I’m sitting here watching the Broncos/Patriots debacle, and I have to say, as much as I used to dislike the Patriots, now that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is playing for them, it’s hard for me to not like them. BenJarvus is one of my favorite Rebels of all time, as is Patrick Willis, and both of them got big wins tonight. So that made me happy.
But earlier tonight, I dominated the trivia game at Buffalo Wild Wings. I mean dominated it (I had some help from my good friend Brett Pickle). The weird thing was it was entire about Katy Perry. Meaning we know WAY too much about Katy Perry. I mean we didn’t even have to think twice about the answers. And this was disturbing to me and made me re-evaluate my life. I mean, here I am, 26, single, living at my parents house, and answering trivia questions about Katy Perry without breaking a sweat. I’m going places!
In all seriousness though, I’ve had some major…I don’t know…revelations? Lately. I’m not sure if “revelations” is the right word, but in spite of a fairly challenging season and a struggle with sin, God has used a couple of things to really open my eyes in some really cool ways. Three specifically. And this might turn out to be pretty long.
1. Anybody that knows me knows I love music. People that have known me for a while know that I have always struggled with contemporary Christian music; particularly “worship” music. Give me hymns all day long, but start playing Hillsong or Chris Tomlin or something and I’m out. But about a week ago, when I was really discouraged about the aforementioned sin struggle, I was writing some thoughts in my notebook and listening to Fernando Ortega’s “Hymns of Worship” album and this wave of encouragement just swept over me. Particularly the song “How Firm a Foundation.” And it’s funny how that ties in to the next thing. But the song starts off like this:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He has said
To you who to Jesus for refuge have fled
That is a pretty shocking idea. God has given us His word so that we may know Him. God is knowable. Not only is He knowable, He wants us to know Him. He has given us His word and while there are things we have studied for countless years, the basics of the Gospel and the basics of who He is are clearly laid out for us. That is truly incredible. But the song goes on, and this is the fourth stanza:
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not harm thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
This just goes back to the idea that Romans 8:28 conveys – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Not saying God makes me sin or anything, but it’s the idea that God uses even our failures to draw us to Him. He does not allow things to go to waste. But then the song ends like this:
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
There are no words for that. There’s nothing you can say to explain that any better. It’s one of those things that God has shown me to be true, too. So many times I sit there thinking I’m not going anywhere, nothing is going on, blah blah whatever, and then I’ll look back on my blog or in my notebook and I’ll see where I was 6 months ago, a year ago, even as far back as 3 or 4 years ago when I really started writing consistently, and man, God has brought me from some places. That’d be a book in and of itself. But it’s encouraging, and to see how God has been faithful over different situations has been awesome and knowing He will continue to do so blows my mind.
2. Preaching is so cool. I have found that so many times, maybe every time, God has used the text I’ve preached on to speak to me in so many new and refreshing ways. The sermon I’m preparing now is no different. And wouldn’t you know it fits perfectly in with the other thing I was thinking about/dealing with. I’m preparing a sermon on the temptation of Christ from Luke 4:1-13, and I’ve got most of the research on it done. Several things have stood out to me, and hopefully I will get to post the sermon online (we are trying to get our sermons set up on a podcast for MC RUF starting this semester…we’ll see how it goes). But one of the things God has continually pressed on my heart is the idea that Jesus did not lead, here on heart, with the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. And if anybody on earth had the right to do that, it was Jesus. But he didn’t. And in the temptation story, the thing that strikes me is that Jesus went to Scripture. Three times he responds to Satan with “it is written.” Jesus responds with Scripture. That is so crazy to me – here is the Son of God, whose very words would give life to the dead, who could easily fall back on his own authority to dispel Satan from the wilderness, and He quotes Scripture. That is both encouraging and convicting.
It’s encouraging because it’s the same word God has given to us today. I mean…within arms reach of me at this moment is the Bible on my laptop, the Bible on my iPad, the Bible on my phone, and my actual hardback ESV. His word is literally all around me, and within that sphere are the words that can turn away any temptation. And God wants me to know it. That is encouraging.
It’s convicting because of how much I don’t know it. And in the places I do know it how little I believe it at times. (I think probably most of our sins stem from unbelief, whether it’s unbelief in God himself, God’s plan for us, or what God has said about is). But this conviction is so intense because, like I said, I stand with no excuse. It’s not like I live in some third world country without an accurate Bible translation or I can’t read or something like that. I can read, I enjoy reading. But so many times I just don’t do it. I make the excuse that I’m busy, but I’m really not. And that’s the conviction in it all. I have no excuse.
3. I went on a men’s retreat with my church this weekend, and there is a lot of great stuff to say about it, but the main thing was the way we look at the Psalms. We spent the weekend studying Psalm 51 and Psalms 42 and 43 (which were likely one psalm that got split in two) and wow. That’s some good stuff there. Something about each one:
Psalm 51 – the speaker (Brad Mercer from Highlands PCA in Madison) put the outline of Psalm 51 like this:
1. Forgive Me
2. Change Me
3. Use Me
And that’s the way it is. David has just been caught red-handed in probably the worst thing he ever did, and Psalm 51 is his response to it. Read it. It’s a great thing to be familiar with and to pray daily.
Psalm 42-43 – there are a lot of things to say about these as well, but I am going to stick with this one. The phrase “as the deer pants for the water” has kind of been really weakened in our English translations. I mean, I heard that song growing up and it kind of gave me this image of a nice little deer, coming right along and drinking from a babbling brook.
But the full force of the Psalm is realized when you understand that the deer panting for the water carries with it the weight of death. The deer is on the verge of death and will simply fall over and die if it does not get the water. That’s what I want my relationship with Christ to look like. I want it to be such that when I am not in His word, when I am not in prayer, that I am on the verge of death. Psalm 42-43 is a model for all of us, I think.
So…yeah. This was long. But I want to close with this. The advice that Mercer gave us as we studied the Psalms was simply this:
“Pray from where you are, not from where you think you should be.”
I want that to be my commitment for my prayer life in 2012.