If you have ever wondered about the meaning of this scripture and the song that was taken from Psalm 42, perhaps this borrowed thought will deepen your understanding of both the text and the song.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
The male deer is a single-minded creature. Once its sights are set on its goal, nothing can dissuade it. It will battle opponents to the death in order to succeed. Even for a drink of water, the male deer will not be stopped.
Such single-mindedness is what the Lord desires of His children. The Lord loves to see real commitment that changes lives. To live for the Lord means to give oneself to Him, body, mind, and spirit. As the deer pursues the cooling brook with all that it has, so must we pursue our Lord.
With this thought in mind, notice how David continues Psalm 42:
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
This week an interesting thought crossed my mind. In Genesis chapters 2-3, we read that Adam and Eve were naked at creation and were unaware of this until they ate of the tree of knowledge, which God instructed them not to eat. As a consequence of their sin of disobedience, the Bible says their eyes were opened and for the first time, they realized their nakedness. Immediately they took fig leaves and covered themselves. Later, when they encountered God, he ”reclothed” them with the skins of dead animals (give that some thought). From this time on, mankind has covered himself with clothing (except for the nudist folks). This perhaps is a reminder of our sin nature, which we inherited from Adam and Eve.
However, all of this changes when we surrender our lives to Christ. From this point on, once again God takes off that which we have clothed ourselves with, and clothes us with humility, righteousness, holiness, and ultimately, we are clothed with Christ. Having been clothed with Christ, our relationship with God is restored, which enables us to once again spiritually stand naked before God just as did Adam and Eve in the beginning. Having our sins washed by the blood of Jesus, we have nothing to hide from our God, and no longer do we have any need to hide from Him. Today, I thank God for the cross which redeemed us, and the empty tomb that makes this day and every day, a day of celebration and Joy. Because, once we were lost, but now we are found, we were blind, but now we see. Let them praises give Jehovah, for His Name alone is high (go ahead, finish singing the song) and let the world know- He is risen!!
When God challenges your faith, you are left with two simple choices; either you rise to the occasion, or you shrink into dismal failure from fear. Throughout history, as God has constantly challenged His people to put their complete and total trust in Him, we read in scripture sometimes they did and sometimes they failed. It’s our trust which overcomes all obstacles - including fear. Yesterday a group of us went to see the movie “His Only Son” which was the story of Abraham, with a timeline focus from the covenant promise God made with him until God challenged his faith by telling him to kill his only son and offer him as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Throughout the movie there were multiple times when the faith (and trust) of Abraham was challenged and each time, he demonstrated an unyielding faith in God despite all. As I sat and listened, in one scene he said a phrase which resonated with me in a powerful way. After telling Sarah that he and Isaac were to go to Mt. Moriah (a three-day journey by foot), she began telling him how dangerous the journey would be. His response was, “God will guide us.” The moment he said that it stirred something inside of me.
Recently, the congregation set for itself a challenge to execute 100 bible studies by the end of 2023. If you think about it long enough, it does sound rather daunting; but to that I answer, “Our God will guide us.” Abraham didn’t ask God to guide his footsteps where Abraham wanted to go, he asked God to guide his footsteps as he followed where God wanted him to go. That is the same for us. I am convinced, within the great commission of Matthew 28 is the promise of God to guide all who put their trust in him to carry out this command. Actually, in all we do, our God guides us. Since 100 bible studies is no great challenge for God, neither should it be for us. We need to learn to meet each faith challenge with the simple powerful words of Abraham “our God guides us.” As we do this, the kingdom of God will grow, and this city will be converted by the power of God.
Contributed by Terry Hunt
There always seems to be a story behind the great hymns of faith that resonate so deeply within us. Such is the case of “Blessed Assurance.”
One day Miss Fanny Crosby was in the home of her friend, Mrs. Phoebe Palmer Knapp. The Knapp home had a rare treasure - what was believed to be the largest pipe organ ever placed in a private dwelling. Mrs. Knapp called Fanny over to the organ to listen to a new melody she had just composed. After playing the tune a few times, she asked, “What do you think the tune says?”
”Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” answered Fanny, drawing from her phenomenal mental storage of scripture. She then continued: “Oh what a foretaste of glory divine, Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”
Fannie knew all about blessed assurance…from six weeks of age until her death shortly before her 95th birthday…Fanny was blind. Sadly, the blindness was caused by medical error when a doctor applied a mustard poultice to her inflamed eyes from a cold inflection resulting in immediate blindness.
“My blindness gives me a tremendous appreciation for the 2nd and 3rd verses that have to do with sight: Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest; Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.”
Once a preacher sympathetically remarked, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you.” Fanny quickly replied, “Do you know that if at birth I have been able to make one petition, it would’ve been that I should be born blind?” “Why?” asked the surprised minister. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him"
I find this scripture interesting because it contains more than what it appears on the surface. What we eventually learn from these words is that our entire spiritual journey is not only built upon our faith, but also is the means by which we exist spiritually from one day to the next. The quality of our spiritual life ultimately depends on HOW we embrace faith- on a Daily Level. As we learn to live a life of faith, we realize faith is not conditional. There are not times when our faith guides us, and times when it doesn’t. It becomes a part of our core where decisions are made, therefore our faith cannot be turned on and off at will. Either we are spiritual and live by faith, or we are not. There is no in-between. Living by faith is a maturing process. We soon learn living by faith means trusting God in every situation whether it is to our liking or not. When we live with conditional faith, we soon discover constant disappointment with God which will plague our spiritual growth; because God does not work in human terms nor in human ways. He works His work on His terms, which are much different and wiser than ours. The sooner we recognize the futility of bargaining with God in matters of faith, the sooner we will begin enjoying our faith journey. What God does in our lives is ultimately to His glory, and to our greater good as His children. So, let’s stop resisting the work of God in our lives and see it for what it is; Him moving our hearts through our struggles into the heart of Jesus - so we can bring glory to Him. Therefore, as you embrace your spiritual struggles, you will see the work of God unfold in your life.
Following a recent conversation, in which we were discussing the goodness and wisdom of God, I was given permission to share this story.
As I was conversing with Aaron Ellis concerning his recent back issues, something in both of our hearts began to surface. Instantaneously, we began sharing how God’s Fingerprints are evident in our lives, and how His loving care is never far from us. Aaron shared an interesting perspective which solidified this point. As Aaron and Rose moved into their new home in Linden, Aaron quickly noticed (with his doctor observation skills), judging by the amount of safety rails and a stair elevator, one or both of the previous owners had suffered with obvious health issues. Aaron mentioned his first thought, once settled into the house, was to remove this “equipment,” but today he is glad he did not do it. Recently, as Aaron has experienced severe back issues, various thoughts concerning his future capabilities, as well as Rose’s care, took center stage in his mind. He contemplated several options, and even considered building a house on land connected to Will and his family, which would supply family support and secondary assistance. As Aaron weighed his future possibilities, a light suddenly illuminated in his mind. The house that God had led them to (which they currently occupy), has everything Aaron and Rose need in this current moment. Unfortunately, because of his condition, he discovered a use for all of the support amenities his house has. He said although he didn’t need them when he purchased the house, he is thankful that God led them to that house and had it “readied” for the day when Aaron would need it. At this, both of our voices began to quiver as we realized how our God had orchestrated this all, knowing what was coming in the Ellis’ future.
How many times have you seen God active in your life, or used you in an obvious way as his vessel? Both Aaron and I are convinced, this happens much more often than we realize, as God is constantly telling us, “I am here taking care of you because I love you, My child.” There is no greater feeling than being “touched” by the creator of the universe.
As I searched for words to express my heart this week, these words emerged from the depths of the spiritual jukebox in my heart. We usually sing this song in preparation for communion; but today there is something about one recurring line in the song, that stands out in my heart. It’s the line in the song that says, “Come share the Lord.”
As we center our attention on the needs of the lost of our city, many thoughts overwhelm our minds. This happens for a number of reasons, from insecurity all the way to expectation. To be honest, they all neatly fit into the category of “apprehension.” We tend to see sharing the gospel somewhat as an adversarial event,
but it’s not. In its simplistic form, we are merely sharing the Lord with those who are seeking the cross. What greater gift can we give another human being than our time and concern for their eternity? I believe if anything, we should be overcome with a sense of apprehension only because it is a “holy ground” moment (perhaps our attention is in the wrong direction). We appear to be more concerned about the reaction of the individual, than we are about representing a Holy and Righteous God. Whatever the mental roadblock, I assure you it was put there by Satan. God has been trying to get us to understand that the message of the cross is greater than any roadblock Satan can put in our way. The best advice for all of us would be to remove our pride and expectations from the equation, and simply focus on “Sharing the Lord.” I’m convinced when we do this (which is our part), the power of God will do the rest. Can you think of anything greater than getting a front row seat to a soul surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Personally, I can’t. I pray the words of the song will serve as a motivator by giving us all the courage to “Share the Lord” with the lost.
On the surface of the Western mind, we really don’t see an issue with this directive from Jesus. He sent His disciples to meet a man carrying water, who will show them where they were to eat the Passover meal. Notice in the text the room has not only been identified by this man, but the room itself already has been prepared for the meal. Let’s not read over all of this too quickly, or we will miss the greatness of God at work. Before we take a closer look into Mark 14:13, I want you to pause and contemplate three things in the text that we usually read without giving it much thought. First, there is a man carrying water who is looking for the disciples. His task is to take them to the room where Jesus and the disciples will eat the Passover. Lastly, when he takes them there, everything is already prepared and awaiting Jesus and the Twelve. How did all of this happen? See what I mean? Sometimes we need to slow down and drink deeply from the text.
Back to the man carrying water - what’s the big deal? Let’s first consider this, as a little background music for the text. During Passover, an estimated 2 million Jews cram into the city (wall to wall people), so in human congestion of this magnitude, how can you expect to find anyone? Look for a man carrying water. Once again notice the wisdom of God at work. The carrying of water usually was considered woman’s work. It was common for them to carry water, but few men performed this task. Of those males who carried water on a semi-regular basis, they were either slaves, or Essenes. Water carrying was commonplace for these two groups of men, however neither of these fulfilled the reference Jesus gave the disciples. When the disciples carefully followed His directions, this guy stood out like a sore thumb; and they successfully executed the task they were given. They could have complained about the difficulty of finding anyone in such a crowded place, but they didn’t. They followed Jesus, and everything was as He said. Perhaps there is a lesson somewhere in there for all of us, as He instructs us through His word.
It goes without saying, the religious landscape has changed considerably since Covid-19. For some reason, churches have been the hardest hit, with many closing. In fact, for those who survived, many are still attempting to recover (three years later). No one can put a finger on exactly what happened, and why Covid-19 seems to be the definitive line in the sand-but here we are. That describes what happened inside the religious world. On the outside, the picture is even more grim. On the surface, it appears there has been a general shift among the populace away from God, and anything that represents Him. The challenge of the church to reach the lost for Christ, appears to be greater now than ever before. This has left those interested in evangelism paralyzed because we just can’t figure out how to ”crack the code.” Surely, there must be someone out there who is interested in God. It’s hard to conceive all among the lost have contemplated their relationship (or lack thereof) with God; and decided “no thank you” to God and his kingdom.
With all this said, there are two facts that remain. First, nothing happens without the full knowledge and permission of God. Second, the call of Jesus in Matthew 28 (known as the Great Commission) still remains. In 2023, the words of Jesus to seek and save the lost, remain our marching orders and we are dedicating 2023 to answer that call. For the next few Wednesday nights, we are dedicating our time to learning how to become more effective in reaching the lost. We now have printed materials, which when combined with techniques we are learning, makes us all confident in personally sharing the gospel. This is something new, which has us excited about the future of the congregation. We are hoping all members of the congregation will participate in making this a huge success. All the pieces are now in place. All that is missing is YOU. Won’t you come and join us in embracing the call of God?
See you Wednesday night!
The story is told of two shoe salesmen with totally different outlooks. The first salesman went to Africa. Upon arriving, he noticed none of the people were wearing shoes. Seeing no opportunities for his product, he packed his things and headed back home. Once there, as he was sharing the details of his experience with some of his salesman co-workers; one of them overheard the conversation, went to the boss and convinced him to send him back to the very place the other salesman had just left. Once there, he too looked around and noticed no one was wearing shoes, so instead of looking at the situation from the negative, as did his co-worker, he instead took a positive approach, and saw the potential for selling a village full of shoes. Once he arrived back home, he was bombarded by co-workers wanting to know the details of his experience- expecting it to sound much like the other salesman's. Instead of complaining about what he found when he arrived, he excitedly told those listening about the wonderful opportunity and the overwhelming success he had selling shoes to the entire village.
The moral of the story is two guys with the same product, went to the very same place, and saw two different opportunities, because they looked with two different perspectives. The only difference was their attitude. It’s easy to complain about what we see and conclude the situation to be a hopelessly lost cause, as did the first salesman. However, those who look through the eyes of possibility see past what is, to what can be, with just a change of attitude. Perhaps this is a good lesson for us to remember as the congregation advances into the new year- which is full of untold possibilities, because the God of endless possibilities is leading the charge.