Friday, November 29, 2013

intimate access

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 

Psalm 46:4-5

The poetic image here captivates holy imagination for me. This psalm was probably meant to be a worship song at the temple. The whole concept of God habitating with people and dwelling in the midst of the city was known by the Jews at Mount Zion where the temple existed for the worship of Yahweh. This psalm my have been part of some regular temple festival, sung as pilgrims drew near the Temple Mount.

But what is celebrated is God's nearness. He was accessible. He could be worshiped at the temple where His presence dwelt in the holiest place. Worshipers could be in the place where God Himself dwelt and they could know Him in His nearness. That's something worth singing about!

And now since Christ has, by His death, torn the curtain separating God's presence from us, we know an even more intimate access to God. The river now flows, not in the midst of a city, but in my heart. He dwells within a temple not made of hands, but of my life. And this is true of every Christian. Any believer can know this. God is with us. God dwells in us. He will never leave us nor forsake us... forever!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

the oil of gladness

you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 

Psalm 45:7

If anything, Thanksgiving is a time for "bragging" on the goodness of God's blessings. So I will make a list of the "oil of gladness" God has poured over me this year:

1. I will start with Jesus. That is not just the "spiritual" thing to do. If I did not have my Savior's love and the change that He brings, I would be miserably selfish and probably nothing but completely disillusioned about life.

2. My amazing wife. She always completes me and my life would be unfinished without her love.

3. My kids.  For all practical purposes they have grown into mature people... and have become uniquely themselves. I appreciate their gifts and personalities. I hope that they will be my friends in their adult years.

4. My extended family.  I am blessed with Christian family on all sides of my home. They humble me and bless me with their love of The Lord and caring lives.

5. My church. I'll stand side by side with my brothers and sisters at Mill Creek through joys and adversities. And I work with the finest ministry servants (both on staff and as volunteers) that I have ever known. It is a joy every day!

6. The little joys. God gave us two great family vacations this year. I got in several fishing excursions as well. I made new fishing buddies in the process that were all times of joy and heart gladdening FUN!

7. Eternity's perspective. It is in the joys that I gain a wonder for eternal pleasures. Naturalism CANNOT explain this soul-craving for joy and the satisfaction it brings. It is from God's hand, both the craving, and the fulfillment. And in it I see I am made for eternity. Only God blesses this way!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

not in bow and sword

For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. 

Psalm 44:6-7

Self-reliance is not a biblical virtue. In fact, it is more often than not a snare to the soul. This psalm begins by celebrating God's deliverance of Israel. He established them in a land that they did not own, driving out their enemies. He fought their battles for them. The history of Israel began with God's fighting for His people.

And this historical fact was a hallmark of the nation. It was a way of defining themselves as a people. They trusted in God for protection and peace. They existed as a nation by divine providence and worshiped God accordingly. No one man could take sword or bow in hand and claim to be Israel's strength. No army was their hope.

That healthy trust in God and abandonment of self-reliance speaks to my world. I, like most of my generation, tend to idolize independence. And we Americans boast about our own strength, self-reliance, and  national defense. But that is an enemy to real faith when we fail to see God as the giver of all good things in our lives, even our security, economy, and standard of living. So at this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded to praise God Who is my strength, my deliverer, and my salvation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

joy and praise

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 

Psalm 43:4

Praise as a mere duty

is not very pretty

but when emotion grows

and God works... praise flows

I can go to the altar

and leave my own gift there

with joyfilled heart blazing

for the God that I'm praising

With a "lyre" of six strings

new praises I will sing

for the merciful love

of my Savior above

Difficult description

for what I'm feeling

Praise, awe, worship, relief

for God has always met my need

And in the assembly

I'll gather readily

not neglecting worship or praise

for my God all my days

It is God I exalt

His glory fills up my heart

speaking and singing

about the kingdom He's bringing

Monday, November 25, 2013

secret of soul thirst

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 

Psalm 42:1-2

I am sure that many praise songs and Christian hymns have been founded on these two verses. And I have sung a few. But what is going on with this extreme soul thirst that the sons of Korah are teaching us to know in this psalm? I'd like to understand that kind of driving passion that can only be quenched in God! In a world where such meaningless is given such importance (name a cultural icon), how can my soul be overwhelmed with a longing for God?

Thankfully, the answer is clearly elaborated in the rest of the psalm (though I have never really heard it sung about in praise songs). It is not a topic that is very popular in contemporary Christian culture... which is why you don't sing praise choruses based on Psalm 42:3..."my tears have been my food day and night." Tears are the mechanism that leads us to long for God so exquisitely. When experiencing sorrow, the soul is encouraged to seek God (42:5,11). It is in the tears that we can want God. Sorrow is the secret to soul thirst.

It appears to me that this psalm encourages us to take action when we face such emotions. "These things I remember..." indicating a choice not to dwell on feelings but instead to appeal to the past facts of God's goodness and his ability for the present and future. "Hope in God... remember Him... say to Him" ... these are calls to action when feeling sad. It is through the pain that we find our thirsty souls in need and in the seeking of God that our needs are met. God uses our pains to draw us to Him so that He can satisfy our sorrowing souls! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

KEY: relationship with God is everything.

By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. 

Psalm 41:11-12

The confidence in God is strong in this psalm. It is based on obedience to God (see 41:1 in which David knows he has cared for the poor and needy like God does). The relationship that David had with God was everything to him. It was really the summary of his life and his confidence for the future.

Things did not always go easy for David. He had his share of enemies. Both before and after his rise to Israel's throne, David had opposition that wanted him dead. These weren't just political foes... they were personal ones. But the king of Israel confidently trusted God that his enemies would not shout in triumph over him. God would guard the king because of his integrity.

David also had a confidence about the future that was bound in his relationship with God. He knew he would be in God's presence forever. He saw a relationship with God guiding his present and his future. Integrity and faithfulness to God's Word led him in the present. God's commitment to him would protect him for the future. All times were in the presence and control of God. That is security!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

what God has done

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 

Psalm 40:1

This is a song of deliverance. David rejoices in how God saved him in his time of trouble. It is a poem of praise. It celebrates God's rescue. It is uplifting to read what God did, and I can't help but see God doing the same things for us today.


He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog... Psalm 40:2a

God delivers us from situations when we are low. Either our own sins, or the sinful actions of others (even a mix of the two) can depress, discourage, and destroy us. We can get bogged down and fallen. Our joy can be lost, but God in His grace lifts us back up!


...and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2b

When God delivers, He secures. He brings stability. He is our strong rock... a place of security, defense, strength and protected position. From the altitude of His deliverance we gain a new and necessary perspective on our lives!


He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

When God saves us, we cannot help but sing! It gives our souls something in which to rejoice. We go from muddy myopic moping to wild-hearted singing with all our souls can muster! It is the sweetest song of the ages. We will always sing and rejoice at the salvation of our God! It is amazing. It is wonderful. It is a celebration extraordinaire!


Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3b

My salvation leads to proclamation and God will use that proclamation to affect His salvation in others! The best witness to God's saving work is a changed life that gives God the glory for what He has done. God has done it for me and will do it for countless more. And in some way my story will affect that in other people when I praise God and proclaim it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

heaps of turmoil

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! 

Psalm 39:6

I see the devastation

prosperity brings;

nice property and

the tyranny of things.

The untold suffering

of broken lives

is not relieved

with what money buys.

Yet I cravenly worship

gold, silver and gems;

forget The Lord and

turn against Him.

Bigger barns and fat accounts

might bring false confidence.

But there is a God

to Whom I answer in the end.

Wealth is an illusion

despite its glittering show.

What does a person gain

to have the world and lose his soul?

Monday, November 18, 2013

blessing & confessing

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. 

Psalm 38:15

The thirty-eighth psalm is a song of confession of sin. In it, David is processing the raw pain of guilt and anguish over sin. Many Bible scholars see it as the companion of Psalm 51 and talk about it in terms of David's consequences after his adultery, murder and conspiracy are found out.

It very well could be that these circumstances were behind the psalm. There is however nothing to demand these specific circumstances exclusively as the occasion for its writing. In fact, I tend to think that this Psalm might be different from Psalm 51. Given David's focus on his enemies taunting him, and his struggle with not seeing God come to his aid, I think this might be referencing some other events in his life, perhaps not recorded for us. The title of the psalm indicates it was written "for the memorial offering". This was the firstfruits grain offering burned up before God on the altar recognizing God's ownership of all our blessings. It seems to be a strange rite to associate with mourning over sin... until you think about it more.

David knew that none of us "deserve" even common grace. This psalm reminds us that even the good blessings come to us "while we are yet sinners". It keeps perspective. It humbles us to know that God blesses us even when we confess our failures and ask for His mercies.

In confession we wait for God to move. That is what David does. He waits for The Lord to answer him, confident that in humble confession and repentance he is in the place where God will work. And that is something to remember as I confess my own sins.

Friday, November 15, 2013

committing my way

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 

Psalm 37:5-6

The promise of this song echoes in my heart today. I can use the reminder because I am often tempted to just go my own way under my own power... to forget to make my choices with the honor of God driving me. The pressure to perform by my own strength and talent is high. It is, after all, the way of the world. And even in the church I can sadly get away with it quite often.... succumbing to a false hope.

But my ways are in Your hands, Lord. All that I do and all that I desire to do is to make Your Name known in this world as I yield to Your strength, wisdom, direction, and control. I want to give up this tendency that I have to try to control my circumstances and outcomes. My obedience and commitment to Your ways and to Your leading are what will bring me unspeakable joy and satisfaction. You will bring forth good in me and to me when I commit my ways to You. I believe that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the fountain / in Your light

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. 

Psalm 36:9

Darkness exists even

in beautiful places

and sin leaves destruction

even in happy faces

shine the light

the darkness flees

wash in the fountain

from sin made clean

You are a fountain

of everlasting life

Jesus brings peace

ending sin's strife

shine the light

the darkness flees

wash in the fountain

from sin made clean

People in darkness

have forgotten how to see

polluted by sin

they don't know their need

shine the light

the darkness flees

wash in the fountain

from sin made clean

"There is a fountain filled with blood

drawn from Emmanuel's veins

and sinners plunged beneath that flood

lose all their guilty stains."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation. All my bones shall say, "O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?" 

Psalm 35:9-10

Sometimes it is hard for me to relate to the psalms that are basically prayers for avenging vindication. They have what to me seems to be a dark edge to them. For instance, David asks God to pick up weapons of war against David's enemies (Psalm 35:3). He prays for them to be shamed and dishonored (Psalm 35:26). It appears to be a graceless set of requests.

But the text is also a clear list of how much David's enemies worked against God and His Law. These people exploited the poor for personal gain (Psalm 35:10). They went after David out of sheer hatred (Psalm 35:7). They lied about him (Psalm 35:11). They were without a sense of God's justice (Psalm 35:12). They enjoyed David's pains and difficulties, mocking him in his needy hour (Psalm 35:15-16). They rejoiced at his sorrows (Psalm 35:19). They hated peace (Psalm 35:20).

So David was not harboring a personal grudge or vendetta when he asked for God to vindicate him before his foes. Instead, he was asking for God to judge their sin justly... for the reality was that their sins had real consequences. That puts all this vindication prayer into proper perspective. God would be magnified when sin had its consequences clearly seen in the world of humanity. David wanted God to be great and the Law to be respected when sin was judged. That is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

fear, shame, and trouble

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 

Psalm 34:4-6

David writes about the contrast between what a person naturally experiences in life as a result of wrong choices and how God counteracts our most difficult experiences. This is a call to worship God for the benefits He gives to us in deliverance. It was written after David had compromised to save his own skin... an episode of his life in which he was not so much a man of faith as a scheming self-driven, fearful person. He hid from Saul's attacks by "changing his behavior" and living under the protection of the Philistine king. You can read about the double life details in 1 Samuel 21. It was not David's finest moment of faith and trust in God.

Yet God was still there for David at that time. And God eventually delivered him from this poor choice in order to honor His promise that He made to David. God's mercies are bigger than our fear-driven selfish failures. I am thankful for that.

David mentions three very human experiences that were driving him: fear (Psalm 34:4), shame (Psalm 34:5), and troubled times (Psalm 34:6). And those things can combine in our hearts to pretty much diminish faith to a barely discernible trickle. Yet when we turn back to God, He will deliver us!

David celebrated the God Who answered prayer and delivered from fear. He worshiped The Lord for taking away his shame (and David had a lot to be ashamed of... he feigned madness to live among the enemies of Israel). David felt like a man whose life was saved when God delivered him. And to be saved from near death creates a grateful heart.

Monday, November 11, 2013

His faithful love

For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 

Psalm 33:4-5

These are very encouraging words for the person committed to a life's pursuit of the knowledge of God. God's thoughts are found in the pages of His holy Word. If I want to know God I will find Him in the pages. And that will encourage me because His Word is truth. It is upright and makes my heart upright.

God will not disappoint me. My circumstances may test me. People might let me down. But all of God's work is done in faithfulness and in scripture I see that faithfulness lived out among people. And it gives me real hope to stay encouraged even in my most difficult times. God loves righteousness and justice. He is not a worker of wrong for me. He will move even in my pains to bring glory to Himself. And in that I will trust.

God's faithful love fills this world. He is a bringer of hope in a world of darkness. He is the God Who loves the world and calls me to love people like He loves people. And in that call I will find fulfillment. I will commit myself, O LORD, to know Your faithful love and to live within it sharing it with the people in my world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

my hiding place

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah 

Psalm 32:7

Sometimes a person needs a safe place. Life can get oppressive. People can be agressive, even abusive. Situations can be frightening. Intimidation can rule our hearts. We need a place to hide.

My soul can take refuge in God. He is my warm cover on a cold night. He is the safe place to run when every place else seems to bring my soul fear. He is a warm place of dry protection as the cold storm rages outside. He keeps me secure. He strengthens me. In the shelter of His arms I can be encouraged to go ahead and face the unknown challenge with His strength.

At some point in the worship at church we stopped singing a chorus based on this verse. For the life of me, I don't know why... I often need its comfort and I am sure others do as well:

You are my hiding place

You always fill my heart

with songs of deliverance

whenever I am afraid

I will trust in You

I will trust in You

Let the weak say

I am strong

in the strength of The Lord

I will trust in You