Archive for the ‘The High Calling’ Category


But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.

One of my all-time favorite movies in Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a self-centered weatherman who ends up trapped in a time warp. He is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day, the same Groundhog Day over and over and over again. After satisfying his hedonistic pleasures, Phil begins to grow into a person committed to helping others. For example, from experience, he knows that at precisely 11:05 a.m., a boy will fall out of a tree onto the sidewalk. So Phil makes sure to be there at exactly the right moment to catch the boy, saving him from serious injury. But, every single time, the boy runs away without even acknowledging Phil. In one scene, Phil laments, “That’s right. Never thank you, not once. You never say thank you.”

Things like this happen all the time, not just in the movies. This should not surprise us. In fact, the Apostle Paul informs us that ingratitude is to be expected in “the last days,” that is, in the days between the ascension of Christ and his return. People will act in all sorts of terrible ways and will be, among other deplorable things, “ungrateful” (2 Tim. 3:2).

What is the cost of ingratitude? To be sure, one cost accrues to the person who deserves thanks. In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is deprived of the recognition and gladness he should receive from the boy he saved. When we fail to thank God, God loses out on the recognition that he rightly deserves. So, ingratitude wrongs the one who should have received thanks.

But there is another penalty that is paid when we are ungrateful. We lose the opportunity to delight in the blessings of our lives. We deny ourselves the joy that comes to us when we give others the joy that comes from our thanks. Ingratitude deprives the one who should offer thanks of a deeper, richer, fuller experience of life’s goodness.

So, ingratitude hurts the one who should receive thanks and the one who should give it. Not surprisingly, therefore, it also fails to nourish the relationship between the two parties. Whereas, a word of thanks can build intimacy and trust; thanks neglected creates distance and guardedness.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you experienced some of the costs of ingratitude? Are there times you forget to thank the Lord? Are there people in your life whom you need to thank, for their sake, for your sake, and for the sake of your relationship? When and how will you thank these people?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I don’t want to be one of those people described in 2 Timothy 3. I don’t want to be ungrateful. Yet, I know there are times when I fail to thank you for your blessings. There are also times I forget to thank others. I can get so busy, so focused, that I just don’t stop to say a simple “Thank you.”

Forgive me, Lord, for my ingratitude. Tenderize my heart, so that I might feel grateful when I am the recipient of goodness. Remind me, Lord, to thank you and to thank others…starting right now. Amen.

 

P.S. from Mark – Beginning with this coming Sunday, December 2, we will enter the season of Advent. This time of year helps us prepare for a richer experience of Christmas as we get in touch with just how much we need a Savior. I have been privileged to work with my colleagues in Laity Lodge Youth Camp and Laity Lodge Family Camp on the production of an Advent Family Devotional Guide. This guide will help you, your family, and your friends deepen your experience of God during Advent. We are giving away a PDF copy of this guide. Click here to download the 2012 Advent Devotional.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/cost-ingratitude

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May the words of my mouth      and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you,      O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Growing up, one of my heroes was a Presbyterian pastor named Ben Patterson. He was the speaker at many of the Christian conferences I attended as a teenager, and I was gripped by his theological insight and poetic skill. When I began work as a young pastor, I listened to dozens of Ben’s tapes, seeking to learn from him how to be an effective communicator of the Gospel.

One of the traditions I picked up from Ben was to pray, right before I preached, a version of Psalm 19:14. As I recall, he would pray something like this: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” I didn’t always use this prayer in the pulpit, but I often did because it expressed the yearning of my heart as a preacher: that my words would honor the Lord, as would the thoughts of the whole congregation. Using this prayer reminded me that my effectiveness as a preacher did not depend on me, on my insight or skill, but upon the Lord, who was “my rock and my redeemer.”

I still think Psalm 19:14 is a fine prayer for the pulpit. And I still use it at times when I am a guest preacher. But I have come to realize that this prayer belongs not just in the pulpit, but also in the world. For one thing, the identified poet of Psalm 19, David, was not a priest or a prophet. He didn’t do “religious work” in the usual sense. Rather, he was a shepherd, a warrior, a musician, a poet, and most famously, a king. David did, if you’ll pardon the expression, secular work. Nevertheless, he sought to please the Lord with his words and thoughts, not just in his private prayers, but in every sector of life.

You and I are privileged to live for God‘s glory in all that we do, in every word, every thought, and every deed. This means we ought to borrow David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14, not just if we happen to be preaching a sermon, but all the time.

How would your life be different if you began praying Psalm 19:14 in the day-to-day situations of your life? What difference might it make if, before you participated in a meeting at work, you prayed, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer”? How might praying this way transform your language and actions on the athletic field, when you’re out on the town with your friends, when you’re writing a letter to a client, or when you’re negotiating a contract? How might it affect the way you speak to your spouse, your children, your roommate, or your colleagues?

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Use whichever questions in the previous paragraph fit your life to consider how Psalm 19:14 might change your life. Feel free to add other questions that make sense for you. How might your life be enriched if you were to pray often: “May the words of my mouth…”?

PRAYER: O Lord, my rock and my redeemer, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you:      at work and at home,      at church and at play,      with friends and family,      in meetings and in solitude,      in every situation, all the time. To you be all the glory. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/prayer-thats-not-just-pulpit


Smoke poured from his nostrils;      fierce flames leaped from his mouth.      Glowing coals blazed forth from him.

Psalm 18 celebrates God’s deliverance of David from danger and distress. “The ropes of death entangled me,” he writes, “floods of destruction swept over me” (18:4). Yet, as David cried out to the Lord, God heard him and came to deliver him.

The prose version of what happened next would read unimaginatively: The Lord rescued David from his enemies and kept him safe. But the Psalms are poetry, not prose. Psalm 18 delivers, not just the facts, but rather a vivid picture of God’s coming in awesome power to deliver David. This portrayal utilizes a variety of stirring images, including a mighty earthquake and a spectacular thunderstorm (18:7, 11-14). In verse 8, God is pictured as a sort of dragon: “Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him.”

Now that’s enough to get the attention of a ten-year-old boy! But what does it tell us about God? And how can we relate to a God with smoking nostrils? The images of Psalm 18 aren’t meant to convey literal truth about God’s nature. Rather, they are poetic, culturally embedded, and theologically powerful representations of God’s strength and judgment. In particular, they point to the mighty acts of God in Exodus, when he parted the waters of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:15-31) and visited the Israelites on Mt. Sinai with thunder, lightning, smoke, and an earthquake (see Exod. 19:16-20).

The good news of Psalm 18 is not only that God is mighty, but also that he is mighty for us. When we cry out to him, he comes to save us. Of course, one of the greatest ironies of God’s salvation is that it is ultimately centered in the apparent weakness and defeat of the cross. Yet, through the cross, God took upon himself the fire of his righteous judgment. In the death of Christ, God bore our punishment for sin, thus defeating the power of sin and even death itself. Psalm 18 invites us to celebrate God’s salvation in Jesus Christ: “I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies” (18:3).

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think God inspired the psalmist to depict his nature in such bold and shocking images? What images might you choose today to convey the saving power of God? Have you ever experienced a situation like that of David in Psalm 18? How did God rescue you?

PRAYER: Thank you, Almighty God, for the poetic images of Psalm 18.

You are indeed my rock, my fortress, my savior, my shield. You protect me in ways I can see and in ways I’ll never know. In you, I am safe for eternity.

You are a God of power, whose presence is like smoke and fire. Your word thunders. Your judgment strikes like lightning.

You are the one who reached down and rescued me from the deep waters of sin. You have delivered me again and again from the pits into which I have fallen.

O God, you are faithful, with complete integrity. You are pure in your grace and your judgment. You light my way. Indeed, you are perfect.

All praise be to you, God of power, God of mercy! Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/god-dragon-0


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Moral chaos breeds chaos.  David’s immoral behavior would bring calamity on his household.  David’s forceful taking of Uriah’s wife made it more likely that women in the palace would be vulnerable to another man’s violation.  Weakened from within, David was not able to protect those dearest to him.   What happened in the palace would be mainstreamed “in broad daylight for all Israel.”

Violence begets violence.  Despising God brings God’s judgment upon oneself.  How could David have fooled himself into believing he could “take” Uriah’s wife as his own!

Thus confronted, David repented.  Remorsefully he confessed,  “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).  God accepted David’s sorrowful lament.  Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin.  You are not going to die” (2 Sam. 12:13).  David’s life could have been “taken” from him, even as he had taken Uriah’s.  David could have lost the right to rule as king, even as did Saul, whom David was anointed to replace.  David and Bathsheba would also endure the additional grief of their firstborn child’s death.

God doesn’t want us to visit the dark side. When we go there, he doesn’t want us to stay there.  Recovery through repentance from sin is the way out.  This good news applies to all sins; adultery is not excluded. Broken trust can be restored.  An afflicted husband and wife may have to work hard for years to get through the pain, but by God’s grace it is possible “to love and to cherish…for better or for worse” and go forward.

David wrote Psalm 51 in remorse for what he had done.  With guilt and shame, he owned up to his sins before God.  Re-establishing trust is built on remorse, repentance, and renewal.  Remorse stops us in our tracks.  Repentance turns us from going in a sinful direction to living godwardShuv, the Hebrew word for repentance means literally “to turn around and go in the opposite direction.”   Renewal is the result of our misdirected life being redirected.

Our life is determined by the choices we make at home, at work, and in our community.   Believers are sinners saved by God’s grace.  The work I do as pastor includes helping people who are caught in sin by showing them that there is a better way to live, and to begin living that way.  When Nathan said, “David, you are the man who has done this!”  He showed David  the consequences of his sins. But God’s amazing grace saved the shepherd king.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you become enslaved to habitual sin? Can you see God’s escape route? Are you feeling salvation’s joy at home, at work, and in your community? Are you enjoying life by dancing to the rhythm of God’s grace?

PRAYER: Lord, I get Your message.  The purer my heart, the more I can see of you.  By being with you in prayer, I trust that you will burn away the impurities in my  heart. Have your way with me so that I will live in your ways. David’s prayer becomes my prayer, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.” Amen.

A Note from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections have been written by my friend and fellow pastor, Dr. Leslie Hollon, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Leslie (known also by the nickname Les) is a noted preacher, pastor, professor, and author. He is a gifted biblical teacher who connects the deep truths of Scripture to the realities of daily life. Every time I hear Leslie preach, I am encouraged to consider in new ways how the Word of God speaks to me. I know you will find Leslie’s reflections on temptation to be challenging and encouraging.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/restoring-joy-your-salvation


Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!  This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.'”

When news of Uriah’s death reached David, he deceived himself into thinking he was beyond the reach of God’s judgment and the people’s disgust.  So he took Bathsheba as his wife.  He acted as if everything was okay when it was not.

Chapter 12 opens with God taking the initiative to correct the situation.  He sent Nathan to confront King David. Nathan had helped David before, but this time his assignment would be more challenging.

The harsh reality is that sin damns us if we do not trust God’s grace for forgiveness.  As the Apostle Paul wrote,  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  To realize his guilt, David had to be confronted by Nathan.  Nathan’s access to the king did not protect him from the king’s vengeful wrath.  David could have had Nathan killed.

Nathan used a parable so the king would let down his defenses.  As Nathan told the story of a rich man who had “taken a poor man’s beloved lamb” and used the lamb as banquet food for a traveler, “David burned with anger.”  David condemned the man who was rich in money but impoverished in mercy. David concluded the rich man deserved to die but mercifully David would reduce the punishment so the offender would pay for the ewe lamb four times over. (Zacchaeus applied this restitution principle in Luke 19:8).  Once the king gave judgment, Nathan took the opening to deliver his punch line, “You are the man” (2 Sam. 12:7).  The parable began as a window through which David clearly saw injustice; then the parable became a mirror by which David starkly saw himself as the sinful man.   David, the shepherd king, had become a ravenous predator, and only God’s mercy could save him.

God knows our life story, and he knows that in order for us to be people who overcome, people who move from tragedy to triumph, we must be people who can also recover from sin.  Therefore, God connects us with a love that on his part will not let go.  In Hebrew this love is called “hessed.”  In the New Testament it is called “grace.”  This love is built inside our souls and tethers us.  This love motivates our conscience after we have sinned to feel remorse, to repent, and to be renewed.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Is God trying to correct areas of your life? Is someone trying to give you a message on God’s behalf? Are you repenting so you can be renewed?

PRAYER:  Lord, this is a conversation I have not wanted to have with you.  I have been afraid to tell you the wrongs that I have done.  Because if I did, I knew that I would need to change.  I know that you know this, but saying it to you brings it out into the open.  Forgive me.  I am sorry.  Thanks for lifting this burden from my soul.  Through your grace, I will live differently and try to make things right with others. Amen.

A Note from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections have been written by my friend and fellow pastor, Dr. Leslie Hollon, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Leslie (known also by the nickname Les) is a noted preacher, pastor, professor, and author. He is a gifted biblical teacher who connects the deep truths of Scripture to the realities of daily life. Every time I hear Leslie preach, I am encouraged to consider in new ways how the Word of God speaks to me. I know you will find Leslie’s reflections on temptation to be challenging and encouraging.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/guilty-sin


Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields.  How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife?  As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

David chose to trust in his own power and mistrust God’s power.  That choice endangered his very soul.  He needed to be rescued from himself.  But this mess was of his own making, and he resisted calling on the promise of Psalm 23.  Have you been there?  Do you know what that’s like?

To enact his cover-up, David recalled Bathsheba’s husband, the great warrior Uriah, off the front line of battle.  Upon returning to the court of the king, David greeted him and said, “Go back to your home and wash your feet there.”  This phrase is a Hebrew euphemism inferring “to have sexual relations.”  It was made clear through Bathsheba’s purification bath that she was not pregnant before David “took her” (1 Sam. 11:2).  Her pregnancy was David’s responsibility.  David wanted Uriah and the public to think that the baby was Uriah’s.

The warrior remembered that King David had instructed the soldiers to abstain from sexual relations during seasons of combat.  So instead he slept in the servants’ quarters and did not go to his home.   The next night King David, trying to cover up further, got Uriah drunk.  Again Uriah refused to go into his own bedroom to be with his own wife. He was acting with honor, a Hittite more faithful than Israel’s King.  David feared that soon all the kingdom would be gossiping about his sins.    He then wrote a decree which Uriah delivered to General Joab. Ironically, the secret orders delivered by Uriah carried his death sentence.

David’s cover-up only made matters worse.  Satan (which means “the deceiver”) works through temptation’s distorted messages.  Sin harms.  Habitual sin destroys.  Once sin has its hooks in us, it won’t let go voluntarily.  We must yield to God.  Then our misdirected life gets redirected in God’s ways. Sin had its way with David, who then had his way with Bathsheba;  both of them were left in the dilemma of what to do next.  David had a choice to confess or to cover up by committing additional sins.

When we try to cover up sin in our own power, we fool ourselves.  Servants were involved in delivering David’s messages. People observed his behavior. They watched their king act in ways unbecoming of a king, and people began to talk. The rumors spread through all twelve tribes of Israel.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When are you tempted to mistrust God’s power by trusting in your own power apart from his? Confess or cover-up, what is your preference? What are people in your home, workplace, or community seeing from your behavior?

PRAYER: Dear God, we live in a hard world.  Much of what goes on around us or in my own heart is directly opposed to you.  I am tempted to deal with this contradiction by hardening my own heart.  Please help me to lean into your strength so that I can be strong without being calloused.

A Note from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections have been written by my friend and fellow pastor, Dr. Leslie Hollon, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Leslie (known also by the nickname Les) is a noted preacher, pastor, professor, and author. He is a gifted biblical teacher who connects the deep truths of Scripture to the realities of daily life. Every time I hear Leslie preach, I am encouraged to consider in new ways how the Word of God speaks to me. I know you will find Leslie’s reflections on temptation to be challenging and encouraging. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/making-bad-situation-worse


One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful…

King David sent his men off to battle but did not go himself.  This was the first time he did not lead his troops as they went on a major military campaign.  Why did he stay behind?  What was he feeling? He would fight more battles later; why not now?

When David went to his roof top and saw Bathsheba bathing, he was inspired by temptation not goodness. Temptation takes what is good and turns it upside down with the deceptive message that wrong is better than right (Isaiah 5:20).  Temptation whispers for us not to trust God. When we commit to temptation, we sin by trying to redefine “goodness” into what we want.  David risked the kingdom he had fought hard to win for God’s purposes.

He had seen Bathsheba before but not like this; not when he was in transition and she appeared so vulnerable and beautiful before his wandering eyes.  Out on the balcony, David’s body experienced a flash flood of testosterone.  His sexual drive became fully activated when he looked out and saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing.  He saw her as a pawn for his taking and not as a loyal family friend.   Bathsheba’s family had been faithful and true to the king.  Her father, Eliam (2 Sam. 23:34), was likely one of David’s more heroic leaders.  Uriah, her husband, was one of David’s most valiant soldiers (2 Sam. 23:3a).

In this transition moment, David yielded his heart to sin and decided that his own selfish desires would make him happy.  The story is told honestly and graphically in 2 Samuel 11.  The king commanded a servant, “Bring her to me!”  This Hebrew phrase means “to take.”  David, motivated by lust, in a lonely moment, abused his kingly power.  Bathsheba went into the palace to meet the King.  David, caught in sin’s thrill of rebellion, did not care that his actions displeased God.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Does your love for God help you to focus on doing what is right? Does fear of painful consequences warn you to beware of sin? Can you let go of that something you want, but that you shouldn’t have?

PRAYER:  God, I wish my heart wanted what was always right, but it doesn’t.  In this struggle I become double minded.  So right now I am going to trust you enough to release “the other” from my heart.  Please fill my heart with the joy of your presence so I won’t feel so lonely and want to take back that which I have just relinquished. Amen.

A Note from Mark Roberts: This week’s reflections have been written by my friend and fellow pastor, Dr. Leslie Hollon, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Leslie (known also by the nickname Les) is a noted preacher, pastor, professor, and author. He is a gifted biblical teacher who connects the deep truths of Scripture to the realities of daily life. Every time I hear Leslie preach, I am encouraged to consider in new ways how the Word of God speaks to me. I know you will find Leslie’s reflections on temptation to be challenging and encouraging.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/when-you-want-what-you-shouldnt-have?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheHighCallingDailyReflections+%28Daily+Reflection+%26+Prayer%29