Thursday, January 30, 2014

A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: I am going to China and I need your help.

As of February 24, I am blessed to report that all funds have come in through the generosity of friends and families. I will be going to China! PRAISE THE LORD FOR HIS PROVISION! God provided the rest of the funds for airfare. In addition, cash donations came in over just a few days time to finish up the amount that I needed for this trip. Several of you gave sacrificially, personally, and generously. I am humbled, overjoyed, and honored to have a team of friends and family supporting me. I will keep the updates coming as we finalize preparations. I suppose if you'd still like to make donations, other members of the team would benefit. You can see details below. Realize that my personal paypal link however is no longer needed and has been removed from this post. It is great to ask God's people to rejoice with me in the grace of giving!


As of February 18, I just wanted to give you all a quick update on my China trip. PRAISE THE LORD! He has provided through the generosity of a friend, just about all of my airfare costs for the trip. Through donated airmiles, I was able to have my airfare significantly reduced from around $1400 round trip to about $400! God is providing. I still need about $800 total for the remainder of the cost of this endeavor. Please pray for God to continue to provide. And if you would like to play a part ... read on. Support details are in the last two paragraphs. 


I am blessed to be part of a church that takes the advance of the gospel around the globe seriously. We know that Jesus asks us to make disciples of ALL the nations. Mill Creek Community Church has worked with strategic partners to make substantial commitments to the fields where God calls our people. One such location is the city of Shenzhen, just across from Hong Kong on the Chinese mainland. Right now Mill Creek has three of her own member families serving in Shenzhen with a broader ministry team. (In order to protect the nature of their work, it is best that I protect their identities in this post. You can however click this link to find out a little more.)
Just part of the Shenzhen skyline...

It is no secret that China is an economic, manufacturing, and business powerhouse right now. The city of Shenzhen was the first Special Economic Zone established by the Chinese government, and now the most successful. Upwards of 15 million people live and work in its environs. And thirty years ago the city proper did not exist. Almost all of its population consists of recently displaced young professionals who have relocated from other parts of China in order to take advantage of the economic and employment opportunities there.

You may not have thought of Shenzhen as a household name, but have you ever heard of the iPod, the iPhone, or the iPad? Apple manufactures them there. Many international businesses have offices in China and manufacturing facilities in or near Shenzhen. There is a huge need in the city and there are many hungers. There is a hunger to learn business practices. There is a hunger to learn English. There is a hunger for friendship with so many displaced young people 30 and younger. There is a hunger for the gospel.

Recently one of our Mill Creek families returned to Shenzhen and successfully launched a business specializing in training professionals in English language skills. The hopeof the business was to provide funding for other outreach efforts in the city, to build relationships with Chinese leaders and professionals, and to create a permanent presence for a team in the city. The term "Business as Mission" has become a way of describing this new way of reaching "creative access" countries such as China. The team that is there is utilizing the natural relationships forged in the marketplace to bring the gospel to a needy city. I am excited about the new path for the gospel that this represents. That's where my opportunity to go to China for a two-week visit emerged.
An English Corner in an academic setting...

I have been asked to help with a ministry team conference in April. I will be assisting with encouraging the ministry team by speaking, leading worship sessions, helping with team development and challenge solving, as well as assisting the various missionary families and their children with personal assistance and pastoral encouragement. In addition there will be opportunities to encourage Chinese believers throughout the city. I will also get the chance to participate in English Corners where eager Chinese love to practice their English with Americans. Personally, that is the part I am most excited about! I will be spending about half my time in Hong Kong for the conference, and then the other half of my time in Shenzhen. The trip lasts from April 1st through the 14th.

That's what I will be doing. But I'd like to ask that you do something for the millions of people in Shenzhen too. I'd like to ask that you first of all pray. Pray for a team of us who are leaving in April, sacrificing time away from work and family in order to help another team reach a city with the gospel. Pray for safe travels, for a great conference in Hong Kong, and for God to lead us to the right opportunities with people in Shenzhen while we are there.

I also really need people with a vision for eternity who would be willing to give financially to this trip. The total cost per individual is $2300.00. God has been providing. At the time of the writing of this post, I only need to raise about $1700.00 before the first of April. Anything you could give would be greatly appreciated and will be making a difference in a wide open ministry opportunity. (February 24th NEWS FLASH: all support is now raised! Praise God!)

There are a few ways you could give. If you would like to give a tax-deductible contribution to the entire team, you may do so by sending a check to Mill Creek Community Church, 8151 McCoy, Shawnee, KS 66227. Be sure to mark your check "CHINA TRIP" in the memo section. Mill Creek members may also give via debit card or credit card online at Mill Creek's website . Again, be sure to designate the "CHINA TRIP" in notations. With the tax deductible option the China Team will benefit.

I am excited about the opportunity to serve on this missions trip. I appreciate your support and prayers as I prepare, and particularly during the month of April as I am experiencing what God has for me in China. I will be posting trip updates and followups in the coming weeks and months. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me: or 913-667-9812 .

ups and downs

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. 

Psalm 75:6-7

Righteous people may struggle from time to time when they observe that wicked people have risen to prominence. Asaph, the psalmist of the exile, sings of this in the text of Psalm 75. Even though the Jews are "put down", God is at work. His justice has placed them in exile and lifted up the Babylonian empire to rule them. It is God's doing. What they are experiencing is the direct control of God's sovereign purposes.

But with patience comes a new promise. God puts one person down and lifts another one up. And in due time as the Jews are faithful to The Lord, God will "put down" their oppressors and lift the Jews back up again. The waiting is the hardest part, but the reality of God's justice is assured. Their present circumstances should strengthen their conviction and keep them fervent in their prayers for eventual deliverance.

The perspective of this truth is important. As I have seen a decline in real Christian influence in my culture over the course of my life, I can't help but wonder how much of it is God's judgment on an idolatrous Church. He will put us down so that He can be worshiped again. And He will raise us up, not for our pride's sake, but for His glory to be known in the earth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

prayer from the ruins

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 

Psalm 74:12

This psalm is desparately looking for a truth to hold on to as the world is burning. The setting is the destruction of the temple, placing it somewhere in the timeframe of the early Babylonian Exile. Jerusalem has been ransacked. God's temple was looted and burned. Israel is under the subjugation of a cruel enemy.

It is in this awful experience that Asaph does three important things. First, he inventories and acknowledges the painful losses. Top on the list is the temple of God in ruins. He is appalled at the sight of it. The spiritual damage is so intense that even the voices of the prophets have ceased. Confusion and silence mark the grief of the survivors.

The second thing that Asaph does is to recall the mighty power of The Lord. He spends the latter half of the psalm describing God's mighty works. He centers on two levels of God's activity: His creative work AND His works of deliverance for His people. This is a way of regaining perspective. He knows Who God is and he knows what God does. Present circumstances do not change Who God is nor do they obliterate the truth of the past salvation God has brought.

From there, the third part of this psalm cries out again to God for salvation. These prayers are interspersed throughout the song. But they are most powerfully made at the end, when faith looks to the character of God, surveys His past power, and then trusts God to change the pain into something that shows His power and His glory.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

spiritual crisis

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Psalm 73:26

This psalm documents a spiritual crisis. Its ancient perspective fits perfectly with contemporary experience. I find it timely. It is attributed to Asaph, who must have been one very perceptive person. The crisis being analyzed in this psalm begins with the observation that outwardly the wicked may prosper. And the one who trusts God may suffer. It is Theodicy (google it... you should know what it means since most people experience it) combined with the irony of the opposite. The righteous man may be in pain. The wicked man may seem to have not a care in the world.

Surely God seems a vain hope from that point of view. But it really is a shallow and incomplete picture. It is superficial. Just because someone has all the stuff of this life does not mean that their soul is at rest. In fact, all that stuff just may be cover for their own unhappiness.

When the disturbed believer takes these outward observations into true worship, some real clarity starts to come into focus. There is a heart check. What seems to be a simple, non-partisan observation on our part turns out to be envy. And first acknowledging the slip of our sin puts our observations into perspective (Psalm 73:2-3). Trapped in the despair of selfish secularism, the soul must enter a holy place to once again see things from a higher place (Psalm 73:6-17).

Once in worship and faithfully trusting God, it all clears up. The apparent prosperity of the wicked is the slippery slope of their ruin. They are enjoying the long slow slide into perdition... but a loving God gives them time to know His grace. And anyone who knows God's grace realizes that the reward of knowing God is greater than all earthly fame and gain. God is always with us, guiding us with daily counsel, and ready to receive us into His glory after this life ends (Psalm 73:23-24). As Psalm 73:28 commends, "it is good to be near God." Amen. That is where I want my life to stand.

Monday, January 27, 2014

a world at worship

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! 

Psalm 72:18-19

A proper worship of The Lord encompasses a vision of a worshiping world. In this psalm, Solomon primarily is concerned about issues of social justice. He wants God to help him to deliver the needy. He prays for God to assist the king with the task of bringing deliverance to the lowest. He wants justice for the poor (Psalm 72:2); deliverance for the causes of the poor and needy (Psalm 72:4); the fear of God to motivate all the people so that peace abounds (Psalm 72:5-7); and real help for the helpless so that oppression ceases (Psalm 72:12-14).

And when a king fears God in this way, the world takes notice. There is a global impact (Psalm 72:8-11). He is honored as God is obeyed. God rewards such a leader with the respect of the nations. A God-honoring leader is promised a fame among those he leads in righteousness (Psalm 72:17).

It was the vision of Solomon that as he followed God's heart and led the nation, that God be worshiped as a result of the king's faithful actions. Furthermore, the hope of Solomon was that God would be seen at work in a watching world and that the earth might know the God of Israel. True worship of The Lord has a global impact beyond our knowing. And when a passion for God's justice changes people's own injustices, the world will see something for which God gets the credit. And that is the start of a world in worship of our Lord, the God of all people.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

mind = blown

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. 

Psalm 71:15-16

I know that God is great and is very gracious to me. But like the sentiment of this psalm, I realize that I cannot fathom it all. He has done more for me than I can possibly know. He is greater than I realize. He loves me more than I feel. He cares for me in ways I take for granted. God is better to me than I even see. His love and care are all-inclusive.

In God I live and breathe and have my being. He is everything. God fills the universe with His presence yet is beyond it since He created it. I could not number His mercies. It is all transcendent... above and beyond me and evidence of His uniqueness as God.


You are immense and infinite, holy and merciful. I am a finite mind longing to know You more. I will always learn of You, now and in eternity. And You will always care for me. My heart knows that my mind cannot list every one of Your mercies to me. Every second of my soul's existence is filled with countless blessings. I am overwhelmed that You care for me.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God is great!

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"

Psalm 70:4

God does not hide from those who need Him. He is near, and He is strong, and He is there to save the needy. This assurance is as real as the air we breathe. Crying out to Him is the first step to knowing that experience. God must be sought, but the search is rewarded. "He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him".

We may struggle in the effort of seeking. We are easily turned aside. We are tempted to trust in ourselves and our own efforts. We may get so distracted by amusements that we temporarily suspend thoughts of our need for God. But when the big questions of purpose and meaning come calling on our hearts; when we are lonely and afraid; when issues of life and death confront us; when our souls become uncomfortable... that is when seeking God must consume our thoughts and actions. And we can rejoice, because the search is rewarded. 

Often we need God to show us His salvation. And when He delivers us, we know His greatness. We know His greatness when we repent of sin and turn to Christ alone for eternal salvation. We know His greatness when we turn from self-centered pride to follow His leading. We know His greatness when we obey the truth of His Word and find life direction. We know His greatness when we quit trying to selfishly live alone and find God's comfort and strength together within the community of God's people in a local church. Our hearts should always shout: "God is great!"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

a journey from fear to faith

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 69:13

David was in a political crisis when he wrote this psalm. He was under attack from enemies and his reputation in Israel was low. He was being ridiculed from within the nation and endangered by enemies outside the nation (Psalm 69:4). David takes responsibility for his own foolish contributions to his current predicament (Psalm 69:5). He is desparately hoping for God to move to save him. He feels overwhelmed, but still trusts in The Lord (Psalm 69:1-3). He is swimming in the flood, head barely above water. His soul is in turmoil because he realizes that as a leader his choices affect the nation.

Faith is bigger than our impossible circumstances. It trusts that God will deliver. David may be facing ridicule from his enemies, but he is more concerned with knowing God's faithful, steadfast love. That is what is carrying him through this painful crisis. Circumstances may overwhelm us but God can faithfully pour out His abundant care. And in that assurance David trusts.

The psalm begins with overwhelming feelings of dread (Psalm 69:1-3) and it ends with confident praises, trusting God not only to save, but to build up His people and covenantally lead the nation to thrive (Psalm 69:35-36). The journey from fear to faith ends in worship and trust. Nothing can shake the soul that is resting confidently upon God's sovereign shoulder.

Monday, January 20, 2014

carry me

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. 

Psalm 68:19

Today I will need You,

Lord, to carry me.

I don't know what I'll face

but You already see.

There might be obstacles ahead

Lord, please make a way

to show Your hand in my path

and get me through this day.

My faith is weak, I'm weary

Lord, so pick me up and bear

the weight of the heavy burden

that I don't even know is there.

I needed a Savior and

Jesus came to bear the cross

and suffer for my sins

so I might find life in His loss.

I know You bear me up

in everlasting arms

to love me, save me, and

protect me from all harms.

My salvation... my glory and joy

and the Maker of my ways,

Lord, I love You! May I serve You

faithfully for all my days.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

mission as worship

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67:4-5

Worship embraces mission. If we love God we share in His love for His world. And there really is no vision of worship that is only singular or self-driven. God's desire is for the nations to sing for the joy that He brings to the earth. Of all the things that corporate worship can do for us, this is something that it MUST do. We must believe in, celebrate, and rejoice in God's love for everyone. 

We know God loves the world. It is clear in Christ's coming that our Lord is a world savior. God loves the world. And so He sent His Son so that all who believe in Him may now worship Him and possess eternal life. Jesus is the gladdener of the nations. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and tongue confess He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It has always been God's vision and call for His people to love the nations as He loves the nations.

O Lord,

Fill me with this picture of love for the nations praising Your greatness. Help me to be sure of this truth: You love the world and are saving people from every tribe upon this planet. May I always labor toward the scene where around Your throne are gathered people from among every ethnicity in the nations, singing of the greatness of Your love and the worthiness of the Lamb that was slain!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Farther Along by Josh Garrels

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. 

Psalm 66:10-12

Farther Along by Josh Garrels

Farther along we’ll know all about it 
Farther along we’ll understand why 
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine 
We’ll understand this, all by and by 

Tempted and tried, I wondered why 
The good man died, the bad man thrives 
And Jesus cries because he loves em’ both 
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes 
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope 
In a house of mirrors full of smoke 
Confusing illusions I’ve seen 

Where did I go wrong, I sang along 
To every chorus of the song 
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates 
Leading mice and men down to their fates 
But some will courageously escape 
The seductive voice with a heart of faith 
While walkin’ that line back home 

So much more to life than we’ve been told 
It’s full of beauty that will unfold 
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son 
That deadweight burden weighs a ton 
Go down into the river and let it run 
And wash away all the things you’ve done 
Forgiveness alright 

Farther along we’ll know all about it 
Farther along we’ll understand why 
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine 
We’ll understand this, all by and by  

Still I get hard pressed on every side 
Between the rock and a compromise 
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul 
And I’ve got no place left go 
Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown 
More glory than the world has known 
Keeps me ramblin’ on 

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall 
I’m free to love once and for all 
And even when I fall I’ll get back up 
For the joy that overflows my cup 
Heaven filled me with more than enough 
Broke down my levee and my bluff 
Let the flood wash me 

And one day when the sky rolls back on us 
Some rejoice and the others fuss 
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess 
That the Son of God is forever blessed 
His is the kingdom, we’re the guests 
So put your voice up to the test 
Sing Lord, come soon 

Farther along we’ll know all about it 
Farther along we’ll understand why 
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine 
We’ll understand this, all by and by  


from Love & War & The Sea In Between, released 15 June 2011 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

by God´s hand we are fed

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. 

Psalm 65:9

The earth is God's farm and the means by which He feeds the world. That is the thanksgiving perspective of this psalm. All life on earth is fed by the world that God maintains. And that is a common grace that should lead us into worship. If the rivers ceased to flow or if the grain would no longer flourish, we would die.

Of course we scientifically-minded late moderns are more impressed with meteorologists and climate science. They tell us how weather works and what to expect. But they cannot change the weather or bring relief. They cannot stop a storm nor can they end a drought. We are as dependent upon God's control of the cycles of this earth as the ancients were!

In tune with the natural order of the seasons, David praised God for the abundant blessings He brought with the rivers and the rain. And that simple reliance was a daily faith that kept worship centered upon God. By God's hand we are fed. It is good to live with that realization in thankfulness.

Monday, January 13, 2014

diligently searching sin

They search out injustice, saying, "We have accomplished a diligent search." For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. 

Psalm 64:6

I hear real irony in the tone of this verse. It is all about the lengths wicked people go to in order to hurt other people. And God brings their effots to ruin in time. Still, this does not stop the wicked from continuing to plot evil. It is human nature to self promote and to hurt others in the process.

David knew what it was like to be attacked by people who made great efforts in their plans of attack. I don't even think he is necessarily speaking of military experiences in this psalm. David had people who were against him at all stages of his life and rise to the throne of Israel. And even though he became king, he had enemies. It is part of the darkness of the sin nature that people can creatively and diligently search out evil.

But when David says that the heart and mind are deep, I hear the ironyy. The plot cannot succeed. God turns their evil plans against them. The nature of sin is that it turns against us... (Psalm 65:8) until our own sinful efforts become our undoing. Often the finest judgment unleashed by God is to let our sinful plans become our judgment. In the way that sin turns against the sinner, the plots of the wicked turn against them by the hand of God to become their downfall. So much for the "diligence" and "depth" of the human heart! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

instant sanctuary

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 

Psalm 63:1-2

Where was David when he looked upon God in His sanctuary? The temple had not been built, so it was not the Jerusalem sanctuary. The Psalm's title informs us that David wrote Psalm 63 while "in the wilderness of Judah". That rules out even the tabernacle as the candidate for the "sanctuary", since David was in hiding and that would have been a public exposure too risky to take.

Actually, I think that David found out that God is with us wherever we are. And in that nearness of God's care for him, the very wilderness itself was God's sanctuary. Anywhere that David could bow and worship became a holy place of communion with God where God could be gazed upon. The wilderness was a place of fear and danger. David was only there because he was hiding from Saul's army and running for his life. Yet even in that painful place, God was in His sanctuary. And David could trust that!

God can be worshiped anywhere that I come to Him. That does not mean that churches or public worship services are worthless. They are important. But the important principle to practice is the reality that worship is personal. It is expressive for me. God's grandest cathedrals are often the places we find Him one on one. I know of such a spot not far from my back door. It is located a few miles away on a wooded dirt hiking trail. I sometimes stop there along an old stone wall and pray or meditate on God's Word. It is a blessing to know that holy places are that near to us... because God is that near to us.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

only God does not disappoint us...

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah 

Psalm 62:8

Timely advice. Always. 

I am thinking those three words are the deepest comments I can make on this psalm. It is my experience that God is capable of taking all my trust and is worthy of praise. God never fails. People will disappoint. I will fail as well. I fail God. I fail my family. I fail other people. People will fail me if I seek them as my source of support and strength. But God is always faithful and I can trust Him... ALWAYS.

I have spent over twenty-five years of my life in professional ministry in churches and Christian institutions, living my adult life nearly exclusively in this weird enclave that is American Christian culture. Christians don't trust God nearly as much as we should. I don't always trust God like I should. The call to pour out my heart to Him is as important for me to do today as it ever has been. We need The Lord to be God over us more than ever! That is why we worship!

The big temptation (and failure... let's admit it, literally for God's sake!) among Christians is self-reliance and/or replacing trust in God with trust in something or someone else. We trust fallible teachers and leaders more than God many times. We trust programs or curriculum for our Christian growth rather than God and His Word. We have created a vast marketing and publishing money machine to ensure we buy into it. I firmly believe that some of teachers and publishing houses would be churning out "40 day programs" with smiling book covers and promotional tours even from the fires of hell! Christian culture adopts psychological manipulations sprinkled lightly with bits of Christianese and twisted scriptural concepts as its popular "truth". It says something about American evangelicals that many leading evangelical gurus are introduced as "psychologists and authors". Sadly, we need to repent of holding our hearts back from firmly trusting God.

Once again, Lord, I am weak. I am tired of seeing the Christian landscape so devoid of You and Your mighty power! Forgive me when I fail to trust You. Please, purge Your church of its idolatry and begin with me, so that we may truly pour our hearts out to You!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Higher View

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. 

Psalm 61:2b-3

Lift me up, Lord

to the place You lead

so I can see above

my own selfish need

All I see are obstacles

faith limiting obstruction

struggling, by faith

I trust Your limitless perfection

I need the high ground

feet on firm rock planted

to keep me close to You

find the blessing You've granted

You are a strong tower

defending from attack

You frustrate foes

humbling them with strength I lack

From the viewpoint

of mercy and grace

I understand my struggles

worshiping in Your place

Falling into my Father's arms

I am secure, know serenity

trusting now and forever

I contemplate eternity

Perspective comes now

the higher view I see

all around is God's goodness

I know He ever cares for me

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

faith AND action

Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. 

Psalm 60:11-12

David's hope for victory against Israel's enemies was not secured by his own military prowess or the skills of Israel's armies. He knew that to trust in mankind for deliverance was a grave error. He put his trust in God and wanted the nation to know God as their only hope of salvation. It was foolish to only trust in their own strength.

But notice that David did not expect to call off his soldiers and sit back and let God miraculously kill off the foes. No, the confidence was: "with God we shall do valiantly." God would lead the men into victory, but they still had to fight the battles. They still had to do something. They had to go forward into the fray. The balance of faith and action still required that Israel have faith while taking action. And that is where God will be known.

Thankfully, I don't need to fight with sword and shield (at least not literally) to maintain my life. But I do need to take action. I don't just "let go and let God". Faith requires steps on my part in trust of God. I still must make a living, fulfill God's purposes in obedience to Him, share a living faith with others, and do things that require work on my part. But I do it in trust of God and find Him to faithfully fight alongside me, for me, providing and often doing great things with me so that I can do valiantly what I never thought I would do!

Monday, January 6, 2014

strength & faithful love

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. 

Psalm 59:16

God gives us strength by virtue of His faithful love to us. David was willing to cling to it even as he was being hunted down as an enemy of the state by King Saul whom he had faithfully served. The events that led to David's song here are recorded specifically in 1 Samuel 19:11. David was being pursued by Saul's agents. He had to escape through a house window. It was a time of distress for David. 

I am sure that he did not like that Saul had made him public enemy number one. And all that David did at that time and up to that time made it perfectly clear that he did not deserve the designation. Jealousy drove Saul to hunt David down in murderous rage. But trust is what motivated David, even while on the run from Saul. His faith led him to trust God for the outcome and the protection that he needed.

David fully knew God's unfailing love. And that knowledge led him to worship God, even as he ran for his life from Saul's forces. The capacity for God's protection far exceeded the fear of David's own death. And in that refuge of God's protection David found strength. God's faithfulness and strength are much bigger than our fears.

Friday, January 3, 2014

hope in judgment

Mankind will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth." 

Psalm 58:11

David's hope in judgment was that the world would revere God for the justice that He brings when He judges the wicked. I have to admit it, without the perspective of verse eleven, the rest of Psalm 58 seems, well, vindictive. David prays for God to break the teeth of the wicked. He prays for them to burn up in fiery judgment. He wants them to melt away like slugs. It is not the most gracious of prayers!

David knows that God must judge sin. Did he ever pray these things for himself when he failed God? After all, he had affairs, murdered his lover's husband, and covered it all up using his own generals and power as commander in chief of Israel's army. Yet when it came to his own sin, he found mercy and grace by repentance. It is to the hardened, unrepentant wicked that David prays for God's justice so that others might know and fear God. But personally, I am glad Psalm 51 precedes Psalm 58. And David was probably happy with that too.

The hope in judgment is for the glory of God, even as it falls in judgment, to be appreciated in the world. A true worshiper knows that God is glorified even in judgment and respects that truth, willing to let God always be in control. The hope in judgment is that people will know God.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

sheltering mercy

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 

Psalm 57:1

My soul needs above all else to be nourished in the mercies of God. I need forgiveness of sin that is only found in God's mercy. I need perspective on my life which only His mercy can illuminate. I need a refuge from a world that rages against God (and also against my soul's good). I must frame my thinking and my actions around the all-encompassing truth that God is my Savior and my refuge.

Ever since sin and death have entered this world by one man's disobedience, there has been a need for the souls of men to throw themselves on the mercies of God. And ever since an angel with a flaming sword has kept us out of Eden, we have had to trust in a merciful God to be our refuge. To be human is to NEED mercy. To exist as a follower of God requires the refuge of His presence to weather the storms of destruction that sin and human insolence bring upon us.

I thank God for the warm covering shelter of His wings around me. The storms of life can rage, and I need the mercies of my God to hold me close in His warm and luxurious grace. From that snug shelter I can see how foolish it is to be out in the raging torrent without Him. And in that shelter God is close and tenderly caring. After the storm He is the sunshine of hope beaming down and warming my soul again.