               Nothing their furie can controll,
               While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife,
                     Quitting their place
                     Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
               The elements are let loose to fight,
               And while I live, trie out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
                     Kill them and me,
                     And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
               As the sunne scatters by his light
               All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
                     Enter Thy pay,
                     And day by day
Labour Thy praise, and my relief;
               With care and courage building me,
                Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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Poetry Saturday—By Night When Others Soundly Slept

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By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

I sought Him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought Him earnestly.
He bow’d His ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry Soul He fill’d with Good;
He in His Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in His blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I’ll serve Him here whilst I shall live
And Love Him to Eternity. —Anne Bradstreet


Poetry Saturday—The Mother’s Prayer

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Starting forth on life’s rough way,
   Father, guide them;
Oh, we know not what of harm
   May betide them;
‘Neath the shadow of Thy wing,
   Father, hide them;
Walking, sleeping, Lord, we pray,
   Go beside them.

When in prayer they cry to Thee,
   Do Thou hear them;
From the stain of sin and shame
   Do Thou clear them;
‘Mid the quicksands and the rocks
   Do Thou steer them;
In temptation, trial, grief,
   Be Thou near them.

Unto Thee we give them up;
   Lord, receive them.
In the world we know must be
   Much to grieve them—
Many striving, oft and strong,
   To deceive them;
Trustful in Thy hands of love
   We must leave them. —William Cullen Bryant

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A Leader’s Prayer

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…May the Lord grant all of your requests (Psalm 20:5). 

To me, the blessing of this psalm feels like the blessing God gave to the high priest to pronounce over the people of Israel (Numbers 6:23-27). But in this blessing of Numbers 6, the people are simply passive recipients of the priestly blessing. 

Here in Psalm 20, David is asking God to give the people the blessing of His answer to their prayers. The people aren’t just passive but are actively involved in seeking God’s blessing. David teaches his people that they can pray for: 

  • relief from distress 
  • protection
  • help
  • support
  • acceptance of their sacrifices 
  • fulfillment of their desires
  • successful plans
  • victory

And in case someone might think that one or two of those items aren’t worthy of God’s attention, David adds this closing line, “May the Lord grant ALL your requests.” 

David also shows us the assurance with which his people can pray these prayers. He says, “Now I know…” 

  • God is the Source 
  • God answers out of His limitless power 
  • God is completely trustworthy 
  • God does “answer us when we call” 

This is a blessing a leader prays over his people as an encouragement to them to pray about anything and everything that is of concern to them. 

A mark of a godly leader is his prayer of blessing on the people under his care. 

This is part 56 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Global And Personal

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You who answer prayer … You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior…. Shout for joy to God, all the earth! (Psalm 65:2, 5; 66:1). 

Psalms 65 and 66 tell of God’s awesome involvement in our lives. He is both globally involved and personally involved. He’s not too big to care for my needs, and He’s not so preoccupied with me that He is unaware of global events. 

Look at the grandeur of our Creator—

  • You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness 
  • You are the hope of all the ends of the earth 
  • You formed the mountains by Your power
  • You stilled the roaring of the seas 
  • You care for the land and water it; You enrich it abundantly 
  • Your carts overflow with abundance 
  • all of creation shouts for joy and sings praise to You
  • all the earth says, “How awesome are Your deeds!” and bows down to You in praise 
  • You rule forever by Your power, Your eyes watch the nations 
  • how awesome are Your works on man’s behalf! 

And yet He is not just God of global events, but He is intimately involved with each and every person. He notices me! 

The psalmist says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.” Then he tells how God…

  • forgave my sin
  • listened to my prayer
  • honored my prayer 
  • has not withheld His love from me 

Oh, come and see! See how awesome God is that the earth trembles before Him. See how awesomely loving He is that He stoops to listen to me. He is indeed a global God but He is also an intimately personal God. 

The more we know our God in both His majesty and His intimacy, the more we will praise Him.

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