Author Archives: christiancourier517

1Kings 7; Eph. 4; Ezek.37; Ps.87,88

Psalms 88: 13 ~ HELP!

But I cry to you for help, LORD;

   in the morning my prayer comes before you.

But I don’t want to ask for help!

Confession: I am allergic to asking for help. If I’m stuck on a homework problem, my first move is to try and figure it out myself before shooting the prof an email. It’s only in the most dire of circumstances that I’m willing to call a friend if my tire blows out or I’m stranded on the highway. And even then, I’m reluctant to make the call.

Our need for help, however, is the basis for our fulfillment in Christ. As David Powlison puts it in A Praying Life,

“Helplessness is how the Christian life works.”

He borrows from the words of Thomas Merton:

“Prayer is an expression of who we are…We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.”

A state of helplessness is in fact a most desired state. While I struggle to maintain the image that I’m doing fine on my own, Jesus says blessed are the meek. When tempted to try my own way and resist help, Jesus says I must be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus,

Help! I need help.

I need your help to admit my helplessness. I need your help to understand your upside-down kingdom and live like a little kid. I don’t like being vulnerable or incapable. But this is where I will find  you and your life.

Thank you,

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2 Sam. 16; 2 Cor. 9; Ezek.23; Ps.70,71

My mouth will tell about your righteousness, and of your salvation all day, though I don’t know its full measure.

Amazing God,

Your righteousness is immeasurable  and your works of goodness towards me are countless. 

I praise you and thank you for being truly limitless in your goodness.

Teach me to count on your righteousness and salvation.

Even though I will never be able to number the ways in which you love me,

I want to grow in finding more of you in my life.

The work of redemption ought, above all God’s works, to be spoken of by us in our praises. The Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us to God, is worthy of all blessing and praise. – Matthew Henry

 

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1 Sam. 31; 1 Cor.11; Ezek. 9; Ps.48

Jerusalem is in shambles.

The temple is defiled. The eyes of Israel looks to false gods.

God speaks to Ezekiel and shows him all of the iniquities of his people. He is jealous and vengeful towards the Israelites. He seems even a little bit… harsh?

“Therefore will I also deal in wrath; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.” Ezekiel 8:18

Where is the God of love and peace? The God of mercy and grace?

When He commands that the temple be filled with the bodies of the slain, even Ezekiel is aghast at the utter wrath of God: “While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, ‘Alas, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?'” Ezekiel 9:8

Where is the mercy in this act of destruction? Is God just some ruthless judge out smite evil-doers and idolators? Is He just some jealous, insecure boyfriend who cringes when some better looking god walks by?

No, in fact, God’s wrath is the surest sign of His mercy and His jealousy the mark of His wholeness. God is jealous not because He desperately needs our attention but because He is holy and His holiness calls us to purity. Therefore, God’s jealously is a longing for our salvation and always for our good.

As if God needed anything from us! His wrath is meant to purify us and pull of from self-destructive idols. This is His mercy. His jealously is to call us back into fulfilling relationship with Him and purify us. This is His holiness.

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1 Sam. 15; Rom. 13; Jer. 52; Ps. 31

There was nothing complicated about the command:

Kill all the Amalekites.

Apparently it was too complicated for Saul. He made good on warning the Kenites to get out of town to be spared complete destruction, destroyed most of the Amalekites, but spared the king, some livestock, and anything good he could benefit from.

God speaks to Samuel remorseful that he ever made Saul king. Samuel feels God’s grief and comes to Saul. Then things get sticky. 

Here’s where Saul goes wrong:

1) He is boastful in his sin. He greets Samuel as though he done the right thing and rejoices in his victory. 

2) He casts blame on his soldiers for the act, proving well that he knew what he had done was wrong. He doesn’t own up to his sin and places the fault on his people.

3) Even when confronted with Samuel’s straight forward accusation, Saul tries to justify his action by saying he has done exactly the right thing. “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the [mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek.”

Bringing back Agag was not in the plan. I think Saul brought him back for bragging rights, as a trophy to say, “I had the opportunity to slay the king but in my power withheld.” Saul was on a power trip.

Then, Samuel lays the challenge:

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices 
   as much as in obeying the LORD? 
To obey is better than sacrifice, 
   and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 

Saul finally confesses, owns up, and admits his fear. But there are still consequences.

The story isn’t finished, though. As Samuel leaves, Saul reaches for his cloak and tears it. Sam says: 

The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.  He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.

The marvel of this story for me is that even in Saul’s sin, God leverages his disobedience to pull power out of his hands and give it to the line of David. The Lineage of Christ. Even though Saul blew it, God still made a way to cover up his error and the error of everyone to come after.

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Ruth 2; Acts 27; Jer. 37; Ps. 10

God, are you avoiding me? Where are you when I need you?  Psalms 10:1 (The Message)

To borrow words from commentary, “God’s withdrawings are very grievous to his people, especially in times of trouble.”

 In sticky situations it’s easy to think that God has abandoned me. It’s a natural outward response. It’s a feeling that even Jesus expressed at his last moments on the cross.

But surely, the one thing God cannot be is absent. His promise is always to remain with us and it is in His nature be at all places outside of time. 

Spurgeon unlocks some of the angst we may feel:

“The presence of God is the joy of his people, but any suspicion of his absence is distracting beyond measure. . . . It is not the trouble, but the hiding of our Father’s face, which cuts us to the quick.”

All along, though, He has not hidden His face but my doubt and disobedience has made it appear so. It is often my unbelief that denies His presence as I look at my circumstances nearsightedly. 

The sure cure then to these clenching moments of terror when I feel that my Father has left me to fend for myself, is to by simple faith, belief that He is near.

He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone, who came to visit you: why then must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him, but think on Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the glorious employment of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession, if we do not know it we must learn it. – Brother Lawrence

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Judg. 9; Acts 13; Jer. 22; Mark 8

To have life is to give it away.

It’s one of the paradoxes of the Christian life. To have control is to surrender it. To admit weakness is to find His strength. Life comes out of death. It’s an idea that has been repeated in my life in the past few days but one that I hope becomes a part of my soul and outward expression.

““If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35

Dallas Willard says this on the subject:

The sayings of Jesus above are most often taken as expressions of some ethereal truth for especially religious people.

Instead, they are mere observations about how life actually works.

As is so often the case with statements of Jesus, they say nothing about what we ought to do. They simply state how things are.

Anything with life in it can flourish only if it abandons itself to what lies beyond it, eventually to be lost as a separate being, though continuing to live on in relation to others.

Life is inner power to reach and life “beyond.”

If I am to live on and experience life to the fullest, I must abandon myself to God. Completely and utterly. I must give him my life if I want to preserve it. There is no use in keeping my life to myself, for myself. To do so is not only selfish and cowardly but according to Christ, but aimless and pointless. To live in abandon is the only way to truly live.

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Josh. 16, 17 / Ps. 148 / Jer. 8 / Matt. 22

What do you think about the Messiah?

The Pharisees had already probed Jesus’ judgement and knowledge on the topics of finance, heavenly relationships, and the utmost commandment. On all three occasions he demonstrated true wisdom and revealed insight into the matters they had been pondering for years. He left them baffled and speechless.

Then, He turns the question back around on them.

A few times a semester an open-air street evangelist comes to my school to share the gospel. He finds a public location where there’s  a lot of foot traffic, brings an easel, some paint, and a Bible. Often times he’ll use images to illustrate the gospel or share his story. Unfortunately, most of the students who stop by have already heard the gospel or just aren’t interested in talking about salvation.

Instead, they bring their scientific and moral dilemmas. “Can you be a Christian and be gay?” “Was the earth created in seven days?” “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” Instead of a conversation to bring salvation, more often than not, the conversation turns to a topical debate. It’s a shame but it’s the status of a very liberal, academic university.

I think many folks today come to Christ with their mental tongue-twisters, their legal stumbling blocks and get hung up on why they can’t live their life a certain way. Even when their questions are met with a reasoned and intelligent argument, they still won’t accept the validity of Christ’s identity.

People haven’t changed much in 2,000 years but still Christ calls and asks, “Who do you say I am? After I’ve answered all your questions, am I still just a good teacher, a wise man, or am I Lord of your life?”

Matthew Henry: It behoves us above all things seriously to inquire, “What think we of Christ?” Is he altogether glorious in our eyes, and precious to our hearts? May Christ be our joy, our confidence, our all. May we daily be made more like to him, and more devoted to his service.

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