HOW WE HAVE EXPERIENCED GOD ON THIS BLOG
DURING PAST SEASONS OF LENT!
FOR SOME OF YOU LENT IS A NEW DISCIPLINE,
AND YOU MAY HAVE TO CAST OFF PAST ASSOCIATIONS,
FOR IT CAN BE SUCH A TRANSFORMING TIME, BRINGING OUR HEARTS FROM WINTER’S COLD SLEEP
TO SPRING’S WARMTH AND LIFE
LIKE THE LIFE THAT BURST FROM THE GRAVE ON EASTER MORNING
THIS IS CAN HAPPEN FOR YOU, AS YOU SUBMIT TO THE STONECUTTER
WHO LONGS TO REPLACE YOUR HEART OF STONE WITH A HEART OF FLESH.
WHAT’S LENT ALL ABOUT?
Just as Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days before He began His ministry, Christians throughout the ages have found value in allowing God to lead them into a season of seeking Him and a season of repentance in order to experience more of the life of Christ blooming in them. We have “heart idols” that block the power of the One True God, and Lent can be a time when we allow the Lord to melt us and mold us and make us like Him. Do you need to give something up?
If you are not pressing into God, not finding time to be with Him, to worship Him, to read good books — ask yourself what He would have you cut out so you have time. Something is stealing what is most important. The purpose of any kind of a fast, whether it is of food, facebook, or fretting is to make you hungry for God, to give you time for God, to seek His face. Consider this testimony from Rachael, who is a silent participant on this blog:
Remember idols cannot be removed, only replaced. Our own Rebecca tells how she gave up eating pie and watching the news at night and replaced it with spiritually edifying books. It wasn’t a quick fix, but God came to her slowly. It was so wise that she didn’t just try to say no, but replaced her heart idol with the living God.
This Wednesday, “Ash Wednesday,” Christians throughout the world will have the sign of a cross in ashes or dust put on their forehead. It is to help them remember that from dust they came, and to dust they will return. As Solomon tells us, “Death is the destiny of every man, and the living should take this to heart.” We live in a world that denies death, denies God, and denies the afterlife. We are surrounded, just as Bonhoeffer was in Nazi Germany, with lies. We must replace the lies with the truth, and we will, as Bonhoeffer did, use the psalms to do so.
Ask the Lord to give you a heart to really seek Him this Lent. It would be wonderful if you could establish a regular time to meet with Him before Ash Wednesday.
We are going to be in the psalms, and we will be drawing on the help of one who is certainly a role model for us: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the man who joined the fight against Hitler and was martyred for his actions. He relied heavily on the psalms for prayer, has written about this, and will be one of our faithful guides this Lent. He was so filled with the Lord’s truth that it gave him the courage to live and die as he did, for his heart flamed with passion for the victims of the holocaust. His heart broke for the things that broke the heart of God. Watch this two minute video:
This blog began the journey in January of studying and praying the first book of psalms. We have done the first 10 of the 41, and now during Lent we will continue, beginning with the 11th Psalm, and going through some of the most beautiful psalms in the whole psalter, such as Psalms 15, 16, 18, and 19. If you are just joining us, it is a great time to begin, and we welcome you.You will be learning to pray them, as Bonhoeffer did, and God will use His Word, which Bonhoeffer says are the very prayers of Christ, to transform you and make you more like Him.
FOR THOSE JUST JOINING US:
To actively participate with us, click on the banner at the top of the home page where it says to get started. You simply need to scroll to the bottom and make a comment, and then enter your name (a first name plus a middle name or a memorable name like Annie the nurse or Kendra the extrovert…) If you can figure out the gravatar (instructions on getting started) it helps us to see your face. Close-ups are good as the pictures are so small. After your first comment you won’t need be approved, unless you forget to log in at the beginning of the day.
Each day we will seek His face through three daily disciplines that Bonhoeffer practiced. He believes you should begin these in the morning, for he says, in “Life Together” (a small book some of you may choose to purchase) that “The early morning belongs to the church of the risen Christ…” I love that! Every early morning is a celebration of Easter — and I can picture each of you, from the Netherlands to North Carolina, from Canada to Kentucky, seeking His face. We do this together, for logs together produce a blazing fire, but a log alone dies.
Bonhoeffer also says: “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and haunted by the various kinds of concerns they face during the working day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it.”
What are these three disciplines that we will practice Monday through Friday? (Sunday is an icebreaker, Saturday, a take-a-way)
1. A hymn (or praise song) to prepare our hearts — sing it or listen to it. I’ll give you suggestions to go with our study each week.
2. The Word. We will be studying the psalms with questions and messages to help you.
3. Praying the Word. We will use the psalms as a springboard for prayer.
In addition, I’ll suggest optional reading, clips, and a Bonhoeffer movie. Some of you may want to get Eric Metaxis’ bestselling biography entitled Bonhoeffer, and some of you may want to get either The Prayerbook of the Bible or Life Together or another by Bonhoeffer.Bonhoeffer is rich fare, to be savored slowly. For those who do these optional activities, I’ll give you opportunities to share what you are learning. Look at these options prayerfully on Amazon or Christian Book, and order one if you choose to do this.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Has Lent been a time of richness to you or is this kind of perspective of it new to you? Share something about it. If you are new, tell us why you have come.
3. If you have had trouble finding time to be with the Lord or to read rich books, ask God to show you what is in the way and how you might overcome it during Lent. What plan does He give you?
OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WITH US SINCE JANUARY
Laura-dancer asked me to give you a summary sentence or phrase for each of the ten psalms we have studied so far. It would be far better if you did it for yourself. Title each psalm in a way that will help you remember its content. (This will help you to pray them when you are without a Bible.) If there is a song you associate with it, such as Psalm 3: Thou o Lord, are a shield about me… that would be an excellent title for the song has already helped you memorize the heart of the psalm. The first line of a psalm may be a summary. Short and pithy is good. Take a day this week to do this assignment and pray for His guidance, for He will speak differently to different individuals.
Songs for This Week
I know you will have your own suggestions, which I welcome so, but here are three that go with Psalm 11′s theme, and which God can use to prepare your heart before you meet with Him.
Sara Groves: Hiding Place
The Psalm Project: Psalm 11
Oh God Our Help In Ages Past
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Remember: Daily prepare your heart with music before you begin, do some of the Bible study, and then pray the psalm for your own life.
4. Read Psalm 11 and find two voices — one telling to trust in the Lord, the other giving reasons to despair and flee. Summarize each voice and put a verse reference next to it. I’ve done verse 1. Take a day to do this question well.
GOD IS IN CONTROL EVERYTHING IS OUT OF CONTROL!
In the Lord I take refuge. (1a) Flee like a bird to the mountain. (1b)
Read this from Bonhoeffer’s Prayerbook of the Bible:
The child learns to speak because the parent speaks to the child. The child learns the language of the parent. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken and speaks to us. In the language of the Father in heaven God’s children learn to speak with God. Repeating God’s own words, we begin to pray with God.
5. Take something you are worrying about and pray the truth to your swirling soul, using the words God has taught you in Psalm 11.
6. Memorize Psalm 11:4 and pray it whenever you start to worry.
As I write this, we are preparing an evangelistic outreach in Door County, the thumb of Wisconsin. One of the women has joined with the Unitarian singers in order to reach out to them. We have asked them to sing at the outreach, for they do sing hymns, and we want them there. My friend is worried about one of their songs which is very New Age, but finally said, “Jesus, take the wheel!” That is like Luther saying to Philip, “Let Philip cease to rule the world!” And like the psalmist saying “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord is on his heavenly throne.”
P. S. We had the outreach and many signed up for their first Bible study, including 5 of the 6 singers! The presence of the Lord was so real. One woman came to me and said, “I couldn’t stop crying while you were talking — I don’t know what’s happening in me — but I want to know the basics about Jesus.”
7. If you are going to do optional reading, purchase one of the Bonhoeffer titles: The Prayerbook of the Bible, Life Together, or the biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxis. What will you get?
8. Comment on one of the above songs that echo the theme of Psalm 11.
You have a choice between a Keller sermon on Psalm 11 that will cost 2:50 for an mp-3 or a free sermon from John Fesko on Psalm 11. Both are excellent. Listen and then comment.
- Link 2 (Tim Keller)
9. Share your sermon notes and what stood out to you.
10. What stood out to you and why?