A Song for Every Season

Assuming it was David who wrote Psalm 119, I wonder what season he may have had in mind when he penned the fifty-forth verse.

Did he think to his time as a boy in his father’s house tending sheep while his brothers were at war? Or of the time in Saul’s house as he waited to see how God would fulfill his anointing as Israel’s future king? Maybe he was thinking of that season when he was on the run and living in caves, hunted by Saul’s house as they sought to remove him as a threat to the throne.

Perhaps, it was after he became king. Could it have been his season of sin, when his bones wasted away within him as he sought to hide from God his sin with his soldier’s wife? Or, was it the other time he as on the run, after Absalom’s coup attempt? Or, could he have been considering those years when his reign was going well and his armies were winning wars but he knew there was still a better kingdom to come?

What season of life was David thinking of when he wrote the following? Or, could he have been thinking of every season?

Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.

(Psalm 119:54 ESV)

What season was David calling to mind as he thought about “the house of my sojourning”?

Seems to me that the very nature of sojourning is change. That pilgrimage involves permutation — nothing today is quite the same as it was yesterday. To trek is to transition. To keep moving is to keep morphing. But that, along the way, there will be times where the pilgrimage seems to be put on pause. And residence is taken up in a house of sojourning.

Could be a place of peace and rest. But, just as likely, a den of difficulty and despair. A time of knowing where you’re going, but just as easily a time of having no clue what’s next. A house of ease, or a house of toil. Depending on the season, the house of our sojourning might look very different. A dwelling place of our choosing, or a desert we would have avoided if we could.

But while the nature of sojourning is change and unpredictability, what strikes me this morning is that there is always a song for every season.

Your statutes have been my songs . . .

My Bible is a God-breathed Psalter for my pilgrimage. Always providing words for the way. Lyrics for life. Songs for every season of sojourning.

Living and active, not only can the word of God cut deep, but it can also create a chorus and make a melody. His statutes providing the inspiration for a song of hope, a song of encouragement, a song of praise, and yes, sometimes even providing the lyrics for a song of lament.

The nature of pilgrimage is change. Of sojourning, different seasons. But the Word of God is unchanging. And it’s songs always ready to be sung.

No matter the house of our sojourning, there is a song for every season.

Amen?

By His grace. For His glory.

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The Power At Work Within Us

Wrapping up Ephesians 3 this morning. For three chapters Paul’s been laying down truth after truth concerning who these Ephesians are, and what they possess, in Christ.

And twice he prays for them. At the end of chapter 1 and at the end of chapter 3, he prays that, more than just giving mental ascent to these truths, that they would know and experience these truths. That the facts of what has God has done for them, and in them, would fuel the depths of their faith. That what he writes to inform their minds would penetrate their hearts and souls. So that, as we’ll get to in the remainder of Paul’s letter, what they believe would profoundly impact how they behave.

And, as is so often the case when it comes to preaching the ways of God, Paul can’t help but breakout in praise, declaring the wonder of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

But, while I know this is about Him, I am almost overcome with what it says about us. That while God is able “to accomplish infinitely more” (NLT) than we can come up with, though He can “do above and beyond” (CSB) anything we might imagine, He does so “according to the power at work within us.”

That’s the phrase I’m chewing on. That’s the truth I’m tasting again for the first time. That’s the full-meal deal spread before me this morning. That God, who is able to work in ways beyond our “wildest dreams” (MSG), does so according to the power at work within us.

In chapter 1, Paul wanted these Ephesians believers to know “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.” The power that raised Christ from the dead. The power that seated Jesus at God’s right hand in heavenly places (1:19-20). And now, in chapter 3, he prays that they would be “strengthened” with that power, and that would happen “through His Spirit in your inner being” (3:16).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .

(Acts 1:8a ESV)

The active agency of the power of God is the Spirit of God. And we have been sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13).

The Spirit of the God who raised Christ from the dead and gives life to our mortal bodies is the Spirit that “dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Sealed by the Spirit of God of unfathomable power. Indwelt by the Spirit of God of unimaginable purposes. Empowered by the Spirit of God “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

And so, we can know things beyond what the mind of mortal man can know. We can do things beyond what the natural man thinks he can do. We can walk in a way that is worthy of our calling. And all this, according to the power at work within us.

Mind-blowing truths to ponder. No wonder Paul breaks out in praise.

Thanks be to God for the wondrous works of grace.

. . . to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

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Incline My Heart

Hovering over my reading in Psalm 119 this morning, verses 33 thru 40. A number of asks here by the songwriter as he continues his ode to the word of God. Teach me . . . give me understanding . . . lead me in the path . . . confirm to me Your promise. But one ask in particular causes me to pause and reflect.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

(Psalm 119:36 ESV)

It’s a competition, it seems. His testimonies or selfish gain. The witness concerning Himself or the ways of the world. His covenant or my covetousness. Kind of the way our hearts are wired — ready to cling to something. Ready to pursue something. Ready to get in line behind some god or idol. Lord, says the songwriter, would You bend my heart towards Your word?

Incline my heart to Your testimonies. Turn my heart to Your decrees (CSB). Give me a bent for Your wisdom (MSG). Give me an eagerness for Your laws (NLT).

As I chew on this verse, a line from a song comes to mind that I’ve often enjoyed from a few of my Gaither videos: “I can’t even walk, without You holding my hand.” It occurs to me, “Lord, I can’t even desire Your word without Your gracious work of inclining my heart.”

Born in sin. Wired naturally to worship the creation more than the Creator. Instinctively ready to desire that which benefits me more than that which blesses Him. So where does a longing for the way of heaven comes from? What causes the propensity to want to live for self to be pushed out with a desire to live for God? What inclines the heart to the wisdom of God? Number one Sunday school answer: God! God inclines my heart to His word.

Just grateful this morning for any desire I have to get up and start my day in His word. Not my natural inclination, but His supernatural inclining of my heart.

Thankful for whatever measure I think I’m actually understanding this God-breathed revelation. Not because of my intellect, but only through the Spirit’s illumination.

In awe that I see what I see, . . . and pick up what I pick up, . . . and feel what I feel, . . . and want to respond the way I want to respond, not because I’ve made some grand, self-disciplined decision to live according to the Word, but because it’s actually “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

It’s because God answers the songwriter’s prayer, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies.”

My prayer too. Because I can’t even walk, without You holding my hand.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Suffering, Supplication, and Scripture

The songwriter had “chosen the way of faithfulness” (Ps. 119:30). He had opted for “the way of truth” (CSB, NKJV). Looked at his options and picked the path of fidelity to His God. Opted for “the true road to Somewhere” (MSG). So, how was that workin’ for him?

My soul clings to the dust . . . my soul melts away for sorrow . . .

(Psalm 119:25a, 28a ESV)

Hmmm . . . evidently the way of faithfulness is no guarantee it will bypass the way of heavy affliction.

But as I hover over the fourth stanza of the songwriter’s twenty-two stanza love song for the Word of God, I’m struck by how he reacts to a dust-clinging soul. Moved by his response, even as the heat of his current situation melts away his strength from the inside out.

He prays to the God of the Word. And desires the word of God.

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your word!
When I told of my ways, You answered me; teach me Your statutes!
Make me understand the way of Your precepts, and I will meditate on Your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word!
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me Your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set Your rules before me.
I cling to Your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!

(Psalm 119:25-32 ESV)

Whatever had put him facedown in the dirt, whatever had turned up the heat so much that he felt like he was puddling-up inside, even though the songwriter knew that God knew all the details, he still told the One who knows all things what was happening. Laid out his situation. Confessed his part in it (119:29a). Asked for God’s help through it.

And God answered him. How? The songwriter found that help in God’s word. That’s where he knew his help would come from.

He knew life would be found “according to Your word.” And so he cries out to God, “Teach me Your statutes . . . Make me understand the way of Your precepts . . . Strengthen me according to Your word . . . Graciously teach me Your law!” Only then was he confident that God would “enlarge his heart.” That God would free it up, would broaden what the songwriter knew to be true in the past, and make it wide enough to thrive in what he was enduring in the present. And then, says the songwriter, watch me run!

While the songwriter calls on God’s help through God’s word, he also “comes to the table” ready to do his part. I will meditate on Your works. I will set Your rules before me. I will cling to Your testimonies. And, because of the reserve I know I will find through Your revelation, I will run in the way of Your commandments.

Enduring suffering? Offer up supplication. Take in scripture.

Not to be too simplistic, or too formulaic, but I’m thinkin’ that’s how it works.

By His grace. For His glory.

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The Fruit of the Womb

There are many ways the Scriptures refer to the Savior in the New Testament. He is the Son of God. He is the Lamb of God. He is the Son of Man. Master. Teacher. The Good Shepherd. The Bread of Life. The Way, the Truth, the Life. And list goes on and on. But this morning, reading in Luke 1, Elizabeth refers to Jesus in a way that captures my attention as it never has before. That stops me in my tracks. Arrests my attention. Demands meditation. And evokes awe afresh.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

(Luke 1:41b-43 ESV)

The fruit of the womb! Chew on that for a bit and tell me the awe-o-meter doesn’t start to spike.

Sure, we’re used to the “Christmas Story” found here and in Matthew’s gospel. Familiar with a virgin who conceives of the Spirit and gives birth to a babe in the manger. But “the fruit of the womb”? When’s the last time you heard that emphasized in a nativity play?

Talk about your ancient ultrasound. What did the Spirit allow Elizabeth to see?

Talk about your gender reveal. What did the Spirit allow Elizabeth to know?

Talk about the One through whom, “all things were made, . . . and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn. 1:3) coming into His creation as the fruit of the womb, and tell me you’re not talking about something that goes beyond words.

[Christ Jesus], though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

(Philippians 2:6-7 ESV)

Jesus, God the Son, emptied Himself so that He might be born in the likeness of men. Not just taking on their likeness, but being born like they were born. The fruit of the womb.

What humility. What sacrifice — even before the cross. What love for a lost world.

Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

(Hebrews 2:17 ESV)

Made like His image-bearers “in every respect.” Every respect — even in utero. Thus, able to be our perfect High Priest. Thus, able to make a once forever atoning sacrifice for sins. Thus, able to intercede fully for us before the throne, knowing our frame, in touch with our reality, having gone through our weakness (Heb. 4:15). And that, all beginning with humbling Himself as He became the fruit of the womb.

Unreal!

What a Savior!

What love!

What grace!

To Him be all glory!

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A Head that Hurts, A Heart that’s Full

Never really thought of it this way before this morning but, in a sense, if you want to keep your head from exploding, speed reading Ephesians 1 may be the better way to go. There is so much packed into this first portion of Paul’s letter that to slow down and really process it all feels like more than the mind can take in. Maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, if my finite, mortal mind were capable of containing an understanding of “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (1:3), then maybe those blessings would have to be pretty few in number or pretty “unspiritual” in nature.

Or, if in the section I’m reading this morning, Ephesians 1:15-23, I really could grasp the hope, the riches, and the power toward us who believe, then I probably wouldn’t need what Paul prayed for — that God would give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, enlightening the eyes of my heart to see what can’t be seen and to know what is beyond knowledge.

To see what can’t be seen? To know what is beyond knowledge? Did I just say that? Ouch! My head hurts.

So, maybe not surprising that my wheels are spinning this morning as I chew on “the riches of His glorious inheritance.”

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe . . .

(Ephesians 1:16-19a ESV)

The hope, the riches, the power. That’s what Paul wanted the Ephesians to know. Not just know about, but to know experientially. To know the hope, to know the riches, and to know the power because, through the Spirit, they would encounter, and interact with, the hope, the riches, and the power.

So what does it mean to know “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”? What doesn’t help is that some translations render it “the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints” (CSB). What is His glorious inheritance?

Is it future? Is it the “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet. 1:4)? Our future reward (Col. 3:24) when we come into the kingdom? That future, glorious inheritance what will be ours among the saints. So that to know it, is to live in light of it? Believing that we really are joint-heirs with Christ — so that, when He comes into His kingdom, we’ll come into ours as well — and thus, less worried about accumulating stuff here on earth but driven by storing up treasure in heaven? Is that the inheritance, heaven?

Or, is it present? Is the inheritance, the saints themselves? His glorious inheritance, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession . . . God’s people” (1Pet. 2:9-10)? Jesus having given Himself for us so that He might “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Tit. 2:14)? So that, to know the riches is to love the saints? That to experience the abundance is to experience community with other trophies of God’s grace? To experience this bountiful blessing is to recognize the power of the cross, and the glorious grace of God, in the face of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is that the inheritance in the saints, the saints themselves?

Yes! To both!

And that’s the head-exploding wonder of the gospel. Both are true! The riches of His glorious inheritance, the body of Christ, can be known, through the Spirit, in the saints. And, the riches of His glorious inheritance, the kingdom of Christ, will be known, through the Spirit, among the saints.

Yes AND Amen! Both are true.

But I can barely contain it. Really can’t fully fathom it.

My head hurts. Oh, but my heart is full.

Thank God for His unfathomable grace. To Him be inexpressible glory!

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According to the Riches of His Grace

If there’s anything I should be picking up from what Paul is laying down in the opening verses of Ephesians, it’s that those who are blessed by God should be quick to declare, “Blessed be God!”

I never tire of reading this glorious inventory of spiritual blessings possessed by those who are “in Christ.” Blessed with every — not just some, but every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3). How many can that be? How many spiritual blessings are there in heavenly places? I’m guessing a lot! I never cease to be amazed at who I am and what I possess in Him. No place here for an inferiority complex.

And it is all founded on our “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (1:7a). The forgiveness of sins, that’s the key that unlocks the door to every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. If my sin could not be dealt with, then the storehouse of spiritual blessings would be forever locked. If there were no means for a just God to deal with my iniquities in a just manner, then there’d be no hope of participating in anything sourced in heavenly places. But this morning I sit here redeemed. As I hover over this passage, I wonder afresh that I am forgiven. And that, according to the riches of His grace.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.

(Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV)

The price paid for my ransom, the wages tendered for my sin, all according to the riches of His grace.

Our God is rich in grace. Wealthy in unmerited favor. His loving-kindness, His capacity for goodwill, His mercy beyond mercy, overflowing the vaults of heaven with grace because it is sourced in love, and God is love (1Jn. 4:16). Riches beyond measure. Reserves with out limit. Sourced in the very essence of a God who transcends all things. A God who is Himself without limit.

As such, He is able to “lavish” grace upon us. To not only let it flow, but to pour it out so that it overflows. Sufficient not only to save from sin, but to impute righteousness. To not only save from death, the penalty for sin, but to render fit for eternal life.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Romans 5:20-21 ESV)

Lavished on us. Abounding toward us. Abundant grace poured out in abundant measure. And this, through His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Redeemed. Forgiven. Blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. All according to the riches of His grace.

Nope! No place for a spiritual inferiority complex here. Because I’m not resting in my own character or my own capability. But resting only in His grace. His abundant, without measure grace. His lavished upon us grace. His abounding toward us grace. His amazing grace.

Blessed be God!

Because of grace. For His glory.

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