Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Worth Remembering (Part 3)

It’s worth remembering why I named this blog Psalm 102 In the Message. 

While I was on leave of absence from the pastoral ministry “the first time”, I worked at a hotel in Tuscaloosa, AL.  One of my habits was to check with The Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to see the recommended psalm passages to be read that morning.  I would note mentally what they were before I left for work.  I would stick in my pocket The Message translation of the New Testament and Psalms.  At a break I would pull out The Message and read the psalms for the morning.   

One morning I read Psalm 102: 18-22.  It rocked my world. 

Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God:
God looked out from his high holy place; from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets and wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship him.
-- Psalm 102: 18-22 (TM)

This one passage rekindled in me a new birth of a ministerial calling that I didn’t believe was possible at that point in my life.  These verses still ring within my spirit the Holy Spirit’s anointing to preach and declare the good news of deliverance for all groaning in cells of all fashions.  In fact, these verses echo the importance to remember the wonderful works of God, write the stories down and declare them in the streets so that we have every reason to worship passionately our God and Christ.  It’s worth remembering.

Just over a year ago I had an encounter with God as I drove to Montgomery, AL to pray at the opening of a session in the state house.  It’s worth remembering.

As I drove past Birmingham heading south I recollected all the places we’ve lived in Alabama as pastors of UM churches (In 25 years of marriage we’ve lived in 10 different homes.  No complaints.  Just recollecting).  As I was remembering the homes and circumstances while I worshiped God and sang praise music, I began to intercede for the broken, hopeless and addicted we’ve ministered to recently and those we’ve yet met.  As I continued to head south, sing, praise, and pray, I believe it was the Lord who spoke to me.  The Lord said, “You can have the state of Alabama, if you want it.”  At that, I said out loud, “Oh, my God!” 

After having such encounters with God in the past, I recognize God when he speaks like this.  It messed me up.  I reached for napkins we keep in the glove compartment for such encounters in our travels.  As I wiped my eyes and continued to drive I said out loud, “OK, I’ll take it!  I’ll take it!” 

Well, what does that mean? You can have the state if you want it.  I still don’t know for sure, but after realizing that the anniversary of that encounter had just passed, and that God doesn’t do things quickly but suddenly, and that whatever and however this is suppose to come about, I’ll live out of my gifting and anointing first.  I will not reinvent myself to fulfill this outrageous plan, but, rather, I will seek His face and continue to pray and remember what he’s done and acknowledge what he’s doing and trust that God’s just looking to provide the fire and for me to be the sacrifice.  All of this is worth remembering.

Lastly, as I recall God’s wonderful works in the form of the Lord’s voice speaking and directing me, in August of 2011 the Lord directed April and I to lead prayer services at my church on Tuesday evenings.  Our intent was to lead those who attended into times of prayer and intercession for this church and community.  We personally fasted Tuesdays to prepare our hearts with hunger for what God would show and tells us in the services.  One Tuesday as we prayed together, I saw in my mind a pencil write on a legal pad Matthew 5: 6.  (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled).  Then I had the impression in my heart of a second passage, Luke 1-8-7.  I looked up Matthew 5: 6.  I then looked at Luke 1 just to check if there was an 87th verse.  Duh, there wasn’t.  I then went to Luke 18: 7 and found, And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 

I stood up and shared these two passages and told them how these verses came to me.  I then strongly encouraged them to pray fervently for the Lord’s will to be done in justice and righteousness, and they should be encouraged because the Lord is speaking to us in these days.

I still recall these verses and trust that we who are hungry and long for divine justice will be filled and God will not keep putting us off for the sake of those who groan for deliverance and release.  Oh, how does it go?  Oh, I remember – Stay thirsty, my friends!

Never forget what the Lord has said to you.  These are his wonderful works for you.  Now they are meant to flow through you to others in the streets looking for reasons to worship the Lord their God.  It’s all worth remembering.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Worth Remembering (Part 2)

As I mentioned, there are so many places in scripture on which to land and begin talking about the power of remembrance and recollecting the wonderful works God has done.  The touchstones I will step on may not be your favorites, but you can read my reflections and it’ll inspire you to go back and find your favorite passages that stir up memories and testimonies.  See, I’ve done my job.

Psalm 42 is a comfort to many who have slipped into levels of depression or uneasiness.  It also inspires me to remember the wonderful works of God.

Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I will again praise him, my help & my God. – Psalm 42: 5 & 11

Why are you troubled within?  You can hope in God and worship the Lord AGAIN.  Obviously, you had every reason to praise God in the past and you will praise him again.  There is some collective and suppressed memory of worshiping God.  There was a reason to praise & worship, even if it were merely the tradition of your tribe.  There were memories of the collective of the Lord’s wonderful works that supported and inspired worship. 

Why do you worship God?  He deserves praise.  Does the Lord deserve worship because if we don’t, he’ll get angry?  The biblical record shows a holy God that makes himself known to a people in order to establish, build and maintain relationship.  God wants a deep & lasting relationship with us.  Worship is one of our languages to communicate with God.  In worship, we remember the stories experienced by our parents of the faith or our own stories that cause us to remember our own experiences of our God who rescues, saves, heals, speaks, inspires, teaches and strengthens.   Hope in God, for I will again praise him.  It’s worth remembering.

What follows speaks of remembering – My soul is downcast within me; therefore I remember you (Psalm 42: 5b).  The honest reflection of our soul’s condition can lead us to remembering, remembering the wonderful works of God.  A previous verse depicts a memory regarding worship. 

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng and led them with procession to the house of our God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.  – Psalm 42: 4

Psalm 42 addresses uneasiness within by calling the believer to remember the reasons for and the target of our praise and worship.  The result of remembrance and fresh worship will be hope, and hope will give birth to faith.  Alleluia.

As you worship, remember God’s wonderful works.  As you remember God’s wonderful works for you and those you love, worship.  We don’t worship in order to be faithful to our calendar appointments or to make a public appearance so that our friends won’t need to worry about us.  We worship and praise God for what God has done and is doing.  What makes our worship experiences personal is our own recollecting of how loving God has been to us and others like us.  Honestly, we then reach out to him, and it is there we meet him AGAIN.  Hope in God, for I will again praise him.  It’s worth remembering.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Worth Remembering

The most insidious diseases of our time are those that affect and infect the brain, and most directly, the memory.  My mother was stolen from me, from my brother & sister, my father and their grandchildren by the strokes that emanated from Alzheimer’s disease.  I hate that disease.  I don’t hate those afflicted by it, but I hate, loath entirely, Alzheimer’s disease because what Paul Simon wrote many years ago is true for many – Memories, they’re all that’s left you.  

We must remember so much of what can easily be attributed to the grace of God in our lives.  We must remember those answers to prayer & surprises & gifts & experiences of mercy and kindness from a good Father who loves us dearly.  We must remember.

There is a lot in scripture that speaks of the power of remembering what God has revealed and done.  There are many directions to go in writing about such.  Recently, however, I read from Psalm 105, in a verse and a half portion, a reminder to me to recollect intentionally, 

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Remember the wonderful works he has done . . .  – Psalm 105: 4-5a

I suppose you could blog a good bit about seeking the Lord and all that he is and has done.  This verse, however, speaks to me of seeking the Lord continually by first remembering God’s wonderful works.  This is what I want to convey today.

I will remember God’s wonderful works.  The same day I read Psalm 105, I read from Luke 5 about Jesus telling Peter to push out from shore for a catch.  Reluctantly, he did and found his nets bursting with fish.  We would tell our kids when they were younger when we were about to go on a family outing, especially if they were unwilling to go, that we’re going together to make a memory.  Jesus made a memory with Peter and his family and co-workers and all of us who have read and know and remember this story.  Remember the wonderful works he has done.

I will remember your wonderful works, O God.  Your presence comes among us on Wednesday evenings (Wednesday Night Praise, 8706 US Hwy 431, Albertville – see our Facebook page, Safe Harbor of Albertville) and your presence came among us on Tuesday nights in August, 2011.  As we prayed, your Spirit came among us.  There were prophetic utterances and declarations regarding the days we now live in, and it’s worth remembering.

I remember your works in your Spirit coming upon me as I interceded for the church and the community.  As I prayed, I saw in the Spirit rows & rows of Boy Scout tents set up in the field behind the church which I pastored.   Scores and scores of people were there who didn’t want to leave and miss worship and testimonies and intercession and miracles happening in the fellowship hall.  I remember your wonderful deeds in giving visions to two other people who saw scores of people in the same field and so many in the parking lot and field that they couldn’t get in the full fellowship hall for worship.  I remember, so I will seek you and your strength and your presence continually.

Daddy, I remember the healing of a child’s skull and women with cancer and back problems and memories of abuse and arrant decisions that brought shame and guilt.  I remember your wonderful works of being overcome by your gracious Spirit through experiences of worship and the laying on of hands and falling down due to the weight of divine glory.  I remember friends and family giving freely and lovingly gifts and offerings because they were moved by faithfulness affirmed and lived out.  I remember, and your strength and presence is what we long for.

Sister and brother, what wonderful works of the Lord do you remember?  You must intentionally record these works for you to remember in your future and never forget.  Not forgetting, but remembering, is a key to seeking the Lord and his strength and his presence in the days ahead.  You will need to be familiar with his presence and strength for the days ahead of you. 

I remember, so I will seek the Lord only to find him afresh.  Alleluia!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

We're All Happy

So often in relationships the partners are not seeing eye to eye at the same time.  One party is troubled while another party is content and another is uncertain.  This is what makes tending a relationship like a garden hard work, so often.  How can I be sensitive to the troubles of the other while I’m celebrating my recent success? 

I rejoice in what I find in scripture that reveals what our relationship with the Lord could be, and how simple it could be for all parties to thrive in joy as partners.

Psalm 146 shows something about being happy in relationship with God.
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God, -- Psalm 146: 3-5

We find happiness in our relationship with God, and, perhaps happiness, in general, when we know God as our help, when he has shown us his goodness and grace in our lives and circumstances.  When we hope in God, happiness is a fruit.  With that we rejoice. 

From God’s perspective, happiness and pleasure is worth acquiring, and it’s acquired when his created hope in him alone.  With that, God sees the folly in trusting war horses or marathoners.  In comparison, the horses and runners fail.  God delights in those who see him like no one and nothing else, and they place their sure hope in him. God finds where delight or pleasure cannot be found, and where it is found – trust and hope of his created.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. – Psalm 147: 10-11

We are happy in God’s help & grace coming to us, and the Lord finds pleasure when we hope in him.  Look at the by product of our delight & pleasure placed in God:
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37: 4

When we look promptly at the goodness of God that has come to us, if we truly see, happiness can be ours.  When we affirm his grace and mercy lovingly poured out on us, our hope in him will truly grow, and what will be the result in this relationship of sovereign and subject?  God has pleasure and delight, joy and happiness, when we hope and affirm his grace given to us.  When we’re happy in what our heavenly Father has done for his children, God finds pleasure and joy in his heart, as well. 

This is our relationship with God.  With pleasure, we live in each others' presence, and we find happiness in each other giving to each other and receiving from each other. 

What happened to that angry God image?  It left when the blood of his dear son poured out for the deliverance and salvation of his creation that he still loves. 

Delight and rejoice in the love of our Father for us, his precious creation.  Place your hope in him, and he will find pleasure in embracing you, his dear child.  Alleluia!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Surrender All Resistance (Part 2)

There have been times in my life when I’ve learned something new from either living independently or in cohabitation. 

I recall living as the youngest in my family when my sister got married and moved out.  It was as if there was one less supportive parent-like figure in the house, and I had to get use to that by being tougher and less emotional.  I recall my brother moving into an apartment.  I was loosing a playmate.  I felt I had to take steps toward being an adult in my parents’ house.  I got a summertime job at a church camp washing dishes.  It was my first time away from home and feeling the pains of homesickness. I recall attending seminary and moving away from home for the second time.  That was great, but I had a roommate.  In the next two years, I got engaged and married and moved off campus.  I was more than ready.  No regrets. 

Each of these changes caused changes in the redefining of relationships with the people that remained immediate and those who relocated and sometimes that was me.  Some changes were significant and some were subtle.  One thing I did learn was that I preferred the changes I chose rather than those thrust upon me. 

God is speaking to me through the upper room discourse in the gospel of John.  To me, right now, Jesus knew that the most significant thing to share with his friends and learners before his arrest, execution & resurrection was that they would always be in an intimate relationship.

Psalm 114: 1, 2 speaks to me of this relationship.  When Israel went out of Egypt and the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.  The redemptive act of God for his people in the Old Testament was their deliverance from salary in Egypt.  It was only God who could have done it, and it was God who saved them and led them into the Promised Land. The psalmist tells us that the saved people became God’s sanctuary and domain, God’s kingdom.  It was in and among God’s covenant people that God chose to dwell.  God is never choosing to be distant.  God saves and delivers and makes whole in order to come and cohabitate with His delivered people.  It was God’s intention in the garden. It was God’s intention in the portable tabernacle, and the temple in Jerusalem, and in Judah in the person of Jesus, and then in his saved ecclesia beginning on the day of Pentecost.  We became God’s sanctuary, God’s dominion and Kingdom.  Our response to this?  Surrender all resistance!

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
--John 15: 4-8

This sounds like an organic relationship, and if there is no fruit, there are reasons.  The branches have to be connected to the vine.  Fruit will be seen and obvious.  If we abide in Christ and what he says and has said lives in us, we will ask what we will and it will be done for us because of the organic, undeniable relationship we have with our savior, and the relationships we have with others our savior also loves. 

God has chosen to save us with the blood of his son.  In saving us, God goes the next step and has chosen to live in and through us.  When it’s not obvious to us, there could very well be the maintaining of resistance on our part, resisting his will and passions to be on display in and through us. 

Why do most of us remain stunted in our spiritual passions and reluctant to be in an intimate relationship with God?  We don’t trust or love readily or easily.  One would think it would be different for us when it came to God.  Evidently not.

We prefer to fear God than love him.  I’ve run into too many men in my life who will not say out loud that they love their wives, and I’ve found many of the same guys who will not say out loud they love God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  This is a reflection on stunted spiritual passions. 

How will we get passed this?  The world will not get to the place it needs to be without a church that will be madly in love with Jesus.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Surrender All Resistance (Part 1)

I remember some of the great black & white movies of the past.  On occasion, I go to Turner Classic Movies on cable to see what classic might be playing and in what color combination.

One of my favorites is Sergeant York with Gary Cooper in the lead playing a reluctant doughboy ultimately shipped off to Europe to fight the Huns in WWI.  The movie turns when York becomes the hero by bringing scores of German soldiers across the lines as prisoners of war.  The firing ceases on the battlefield when the Germans surrender to York and his few comrades.  Scores of them raise their hands in surrender scene after scene.  He’s an agent of American victory, not be bringing about carnage, but by bringing the enemy to surrender.

I’ve been reading the fourteenth chapter of John these days.  There is something that has leaped from the pages as I’ve read.  First, Jesus tells his friends of the unity of the Father and the Son and any that believe.  Second, personally, I sensed the call to surrender all resistance so that the God-head, the trinity, would have its will done in and through me.  I just feel that Jesus wanted his friends to know of this unity more than anything else in the upper room prior top his arrest.

Jesus begins to paint the picture of the oneness of the Son & the Father.  If you believe in the Father, you’ll believe in me.  If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.  The Father who dwells in the Son does the work.  There is no work of Jesus that isn’t the work of the Father.  There isn’t a word from Jesus that isn’t a word from the Father. 

Jesus wanted his friends to know and believe that the relationship between Jesus and the Father was irrevocable and irrefutable.  The Father and I are one.  As the relationship between Jesus and the disciples grows, it grows between the Father and the disciples.  When Jesus returns to the Father, and we do the work in his name, he’ll do whatever we ask (John 14: 12-14).

It’s knowing and trusting that Jesus is in us through the Spirit and the Father also.  The works happen only because the Father & Son flow freely through us.  The impediment to the flow is faith undoubtedly, but, also there is our determination to resist anything that makes us vulnerable in any relationship.

It’s my belief that most marriages that fail stumble upon this reality by one or both of the spouses.  If you allow yourself to be vulnerable in any relationship, you permit yourself to be hurt, and nobody wants to be hurt, but without vulnerability there is no true intimacy.  Without true intimacy, trust and faith are not in play.  Jesus wanted his friends to know that if you trust in the Father, you trust in him.  The Father, Son and Spirit are one because they are intimate with each other and with anyone who trusts in God.  This trust is intimate and leads to vulnerability, like being naked on the cross for the sake of those He loves, and vulnerability on our part will expose to suffering, as well (Rom. 8: 17)

We function with a filter. We believe or know for certain through experience that we must be careful in the potential for relationships.  Jesus doesn’t what his friends to be careful in their relationship with him and the Father.  If we ever surrendered our filter we use to be safe and careful deep within our spirits, if we ever truly trusted God with our very selves and believed that it was alright for us to stand naked before Him without shame or disgrace because we truly knew He loves us for who and what we are (See! This is true faith!), the Father, Son & Spirit will do whatever we ask. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Peace & Forgiveness Are Ours

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” – John 20: 21-23

Great God, I love you.  You deserve all praise and thanksgiving.  You deserve all surrendered hearts, spirits & souls in all expressions of praise and worship.  I love you.  You are worthy.
Lord Jesus, you enter into our surroundings and environments and speak to us peace.  Peace be with us, with our hearts & spirits & souls & conditions & circumstances.  As you spoke to the wind & waves, you speak to all that surrounds us and all elements within us.  Peace be still.  Peace be with you.  Alleluia.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming to us and speaking to our conditions so that all that we are is stilled and corrected and healed by your loving words to us.  Peace be with you.  Alleluia.

We as your brothers & sisters, sons & daughters, rejoice out loud.  We rejoice because you are our champion.  You are risen from the dead, not contained in a tomb as a mere memory or myth or legend.  You are our living Lord who died our death and now lives forever more.  You are not a dead martyr but a living God who bore our sins and diseases and now lives.  The fruit of sin is death.  You died.  Your new life is also ours by grace & mercy.  We rejoice loudly and boldly.  Again, alleluia!

Peace with you is now ours.  Great God, we love you.

Merciful God, as the Father sent Jesus to destroy the works of the devil, we are now sent.  The Breath of God has been breathed on us.  We are recipients of the Holy Spirit.  The empowering life giving fire now resides in us to strengthen us in order to destroy the devil’s works and to spread the fire into other hearts.  Come in might and power, Holy Spirit.  Rebirth in us new life, new love, new form & function so that the Kingdom comes in honor and glory.  The reign of God is revealed and manifested in new lives.  Praise God.

We do and will forgive the sins of many.  The Spirit has come upon us first to forgive, manifested love in healing relationships.  This is the first visible sign of the living God in his children, forgiving the sins of any.  If we forgive with the Holy Spirit in and upon us, the sins are forgiven.  If we refrain, the sting of sins remain.

Daddy, we love you.  We love you for revealing to us the risen Christ and imparting on us your breath so we begin the reign of God afresh in forgiveness, forgiving the sins of any in our world.  Alleluia.  To your praise & honor & glory.