Sunday, October 16, 2005

What God Has Been Teaching Me

Jasper Speaks:

I have my quiet time every morning in my classroom. I started this mainly so I could remember to take time to pray for each of my students every day. The morning I started this I prayed that God would bring me a passage of Scripture that I could claim for those mornings. He led me to Psalm 20. Now I read this passage every morning along with whatever else God leads me to for that day. I want to share this passage with you and talk about some of the things God is teaching me through this passage.

Psalm 20
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah
4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
9 O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like I live in the land of distress. I feel like I am completely overwhelmed. A lot of times I feel like I am just treading water. I hate that feeling. I wouldn’t say that I am a control freak but I am a plan freak. I don’t have to be the one controlling the situation but I do want to have gone thoroughly over the plan. I don’t mind following if I know what is coming.

Unfortunately that is not the best way to live out the Christian faith journey. I want to get out my black sharpie when I come to verses that say things like we walk by faith not by sight. I don’t want to do that. I want to walk by faith and by sight. God doesn’t see it that way though. Because when I get distressed, sometimes, my faith-o-meter just gets run down.

But what God has been teaching me lately is that I have to learn to let the Jasper needs to know the plan side of me take a back seat to the God always knows the plan side of me. I don’t know about you but I find that to be terribly distressing. It really freaks me out. Again, I don’t mind God having the control if he lets me know what the plan is. When I don’t know that plan I get distressed.

I think if you just read this Psalm without meditating on it, it can be a dangerous passage of Scripture. I think you can read it to say God will get you out of distress and give you your heart’s desire. But when you meditate on it I think it tells you something very different.

When I was in ministry one of my catch phrases always was don’t overlook the little words. In this Psalm there is a three letter word that changes the passage’s meaning substantially. That is MAY. I think this Psalm is more of a reminder of what God can do than what He always will do. David is praying that God would act in a certain way but there is not a promise here that he will. Look at verses 3-5. It says may he remember your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. This a prayer that God would act this way. I think sometimes we can struggle wit living on yesterday’s faith. We expect God to sustain us on what we once had rather than on what we do have now.

I have had several awesome experiences in my life. I have had a lot of moments when I am walking in God’s will and he is showing me His power in my life. I mean I can recall some knock your socks off moments. I can also recall times that I have been walking so close to God that distress was the farthest thing from my mind. Those times are incredible and I am so thankful for them.

But sometimes I get stuck there. I look back on those times like some people look back on their high school sports accomplishments. I can tell you some great stories about what God has done in my life in the past. Some of those stories can reach epic proportions just like a last minute overtime touchdown. The moment was incredible but it is yesterday’s news.

When I meditate on this Psalm it get me thinking that God is not required to remember what I have done for him in the past. He is much more concerned with what I am doing today. I think of the story of Peter on the water. I wonder if when he started sinking he thought, “but wait a second before you pull me out of here Lord! Don’t you remember that just a few seconds ago I was focused on you? Isn’t my past faith enough to keep me walking on the water?”

That sounds silly but I don’t know about you but that is sometimes how I have lived my Christian life. Hey God remember the past. Remember how cool I was, listening to you and taking with you and trusting you? But I think that God may get to shaking his head at me at those times as he is thinking, but what have you done for me lately? Then I get all upset when I don’t see him rushing to me rescue. I sometimes get all huffy with God when I am trying to live on yesterday’s fuel. I think God honors our past devotion but I think he is not required to act for us because of it. He wants us to walk in fellowship with him today. He wants to de-stress us now by taking what he is teaching us today and watching us use that knowledge to succeed. I think God is much more concerned with consistent growth than with a great historical record. Verse 3 says MAY he remember all your sacrifices, it doesn’t say he has to.

It also says May he give you the desires of your heart. The next part of the Psalm is very similar and says May God grant all your requests. May again. It doesn’t say he always will. I don’t know about you but I am thankful for the may there. When I look back at all the stuff I have desired that God has not given me, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. You see when I am living in that past reminiscing mode as far as my spirituality goes, my desires can shift. My desires will differ from God’s desires. The hard thing is when we are living on yesterday’s fuel, it makes it completely difficult to see past our current situation. We end up wanting things that will satisfy us right now. I think we can even fall into sin by wanting a past spiritual moment back. What I mean by that is we can become so desirous of how God moved in our lives in the past that we can lose sight of what he wants to do in the here and now. IF we spend our lives looking back and desiring a past spiritual moment we may be limiting the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives now. We may not even realize that God has a new and exciting way to teach us or show us his love because we are too busy desiring the past.

My hope and prayer is that in the end of my life I won’t look back and realize that I spent a lot of time desiring things God wouldn’t want for me. I think Satan can really trick us into a lot in this. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is John 10:10. It reminds us what we are up against in all this. IT says that the thief comes to steal kill and destroy. I think Satan wants to steal our joy, kill our witness and destroy our lives. I think he does that sometimes by distracting us from what God desires for us. He distracts us and leads us to focus on what we want not on what God wants. That same passage tell us what God wants for us. It says, A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

God wants so much more for us than our desires can ever know. Our minds are so limited in what we can want. But God’s plan is to give us more than we ever dreamed of. WOW! This is a time that the word MAY is a sweet word because it reminds me that God’s desires for me are so much greater than my own. I can even dream of his desires for me and if that means I have to sacrifice some of my desires and he chooses not to give them to me, I pray that I will learn to keep focused on John 10:10 and know that God’s desire for me is to give me more than I ever dreamed of.

Next the Psalm makes a definite and sharp turn when it says I KNOW that the Lord saves his anointed. He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. David remind us of some thing we know to be true. God will save us out of distress. But it will be in His time on His terms.

So what do we do? Some trust in chariots, and some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Trust in the end it is all about trust. Are we living a life of trust. What does that mean? How does that look? If we are trusting in Him we are learning to have His desires.

How do we do that? I think in three ways:

1. Commit to live God’s WAY.

We admit that our way isn’t working. We try to use the Bible in a very practical way to help people through the struggles of life. And you know that nearly every person we talk to whether they are 14 or 84, most of the problems in life this is what people say.” My life was going fine until”… and really what they’re saying is “ I was living my way and it didn’t work”. If you want to live beyond the ordinary, you commit to live God’s way.

2. Commit to look for God’s WORK.

We need to look for God’s work around us. Some of us cruise through life and miss out on God’s blessing; we don’t even know that He’s answering our prayer. We’re not even looking at other people and seeing how God’s working in their life and being blown away. God is working all around us and when we commit to look for it, we go through life with a sense of awe and wonder. Whoa, that was God, that’s cool. A lot of us think it’s our own doing or that it was a coincidence and we miss God’s power.

3. Commit to spend time with GOD.

If you want to live beyond the ordinary, you live his way, you look for his work and you spend time with him. I just want to challenge you; do you ever wake up in the morning with that eager anticipation that you can’t wait to spend time with God, to be in his presence? To just thank him for the day, to think about him as you drive to work? Spending time with God can happen all the time. You want to live beyond the ordinary, commit to live God’s way, commit to look for God’s work and spend time with God.

I may live in the land of distress but I also know that God is in control. He doesn't have to remember my past spiritual highs. He just needs to know that BEFORE all else fails I am putting my trust in him alone.

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