Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fools: Psalm 14

I mailed my dad a copy of Kellers', "Reasons for God" this week. I just have a pressing sense that his days are numbered. I texted a number of my friends, whom I knew would, to pray.

David says, "The fool says in his heart, there is no God." My dad, in his unbelief, has often made me to feel like the fool, and it has too often felt foolish believing. It feels foolish holding onto promises that are future, wrapping my life around commands that only make sense if God is real? Where is he as I have cried out for years for my dad to know and believe? Only he can make the fool wise, so why has he been so silent?

"The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." 

All the unbelief of the world is going on under the watchful eye of God, and yet it is not going unnoticed for David says, "There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous." This is what has compelled me of late to pray more fervently for my dad, to send the book, to see if there is any open door to his heart. The reality is he will either be brought to the Lord or utterly destroyed by God's anger and just judgment. Thus, my heart must not be sidetracked with self-pity and doubt, but a real sense that today is either the day of salvation or judgment. Either way it is not the day for me to be sidetracked by uncertainty and doubt. 

I am not sure who that person is or those people are in your life that may not know, but don't give up and don't loose heart. Our heart should not shrink in fear or unbelief, but we should diligently pray that those around us experience the same eye and heart opening conversion that God granted us. We should go after them to hear and know that the Lord is real, good and true and that grace is available in abundance for one thing is for sure and that is that God will bring salvation to His people and restore all things to Himself: 

"Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Psalm 13: Alone with Faith

To believe, but not possess is to struggle. Thus, life is a struggle.

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"

This doesn't mean life is miserable, just incomplete. Even the best times are not best, only a taste of what should and will be. Even laughter is a foretaste of a better joy to come. To not possess fully what is promised is to feel, at times, abandoned, alone with nothing but the promise. To have hope, but not what is hoped for is to know sorrow. 

Yet, it is a hope possessed that drives us to our Hope!

"Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,"

To want Him and all He promises, and to feel if you don't have Him you will die is life this side of hope. To struggle with faith and press deep into Him is life in a cursed and dying world. 

Yes, to hope in Him in the face of all things evil is to know that you will one day possess what is promised and be glad. 

"But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cut Off Flattering Lips! Psalm 12

That would hurt, and does the punishment fit the crime. Is flattery that bad?

I have to raise money, a lot of money for Downtown Church to move forward or else there will be serious consequences. People will loose their jobs, and lives negatively impacted. I have been seeking a meeting with a man who told me he would meet with me, but I can't seem to nail him down. He has given money in the past, but now is being very illusive. When I see him, he seems to be a good friend, but what he says and what he does don't line up. As a result of his seeming willingness to give what he has given in the past, I have planned and am moving forward, but if he doesn't come through, the consequences will be bad.

This makes me think about how I speak to other people. I have many who come to me for help. I tell them I want to help them find a place to live, and/or find work. They continue to call and I feel as if I string them out. I tell them, "Just keep moving forward, things will get better." For some, things have not gotten better and I wonder how my words have done more harm than good.

What if everyone, especially those in authority, those with power, constantly flattered, telling us things were OK when they were not? What if our insurance company told us all was well but, when our house burned down, we came to find they had no money? What if those around us told us they loved us, but they didn't? What if they really had one thing in common, namely their disdain of us?

"The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. You, O Lord, will keep them..."

 This all points to our need to have a sure word, to be surrounded by lips that speak truth! The only lips that are true are God's. We all need the lips of God. We need words that are true, good and strong. We need One, who never lies, to say, "I will never leave, nor forsake you." "I did not come for the righteous, but for sinners." "Your sins are forgiven." "Therefore, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." "In this life you will have many troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world." 

So, may we sink deep into the words that come across His lips today and find hope. May we listen to the words of those around us, but not rest in them. For, when our hearts rest on His words, no other words can either falsely encourage us, nor utterly destroy us. And may we seek to speak words that are true, having no use for flattery, which only brings harm.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Lord is my refuge! Psalm 11

It is so easy not to take refuge in the Lord. It is so easy, if not second nature, to seek refuge in fear, our own wisdom and popular opinion.  A refuge is where one goes when in danger. It is where we go when being threatened.

I have been threatened for the last several weeks by a man who is willing to take me, our church and anyone associated with it, down if he doesn't get his way. He is evil, but his threats are serious and their effect have been paralyzing. Fear has governed my heart, fear of the unknown, fear of all that I have little control over.  There is something in me that says, "Flee like a bird to your 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; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Yet, "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven." Here is the remedy for anxiety and the strength to stand up to fear. God is ruling, not those who think they may be. Anxiety is living certain of an unknown but undesired outcome. Peace is rooted in certainty of what is certain and what is certain is God is on His throne.

So why do we face attacks, and why must we live so out of control over so very important outcomes? "The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." God uses the ungodly to test our faith. He tests us not to expose us as lacking, but to strengthen and condition us. Since His rule is certain, trusting in Him will always end with increased faith. As long as we don't give up too soon, He will show Himself true. 

Not so for the ungodly. No matter the appearance of progress and victory, the evil will come to ruin. All their schemes and all the energy they put into promoting themselves will be for nothing for their end is certain. The psalmist says, "Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup."

But for those whose trust is the Lord, who find refuge not in the things of God, but God, our future is also certain. "For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face." We shall behold His face. For those whose treasure is God, His love and care and friendship, even adoption as sons and daughters, this is hope. 

So, in times when everything that seems good is threatened, draw near into Him as a refuge, a place of rest and peace. Trust in Him and find Him to be your treasure and prize. He doesn't promise to give all our desired outcomes, but He does promise Himself. So, may we trust in Him and live certain that we will not be disappointed!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's just not fair!

We ought to be winning. That is how life should work. The good win. The bad loose. Yet, this world is broken and quit often the bad win at the expense of the good.

Don't you feel it. The world gives themselves to sex, success, money, appearance, partying while you are alone, and forgotten. They live with no regard for God and others with no obvious consequence. They live off their parents money while you go to work. They live with no real regard for grades, or worse, integrity, obedience to anyone outside of themselves, especially God. The consequence? Nothing!

I see it everyday for downtown is a place of extremes. The young and bright submitting themselves to the rigors of law, or med school, but the poor and overlooked submitting to the hopelessness of their addiction or illiteracy. One seems blessed by their addiction for money and power, and the other cursed. People handing in their marriage for something more exciting, or exercising the privilege of marriage without marrying, while the married struggle to remain so. The rich use their riches to get richer, while the poor are used by their poverty to remain poor. The father leaves for pleasure while the fatherless suffer the consequence of being abandoned. "In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times..."

It is just not fair, nor just. Faith seems to make it all more raw and painful. The bible speaks of God's faithfulness and love, but where is He? "Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" I can feel it, can you?

The psalmist helps us. In the face of injustice he screams, "Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted." It is as if he is reminding God who He is, but the effect is he is reminded of who God is, "The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. 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."

In the face of injustice and unfairness God is not having an identity crises, we are. He has not forgotten who He is, we have forgotten whose we are. Yet, it is in going to God, nothing nor no one else, that we are reminded that God can be trusted. We are convinced again that He is good and He has a heart full of us. We are reminded that He displayed His love on the cross in that He committed injustice on His Son, the only one undeserving of it, that we might have the injustice of his grace, love, forgiveness, even righteousness.

So, in the face of injustice and unfairness, when you are feeling abandoned and overlooked, go to God. Bring your anger to Him and plead with Him to arise, wake up and do what is right and good. In this you will be assured that you have a Father, you are not fatherless and He cares. However, He must be trusted. Our demands must never become ultimatums upon which our faith rests. For when our demands become ultimatums, we are shaken not Him. He is King and we are not. He rules, and we are under His rule and that is good. One day His rule will be realized, His win will be known and man will not strike terror, jealousy, nor discontentment anymore. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Remember and Sing and Will! Psalm 9

A good friend had a miscarriage yesterday. It is her second, and she says it will be her last. They will stop trying, and I cannot say I blame them. She is inconsolable. The pain is to the marrow.

I LOVE how the psalmist begins this Psalm, "I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High." He determines to give thinks. He forces himself to tell of God's wonderful acts. He will, he will, he will be glad and rejoice and sing. People have abandoned him, betrayed him and are out to kill him, but he CHOOSES to exert his will toward God, hoping his heart and mind catch up.

I lived for so many years ONLY willing to obey that once the gospel captivated my heart and the beauty of Jesus overwhelmed my soul in the face of my relentless sin I gave up willing, mistaking it for the heartless legalism of my past. Now that the love of Jesus, in light of his beautiful work for me and in me, has taken hold, I am learning the beauty of gospel willing. I am learning that obedience without love is death, but obedience in light of love holds great hope.

Something has happened to David. He knows, walks, lives in relationship with God. Love for God saturates his pen. Yet, even when he doesn't feel it, he forces himself toward gratitude and praise by remembering what is true:

 7 The LORD reigns forever;
   he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He rules the world in righteousness
   and judges the peoples with equity.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
   a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
   for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

We always have the truth of betrayal, the truth of hurt and how the day has short changed us, but we also always have another truth, a truer truth. Though our mood shaped by our ever changing circumstances flops around like a cork on the sea, God is unchanging. He is always, "...enthroned in Zion!"

The risks are high to not will in His direction. My friends will be overcome with grief and never get up again. I will become accustomed to sin that I simply don't feel like fighting. Hope will forfeit to hopelessness, and we will drown.

But we have someone to hope in and hope in Him is power to will again. Our God is one who, "...does not ignore the cries of the afflicted." You see, "In all their afflictions, he was afflicted (Is 63:9)." When we are having to will again, he is not only hearing our cries, but he is being afflicted as we. We are not alone in our deadness of heart and soul. Our God gets in it with us!

So, will to rejoice today. Will to obey and do what is right and good trusting that God will catch up your heart and mind in good time. In fact, may that be your cry and affliction that you even have to will to obey, and look forward to the day when the willing will be over and all things, heart, mind, and will shall be united in and around Him!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just look up! Psalm 8

Almost everyday for five years, at some point in the day, I would look up. It was typically when I was running, but also driving. It didn't matter what I was doing, thinking or feeling. If life was good, it made it better. If life was not so good, it made it bearable, but it always worked.

Living in Colorado fed my soul in so many ways, but one of the key ways was that it forced me to look up. And when I did, when I looked up at the mostly snow packed Long's Peak (the nearest and most visible 14'ner) these words would fill my mind, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

I don't naturally look up. I can get so lost in the worries of life and the concerns of the day that I drown in the deep end of my sorrow, guilt and worry, but He seems to bring me back time and again. He seems to give me something to lift my chin to be reminded of who He is and who I am. You see the thing we need most is to look as high up as we can for it is then and only then that we can remember that He is even higher. When we see that He is higher than the highest thing, we can find life in being a lowly thing that God has lifted high. When we look up we wonder why He takes any time with us at all. Yet considering the central place we hold in His mind and heart centers our hearts and minds in a right place: not too high, but not too low! "What is man that you are mindful of him..."

So look up today. I have found that I don't need a mountain to look up. I have found that it merely takes seeing something bigger, and more beautiful than me. It may be the MS river on a run, but it may also be listening to and laughing with your mom. I took Braden to the zoo Monday. It was just the two of us, and I was so captivated by him. It was so fun to watch his little mind work, to see the look on his face as he watched the gorillas eating their lettuce, carrots and celery. I realized Monday that looking up means getting out of yourself, for there is life.

So look up today. Look away from your problems, challenges, classes and trials. Look away from the worries of tomorrow and remember your place below God, yet honored by God.  Look up and say, if not scream, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth."