A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Chapter 11 – Perseverance.

Petersen now turns to the next of the psalms of Ascents, Psalm 129, and focuses on the subject of perseverance. He talks of a word his mother used “stick-to-itiveness”. Not a word I have heard before but one which simply puts the concept of perseverance in a different way, it’s all about “sticking at it” no matter what comes along, good or bad.

He majors, and rightly so, on the tendency of people to give up when times get hard, but I think there is also the danger of meddling and trying to improve “to make it even better”, when things are already going well. But enough of that and lets get back to the chapter in question. And the first thing that he points out is that despite all the attempts from many different angles (though always with one “mastermind”, Satan or the Devil or the Evil One) Christianity is still alive and well and flourishing in many places. This is true of faith in general, and he also points out the temptations of Christ at the beginning (40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan) and end of His earthly ministry (His personal struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane) as the prime example of the perseverance of the individual. He also reminds us of the perseverance of Paul, as he encouraged the believers in Corinth to stay strong despite whatever came their way, in 2 Corinthians 11. As he says “the way of faith has been tested thoroughly, and it works.”

Petersen reminds us of the 2 illustrations in the psalm. Firstly, that people will come against us, like ploughmen seeking to plough a field, metaphorically cutting us to ribbons. It will be difficult and hurt for a while but then God disengages the harnesses of the ploughs, so though the enemy continues with his task, they are now rendered ineffective, God has removed their power to damage and hurt us. Then secondly, those who seek to destroy our faith are relying on ground which is poor and though grass or a crop may at first appear, there is not enough for it tho have any depth of root, so it withers and dies.

He then deals with the anger we at times can feel, when we feel unjustly persecuted. it goes against old testament (and Christ’s teaching) so it should not lead to action, but it is right to recognise it and fight against that which causes it to rise up. As he says, if we simply accept the attack he fears that it will lead to problems for the individual or the church :-

“it is apathetic, sluggish neutrality that is death to perseverance …. the person who makes excuses for hypocrites and rationalises the excesses of the wicked, who loses a sense of opposition to sin, who obscures the difference between faith and denial, grace and selfishness, that is the person to be wary of. For if there is not all that much difference between the way of faith and the ways of the world, there is not much use in making any effort to stick to it.”

Perseverance does not mean we are perfect, it does mean we keep going, we don’t quit when we mess up. We will get it wrong in our personal lives and as churches / fellowships, but we keep coming back to God and seek His guidance and help.

Perseverance is also not mere endurance or merely hanging on to what we have, it is striving to move from strength to strength.

Most importantly however we persevere because that is the example God shows to us. He sticks with us when we mess up, so we should stick with Him, when things seem to become difficult or go wrong. The psalmist starts this psalm saying “they’ve kicked me around ever since I was young, but they never could keep me down.” God sticks to His relationships, He establishes a personal relationship with us and stays with it. The writer to the Hebrews gives a whole chapter to the men of faith, who God stuck with despite their faults and who in turn, stuck with God.

The way of the world is to dabble and change when things go wrong, the Christian counter-culture should be to stick with it, change when God leads, not before and certainly not just because things have become a bit uncomfortable. Our Saviour endured many uncomfortable times, where would we be if in the Garden He had “you know what, that’s too much for me”? Thank God He persevered, may we do the same.

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Reading “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” Ch 10 – Happiness

Who doesn’t want to be happy?  I mean truly happy?  I do!

Eugene Peterson using the Psalms of Ascent to illustrate truths of our Christian walk, in this chapter,  Psalm 128,  discusses the issue of Happiness.  Real, true, lasting happiness that only comes through a lived out faith in God through the Lord Jesus Christ kind of happiness, not the fleeting happiness this world only has to offer.

QUOTES

John Calvin, preaching to his congregation in Geneva, Switzerland, pointed out that we must develop better and deeper concepts of happiness than those held by the world, which makes a happy life to consist in “ease, honours, and great wealth”

The blessings that are promised to, pronounced upon and experienced by Christians do not of course exclude difficulties.  The Bible never indicates that.

There ate no tricks involved in getting in on this life of blessing, and no luck required.  We simply become Christians and begin the life of faith.  We acknowledge God as our maker and lover and accept Christ as the means by which we can be in living relationship wit God.  We accept the announced and proclaimed truth that God is at the centre of our existence, find out how he has constructed this world (his creation), how he has provided for our redemption, and proceed to walk in that way.

So What

To be honest this is a subject that I probably have not given much attention to, that God wants us to be happy.  Peterson in the constraints of the book can only scratch the surface in what this means in practice and in definition.  Though in doing so has made me think more of what it means to be happy in God?   a phrase I remember reading from Gerorge Mueller that he made this his first business of his day.

Two books have relatively recently been published that covers this very subject in more detail and not only do I plan to read them but maybe one might be our next book to read together.  They are,  “Happiness”  by Randy Alcorn and “The Happy Christian”  by Dr David Murray

I would like to know this more fully in understanding and practice,  Eugene Peterson in this chapter has wetted my appetite for happiness.

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Read Through The Bible (2)

I post on my progress in reading through the Bible for my own accountability and to ensure I read through the whole Bible.  It’s been about a month since I last posted and in that time I have read through –

1 Samuel  –  ch 23 – ch 31

1 & 2 Timothy

Titus

Philemon

James

Hebrews

2 Samuel

This time round I am using Tim Chester Bible reading plan which if followed you will read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in three years.  It’s available as a free download at his blog.

How’s your Bible reading going?

 

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Reading “A Long Obedience In the Same Direction” ch 9 – Work

Eugene Peterson now turns to Psalm 127  and addresses the issue of work and how our attitude to our work (payed or unpaid, in whatever situation)  can and should  impact our lives as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

QUOTES

Work is a major component in most lives.  It is unavoidable.  It can be either good or bad, an area where sin is magnified or where our faith matures.

We care more for our possessions with which we hope to make our way in the world than with our thoughts and dreams which tell us who we are in the world

The curse of some people’s lives is not work, as such, but senseless work, vain work, futile work, work that takes place apart from God.

For it makes very little difference how much money Christians carry in their wallets or purses.  It makes little difference how our culture values and rewards our work……if God doesn’t.

So. What?

This following  summing up quote is really what I mostly thought and prayed about as I read.this chapter.

What makes a difference is the personal relationships that we create and develop.  We learn a name; we start a friendship; we follow up a smile – or maybe even on a grimace……….As Christians do the jobs and tasks assigned to them in what the world calls work, we learn to pay attention to and practice what God is doing in love and justice, in helping and healing, in liberating and cheering.

Having this attitude to our work, even life in general, surely will make a difference to us and to others for God’s glory?

 

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Read Through the Bible (2)

I post on my progress in reading through the Bible for my own accountability and to ensure that I read through the whole Bible.  In the last two weeks I have read through –

Psalms  :  71 – 72

1 Samuel   –  Ch 1 – ch 22

This time round I am using Tim Chester Bible reading plan which will if followed take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in three years if followed as directed at a pace of on average 9 chapters per week.  It’s available at his blog as a free download.

How’s your Bible reading going?

 

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Read Through The Bible (2)

I post on my progress in reading through the Bible for my own accountability to help keep me going and to ensure that I read all of the Bible.  Again it’s been nearly three weeks since I last gave a update and in that time I have read through –

Acts  –  ch 15 – ch 28

Psalms  –  42 – 70

This time round I am following Tim Chester Bible reading plan that if followed as suggested will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in three years.  It is available as a free download from his blog.

How’s your Bible reading going?

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The Weekend Psalm – Psalm 25

Psalm 25:9 – He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Here is the key to a close relationship with God. Humility. A realisation that no matter what our role or position in life, when we come into the presence of The Lord and seek to have an ongoing relationship with him, we must recognise our place relative to Him. This is not just in relation to His power, majesty, knowledge, omnipresence but also and most importantly with regard to the primacy of His will and therefore what is right for me. If I think I know best then I will not be teachable and I am not humble.
The verse points out our failings, we do not know what is right, but He does. We, if left alone, will not follow the right path through life, either in what we do or how we do it. However God knows and wants to share with us the plans He has for us.
The implication of this verse, and the little triplet of verses (8-10) in the middle of this psalm, is that God is not like some wise man sitting in a cave waiting for people to come to Him, so that He can then share His wisdom. Instead He is active, seeking out every one of us (we are all sinners) to teach us His ways.
Not all will listen, it is the humble, those who put God and His way and will before their own, who will benefit from this “one on one” masterclass.
Then as we step out into the world around us, wherever God has placed us (our physical location, the vocation He has given us and the relation(ships) we form there) we will discover the full extent of the love God has for us.
This all sounds great, why would we not do this? Many recognise it is what they should do, some even start off on this journey, but it is demanding (v10) so there are those who drop out.

So, if you’re reading this, will you start on this journey of discovery? Or if you have started, take courage, stick at it. Come to God, not to demand or get your own way, rather to listen and thus learn His way. Then we can enter each day, not going aimlessly through life, nor struggling to impose our desires and wishes on Him. Rather we will depart on the path, sometimes broad and relatively flat, sometimes steep, rocky and hard, towards our destination of the great vista that God has laid out for us in His presence. Then one day we will reach the summit and when we get there we will hear Him welcome us, “come my friend, you’ve made it. Well done, rest and enjoy.”

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The Weekend Psalm – Psalm 24

Psalm 24:4 NIV – The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

This verse is preceded by the question “who may ascend the hill of The Lord, who may stand in his holy place?”
The question is, “Who can come into the presence of The Lord?” To have fellowship with him, give him praise and worship, receive instruction, comfort or rebuke, we have to be in his presence.
Yet as I sit here thinking about this and read this verse I am so aware of my own sinfulness; the sins which I commit despite knowing it was wrong, those which I commit by omission – failing to do something, those which I commit because I am not yet well enough attuned to God’s mind and will to know that it is sin and so on.
And as I contemplate my sins even of the past 24 hours I am left wondering what hope have I or anyone else of coming into the presence of God? Who can stand before Him when we consider the standard we must meet? Surely the answer is “no one”.
But …. we can, though not in our own strength or ability, rather we can only come through the redeeming work of Christ our saviour. He paid the price for, and received the due punishment, that my sins deserved. So God sees the stain of our sins from the past, present and future washed away and forgotten forever. So now I can come humbly and with deep thankfulness and worship, to The Lord and wait before Him and receive what He has to give to me. And as I leave, I go away aware of my forgiven failings and leave determined to, as I am able, no longer fail in this way.

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Shut Up and Listen!

As requested, I have uploaded the PowerPoint presentation from Sunday morning’s service in Stranraer Baptist Church.

The sermon that this presentation accompanied can be heard at stranraerbaptist.co.uk.

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Reading “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” ch 8

Hands up if like me you could do with a little more joy in your life?

 Eugene Peterson discusses joy as part of the Christian journey as he continues to go through the Psalms of Ascent, in this chapter, Psalm 126. He also reminds us that it is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23)

Peterson contrasts the lasting biblical meaning (therefore real meaning of) joy as opposed to the temporary meaning of joy that the world gives. A important principle is that joy is not something we can work up, rather it is a consequence of a life lived in faith in God and his working in our lives.

From Psam 126 Peterson gives two principles to consider in living with joy in our lives.  Firstly, remember God's dealings with his people in the past through reading the history in the Bible, (also in your life up to this point, even if only that He has saved you through the Lord Jesus Christ and you are a child's of God).  Secondly, continue to remind ourselves and have faith in God's promises for the present/future as revealed in the Bible.

​Quotes

Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality……We try to get it through entertainment.  We pay someone to make jokes, tell stories, perform dramatic actions, sing songs.  We buy the vitality of another's imagination to divert and enliven our own poor lives.  The enormous entertainment industry in America is a sign of the depletion of joy in our culture.  Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after an overindulgent meal.  But that kind of joy never penetrates our lives…..The effects are extremely temporary – a few minutes, a few hours, a few days at most……We cannot make ourselves joyful…..

…..But there is something we can do.  We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs.  We can decide to live in the environment of a living God and not our dying selves.  We can decide to center our lives in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.  One of the certain consequences of such a life is joy, the kind expressed in Psalm 126.

So what?

To apply what Peterson discusses in this chapter,  to find comfort/joy through faith in God's dealings with his people and "very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)  we need to be reading, studying, meditating and praying through the Bible being mindful to not "merely listen to the word…but do what it says (James 1:22).

If you are just starting or plan to start again,  a good resource is the daily Bible reading/devotionals provided by Scripture Union at wordlive.org.  Of course there are many others but this is a good place to start/kick start our reading/studying the Bible.

 

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