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Psalms of Lament: 57

Psalm 57

[1]   Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
[2]   I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
[3]   He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out this steadfast love and his faithfulness!

[4]   My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

[5]   Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

[6]   They set ya net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
[7]   My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
[8]   Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
[9]   I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
[10]   For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

[11]   Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

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Psalms of Lament: 4

Psalm 4

[1]   Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

[2]   O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
[3]   But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.

[4]   Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
[5]   Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.

[6]   There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
[7]   You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

[8]   In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

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Psalms of Lament: 13

Psalm 13

[1]     How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
[2]     How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

[3]     Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
[4]     lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

[5]     But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
[6]     I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

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Psalms of Lament: 39

Psalm 39

[1]     I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
[2]     I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
[3]     My aheart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

[4]     “O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
[5]     Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
[6]     Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

[7]     “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
[8]     Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
[9]     I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
[10]     Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
[11]     When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah

[12]     “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
[13]     Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”

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Psalms of Lament: 31

Psalm 31

    [1] In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        in your righteousness deliver me!
    [2] Incline your ear to me;
        rescue me speedily!
    Be a rock of refuge for me,
        a strong fortress to save me!
    
    [3] For you are my rock and my fortress;
        and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
    [4] you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    [5] Into your hand I commit my spirit;
        you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
    
    [6] I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
        but I trust in the LORD.
    [7] I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
        because you have seen my affliction;
        you have known the distress of my soul,
    [8] and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
        you have set my feet in a broad place.
    
    [9] Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
        my eye is wasted from grief;
        my soul and my body also.
    [10] For my life is spent with sorrow,
        and my years with sighing;
    my strength fails because of my iniquity,
        and my bones waste away.
    
    [11] Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
        especially to my neighbors,
    and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
        those who see me in the street flee from me.
    [12] I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
        I have become like a broken vessel.
    [13] For I hear the whispering of many—
        terror on every side!—
    as they scheme together against me,
        as they plot to take my life.
    
    [14] But I trust in you, O LORD;
        I say, “You are my God.”
    [15] My times are in your hand;
        rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
    [16] Make your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your steadfast love!
    [17] O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
        for I call upon you;
    let the wicked be put to shame;
        let them go silently to Sheol.
    [18] Let the lying lips be mute,
        which speak insolently against the righteous
        in pride and contempt.
    
    [19] Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
        which you have stored up for those who fear you
    and worked for those who take refuge in you,
        in the sight of the children of mankind!
    [20] In the cover of your presence you hide them
        from the plots of men;
    you store them in your shelter
        from the strife of tongues.
    
    [21] Blessed be the LORD,
        for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
        when I was in a besieged city.
    [22] I had said in my alarm,
        “I am cut off from your sight.”
    But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
        when I cried to you for help.
    
    [23] Love the LORD, all you his saints!
        The LORD preserves the faithful
        but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
    [24] Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the LORD!

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Ash Wednesday & Lent

On March 1, millions of Christians around the world will together observe Ash Wednesday. But what is the meaning of Ash Wednesday? And why has Sojourn elected to incorporate this rhythm into our church calendar?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a forty-day season leading up to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, this season (excluding Sundays, which are always feast days) mirrors the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness prior to His temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Accordingly, Lent is a time for fasting, prayer, and reflection upon three things:  (1) our mortality, (2) our sin, and (3) our hope in the gospel.

Sadly, this tradition has occasionally been reduced to another empty ritual, another way in which Christians are known more for their strict morality than their message. But we do not fast, pray, and reflect simply for the sake of tradition, much less in hopes that tradition will make us righteous. In fact, we follow these helpful traditions to remind ourselves that we have been made righteous through the perfect work of Christ on our behalf.

Apart from Him, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We freely acknowledge these trespasses and sins because we believe it makes the grace of God all the more glorious. After all, He has conquered all our sin! Even so, the Bible tells us that we are dust and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19, Ecclesiastes 3:20). The curse proclaimed against Adam is a curse we all inherit. Death has come through sin, and none of us will get out of this world alive. Thus, on Ash Wednesday, we declare this reality through the imposition of ash on our foreheads. Ash Wednesday is an opportunity for us to be honest with ourselves and corporately lament the lingering presence of sin and death.

So think of Lent as a season of anticipation. Through the purposeful observance of a heavy season of repentance, our joy in Christ will be magnified on Easter morning! Over the next few weeks, consider committing to the following:

Pray regularly for spiritual growth and the strength to combat sin and rest in grace. Pray for your brothers and sisters in the faith, your church leaders, your neighbors, and your neighborhood.

Reflect regularly upon your own sinfulness and the unimpeachable holiness of God. As the chasm between your sinfulness and God’s holiness grows, reflect upon the measure of God’s kindness towards you in Christ.

Fast regularly from something. Typically, a fast involves periodically abstaining from food or drink, but you’re free to choose something else. Fasting helps us to focus on God, who provides lasting satisfaction for all our longings.

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We Are Not Victims

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer... Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:12-18).

We live in an age of widespread victimhood. There exists a vast contingent within our populace decrying their own victimization at the hands of others, even others who themselves feel victimized. There are dozens and dozens of -phobias according to which well-meaning citizens can be accused of bigotry. Many of us whisper when we speak, or choose to remain silent, lest an errant word destroy our credibility or social standing. Even the privileged classes are “victimized” by "reverse discrimination," and many Christians are gearing up for their imminent persecution.

This degenerative cultural moment is further marred by ideological trench warfare. The public square has become a no man’s land. We remove all dissenters from the trench. We surround ourselves with voices that confirm our biases. We reduce all complexity. We prolong a barrage of words, because to cease firing is to surrender our human dignity. If you question Trench A, you belong in Trench B. If you question Trench B, you belong in Trench A. There is no Trench C.

Life together has become stagnate and exhausting. 

But there is a better way. It’s admittedly not the most attractive option, but it’s revolutionary nonetheless. It’s a counterintuitive form of political action. It’s the way of humility, the way of the cross.

True and lasting peace and harmony will not be achieved so long as we unforgivingly critique and deconstruct every fiber with which our common lives are held together. Victimhood cannot be all that we have in common. Like the nation of Israel in Numbers 21, we must learn to cast our corporate gaze upon a higher and truer object. Christians have that higher and truer Object. He was lifted up to vaccinate our venoms. He was victimized to put an end to victimhood. And because of Him, whatever our lot in this life, we are royalty.

In a letter to Pope Leo X, Martin Luther wrote about the liberty we have in Christ, who makes us kings and priests and “lords of all things.” In light of all these gospel blessings, Luther asks, "Who can injure such a heart, or make it afraid?” Think about that.

For the sake of our society, Christians must break the downward spiral of victimhood. We are not victims. We are the redeemed. We share an eternal, unshakable, objective, and true foundation for societal peace and harmony. We can stand side-by-side, on common ground, out in the open, away from the trenches. In union with our Savior, we can suffer the barrage of words and pray to God for the forgiveness of those who know not what they say. On the other side of that sacrificial leap of faith, harmony will be our resurrection reality.

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Post-Truth?

In reflecting upon 2016 and its omni-directional political and social tumult, I’ve repeatedly lamented the apparent scarcity of trustworthy pundits and media outlets. I don’t know which “authorities" to trust, which leaves me having to choose between two lousy options (another 2016 theme):  either I refuse to move, or I am misled. Either I remain blissfully ignorant, or I stumble along behind whichever peabrain jabbers most articulately. 

Thankfully, through the writings of Saint Augustine, God reminded me that Christians have a third option—or rather, a calling. We follow a Leader who is wisdom incarnate, and we are blessed to have His holy Word accessible to us 24/7 on the very same devices we use to share fake news. In his Confessions, Augustine grieves the degree to which his own thoughts and opinions are subject to the thoughts and opinions of others:

See where the helpless soul lies prostrate that is not yet sustained by the stability of truth! Just as the breezes of speech blow from the breast of the opinionated, so also the soul is tossed this way and that, driven forward and backward, and the light is obscured to it and the truth not seen. And yet, there it is in front of us (4.23).

Without the stability of God’s truth, my own thoughts and opinions are chaff in the wind. If political tumult sends me reeling, more than anything, I need to repent. After all, were I truly rooted in the Word of God, I might learn to see the nations raging from His eternal perspective, from His holy perch. “As the breezes of speech blow from the breast of the opinionated,” the people of God can stand firm as we continue to pursue truth and biblical wisdom. Christians are not "post-truth" (Oxford’s Word of the Year). We have Jesus as our trustworthy pundit.

At first, that may not seem practically helpful. But isn’t it? 

Let’s make 2017 the year Christians learn again to share their lives with one another, not just their opinions. Let’s place open Bibles on dining room tables, alongside good food and good drink, and love one another until our world is healed. Praise God that He so graciously shakes our confidence in the kingdoms of man! "For our stability, when it is in [God], is stability indeed” (4.31).

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Mary's Song

By Luci Shaw


Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms.  (Rest ...
you who have come so far
to come.)  Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.  Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe.  He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so light it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new.  Now native to the earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

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2017 Preaching Calendar

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:14-15).

The Sojourn Houston leadership team shares a burning desire to see God revive our hearts and bring revival to Houston. We long to see Jesus exalted in our city, and trusting the Spirit to accomplish this, we want to play our part faithfully.

This year, the theme of revival will quietly govern our preaching calendar. We will talk about it explicitly at times, but it will by no means be the topic of our next 52 sermons. We will pray for revival, plan for revival, and structure our calendar around revival. We will devote significant time to praying for revival during our First Monday Prayer gatherings, and we have structured the calendar below with the sermon series on revival as a centerpiece.

Series:  Matthew
Liturgical Season:  Advent & Epiphany
Months:  December to February
 

During Advent and Epiphany, when we anticipate and celebrate the coming of Christ, we will trace our way through selected passages from the life and ministry of Jesus as detailed in the Gospel of Matthew. Together, we will rejoice in the coming of Jesus, who brings revival to His people and His world. 

Series:  Lamentations
Liturgical Season:  Lent
Months:  March to April

During Lent, we will suspend our journey through Matthew in order to walk our way through the book of Lamentations. Together, we will lament our sin and repent of our sin as we prepare for the resurrection of Jesus. There can be no revival apart from a clear and present knowledge of our own unholiness.

Series:  Matthew
Liturgical Season:  Easter
Month:  April

During the Easter season, we will return to Matthew as we remember and rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. Together, we will acknowledge the necessity of Christ's resurrection as we prepare for Pentecost and Ordinary Time, seasons marked by an emphasis on the mission of Christ through His Church. 

Series:  Revival
Liturgical Season:  Pentecost
Months:  May to June

"Revival” has been defined as “the extraordinary experience of the ordinary.” We like that. But we are less concerned with a precise definition of revival and more concerned to see God bring it to pass. We deeply desire for God to pour out His Spirit upon us, and through us, to our city. 

Series:  Residents Series
Liturgical Season:  Ordinary Time
Months:  June to July

Every summer, we set aside a brief sermon series for our church planting residents to prepare and preach. They will determine the passages of Scripture and the series theme. We do this because leadership development too often an aspirational value. If we truly want to see a church planting movement, we must value leadership development in concrete ways.

Series:  Galatians
Liturgical Season:  Ordinary Time
Months:  July to September
 

Galatians is a book about the danger of abandoning the gospel. Together, we will explore the dangers of drifting from God’s truth, giving us a richly theological call to anchor ourselves deeply within the one, true gospel of grace. Why? Because there is no true revival that is not gospel revival. 

Series:  Life Together
Liturgical Season:  Ordinary Time
Month:  October
 

Life Together is our annual vision series. Together, we allow the Bible to define our dreams shape our vision of life together as the people of God in Houston. By God’s grace, we will be reminded that Sojourn's vision must never be separated from God's vision for the Church and the world. 

Series:  The Five Solas
Liturgical Season:  Ordinary Time
Months:  October to November

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which achieved, among many things, the recovery of a few essential doctrines we call “the solas.” The Reformation was a glorious tragedy. It was tragic that the Church needed reform, but her reform was glorious. Together, we will trace the solas throughout Scripture, applying them to the life of our church, and praying for unity within the global body of Christ.

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