Tag Archives: Brian Doerksen

Rest from the Ordinary

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:13-14a, NLT*

Note the extra word the NLT adds here: “Your ordinary work.”

Rest. He insists on it. God rested on the seventh day of creation, not because He needed it, but because we would need it. Because otherwise we’d find ways to go nonstop in the pursuit of our “ordinary” work.

Stopping becomes an act of faith as well as obedience. It’s a sign to us, and to others, of God’s trustworthiness and His care for us. It means we trust Him to help us accomplish the “ordinary” work He has for us in the other six days.

Truly resting and trusting means not just stopping the work for a day. It means stopping thinking about the work for the day. Otherwise our minds keep working, and we miss the point.

Choosing rest makes us see where our worship and affection really lie – and where they belong. It can refocus us on what’s truly important, taking our focus off ourselves and pointing us back to God. It may reveal a few things that need trimming from our schedules. It also recharges us to return to work with new energy and stamina.

Worship is a key part of soul-rest and restoration. Other aspects of a day of rest dedicated to God may mean different things to different people.

Without legalism, and with daily resting in His presence as well, how might we expand our understanding of a designated day of rest?

God our Creator and our Shepherd, You know our limitations better than we do. You know we need rest of body, mind, and spirit, and You know how we can turn our own agendas into mini-gods if we’re not continually reminded of our true allegiance. Thank You for being the kind of God who rests His people instead of grinding us into the ground. Thank You that You desire relationship with us: our love, not just our labour. Teach us what it means to rest, including how to carve out a day of rest in our fast-paced world. May our obedience be a sign for us and for others of Your goodness.

The key to rest is the invitation of Jesus to “Enter the Rest of God,” sung here by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

To Depend on God

So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him.
Hosea 12:6, NLT*

What does it mean to depend on God?

First, it’s an active reliance. We don’t sit and wait for Him to do what needs doing while we channel-surf.

We depend on His strength in us to equip us to serve. We depend on His Spirit in us to replace our natural reactions with the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” that He wants us to display. (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT*)

When we’re mistreated, instead of taking revenge, we depend on “Him who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23, NIV) and we dare by His Spirit to forgive the offender and to pray that instead of staying hard and receiving what he or she deserves, that person will surrender to God and receive mercy.

We read the Bible and learn about God’s character, His ways, and His will. And about His promises. We choose to depend on who He is and what He says, not on what we feel and see.

We learn to recognize how He speaks to us as individuals, and we step out in faith to obey Him.

We overcome our fears by choosing to depend on God’s care and His power – and on the assurance that His presence will be with us no matter what.

God of Abraham, of Isaac, of me: because You don’t change, we can know and depend on You. Draw us who love You nearer to Your heart, and grow us in our faith. Draw those who don’t yet know You. Help them see their need of You, and how ignoring and defying You diminishes their lives. Because of Your great mercy, don’t give up on them.

To depend on God, we need to remind ourselves of who He is. Brian Doerksen’s song, “Faithful One,” reminds us (sung here by Robin Mark).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Not Worthy, But Chosen

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
2 Corinthians 1:1, NLT*

Paul was “chosen by the will of God to be an apostle…”

But he also wrote: “I am the least of all the apostles … not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.” (1 Corinthians 15:9, NLT*)

Don’t you think the enemy of our souls tried to use Paul’s past to sabotage his future?

The same with the unnamed weakness that Paul called his “thorn in the flesh” – in fact, he called it “a messenger from Satan.” (2 Corinthians 12:7, NLT*)

Imagine if he’d listened to these taunts about his unworthiness and his weakness. If he’d accepted them and quit the ministry.

I think today’s verse shows us the secret of his victory.

He knew it wasn’t about him – his worth or lack of it, his weakness or strength. It was about God. The God who saw Paul’s offenses, who allowed the weakness. The God who loved him and chose to save him and to call him as an apostle of Christ.

What about us? Paul wasn’t an exception. We’re all unworthy in one way or another. We all have weaknesses. What might God want to do through us?

Father God, You know each heart. You know our unworthiness and our weakness. you know we can’t change on our own. Yet You love us. You saved us and You’re saving us still. Forgive us for the ways we’ve allowed our limitations to disqualify us from what You’ve set before us. Help us find our strength in the fact that it’s You who call us. Teach us to reject what would hold us back, and to follow You.

Brian Doerksen’s song, “Welcome to the Place of Level Ground,” reminds us we’re all the same before the Lord.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Make Love, Make War, by Brian Doerksen

Make Love, Make War, by Brian DoerksenMake Love, Make War, by Brian Doerksen (David C. Cook, 2009)

The title of this one may be a little intimidating, but look at the subtitle: “NOW is the time to worship.” Songwriter Brian Doerksen challenges Christians to adopt an intentional lifestyle of loving and serving God.

Each chapter begins with one of Brian Doerksen’s songs. Part memoir, part expansion on the themes that sparked the songs, this is an honest reflection on circumstances both joyful and sad. Topics include a Christian’s identity, the importance of gratitude, the Father’s love, hearing God, the importance of controlling our thoughts, and surrender.

If you’ve ever thought contemporary praise music was too upbeat to the point of ignoring the pain in life, you’ll appreciate the author’s perspective. As well as songs declaring God’s praise, he’s not afraid to write worship songs for the hurting. After all, songs of lament hold a valid place in the psalms. Lament, says the author, is different from simply complaining. After laying out the trouble before the Lord, a lament expresses the singer’s choice to trust God even in the hardship.

Favourite lines:

As we worship, our hearts are healed by the faithfulness of God, because that’s who God is. [Kindle location 331]

The names that our parents give us and the labels others slap on us are not as important as who we are in the Father’s eyes. [Kindle location 364]

Sometimes our greatest act of worship is just hanging on to God in the middle of the storms of trouble that threaten to engulf us. [Kindle location 1946]

As a bonus for readers who write music (or who’d like to), each chapter ends with practical songwriting tips.

Brian Doerksen is an award-winning Canadian songwriter and worship leader. For more about the author and his latest projects, visit briandoerksen.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Praying Scripture

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13, NLT*

I love eavesdropping on Paul’s heart-felt prayers for the congregations he’s writing to. Sure, parts of his letters are direct to the point of sounding harsh (although always with a motive of love), but in his prayers we see how deeply he cares.

We can borrow these prayers for those we love, or for ourselves. Take this one as an example. We can ask this for anyone who knows the Lord, no matter their circumstances.

We may not know how God plans to work out someone’s particular struggles, but we know this is the sort of prayer that’s always in line with His will.

To apply this verse for a non-believer, we could begin by asking God to reveal Himself as the Source of hope and to give the person faith to trust Him.

Take a second look at Paul’s words. Who might God want you to pray them for?

Holy God, we praise You that You alone are the Source of hope. Real hope, not wishing. You are the Source of joy and peace. And You are trustworthy. Forgive any doubts that taunt us. Help us to trust You fully. Open us to receive the joy and peace You give. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and the confident hope He brings. Fill us to overflowing, and flow through us to reveal Yourself to those who don’t yet know you, for their sakes and for the sake of Your Kingdom.

There are so many songs based on prayers from the Bible. Here’s Brian Doerksen‘s “I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

How do You Handle Suffering?

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
1 Peter 4:19, NLT*

Peter’s writing to Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, reminding them that this can go with the territory. He says there’s no value in suffering for doing wrong, but if they hold up under attacks on their faith, it’s pleasing to God and it may help others see the truth.

The context is persecution, but I think it applies to any form of suffering that we don’t deserve. Peter does warn them there’s no value in suffering as a criminal, etc.

Christians are risking – and losing – their lives for Jesus in parts of the world today, and it’s horrible. Here in North America, the most “suffering” we do for our faith is putting up with snide comments, misunderstanding, and a culture bent on denying our God.

But we’ll all face other forms of suffering, too. Sickness, financial crises, broken relationships, worry… it’s a long list. How do we handle these things as Christians, in a way that shows others who God is?

Peter says we’re to “keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you.”

What’s our confidence to do this? “He will never fail you.”

That means we guard our words and our actions, and keep our attitudes pure before God, because we trust Him. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

It means we repeatedly choose to trust God instead of giving in to the fear and the pain. It means we make time to care for the person beside us in the hospital waiting room. (Sometimes I think God allows us to end up in those places just because there’s someone else there He wants to reach.)

It means… even when we “deserve” some self-pity, we need to ask God how He wants to use the situation.

And it means “if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it (1 Peter 3:15)”. Gently, not pushy. Tell the story of how He’s made a difference and strengthened us to endure.

It’s all about Jesus, and we sort of forget that in our daily routines.

Mighty and loving God, You saved us and called us to live for Your glory. Help us learn to walk with You each moment, living in response to You instead of reacting to our circumstances. Show us how to live in our relationships and our responsibilities with hearts turned to You and with spirits depending on You. Give us faith to know that You will never fail us.

A good song to keep us focused on the Lord’s care is “Your Faithfulness,” by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Take Heart

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33, NLT*

If we look around, there is plenty to discourage us. Although MacLean’s shares the encouragement that “humans have never been better off” (Scott Gilmore: Believe it or not, this is the best time to be alive), people still suffer. And many of us live in cultures that are increasingly open about their godlessness. It reminds me of Paul’s words to the Romans about how, when people turned away from God, He let them have what they wanted.

Closer to home, there may be financial pressures. Health, employment, relationship concerns. For me, it’s my church, which has been bleeding out for the past year.

Each one of us likely has at least one thing pressing heavily. Through it all, we need to keep ourselves rooted in Jesus, depending on Him.

That’s hard, though. Over time, the weight seems to increase and we may not see the Lord doing anything. We can believe the suffering more than the Saviour. (click to tweet that)

Life is truly “a long obedience in the same direction,” and the closer we are to Jesus, the better off we’ll be. For me, that means I need to spend more time in worship, remembering who God is and how much He loves me. Reminding myself what He’s done in the past, to reassure my faith that He’s still at work. Waiting for His timing.

Our God, so often we strain to see the end of the story when You’re still working in the middle of it. Help us trust You in the waiting. Help us worship. Remind us who You are, and give us the faith we need. Grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us, including patience and faithfulness. Enable us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

When circumstances start weighing me down, Brian Doerksen‘s song, “You Shine,” is a good antidote.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Beyond “Why?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
John 9:3, NLT*

Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who’d been born blind, and the disciples asked about the cause. Apparently in the culture of the time, anything like this was considered a direct result of someone’s sin.

When we encounter difficult situations, how often do we ask if it’s because of something that person, or another, did? Or if we’re the ones with the trouble, how often do we ask “What have I done?” or “Why me?” Or we sulk at God and say it’s not fair?

We’re still focusing on the individual with the need. Still looking for a cause.

Jesus doesn’t say trouble is never self-inflicted, never reaping what we’ve sown. But He clearly says those aren’t the only reasons.

“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

Instead of asking why, let’s ask the bigger question: God, what do You want to do in this situation? [Click to tweet this.]

He’s not saying God caused the initial problem so the people would see how good He is when He solved it. But there are plenty of things He chooses to allow, things we don’t like but that He wants to use for greater good.

What difference would it make in our outlook if we asked about God’s solution instead of about the problem?

Our God, Your thoughts and ways are beyond our comprehension, but we know You are good. You proved Your love for us through the Cross, and Your power through the Resurrection. Forgive us for looking too long at our problems. Teach us to bring them to You in trust, looking for Your help.

A good song to help our focus is Brian Doerksen‘s “Your Faithfulness.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Do You Fear Bad News?

They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
Psalm 112:7, NLT*

There’s an article in the current issue of Reader’s Digest that suggests the fear of future scarcity can affect our daily wellbeing. (“Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” by Rosie Ifould, August 2014)

We can end up living in tension, on alert, ready for something bad to happen, whether it’s financial, physical or relational. I’ve seen it in my own life; you likely have as well.

Fear of lack. Fear of loss. It creates an underlying anxiety that leaches away our joy and strength. It diminishes our daily quality of life.

If our vague fear doesn’t materialize, we’ve carried the burden for nothing. And if it does, our strength is too depleted to face it well.

God often allows pain struggles, and we can rarely see why. He’s also the One with the power and desire to carry us through such times. If we can rely on Him, we’ll have stories to tell of the difference He made, of how He met our needs. Of His faithfulness.

Things happen, despite our best care. Other things don’t, either because God intervened or because they were only fear-whispers from the enemy of our souls.

Our best defense is to position ourselves securely in the care of our God and Refuge. We need to draw close to Him and stay close. As we get to know Him, we develop confidence in His character and power, and we learn to delight in living His way.

It’s a life-long process, but the more we do this, the easier it is to do. We see evidence of God’s care and it grows our faith. In those moments when our faith is shaky, we can go back to one of my favourite prayers in the New Testament: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

God our Shelter in the storms of life, You know our needs and You know the plans You have to work for good in all things. As a shepherd cares for the sheep, please care for us. Help us to recognize Your voice and to trust Your care. When we waver, help our unbelief.

Be encouraged by Brian Doerksen’s song, “Your Faithfulness.”

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.



Kingdom Corners

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Proverbs 3:6-7a, MSG*

In the big things, the scary things, the God-sized things, it’s easy to remember to rely on God’s strength. We pray, we listen, we don’t dare risk moving ahead on our own.

What about the little things? The daily routines, small decisions, mundane chores. They’re the ones we often handle solo, using the skill and common sense that God gave us.

The problem is, these minor duties (including our day jobs) can fill our time and our thoughts until they’re all we see. We miss what else God might want to do through, with or for us.

Or we begin to own responsibility for the little things, but not in a good way. We decide what’s good enough or how to allocate our time among various tasks. We’re in charge of this corner of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom. God’s in charge, and He’s interested in it all. We’re to work at whatever we do as if serving Him directly. (Colossians 3:23)

There’s not enough time to do everything we want, or to achieve perfection in all that we do. Finding the balance in how to spend our time, how much attention to put on any one of our many little responsibilities, needs prayer. It takes prayer to know when to step away from our agendas, and to recognize the difference between a distraction and God’s redirection.

I can spend my day going in circles, anxious and unproductive, spending too much time on one thing and forgetting another. I know I’m not doing a good job, and it makes me feel bad. But when I commit my day to the Lord, and remember to check in with Him regularly, it’s a different experience.

For me, it comes back to remembering who’s the Boss. And that He’s a good one, with good plans for me. I also need to remember that my small writer/homemaker corner is part of His Kingdom, with all the privileges and responsibilities that entails.

Holy and magnificent God, forgive us for the ways we complicate life and make it more difficult and less joyful than You intend. You know our weakness and yet You love us. Give us clear perspective of Your sovereignty and of our places in Your Kingdom. Help us serve You with willing hearts, glad in the knowledge that You’re in charge and not we ourselves.

Brian Doerksen‘s song, “Everything (God in My Living)” is a good prayer of focus for us today.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson