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Showing posts from May, 2015

Psalm 16

I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:2, 5-6, 11
This only makes sense if you understand that God, the creator of all that is good, is himself the ultimate good. He is the original stuff.

Whatever we call good in this life is only a portion of the real thing. Success. Romance. The perfect cup of coffee. Your baby's eyes locking on yours in recognition for the first time. All good, and all passing and incomplete.

God, the giver of good gifts, is himself the greatest gift. His gifts were given to be enjoyed, but not as ends in of themselves. They were given to point us back to the giver, to see in him the original glory of goodness.

Amazingly, because of the work of Chris…

Psalm 15

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.
Psalm 15:1-2
Psalm 15 is an interesting contrast to Psalm 14. It goes from "There is none who does good, not even one" to "Who gets to live in God's house? He who walks blamelessly." Kind of highlights the mess of being human. If the requirement of living with God is walking blamelessly, doing what is right, and having a heart completely in tune with truth, I am beyond hopeless.

Thank God, though, that Jesus is everything this Psalm tells me I have to be.

(v2) Walks blamelessly, does right, always speaking truth in his heart? Check.

(v3) Doesn't speak untruth about others to tear them down or misrepresent them in order to get a leg up on the competition or jockey for position among friends? Check.

(v4) Isn't self-righteous or self-protective in his anger, but expresses a true and appropriate righteous indi…

Psalm 14

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,  there is none who do good.
Psalm 14:1
This is not a condemnation of atheism. Philosophical atheists were far from common in the world during David's time. The world was polytheistic. They believed in many gods. Israel was unique among the nations because they were monotheistic. But everyone believed in the existence of gods.

So, what did David mean? Probably something along the lines of: The fool says in his heart that there is no God in Israel. Israelites would have sung this Psalm, quietly rejoicing that they were not all those fools out there who believed all those silly gods.

Funny enough, the Gentile nations thought that the Israelites were fools. Look at these people wandering around believing in one God when obviously there are so many different forces at play in our lives!

And we do the same thing. We all have gods, and we all think others are fools for not believing in them.…

Psalm 13

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Psalm 13:3-5
I just got done reading about a situation in a large church (that I very much respect) where broken, sinful people acted in broken, sinful ways. People were hurt. Damage was done. Well-meaning people made mistakes - or were being accused of making mistakes. The leaders could have handled it better. Or maybe they couldn't.

It's a mess. And my heart is heavy.

What's really messing with me, though, is how quickly and eager people are to jump on to the Shame-On-You bandwagon. Social media is a powerful platform for connection and communication - but it has a dark side. It has also become a chilling and powerful tool of social conformity through public shaming. Anyone with a blog and a collection of e…

Psalm 12

Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
Psalm 12:1, 6, 8
My life is honestly pretty easy. I live in a safe neighborhood. I have food on my table and no one is trying to steal it. I've got some college students who live near me who pee in their yard and have parties, but when I talk to them, they are receptive enough. My kids aren't in obvious danger in their daily lives.

We are pretty safe.

But I have realized that my experience is an exceptional one in human history - and even in the world today. All I have to do is surf over to CNN or Huffington Post to get updates on all the latest atrocities around the world. If I surf over to the Post Dispatch's website, I can get updates on all the human suffering in my own city (over 500 as…

Psalm 11

In the Lord I take refuge;  how can you say to my soul, "Flee like a bird to the mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart..."
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous...
Psalm 11:1, 4-5
Yesterday Psalm 10 focused my attention on the theme of suffering and how it makes God feel far away even though he's not. Psalm 11 deals with the same theme. It starts with images that speak of feeling helpless, exposed, vulnerable, and attacked.  He feels like a small bird that needs to fly away quickly to a high place to find safety from an enemy that sits in a place of safety, able to take random shots at David even in the dark.

That's a crappy place to be and a horrible way to feel. I hate to feel helpless. That is probably one of the worst things I can feel. I don't like pain, but I can…

Psalm 10

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted!
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:1, 12, 17-18
Two things struck me in this Psalm.

The first is that we are not alone if God feels far away from us when we suffer (or witness suffering). David leads out with what is often our question in suffering: Where is God? Why does he feel so far away? Is he even there?

I have lived an incredibly privileged life and my suffering has, most of the time, come at my own hands from my own foolishness. I have been abused and hurt and wronged, and have had to work through feelings of abandonment, vulnerability, and fear. But when I sit with a couple who lost their baby and they say, Where is God in this? When I listen to a youn…

Psalm 9

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O Lord! Let the nations know that they are but men!
Psalm 9:18-20
There's a lot of talk about "social justice" in the church these days - giving a voice to the marginalized, power to the disempowered, and dignity to the forgotten and poor. I am glad for the talk. It needs to be talked about. It is too easy to sit in the seat of privilege and forget that my experience of being treated in a generally fair way and that all the advantages I don't even notice are not universally experienced.

I am thankful for the promise of these verses. Injustice exists because God's order has been upended and his kingdom rejected. We have rejected God's glory for our own. We have rejected community for competition. We have rejected humble dignity for prideful fear.

As a result, we don't even noti…

Psalm 8

O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants,  You have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8:1-4
I love this Psalm. It has been one of my favorites from the early days of my faith. I looked it up when I was reading Hebrews 2 the night I became a believer. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me now.

I reminds me of a night somewhere in the early 1980's when I was at a party in some gravel pits in Northern California. I had climbed to the top of a huge pile of gravel and was standing far above the party below. I don't know why I climbed up there. No purpose. But I remember looking up and being overwhelmed. I stood there, beer in hand, looking up …

Psalm 7

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. Psalm 7:11, 17
I love to meditate on the grace of God. It is a beautiful welcome and, as the song says, endless second chances.  I love grace.

But God's grace to me comes at a dear price to him. He is a righteous judge (the one to be truly so), and is provoked by the unrighteous behavior he sees every day, moment by moment. He sits over a world he created to center on his glory and to exist in the atmosphere of his Shalom (his peace, balance, life, and wholeness). But that world has gone crazy.

I can't stand to read the news. The Internet has made the world too small. Every crisis is reported to me before it even has a chance to be played out. Every massacre. Every rape. Every child starving while there is plenty food to feed them. Every self-centered and self-glorifying despot of fame, feed…

Psalm 6

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing...
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love...
Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; The Lord accepts my prayer. Psalm 6:1, 4, 8-9
How often, when I am languishing, do I approach God in the same way? Don't reject me. Don't crush me. Don't give me what my heart tells me I deserve.

Emotional exhaustion makes my heart decline toward depression, and depression often brings with it a blanket of condemnation.  I feel rejected, worthless, and angry. And when I am there, I tend to make it worse by condemning myself further for feeling inadequate or lonely or restless.

David is there - Lord, don't rebuke me. Don't discipline me. Don't pour your wrath out on me - I am languishing. But there comes a point where he can hear the still, quiet voice of God i…

Psalm 5

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; Make your way straight before me. Psalm 5:7-8
David calls out his enemies pretty often in the Psalms, calling for God to judge them. There are always two groups: the godly and the wicked. The problem is that, as I read the Psalms, I often identify with the wicked. I see in my own heart the duplicity of deceit, the selfish ambition of greed, and the haughty heart of the boastful. That makes it hard for me to take comfort in the promises to the righteous - I feel outside of that group.

That is why I love the little reminders that I do not approach God in my righteousness, but Christ's. I enter God's house (his temple - the place of sacrifice) not on my own merit but through "the abundance of your steadfast love." It is God's unwavering, unlimited, covenant love that equips me t…

Psalm 4

There are many who say, "Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!" You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:6-7
I find my heart asking this question all the time: where can I find a lasting, satisfying good? There are good things around me all the time, and I enjoy them.

I love a good cup of coffee in the morning. I love spending time with Lauren and my kids doing fun things. I love physical exercise, especially riding my mountain bike. I love a good book or a good movie or a good day of sunshine.

You know what sounds great right now? A good almond croissant.  I love a good almond croissant. Light and flaky. The sweetness of powdered sugar. The crunch of thin cut almonds.

But this is what I know - everyone of those good things will pass. They are good for a moment, or even for many moments. I eat the croissant, but I get hungry again. I enjoy time with my wife, but then we fight. I laugh with my…

Psalm 3

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3
David was overwhelmed with life. His son, Absalom, was leading a coup against him. His heart was broken and his kingdom was in jeopardy. He needed protection not just for his kingdom, but for his heart. And in that place of desperation, he found in God the "lifter of his head."

I look to any number of things to "lift my heads" - to give me energy, to give me joy, to make me feel worthwhile and worthy of respect. The things I look to usually remind me of my strength, intelligence, or influence. I like to win.

The problem with this is that the same things that lift my head also make it very, very heavy. When I live by my success, I die by my failure. When I am trying to lift my own head, I am ultimately trying to establish my own glory.

I am trying to be God.

God's glory is my shield, not my own. He has covered me with the glory of his nature and love.

When my head is down, my mi…

Psalm 2

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:12
The power, authority, and wrath of God are uncomfortable topics for me. When I read about God's holiness, I always walk away with a sinking feeling - I am on the wrong side of this battle. I know my heart too well, and I don't know it well at all. What I do know is enough to tell me that I am selfish, vain-glorious, manipulative, and pretty much not what I think God intended me to be.

That is why I love verses like this.

It doesn't say, Blessed is the man who gets it all right.

It doesn't say, Blessed is the man who has infinite self-control.

It doesn't say, Blessed is the man who is everything people think he is.

It says, Blessed is the man who takes refuge in God.

To take refuge is to seek asylum from a hostile force, to find cover in a storm, to find a home when you are displaced.

This comforts me because Jesus is my asylum,…

Psalm 1

"He is like a tree Planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3
Psalm 1 stands as the introduction to the Psalms as a whole and describes "The blessed man" - the one who delights in God and is freed from the dark entangling lies of sin. The metaphor at the heart of this Psalm - that of a tree with deep roots, rich nourishment, and a fruitful life - describes human life as it was meant to be. It also describes Jesus, the only man who was fully human as God intended us to be. It also describes who we are in Jesus - who God is changing us into.
The word that grabbed me this morning was "prospers." How different prospering is from success. We can succeed and not prosper. Our pop and sports culture - filled with stories of successful failures - give more than ample evidence that it is possible to both succeed and fail to flourish. 
We can win and still lose.
We can lose a…