WORSHIP / Part 2: Flourishing through Worship / Psalm 92

COURSE: Spiritual Exercises

LESSON #6: WORSHIP

Part 2: Flourishing through Worship / Psalm 92

This is Part 2 of this multi-part current lesson we are studying together on the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP.

If you haven’t watched Part 1 on The Call To Worship, I would encourage you to do that. You can find both the Lesson Notes and the link to the YouTube video here: https://daveparksblog.com/2021/03/20/worship-part-1-the-call-to-worship/

This Part 2 of WORSHIP will come from Psalm 92. If you don’t have your Bible open in front of you, I encourage you to do that now. Our lesson content and comments will come from the words of Psalm 92.

The theme of Psalm 92 and the title of this lesson is Flourishing through Worship. When anything is flourishing, that means it is thriving, doing well.

  • If a business is flourishing, it is booming, growing, and prospering.
  • If your health is flourishing, you are healthy, full of strength and energy, and free from the afflictions and ravages of sickness and disease. I realize that many of you are not flourishing in your physical health. I am going to be specifically and personally addressing you in the hopes that I can encourage you to continue to give yourself to the worship of God. Please stay with me through the course of this lesson. I want to encourage you especially to continue in your fellowship with God and your worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t allow your chronic afflictions and weaknesses discourage you from seeking and worshiping God. You can and will flourish spiritually through your worship of God, and I pray that you will.   
  • If a plant is flourishing, it is growing, strong, and abundantly bearing the fruit that it bears. I’m going to give you a heads-up about this Psalm 92: those who are unceasing in their worship of God are said to flourish in this way. Verses 12-14 promise “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…” We’ll talk more about what that means when we get to it.
  • In fact, if you want to know what flourishing through worship is and what it looks like, it is announced to us in the very opening words of the whole Book of The Psalms in chapter 1, verse 3: “He is like a tree planted by the streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”  

So, let’s read Psalm 92 together:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord!
    Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know;
    the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
    but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
    for behold, your enemies shall perish;
    all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
    you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

So, let’s develop our theme of Flourishing through Worship.

A PSALM. A SONG FOR THE SABBATH

Let’s begin with those ancient words that are at the head of the Psalm: A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath. We call those words a superscription because they are written over the psalm or at the head, the beginning of the psalm. These words are ancient words. They are not added by the editors of whatever edition of the Bible you are reading from. They are as old as the oldest manuscripts and copies of the Scriptures we have.

And so, what these words tell us is that when the psalmist wrote this psalm and delivered it to the leaders of their ancient worship services, he was telling them what he wanted them to do with the psalm. This was his purpose for giving it. This psalm contains the lessons he wanted the worshipers to sing, and learn, and take home with them.

So, what did the psalmist want them to do with this psalm? He wanted the leaders of their worship to sing this as a song for the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day was their designated day for worshiping the LORD. And since the worshipers didn’t have their own copies of the Scriptures or their own hymnals, the psalmist wanted them to learn the Scriptures by singing them and remembering them.

And so, this Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day was not only to be sung and offered to God on the Sabbath Day as an exercise and expression of their formal and corporate worship of the LORD, but as they sang it, they were to learn it, remember it, practice it, and live it out in the whole of their lives from then on.

“It is GOOD … to WORSHIP!”

So how does this Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day begin? It begins by announcing the theme of flourishing through worship. The theme of Flourishing through Worship is introduced in the word “GOOD.”  You will flourish with GOOD as you unceasingly worship the LORD. You will flourish from your worship of the LORD.

The psalmist begins by announcing “It is GOOD to worship!”

“It is GOOD to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High!”

Now, by announcing that it is GOOD to worship God, the psalmist is making two points:

  1. It is GOOD to worship God because it is the proper and fitting thing we should do. Worshiping God is GOOD because it is the right thing to do. It is what we should and must do because worshiping God is the GOOD, the best response we should give God … because GOD IS GOOD! God Himself is the summation and consummation of all that is GOOD. How many times do we read especially in the Psalms “for the LORD is GOOD!” In fact, in Psalm 119.68, we read: “You are GOOD and do GOOD…” So since God is Himself GOOD, and since everything He does to us and for us is GOOD, then it is a GOOD thing to recognize and confess His Goodness through our worship of Him.
  2. But I think the psalmist wants us to learn something else: the worship of God is GOOD FOR YOU! In other words, your worship of God will also return GOOD back to you! GOOD will come back to you through your very worshiping of God. The LORD will make you flourish through the very exercise of your worship! HOW? Through your very worship of the GOOD God, you will receive more of HIM! I say again, this is where the theme of Flourishing through Worship is announced and introduced. And it is developed throughout the remainder of this psalm … as the psalmist promises from God how the righteous will flourish through the exercise of their worship.

Next, the psalmist gives us three instructions or directions that we can do in our worship that will yield flourishing to us:

1 – There are two ways that we express our worship to God:

  1. “it is good to give thanks to the LORD…” Giving thanks to the LORD is our expression of recognizing that God is GOOD, and that He is the Giver of all the good things that we have and enjoy.
  2. to sing praises to your Name, O Most High…” In this expression of worship, we sing our praises to Him.
    • Notice here also that our attention and worship is turned from addressing Him in the third person – “to the LORD” – to addressing Him directly and personally in the second person: “to your Name, O Most High.”
    • And when we call Him “O Most High,” we are confessing His Deity, His Majesty, His Supreme Glory – and that He is Most Highly-Exalted of all and over all. The psalmist will repeat this confession of God’s O Most High-ness in verse 8: “but you, O LORD, are on high forever.”

2 – Also, when we worship God, we worship Him at all times of every day.

“to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” This is why I have said that this Psalm or Song of the Sabbath Day is not just for the Sabbath Day of worship, not just in the service of worship itself; but by singing it and learning it on the day of worship, we are also learning to take it home with us so we can continue our unceasing worship of the LORD every morning and every night of every day.

  • And what we are thinking about and meditating on every morning and every night of every day is God’s Goodnesses: “your steadfast love” and “your faithfulness.”
  • Regardless of what we are experiencing or going through, regardless of how we feel in our physical bodies, or what afflictions we may be suffering, or even what mood or frame of mind we may be in mentally, we just know that God is GOOD all the time … and He is making all things work together for GOOD to us through our unceasing worship of Him.

3 – And then, the third instruction for our worship is: when we worship God, we must employ every instrument and faculty of our being to worship Him.

“to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre…” OK, I know that not all of us are so gifted and talented that we can play musical instruments. Some of you are, and some of you can. And we appreciate your service in music, and you minister to us immensely when you do. But, even if you can’t play any musical instrument, you can employ the most beautiful instrument that God has given to all of us: and that is, your voice! Even if you can’t carry a note in the proverbial bucket or pitch a single note on key, God loves to hear the sound of your voice as you worship Him! When you voice your worship and praises to God, He just loves to hear you. Whether you are in the congregated assembly or worshiping alone and in private at home, use every instrument and faculty of your being to give your praises to our GOOD God. “Tune my heart to sing Thy praise!” If your heart is in tune and on key, your song of praise will be beautiful and pleasing to the LORD!

And when you worship God in this way, He will receive it, smile, and say: “That is GOOD – that is VERY GOOD!” And He will say it to your soul in a way that you will know it. And God will send His pleasure right back to you and will make your heart and soul flourish.

He will return your worship of Him back to you in the flourishing of your joy!

In fact, that is exactly what the psalmist says next, verse 4:

“For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy!”

Do you see this? In your worship, you are meditating on the GOODNESS of God and the GOODNESS of all His works. Isn’t that what the psalmist is saying? “For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy!” What are you thinking about when you worship God? What about God are you worshiping? You are worshiping God for who He is and what He has done: “your work…the work of your hands.” You are contemplating, confessing, and celebrating God’s GOODNESSES in His creation, in His redemption in Christ and His Gospel, and in His providences – all the ways He loves you, saves you, and provides for you, and supplies all your needs!

And, as you contemplate, confess, and celebrate the GOODNESS of God, He feeds His love, and grace, and favor back into your soul. He makes you to know “This God is my God. He has done all His works on my behalf. He is giving Himself to me and for me!” And this worship fills you with gladness and joy! Your worship of God is making your gladness and joy flourish! You are already flourishing! God is making you flourish and giving you His flourishing through your worship of Him. And your joy will continue to increase as you continue to worship.

Your flourishing is limitless because God’s greatness that we are worshiping is beyond our comprehension!

Read verse 5:

“How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!

You cannot and never will exhaust or plumb the depths of God’s steadfast love and His faithfulness that you are worshiping.

I’m thinking here of Paul’s outburst of worship in Romans 11.33:

“Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!”

Or again, his worship in prayer for the Ephesians [and for us!] in Ephesians 3.16-19:

“…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

God’s works of creation, redemption, and providences – which we are worshiping – are vast, awe-inspiring, all-inclusive of everything He has done … and we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around them all or grasp them with our understanding. Just contemplating, confessing, and celebrating the greatness of God and all His works is beyond our range and capabilities to take them all in. But God thrills us with flourishing as we worship what we do know about Him, and seek more of Him, and immerse ourselves in His worship!

But, here’s yet another way God makes us flourish through our worship of Him: and that is, He gives us vision to see, and insight to understand, and the capacity to receive and experience the flourishing that He gives!

Verse 6 will begin a contrast between the temporary and fleeting ‘flourishing’ that those who do not worship God seek and think they enjoy … versus the true, lasting, soul-satisfying flourishing that God gives back to those who worship Him.

After the psalmist has already said in verse 5, “How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!” … you can supply the word ‘however’ before verse 6:

[However…but] The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:

Now before we go on, we have to ask ourselves, “What in the world does he mean by calling those who do not recognize and worship God ‘stupid’? Can we even use that word to refer to anyone? What does he mean by ‘stupid’ and ‘fool’?” Well, be sure of this, the psalmist is not referring to anyone’s IQ or intellectual deficiency. That is not what in view here. What the psalmist is referring to is the spiritual perception and perspective that those who do not worship God have of God. He is simply saying that they are ‘void of good sense.’ They don’t know GOOD when they see it. They think evil is good. Their values, thinking, and perception of what is good, and their perspective on what is good and what is not is distorted and perverted by their sinful nature and unbelief.

Since we’re talking here in this psalm about God being GOOD and the worship of God being GOOD and GOOD for our flourishing – those who do not worship God do not recognize or confess that. They do not seek God. They put no value on God. They do not love or worship God. Psalm 10.4 indicts those who do not worship God:

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’”

Do you see that? Yes, you do, if you worship God. But the wicked do not. We know that God is GOOD, and that our worship of God is GOOD and GOOD for us. God is making you flourish with understanding by showing you that difference.

You know how we sometimes say, “You don’t know what’s good for you”? That means that whatever this person is seeking or doing will only ruin them. What they think is good for them will fail them and harm them and destroy them.

So, here’s the contrast of flourishing between those who do not worship God and those who do. Let’s pick up verse 6 again and connect it with verse 7:

“The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this [cannot understand what?] that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever…”  

THAT is what they cannot know or understand. They are seeking their own ‘flourishing’ in their own pride, self-desires, self-will, in their own earthly prosperity, and accomplishments, and pleasures. They think they are flourishing. But what they do not know and cannot know and will not recognize and accept is that though they seem to be flourishing and appear outwardly to be flourishing in their own ways, “they are doomed to destruction forever.”

The psalmist goes on to say [verse 8]:

“but you, O LORD, are on high forever.”

Do you see the same “forever” in verses 7 and 8? The wicked are “doomed to destruction ‘forever,’ but you, O LORD are on high ‘forever.’” This same LORD who is “on high forever” is the same “O Most High” that we worship [see verse 1]. Our LORD reigns in holy Majesty and sovereign LORDship forever. “You, O LORD, are the One who judges and determines the forever flourishing and ends of all people.”

Then again in verse 9, the psalmist picks back up and repeats what he saw from his worship of God in verse 7:

For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.” [This is what they cannot know and cannot understand…]

I just want to repeat and re-emphasize here that God will give you this flourishing of wisdom and insight to see the GOODNESS of worshiping Him … through your worshiping! In other words, the LORD will give you personal reassurances of the riches of your inheritance in Him. And that reassurance will make you flourish with hope and joy.

Asaph in Psalm 73: another illustration…

Let me give you another psalmist’s testimony of how God gives you the flourishing of your wisdom through your worship. Go with me to Psalm 73. The author of this psalm is one of David’s chief leaders of worship, Asaph. In Psalm 73, Asaph begins by confessing that “Truly God is GOOD to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” But this confession comes only after he had been worshiping God in spirit and in truth. God made his understanding of what true flourishing is to flourish through his worship of God! He didn’t go to worship that day with this same flourishing of hope and joy.

As Asaph tells us in the verses that follow, he was in a deep depression of doubt about the worthwhileness of his continued worship of the LORD. He had begun questioning the good and benefit of his worship. Why? Because he began to look around at the apparent ‘flourishing’ of those who were not worshiping God. He began to envy them. It looked to him like everything they touched turned to gold. They appeared to be prospering in their sin and wickedness. They gave no thought to God. In fact, they defied God and scoffed at God – and at Asaph for worshiping God. They didn’t give their lives and hearts to worshiping God. Asaph had.

In Psalm 73.13-14, he even began questioning whether he had wasted his life by worshiping God: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.” Then God radically changed his perception and perspective on what true flourishing is. And how did this radical change in his perception and perspective come about? It came about through worship!

Psalm 73.16-19

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!

How does God give us flourishing through worship?

Now, we’re coming to the home stretch. I hope you have hung in with me this far. Please stay with me for the rest of the story … because in verse 10 on through the rest of this psalm, the psalmist is going to give us the other side of the contrast he began in verse 6: the contrast between the apparent, temporary, fleeting flourishing of those who do not worship God … versus the true, lasting, soul-satisfying flourishing of those who do unceasingly worship God.

In verses 6-9, the psalmist describes the temporary, fleeting flourishing of the wicked with their inevitable and inescapable ‘forever’ doom and destruction. Then, in verse 10, he begins with “But…in stark contrast to those who don’t worship You…” Now, he will give us the promises and assurances that God will give us true, lasting, and soul-satisfying flourishing through our unceasing worship of Him.

How does the LORD give us unceasing flourishing through our unceasing worship?

In what ways does the LORD make us flourish through our worshiping of Him?

Here’s how…

Verse 10: “But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.”

Let’s paraphrase these two metaphors this way:

“But You have made me to flourish with courage, strength, and confidence in You – like the horn of the wild ox. You have refreshed me and revived me, You have re-invigorated me with joy and desire for You with the anointing of Your Holy Spirit. You have given me a sense of my belonging to You. You have filled me with the joy of knowing that You have accepted my worship and that You are pleased with my worship!”

And also, by confessing that the LORD had “exalted my horn like that of the wild ox,” he was thanking and praising the LORD [see verse 1] that He had given him the assurance, and confidence, and the strength to push back victoriously even against those who were mocking him and ridiculing him for his commitment to unceasingly worship the LORD! Some of you may need that flourishing of your courage and confidence in the LORD.

In verse 11, he returns to reiterate what the LORD had shown him about the inevitable and inescapable end of those who do not worship God [see verses 7 and 9]:

“My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.”

He had seen and heard this contrast in their eventual ends through his worship. The seeming, apparent, temporary, and fleeting ‘flourishing’ of those who do not worship God quickly wilts away and dies – and they are destroyed forever. The true, soul-satisfying flourishing of the worshiper of God grows, thrives, and lives on forever!

Verses 12-14: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…”

Listen to all those ‘flourish’ words!

  • “flourish like the palm tree” – the palm tree grows straight up, it is abundant with nourishing fruit – the palm date which is so rich in nutrients that it will sustain life for a long time even without any other foods … and can continue to bear its fruit for a century, it is exceedingly resilient to wind and storm, it is an oasis tree and a most welcome sight to the weary traveler or sojourner.
  • “grow like the cedar in Lebanon” – the cedars of Lebanon were legendary for their strength and durability.
  • “planted in the house of the LORD” – your worship of the LORD will establish you and make you unmovable, give you deeply-planted roots of conviction and confidence in the LORD. When you are “planted” in the house of the LORD, you belong there. You are at home there. You grow and flourish there.
  • “flourish in the courts of our God” – well, ‘flourish’ says it for itself: flourishing is thriving, being full of wellness, growth, vigor, and vitality.
  • “still bear fruit in old age” – your flourishing will keep on growing, increasing, and bearing fruit as long as you do … I want to say more about this here in a minute…
  • “ever full of sap and green” – ALWAYS full of life and vitality! Your flourishing in worship will come back to you in unceasing abundant supply through you unceasing worship of the LORD!

Now, to you who are suffering your various weaknesses and afflictions – and maybe even discouraged in your worship … to you who may even be homebound and can’t attend the worship services you so love and long for…

Do you even doubt that this flourishing promised here still belong to you and apply to you? Especially, what about that one that promises: “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green”? You have given your life to the worship of the LORD and your service in His church. You love the services of worship, and all your life you have been active and faithful and fruitful. But now, your body has grown weak and frail. You suffer from chronic afflictions. Your strength has been diminished and your activities are so limited. You feel like you are useless now. You think the times of your usefulness and fruit-bearing are over.

THAT’S NOT TRUE! THAT’S NOT WHAT THE LORD PROMISES HERE! He promises “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green!”

Your old-age weakness may prevent you from being as active as you have been and used to be – but nothing prevents your worship of the LORD and your flourishing through that worship! Do you remember singing that verse of “How Firm a Foundation” that sings:

“Even down to old age, all My people shall prove

My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love.

And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn

like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”  

“So,” you ask: “What fruit can I still bear in my older-age years and in my present weakness?

OK, now read that last verse of Psalm 92, verse 15:

“…to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

This is a summary of the fruit you have borne and are still bearing by your life of unceasing worship of the LORD which you are still bearing.

By your unceasing worship of the LORD, God will give you unceasing flourishing:

  • …by feeding His own GOOD Presence back into your soul with His fullness of life and refreshment!
  • …by making your lifetime of worship and service to Him your living, lasting witness and personal testimony to His worthiness of our worship!
  • …and by inspiring all those who know you and see you to follow your example of life-long worship of the LORD!

Yes! even in your older-age and physical weaknesses and frailties, you are still bearing all these fruits!

And, as the LORD gives you unceasing flourishing through your unceasing worship of Him, your flourishing will declare that He is faithful to His children, He will be the source and supply of all the strength they need, and He will fulfill ALL His covenant word and promises!

You are singing, “He’s never failed me yet!”  

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE YOUTUBE VIDEO FOR THIS LESSON:

HERE IS THE PDF OF THESE LESSON NOTES:

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WORSHIP / Part 1: The Call to Worship

COURSE: Spiritual Exercises

LESSON #6: WORSHIP

Part 1: The Call to Worship

We are beginning here a new lesson in our current course on Spiritual Exercises. This lesson will focus on the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP. Along with all the other spiritual exercises we have been exploring, the spiritual exercise of worship is one of the most essential and prominent spiritual exercises that we practice in our relationship and walk with God.

Again … what is a ‘Spiritual Exercise’?

As we have done with previous spiritual exercises, let’s just rehearse and remind ourselves of what a spiritual exercise is:

  • A spiritual exercise is any one of those activities or exercises that we practice and perform as a lifestyle to follow Jesus Christ, obey Jesus Christ, serve Jesus Christ, and become more like Jesus Christ – which is always our ultimate purpose and aim.
  • A spiritual exercise is any one of those activities that we practice that express and live out the lifestyle of truly being a Christian, a born-again child of God, and a transformed believer in Christ.
  • Spiritual exercises are those same activities and exercises that are sometimes also called ‘spiritual disciplines,’ ‘holy habits,’ or ‘habits of grace.’

And so, let’s be clear here again: we’re not just talking about rote rituals, legalistic rules you make for yourself or to impose on someone else, nor are they merely traditions of our faith community. We are talking about those activities that express our living, loving, lasting relationship and fellowship with God through our saving faith in Jesus Christ. They are the life, the breath, and the spirit of our eternal-life relationship with God.

That brings us to the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP…

So, then – that brings us to the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP. We hardly know where to begin to even start talking about worship and how we should practice it. The spiritual exercise of worship is literally woven all throughout the warp and woof of Scripture revelation and the experiences of God’s people as they exercise their relationship with Him.

The beginnings of worship revealed in Scripture

We could even say that Adam and Eve worshiped God just through their daily interactions with God as they served Him in the Garden of Eden before their fall into sin. Worship was certainly what they were doing when they offered to God the first animal sacrifice that God prescribed and provided for their atonement after their fall into sin.

It very well may be that when we read in Genesis 4.26:

“To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the Name of the LORD

…it may be describing the first gatherings and congregating of fellow-worshipers to worship God together – to confess, celebrate, and exercise their common faith in God.

Jesus on worship

You will also recall that our Lord Jesus Christ summarized the whole duty of man and the experience of God’s people in His response to Satan’s temptations in the wilderness in Matthew 4.10. In this temptation, Satan had taken Jesus to the pinnacle of a very high mountain

“and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”’”

Jesus here is paraphrasing one of the supreme commandments of God in Deuteronomy 6.13-14:

“It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by His Name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the people who are around you…”

We must note here: not only is this summary commandment to worship God and Him only given to us by Jesus’ own Divine Authority, but in this commandment, Jesus reiterates and re-affirms that the worship of God is our supreme duty, and that the worship of God includes in some way every expression of our lives. The worship of God is how we exercise and live out the most supreme commandment of all:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” [Deuteronomy 6.5].

In Jesus’ response to Satan in Matthew 4.10, and by quoting from Deuteronomy 6, He is equating loving the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and might with worshiping God and serving Him only! Loving the LORD your God with all your heart and worshiping and serving Him only is the same exercise!

Worship in the Book of Revelation

Then certainly the spiritual exercise of worship is highlighted all throughout the Book of The Revelation. The worship of God is the lifestyle and unceasing exercise that is prominently and repeatedly highlighted and referenced all throughout the Book of Revelation.

  • You’ll read and sing their songs of worship in Revelation 4 and 5.
  • You’ll read in Revelation 7.15: “Therefore they are before the Throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His Temple…” [By the way, one of the lessons we will learn as we go along is that ‘worship’ is not the only specific word that describes the spiritual exercise of worship; worship is also expressed in words like ‘praise,’ ‘sing,’ ‘bless,’ ‘hallelujah,’ ‘glory in,’ ‘give thanks,’ ‘fear,’ and ‘serve’ as here in Revelation 7.15 … and there are others also that we will point out as we go along.]
  • The Book of Revelation, and indeed the whole revelation of Scripture ends in chapter 22.8-9 as John fell down to worship the angel who showed him the visions of Jesus’ glory that he wrote down for us:

 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you, your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” HCSB

And so, that exhortation to “Worship God” can sum up the whole activity of all our spiritual exercises. We are created to worship God. We are redeemed to worship God. We live to worship God. Every activity and exercise of our lives should be to worship God.

The more focused expressions of our worship

But what we will focus on in this lesson is the more focused expressions of worship that we exercise, specifically:

  • Whom we worship
  • how we worship [the exercises and expressions of our worship]
  • why we worship

Let’s begin in the Book of the Psalms

So, since we need to begin somewhere, let’s begin in the Book of the Psalms. We all know that the Psalms were inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to the authors of the Psalms to give us guidance and directions for how we exercise and express our worship of God. When they were first written and delivered to the first recipients, it was for them to use in their services of worship.

For example, we read in 1 Chronicles 16.7, that when King David first wrote the words to the psalm we know as Psalm 105, he delivered it into the hands of Asaph. Asaph led the worship of God in the special tent that David had erected for their worship services:

 On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the LORD: [NKJV]

Let’s begin in Psalm 95

So, let’s begin our study of worship from the Book of the Psalms in Psalm 95. Please have your Bible open to Psalm 95 as we go through this lesson. We want to learn some of how we should worship from the words of this psalm. As we read this Psalm, it will impress you with the importance and relevance of worship…

Let’s read Psalm 95 together:

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
    let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it,
    and His hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For He is our God,
    and we are the people of His pasture,
    and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you hear His voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah* [or ‘rebellion’],
    as on the day at Massah* [or ‘testing’] in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
    and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

[*See Exodus 17.1-7 & Numbers 20.1-13 for the historical background of these referenced events…]

In this part of our lesson, we’re not going to get into the historical backgrounds of the second movement of this Psalm – how they rebelled against and tested God in the wilderness. Rather, we will focus on the first part of the Psalm, verses 1-7.

The Call To Worship

The focus of this Part 1 of this lesson on the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP is just to emphasize The Call to Worship. This psalm begins with the call to worship:

  • verses 1 and 2: Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
  • and again in verse 6: Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

    What do we learn about The Call To Worship from the words of this Psalm?

I want us all to note, first of all:

[1] The call to worship comes from God Himself!

I know that the psalmist is speaking to us in his own voice “Oh come!”, but we have to know that the psalmist is only echoing the voice of the LORD Himself! In fact, as the second part of the Psalm begins, the psalmist calls on us to hear the voice of God Himself: “Today, if you hear His voice…”! We just need to make sure we don’t respond to God’s voice like they did in the historical context that the psalmist warns us against!

God calls us to worship Him! This call to worship is God’s own personal invitation [and command] to come into His very Presence bringing our personal expressions of worship to give to Him! “Let us come into His Presence with thanksgiving!”

When I was pastoring and leading worship services, I would always open the service with these first words: “Welcome to the Presence of God and the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I wanted us all to know that God had called us together to worship Him, and that we were in the very Presence of God. Yes, we were in each other’s presence, but more than that, we were in the Presence of God. We had scheduled and called the worship service, but we had done so in response to the call of God Himself.

Invariably and repeatedly, when we read in the Scriptures about our gatherings for worship, it is always “before the LORD.” “Before the LORD” means “in the Presence of the LORD.” When we come and gather together with other worshipers “before the LORD,” God Himself is there! When you answer the call to come to worship, your first awareness and impression must be “GOD IS HERE, AND HE IS CALLING ME TO WORSHIP HIM!”

There is an awesomeness of the real and personal Presence of God that must capture and command our spirits when we come together for worship. We’ll talk more about that in another part of this lesson, but the Presence of God must be the commanding ambience and environment of all our worship exercises.

Next, we need to note that:

[2] The call to worship comes from each other … and to each other.

We call, and invite, and welcome one another to worship.

  • Oh come, let us sing to the LORD
  • let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!
  • Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
  • let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
  • Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
  • let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

    When we gather for worship, we are encouraged and blessed to see one another, but we all recognize that we don’t worship God together for others to see or hear us. We are only God’s fellow-inviters and fellow-callers to worship Him! As we worship together, we are pointing in unison to Him.

We are all familiar with Psalm 122.1. We often quote it. But listen to David’s emphasis on Who we are mutually inviting each other to worship!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

You hear it and see it, don’t you?! “Oh come, come along with me, let us together go to ‘the house of the LORD’!” We are calling each other, inviting one another, encouraging one another – but we are together going to be in God’s house, in His Presence to worship Him!

Here’s another observation we make about our worship just from the words of Psalm 95:

[3] We respond to God’s call to worship with our expressions.

How many expressions of our worship can you find in Psalm 95.1-7?

What do these words mean and how do we do them … as expressions of our worship?

“Oh come!” Does it every impress you that our very coming to worship is worship? When we come to worship, we are doing so intentionally and deliberately. When we come to worship, we are declaring our intention and purpose – to recognize the greatness and worthiness of God of our worship. We are calling attention to God’s supreme worthiness by our worship. When we come to worship, we are announcing our identity – we are worshippers of God! God has called us to worship Him and given us a Divinely-designated place to express our worship of Him! We are coming in response to His call to worship!

For years now, I have quit saying “I am going to church.” What I say is “I am going to worship!” because that is what I am going to do where I am going. Merely “going to church” can be just a habit-thing or a tradition-thing. But “going to worship” is an intentional purpose for my going there. Worship is the activity I will engage in when I go to a church service. And, as we drive from home to our place of worship, there is a sense of awe and joy that comes over me as we come in sight of our church building, and as we pull into the parking lot, and especially as we enter the sanctuary. I know it’s just a building, and the sanctuary is just a room – but it is where God has promised to meet with us as we worship Him! I am coming to worship God!

Also, when I’m talking to someone, especially to a fellow believer, if we’re getting acquainted with one another and finding out more about one another, I won’t ask him [or her] “where do you attend church?” or even “what church are you a member of?” Instead, I will ask “where do you worship and serve?” Because that is what we are called to do in the church we attend or are members of.  

“Let us sing to the LORD!” Singing is one of the Divinely-prescribed exercises of our worship. It is certainly not the only exercise of our worship, but it is an essential exercise. Our worship in song has these characteristics:

  • it is personal: that is, each of us offers our own personal song and singing from our own hearts and spirits
  • it is corporate: by that, I mean that our singing is offered in worship as a body of believers and worshippers
  • it is in unison: we worship God in our singing together, in unity, and at the same time and in the same exercise
  • it is spiritual: meaning that our singing is not just our exercise of talent or ritual, but our singing is our response to God and interaction with God Himself in the Holy Spirit. Listen to how Paul instructs us how we are to sing: “…but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” [Ephesians 5.18-19]
  • it is physical: meaning that we sing using our physical voices
  • it is vocal: we are not just thinking and meditating in our minds; we are actually voicing our worship and praises about God – and to God!  

“Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!” This is another expression of our physical and vocal worship of God with sounds! Except that our ‘joyful noises [or sounds]’ are being sung to God as the Rock of our salvation and in His very Presence! Worship is a celebration! It is not just a dutiful obligation, but a joyful celebration to our God for being “the Rock of our salvation” – for being so loving and strong to save us!

“Let us come into His Presence with thanksgiving!” We are reminded again that our singing and worship is in His very Presence! Our ‘thanksgiving’ is our expression that we are recognizing that God is the God we are worshiping and we owe all of our praises to Him!

“Let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!” Again, all of our vocal songs and praises are ‘to Him’ and we are worshiping and praising Him! And our hearts and voices are full of joy as we recognize His Holiness, His mercies, and His grace. Just a few psalms ahead of where we are now is Psalm 100:

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His Presence with singing!”

The worship of the LORD should be our ‘happy place’!

“Let us worship and bow down!” Our bowing down may be physical on occasions, but always our spirits are in the prostrate position before God in humility and gratitude.

“Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!” Again – our kneeling and bowing down – whether in body or spirit – are expressions of our awe, adoration, and deference to God!

These expressions must be our constant attitudes in the Presence of God and must characterize all our exercises of worship!

And finally – for now…

[4] God’s Call To Worship recognizes and responds to our dual relationship to God. Again, I’m going to ask you to pay attention to the psalmist’s words and how he expresses our relationships with God in our worship.

Let me point out two movements in verses 1-7. Both of these movements start out with The Call To Worship: “Oh come…!” And then both of these movements will give us a reason why we should come and worship God. You’ll find these two reasons in the word “for” [or “because”] in verses 3 and 7. Look for the relationship God has given us to inspire our worship of Him…

God calls us to worship Him because He is our Creator, verses 1-5

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
    let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it,
    and His hands formed the dry land.

Do you see that? We worship God “for” or “because” the LORD is great God, and a great King above all gods. And He is this great God and a great King above all gods “for” or because He created all the things that are! He not only created all things, but He owns, controls, and governs all things. The phrase that the psalmist uses is “His hands.” “In His hand are the depths of the earth, the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” Every molecule and every atom of every element that is in the physical creation was created by His hands and remains in His hands.

We, too, are the creations of His hands. He made us. He is God, the Creator, of all the elements that are in the world in which we live. When we worship Him, we are recognizing that, and confessing Him as Creator of all things, and giving Him His due praise and glory! God created every element and every creature of His universe for this express purpose: to worship Him!

This theme is expressed all throughout Scripture and especially here in the Psalms.

But, more than that even – God calls us to worship Him because He is our Redeemer and Savior, verses 6-7. Read and listen to this “for” or another reason why we worship Him!

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For He is our God,
    and we are the people of His pasture,
    and the sheep of His hand.

He is not only “a great God, and a great King above all gods” as in verse 3, but here in verse 7, it is personalized to us – He gives Himself to us to be our God.

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”

Notice the more personal and intimate relationship between God and us. Not only is He our Maker in the sense that He created us, but “for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand”!

This reminds us of the covenant promise that Yahweh has made with us: “I will be your God and you shall be my people!”

In Exodus 6.7, when God first brought Israel out of Egypt, He covenanted, promised, and committed to them:

 “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I AM the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

When God promises to establish His New Covenant with us through the Gospel of the blood of Jesus Christ, He reiterates and re-affirms “And you shall be my people, and I will be your God” as in Jeremiah 30.22.

This means that when we respond to God’s call to worship Him, we are confessing and celebrating “for He is our God!” in every sense of that word! God takes us to be His loved and treasured possession, and at the same time, He gives Himself to us as our loved and treasured possession! God says to us, “I have redeemed you to be my loved people and sheep – and I am giving Myself to you to be your God! WORSHIP ME!!!”

Also, God draws our attention again to His ‘hand’ that not only saves and secures us, but also provides everything needful for our lives!

 “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”

Just like His hand holds the seas and the heights of the mountains – just like His hands made the sea and formed the dry land, so also His hand is stretched out to us as His people and sheep to save us, to redeem us, to protect us, to secure us, to love on us, and to give us every single provision we will ever need! “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided – great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord, to me!”

Isaiah 43.1-3

But now thus says the LORD,
He who created you, O Jacob,
    He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

So, “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand!”

This is God’s Call To Worship.

“O come! Let us worship!”

HERE IS THE PDF OF THESE LESSON NOTES:

HERE IS THE YOUTUBE VIDEO FOR THIS LESSON:

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LORD, you have been our Dwelling Place in ALL generations!

“LORD, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. / Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God…” ~Psalm 90.1-2

This is Psalm 90.1-2, but you need to read the whole chapter to get the context of the depressive mood of this particular generation in which Moses is writing [especially verses 3-11].

More on that later…but you’re probably already identifying with him!

But, what struck me immediately as I was reading and meditating this morning in this familiar Psalm is that Moses recognizes that YAHWEH is the dwelling place of His saints in all generations. Now, you think about that because you are living in one of those generations. Moses was writing in a generation – his own generation. This was the wilderness-wandering generation. A whole generation of premature dying and deaths [see verses 9-11]. Read Numbers 14.20-38 for a dark backstory commentary on this Psalm. Think about that! For 40 long years, the positivity and fatality rate for death and dying was 100% for a whole generation! Every. Single. Day.

But, IN ALL GENERATIONS, ‘LORD, YOU HAVE BEEN OUR DWELLING PLACE!’ Regardless of what generation was, has been, or is now, IN ALL GENERATIONS, ‘LORD, YOU HAVE BEEN OUR DWELLING PLACE!’

Regardless of what all was going on in those generations or is now going on in YOUR GENERATION, ‘LORD, YOU HAVE BEEN OUR DWELLING PLACE IN ALL GENERATIONS!’

This is all-inclusive: “…FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING YOU ARE GOD!” Whatever generation has been, is now, and ever will be – from the beginning to the ending of all generations, YAHWEH has been God! and He has been the Dwelling Place of His saints!

So, that being true – and it is! – then what kind of Dwelling Place is YAHWEH? You need to think about this because if YAHWEH is your Dwelling Place, then this is the kind of Dwelling Place He is to you…right here, right now: [drawing also from the following companion Psalm 91]

  • safe & secure [see 91.3-13]
  • personal & welcoming [see 91.1-2]
  • available & accessible [see 91.14-15]
  • faithful [see 91.4]
  • confident [see 91.9-10, 14-15]
  • sufficient & satisfying [see 90.14 & 91.16]
  • happy … truly happily ever after … everlastingly! [see 90.15 & 91.16]

This is my prayer and I pray you will make it yours also: “So teach us to number our days [take stock, inventory, consider, take into account] that we may get a heart of wisdom” – THIS wisdom!

Psalm 68.20 ~ Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Psalm 48.12-14 ~ Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that THIS IS OUR GOD, OUR GOD FOREVER AND EVER! He will guide us FOREVER!

Regardless of what generation you’re living in, and regardless of what all is going on in your generation, IF THIS GOD IS YOUR GOD, THEN HE IS YOUR DWELLING PLACE! And you’re going to be more than OK!

Then you can continue reading on in Psalm 91!  

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“MY ‘ONE-WORD’ RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD” – full text

Course: Spiritual Exercises | Lesson #5

Part 1: The Spiritual Exercise of Making Holy Resolutions & Introduction to “My One-Word Resolution”

“Spiritual Exercises”

This is Lesson 5 of a series we are calling “Spiritual Exercises.” So, let’s take just a moment here to remind ourselves again of what a ‘spiritual exercise’ is. We’ve been in this study for several weeks now, and we’ve had some interruptions, so it will do us good just to remind ourselves again what a “spiritual exercise” is to help keep us on point and in focus.

What is a “spiritual exercise”? A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities or exercises that we do to exercise our obedience to God and discipleship after Jesus Christ. A ‘spiritual exercise’ is an activity that we practice and perform to follow Jesus Christ, obey Jesus Christ, serve Jesus Christ, and become more like Jesus Christ – which is always our ultimate purpose and aim.

A ‘spiritual exercise’ is any one of those activities that we practice that express and live out the lifestyle of truly being a Christian, a born-again child of God, and a transformed believer in Christ.

‘Spiritual exercises’ are those same activities and exercises that are sometimes also called ‘spiritual disciplines,’ ‘holy habits,’ or ‘habits of grace.’

And so, let’s be clear here: we’re not just talking about rote rituals or legalistic rules you make for yourself or for someone else – we are talking about the activities that express and exercise the real-alive, born-again, living, loving, and longing relationship of eternal life that we have with Jesus Christ. It is the expression and exercise of the spiritual life and fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, that the apostle John wrote about in his opening of 1 John, chapter 1.1-4:

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have observed
and have touched with our hands,
concerning the Word of life—
that life was revealed,
and we have seen it
and we testify and declare to you
the eternal life that was with the Father
and was revealed to us—
what we have seen and heard
we also declare to you,
so that you may have fellowship along with us;
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ.

We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.

THAT is what spiritual exercises are: “…so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Some “spiritual exercises” we have previously discussed…

And so, since the beginning of this course…

  • we have studied lessons on reading the Scriptures daily, regularly, and comprehensively
  • we have studied lessons on adopting and following Bible-reading plans and schedules
  • we have studied lessons on how to read the Word of God for the doctrinal and practical truths and lessons God means for us to learn, take away from our reading, and apply to the ways we live our lives
  • we have studied lessons on prayer and proposed prayer prompters that we must pray for every day taken from Jesus’ Disciples’ Model Prayer [usually called the Lord’s Prayer].

Another “spiritual exercise” – “MY ONE WORD”

What I want to do now is turn our attention and interest to another spiritual exercise. I pray and hope this lesson will encourage you to begin practicing it. I have personally practiced this spiritual exercise consistently for the past seven years and have found it to be one of the most beneficial and enriching spiritual exercises I have practiced over the course of my Christian life and my walk with the Lord.

I am calling this spiritual exercise, “MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION,” or to shorten it up by one word, “MY ONE WORD.” I’ll be using both names as we go through this spiritual exercise. So, just by the first title that I have given you, you have deduced that it has something to do with resolutions, making holy resolutions. And you are right about that.

But, it is more than just a usual “New Year’s Resolution”

However, please don’t think that this applies just to what we usually call “New Year’s Resolutions,” although the turn and beginning of a new year is a good time to think about it and begin exercising it. The turning of a new year gives us a built-in opportunity and makes it more conducive to consider this spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions.

There is just something about the turning of a new year, the beginning of a new season of time that makes us stop and take stock and evaluate the year that has past and how we did in it.

  • Did we grow … or not?
  • Did we make spiritual progress … or backslide?
  • Did we “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” [Hosea 6.3] … or did we lapse into indifference?

There is something about a new beginning of time that sparks our interest in making new beginnings and gives us inspiration and hope that we can.

But not just at ‘New Year’s’ – it’s a lifestyle

But, the beginning of a new year certainly should not be the only time of our lives when we think about making holy resolutions to be better than we have been – and better than we are in the present moment – and more and more like Jesus Christ!

Making holy resolutions is a spiritual exercise and a holy lifestyle. In fact, making holy resolutions is just another word for another word that may be more common to us: the word ‘repentance.’ Making holy resolutions is practicing the spiritual exercise of repentance: reflecting on the ways we are, and the ways we are living, and having the holy desire and resolution to change the ways we are for a life that is more like Christ and more pleasing to God … more expressive of the life of Christ living in us [Galatians 2.20]!

And so, before I even begin the story of how I discovered this practice of making “One-Word Resolutions,” let’s address this practice of making holy resolutions and why it is an essential spiritual exercise.

Do you ‘do resoltuions’?

Believe it or not, I actually had a brother come up to me after I preached this spiritual exercise and was leading my church to adopt it and practice it, and he just kind of smirked at me and said, “I don’t do resolutions.” Like he was kind of above the need to make resolutions or some such attitude. To be honest with you, I was so stunned and taken aback by that statement that I didn’t even know how to respond. However, I thought about it later, and given the history of this brother, he actually may have thought he was quite OK the way he was, and that he didn’t need to improve on anything he was or was doing. He may have actually thought that he didn’t know anything he was doing that he could do better. I knew him well, and I knew better, but he may have had that impression of himself.

We’re not talking about merely getting caught up in the impulse of a season…

Now, if he was saying that he didn’t get caught up in the emotion and impulse of making New Year’s Resolutions, then that may have been understandable. I’m sure there is a LOT of impulsive, insincere, superficial New Year’s Resolution-making that goes on in the wave and emotion of the moment … resolutions that are not serious and the resolution-makers never really intend and are not convicted and intentional about making a life-changing commitment to follow through and keep them.

But, what he said is, “I don’t do resolutions.”

So, let me ask you: “Do you do resolutions … do you make resolutions?” Or another way to present the challenge is: “Do you repent?” Do you ever examine yourself, consider your ways, evaluate and take stock of your life, and say, “I need to repent of this, change my ways, and resolve and commit to obeying God in the ways that He commands and that please Him”? Do you ever change your ways – by turning away from something that is sin, and evil, and displeasing to God, and turn to commit to a righteous way of living?

So, we may condense and distill what a holy resolution is by simply saying: A holy resolution is your spiritual conviction and holy commitment to change your ways to become more like Christ.

When I think of making holy resolutions, my mind invariably goes to Psalm 119.59-60 HCSB:

I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees [or ‘testimonies’]. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.

What David is describing here is the spiritual exercise of thinking on, evaluating, every facet of his life from God’s viewpoint and pleasure, and when he sees things that are wrong and amiss, he immediately resolves to correct it according to what he reads in God’s Word.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote this excellent and pointed brief commentary on this verse in his splendid work The Treasury of David:

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” While studying the Word, he was led to study his own life, and this caused a mighty revolution. He came to the Word, and then he came to himself, and this made him arise and go to his Father.

Consideration is the commencement of conversion: first we think and then we turn. When the mind repents of ill ways the feet are soon led into good ways; but there will be no repenting until there is deep, earnest thought.

Many men are averse to thought of any kind, and as to thought upon their ways, they cannot endure it, for their ways will not bear thinking of. David’s ways had not been all that he could have wished them to be, and so his thoughts were sobered over with the pale cast of regret; but he did not end with idle lamentations, he set about a practical amendment; he turned and returned, he sought the testimonies of the LORD, and hastened to enjoy once more the conscious favor of his heavenly Friend.

Action without thought is folly, and thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly is a happy combination. He had entreated for renewed fellowship, and now he proved the genuineness of his desire by renewed obedience.

If we are in the dark, and mourn an absent God, our wisest method will be not so much to think upon our sorrows as upon our ways: though we cannot turn the course of Providence, we can turn the way of our walking, and this will soon mend matters.

If we can get our feet right as to holy walking, we shall soon get our hearts right as to happy living. God will turn to His saints when they turn to Him; yea, He has already favored them with the light of His face when they begin to think and turn.”

So, that is what I’m calling us to do when I talk about the spiritual exercise of making holy resolutions: I’m talking about the Scriptural practice of repentance from our sins and turning back to live and walk in ways of holy obedience to God and His Word. I’m talking about the lifestyle of examining our ways before God by the standard and rule of His Word, and then conforming our lives more to Christ in swift obedience and holy resolution.

Again, Psalm 119.59-60:

I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees. 60 I hurried, not hesitating to keep Your commands.

By the way, before we leave Psalm 119 and return to the spiritual exercise of “One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word,” if you want to know how to make holy resolutions in keeping with the Word of God, then read Psalm 119. Mark all the times David makes holy resolutions with the words “I will…” or any of the numerous resolutions he makes just in Psalm 119 by declaring his intentions and then doing them. Psalm 119 is filled with scores of holy resolution prompters.

Let me just give you a brief sampler. If you want to know what a holy resolution looks like and sounds like, listen to this […and I’m just going to start at the beginning of Psalm 119 and go a few verses to show you how you, too, can make holy resolutions just by allowing David here to inspire you].

From Psalm 119:

  • verse 5: Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
  • verse 7: I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules!
  • verse 8: I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
  • verse 10: With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
  • verse 11: I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
  • verse 14: In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
  • verse 15: I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
  • verse 16: I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

There are 176 verses in Psalm 119, and every single one can be viewed as a holy resolution in one form or another. No statement in these 176 verses about The Word of God can be viewed as FYI only. Every expression is not just an indicative … every expression is also an imperative.

All of these resolutions are not only good holy resolutions, but they are also holy resolutions that should be the normal spiritual exercises of every believer

Now, let me return to my personal story of how I discovered this spiritual exercise of “My One Word” and began to practice it as a resolution-making lifestyle…

How I discovered and began practicing the “My One Word” spiritual exercise

I first got started with this spiritual exercise of making “My One-Word Resolutions” when I came across a book by the title of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word. It was written in 2012 by Mike Ashcraft. Mike is a Baptist pastor in Wilmington NC.

Here is the address for the website where the book is featured: http://myoneword.org/

Here’s how they tease the book on their website:

LOSE THE LONG LIST OF RESOLUTIONS. If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months.

So, that’s what intrigued me when I first saw the book. This was around October 2014. 2015 was coming up. And, as usual, I was preparing for New Year’s Resolutions like I have done for as long as I can remember.

I have always been making resolutions…

Let me give you just a brief personal aside here: I have always been one to be making resolutions. And not just around New Year’s. For pretty much all of my life, I have been one to be making resolutions all the time.

I have never been content with myself the way I was at any point. I have always been a perfectionist – and when I say that, I’m not commending myself – I’m telling you that being a ‘perfectionist’ is not a good characteristic … not a good character trait. It’s one thing to want to be better than you are and strive for growth in grace and improvement in your character and conduct. That is a good thing. That’s what we should be doing all the time.

Perfection-ism is a sin

But perfection-ism is a sin. Perfection-ism is expecting perfection from yourself because … well, because you think you are perfect and can be perfect. And, of course, none of us is. But, in our pride, and arrogance, and self-righteousness, we strive to be perfect – or at least appear to be perfect. Except that when you are a perfectionist, all of our striving is in the energy of our own fleshly human will and nature which is fallen, flawed, and doomed to failure because “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” [Romans 8.8]. Paul had earlier confessed and lamented in Romans 7.18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” But, a perfectionist is always striving to prove Paul wrong on that indictment: “there IS something good that dwells in my flesh, and I’m going to show you!”

And so much of what goes into being a perfectionist is wanting to appear to be perfect for your own self-esteem and for the praise of other people. When all of this pride in ourselves and seeking the praises of others works itself in our resolutions and efforts to be better, that is what makes perfectionism such an abominable sin to God. It is a self-help effort to produce the righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that only God gives through faith in Jesus Christ and the life of the new birth. This is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.

But, I’m getting way ahead of my story here…

Not self-perfection-ism, but going on to perfection in Christ

I said all that to illustrate my statement that I have always been one to be making resolutions. But instead of making our resolutions from the motivation of a self-effort perfectionism, we must be making our resolutions – as a lifestyle – from the incentive and motivation of wanting to be ‘perfect’ in the sense of growing up and being grown-up in the grace of God, ‘perfect’ in the sense of being mature in Christ, and ‘perfect’ in the sense of wanting to be complete in our character and conduct – complete as in becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

This is the sense that the Hebrews writer is pressing on us when he says in Hebrews 6.1, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…”, or as we are used to reading and hearing it in the Authorized KJV, “let us go on to perfection.” Or when James writes about our persevering through our adversities and trials of faith, he challenges us in James 1.4, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

To be perfect, whole, complete in Christ

So, that’s what we are striving for; that’s why we make resolutions – so we can be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing we are supposed to be and do. The aim of all our resolutions-making is not just to appear to be better people, or become “a better you,” or even to actually be better people for our own self-satisfaction, or to boost our self-esteem, or to win the praises of others. But rather we make resolutions to be more and more like Jesus Christ in our character and conduct – more complete, more mature, more perfectly conformed to His image and likeness … lacking nothing.

And, to put it another way: we make our resolutions for change and growth and improvement, not to seek to please other people or to please ourselves – but to please God!

Here is the link to the YouTube video for Part 1: https://youtu.be/wrlO2nrS1Vse

Here is the link to my DaveParksBlog with these same Lesson Notes: https://daveparksblog.com/2021/01/31/my-one-word-resolution-or-my-one-word-part-1/

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Part 2: My Seven-Year Story Making “My One-Word Resolutions” and Living by “My One Word” – and What They Have Been

So … now back to my story…

So, now that I’ve given you a little personal background about my long-standing exercise of making resolutions, and especially New Year’s resolutions, let me pick up the story of how I came across the book My One Word, and how it changed the way I make my resolutions.

It was late in the year of 2014. I was thinking ahead and praying about 2015. And, like Mike Ashcraft says in the teaser about his book, I was one of those who made lists of resolutions. They were all good resolutions. They were all resolutions that I thought I should make to serve the Lord more faithfully and walk more closely with Him.

But, I would think, pray, and meditate during the closing weeks of the year. And you know how that, even though the last 6-8 weeks of the year are busy with holiday events, and get-togethers, and activities, we usually still have some break from the normal pressures and focus of our regular work schedule. So, there may be some extra time in there to give a little more attention to other things … like preparing and making resolutions for the new year. And I would. And the lists of resolutions would be numerous, detailed, comprehensive, and oftentimes maybe overly-ambitious.

And I meant well … I was very conscientious about it.

But then, when the new year comes, your normal activities and responsibilities resume, and you get back to your usual demanding workload, and your attention becomes absorbed and preoccupied again just to live your normal life in many of the usual ways.

And what happens to your resolutions? I would often lose track of what I had resolved to do and what I had resolved to change and do differently. Sometimes I would even lose my lists of resolutions! It’s like I wouldn’t have the attention and time to fulfill my regularly-scheduled ministry activities and also give attention to and focus on making the extensive changes like I had resolved I would do.

And so very often, I would just revert back to some of my old imperfect ways just by default. Or, maybe I would become distracted, then discouraged, then defeated – and finally just give it up in frustration. And then, to make matters much worse, I would get depressed over my perceived failure to keep my resolutions.

Then, I discovered My One Word

Then, I discovered this book My One Word and read it. It changed everything for me. I began making “My One Word” Resolutions beginning in January 2015, and I have continued that practice to the present.

I prayed about one major resolution that I should make to change my ways before God, and when I focused on that “One Word,” I discovered that other changes I need to make would also be included in “My One Word” and they, too, began to fall in line with “My One Word,” and I was actually pursuing several paths of growing in grace while I was focusing on “My One Word.”

How it has worked for me…

I think that maybe the best way to illustrate how “My One Word” works, and how it may prove to be a beneficial spiritual exercise for you, is to give you a personal testimony about how I have worked it in my life and experience.

So, let me give you a year-by-year testimony of what “My One Word” resolutions have been and how the Lord impressed each one on my life – and especially as I have prayed about what changes the Holy Spirit needed to make in my life as those changes were inspired and energized by the Word of God.

2015 – “REST”

So, as I say, 2015 was coming up. I knew there were changes that were going to take place in my life and ministry. Changes were going to take place in the church I was pastoring. I didn’t know how they were going to go or what the outcome of all these changes would be. I would find out later – but I didn’t know in 2014 going into 2015.

So, I was praying and seeking the mind and will of God for how I should lead in these changes. And, I was anxious about it all. I was anxious because of the uncertainty. I was anxious because I knew it was going to be an eventful and impactful year … I just didn’t know how the events would go or what impact it would all have on all of us.

As I prayed about it all, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I must have faith in God, trust Him, faithfully obey what I knew that I must obey – and REST!

And, always, as you seek a “My One Word,” your word to live by will come from God’s Word. He will give you the “One Word” He wants you to adopt and practice, and He will give you that word from His Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible.

So, the words of Matthew 11.28 were impressed on my soul:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST.”

There it was – “REST”!

There were many others, like Psalm 37.7 KJV, “REST in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him…” To “REST” in the LORD means to give up my own worry and anxieties and trust Him implicitly … have confidence in His good intentions and purposes for me.

So, I went into 2015 resolved that I would not worry, or be anxious, or try to take matters into my own hands, but rather “REST” in the LORD, trust Him, and wait patiently for Him to work out His sovereign will and gracious pleasure in my life and ministry.

2016 – “DELIGHT”

As 2015 turned into 2016, the circumstances of my life and ministry began to be more complicated and difficult. But God was always there, working His sovereign pleasure and will in everything that was happening and developing. And I could sense that some of those circumstances were not headed in ways that were going to be particularly to my personal liking or pleasurable to enjoy. In other words, things were shaping up that had all the prospects that it would be personally painful and bitter to my personal tastes.

But, God was becoming more and more personal to me at the same time. I was enjoying more of His Presence and the joy, peace, and comfort of His personal company. I was “resting” in Him more. I was learning to trust Him more and just enjoy being with Him regardless of how things turned out for me personally.

So, as I continued with the LORD in 2016, He taught me that it isn’t enough for me just to “REST” in the LORD – as in just resigning myself to accept whatever He had planned for me – but I must “DELIGHT” in Him! I must not be content with just a passive and stoic acceptance of His will, but I must enjoy Him! I must treasure Him above my every other possession and personal experience!

And so “My One Word” was “DELIGHT.”

Again, “My One Word” for 2016 came from The Word of God.

  • Psalm 37.4, “DELIGHT yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • Psalm 1.2, “…but his DELIGHT is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.”
  • Psalm 40.8, “I DELIGHT to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” [quoted again by our Lord in Hebrews 10.7]
  • Romans 7.22, “For I DELIGHT in the law of God, in my inner being…”

And so the LORD began to draw my heart to seek Him for the sake of the DELIGHT of His company and His pleasure.

And not only did I learn more to “DELIGHT” myself in knowing Him, but I also reveled more in His “DELIGHT” in me! Proverbs 8.30-31 speaks of Christ in the work of creation, “…then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His DELIGHT, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and DELIGHTING in the children of man.” And Proverbs 15.8 KJV, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His DELIGHT.”

There are so many other delightful Scriptures that call on us to DELIGHT ourselves in God just for the pure pleasure of knowing and enjoying Him! And many others that assure us of God’s own personal DELIGHT in us as His children and treasured possessions! The DELIGHT becomes mutual and reciprocal between God and you!

And so I resolved to more and more “DELIGHT” in God just for the pleasure of knowing Him and enjoying His company and His pleasure in me!

2017 – “FOLLOW”

As 2017 opened up, I could sense early on that there were going to be major changes in my ministry and in our lives as we had lived and known them up to that point. I didn’t know when these major, seismic changes and transitions would shift, but I knew they were coming. Nor did I have any idea where the direction or the course of our lives would take during the upcoming year.

So, going into 2017, “My One Word” was “FOLLOW,” and I resolved to the LORD that I would “follow” Him wherever His will would lead us. I got “My One Word” “follow” from John 12.25-26:

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

So, there I had it. Jesus Himself was following the Father’s will even to the Cross. I resolved that I would “follow” Jesus wherever He chose to lead us, take us, and go with us. I also knew that wherever He leads us, and wherever we follow Him to, that’s where He wants us to be for Him to be working through us. That’s all that any of us is ever called to do anyway: “follow” Christ.

So, on May 28 of 2017, I resigned the pastorate where we had served for the previous 35 years because I believed that Jesus was calling us to ‘follow’ Him … we just didn’t know where. As it turned out, we pretty immediately ‘followed’ His leadership to come here where we are now. “Follow” was a good word for 2017 – and for every day of every other year also, of course!

2018 – “ABIDE”

As we went into 2018, we had been here at Buck Run for six months; so this new course and direction for our lives was still very new to us. I was suffering from a bad case of disorientation because the whole structure and order of my life and ministry had suddenly changed, and I hadn’t prepared for it. For the previous 45 years, I had been pastor of a church in some role or another – most of those years as a lead pastor. Now, for the first time in almost half a century and for all of my adult life, I was not a pastor of a church.

I’m not saying it was a bad place to be in, just different. I was not depressed or disheartened by the changes in my function and roles, but I was very disoriented, and somewhat confused and casting about for what I was supposed to do.

That’s when the Holy Spirit began to impress the word “ABIDE” upon my spirit – as in “Abide in Christ.” Or, Paul uses the same original word in 1 Corinthians 7.27, “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain [or, ‘abide’] with God.” The word ‘abide’ simply means ‘to dwell, remain, stay, live there.’ 

God began to reassure me that I was not in a bad place at all! I had not lost my identity. My identity was still “in Christ.” I was still the same child of God. I was still the same servant of the Most High God. I was still a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. I was still loved by God and by my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. All that had changed was my practical activities and ministry roles.

So, during that time, God began impressing me that He had brought all these changes into my life and ministry because He wanted me more for Himself. He wanted me to spend more undistracted time and attention in seeking Him and delighting in Him. He wanted me to focus on and cultivate more my relationship with Him. If I was going to ‘follow’ Him, He would lead me to more ‘abide’ in Him wherever I had followed Him to.

John 15 began to reverberate in my soul:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

And so, “My One Word” for 2018 was “ABIDE” as in “abide in Christ,” “abide in His love,” “abide in the fullness of His joy.” I began to explore, express, and enjoy more my intimacy and my relationship with Christ and what it means to “ABIDE” in Him.

2019 – “CONQUER”  

The more I focused on abiding in Christ, the more conscious I became of my indwelling sin. And especially all the sins of “self”: like self-will, self-love, self-ish, self-seeking, self-pleasing.

The struggles of temptation to have my own will and way and to have what I wanted to have for myself were vicious and fierce and unrelenting. The more I wanted to abide in Christ, the more my indwelling sin nature seemed to revive, rear its ugly head, and rage with desire for what it wanted. It was war. It was an internal civil war that renewed its intensity and ferocity. It was a constant battle and fight for mastery over my will. It was like I was constantly and daily living in the raging war that Paul describes in Romans 7.21-23:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 

Peter describes this battle, this conflict, this war with this call to spiritual arms:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” [1 Peter 2.11].

And Paul describes his personal battle plan to CONQUER his indwelling sin in the language of destroying fortresses and strongholds and taking his every thought, feeling, and activity captive to serving Christ:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… [2 Corinthians 10.3-5]

I was far too often and too much being defeated, conquered, and being taken captive by my own indwelling sin. So, I resolved to “CONQUER” my indwelling sinful desires for my own glory, my own getting, my own gratification. I didn’t want to just struggle with my indwelling sin, which all believers do – I wanted to CONQUER my indwelling sin by the grace of God.

In Romans, chapter 6, leading up to the inner struggles and warfare against indwelling sin that he describes in chapter 7, Paul makes this victory proclamation in Romans 6.12-14:

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. [my emphases added]

When Paul says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” he is saying ‘CONQUER your sin, don’t let it CONQUER you.’ When he says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace,” he is saying ‘CONQUER your sin through the life and power of God’s saving grace because God’s grace will not allow your sin to CONQUER or have dominion over you.’

Now, the way I came up with “My One Word” CONQUER is actually by creating an acrostic. You can say I cheated on “My One Word” if you want to, but I also adopted seven other key words for every letter of the one-word CONQUER.

So, here’s how I resolved to CONQUER my indwelling sin:

  • Commit to loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength – make God Himself the supreme and chief love and desire of my life
  • Own personal responsibility for my response to this temptation
  • Navigate my desires away from the temptation and seek the Face and pleasure of God
  • Question the source and nature of every desire and temptation – where is it coming from? from the Father? or from the flesh?
  • Unite all the strength and desires of my love and will to seek God and His pleasure [Psalm 86.11]
  • Employ all the means of grace God has made available to me: the Holy Spirit, the Word, prayer, obedience, fellowship with the saints, accountability – and most of all, confession of my sins
  • Receive and Rejoice in the promised resolve, life, strength, and desire of the Holy Spirit to choose to love Christ … and Receive and Rejoice in His forgiveness when I do fail

2020 – “Conquer / LOVE”

Some years – or however long a season you choose to live by your “My One Word” – you may choose to adopt and live by the same “One Word.” Just carry it over and carry it on until you believe it has worked its intended grace and growth in your life.

I did that in 2020, last year. I retained the “My One Word” “CONQUER,” but I added a companion “My One Word” to give it a sharper, more intensified focus and application: “LOVE” … just the simple, bottom-line, first-commandment, root-of-all-things “LOVE.”

Actually, “LOVE” is the keyword to the “C” in “CONQUER.” The “C” in “CONQUER” is “I Commit to loving God with ALL MY HEART AND DESIRES … I Commit to purity and holiness and pleasing Christ…” That, of course, comes from the First and Greatest Commandment of all in Deuteronomy 6.4-5:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your might” [my emphases added].

And Jesus repeatedly confirmed the primacy and first priority of LOVE in His teaching and preaching.

When I adopted ‘CONQUER’ as “My One Word” in 2019, I knew that LOVE is at the root of all my sin, and so it will also be at the root of all my conquering my sin. You say: “How can love be at the root of all sin?” Well, it’s because all my sin traces its root and origin and birth back to what I choose to love. All of my sin and all my temptations to sin are born in the womb of my desires and what I want. And I want and desire what I love.

All of my temptations to sin are just solicitations and opportunities that are presented to me by the Tempter to indulge in some illicit and fleshly desire that my indwelling sin nature loves and wants.  

In my struggles and fight to CONQUER my indwelling sin, I repeatedly traced it back to what I was wanting, what I was loving. James does his spiritual forensics on our temptations and sin when he diagnoses it this way:

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” ~James 1.14-15, my emphases added

When Paul describes his own personal inner spiritual struggles and warfare with his indwelling sin in Romans, chapter 7, he repeatedly describes it in terms of “what I want” and “I have the desire.” It’s our dueling desires, the constantly raging war of opposing loves. He even says that the cardinal sin that woke him up to his wretchedness and extreme sinfulness before God and “slew” him was the sin of covetousness! What is covetousness? And what makes covetousness so bad?  Covetousness is our love, desires, and lusts which are perverted, and mis-guided toward and mis-placed upon the wrong objects of desire. We love what we’re not supposed to love. We don’t love what we are commanded to love.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~Romans 7.21-25, my emphases added

Do you see the war of competing loves, conflicting loves, adversarial loves fighting against each other in our inner souls and desires?

The apostle John starts off 1 John, chapter 2 with “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” So, what instructions does he give us when he teaches us how we may not sin? He commands us to regulate our lives and conquer our sins by choosing Whom we love:

Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride [self-love] of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ~1 John 2.15-17, my emphases added

By the way, again, it was from this Scripture that I framed the “Q” in “CONQUER” as “Question the source and the nature of every desire and temptation – whether it is from The Father or from the world…”

So, that’s why, in 2020, I carried over the “My One Word” “CONQUER,” but then added the more focused “My One Word” “LOVE.” I adopted Deuteronomy 6.4-5 to memorize as my key Scripture to keep me focused on “My One Word”: to CONQUER my indwelling sin by LOVING the LORD my God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and desires.  

2021 – “Conquer / FIGHT”

So, that brings me to where we are today – the beginning of 2021. Again, I’m retaining my 2019 “One Word” ‘CONQUER’ for 2021, except that again, I’m extending it with another intensifier “My One Word” … the word “FIGHT.”

I’m still battling and waging the ‘CONQUER’ war against my indwelling sins of ‘self’ – I’m waging that war by emphasizing and focusing on ‘LOVE’ as the primary weapon of my warfare. When I adopt and commit to practicing the “My One Word” ‘FIGHT’ for 2021, I am acknowledging that I am responsible to engage this war with all the weaponry and armor that God has given me by His saving grace and put at my disposal to FIGHT with.

In fact, this resolution “FIGHT” is actually already built into the “My One Word” I adopted for 2019: CONQUER. Remember that I told you that CONQUER is actually an acrostic with every letter being another resolution. So, the “O” in CONQUER is for “OWN” – “I Own personal responsibility for my response to this temptation…”

When I adopt the “My One Word” ‘FIGHT,’ I am acknowledging that if I CONQUER my indwelling sin with all of its illicit loves and desires, it will not happen on its own. My indwelling sin will not be conquered automatically just because I’m saved. I cannot be naïve, inattentive, lackadaisical, or passive about this inner war. Romans 7.22-23 is always raging in my members:

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

I must FIGHT!

My indwelling sin will not be conquered without putting up its own fierce, vicious, and passionate FIGHT against me – even from within me; and I must FIGHT it back just as fiercely, just as viciously, and just as passionately in the life and power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to take the time here to tell you just how serious this FIGHT is. When Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6.12 that we do not “wrestle” [or fight] against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of darkness that are committed to eliminating us, the word that he uses for “wrestle” is used only this one time in the New Testament. It was a Greek contest [or ‘exercise,’ if you will] in which the fighters fought with one another until the victor, the conqueror, not only threw his opponent down, but pinned him and rendered him immobile with his own hand on his neck. In other words, the conquered opponent was rendered so weak, that his conqueror actually had his hand on his jugular vein and esophagus – he had the power of life and death in his hands over his opponent.

THAT IS THE FIGHT WE ARE IN! 

Paul charges Timothy in 1 Timothy 6.11-12:

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 FIGHT the good FIGHT of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

For Paul himself, that FIGHT was a FIGHT that lasted right up until the end of his life and ministry – it was one of the last testimonies that he gave before his own martyrdom:

“I have FOUGHT the good FIGHT, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” ~ 2 Timothy 4.7.

However, let me be perfectly clear about one truth – and this has everything to do with how we make our holy resolutions: I am in no way suggesting or teaching that our FIGHT against our indwelling sin can be waged and won by any power or strength that is inherent in us. In all of these discussions and teachings about CONQUERING our indwelling sins and FIGHTING against it in our struggles for holiness and godliness, I have tried to always emphasize that we don’t FIGHT sin and temptation to sin with our own will-power or resolve or by making resolutions with our own wills. In fact, if there’s one lesson I have learned from a life-long war against my indwelling sin, it is that IT IS MY OWN WILL THAT I’M FIGHTING AGAINST! The only power and strength that we have to FIGHT and CONQUER our indwelling sin is by the strength and power that is given to us by the grace of God.

You will never will-power yourself to holiness. What we are talking about is becoming more and more like Jesus Christ in every way: in our values, in our attitudes, in our character, and in our conduct. And you can’t do that with any and all the energies and strengths that you possess in yourself. God will have to work in you and through you to CONQUER your sin. You can FIGHT victoriously against your sin only in the strength that God gives you by His grace through the Holy Spirit.

In that all-equipping passage in Ephesians 6 where Paul trains us in spiritual warfare, he begins his training by reminding us that the only strength and weaponry we have for our FIGHT against sin is “in the Lord”:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6.10-13

And so, I am resolving to assume my personal responsibility to FIGHT, even while I’m trusting in and relying upon the strength and power of God to make my FIGHT victorious and CONQUER my indwelling sin. The way I commit to FIGHT is by LOVING God with all my heart and obeying every word He gives me in the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Spirit.

By the way, I have also adopted Caleb in Joshua 14 as my model, exemplar, and my encouragement to engage this on-going FIGHT. In Joshua 14, they are taking possession of the Promised Land that God is giving them as their inheritance. That in itself is a prequel of the life we are now living in Jesus Christ as you will discover in Hebrews 3-4. God promised them the land. God is giving it to them by driving out their enemies from before them. But they must FIGHT to take possession of what God promised and is giving them. God Himself is FIGHTING with them and for them as they FIGHT at his command.

So, Caleb comes to Joshua, his long-time comrade and compatriot during all their years of wandering in the wilderness, and he reminds Joshua how Moses promised them that they could have the territories that they believed God would give them if only they would trust Him and obey Him as they went to FIGHT and take it. That was 45 years ago, but now they are in.

So Caleb asks Joshua to give him an additional ‘mountain’ or hill country territory that still had giant warrior inhabitants still living in it, the Anakim. He knew it would be a FIGHT, but he was prepared to take on that FIGHT because he knew that God would FIGHT for him and with him.

And, get this – Caleb was an 85-year-old man by this time. He was no spring chicken any longer. He was no merely ambitious young whippersnapper. He was an old, seasoned, experienced saint who wasn’t just out itching for a FIGHT, but was still willing to continue to FIGHT for what God had given him to have:

10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said. ~Joshua 14.10-12

So, that’s where I am this year. Still warring against my flesh and my indwelling sin, but still committed to CONQUER it by living by the supreme law of LOVE and being willing to engage the FIGHT as God gives me the resolve, strength, armor, and weaponry to FIGHT with.

I have been mightily helped and encouraged over the years in my struggles against sin and my aspirations for holiness by the ministry and writings of Jerry Bridges. He has written extensively on this subject especially in his books The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, Holiness Day by Day [among others also…], but he wrote this little paragraph in one of his books that struck me years ago and has stuck with me as a constant motivation and inspiration to FIGHT against my indwelling sin:

“We Christians greatly enjoy talking about the provision of God, how Christ defeated sin on the Cross and gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to victory over sin. But we do not as readily talk about our own responsibility to walk in holiness…We pray for victory when we should be acting in obedience.” ~Jerry Bridges [Pursuit of Holiness]

My act of obedience is to responsibly engage the FIGHT against the sin that dwells in me and CONQUER it in the strength and power of the grace of God.

Here is the YouTube to this Part 2 lesson segment:

 https://youtu.be/WrvSAI_QKiA  |  Length 54:28

Here is the link to my DaveParksBlog where these Lesson Notes are posted:

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/02/06/my-one-word-part-2/

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Part 3: Scriptural Authority and Precedent for and Examples of a “My One Word” Resolution

I am on my way to offering some personal, practical exercises that you can take to choose, adopt, commit to, and implement your own personal “One-Word Resolution” for yourself. I promise: I’m going to get to that…

But, before I do that, you may be wondering or asking: “Is this ‘My One Word’ a Scriptural thing? Is it in the Bible? Is it coming from The Word of God? Or is this just a novel, trendy, self-help, feel-good gimmick?” Well, thank you for asking because you really ought to be serious and conscientious about your spiritual exercises.

We’re not interested in practicing legalistic rituals and routines, nor do we want to be taken in by empty, useless, and superficial religious fads.

So, is there any Scriptural authority, precedent, mandate for focusing on a “one thing” and concentrating your attention on that “one thing” to grow into maturity and the likeness of Jesus Christ? Remember: that’s the goal we are seeking and reaching for. Growing up into the fullness of Christ-likeness is the ‘until we all reach’-goal that Paul sets forth for the church and the members of the church in his classic passage in Ephesians 4 … listen to this goal:

Ephesians 4.13-15 HCSB: 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. [my emphases added]

“…make every effort to supplement your faith…”

Also, the apostle Peter exhorts and challenges us to keep on making holy resolutions and keep on growing by adding one grace after another, upon another, in progressive succession, supplementing each other … all in sync with one another:

2 Peter 1.5-8 HCSB: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, nobody can eat the whole elephant in one bite or in one sitting. You eat the whole elephant how? … one bite at a time. Likewise, we don’t grow up into the mature stature and likeness of Christ in one explosive growth spurt. It would be nice and easy and much more convenient if we could grow in grace that way. But, we grow up into Christ … one grace at a time.

In labor … ‘until Christ is formed in you’

If you want to keep on progressively growing up into the full measure of the stature of Christ, you need to have an immediate ‘focal point.’ I’ve always been challenged by Paul’s heartfelt plea to the churches in Galatia. They were being lured away from making Jesus Christ the focal point of their faith and discipleship. They were drifting away into self-help, self-effort legalism to grow in their sanctification. I guess you could say they were making resolutions, but they were relying on their flesh to give them birth and deliver them. He compares himself to a mother in labor, in travail to deliver her child. Paul says that the ‘child’ he is laboring to deliver in them is none other than Christ Himself – Christ-likeness.

Listen to him in labor:

“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” ~Galatians 4.19

“Focal point”

Do you feel this same travail and labor pains in your own soul? Are you agonizing to ‘deliver’ more of Christ-likeness in your own life? It will help you to have a focal point. In truth, you must have a ‘focal point.’

And, of course, when I say ‘focal point,’ my mind is going back to the days of Lamaze preparation for childbirth. Back in 1978 when our first child, Joy, was due to be born, Debbie and I participated in Lamaze preparation. Lamaze preparation was relatively new back in those days, best as I can remember, at least it was for us where we were. But the purpose of Lamaze preparation was to avoid putting the mother to sleep for her delivery. It was a move toward a more ‘natural’ childbirth. So, through exercises involving concentration, relaxation, and controlled breathing, the mother could participate and assist in her own delivery. Of course, it was uncomfortable and painful as all childbirth is. But, to get the mother’s attention and focus off of her pain and discomfort, every delivering mother had a ‘focal point,’ some personal object that was meaningful and significant to her that she would bring with her and have with her to focus on during contractions. Having her ‘focal point’ would help her maintain her focus on relaxation, controlled breathing, and helping with the delivery.

If you want to ‘deliver’ a fuller measure of Christ-likeness in your discipleship, your “One Word” becomes your immediate ‘focal point’ in your delivery process.

And the best place to begin your ‘delivery’ and your growing up into the fullness of Christ is at that point where you are most deficient, most delinquent, most disobedient.

The ‘focal point’ of your greatest need becomes the ‘focal point’ of your “One Word” resolution. However, we will also discover that God’s graces are all so inextricably related to one another in Christ, that when we resolve and commit to growing up in ‘one’ grace, we will also grow in many other graces also. They all support, supplement, complement, and grow out from one another. Jesus doesn’t come to us and live in us in pieces; when you receive Christ, you get the whole Christ…the fullness of Christ. [see Colossians 1.19; 2.6-7, 9-10]

But even Jesus didn’t grow up during the days of His flesh all at one time. Here’s how Jesus Himself grew up as a child…

Luke 2.40 HCSB: The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.

Luke 2.52 HCSB: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.

That’s how we, too, want to keep on growing up into His fullness, stature, and maturity.

Scriptural precedents for “My One Word”

But, you will find plenty of Scriptural precedent for focusing on “My One Word” and concentrating on implementing that one word.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5

For example: What is the “one word” that God has given us to serve as the ‘focal point’ of all our obedience to Him? If I asked you to sum up the whole duty of a human being – could you sum up that whole duty in one word? Yes, you could. That ‘one word’ would be ‘love.’ We have referred to this before, but when God summed up all of His commandments, and mandates, and human responsibilities in one word, that word is ‘love.’

Deuteronomy 6.4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Yes, there are many other words that follow and flow out of love – that are born and delivered out of the womb of love – but every other responsibility and duty begins with and is summed up in this one word love. This is God’s first and greatest commandment.

The same thing is true of our duties and responsibilities toward all our other fellow human beings, image-bearers of God. How do you sum up and fulfill every responsibility you have toward every other human being? It is one word: love!

Romans 13.8-10

Listen to Paul sum up all of our mutual responsibilities to one another in Romans 13.8-10:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. HCSB

So, how’s that for a “My One Word”! And please keep on noting that when you adopt and live by any “My One Word,” you’re going to be sprouting out and branching out – laboring, travailing, delivering, giving spiritual birth to – many other words and graces in the doing of it.

A couple New Testament personal examples

But I want to highlight a couple New Testament examples and testimonies of fellow saints who practiced “One Word” resolutions, and did so with Jesus’ blessing and approval.

Philippians 3.12-16

Paul testified that he had narrowed down his life’s goals and aspirations to “this one thing I do” in Philippians 3.12-16. Now, I realize that his “one thing” was a comprehensive, all-inclusive goal that he was reaching for, a goal that was all the way at the end of his life. But I just want you to listen to his laser-like ‘focal point’ on that ‘one thing’:

12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. HCSB

We would all do well to reach forward to that next grace of spiritual growth that God has promised and given us in Jesus Christ to fulfill and attain with this same focus and passion: “But one thing I do…!”

Luke 10.38-42

I am sure, though, that my favorite example by far is that of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet so she could hear, and treasure, and keep His words. Jesus just gushed with His pleasure and blessing on her attention, focus, undistracted concentration, and commitment. I want you to pay careful attention to her ‘focal point’ and make this your ‘focal point’ as well!

38 While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” 41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” HCSB

Now, I want you to keep this story as fresh in your mind as you can because I want to draw from it as we go now into laying out some specific practical steps you can take to implement the spiritual exercise of choosing and living out your “One Word Resolution.”

Here is the Youtube link to this Part 3 segment:

https://youtu.be/x7hDj6y4lLE  |  Length 18:09

Here is the DaveParksBlog post of these same Lesson Notes:

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/02/13/my-one-word-resolution-or-my-one-word-part-3/

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Part 4: Some Practical Steps for Choosing and Adopting Your “My One Word”

I want to lay out some specific practical steps you can take as you proceed to implement the spiritual exercise of choosing and adopting your “My One Word Resolution.”

In deference to Pastor Mike Ashcraft who wrote the book “My One Word” that got me started on this spiritual exercise, I want to quote again from the “My One Word” website how they suggest you get started – then I want to give you some practical exercises I have used over the years to discover and settle on my own “My One Word.”

This is from the website: www.myoneword.org

“LOSE THE LONG LIST OF RESOLUTIONS! If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months.

Let’s get started: PICK YOUR WORD. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year.

STEP 1: DETERMINE THE KIND OF PERSON YOU WANT TO BECOME. The first step is to simply take some time and decide what kind of person you want to be at the end of this year. This goes beyond simply being healthier and wealthier, but it must drive deep into your soul. What about the condition of your heart? What about the person that God Himself has created you to be?

STEP 2: IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THAT PERSON. Get a picture of that person and then simply identify their major characteristics. Is that person gentle” Is that person generous? What are the qualities of the person you want to become?

STEP 3: PICK A WORD. Once you have a list of the characteristics, simply pick a word. There might be fifteen things that you want to change, but you must resist the temptation to promise you will do them all. Instead, simply commit to ONE WORD.”

Alright – so that’s what Pastor Mike Ashcraft who authored the book My One Word suggests you do to begin implementing this spiritual exercise we’ve been proposing to you.

What I want to do now if to draw from all the background teaching I’ve been giving you to propose these seven practical steps for you to do.

And I especially want to draw from the example and story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet to hear His words, which prompted Him to express His pleasure in her by saying,

“…but one thing is necessaryMary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10.38-42]

So, I say again, keep in mind all the groundwork we’ve laid to get us to where we are now, and do these exercises:

Step 1: PRAY OVER IT

Have a “Jesus meeting” like Mary did in Luke 10.39. Begin this exercise by going to Jesus and “sit at His feet” [the disciple’s learning posture] to talk with Him and learn from Him what He wants you to become and what He wants you to do. After all, the supreme purpose and primary aim for your “My One Word Resolution” is to become more like Him and grow more into His likeness and conform more into His image. And He promises that if you take His yoke upon you, and get into the yoke with Him, that He will teach you and you will learn from Him [Matthew 11.29]. So, ask Him what HE wants your “My One Word Resolution” to be in that area in which you most need to grow. That’s the Voice of Jesus speaking to you: “Grow in THIS grace!” “Become more like Me in THIS!” “Change THIS!” “Add THIS!”

Step 2: READ THE WORD

This is not just beneficial – it is essential, it is indispensable. Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word,” and we must do the same thing. If you want to hear from Jesus about what He wants your life-resolution to be, then you must be listening where He speaks – and that is, in His Word!

You will get your “My One Word” from the words God has commanded us to do. The “My One Word” you need is already in The Word of God. You need to be in His Word, hearing His Word! Jesus has repeatedly called out to us, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” [Matthew 13.9 et. al.]

I quoted from Psalm 119.59-60 back in Part 1 of this lesson. Here it is again:

“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies. I hasten and do not delay to keep Your commandments.”

God’s testimonies are with Him the same thing they are with us: what He Himself says about Himself. What is it that gets us thinking on our ways to begin with? We read His testimonies, and we find out we are not in step and in sync with Him. So, we turn our feet toward His testimonies to get in step with Him. Remember the familiar Psalm 119.105, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” So, if you want to know what “My One Word” to need to begin living by, then you will find it where He speaks it: in His Word.  

By the way, if you haven’t already begun to establish and practice the previous two steps: praying and reading the Word of God, then you need to backtrack there and resolve to begin there. Maybe your “One Word” needs to be “HEAR” or “LISTEN” or “TIME WITH GOD” [OK, I know that’s three words – but it’s one resolution] to get you started and established in Spiritual Exercises.

Step 3: BUY A CHEAP NOTEBOOK

You can buy a cheap notebook at Dollar Tree or Kroger or order it from Amazon – but it doesn’t have to be expensive or even pretty. It just needs to have blank pages in it so you can do some of your “My One Word” thinking on paper so you can see it and go back to it. You will keep your notebook all year long to track how the Lord “renews your mind” with thoughts and continuing resolutions all throughout the year. If this is from Jesus Christ, it will grow in your thoughts, meditations, convictions, resolutions, and activities.

Step 4: MAKE AN INITIAL LIST OF WORDS

The first thing you will do with your cheap notebook is to start writing down words that come to your mind as you do steps 1 and 2: pray about it and read the Word. As prospective words come to your mind, write them down. Write down every word that comes to your mind, even if it just pops into and passes through your mind. These words will be just virtues, or spiritual desires and hungers, or convictions, or ‘starter words’ that come to your mind. Then use those words to cull, eliminate, and narrow it down to your most-needed “My One Word.”

Just recognize that when the Holy Spirit “speaks” to us through the Truth of the Word of God, He will “speak” to us through the medium of our own thoughts. He will put thoughts into our minds. Psalm 119.59 yet again: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.” Where are those thoughts coming from when you ‘think on your ways’? They are coming from the Holy Spirit! So, when He, the Holy Spirit, begins to prompt and jog your mind with words for resolutions, then start writing them down in your notebook!

Step 5: ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO IMPRESS YOU WITH YOUR “ONE WORD RESOLUTION”

One of the Holy Spirit’s roles and ministries is to point us to Christ, guide us into all truth [especially truth for living], and to sanctify us into Christ’s image and likeness. Jesus specifically promised that He would send and give us the Holy Spirit to bear witness with our spirit through the Word of God and guide us and lead us into all the truth. He advocates for Christ. Here’s what Jesus promised:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” ~John 16.13-15

So, ask the Holy Spirit to ‘guide you into…the truth’ you most need to begin immediately implementing in your life in your “One Word.”

Step 6: COMMIT TO JESUS CHRIST THAT YOU WILL PURSUE THIS GOAL AT LEAST FOR THE WHOLE YEAR AHEAD OF YOU

If your “My One Word” is from Christ, then He will lead you through many varied learning and training exercises and experiences. He is the One who is calling and inviting us into His yoke to learn and serve with Him: “…take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me…” Commit to persevere and follow through with Him.

Here again is what Paul said even in his advance years and maturity: he was still resolved to faithfully persevere to follow Christ into the next steps of growth and maturity:

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. ~Philippians 3.12-16 HCSB

Step 7: EXPECT AND WATCH FROM JESUS CHRIST TO MAKE HIS OWN GRACE AND GLORY GROW IN YOUR LIFE THROUGH YOUR “ONE WORD” RESOLUTION!

Jesus promised about Mary’s “one necessary thing” resolution that “…it will not be taken away from her…” – meaning that she would find her resolution to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Jesus Christ would give her what she was desiring, longing for, resolving and making effort to receive: to hear Christ’s words and enjoy His company and pleasure! She would discover God’s dynamic grace adding this desired virtue – and many more besides – to her life.

The apostle Peter challenges all of us to keep on growing! When we are hungering for growing up into the fullness of Christ [and that’s what “My One Word” is all about], we will find that there is unlimited room for us to keep growing! And not only will Christ be nourishing to you, but He will be enjoyable as you delight yourself in Him!

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. ~1 Peter 2.2-3

What you will discover as you resolve and commit to living by “My One Word” is that other graces will follow also. Many other graces will grow from your “My One Word” and be added it to it, built upon it.

Your “My One Word” will be like a grain of yeast that you knead into the bread of your life, and it will grow and multiply and fill your life with many other Christ-likenesses also!

Jesus promised Mary that “…it will not be taken away from her.”

And it will not be taken away from you either! He makes the same promise to you!

So, WHAT IS YOUR ‘MY ONE-WORD’ RESOLUTION?

Here is the YouTube link to this Part 4 segment of this lesson:

https://youtu.be/YrHnvOCOP9o  |  Length 21:56

Here is the DaveParksBlog post with these same Lesson Notes:

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/02/16/my-one-word-resolution-or-my-one-word-part-4/

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Here is the PDF of this Lesson Notes – full text

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“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD” / Part 4

Part 4: Some Practical Steps for Choosing and Adopting Your “My One Word”

In part 1, I laid the groundwork for the Scriptural exercise of making holy resolutions and the daily lifestyle role that making holy resolutions should have in our lives and discipleship after Christ. I also just introduced how I discovered the practice of making “One Word” resolutions and how it has influenced my life.

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/01/31/my-one-word-resolution-or-my-one-word-part-1/

In part 2, I capsulized and summarized for you my seven-year story making ‘My One-Word Resolutions’ and living by ‘My One Word’ – and what those ‘one-words’ have been over the past seven years.

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/02/06/my-one-word-part-2/

In part 3, we explored Scriptural precedents and examples in both the Old and New Testaments for making a “focal point” of a much-needed grace in which we are most deficient, delinquent, or disobedient … for the purpose of emphasizing and prioritizing that “one thing” to grow in it and add it to our character.

https://daveparksblog.com/2021/02/13/my-one-word-resolution-or-my-one-word-part-3/

If you haven’t watched those segments, I’d encourage you to do that…

We have now come to the 4th and concluding segment of this lesson. And what I’m going to do in this lesson is walk you through the practical steps of choosing, adopting, and implementing your personal “My One-Word Resolution” – and resolving that, by the Grace of God, you will commit to practicing and living by this “One Word” until it becomes just a natural spiritual exercise in your character and daily discipleship after Christ.

And so, I’m calling this segment of the lesson “Part 4: Some Practical Steps for Choosing and Adopting Your ‘My One Word’”

I want to begin this concluding segment of this lesson with the same story where I left off in the part 3 segment: telling the story of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on His every word. And how Jesus just gushed with His pleasure and blessing on her attention, focus, undistracted concentration, and commitment.

I want you to pay careful attention to her ‘focal point’ and make your “One Word” your ‘focal point’ as well! And, I want to keep referring back to this “one thing” conversation as I give you some steps to follow to do the same thing yourself:

38 While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”

41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10.38-42 HCSB

So, I say again, keep in mind all the groundwork we’ve laid to get us to where we are now, and do these exercises:

Step 1: PRAY OVER IT

Have a “Jesus meeting” like Mary did in Luke 10.39. Begin this exercise by going to Jesus and “sit at His feet” [the disciple’s learning posture] to talk with Him and learn from Him what He wants you to become and what He wants you to do.

After all, the supreme purpose and primary aim for your “My One Word Resolution” is to become more like Him and grow more into His likeness and conform more into His image. And He promises that if you take His yoke upon you, and get into the yoke with Him, that He will teach you and you will learn from Him [Matthew 11.29].

So, ask Him what HE wants your “My One Word Resolution” to be in that area in which you most need to grow. That’s the Voice of Jesus speaking to you: “Grow in THIS grace!” “Become more like Me in THIS!” “Change THIS!” “Add THIS!”

Begin by PRAYING OVER IT!

Step 2: READ THE WORD

This is not just beneficial and helpful only – it is essential, it is indispensable. Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word,” and we must do the same thing. If you want to hear from Jesus about what He wants your life-resolution to be, then you must be listening where He speaks – and that is, in His Word!

You will get your “My One Word” from the words God has commanded us to do. The “My One Word” you need is already in The Word of God.

You need to be in His Word, hearing His Word! Jesus has repeatedly called out to us, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” [Matthew 13.9 et. al.]

I quoted from Psalm 119.59-60 back in Part 1 of this lesson. Here it is again:

“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies. I hasten and do not delay to keep Your commandments.”

God’s testimonies are with Him the same thing they are with us: what He Himself says about Himself. What is it that gets us thinking on our ways to begin with? We read His testimonies, and we find out we are not in sync with Him. So, we turn our feet toward His testimonies to get in step with Him. Remember the familiar Psalm 119.105, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” So, if you want to know what “My One Word” to need to begin living by, then you will find it where He speaks it: in His Word.  

By the way, if you haven’t already begun to establish and practice these two first steps – praying and reading the Word of God – then you need to backtrack there and resolve to begin there. Maybe your “One Word” needs to be “HEAR” or “LISTEN” or “TIME WITH GOD” [OK, I know that’s three words – but it’s one resolution] to get you started and established in Spiritual Exercises.

Step 3: BUY A CHEAP NOTEBOOK

You can buy a cheap notebook at Dollar Tree or Kroger or order it from Amazon – but it doesn’t have to be expensive or even pretty. It just needs to have blank pages in it so you can do some of your “My One Word” thinking on paper so you can see it and go back to it. You need to have some blank pages in front of you as you begin to pray and read the Word for Jesus to speak to you about what He wants your “One Word” resolution to be.

You will keep your notebook all year long to track how the Lord “renews your mind” with thoughts and continuing resolutions all throughout the year. If this is from Jesus Christ, it will grow in your thoughts, meditations, convictions, resolutions, and activities.

Step 4: MAKE AN INITIAL LIST OF WORDS

The first thing you will do with your cheap notebook is to start writing down words that come to your mind as you do steps 1 and 2: pray about it and read the Word. As prospective words come to your mind, write them down. Write down every word that comes to your mind, even if it just pops into and passes through your mind. These words will be just virtues, or spiritual desires and hungers, or convictions, or ‘starter words’ that come to your mind.

Then use those words to cull, eliminate, and narrow it down to your most-needed “My One Word.” Just recognize that when the Holy Spirit “speaks” to us through the Truth of the Word of God, He will “speak” to us through the medium of our own thoughts. He will put thoughts into our minds from the word of God. Psalm 119.59 yet again: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.” Where are those thoughts coming from when you ‘think on your ways’? They are coming from the Holy Spirit! So, when He, the Holy Spirit, begins to prompt and jog your mind with words for resolutions, then start writing them down in your notebook!

Step 5: ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO IMPRESS YOU WITH YOUR “ONE WORD RESOLUTION”

One of the Holy Spirit’s roles and ministries is to point us to Christ, guide us into all truth [especially truth for living], and to sanctify us into Christ’s image and likeness. Jesus specifically promised that He would send and give us the Holy Spirit to bear witness with our spirit through the Word of God and guide us and lead us into all the truth. He advocates for Christ. Here’s what Jesus promised:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” ~John 16.13-15

So, ask the Holy Spirit to ‘guide you into…the truth’ you most need to begin immediately implementing in your life in your “One Word.”

Step 6: COMMIT TO JESUS CHRIST THAT YOU WILL PURSUE THIS GOAL AT LEAST FOR THE WHOLE YEAR AHEAD OF YOU

If your “My One Word” is from Christ, then He will lead you through many varied learning and training exercises and experiences. He is the One who is calling and inviting us into His yoke to learn and serve with Him: “…take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me…” Commit to persevere and follow through with Him.

Here again is what Paul said even in his advanced years and maturity: he was still resolved to faithfully persevere to follow Christ into the next steps of growth and maturity:

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. ~Philippians 3.12-16 HCSB

Step 7: EXPECT AND WATCH FROM JESUS CHRIST TO MAKE HIS OWN GRACE AND GLORY GROW IN YOUR LIFE THROUGH YOUR “ONE WORD” RESOLUTION!

Jesus promised about Mary’s “one necessary thing” resolution that “…it will not be taken away from her…” – meaning that she would find her resolution to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Jesus Christ would give her what she was desiring, longing for, resolving and making effort to receive: to hear Christ’s words and enjoy His company and pleasure!

“…it will not be taken away from her.” She would discover God’s dynamic grace adding this desired virtue – and many more besides – to her life.

The apostle Peter challenges all of us to keep on growing! When we are hungering for growing up into the fullness of Christ [and that’s what “My One Word” is all about], we will find that there is unlimited room for us to keep growing! And not only will Christ be nourishing, but He will be enjoyable as you delight yourself in Him!

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. ~1 Peter 2.2-3

What you will discover as you resolve and commit to living by “My One Word” is that other graces will follow also. Many other graces will grow from your “My One Word” and be added it to it, built upon it.

Your “My One Word” will be like a grain of yeast that you knead into the bread of your life, and it will grow and multiply and fill your life with many other Christ-likenesses also!

Jesus promised Mary that “…it will not be taken away from her.”

And He makes the same promise to you!

So, WHAT IS YOUR “ONE-WORD RESOLUTION”?

Here is the link to the YouTube video for this lesson segment:

YOUTUBE: https://youtu.be/YrHnvOCOP9o  |  Length 21:56

Here is the PDF of these Lesson Notes:

Posted in Discipleship, Holy Resolutions, I've been thinking, My One Word, My One Word Resolution, Spiritual Exercises, Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“MY ONE-WORD RESOLUTION” or “MY ONE WORD” | part 3

Course: Spiritual Exercises

Part 3: Scriptural Authority and Precedent for and Examples of a “My One Word” Resolution

This is part 3 of our current lesson about the ‘spiritual exercise’ of making holy resolutions – and I’m borrowing the title of “My One-Word Resolution” or “My One Word” from another author.

In part 1, I laid the groundwork for the Scriptural exercise of making holy resolutions and the daily lifestyle role that making holy resolutions should have in our lives and discipleship after Christ. I also just introduced how I discovered the practice of making “One Word” resolutions and how it has influenced my life.

In part 2, I capsulized and summarized for you my seven-year story making ‘My One-Word Resolutions’ and living by ‘My One Word’ – and what those one-words have been over the past seven years.

If you haven’t watched those segments, I’d encourage you to do that… [the links to the YouTube videos are at the end of these lesson notes…]

I am on my way to offering some personal, practical exercises that you can take to choose, adopt, commit to, and implement your own personal “One-Word Resolution” for yourself. I promise: I’m going to get to that… but that is still going to be in the next segment, which will also be the concluding segment of this lesson.

“Is this whole thing Scriptural? …or just a trendy gimmick?”

But, before I do that, you may be wondering or asking: “Is this ‘My One Word’ a Biblical thing? Or is this just a novel, trendy, self-help, feel-good gimmick?” Well, thank you for asking because you really ought to be serious and conscientious about your spiritual exercises.

We’re not interested in practicing legalistic rituals and routines, nor do we want to be taken in by empty, useless, and superficial religious fads.

So, is there any Scriptural authority, precedent, mandate for focusing on a “one thing” and concentrating your attention on that “one thing” to grow into maturity and the likeness of Jesus Christ? Remember: that’s the goal we are seeking and reaching for. Growing up into the fullness of Christ-likeness is the ‘until we all reach’-goal that Paul sets forth for the church and the members of the church in his classic passage in Ephesians 4 … listen to this goal:

Ephesians 4.13-15 HCSB: 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.

“…make every effort to supplement your faith…”

Also, the apostle Peter exhorts and challenges us to keep on making holy resolutions and keep on growing by adding one grace after another, upon another, in progressive succession, supplementing each other … all in sync with one another:

2 Peter 1.5-8 HCSB: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, nobody can eat the whole elephant in one bite or in one sitting. You eat the whole elephant … one bite at a time. Likewise, we don’t grow up into the mature stature and likeness of Christ in one explosive growth spurt. It would be nice and easy and much more convenient if we could grow in grace that way. But, we grow up into Christ … one grace at a time.

In labor … ‘until Christ is formed in you’

If you want to keep on progressively growing up into the full measure of the stature of Christ, you need to have an immediate focal point. I’ve always been challenged by Paul’s heartfelt plea to the churches in Galatia. They were being lured away from making Jesus Christ the focal point of their faith and discipleship. They were drifting away into self-help, self-effort legalism to grow in their sanctification. I guess you could say they were making resolutions, but they were relying on their flesh to deliver them. He compares himself to a mother in labor, in travail to deliver her child. Paul says that the ‘child’ he is laboring to deliver in them is none other than Christ Himself – Christ-likeness. Listen to him in labor:

“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” ~Galatians 4.19

“Focal point”

Do you feel this same travail and labor pains in your own soul? Are you agonizing to ‘deliver’ more of Christ-likeness in your own life? It will help you to have a focal point. In truth, you must have a ‘focal point.’

And, of course, when I say ‘focal point,’ my mind is going back to the days of Lamaze preparation for childbirth. Back in 1978 when our first child, Joy, was due to be born, Debbie and I participated in Lamaze preparation. Lamaze preparation was relatively new back in those days, best as I can remember, at least it was for us where we were. But, the purpose of Lamaze preparation was to avoid putting the mother to sleep for her delivery. So, through exercises involving concentration, relaxation, and controlled breathing, the mother could participate and assist in her own delivery. Of course, it was uncomfortable and painful as all childbirth is. But, to get the mother’s attention and focus off of her pain and discomfort, every delivering mother had a ‘focal point,’ some personal object that she would bring with her and have with her to focus on during contractions to help her maintain her focus on relaxation, controlled breathing, and helping with the delivery.

If you want to ‘deliver’ a fuller measure of Christ-likeness in your discipleship, your “One Word” becomes your immediate ‘focal point’ in your delivery process.

And the best place to begin your ‘delivery’ and your growing up into the fullness of Christ is at that point where you are most deficient, most delinquent, most disobedient.

However, we will also discover that God’s graces are all so inextricably related to one another in Christ, that when we resolve and commit to growing up in ‘one’ grace, we will also grow in many other graces also. They all support, supplement, and complement one another. Jesus doesn’t come to us and live in us in pieces; when you receive Christ, you get the whole Christ…the fullness of Christ.

But even Jesus didn’t grow up during the days of His flesh all at one time. Here’s how Jesus Himself grew up as a child…

Luke 2.40 HCSB: The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.

Luke 2.52 HCSB: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.

That’s how we, too, want to keep on growing up into His fullness, stature, and maturity.

Scriptural precedents for “My One Word”

But, you will find plenty of Scriptural precedent for focusing on “My One Word” and concentrating on implementing that one word.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5

For example: What is the “one word” that God has given us to serve as the ‘focal point’ of all our obedience to Him? If I asked you to sum up the whole duty of a human being – could you sum up that whole duty in one word? Yes, you could. That ‘one word’ would be ‘love.’ We have referred to this before, but when God summed up all of His commandments, and mandates, and human responsibilities in one word, that word is ‘love.’

Deuteronomy 6.4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Yes, there are many other words that follow and flow out of love – that are born and delivered out of the womb of love – but every other responsibility and duty begins with and is summed up in love. This is God’s first and greatest commandment.

Romans 13.8-10

The same thing is true of our duties and responsibilities toward all our other fellow human beings, image-bearers of God. How do you sum up and fulfill every responsibility you have toward every other human being? It is love!

Listen to Paul sum up all of our mutual responsibilities to one another in Romans 13.8-10:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. HCSB

So, how’s that for a “My One Word”! And please keep on noting that when you adopt and live by any “My One Word,” you’re going to be sprouting out and branching out – laboring, travailing, delivering, giving spiritual birth to – many other words and graces in the doing of it.

A couple New Testament personal examples

But I want to highlight a couple New Testament examples and testimonies of fellow saints who practiced “One Word” resolutions, and did so with Jesus’ blessing and approval.

Paul testified that he had narrowed down his life’s goals and aspirations to “this one thing I do” in Philippians 3.12-16. Now, I realize that his “one thing” was a goal that he was reaching for, a goal that was all the way at the end of his life. But, I just want you to listen to his laser-like ‘focal point’ on that ‘one thing’:

12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. HCSB

We would all do well to reach forward to that next grace of spiritual growth that God has promised and given us in Jesus Christ to fulfill and attain with this same focus and passion: “But one thing I do…!”

Luke 10.38-42

I am sure, though, that my favorite example by far is that of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet so she could hear, and treasure, and keep His words. Jesus just gushed with His pleasure and blessing on her attention, focus, undistracted concentration, and commitment. I want you to pay careful attention to her ‘focal point’ and make this your ‘focal point’ as well!

38 While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”

41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” HCSB

Coming up…

Now, I want you to keep this story as fresh in your mind as you can because I want to draw from it as we go now into laying out some specific practical steps you can take to implement the spiritual exercise of choosing and living out your “One Word Resolution.”

That will be in our next, concluding segment of this lesson. I am calling it: Some Practical Steps for Choosing and Adopting Your ‘My One Word.’” I will do just what the lesson title says: I will draw on what we’ve covered in these past three segments and give you some practical steps to follow as you seek what God wants you to pursue as your “One Word” Resolution.

I hope you will join us then also…

Here is the link to the YouTube video for this lesson segment:

https://youtu.be/x7hDj6y4lLE  |  Length 18:09

Here is the PDF version of these Lesson Notes:

Posted in Discipleship, Holy Resolutions, I've been thinking, My One Word, My One Word Resolution, Spiritual Exercises, Sunday School lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Dad’s ‘get out of death free’ token: his death from here

10 February 2021

Eight years ago today, 10 February 2013, our Dad died ‘in the Lord’ only four days after his 91st birthday. We celebrated all the promises of eternal life, hope, Heaven, the resurrection in glory, ‘we would rather be away from the body and at Home with the Lord,’ ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord’ – all of them. But perhaps one of the promises we most rejoiced in is the victory-in-death warranty that Paul gave us in 1 Corinthians 3.21-23 where he assures us that we ‘own’ death, too.

“For all things are yours, whether…life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

Death is ours! We ‘own’ death! Death is in our inheritance in Christ! Death itself is a gift from God! I learned a long time ago that the only way we believers in Christ can go to Heaven to be with Christ – which is far better! – is to die from here! And besides all the promises of being ushered into the Presence of Christ, death for Dad was a discharge and release from the heart-breaking suffering he endured and we witnessed during his final days as his physical body was breaking down and wasting away until it could no longer sustain his life. We grieved for our sorrow, but we could only rejoice that he had, at that moment, inherited “fullness of joy…pleasures forevermore.”

Death, for a believer in Christ is deliverance from that death! Death itself is your token to “get out of death free and go to eternal life”!

But his legacy continues to live on here in us, his children. I was mediating in Psalm 78 just yesterday morning:

“I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past – things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us. We will not hide them from their children, but will tell a future generation the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, His might, and the wondrous works He has performed. He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children so that a future generation – children yet to be born – might know. They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands” ~Psalm 78.2-7 HCSB

Our Dad did ALL that! And Mom, we bless you, too! You both not only taught us well, but you lived before us and invested in us the life of faith in Christ that we learned from you, have professed, and are following. He invested his life and faith in Christ in us, and now his influence continues to outlast the death of his physical body!

So, as a tribute to our Dad – and our Mom – I want to post again this poem I wrote to him and Mom on his birthday way back in 1975. I set it to music and sang it for him many times, and it brought him pleasure then – but the pleasure he enjoyed while he lived here will pale to a weak chuckle in the fullness of joy that will thrill him when we also arrive to be with the Lord and with him … because ‘my father taught me to fear the LORD’!

You will find that poem here…

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LONESOME SOUL (Job 23) – a simple song of experience

~ What can I do when I cannot find

the Face of the Sun of my soul?

When I look ahead, behind, and around

but no refuge in sight I behold?

Does He not care that I labor here

pressed by such a heavy load?

Oh, that I could speak!

Oh, that He would hear

from the height of His Heavenly abode!

~ Is there no escape from this dungeon dark?

Is there no relief for my soul?

Do my friends not care? Is my hope clean gone?

Does His anger have no control?

How can I here in a foreign land

sing the tunes of Zion’s glad songs?

My harp’s clear notes

turn to mournful sighs,

and my tears fall all the day long.

~ But I’ll tell you now what my soul will do,

I will bring my complaint to my God!

He will plead for me! I shall rescued be!

And in comfort I’ll quietly abide!

Then I’ll sing with Moses and Miriam:

“Horse and rider He’s thrown into the sea!”

And my harp will blend

with angelic strings,

and I’ll praise Him eternally!

~Dave Parks | February 22, 1975

Primary meditations:

  • Job 23
  • Psalm 77
  • Psalm 137
  • Exodus 15
  • Revelation 15
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‘EFFECTIVE AND FRUITFUL’

This message was delivered by our Pastor Hershael York on 1/24/21. Here are some personal reflections and resolutions…

It was:

  • clarifying. It was a powerful, poignant, pointed, and personal clarification of the balancing and supplementing roles of God’s sovereign and gracious grant of faith [see verses 1 and 3: ‘has granted us’] and my personal responsibility to make every effort [σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντεs] to supplement that faith with my own arduous effort. By the way, God also grants me His divine power [verse 3] with which I make every effort to supplement the faith He has granted me! God commands me to supplement His grant of faith [literally, ‘contribute besides’] with my own arduous decisiveness and commitment to give myself whole-heartedly to Him for His service.
    • “For this very reason [i.e., since God has freely, sovereignly, and graciously granted me this ‘faith of equal standing with ours’], make every effort to supplement your faith with…” ~verses 5-7
  • convicting. [more of this personal commentary following…]
  • and converting in the sense of moving me to make a fresh commitment to godliness and holiness of life before God. As Jesus had said to Peter years before, and the very thing he is doing in this final epistle: ‘when you have been converted, turned again, changed – strengthen your brothers’ ~Luke 22.31-34

This was a watershed, decisiveness crisis message for me, coming at a most critical juncture in my own personal relationship with Christ and dealing with my indwelling sin and self-will.

These are the words that most both haunt and goad me – every single word:

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” ~verse 8

The ultimate driving gear of this movement in my soul is Peter’s call to being effective and fruitful. I don’t want to be ineffective or unfruitful! I want to be effective and fruitful, not in the sense of fulfilling my personal ambitions or agenda, or desires for personal achievement; but rather in the sense of wanting to be used by God in whatever place, role, and ministry He chooses to assign to me. It is also so significant that this comes from Peter who has been such a personal model and example to me in his own history of personal defaults and restorations. See John 21.

I struggle with wondering and doubting just how effectiveness and fruitful I have been over the course of my walk with the Lord and my ministry. I struggle [maybe too much] with perceived feelings of failure. I’m going on 70 years old, and I’m in the last years of however long I have left of my life and ministry. And I look back over the course of my lifetime – where I have been, what I have done, and more importantly, who I have been – and I often wonder just how effective and fruitful I have been.1

I fear that so much of what we have grown used to thinking of as “effectiveness” and “fruit” is being effective and fruitful in our own ambitions, agenda, and achievements. I fear and confess that, perhaps, too often I have measured effectiveness and fruit in terms of tasks accomplished and visible results achieved instead of measuring them by the standards that Peter sets forth here in his exhortation: “For if these qualities [verses 5-7] are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” THERE is where the effectiveness and the fruit are found and must be increasing and growing: ‘in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ and in all those graces and promises that have been granted to us and that we have obtained by this God’s grant.

This message left me broken and weeping:

  1. broken and weeping first in wondering if and whether I may have forfeited and defaulted in more effectiveness and fruitfulness I may have borne for the glory of my Savior if I had been much more diligent and arduous in supplementing and ‘contributing besides’ to God’s grant of faith over the course of my ministry. Can it be that I have forfeited power with God and usefulness to Him for the benefit of others by not being more diligent with my heart and not committing myself with more fervor and ardor to the ministry Christ has entrusted me with?
  2. but, broken and weeping also with hope in Christ, that if I will make every effort with diligent haste, that Christ will be pleased to use me in whatever ways He chooses to be more effective and fruitful here in the latest years of my life and ministry. After all, has He not GRANTED to us His very great and precious promises? His promises are His GUARANTEE that He Himself will give us and work in us with His own Divine power everything we need to be effective and fruitful in life and godliness! AND He will make effective and fruitful everything He has called us to do with ardor to actively and intentionally supplement [‘contribute besides’] the faith He has given us.

1 By the way, I do want to add this caveat and qualifier to what I said above about my own frequent introspective self-evaluations: I do know that we are not the ones who are qualified to judge our own service to our Lord, nor are we the ones who will make the final evaluations. Jesus Himself is. So, with that in mind, I have learned to trust in these words from Paul in 1 Corinthians 4.1-5:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

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O, FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD

O, FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD

1 O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

2 Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
of Jesus and His Word?

3 What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their mem’ry still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.

4 Return, O Holy Dove, return,
Sweet Messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
and drove Thee from my breast.

5 The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from Thy throne
and worship only Thee.

6 So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

~William Cowper

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