Thursday, October 31, 2013

My times are in Your hands.

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! 
Psalm 31:14-15

The words of an old hymn say it best:

My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

My times are in Thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.

My times are in Thy hand;
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.

My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

My times are in Thy hand,
I’ll always trust in Thee;
And, after death, at Thy right hand

I shall forever be.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

praise brings perspective

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:4-5

Praise is offered to God for the balance that He brings in our lives. Yes, we may displease Him in our sin, but He is quick to forgive and be merciful to the repentant heart. And even when sin is judged, it is tempered with a lifetime of God's grace upon the repentant. God is merciful and loving and we praise Him for being such to us at all times.

Praise puts perspective on our sufferings. Trials do come. We hurt. We grieve. We suffer in the world by the actions of ourselves, of other sinners, and from the sheer mortality of the curse upon sin. Yet even in our suffering God can bring joy. Such joy is not earthbound. It is transcendent and heavenly. It defies emotional logic because God brings joy in our suffering.

God is a God Who knows suffering. Our sins have hurt and angered Him. He sent His Son to die for our sins. Jesus suffered more than we will ever come close to understanding when upon the cross He was forsaken by the Father. And in that suffering as the Man of Sorrows He bore our griefs. And that is why joy will come in the morning. Jesus knows our sufferings and will bring us joy if we can just trust Him for the relief of His presence that comes with the dawn.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

the glory due His name

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. 

Psalm 29:1-2

This is one of the most compelling calls to worship ever given. It describes God as He is and calls us to recognize Him and re-order ourselves accordingly. God is great, powerful, loving and glorious and deserves our worship. Thus worship involves our conscious acknowledgement of His rulership over us and His greatness demonstrated to us.

But the last phrase of this call to worship is what I find to be particularly compelling. The Lord's holiness is a quality of great beauty. It is splendorous and magnificent. It is the perfection of His Person that compels us to worship Him. I acknowledge His greatness, power, and glory, but I worship His holiness.


The glory due Your name must come from my heart to Yours. You are holy, wise and powerful. You are great and mighty. But my heart trembles at Your holiness for I am unholy. It is in that knowledge that I realize that You must change me, remake me, and give me a righteousness that pleases You. And through that newly made heart I can worship You in the splendor of Your holiness.


Monday, October 28, 2013

today's prayer

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 

Psalm 28:7

O God,

be my strength today. I may face work harder than I knew that I could do. Empower me through Your Spirit to live like Jesus would and do what He would do. Strengthen me so that I will not shrink away from anything difficult. And do more with me than I could ever do by myself.

Dear Lord, be my shield. Protect me from the attacks of the enemy. Keep me and all around me safe. Bless me, protect me, and lead me not into any temptation, but deliver me from evil.

Lord, in You my heart trusts. When so many false allegiances advertise for my attention, please, may You be my one affection. I will trust in You. When I do, You will help me and never disappoint me. I am most at ease when I trust in You.

God, I will worship You. I center my thoughts in prayer upon You now. And in prayerful worship moments today I will give thanks to You. My heart will sing a love song for You to You.


Friday, October 25, 2013

one thing (really three)

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. 

Psalm 27:4

David's consuming passion is God. PERIOD. That is everything he lived for. He desired God above all. It led him to this prayer request that was one thing yet so full that he could not ask it in just one way. He knew that to seek God would lead him to a multitude of discoveries. And one facet of worship would open up so many more.

So David's "one thing" was really three. He wanted to live in God's presence all his days. David longed to build a temple for the worship of the LORD. But God told him to wait. His son Solomon would do it. David wanted the temple so that he could always be close to God. But there was more than just wanting that.

David wanted to have the beauty of God engage his soul. He longed for more. He filled His desires with a passion for God. God was beautiful. God was worth all of David's love and attention. He desired God in worship more than anything... and as king in Jerusalem David had access to it all. What he really craved was God.

David wanted direction from God. He hoped to live in God's house so that he could always inquire of God. Closeness to God leads to obedience to God. He will lead those who love Him. And real worship leads to a life directed by the object of worship. When we truly worship God, our lives will be led by God.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Test Me

Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 

Psalm 26:2

Lord I want to be

the man You will make of me:

In heart... a love for you;

in mind... thoughts that are true.

My prayer shall be...

Test me.

Is is easy to be

what I want to be.

But sin pulls me away

from what I should do and say,

so with intensity

test me.

If fire touches me

it will set me free

from self and sin's control

so I can let it all go.

You will set me free...

Test me!

A love not for me

and a passion to serve Thee

should fill all my heart

and in my thoughts should start

a desire to worship completely...

Test me!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

owning sins, finding mercy

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! 

Psalm 25:7

David worshipped a God who forgave sins. And the faithful love of The Lord was better than David's own spotty faithfulness to The Lord. This is why David could repent and ask for God's merciful treatment of him. David acknowledged his sins and transgressions. He appealled to the steadfast love of The Lord for God's sake, and not his own. In other words, David sought forgiveness so that God would be glorified, and not for David's own reputation.

David admitted his failings. He confessed his sin. He pleaded for God not to bring up his past sins and youthful failings. He asked for mercy so that the goodness of The Lord might be seen in him. He knew that God was loving and merciful to repentant sinners. For David to truly worship, he had to pray like a broken and repentant sinner.

I humbly learn from David's example of worship. I am also a painfully consistent sinner. I transgress God's Law. I am filled with self importance and pride. I struggle with the results of the sins of my youth. And I pray for God to forgive them in Christ and to not remember my sins. I want God's goodness to be all that is left in me for others to see. I ask, O God, for Your glory to shine through this cracked and broken sinner. May people see less of me and only You!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the King of glory

Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah 

Psalm 24:9-10

Have you ever wondered what was going on in the command to open the gates and doors in this Psalm? I know I have thought about it. This psalm was written by David and it seems to be a psalm of liturgy... a specific religious ceremony was associated with it. It was fitted for a specific occasion, perhaps to celebrate the ark of the covenant being brought to Jerusalem by David.

The question and answer format starts in verse three when the ark is being brought to its destination. "The hill of the LORD" is probably in reference to Zion, where ultimately a temple will be built for the worship fo The Lord. The question as to who is worthy to ascend that hill is answered with the outline of the effects of loving and obeying God's Law in Psalm 24:3-6.

Then twice (Psalm 24:7; Psalm 24:9) the priests with the ark call out to the gatekeepers of Jerusalem to open the gates so the procession can carry out the mission of bringing the ark into the city. The gatekeepers respond with the liturgical question "Who is the King of glory?" The priests answer in worshipful reply exalting God as the fighter of Israel's battles and the God of angel hosts. God is the true King of Israel. This is a royal procession.

The ancient liturgy is a piece of solid theology. It also draws the heart to worship the power of God as the glorious king. Imagining the procession going through the crowded city has me worshiping with that crowd this morning!

Monday, October 21, 2013

not a burial psalm

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 

Psalm 23:5

The twenty-third psalm is perhaps the best known and most loved single passage of scripture the world knows. It is read and seen thousands of times each day. It provides for many the only scriptural support they may ever receive. It is the mainstay of countless funeral programs and services. It is read to comfort people in pain. It is embroidered on casket linings and I am sure thousands of people are buried with its message every day.

Yet this psalm was not meant to be a burial psalm. It was meant to be a song of life. It is written in the present tense: the LORD is my shepherd. He leads me. He restores me. You are with me. You comfort me. You prepare a table. You anoint. My cup overflows... all in the present tense of right now.

There is then a powerful and beautiful shift in the psalm that calls us to contemplate the future with such a powerful presence with us in the now. "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of The Lord forever." The twenty-third psalm explains the relationship God has with us right now and the glory we can expect with Him for eternity.

It is good to rescue this psalm from its cultural captivity as a funeral hymn. It is a song of life. It encourages us today and prepares us for tomorrow. And that is what God always wants to do for us with His Word. It is a source of strength for every day so that our cups overflow.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

the big picture

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 

Psalm 22:27

In the hustle

and the cycle

of daily human


it is easy

and self-serving

to forget about


the world You made

for Your glory

will proclaim 

Your might

and all the people

of this planet

were created to

praise You right

one day the heavens split

You came down

to save us

from sin

some future day

You'll come again

to judge the world

for their sin

Lord help me see

the things

You care about

that matter

When every knee

will bow

tongue confess the glory

of the Father

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

praise for His power

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. 

Psalm 21:13

So today I am going to take that admonition to praise God's power to heart. This is where I have seen God's power at work:

1) God's saving power is known in the gospel. Jesus saved me and every other Christian who has ever lived. That is a great power beyond my own. When I was without saving merit, dead in my sin, Jesus saved me.

2) God's sustaining power is displayed in my every breath. I am kept by Him. The world was made by His Word. The universe is held together by Him. In Him I live and breath and have my being. This is more than just common grace. It is the reason that everything that there is exists in the universe.

3) God's power changes me. I grow in faith. I minister to others with what God does in me. And all with my imperfections and His sanctifying work changing me. I am not perfect. I fail Him. But His power, Word, and Holy Spirit still work on me until I am home with God forever. He began the work and He will complete it.

Praise God for His power!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

in ______ I trust

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. 

Psalm 20:7-8

The temptation to put all my stock in the things of this world is strong. It always has been. But it was the same for King David. As a Bronze Age warrior king, the heighth of military technology for him was the horse and the chariot. And it would have been easy for him to tell Israel to trust in military strength. But he did not do this. His faith was not that might makes right. His trust instead was in God.

David knew that all human systems break down. He knew that to trust in anything or anyone other than God was not only idolatry, it was really weak. It was doomed to collapse. People will let us down. Things will break. But God saves us forever.

So I take these words to heart. I face the temptation to trust in the strength of human ability. It could be money or a job or a standard of living that pulls me from faith in God. I live in a place where that is the main emphasis. Or it could be national pride or a political leaning (liberal or conservative... both are often idols) that steals my faith. It could be blind ambition and selfish overconfidence that eventually lead to personal collapse. I know God will never fail me. And for stability I will throw all my trust upon Him. People will hurt me and things will fail me but God will never let me down.

Monday, October 14, 2013

shaped by scripture

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 

Psalm 19:7

This truth has been a defining conviction of my life. Even as an elementary school child an overarching belief that God's Word is the source of life and truth has governed my thinking. We used to sing the last section of the nineteenth Psalm in Christian school and church. It has served as a governing philosophy around which I have ordered much of my internal structure. It is what drives me to open the Bible in the early morning dark stillness and let God's truth enlighten and revive me.

I have not always responded well to what God has shown me. I have even been in a recent season of struggle over it. That is always the challenge. God wants to change me in the renewing work of His thoughts refining my mind. But to allow this is not a passive exercise. By faith I must put God's Word into action. There is still self and sin at ruinous waste in me. Simple laziness can destroy my obedience to God's Word.

It is one thing to hear the truth, to read scripture and think about it. It is another thing altogether to obey it. The first thing can be done in just a few minutes. But living it by obedience takes all the rest of my life. And there are no excuses, only sins, that keep me from the transforming obedience to the Word of God.


Your power and wisdom are known in Your Word. Forgive me for not living them to real change within me. I am grateful that Your Spirit convicts me to do what Your Word says. Help me to both love and to live Your Law!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

fortress rock

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Psalm 18:2

There is a lot of imagery in this short verse. There is a reason why these words about God's amazing protection gush forth from David. The Psalm begins with this description of David and why he wrote it: "...who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of his enemies and from the hand of Saul..."

David had been an outlaw fugitive running and hiding in the Judean desert. He knew how to hide in a rock. And that is the imagery that pours from him in this psalm. He saw God's protection in all of the desert experiences of his life.

The words pour out the beauty of the bleak desert landscape. God is a rock, a fortress, and a stronghold. God shields David and delivers him. God is the salvation that comes at the blowing of the ram's horn. God was David's protective delivering army. And David felt secure in the stronghold of God's salvation.

Yet when you read the accounts of David in the desert, there are moments where it seems he will fall. And David does not always look first to God. There was a mercy and grace extended in the desert when David miserably tried to save himself by his own wits. God often kept David safe in spite of all of David's mistakes. You can get the context of all this by reading the history of it in 1 Samuel chapters 19 through 31. These were hard times by all definitions. But God was a good God. And that is a comfort to us all. In all times God is good. In hard times we trust Him all the more. He is our Rock.. our fortress of protection when we are running in the desert.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Satisfied: a heart centered on God

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. 

Psalm 17:15

The passion of David's heart was the presence of God. He longed to be with God, to know His presence, to serve The Lord and to worship Him in righteousness. It was the driving desire of his heart. David simply wanted to awaken to each new day satisfied in God alone.

The affections of the human heart are filled with competing desires. It is only when we really look at God and get a glimpse of His glory that perspective can come on these other desires. When our affections are centered upon God, all those other desires begin to wane in significance. The heart that is close to God will have no other loyalties than Him. Those other desires are ordered first around God and His kingdom. It is what Jesus meant when He advised His disciples to seek first God's kingdom and righteousness and everything else will be added to that.

This kind of driving passion is not easy to either obtain or maintain. It means fixing my eyes on Jesus. It means following the old sage advice: "anchor your heart on God and spend each day shortening the chain". At times my ship drifts further from that anchor. It requires conscious effort, holy fellowship with other believers, obedience to the holy scriptures, the convicting work of God's Holy Spirit and most of all the sanctifying work of God to achieve a heart that desires God above all else.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Boundary Lines

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

Psalm 16:6

I look all across

the landscape of life

and I stand amazed

at what I find

God has given good

to me at every turn

and all that I should

do is praise Him in return

The inheritance in Christ

is mine now and forever

and that duty that is mine

is to stay faithul in each endeavor

I see all around me

a pleasant, healthy land

as eternity stretches before me

I take the bounty from God's hand

I don't deserve it

it is all mercy and grace

I am a sinner who

fall before my Savior's face

The beautiful things I know

are what God gave

and the story I now must show

is how He came to save

Thursday, October 3, 2013

personal character + social commitments = community change

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 

Psalm 15:1

These pressing questions are meant to define what a personal commitment to God looks like in a life. The rest of the Psalm (consisting of four short verses) explains this. I see two main characteristics in the answer to these questions.

First, things are defined by personal character (15:1). In verse two we are shown three commitments in heart character: 1) walking blamelessly, 2) doing right, and 3) speaking truth from the heart. The point is not any kind of externalism. The righteous person does these things because of a deep personal commitment. The character flows from the deepest part of the heart.

Secondly, the person who can sojourn with God has visible social commitments demonstrated in righteousness. He does not slander. He does not do wrong to neighbors. He does not turn on friends and loved ones (Psalm 15:3). He despises evil but honors those who love God. When he makes a commitment, he will go the distance at cost to himself (Psalm 15:4). He does not seek personal gain in helping others. It is never about the money. He is not able to be bought (Psalm 15:5).

The person whose heart is changed by God will show that change in the lives of the people he knows. The world is a better place when God's people are in it. Neighborhoods are better. Communities connect. Relationships flourish. Cities thrive. Loving God brings civility and stability. This means that the gospel and the powerful heart change that it brings is essential to social stability and change.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What God is looking for

The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 

Psalm 14:2

Peering down from glorious throne

the LORD looks down

to earth below

He scans the world

looking for someone

looking for anyone

who looks for Him

Searching through the hearts of man

the LORD seeks people

who understand

He is looking

and wanting someone

wanting anyone

to look back at Him

God's penetrating gaze

examing all the ways

of people all our days

looking for heads upraised

to seek Him

Jesus left heaven on high

to come down

to earth to die

God loves the world

dying for everyone

saving anyone

who comes to Him

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

chasing a silent God

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 

Psalm 13:1

I can't figure God out. There... I said it. It is impossible for me to predict what God will do in any specific situation. His ways are a mystery to me most of the time. And I have spent my life studying Him. I have devoted myself to reading the Bible and trying to understand God in it. I have spent a considerable investment of time and money on a theological education and continue in it as a life pursuit. And God is mostly beyond my grasp.

That is not a bad thing,

In fact, it is a good thing.

It isn't easy to find God silent when I cry out to Him for any kind of answer. But it is part of what makes Him God. The way that I see it, if I knew God only as the caterer to my every whim, He would probably then be a construct of my own imagination, like some sort of genie in a children's tale. And that would be just a form of self-deluded wishful thinking.

Instead, having a God Who may be silent, a God Who really works on His scale and not mine drives me to a passionate pursuit of Him. He is a good God, but like Aslan in the Narnia books, He is not tame. Wild things are often hidden. I have to chase Him down in His wildness and at times when I finally catch a glimpse of Him, I tremble at what I see. I submit in awe at those times when God has been silent to me... and then I am aware of Him.

I appreciate that Isreal worshiped God with questions such as "How long, O Lord?", "Will You forget me forever?" "How long will You hide Your face?" Those experiential pains are in the hymnal of the Bible for a reason. They are meant to lead us to the worship of the God Who we chase with passion in His silence.