Faith Brings Joy

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:1-5, NLT

When life throws you a lemon

I will admit that the past year or two has been very trying for me spiritually. It is one thing to claim to be a “Calvinist” and a whole other thing to live like one who actually trusts in the sovereignty of God. Those pseudo-A types like myself who intensively put in the effort to “work out” the will of God in our lives, we often over-exert ourselves and try to make something happen that is completely beyond our control.

This over-emphasis on self-trying and self-power is in fact an over-estimation of our own abilities to control our lives and an under-estimation of God’s sovereign authority to rule it: everything we have is from God, and there is nothing we have in this life that we did not first receive from him.

What this leaves me with is the continual search for a balance between self “trying” and God “trusting”: the fine line between not working too hard for God’s will & waiting patiently, expectantly, in trust of God who will ultimately (now and in the end) work out all things for the good of us who love Him.

Psalm 37 is a simple tell-tale reminder of what I need to do when life throws me a lemon.  I prayed through this Psalm back on March 7, 2008. I have been working at God’s commands in verses 1-7 since at least that day, almost a year and a half-ago. May this blogpost thus serve as a mile marker for how far I have come, how far we have yet to go, and how God desires us to live.

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 37:1-7

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” –The Apostle Paul

Joy Comes with the Morning

Psalm 30:

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

According to the title, David composed Psalm 30 for the dedication of the temple (an event that took place after David died, 1 Kings 8:63). The temple does not figure much in the psalm itself, except for the address to fellow worshipers in Ps. 30:4. The theme of the whole psalm is one of personal thanksgiving for God’s repeated care and deliverance over the course of a life; the title makes the concrete situation of David’s experience the background, and the worshipers can liken their own experiences to his. ((ESV Study Bible))

This psalm praises God for rescue from a life-threatening crisis of which we catch only glimpses. The sequence is as follows: the poet’s praise of God for deliverance from a life-threatening illness (vv. 1–3); call to the community of believers to praise God (vv. 4–5); recollection of the speaker’s ill-founded self-confidence before his crisis (vv. 6–7); petition to God to save the speaker’s life (vv. 8–10); praise of God for deliverance (vv. 11–12). ((ESV Literary Study Bible))

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Paradoxes

O Changeless God,

Under the conviction of thy Spirit I learn that
the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.

(From The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions, 128)

All That is Past

Almighty God,

Our heavenly Father,

We have sinned against you in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life,
to the glory of your name.

Amen.

Trying to make this Truth a Reality

From Reading the Psalms with Luther
(St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2007):

The 116th psalm is a psalm of thanks in which the psalmist is joyful and gives thanks that God has heard his prayer and has rescued him from the distress of death and the anguish of hell.  Like several other psalms before it, it speaks of the deep spiritual affliction, of which few people know.

He laments in this psalm that things are so bad, yet he confesses his faith and the truth of God.  He calls all human holiness, virtue, and confidence only falsehood and emptiness.  This world will not and cannot hear nor tolerate.  Thus it comes that the godly suffer, tremble, and fear all kinds of misfortune.

But despite all, he is comforted by this, that God’s Word is true and will only motivate us the more: “They give me to drink from the cup of their wrath.  All right, then I will take the cup of grace and salvation and drink myself spiritually drunk (and through preaching) pour out from this cup on those who will drink with me and who draw their grace from the Word.” This is our cup, and with this cup we will worship God and praise His name.  We will fulfill our vows, namely the First Commandment, that we receive Him as the one God and praise Him as the only God worthy to preach and to be called upon.  You find here also that giving thanks, preaching, and confessing God’s name before all people is the true worship of God. Continue reading

The Character and Motivation of a Man of God

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But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11)

Father in Heaven,

On this day that you have made, I bend my head and bow my heart in worship to you, for you good and your love endures forever. In your holiness, your perfect spotless righteousness, you are worthy to be praised, because you alone made all things. In you, I am held together, and apart from you, I would be subject to your holy wrath and judgment. Thank you again for the gift of your one and only begotten, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior: for giving him freely to me as a gift to be received by faith, trusting in his atoning work on the cross in my place for my sins. His blood has washed away my sins, and for that, I am thankful everyday of my life.

Oh Lord and my God, I desire to be a man of God, just like your servant Timonthy. I desire to be faithful and strong in light of persecution and difficulty, a slave of one Master and a worshiper of one Lord. May I never selfishly desire renown of my own name or seek after earthly fame, but in all things and in every part of my life — personal and public, church and family — may I be known for what I flee from, who I follow after, what I fight for, and who I am faithful to. I know that perfection in obedience is impossible in this life where sin is still present in my body, and yet I am convinced that through the Scriptures divine submission may be produced within my heart. Though sin may still abound in my flesh, your grace shall abound in my life through Spirit-empowered repentance all the more.

O Great God of highest Heaven, let my outward behavior be continually righteous and honorable in your sight, that people around me would wonder what God I serve who has transformed my heart.  Conform my heart and soul to the shape of Jesus’ cross, so that I would be more and more like Christ and less and less like those of this world.  In reverence and in fear, may I come boldly into your presence, where angels even fear to tread, to ask that your kingdom would come and your will be done in my life and the life of my beloved.

In the name of Christ I pray,

Amen.