Comprehensive Praise: some notes from Psalm 150

sunshine-dust-motesAs we reflected this past weekend on worship in community from Psalm 122 as part of our series, “Ascend,” I was reminded of how deeply the psalms shape our life of worship, both individually and corporately. I found myself turning to Psalm 150, the last in the book of psalms, which provides a fitting, yet fascinating, conclusion to the book. The psalms are prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate, and private, worship of the people of Israel. Psalm 150 concludes the entire psalter with a comprehensive picture of worship. Here are some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.

Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of the psalm is simple: ‘Hallelujah’, which means, ‘Praise the Lord.’ The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, ‘hallelujah’, sets our compass to true north. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point and anchor for our lives and worship. As the often-used phrase says, we remember that worship is not about me but about God.

The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
Next, we are told to center our worship of God in God’s sanctuary or tabernacle and the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship is simultaneously about us drawing near in a Read More »

Patience and Personal Discipleship

Over the past couple of years, I have written for the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

My most recent post, “Patience and Personal Discipleship,” is part of a reflection on character traits, or fruit of the Spirit, and discipleship in our lives.  I was asked to write about patience, which, to be honest, would not have been my optimal character trait to write about. This is mostly because I am not naturally a patient person. I have a lot of ways I need to let God work in my life in the area of patience. But I do believe that what I wrote near the end of the piece is a truth we all need to grasp: “Perhaps now is a time to disconnect from the impatient pulse of a technologized angst in order to reconnect with the patient journey of discipleship with God.” Here’s a section from the middle of the article, which you can read in its entirety over at the Gospel Life blog.

Spiritual transformation only comes via “a long obedience in the right direction.” Paul the Apostle describes our growth as Christians as a process of growth and maturing, moving from spiritual infancy to nature adulthood, “so that the body of Christ may be built up…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).

We understand this physically, expecting babies to grow to toddlers and on to teenagers before becoming adults. Yet, somehow, we forget that this same process of growth applies to the spiritual life of discipleship. It is not something that comes quickly, but must go through a similar process of growth and maturing over time. Spiritual growth does not happen overnight, let alone in 60 seconds; instead, it must happen over a lifetime.

There is no more valuable, nor more difficult, character trait necessary in the Christian life in this regard than patience. Scripture shows both that patience is invaluable in our own lives (Prov. 19:11; Ecc. 7:8; James 5:7) and in our relationships with others (Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 3:10). Our discipleship, as a matter of fact, is a growth in which God shows forth His patience with us from start to finish (Rom. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:16). If we want to grow with God, following Jesus as our leader and Savior, then we must commit to the patient journey of discipleship over the long haul.

Within the Bible, one of the clearest pictures of this is seen in the Psalms of Ascent. This little collection of psalms was utilized for prayer and worship on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Groups of believers would journey together, caring for one another and building one another up, as they prepared to meet with God and His people in worship.

The pilgrimage journey of the Psalms of Ascent provides us with a soundtrack for the patient journey of discipleship. We need songs in our mouths and hearts, we need others to journey with, and we need lives that move steadily closer to God.

This patient journey of discipleship, and the place that patience begins to have in our lives, is often seen as a key to seeing change in the life of others (Prov. 25:15; 2 Tim. 4:2). In a culture of anxious impatience, where many have misplaced hopes of relief, a patient, peaceful community of people living daily life with God speaks louder than all sorts of religious activity.

[Read the whole blog post here.]

What is our picture of Jesus?

We must examine the picture of Jesus that we have in our minds.

Many times, we have a sentimentalized picture of Jesus. It is a hallmark picture of Jesus that is not reflective of the Jesus of the Gospels. We idealize and romanticize the person and work of Jesus to the point where He is no longer connected with the real world in which we live.

Jesus is the eternal Son of God, but He was also the incarnate Messiah of God. He was a middle-eastern man who did not have a place to lay His head. He walked dusty roads. He ate, He grew tired, and He slept. He spent time with people, both the socially important and the socially unimportant. He loved parties and He loved upsetting peoples’ expectations.

And Jesus loved children. Not just sentimentalized children at their best, but everyday children at their worst and in the worst positions possible.

Jesus went to the blank spaces and invites His people to enter into the blank spaces of children with Him.

God does not need to call us to the comfortable spaces because we naturally go there. God does not need to call us into peace because that is the natural desire of every human heart. But God calls us into the uncomfortable, distressed blank spaces because His love cannot hold back.

I love the words of South African missiologist David Bosch: “Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people.”[1]

So, because of God’s love, we are called into love.

Because God goes, we too must go.

Because God enters into blank spaces, so we too must enter into blank spaces.

[For more on this theme, access my message “God of the Little Ones.”]

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[1] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), 392.

Worry and Faith (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Worry and Faith,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The text for this week is Luke 12:22-34.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you experienced the greatest worry in your life? How did you deal with it?
  2. This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at Luke 12:22-34. After beginning your study in prayer, ask God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
  3. This teaching from Jesus begins with a strong exhortation not to worry. What does Jesus say not to worry about in 12:22, 29?
  4. Jesus offers two examples from nature – the birds and the wildflowers – for His disciples. What do these two examples tell us about worry and faith?
  5. What does Jesus tell us about God’s thoughts and actions on our behalf in relation to our worries (12:24, 30-31)?
  6. How have you learned to give your worry to God? Take a moment to read Philippians 4:6-7. How does this illustrate the connection between prayer and worry?
  7. Jesus’ summary statement in 12:31 is well-known. What do you think it means?
  8. In 12:32-34, Jesus exhorts His disciples to not fear, but to do something else instead. What does He call them to do?
  9. What do you think it means to live as a reflection of Jesus’ words in 12:34?
  10. What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Monday, May 8                     Luke 12:22-26
Tuesday, May 9                    Matthew 6:25-27
Wednesday, May 10             Psalm 147:1-11
Thursday, May 11                 Luke 12:27-34
Friday, May 12                      Matthew 6:28-34

Worry and Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our series “The Kingdom Life” by exploring the topic of worry and faith. My message centered on Jesus’ words in Luke 12:22-34, giving some attention to John 20:19 and Philippians 4:6-7 as well.  Here’s my contention: if Jesus opens the doorway to God’s presence through the Cross and the Resurrection, then it is possible to move from a place of fear to fearlessness in our lives.

I started off with the results of the 3rd annual Survey of American Fears. I’m not sure what you’re most afraid of, but you might enjoy looking at the last few entries on the list of all fears Americans have.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.

 

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