Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Psalm 27: Why I Hate to Wait

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (v.14)

I hate to wait,
I have places to go
I have people to see
I have things to do.
I love me
and I have a wonderful plan
for my life.
I hate to wait.
I don't like obstacles
in my way
or people that disagree
or processes that take too long.
I hate to wait.
I don't like lines
or traffic
or delayed appointments
or tardy people.
I hate to wait.
I wake up everyday
with an agenda.
I know
what I want to accomplish.
I know
how I want it done.
I know
where I want it done.
I know
when I want it done.
I know
who I want to do it.
I know
why it has to be done this way.
I hate to wait
I am the one having to wait.
I don't mind
that you have to wait
but I don't want to have to
wait with you.
I hate to wait
I tend to put myself
in the one place
I am never supposed to be
I tend to want to be
the one thing
I should never crave to be.
I hate to wait because
I want to be
in the center of my universe
and I want to be
my own sovereign.
When I forget your plan
When I lose sight of your will
When I begin to think
that my life belongs to me
When I fall prey to
the delusion
that I am wiser than you
my way is better than yours
Then I hate to wait
I curse the obstacles in my way.
But you are sovereign
and you are
and loving
and gracious
and kind
and mighty,
filled with compassion
overflowing with mercy.
You bought me
with the price of your Son.
You forgave me
and the cost was his death.
For all my attempts
at independent wisdom
the truth is
that my life does not belong to me.
once more I fall to my knees.
Once more I open my hands
give my life back to you
and say
"You do in, with, and through me
what you think is best
I will follow
and when
your wisdom and grace
require it,
I will be willing
to wait.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Psalm 27: Losing Heart

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

What causes a person to lose heart? What makes a person want to give up? Why do we ever entertain fantasies of running away? What causes us to have little enthusiasm for what we once found very motivating?

Your motivation to continue is only as strong as what you've placed your hope in. Perhaps this is why we so easily lose heart in the face of obstacles, opposition, or difficulty. Perhaps what we've unwittingly done is to have tried to build our reason to continue on the shifting sand of flawed and impermanent things that were never meant to be the foundation of our meaning and purpose or inner sense of well-being. No human being is capable of carrying your hope. This side of heaven we're all weak and flawed in some way. No circumstance can carry your hope. Every situation you're in is in someway touched by the brokenness of the fall and isn't under your control. Amassing physical pleasures and possessions won't give you lasting hope. For all of their momentary enjoyment, they fill the sense, but do not satisfy the heart. When you look horizontally for your reason to continue you'll inevitably end up losing hope.

This is precisely why you could hear no better advice than in the three words that begin and end the last verse of Psalm 27, "Wait for the Lord." What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for your husband to finally become romantic? Are you waiting for your wife to finally agree that your marriage isn't so bad after all? Are you waiting for that job that will fulfill you? Are you waiting for life to get easier? Are you waiting for your church to finally become all a church could be? Where do you look and say, "If only I had________ then my life would be_________?

There's only one place where stable and reliable hope can be found. There's only one place of rest for your heart and surety for your soul. There's only one reliable place to find your reason to get up in the morning and continue. There's only one source of motivation that's sturdy enough to weather the storms of life in a fallen world. "Wait for the Lord" really does say it all.

When your hope is in the Lord, when you're getting your inner sense of well-being and security from him, when he's the reason you continue even when things are hard, then you're building your life on something that's reliable and sure. When you're waiting on the Lord, you've placed your hope in One who's the ultimate source of everything that's wise, good and true. When you wait for the Lord, you're placing your safety in the hands of One whose power is unmeasurable. When you wait for the Lord, you're getting your comfort from One whose love is boundless. When you wait for the Lord, you can be secure in the reality that he rules over all things. When you wait for the Lord, you can live with confidence because you know that every one of his promises is true. When you wait for the Lord, you can be hopeful even in weakness because you know that his grace is sufficient.

We lose heart because we tie our hope to the wrong things. What are you waiting for? To what have you tied your hope? "Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Psalm 27: Where You Gonna Run, Where You Gonna Hide?

"The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid." (v.1b)

We all look for a place to hide. We all have places where we run. We all search for shelter. We do this because we've all experienced, at various times and in many different ways, the danger of life in a fallen world. This world, broken by sin, really is a dangerous place.

There's the danger of being sinned against. Most of our experience of being sinned against takes place in the mundane little moments of everyday life. Maybe you're nursing the wounds from something someone said to you. Maybe you're dealing with the hurt of what someone did to you. They're not really big things, but they unsettle you and make you wonder whom you can trust. But being sinned against isn't always so mundane. Perhaps you've been hospitalized from injuries from a mugging. Maybe you're dealing with the devastation of an unfaithful spouse. Maybe you've lost your job as the result of the lies of someone who envied your position. There's no way of matriculating through this fallen world without being sinned against by someone at sometime.

There's the danger of living in a world that doesn't operate as was intended. We live in a world where things like racism, materialism, corrupt government, and war alter the lives of many. We live in a world where disease and pollution are virtually inescapable. We live in a world where earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis are present realities. The brokenness of the environment in which we live touches us all.

There's the danger of temptation and spiritual warfare. You and I really do live in a world where an evil one exists. There really is a cosmic battle going on. There's an enemy who wants to plant deceit, division, destruction, and death anywhere he can. You and I've never experienced even one day that's been free of seductive lies being whispered in our ears and seductive visions being held before our eyes. Temptation assaults all around and wear us down; such is life in the fallen world.

There's the danger that you are to yourself. Sin reduces all of us to fools. It makes right look wrong to us and wrong look right. It makes us want to live more for the moment than for long term gain. Sin makes us self-absorbed and self-focused. It causes us to be self-excusing and self-atoning. It makes us defensive and self-protective. It causes us to opt for individuality rather than community. The danger of the fallen world isn't only around us, it's inside us as well.

So, when you've been wounded by the dangers of this broken world, where do you run to for refuge? When you're perceptive enough to see the danger coming where do you run to for protection? When you're exhausted with the difficulty of the journey, where do you turn for rest and retreat? Do you run to other people, hoping that they'll be your own personal messiah? Do you run to food, numbing your mind with the edible glories of creation? Do you run to YouTube or your iPod hoping to distract yourself out of your pain? Do you drink more than you should or bury yourself in busyness? The problem with these things is that they were never designed to be a place of refuge for you. When you ask these things to be your shelter, you'll always be disappointed because their solace is temporary and they've no ability to heal the soul. But there's another thing; they always end up addicting you and, in so doing, hurt you as well. Take food, for instance. It gives me very quickly diminishing comfort, so I soon need more. You can see how this would end in a cycle of addiction.

You're gonna run, and you're gonna hide. Here's what you need to understand; there's only one true place of shelter. The Lord really is the world's only reliable stronghold. He has the power to protect you and he has the grace to restore your soul. He gives strength to the weary and returns the joy of the broken. He's able to renew you, body and soul. Heaven and earth obey his commands. He's the shelter of shelters, the only safe place to hide. He delights in holding you in the hollow of his hand. He takes joy in covering you in the shadow of his wing.

Today you'll run to something. Today you'll hide somewhere. Why not this time run to the Lord?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Psalm 27: Days of Beauty

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his holy temple." (v.4)

I have a vision problem;
my eyes are okay,
but my heart
doesn't see very well.
I live in a world
where your beauty
is everywhere visible.
It is there
in the lily.
It is there
in the cascading wave.
It is there
in the multi-hued sunset.
It is there
in the stars of the night.
It is there
in the power of the storm.
It is there
in the rhythm of the rain.
It is there
in the grandeur of the mountain.
It is there in the
lace of the clouds.
It is there
in the succulence of the apple.
It is there
everywhere I look.
But often
I do not see your beauty.
I must confess
I am so blind.
I see
my busy schedule.
I see
things to be fixed.
I see
obstacles to my plan.
I see
bills to be paid.
I see
things to be done.
I see,
but I fail to see your beauty.
Yet there is more:
I call things beautiful
that are not beautiful to you.
I am attracted to things
that you call ugly.
I even begin to believe
that there are things
more beautiful
than you.
And I want these things more
than you.
So I serve these thing more
than you.
So, Lord
correct my vision.
Please restore
the eyes of my heart.
Graciously make
the days that I have left
to be
days of beauty
because my heart
is filled
with visions of you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Psalm 27: Going to School

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors." (v.11)

So, who's schooling you? There's never a day that passes without you being taken to school in some way. Life is really all about teaching and learning. And there's a way in which neither stops from the first until the last day of your life. So, perhaps one of the most important diagnostic questions that each of us should be asking is this, "Do I approach life as a student?"

If you are committed to know and understand, if you're committed to journey from ignorance to knowledge, and from foolishness to wisdom, if you're interested in more than your own plan and perspective, then it only makes sense to learn at the feet of the world's best Teacher. Who could know more or be wiser than the One who put the universe into motion, who presently holds it together, and who controls its destiny? Who could know more about the true meaning and purpose of life? Who could know more about your identity? Who could know more about the environment in which you live? Who could know more about the foundational questions of life? The Proverbs say it very well, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?" I like John Calvin's paraphrase, "There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God." There can be no better place to go to school than to the University of the Lord and there could be no better course of study than the "way of the Lord."

His way is wisdom and wisdom requires understanding his way. So where are you going for wisdom? Whose school have you been attending? Who shapes your definition of the meaning and purpose of life? Who tells you who you are and what you should be doing? Who crafts the way you look at the surrounding world? Who defines your problems? Who instructs you as to how they will be solved? Who helps you to determine your life direction? Who tells you what's functionally important and what isn't? Who shapes your relationships? Who clarifies your thinking in moments of difficulty. Are you really a faithful student in the school of the Lord, or do you just audit now and then when it's convenient?

Let me suggest the characteristics of a student in the school of the Lord.

1. A healthy cynicism toward your own wisdom. Sin reduces all of us to fools, but it does something else that's even more insidious; it makes us believe that we're wise. Independent wisdom was both the seductive temptation and the delusional desire of the Fall. One of the primary reasons Adam and Eve were attracted to the fruit was that it was "desirable for gaining wisdom." But eating the fruit didn't result in wisdom, no, it opened the floodgates of foolishness and we've be drowning in it's waters ever since.

You and I were never created with the autonomous capacity to be wise. Wisdom doesn't come through research, experience, and study. Wisdom comes by revelation and relationship. You only get wisdom from the One who is its ultimate source, the Lord.

2. A humble sense of need. We all get lulled to sleep by feelings of arrival. You know what it's like. We all have the capacity to be too easily satisfied. Because we know more today than we did yesterday, we quit working to know more tomorrow. Rather than gratitude for what God has taught us, motivating us to learn more, we get smug and lazy, quite content to consider ourselves to be God's graduates.

3. A willing and open heart. Willingness and openness are the essential characteristics of any good student. Why, you may ask? Because learning not only shows me what I didn't know, but points out the places where what I thought I knew was, in fact, wrong. I cannot tell you in my many years of teaching how many defensive students I have met. "Defensive student" is an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp" or "low-fat butter." You can't be defensive and be a student. You have to open up your heart. You have to be willing to be told that you're wrong. You have to submit yourself to someone who knows better and knows more. Defending what you know won't lead to either further or corrected understanding. Willingness to listen, consider, and change are in the heart of every good student.

4. Discernment, focus, and determination. Discernment means that you have to make sure that you're submitting yourself to qualified teachers. Paul says in Colossians 2:8: "See, to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Once you're sitting at the feet of those who represent the Teacher of teachers, then continued learning takes focus. You live in a world of many, many voices. All of them are interpreting your world and all of them are vying for the allegiance of your heart. And you have to remember that learning is a process not an event. One truth opens the doorway to another truth. One truth functions as an interpreter of a truth previously introduced, but now understood more fully. Learning is a lifelong process and because it is, it requires perseverance.

5. Commitment to act on what you're learning. Any seasoned teacher will tell you that the real learning takes place after the students leave the classroom and practice what they've been taught. The God who's your teacher will orchestrate events, situations, and relationships for the purpose of causing you to live what you've been learning. Life is his classroom and every new location on each new day provides a rich and God-given environment to understand more deeply and to live more wisely. So, good students always carry with them the commitment to look for ways to apply what they've been learning and they know that as they do, their learning will continue.

By God's grace we haven't been left to our own wisdom. We've been brought into personal communion with the One who's the source of everything that's wise and true. So, these questions remain. Are you a committed student? Whose school are you attending?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Psalm 27: The Good Life

I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (v.13)

If you could paint a portrait of your version of the "good life" what would it look like? What's the golden personal dream that fills your mind when you say to yourself, "If only I had...."? What's the one thing in your life that you tell yourself would make you happy?

You see, it's very tempting to associate the good life with something physical. Perhaps it would mean living in a certain location. Maybe it would mean getting that job that you've always dreamed of. Or it could mean having the special relationship with that special person. Maybe for you it would be earning a certain amount of money. Maybe it would be looking a certain way or experiencing a certain level of physical health.

When you define the good life by these kind of physical experiences there's a second thing that happens; you tend to judge God by his willingness to deliver them to you. You unwittingly begin to evaluate God's goodness by whether or not he gives you the thing that you've set your heart on. But often God doesn't give us the things that we've set our hearts on precisely because we've set our hearts on them. Because we've set our hearts on them they're a spiritual danger to us. So, God is responding to us in a way that's good, even though it doesn't feel good at the moment. It's often in these moments of want that we're experiencing the "goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Because he loves us and because he's good, God keeps from us those things that fight for control of our hearts and therefore, fight for the place that only he's supposed to have.

Imagine a little child running to the house one afternoon and saying to his mom, "Mommy, I am hungry...I want a candy bar, a can of soda, and a bowl of ice cream." Now pretend that you respond, "I'll make you a peanut butter sandwich with some apple slices on the side." There's a good possibility that your child won't run over to his neighbor friend's house and say, "You won't believe what a good Mom I have...I asked for unhealthy treats and she responded by giving me things that were much better." Probably the more likely scenario is that the child would immediately protest to his mother, "I don't want peanut butter...I want candy...why can't I have candy?" At this moment your child doesn't think of you as the definition of parental goodness!

Being confident of the goodness of the Lord shouldn't be confused with an assumption that because God is good, he'll give me the things that I've set my heart on. In his grace, God is freeing you from the small confines of your little definition of what's good so that you can experience the huge and satisfying good that he's planned for you. Grace welcomes me to experience what is eternally right, true and good. Grace invites me to good that I could never have imagined, deserved, or earned.

It's nice to have a nice house and a comfortable life, but it's even better to have come to the place where you no longer need those things to feel good about your life. Sure God will bless me with physical things, but every good physical thing that he gives me is meant to be a sign that points me to the good that can only be found in him.

This is the bottom line. The good that God promises me isn't a situation, possession, position, or relationship. The good that he promises me is himself. What could possibly be a better gift than that!?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Psalm 27: Family Forever

"Though my Father and Mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."

I deserve to be
to be forever cast away.
I deserve to be
to have you turn away and stay.
I have debated your goodness.
I have questioned your law.
I have doubted your wisdom.
I have run from your love.
I deserve your
to be punished for my wrong.
I deserve your
righteous judgment
the full weight of your law.
I have wanted what I wanted.
I've walked from your grace.
I have trespassed your boundaries.
I have envied your throne.
I don't deserve your
the many things I could not earn.
I don't deserve your
the daily gifts of your love.
I don't deserve the rights of
to be called your son.
I don't deserve the warm
Tender care and endless help.
I don't deserve to call you
to be welcomed in your home.
So you came to be
To have the Father turn His face.
Your bond of family was
You came to stand in my place.
You didn't deserve to be
It came because of your love.
You didn't deserve to be
Yet you were willing to the end.
So now I have a
Forever I've been received.
I am never
Even when I'm all alone.
When fatherless and
You are with me even then.
I have been given a
I did not deserve or earn.
The Lord has
received me.
I will never be alone.
Once more I will forsake you.
I will question your love.
Once more I will debate you.
I will turn from your face.
But you will come as a
You will treat me as a son.
You will forgive and
restore me.
With great patience and great love.
In you I've found a
In you I have found grace.
And what I've found, I've found
Forever Father.
Forever family.
Forever welcomed.
Forever love.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Psalm 27: Caught in the Middle

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

We spend a lot of our lives "caught in the middle." We head to work and get caught in the middle of a traffic jam. We enter a conversation and get caught in the middle of an argument. We make an investment and get caught in the middle of a market downturn. We join a church and get caught in the middle of a theological controversy. We dream of our future and then get caught in the middle of things we did not forsee and would not have chosen. We really do spend much of our time caught in the middle of being caught in the middle.

When you are required to wait it means that you are caught in the middle of something and when you are caught in the middle of something, it immediately means that you are part of something bigger than you. Being caught in the middle is diconcerting and irritating because we all tend to give into the delusion that we have more power and control over our lives than we actually have. Self-sovereignty is the dream of every sinner. It's hard for us to trust ourselves to the wisdom, power, and control of another. We want to write our own dramas and we want to be the central character of the story. But the spiritual reality of the universe is that we are not the authors of our own story. Our story is a part of a larger story that is written by the Lord. In this story we are never on center stage. That is a position to be occupied by the Lord alone.

So, when you recognize you are caught in the middle of something, you are recognizing something that is profoundly important. Let me detail how practically important this insight is.

1. It means you were meant to live for something bigger than you. You are not in contol. You're story is not ultimate. You have been created to be part of something that is larger than your wants, your needs, and your feelings. You are connected to something that is bigger than your relationships, your situations, and the locations that you move in everyday. You are waiting because God said you are a part of His kingdom. God, who's timing is always perfect, works according to His wise plan and at the right moment. But as you wait, He is doing something in and for you. He is crafting you into the person His grace alone enables you to be.

2. It means you were created to be dependent. The independent, this-is-my-life-and-this-is-what-I-will-do-with-it view of life is a delusion. That thought that you have everything you neeed to be what you are supposed to be, and to do what you are supposed to do is a fantasy as well. Each of us is dependent on God for our physical life. We all know that we do not control the many, many things around us that must work in order for our lives to work. We all know that our life dosen't work according to our plan. We couldn't write the story of today and accuratly predict what we will face. Contrary to what we often think and how we often act, we all live a life of reliance on God.

3. It means that the things you need most you cannot provide for yourself. God has controlled the forces of nature, and the events of human history in order to give me the one thing I desperately need and could never earn, deserve, or achieve; new birth. Without the intervention of his powerful heart and life and His transforiming grace, I would be a dead man walking. But He has given me life and He is now working to change me into what, if left to myself, I could never be. I wait because His grace is still at work. I wait because He is not done and I am not yet complete.

4. It means the final chapter of your story has been written, but has not yet unfolded. There are more places God has written for me. There are more characters to appear in my story. There are circumstances that He has designed for me to encounter. There are moments of blessing and times of difficulty that have already been written into my story by the One who is not only in control, but who is wise, gracious, kind, and good. He already knows the exact path He will cause me to walk and how that path will result in His glory and my good. I could never write an autobiography that would accomplish what the story He has written for me already has and will accomplish.

5. It means that the one you are waiting for is trustworthy. I know that there are times when waiting is painful. I know there are times when it seems as if it is impossible to wait. But you and I must remind ourselves that we wait, not because irrational and impersonal forces function as obstructions and interferences in our lives. No, we wait becasue the world is carefully administered by the One Person who is ultimate in power, ultimate in authority, and ultimate in wisdom, while at the very same time being ultimate in love. You are being asked to wait by One you can trust.

6. It means that in those moments when you are "caught" you can rest. Don't give way to panic. Don't give into doubt because this is not what you would have planned. Don't allow yourself to play out all of the "what if's" and "if only's" in your mind. You are waiting because there is a plan. You are waiting because your life is under the control of One who is wise and good. You can rest, not because you know what is happening, but because you know the One who is in control of what is happening to you right now. You can rest because you know He has made you a part of something wonderful, and He know's what He is doing in you is good, even though at this moment it feels as if you have been caught in the middle.