Monday, August 31, 2015

Sept 1 - Psalm 88:6-7

You have put me in the lowest pit,

in the darkest depths.

Your wrath lies heavily on me;

you have overwhelmed me

with all your waves.

Psalm 88:6-7

I must confess that my view of the universe is shaped by the word "dominion" in Genesis 1:27. 

God makes us lower-case kings of this planet. We are in charge of our day-to-day. 

To help us God gives us wisdom -- actually laws and wisdom. If we follow them, our days tend to be good. If we don't follow them, our days tend to be bad. And if unwise and unlawful people infringe on our lives -- like an unwise and unlawful drunken driver -- we suffer consequences that we did not create. 

Where is God in all of this? Working in our hearts ... as we let him. 

Have you heard the phrase, "Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you respond to it?" Well, I think that's true spiritually too. Generally, God does not need to test us. Why? Because life tests us ... constantly. 

I'm tested with choices that I make moment to moment -- will I choose my way? the world's way? or God's way?

When the world steps on my toes and invades my life, will I love and forgive, or will I be petty and mean?

Generally, life is 90% how we respond to what is happening around us. And generally, this is where God works ... if we let him. The more I give the Holy Spirit room to work in my life, the more I respond to whatever befalls me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Wait. That's generally how life works ... and notice how many times I've said, "generally." 

The danger of seeing life this way is that we don't see God's hand even when it's there. We chalk everything up to cause and effect. And we ignore God even when he's standing right in front of us. 

The Psalmists didn't ignore God presence. Their world wasn't flat. They sought to walk in the paths of wisdom. They tried to follow God's laws. They knew the earthly consequences of having murderous enemies. And yet they saw God's presence woven into every moment. Leading and guiding, yes. Rescuing and protecting, certainly. But also challenging and chastising ... which is what today's verse is all about. 

Why would a good God put us in the lowest pit? To challenge us and help us grow. To chastise us so we won't make the same mistakes again. Isn't that what good parents do? Good parents carefully calibrate love and discipline, comfort and challenge. It helps us grow. And while no human parent gets it perfectly right, we can trust that God does. 

Our Lord is in the midst of everything in life. He generally works in our hearts -- as we give him room ... or not -- and this means that he can generally let life unfold and let day-to-day events test and refine us. 

But ... this world is not flat. God is everywhere. He works in ways that we cannot physically see. And the most joyful people I know are the ones who've learned to spiritually see. They've learned to look for God in everything ... because he really is there. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who often relies

more on wisdom than awe

(and needs to tip the balance

more toward looking

and wonder more often)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aug 31 - Psalm 87:3

Glorious things

are said of you,

city of God

Psalm 87:3

Jerusalem -- Zion -- was (and is) God's holy city. 
It was the focal point of God's presence on earth. 

When Israel was in the wilderness, the Holy of Holies was in the tabernacle, and God would sit upon the mercy seat upon the ark of the covenant. Yes, God was (and is) everywhere, always, but he allowed this to be the focal point of his presence, the place where he allowed fragile humans to meet him. 

When Israel made it to the Promised Land, it was eventually David who carried the ark up to Jerusalem, dancing as he went. And it was Solomon who built the Temple, complete with the new Holy of Holies. Again, this was the focal point of his presence, the place God allowed fragile humans to meet him. 

This was good news. 

This was also bad news. 

How? God is holy. Having him close shine a very bright light on us. Like under an unflattering light in a doctor's office, every imperfection is exposed. 

Being God's Chosen People was as much of a responsibility and burden as it was a blessing. They were chosen to represent God. And God had (and has) high standards. 

Through the years, God blessed Israel tremendously. He watched over them, protected them, and showered them with blessings. The focal point of the universe was on this hilly little city. God was with them. 

But like a good parent, he didn't allow them to get away with selfishness, wantoness, and pride. He corrected them. Often letting them suffer the consequences of their own sin. He let them learn from their mistakes. But at the end of the day (and remember ... for God, a year can be up to a thousand years in length) ... at the end of the day, God would always welcome Israel home. He would rap them in his arms. He would tuck them in. Read Romans 9-10. They would (and will) always be his people. Read Revelation; the focal point of the universe will ultimately rest on Jerusalem again. 

Glorious things are said of you, city of God. Amen. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who writes these

several weeks ahead, meaning ...

I don't know when this may come out.

But I may literally be in Jerusalem

on the day you read this.

Glorious things are said of you,

city of God." Amen.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aug 29-30 - Psalm 86:9

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.

Psalm 86:9


Question: Are “all the nations” of the world currently worshipping God?




Were they in time of the Psalmist?




Has there ever been a moment when all the nations have ever worshipped God in unity?




Therefore, what is this Psalm? How can it say, “all the nations … will worship.”


It's prophecy. 


At one of the early crescendos in the book of Revelation, the Apostle recounts the triumphant glimpse of this future unity of peoples and nations ... 


After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10)


This is prophecy. And according to Revelation, when are the nations worshiping together?


In heaven. Before the throne. 


As long as we are on earth -- and before we get to heaven and enjoy the New Jerusalem -- there will be sin. And thus no unity. 


But something better's coming. 


In Christ's Love,

a future palm waver






Thursday, August 27, 2015

Aug 28 - Psalm 86:10

Love and faithfulness

meet together;
righteousness and peace

kiss each other.

Psalm 86:10

Who are you allowed to kiss?

I'm allowed to kiss a few people on the cheek (like my mother and my daughters-in-law). But I'm only allowed to kiss one person deeply, and that is my wife!

Kissing implies a relationship, a connection. 

So what does it mean "
righteousness and peace kiss each other"? It means that there is a relationship, a connection. 

What is the relationship, then, between righteousness and peace? The connection is that the more we live our lives with "righteousness" and integrity, the more we discover "peace." 

·       And that means peace in relationships because we are living the right way (and not hurting others through our sinful ways).

·       And that means peace in our own hearts because we are living the right way. 

·       And that means peace with God because we are not in continual rebellion.

This passage also reflects a connection between faithfulness and love. What is that relationship? If we are faithful, we will love. We will! Love is the natural outgrowth of true faith. 

In Christ's Love,

a peaceful guy

(because I try to

practice righteousness)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Aug 27 - Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart

to revere your name.

Psalm 86:11

I remember walking through a campground with my dad. I showed him my cool "short-cut" to the shower room. 

On the way back, my dad was beginning to take the better traveled path. "Dad," I cried, "take the short-cut!"

He said, "Hmm. Let's try this. You take the 'short-cut' and I'll take this path here. Walk normal speed and let's see who gets there first."

He clearly beat me back to the camper. "Eddie, your route might be adventurous and fun, but it's not a short-cut ... because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line," he said pointing straight at the shower room and straight up his trail. 

"Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth." God's way is a straight line. And our short-cuts are usually not shorter! As it says in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

Therefore, we pray, "give me an undivided heart to revere your name." A "divided" heart is like a path that is forked. "God, work on my heart. Show me the straightest path between where I am and where you are." 

In Christ's Love,

a guy whose gotten lost

on more than one

supposed "short-cut"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Aug 26 - Psalm 86:7

In the day of my trouble

I call on you,

for you will answer me.

Psalm 86:7

·       Sometimes a good parent says, "Yes."

·       Sometimes a good parent says, "No."

·       Sometimes a good parent says, "Wait."

God is a good parent. He always answers.

But ... how many of us don't always like the answers of mom ... and dad ... and God? As children, we don't see their bigger perspective. We disagree with their (greater) wisdom. Besides, we all tend to be a little rebellious -- we want what we want when we want it.

So ... what do we do when God is saying, "No" or "Wait"? What do we do when all we see is "trouble," and we aren't receiving the precise answer we want in the time we want?

Often the answers we are looking for are external. "God, protect me from my enemies." "God, heal this illness." "God, help me get this job." "God, save my grandma." God, does answer external prayers ... but often where he choose to work is internal.

How often do you grow more from trials than average moments and successes?

Maybe God's purposes are to USE -- not cause -- every circumstance in this world ... and to use them to draw your heart to him.

Your heart is permanent; your circumstances are not. Therefore, this is where God's permanent effort is leveraged. He wants to soften your heart, change your heart, and draw your heart to him. And that's the most important thing on earth.

Therefore, when "trouble" comes, "call on" God. And then look in your heart and see how he "will answer" you.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is not ruled

by circumstances

Monday, August 24, 2015

Aug 25 - Psalm 85:11

Faithfulness will spring up

from the ground,

and righteousness will

look down from the sky.

Psalm 85:11

It's hard to plant a garden in our back yard. The soil is not ideal. It's clay, and clay is not nutrient rich. 
Besides it's hard packed and hard to dig into. And in our backyard, lots of trees and lots of roots make the digging even harder. 

Therefore, we were intrigued when a friend suggested an alternative -- the world's simplest raised garden. 

·       Get bags of planting soil -- nutrient-rich soil and no weeds. 

·       Lay out a line of bags on the ground. 

·       Cut open the tops -- your planting soil. 

·       And make sure you have holes in the bottom of the bags so excess water and growing roots can escape. 

It was easy. And it worked. Like in Jesus' parable of the sower, good soil produces good growth. 

And that's what today's verse is about. 

Do you long for soil so rich that "faithfulness will spring up from the ground"? do you long for weather so favorable that "righteousness will look down from the sky"?

Our tendency sometimes is to yearn for that on a global or national scale. (Wouldn't it be great if our nation was more righteous and faithful?! Yes ...) But when Jesus tells the parable of the sower, he advises us to think in more personal terms. 

Is your heart hard-packed like a trampled-down path? Do you tolerate weeds and sins that choke out righteousness and faith? What are the rocks that get in the way of your discovering more blessing and growth? God IS raining down righteousness, but how can you and I expect faithfulness to take root and grow if we're not tilling the soil of your heart?

So the impetus is on you, right? If you want to see a greater harvest, you must act to create a richer soil in your heart, right? Well ... that's partly true. 

But remember, this is a prayer. It's asking for God to help produce the conditions for growth. 

As Americans, we try to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We try to be masters of our own destiny. We forget that if we want to be good soil, we need first to humble our hearts and give God room to act. 

We're like bags of potential. We need to put ourselves in places of light. Cut open the tops and open our hearts. And create holes in the bottom so the excess can drain out and new roots can continue to grow. 

In Christ's Love,

a bag of potential who

needs a good gardener

to cut me open

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Aug 24 - Psalm 85:1-4

Lord, you poured out

blessings on your land!

You held back your fury.

You kept back

your blazing anger.

Now restore us again ...

Psalm 85:1-4


We sin. We fall short. We deserve "fury" and "anger" -- even "blazing anger."


So how do we "earn" "blessings"?


It's only because God "h[olds] back [his] fury" and "k[eeps] back [that] blazing anger."


Don't think that God excuses rebellion and winks at sin. No. We "earn" fury. And yet we keep getting "blessings." Why? Because of God's love and grace! (See yesterday's devotion.)


But God's grace shines not only upon individuals ... but on nations. 


This national blessing shines, most fully, on Israel. That's what this Psalm -- and most of Scripture -- is about. When Scripture talks about blessing nations, it's always about Israel (and/or countries that blessed Israel). And while we must beware of extrapolating Israel's Old Testament favor to modern blessings for modern nations like the USA. We can nonetheless see God's pattern and the way God acts. 


In the US, we're ethnocentric (like most people in most countries through most centuries). We see Scripture through American eyes. And most of us have viewed most of the last five decades as a time of national blessing -- not perfection, but peace and prosperity. 


Most of us, though, see those blessings evaporating. 


We ought to expect "anger" and "fury." (Read that again. It's what all of us ought to expect. Because of sin, it's what every person and nation "earns" -- even the best of us.) 

And so we worry. As our national rebellion grows, the anxiety among the faithful grows. (That's normal and natural. Read the laments in books like Judges and Kings, 1 and 2. Read the laments of the prophets. Read this Psalm!)

Yes, as our national rebellion grows, the anxiety among the faithful grows ... especially when we realize that we as individuals are powerless to stop it. 

And yet we aren't powerless. In fact, this Psalm reveals the source of our power and our hope. What are we to do? Call on God: "restore us again."

It's as simple as that. It's as magnificent as that. Trust in God. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who needs to hear

that because the news

really is discouraging


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aug 22-23 - Psalm 84:11

The Lord God

... gives us

grace and glory

Psalm 84:11

You are a human. You are temporary. Death is you inevitable trajectory.

And yet you have an opportunity for glory.

Not momentary glory. Not laurels from your own accomplishments -- laurels that will inevitably fade. But permanent glory. Eternal light. Yet not light that emanates from you ... but light that reflects from the one who is true Glory.

So how do you get this (reflected) glory. By going to heaven. By being invited into God's nearer presence. Invited.

So how does a sinner like you (and me) get invited into God's nearer presence? Look at that verse again. How? By that other word: Grace.

Since we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, it takes God's love and grace to forgive us and heal us and bring us to heaven.

Glory ... and grace. They are inseparable. For God, they are part of his character -- inseparable. For us grace and glory are inseparable too; we can enter into God's glory without God's grace.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is invited into

God's nearer presence

every day

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Aug 21 - Psalm 84:10b

I would rather be a gatekeeper

in the house of my God

than live the good life in

the homes of the wicked.

Psalm 84:10b

The story is told about three men who died and went to heaven. 

St. Peter said to the first man, "You've lived an extraordinary life, worshipping God and serving your neighbor. Therefore, in heaven you get a gold-plated Rolls Royce to drive throughout eternity."

St. Peter said to the second man, "You've lived an exceptional life, worshipping God and serving your neighbor. Therefore, in heaven you get a silver-plated Mercedes to drive throughout eternity."

St. Peter said to the third man, "You've lived an mediocre life. You compromised in your worship of God. You often cheated your neighbor. You believed ... but barely. Therefore, to drive throughout eternity, you get a used Yugo, covered in bondo and held together with duct tape."

Three days later, the man in the gold-plated Rolls Royce saw the man in the Yugo. He was pulled over to the side of the road, laughing hysterically. "What do you have to be so happy about?" said the man in the golden car. 

The man in the Yugo said, "I just saw my pastor go by on roller skates!"

Now ... that's not how God, St. Peter, the pearly gates, or heaven really work! We've saved by grace ... effective through faith ... apart from our works. (See Romans 3.)

Nevertheless, look at how Scripture tries to explain the majesty of heaven! (I once heard someone say that trying to describe heaven to a human is like trying to explain DisneyLand to your dog!)

How does today's Psalm try to give us terriers a glimpse of heaven? It says that living in a mansion here is a fraction as wonderful as having a very boring job on the furthest outskirts of heaven. (Boring job -- gatekeeper. Furthest outskirts -- the outermost gate.) 

It says, essentially, that having roller skates in heaven is better than having a Rolls Royce on earth. 

It says, essentially, "
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven ... [for] wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Actually, that's precisely what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:19-21.)

In Christ's Love,

a guy who'd gladly accept

roller skates in heaven

(sinful and falling short,

I deserve nothing more)

... nevertheless ...

I hope St. Peter can

teach me to skate

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aug 20 - Psalm 84:10a

A single day in your courts is better

than a thousand anywhere else!

Psalm 84:10a

Last night I had a crazy dream
A wish was granted just for me
It could be for anything
I didn't ask for money
Or a mansion in Malibu
I simply wished

for one more day with you!

These are the lyrics is one of my favorite country songs. It's an absolutely beautiful ballad. A wholly devoted love song. 

Psalm 84:10 turns the world's logic 180 degrees. 

No matter how beautiful the song and no matter how sticky sweet the sentiment, if I wished for one more day with Mary Louise (and even if that wish was granted by the genie in the sky), that's all I'd get ... one more day. It might be a glorious day. But it's still only one day. 

In other words, even the best we can wish for on earth is merely sand in the hour glass. Fleeting. Falling. Failing. Finished. 


But what if I wished instead for time with God? What if I focused on heaven ... rather than the illusion of heaven on earth? No matter how temporarily fun life on this earth can be, fleeting, falling, failing, and finished is the best that this earth can ultimately offer. 

But guess what ...
If I want one more day with Mary Louise, all I have to do is focus on one more day with God! Faith grants the hope of a million million days  in heaven. I can spend them with Mary Louise! (And I think she's pretty glorious.) But even her "glory" will pale before God's Glory! I will be overwhelmed with light, hope, love, peace, and joy.

More time with Mary Louise -- even eternity -- is a magnificent side-benefit. The real prize is seeing God, face-to-face!

So think of your best day. Now multiply it by at least a thousand! If not a thousand million -- O Lord, "a 
single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!"

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's tired of the

saccharine sentiment of the world

(even though I love the melody

of earthly songs like "One More Day"),

I want music, sentiments, and hope

that are a thousand times better

than one more day here!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Aug 19 - Psalm 84:9a

O God, look with favor

upon the king, our shield!
Psalm 84:9a

For my first several elections as a young man, I never voted for a winning president. Over those years, I voted both Republican and Democrat ... but always for the losers. 

I comforted myself in this thought: I'm a contrarian. I'm not comfortable in a fallen world. If culture is proudly endorsing something, what's wrong with it?!

But here was the bad fruit of always voting for the loser: The winner was never my chosen. Therefore, it's hard to pray for success for a leader that you basically reject. 

How about you? 


Like a leader or not, today's verse reminds us to pray for them. 

And the greatest prayer for any leader in every generation is that they might humble their heart and choose a godly path.

Read the books of 1 and 2 Kings. The tide of the whole nation was shaped by the king -- what he did and didn't do ... and most of all, his faithfulness to God ... or not. 

Are you praying FOR your president and other leaders?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who prays,

"O Lord, bless President Obama,

Governor McCrory, our congressmen,

and our mayors and town councils.

May they each humble their hearts

and turn to your ways,

turning our country along with them"

Aug 18 - Psalm 84:6

When they walk through

the Valley of Weeping,

it will become a place

of refreshing springs.

The autumn rains will

clothe it with blessings.

Psalm 84:6

Have you ever been in the Valley of Weeping?

A wayward child. A job loss. Deep worries over making ends meet. And most profound of all, of course, the death of a loved one. Have you ever been in the Valley of Weeping?

As a pastor, I've walked with hundreds of people through all kinds of losses. All of the stages of grief sweep in and swirl around ... often for years. There's denial and bargaining. There's tears and depression. There's even anger and guilt as we look for someone to blame. (Guilt is blaming ourselves. Anger is blaming someone else ... even God.)


Yes, I've seen them all ... plus ... one curious emotion. Joy. 


Have you ever seen it? Joy is the midst of loss? "Refreshing springs" even in the midst of a worldly famine. Families "clothe[d] with blessings"?

What provides for the rich harvest "rains" and joy? The previous verse answers it: "What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord."

"How does anyone do this without faith!" is a constant refrain of the faithful. 

In a death, they know there's the promise of heaven. In a job loss, they know God has bigger plans. In a financial crunch, they know God provides. 

It's still not easy. But it's beautiful. 


In Christ's Love,

a guy who sees much

beauty and hope

Monday, August 17, 2015

Aug 17 - Psalm 84:5

What joy for those whose

strength comes from the Lord,

who have set their minds

on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Psalm 84:5

We know what the first part of the Psalm means: Whenever we feel powerless, there can still be joy because God our Strength is powerful. 


(Do you have that confidence?)

But what does the second part of this verse mean ... especially if you don't have a trip booked to the Holy Land?


In Ancient Israel it was a custom -- a goal -- to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at time or two a year (and particularly for the highest Holy Days).


Jerusalem, you many know, was in a mountainous region. Therefore, almost every pilgrim was marching uphill to go to Jerusalem. You were ascending -- figuratively and somewhat literally -- into the presence of God. (In fact, there's a whole group of Psalms -- 120-134 -- called the Psalms of Ascent. They were traditionally read as God's people journeyed upward to the city and to be closer to God.)

So ... if you're not going to a literal Jerusalem, in what ways are you nevertheless journeying uphill toward God?

The valleys of life naturally casts shadows upon us. It's too easy to stay on the plateaus of mediocrity and boredom. The question is: Are you willing to take the climbing path? To seek God?

Like a literal pilgrim, it will take sacrifice. You must leave the comfortable. You must be intentional. It will require work. But God's fullest presence was on top of the mountain -- literally. And without that effort, you would keep missing the greatest blessing in life. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is a mountain climber

(I continually sacrifice to seek God in the up)




Aug 15-16 - Psalm 84:3

With my whole being,

body and soul,

I will shout joyfully

to the living God.

Psalm 84:3

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality inventory? It helps explain who you are (and maybe more importantly who your wife or your boss is!) through four simple -- but profound -- variables.

One is Thinking vs. Feeling.

We all think.

We all feel.

But which -- primarily -- drives you?

I was trying to explain to a Feeling Youth recently why their Thinking Parents didn't like drama! "They're methodical. They're Thinkers. They don't react! They don’t gasp or gossip or fret about the way things make you feel. ("Oh ... that explains a lot," said the teen.)

I'm a Thinker too. As a result, I tend to worship God (mostly) with my mind.

Therefore, today's Psalm calls me out of my comfort zone. It is a Feeling verse.

Yes, we should worship God with our mind. (My natural tendency.) But we should also worship God with the rest of our "body and soul" too! Our heart. Our feelings. Our joy. Our whole being.

We should dance. We should sing. We should rejoice. We should praise. We should study -- here's a thinking one. We should read the scriptures. We should be filled with holy laughter and deep lament (appropriate to the occasion, of course). We should love the Lord our God -- heart, soul, strength AND mind. We should worship God with our "whole being."

In Christ's Love,

a Deep Thinker who chooses to sing

(and therefore chooses to move a little ...

even though I don't have much rhythm)

Aug 14 - Psalm 84:1-2

How lovely is

your dwelling place, O Lord ...

I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.

Psalm 84:1-2


Do you tend to look up or down?


If you look down, you get mixed messages. 

For example, I am looking down at an unbroken stretch of beach (on July 29) when I am writing this. There is beauty ... because God created good!

But I can also look down at this world and see oppression, violence, greed, and anger. There is an unholy mess because we keep un-creating what God created good. (God gave us dominion over his creation and sin continuously uncreates.)

We have to look down. It's where we live. And we need to do it with compassion. That's not only scripture's repeated call, it's how Jesus modeled doing life. He came down to dwell among us ... to comfort, heal, help, and instruct. 

And yet the secret to life is to do this in light of heaven. When we see in our hearts the loveliness of God's dwelling place, it puts into perspective the transient nature of this world's pain. And when we long for God's eternal courts, we don't focus hopelessly on a broken world that is consuming lives.

God is real. Heaven wins. Look up and say, Thanks be to God!!

In Christ's Love,

a guy whose favorite quote

is from C. S. Lewis ...

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aug 13 - Psalm 83:1,18

O God, do not be silent!

Do not be deaf.

Do not be quiet, O God.

... Then they will learn that

you alone are called the Lord,

that you alone are the Most High,

supreme over all the earth.

Psalm 83:1,18

These are the first and last verses of this Psalm.

In between is a lot of lament. Israel is lamenting the venom of their invaders. Thus, they are calling on God ...

"O God, do not be silent." (First verse.)

Why? Because "then they will learn that you alone are ... Lord." (Last verse.)

What's the purpose of the prayer? That God would change these in-between times. Why? Because our current in-between times are currently filled with frustration and defeat.

Wait ... what is the purpose of this prayer? It is confidence that God can act. (He's not a weak God who is unable to act. He is not a distant God who doesn't care. He is the Lord God Almighty ... your comforter and provider.)

Yet where does this prayer come from? From the midst of the storm. From a moment when we can't see God acting ... at least in the way and with the speed that we'd like. Yes, this prayer comes from a situation demanding patience and trust.

And that's the whole buoyancy of a heathy Christian. It's knowing that God is active. It is knowing that God is caring. And it is waiting -- trusting and  patient -- knowing that God will act in a time, place, and way that is best for your life and his kingdom.

Yes, faith is trusting and waiting, waiting and trusting.

In Christ's Love

a guy with a record

(the more I wait and trust and pray,

the more I've seen God's provision,

and the more I'll patiently trust

the next time my present is challenging.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Aug 12 - Psalm 82:1-2

God presides over heaven’s court;
[But] how long will you [O Lord]

hand down unjust decisions
by favoring the wicked

Psalm 82:1-2

Does it ever seem like the wicked are winning?

Where is God?!

Right where he said he'd be! 

He gave us dominion and control. And the wicked -- exercising their dominion -- "win" by lying, cheating, stealing, and fleecing their neighbors. 

The good exercise their dominion too ... by being nice. And sometimes it seems like nice guys finish last. But that's only in the short-run. In the long-run, the humble, kind, and obedient are blessed. 

Think of the beatitudes. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Mt 5:5-7). 

The wicked don't win the war (though they surely seem to gain the upper-hand in some momentary skirmishes). But true blessing comes only to those who are humble, wise, meek, and obedient. 

So ... you have dominion. You can choose to be harsh ... or kind (and therefore blessed). You can choose to be spiteful ... or loving (and therefore blessed). You can choose to compromise ... or be obedient (and therefore blessed). You can choose to look at the world in sadness and frustration ... or you can take the long view and understand that you are truly blessed. 

In Christ's Love,

a nice guy who

keeps finishing first

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aug 11 - Psalm 81:11-12

But no, my people

wouldn’t listen.

So I let them follow

their own stubborn desires,

living according to

their own ideas.

Psalm 81:11-12

Yesterday I claimed that people worship three "false gods."


The first is direct -- though often oblivious -- blaspheme. It is worshiping Satan himself. For example, Canaan's god -- Baal -- was Satan himself. Worshiping the gods of culture is often the easiest -- though often oblivious -- path to following darkness. 


But that's not what this verse is about. It's about the other two false gods -- self and selfish desires. 

Distinguish between the two. One is willful. The other is weak. 

Worshiping self is willful. We do things our way. We follow our our thoughts and feelings ... and we do it when the "authorities" in our life have encouraged us to do otherwise. That's willful. It's the second half of this verse: "I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas."


Living according to our own ideas is willful rebellion and worship of the self. It is thumbing our nose at the rules, laws, wishes, and wisdom of the "authorities" in our lives. These authorities include God, parents, teachers, bosses, and governments. Ignoring the commands of God is obviously rebellion -- and it is sadly all too common. But scripture tells us that God generally placed all of these other authorities over us. And unless they are in outright rebellion against God, it is our responsibility to follow them. And when we don't, we are in willful disobedience to God. 

The seek form of rebellion is characterized by weakness. It is the first half of this statement: I let them follow their own ... desires. How often are we driven by laziness, pride, lust, appetites, envy, greed, or anger? Driven! That's the word for it. We know in our head that we should act, but we do it anyway. We are weak. Addicted. Insecure. And irrationally desperate. We compromise, fudge, rebel, and mostly just stumble blindly. Often it's not willful, it's just habit. We're weak. And it usually takes major discipline to affect change ... and most of us just aren't that committed. Thus, we worship the gods of comfort, convenience, weakness, helplessness, blindness, excuses, and defeat. 

The first step toward healing -- a good doctor would tell us -- is a good diagnosis. I know you want to worship God. You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't. Nevertheless, as part of your diagnosis and healing, in what areas are you willful ... or weak?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants to

worship a capital-"G",

rather than a capital-"Me"

("G" for God, rather than gods)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aug 10 - Psalm 81:8

Listen to me, O my people,

while I give you stern warnings.

O Israel, if you would

only listen to me!

Psalm 81:8

Children should obey their parents instantly and instinctively. 

If a parent says, "Jump," a child ought to say, "How high?" It's not a proud, angry, drill sergeant "Jump" and "How high?" 

A parent's cry can be firm, "Jump!" but it ought to be purposeful and loving: "Because there's a snake." 

And a child's response ought to be trusting and immediate. "If you say, 'Jump,' I'll believe that there's a reason," the little one says, feet dangling in the sky. 

Psalm 81 reflects God's warning. And longing. God is longing -- mainly lamenting -- that his children too rarely listen to his warnings. That's verse 8. 

And what is the verse 9 warning from the Heavenly Father? "You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god."

Do you hear what God is saying? He's telling his people, "Beware of the snake."


Please think about this: If there is only one true God, then what is every false god?


You are either worshiping God or "not god." And "not god" is either worshiping ... 


·         man-made philosophy (which can't save us because it is man-made), 

·         self (as a false priority and inadequate god), or

·         a counterfeit god (any "spirit" with "power" besides God himself is Satan or one of his minions ... indeed, the snake himself).


Now think about this: If you're Satan, does it matter if someone is worshiping darkness directly ... or worshiping self or man or any other thing that pulls you away from God? 


God says, "Jump." He says, "There's a snake." The snake wants to pull you from God. Therefore, "you must never ... bow down before a false god."


In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants to jump

so high when God says jump

that I can dunk a basketball

with my pinky toes



Saturday, August 8, 2015

Aug 8-9 - Psalm 80:8

You brought us

from Egypt

like a grapevine

Psalm 80:8

Hmm. "What does this mean?" I wondered. 

My first thought was that Israel creeped their way to the Promised Land like a slow growing vine. 

No. The surrounding verses explain it ...

      "O God of Heaven’s Armies ... you cleared the ground for ... you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land."

Oh, now I get it. 

God is the sower. And he wants us to be fruitful. 

So what's the land that God has given you?

And how is he actively clearing this land for you?

The Psalmist says, "we took root and filled the land." Are you rooting yourself firmly in God? Are you claiming this place and life that God has chosen for you? 

And when scripture says, "we 
spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea," are you growing, spreading, filling the earth with you potential and with your witness to God's name? 

You are a grapevine. Where has God planted you? And in what ways are you spreading forth and bearing fruit?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's a runner ...

but not a jogger ...

I'm a shoot (a runner)

from Jesus the True Vine