Saturday, January 31, 2015

Jan 31- Feb 1 - Psalm 64:9

Then everyone will stand in awe,

proclaiming the mighty acts of God,

realizing all the amazing things he does

Psalm 64:9

When I pray by hospital beds, I usually pray for two things: the ordinary miracles and the extraordinary miracles.

"Miracle" is a somewhat inflated term for what I call "ordinary." Nevertheless, we ask for God's gracious hand to work through the perfectly ordinary ways we're healed. We want the surgeon's hands to be skillful, we want the nurse to be attentive, we hope the chemical formulas that some pharmacist invented to alleviate our pain and control our infection.

Now, we could call that "ordinary," or "human effort," or "not miraculous at all." But that would negate the fact that God gave the surgeon skilled hands. That would negate that God gave the nurse a heart of compassion, the pharmacist an inventive mind, and chemicals that can be aligned in such a way as to enhance biological life.

To discount the "ordinary" is to discount the ongoing miracle of creation.

And believe me, when I am getting operated on, I want God to steady an ordinary surgeons hands. That's a valid and important prayer.

The next thing I pray is for the "extraordinary" miracles. "Extraordinary" is the true definition of miracle. It's the events that transcend normal explanations -- scientific or otherwise.

I hope you've seen miracles. A doctor saying, "The cancer is throughout." And on the next check: "I can't explain it, there is none."

Now, everyone we pray for will eventually die. That's life. And the purpose of this life is obviously not to live forever on this earth ... but to be with him forever the next life. Therefore, God doles out visible miracles in an amount and on a schedule that doesn't always make sense to us. We understandably want every prayer to be answered by a miracle worth publishing. God is more selective -- at least with providing headline-worthy cosmic events.

Nevertheless ... I'm bold to pray for extraordinary miracles, saying often, "those extraordinary acts of care that we might not even realize until we get up to heaven."

I can imagine standing in God's nearer presence and seeing "the movie" of my life, and seeing all the times when God intervened ... that I didn't even know. Did he slow me down in traffic to miss that accident? Did he keep a surgeon from cutting an eighth of an inch deeper and nicking a vein? Did he put Mary Louise in the same place as me so we could meet? Did he fuel my parents love on the right night so I could be conceived?

We don't have to always see the extraordinary to trust that God is extraordinary.

But occasionally gives us glimpses. Why? So today's verse may become even more true in your life and mine: "Then everyone will stand in awe, proclaiming the mighty acts of God, realizing all the amazing things he does."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is simply awed

by the miracle of life ...

and that's a daily

cause for worship!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jan 30 - Psalm 63:1

My soul thirsts for you

Psalm 63:1

Do you thirst for God?

Psalm 63 is a remarkable Psalm of praise ... and hunger ... and thirst. It's a Psalm of Wonder and Worship.

Have you ever watched a pizza commercial and felt your mouth begin to water as they pull out a hot fresh slice and the cheese strings and stretches. Ahh!

That's the hunger, I want to invite you to experience as you read some of today's Psalm. Borrow David's thirst ... and wonder ... and passion.

·       1b my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

·       God, cut out every false priority, and help me long for you.

·       2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.

·       God, train me not to look with longing or fear at anything temporary; train my heart to look until I see you.

·       3 Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you!

·       God, make love and your delight my highest goals.

·       4 I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

·       God, help me worship ... not just on Sundays, but every moment of every day.

·       6 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

·       God, reorient my thoughts. Help me make you my priority and delight.

·       7 I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.

·       God, help my heart become thankful, seeing your gracious works and responding with praise.

·       8 I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

·       God, help my praise turn into obedience. It honors you.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's praying for thirst

(the first step to being

quenched and satisfied)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jan 29 - Psalm 62:10

Don't try to get rich

by extortion or robbery.

And if your wealth increases,

don't make it the

center of your life.

Psalm 62:10


It's helpful, isn't it?

It pays the rent and buys the food. It defines, sometimes and in part, who we are. The neighborhood we live in, the car we drive, the styles we choose are often shaped by money.

Money is helpful. Necessary, almost. It shapes our lives. And that's where today's warning creeps in: "don't make [money] the center of your life."

Only one thing is supposed to define us ... our hearts. Our hearts were crafted in such a way that they always seek an object of worship and devotion. If it is God, our lives are attached to something eternal. Focusing on godly priorities, we are less selfish and less crass.

But if we don't center our hearts on God, we tend to center them in one or two other places: on people or things.

Focusing on people at least fulfills our relational needs. But people inevitably let us down. For example, we tend to center our human relationships around several pairings: our spouse, our kids, and our friends. But if we're counting on our kids for our relational satisfaction, our kids let us down by growing up and choosing a new center of their lives -- their own spouse. Our friends can let us down by maturing, changing, and moving; distance often evolves over time. Our spouse lets us down by not being perfect ... and then one day by dying. It's inevitable. And if we choose temporary people to be the center of our lives, we choose temporary happiness.

Others choose things to fill the hole in their hearts. A pretty house, a newer car, nice clothes, even exotic travel. There's nothing wrong with nice things ... until we need them to make us happy. Too many are possessed by their possessions. And the "robbery" we commit, as warned against in today's Psalm, is usually stealing from God. We don't give tithes and offerings on top because newer chrome on our newer car has become more important than God and kingdom.

Therefore one of scripture's most frequent admonishments is essentially what today's verse says: "don't make [money] the center of your life." It is a fickle task master, demanding more and more to keep you happy and drawing you further from the eternal. .

In Christ's Love,

a guy who doesn't want

a "friend" who turns into a task master,

but a Father who turns into a friend

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jan 28 - Psalm 62:9

From the greatest to the lowliest

-- all are nothing in his sight.

If you weigh them on the scales,

they are lighter than a puff of air

Psalm 62:9

Have you ever heard the phrase "puffed up"? We brag. We gloat. We exaggerate. We puff ourselves up. Like a blow fish, we want to look bigger (and more important) than we are.

God has a more accurate measure of our substance: "weigh them on the scales, they are lighter than a puff of air."

You are mist. You are vapor. You are temporary. We like to compare ourselves to our co-workers and neighbors. We like to think that we're big news and hot stuff. But more accurately, the standard that really matters is God. And compared to the creator of the universe, you are less substantial than a puff of air.

I'd say, "ouch," but the breath from that "ch"-sound might threaten to blow you away.

In the great expanse of history, you are absolutely inconsequential ... unless you see things from God's eyes.

He loves you enough to die for you. How extraordinary!

On your own, you are a temporary vapor. You gain permanence and true value only when you attach yourself to something eternal and of substance.

So how about it? Are you going to continue to measure yourself in the world's eyes -- as in one molecule of mist more or less than the next guy -- or are you going to going to trust the Creator who turns temporary fog into eternal substance and worth?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is like the Velveteen Rabbit:

I'm real because I'm loved ... by God

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jan 27 - Psalm 62:4

They are friendly to my face,

but they curse me in their hearts.

Psalm 62:4

In this grouping of Psalms, it seems like David is being constantly hunted. King Saul is chasing. Enemy armies are advancing. He's exhausted. Discouraged.

But today's verse reflects the greatest kind of enemy -- the one who is "friendly to [your] face but ... curse[s you] in their hearts."

Have you ever been stabbed in the back? Have you ever been stepped on? Have you ever been climbed over on the ladder of success ... and you still have the cleat marks up and down your spine to prove it?

That hurts more. We expect our enemies to shoot at us, but not the people we thought were our friends (or were at least civil). Gossip. Slander. Lies. It hurts.

David's solution to attacks and betrayals is his trust in God: "My ... honor come[s] from God alone. He is my refuge."

That's the first and obvious point from today's lesson: It's God's assessment of you that matters most. And if God is justifying you, you don't have to justify yourself. His opinion, trust, and protection matter more than the world's. That's the first point.

Here's the second: Stop it!

Sometimes to make ourselves look better in the eyes of the world (or to help us feel better about ourselves), we are the ones who gossip. With a saccharine "Bless her heart," we find ways to undermine and besmirch a coworker or neighbor. Stop it.

If God loves you, and he does, don't tear down another person so you'll feel better about yourself. And if God loves the other person, and he does, don't tear down the other person so you'll feel better about yourself. That's how you become an enemy of God. Yikes!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who resolves

to make amends for

any cleat marks

I've left on others


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jan 26 - Psalm 61:2

From the end of the earth

I call to you,

when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock

that is higher than I

Psalm 61:2

"When my heart is faint," it feels like "the end of the earth"!

When I'm at the end of my rope and when I'm out of hope, it feels like "the end of the earth."

When I'm tired. When my strength is sapped. When circumstances seem to be lined up against me. That's when it feels like "the end of the earth."

Have you ever been there?

You've heard me say before that I'm a pretty capable. In earthly terms, I can take care of myself pretty well, thank you very much. But what happens when I come to the end of my rope and something bigger than me (say cancer) hammers me? What happens when I don't have the resources within myself to swim back from the ends of the earth?

David answers: I need "the rock that is higher than I."

Do you have that rock?

Don't just call out to him when you're at the end of the earth. Call out to him daily. Trust him with the little things as well as the monumental things. Learn to know him when the breeze is gentle, because then you'll be bold when the storms are real.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants

to be called "Rocky"

-- not because I'm tough,

but because I'm standing

on the one who is

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jan 24-25 - Psalm 60:11-12

O God ... please help us

against our enemies,

for all human help is useless.

With God’s help we will

do mighty things ...

Psalm 60:11-12


For Christmas, we gave my sister-in-law, a teacher, a t-shirt. It said ...


Don’t eat Grandma

Don’t eat, Grandma


Then in small print underneath it said:


Commas save lives.


Get it?


Do you know this famous verse: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence cometh my help”.


What punctuation would you put at the end of this sentence?


Old translations sometimes end the sentence with a period, implying perhaps that our help comes from the peaceful hills themselves. (In fact, I served a church with this peaceful mountain image etched on some its windows.)


Modern translations render it with a question mark at the end. When I am in trouble, does my upward gaze settle on the hills. No! My hope doesn’t come from mountains. More often, hilly passes conceal robbers and tall mountains obscure the advance of enemy columns.


When my family lived in the mountains, a beautiful day could devolve instantly into a violent thunderstorm as black clouds would swarm suddenly over the 10,000-foot peaks. When “I lift up my eyes to the hills” does “my help ... cometh ... from” there??? No! Unknown trouble often lurk in the hills! (And be sure to notice that I added the question marks like I think the passage demands.)


So should “I lift up my eyes to the hills”? Does “my help ... cometh ... from” there??? No! Verse 2 of Psalm 121 declares our real hope: “My help comes from the Lord.”


Our verse for today appropriately echoes this truth: God ... please help us against our enemies, for all human [and mountainous] help is useless.”


In our world today, we don’t often rely on mountains nor geology nor weather for help, hope, or salvation.


·         But we do rely on technology. We can fix our own problems.

·         We rely on money. With enough of it, we can solve our problems.

·         We rely on governments and armies and police departments. And generally they do a good job. But if you’ve ever been in a natural disaster — and I have — you suddenly realize that all the things you thought you could count on are “useless.”

·         Human efforts can often manage the day-to-day. We can rely on ourselves and others through the simple and average. But what happens when the stakes are raised? What happens when there’s a power bigger than us? What happens when “all human help is useless”?


Hopefully we realize that It is only and ultimately with “God’s help we will

do mighty things.”


Hopefully we will learn to cry, “O God ... please help us against our enemies.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who practices crying

for God’s help in the day-to-day

and because of that

I’m confident and ready

when the bigger trials come


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jan 23 - Psalm 59:16

                But as for me,

I will sing about your power.

I will shout with joy each morning

because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 59:16

I cited this verse yesterday. And today I just want to make one quick and simple point...

First the context: If you've been reading along for the last several days and the last several Psalms, you know that David has been hunted. King Saul wants to kill him.

It is a desperate time. Yet David is literally singing. Why? Because he is trusting in God's power. His faith makes him confident and thus he sings.

Here's the point ...

David says, "I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love." And the point is that if people are trying to kill you, each morning ought to be a celebration of great joy. You are alive for another day! Celebrate!!!

Wait… even if you are not being hunted, each morning ought to be a celebration of great joy. You are alive!

Too many of us live as if the glass is half empty. Most days the glass is totally full ... just because we are alive just because God is in our lives … and in spite of our circumstances!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who

agrees with David --

it's time to sing!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jan 22 - Psalm 59:4

Despite my innocence,

they prepare to kill me

Psalm 59:4

“Life is not fair.”

Did your parents used to tell you that too?

Life is not fair. That's David's lament in today's Psalm. He's innocent, yet hunted. He's done nothing wrong, yet the executioner is practicing tying nooses.

Life is not fair. And that's why I hate sin. Sometimes the greedy prosper. And sometimes the innocent are pawns in a polluted game.

Life is not fair ... and some blame God.

But it's time to aim our blame at the correct target. Sin is the cause of corruption. The world tempts us. Our weak flesh keeps giving in. And meanwhile, Satan keeps pointing a boney of blame at God, while it is Satan himself who is the deceiver.

Yes ... life is not fair and many blame God ... but not David. Sure, he's tired, hunted, and alone, and yet he cries in verse 16, "But as for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love."

David is very clear in assigning blame for his predicament. It's the sin of individuals and the wickedness of the world.

So where is God in the midst of all of this unfairness? David cries to God in thanksgiving, "16 you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress."

In Christ's Love,

a guy who has learned

to respond like David:

"as for me, I will sing

about your power.

I will shout with joy

each morning because

of your unfailing love."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jan 21 - Psalm 58:4

The wicked ... are like

the deaf cobra that

stops its ear

Psalm 58:4

I had to include this verse!

For North Americans, cobras are exotic ... and scary.

Any viper is scary, poisonous, deadly. Cobras are worse. They spread their hoods ominously, threateningly. Some even spit their venom.

But what's this about "stoping [up] its ear"?

Part of the (freaky) exotic nature of the cobra is the (freaky) exotic snake charmer. They play their mystical flute and the poisonous snake raises its evil head.

Who are the wicked? What is the character of their heart? This Psalm answers: "4 They are ... deaf cobra[s, ... 5 they] will not heed the voice of charmers."

I really don't like the metaphor of God or Truth being a Middle Eastern snake charmer. Nevertheless, the image works. Our sinful nature makes us snakes, meaning that our "4 poison is like the poison of a serpent."

And when we do "5 not heed the voice of [God, the] charmer," all we have left is poison. Yes, unbelievers can do nice stuff, but unless we listen to the voice of the charmer -- the voice of Truth and the voice of God -- the poison will eventually and inevitably pour forth.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is tired of

a world of unlistening snakes

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jan 20 - Psalm 57:2

O God ...  I will hide beneath

the shadow of your wings

until this violent storm is past.

Psalm 57:2

As I write this, it's been raining for a few days. The creeks and ditches are full. My yard is waterlogged, and dogs and holiday guests keep tracking in half the outdoors. Worst though ... my car's developed a leak so my floor boards are soaked.

Ugg. Rain.

A violent storm -- as today's verse talks about -- is obviously worse. Inches of precipitation each hour. The threat of fire and electrocution hurtling from the sky. Boom!

Remember the story that Jesus told? A wise man built his house on a rock. A foolish man built his house on the sand. And when the rains came ... Wait, here's when we're supposed to stop and ask a question: Upon whom do rains and storms and trials come in this broken world? The answer is: upon the wise and unwise, upon the good and the rotten, upon the believer and the non-believer, upon, indeed, everyone.

No matter who we are -- even sweet, little Christians -- we'll occasionally have to face waterlogged yards, animals tracking across our kitchen, waterlogged floorboards, flooding creeks, home damage, the threat of lightning fires, illness, depression. Boom! That's life on a broken planet.

David begged God to be hidden under heaven's wings, though, until this particular storm passed. This storm for David was persecution. As the annotation at the beginning of the Psalm says, he was literally hiding in a cave from his pursuing enemies. Even more literally, he was hoping to hide beneath the true protection of God's wings and holy care.

So notice the pattern. One particular storm hovered over David. One particular enemy in one particular instance stalked him. So David prayed one particular prayer. It wasn't, "Save me from every storm ever." David knew that relationships are formed one conversation at a time.

Trust and dependence are forged each time we trust and depend. Sometimes God will say yes, and the storm will pass by. Sometimes God will say a greater yes. He'll allow portions of the storm to splash through, and as you keep praying, moment by moment, he'll teach you a deeper lesson. He'll teach you to cling to him continually.

Those who don't know God will say, "You're just fooling yourself, hedging your bets." If an answer comes, "look God is real." If it doesn't, "oops, but keep trusting (keep pretending), because God is still real."

Yes, I suppose someone who hasn't prayed like David feels logical and justified in having this view. But David prayed in the storms and in the sunshine. He prayed moment-by-moment. He'd seen God hand -- often clearly, sometimes subtle. He'd watched God paint in broad brushstrokes, and he'd watch God withhold his blessing for a season. David may not have been able to explain why God was withholding his blessing in key moments -- for example, why was God continuing to allow a deranged king to chase David all across the Middle East? Nevertheless, the prayer warrior had to admit the daily trials were forcing him to depend on God moment-by-moment, instead of when he occasionally remembered to pray.

That's God's deeper yes.

"Learn to fully depend on me ... because the rains will come on the wise and unwise."

Death has the final say on this earth. No one will escape. But ... death does not have THE final say. When we learn to fully depend on God, that's when eternal life really begins. Storms will still come, but we'll have a personal friend and a personal strength bigger than the storms.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who doesn't often

carry an umbrella

(I'm stubborn and foolish)

... but it's okay ...

the world may rain,

but God reigns!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jan 19 - Psalm 56:2-3

My slanderers

hound me constantly ...

But when I am afraid,

I put my trust in you.

Psalm 56:2-3

Do you remember the phrase, "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me"?

One, it's not really true. Words really do hurt, don't they?

Two, we as a society are more sensitive than we used to be.

Yes, things like political correctness train us to be thin-skinned. But it's more than that. We're thin-skinned because we're trained to base our identity -- more and more and more -- on what humans think.

Let's put that another way: Most of us have quit focusing on what God's Word says about us.

·       Slanderers say we're unlovable. God says we're loved.

·       Slanderers say we're unforgivable. God gave his Son to win our forgiveness.

·       Slanderers say we're not worthwhile. God says we're worthy.

·       Slanderers say we're imperfect. God says we're “a masterpiece.” Eph 2:10 NLT

·       Slanderers say we're forgettable. God says we're chosen.

·       Slanderers say we're “a mistake”. God says we're the purpose of His plan.

·       Slanderers say we're will never amount to anything. God says we're of infinite worth.

·       Slanderers say we're hapless victims. God says we're more than conquerers through him who loves us.

·       Slanderers say we're smudged and soiled and messy. God says we're washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. 

·       Slanderers say we're doomed. God says we have an amazing and eternal future.

Sticks and stones can't break our bones when we truly put our trust in God.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's wearing

the full armor of God

-- which protects

against words too

(Satan and the

world's lies)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jan 17-18 - Psalm 55:6

Oh, how I wish

I had wings like a dove;

then I would fly away and rest!

Psalm 55:6

Have you ever wanted to just fly away?

You're not the first.

David was being hunted again. Persecution is the context of this Psalm. Despair is David's condition. And rest was his goal. He just wanted to escape.

How do you escape? Some watch TV. Some shop. Some play Candy Crush, while others try to get totally lost in hobbies.

Some run to a bar and drink, drowning their sorrow in a scotch bottle.

Others run to the refrigerator and eat, burying their discomfort in comfort food.

I knew a woman once who read seven novels a week -- fiction was apparently safer than reality.

How do you escape? Productively or destructively? Or do you really ... sometimes ... just want to fly away?

Re-read today's verse. What was David's reason for wanting to fly away? He wanted rest.

Isn't that why we all want to fly away? We want rest from our burdens and relief from our sorrows. Peace is a form of rest -- an escape from life's pressures and anxieties.

Do you want to fly away? Do you want real peace and rest? It won't come from the escapes of TV or a scotch bottle. It comes from flying to the destination that David-the-Psalmist flew to.

David put it this way: "22 Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."

Jesus put it this way: "Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants a

window seat on the

flight to deeper faith

Jan 16 - Psalm 54:2-4

O God, listen to my prayer.

Pay attention to my plea.

For strangers are attacking me;

violent men are trying to kill me.

They care nothing for God.

But God is my helper.

The Lord is the one

who keeps me alive!

Psalm 54:2-4

Look at the last word in today's verse. Then answer this question: Are you alive?

Maybe we have more to be thankful about than we sometimes remember to remember!

Now look at the first works of today's verses. When do we usually cry, "O God, listen to my prayer. Pay attention to my plea." When? When we are in peril. Therefore, remembering to be thankful for life itself -- and "the Lord ... who keeps me alive" -- keeps our pleas and prayers from being so desperate.

Yes, we should still pray. David absolutely knew that God was his protector, yet he himself was still praying. Yes, David knew his situation was dire -- see the notation at the beginning of this Psalm; it says that this was "a meditation of David, regarding the time the Ziphites came and said to Saul, 'We know where David is hiding.'"

David cried, "strangers are attacking me; violent men are trying to kill me." Yes, he was being hunted, but he wasn't helpless. Why? Because "the Lord is the one who keeps me alive!"

Challenged ... but not hopeless.

And what was his response? He prayed.

In Christ's Love,

a hopeful guy who knows

what to do when challenged

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jan 15 - Psalm 53:3-5

No one does good, not even one!

Will those who do evil never learn?

They eat up my people like bread;

they wouldn't think of praying to God.

But then terror will grip them [and ...]

Psalm 53:3-5

I added the "and" at the end.

My question is: "and then what?"

If the two great commandments are "love God" and "love neighbor" (Mt 22:37-39), then according to this Psalm, those who are "evil" violate commandment number two by "eat[ing] up [godly] people like bread." And worse, they violate commandment one by not even "think[ing] of praying to God." (That's the worst form of not loving God. By not even thinking about prayer, we deny his power, purpose, presence, and existence.)

"5 But then terror will grip them," says the Psalm. Indeed, eventually terror, grief, turmoil, illness, and pain will grip us all.

And then what?

What if there's no one to help. What if we've alienated all the people around us? What if we've steadfastly denied the God who can give us rest?

God is gracious and merciful. He forgives all who repent. But I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait til a crisis to see if I can count on another "person's" friendship (God or neighbor). I want to enjoy their friendship and blessings everyday.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who may occasionally

get eaten like bread in this life

... but I'm not worried because

I'm friends with the Bread of Life


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jan 14 - Psalm 52:4

You love to say things

that harm others ...

Psalm 52:4

Psalm 52 is about a bad dude. A character who rebels against God. An enemy who stabs God's people in the back. A cad who hurts individuals.

You can read the annotation at the beginning of the Psalm to figure out who and when ... but that won't be my point.

I want to simply focus on the fact that there will always be rebels (against God), enemies (set on undermining God's people), and scoundrels (hurting other people). This is real life in a really sinful world.

Psalm 52 certainly expresses sadness and frustration at the force of sin ... but it has nothing close to a defeated worldview.

This Psalm reminds us not to look, however, at the short term frustrations and defeats. It reminds us to take a longer-term view. The Psalmist says, "7 Look what happens to ______ who do not trust in God." The best they can hope for is to "7 grow more and more bold in their wickedness."

That's the ultimate trajectory of sinfulness. We will joyfully justify our actions and the world might even celebrate them, but sin is like termites. Before we ever notice it, it eats the solid framing away from our life. Our "house" may look good from the outside, but beneath the obvious, we're a mess that's awaiting an eventual and inevitable collapse. Yes, the path of selfishness and sin may occasionally reap a few rewards -- including "wealth," also mentioned verse 7 -- but any gain is temporary.

Verse 8 offers a better -- and much more permanent alternative. "But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God." Rather than termite weakened, the wood of righteousness is supple and growing, like a young olive tree. Young trees and righteous lives are fruitful too, and the harvest, like plentiful olives, is an abundance of peace and joy.

And this righteousness is the opposite of temporary. The Psalmist talks joyfully about "8 God's unfailing love [enduring] forever and ever."

"8 I trust [in that]," says the Psalmist. Which is how a faithful heart puts the breaks on selfish and short-term sin. When we trust in God and the fruits of righteousness, we will wait for the eternal blessings.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who does verse 8 (trusts)

and, therefore, joyfully does verse 9 too:

"I will praise you forever, O God,

for what you have done.

I will wait for your mercies

in the presence of your people."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jan 13 - Psalm 51:1

Have mercy on me, O God,

because of your unfailing love.

Because of your great compassion,

blot out the stain of my sins.

Psalm 51:1

As you read this, recall your worst sin from this week. Imagine placing it in your right and hold onto it tightly.

Now recall your worst sin ... ever. Imagine placing it in your left hand.

Now hold both hands out to your side.


Do it. As you read this devotion hold both arms out to your side. Feel the weight of those sins in your hands. Ask yourself: "Why do I need God's mercy?"

Now ask: Why does David need mercy?

Read the small print at the beginning of this Psalm -- the annotation: "A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba."

That (and its fall out and cover-up) represent David's worst sin. What's yours? (In fact, are your hands getting heavy?)

Sometimes we rank sins. (Am I better? Is David worse?) It doesn't matter. All sins are rank. They stink.

As David said in verse 4, "Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight." Yes, David hurt other people with his sin. And he hurt himself too. But ultimately he realized that all sin is ultimately against God.

(How are your arms doing? Tired? Heavy?)

Think now about what shape your arms are in? You're making a cross. Now, if your arms are tired, imagine how tired Jesus' arms grew upon the cross. All your sin is ultimately against God because each and every one of your sins led to Jesus stretching out his arms for you.

He did it out of love.

And his gift is forgiveness.

If you're tired of carrying your sins, it's time to confess them to God.

And once you honestly confess (and  prepare to make amends) open your hands. Release the burdens. Put your tired arms down. And be set free.

Like David, we all have a worst sin. But when we confess our sins, we are free ... "and if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

In Christ's Love,

a guy with tired arms

but a free heart

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jan 12 - Psalm 24:1

The earth is the LORD's,

and everything in it.

The world and all its

people belong to him

Psalm 24:1

One of the greatest human needs is to belong.

We're wired that way. And it's from birth. Children need it from their parents -- need it, need it. We need to belong.

A man, like me, is blessed when he "belongs" to a woman. Marriage is partnership, not ownership. But saying we "belong" together means that we fit together, that we're incomplete without each other. Yes, it is more than ownership. It is a belonging, nurturing relationship. And when kids are added, the webs of belonging can be knit closer and richer.

Because of the breakdown in family, too many people go looking for a place to belong in the wrong places. Too many engage in serial sexual relationships. When the television show "Friends" debuted almost 20 years ago, the commentary was that friendships were replacing family among many young adults. The message was that you could count on – belong to – friends more than family.

But all of the circles back to the greater truth: we are wired to belong.

I like "belonging" to Mary Louise. And I like that my kids "belong" to me – even as they are beginning to find wives to "belong to" themselves.

Family and friends are a gift that God has given us. But even these glorious gifts point to an even more glorious need. Our sense of belonging comes from the fact that we are dependent by nature.

I know, I know. We like to think that we are independent. We like to live our lives on our own terms. We want to do our own thing. But ultimately we are dependent. We are dependent on God. He is the creator. He gives us life and breath. He set up the conditions for life to thrive on this planet. He holds the planets orbit and he holds the protons in orbit around the nucleus of an atom. Everything depends on him. Therefore, as this psalm suggests, we need God, we depend on God, we belong to God.

For some, their rugged independence finds this sense of belonging to God as an offensive inconvenience.

For others, it is a glorious freedom. Yes, I have to do my part ... but ultimately my purpose, joy, and success depend on someone wiser than me, kinder than me, more powerful than me, more mature than me, more joyful and loving and freeing than me.

Hi am dependent. I admit it. And because of that I am free. Indeed my dependence on God makes me independent from all of the other forces in this world. Where assess and independence from God makes us dependent on everything else.

For example, I love my wife! But we made a deal the day we got married – one of us would die first. That's what till death do us part means. I will grieve mightily if Mary Louise goes first ... But I won't be crushed. I love her amd count on her, but I do not ultimately depend on her. Ultimately, I depend on God. And that makes my relationship with her more joyful and free. It's a partnership not a dependence.

In Christ's Love,

a one-owner guy

Jan 10-11 - Twelve Articles of the Creed

Though these didn’t send at Christmas,

the principles remain the same


Legend tells us that The Twelve Days of Christmas

was a secret catechism during times of persecution.

For these twelve days let’s focus on twelve teachings:

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve Drummers Drumming


Yesterday we said that fifes and pipes and drums are an army’s signal callers. What message do the twelve drums beat out for us on the final day of Christmas?


The twelve drums in this catechism represent the twelve key doctrinal points of the Apostles Creed.


Written three centuries after Jesus’ resurrection, the Creed answered the heresies of that generation by beating out a steady cadence of true and grace.


1.    I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. Our God is King, Father, Mighty, and Creator.


2.   I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. I believe [that Jesus] was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus – God’s son, our Savior – is fully God (as the Nicene Creed adds: Jesus is “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven”) and while physically on earth, he was fully man (as the Nicene creed says: he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man).


3.   I believe that … He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was  crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The purpose of Jesus’ journey was to die to save us from our sins. The suffering was real. The crucifixion was real. And the death was total – that’s what “descended into hell” or “descended into death” means. Jesus submitted to the fullest emptiness and powerlessness of death.


4.   I believe that … on the third day he rose again. Oddly, and to reinforce the last petition and point, scripture doesn’t say that Jesus “rose again” – except once. Every other time it say, he “was raised.” It’s a significant difference! “He rose” implies that he had the power to change his own status from death to life. “Was raised” reveals the truth – he was totally, utterly, completely, powerlessly, dead.


5.   I believe … [Jesus] ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Heaven is Jesus’ eternal destination. Side-by-side with God the Father, King Jesus reigns over all of eternity.


6.   I believe … He will come again to judge the living and the dead. And Jesus’ primary “job” in heaven is to judge us. And his verdict is clear: Every one of us is guilty. All of us have sinned and all of us fall far short of God’s glorious standard. “But to all who receive[] him, who believe[] in his name, he g[ives the] power to become children of God” (John 1:12). When we stand before Jesus, he’ll declare each of us guilty. But then he’ll say to “all … who believe” that they are family – children of God – and that his righteousness has covered their sins. As it says in Romans 8:34, “Who … will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.”


7.   I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also God. (But I’m not going to explain the Trinity in a paragraph here!!)


8.   I believe in … the holy catholic Church. The word “catholic” throws people. It’s the name of a “denomination,” so are we confessing that we’re Roman Catholics? No. In fact, just the opposite. With a little “c”, “catholic” means world-wide or universal. (Once the Roman church was the world-wide church, which is why they used the name.) But if “catholic” means throughout the world, it means that we believe that there is “one church” throughout the world – and it transcends the human divisions that we call denominations. As it says in Ephesians 4:5, the is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We may “like” our denominations and our traditions, but what we should “love” is God’s truth and a unity that cuts across human divisions.


9.   I believe in … the communion of saints. We believe that when people die they go to heaven. Therefore, in heaven now are 1) God-the-Father, 2) God-the-Son, 3) God-the-Holy-Spirit, 4) Angels (of all forms and varieties – angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, etc.), and 5) the Saints, people of faith who have died and gone to heaven. They’re there now, and as Revelation hints at – they’re aware of our circumstances and praying (at least in a global sense) for events on earth.


10. I believe in … the forgiveness of sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, you’re free. Forever.


11. I believe in … the resurrection of the body. We don’t become “spirits” when we die. God’s final plan – to go with a “new heaven and a new earth” (see Revelation 21) – is a new body for each of us. God didn’t create the blessings of physical life to be only temporary; physical life is eternal!


12. And … I believe in … the life everlasting. (Life eternal is God’s gift to all who believe.) Amen.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who could study

those twelve points for

the rest of his life

and never get bored!