1 Corinthians 3:4-9

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Permission for Joy

Psalm 5: Joy Comes in the Morning

I've been reading the One Year Bible for four years now. My margins are filled with notes I've taken over the years and I'm sad to finally admit that I'm going to have to order a new copy for next year. No matter what method or system you use, I would highly recommend reading through the Bible in its entirety every year. Doing this has brought to life that God's Word really and truly is living and active! You see, even though I read through the whole Word of God every year, each day the Lord speaks to me about something speficic- something just for me that I need to learn, or apply and live out, or something to remember, or a sin that I need to eliminate from my life. Every single day, the God of the Universe speaks to me through His word. Even though I have 'read it all before' every day is new and I have the opportunity to hear my Savior speak to me, teach me, and I, in response, can live a life submitted to him in obedience to the things He has spoken to me.

Today, in my Old Testament reading, I  read 1 Chronicles 4 about a man named Jabez, whose description is tucked neatly away amidst a long genealogy list. Two verses give us the account of a man who was a faithful man of prayer. We do not remember him for being a mighty warrior, a wise king, or even a faithful servant. But what we know of him is that he prayed and God answered.

We should all take note of that!

So, having that thought in mind, I continued on in my reading. As I read the first few verses of Psalm 5, I recognized the title:
  "To the Chief Musician, with flutes."

Easton's Bible dictionary suggests the meaning of 'flute' to refer to 'perforated wind instruments of all kinds and therefore, the psalm could be directed to the conductor of the temple courts which played on flutes and such-like instruments.'

I instantly had the thought of being in the junior high and high school band. I remember being in 8th grade and trying out for the flute section. I desperately wanted to hold that little silver instrument and use the air in my lungs to blow into it and make the beautiful music that it produced. But, alas, the band director deemed me tone deaf and to the drum section I went.

But my band director knew what he saw in me was not to be the one who used the air in my lungs, but rather the rhythm set in my heart to beat the drum and set the pace for the rest of the instruments.

All these years and I have never realized how incredibly Sovereign and Wise and incredibly merciful my God has been in the direction He has given to my life. But in one moment given to the study of His Word, a lifetime of purpose and direction comes to fruition and revelation is real.

Who is the Chief Musician?

Verses 1-2 read.
"Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. 
Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God."

You see David starts this Psalm calling upon the name of the Lord, pleading for an audience with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is begging the Lord to listen to Him. He is focused and purposed in Who he desires to be with in the next few moments of His life.

As my band director knew the best place for me in the marching band, so much more does my Heavenly Father. He has placed me right where I am supposed to be, even when I look around and nothing makes sense, even when I see the mess I've made of the things He has placed before me. He knows the best place for me in this present life because, you see, He is the Chief Musician.

After reading through the Psalm, I went to David Guzik's commentary and was hammered with the quotations he chose to include from Charles Spurgeon about this text. If you've studied God's Word in depth even for a short time, you know that Spurgeon had a way of bringing to life the Word of God in a direct, cutting way that makes it hard to walk away from a section of scripture without being transformed. Shouldn't that be our daily goal as we read God's Word- that we would meet the Lord through His Word in a way that shapes us and transforms us daily in order to be used to bring Him more glory each passing day on this earth?

In verse 3, David says,
  "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; 
In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up."

Read what Spurgeon says,

"This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul."

I was struck at the description Spurgeon uses to describe meeting with the Lord. He uses the word 'intercourse.' This is a deep, intense connection that provokes a joy that comes from deep within. This is a far cry from what I understand most Christians experience in their daily time with Jesus.

Yet, this is what David is seeking, isn't it? Is this not what we should be seeking daily, in the morning, as Jesus did? (Read Mark 1:35 if you do not know what I am talking about).

If you read this and realize that you've rarely, if ever, experienced Jesus like this- intercourse- then know that you are not alone.

In the godly context of marriage, a husband and a wife experience intercourse and it connects them, physically and emotionally, in a way nothing else can. God intended that connection solely for marriage between a man and a woman, yet here we see that the desire David had to meet with the Lord mirrors that same desire present between husband and wife.

David's prayers are ordered, as in the way a sacrifice is set out on the altar. They are not haphazard or random, but rather focused, beginning with careful meditation and ending with patient expectation (vs. 1; vs 3).

There is so much good stuff in this psalm, but what I'd like to share is what the Lord spoke directly to me about the effective the prayers are of a righteous man and then result those prayers bring about in the life of that righteous man.

Verses 7-8 are wonderful reminders to us of God's great mercy and how He pours it out upon His children, all of whom are made righteous only through His mercy and grace. David reminds us that our right worship of God is not out of emotion or because of how we feel, but rather a result of a right relationship with a righteous, merciful God.

But the part that really spoke to me was verses 11-12.
Picture David- having called upon the Lord, desperate to meet with Him. He is reverent of His God, comes to Him in worshipful response to the mercy that has been poured out in His life by His King. He is purposeful in His intercourse with His Lord. He is hopeful and waits on Him. David is sure that He is not alone, that his words are not just words. He is certain of the conversation taking place. He is aware of how significant this moment is in his life. He is aware of how this moment changes him.

David Guzik quotes Torrey, "Very much of so-called prayer both public and private, is not unto God. In order that a prayer should be really unto God, there must be a definite and conscious approach to God when we pray; we must have a definite and vivid realization that God is bending over us and listening as we pray."

In other words this is not a text or group chat or even brought to life with pictures like snapchat...this is real communion, intimacy, intercourse.

And David knows it. He bears his soul to His loving, merciful, attentive God.

And then he says,
  "Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You." 
(verse 11)

And what other reaction might there be after one has communed so deeply and intimately with the Father, after having become bare before Him, wholly trusting Him with the very depths of your soul?

What other reaction might we find other than to rejoice?

Paul says in Philippians 4:4,
  "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, rejoice!"

Might it be fair to say that we as the Body generally struggle with joy because we do not have this type of intimacy with our God? I can't help but wonder if the way we interact with all this current technology has tainted us to real, true communion and fellowship with others.

If we struggle to find real intimacy in our human, every day interactions, do we not also struggle to find it with Jesus?

Do we interact with Jesus in short text message type prayers?

Or do we indulge ourselves in His company, His word, His presence?

If we only interact in short IM type prayers, is it any wonder no joy fills our hearts or lives?

Paul says rejoice in the Lord always! Oh the ways we try to bring joy to our lives that have nothing at all to do with Jesus.

"Again I will say, rejoice!"

But the very cry of our hearts resonates in David's words, doesn't it?

"Lord, let us rejoice in You!!!"

And here's the thing: We are given permission to do so right here in these verses!

David Guzik gives four things the Lord reveals to us here in this one verse and then offers wisdom from Spurgeon that is applicable to our lives today.

1. You and I have permission for joy.
Spurgeon says,

  "You have here a ticket to the banquets of joy. You may be as happy as ever you like. You have divine permission for joy!"

In other words, once you have had intercourse with the Lord, you've "got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your heart!! Where? Down in your heart! And you're so happy, so very happy, you'e got the love of Jesus in your heart!" Jesus - and ONLY Jesus- is the source of all joy. When you meet with Him, you have permission for joy. There is nothing that can take that joy away. Nothing!

2. You and I have a precept or a command for joy.
Spurgeon says,

  "Come, ye mournful ones, be glad. Ye discontented grumblers, come out of that dog-hole! Enter the palace of the King! Quit your dunghills; ascend your thrones."

That is to say,
"Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say rejoice." 

Don't allow the trials and obstacles of life rob you of that joy! Rejoice in the LORD! Always!

3. You and I should pray for joy, both for ourselves and for others- especially those who serve the Lord in full-time ministry.
Spurgeon says, "If you lose your joy in your religion, you will be a poor worker; you cannot bear strong testimony. you cannot bear stern trial, you cannot lead a powerful life. In proportion as you maintain your joy, you will be strong in the Lord, and for the Lord."

If you lack joy- pray and ask the Lord, just as David did, to let you rejoice in Him! He is faithful! When you see others who seem to have lost their joy- pray the same thing for them. Do something to bless them and to bring Jesus to them. Watch how He will work in their hearts to restore their joy- and most likely yours, too!

The Lord really uses this. I saw it happen today. My kids noticed someone who looked like they might be sick because their eyes were puffy and their nose was red. The person was resting their head in their hand. Later when she came near to where we were, I simply asked if everything was okay. Turns out, everything was not okay and so we took the opportunity to pray for her and you could literally see her spirit lifted!

Pray for joy in your life and in the lives of others around you!

4. Lastly, Guzik says that you and I have a promise for joy.
Spurgeon says,

  "God promises joy and gladness to believers. Light is sown for them; the Lord will turn their night into day." 

I have literally seen the Lord do this in my life so many times. I have a dear friend who presses my JOY-button when she sees me not walking in the joy of the Lord. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder like that and in the blink of an eye all that seemed dark before is now light as the noon-day sun.

Believers, Light is sown for us. Jesus is the brightest light of our darkest day.

Read verse 11:
"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; 
Let those also who love Your Name be joyful in You."

Exodus 14:14 says,
  "The Lord shall fight for you and you shall hold your peace."

Joshua 1:9 says,
  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

The Lord is with us in the valley, in the storm, in the battle, and in the boat on the peaceful river. He is with us in the glorious moments, in the everyday moments, and in the terrifying trials.

But let us ever shout for joy; because He defends us; He fights for us; He is with us!

Read verse 12:
  "For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield."

What an incredible, undeserved blessing- the favor of God!
David Guzik says, "Knowing that God looks on us with favor and pleasure is the greatest knowledge in the world. This is our standing in grace."

Have you ever studied the armor of God? Many times, the picture of the shield is small and round and only protects a small portion of the body- mainly the arm it is being held by and the chest area.

Did you know this is actually nothing like the real shield a soldier would have carried?

The actual shield carried by a soldier would have been about the size of a door and would have protected the entire body. We are not merely partially covered by God's goodness, favor, and grace. We are completely and totally protected, surrounded, and wrapped up in them!

Maybe you find yourself facing a trial. Maybe the dark seems never to end. Maybe you have felt that because there is so much death, destruction, disaster, and dismay around you- what right do you have to feel joy? Maybe, dear one, you have grown weary of doing good. Maybe you feel as if you have no strength left, you just cannot go on.

Beloved, let the words of David, written to the Chief Musician sink deep into your heart today. We're all just perforated wind instruments -worthless pipes until the moment we are breathed into by the One who directs the symphony of life.

Come before Him in meditation, purposeful that your time would be deep, intimate intercourse with Him. Open up your heart before Him and let nothing be hidden. Wait for His breath to fill you with His Spirit and listen for His voice. And when He speaks- listen, recognize, revere Him, respond to Him, and lean into Him as He leans down over you, listening, studying, drinking you in. He cherishes you. He loves you. He has chosen to bring you into to His presence and to pour out His mercy upon you. Fellowship with Him. Commune with Him. And when you have done this, rejoice in Him! Rejoice in Him! You will still find the trials and troubles of the world, but you can face them differently now, knowing that He is with you and has wrapped you up in His favor and grace, protecting you from what could harm you, and walking with you through what will draw you closer to Him as you learn to lean on Him in the midst of it.

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? 
The everlasting God, the Lord, 
The Creator of the ends of the earth, 
Neither faints nor is weary. 
His understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the weak, 
And to those who have no might He increases strength. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, 
And the young men shall utterly fall. 
But those who wait in the Lord 
Shall renew their strength; 
They shall mount up with wings like eagles, 
they shall run and not grow weary, 
they shall walk and not faint." 
Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Oh! You're 40!

Yesterday, mi guapo turned 40! I'm so blessed to walk through this life by his side. He blesses me, leads me, loves me, cares for me, and makes me laugh. He's my best friend. Forty years or not, he is more handsome now than when we met nineteen years ago. I knew then there was something about him. We've had difficult times, joyous times, and normal, everyday times...

No matter what our current circumstances, I wouldn't want to be anywhere other than by your side, Matthew. Just as I told you on our wedding day, you are a gift from God to me and I love you. I am thankful to be your wife. I am thankful you are the father of my children. I am thankful that you love Jesus and follow hard after Him. And I am thankful for your forty years of life!