Monday Morning Meditation: Hope in God

hope in God

Psalm 42 is an oft quoted Psalm for it’s pictorial use of a deer looking for water.  What’s often not realized is the tenor of David’s soul as he wrote the Psalm.  He was a man who was undoubtedly depressed.  His soul was deeply grieved to the point that his heart cried out:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? why art thou disquieted in me?

He cried this out twice…twice in wonderment David looked at himself and wondered “what’s wrong with me”!  He had gone to the temple and worshiped with others.  He participated in the outward motions of praising God, yet deep inside him he wrestled with despair.  He wrestled with bouts of doubts and inaccurate thinking about God-it was a deep struggle within him.  He wondered-God why have you abandoned me, why have you left me alone! 

Certainly, there was one external circumstance that led him to his despair…he had enemies that wanted to see him dead.  These enemies were scornful towards David’s God mocking him saying: “Where is your God?”  It’s amazing how the small minded thoughts of those around us (many of whom we personally love and appreciate) can throw us into the deepest states of discouragement and depression.  Yet, they are small minded in comparison to the God of all eternity that measured the depth of the Pacific and Atlantic in the palm of His hand.  It’s amazing how the unexpected twists and turns of the events of life can take us from the joy of the expected, to the despair of the unexpected.  Yet, the unexpected twists of life are never outside the control and mind of the almighty God.  His ambulance has never done an unexpected emergency run.   

It was this very comparison that led David to the source of escaping his despair.  Changing those enemies around him would never led to freedom from discouragement and depression.  This is why in Psalm 42, David boldly proclaims twice as he wondered what was wrong with himself:

Hope in God.

The deepest war we will face regarding discouragement and despair will be fought on the battle field of trust.  Is my hope and trust in what those around me will do to me?  Is my hope and trust in the security and pleasures that those around me caneedgodhope1n give me?  Is my hope and trust in the dreams and desires that I strive for, that others help me obtain?  We are often looking to that which has been created to repair the wounds in our souls that only the Maker can heal. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who never struggled with discouragement and a gripping despair.  Certainly, some hide it better than others, but it is a battle that everyone faces.  Some may face it in relation to family members, others may face it due to church problems and spiritual discouragements.  Still others may face despair due to health or financial problems.  The opportunities for despair are truly endless. Satan would love for us to believe the question: “Where is your God?” in the midst of our struggles.  Most likely in the midst of the struggles, we will look at ourselves and wonder: “What’s wrong with me!”  Yet, if we seek Him, we will find that He was and is always there telling us one thing:

Hope in Me.

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Waterparks, Boys, and Abusing the Church

In spite of being sick this last weekend, we took the boys to an indoor waterpark this last Monday to celebrate the start of Spring break.  The anticipation and excitement about the trip was overwhelming for the boys demonstrated by the constant questions if “today was the day” and “are we there yet?”.  Once arriving, the celebration and am2013-03-25 14.00.11azement in their little minds was priceless.  One even commented:  “I’m shaking because I’m  so excited”.  What happened next was a priceless illustration and lesson for all of us. 

My boys are fearless experimenters…there was no telling what they would try to pull when it came to using the waterpark equipment.  Yet, while being fearless experimenters, they were fearful experiencers of the waterpark.  The boys were fearless in using all the equipment in the ways they were NOT meant to be used.  Climbing up the outside of the cages, running in the “Do Not Run” areas, walking up slides backwards-all demonstrating a fearlessness in trying to experiment the bounds of their fear.  To add to the mix, they could care less that their behavior was having an effect on the other kids at the park trying to use the slides and other equipment correctly.  Yet, when it came to using the water park the correct way-they were terrified.  Slide down the slide the correct way?  No thank you!  Screaming and tears were the result of that attempt at fun.  Walk up the steps to the equipment?  No thank you!  More of the same fearful behavior.  We had to laugh at this entire predicament because of the fearless bravado seen moments before in trying to climb up a slide, but to slide down the slide like it was supposed to be used, reduced that bravado to a scared whimper.  Of course, once we went down the slides with them a couple times, and walked on the equipment a couple times they found fun and excitement in using the waterpark the way that it was meant to be used.

As I sat there and took this in, I had to think-how much this depicts the American’s use, or should I say abuse, of the church.  There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of what is called the “Post-Christian” church.  The church exists to be a place in which Christians find fellowship, instruction, accountability, and opportunities for worship, yet many are fearful of the institution itself. 

This in turn leads to a dangerous set of behavior traits where the church is marginalized, accountability is hated, Christian fellowship and community is scorned, and truth-filled instruction is sacrificed on the altar of personal experience.     

Thus, there is no true commitment to fellow believers in this organization called the church.  There is such an “anti-institution” or “anti-organization” mindset that pervades pop-Christianity that Christians place themselves into a position of harm spiritually and doctrinally by rejecting the organization of the church. (Hebrews 13:7-17)  Beyond this, just as my boys were abusing the equipment with no seeming care for how this hurt those that were using the equipment for its intended purpose, so do those that abuse the church.  A lack of commitment to and personal participation in the institution in which Christ died for, made the foundation for truth, and promised Satan’s loss to ultimately hurts and harms those that do.  Those that abuse the church criticize it most, absorb most of the shepherds time, soak most of the resources of those committed-all to the harm of those that truly desire to be a church.siding.twilightpart of the greater Kingdom work of God through His church.  I see it in the eyes of the faithfully committed-they ask and beg-why aren’t they more faithful and helpful to the spiritual work to the needy hearts in our community and assembly.    

This is not merely a call to stop abusing the church by abandoning it-this is a call to join up with the church in the use of the organization whose establishment and mission are given by God.  The boys found great fun and lasting memories when they began to realize over time the proper use of the waterpark equipment.  So can Christians everywhere see lasting fruit, helpful accountability, loving fellowship, and truthful instruction by committing themselves to their churches.  Will every experience be pleasant and thrilling?  Probably not.

Just as not every trip down the water slide was a perfect 10, so week in and week out every trip and every interaction with your fellow believers may not be a perfect 10. 

Yet, in the greater scheme of things God is working through His church and in His people for a greater Kingdom-one not of this world, not held by this world, and not described by this world.  So, what are you doing this Sunday or Wednesday?  Heading to church? Need someone to go down the waterslide with you? 

After this last weekend, I’ve got a lot of practice helping the fearful go down.

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Super-hero Blogs…something my boys taught me about the landscape of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism

As I sit here on my day off, I’m watching my two boys pretend to be “super-heroes”.  One is embracing his love for “Iron Man” and the other is climbing walls, couchesmarvel-super-hero-squad-20090528020508182-2869335, and tables as “Spider Man”.  Amusing to say the least.  At one point, they were arguing over who was going to be which super hero….and at one point one of them said:  “I want to be Iron Man because he can  do EVERYTHING!”. 

Funny, isn’t it-my boys have the desire through pretend super heroes, to find someone or something that will solve all the world’s problems and be the hero of the day.  Funny, isn’t it-many disenfranchised with “fundamentalism” or “evangelicalism” do the same with blogs each day.  The words of Don Carson ring heavy and loud in my ear:  “Read less blogs on the internet and more books”.  The words of Al Mohler ring equally as heavy:  “YouTube is a terrible place to go to church”. 

Sadly, many world views and personal theologies are developed simply by reading a vast array of blogs that are sometimes incoherent and often times incomplete in dealing with topics because they are written from a perspective which inevitably leads to presuppositions bearing down on their writing. 

Alas, they get extolled by those who share their presuppositions and derided by those who do not.  Funny isn’t it…one of the biggest beefs my generation of Christian’s have is how Christian leaders in times past were too “topic oriented”, yet Facebook, the blogosphere, and Twitter are filled with the praises of how people wrote on topics.  Perhaps, being topical isn’t the problem, perhaps coming to agreeable conclusions is. 

Certainly, I love and have a rubric of blogs that I read each day and I thank my friend Rick-pastor at Allentown Bible-for helping me develop a filing system on Evernote for tracking such articles.  But it is foolish to think that a blog article or blog author is going to be able to solve all or any of the problems (might I say pet problems) that we see in the broader movements in Christianity.  Thus, the result is a war between generations over what the real problems of “Fundies” are or “Conservative Evangelicals” are because both sides are levying their arguments with a myopic perspective.  Solution?? 

First off read blogs (including this one) with a grain of salt.  If your worldview is shaped by them significantly, check yourself-the internet has opened the opportunity to share personal experBooksiences, but personal perspective is a dangerous platform to find ultimate truth for living.  If you will, personal experience is a nice pillow, but a terrible bed upon which to rest.

Secondly, devote yourself to read a wide variety of books and theological journal articles-theological books at that.   If you are wrestling through how men should view women or women men, if you are wrestling through the role of the church, pastor, or Christian college, the last thing you need is to read the ramblings of a misfit who has been burned or an agenda to push.  Wrestle through the significant books that are hundreds of pages long, written by authors who are loving enough to say all the words.

Third, read your Bible more deeply and more frequently.  The goal of the body of Christ is to have our minds sanitized by the water of the Word of God.  If II Peter 1:church3 is true, the Word of God is the source for all things that pertain to life and godliness.  It is an inexhaustible fountain; a jewel with countless facets.

Fourth, tie yourself into a community called a local church-a good one.  One that you will establish a long term relationship with, and over the length time you will be exposed to friends that have a variety of experiences, and a large dose of truth through the preaching and discipleship interactions within the fellowship. 

The reality is that we often discard a good blog article, simply because the author doesn’t share the same pet peeves, personal agendas, or personal experiences we do.  In doing so, we lose out on a significant voice of truth that we need to hear.  While they can be helpful, blogs can’t be our “Everything” Super hero, and it is deadly to us theologically if they are. 

Now excuse me, I have to go put on my cape and play super hero to some boys that have way too much energy.

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The Iron of Family and the ATC Conference

This last week I was afforded the opportunity to head out east to the Advancing the Church conference held out in Pennsylvania.  It was an excellent week around the Word of God, and the sessions provided much direction and points for discussion in relation to preaching the Old Testament in a “Redemptive-Historical” way.  Both Tim Jordan and Don Carson hit the “ball out of the park” with their general session messages.  A couple of quotes from them were:

“Stand in the counsel of the Word, so that you become a tool of the Word, rather than the Word being a tool you use.” (Jordan-Jer. 23)

“What does your mind gravitate towards when it is in neutral?” (Carson-Ps. 1)

“Being drawn towards holiness will never come by being near wickedness.  Flee far from temptation.”  (Carson-Genesis 39)

“Do not think that being brought out of the ‘pit’, makes you exempt from going back in later on.”  (Carson-Ps. 40)

Certainly, it was good to reconnect with many friends that I had not seen in 11 or more years since I had left school, and it was great to hear how God was using them all in a variety of contexts across the United States.

Perhaps, most special was the opportunity to spend a week at the conference with family.  We have a very unique dynamic in our family with my brother, my brother in law, and I all being pastors in three very different contexts of ministry.  Add in there my other brother in law heading into the assistant pastorate, and you can only imagine what much of our discussions revolve around when we get together. 

In the midst of the friendly sarcasm, antagonistic statements, and reaction provoking thoughts (all proving we are related) nothing sharpens iron, like the iron of family. 

Yet, I walked away deeply encouraged having spent time with them thinking about ministry together.  There is simply nothing like the fellowship that family affords, and getting to do it around the Word makes it all the more precious.  If anything, this last week provoked me to pray for my family all the more-that God’s grace would be evident in their lives, their families, and their ministries regardless of what context they serve. 

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