Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach


Surely Goodness and Mercy…

On Sunday night, I had the opportunity to go to a Getty Concert in Orange County. It was at a church and there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Master’s people spotted the auditorium. It was nice to chat with different people that I knew and that I had never met but who as fellow believers had a lot to talk with me about. The highlights for me were:

a. Talking with the pastor’s wife (I know two of her daughters, but had never talked with her.)

b. Hearing Keith Getty talk about writing hymns for every day life (They played one on money for us that was excellent.).

c. Hearing a song from their Christmas CD and buying it a few days before it was released (Yes, I have been listening to it. It’s okay to dwell on the incarnation every day of the year and not just from Thanksgiving to New Years :) ).

d. Being reminded of many theological truths to an Irish tune as well as putting words to many of my longings that I have not been able to put words to.

e. Pastor De Courcy’s 15-min-sermon entitled “Bright Hope for Tomorrow”

The concert was food for my soul. Here are the brief notes I took on my iphone from the sermonette. I wasn’t fast enough on my iphone to catch it all, but in 15 minutes he gave me a lot to think about and meditate on. I hope this encourages you the way it encouraged me.

Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

This verse reveals a man expectant about tomorrow. David is writing a memoir to God’s mercy. Psalm 23 is an autobiography of David’s life. He says, “What I have been to my fathers flock, God has been to me 100x more.” He spends the psalm reflecting on God as shepherd. Since the Lord is his shepherd, he shall not want for mercy. Verse 6 does not depart from the David’s theme of God as Shepherd. Gods sheepdogs are called goodness and mercy. They bark at his heals egging him on. They make sure we don’t go astray. They pursue after us. A modern analogy would be that they act like body guards.

This is a promise of God’s goodness and mercy. David is confident God’s love and mercy will pursue him breathlessly throughout life. Surely shows assurance. No ifs ands or buts. This confidence comes from recounting of God’s past faithfulness. David looks at mile markers of his life and says God has been with me and will be with me. Find mile markers of mercy to increase your faith. We see David doing this in I Sam 17:34. David puts Goliath’s armor in his tent. What a testimony, a reminder.

There is an objective element too which leads David to put his confidence in the mercy and goodness of God. That comes from knowing and thinking on the character of God. He starts the passage with “The Lord”- YHWH- the covenant name of God. God’s self-sufficiency, immortality,
and immutability are seen in this name. He is the Timeless One. He cannot change for better because He is perfect and He can’t change for worse because He is perfect. If He’s all He needs for Him to be, then how much more so for us. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Notice the partnership of God’s goodness and mercy. He is both those things to us.  Goodness is his kind actions, gifts, and benevolence (Acts 14:17). He blesses our lives physically and spiritual. The best picture of goodness is His sending Christ. Mercy is God’s goodness coming after us despite our sin (Lame 3:22-23;Ps 103:10). You must meditate on mercy to appreciate His goodness. We can become so expectant of grace. At first we are awed, then surprised, then we start to demand it. Don’t be accustomed to grace!

God’s goodness and mercy pursue us. This verb denotes following, but it is more beautiful than that when you consider David’s life. Usually used of fowl intent. In Exodus it is used for the pursuit by Pharaoh’s army. It is a beautiful word and image for David who lived on the run. God’s mercy and goodness pursued me as I ran. They ran after me and met me in my need. Keep the image in mind of God’s goodness and mercy always sniffing us out and pursuing us like a sheep dog. Allow that to catch up to us. Be careful about running after things you are defining good under the sun. You can’t get to 23 without 22 prediction of the good shepherd laying down life for the sheep. True religion all about personal pronouns David knew that the Lord was His Shepherd and that God’s goodness and kindness pursued him and that gave him an expectant hope for the future.

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Dependence

Our world and especially the American culture “thrives” on independence. “He pulled himself up by his boot straps” is a good thing. A common phrase we hear in college ministry is “You don’t know me.” We think we have a right for our sanctification to be private. We think we are called to not inconvenience anyone else. I know this may seem like two ideals I am speaking of, one hard work and the other rebellion, but really both of these phrases are evidence of a cultural posture of independence rather than dependence.

God has called us to be dependent, both on Him and on other people. We are not supposed to go it alone.

All of this was prompted by a question from my boss… “What are your favorite passages of Scripture dealing with dependence on God?”

I didn’t have an answer for him right then and told him I would have to think about it. He chuckled and teased saying, “Oh? So you don’t depend on God.” The truth is I’m so often trying to get done what I should be relying on God to do that I don’t recognize my lack of dependence or my need for Him and I don’t look to His Word for encouragement.

My answer half an hour later when I thought about it… Psalm 40, 46, 127; Isaiah 41 and Colossians 1.

What passages would you choose?



Fighting the Pollyanna Mindset
October 28, 2007, 6:57 am
Filed under: Lessons in Psalms

I’m currently in a class on Psalms. The Psalms are so real. They are a great place to be when dealing with trials, affliction, or sorrow. They are full of raw emotion. The authors are very honest with God about their feelings.

The Psalmist admits that their heart is downcast. They admit that their faith is lacking or they don’t understand what is going on aroud them, or that they feel God has abandoned them. Psalm 43:5 says, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? and why are you so disturbed within me?” Confessing that his soul was disturbed that he was in pain led him to then preach to his heart and remind himself of what was true. It led him to remember that God was his stronghold and savior the one he should put his hope in.

David, one of the authors of Psalms, tells God how he truly feels about his enemies. Psalm 55:15 reads, “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them.”

That is some strong wording and I highly recommend not saying that to anyone who has wronged you, but David was pouring out his heart to God. While talking with the ladies in my class I finally realized what is so dangerous about a Pollyanna view. One of my former teachers told us that Pollyanna was banned from their house because the philosophy behind it was dangerous. I didn’t really understand. It has been a long time since I have seen the movie but I wondered what was wrong with having a rosy outlook. Why not stay silent when things aren’t great and act cheerful? Nobody wants to be around a gloomy person.

At Bible study I finally realized that if we just pretend that that person didn’t hurt us, if we pretend that our world isn’t falling apart around us, if we pretend that everything is ok even when we are unsure that our family will be intact in a month we are in great peril. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Rough times are an opportunity for our heart to be revealed, and if we just pretend we are fine we miss that opportunity. We miss a chance to receive grace and we miss a chance to cry out to God and depend on him. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we pretend we aren’t hurt or suffering then we might not confess our latent sinful response. You can’t heal hurt of losing a loved one by just saying “God is good” and you can’t heal betrayal by just saying “I’m a Christian and so I forgive them. It doesn’t really hurt.” If I don’t go to God in honesty and say what I feel and confess everything to Him, even if it is my feelings at difficult times in my life, I miss a chance to experience His grace and draw closer to Him. I also miss a chance to see myself in relation to the cross, and apart from receiving His grace and forgiveness I cannot offer those things to others.

Be real with God. He can handle it. He is not easily angered and He already knows your heart. He actually knows it better than you do.

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Psalm 32:3