Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
Be Quiet Back There!
May we be so in awe of the glorious works of God in our lives, that we are found still, and quiet, enjoying the beauty of His Peace!
it was inevitable, on those family drives as children that a fight would ensue between my brother and sister, and sometimes, I would get involved.
Remember, back in the day before seatbelts and child seats? When there could be a real free-for all wrestling match as dad drove down the highway at seventy miles an hour?
As expected as the war of the backseat was, even more was another thing we heard just a few moments later.
Be still back there! Be quiet back there!
I could almost hear those words as I drove those same roads last week.
I think when we hear God urging us to be still, urging us to be quiet, it isn’t because he needs to concentrate to get us where we are going. It isn’t that he will somehow loose control of the journey when a pillow comes flying over the back seat. Or the sound of a siren on a video game makes him glance guiltily at the speedometer.
Even so, we as individuals, we as the church of God, need to spend some real time in quiet, some real time being still, some extensive time knowing that God is God, and that He is our refuge, our fortress.
For different reasons when we were children, we need to hear Jesus say, my friends, be quiet, be still back there.
In fact, they are the same reasons Martin Luther, and so many before and since him, need to hear those words as well….
What couldn’t we see? V. 8
In our world today, much like in Luther’s time, there were more than enough fights going on, just like in the backseat of our ’72 dodge dart.
Some of the fights are caused by external things, fights in the world that worry us, whether against enemies like ISIS, or that are more insidious, like Ebola. Some are fights within the church at large, just as Luther experienced in His day. Fights over doctrine, fights over traditions, fights over theology. And some are fights like St Paul noted, fights between our sinful nature and our new nature in Christ. Those internal fights between sin, and the desire to serve God. They are like David describes in the psalm, times where our lives are shaken like earthquakes, where everything seems to crumble, where we feel like we are being drowned in life. Where the world is in chaos, and the very strength of our country seems to crumble…
All these fights in the backseat on our journey towards heaven garner our attention, whether we are involved in the fight, or not. They cause us anxiety and fear, even if we aren’t involved, for like the kid in the middle between two siblings, we can’t help being involved.
And once involved, life overwhelms us.
It was at such a time, inspired by this very psalm, Luther found rest. Despite the hoards of Turks threatening to take over Europe, despite some religious leaders calling for his death, despite health issues, despite his own sin and psychological challenges… Luther found peace.
And so can we… if only we can manage to be still, to be quiet, to be in awe of the glorious works of the LORD.
Being Still… not about behavior…
As we were driving down roads in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, I saw things that I don’t remember seeing. Rivers and streams, small waterfalls, signs notifying us that moose and elk now wandered the woods. Even as William and I stood at the shore of Lake Ossipee, my senses were flooded with what I saw, what I heard. The wind rustling through thousands of trees, raindrops causing ripples on the stillest of waters.
What God creates in nature is so incredibly amazing! We need to see them, but even more we need to see God’s glorious works in our lives
Even before the psalm encourages stillness, it encourages us to look at the glorious works of God. Not the mountains and lakes, the forests and oceans, but what He does to bring peace to our world. To bring peace to our lives.
Promise after promise we’ve heard, we know that nothing can separate us from Him, that all things work for good, that even what is planned for evil, He defeats and causes it to be for our best interest.
When we trust Him, we know that we have a safe place, a fortress that cannot being overwhelmed, a sanctuary that will not be broken into, a refuge where the battles of the world can’t compare to the glory we know, to the peace that surrounds us.
We can’t know that peace when we are fighting, whether the fight is external, or internal. Whether we are being attacked by thousands of enemies, or we are like Peter, realizing we betrayed the Lord.
We need to hear Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!”
Even more grace – He is Here, among us!
That peace comes with something more incredible. We hear the words though out the service, but today we hear them a little differently…
11 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Psalm 46:11 (NLT)
To hear this, to really hear this, results in the very same thing that we normally hear, that because He is hear among us, because God is our sanctuary, our refuge our fortress, we can have the rest from the wars that rage in the world, we can know the stillness and quietness that we need…
We can realize that He is our God…. The Lord God almighty is our God, and therefore we can rest in Him, and know the peace that passes all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2 Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3 Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)
11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15 And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16 So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17 All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)
657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can! (1)
Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence? Ironic? God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.
As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!
Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.
As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace. Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.
We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month? And yes – our week or two a year…..
We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.
My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time. He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor! (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)
How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?
This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning. We need it. The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them. It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.
Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Reformation is only about this:
The Lord Almighty Is With Us!
† In His Name †
May the peace of God, the peace which comforted Martin Luther and so many others who struggled with their own sin, and the sin of their time, bring you comfort and peace and stillness….
Luther’s Nightmares… do we have such?
Are our dragons… less?
It doesn’t matter which movie about Martin Luther’s life that you watch. There is always a scene which people find troubling,
Luther, not long after his ordination, is in his monk’s cell. It is late at night and time to sleep. Even though his confessor tells him there is nothing interesting in his confessions, Martin is tormented spiritually and emotionally. He rages against satan, and in grief and shame, against his own weakness.
The scene is violent, as Luther storms around the room, flailing and yelling, screaming at Satan, weeping over his own brokenness. He feels God’s wrath for the existence of sin in his life. In the movie made a little less than a decade ago, as Luther faces his own inability to overcome sin, he questions God. How can a just God create us so weak that we cannot overcome sin in our lives? Luther only saw God as just at the time, for that is how he was taught.
His mentor, His confessor, tries to share with Martin that God is love. The Augustinian Abbot sends Luther to Wittenberg specifically to study the New Testament, hoping that as Martin does find God’s mercy and love, and when he does, that which torments him will be replaced with peace.
It is the reading from Romans today, that Fr. Martin Luther finally realizes God’s love, and that Luther’s life has been entrusted to God, and therefore he can live in that trust.
Later, coming across the Psalm we chanted, in awe of the incredible grace and providence of God, Luther writes the incredibly Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
I think there are days, where I am much like Luther, I look at the challenges people face, in life, the challenges of lives hampered and damaged by sin, the anxiety, the suffering there are days where for a moment, the despair that Luther knew seems all to real.
Our hope is the same as Luther’s this Mighty Fortress, this incredible Lord of Heaven’s Hosts is with us. We will grasp
1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
As the Psalm moves on from that crucial first phrase into the second verse, I am reminded of a conversation this week. I had commented, “it’s simple – if you can’t run from your problems, you also can’t run from the One willing to bear those burdens.”
The response was that my comment was beautiful, but I wonder, if in thinking of the beauty of such thoughts, we reduce them to something not real, not practical, not for us.
I think we do this with Psalm 46, as well – we know we need to stop – give pause to the anxiety the world tosses at us, yet we find such a pause… disturbing, and we fill the silence, rather than stop… and stop our fighting God…and know peace.
The World is being tossed aside.
But Compare that to the Heavens streams
As I was saying the Psalmist moves from this brash statement, that because God is that refuge and strength, we need not fear – he has something in mind. He doesn’t get to it directly. He talks of a world devastated by natural disasters, of earthquakes and floods that we should have no fear of, of the disasters that make prior disasters we have seen look like summer rain showers, and 2.0 tumblers.
Even as violent as these storms are, as much as the world shakes, as the mountains collapse, the Psalmist calls our attention to a different body of water, instead of disaster though, this other seen is pastoral, peaceful, glorious.
4 There is a river— its streams delight the city of God!
the holy dwelling place of the Most High!
5 God is within her; she will not be toppled!
God will help her when the morning dawns!
Given the pause, the “selah” the break in the meter and psalm, the shift goes from the traumatic, the terrifying, to the peaceful, to the pastoral, to that which is kept and protected by the power of Almighty God – for it is where He dwells. That is the purpose of the Selah – a time and moment to pause…
To realize what this means – that God dwells in a place of peace, a place that cannot be toppled, a place that cannot be moved….
Could the Psalmist, looking forward to the promises of God, realize what God would have Paul write to the church in Corinth?
3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)
As we deal with the pause, the Selah, the interlude, can we realize that it is there – to help us transition from the trauma, from the pain, from the brokenness of the world that would send an overwhelming flood into our lives?
It is there the psalmist goes next, to reveal that the shaking and storms aren’t caused in the physical world, but in people, and in their lives.
The Nations Rage, and are tossed aside….
But like the world, all is shattered,
It’s time to be quiet, to stop fighting..it’s time to be still
6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple;
It is here that we begin to see the truth, it is not the mountains and oceans that cause us to be shaken, but people and kingdoms – whether we are talking about kingdoms as in nations, or the kingdoms of our homes.
It is therein we find our greatest shaking, our greatest pains, the greatest storms, and the storms that make us question life … and make us struggle – even as Luther would struggle in his cell.
How do we deal with our sin, with our failing when tempted, with our humanity, and the humanity and sin of others…as our earth quakes, …as they are shattered, even as the evil seems to surround us, to even drown us…
Not just evil as in slavery and murder..
But the evil of gossip and hated, of wanting to get revenge, of the pains of being betrayed, never mind the pain that comes from suffering from the overall weight of sin – even the things we are sure are sin, yet we feel guilt and shame as we endure them…
We might question our hope, our life, our salvation, we might even despair or fight God – accusing Him of unfairness because of what we must endure.
Luther knew this…feeling, this despair…
It is why Romans 3, and the concept of our living, trusting in God was such a revelation – it is not up to us to become the solution to our sin, to the brokenness of the world.
You see the context of that favorite beautiful sentiment, “Be still and know” is not just about being calm in the middle of external struggles, but our struggle with God.
Hear another couple of other translations….
46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
46:10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” Psalm 46:10 (TEV)
and I love what the great English pastor wrote n this..
That is the great theme of Psalm 46. The nations and their princes are all being addressed; these people who are arguing against God and querying whether there is such a God. ‘And listen’ says the Psalmist, ‘here is the God who makes wars to cease; this is the God who arises and vindicates himself.’ Then, having displayed his case, he says, ‘Be still,’ give up, give in, admit, ‘that I am God.’[i]
Be still, become, look, here is Almighty God! Here is the Lord of the Heavenly Host! He is here in all His power, in all His glory! Realize this with awe, even as He feeds you His broken body, and you drink His blood,
He is here for you, to protect you, to keep you, to guard your hearts and minds… for He dwells, not in a city made of hands, but among His people.
And therefore – we do not fear, we live in His peace….AMEN
[i] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1987). Revival (120). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.