Insights

Insights

Psalm 23 Shepherd

As my “Psalm 23” Shepherd, Lord Jesus, you lead me beside the still waters—you give me opportunity to be with you, to take in, to gain eternal perspective.
 
You lead, but I must both follow, and then drink. I must choose to spend time in your Word, in worship, in intercession and confession, in pouring out my heart and lifting up my soul to you. And I can do this because you are “good and ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy to all who come to you” (Psalm 86:5 KJV).
 
As I choose to drink from your Word and revel in your presence, you will restore my soul: bringing refreshment, insight, wisdom, understanding, greater faith and more praise.
 
You work to restore my soul to more of its pre-fall perspective, making me more like yourself. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…” (2 Cor. 3:18).
 
You will then lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake—but again, I must choose to follow. And I can be sure that the way you lead me will be righteous and upright, pure and positive, godly and good, bringing honor to your Name.
 
If I sense leading which is not one of these, then I can know that it is not of you, but from the subtle and sinister call of the world, the flesh and the devil. These I want to reject, so I can give you glory in all I do. Therefore, for the sake of your name, help me to gladly follow your righteous lead, no matter how much self-denial it requires.
 
Praise you, Lord Jesus, for you are my Shepherd, my King, my Sovereign, the One to be obeyed and feared, loved and served. Praise you for the wonderful and powerful privilege of being both your sheep and your ambassador in a fallen and faulty world, bringing your light to deluded and deceived people.
 
Praise you for your Holy Spirit to fill, empower, guide and encourage. I praise you, Lord Jesus, my 23rd Psalm Shepherd, for your care, your protection, your provision and your presence throughout the day. May I be filled with your Spirit; may I be a vessel of grace to all I meet today; may I be a useful instrument in your hand, Lord, obeying you, living worthy of your calling and pleasing you in every way. To you be glory, honor and praise in and through my life today.
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Book Review

ShieldBOOK REVIEW:

Knowing Jesus is Enough for Joy, Period! A Practical Guide to Everyday Spiritual Warfare

S.M. Wibberly. Xulon Press 2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751, 304 pages, 2010, $18.99.

–Reviewed by Dick Scoggins,  founder of Fellowship of Church Planters in Rhode Island, then Training Director in England working with several miss.on organizations, and now in Los Angeles working with European and American miss.on organizations as well as The Guild (www.uscwm.org/theguild).

I love this book because it mixes strong theology with excellent practice. Steve has lived in several other cultures where he has had to look at his own western worldview and make appropriate changes to fit the new cultures. This helped him discern how to effectively “be” good news in them. His first chapter is on worldview and is suitable for all who are journeying to find a Biblical one that faces up to the hard realities of life.

The author progresses right to Spiritual Warfare where he exposes the darkness of the enemy and our role in this war. From there he goes on to practical ways to live out the life of light in a world of darkness. There are no simplistic formulaic answers, but rather biblical, spiritual practices that help us cooperate with God’s working in the difficulties and shadows of this world. He illustrates these with an abundance of examples from his own journey.

His emphasis on connecting with God through the Word and Worship is excellent. Two versions of same book Equipped! and Knowing Jesus is Enough for JoyWhen I got to the sections on Psalms, praise and worship, I slowed way down. I had been exposed to this, but never really “got it”. It was so helpful to read through Steve’s personal experiences and prayers as they enabled me to go much deeper than I ever had in these areas and helped me get to a whole new level of connecting with God.

This book does an excellent job of giving enough direction for the reader to enter into the experiences Steve outlines, that of living above pressures rather than under them. At the same time it avoids the simplistic formulas which are bound to disappoint. It has an excellent mix of the practical with the mystical (personal experience with God). It is useful for personal growth, for member care and for discipleship.

I highly recommend it.

This book is available in paperback and Kindle at http://knowingjesusisenoughforjoy.com/.  All profits from books bought from this website go directly to missions.

A weekly book review delivered to you from Missio Nexus

Infected with Hope

I have an infection that I want to pass on to you, an infection of hope. Biblically “hope” is a certainty based on the character of God.  And what is He like?

You, Lord, are the God of hope, the God of guaranteed good. What you deem will come to pass, what you promise will happen. You are the Almighty One, unlimited in your power, unstoppable in your plans and inexhaustible in your resources.

You are the Guardian of goodness, the Lord of Love, the King of kindness, the Prince of peace, the Savior of sinners, the Light of life and the God of grace. From you flows only what is good, so we can have perfect hope (certainty) that in your power and love, in your grace and wisdom you will bring into our lives only what you will use for good. What you bring to us, whether we like it or not, whether it is painful or pleasant, will be for the furtherance of your Kingdom, the overflowing of our cup of hope, and the increase of your glory.

Nice words, but practically speaking, what does this mean in every day life? When things come that are not to our liking, we can and should respond with two acts of faith. First is to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, praising our Great God for what He has allowed.

For instance, when we recently got some unwanted, unpleasant news, we prayed,  “Thank you, Lord, that our insurance did not pay for Barbara’s trip to the emergency room, meaning it will cost us more than $3000 out of pocket!” Giving thanks like this is an act of teeth-gritting faith, a faith that flows from the peace, joy and hope God pours into our lives as we trust in Him.

Second is to rewrite this event from God’s perspective: “You, Lord, are the wise and powerful One who could have made the insurance company pay, but you chose otherwise. All the money I have is yours, so if you choose to have me spend it this way, I can trust you. I let go of this money. I praise you now for what you are doing in this event, for how you are going to use it for your glory and my good. Thank you for the chance to trust you, to get up the shield of faith by praise when this event goes totally against what I would naturally like and value.”

Such a willful act of trust brings the fulfillment of Romans 15;13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that your lives may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

As I trust, the Holy Spirit will cause this hope to splash over on those around me, stimulating them to hope and trust as they hear me speak of our wonderful, powerful, trustable God. Or, on the other hand, if I complain instead or trusting, I will quench the flow of hope to all around me.

God calls us to cooperate with Him in using each event to bring more glory to Himself, whether it be by our praising when we would rather complain, or whether it be that He works in some wonderful way to change things.

In our case, God has chosen to answer wonderfully by guiding the insurance company to reverse their decision, without any direct input from us; they have said they after all are going to pay the whole $3000!  This is surely the out working of Psalm 50:23: “He who offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me and opens the way that I may show him the salvation of the Lord.”

May praise be the keynote of our lives in and for all things!

In The Place Of

Thank you this morning, Lord, for the chance to trust you and offer you praise when my computer did not restart after installing the new operating system. There was the real possibility that everything was messed up and I wouldn’t be able to access anything, including all my powerpoint presentations for all my teaching in the next couple of weeks. You answered prayer, however, Lord, and after a force quit, it all started up nicely.

Praise you for such opportunities to praise in faith before getting an answer, to rest in you and to give glory and honor to you before all the unseen hosts, as well as to advance spiritually myself, cooperating with the Holy Spirit in having faith expanded, giving the Lord Jesus more room to operate in my life. You are so good to us, Lord, giving us such fine opportunities.

Being your child is such a great and positive experience. You shine Truth into the dark corners of our souls, chasing away the shadows that frighten us, giving us joy in the place of heaviness,

hope in the place of despair,

meaning in the place of pointlessness,

fulfillment in the place of emptiness,

guidance in the place of confusion,

knowledge in the place of ignorance,

understanding in the place of superficiality,

wisdom in the place of foolishness,

insight in the place of indecision,

power in the place of weakness,

self-control in the place of bondage,

freedom in place of oppression,

light in the place of darkness,

courage in the place of fear,

growth in the place of stagnation,

protection in the place of vulnerability,

shelter in the place of exposure,

good in the place of evil,

salvation in the place of condemnation,

eternal life in the place of endless death,

a future of certainty in the place of the unknown,

security in the place of fear,

significance in the place of worthlessness,

grace in the place of rejection,

fruitfulness in the place of barrenness,

belonging in the place of alienation,

a forever family in the place of loneliness,

community in the place of isolation,

your constant presence in the place of hopelessness,

adoption in the place of rejection,

pardon in the place of condemnation,

forgiveness in the place of judgment,

gain in the place of loss,

peace in the place of turmoil,

wholeness in the place of brokenness,

healing in the place of woundedness,

completeness in the place of great lack,

and love in the place of hate.

In you, Lord Jesus, is all that we need, all that we were made for, all that we long for.  Your divine power has indeed given us all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of you who called us by your own glory and goodness.  (2 Peter 1:3)

To you, Lord Jesus, belongs all honor and praise, all glory and worship, all exaltation and thanksgiving, for from you comes all goodness, all wisdom, all power, all love, all grace. May you be glorified in my life today, O Lord Jesus, King of all creation, Ruler of all galaxies, Shepherd of all your sheep and Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Amen.

Thoughts of Thanks, Psalm 50:23

It is good to know that you, Lord God, have the wisdom, oversight and insight, the understanding and the power to orchestrate our days. And that because of your love, you will help us, protect us, guide us.

To know you is marvelous, a great privilege, a powerful, pleasant grace. Thank you so much, Lord God, for providing salvation, for giving us sonship, a place in your family, meaning and purpose in life, a part in your great plan, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the wonder of your continual presence, significance and security, love and grace, goodness and greatness. All this flows from you, all comes from you. We give you honor and praise, we exalt you, we love you. Help me to live in such a way as to give you the credit, the worship, the praise you deserve. And I praise you now for how you will help me.

Psa 50:22  ‘Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue:’

[You are such a gracious God, giving those who reject you another chance, another warning and another reminder of what will happen to those who refuse to enter the shelter of your love. You hate sin, but love and offer salvation to sinners. You are so patient, so gracious, so kind, so persistent. You are worthy of all love and honor and obedience.]

Psa 50:23  ‘He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,’

[these offerings were voluntary, given whole heartedly, focusing on the goodness of God and the grace He bestows. So we need to do the same, giving thanks voluntarily, with all our hearts in the midst of things we don’t like as well as the things that work out as desired. To so live by faith is your desire, Lord. You give us enough evidence daily to trust you more and more, and here is how we can live it out.]

‘and he prepares the way’

[that is, the one who gives the sacrifice of thanks, opens the door for God to work; here is again the partnership you constantly call us to, Lord. You prepare all, then wait for us to respond. You are so wonderfully loving to include us in each step of the process, when you could do it so much better and more quickly on your own. Yet, you bestow honor, dignity and purpose on us by having us partner with you in your plans for life.]

‘so that I may show him the salvation of God.’ ”

[And here is your part, that as we open the door with thanksgiving, you will show us your salvation, coming in to do what is right and good and positive.]

You, Lord, are the One to be exalted for your goodness, your love, your persistence, your patience, your wisdom, your kindness and your grace—all constantly poured out upon us when we don’t deserve it in the least. Praise be to you, Lord, for how you are going to lead us on to ever higher ground with you. Praise you for your wonderful goodness. May you be honored, pleased and glad in my life today. Help me to live in such a way that your salvation may constantly f low into my life, bringing honor and glory to you. Amen

Worship, Adoration, Obedience

Praise be to you, Lord, for a new day, a clear sky, the promise of warmth and beauty. I praise you, Lord God, my Heavenly Father, Jesus my Shepherd , my indwelling Holy Spirit, that all beauty flows from you, that all of today is in your hand.  We can trust you a thousand percent, for in your character, in your core, in all your being there is only goodness, wisdom, purity, perfection and positive power. You have no evil, no darkness, no dark side, no selfishness, no sin, no negatives, no unrighteousness.

You are the absolutely trustable One, ever watching to protect, guide, correct and keep your beloved children on the right track. I thank you, Lord, for your constant presence, your consistent protection, your unending attention, your unlimited power.

You are the One to be loved, to be obeyed, to be exalted, to be praised. You are worthy of continual worship, adoration and obedience. May these things be present in my life today so that your name may be lifted up before men and angels, before demons and the devil. Amen.

 

Light and Truth Psalm 43 Part 3

Lord, as we grope our way through the dim light of life, not knowing the next step or the way to go, it is wonderful that we can turn to you for help. As David prayed,

Psa 43:3  “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me;”

[We need your light to see the next step, we need your truth to think correctly. Only you, Lord Jesus, can provide these. There is no human agency who can give us such help for we are limited, small, ignorant.]

“let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”

[Truth and light point us to you, the Great Rock, the unshakable God who has created all. Unlike David we don’t have to go to a mountain to find you, for you are here, but we need to look to you, to turn from our own wisdom and ideas to you for enlightenment and truth. Reliance on our own understanding is deadly; trust in your understanding brings life, freedom, joy and strength.]

Psa 43:4  “Then will I go to the altar of God,”

[Seeing you clearly again, Lord, leads us to worship, to praise, to bowing before you.]

“ to God, my joy and my delight.”

[You only are the source of real, lasting, enduring joy, based on your eternal character, your powerful being, your perfect personality.  And when I see you more and more in worship, you become more and more my delight in the light of your truth. You are the One to be delighted in, for you are marvelous, beautiful, awesome, gracious, mighty and majestic. All the earth has to offer is only a vague shadow of the goodness and greatness that dwells in you, Lord God. When we see you for who you are, it is hard not to delight in you!]

“I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.”

[You are worthy of worship for you are the final authority, you are the ultimate power, you are the Most High, and you are my God, I belong to you, you love me, you care for me, you delight in me! How can that be, with you being so great and I so miniscule, with you being so holy and I so sinful, with you being eternal and I mortal, with you being perfect and I faulty?

Your love overcomes all these obstacles and you have called me to be yours and given yourself to be my God. What a marvelous, illogical, unexpected outcome in an otherwise hopeless world. I praise you, O God, for the great privilege of being your child, of living with you in your light and truth. May you be glorified in my life today. Amen.

Transition

After several intense weeks of winding down our work in Europe, closing out two houses (my mother-in-law’s and ours), packing everything up, saying our good-byes and returning to the States, I hope to have more time to make entries on this blog. For those who have been regular readers, my apologies for not being more productive in the last weeks. As we have more time now, hopefully there will be more regular posts.

Do We Really Want Adventures?

A thought: we are always making adventures for ourselves (sports, hikes, whitewater rafting trips, rock climbing, etc) and in all of them we like to be in control to a great degree; the element of being a slightly out of control, the risk is what makes it exciting and an adventure.

However when adventures come unbidden into our lives–disguised as problems, illnesses, accidents, even tragedies–where events are fully out of our control, then we get upset. We don’t recognize or want a true adventure, one where we don’t have enough control, for it is too uncomfortable.

It is helpful to realize that such an adventure is a great opportunity to live out the purpose of our existence: trusting and praising God in faith. He has a plan and will carry us through as He promises in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures….Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me…You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”

With a God like that, we have nothing to fear, no matter how difficult the adventure gets, even if it ends in death, for we know He will take us with Him.

Psalm 34:18-20

Praise you, Lord, for this; I’d have liked to get up earlier, but you know what is best, Lord, and I praise you for what you have allowed.  You are the God of glory, the Lord of Love, the King of kindness, the Ruler of righteousness and the Shepherd of strength. To you belongs trust, surrender, dependence, obedience and love. To you belongs worship, praise, honor, fear, awe and glory. To you we belong, along with our time, energy, abilities, possessions and relationships. To you belongs wisdom, power, grace, goodness and holiness. All of these you share with us whole-heartedly, abundantly, richly, graciously.

Praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your sweet shepherding of us through the valley of the shadow of death, through the disappointments, hurts and difficulties of life, through loss, failure, pain and suffering, through conviction, repentance, forgiveness and restoration. You are wise and good in knowing what we need.

I thank you for the “limbo” we are in now, not knowing when we will leave this country. I praise you, Father, that you have things planned out: how long we must wait, the help you will give and the circumstances we will go through. At present I feel like I am not doing much, that I am not earning my keep, not performing in my role as a worker. Give me wisdom in how to move forward in wise and godly ways that you may be honored and glorified in my life.

I praise you, the Sovereign God, who allows us free choice in our sphere of responsibility, that you then weave together our choices and those of others around us to bring out in the end the great conclusion you desire. Praise be to you for the guidance you will give, the protection you will provide and the strength you will grant.

Psa 34:18  “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” [You, Lord, know the heart of each person; you see when we are wounded and overwhelmed. And you are there, actively working in us. We are by nature so stubborn and independent, rebellious and stiff-necked, that surrender often comes only when we are crushed and broken by circumstances. It is then that we see our true state of total weakness, of dependence on you, of sinfulness and rebellion. This is what you did to me in Alaska and I praise you for it, for with this dark experience you ushered me into the Kingdom of Light.

Lord, do bring such breaking to us as is needed that we may surrender more to you, be a more useful instrument in your gracious, powerful hands.  You are trustable, you are good, you are wise, so we can rest in your love.]

Psa 34:19  “A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;” [Being righteous in you does not protect us from trouble—think of Job–and we may have much trouble—but clearly you are with us in the challenges and will deliver us from each difficulty. You may deliver us at the moment, or in a while, or years later or at death; I think of Abraham waiting for a son, Joseph waiting to get out of prison, Daniel, being attacked again and again, Elisha’s difficulties, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jesus. You were with each and delivered them at the right time. Praise you for this promise that we can trust.]

Psa 34:20  ‘he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” [Here is a clear reference to how you protected Jesus. In spite of all the physical abuse he took, you kept his bones whole, every single one. You are the God of detail, of power, of total awareness. So you also work in our lives. I think of the many times you have spared me in driving, times when I should have had an accident because of my own poor choices, but you sovereignly intervened and kept us safe.

You are God, you are King, you are wise and you are powerful. You are worthy of our trust. I surrender myself to you this day, willingly giving my life into your hand again. Fill me with your Spirit, may He overflow onto to all whom I meet today. May you be honored and exalted in what I think, say, do and accomplish. May I praise you in and for all things. May your name be lifted up by my responses to whatever comes. I praise you for the privilege of exalting you. Amen.