Friday, December 14, 2018

Serving in Fullness of Spirit

Sometimes we serve in fullness of spirit. Everything and everyone we touch turns to championships, MVP trophies, renewed contracts, and dynamic ministry opportunities. David, the psalm-writing-king of Israel, expresses such thoughts in Psalm 23. I hope my view of the psalm through a sports chaplain’s lens gives you a chuckle or inspires a knowing nod of approval, because you have experienced the same.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

As surely as the psalmist exulted in the Lord’s guidance, provision, and pleasantness, we share the same experience. His looks like shepherding, green grass, and cool, clean water. Ours looks like new team gear, access to the locker room, a sideline pass, and regular meetings with players and coaches.

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even when we tire, we sense the Lord’s favor as He restores our inmost beings. We can hear Him directing the paths of our feet into fruitful relationships, to wise friends and colleagues, and to new opportunities to represent Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

When we serve in fullness of spirit it seems nothing can touch us. It seems like we could walk through hell-fire in a gasoline suit and we wouldn’t even smell of smoke. We fear nothing and no one because our hearts are full of Jesus-courage. We feel like the Lord Himself is striding along with us through the offices, locker rooms, stadiums, and training facilities with His rod and staff prepared for protective action. There is nowhere too tough or too scary for those who wear the Lord’s anointing.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Those who serve in fullness of spirit have a perpetual feast. Even better, we have the seat of honor, and all the haters are relegated to spectator status. We’re seated at the table, the Lord’s presence is dripping from us, and our cup of refreshment is always brimming over onto our fingers. Delicious!

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

As we revel in the Lord’s presence, full of His Spirit, rich with loving relationships and vibrant experiences, we can’t even recall the lean, painful, and despairing days of our past. Goodness and lovingkindness seem to be chasing me throughout the day, though I’m happy to let them catch me. We feel the glorious weight of eternity in the here and now. Dwelling in His presence, today and forever, is our life’s new normal.

I pray you experience days, weeks, months, even years like David describes in Psalm 23.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Serving in Weakness and Flesh

As much as we would like to deny it. As much as we may protest that it’s not true. As much as we might posture that we never do so, we must confess that we often find ourselves serving in weakness and mostly in our flesh. We are incurably human, though indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of Christ Jesus. We who are honest certainly find ourselves occasionally expressing our hearts as David, the psalmist king, did in Psalms 32 and 51.

Both of these psalms have, as their backdrop, the ugly episode of David’s lethargy, lust, adultery, deception, and conspiracy to murder. These psalms are his expressions of grief, remorse, confession, and repentance. They are reflective of our hearts on many occasions.

Though the backstory is the same, David begins these psalms differently. In Psalm 32 he speaks objectively, but in 51 he speaks in first person, begging for mercy.

Psalm 32
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Psalm 51
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.

I would imagine the writing of Psalm 32 preceded the writing of Psalm 51. I generally have a more objective view of sin at first, then feel the weight of it much more personally, later. Perhaps you experience the same thing as David and I.

In Psalm 32, David’s objectivity is soon erased and he describes the effects, physical and emotional, of his sinful silence and broken relationship with the Lord. In Psalm 51, he focuses even more tightly on his guilt and God’s righteous judgment of his personal sin. In both psalms, the remedy for this brokenness is confession.

Psalm 32
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. 

Psalm 51
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

After 52 years of following Christ Jesus, I have a terribly sensitive conscience. I find my spirit convicted by sin, overt and secret, very often. I am much quicker to confess and slower to rationalize today than I was even ten years ago. I embrace my personal weakness and repent of my fleshly rebellion more readily now. Is this your experience?

As the psalms progress, the psalmist makes an appeal to his readers, followed by an expression of trust in God; he also asks the Lord to clean his heart, to renew his spirit, to not banish or abandon him, to restore his soul’s joy, and to sustain his spirit.

Psalm 32
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 51
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.

Even in our weakness, in our error, in our rebellious flesh, we can hear the Lord’s voice calling us to a restored relationship. Let’s pray to him in a time when He may be found. Let’s ask Him to create clean hearts in us, to renew our spirits with steadfastness, to restore our joy, to sustain our spirits with willingness. In so doing, we will find Him to be our hiding place, our preservation from trouble, and we’ll find ourselves surrounded by a symphony of deliverance songs.

As we serve the men and women, the boys and girls of sport, let’s pay attention to our soul’s condition. If we are serving in the weakness of our flesh, let’s turn to the Lord, confess, repent, and trust Him to restore us in mercy and grace. Rather than rationalizing and appealing to pop psychology, let’s pour out our hearts, as did the psalmist, and trust Him to embrace us as His dearly loved children. For such we are.