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May 2007 Archives

May 2, 2007

Getting Unstuck

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

"God give me patience, and give it to me NOW!" That seems to be how I want things to go. In this world of instant gratification, everything is now. This Psalm describes how patience is often developed in my life. Rarely is patience cultivated through self-discipline. It's the result of being "stuck" and having no other options. Somehow (usually because of my impatience) I found myself in a messy, or uncomfortable, or deep pit I can't get out of. Like quicksand, the harder I try to get out, the quicker I sink. Like a deep hole, the more I claw the sides of the hole, the bigger it becomes. In the meantime, I screaming for help and it can seem like God's turned a deaf ear - but I know that's not the case.

God uses the circumstances of my life to transform my character. He doesn't create these "learning opportunities;" I'm good enough at getting myself into those situations. He does use them to change me. And as I'm changed, those around me, who have seen the messes I can get myself into, will credit God with not only delivering me, but will testify to the changes that are happening in my life.

May 4, 2007

Living Generously

Psalm 112 (NIV)
1 Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who finds great delight in his commands.

This Psalm describes the how the fear of the LORD affects the way one lives his life. This man does not see the commands of the Lord as restrictive or burdensome. Instead, they are rules for success. Rather, they free one's self from self-dependence to recognize God's care.

2 His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.

"Their children will be successful everywhere;
an entire generation of godly people will be blessed."
(NLT)

Since "more is caught than taught," the way my children see me living my life become the way thier lives are lived. This God-fearing, and life-releasing way of living is passed down to each generation. What is it that my kids are "catching" from me? I want them to experience the blessing that fearing God produces. Some of these blessings are described in the following verses.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

In the darkest times, personally or circumstaneually, there is aways hope. When my life reflects the compassion and grace of God, that resource is measured back. It doesn't come as a result of my actions. Rather it is out of the overflow of what I experience of God that I'm able to live compassionately and graciously.

5 Good will come to him who is generous...
....who conducts his affairs with justice.

I'm blessed to be surrounded by many generous people. I've never seen someone who is authentically generous ever "lack." It's because of how they view what they have; they don't "own" it (or let things "own" them). Generosity is not a "gift," it is a value. It is what you are when you hold a certain perspective on life.

Generosity also allows one to conduct one's affairs with integrity. There's no need to maintain an upper-hand or to seek an unfair advantage or leverage. That's a "poverty" mindset - I need to do what's best for me. The generosity approach produces benefit for all involved.

7 He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

For so many, any news that is outside of what they are expecting is life shaking. Fear of God produces trust in God. It is the Romans 8:28 principle - "in all things, God is working for the good of those who love (or "fear") Him..."

I think this Psalm teaches me how to view life from God's perspective. As His word take hold of my heart, the life principles of the Kingdom begin to become "second nature" (better to say my "new" nature).

May 7, 2007

My Benefit Package

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

A couple of weeks ago, Jayme and I purchased an extended warranty for her car from the dealer. We compared the estimated cost of taking the car to the mechanic to have it checked out against the cost of the warranty and felt the warranty was the better deal. Under this warranty, if anything goes wrong we just take it to the dealer and it gets taken care of. We don't even have to think about it. This passage is like reading the "God warranty" on my life. David is telling us, and himself, don't forget the great benefit of being God's child. This coverage is bumper to bumper, from the powertrain to the electrical systems, inside and out. Look at this list.

"(W)ho forgives all your sins..." David wrote these words when there was only the hope of the Messiah. Yet, this was the first benefit listed. He knew that somehow God, because of His love for mankind, would make a way for for our sin to be dealt with. It's important for someone like me who has followed Jesus for most of my life to remember that this is the most important benefit of my relationship with Him. "...and heals all your diseases..." This is both a spiritual and physical benefit. The dis-ease caused by sin is dealt with. And the promise of physical wholeness is a reality as well. I remember these benefits each time I receive communion.

"(W)ho redeems your life from the pit..."
I like to think of this as being free from the hole I would have dug for myself. God has pulled me out of that hole and has even used that experience to re-shape my life. "...and crowns you with love and compassion..." Instead of being marked by shame and rejection, I have been accepted and have become the beneficiary of God's love. It has given my life a sense of dignity, and has charged me with the responsibility to live my life characterized by treating others with the same compassion.

"(W)ho satisfies your desires with good things..." In another place in scripture it says that he gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). There's nothing I want or need that won't be supplied. Even better, I'll experience life satisfaction - not bound by the cravings of lust and covetousness. Like a cool glass of water when I'm thirsty, so will I be satisfied with what I give my life to.

It good to reflect on my benefits package. Lord, I praise you today and bless Your holy name.

The God Debate

I picked up a Newsweek a few weeks ago that featured a discussion between Rick Warren and Sam Harris (April 9, 2007). This Wednesday night Nightline will feature a debate between Ray Comfort & Kirk Camron (yes, from Growing Pains), who use the Ten Commandments as a way to help people confront thier own sinfulness, against a group called the "Rational Response Squad" who encourage people to take the "blasphemy challenge" and record their own personal statement rejecting God and post it on YouTube.

This Athiest v. Christian debate is getting a lot of play. Although I don't believe that every believer has to take a graduate-level course in apologetics, we do need to know how to "give an answer for our hope" The further we move from a shared set of values as a society, the more confrontation there is going to be on this subject. I believe one of the best defenses of the Gospel will be how we live. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

May 8, 2007

The Meditations of a Man

Psalm 104:33-34 (NKJV)
33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
34 May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the LORD.

One of the things I'm reminded of as I read the Psalms is that most, if not all of them, were authored by men - and one man in particular, David. The Biblical record credits David with being a King, a Warrior, a Businessman, etc. David seems to be the most manly of men, a guy's guy. We also have some insight to his flaws. He could be presumptuous. He could be self-serving. He could be ruthless. The point I'm making is that David was a man, a male, like me.

Our culture has no problem with men being successful, leaders, warriors. What's odd is that most rock stars are male too, and in our culture's odd way, they are celebrated for their "maleness" (booze, women, fights, all that "Behind The Music" stuff). Where am I going with this? Well, it's about guys...and worship. When I look out at our congregation on Sundays I would say there's only 10-15% of the men actually engaged in the "worship" (the congregational singing part of the service). By "engaged", I'm evening bringing it down to the lowest level of even singing along, let alone giving some kind of physical expression to their worship like lifting their hands.

I don't get it. I don't understand why men have trouble engaging. Most of the songs we sing are written by men. There's nothing more manly than declaring, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will continually be in my mouth." Talk about taking a stand. I think a real man isn't afraid of intimacy either. The same man who engages in the worship of his God will most likely be a better communicator with his spouse. Then why don't men worship?

I think it's a problem with what we (I) think about - the meditations of our hearts. Men are so easily sidetracked and at the same time can be completely consumed by his circumstances. It takes effort to guard our minds, and change our focus. I think David understood this challenge when he wrote, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). Today, I'm taking these words not just as a mushy, "spiritual" comment, but instructions to men on how to keep their lives focused from a man who knew what it takes to be a God-fearing man and was taking on that challenge.

I want my meditations, the things that consume my mind and require my energies, to be pleasing to God - a continual worship. To praise Him while I'm engaged in the activities of my life. To sing to Him, as long as I live. And to find pleasure in worship...the true measure of my manhood.

Lord, I want my mind to be focused on You. Help me fill my heart with Your desires. And I wil be glad in You.

May 9, 2007

Turning...

Psalm 119:36-37 (NIV)
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

I must admit, I did not feel like reading today knowing I'm still in the Psalms (I wanted to eat something else today). I enjoy Psalm 119, although I'm sure I miss some of the meaning because of the acrostic format in Hebrew. Sometimes the different English translations track along the same lines of thought with each other. Other times it's like, "whoa - what was that"... All these things are floating in my minds as I'm reading. I manage to get through all 176 verses and realize I didn't actually "read" anything. So I'm scanning the text looking for something to journal on (I'm on a good roll and don't want to miss). These verse capture my attention.

I appreciate the NIV here; it uses the word "turn" to begin the two phrases. For me it describes the same action that has to take place in these two important areas - what I set my heart on and what I focus on. Simply put, my natural inclination is selfish. My life's gravitational pull is to be "Jeff-centered." This life focus begins a process that ultimately is destructive. So my heart and my eyes, my attention and my focus, has to be changed.

The things that keeps perspective in my life is God's Word. It keeps my heart soft to God as I read of His heart for me. It frees me from the bondage of self-centeredness. It also keeps my life focused, helping identify the difference between that which is worthless and that which is truly valuable. That "preserves" my life.

Lord, turn my heart, turn my eyes. I desire to man of Your Word.

May 15, 2007

Satisfied

Psalm 131 (NIV)
1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Once in a while, I'll eat something that "hits the spot;" a hot dog and peanuts at a baseball game, a coffee and bagel on a cold, early morning, anytime Jayme makes her strawberry shortcake. It's not just the flavor of the items, but the context, the timing of the experience.

Today's Psalm has that same feeling about it. It describes an infant being held by it's mother after being fed. I remember my own kids as newborns, crying uncontrollably in the middle of the night to be fed, gulping down that bottle, and then when finished falling peacefully to sleep in our arms - satisfied. David compares humility and dependence upon the Lord in these same terms. His (and my) own history of God's faithfulness gives him (me) hope (hope = not a wish, but the God's promise of faithfulness) in what ever circumstance. This "history" gives him control over his soul. He doesn't get hysterical or anxious. Instead, he is peaceful and still. The voices of question and concern are quieted, and he is at rest in the arms of his Father.

This state tranquility is the result of me keeping pride in check. It's the result of focusing on the things that I do have control over, not those things which I do not. It is the soul satisfied because it's hope has been placed in the promise of God's faithfulness.

God, help me to keep my pride in check, my soul at peace, and find my satisfaction in the promise of your provision and protection.

Comments?...

Some of you reading this were bugging me about blogging again...Do me a favor...if you're reading this, would you drop me a comment? Thanks.

May 16, 2007

Did you see that?

Psalm 47:5-7 (NKJV)
5 God has gone up with a shout,
The LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

On the day when Jesus ascended into heaven, angels addressed the disciples saying, "why do you stand gazing up into heaven?" (Acts 1:11) I wonder if the angels had this Psalm in mind at that moment, wondering why those present weren't sounding the shofar and shouting praises. Could it be that in that moment they saw the messianic fulfillment of these words? I don't know if that was the case - these thoughts are my own musings. But we know one day He will return to the earth with a trumpet sounding and people praising.

My thoughts today could be influenced by tonight's study in Revelation, as I'm much more aware of the eschatological implications of so much of the scripture. For me, there's an application at the conclusion of this passage that tells me not just to intellectually understand the words of praise I offer to God, but also to be perceptive to the events around me and not missing their significance. He is the King of the Earth. I will praise Him for who He is. And I will praise Him as I gain understanding about what He's doing, the fulfillment of His word, not left just "gazing heavenward" but realizing the significance of the Messiah moments in my life.

Lord, let my observations be accompanied with praises today.

May 19, 2007

The Cost of Worship

2 Chronicles 3:1 (NIV)
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.

There are some places, even specific locations, that seem to have special significance to God. One of them turns out to be a rocky hilltop once owned by a local farmer to thresh wheat. This piece of property was purchased by David to offer a peace offering sacrifice with God to remove His wrath with David and the plague from the people 2 Samuel 24). This location also seems to be the place where Abraham offered Issac to God (Genesis 22:2-19).

Even though Solomon's Temple becomes one of the most amazing facilities in the ancient world, all those who would visit would be conscious of the location's significance. It would serve as reminder of what worship requires. Worship requires obedience. Just as Abraham obeyed, so do I have to bring my own sacrifice to God. If worship requires obedience, it also requires faith - the exercise of my dependence upon God. It's also requires repentance. Knowing that my choices have conseqences that affect more people than just me (as I am a husband, a father, a leader), my worship requires self-examination and humility. Worship requires sacrifice. Whether it is placing my dreams and desires on the altar like Abraham, or the death of my pride and self-reliance, like David said, "I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing."

The temple that Solomon built was decorated with offerings of gold and silver. But the worship that happened there required offerings of another kind...a sacrifice of obedience, faith, repentance.

Lord, I don't want to offer worship that doesn't cost me anything. I want my worship to be pleasing to you because I have offered my obedience and faith, and come in humble repentace before You.

May 21, 2007

Dedicated

2 Chronicles 7:15-16 (NIV)
15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

These are God's words following the dedication of Solomon's temple. These words follow an admonition for repentance and humility. God promises that His eyes and ears will always be open. To the repentant heart, to the humble soul, God will not resist but He will see and hear and respond. This is His choice, His covenant with the place where He is worshiped.

The NT says that I am a temple, that I have been consecrated. There is a promise I believe here for me that God's eyes and heart are turned towards me. "El Roi," the God who sees, sees me. He has chosen me, consecrated me, and I bear His name forever.

It has was always God's intent to dwell with and in men rather than in tents or buildings. Lord, let my heart be a dwelling place for You.

May 23, 2007

What, Why, How, When

Proverbs 17:24
A discerning man keeps wisdom in view,
but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 19:8

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
he who cherishes understanding prospers.

I've been reading my devotion from The Narrarated Bible, a chronological compilation of the scriptures. In Proverbs, the arranger divided the book by topics rather than chapters and verses. Today's section included proverbs on "discernment and understanding." This was timely for me today as in a few minutes Jayme and I are headed out for a prayer walk as part of a week of fasting we're doing. Our discipline is to take time quarterly for a "review" - to make sure we're in line with God's assignment and purpose for us in the season. We each felt that the time we're in now, that what we asking of the Lord is for discernment.

My tendency is to look so far ahead that I overlook what is right in front of me. That's why 17:24 stood out to me so much. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, I feel that a new sense of reverence for God and a call to holiness is what is before me right now. Don't get lost in looking around or ahead, but keep focused right now. Personal holiness and understanding are tied together for me. Worship releases wisdom.

In 19:8, I'm reminded about John's prayer four our souls to prosper. Ending the inner turmoil of doubt and unsettledness requires understanding, requires a pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom is the "what" of life, understanding is the "how" and "when," discernment is the "why."

Lord, as You reveal the "what" and "why" for us, help me to walk in the "how" and "when."

May 30, 2007

Sons & Moms

Proverbs 10:1
A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son grief to his mother.

Proverbs 15:20
A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.

Proverbs 17:25

A foolish son brings grief to his father
and bitterness to the one who bore him.

Proverbs 19:26
He who robs his father and drives out his mother
is a son who brings shame and disgrace.

I'm enjoying reading from the Narrated Bible. This section of Proverbs has been organized by topic, with today's reading including a section on parents and children. It was timely because my son woke up today in a mood. He is a sweet and tender young man by nature. But occasionally he becomes very withdrawn and shuns any kind of affection and even any interaction. This is particularly difficult for Jayme to handle. Her only "pay" is the appreciation and affection from her kids for all she does for them. I'm thinking back on my own life and evaluating my relationship with my mom who as a lifelong caregiver for her family is also only compensated with love. Is either of these women in my life being "paid" for their worth or just receiving minimum wage?

The wise man gives consideration to his family. The fool, who thinks only of himself, the consequences of his choices/actions impact his family, especially his mother. He brings grief and bitterness to her probably because she feels like she has failed in what she dedicated her life to. The fool is ungrateful. He does not acknowledge the sacrifices his mother made for him and doing so despises her. He keeps his mom at a distance and in doing so disgraces her. This behavior brings bitterness and shame upon her.

I know that many men have a severe case of being "Momma's boys" which is unhealthy. On the other side there's extreme cases of parental neglect that makes this kind of maternal relationship challenging. But for the most part, we see that one of the signs of wisdom is a healthy relationship with one's parents, especially a man with his mother. One day I'm going to tell my daughter that one of the things she should look for in any man she considers to be a potential spouse is how he treats his mother. In most cases, if there's a healthy relationship there, she'll be treated with love and respect as well.

About May 2007

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in May 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

June 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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