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The Lord delights in us?

About the Author: Darin Stalbaum is an elder that is active in discipleship, small group, and men’s ministries at ZPC. He and his wife Gretchen lead a Monday evening Home Group, and they are the proud parents of two high schoolers, Luke and Kyla, and one middle schooler, Teagan. Yellow labs, Tucker and Koda, round out their home of 7 in Zionsville.

Outside of church and home, Darin is a sales executive for an Indy-based company that serves utility and telecommunications companies nation-wide. Darin enjoys sports, just about any kind of friendly competition, and outdoor activities, namely hiking and kayaking. The home screen on Darin’s phone proudly displays a picture of him and Luke atop a 14K-foot mountain in Colorado’s collegiate peaks last Labor Day weekend. Darin aspires to someday be a golfer and fisherman, rather than someone who occasionally goes golfing and fishing. 

Today's Scripture: Psalm 149

During Jerry’s May 10 sermon on Psalm 147, he highlighted that “the Lord delights in those who fear him” from verse 11. Jerry emphasized that God delights in me. This struck me as I took in the COVID-19 friendly service video on my couch at home. I remember thinking two things; first, that is good to hear, and second, I am not sure I believe that is true. Theologically, I believe that he delights in me, but why was my heart struck with disbelief?

The next day my mind was occupied with a busy, full calendar day working from home. Business issues tied me up into the evening, later than I planned, so I was late to our Home Group meeting via Zoom video conference. Fortunately, the commute from my makeshift home office in the basement to my wife’s side and laptop upstairs is short, so I caught our Home Group’s discussion on Psalm 147 and the question about God delighting in us. Listening to others express similar “but we have to earn our keep and we are imperfect” reactions took my work distracted mind right back to the challenge of really believing God delights in me. 

The opportunity to reflect on this again, in honest and trusted community with other believers I know, trust, and love was a treasure. Others in our group spoke to the depth of God’s love, grace, and goodness. I was reminded that we are not the point. The point is not me and what I deserve or do not deserve. The point is the Lord. To doubt his love and ability to delight in us minimizes him. The goodness and depth of his grace is immense, and anything short of recognizing that minimizes the heart of who he is. He is God, and he is the Lord, not me. His Word tells us of his love, mercy, and gracious actions for us, for me.  If he provides all of that for me, and he loves me, how could I doubt his ability to delight in me?

If I am his, he delights in me. Period. 

I mess up. I let people down. I fail to do all that I can and should. I am imperfect. I doubt.

Yet, he delights in me. Wow.

Psalm 149 is titled a victory psalm. If recognizing the depths of his grace for me anew is not cause for victory, I do not know what is! Read verses 1-6 with this kind of victorious celebration in mind. Celebrate his grace and set aside your shortcomings and challenges, if only for a moment. It is not about you. It is about him, and he loves you. That is enough, and that is bigger than any “yeah, but…” you have.  

Wait!!!  Read verse 4 again, “the Lord takes delight in his people!"There it is again. If I am his, he delights in me. Wow, again.

Verse 6 also interestingly, references having a double-edged sword in our hands and how it leads to victory. My study Bible cross references that verse to Hebrews 4:12 which speaks to the living and active Word of God which is sharper than any double-edged sword, presumably even the victorious double-edged sword of Psalm 149. It penetrates the “thoughts and attitude of the heart,” including doubt and disbelief. Navigating through doubt and disbelief with the living Word of God, even with the support of a faith community, is not easy but I pray that we do exactly that, in his truth and grace. And, I pray that we find a new song and the praise, rejoicing, dancing, and joy referenced in Psalm 149, even during these unique and uncertain times.

Prayer:

God,
Penetrate my heart and allow me to hear your voice, so I may know you and be yours. Call me to you, so that I can celebrate the assurance that you truly delight in me as one of your own.
Amen

Only dead fish swim with the flow

About the author: Emil Toader is president of Missio Link International (MLI) located in Timisoara, Romania. MLI has a vision to participate in God’s mission to his Church and to the world by fostering partnerships between Christians, churches, and organizations, aimed at Christian witness, edification and service to those in need. Emil lives with his wife and children in Timisoara.

Today's Scripture: Matthew 7:12

One of the accusations against Christianity is that it is narrow minded, the exclusive claim of salvation only in Christ goes against the modern open-minded thinking, and in our postmodern world this claim has become a joke.

Jesus concludes his most comprehensive message on life in the Kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, by reducing it all to two gates, two ways, two trees and two homes... After all, in the sermon, he describes a contrast between two ways of approaching God, life and faith, by repeating: you have heard it was said... but I, tell you... Both the world without God and the pharisaic, legalistic approach to God, are equally far from the transformed heart God seeks. True faith is not a set of rules, but obedience to God expressed in love for God and neighbor (Matthew 7:12, the golden rule).

Our passage is annoyingly narrow, we might be tempted to find ways of showing that our faith is not like that. One option would be to swallow hard and to accept that while our faith is narrow, in the end we will be proven right. In Romania we have a saying, he who laughs at the end, laughs better. Is this what Jesus has in mind? Is this call to enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow path a consolation that while we are ridiculed now, we will be proven right in the end, and that makes it all worth it?

I grew up in a context of ridicule during communism where believers were considered a sect and laughed at in school for being narrow minded...this image is coming back these days. But this understanding is too small for what Jesus is saying.

There is a striking contrast in Jesus’ description between the way and the destination: the narrow gate and path lead to LIFE, it is larger than life; the wide gate and path, is a slide that is a dead end, it leads to extreme narrowness, death, and destruction. This reversal is ironical, the wide leads to narrowness and the narrow leads to wide open life.

We all seek life, safety, identity, truth, and meaning; the need and void for such are in us all and it bears a divine shape that can only be fulfilled by God. Isn’t this what Adam and Eve wanted in the garden? Open eyes! True life and meaning! Real freedom! And the serpent whispered that God wants them blindsided, do not be narrow minded, the fruit will open their eyes so they will be like God. They chose wide. The story is the same. Sin promises freedom, life, and largeness but leads to death, bitterness, and slavery in separation from God.

The wide gate is "go with the flow” this applies to religious life in the context of Jesus’ sermon. He sharply rejects the religious, legalistic approach to God. God wants us more holy than the "holy” pharisees; who can achieve that? The way Jesus rejects here is not that of the world, but of tempting empty religion. (Galatians 2:19 – 3:14)

Only dead fish swim with the flow! Christ is calling us to enter through him and walk in him.

Jesus doesn’t just place two options in front of us pointing a finger to say "I told you!” No! He is calling us to enter through the narrow gate, through him, to choose true life. He is not an indifferent merchant with a "take it or leave it offer,” but so much wants all to enter. So much so that he personally came and made himself the door. He alone through his life, death, and resurrection, fulfilled the impossible golden rule, lived the perfect life, and opened the door to life for all. The narrow gate is a person, it is Christ himself, that’s why it is narrow because it is too good to be true. He is the way, the truth, and the life.


Union Square, Timisoara, Romania

Recently, walking through Timisoara, my home city, this passage has received a deeper meaning. European cities take pride in squares and cathedrals, and Timisoara is no exception. The Union Square is our socialwell of the city, a beautiful large square surrounded by beautiful buildings. I learned from an architect that the contrast between the narrow streets and the wide square is intentional, it is meant to impress the viewer. After walking the narrow streets fenced by tall buildings, suddenly this beautiful opening comes as a major contrast, it is beautiful. Union Square is like that. You walk into it impressed by the beautiful Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and the Catholic Dome; by the Palace of Culture and beautiful buildings and even more, you feel welcome and invited to one of the tens of terraces serving great food, coffee and refreshments. You just want to be there. In the middle of the square, our city placed a statue of the Holy Trinity, a column reminding people of the end of the plague of 1780. The statue was moved in the middle of the square during Communism. What an image! God the Trinity, in the middle of the square as a symbol of healing, restoration, and defeating death and plague. At the end of the narrow street of faith, God, expressed in the beautiful perfect communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is inviting and welcoming. He makes that abundant life available to us, God is in the square and will have coffee and pizza and a great banquet with us! 

Posted by Emil Toader with

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