Desiring a Psalm 71 perspective

Daily Readings: Judges 11-12, Mark 12, Psalm 71

As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Psalm 71:14-21

My wife and I were sitting on the back porch recently talking about some of the questions I would love to ask God one day in Heaven. There are so many things I would love answers to. There are so many circumstance in life, in the world, and throughout the Bible where I would love to be able to sit across from God and ask, “Why did it have to unfold that way? What was the bigger picture reasoning there? Was that event from you for a purpose or was it simply something you allowed as the result of us living in a broken and fallen world?”

I think we have all probably been there. Two days later I came to Psalm 71.

God has a great way of speaking to us in the moment through his word when we choose to listen. It never ceases to amaze me.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.

I want this to be the unceasing posture of my heart. I want to be a person who praises God and tells of his righteous deeds regardless of whether or not I feel equipped with all the answers. I want to be singing his praises even if I cannot understand how to relate them all.

It is so natural as a Christian in our modern world to feel uneasy sharing what God has done in our lives because we feel the need to be able to articulately answer any question that might be thrown our way. The desire to be an expert has crippled so many potential evangelists. We want to be experts first and THEN we will share our faith with others around us. Contemplating what we might say when the tough questions come can be absolutely paralyzing.

Psalm 71 goes on to say:

Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

This is one of the ever-present struggles that most Christians have relating to God’s ways. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why was this challenge put in my life or allowed in my life or in the lives of people I care about?

It can be so difficult in these tough times to remember that we have a Father in Heaven that will always restore. What we are going through, while extremely difficult at times, is temporary. God’s restoration will be eternal. His comfort will never end.

I want to live like Psalm 71.

I want to always have hope. I want to always praise him more and more. I want to tell of his marvelous deeds and declare his power to the next generation. I want the emotional strength and spiritual maturity to do all of this through all circumstances, not just the good. I know this level of perspective and spiritual maturity can only come from a deep, intimate, daily relationship with God. It is something we must desire so strongly that we are willing to pursue it the same way we pursue the other tangible desires of our heart.

It is worth the pursuit.

Thought to ponder

What has occasionally held me back from sharing the miraculous deeds of God, praising him more and more, and sharing him with the next generation?

You have a voice

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 13-14, 1 Corinthians 14, Psalm 49

For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19

Truth be told, I have always spent much more time throughout my life as a Christian with 1 Corinthians 12 talking about different gifts and how they are all valuable along with 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul says they are all of them are worthless without love. These tend to be far more focused on as sermon topics. It feels good to hear the statement that we are all valuable contributors to the kingdom in our different strengths and nobody would ever disagree with the power of love.

However, 1 Corinthians 14, that is a different story. I tended to skim over that one.

For the longest time, in my walk with Christ, I would hear other people talk about their gifting and say things along the lines of, “I don’t really have the gift of evangelism or discipleship. I feel that God has called me more to…” followed by all sorts of gifts that don’t involve actively sharing our faith with others. Many people would reference praying for others (but silently because I have never been good at praying out loud), generating financial resources that can be used for kingdom building purposes, just living my life in a God honoring way that will rub off on others, etc.

I bought into this quickly, because it was always far more comfortable for me to pray silently on occasion, make money and donate, “lead a good Christian life”, etc. Leave evangelism to those who have that gift! Maybe I am just not a mouth in the body of Christ, but more of a hand. All parts are necessary, right?

In first Corinthians 14 today we see Paul address this head on.

He doesn’t say, “Stop speaking in tongues because that is not a valuable gift.” He says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.”

Whatever spiritual gifts you feel you have been blessed with, lean into those! Do those with extreme consistency and conviction. However, Paul suggests today that we should also be intentional about praying out loud, encouraging people, and sharing our faith with others in a way that they can actually internalize.

It is wonderful to pray every morning for your brother-in-law that God would open his heart, but you should also talk to him about the love of Christ.

It is great to be constantly lifting up that co-worker in prayer and asking that their heart would be open, but you should also invite them over for dinner, make a sincere effort to build a deeper relationship with them, and eventually invite them to visit a small group, church, or event where they could be exposed to Christianity in a tangible way.

Donating money to help overseas missionaries and praying for them constantly is fantastic! I have no doubt that they appreciate your support financially and through prayer. However, it is also important to take any opportunity possible to communicate with them how much you value the work they are doing whether and asking if there are any other ways you can support them. These interactions might be through Skype, email, letters, or however possible depending on the region of the world they are in. Whatever the method, words of encouragement are powerful!

Praying silently for a brother or sister in Christ to receive mental, emotional, or physical healing is a great thing to do, but don’t be afraid to lay hands on them as well and pray out loud. You have no idea what God might stir up in their heart as a result of your willingness to step out there and take a risk for the Kingdom of God.

I spent a large percentage of my life avoiding these types of activities. It was simply far more comfortable for me to pray silently, donate money, and go about my life without putting myself in a situation where I could feel the sting of rejection or perceived failure.

This doesn’t mean that you now go stand on a street corner with a sign, but rather that you are willing to put yourself out there for Jesus. Sometimes this might be a longer process. It might take a long time pursuing a genuine relationship with that co-worker that eventually gets to the point where you are able to share the gospel with them.

The problem with the concepts of evangelism, discipleship, and building genuine relationships, is we want them all to look like a single scene in a movie. We want the type of evangelism where someone goes from not believing in God all the way over to giving his or her life over to Christ in the midst of a 5-minute conversation where the gospel is shared. We want the scene to be set perfectly, the mood to be right, and the transformation to be obvious and complete!

Then we immediately discount ourselves as not having the ability to pull that off.

Real evangelism can take time. True discipleship is hard. Walking with fellow believers in an authentic, vulnerable, and spirit led way, is scary. Building stronger relationships to the point where you are able to go deeper in your faith together and be where you can be a tangible source of support and encouragement along their walk, is a process.

This isn’t Hollywood. We are not filming an hour and thirty-minute feel good movie targeted at Christians about a conversion story. This is life. It is ok if it takes time. Simply be willing and open to how the Spirit moves you to advance the plot.

Never allow yourself to believe the lie that you were simply not created to share with others. Don’t ever accept the attack that your voice will not be heard and that you will lack the right words to say. Reject the notion that you are not qualified, ill equipped, the wrong messenger, etc.

In the body of Christ, some of us are an eye, some an ear, some a foot or a hand…but we are all called to be a mouth from time to time. We are all called to use our voice for the good of others. This may take vastly different forms with all of us, but you were given a voice for the Kingdom.

Don’t be afraid to use it.

Thought to ponder

When was the last time I had the opportunity to pray over someone or with someone, be a source of encouragement, or share the gospel; but allowed fear and insecurity to cause me to hold back? Who is one person in my life that God is calling me to actively pursue for him?

Do it while scared

Daily Readings: Numbers 21-22, 1 Corinthians 2

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 

Fear is one of the greatest weapons the enemy has that keeps many potential marketplace missionaries on the sidelines. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t believe me? What if they have questions I don’t have the answers to? What will they think about me if I bring up Jesus?

When it comes to people that do not yet know Jesus, Paul would argue you are exactly where God wants you to be in order to begin reaching out!

Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness, with great fear and trembling. His words were not wise and persuasive. He kept the message simple.

There is beauty in simplicity when talking to new Christians or people that do not yet know Christ. Paul was not trying to give huge lessons on church doctrine. He simply told people that this Jesus character loved them so much that he willingly laid down his own life so that they might have eternal life. He told that that Jesus was God’s son, came down to earth, was crucified for our sins, and on the third day rose from the dead. He came willingly for you and me.

We also see throughout Paul’s letters and through the Book of Acts that Paul is constantly referencing his own conversion story. He is constantly referencing how lost he was and how Jesus made himself known to Paul and radically changed his life.

When we are out in the world, and make the conscious effort to have our radar up, there will always be people that come into our lives who need to discover or rediscover Jesus. Our job is not to be perfect in the way we articulate church doctrine. Our job is to share our own testimony about what Jesus has done in our lives along with the simple message of the cross. God can guide us from there.

If we are willing to be used by God, he can do powerful things through us as marketplace missionaries. It is ok to be a tad bit nervous or even trembling as Paul said! Do it while scared. Action cures fear.

If we wait until we feel like we have every answer, until our fear dies down, until we “feel like it is the right time”, then we inevitably remain on the bench.

Jesus wants us in the game.

So have your radar up this week. Look for the people that God may have placed in your path for a reason. Don’t be afraid to share the gospel and your testimony over a cup of coffee with that person you have been nervous about talking to.

At first it is terrifying and then becomes easier and easier every time you do it. Eventually you realize that God has it under control and that the people you were so afraid to share with are not as scary as you pictured.

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Do it while scared.

Thought to ponder

What has kept me back from sharing my own story with others along with the simple message of what was accomplished on the cross through Jesus’ death and resurrection?

Sharing with the Romans

Daily Readings – Exodus 35-36, Psalm 29, Romans 3

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:19-24

I love Romans. It is so incredibly rich all of the way through.

You can tell early in Romans that Paul is speaking to an audience of intellectual skeptics. He is speaking to the type of crowd that is always ready with the next, “Yeah, but what about…” trying to poke holes in every facet of the gospel.

As marketplace missionaries, I think we can all relate to that!

The letters from Paul to the various churches provides us with so much amazing ammo if we truly seek to win over the hearts and minds of people within out sphere of influence to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

You can almost hear the peppering of questions from the Romans that prompted this portion of the letter.

“But Paul, I am a pretty good guy! I love my wife and kids. I generally try to do the right thing. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why is it necessary to have faith in Jesus? Why would a loving God put in this extra step? Why would a loving God not allow good people into Heaven based on not believing in Jesus? Isn’t that a bit narrow? If all that is required to have salvation is faith in Jesus, why did God ever lay out all of his laws in the first place?”

Paul responds simply and powerfully. The law gives us the ability to look in the mirror and become conscious of our sin. It gives us the chance to say, “Darn, I guess I do have some shortcomings. I guess Paul was right when he said that we have all fallen short of the glory of God.”

Without God laying out how he wants us to live in painstaking detail, we would all be left with that vague notion that “I am a pretty good guy. Isn’t that enough?”

The law is there is for us. But thankfully, so is Jesus.

The law convicts us in the fact that we could never earn salvation because there will always be an area in our lives where we fall short. The law points us to the fact that faith in Jesus is our only true hope. And that hope is given freely so that none of us could say that we earned it. It is given freely to all to show God’s love and righteousness. That is incredibly good news!

I love this portion of Romans because it not only speaks powerfully the fundamental truth of the gospel, but it also gives us a blueprint for how we should approach evangelism with skeptics.

I love being able to share Christ with folks that are struggling in their life and already know they are missing something. So many of them are ready and willing to hear the truth. I love planting seeds in this fertile soil that Jesus talked about in Matthew. I struggle, however, having the desire to go after the intellectual skeptic. I am nervous chasing after the person I know is going to try to pick my argument apart. I have complete confidence in my own faith, but will I be able to articulate it well to them? Will I be able to answer their questions effectively enough to win them over? What if they ask tough questions I am not equipped to answer?

It is so easy to head down that path of “What if…?” and never reach out to the Romans in our own lives.

God wants us to be brave. God wants us to exam our own faith, spend time in his word, and dive deeper into his truth each and every day to not only continue our own transformation, but also to equip us with knowledge for the Romans.

That being said, it is hard to ever feel fully equipped. It is easy to rationalize not talking to the skeptic “until I am more ready”.

We worship a God who is big enough to prepare the heart of a skeptic if it is his will that they be reached at this moment in time. We worship a God that wants to help us with our words if we would just have faith the size of a mustard seed that he will be there to help us if we want to share the story of his amazing love.

Paul states the gospel in a beautifully simple way today. It is something we should all commit to memory when dealing with the skeptics in our lives.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

We have all fallen short and will continue to do so. God loves us so much and wanted every single one of us in Heaven with him so badly that he sent his only son and gave the gift of redemption freely away. We don’t have to earn it through striving, but rather through submitting and accepting of the free gift.

That is incredibly good news and news worth sharing!

Thought to ponder

What has held me back from speaking with boldness to the “Romans” in my own life? Who is one person God is calling me to share his love with?

Thank you to everyone who has continued to comment on these posts. It is a great source of encouragement! And if you have ever wondered what happens when you share a post, the site averages over 20 additional views for each share on Facebook. So if a post speaks to you and you think it is worth sharing, some of your friends actually do take the time to come and read it! Thank you again for your support. It means a lot.

Unashamed

Daily Readings: Exodus 31-32, Romans 1

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” 

Romans 1:16-17, 21-24

 This devotional was originally created to challenge people to become missionaries wherever God has called them in their lives. It was started to help people lean in to their role as marketplace missionaries, recognizing that not everyone is called into a remote corner of the world to preach the gospel (Thank you to those of you who have been called and faithfully listened!!) but that we are all called to be missionaries.

So I frequently get asked, “How can we do this? How can I be a marketplace missionary?” I believe this begins with embracing these passages from Paul that we read in Romans.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”

If you were to ask most practicing Christians if they are ashamed of the gospel they would immediately say, “No! Of course not! I just think there is a time and place for it and you need to tread lightly while at work.”

There are two simple questions that every Christian should ask themselves in regards to being a more effective marketplace missionary.

  1. Does everyone I work with know I am Christian, and not just in the cultural sense where I head to church each Sunday, but that I absolutely chase after Jesus and allow that relationship to inform all that I do?
  2. Do they see me actively engaged in doing the work that Jesus challenged us to do here on earth; caring for the poor, helping the marginalized, and sharing the good news of grace by faith?

Would other people say that you are unashamed?

Shame is natural. Shame is human. It is the #1 weapon of the enemy. We all get that knot in our stomach putting ourselves out there. Every time I go to post a blog on social media anywhere, Satan whispers little lies in my ear.

“Are you posting too much? They know where to find your blog if they actually care to read it. You have over 1,000 Facebook “friends” and how many will even take the time to click “like”, 4, 5, maybe 6? What are the rest thinking? You know you have a lot of agnostic and atheist friends, right? You run a company. Shouldn’t you be a little more careful to not alienate potential clients with your social media presence?”

Every time I am speaking at a secular conference, on a leadership development call, etc. Satan is there with his wonderful words of encouragement…

“Do you really want to reference that on this call? Really? Prayer? Time with God in the morning? Surrendering to his will? Half the people on this call will tune out as soon as you go down that path. That is not what this call is for. Shouldn’t you be saving that type of advice for the people you already know follow Jesus?” 

Shame comes. It is inevitable. To be a marketplace missionary means doing battle with this shame. It means equipping ourselves with the truth of the gospel so that we can respond:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes!” –Romans 1:16

Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” –Matthew 4:10 

A funny thing happens when you lean into your own discomfort and live transparently for Christ…people respond.

I am not overbearing in the way I share my faith, but it is always present. People know where I stand and why I do what I do in my life. I am always attempting to rally people to the cause of giving their lives over to Christ, submitting fully to his will throughout the day, allow the spirit to work through them, having faith that God will provide, taking his yoke upon us, caring deeply about social justice and caring for the oppressed, etc.

Being a marketplace missionary means living unashamed of the gospel in all phases of life and not just with Christian friends.

Now, this doesn’t mean swinging the pendulum to the point where you are standing on a street corner with a sign condemning everyone to hell. Hearts need to be won over. No one has ever come to Christ because of us condemning them. Hearts are won over by the message of the extreme undeserved grace that God showered down on us in all of our brokenness. Hearts are won over when people are able to see us living a vulnerable life and willing to share the challenges, heartaches, and weaknesses we have without cleaning it up first for public consumption.

People are more attracted to the gospel through your unfiltered brokenness than your amazing charisma. In our brokenness we can share about God’s love. In our brokenness, God’s perfect plan can be beautifully revealed.

So start by being unashamed. Share an occasional Bible verse in a meeting, have your Bible sitting on your desk, share the occasional blog post on social media, let the world know you are Christian and unashamed. It doesn’t have to be overbearing. I am incredibly close friends with lots of people that do not follow Christ. They are not turned off by my faith because I respect them exactly where they are at and love them regardless.

Then live out the Christian faith and serve others first instead of chasing after what society tells us makes us a success. There is no more powerful example you can set!

Thought to ponder

How can I make the answer to the questions above, a more resounding “YES!”?

Thank you to everyone who has continued to comment on these posts. It is a great source of encouragement! And if you have ever wondered what happens when you share a post, the site averages over 20 additional views for each share on Facebook. So if a post speaks to you and you think it is worth sharing, some of your friends actually do take the time to come and read it! Thank you again for your support. It means a lot.

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