A Reformed Congregation. Sierra View Presbyterian Church, Fresno, California

Category: Wednesday’s Words (Page 1 of 2)

On Seeing Jesus

Sirs, we would see Jesus” – John 12:21

 The chapel on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary is the first things a visitor will notice. For good reason, too. It’s magnificent. Colonial style, pretty wooden pews, red carpets, the whole deal. Most notable, however, is the pulpit. It’s obnoxiously elevated. Imagine our own sanctuary about half the width. Then imagine a 10-foot high pulpit in the middle, with a set of stairs on either side. Like I said, it’s obnoxiously elevated for a sanctuary that size.

But on that pulpit is an indelible reminder to anyone who steps foot into that hallowed space. “Sirs, we would see Jesus.” Those words are stamped onto a copper plate about the size of a business card, but they scream in significance. The little placard on the massive pulpit made sure we poor students felt the constant prodding of our professors, “Whatever you do and say, give ‘em Jesus.”

The story of Christmas morning is filled with lowly servants and kings in high places. Consistently, as they come from places everywhere, they are compelled by a desire to see Jesus. The shepherds hear the angelic choir and run to the stable. The kings of the orient follow the star, gifts in hand. They have all come to see Jesus. Even Herod seeks Him, although for more sinister reasons.

In John 12, Jesus is an adult not very far from the cross. In that chapter gentile people come to Philip and utter the most important phrase of their lives, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” What’s remarkable, however, is Jesus’ response. Far from a casual or indifferent remark, Jesus responds to their interest by saying things like, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (a reference to the cross) and “Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (a reference to our devotion to Christ). In effect, Jesus says, “If you want to see Me, then you must know My cross, and you must know the claim I have on your life.”

What does it mean to “see Jesus,” then? It means to come and behold Him, He who is born the king of angels, in His sufferings and demands on our lives. In this, the third week of advent, I wonder if you remember the claim that Jesus has on your life. I wonder if your wonder at His birth reminds you that He will not stay in that manger. That He will soon suffer many things to bring many sons to glory.

To ‘behold’ means to come and see. Come and see what God has done through Jesus Christ, late in flesh appearing. Whatever else He has done for you, he has done so through the cross because He loves you. And because He loves you, the claim He has on your life is for your good and for His glory.

That’s what it means to ‘see Jesus.’ It means to lay down the life that we owe at the foot of the cross in order that, by grace, God will exalt His Son in our midst.

Come to think of it, maybe that highly elevated pulpit wasn’t so obnoxious, after all. Maybe it’s exalted status was a reminder of the One Good Thing: To see Jesus in this life, as the shepherds did, and in the life to come, as sheep.

A Full and Bright Celebration

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord” – Luke 1:46


My family and I recently went down to San Diego and visited my childhood home.  There’s always something about going home, isn’t there?  Memories, good and bad.  All the sights and sounds bring it all back.  For me, those were sweet days.  The nice people who live in that house now saw us awkwardly out front pointing at their home like a group of star-struck tourists.  Remarkably, instead of calling the police, they were kind enough to open their doors to us.


As I stood in the foyer of that house, what came flooding back to me was the joy of Christmas past.  I couldn’t articulate it as a child, but my heart was always full because Christmas was always brightened by the sense of expectation and by the warmth of love.  When I saw the banister and stairway that day, I saw in my mind’s eye three little Peterson kids (of whom I am the youngest) quietly sneaking down to the tree with bated breath.  For whatever reason, that’s the first memory that strikes me when I remember that house.  I consider it a sacred joy.


There’s a passage in Luke 1 known as “The Magnificat” because it begins with the truly sacred joy of young Mary looking expectantly to the very first Christmas saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  That Christmas morn will come soon enough.  But in anticipation, she wants to magnify her Savior, who will occupy the exalted place in that lowly manger.  The word ‘to magnify’ derives from the word ‘mega’, which we can all understand means to ‘make great’.  To make much of something, or to consider something of such magnificent importance that to miss it would be a devastating loss.


The saddest thing about Christmas is that I often make more about Christmas than the Christ of it.  You, too?  That’s what I make much of.  Christmas.  I can be scrooge-like when it comes to Jesus’ magnificence.  There is no joy in missing Christ during the advent season.  After all, ‘He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.’  What joy can there possibly be if we miss that?!


Ah, but there’s Mary to call us back to the truly sacred joy of what is coming.  Not only does she ‘magnify’ the Lord, but she also rejoices in God her savior (1:47).  That’s the thing about advent: it’s all about rejoicing in God!  “Mary, tell me about your memories of that first Christmas.”  Do you think she’d answer that any other way than saying, “Oh, it was all about the bright expectations of Holy Love.  Oh, how our hearts were full.”


My dear friends, in that lowly Bethlehem feeding trough lay the eternal Son of God in frail humanity.  Fully God, fully man.  Holy and Sovereign.  How exactly was Jesus Christ sovereign over the entire universe while being swaddled by the very people created by Him, for Him and through Him?  I don’t know.  But He was.  And He is.  And He forever shall be.  I think that’s why Mary so joyfully magnified the Lord that day.  It was because God told her that she would play a central role in the unfolding of the highest mystery known to both heaven and earth.


More than that, she rejoiced in God and magnified her Savior because God was coming in person to conquer sin and evil, to give freedom to the captives and light to the darkness.  This is truly sacred joy.  Build your celebration this year around the theme of God’s treasured Gift to you.  Approach Him with the same anticipation as a child stumbling from his room on Christmas morning.  You will sense an abiding joy rising within you, because your soul, like Mary, will magnify Him.  May your spirit rejoice in God as you anticipate Christmas, and may your heart be full and your season brightened by the Holy One of Israel.

Abide With Me!

 For reasons unknown to me, I’ve had the great hymn Abide With Me on my mind all week.  If you don’t know it, you ought to.  It’s majestic and moving.  Consider the last line: “Hold thou thy Cross before my closing eyes; Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies!  Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee: In life, in death O Lord, Abide with me!”

 Henry Lyte wrote Abide With Me while he was dying.  His great desire was to preach one more time before his beloved congregation.  He spent his remaining energy doing so,  and as that day drew to an end he handed over a piece of paper with the words of his newest and last hymn: “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.  When other helpers fail, and comforts flee: Help of the helpless, O abide with me!”  Just a few weeks later he died and we’ve been singing his words ever since. Some of us might even remember its performance during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Abide with me. Of all the New Testament writers, the apostle John was particularly interested in the redemptive presence of God with His people.  While Paul focuses much of his Christology on our union with Christ, John (while agreeing with Paul, of course) focuses his attention on Jesus abiding with us.  It was John, for instance, that wrote, “And the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  (John 1:14) By my count, John uses the word ‘abide’ over 30 times in this writings, frequently to say that we abide in God, and that God abides with us.

This is a central teaching of the New Testament.  There is no other religion known to man that promotes the idea of God abiding with people.  How could He, since any concept of God is that He is necessarily holy, and therefore distant?  Yet the Living God, in great mystery and blessing, abides with each and every one of His children in a way that saves them, secures them and guides them.

Is there anything more comforting, more powerful and sacred than the One from whom the angels shield their faces abiding with frail sinners like you and me?  He abides with us not because He is under obligation to do so, but because He is compelled by His love for us.  So great is His love for us that He sings over us as He abides with us in life and death. (Zeph. 3:17).

When did you last spend considerable time in prayer exalting the Triune God because He abides with you?  Isn’t it true that we tend to jump straight to “make your request known to God” without first stopping at, “He made His dwelling among us?”  We tend to ask, “what should I do” at the expense of deep reflection on “Emmanuel, God with Us.”  Sit under the shadow of His presence a while, because God abides with you in victory and triumph.  Henry Lyte was right: Earth’s night is fleeing as heaven’s morning breaks.  But more than that, heaven’s morning brings renewed mercy because He who changes not abides with you in sacred joy and divine love.  He who abides with you desires one thing: His own glory.  Give Him that glory by taking joy in His holy presence with you today.

The God of Peace

 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20

The book of Hebrews, like Mark’s gospel, hits the ground running.  It’s a frenetic pace from beginning to end.  It begins with the declaration that Jesus Christ, through whom God the Father made the world and now speaks, is the heir of all things and the radiance of the glory of God.  Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool!

Some say the book of Hebrews is a massive exposition of Psalm 110, insofar as Jesus is a better high priest than even Melchizedek, who’s name is translated, “King of Righteousness.”  The theme of Jesus’ superiority runs consistently through the entire letter.  So how do you conclude a letter that oozes the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ?  By taking your readers to the three great blessings that summarize New Testament theology: Peace, Resurrection, Great Shepherd.

God is proclaimed to be the “God of peace.”  God is at peace with sinners, and sinners are at peace with God.  Romans 5:1 reminds us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God…”  When sin entered the world through Adam, man became alienated from God and strangers to His kindness.  There is nothing peaceful about alienation.  Nothing gentle about being a stranger.  But that’s what sin had done, and God could not allow alienated sinners to enjoy his presence, unless they come into His presence as ‘covered’ sinners.  The unregenerate will know God only in His vengeance.  Without grace, not one of us would know Him in His peace. Spiritually speaking, we are at peace with God because we are covered in the righteous deeds and holiness of Jesus Christ, which God both requires and provides for us as a gift of His grace.  Therefore, God is called “the God of peace” because His vengeance has been turned away by the Divine Covering of Jesus’ blood.

This covering did not come cheaply.  It required the ‘blood of the eternal covenant.’ Its cost was the life of God’s beloved son.  The cross is the crucible of God’s justice where penalty was paid.  That’s why we can never move our hearts and souls beyond the centrality of the cross.  At the cross, where Sacred Death occurred, we get Jesus’ holiness, he gets our filth.  But we were not made for death.  His death, therefore, would have meant nothing had he not risen from the grave.  Resurrection is the pinnacle of the victory and accomplishment of God  “…who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.”  If the cross is the crucible of Justice, then the empty tomb is hallowed Mercy.

He who was brought up from the grave does not occupy an obscure corner of heaven.  No, he sat down at the right hand of God in glorious ascension to serve as our Great Shepherd.  Interesting, isn’t it, how Jesus referred to Himself as the ‘Good’ shepherd?  But now, at the right hand of God in perpetual exaltation, He is called our ‘Great’ shepherd!  The cherubim shout “holy, holy, holy.”  As our great shepherd, He leads us by the hand into that angelic fellowship, where His own holiness should be our greatest joy.

As your Great Shepherd, may He grant you the very precious satisfaction that He is ‘working in you that which is pleasing in His sight’ until He completes His work on the Day of Glory.

The Confluence of Faithfulness and Availability

“Dwell in the Land and Cultivate Righteousness!”

“Alright, boys…I want you to go out there and be as regular and as ordinary as you can be!”  You ever hear of a coach say such a thing?  Of course not.  No parent tells his child to be regular, any more than a politician tells his constituents that he’s not likely to get anything meaningful done in congress.  We tend to find significance only in the spectacular.

That’s why the pursuit a quiet life of mundane faithfulness (to borrow from a blog) is entirely counter-intuitive to our spectacular-obsessed culture.  Even the Christian subculture has, to a certain extent, bought into the push for personal greatness.

I was reading an entry by a pastor who asked a young man if he wanted to do really great things for the Kingdom of God.  “Absolutely” was the immediate response, followed by clear anticipation of grandeur and heights.  The pastor then pointed to his wife nearby and said, “Marry a woman like that.”  That was it.  Not, “Marry a woman like that…then go do radical things in the amazon.”  Rather, he did something entirely radical in our radicalizing world: he pointed the eager young Christian to regular things. (Side note: some are called to such radical things.  Bless God for that and be encouraged by them.  Most, however, are not).  In effect, the pastor said, “If you want to have the greatest impact for the purposes of God, then live your ordinary life in faithfulness to Him.” That’s true, because believe it or not, most of us are pretty regular people, with average skill levels.  Yet those are the people that God chooses to build His kingdom.  God chose the ‘things that are not’ to bring to nothing the things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:28)  Translation: normal, regular, typical people will be the sharpest tools in God’s box, so that when anything happens to advance the gospel, all glory goes only to God.

We get a peak into the outworkings of this very mandate unto ordinary faithfulness when we find David in Psalm 37:3, “Trust in the Lord and do good.  Dwell in the land and cultivate righteousness.”  The other verses in Psalm 37 get all the press.  Like, “delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  But the overarching concern of the chapter is for a heart that is settled on God, joyfully embracing all His works and promoting righteousness wherever we are.  The mandate to an ordinary Christian life is consistently commended to us in the Scriptures.

Today, some of you will be changing diapers and wondering about your place in the Great Commission.  Others will be cutting lumber or arresting bad guys, and wondering the same thing.  Whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, take a walk or crunch numbers, do all things to the glory of God.  In doing so, you are dwelling in the land and cultivating righteousness.  You’re also positioning yourself to glorify God in the quiet things of life.

You are normal, regular, typical people probably called to an ordinary life.  Don’t buy into the Christian version of pop-culture that tells you that to be significant, you have to be extreme and daring.  You do not.  You need to be faithful and available, because it’s at the confluence of the faithful and the available that God typically shines the brightest for the lasting effects of the Great Commission.

You can ask a lonely shepherd boy in the Hebrew desert, or a virgin teenager in Nazareth.  You can even ask a Pharisee from Tarsus.  They’ll tell you all about faithful, available, ordinary people who grow to love God and change the world.

Seeing Life Through an Eternal Perspective

The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”

I grew up in Southern California, where the sun was always shining and if it was over 3 years old, your car was ancient.  But I wasn’t into cars.  Or even the beach, for that matter.  No, I was into motorcycles.  Dirt bikes, to be precise.  The more dirt, the better.  Mountains, desert.  Didn’t matter.  Just give me a dirt bike and place to ride it, and I was happy.

The older I got, the more important the gear became.  None more so than the goggles to protect my eyes and vision.  I still remember when they came out with new goggles that had the ability to ‘get clean’ as you rode.  You simply pulled a string, and a new, clear lens took its place across the goggle shield, allowing new and perfect vision.

Trouble was, it was easy to forget the string.  After a few hours of riding, the goggles got really clouded over by a layer of dust or mud.  Sometimes we’d be forced to stop and clean our goggles.  Other times we’d stop to rest, remove our goggles and only then see the beauty of our journey thus far.  If only we’d remembered to pull the string, the ride would have been so much more pleasant.

“The Lord in in His holy temple.  And his throne in is heaven.”   In effect, this is the psalmist pulling the string to gain a whole new vision of how things actually are.  It’s important to do that, isn’t it?  Sometimes we need to do that in our personal lives, and take stock of what we’re doing, or what we should be doing and aren’t.  Sometimes we need to do that in the church and ministry, as I have been doing for months, now.  Other times we simply need to put on new goggles and see life through an eternal perspective.

If it’s true that the Lord is in His holy temple, then the next question is, ‘so what?’  What does it matter if the Lord is in His temple?  The answer is, on a fundamental level, ‘it evidently matters to the psalmist, therefore it matters.’  But there are at least 3 far more practical reason that it matters that God is on His throne and that we have the visionary perspective to remember that.

First, it matters because it means that God is happy and exalted.  He is happy in His own being – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He is eternally blessed and self glorifying.  He enjoys being God.  He enjoys blessing His children and creation.  He takes pleasure in the repentance of sinners and in the worship of their multitudes.  It makes Him happy and exalted when His children cry out to him in prayer, because it exalts His throne when we confess our dependence on Him.  This is all true, because God is on His throne.  O the depths of the mysteries of God, that He is increasingly glorified in the perpetual exaltation of his already perfect glory.

Second, it matters because it means God is sovereign.  The same verse (Ps. 11:4) goes on to say that “His eyes see.”  That means He sees and knows all things in His sovereignty.  He knows your future and your fears.  He knows your anxieties and hopes.  And He is sovereign in them, wanting for you to regain a vision of His eternal love, which flows to you from His throne.  As we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

And it matters because it means that you can rest.  One day you will behold Him there.  “The upright shall behold His face.” (Ps.11:7) If God is on His throne in heaven, then you can lay hold of Him there, and enjoy all His benefits.  Nothing in this world, neither height nor depth, nor angels nor principalities, can remove God from His throne.  And when he says that nothing will harm you or bring you to naught, you can rest in that guarantee with the same measure of surety upon which God’s throne is built.

Don’t forget to pull the string, so to speak, and see clearly that God is on His throne with His eyes on you.  This is good news and cause for the humble hearts of His children to rejoice with exceeding gladness!

A Sense of Urgency and Steadafastness

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven

Imagine being away from your church for a while.  Suppose you’ve been transferred by work to another city or state.  It’s a church you love dearly and want to see prosper, because you know that it is strategically placed by God for Kingdom purposes.  Then you ask a friend how the church is doing, and the answer is: “It’s in shambles.  The building was destroyed by thieves, the leaders have all been arrested and the members have virtually nothing to do with each other anymore.”  Devastating.

That’s Nehemiah’s situation in Nehemiah 1.  The Jews have been mostly displaced.  Foreign gods are promoted and worshiped among them.  It’s a time of cultural decay for the Jews, as their homes and place of worship are on the brink, while at the same time the Persian Empire is rising with all manner of pomp and power.  Rome and Greece are not far behind.  The time for being ‘the people of God’ must have seemed like a distant memory.  Everything unravelled for Israel.  Not many of us will face that particular dilemma, but we can all certainly relate to Nehemiah’s sense of dread, fear, anger, isolation or doubt.

That’s what makes Nehemiah’s prayer so convicting.  He is burdened with the conviction to pray earnestly and immediately.  “As soon as I heard these things…”  Do you sense the urgency in Nehemiah?  Jerusalem became a city under siege, with no wall or gate for protection.  A city without a wall is a fish in a barrel.  No safety, no peace.

It’s Nehemiah’s sense of urgency and steadfastness that I want to my soul to lay hold of.  I don’t know about you, but I tend toward vision-casting and long range strategic planning when I grow restless or concerned about something.  Anything, really.  Most especially the church.  In the end, that’s because I feel certain that I can plot my way out of just about anything.  It’s folly.

When Nehemiah was faced with enormous challenges, the kind too big for a man to meet on his own, he instinctively went to the Lord of Hosts in prayer.  He confessed God’s faithfulness and steadfast love (1:5).  He embraced the power and authority of God, and pleaded with Him to be attentive and graciously to give His ear. (1:6). He did so quickly, earnestly and continually (1:2).  And he did so prophetically, interceding for the people  (1:6-7).  Nehemiah knew.  He knew the hard reality that God will often withhold his blessings until the people repent and return ‘to the ancient paths’ of faith and selfless obedience, where promised rest is found (Jeremiah 6:16).

It’s the same with you.  What is your biggest concern?  How’s your marriage or your money?  Maybe your cup runneth over in both.  Or, then again, maybe you have neither.  How about your career or children?  Whatever weighs heaviest on your heart, you need to remember that God is bigger, His purposes are more far-reaching and His thoughts are above yours.  Immediately go to Him in prayer, seek the tenderness of His sweet presence, and remember the ancient paths.  As we do so as a church and on behalf of one another, Nehemiah-like, then we can expect God to prove Himself faithful and merciful, and the people of God will sing with joy.  Will you be Nehemiah for this generation, that the church will be lit, as with fire?  Let it begin with us.  Let it begin with me. This is my prayer for our church.

Very lovingly,

Pastor Brian


Lord, Glorify Yourself Through Me

Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given Him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given to Him.” John 17:1-2

The Gospel of John, known sometimes simply as The Fourth Gospel, is different from the other three.  John alone accounts for certain events in the life of Christ, while only he leaves others out.  For example, the other three gospels record Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as the final moment of intimate and personal preparation for the Awful Errand that awaited Him.  But John is different.  He records what the others leave out, namely, The High Priestly.  It’s a sacred moment of a veil being pulled back and we are granted front row privilege into the heart of the soon-to-be-betrayed Jesus.  When He is done, Jesus will walk out of that upper room, across the Kidron Valley and into the appointed place where Judas will bring his friends.

It’s a weighty moment for our Lord.  So He prays.  Even a cursory glance at John 17 reveals that Jesus first prays for Himself, then for His disciples, and then for all of us.  But there is an apparent burden that undergirds all of it.  Like a foundation beneath the house, if you like.  Jesus is committed to the glory of His Father through His own glorification, which will come through sacrifice.  “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”

To give glory to God means, among other things, to ascribe Him worthiness through our worship and devotion.  That is, God is worthy of all praise and adoration, and a lot of it.  An eternity-full of it.  To give glory to God is say to Him, “You, O Lord, are worthy of my praise and devotion, and I must decrease so that my affection for you may increase.”  To do so is to put God squarely at the center of our considerations in this life.

This is Jesus’ concern in The High Priestly Prayer.  He wants the Father to be exalted, or lifted up, because He is worthy.  And what He wants for Himself is to be used up by God in that endeavor. “Glorify Me, so that I may glorify You.”  Everything for Jesus, even His own sufferings and His own glory, centers on and flows toward the majesty of God.

If you keep a prayer journal (I don’t, but it’s a good idea!), look back and see how often your prayer life centers on this: “Lord, glorify yourself through me.”  God is glorified in the intentional, selfless undoing of our own interests for the sake of His kingdom purposes.  These kingdom purposes include the mundane and the ordinary, which is often the most difficult place to trust God, isn’t it?  This decreasing of the self (John 3:30) comes only through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit, as God pours out His grace in your soul.  The hour has come for God to be glorified in you.  Is your soul prepared to glorify Him by advancing His purposes through the defeat of your own?  This is my prayer for our beloved church this week.

Press on,

Pastor Brian


Make Room in Your Hearts

Make room in your hearts for us.

Have you ever had a person in your life that you know is hurting, but it’s hard for you to feel compassion toward them?  Maybe someone who is a little harder for you to love than someone else is?  Amazing, isn’t it, how God frequently puts those very people in our lives?  Why do you suppose He does that?

The apostle Paul had a special relationship with the Corinthian church.  He wrote at least 2 important letters to them, and one other that is now lost.  The two letters we have are, of course, known as 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In them, Paul is at times firm and direct, and at other times he is tender and gentle.  What a fine pastor!  But there is something else that can be discerned in Paul’s letters to his Corinthian friends: he pleads with them.

Maybe he had a strained relationship with some of the members of the church there.  He knows there are some in their church that are a little harder to love.  And apparently it’s a two way street.  There are some in the Corinthian church who might respect Paul, but they seem to have a hard time loving him.

So in the middle of his great announcement about the triumph of Christ and that we are the heirs of His promises, Paul says, “Make room in your hearts for us.” (2 Cor. 7:2).  There is a fuller context in which he says, in effect, ‘when I think of you, my joy is overflowing.’  But in our verse he pleads with them, ‘make room for me in your own hearts, too.’

God is deeply concerned with the unity of the brethren and that every Christian  make room for another in our hearts.  Jesus even prayed specifically for you and me, “That they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us…”  (John 17:21a) Unity and love for one another does not always take the shape of uniform opinion.  In fact, it probably never does.  But because we are all made in God’s image, and by grace are restored to His family, we all have a common inheritance and a common connection.  That means that we must take care to make room in our hearts for every son or daughter of God that He brings into our lives.  And we must run from the temptation of shutting some out because they are less comfortable to us.

You understand, don’t you, that when you make room for something, it means you have to move one thing out of the way on behalf of the other?  Who can you make room for in your heart this week?  Is your heart too crowded with affection for lesser things like personal preferences or reputation?  My love for this world can crowd out my love for God and His people.  You too?  Pray for them.  Serve them and reach out to them.  Look for the work of God in them, and your joy will overflow in them.

Jesus knows that there is an evangelistic component to our affection for one another “…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21b).  This is my prayer for our beloved church this week, that we may experience the joy of making room for one another in our hearts, and that through our sacrificial love, God will build His church.

Keep pressing, my brethren.

Very warmly yours,

Pastor Brian

Then I Went Into the Sanctuary of God

Then I called on the Name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:4

 My brethren,

I love Psalm 116 because I can’t miss seeing myself in the Psalmist’s experience.  He is struggling.  The things of this world appear to have overcome him.  He says, in verse 3, “The snares of death encompassed me, the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me.   I suffered distress and anguish.”  I have been in that place.  Distress and anguish, the snares of death.  Feeling like nightfall and separation have laid hold of me.  It’s a tough place to be, isn’t it?  I’m certain many of the saints reading this will readily agree that they too feel as though they personally know the Psalmist’s troubles, here.

Something similar is happening in Psalm 73, in which the Psalmist says, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped, for I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  (Vs. 2-3).  He goes on, then, to describe what he sees in this world: the ease with which the wicked move through this life.  They overflow with pleasures, and seem to have no troubles at all.  No justice.  No harshsips.  Just ease and happiness.  You can hear Asaph’s wrath toward them, “Their tongue struts through the earth.” (Vs. 9)  Indeed, he even concludes, “All in vain have I kept my heart pure.”  Translation: what’s the point of all this heavenly-minded business, anyway?  Look at them.  All their fancy cars and fine dining.  And they’re happy and care-free, too.

What do you notice about Asaph’s perspective?  Where is his focus?  It’s on the things of this world.  He has taken his eyes off of the Living God, and has found that his heart is in turmoil.  Chaos abounds because he is concerned about the pleasures of this world, and he jealous for them.

Until verse 17, “Then I went into the sanctuary of God.”  That’s when everything changes.  So, too, in our Psalm 116.  Distress and anguish have encompassed the author.  “Then I called on the name of the Lord. “  From that moment on, everything changes.  “Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Ps. 116:7)

Did you catch that?  As in Psalm 73, where Asaph is distressed until he regains his vision of who God is, here a return to God-centered devotion produces the sweetest fruit in all the cosmos: a soul that is at rest in God.

The chaos of this life is still abounding, isn’t it?  Lots of stress points for all of us.  Loneliness, sadness, distress and anguish.  It’s chaotic.  But it’s only chaotic when our eyes are pulled down and off of our Savior.  But when we call on the Name of the Lord, He gives us a soul at rest.  That’s why the author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith.” (Heb 12:2)  This is prayer for you today: Keep your eyes on Him, that you may gain a soul at rest.

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