9-1-1 moments: dwelling and abiding

This Monday and Tuesday mornings, I woke up at 9:11. Most of the time I take no real notice of what exact time I wake up. Other times, like these times, the numbers stand out or linger and I wonder if I am being signaled about something. On Monday I sat down and got quiet and prayed about it and Psalm 91:1 came to mind: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

After waking at the same time on Tuesday, I read Psalm 91 again and wondered what, if anything, God might be saying to me. I now realize that perhaps God was preparing me for some bad news and showing me how to cope with it by running to Him and finding rest for my troubled soul.

On Tuesday night, just before leaving work, I read some bad news that was like a kick in the stomach. I realized that a lot of my reaction to this bad news is that I want to fix the situation or see it fixed. I want what it seems that only God can do and since I'm not God, I can only pray to God and do the small things I can do. This reminds me of Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer (1934) that was adopted by Alcoholic's Anonymous in 1950: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

I think it gives you serenity to accept that you cannot change something, while fully believing God can although you can not control God, but just humbly ask.

That leads me to The Ninety-first Psalm's words: To dwell in God's presence and experience being under His protection. When I dwell in God's presence, I am connecting with God who is all powerful and at complete peace at the same time. God gives me serenity, courage, and wisdom. I am reminded that God cares about people in trouble more than I do.

To dwell is something I do, something I have control over. It's a faith action on my part. It's like running to, or seeking out the river and getting into it. Being under God's protection is what God does. The psalmist says that is you take action to dwell in the secret place, that you will end up abiding in God's shadow of protection.

For me, what this means and the experience of it is that I've got to dial down and retreat into connecting myself to God. I word picture would be that I'm a shepherd of my thoughts and feelings and reactions. I have authority over these and can take them into the pen where the chief shepherd is and let him say, "peace" to them. It is an exercise of faith to seek God and God rewards seekers with His presence. God gives me peace that passes all understanding.

You might say that you don't know how to dwell. To dwell is to commune which has to do with communicating. Communicate with God. Start there. Be honest, pour out your heart. If you're so upset, you can't speak, then just sit; focused on God and open your heart.

It's ideal actually to always dwell in God and be protected.

Thanksgiving Song

We Gather Together (1597)
By Adrianus Valerius
Translated to English by Theodore Baker, 1894

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Pray your prayers with thanksgiving

When I'm bothered about something to the point of anxiety and distress, I remember the "be anxious for nothing" prayer direction in Philippians chapter four:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.


Taking stuff to God in prayer is great advice. But Paul says to tell God about what's bothering you with thanksgiving. I think that what this does is to keep us from prayers that are just negative complaining prayers, where we recite the facts of how the proverbial glass is half empty.

Adding thanksgiving puts a positive note into your prayers. God is fully aware of the thing that is driving us to prayer. Being thankful in prayer is an act of faith. Being thankful says, "no matter what I believe God is good".

Praying with thanksgiving is not victorious denial. We are not thankful for sin, death, or loss. We are thankful for God, who is good no matter how we feel.

Want to know God's will? Give thanks!

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ
Jesus.
1 Thess. 5:18
Why would Paul say that giving thanks, no matter what, is God's will? I think it's about alignment of you with God. God is good no matter what. This isn't self-help or affirmation therapy, but wisdom from God.

We don't say thanks for sickness, loss, or defeat. But in all circumstances, we thank God for his goodness. No matter what happens, God is good.

Getting into God's presence with thanksgiving

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his
courts with praise! Give thanks to him;
bless his name!

Psalm 100:4


The inspired psalmist says that we cross the threshold of God's domain by thanking him and we get into His dwelling place with praise. When you are calling upon the King of all, isn't it absurd to begin with a complaint, a request, or even a confession? Beginning with thanksgiving and praise establishes the relationship. It states the obvious, but it also states reality. And this establishing is for your benefit. God already is firmly established in his identity. We have to re-establish it in ourselves as long as we're alive on earth.

To try to come into God's presence without thanksgiving and praise is to implicitly take God for granted or deny his God-ness. Your heart is not in alignment and your words do not connect with God. God still hears your prayers, but you don't get into God's presence.

Thanksgiving and the blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

That song, by Robert Lowry, a Baptist minister who wrote 500 songs and lived until 1899; tells of what I believe is the ultimate thing we can be thankful for.

The early church began calling the taking of communion or the Lord's supper, the eucharist. That word means thankfulness.

What church did Jesus go to?

I'm listening to Paul Vieira, from some talks he did about a week ago. What I'm writing here, starts from him.

In the evangelical church culture that I'm familiar with, people often ask each other, "what church do you go to?" To imagine asking Jesus this question, during his earthly life as a man, illustrates the absurdity of the question, yet we keep asking it and using it as a point of reference. Today, I feel so strongly about how church is a "what", rather than a "where", that I would even hesitate to say that this thing we do, like having (a) church in a house is the church we go to.

When Jesus walked the earth as a man, he went to synagogue "services" and went to the big temple as well. In the midst of that culture and his participation in it, he said, "I will build my church." It seems obvious that he was saying his gathering(s) of people would be something new and different. I don't think he was saying that it's going to be like the synagogue or temple meetings, only with updated theology.

Jesus' church is described and illustrated and documented right there in the four Gospels. Why would we look for a blue print in the rest of the NT? Jesus himself is the blue print. The church is his, he plans it, and builds it. So, Jesus prescribes what the church will be, will do, and be like.

The Gospel accounts are not just history and theology, but praxis.

Keep waiting

Hebrews 10:36-39

"
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."


Tarriander: While God tarries, you meander. Tarry means delay and meander means circuitous windings. Meander can seem like a negative word, but it is really a positive thing. It is to wait and keep moving. It looks aimless from the outside view, but it is really purposeful or faithful! Think of an airplane in a holding pattern outside the landing zone of an airport.

The above passage directly precedes Hebrews 11, "the faith chapter", where faith is extrapolated upon and illustrated. These words here say to endure and believe the word, even when circumstances say otherwise.

The Hebrews author says that the the exercise of faith acts as a preservative for our souls: "have faith and preserve their souls". You find the promise by faith, you believe the promise by faith, and you receive the fulfillment of the promise by faith. Faith is action. There's got to be continued action based upon confidence in the word, for the soul to "stay alive" to the word.

If you've ever had a dinner party, you know how much preparation goes into it. But, what if all the guests who will partake of it have not yet arrived? In fact, they are late. You have to keep the kitchen going and continue to check if the table is set and the candles are just so. You peek out the window and look at the clock, then at the phone, and check on the food again. You're meandering while your guests tarry.

Concierge

American Heritage Dictionary states that the word concierge is, "[French, from Old French cumcerges, from Vulgar Latin *cnservius, alteration of Latin cnservus, fellow slave : com-, com- + servus, slave.]

Concierges are caretakers, doorkeepers, custodians, head porters, or a hotel employee who assists quests as by booking theater reservations or arranging for transportation.

The job of Concierge has also evolved into personal assistant: people who do all the time-consuming odd jobs for someone, like running errands.

The early usage of the word has the meaning of "keeper of the candles" and the then "keeper of the keys", and "doorkeeper".

Concierge can be summarily defined as the expert servant.

Jesus came as a servant. He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20.

Years ago, Chuck Swindoll wrote a book called "Improving Your Serve". The title was memorable, but I had no idea what it was about. Seems so obvious now. Steve Sjogren talks about serving your way into someones or a city's heart. If Jesus came to serve, then what about his followers. Service is about serving and servants serve. Serving is a humble thing.

Jesus is the model for evangelism, pastoring, apostleship, and the prophetic and he came serving. That says serving is a pretty big deal and a key to growth- personal and church. So, why is so much of the Christian culture or "Christendom" about getting service? 'I want my teaching, my music, my (goosebumps in) worship... " We want to be entertained whether it's in your living room or at the big room church. 'Serve me', we say; and then we wonder why it doesn't work. We have lean souls.

Serving should be a life-style for the Christian, if they are a Christ-follower.

Soroptimist


I was introduced to this word, Soroptimist today. It means sisters who are optimistic or best for women. The International Soroptimist Society has been going since 1921 and it, "is an international volunteer organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world."

Hope against all hope

Hope is expectation. When we hope for something, it means we want it. When we lose hope, it’s because we’re running out of patience or it means the circumstance are so opposed to what we want, that we get hopeless. For example, when a team falls further and further behind, the prospect of winning gets hopeless.

So what if circumstances build a case for hopeless, but you have a word from God that goes against circumstances? That was the predicament of Abraham and Sarah, who had been promised they would have a child, but did not.

There are two statements that Paul writes in describing this situation: First, “in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” And second, “In hope he believed against hope” (Romans 4:17b-18a).

God who stands outside time, speaks a word about the future of a man and his wife. This man, Abraham, puts his hope in God’s word, over and against the hopelessness of his situation. He is our example of exercising faith.