2022-9-04 “Fundamentally Sound: Journaling”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                           September 4, 2022

Fundamentally Sound: Journaling”
Psalm 77:11-12

Many years ago, I read a one-panel comic strip. There were two characters in the panel: one an agent of the Internal Revenue Service, and the other likely someone being audited. The agent quipped to the other, “People have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality—which is why we ask for receipts.”

It is all too easy to forget things—especially in the absence of a written record. The Lord, in His Word, gives us help against this. Just as today’s Scripture text urges us to recall His works, so also today’s spiritual discipline helps us to record God’s dealing with us. Let us be fundamentally sound in Christ, so that we may survive and thrive in these difficult days, by practicing the spiritual discipline of journaling. Hear, once again, the Word of God read and proclaimed in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

We consider journaling, as a spiritual exercise, in the light of Psalm 77. The psalm, taken as a whole, is an individual lament—the most common literary type of Psalm. Asaph, the chief worship leader under King David (1 Chronicles 16:5), penned this psalm ca. 970 B. C.—early in David’s reign in Jerusalem, when he arranged to have the ark of the covenant brought there. The psalm, like most laments (either individual or community) in the Psalter, has a U-shaped development. The tone is high at outset (1), but it drops as Asaph airs his complaint before the Lord (2-9). At the psalm’s very bottom, at the nadir, Asaph recalls God (10). Then the tone rises and ends high (11-20). Our text today is just past the lowest point.

Let us see together now what Asaph does, and what God calls us to do—especially in low spiritual times. We find three distinct verbs in Psalm 77:11-12—three distinct things we are do. First, we remember (11); that is, we recall to mind something that happened earlier. Second, we ponder (12). We think about a matter, both at length and in depth. Third, we meditate (12)—we focus our attention upon the matters recalled and pondered. Alternatively, and perhaps fourth, we speak (12)—for speak is an alternate translation of the word here rendered meditate. If this sense of meditate be admitted, we speak of the things we recalled and pondered—to our own souls, to be sure, and possibly to others also.

We see clearly to remember, to ponder, to meditate, and perhaps to speak. Concerning what shall we do these things? Let’s note what Asaph remembers, etc., and in noting those, we also learn what God calls us to remember, etc. God calls us to remember His deeds—His wonders of old. Let us, then remember His work in creation—its beauty, grandeur, and intricacy, among other laudable things concerning it. He is a master craftsman and artificer; His creation is both wondrously functional and exquisitely beautiful. Let us also remember the works of the Lord in providence. Let us remember those things that pertain especially to our redemption—such as the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and our abundant and eternal felicity in God’s saving love. Let us also remember, in general, those good things that God bestows upon us. We may receive, from time to time, powerful encouragement, material provision, direction for our steps, and the like. Let us be sure to thank the Lord today for these blessings—and let us remember them in days to come.

A journal, and recording entries into it, helps us comply with today’s text—and, hence, with God’s will for us. Our recording God’s doing, and being, in our lives goes far beyond mere compliance. Such recording (writing, or typing) results in much good unto our souls. Yet the effort required to do this seems daunting, or unwelcome, or some other negative. Let’s look for answers to the question, “How is journaling good for us?”

First, we note the goodness of God to us when (or nearly when) it happens. Thus, we write our fresh, or nearly fresh, impressions of God’s goodness and our pleasure in His goodness—and He glorifies Himself both in His good acts and our happy reception of the benefits of those acts. Second, after our periodic review of our record of God’s goodness to us, we enjoy two further good things from God’s hand. We rejoice in God’s goodness to us in times past—even if, and especially if, we forgot God’s goodness at those time until we re-read our record—and we hope to see and receive God’s goodness to us in times yet to come. There is yet more good to be gained from our journaling—a good that flows more from us than to us. Third, we leave a record of God’s goodness to those who would follow us. Family and friends may benefit from the written record of God’s favorable dealings with us—and it may encourage them as they walk with the Lord, or it may encourage them to begin walking with Him by placing their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Not only may those close to us benefit from our journaling, but also many others—indeed, who knows who else—may benefit from knowing how bountifully God hath dealt with our souls. Consider the journal of David Brainerd (1718-47), a Presbyterian minister who labored in colonial New England to bring the Gospel to the native populations there. His would be father-in-law, Jonathan Edwards, published Brainerd’s spiritual diary—and the Church has received blessing ever since in what we know today as The Diary of David Brainerd.1 Consider also the mid-life autobiography of George Muller, who founded Bristol Orphanage in England, entitled The Life of Trust.2 This testimony of God’s provision, even when need never was publicly announced, has bolstered the faith of many ever since. Who knows what blessing your written narrative of God’s wonders in your life may bring to others?

Let us, then, by God’s grace and for His glory, aim to be more fundamentally sound in Him through the practice of journaling.

AMEN.

1 Brainerd went to Heaven, aged twenty-nine years, after nearly a decade of struggle against tuberculosis. Edwards’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Jerusha, nursed Brainerd in the Edwards home during his final sickness. Mutual affection blossomed between them, and David Brainerd and Jerusha Edwards were engaged to be married—but Brainerd’s death interposed. Alas, Jerusha Edwards died months later, having contracted the diseased from Brainerd. See Elisabeth D. Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971).

2 George Muller (1805-98), originally of Lutheran convictions, was a founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement—and a remarkable exemplar of simple faith in fairly recent Church history. As noted, above, see his The Life of Trust (Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 1868).