Sarah Dickey on Psalm 90:12

On Ash Wednesday, I quoted an interaction I had with Sarah Dickey over email about the verse we were looking at (Psalm 90:12) and what God has taught her through the loss of her husband last year to an aggressive form of cancer. Many asked me if I could send them what I shared, and Sarah graciously allowed me to share this more broadly. I pray it’s encouraging!

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
-Psalm 90:12

Walking through terminal illness, the dying process, death of my life partner and then continuing to live with the immense grief and pain that followed while raising two little kids has brought me to a mental space I didn’t know existed before. When I think about what it means to “number our days”… I think, those days ultimately aren’t ours to begin with.

Keith used his earthly days to exercise and train so he could climb harder. He worked long, physically demanding days as a route setter, to improve his trade. He spent late hours shaping climbing holds, to expand his line. Gave endless energy to house renovation projects, bringing ideas to fruition. Gave afternoons to watching football. Or practicing music. Or serving the church. Or resting.

10 years as a husband.
3 1/2 years as a father.
37 years as a son.
35 years as a brother.
20ish years as a believer

August 12, 1980 – February 8, 2018

That’s it. The number of Keith Michael Dickey’s days.

That’s not easy to write. Feels harsh and somehow still not true. Yet here we are.

What did I learn as I watched what Keith wanted from life and worked for with his days, where a tangle of serving God and himself existed… slip from his desperate grasp? As I waited for his last day on this side of eternity, for his last breath from the wretched body that betrayed him?

I learned to hold this life, these days with the most open of hands. I can serve and love God and his Creation with what he has given me. I can ask Jesus for forgiveness and confess when I fail. I can honor brokenness and cling to a deep hope in future glory.

But I can’t make the days my own. God holds them, they aren’t mine; they never were. I think this painful yet freeing understanding, reached by way of cancer and death and grief and solo parenting, has given or yielded in me a wise heart… or heart of wisdom as they say.

Exploring Lent Practically

This year we’re inviting everyone at Park Church who is participating in Lent to engage in three kinds of spiritual practices: fasting, prayer, and generosity. We covered the basics in our “Engaging With Lent 2019” guide that we’ll be handing out on Sunday, but here we’ll take a little bit of time around each practice but also share some practical ways of exploring each. James and I also talked in depth about what Lent is, where it came from, and some ways of exploring it here.

Fasting
Fasting is one of those disciplines that most Christians know they should do, but rarely get around to it. The interesting thing is that it’s one of the disciplines we see Jesus doing (Matthew 4:1-11; 17:21), a discipline He assumes His disciples are doing (Matthew 6:16) and a discipline we see the early church continuing to do (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23). So what is it? David Mathis defines fasting as “voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose.”

Fasting ultimately is about refraining from one thing that we might engage more intentionally with another, namely God. Sam Storms comments, “The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy. Let me say it again: Fasting is not primarily about not eating food. It is primarily about feasting on God.”

Practically speaking, there are a couple great ways of exploring fasting during Lent:

One is called a whole fast, where you actually skip whole meals with the exception of water, juice, or liquids. This kind of fast can be hard for some people due to particular physical conditions so don’t just jump in without considering how it might affect you. A way of easing your way into this whole fast is simply by skipping breakfast and lunch on a day and eating dinner in the evening. Another way would be to do a 24 hour whole fast where you only drink water, juice, or liquid during that day.

Another way is called a partial fast. This might look like you giving up eating sugar or drinking alcohol. Others choose to give up things like social media, Netflix, etc. The important thing isn’t necessarily what you’re giving up, but what you do in the absence of that item and where it leads your heart. Fasting generally is never a solo discipline, but rather should always be practiced in conjunction with prayer.

Prayer
We believe that prayer is an essential part of what it means to be both a human and a Christian. It’s about communion and communication with the God we were created to know and walk with. As we fast during this season of Lent, we also feast on God through prayer! We encourage everyone to find meaningful ways to pray corporately and personally in this season.

Here are a few ways to explore praying corporately with others:

  • Join us for our pre-service prayer on Sundays at 8:15am or 4:15pm in the basement!
  • Come to our Sunday services
  • Thursdays at 6:30am in the gallery
  • Pray with your Gospel Communities
  • Intentionally pray daily or weekly with a friend throughout Lent

We also encourage you in your personal exploration of prayer:

  • Pray prayers of self-examination like David in Psalm 139:23-24.
  • Pray the Lord’s Prayer in the mornings and/or evenings
  • Pick a different psalm each day to pray and meditate on throughout the day
  • Check out the prayer app called “Pray As You Go” which has some great contemplative prayers
  • Another app called “Daily Prayer” has Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, and Night Prayers. Dependent on when you open it up, it takes you there automatically! Easily accessible.

Generosity
As we fast from food or particular hobbies that cost money, we want to be open to re-directing the money saved and invest that somewhere else. The God we serve is an insanely generous and kind God. How might you learn to imitate Him and His generosity? How might God be directing you to be generous with your time, energy, and money in this season of Lent? Is there an organization that Park works with that you can contribute toward (find a comprehensive list at www.love5280.org)? Is there a need that might come up in your neighborhood or friendships where you can assist in? This practice works in conjunction with fasting and prayer and aids in shaping us in looking more Christlike. It’s a reminder that our spirituality affects all aspects of our lives, including our bank account and how we view money.

Final Encouragement
Wanted to close this time by encouraging you in five ways:

1. ​Plan before Ash Wednesday.​ The longer you wait, the less likely you are to do anything.

2. ​Ask God what His invitation is to you this Lent! Let Lent be part of your relationship with God.​ Talk to God about where He wants you to grow. Where have there been areas of struggle? Where is God shining a light and inviting you to walk more closely with Him in? David Powlison has some amazing questions called “X Ray Questions” that might be of help as we practice some of this self-examination. Here’s a short sampling of those:

  • Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, and escape? When you are fearful, discouraged, and upset, where do you run? Do you run to God for comfort and safety or to something else? (To food, to others, to work, to solitude?)
  • What do you love? Is there something you love more than God or your neighbor?
  • What do you want? What do you desire? What do you crave, long for, wish? Whose desires do you obey?
  • What do you think about most often? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?
    When you are doing a menial task or driving alone in your car, what captures your mind? What is your mindset?
  • What do you talk about? What occupies your conversations with others? What subjects do you tend to discuss over and over with your friends? The Bible says it is out of the heart that our mouths speak.

Your answers to questions these might help lead you as you process how to fast, pray, and be generous!

3. ​Don’t take too much on.​ Keep it simple. If you take on too much, you’ll get overwhelmed. Take on 1-3 new practices. I’m going to fast from this on this day or the whole time; I’m going to gather for pre-service prayer at Park; I’m going to try to give some money to someone or something during that time. For parents, it might be doing one weekly devotional. If you’re not trying to add stuff in your world, consider just studying Exodus which we’re going through as a church more closely.

4. ​Share your plan with a friend or spouse​, and then chat with them during the time about how it’s going.

5. ​Don’t be discouraged by failures.​ Let any failures lead you back to the truth that God is more gracious than we are sinful! He’s kind. John Newton said, ​“Our sins are many, but His mercies are more: our sins are great, but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.” What a truth to celebrate as we jump into Lent!

Why Lent? with Joel Limpic

Our guest is Joel Limpic. He’s the Pastor of Liturgy & Arts at Park Church.

Listen

Listen to the show Subscribe in iTunes

Show Notes

3:15 – What Lent Is and Why We Do It

6:25 – The Historicity of Lent

8:50 – The Bible and Lent

14:30 – The Spiritual Value of Lent

17:30 – Practical Advice for Engaging with Lent

27:30 – Recommended Lenten Resources

29:10 – Five Short Exhortations and Prayer

Links

Advent Prayer Guide, Week Three

We come to our third and final Wednesday in the season of Advent as we pray through The Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Two weeks ago we looked at God as being our Father only because of the work of Jesus in our place. We also prayed that His name would be hallowed and set apart in our hearts as our greatest treasure. Last week we prayed that His kingdom would come and will would be done in Denver as it is in heaven. Before we move into final petitions found in this prayer, let’s remind ourselves who it is we pray to! We pray to our Father who’s made us His own. He’s the King of the universe and can do anything—nothing is too great for Him! Take a moment to praise Him for His power, love, and kindness to save and adopt you into His family.

Song Ideas: All I Have Is Christ, Be Lifted Up

Today we’ll be looking at the final three petitions in this prayer. In his book “Eat This Book,” Eugene Peterson commented:

The Prayer has six petitions: the first three pray for the furtherance of God and His work—His holiness, His will, His kingdom; the matching triad is oriented around human needs—food, forgiveness, deliverance. The pair of triads is connected by the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven,” which is to say that prayer has its source in heaven, the home country, so to speak, of God, but the action takes place on earth—our home country. Prayer that is not firmly grounded “on earth” is not prayer as our Lord taught us to pray.

We are going to look at each petition and then in turn take time to pray through it, closing our time in prayer.

Petition #4: Give us this day our daily bread

As our Creator and our Father, we are instructed to ask God to provide for us our daily bread. Up to this point, every request has been God-centered (note the use of the word “your” in all the prior petitions) and now we become honest about our own needs. We can often fall in an “either/or” ditch in prayer: we can either only focus on praising God and asking nothing from Him because we feel guilty about that. We tell ourselves, “He already knows what I need before I ask, so I won’t ask.” There’s a ditch on the other side which treats God like a cosmic vending machine. We only come to Him when we want something. He becomes our Genie in a bottle instead of our heavenly Father. Jesus rejects this false dichotomy by teaching us to adore and ask; to praise and petition. In this petition we learn that He knows He’s made us with real human needs and we are to come to Him in our need to ask Him to provide for our basic needs.

Where do you need God to provide today? Physically? Spiritually? Emotionally? Are there others we need to pray for?

Petition #5: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Jesus reminds us here that part of our relationship with God as Christians will continue to be coming before Him in confession and repentance. Confession isn’t a “one and done” act when you initially come to faith. Rather, it is to be an intimate and repeated practice of being honest before God about all the ways you wander from Him (both things you’ve done and things you’ve left undone). The aim of this prayer for forgiveness is not to seek the judicial forgiveness which you already received from God when you first came to Him in faith, but rather relational forgiveness. What is at stake in this prayer is not union with God, but rather communion with Him. The amazing thing is that we’re promised in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Not only are we to ask for forgiveness from God, but we are to image and imitate Him in how we forgive others! Unforgiveness and Christianity are incompatible because forgiveness lies at the heart of our relationship with God and must manifest itself in our relationship with others too.

Where do you need to ask God forgiveness today? Be specific. Where do you need to forgive others today?

Petition #6: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

It’s so easy to forget this powerful reality: there is a war happening right now as we speak. It’s a spiritual war where there is real good and real evil at work all around us! The Bible likens Satan to a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8), a schemer (Ephesians 6:10), who is both a murderer and a father of lies (John 8:44). His aim is tempt us and ultimately destroy us. Jesus teaches us to call out to our Father of lights to protect us from this father of lies. We are to ask Him to take every situation in our lives, both pleasant or unpleasant, and use it for His glory! Satan wants to take that exact situation and use it to tempt us to forget God or even curse Him. God wants to use it to shape us to love Him more and look more like Him.

Where do you most naturally find yourself tempted by Satan? Which are the top three areas you are most prone to wander in? Where are you currently being tempted? Where do you need deliverance? What about those around you? Take the next few minutes to cry out for deliverance both for yourself and others.

Resources

“Look At The Book: Part 2: Deliver Us From Evil” (John Piper)
“The Lord And His Prayer” (NT Wright)

Advent Prayer Guide, Week Two

As we continue to fast and pray our way through the season of Advent, we find ourselves in the Lord’s Prayer again. When asked by His disciples how to pray, He taught them what is now known as “The Lord’s Prayer” and is found in Matthew 6:9-13:

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Last week we focused on Jesus’ address of the Father, and how important our view of God is as we pray! We can’t approach the Father if not through the Son and His work in our place. We also prayed through Jesus’ first petition: that God’s name would be hallowed in our heart. For a name to be hallowed entails asking for a name to be our greatest treasure, as well ensuring no other name or thing would compete for our affections!

Re-Address

Let’s start off our time of prayer re-centering our hearts around Who it is we pray to! We pray not to a vague deity, but to our very Father in heaven who holds all power and has invited us to come before His throne of grace with confidence… May we remember and truly believe that it is not our own personal names or Park Church’s name that we want exalted, but rather the name of Jesus lifted up in our lives, in this church, and in this city!

Song Ideas: Forever Reign, Be Lifted Up

Let’s look at the next two petitions: Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Petition #2: Your kingdom come

Why would Jesus instruct us to pray, “Your kingdom come”? Is not God already King? Psalm 103:19 tells us His kingdom rules over all. Tim Keller helps us as he explains:

“God is reigning now, but just as a light is absent to those refusing to open their eyes, so it is possible to refuse God’s rule. This is the cause of all our human problems, since we were created to serve Him, and when we serve other things in God’s place, all spiritual, psychological, cultural, and even material problems ensue. Therefore, we need His kingdom to ‘come.’”

The Bible teaches us that His kingdom has a two-fold reality: it is both present (already) but also it is future (not yet). This is the tension we live in, and it is precisely the tension we see in Advent! Jesus came to bring about the promises of God, and one day He will come again to fully and finally fulfill all that He promised and make all things new again. Some have compared this tension to the tension we saw in World War II between the Allies’ initial D-Day and final V-Day. Jesus’ first Advent in Bethlehem is likened to D-Day, while His second Advent is compared to a coming V-Day when He returns as our Savior Judge.

To pray for God’s kingdom to come is to acknowledge that there are so many areas of our lives (internally and externally) that aren’t aligned with the kingdom of God and to ask for all those areas to come under His good rule and reign.

Where are there areas of your life where you long for God’s kingdom to come and change things? Where are there areas of your household? Workplace? Denver?

Song Ideas: King Of My Heart, Here As In Heaven

Petition #3: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

The next petition is similar to the last one… We might ask the question, “Is God’s will not always done?” Just as there are different ways to understand kingdom in the Bible, we must work to understand the will of God. Scripture speaks of God’s revealed will (which includes His commands in Scripture) but also of His hidden will (all the things He hasn’t clearly told us in His eternal decrees). His hidden will always comes to pass while His revealed will clearly doesn’t. We break His commandments and laws all the time, even though it His will that we would follow them. In “The Prayer of the Lord” RC Sproul comments, “In this petition, then, Jesus is affirming that the will of God is done in heaven. However, He is also affirming that it is not done here. People here on earth do not strive to glorify God. They do not seek the kingdom of God. They do not hallow the name of God. So Jesus says we ought to pray, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”

Prayer

What would it look like for God’s kingdom to come and will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? Let’s finish our time praying through each item on the “Missions” handout (click button below). We want to pray for our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, city (including organizations we support), and nations (including missionaries we support).

Missions Guide

Song Ideas: Lord’s Prayer (Park Church Music), Oh Holy Night

Resources

“Look At The Book: Park 1 Your Kingdom Come” (John Piper)
“What Is The Kingdom of God?” (John Piper)
“What Is The Kingdom of God?” (George Eldon Ladd)
“When Heaven Meets Earth” (The Bible Project)
“The Lord And His Prayer” (NT Wright)
God’s Will Hidden and Revealed (Ligonier)