Monday, September 30, 2013

on every side

You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man. 

Psalm 12:7-8

God's activity in our lives is protective and secures us from the wicked influences that surround us. It is one reason why we call out to Him. In this Psalm the main complaint is that the poor tend to be trampled by evil men. There is a preference among men to exploit the poor. But there is an action by God to protect them. And this Psalm cries out for that to be what God does.

The faith of this prayer is bound up in the convictions that 1) God will keep the poor. He protects them and 2) God will act against those who seek to exploit others. He will guard by protecting and by proactively judging the wicked acts of those who exploit them.

The image of the ever present danger of evil is frightening in verse eight. Wickedness is predatory. It prowls about looking to victimize the weakest members of a society. And wickedness is self-congratulatory. It likes to celebrate its wrongs. And people will enjoy the party... for a short while.

That is why the prayer for God to act is so important. It helps righteous people maintain perspective. And God will work against the wicked who hurt others. Sadly, it is a prayer I do not pray enough, for if I did, I'd act on it at God's moving.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

God is our safe place.

In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, "Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" 

Psalm 11:1-3

God is a refuge for those in trouble. He can securely protect them from their fear. The image of fear is invoked by the call to flight. The threat is strong and the picture of a bird flying away to the cover of mountain cedars is evocative of the desire to flee the fear. But the soul is safer at rest in God. Refuge is protection. God is the safe place.

The Lord is our refuge despite so many unknowns. The picture of the wicked as archers ready with nocked arrows to shoot unseen from the dark at the righteous is sobering. The devil likes to enlist ninja attackers. But God is stronger and safer than our knowledge of an unseen foe.

And Satan wants to get us with our weakest fears. If that is successful, then our foundations of faith in God start crumbling. And then we are in real trouble. That is why The Lord must stay our refuge. When we are "in Him" we are strongly secure. Otherwise arrows fly and foundations fail.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Disturbing questions are not necessarily faithlessness.

Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, "You will not call to account"? 

Psalm 10:13

Life is filled with perplexing questions. We are often troubled by our experiences. The facts we face trying to live a God-honoring life, worshiping Him in the world of men, are often challenged and even contradicted by our experiences. Our expectations for God may not always match our experiences of Him.

There are two sets of questions that mark transitions in this song. And they are blunt and difficult questions. But they ring with authentic experience. The Psalm begins with an explosion: "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1) These two questions ask God to deal with the distance felt when evil men prosper and abuse the righteous. At times our perspective is that God is not moving. And it can frustrate our faith. That is what is happening here. The hope is that God would act to judge the wrong in the world and stop injustice. The facts are that injustices seem to keep increasing.

The bulk of the psalm then describes the actions of wicked men that God seems to not care about (10:2-11). But then in faith the prayer is for God to arise in the defense and love of His people (10:12). That lends to the second, more pressing question in verse 13... basically, why do wicked people renounce God anyway?

From there faith's perspective changes things. The answer to the first set of questions emerges: "You do see... you have been the helper..." (10:14). The conclusion is that though God seems unfazed by injustice,  He really is not. There is a clear past of God's work that guides the sufferer to know He will act to help now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We are only men

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah 

Psalm 9:19-20

God's sovereign rule puts everything in its place, including the actions of all the people in the world. Not even the smallest legislative fine print, nor the worst atrocity of war escapes His awareness and action. The world of humanity is answerable to God.

David's experience was that at times it seemed like evil men were prevailing. This is a personal knowledge and also his perspective as a ruler of men. His enemies were winning over him... and thus this confident cry for God to move so man did not prevail. The nations are not autonomous. Everyone is judged by God. And all people who do evil must one day answer in fear before God. When God judges us, we are reminded that we are not Him! We are only men.

My experience in nearly a half century of living on this earth is that God is greater than the world of men. But honestly, sometimes it does not seem that He is showing it. There are evil actions all over the planet that seem to go unchecked. There are atrocities and vile abuses of helpless people. And it hurts to know this. Especially since it violates both human conscience as well as God's Law.

But the thing to do is not to question God's wisdom or ways. It is instead to appeal for Him to take action among us... even through us. Sometimes the way that the nations are judged is through God's use of other people to get their attention. Assyria invaded faithless Israel in judgment. Babylon humbled Judah back to repentance. People are used by God to show His sovereign rule. Yet, even then, we are only men.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Majestic is Your Name

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

Psalm 8:9

I see the beauty

of all Your creation

standing on a mountain high

or riding the waves of the sea

and all of it has to be

exalting you on high

in fantastic celebration

for worship is creation's duty

How Majestic is Your Name!

All creation always sings

of Your greatness and fame

birdsong, flower petal, molecular design

all worship You in celebration

and I echo them in my salvation

as to Your greatness I resign

in awe of Your powerful name

and the new life Your Spirit brings

How Majestic is Your Name!

Groaning creation longs to be free

waiting for Your children's redemption

even marred by sin and curses

the beauty of it points to You

and I pause and worship only You

as new life reminds me of verses

encouraging me to share my salvation

so that others may know and see

How Majestic is Your Name!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ending evil, establishing righteousness

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous- you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 

Psalm 7:9

This is the prayer of a man who has the heart of God. David desires that God rule over the affairs of mankind so that evil ends and righteousness reigns. This is the hart of a king after God's own heart. It is a motivation that seeks the glory of God to be displayed in the world of humanity.

There were circumstances in David's life that molded him to seek this request. All his adult life he was pursued by men with evil intent bent on his destruction. It started with King Saul and never really stopped, even when David was crowned king over all of Israel. So there is a personal stake in David's request for God to end the influence of evil men. David's life was threatened, but he entrusted it into God's hands.

There is also an insight into God's unique position as Judge over humanity. God can bring justice and reward righteousness because only God can test minds and hearts righteously. That is important. God sees the heart as clearly as we know the person by sight and sound of voice. He knows our every subtle motivation much better than we will even admit to ourselves. But, even if a human COULD test the heart, no one could not do so righteously. We would still have sin taint any of our attempts at justice. But God alone is truly holy, so His evaluations of humanity are never wrong.

O God Who rightly tests our hearts, please bring evil to an end that You may establish the righteous in Your ways!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

confidence in prayer

The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. 

Psalm 6:9

Confidence in prayer would be the last thing I'd expect from this Psalm, at least from the very beginning of it. It strangely moves from questioning insecurity to strong confidence with no quickly discernible path between the two extremes. Maybe that is the way faith works sometimes.

David starts out begging God not to punish him, as if in fear that he has sinned and incurred God's justice (6:1). He then is emotionally spent (6:2), and is so troubled in his soul as to be confused by God's seeming inactivity (6:3). He feels like he might die and begs God to spare him (6:4-5). He is so full of grief that he cannot sleep (6:6-7).

And then David turns to confront evil people who are against God, informing them that as emotionally spent as he is, he knows God has heard his prayers (6:8). And that is where the confidence enters the scene. It is somehow found in camparison to those without God. David would rather struggle with difficult circumstances that throw him upon God, then to miss God altogether in unbelief. And that seems to be the source of his confidence. He believes God answers prayer because he believes God.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

no worship-less requests

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. 

Psalm 5:11-12

Worship is about relationship. We may take refuge in God but in return we have the freedom to trust God and ask for His protection and favor. We do not make worship-less requests of Him. Such presumption is NOT the example that this psalm sets. In worship we trust in God. And He protects us and gives us strength. And in that protection we find a love for us that we can return to God. God protects and covers us with His love and favor.


Help me to never offer you worshipless prayer. Forgive me for too often making requests without trusting and loving You in worship. I want to rejoice by taking refuge in You. And I am not really living by faith if I am not rejoicing in You. I may not be happy with my circumstances, but I can rejoice and trust in You. I may be disappointed or hurt by people, but You will cover me with favor as I exult in You.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

God is the reward.

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 

Psalm 4:3

There is a unique relationship and position that God desires to give those who seek Him. They are set apart. They are uniquely for His purposes. They enjoy a relationship of access to God. He sets them apart to Himself. They are heard by Him.

Being godly isn't so much about the things we do (although living holy lives involves a change), but it is more about the relationship we enjoy. If it is solely about the "right actions" than it will probably degenerate into stale, self-centered, judgmental legalism. If it turns out to be that, then relationship is lost. But a relationship with God sustains us to live godly lives. It is the reward of righteousness. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness we are filled with relationship with God.

God hears the cries of His people. There is no clear statement here of when He acts on what He hears, but rest assured, to those who pursue God, prayer is really known by God. He hears those whom He has set apart to Himself. The godly have God's attention and love.


You are my reward. Knowing You and following Your ways is my heart's desire. You want to have me for Yourself. You want to set me apart. You hear when I call to You. And being Your child is its own great joy and reward.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fearless Sleep

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 

Psalm 3:5-6

The choice is clear

I can know fearless sleep

or live with dread of sleepless fear

the question to debate: "Is God near?"

An ancient king led a nation

only to have reversal of station

his own army sought his execution

yet he could sleep like he was on vacation!

Fearless sleep came from trust

in a God Who led him to dust

and back again despite the rust

of moral failure and sinful lust.

Fearless sleep, not sleepless fear

led David to trust God Who was near

to save him from a son held dear

who sought to kill him in the clear.

So now I lay me down to sleep

praying to God my soul to keep

waking, dying, fearless faith has me

in my vulnerability God watches me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

conspiring against God

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." 

Psalm 2:2-3

When the nations rage against God it is because human selfish autonomy wants control over the authority  of God. But this is a stategy doomed for failure. It is based on false perceptions. People don't want God because they don't understand Him.

What God gives as wisdom and direction for humanity is seen as a shackle and bondage. What God does for us in His mercy is seen as restricting pain. This is the same old thinking Satan used to get Adam and Eve to fall. He successfully got them to believe that God was keeping them from become the fullest people they could be. And so often, people who do not know God find the very thought of Him to be suffocating. But they are rejecting Him not for the truth of Who He is, but for the lies they have told themselves about Him.

That is why God wants a people who will simply live in relationship with Him. This destroys the lies. When I just live as His child, naturally loving those who need God, not becoming hateful or judgmental or any thing else that God is not, then the lies that people believe about God can be shown as false in a verifiable life. And the LORD they see as a restriction can be testified to by my life as a liberation. This is what I want my life to be.

There will always be those who try to conspire against God. SIn has its rebellions always ongoing. But the time is short in the light of eternity, and all rebellions will not succeed in stopping the onfolding of God's eternal purposes. God already has shown Himself to be true in countless lives who have trusted Him and those who conspire against Him will not succeed against that.

Monday, September 9, 2013

like a tree planted by streams

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 

Psalm 1:3

This image of the thriving righteous man who loves God's Word as pictured by a healthy green tree bearing fruit by many streams is powerful. It isn't about material prosperity. It is about spiritual growth, maturity, and personal effectiveness that all bring glory to God by living out the realities of God's truth.

The first psalm has always captured my attention. In a brief bit of poetry through a powerful image, the Psalmist captures the importance of obeying the Word of God. He contrasts the simple commitments to righteousness and its attendant rewards with the sinful prospects of the wicked and their pains and punishments. And above all the contrasts there stands this towering healthy tree, rising up in the middle of the psalm as an image reminding us of the life God wants us to live.

I want to thrive by these streams of water. I want to choose right living, avoid wicked company, and delight/meditate on the great Law of God. There and only there is where I will be truly content and find flourishing life. There is where meaningful live is found. And any fruit that remains in me is found here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

 what God looks for

But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. 

Isaiah 66:2b

God reminds His people that He seeks hearts that seek Him. And there are three things God looks for in hearts that seek Him. These three things form the foundation of a life that God will use to demonstrate His glory.

GOD LOOKS FOR A HUMBLE HEART. The Lord knows that pride is often the fruit of selfish sin. Humility is the fruit of thinking correctly about ourselves and it comes after real worship. It is humbling to worship Almighty God. And He looks for humility, for in that attitude there is an emptying of selfishness that God can then fill with His work and wonder.

GOD LOOKS FOR A CONTRITE HEART. Contrition is the result of repentance. It is an attitude not only of sorrow or mourning over sin, but also of demonstation of change. Contrite hearts embrace the change that God brings. They are indicative of lives God transforms. When real contrition grabs us, we are dissatisfied with what we have done in sin's failure and we long for the righteousness of God to be known in and through us. And we do something about it.

GOD LOOKS FOR VISIBLE RESPECT FOR HIS WORD. The text here says God wants a heart that trembles at His Word. This is not a fear that comes from abuse. It is instead a respect for God's authority above all others, which we see exclusively in the scriptures. The heart that trembles at God's Word accepts the truly awesome (awesome often no longer means awesome these days, but in reference to God, it is the only appropriate descriptor) responsibility of obeying what God says. And it is the Word of God that by faith we believe for change so that God's work is known in us.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Creation

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 

Isaiah 65:17

When this earth is done

and all our wicked webs spun

when mankind answers for all sin

and must recount for the shape we're in

God will create of this old earth

a better and new remade earth

When the last star winks out black

the universe contracts and rushes back

when all natural things end

the created order ceases to spin

God will remake all the heaven

into a beautiful new heaven

Earth and heaven recreated

into the orginal order God created

before sin ruined it all

and we were broken by the Fall

God will create a new heavens and a new earth

just as He now gives each redeemed soul a new birth

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

the person God meets

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. 

Isaiah 64:4-5a

There is only one God and all that we can perceive or know has been a part of our experience ONLY because He exists. He is the root and ground of our being. He is the reason we live in a universe He made by the power of His sheer command. There is in God an explanation of all that is. And in that knowledge we can trust Him with our lives. He will act for those who know Him.

There is a description of a God-follower in this passage that compels me to consider my motives. God promises to meet with the person who joyfully works righteousness. When a person lives rightly for the pure joy of it, God promises to be there in that action. Do I want to see God at work? Then I must joyfully embrace, encourage, and live righteously. That is the worship God desires to receive from me. I must be known for my righteous acts among people. That is the way that I will find the God Who is "from old" active in my present circumstances. I want to see God. I must serve God.


I want to know You. And to gain that I must love righteousness and joyfully commit to doing what You love. When I do, I will see You. You will meet me in my obedience to You. Thank You for showing me that this promise lets me know You right now. Help me to cling to it in a world that works against my joy, and my commitment to righteous living.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Lord, Father, & Redeemer

For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. 

Isaiah 63:16

Israel had fallen to such an extent that Isaiah claims Abraham would not recognize their faith and Jacob (renamed to Israel) would not even know his namesake. They had completely abandoned their heritage of faith. They were a centerless people.

Despite their current spiritual condition, they could still repent and appeal to the God Who was still their Lord, their Father, and their Redeemer. Those three realities could strengthen a broken people. It could put the entire nation back together again. It could restore a people.

To be in surrender to The Lord was the first step toward reclaiming their identity as God's unique people. It meant worship and submission. It would keep them focused on God's glory and their position with Him.

To be in relationship with God as Father made the entire thing personal. It made it meaningful. It put God as close to hearts as the nearest family. And this was ultimately what Jesus would bring to the world... an intimacy with God as our Father.

And to know God as Redeemer brought salvation. God delivers from sin's slavery. He lays out a new life before His redeemed people now for His purposes. Redemption gave them new life worth celebrating. God makes all things new.