“What sort of tale have we fallen into?”

tale

Today, we are on Psalm 5 and you can read it here. For all of us that have some familiarity with the life of King David, you know that he was a hunted man. Throughout the course of his life, he had a lot of enemies. In this Psalm, David reveals to us that he sees God as his refuge. David explains that he is in the daily habit of turning his worries over to God when he says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” David finishes the Psalm by describing God as his protection in saying, “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

The idea of God being our refuge and protection may sound foreign. First off, how many people even perceive a need for protection? I mean, we aren’t hunted in the same way that David was. How many of us actually think that we even need God to be our refuge? In difficult times, this need may arise, but what about throughout the course of our everyday lives?

Whether or not we feel like we need protection and refuge has everything to do with the lens through which we see the world. In the Lord of the Rings, Sam asks Frodo an important question. He asks, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?” This is a pivotal question. How do you see the world around you? Is the world, in your eyes, simply a matter of handling daily needs, paying bills and trying to make a living? Do you see yourself as living in a story? Is there more to life than what meets the eye?

The Bible has a lot to say in answer to these and many other questions. I believe that we are all a part of a massive story. There is a protagonist and an antagonist. There are forces of good and forces of evil that operate outside of the realm of the seen world. When looking through that lens, it becomes abundantly obvious that we are each in need of refuge and protection. If however, life for you is simply a matter of cause and effect, dollars and cents and simple pragmatic concerns, I can’t imagine that you see much need for God to be your refuge.

Have you recently though about the lens through which you see your life? How would you articulate it? Do you believe you are part of a bigger story? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

All your eggs in one basket

eggs

I’m really enjoying this journey through the Psalms. The Psalm we are on now is Psalm 4 and you can read it here. One thing I want to call your attention to is the beginning of the Psalm and the end. David starts out by saying, “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” He concludes by saying, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lordmake me dwell in safety.” 

I’m struck by the vulnerability of his request in the beginning. He’s desperate. He’s putting all of his eggs in one basket. As as a pastor, I hear people pray quite often. It’s rare that you hear someone expose their desperation before God. Perhaps we hold it back to protect ourselves. If we go all in with God and trust him with everything we have, what if he doesn’t come through? We’d be completely brokenhearted. Wisdom has taught most of us that we must diversify our investments. Keep your options open. Don’t put all your chips in the middle of the table. Hedge your bets. There is wisdom in this advice, but when it comes to God, we are called to do the opposite.

Scripture emphatically teaches that we are to go all in with God. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust God with everything we are. At the end of Psalm 4, David informs us of one of the results of his decision. He is able to sleep in peace. God guards his heart and takes care of him. I wonder what kind of peace we are forfeiting by holding back our trust from God. I struggle with this. I want to trust him, but I don’t want to trust him with everything. I don’t want to get my heart broken, so my tendency is to hold back just a little. My hope for all of us is that we would move in the direction of trusting God with everything. This is the only way we will experience peace….if we put all our eggs in one basket.

In over your head?

odds

Have you ever been in a situation and you knew you were in way over your head? I felt that way after I accepted this new role at Seacoast Church. I felt that way when I first found out I was going to be a dad. I felt the same kind of emotions the day I got married. In situations like these, you know that you can’t do it on your own. You know that you are in way over your head. I’m working through the Psalms right now and Psalm 3 is all about being overwhelmed. You can read it here.

David is the author of this Psalm and this is exactly what he’s talking about. Verse 1 says, “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” Most people do their best to stay out of situations where they might feel outnumbered or overwhelmed. We do our best to hedge our bets and stay within the context of situations we can manage with our collective resources. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t seem to work that way. People get sick….the job falls through….the raise doesn’t come….the kids don’t do as their told….and the list goes on and on. All of us have, at some point, felt completely in over our heads.

What do you do in those situations? Depending on how overwhelmed you are, you really don’t have many options. Some retreat….some try to fight their way through….some depend on their God. Verses 3-4 says, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lordand he answers me from his holy mountain.” If you read through the gospels, you realize that the people that Jesus had the toughest time with were those that didn’t acknowledge their need for him.

He wasn’t repelled by the sinners and dregs of society. His harshest words were generally reserved for those that thought they had things taken care of on their own. He still loved those people, but his words to them seem to be directed towards bursting their cozy bubble. God is a loving God. He deeply cares about you. Perhaps the reason you feel overwhelmed right now is because God has divinely orchestrated your circumstances in such a way so as to lead you to trust him. What’s your next step in that process?

King of kings

King

Yesterday, I started a series through Psalms and my plan is to go through the entire book, 1 Psalm at a time. You can read Psalm 2 here. In this Psalm, God is identified as the King of kings. He is the Ruler of the universe and has all authority in heaven and on earth. People are depicted in the psalm as trying to thwart God’s reign, but their efforts are a complete exercise in futility.

Because of the way our government is set up in America, I don’t know that we really relate to the idea of God as the King. Most of us are not huge fans of authority. We don’t like being told what to do. Even the way this country was founded probably contributes to this. We like to believe that we are in complete control of our own destiny. Nothing and no one can stand in our way and if we work hard enough, we can achieve anything. I’m not trying to say I’m not thankful for this country. I love the idea of manifest destiny and there is a lot about our cultural ideals that I really love. That being said, I do think we are at a disadvantage when it comes to the notion of authority.

It’s not terribly difficult for us to cozy up to the notion that God loves us and wants what’s best for us. We love sermons that talk about God wanting us to realize our full potential. They play into a lot of what we believe it means to be an American. Things tend to get a little uncomfortable however, when we start hearing about God having commands that pertain to us. When we hear that God isn’t just suggesting a financial plan, but rather commanding us to steward our finances in a certain way, we get a little on edge. When we hear that God’s word isn’t condoning our choices related to our sexuality, we’re not certain we’re on board. When we hear that God’s attitude towards gossip isn’t as lenient as we’d prefer, something rises up in us….”Who does God think he is? No one is going to control me. This is my life and I’ll do what I want with it. If God can help me in my plans, that’d be awesome….but if he doesn’t, I’ll get it done on my own.”

Whether we like it or not, the universe is not run by a democracy. The style of government we live under is a monarchy. There is an undisputed, completely sovereign and absolutely powerful King that sits on the only throne that really matters. This ruler is not some disinterested figurehead that just lets things play out the way they will. The Bible actually depicts God as being passionately involved in human affairs. He isn’t just cool with whatever, but has absolute definitions as to what is right and wrong.

It doesn’t really matter if we’re uncomfortable with this. We’re not being asked to follow him. His commands are not just suggestions that if followed, will lead to a better life. God does have our best interest at heart, but let’s not forget that he is not merely our big buddy up in the clouds. We live and breathe under the rule of a powerful King and we would all do well to learn what it means to submit to him at the core of who we are. Life will continue to not work for us until we learn this paradigm-altering lesson.

Delight in the Lord

psalm 1

I’m not sure how long it will go, but I’m  going to start working through the Psalms. They are incredibly passionate expressions of worship to God and I’ve always been intrigued by them. I’m going to start taking 1 each day and reflecting on it. I would love to hear your insights and feedback along the way. Psalm 1 says…

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

What kind of person “delights in the law of the Lord?” It’s one thing to dutifully follow God because you believe it’s the right thing to do, but to delight in him? To derive your soul’s satisfaction and pleasure primarily from God? What in the world does that look like?

This is where Christianity cannot merely be an intellectual ascent to a list of beliefs. That’s not something that can bring delight. In order for us to enjoy God and to find our primary satisfaction from following him, it has to be a relationship. It has to be a supernatural proposal whereby an ordinary person can somehow connect to an invisible and powerful God in meaningful ways. Dry religion simply cannot deliver on this….it has to be more than that.

Would you say you delight in God? Have you experienced more religion or relationship?

Utilizing the heavy artillery

artillery

One of the things that I’ve become even more aware of in my new role as campus pastor, is the deep need that people have for Jesus. When there are thousands of people around you, it’s easy to assume the best. You assume that if people are smiling, they are probably doing OK. My assumption was always that unless you told me differently, you were just fine.

Being in a smaller church environment, I’ve learned that I made a lot of false assumptions. Some people are doing fine, but peoples’ stories are complicated and deep. It’s generally not a good idea to categorize people. You really have to listen deeply to begin to understand where someone else is coming from.

I’ve learned that even with all of the church programs, sermons and worship services, people still struggle. We need something deeper…something more powerful…something supernatural. We need the mighty hand of God to move in our lives in ways that are beyond our limited ability. We need Jesus.

I’ve learned that one of the most powerful and important things that I can do for others is pray for them. Up until recently, this was a major struggle. Even if I told you that I would pray for you, it’s hard to remember a ton of prayer requests. I recently downloaded an app on my iPhone called Prayer Notebook and it has been tremendously helpful. It has allowed me to list, categorize and organize the prayer requests of those around me so that I can consistently pray for them…and I have.

This is the heavy artillery that the body of Christ must learn to utilize….prayer. Here are a few scriptures that confirm this…

James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

1 John 5:14-15This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The list goes on and on. When we go throughout our days, we will encounter challenging situations that require small arms fire. By that, I mean that we will need to utilize wisdom and godly decision-making, and there is always room to grow there. We must first however, learn to lay down the heavy artillery of prayer. God will respond to our prayers with his power and might and accomplish in and through us what we cannot do on our own.

Behind the words…

behind words

Yesterday I got to deliver a spoken word at Seacoast’s Mount Pleasant Campus and I had a blast. The poem that I shared is one that I wrote around 6 years ago, but it still has a ton of relevance for me. Here are the words…

The task seems too great to relate or consider….the time has come to pull the trigger….yet we find ourselves standing in front of insurmountable odds and giants of the unseen world…..we feel hurled into a fight we know nothing about….now is the time of desperation when counting on God is no longer an option it’s a must…trust cannot be manufactured….it must be born and implanted…Throughout time a battle has existed and persisted…..the casualties are numerous and cannot be listed or counted but they shall not be discounted… we’ve been endued with supernatural ability and power to capitalize on this our final hour….our moment has arrived and it is divine….the moment is here and its yours and its mine….what direction shall we take….how shall we proceed…..to begin with we must humbly concede that our understanding cannot contain or maintain the scope of the task….we must not mask our frailty or weakness for it will be used as strength in the eternal hands that carry out the eternal plans that crash into human existence from a dimension unseen…..the eternal dream proceeds and arrives……it dives into our imagination from the source of all life….dear Savior let it convict us like a knife…let it rip out our pain and strife….let it bring revolution and victory to the hearts of your precious children…sons and daughters of grace….let it reconcile creation to behold your face that all may know the secret place where you dwell….our hearts swell with praise as our hands raise to bring you fame and renown….our crown we lower and cast at your feet….again and again we repeat our thanks….our story of your glory!

One of the reasons I love this poem is because it accurately reflects how I feel on most days….overwhelmed. There is a lot that I feel called to and yet, I’m acutely aware of the fact that apart from God’s grace, it just ain’t gonna happen. That’s where the poem starts…”we feel hurled into a fight that we know nothing about.” What I love about the Christian life however, is that it doesn’t end there. That’s where the poem goes in the second half. “The eternal dream proceeds and arrives….it dives into our imagination from the source of all life.” It’s God’s dream…it’s his power…it’s his vision that compels us to fight. A Christian is someone who should be living in levels of increasing victory and yet, have in their spirit a deeply embedded humility as they realize that it is not their power that is carrying them.

One of my favorite quotes is by Watchman Nee and he said, “Christianity is not the removal of weakness, nor is it merely the manifestation of divine power. It is the manifestation of divine power in the presence of human weakness.” That pretty much sums it up. I hope that encourages you this week. Here’s the video of the spoken word I delivered yesterday. Have a great week!

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