Friday, June 29, 2007

Psalm 51: God's Pleasure

I must admit
I am embarrassed
what gives me
It doesn't take
to make me
I get
real pleasure
a good steak
nice chocolate
a comfortable
I want the joy
cold soda
hot tea.
I want the bathroom
be empty when
I need it.
I want the streets
I drive on
be free of other
I want people
respect my opinions
validate my plans.
I want my wife
be satisfied
with me as
I am.
I want
my bills all
and plenty of money
do the pleasurable
that make me
But God
isn't like
His pleasures
aren't a sad
His desires
aren't shaped
ravenous self-focus.
in a perpetual state
His pleasures
are never
God smiles
his reason
is holy
and his purpose
He finds
great pleasure
in his glory
great joy
the repentant
from the pursuit
their own glory and
toward his.
He has
great pleasure
the success
his plan
and finds
in seeing
his children
from their pleasure
live for
by his grace
the pleasures
that give me
will be
the things that
please God.
Until then
hope is in the
that he finds
in rescuing those
have been led
by their pleasures
once more today
going to need
that rescue.
And I'll need
every day until
deepest pleasures
are nowhere to be found
the creation
and only to be found
the Creator.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Psalm 51: Righteous Judgment

" that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." What an interesting thing for a man who's confessing sin to say! Why would David be talking about God's justice? Now, it makes sense when you have the sense to confess, to remind God of his mercy, but to stand before him and remind him of his justice is another thing all together.

Let me suggest that there are two ways that the justice of God should comfort we sinners. First, his justice means that his assessment of me is accurate. It isn't colored or slanted by prejudice or bias of any kind. It isn't shaped by any kind of hidden personal agenda. God's assessment isn't weakened by favoritism or the cynicism of previous experience. God's view of me is pure and accurate in every way. What he says about me is absolutely true. Every judgment he would make of wrong attitude, thought, desire, choice, word, or action, is valid and true.

Unlike my experience in this broken world, I don't have to fear that God will wrongly associate me with some group, or have his view of me colored by a grudge, or have his perspective on me colored by irritation or impatience. I can rest assured that God's view of me is trustworthy in every way. And because God's view of me is untainted by sin, it's clearly more reliable than any view that I'd have of myself.

Second, the way that God responds to me as Judge is right and pure as well. God's discipline of me is without personal bias. It isn't weakened by anger or impatience. His justice is never distorted because he's lost his temper or is tired of dealing with me. To add to this, since he isn't only just, but merciful, loving, and kind as well, God's justice is always restrained and tempered by these things. He's a God of mercy who meets out justice. He disciplines us in love. His kindness colors how he responds to the sins of his children.

The way that God exercises his power is without blemish. He isn't like the leaders we're used to, who use power for personal control or privilege. He isn't like a leader who has an inner circle of sycophants that he treats differently than he does everyone else. He doesn't use his power to place people in his debt or to use situations to his advantage. His justice is the benevolent justice of a holy king.

So, I can place myself in the hands of the justice of the one who sees me with accuracy and deals with me righteously. But there's even something more here. Unlike David who looked forward to the coming of his future "son," the Lord Jesus Christ, we look back on his life on our behalf. We stand before God unafraid, not because we're acceptable to him, but because his justice has been satisfied by the death of Jesus. So, God is to us both the One who's just and the One who justifies! He can forgive my rebellion and sin without compromising the purity of his justice in any way!

I don't have to manipulate God's view of me.

I don't have to run from him in fear.

I don't have to rationalize away my wrongs.

I don't have to work to shift the blame to someone else.

I don't have to put forward false pretenses.

I don't have to marshal arguments for my acceptability.

I don't have to try to buy my way into his favor.

No, I can be who I am and what I am and stand in the light of his righteousness without fear, because Jesus has taken my sin and suffered my stripes. So the One who is my Judge is also my Justifier. There is rest! There is hope!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Psalm 51: The Grace of a Clean Heart

"Create in me a clean heart." Could there be a more fundamental prayer request than this? Could there be anything more essential than this? Could there be any hope more beautiful than to believe that someday your heart and mine will be totally free from impurity of any kind? This is the most radical claim of all the claims of the Gospel. This is the epicenter of what the cross of Jesus Christ alone can produce. This is the thing that the keeping of the law could never do. Sin is a tragedy of the heart. Redemption is about the fundamental reorientation and restoration of the heart. That David would pray such a prayer not only tells you much about his own sense of need, but also tells how great his faith is in the transforming power of the grace of God.

Let's think about the theology of the heart that's behind David's request. Human beings have been made by God in two parts, the inner man and the outer man. The outer man is your physical self, your body. The body is the house you've been given for your heart. It is your "earth suit." Someday you and I will get a new suit. (Some of us are particularly relieved that this is true!) The inner man is given many names; mind, emotion, will, soul, spirit, to name a few. All of these terms are collected into one big basket term, heart. The heart is the control center of the human being. It's the center of your emotions, cognition, and desires. The heart is discussed in over 900 passages of Scripture. It's one of the Bible's most well developed themes. Essentially what the Bible says is that the heart is the steering wheel of the human being. The heart controls, shapes, and directs everything you choose, say, and do. What controls the heart will therefore exercise unavoidable control over your behavior.

What does this have to do with David's courageous request? David understands something that's fundamental to repentance. It's that sin isn't first a matter of behavior, it's first a matter of the heart. That's why Jesus said that to look at a woman and lust after her, carries the moral value of the physical act of adultery. You see, since your heart guides your actions and words, if you allow your heart to lust, it won't be long before you commit the physical act.

Or we could look at the other side of the coin. Worship is not first an activity. No, worship is first a position of the heart. It's only when my heart esteems God above everything else, that I'll serve him with my time, energy, money, and strength. Impurity of the heart is not primarily about bad thoughts or bad desires. No, impurity of the heart is really about love for something in the creation replacing love that I was only ever meant to have for the Creator. And when I love something in creation more than I love God I'll think, desire, say, and do bad things.

Now, what all of this means is that our biggest, most abiding, most life-shaping problem exists inside of us and not outside of us. What we actually need to be rescued from is us. What needs to be transformed in our lives is not so much our situation and relationships (although they need transformation as well). What really needs to be transformed are our hearts. What we need are hearts that are clean, that are single-focused in their allegiance to God and His glory. We need grace to transform what we love, what we crave, and what we serve. And what's the bright and golden promise of the cross of Jesus Christ? It's a new heart!

Here's the gorgeous message of the Gospel. Even though I've bowed again and again to an endless catalog of God replacements, even though I've loved myself more than I've loved God, even though I've rebelled against God's kingdom and sought to set up my own kingdom, God comes to me in grace and wraps arms of love around me and begins a process that will result in the total transformation of the core of my personhood, the heart. He won't rest and He won't relent until He's created in you and me a completely pure heart!

So we wake up every morning knowing that by His grace our hearts are purer than they once were, and by His grace they'll be purer than they are today. So with thankfulness for the transformation that's already taken place and with the courage of hope of the transformation that's yet to come, we wake up, look to heaven and say with David, "Create in me a clean heart."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Psalm 51: The Hardening of the Heart

Could there be a scarier spiritual dynamic than the hardening of the heart? Could anything be sadder than to watch a warm and tender man become cold and hard? Could anything be more spiritually dangerous than the capacity of a sinner to grow quite comfortable with doing what would have once assaulted his conscience? What's worse than coming to a place where you actually have the capacity to feel right about what God says is wrong? What could be more threatening than the thought that, as sinners, we have an amazing capacity to deceive ourselves? David's story is a case study of this kind of danger. David prays for a broken heart because, in his confession, he's realized that his heart has become hard.

When you read the story in 2 Samuel 11 and the words of confession in Psalm 51, you can't help but ask, "How did David get from the anointed King of Israel to a murdering adulterer? How could this good man end up in such a bad place? Such is the dangerous deceitfulness of sin and the disaster of the hardening of the heart. Here's the thing we all need to remember; sin isn't an event, no, it's a progressive movement of the heart that results in disobedient behavior.

Let's consider David's story. David inadvertently saw Bathsheba bathing. The fact that he saw her wasn't sin, but what he did with what he saw began the process of sin. It's clear that David wasn't repulsed by the temptation. It's clear that he didn't seek God's help. Why is this clear? Because of what he does next. David sends a servant to try to find out who this woman is. This isn't the action of a man who's running away from temptation. David immediately begins to move toward what he knows is wrong and so in his heart he would have to be justifying what he was doing. David finds out that this woman he was lusting after was married. But again, he doesn't stop, he doesn't run. No, he uses his political power to bring her to the palace. What did David tell himself he was going to do next? How did he justify what he was about to do with a married woman?

At each point as you read the story you want to scream, "David, stop, don't do what you're thinking of doing!" But he doesn't stop. Upon bringing Bathsheba to the palace he has sexual relations with her. As you read the account, you find it hard to believe that this is the same man that Samuel anointed to be king because of the character of his heart. But the plot thickens as Bathsheba becomes pregnant. Once more, instead of the pregnancy awaking David from his self-deception, it rather becomes the occasion of even deeper and greater sin.

David does his best to use Uriah to cover what he has done. If he can get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba then perhaps the pregnancy will be attributed to Uriah and David's sin will be hidden. But Uriah refuses to participate in David's scheme. So what David does next, in lust-driven anger, is hard to imagine even though by this time you know now that sin has a firm hold on him. David has his soldiers set up Uriah so that he'll die on the battlefield. And then David marries Bathsheba.

It's a tawdry and disgusting story, one you wouldn't read if it were a paperback at your local bookstore. But the story is helpful, for it pictures how sin is a progressive system of sinful desire and self-deception. It stands as a pointed warning to us all.

I know you're like me and you too would like to tell yourself that you're not like David, but you know you are. Like me, you too get attracted to things that are outside of the boundaries that God has set for you. Like me you're quite skilled at covering, minimizing, rationalizing, justifying, defending, or otherwise explaining away your sin. Like me, you don't always stop at the first warning that something is wrong. You permit yourself to step even closer to evil, telling yourself that you'll be okay. Like me, you allow yourself to meditate on things you should repudiate. Like me, you participate in the hardening of your own heart even as you tell yourself that you can handle it, that you'll be okay.

The physical acts of sin are not actually where the real action takes place. By this I don't mean that behavioral sin isn't sin. What I mean is that the real moral war of sin and obedience is fought on the turf of the heart. It's when the battle for the heart is lost that the battle of physical resistance to sin will be lost as well. When the heart become hard, the system of internal restraint that keeps one pure ceases to function as it was designed to function, and we say "yes" to what God has called us to say "no" to.

But there's hope for us. Jesus came to give sight to blind eyes. He came to release the captives from their prison. He came to give us new hearts. He came to break sin's dominion over us. He came so that we'd have the power to say, "No!" when temptation comes our way. He came so that we could live with open eyes and soft hearts. He came so that we could turn to him in confession and receive his forgiveness, just like David.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Psalm 51: Wisdom is a Person

Sin is all about foolishness. Sinners are fools who're able to convince themselves that they're wise. When I sin I convince myself that my way is better than God's way, that my thoughts are wiser than God's thoughts, that what I desire is better than what God has planned for me. Sin is all about how a fool is able to swindle himself into thinking that what's wrong is actually right.

Think of sin in its original form in that awful moment in the Garden. There would have been no disobedience if Adam and Eve had refused to listen to the voice of another counselor. What was this counselor seeking to get them to do? He was enticing them to question, if but for a moment, the wisdom of God. He was enticing them to think that he was wiser than Wisdom himself. And he was temping them to believe that they could be as wise as God.

Check out what Moses records as being one of the things that attracted Adam and Eve to the forbidden fruit. Here's what's said in Genesis 3:6b, "and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise." Now this phrase is worth unpacking.

You and I will never understand the full range of the temptation of Adam and Eve, David, or ourselves until we understand the fundamental nature of wisdom. Wisdom, in its purest form, is not an outline, it's not a theology, it's not a book, it's not a system of logic. Wisdom is a Person. You don't get wisdom by experience, research, or logical deduction. You don't get wisdom by education and experimentation. You get wisdom by means of a relationship to the One who is the source of everything that's wise, good and true. In talking of Christ in Colossians 2:3, Paul says that "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are hidden in Christ.

Adam and Eve had all the wisdom they needed, no, not in their independent ability to figure themselves and life out, but in the relationship they had with Wisdom; a relationship that hadn't yet been tainted by sin. Tragically, they took the bait, turned their back on Wisdom, and received the exact opposite of what the snake had promised them; foolishness. This act of foolishness and disobedience began a storm of foolishness that has flooded humanity ever since.

No longer wise, now born into the world as fools, we all need to be rescued from ourselves. And yet, even though there's empirical evidence that we're fools (debt, addiction, obesity, conflict, anger, fear, discouragement, fear of man, etc...), we convince ourselves that we're wise and head confidently down pathways that lead to destruction and death. The way that seems wise to us isn't wise and the way that is wise looks to us to be the way of the fool. You can't argue us into wisdom, because every wise thing you would say is filtered through the grid of our own foolishness.

And so, we need what David needed. Blinded by his own false wisdom and able to take tragically foolish actions that would forever alter his life, David needed rescue. No, he didn't need rescue from Bathsheba. No, he didn't need rescue from the temptations that accompany positions of power. No, David need to be rescued from himself. He was held by the hands of his own foolishness. What David needed was Wisdom to come near and break David's hold on David. Like us, David needed the rescue of the Wisdom Redeemer. Then and only then would he be wise. Then and only then would he see, confess, and turn from the foolishness that had so deceived him.

Thankfully, the One who is Wisdom is also a God of grace. He delights in transforming the hearts of fools. He finds joy in gifting us with the wisdom that can only be found when He's in us and we're in Him.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Psalm 51: Hoping for a Broken Heart

I am too satisfied
with the things I say
the things I do
the attitudes
of heart
that shape my reactions
after day.
I too easily
quick assessments
of my own righteousness
in situations
where I have been
anything but
I am too skilled
at mounting
plausible arguments
to make me feel okay
about what I think
what I desire
what I say
what I do.
I am too defensive
when a loved one
makes an attempt
to call me out
and suggest
for a moment
that what I
have decided
or done
is less than
I am too
with the state of things
You and me
too relaxed
with the nature
of my love for You
too able to
my need for Your
In the recesses
of my private
there is so much
that is wrong
that I am able
to convince myself
is right.
There are attitudes there
that should not be.
There are words there
that should not be
There are thoughts
that do not agree
with Your view
of me
and mine.
There are desires
that take me in a
different direction
than what You have planned
for me.
I make decisions
based more on what
I want
than on what
You will.
So I am hoping
wise eyes
that are able
to see through
the cloud of
and see myself
as I actually
I am praying
wise ears
that are able
to hear through
the background noise of
well used platitudes
and hear myself
with clarity.
And I am longing
a humble spirit
that is willing
accept and confess
what You reveal
as You break through
my defenses
and show me
to me.
I am hoping
a broken heart.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51: 17)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Psalm 51: Emmanuel

You haven't really understood Psalm 51 until you have realized that every word of this penitential psalm cries for Jesus. Every promise embedded in this psalm looks for fulfillment in Jesus. Every need of Psalm 51 reaches out for help in Jesus. Every commitment of Psalm 51 honors Jesus. The sin that's at the heart of this psalm will only ever find its cure in the grace of Jesus.

Yes, Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession. And it's true that Psalm 51 is all about what true repentance produces in the heart and life of a man. Psalm 51 defines how true repentance always produces heartfelt worship. But more than anything else, Psalm 51 is Emmanuel's hymn. The forgiveness of Psalm 51 rests on the shoulders of the One whose name would be Emmanuel. The Jesus who would provide everything that David (and we) need took a glorious name. It is a name whose implications are almost too wonderful to grasp and too lofty to imagine. It's a name that summarizes everything the biblical narrative is about.

Genesis 1 reminds us that people were created for relationship with God. This was to be what separated us from the rest of creation and defined our lives. Genesis 3 chronicles the horror of people stepping out of the fellowship in pursuit of the vaporous hope of autonomy. The covenant promises of the Old Testament are God saying that he'll make a way for that fellowship to be restored. The cloud of glory in the holy place of the temple was a physical manifestation of God's presence with his people. All of these things were steps on a ladder that was leading to Emmanuel. The announcement of the angels to those bewildered shepherds was God's announcement that Emmanuel had come. The promise of the Spirit, fulfilled in the visible flames of Acts, declares that Emmanuel had come to stay. The hope of heaven is only understood when you grasp what it means to dwell in the presence of Emmanuel forever.

What is all of this about for you today? David's hope is your hope because David's confession is your confession. You will only get what God has given you when you understand that you need much more than a system of answers, what you actually need is a Redeemer. Why? Because only a Redeemer can rescue you from you! And so God didn't simply offer you legal forgiveness. Praise him that he did that. But he offered you something much more profound. He offered you himself. He knew that your need was so great that it wouldn't be enough to simply forgive you. He literally needed to unzip you and get inside you or you would never be what you were supposed to be and do what you were supposed to do.

And so the whole redemptive story marches toward Emmanuel, the Redeemer who would destroy sin's dominion in our hearts by making our hearts the place where he, in his power, wisdom, and glory would dwell.

So pray Emmanuel prayers. Sing Emmanuel songs. Exercise Emmanuel faith. Live in Emmanuel obedience. Be motivated by Emmanuel glory. And be glad the hope of hopes has come! Emmanuel is with you now and forever!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Psalm 51: Enough

Enough is the persistent problem this side of eternity. Enough is what we seldom seem to get right. Enough is what trips us up, again and again. Enough is one of our deepest sources of trouble. Enough is what we find such difficulty in being satisfied with. Although the definition is different for each of us, the struggle with our enough is that it tends to keep expanding. And when it does, we never seem to have enough.

It's the thing that slaps you in the face in Psalm 51. How could what David had been given not be enough? Born into a family of faith, anointed by the great prophet Samuel, chosen to be the king of Israel, set apart to be the father of the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ! How could it not be enough?

Through David, the promised Messiah would come and provide salvation for the world. David's anointing was much, much more than than a position of leadership in a tiny little Palestinian kingdom. It was much more than the blessing of God's appointment to a certain place and a certain time. No, the reign of David was about a far greater kingdom; the kingdom of God. And yes, that reign was about more than a place and time. In his anointing, God was connecting David to time and eternity; for the Lord of David is the hope of history, the king of eternity, the one with whom the Israel of God would one day dwell.

So, why was all this not enough for David? It wasn't enough because what started out as God's kingdom morphed into David's kingdom. What was to be driven and shaped by the will of God became controlled by the desires of David. What was to be motivated by spiritual vision got kidnapped by physical sight and sexual craving. The plan of God that was to bring life, sadly became a plan of man stained by lust and death. Having lost the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self, David no longer viewed what God had given him as enough.

But don't be too hard on David. His dilemma is your story too. You get angry in traffic; you get irritated at people; you overeat; you fantasize yourself beyond God's boundaries; you get addicted to power, possesions and people precisely because, in your sin, you are not satisfied. What God has given you in the awesome gift of His grace in Christ Jesus is simply not enough. Christ-satisfied hearts live joyfully inside of God's will, while dissatisfied hearts fall prey to all kinds of temptations. Enough is the war that rages inside us everyday.

There will be a day when we will be satisfied. There will be a time when what God has given us will be enough. There will be a moment when we will all be so satiated by the presence and glory of the Lord that we will finally be free from the desire for more.

May each day be a step toward satisfaction. May we grow daily in the experience of being filled and satisfied by Him. As the old Christian chorus says, "May the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." May we say with joy and integrity of heart, "He is enough."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Psalm 51: Building the Walls

It's always the fruit of true repentance and it's captured in these words, "In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem." When my heart turns from sin, it turns to concern for what God wants and what others need. In repentance, my heart turns from the love-of-self driven purposes of my kingdom of one, to the transcendent purposes of God. And what is God's purpose? He calls me to love him above all else and to love my neighbor as myself. What does this have to do with praying that God would "build the walls of Jerusalem?" Everything!

David's sin wasn't just a sin of the eyes and the body. No, all the wrong that David did was rooted in the sinful thoughts and desires of his heart. David allowed himself to think things about Bathsheba that he should have never thought and he allowed himself to crave what didn't belong to him. Then he permitted himself to plan what he should never have planned. With a heart now captured, David committed adultery and murder.

The war of sin is not first a war of the body. The battle ground on which the war of sin rages is the heart. There's a war of thought and desire that rages in every situation and relationship of daily life. It's a war between the desires of God and the desires of the sinful nature. So, is true repentance just about letting go of wrong behavior? No, true repentance begins with the heart. In true repentance, I confess to my selfishness. I confess that my problem isn't just that I do bad things, but that I do bad things because I'd rather have what I want than what God has willed for me. What does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything!

So, not only is the battle of sin a matter of the heart, but because it's a battle of the heart, all sin is against God. Sin is rooted in worshipping the creation more than I worship the Creator. Sin is about loving myself more than I love God. Sin is about desiring to be sovereign and constructing my own kingdom rather than finding joy in the greater purposes of the Kingdom of God. Sin is about forgetting God and living as if I were at the center of the universe. In my sin I exchange God's holy will for my selfish desire.

But, because I've replaced God's will for what I want, in my sin I not only don't love God, I don't love my neighbor either. David didn't love Bathsheba, he wanted to possess her. His lack of love is powerfully portrayed in the fact that he murdered her husband! The very fact that sin is about self-focus and self-love, guarantees the fact that I'll not love you the way that I should. Here's the principle: If you and I are ever going to keep the Second Great Command, we must first keep the First Great Command. It's only when I love God above all else that I'm free then to love my neighbor as myself. Now, what does this have to do with building the walls of Jerusalem? Everything! Let me explain.

Having confessed his sin and having rested in God's forgiveness, David's heart now turns toward the Lord and toward his neighbor. Jerusalem was the epicenter of the national and spiritual life of the people of God. It was the City of God, the place where the great temple of Solomon would be built. For Zion (Jerusalem) to prosper meant that God's blessings of grace were on his people. You see, in this prayer, David is no longer thinking of himself. No, he's praying that the riches of God's grace would be on the lives of all of those around him.

But there's more. When he asks for the walls to be built, it's very clear that David is praying for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. You know that because he says (in v.19) "Then there will be righteous delight you." Rather than his mind being dominated by his own purposes, his heart now goes to the purposes of God's kingdom. He's praying that God would receive the worship he deserves and the glory that's due his name. No longer is David's vision dominated by a woman he wants. No, now he finds joy in envisioning hundreds and thousands of people making their pilgrimage to Zion to worship the One who alone is worthy of the adoration of their hearts.

Here's real personal transformation, the man once captured by dark and evil lust is now filled with love for others and a deep excitement with the glory of God. Only grace can create such a fundamental transformation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Psalm 51: Unfailing Love

I wish I would live with You in view;
Eyes to Your glory
Ears for Your wisdom
Heart for Your grace.
But I live with me in view.
Eyes to my kingdom
Ears for my opinion
Heart captured by my will.
I know I was made for You,
I know that Hope
My agenda for everyday,
Is to be found in You.
But I want my own kingdom
I love my own glory
I define my own meaning
I delight in my control.
There's a war that never ends;
The battleground is my heart.
It's a moral skirmish
Between what you have ordained
And what I want.
So I don't find pleasure in Your glory,
I don't delight in Your law.
But my heart doesn't rest,
I know there's a better way.
I know you are God
And I am not.
My sin is more than
Bad behavior
A bad choice
Wrong words.
My sin is a violation of the relationship
That I was meant to have with You.
My sin is an act
Where I replace You
With something I love more.
Every wrong thing I do
A lack of love for You,
A love of self.
Help me
To see
To acknowledge
To weep
And say,
"Against You, You only have I sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight."
And then help me to rest
In Your mercy
In Your great compassion
In Your unfailing love,
Even as the war goes on.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Psalm 51: The Lord's Prayer

I don't think you could say more dangerous words than these. I don't think you could pray a more radical prayer. I don't think you could wish for something that will turn your life more upside down than this. I think that most of the people who say these words would probably hesitate if they really understood what they were saying. I think we would all pause before we repeated this prayer if we clearly understood that we were actually praying upheaval into our lives. This is simply a prayer that can't be answered without the tearing down and rebuilding of many things in our lives. Had David prayed and lived this prayer, Psalm 51 wouldn't be in the Bible.

Here are the radical words I have been alluding to, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I must admit that I don't always greet God's kingdom with delight. There are things that I want in my life and I not only want them, but I know how, when, and where I want them! I want my life to be comfortable. I want my schedule to be unobstructed and predictable. I want the people around me to esteem and appreciate me. I want control over the situations and relationships in my life. I want people to affirm my opinions and follow my lead. I want the pleasures that I find entertaining to be available to me. I want the ministry initiatives I direct to be well received and successful. I want my children to appreciate that they have been blessed with me as their father. I want my wife to be a joyful and committed supporter my dreams. I don't want to suffer. I don't want to live without. I don't want to have to deal with personal defeat or ministry failure. What I am saying is that I want my kingdom to come and my will to be done.

In this way, I stand with David. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would be his wife. In David's kingdom, Bathsheba would have had no husband. In David's kingdom he could have Bathsheba and the blessing of the Lord on his reign at the same time. So, David acted out of zeal for his own kingdom, forgetting that he was sent as the ambassador of a Greater King. Sadly, I do the very same thing. I get mad at one of my children, not because they broke God's law, but because they broke mine. I get impatient with my wife because she is delaying the realization of the purposes of my kingdom of one. Or I get discouraged with God because he brings the very uncomfortable things into my life that I work so hard to avoid.

"Thy kingdom come," is a dangerous prayer for it means the death of your own sovereignty. It means your life will be shaped by the will of another. It means that you will experience the messiness, discomfort, and difficulty of God's refining grace. It means surrendering the center of your universe to the One who alone deserves to be there. It means loving God above all else and your neighbor as yourself. It means experiencing the freedom that can only be found when God breaks your bondage to you! It means finally living for the one glory that is truly glorious, the glory of God.

You see, the prayer that Christ taught us to pray is the antidote to sin. Since sin starts with the heart, it's only when my heart desires God's will more than it desires my will, that I'll live within the moral boundaries that God has set for me. And it is only God's grace that can produce this kind of heart.

"Thy kingdom come," words of surrender, words of protection, and words of grace that can only be prayed by those who've been delivered by the Redeemer from the one kingdom that always leads to destruction and death, the kingdom of self.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Psalm 51: Nathan's Legacy

No shouts
No pointed fingers
No flashing eyes
No red-faced accusations
No inflammatory vocabulary
No bulging forehead veins
No derogatory names
No scary threats
No arrows of guilt
No cornering logic
No "how dare you?"
No "I can't believe you would!"
No "what were you thinking?"
No public confrontation
No published rebuke
No arrest warrant
No handcuffs
No leading away to be charged
No list of crimes
No human tricks
No trying to do God's work
No hope of forcing a turning
No confidence in the power of man
No human manipulation
No political posturing,
No, none of these.
Just a humble prophet
Telling a simple story
A sinner with a sinner
Not standing above
Alongside, together
Wanting to be an instrument
Hoping to assist a blind man to see
But no trust in self
Speaking calmly
Speaking simply
And letting God
Do through a familiar example
Painted with plain words
What only God can do
Crack the hard-shell heart
Of a wayward man
And make it feel again
See again
Cry again
Pray again
Plead again
Hope again
Love again
Commit again
To a new and better way.
Not the legacy of
"I'm better than you"
But the harvest
Of a man of grace
Giving grace
To a man
Who doesn't deserve grace
But won't live again
Without it.