Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 – Remember the Lord

20180226_113024

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants… He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…” (New International Version)

Every day I read in the psalms.  There are two reasons I do this: first, the psalms are the church’s prayer book.  They are more than reading material; the psalms are meant and designed to be owned for us as prayers; and, second, I need their reminders – a lot!

Remembering is a major theme throughout the entirety of Holy Scripture.  It’s just part of the human condition, fallen and forgetful as we are, to lose sight of what has taken place in the past.  Today’s psalm invites us to seek the Lord through remembering all the good and wonderful works he has done.

For Israel, remembering meant continually having Passover in front of them.  God redeemed his people out of Egyptian slavery and into a good Promised Land.  They were to never forget God’s miracle through the Red Sea, his protection over them from other nations, and his provision of food and necessities in the desert.

We are to remember because we are made in God’s image and likeness.  God remembers.  God has an ongoing reminder in his divine day timer: fulfill the promises I made; keep the covenant I initiated with the people, even when they’re stinkers and forget who I am.

God doesn’t forget.  He always keeps his promises.  For the Christian, all God’s promises are remembered and fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Deliverance from sin, death, and hell; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and, ongoing presence and provision are given to us graciously and freely by the God who loves and cares for his people.  For us, remembering means coming to the Lord’s Table, entering into the once of for all loving sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.

One of the reasons I write and journal about my life and Scripture is to remember.  Sometimes I forget.  There are times when I’m overwhelmed with life and it feels as if God has forgotten me.  In such times, I look back into my journal and see what God has done.  And I peer into the psalms and see that God is active in his big world, always attentive to working what is just, right, and good in his people.

I randomly opened my journal to an entry made on May 6, 2016.  May your journey with Jesus in this season of Lent cause you to remember the Lord Jesus, to have him always before you:

“Now We Remain” by David Haas –

We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts.

Living, now we remain with Jesus, the Christ.

Once we were people afraid, lost in the night.

Then, by your cross, we were saved;

dead became living, life from your giving.

Something which we have known, something we’ve touched,

what we have seen with our eyes;

this we have heard; life-giving Word.

He chose to give of himself, become our bread.

Broken that we might live.

Love beyond love, pain for our pain.

We are the presence of God; this is our call.

Now to become bread and wine; food for the hungry, life for the weary,

for to live with the Lord, we must die with the Lord.

Remember

remember you are dust

Here’s a thought for your mind to consider: Remembering is a spiritual practice.

It doesn’t take any effort to forget.  But it does take an intentional plan to remember.  If you have a habit of losing your car keys, you make the effort to build some ritual in your life to not lose them.  Maybe they always live on the same hook just inside your back door or are always with you in your pocket.  That way you never have to “remember” where they are.

I look at my planner every day.  Every morning it’s a ritual.  Before doing any work, I access my planner and go over my schedule and my goals.  I will forget my best laid plans unless I review them each day.

Christians are about to enter the season of Lent.  Lent is a 40-day observance of journeying with Jesus to his cross.  It’s a time for believers to remember their baptisms, that is, to remember that they belong to God – to remember and to never forget that our primary identity is in Christ, known and loved by God as his people.

We even have an entire book of the Bible dedicated to remembering: Deuteronomy.  The book of Deuteronomy is a restating of the Law for a new generation of Israelities about to enter the Promised Land.  They were to remember why they existed as a nation, and to whom they belonged.  The Israelites needed to remember through restatement and ritual that God delivered them with power from the mighty Egyptians.  God is their trust – which means there is no need for a trust supplemental insurance policy with another deity in case he doesn’t come through for them.

dont-forget-to-remember

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV)

Remember the long road on which the Lord your God led you during these forty years in the desert so he could humble you, testing you to find out what was in your heart: whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, CEB)

Remember the Lord your God! He’s the one who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant he made with your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 8:18, CEB) 

“So all your life you will remember the time you left Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 16:3, NCV)

Remember a time long ago.
Think about all the past generations.
Ask your fathers to remind you,
and your leaders to tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7, GW)

We cannot expect the next generation to simply know God because we do.  If it’s so easy for you and me to forget about God in our workaday world, then how much more do we need to be intentional about passing on the words and ways of Jesus with routines and rituals which help us to remember?

On Ash Wednesday the minister applies the sign of the cross to the forehead of the penitent with the words: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s not meant to be a downer, or a morbid display that we are going to die someday.  The ashes are to be a reminder that we only have one life to live on this earth, and it is to be lived knowing, trusting, and finding our truest identity in the Holy Trinity whom we serve – Father, Son, and Spirit – the God who has orchestrated salvation for his people.  Remember, and do not forget, your life belongs to God.  He cares for you, and you can trust in his goodness.

ash wed

“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26, NKJV)

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV)

“Then he broke it in pieces and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.’  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26, NLT)

“They only asked us to remember the poor, and that was something I had always been eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10, CEV)

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” (2 Timothy 2:8, NRSV)

Remember, then, what you were taught and what you heard; obey it and turn from your sins.” (Revelation 3:3, GNT)

If you think about it, caring involves consistency.  Others know what to expect from us.  We continually show up with the grace and kindness given to us in Christ.  People don’t have to wonder what kind of mood we’re going to be in.  We’re there for them.  We have provided for them a history of consistent rituals they can remember – a history of patient assistance and quiet strength on their behalf.

We’ve been given one life to live.  It is to be a life dedicated to practicing remembrance. We’re to live in the remembrance that Christ has delivered us from brokenness to be an agent of healing in a world in need of remembering who they are.  There’s no need to invent new rituals for remembrance.  We just need to remember to show up and participate in the rituals the church has practiced for centuries.

Hebrews 2:1-4 – Learning to Pay Attention

“We must give our full attention to what we were told, so that we won’t drift away.” (CEV)
 
            My three girls all have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.).  You might think this is a disadvantage.  Rather, since the biology of their brain doesn’t have a good filter for sifting out all the stimuli they hear each day, each of them are much more intentional about picking out the voice they want to hear and engaging with it.  Whereas you and I might take this for granted, my girls know the value of creating the skills to pay attention.
            We stand at the cusp of Lent, just two days from now.  A healthy way of looking at this important season in the Christian Year is that it is a time to listen.  It’s the opportunity and privilege of giving our complete attention to Jesus as we plod along the 40-day path to Easter.  And we need to develop some solid skills in paying attention, whether we have A.D.D. or not.
            The cost of not developing such skills is that we will drift away.  Taking for granted that we are Christians, that we know something about salvation, and are basically good people might only be setting us up for spiritual failure. That is, we think we already know about Christ’s person and work of salvation, so we don’t really pay attention.  Bad idea.
            Assuming we are paying attention is not the same thing as actually doing it.
Assumptions lead to drifting away from truth.  We are meant to have continual and constant reminders of Christ and his redemptive events.  This is what Lent intends for us.  To ignore the wisdom of two-thousand years of church practice puts us in a precarious position of being lost in a sea of competing voices.
            For the next six weeks, make the choice that you will pay attention to Christ each day through:
·         Reading the Scripture every day with a combination of standing and sitting, reading silently and out loud.
·         Holding a cross or other Christian reminder in your hand and feel free to fidget with it.
·         Journaling your thoughts in a notebook.
·         Imposing a time limit on yourself each day for the next 40 days.
·         Using different versions of the Bible to read throughout Lent.
·         Going outside occasionally and praying while walking.
·         Focusing on your breathing. Breathe out: “Speak Lord.” Breathe in: “I am listening.”
·         Drinking some coffee, tea, or something soothing.
·         Being mindful of distractions and acknowledging them without judging yourself.
The point is to have an intentional plan for paying attention.  Don’t assume you’ll just be focused.

 

May your journey with Jesus this season be a fresh experience in knowing him better.

Revelation 3:1-6


            When Christians think of biblical epistles (letters) to churches, the Apostle Paul might immediately come to mind.  But contained within the first three chapters of Revelation are seven compact succinct letters to seven different churches.  What makes these short bursts of exhortation so powerful is that they come from Jesus himself.  Yes, that Jesus – the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church.  So, it seems to me that Christ’s observations about the church carry more weight than anybody else’s thoughts.  
             “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.”  Ouch!  The Lord pulled no punches in getting to the heart of the church’s life… that is, death.  The stark reality is that this statement from Jesus still remains penetrating and relevant; it could be said of a great many Western churches today.
             So, what is to be done about the situation of spiritual deadness in the church?  “Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.”  Boom!  There it is.  If the Christian Calendar seems to be a liturgical downer by spending forty days of Lent in a state of repentance, then perhaps the Christian Year is not the problem but a provided avenue of getting square with God.  Maybe the issue is our own shortsightedness, lack of remembrance of Christ’s redemption in all things, and perpetual insistence on personal agendas which do not jive with Christ’s teachings.  In short, we have forgotten Jesus.  
             Awesome Lord Jesus, your words penetrate to the core my being.  Strengthen me by the continuing presence of yourself through the Holy Spirit so that my every thought, word, and deed is done in your Name.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 9:6-14


            Significant things happen on mountains in the Bible.  In anticipation of a glorious mountain top experience of Christ’s transfiguration this Sunday, today’s Old Testament lesson reminds us of a great mountain event, and it was not all bunnies and butterflies.  The book of Deuteronomy is a restatement of the law, and a recounting of Israel’s history as they were about to enter the Promised Land.  “Remember and do not forget…” is the constant theme of Moses’ address to God’s people.  The positive remembrance was that God graciously met with Moses on the mountain and gave him the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).  On the other hand, the ugly remembrance was that while on the mountain meeting with God the people became impatient, insolent, and rebellious; they degenerated into a chaotic mass of people who quickly worshiped an idol.  This was not Israel’s best moment.
             But Moses wanted the people to remember that event in all of its foulness and degradation.  It was important for them to not forget how stubborn and pig-headed their parents and grandparents were in running from the true God to a false god.  The people needed to avoid the sins of the previous generation so that they could enjoy God and thrive in the new land he was giving them.
             It does no one any good to whitewash the past or to altogether ignore it.  Whether it is one’s personal past, a previous generation, or even a national history, we must face the sins of our forebears, to remember and not forget.  We must neither be so extremely individualistic that we disconnect ourselves from our generational moorings, nor be dismissive of past sins, as if they have no influence upon us today.  Mountain experiences can either be glorious, turn very dark, or a bit of both.  We are meant to learn from them all, to remember and not forget.
             God of history, your sovereign reign and rule extends to all creation and has existed for all time.  You know the sins of my past, the heart of my present, and the soul of my future.  Do not let me forget my sins, not because you hold them over my head, but because your grace has saved me from them all through Jesus Christ, my Savior.  Amen.

Psalm 25:1-10


             I admit there are things from my past I am neither proud of nor happy about.  Yet, thanks to God Almighty, that he has selective memory.  God remembers according to his nature and character (merciful and showing steadfast love) and not based on the stupid sins of our youth.  God freely chooses to forgive and has made the means available for us to experience daily cleansing and victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.
             Memory is a not a minor theme in the Old Testament.  Rather, remembering is a major focus that pops up again and again.  How we remember past events is of upmost importance to God.  We are to not dwell on and keep remembering any former indiscretions of either ourselves or others.  Since God does not hold the past over our heads, neither are we to do so.  On the other hand, we are to keep in mind and continually remember the great works of God, especially in redemption.  What has happened in the past either by us or against us is not the real issue; the most prescient issue is how you and I interpret those events.
             Today we can choose to remember in the way God remembers.  Thanksgiving meals with family and the holiday season with relatives are, for some folks, a sheer duty.  Even the best of families have those within their ranks that can make for difficult relations.  Paying attention to our memory and how we choose to remember can be a significant part of interacting with others.  If we like it that God has shown grace to us, then the least we can do is let that same grace flow from us to others who neither deserve it nor expect it.  Let’s give thanks to the Lord, for he is good in forgiving sin and showing infinite mercy.  And let’s express our gratitude through selfless words and acts of grace which reflect the nature of God.
             Gracious God, you do not hold grudges and always act according to love.  Even though you could have condemned me, you saved me.  Despite the fact that I have fallen short of your glory, you delivered me.  I remember your mighty redemptive deeds in Jesus, and I give you eternal praise and thanksgiving.  Amen.

All Saints’ Day

 
 
In all times and every place throughout history God has specialized in taking imperfect and broken people and transformed and used them for his own glory and honor.  On the Christian calendar, November 1 is the day each year to remember the saints who have gone before us.  This day is meant to be an intentional way of not forgetting the people, friends and family as well as long-dead historical saints, who have made a significant impact in our spiritual lives.
 
All Saints’ Day should not be a focus on extraordinary persons so much as on the grace and work of ordinary Christians who faithfully lived their lives.  We give thanks for the gift of how they lived their faith each and every day.  We also remember that all believers in Jesus are united and connected through the cross.
 
            Remembering is a prominent theme in Scripture.  Well over a hundred times we are told to remember God’s covenant and actions on behalf of his people; to remember those less fortunate; and, to remember the important people in our lives who influenced us in our journey of faith.  The writer of Hebrews exhorted Christians with this:  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7). 
 
            We are to be inspired in the present with the actions of faithful saints of the past.  They are to serve as a model of faithfulness so that they we will persevere in our Christian lives and not give up.  Through biblical stories of very human persons being used of God, as well as reading biographies of godly people who were given to God in service, we can be motivated to be patient and keep persevering until Jesus returns.
 
            Who were the people in your life that went out of their way to communicate the gospel to you both with words and with actions?  Who were those persons who labored behind the scenes in prayer so that you and others would know Jesus?  If any of those persons are still around, and you know where they are, remember them.  Drop them a note.  Express to them a simple thank you for their influence in your life.  In doing so, you will not only encourage that person, but it will help you remember and re-engage with something in your life that you may have forgotten or have just taken for granted for too long.
 
            Gordon McDonald, a Christian pastor and writer, at the passing of a lifelong mentor, recalled his loyalty and the crucial counsel he gave in a crisis:  “He was there when, many years later, my life fell apart because of a failure for which I was totally responsible. In our worst moments of shame and humiliation, he came and lived in our home for a week and helped us do a searing examination of our lives. We will always remember his words: ‘”You are both momentarily in a great darkness. You have a choice to make. You can—as do so many—deny this terrible pain, or blame it on others, or run away from it. Or, you can embrace this pain together and let it do its purifying work as you hear the things God means to whisper into your hearts during the process. If you choose the latter, I expect you will have an adventurous future modeling what true repentance and grace is all about.’”
 

 

            We are not to live our Christian lives in isolation from others, as if we do not need them.  We are here today because someone significantly influenced us in the way of Jesus.  And we will continue to persevere and thrive in the faith only when we remember those who have gone before us and allow those here in the present to journey with us along this road of faith.