Freedom From & Freedom To

Freedom is the foundation on which our way of life was built. It’s the key to how we live. We have the freedom of expression & religion. We can move about freely, live where we want and expect to be treated fairly and equally (no prejudice). Now this doesn’t always happen, since there are those who wish to limit our freedom or take it completely away.  Our freedom comes with a cost. A cost to achieve it and to maintain it.

The Bible also talks about freedom, but let’s not confuse it with the freedoms we enjoy in American culture. The freedom of Scripture transcends culture, working in a free county as well as an oppressive dictatorship. There are “prisoners” living in million dollar mansions and free people residing in 6′ x 8′ cells. Let’s take a look at this true and lasting freedom.

After launching Psalm 40 with praise to God, David gets personal about his relationship with the Lord. He has sought the Lord and the Lord has answered him. In the answers and actions of God David experiences freedom from fear, despair, destruction, discouragement and a broken heart. David finds that the key to this freedom was to understand that the freedom didn’t give him a life free of hardship, rather he was free in the midst of the trouble. He knew that, that which is important – our heart, spirit, soul – can’t be destroyed when we are in God.

How did David learn this truth and how can we learn this today? Well, he gives us an invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” David experienced the goodness of God and he encourages us to do the same. To become intimate in fellowship with the Almighty we must drink in his mercy and grace we must feast on his forgiveness and guidance. We must observe up close and personal what his holiness looks like. This is more than knowing God is good. This is living in his goodness through the ups and downs of life.

In turn the freedom from these things encourages us toward freedom to…to what? David says that we are free to taste and see the goodness of God as we’ve already mentioned but he also says we are free to live like God (think Jesus). He says we shouldn’t speak evil or be deceptive, that we should turn from evil, do what is right and always strive for peace.

In all this we get to experience the greatest freedom. Freedom that comes with a cost, the price of which was paid for by the good God who loves us so much that he asked his son to make that payment. This redemption is salvation from utter despair and destruction. The only requirement – take up shelter in the protection of the Lord. Now that looks, feels and tastes great.

Sunday Songs

Came To My Rescue – Hillsong

God With Us – Jesus Culture

The Joy Of The Lord – Rend Collective

Walking Along, Singing A Song

If we walk along and hear someone humming, whistling or singing we may assume they’re having a good day…or are a least they’re in a good mood. There’s just something about having a tune rattling around in our head that can lift our spirits. But sometimes it’s our circumstances that change, for the better, and that change causes us to sing. That’s the case with King David in Psalm 40.

In this Psalm David is praying – apparently for a long time. His patience pays off because the Lord hears his cry, pulls him out of the pit and puts him on some solid ground. Then for good measure God puts his arm around David and steadies him as he walks. All this gives David a new song to sing.

But the new tune is not the end of the story. There is a friendship and a process we see unfolding in this Psalm, as the relationship between David and God deepens. The process goes something like this; patience leads to joy, joy leads to obedience, obedience leads to intimacy and intimacy leads to freedom.  Let’s take a look.

As the Psalm begins David is praying – for a good while (patience). Waiting on the Lord brings a result of joy. David specifically mentions that there is joy in trusting the Lord and that when he stops to think about it the list of things God has done is incredibly long (result is joy).

This joy and remembrance makes it easier for David to follow God’s will (obedience). He loves following the way of God and is close enough to him that the instructions of God are written on his heart. David knows, from the inside out, the way God wants him to live (intimacy).

Being this close to the heart of God reminds David of their relationship. David is poor and needy and God is his helper and redeemer…and the redeemer sets him free (freedom)! The song of freedom is a joyous anthem when it resides in the heart.

Musical Call to Worship & Benediction from Sunday 3/11/18

“40” by U2 – live in Chicago

“My Deliverer” Rich Mullins

Songs we sang last Sunday – 3/11/18

“Here’s My Heart Lord” – Passion

“How Great Is Our God” – Chris Tomlin

Immense Yet Intimate

In our world today we are used to huge corporations that treat us as a number not a name. It often seems that our Social Security number and date of birth are more important than our name – even if we give first, last & middle initial. So imagine the difference when a ginormous God expresses a desire to relate to you personally. He not only knows your name, but the Scriptures tell us that he knows how many days you’ll live and how many hairs are on your head.

It’s this intimate personal relationship with an immense God that we see in the words of Psalm 19. If we divide it into three movements we see the Psalmist; 1 – Accepting the Presence of God, 2 – Accepting the Precepts of God and 3 – Accepting that He Pleases God. Let’s take a look.

Accepting the Presence of God – David gushes about the universe around him. He declares it to be beautiful ,expansive, creative, reliable, all-encompassing, powerful and influential. For David, what he see tells him a great deal about God and determines his relationship with the Almighty.

Accepting the Precepts of God – David speaks in a similar fashion about the laws of God. He doesn’t see them as confining or restricting, rather he says they bring joy to his life. He says these precepts as reliable, just, fair, pure, lasting, valuable, unchanging and perfect while preserving him as a loving servant of God. To David the laws are as brilliant as the heavens he observed from his palace.

Accepting that I Please God – David realizes that he isn’t perfect but his desire is to be pleasing to God with his thoughts and actions. He asks God to keep him from deliberate sin. Believing that we can bring pleasure to God is huge but it’s even greater if we understand that God finds pleasure in us.

Many know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…”. But we may know it so well that we don’t really KNOW it. That’s why I love the following statement made by Jesus – twice, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” The center of that statement may contain the best five words in all of Scripture, “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” Believe it, live it and love it.

Psalm 19 Meditation

Music from Sunday 3/4/18

Come As You Are – Crowder

Cornerstone – Hillsong

We Fall Down – Chris Tomlin

Purpose, Passion, Protection: How to Really Live in a Troubled World

In Psalm 143 David pours out his heart to God. According to him, he is in a bad place. His enemies are trying to crush him, his life doesn’t measure up to God’s standard – he needs help & he wants it now. Enter a heartfelt request for God’s intervention. David makes 5 requests in the next couple of paragraphs that can transform his life…and ours.

  1. “Wake me in the morning with the sound of your loving voice.” What a great way to start the day, hearing how much the Heavenly Father loves you. In The Message Eugene Peterson says, “If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.”
  2. “Show me the way I should go.” David longs for God so much that his heart’s desire is to walk in His way. As God shows Him the path he’ll be able to see that it is marked with lights from Scripture. In David’s day the 10 commandments dotted the path as well as the great command to love God and your neighbor as you love yourself. Today we have the fruit of the Spirit and other biblical teachings as well as the example of Jesus added to what David knew.
  3. “Rescue me.” Along with a heart that desired God David knew to run to God for protection. We would do well to allow God to be our cover, our only sure hope. Romans tells us that we don’t need to seek revenge, that we should let the Lord handle it. In fact part of walking in the way of God means showing kindness to your enemies rather than seeking to repay them for how they treated you.
  4. “Teach me what to do.” This request reminds us that it is a process. It takes us time to learn the ways of God. Our head may know we are to love our enemy but it takes time for that knowledge to get to our heart, hands and feet. But there is a way.
  5. “Lead me by your Spirit.” We aren’t on the path alone. We travel with the spirit of God dwelling in us. We need to listen to that inner voice. The “kind presence” leads us to a “level land.” The level land is a place that doesn’t have obstacles placed by our bad behavior or selfish desires. It sounds similar to the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Straight paths and level land makes the journey doable…and hopefully full of joy.

 

Songs from Sunday

Here I Am To Worship – Chris Tomlin

Blessed Be Your Name – Chris Tomlin

Cornerstone – Hillsong

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Do you believe that God is all-knowing? Does that mean that he knows what you are thinking? If you answered yes then I have another question for you, “Have you every lied when you pray?” Most of us have. We tell God what we think he wants to hear or what we think we are supposed to say – not what’s really in our heart and on our mind. But why? If he already knows, why not just be honest?

In Psalm 25 David says some honest things about God and to God. He lays bare his fears and hurts. He starts with a statement/request we can all relate to, “Please don’t let me be humiliated.” None of us wants to look bad in front of others, not even the mighty King Of Israel.

We need to be honest and ask God for what we really want, even if it turns out to not be what’s best  – our honesty gets the conversation started. When we tell God the desires of our heart it reveals where we are in life and in our relationship  with Him.

Of course once we ask we have to stop, step back and wait so we can listen for a reply. David followed-up his request with another that is a key to growing into a more Jesus-like person. He says, “Make me understand your ways, teach me your paths, guide me into your truth and teach me.” You see, when we go to God with our list of requests we need to be ready to have our heart and our desires changed. What David asked for is a process, it takes time and requires serious change.

The process is helped if we understand that the God to whom we pray is unchanging and his character is perfect. He is holy, just, loving, merciful and compassionate and that’s just the beginning of a long list of characteristics that let us know who God is. Knowing who He is means that we know what he does, because God does not violate his character.

One other thing, we need to ascribe to God the praise and adoration that is His alone. When we talk to God it’s important to speak out to Him what is true about Him. This act of worship reminds us of our human nature and his divine nature.

Finally, let David’s closing words to His God wash over you and be the strength and guide for your daily living.  “May integrity and godliness protect me, for I rely on You!”

Meditation from Psalm 25

Psalm 25

Songs from Sunday

Lead Me To The Cross – Hillsong

Get Your Hopes Up – Josh Baldwin

Revelation Song – Kari Jobe

Recipe For A Restored Soul

It’s all about a relationship that brings refreshment while on the path of righteousness.

Psalm 23 is often read at funerals, which makes sense since it evokes images of rest, comfort and protection. Yet, there is much in this Psalm about life. Let’s take a quick look.

The psalm begins with a relationship – “The Lord is my shepherd.” In this psalm we take on the role of sheep. Being a sheep means we aren’t independently able to survive when stranded or attacked. Let’s face it, all of us needs help from time to time. To live very long sheep need the protection of a shepherd. An attentive and caring shepherd.

Well, this is one caring shepherd. As a sheep in his care we lack nothing, we are fully supported. He takes us to lush pastures with refreshing water that will restore our soul. This picture doesn’t just allude to full bellies and quenched thirst but to a soul that is healthy and vibrant. But, we must remember, the restored soul is found when following the lead of the shepherd.

Following the shepherd puts us on the path of righteousness. The path of right living is a good place to be, but according to the psalm the bigger reason for living rightly is for the sake of the shepherd’s reputation. In other words, we need to ask ourselves, “Based on my words and actions what will people think of God?”

The path of righteousness is the place to be, however, that doesn’t mean life will be easy. The psalm states that “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger.” Righteous livers don’t get off easy but they do walk with the shepherd and need to fear no one. We live in a broken world and no one can completely avoid dark and difficult days. In those times it’s that relationship with the shepherd that again becomes so important. The shepherd uses his rod and staff to remind us he is there. It’s like walking along in a scary place with a big strong friend holding your hand and leading the way.

Then as a sign of a favored relationship the shepherd invites us in, cleans us up and sets out a scrumptious dinner. After dinner we continue to live out our lives with the shepherd’s goodness and mercy pursuing us until the day we die and go to be with him.

Sunday’s Songs

More Than Conquerors – Rend Collective

Your Love O Lord – Third Day

Open The Eyes of My Heart – Michael W. Smith

It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Help, I Need Somebody Help!

Last week we talked about admitting that we can’t make it on our own. Even the best of us needs assistance from family or friends from time to time and most certainly we can all point to moments where divine intervention is necessary. That’s where the psalmist is when he asks God to hear his prayer (Psalm 86).

Today, we continue looking at what happens when we go to God for help. For the sake of this discussion let’s see God as a mapmaker. The assumption is that God designs the map for the journey of our lives. Logically then it makes sense to go to the map designer if we need help making our way in the map of our life.

As mentioned before it is essential that we ask for help. We cry out to God because he cares and knows best how to help. Letting him direct our journey isn’t just smart, it’s life-giving and infuses our life with purpose and joy.

Being on the right path is only part of the journey. Knowing how best to handle the obstacles, unseen curves, steep climbs and variety of people we encounter comes from applying the decrees of God. Psalm 119 goes on and on about how lovely the laws of God are and why it’s best to follow them. In verse 133 we read, “Establish my steps in your word.”  You see, improper boundaries can be confusing, arbitrary boundaries can be stifling, and legalistic boundaries can be absolutely oppressive; but boundaries that are well thought out, set-up with strength, wisdom and love can be amazingly freeing.

However, sometimes we misstep and go astray, then the problems we encounter are of our own making. At these times we might expect God to turn a deaf ear or just walk away, but he doesn’t. He hears our cries just as he did in ancient times when the Psalmist cried out, “Let your compassion meet our needs because we are on the brink of despair.” (Psalm 79:8) In the context of the Psalm we see that previous generations had caused the current predicament, but God still listened, heard and responded.

Finally, when we get back on track and resume the journey it can be scary. Past experiences or the “advice” of others can make us gun-shy. Knowing who we are is very important at these times. We are the loved children of God. His desires for you are to prosper you, to accomplish his will and glorify himself in the process. The kind of protection we need is the kind that keeps our soul safe. We may face times of physical pain or mental anguish, but we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the very essence of who we are – our soul is protected by our heavenly Father. In Psalm 16 we hear this request for safe keeping. “Protect me God because I take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, you are my Lord and apart from you I have nothing good.” 

God’s good at keeping his promises!

H.E.L.P.

  • Hear O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy – Psalm 86:1
  • Establish My Steps in your word. – Psalm 119:133
  • Let your compassion quickly meet our needs because we are on the brink of despair. – Psalm 79:8
  • Protect me God because I take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, you are my Lord, apart from you I have nothing good. – Psalm 16:1

Songs from Sunday – 2/4/18

All My Hope – David Crowder

For The Cross – Brian & Jenn Johnson

It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

What To Do When You Want to Cry Uncle

Some days are easy, some are hard and then some are beyond difficult. What do you do when life deals you a few of those days in a row? You might turn to some comfort food, an activity that lets you escape for a while or even a trusted friend. Obviously some options are better than others. A few are nothing more than a momentary distraction but others lead to a path through the difficulty. One of those good paths is found in the Psalms. King David had some of those difficult times and when he did he turned to God. Let’s take a look at the process he undertakes in Psalm 86.

First things first, he admits he can’t do this by himself. (“Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”) 

Second, he asks God for specific things. He asks God to guard his life, have mercy, bring him joy and to really listen to his prayer. The reasons attached to these requests include things he knows of God (forgiving, good, abounding in love and He listens) and things he knows about himself (he is faithful, he trusts in God and calls on God all day long).

Third, he realizes that it’s all about glorifying God. He praises God, announces that all the nations should worship him, exclaims God’s power, and notes that when he (David) finds joy and forgiveness the glory still goes to God.

Fourth, David knows very well to whom he is turning. In these few paragraphs he refers to God as merciful (3x), joyful, forgiving, good, loving (3x), faithful (2x), compassionate and patient. This is a God worth going to in a crisis. He truly believes God’s desires for him are good and that in God he will find comfort even when there is no immediate rescue involved.

One last thought – based on the context and tone of this Psalm it seems evident that God hears and responds to us even when the trouble we find ourselves in is self-inflicted. That makes the good news even better.

So when you want to throw in the towel instead throw yourself into the arms of God.


Music from Sunday: 1/28/18

Come Thou Fount – David Crowder

I Am – David Crowder

More Than Conquerors – Rend Collective

The Joy Of The Lord – Rend Collective

When You Feel Forgotten or Insignificant

Do you ever feel lost or alone? Are there times when you feel as though even God is ignoring you? Most of us have days like that – sometimes even weeks or months, so how do we deal?

According to the ancient King, David we need a change of perspective. For him it’s starts with God and continues on to how we view ourselves and our place in the universe.

David starts by acknowledging God’s self-sufficiency, power, place of authority and royal designation. He takes the time, perhaps after enjoying an evening of star-gazing, to admire God’s handiwork in the heavens. He sees it as vast, great and beautiful.

Then the King poses the question, “Why does this macro-magnificent God worry and care about us, mini-ordinary people?” The answer is that God doesn’t see us as ordinary. God views us as just a tiny-bit lower than the angels, an idea that was reinforced when Jesus took on flesh and was also referred to as a little lower than the angels. Think about it; not just a little better than the rest of the living beings on the face of the earth, rather we are just slightly less impressive than the heavenly beings. In fact the psalmist goes on to say that we are crowned with glory and honor. Does that sound like people lost on the back forty forgotten by the owner of the land?

God has designed us to be glorious beings and has entrusted us with the care of all creation. Now that’s a lofty description and some significant responsibility. You are important and you have a purpose, a bigtime job of being a steward of all we can see.

So remember, start and end with praising God and in between know that you are special in the eyes of your heavenly Father.

Songs from the past Sunday Gathering:

Come As You Are – David Crowder

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

Our God – Chris Tomlin

When The World Is Falling Apart

Most of us would agree that our world is in a bit of a mess. There are certainly good folks trying their best to affect change for the better, but it seems as though the bad actions of others are more powerful. Then if you add in famine, drought, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, mudslides and more it makes you just want to throw your hands up in despair. So what do you do? Where do you turn?

In Psalm 2 we are told of a time when nations, kings and powerful people where trying to go against the laws of God. They resisted because the Law of God (love God, love your neighbor and love yourself) named their desire for power and greed – WRONG!

The Psalmist tells us that God finds it amusing that these rebellious folks think they know better than him. They think that they are self-sufficient. The problem is that our self-sufficiency has limits. Eventually we run into a more powerful force or come against a circumstance over which we have no control. We can eat well, exercise and do all we know to do so that we can live a vibrant, healthy life – and to a certain degree that works. BUT, sometimes cancer or some other disease comes out of left-field and try as we might we can’t stop it.  Then what do you do?

You can strike out at others, find someone to blame, get good and angry; or you can find refuge in God. That’s the answer for the Psalmist. When we find refuge in the Lord we spend time with him and if we are paying attention we begin to imitate his ways. You know, things like; turn the other cheek, love your enemies, help the marginalized, treat everyone equally and fairly, etc, etc. Now that kind of living could change our world…for the better.

Here’s the links to the songs we sang on Sunday.

All My Hope – David Crowder

Mention of Your Name – Jenn & Brian Johnson

His Name Shall Be – Matt Redman