Thanks to all who have been a part of this thing since 2009. It was fun. I hope you were as blessed as I was.
Monday, August 11, 2014
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
To read elements of the Christmas story near the end of the summer seems a shock to the "traditional" ecclesiastical calendar. I'm so used to not giving the account much thought until at least after Thanksgiving in November! But this is much more than a holiday tradition! The story of Jesus is the central truth of Christianity.
I am reminded of the humanity of Jesus, particularly in the telling of Joseph's story. He was a good man. He had an excellent reputation. He was a working man, engaged to a young woman who is caught up without warning in history's greatest invasion... God coming to earth to set this place in order.
His reaction at the news of Mary's pregnancy is a convincing detail of the veracity of the story. He had not had sex with her. She should not be with child. His options were to ignore this and go on with the marriage, knowingly taking responsibility for raising another man's child, or privately getting out of the arrangements. God's intervention helped Joseph accept that it was the righteous thing to marry her after all.
Joseph believes God after the angelic dream. He marries his betrothed and with her names Mary's child Jesus, believing a Savior has come. That working man's faith is still what it takes to accept Who Jesus is even today.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31, the boon or bane of every Christian women's conference of the last half century (depending upon your viewpoint), has a lot more to it than just the "virtuous wife" litany. I've never spent much time looking at the first nine verses. In my haste to jump on the bandwagon of biblical feminity theology, I missed some really important truth.
This last chapter of Proverbs is the record of the sayings taught by "King Lemuel's" mother. It's mom's advice. And it is really, really good. She warns her son the king not to abuse his power or waste his position in personal excesses. It's pretty good stuff. And one firm warning is to be sure to apply royal power to help meet the needs of the lowest of his subjects. His justice would be real only if it extended to the rights of the impoverished, the neediest of his citizens. She seems to insist that a king is only as good as his mercy and power will help the poor.
This strong note of social justice ties wisdom to practical impact and societal change. Real wisdom, when applied to my life, will seek to use my efforts and my influence to make life better for others. Wisdom is not consumed with personal enrichment. Wisdom that honors God also loves people made in God's image. And it will seek to frame a society in that truth and mercy.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
There are no kind words here for people who chooses to disrespect the authority placed over them by a sovereign God. This initial placement of authority begins in the home. Parents are worthy of respect by God's design, not always by their own character. But what should one do when sin warps this design? What if a parent is evil to a child? Is disappointment the same as disrespect? I think the situation being described here is a truism, assuming the parents are not abusing the children.
The words of this rare "curse" in Proverbs provide some insight and understanding. What we have here is mocking and scorn from a child. This is more than typical teenage tantrums. This is a hate-filled rebellion that seeks to justify itself through the belittling of parents. It is not the same as the kind of feelings or behavior that emerge from abuse. These are a father and mother worthy of respect who are being deliberately and systematically scorned.
Every parent will navigate a time where respect is challenged. But to do so in a Christlike way means maintaining a relationship where respect is still possible. Turning against a struggling child, mocking them in their confusion and fall into sin, is a sin itself against the child and only compounds a complicated situation. I think Jesus gave us a glimpse of God's "father" heart in the tale of the prodigal son. The mocking son eventually returns to a patient, loving, and eager father worthy of his respect. And that is the heart that I pray God works in me as I deal with my kids through rough times and good times.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
So a recipe for a free-for-all society in moral free fall is this simple? Just minimize the influence of the Word of God and people will be free to do anything they want. Sounds all too familiar, doesn't it? Welcome to the 21st century.
The key to healthy spiritual values and moral living is the revelation of God in His holiness. And this can only come from the Word of God. If the Bible is ignored as a source of life-sustaining direction, then there really is no standard. It is all arbitrary. If I don't need God's Law, I am free to make up my own rules as I go. This is why the church must preach and teach and respect and love and proclaim the entire counsel of God as we proclaim the gospel.
The current unrestrained nature of Western culture is directly traceable to the rise of secularism and rejection of Judeo-Christian influence and ethics. This is most vividly seen in our view of sexuality with all restraints being lifted... in the pornification of our entertainment... in parades celebrating "no restraints" on any sexual behavior. Interestingly, it is no aberration that as morals cease to be influenced by God's truth, our society's respect for human life has fallen at the same time. Abortion is now a medical care mandate. I don't think euthanization of the elderly, the mentally infirm, or the severely depressed will be far behind. God help us! We have cast off prophetic vision, and it is literally killing our most vulnerable people!
Monday, August 4, 2014
A little respected result of letting God's direction set you on a path of right living and wisdom is confidence. When God supports you and backs you, you are a lion! You don't need to be tentative. You can be confident that He will do as He has promised.
Righteousness has its own rewards. The strength it brings is one that is seldom mentioned but ought to be celebrated. It is sin that makes a coward. It is guilt from sin that makes hide in miserable fig leaves. Godliness and wisdom have no such trepidations.
Wise God and Father,
Fill me with the confidence of your truth and love. You will make me bold as a lion where strength is needed. You will work Your power and strength in me. I confess my own sin is my worst weakness. May your righteous strength move me and use me in Your power!
Friday, August 1, 2014
To consistently measure up to the things that people praise you for is something of a test of your character. We are tested by praise. Will what others think about us really be who we are?
This is not normally a way we see the compliments of others. We tend to see them as well-deserved recognition and honors. We expect the respect. We may find ourselves fearing man more than God because of this expectation. That is one way in which we are tested by the praise we receive.
Another real test of praise is where we direct it once we receive it. Do we shine the spotlight of praise back upon the God Who made us? Or do we continue to instead bask in attention? Praise is a test of our character every bit as important as trial or difficulty. It is easy to see our critics as such, but we are warned that our fans will direct us the think about who we really are as well.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
We've all met this guy. He is the know-it-all, the blowhard, the dude who talks uninvited about himself and won't shut up. He is a rude, self-consumed, arrogant person who is never content to have any conversation that isn't about himself. He'll tell you how he would handle your life, without you ever asking for his input.
Proverbs says such a person is hopeless. He is worse than a fool, and fools should be avoided! In fact, given a choice between a wise-acre boor like this and a fool, take the fool... you'll be better off! That's how bad self-wise people can be.
I am afraid the world is cranking these men out now by the trainload. Many people over value their personal insight. And it is detrimental to society. Self-made men draw their own blueprints, unaware of fatal design flaws. That is not a good thing. Human insight, flawed by sin, inevitably fosters serious defects into self-wise men.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
Sometimes we need a word of encouragement, perhaps of rebuke, from a friend, a trusted mentor... someone who obviously cares. And when we get that from someone who has been there, we get a very precious gift. The priceless moments of our lives arrive with the words that come to us from people we trust.
The reason such words are treasures is because they come from a person of wisdom that we respect. And our ears are ready to receive them. Because of the wisdom of the person, and our heart's readiness, the impact has precious meaning. There is little else we can build our friendships and key relationships upon. This is the good stuff of life.
Thank you for the golden words and actions of friends and mentors. I know of key times, particularly in my youth, when such words were used by You to set my life in the direction that You provided. Those words along with Your work changed my heart. They are now priceless to me.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
I realize that I have not considered this passage enough as I think about my place in this world. Like many evangelicals I can get caught up in the fretting frenzy and paranoia over the wrong that is occurring at this moment in our society. Evangelicals were good at this 60 years ago as well! But the reality is that God knows what and who is wrong. He is the righteous judge. And even though it may seem that wicked people prosper, they do not. There is no future in mocking God.
I have God's revelation, His book, in my hands. It gives me a picture of where mankind has been. It shows me where we are going and just how God has put an end to sin's dominion through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lamps will be put out. In the end all the wrong in this world will swirl up like candle smoke.
So, I will pray. I will proclaim the gospel. But I will not worry over the evil actions of people. God's got that.
Monday, July 28, 2014
It takes work to be wise. It comes from a careful commitment to receiving God's instruction and paying attention to those situations that can make one wiser. It is important and serious business. More than just education, true wisdom is a kind of obsession. The heart must drive the life toward pursuit of what is wise.
It seems that exposure is very important. A wise person makes conscious commitments to surround himself with input that increases wisdom. It must start with scriptural intake. It can include solid knowledge of the universe around him. It must also include befriending, sitting under, and learning from other wisdom mentors who commit to doing the same.
Wisdom is an obsession that requires a diligent heart that never stops being a stellar student of life. It requires a willingness to cut some input sources in favor of solid wisdom that bears the stamp of God's authority so that maturity and growth always happens. The mudane is avoided in favor of that which has eternal inpact. Amusement is replaced by thoughtful challenges. Hobbies become practical avocations that bring joy and increase capacity for productivity and praise. Knowledge brings to realization a very fulfilling experience of power and contentment in the life of a person whose heart is applied to instruction.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips.
This is a good passage encouraging the memorization of scripture, particularly of proverbs. It is good to have wisdom in our hearts and to keep it close on our lips. The best way that I know to accomplish this is to memorize it and through review keep it fresh within my thinking.
Scripture is immensely rewarding in this way. It does however require diligence. Scripture memory is the hardest part of biblical intake. But it also has the deepest power to change us. For that reason I see it not as an expenditure, but rather as an investment that yields much reward.
The net affect of such exposure is grace-filled thinking and action. Scripture memory should instill God's character in us if we dwell upon His Word. The promise here is a "pleasant" life when God's Word is ready on our lips! I take it to mean that Word saturated people are pleasant, gracious, and wise with the truth that God gives. That is the person I want to be. And knowing God's Word by heart will get me there.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
There is always a way that seems good... well reasoned... or wise in my own estimation. Part of the image of God in us is found in our reason and intelligence. It is amazing. But these have been affected by sin. The theological description of this part of us is to refer to "the noetic affects of the fall of man." My own way may seem right, but it not right by virtue of its own measure. It must pass divine scrutiny.
That is why some social concepts like the rule of law or representative democracy, though excellent ideas, can be warped and twisted and can actually damage humanity. It is an affect of our brokenness when good concepts get warped by evil. The Lord must set a higher standard than our broken selves can achieve or even see.
So I must purpose to not just do what I see as right. I must follow what God sets out as right. And that knowledge is plain in scripture. It is trustworthy. It is good. And it will not fail me like my own reason often has done.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Why is it important to know the purposes of a person's heart? When you know what drives them, you know them. The heart will worship and want something. It is always doing this. Always. When we know that, we know what is directing the life of the person. Purpose is important.
But we are collecting shallow relationships these days. We talk less directly with one another. We post our thoughts to the world in fascinating 140 character snippets glimpses of the purposes in our hearts. Sometimes those purposes are clear. And other times they are covered up like Instagram filters over photos.
Deep friendships take time, because purpose is brought up from a deep, cold well. It takes time for the bucket and rope to be lowered down to pull up the water of purpose. It is work to do so. But it is worth the investment because people are the most valuable commodity on this planet because they last forever. So I will purposes to know people at their heart's purpose, and to let myself be known in that way.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Searching for God's wisdom is a lifestyle. It is a commitment to living in the pursuit of God's revealed truth. And I believe, as this proverbs teaches, that it is the very best thing for me. It goes against my culture. It goes against any selfish way of approaching my wants. It promises unfathomably great reward.
Ultimately, I do want to be known as a man who has lived for what is good and best. I want to have the wisdom of God lead my life. And this will come by making the Word of God my main input. It must rule over all influences in my life so that God's sense makes sense of all else in my life.
You wisdom reigns. It is right, and good, and will bless me. Of that I am convinced. I am lost without Your light. So lead me to keep Your understanding in all my ways.
Monday, July 21, 2014
There is safety
in Your name
as I praise
Your eternal fame
The tower strong
is in the God
Whose Praise I know
From the heights
I look around
at fields of grace
where Your love abounds
I'm secure in You
set safely there
Your will to do.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Adversity and difficulty are God's tools to bring the brilliance of the gold and silver out of our lives. He refines us. He knows what it takes to get the very best out of our hearts. And so... "the tested genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).
One reason life is hard is so God may be praised. And that is enough. It keeps my life in perspective. I may not know what I will suffer, but thanks to God's Word, the why is not as important. The result is gold in my life for the glory of God.
Real faith is tested. My life is purposed by God and must be refined from time to time. That is the perspective from the flaming crucible. This is the work of God!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
A wise person considers that God knows even the souls that have died, even those who now are in hell. Sheol (the grave or realm of the dead) and Abaddon (the tormentous destiny of the wicked dead) are places God knows openly. What lies beyond our lives as mystery to us is clearly plain to God. Wisdom perceives and believes, and trusts God in this.
Yet, the point of this proverb is more than that God knows what lies beyond life. The point is God's breadth of understanding of humanity. He knows the dead and the living. He intimately knows each person's heart. He knows me... even my hidden thoughts which no human has ever shared.
It could be argued that death and hell exist because God knows our thoughts. Our hearts often are the deepest evidence of our depravity. But Proverbs invites us to know God's wisdom and be blessed, even as it provides commentary on the results of our wicked ways. There is then a grace given as God knows our hearts. By holding to His Word and trusting God through Christ in believing the gospel, I can be spared the worst consequences of death.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I refuse to confuse the kingdom of God with human politics. I don't for one minute believe that God ONLY wants to bless America. ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH ARE BLESSED IN CHRIST! I have heard verses such as this one misused all my life to insist that America has some special destiny given by God.
The reality is that God wants all people everywhere to repent. Righteousness could exalt China, or North Korea, or Iran, or Venezuela. God wants to bless Cuba! God wants to see Palestinians and Israelis alike live in His righteousness. The goal for all of this is the glory of God in obedience to the gospel! Politics and national boundaries are hindrances to this.
No flags wave over God's wisdom. Not nation can claim exclusivity. God rules all the nations. No one ethnic group or national leader can claim to be the sole recipient of God's blessing. Righteousness exalts God an any people who will trust Him. Sin is the universal enemy of that worldwide vision for humanity.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Relationships set the tone for your life in many ways. The call to "walk with the wise" is an important one that should be heeded. There are many benefits to choosing the right friends for input into your life.
I want to have wise, God-fearing friends, but I also want to be able to reach those who do not know God. That means that the wise ways of God should help me reach those who need Him. The input that I get from Christian relationships should inform and assist me in reaching those in non-Christian contexts if I am truly "walking with the wise".
When I walk with the wise, I will be wise. When I look to God's Word to inform my relationships, I will invest relational time with other Christians. And in God's wisdom we will help one another live for God's glory.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Neighborliness is a fruit of the gospel. The gospel is about the righteousness of Christ applied in the lives of His followers. That righteousness reaches out to guide others around us and to love them with God's love. That would then mean that Christians care for their neighbors. We must love the people all around us. If we don't, who will?
This simple proverb warns us that fallen, sinfilled people will not have righteous motives in their attempts at neighborliness. Ultimately they may lead others astray. It is the gospel at work in believers that lights up our communities with hope, real care, and meaningful love. Nothing else will do that.
Christians must let the gospel bridge the distance in our neighborhoods. We can see Christ bring people together. We can care because righteousness is our guide. We can serve our community with the love of Christ, starting with the people right next door. If we don't, who will?
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Wisdom is not
it isn't proud
it doesn't brag
in what it has.
Wisdom is quiet
pointing to God
Who supplies insight
that always lasts.
Wisdom is not
It isn't loud,
arrogant, or cocky;
it isn't brash.
Wisdom is humble
finding in His Word
some ways to submit
to a greater plan.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
My dad was fond of saying a modern day version of this proverb: "a little hard work never hurt anybody." And he lived it. He worked physically demanding jobs, loading freight and driving trucks, until his back was a mess. But I never really heard him complain much about providing for his home in this way. It was a diligence that fed, clothed, and housed us all.
I'm glad that I learned the value of daily diligence from my dad. He taught me a form of God-honoring discipline. I have never expected that anybody would just give me anything. I do not think that the world owes me a living. I must work hard and God will then provide.
Work existed before sin entered this world. Adam tended a garden with his hands in an unfallen creation. Only after he disobeyed God did work become difficult to do by the sweat of his brow. God had always intended that diligent hands work for His glory. Work is thus a good thing.
Monday, July 7, 2014
I want to be a person that embodies this truth. I don't consider myself wise. I am learning still. And I always want to learn more. I want to learn more about God and what He has made. I want to learn from life and really live it. I want to do right, learn, and love all of it!
God must be the source and substance of my studies. He will help me to love and to learn true wisdom. He will give me the grace to learn and to grow in His wisdom. He will make me wise and righteous.
I believe that if I every stop learning I will stop living. I also believe that since God is infinite and I am not, that eternity will consist of the joys of learning still more about Him, His ways, and His created universe. The wisdom I seek now is an everlasting pursuit!
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
The wisdom that the LORD gives is so precious that it is worth waiting for. The effort that it takes to apply ourselves to wisdom pays off in the truth that God gives. It applies directly to our lives. And that diligence is necessary to attain wisdom.
The word picture employed here is one of diligent readiness. We search for wisdom. We watch for it daily at the gates of our hearts. We wait in order to let it have entrance to our inner thoughts and musings... to the secret parts of us. We delight to let God's wisdom into our hearts.
That diligent watchfulness is best applied to an approach to scripture. Looking into the pages of the Bible daily keeps an open door for wisdom to enter. The only way that I know to have wisdom rule my life with that kind of freedom is to open the door every morning by opening my Bible and thoughfully consuming God's message. Wisdom... you are welcome into my heart's home! Enter in... live there... become my closest companion!
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
This is what the invitation to wisdom looks like. It calls us to actively pursue God's wisdom. It asks us to personally commit with intentional actions. If we keep God's commands we find life. But they must be readily before us, in our hearts and on our minds.
Today, we have access to God's Word like never before. I have Bibles everywhere... printed books on the shelf, and digital editions on every computerized device that is in my hands. I even have audio versions to listen to with easy access. I am swimming in Bibles but occassionally still close to drowning in my self-centeredness! There is no excuse not to hear God's words of wisdom and "write them on the tablet of my heart."
May I be a wise steward of the tremendous resources that You give. Fill me with Your wisdom as I seek to fill my days with Your Word. Keep me in it so that my life may be blessed and be a blessing to others.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Wisdom from God will provide a constant presence, if I will let it. The admonition in Proverbs is to apply myself to wisdom. It will always be there. It will lead my walk. In whatever direction I look, in a life informed by scripture, I will see the path to take.
Wisdom is a guard. I can rest at ease with wisdom as my guard. I may still face difficulties, but wisdom will guard me from the dangerous painful consequences of my solo choice... if I will choose God's wisdom over mine.
And wisdom will be my companion. Every day, if I will awaken and open the pages of scripture, I will hear God's voice... very directly, without any guessing or resorting to mystical vagaries. The words of wisdom God gives are the conversation of my life.
Monday, June 30, 2014
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.
Part of wisdom's reward is avoiding this fate. Sin is cruel. It binds and restricts while promising us freedom. It hurts and destroys us. Yet, there is a better way. God's wisdom can lead us far beyond this sort of experience.
Sin always promises what it cannot give. What is advertised as freedom is a kind of slavery. What seems like a fun choice becomes a controlling addiction. What promises "the good life" leads to death.
But fearing God, honoring His Word, obeying His commands and disciplining ourselves can lead us to avoid this. We don't have to be bound in sin's cycle of addictive pain. We can be set free by the wisdom of God! This is a compelling commitment. This is a vision for life that I will accept. I have found joy in it all my life and will continue to do so by God's grace.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Wisdom will light the way for those who commit to following God's truth. I find that scripture is that light for me. With it I can see the path. Without it I am guessing at direction and stumbling in the dark. And the careful commitment to the "slow drip" of scriptural wisdom in my life has kept the path well lit. Any wrong choices on my part stem from not heeding to the light the God shed on my situations by His Word.
As I write this, dawn is breaking in the east. Soon the full light of a summer morning will be upon me. What started with a faint glow that awakened the birds will break into bright day. And I will not escape the heat and light of the risen sun.
And so it is with the wisdom from God's Word. It will illuminate and dominate my day in a glorious glow, and as I trust it and follow God's wisdom, it will light my way all the day long. God's truth reveals the way and my path gets brighter with each thought that I give to the wisdom that God gives.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
God's wisdom gives life. That is the promise given here to the person who will commit to diligent and personal obedience to the truth of God's wisdom. If we keep the principles of Proverbs in mind and bend our hearts to obey them, we will be blessed.
Three blessings are promised to us. First we are told we will be blessed with "length of days". I think this is more than longevity (given the other blessings mentioned) and more about a satisfying fullness to each day we live. As a general observation, God's wisdom brings satisfaction.
We are also promised "years of life". This is a full life. God promises to extend our lives through the practice of wisdom. Again, this is a general promise.
The final blessing is peace... peace with God and with others. God's wisdom brings a stability to life relationships that our selfish personalities will never know without God.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Giver of wisdom
grant me understanding
so that I can discern
Direct me in
so that I may serv You
in my days
Who is all wise
May I make the best
choice in the
May I use words
that show that
I live out
what You say
show the truth
to me in Your Word
so that in its pages
I may stay
Keep my path
straight so that
I will stay true
and never stray
Monday, June 23, 2014
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs is written with a purpose. The collected sayings of Solomon and of other wise sages from Israel's past is meant to guide the reader into wisdom, learning, and life guidance. It is a source for "life coaching", in today's vernacular.
The book of Proverbs assumes that a wise person wants to increase in life wisdom. It calls us all to consider that we need guidance beyond just our own individual perspectives. And thus wisdom literature can help us grow. But only the wise will admit the need and thus learn, grow, and personally profit from the benefits of God's wisdom.
Success in life should be measured by the wisdom of The Lord living in a person. And that is an assumption of this book as well. Wealth, fame, personal pride, achievements... all are meaningless and amount to nothing without the wisdom of God guiding us.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
This is literally the last word on the Book of Psalms. And there is no more fitting way to end it. This collection of 150 songs of praise uses the gamut of human experience to Praise The Lord! The full palette of human emotion is mixed with the truth of God and His care to bring hearts to behold Him and worship.
We were made to worship The Lord. The psalms assume this and call us to live a life of worship. A life devoted first and always to God will praise The Lord with the breath that it has. God is worthy of that sort of devotion.
Worship is a daily delight, not a Sunday morning duty to drudge through. And that is the best part of praise. When it is our life and our breath, it is a powerful, circumstance-changing source of life.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
A non-Christian skeptic recently asked me why Christians sing in their gatherings. She had been to other meetings of other faiths and philosophical groups. She attended secular lectures and atheist "dialogues". But she could not understand what motivated Christians to sing about God and the truth that they claim to have. She thought it embarassed our message. It was odd to her since she was trying so hard to be a pure secularist.
I agreed with her that it seemed odd from a certain viewpoint. And then I proceded to explain that Christians also engage faith at a heart level, not just as a knowledge base. That kind of engagement expresses itself in the whole person, including emotion. And that is what is behind the singing of songs of praise. We have scriptures in passages like this one that encourage us, even command us, to sing.
We are not, however, exclusively emotion. Christians find their faith engaging all of their lives, their hearts, their intellects, their actions, and their lifestyles. It is a good thing to have Christianity engaging the heart. We were made for it. It brings joy, comfort, peace, and strength. It is great to be always ready to sing to The Lord a new song!
Monday, June 16, 2014
Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
At every opportunity that the Bible reveals God as Creator, it does so in worshipful terms, pointing to His mighty power. The issue is not so much just origins as it is praise. God made the universe by the power of His own will and word. He commands it and it happens. And His will is never unheeded by His creation.
I think that the focus of most creation debates misses the chance to do what this Psalm describes. We fail to praise God for what He has done. Instead we focus on museum exhibits, intellectual arguments, and trying to "scientize" the wonder of God's story of creation... a sacred story with deeper truths than just the facts.
I will stick with the wonder. God made a vast universe by His Word. I have no reason to doubt that based on what God has done for me. He fashioned people on a small dot of a planet. That observation conforms with reality and with observations today. And it all gives Him praise. It always has. It always will. No human attempts at an alternate explanation will ever change that.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
God is as deep in His compassion as He is great in His power. The same God Who created the universe and gives each star in every galaxy its own name also tenderly cares for each person's pain on this planet. He controls the cosmos yet cares when a tear falls.
I am overwhelmed by the immensity of God as well as the intensity of His love. It is because I am so weak and so imperfect in my love that these truths get at me. I could not name the fraction of the stars I can see on a clear summer's night. I can barely understand the needs and pains of my own family members. But God gives a name to each new star that bursts into light. He reaches out to every heartache of every person.
You are immense and intense. And that powerful individual love arrests my thinking today. It leads to worship and wonder at Your creative care.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
People, even powerful people, cannot save you. The admonition of this scripture is to not place ultimate faith in the systems of this world. They are only illusions of happiness.
Wealth, fame, power, and politics all look like paths to personal satisfication. But they end up being disappointments because they cannot help with our deepest personal needs and longings. They cannot save us. Only God can do that.
So the challenge is to evaluate just where I put my trust. And I must cultivate a faith that trusts God and keeps healthy suspicions about the ways of this world. Why? Because faith is a real issue. And putting faith in pure naturalism or in human efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, is a recipe for eternal, spiritual faiture.
As a Christian, I have only one ultimate trust. My faith is in Christ. I hold my belief in the gospel as a supreme shaper of all things and the ground of my existence. And in God alone will I trust.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
As I think about this verse, I am both encouraged and challenged. I am encouraged by my past because this generational impact of the gospel reached to me through the lives of those who came before me. I understood the gospel as a boy because someone declared the greatness of God to my generation. That was in 1971... a lifetime ago at this point for me.
The challenge is to continue to declare God's mighty works to the next generation... a generation so distracted and confused. I'd like to say that I have done that well. But I can't know that... at least I can't know the reception of the gospel. I can faithfully declare the gospel. It is up to God's Spirit to do the rest.
I have seen the gospel become the light and salvation of many. But I have also seen strong resistance to the gospel from the generations following me. Resistance has been true of every generation, but today it is a much more aggressive resistance than when I was growing up. That is why people need to see God at work in my life. I know He will draw people to Himself (not to me) as I am faithful to declare and to show His love in my life.
Monday, June 9, 2014
David writes about the longing for all the covenant blessings to come to Israel. He begins with a request for God to grant him victory over the nation's foes. He moves on to describe God's blessings in the form of healthy sons and daughters, and abundance of grain and produce, and healthy livestock. These were all promised to Israel as they obeyed God's Law.
In these blessings the nation thrived. And everyone knew the care of The Lord upon them in tangible ways. They knew God was the source of such abundance. And they worshiped the Giver of all good things.
So it is today. Every good and perfect gift still comes from above! God blesses me with the stuff of this life and the assurance of eternal life. And it moves me to praise, as it should.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
David never wanted to be without God's clear presence, care, and direction. His plea to The Lord was for God to keep daily reminders of faithful love before him. He asked for God's guiding hand to keep His will in front of him so that divine direction led him forward at all times.
I too want to know God's steadfast love and clear direction. It is why a morning investment in the pages of scripture is always worth the time it takes to begin my day in the word and in prayer. As magenta glows in the east at sunrise, so God's faithful love shines a light on my day. My goals and plans always need the illumination of God's truth in order to align with God's purposes.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
The inscription to this psalm attributes this to David who wrote it while in a cave, probably hiding from the wrath of king Saul. This was why David cried out to God for mercy. His life was threatened. The complaint and trouble that he talked to God about in his prayers were found in this situation where David ran for his life as a fugitive warrior.
So we are shown how to handle the hard stuff: Don't. Pray about it instead. Give your difficulties over to God. Don't try to use your own intellect or abilities to manage the situation. Wrestle through the pain by talking to God about it. Turn to trusting The Lord, not to your own power to perform. Expect that God will take care of it. He is wiser and stronger than you are!
If David could trust in God by prayer while in the cold, dark stone of a Judean cave, I think that I can trust Him with my uncertainties. When my life is hard or simply does not make sense, or when things happen that are adverse and are not what I ever wanted, I will pray. I WILL pray. I will PRAY. It is the best way.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
I need someone
who is brave enough
who loves with the right stuff
to tell me I am wrong
so that I can turn
from sin or error stray
and return to the way
I value the words
and the truth that stings
but healing brings
to my errant soul
joy in being restored
someone must stand
with truth and love
wisdom from above
rebukes stopping me in my sin
from evil doing me in
struck by a good man
I will know peace
and forgiveness' release
I no longer turn away
but my sin I now spurn
thanking God, I return
Monday, June 2, 2014
I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.
Sometimes those who are faithful to God will find themselves afflicted by the actions of sinful people. It is inevitable. The world system of human design and implementation is broken. People will hurt people. But God is never absent from such moments. He is always there.
God knows that our system is broken. That is why He will maintain the cause of the afflicted person. He hears our prayers. He brings justice. It is always there in Christ, and God never leaves even His most persecuted children.
The God Who heals us when we are caught up in society's broken grip always deserves our praise. He will keep us. He will make His presence real and strong in our most difficult moments. That is what God does for us. In Him is our everlasting trust. He will never let us down.
And now, an Andy Gullahorn song that reminds us that God never lets us down.
Friday, May 30, 2014
"God has got me completely surrounded." That is the observation that David goes to great lengths to make here. God is in the highest heaven and the lowest place on earth. He is in life and in death. He is on the land and the sea. He knows every person intimately because He built us all in our mother's wombs. There is no escaping the intimacy of God's knowledge and presence.
God is before me and behind me at all times. He is there in the gains and in the losses. He is there in the blessings and the difficulties. His hand is always on me. Real faith knows this and accepts the encouragement to never run from that truth.
The worst delusion I could believe then is that God does not exist. The second is that He does not care for me. No matter how else I may struggle... may misunderstand or may be misunderstood, I can always, always, ALWAYS trust in God's faithful, unfailing presence and care for me.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
God's steadfast love and faithfulness both rest upon His character and His Word. I can believe what scripture says because God has revealed it. He has exalted His Word. And I can trust God because His name is worthy of my praise. He is perfect and holy. In all things God is faithful and loving. It never leaves Him because He cannot change.
The worship God deserves from me comes about because of Who God is. If I only worship Him for what He has done, it is selfish worship with myself as the focus. I see this a lot in the church. Sometimes our praise and our songs reek of it. I know often mine does. I place myself first in such selfish thinking, only loving God if I got from Him what I wanted... if I feel he was doing something "beautiful" for me at the moment. God help me if I am going through a hard time! But when I worship God for His unfailing love and His holy Person, I am really worshiping God. The focus is off of my "best life now" and on the source of all my life and the God to whom I must bow down.
Rid of me, O Lord, any shred of selfish worship. Forgive my demands for a happy fun life with no thought of Your glory controlling my heart. Help me to see You in Your beauty and to love You first for Who You are. I need nothing else.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
This is NOT a hymn of joy. It is a dirge. It speaks of horrible losses, ridicule of an enemy and the sheer trauma of the Babylonian captivity in its first days. It is one of the few insights into the emotional and spiritual condition of the Jews who were taken as captives to Babylon after the siege of Jerusalem. They had survived having their homes ransacked, family members killed, culture absorbed, and their city destroyed. Marched to Babylon, they sat down at a river and wept bitter, painful tears as their captors ridiculed their suffering.
This psalm does not represent healthy spirituality. It is an accurate, bitter cry of resentment against enemies. Its imprecatory requests for God to brutalize Jerusalem's enemis is just unmitigated vengeance motivated by trauma and pain (Psalm 137:7-9). It makes the captives morally no better than the captors. As such even as it does give us understanding into the heart of trauma, it does NOT give us permission to hate.
Life's losses can throw us onto a faithful God. Our pain, bitterness, broken and sinful spite, and all that accompany these things will still show through in us. Yet, God will be faithful.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Israel's history is defined by the faithful love of God. This psalm rehearses that faithful love. It is a testament to the powerful love and care that turned a promise to Abram the nomadic shepherd into a nation that God led out of slavery and into the promised land.
Israel began with a promise that only God could fulfill. And at every stage of Jewish history God has been at work. God saved the fledgling house of Jacob by making Joseph the prime minister of Egypt. GOd later led a nation out of Egyptian bondage by raising up Moses. His faithful love was shown in the very people of Israel.
Joshua led Israel to trust God Who miraculously led the nation to defeat the Canaanites and possess the land that was promised to the patriarchs. God blessed this nation by establishing a kingdom under David. And God is still steadfast in love because now through Jesus, the Son of David, His faithful love is now shown to the entire world.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
As hard as it is to always see the truth of the promise in verse fourteen, I accept it. The reality is that God's people are often maligned and hated for only the reason that they love God and show it to the world. And the promise here is that they will be vindicated despite this.
God's servants are often misunderstood. In some parts of the world they are put in prison or killed. And yet the promise is that God will have compassion upon them. I know firsthand that a big price of God's service is being judged and misunderstood unfairly. It is expected that this would occur from those who are outside the church. It hurts most when it is mainly experienced inside the church. Strangely enough, there are times when I have felt more respect as a pastor from unbelievers than from some believers.
Yet the gospel and God's greatness is worth that kind of sacrifice and pain. It compels believers to obey and trust God in a greater way. God is bigger than our limited experiences. His compassion will vindicate His people, His promises, and His person.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
This prayer of blessing (part of the group of psalms known as "psalms of ascent") was an anticipation of the outcome of worship. As pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem for feasts they sang these songs. And they anticipated a blessing from God in their coming worship at His temple. They envisioned The Lord of heaven and earth blessing them from His temple in Zion as they worshiped Him.
It makes me think about the attitude that I bring with me to my worship. Whether it is in the quiet of the morning or in the "crowd" on Sunday at church, do I really anticipate blessing from God in my worship?
Lord, I seek Your face so that I might again know Your joy. I need You. I cannot live without Your blessing. And I must be seeking that with all the fervor and desperation of a hungry stranger begging bread! Fill my soul with Your greatness! Amen
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
we worship The Lord
lifting His praises
following His word
our voices we raise
offering our songs
in grateful praise
bowed in submission
to our loving Lord
offering our petition
the God Who made us one
with Him & each other
we rejoice in the Son
following Jesus' command
preaching the gospel
making disciples in each land
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: "This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it."
The Lord chose to be with Israel in a visible way through the temple worship in Jerusalem. In that sense He chose Zion as a resting place. Until that time, the worship of GOd had been mobile, conducted in a portable sanctuary in the tent of meeting known as the tabernacle.
But David had a vision for a permanent temple for worshipping Yahweh on Zion in Jerusalem. He drew up the plans. Solomon built the magnificent structure. It was a wonder of the ancient world. And God blessed the commitment with a promise to forever rest there.
Of course, this doesn't in any way diminish God's universal presence. There is today no temple on Zion. But God's promise is to "be there" still, even as He is everywhere. And He still deserves all the best that we can give Him in our worship. We must give Him His holy desire.