Reasons to sing when the wind is howling

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Here in these opening verses of Psalm 95, we come face-to-face with a whole raft of reasons to sing when the wind is howling:

  • V3 – Our God is a great God.
  • V3 – Our God is the King above all gods.
  • V4 – Our God is the creator of everything earthen.
  • V5 – Our God is the creator of everything oceanic.

However, the crescendo of this riff of praise is the best:

  • V7 – Our God is our God!
  • V7 – Our God has made us his people and we live under his good care.

 

Opening our eyes to the real world

Today I’ve been studying Daniel 10. It is an amazing chapter about the intersection of prayer, spiritual conflict and the advancement of God’s plans and purposes.

 

Two quotes that really help us grasp the impact of this chapter:

“If once the curtain were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there–that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.”

Abraham Kuper (1837-1920), journalist, theologian and prime minister of the Netherlands.

 

“Take the supernatural seriously and realize that we are in a warfare that cannot and should not be domesticated by reinterpreting everything in the biblical worldview so that it fits nicely with secular; naturalistic ways of thinking about the world. Be ready for the extraordinary as well as the ordinary ways that evil spirits work. Don’t be anxious, as though they were stronger than Jesus”

John Piper

The Prayer of Hope

“A person with hope does not get tangled up with concerns for how his wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, his prayer is not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it. His prayer might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith is the giver of all good things….For the prayer of hope it is essential that there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded, only that you expect everything from the other without binding him. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the other to make his loving promise come true, even though you never know when, where or how this might happen.” (Henri Nouwen)

 

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come…

Here are some wonderful lyrics from Isaac Watts (1674-1748), for days like today:

“Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her form, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be thou our guard while life shall last, And our eternal home.”

Finding my calling in a self-obsessed world

I’m so glad that I finally got round to reading ‘Serious Times‘ by James Emery White. His chapter on vocation is just brilliant! Here is a rather long extract, but it is worth reading all of it!

 

“As I approached forty, I knew I was entering a new season of life and ministry, so I committed myself anew to finding what I was to do with the rest of my life. Instead of discovery, there was a rude awakening. As I faced such questions as What do I do best? and Where could I make the most impact? the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit whispered, “These are the wrong questions.” I thought to myself, What do you mean these are the wrong questions? They are the ones everybody else gets to ask! I didn’t want them to be the wrong questions. They were the only questions I knew, and more than that, they were the ones I most wanted answered. But the troubling idea that I was misguided did not go away. I began to pray and reflect on what was wrong with my quest; I searched the Scriptures. All to no avail. Then my misgivings began to take shape.

It dawned on me that there was not a single case in all of Scripture where someone went on a journey of self-discovery in order to find and follow God’s vocational call. I could not find a single case in Scripture where people went on a hunt for their vocational niche in light of their personality, gifting or experience. I had bought into the self-absorbed thinking that begins and ends with “who I am in Christ” (translation: what is my personal makeup and what it would take to make me fulfilled), and that became a license for the wholesale pursuit of personal pleasure.

In my journey through the biblical materials, I found that people were invited to do something (as with Jeremiah or the disciples), selected to do something (along the lines of David or Samuel) or presented with the opportunity to do something (as were ESter or Deborah). I could not find a single case of someone going off in search of their innate identity, much less trying to order their steps to fulfil who they were “made” to be. Not once did a biblical character say, “This is what would satisfy me, or make me happy, or allow me to be healthy and whole,” and then map out a strategy to make it happen. They simply lived their life in faithfulness and responded to what God brought their way. They submitted their gifts and abilities, investments and labor, to him. And even if God never brought anything their way, they embraced their place in life with the belief that at the very least that had been brought their way.”

Pg. 122-123

The priority of thinking

I’m so enjoying reading ‘Serious Times’ by James Emery White. Oh how I had read it when I first bought the book! However, today I read his chapter on the role of the mind in the Christian life and felt especially stirred and challenged. Listen to what he has to say here:

 

“The life of the mind comes easier to some than others, but the “closing” of the American mind, as Allan Bloom pointedly described it, has become legendary. Yet it goes without question that our minds form a critical part of our life, particularly for Christ followers. Jesus made clear that our minds are integral to the life lived with God: when summarizing human devotion to God as involving heart, soul and strength, Jesus added mind. He wanted there to be no doubt that when contemplating the comprehensive nature of commitment our intellect would not be overlooked.

Yet as Harry Blamires reminds us, “There is no longer a Christian mind.” A Christian ethic, a Christian practice, a Christian spirituality, yes–but not a Christian mind. “As a thinking being,” Blamires writes, “the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization.” Or as Mark Noll has dryly noted, the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.Worse, there is even a bias against the intellect. Richard Hofstadter, in his Pulitzer-prize-winning book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, identified “the evangelical spirit” as one of the prime sources of American anti-intellectualism. Hofstadter points out that many Christians humble ignorance is a far more noble human quality than a cultivated mind.

Yet it is precisely a cultivated mind that is needed for our day. John Stott writes, “We may talk of ‘conquering’ the world for Christ. But what sort of ‘conquest’ do we mean? Not a victory by force of arms… This is a battle of ideas.” This was the concerns of the apostle Paul, who reminded the Corinthian church that “we do not wage war as the world does … We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of  God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5).

 

Living at odds with this world

I’m currently reading through Daniel. Today I was focusing on these amazing and deeply challenging words from chapter 3: “But even if he does not [save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnance], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image you have set up.” (3:18)

 

Nate Saint (1923-56) who was eventually martyred as a missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador said:

“The way I see it, we ought to be willing to die. In the military, we were taught that to obtain our objectives we had to be willing to be expendable. Missionaries face that same expendability”.

I would replace the word missionary with the word Christian!

 

Adoniram  Judson

“How great are my obligations to spend and be spent for Christ! What a privilege to be allowed to serve him … and suffer for him … But in myself, I am absolute nothingness. … Soon we shall be in heaven. Oh let us live as we shall then wish we had done!”