Tuesday, December 31, 2013

whose word I praise

In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? 

Psalm 56:10-11

David's words of confident praise were written out of an experience where his enemies surrounded him. It looked bad. Yet God was his deliverer. You can read the history behind the poetry in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. From the life of a warrior flows the heart of a worshiper. David turns his heart to faith and in that moment knows God at work in his life.

The God Who protects ancient warrior kings is the same God Who cares for His people today. His care and concern are upon us. We know it in Christ, Whose life, death, and resurrection offer us full hope in any circumstance. We know it through the presence of the Holy Spirit Who comforts, convicts, and controls us in just the right way that we know God is at work in us. We know it by the power and wisdom of His Word which is an always ready source of truth, perspective, and support for us as we apply it to our unique circumstances, believing what it plainly teaches.


I praise Your Word and trust You. You are always with me and for me. You deliver me from sin and comfort me in my pains. Thank You! Indeed... what can this world do to me? Nothing. Like David I know that You are my God, and in You I trust!


Monday, December 30, 2013

constant communication

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 

Psalm 55:16-17

The accessibility of God through prayer has always been a comfort to His people. Prayer is a real experience of vital communion with God. Just like I can talk with a friend, I can come to God in prayer. It is vital spiritual communication and a soul-strengthening exercise. It is meant to be the believer's constant companion.

David made prayer a regular part of each day's activity. It does not matter the hour. The ruler of heaven and earth constantly attends us. He never sleeps. Our prayers never disturb Him, nor does He just "take a message". God is accessible and longs for us to speak to Him morning, noon, and night!

And so I am comforted and encouraged to seek God at any time, even as I struggle to seek Him at all times. I may never fully achieve the latter in this life, but I can find encouragement in the fact that I can go to The Lord in prayer at any moment and know He hears my voice.

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Helper

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. 

Psalm 54:4

I am not the one in charge here;

I ruin what I control.

But with The Lord I will not fear;

My life is submitted to His rule.

Not afraid to admit my need;

I lay it all before The Lord.

God is my helper as my soul is freed

from worry through comfort in His Word.

I may not know which path to take;

Confusion and blindness come at night.

But God rewards me as I wait

for His hand to guide me in the right.

I trust my Savior now and forever;

By faith I know His love and care.

He will guide me to the places where

He will use me for His glory as I trust Him there.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the joy of Messiah

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. 

Psalm 53:6

David's cry encapsulates hundreds of years of Israel's longing for the Deliverer. It was the cry for salvation. And even as Israel waxed and waned in spiritual commitment, the constant hope of Israel was for Messiah to come. It was anticipated. And David knew that when such salvation would one day arrive great joy would be known for all.

And then in history God answered the longing for the Deliverer. He answered it by sending Jesus, born to humble Jewish parents. He sent the message with angelic announcement to shepherds. He sent Jesus in the midst of oppression and longing for hope. The Messiah came and that is what will be celebrated tomorrow on Christmas Day.

All that longing was fulfilled when a newborn's first breath revealed God's salvation had arrived. And there, surrounded by parents in an ox's feeding trough the Son of God would begin bringing joy to all. He was celebrated at the temple at His circumcision. He was worshiped by wise men and shepherds. He was also hated by kings and murdered by leaders who rejected His message. But He was vindicated by the resurrectin so that His death forever redeemed us from sin's hold over us. And in new life, this Christmas we celebrate Jesus, the salvation for Israel and all who believe and trust in Him!

Monday, December 23, 2013


But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.  I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. 

Psalm 52:8-9

David's passion in this passage is to know the stability and blessing of anchoring his heart close to God in worship. He pictures himself as a flourishing, fruitful olive tree rooted in the soul of God's own home. Nothing would move him.

The psalm contrasts this stability with the inevitable judgment awaiting the unrepentant ungodly person. The evil person is broken down, torn from stability and uprooted (Psalm 52:5-7). This is the entirely opposite picture describing the one who deliberately works against God and rejects Him.

Those who trust in God and are thankful to God know a real strength. Those who wait on God and build community with other believers are blessed by God's work in their lives. They are His saints and are blessed, even if by faith they must wait and trust. God cares for His people. And in that trust, souls are nourished and lives are built.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

inside or outside?

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 

Psalm 51:6

God wants to remake me on the inside. Of course every other opinion among people seems to focus on the outside. We live in a youth and beauty obsessed culture. Billions of dollars and entire industries are devoted to the outer person. Fitness, cosmetics, fashion, even a substantial part of medicine are all fixated with keeping us all looking and feeling and acting as if everyone must have the goal of perpetually reliving their late 20's. It is really quite crazy and perverse.

The outer person wasts away. We age, sicken, weaken, and all of us will one day die. So investment merely in the outer person will be a loss every time. That is why it is wise to put our real energies where God is most concerned. He delights in truth, wisdom, and righteousness guiding our hearts. He wants to make us new creatures in the inner man. He wants us to be the people that He changes noticeably on the inside.

When David wrote the fifty-first psalm he was at a point of desperate need to change. He was repenting of some major sins: lying, adultery, murder, and government conspiracy - just to name a few. And in that confession comes this realization that God wanted him changed on the inside. He knew that in God's forgiveness the change could be real. David would discipline himself to delight in truth and learn God's wisdom. And then even the ugliest of sins that God would remove and forgive could be replaced with God's better truth. Then he would be restored to true worth and fellowship again. And in that wisdom real change would renew him.

God wants me changing on the inside. He wants me to confess and forsake sin. He wants His word and His Spirit to develop the beautiful character of Christ within me. And that is where my thoughts and efforts must first start.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

my jealous love

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. 

Song of Solomon 8:6

You are mine

a seal set upon you

a covenant love

exclusive rights to each other

my heart for you

in binding from above

My life is yours

to share as long as we live

together in the path

of life walking beside

One leads us Who gives

a greater love

And a flame burns

fills hearts, home, and bed

with a love only

we two will always share

a joining of body, heart, and head

unity from the Triune

As unrelenting as death

I cling to you

you to me agreed

we flash a holy, jealous flame

passion guards us holy and true

living in God's way and name

Monday, December 16, 2013

romance in bloom

let us go out early to the vineyards and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. 

Song of Solomon 7:12

Love is often associated with the beauty of early spring when the verdant earth is renewed with the prospects of growing life. The beauty of the season is a time for new life and new love. And that is the poetic imagery applied here. The bride wishes to be carried away from the urban confines of Jerusalem... off to Solomon's vineyards where they two can stroll through gardens and orchards and drink in the delights of their love in the perfume of the blossoming countryside.

It is a function of romantic love to fill the human heart with such idealism. Of course real life cannot ALWAYS consist of leisurely vineyard strolls, but such moments can sustain and nurture a love for a long, long time. And those private getaways are the maturing moments in a marriage. They furnish a unique shared history for the couple. And memories of intimacy in those private places are strengthening commitments for them. Strong relationships are enjoyed when a man and wife, with a twinkle in their eye, associate a place and time with the memory, "Remember when we....?"

There is a healthy dose of romantic goofiness in every great marriage. It is unique and intimate with the couple. It should encouraged, enjoyed, celebrated, and remembered. And I do well as a husband when I foster these times. Truthfully, finding a vineyard to wander among the blossoms with my beloved sounds so inviting right now! My heart should always offer the invitation to me wife: "Let's go to the countryside!"

Friday, December 13, 2013

love gushes

"Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?" 

Song of Solomon 6:10

Love songs are full of hyperbole, stretching the limits of metaphor and simile past even the elastic ability of human language to convey emotion. That is the power of love. And to see it in scripture frankly encourages me. I think it means more Christian artists should write love songs rather than default to  the chore of churning out assembly line contemporary worship stuff. One thing is for certain, humans love to be loved. God loves us. We should love each other. And the attraction between a man and wife is proof of love's pwer to fill our hearts with great feelings and gushy romance.

Of course the beauty of the Song of Solomon is that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit every sappy emotion-filled love song is given some credence! It is OK to celebrate this in humanity. The Song of Solomon does so with great freedom. And love is the great human emotion... even worldlings may rejoice in it.

Romance leads Solomon to compare the radiance of his bride to a morning sunrise, the full moon's compelling glowing beauty, and the powerful breath-taking majesty of an army marching in full battle array.  Yeah, this love song is definitely over the top. But that is what love does... it takes us further than we would rationally consider going!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

lessons from the lovesick

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. 

Song of Solomon 5:8

This part of the Song of Solomon portrays a lover's misunderstanding. Solomon makes a clandestine night visit to the beloved, but by the time she rises, makes herself presentable, and gets to the door to answer his knocking, he is gone. Now this could be a literary "dream sequence" or it could be the re-telling of a quarrel. Either way it is filled with a longing for love.

She chases after her beloved through the streets of Jerusalem. At some point she is detained and punished by the night watchmen. She is willing to risk such treatment for the sake of finding her angered love. Her motivation is her strong love for Solomon and the need to make things right again. She wishes to settle the misunderstanding, to reconcile with her beloved, and to find rest again in his love.

So there is a lesson here as to the lengths to which love will go. I list a few observations:

1.  Love takes responsibility for misunderstandings and seeks reconciliation in an active way.

2.  Love will humble itself for the sake of the beloved.

3.  Love will search until it is satisfied.

4.  Love will consume itself with making things right.

5.  Love will accept consequences for wrong actions and actively seek change.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

my beloved, my garden

Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. 

Locked away until the time

that I might open the gate...

hand in hand in love

we find the garden rich with

verdant blossoms, full of fruit.

I am intoxicated by it all.

But before it was enjoyed

it was cultivated. God made the soil,

and it was prepared so that

what I planted in there

grew and thrived with 

love and patience until it was mine

to have and enjoy.

Walled off for only two

the garden is a private place

full of joys that only I

and my beloved may know. 

All is as it should be

by God's design drawn close

we linger there often.

No more in spring's blossom,

but in summer's warm glow...

nights and days of joy among the garden's bounty

And even as autumn comes

winter's chill may soon slow us,

we will tend this garden together

savoring its choicest fruit.

My beloved is my garden and I am hers. 

We have planted,

tended love there over years

of careful toil. And the fruit

is sweeter still as the garden

reaches full measure, never peaking

but always providing a sustaining harvest of love.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

worth singing about

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. 

Song of Solomon 3:5

This is now the second time this refrain has been sung for us in the Song of Solomon (see also Song of Solomon 2:7). It is both a powerful statement and also a warning of the potential dangers of sexual attraction. The statement is one of natural beauty. It is a "good" thing for a couple to experience this mutual sexual desire. It makes marriages strong. It ultimately is what creates families. It is a beautiful part of God's handiwork and should be celebrated. In the right terms and times, sex is something worth singing about. The Bible does it!

Yet there is reason for a warning. Our sinful human natures can corrupt God's good gifts. We often do so. There is a time for sexual expression. In the song, immediately after the bride sings of her intense sexual longing, the scene shifts to Solomon coming to her on her wedding day (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). That is the proper time to stir up or awaken sexual love. The warning is not to let the desire run rampant outside of wedded vows.

Celebrating sex is a good thing. Celebrating it within marriage is the righteous way to do so. Plus it is fun! And we Christians should find a way to get this truth out there. Western culture often sinfully flaunts uncontrolled sexuality. But the best and most fulfilling sexual expression is not selfishly motivated. It is found within the strong commitment of a man and a woman in marriage. Want great sex? Get married and stay married for decades! Scripture is clear on this. Sex is not dirty. Sex is sacred. Sex is beautiful. Sex is naturally a part of what God has made that is "very good". Sex is full of the glory of God like any other part of creation.

Monday, December 9, 2013

mutual attraction

As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. 

Song of Solomon 2:2-3a

There is no denying that romantic love begins and grows with mutual attraction. In this world we will meet thousands of individuals throughout the course of a lifetime. But only one person can be the love of a lifetime. And that is what is being sung about at this point in the song. The two lovers exalt the exclusivity of their mutual, marital love.

Of course, we have these same phenomena occurring today. We are mystified by it sometimes: "I don't know what she sees in him." or "Love is blind." But what we are commenting on is an outsider's view of a unique and sometimes inexplicable attraction. He sees a lily among the thorns and is mesmorized by its beauty, tenderness and assessibility. She sees an apple among the dry cedars and is drawn to it for shade, provision, and protection. They are looking at each other through attraction.

This process is good, but it has its dangers if it is not at least recognized as incomplete without more mature aspects of a relationship such as commitment and wise evaluation. If we focus just on the physical aspects, such love may not pass the test of time. I doubt that after 30 years of marriage she is still the flower of youthful beauty. And he cannot leap over mountains when he limps up the staircase. But by that time commitment's love is stronger than the power of physical attraction alone. And marriages that mature in this way find that it is the sweeter love still!

Friday, December 6, 2013

no advisory necessary

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. 

Song of Solomon 1:15

There should be no confusion about the Song of Solomon. It is a love song. It contains romantic advice and is sexually charged. But it needs no advisory, for it celebrates love in all its essential and exquisite goodness. A man and a woman are drawn to each other with inexplicable passion. They extol their love and long for each other. They express their love without any inhibitions. And those around them celebrate their love. They commit to each other through the ups and downs of the experience of their relationship. In that sense this song is almost like a wedding ceremony. In fact, I believe the book is something of a model love story meant to prepare people for marital commitment.

I don't think it is right to ignore the physical expression of love poetically portrayed in the song either. It celebrates love, commitment, romance and sex. All of these are among the very best things we humans can experience in life. That is why popular culture tries to celebrate them in song. But this biblical picture is the best, and it ought to be proclaimed together in context and sung about with passion for others to know and enjoy what God has given to us. Sex is God's great gift! Why else is this inspired work of scripture given by God as a song? By all means, sing it!

The way to combat a sinfully sex-saturated society is not to hide from sex. The way to fight it is to celebrate sex as God designed it to be celebrated... within the marital commitment of a man to his wife. We ought to talk about its goodness to our kids, instructing the next generation as the Song of Solomon does. If Christians did a better job singing of the beauty of sex, our world would not infiltrate the church with its polluted pornographic perversions of it. These porn portraits are sadly all too common in the hearts of most men and many women. Christians should learn from this small book how to properly celebrate sex. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Well... if it doesn't, something is wrong... because it should.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Am I going through the motions?

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!

Psalm 50:23

God wants our hearts. There is no way around it. Rote ritual will not make the relationship happen. God wants us to truly express ourselves to Him with love, praise, and thanksgiving. Only then will our prayers mean something and real worship be the result. 

So it is not about a style of music, or a specific liturgy, or a regulative principle (whatever that means).... except what God says He wants in praise from the heart. He told Israel he would rather have honest giving of thanks than any costly animal sacrifice that was just mere ritual without any meaning. God will not accept us just going through the motions.


I examine my heart and give to You real thanks this morning. I don't ever want to fall into barren ritual. I want my soul to rejoice and my heart to seek You in worship all my days. I thank You for the grace in Christ to know that I am a forgiven sinner. Keep my sense of gratitude high as I think about the cost You paid to save me and Your love for the world! And may that love keep burning in my heart for You AND for the world that You love through the sacrifice of Your Son.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

the great equalizer

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. 

Psalm 49:16-17

Rich and poor share the same earthly end. The grave is the great equalizer. No amount of wealth will stop the ground from swallowing you up! That is the fate of every person. Death does not pity the poor nor does it placate the wealthy. Everyone is mortal. No person can buy their way out of the inevitability of life's end.

I have seen elaborate funerals, but in the end, the hearse never hauls a trailer behind it for the final destination. This is meant to be a moment of reflection for the living. We will fade and be gone. Our days are as grass which grows and then fades with the winter cold. We cannot stop this. We may think that we will delay it. But nothing and no one can ever stop it.

What matters then is a two-fold understanding: 1) God can deliver from the "end" of death. He will receive the ransomed into His presence (Psalm 49:15). 2) How we live now is important. We need not fear death neither should we respect riches. We need to be balanced in the worship of The Lord, recognizing eternal realities and living for God as His ransomed children.

As Christians, we know that the gift of God in Christ is eternal life. We live beyond death. We are ransomed to be received into Christ's presence. And He gives abundant life now so that we can live with joy, wisdom, and perspective beyond our mortality. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

thinking as worship

We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 

Psalm 48:9-10

I wonder how many Christians might reject the notion that thinking can be worship. But it is. This great psalm of worship reminds us that real contemplation about God and His works (serious thought work) is necessary for authentic worship. To love God is not flippant ritual. It is serious and sober meditation. It is not a joyless process, for to contemplate God's steadfast love for the world is to find celebration of Him in that thought-filled process.

And I love that we don't just contemplate God in His temple without realizing that His fame must reach through us to the ends of the earth. The result of serious, thoughtful worship is a praise that proclaims God to the nations. Real meditation leads us to proclamation of the good news.


May my worship fit the pattern of scripture. May I gather in Your house with the assembling of Your saints to think on Your steadfast love in Christ. And may our combined worship spill out of our meeting like a boiling, powerful, rolling flood of praise so that the gospel flows out to every nation, every tribe, every people group on this beautiful earth!


Monday, December 2, 2013

a prayer to the God of the nations

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted! 

Psalm 47:8-9


You are God of the nations. You reign over this earth, even as nations rage and people imagine vain things against You. From heaven's throne Your will is done and Your justice will sound forth. You call Your people to proclaim Your rule in this world, to live out the justice and peace that the gospel brings and to fight against the rebellion and injustices that sin leads among us.

You sent Your Son to redeem the nations. All the powers of Your rule subdue the powers of mankind, not by sword, nor by diplomacy, but by the foolishness of the preaching of the gospel in the death of Your Son and new life in His resurrection. He is the King of Kings and Prince of Peace Who has left His followers as His regents and representatives to do His work. It is the only way it will get done. And in the saving life of Christ we must love the world as You do, Lord!

At a time when the world stops at least to tacitly acknowledge the celebration of Jesus' birth, may we show them His life. And may the princes of this world bow heads and humble hearts to the Savior of all the world. May that vision of every knee bowed and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father fill the hearts of Christians at Christmas.