Psalms 119:33-40

Liturgy and Devotion, Project Psalm 119

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics— but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways!

(Psalms 119:32–40 MESSAGE)

Psalms 119:25-32

Liturgy and Devotion, Project Psalm 119

I am laid low in the dust;
    preserve my life according to your word.
I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
    teach me your decrees.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
    that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
My soul is weary with sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways;
    be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

(Psalm 119:25-32 NIV)

Psalms 119:17-24

Liturgy and Devotion, Project Psalm 119

Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road. Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I’m a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!— insatiable for your nourishing commands. And those who think they know so much, ignoring everything you tell them—let them have it! Don’t let them mock and humiliate me; I’ve been careful to do just what you said. While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me, I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel. Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight; I listen to them as to good neighbors!

(Psalms 119:17–24 MESSAGE)

Psalms 119:9-16

Liturgy and Devotion, Project Psalm 119

How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in your ways of wise living. I’ll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth; I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you’ve done it. I relish everything you’ve told me of life, I won’t forget a word of it.

(Psalms 119:9–16 MESSAGE)

Psalms 119:1-8

Liturgy and Devotion, Project Psalm 119

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.

(Psalms 119:1–8 MESSAGE)

Do you have a child age 8-13 that have experienced a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, abuse, or other traumatic event that has had a significant impact on their life? Children who have experienced such trauma can go on to develop long-term mental health difficulties, not only causing considerable distress but also compromising their educational and social potential.This summer we are hosting a summer camp “The Healing Hearts Club” the week of July 17th, Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. The Healing Hearts Club, designed by the American Bible Society, is a Bible Based program that gives an opportunity to change that trajectory. Children will learn how to work through their emotional and spiritual pain, through interactive, story-centered, activities. They will learn to take their pain to the cross, helping them to overcome anger, fear and loneliness, and experience God’s love for them.If you would like more information please contact healinghearts@northlandchurch.net.

Source: Healing Hearts Club Camp Tickets, Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 8:30 AM | Eventbrite

Everything

Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah, Liturgy and Devotion

It has been over 5 months since I posted an entry to our liturgy on Jeremiah. Some of it has been busyness. However, most of it has had to do with spiritual wrestling. You see, Jeremiah 29 has the verse. You know, the verse.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

It is on coffee cups, journals, engraved in rocks, posters, coasters and Bible covers. That verse practically has its own theology.  I know that my struggle is one that has its roots in faith and Christianity that is cursed with abundance. It creates a kind of narcissism that might rival the ancient Greeks. I believe that verse, out of context, has done more damage than any other verse in the Holy Scriptures.

It reminds me of this lyric from the group, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds1:

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — Abattoir Blues

There is this shortsightedness that comes from ignoring something important, and treating it lightly, and highlighting our personal gain while doing so. Reading Jeremiah 29 (and verse 11) with such hubris, leads us exactly where Satan wants us: thinking that everything is about us.

The previous 28 chapters do a better job of showing what the world looks like when everything is about us. Truth is we choose faithlessness and unfaithfulness. Jeremiah 29 should and does, show us how much God loves us. Don’t you dare read Jeremiah 29 without considering the story in the preceding 28 chapters.

  1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is a secular band. Be warned.
Man Holding Scrolls by Ben White

The Law and Free Will

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion
Scrolls

Scrolls by Ben White

Free Will

We talked about the Law last night, preceded by some thoughts around “Free Will”. I think John Piper’s post A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’ is an excellent place to continue. It was hard to talk about our notions of free will purely in a biblical context, wasn’t it? While it is good to use our minds and our hearts to explore who we are, it is better to do that kind of reflection aiming to land on God’s Word. We read from the Book of Galatians. Specifically, Galatians 1:6-7, Galatians 1:11-24, Galatians 4:8-9, Galatians 5:1-12. This week, please read all of Galatians. I suggest reading it in one sitting first, then, take it slowly and think about what Paul has for the Galatians, because it is for us as well.

The Law

The discussion quickly and obviously stayed around “the (L)law” for a while, and with good reason. It is worthy of our effort to understand what it is, and what it is for. There are many ways that the word law is used in the scriptures. Here are a few:

  • Ceremonial Law or Law of Moses. These laws are what was given to Israel. 1Kings 2:3 HCSB “and keep your obligation to the LORD your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn…” This also can include the laws given to the Levites, and other tribes in order to maintain order and sacred practices.
  • Natural Law. These “laws” aren’t necessarily written; rather observable in nature, whether that be what we see in our own lives, or what happens around us. Interestingly, I like to consider the idea of supernatural laws, i.e., the laws that happen in the spiritual realms in the same “category” when thinking about this subject. To me, there is no better place in scripture than Romans 7:7-25.

These are just my two broad categories, and they are by no means the only way to understand the law. Ultimately, the question that always surfaces when I study these topics is simply this: What good is “free will” if there is a sin nature in me keeping me from completing the law?

Have additional thoughts? Feel free (pun intended) to share them below.

In the Face of Uncertainty

Everything

In the face of uncertainty we often forget that we are not yet in our forever home. We, in fact, are not even close to home. We are far from the feeling that we have arrived, and that we can rest, and that all is right in the world. We are far from the notion that we are safe, and it is a time to lie down in the green pastures and bask in the peace that is promised.

Where we are now, we have the charge of toil, and testing, with a promised companion, but without the relief we so desperately seek. Let us not forget that all things here will end. We can no more hang on to the homes we live in as we can the flesh we embody. We are here as aliens, and much of what we encounter is foreign and strange, and difficult to understand.

Our companion serves as a guide in this foreign land, and will lead us to our promised forever home, but we must not become distracted by the troubles of this world, lest we lose sight of our guide. Rather, let us fix our eyes upon the one who gives life, let us be vigilant, long suffering, and steadfast in our faith. Let us remember why we are here. Let us remember that our presence here is to ease some of the suffering around us. Let us not believe the lie that we are here for our own comfort or glory.

Instead let our hands and feet be tired from lifting others out of despair. Let our hearts be saturated with the burdens of our brothers and sisters of faith. Let us lean into the promise we are given, and the truth on which we stand. For we were not promised a life of ease, rather a new life at the end of this temporary one.

Life without Lines

Everything

Featured photo by Shayan Sanyal

Church as a child was a Sunday occurrence, filled with donuts and coloring pages in service. Today, my husband and I host a church of 30+ in our home. The journey between these two points is filled with an amazing awakening of my heart by the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say the definition of church has changed drastically for me over the years.

It began as a place that I would go to think about God, which had very little to do with the other six days of the week. Church has now become so much a part of me I could not distinguish it from myself. It describes how I feel about God, how I feel about His people, how I live my life, how I love my husband, and even how I raise my family.

The change was so gradual that I almost missed it. Little by little the lines defining each area of my life were being erased, and what was left was complete continuity of my faith. First was my friendships, they began to take on the sound of church conversations. As I was excited for the second chance at life that I had been given, and as I began to realize that it was not a temporary change, I couldn’t help but share my heart changes with my friends. I felt more alive than I had in years. I felt like for once, my situation was not defined by my circumstances, but rather my God, who is literally the creator of the universe.

Next came my relationships with my children.

I began to think about the principles that God laid out in His Word as more than something to help me sleep at night.

They were really handy for knowing how to react to every situation I ran into. Now I must say that my life was not without real struggles. I was a single mom with two children under the age of two, but for every heartache, I turned to the scriptures to see if there was an answer, and to my amazement and increase of faith, there was.

I began to hunger for the Word as it healed, very specifically, every heartache that I had endured. I was so hungry for the Word that I began to read my bible during lunch in the break room of my very corporate and secular job. After a few weeks I was joined by other Christians with their bibles, and even curious agnostics who just wondered what this crazy book reading club was all about. I spent my time daydreaming about all of the purpose that God was infusing into each moment of all of the lives lived. It was all I could do to stay focused on the little things in life, when my eyes were so recently opened to the greater things.

I learned over the years that the excitement I was experiencing was quite common for the recently converted. What was not common was for that excitement and passion to endure. I have often seen newly converted Christians get corrected by over political, mature Christians that are in essence discouraging others out of acting passionate about their faith.

There is an unspoken rule to be faithful, but not too radical, to be a lover of Jesus, but not so strange that you give Christians a bad name.

I guess I have never been one to conform, because I still can not follow all of the political rules to Christianity. I am still moved to tears with passion at the thought of all that I have been given and forgiven each day. I am still compelled to speak of God with reverence, and the Bible with awe at its power.

Fast forward to today, my husband and I want nothing more than to share with others that they are not forgotten, not alone, that their pain and suffering is not for nothing.

We long for others to experience the freedom that comes with knowing that there is a God who can heal their hearts, use their heartaches to reach out to others, and that Jesus can forgive them of anything they may be carrying around.

It turns out that my faith can not be contained in one day of the week, or in one song, or even in many of these combined. God has brought me through so much, and given me so many blessings that I thought could never happen. Today I spend 6 days a week in my church building doing my day job, and every second of every day being the church everywhere. My job feels nothing like a job most of the time, and my faith feels nothing like it did long ago. The lines for me of separation between my life and my faith are completely gone. I no longer think about God only on Sundays, and I no longer eat donuts, but life without lines is much sweeter than the church I once knew.