Refresh Friday

For David, God was the center of his hope, the only reliable refuge, the surest strength he could find, and the truest object in which he could place his trust. We can learn from his exhortation and attitude toward God in prayer.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;

    pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.      Selah

— Psalm 62:5-8 ESV; boldface mine

Photo credit: layoutsparks.com

Photo credit: layoutsparks.com

“Human hearts are full of many things: joy, anger, peace, weariness, anxiety, strength, bitterness, trust. To pour out the heart means to pour out not just some but all of these contents before the Lord, the bad along with the good. Would we try to conceal our bitterness from God? Or conversely, would we cling greedily to our joy?

…In prayer, everything in the heart must be poured out to the Lord like a drink offering….True prayer does not consist in flowery language, nor in false humility, nor in pretending to possess any greater faith than we really have, but rather in simply trusting God enough to spill our guts to Him.”

— from The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason

 —

It is my earnest hope for you, believer, on this day and always, that you will have the same “God-ward” perspective as David and the knowledge that your Heavenly Father cares for all things in your life — nothing is too small, too big, too insignificant, too overwhelming for you to take to Him in prayer.

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Refresh Friday

God means to make you more like Christ with a gaze toward heaven, not focused on comfort and the things of this world. Puritan John Flavel has some thoughts on this; take the time to read slowly and reflectively.

“Is it indeed for the saints’ advantage, to be weaned from love of and delight in ensnaring earthly vanities; to be quickened and urged forward with more haste to heaven; to have clearer discoveries of their own hearts; to be taught to pray more fervently, frequently, spiritually; to look and long for the rest to come, more ardently?

If these be for their advantage, experience teaches us that no condition is ordinarily blessed with such fruits as these, like an afflicted condition.

Is it well then to repine and droop because your Father consults the advantage of your soul rather than the gratification of your humors? Because he will bring you to heaven by a nearer way than you are willing to go? Is this a due requital of his love, who is pleased so much to concern himself in your welfare? Who does more for you than he will do for thousands in the world upon whom he will not lay a rod or dispense an affliction to them for their good? (Hosea 4:17).

Photo credit: fotointeres.ru

Photo credit: fotointeres.ru

But alas! We judge by sense and reckon things good or evil according to our present taste. Take heed that you overlook not the many precious mercies which the people of God enjoy amidst all their trouble. It is a pity that our tears on account of our troubles, should so blind our eyes, that we should not see our mercies. I will not insist upon the mercy of having your life given you “for a prey,” (Jeremiah 39:18); nor upon the many outward comforts which you enjoy, even above what were enjoyed by Christ and his precious servants, of whom the world was not worthy.

But what say you to pardon of sin; interest in Christ; the covenant of promise; and an eternity of happiness in the presence of God, after a few days are over?”

— from Keeping the Heart; Or the Saint Indeed, John Flavel (1627-1691)

Life is fleeting and passes away quickly. I pray that if only for a few moments today, you can see the light of heaven even through your tears, pain, grief, distraction, busyness, or struggles.

Balancing Grace and Truth

Grace and truth. These are terms we throw around a lot, but do we really know what they mean to us each day? Do we understand that our lives need to speak of both, not just one? Do we get the concept that God needs to balance the way in which we live out our lives with our desire to share the truth?

Grace is such a dynamic, rich word with a complexity of meaning. It is the means by which we were saved. It is the strength by which God preserves and guides us in this walk with Him. And it’s the way in which our life is lived in the reflection of that highest and most precious saving grace.

I once heard this metaphor from a pastor about this. He said, we are like birds who need two wings to fly. We need grace…and truth…and if one of our wings is weighted down on one side more than the other, it gets really hard to fly. Continue reading

Refresh Friday

“So often people pray to be delivered from a problem, to be rescued from a situation, to be saved from a disaster, to be spared a sorrow, to be healed from a sickness, to be freed from a mental or physical agony. Sometimes, it is true, that deliverance comes; but far more often the answer is that we are given the strength which is not our strength to go through it, and to come out at the other side of it, not simply as a survivor, but with a faith that is strengthened and deepened and a mind and a life and a character which are purified and ennobled. Prayer does not provide a means of running away from the human situation; prayer provides a way of meeting the human situation.

— from A Guide to Daily Prayer, William Barclay (1907-1978)

prayer3

Photo credit: unresponsive.deviantart.com/

Some of life’s situations can knock us flat. Others we’d like to run away from. God wants us to seek Him, to hide in Him, to take refuge and strength from Him. I pray today for you as you’re in a difficult situation, maybe one you don’t understand, one that’s overwhelmed you, caused you grief, anxiety, sleepless nights…whatever it is, right this moment, I pray that you sense His nearness. He is with you. Take heart!

Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 7)

Psalm 37 is a study in contrasts between the righteous and the wicked. It encourages us to trust in God, devote our lives to Him, and know that He is sovereign. All things will ultimately be resolved by Him, if not immediately then in the final judgment. It’s a content-filled psalm and I’ll be unpacking it in several parts. Enjoy the journey.

Find the whole series in Psalm 37 here.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
    and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
    you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

This section of the Psalm teaches the wicked will meet with their due end and the righteous will live in the peace and refuge of the Lord.

Keeping the Lord’s Ways

David’s ongoing belief was that he would continue to see God working good out in his lifetime as we see from this earlier psalm:

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! [Ps. 27:13-14 ESV]

We love these verses in Psalm 27 because we so need God’s strength and courage for daily life! We need to remember He will bring His good out of all that we face. Continue reading

Refresh Friday

“How could we, without sufferings, manifest the nature and truth of the Christian graces! What place should we then have for patience, submission, meekness, forbearance, and a readiness to forgive, if we had nothing to try us, either from the hand of the Lord, or from the hand of men! A Christian without trials would be like a mill without wind or water; the contrivance and design of the wheel-work within would be unnoticed and unknown, without something to put it in motion from without.

Photo credit: footage.framepool.com

Photo credit: footage.framepool.com

Nor would our graces grow, unless they were called out to exercise; the difficulties we meet with not only prove, but strengthen, the graces of the spirit. If a person were always to sit still, without making use of legs or arms, he would probably wholly lose the power of moving his limbs at last. But by walking and working he becomes strong and active.

So, in a long course of ease, the powers of the new man would certainly languish; the soul would grow soft, indolent, cowardly, and faint; and therefore the Lord appoints His children such dispensations as make them strive and struggle, and pant; they must press through a crowd, swim against a stream, endure hardships, run, wrestle, and fight; and thus their strength grows in the using.

By these things, likewise, they are made more willing to leave the present world, to which we are prone to cleave too closely in our hearts when our path is very smooth.”

– excerpted from “The School of Suffering,” John Newton (1725-1807)

Lord, give us the insight to know that, in the midst of our sufferings, struggles, and trials, the things we don’t see as good, you are shaping us to be more like Christ, refining us as gold, creating in us the person you want to see, for your eternal glory. In Christ we pray, amen!

Discipleship: 10 Nuts and Bolts

Last week, I shared some thoughts about discipleship and helping us as believers realign our thinking about what it means. This week, I thought I’d offer some nuts and bolts ideas of what it really looks like in “real life” to disciple someone. Note that I believe that online discipleship is just as valid as in-person. The internet is full of real people.

As I also said last week, I believe discipleship begins the moment someone indicates an interest and continues after they have trusted Christ. So these tips should be useful for either a new believer or someone who is searching. Some of you may think these belong more on the side of evangelism than discipleship, and I’m okay with that!

1. Pray. It goes without saying, but sometimes in our enthusiasm we can leave it out. Pray to be available for and dependent upon God, pray for Him to bring people to you (or vice versa), pray to recollect the scriptures and explanations, pray for protection from spiritual attacks. Another good prayer is for the confidence and calm to know that it is the Holy Spirit who works in people, not your clever or perfect words or your persuasion.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor. 2:1-5 ESV]

Continue reading