Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Psalm 27: Someday

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

"Someday, maybe, someday." We've all said it, but it's not really a statement of hope. It's more often a fatalistic resignation to the death of some kind of dream. "Someday I'll get a decent job." "Someday we'll be able to afford the kind of house our family really needs." "Someday I'll get myself in shape." "Someday I'll finally find a good church." "Someday I'll find that special person to love." "Someday we'll get our finances in order." "Someday I'll go back to school." "Someday I'll quit saying someday." "Someday," is a way of communicating what we wish would happen, but deep down inside don't really think will. But we say it because it makes us momentarily feel better about the things in the here and now that we've trouble accepting.

The reason our "somedays" are more fatalistic than hopeful is that in our sane moments we all know that we don't have the power and control over our world that we would need to have in order to guarantee the realization of our dreams. We also know that we're harvesting the choices that we've made that have led us to where we are. So our "somedays" are more medicinal and therapeutic than hopeful predictions of what surely will come. They are mental pills to get dissatisfied hearts through disappointing days.

The "someday" of Psalm 27 is very different. It is a statement of confidence that's both deeply encouraging and powerfully motivating. When David says that someday he'll see "the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the living," he isn't caressing some future dream in order to help him accept present disappointment. In fact, this statement isn't a wish or a dream at all. It's not really a hope for some future outcome. No, what David makes here is a statement of IDENTITY. David is remembering who he is and in remembering who he is, he's remembering what he has now and in the future.

Who is David? He's a child of the God of Israel. He's one of God's chosen ones; the object of God's love, the recipient of God's promises. The God who's his father, is a God of immeasurable power, unfathomable wisdom, inconceivable sovereignty, untainted truth, and abounding grace. David's God isn't only the ultimate definition of what's good; he has the power and control to produce every good thing that he's promised his children. He's in absolute control of every location, circumstance, individual, natural force, institution, and relationship. As Nebuchadnezzar said, after being humbled by this God, "He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35)

Trust in God isn't a thin hope in some not very sure outcome. Hope in God is rather a present investment in a future guarantee. What God says, will be done. What God has promised, will come to pass. His word is reliable because, in his grace, he wants to bless us and in his power he has the ability to do anything he's promised to do. When you live with his promises in view, you live with confidence, courage, and unshakable hope. You then become free of anxiety and worry. You become free of vain attempts to manipulate people and situations in order to get what you want. You place yourself in the hands of a sovereign God of grace who knows exactly what you need, when you need it, how you need it, and where you'll need it. And because your Father is good, he'll never turn a deaf ear to your cries and he'll never abandon you in your hour of need. No, you won't always understand what he's doing and you'll be tempted to think that he's gotten his timing wrong, but the more you entrust your life to him the more you'll experience his faithful grace again and again.

Who holds your "someday?" Are you still attempting to change things that are beyond your power and out of your control? Have you simply given up; and in your disappointment resigned to play mental dream games to keep yourself going? Look up! Your Father controls it all and he looks on you with grace and favor. It's never ever risky to place your past, present, and future in his hands. His "someday" isn't a "someday" at all, no, it's a "will be."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Psalm 27: The Theology of Beauty

"That I might dwell in the house of the Lord to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord." (v.4)

What is
How is
Where is
Is beauty without a
Is beauty without an
Could it be that there are
two kinds of beauty?
In this world there is
Source beauty
Reflected beauty.
Source beauty is
true beauty
pure beauty
timeless beauty
independent beauty
definitional beauty
divine beauty.
Reflected beauty is
shadow beauty
tainted beauty
dependent beauty
ill-defined beauty
creation beauty.
All sin is sin against
Idolatry puts
Reflected beauty
Source beauty's place.
Sin hammers reflected
into the shape of
Sin then names ugly
The more distant it is from its
the less beauty there is to be
in reflected beauty.
Source beauty is not to be
It is only
eternally to be
In the
the feet of beauty
touched earth
to reveal
to teach
to restore
to help beauty be
in order that
in the hearts of men
Source beauty
would be restored
to its
rightful place.
I still live
in the middle of
a beauty war.
And in the
of the
I do not see beauty
With battle scarred
I look at what is
and I think I see
Please heal
my eyes.
Please restore
my heart
so I may
gaze no where else
the beauty
that only
from you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Psalm 27: One Thing

"One thing I ask of the Lord...that I might dwell in the house of the gaze upon the beauty of the Lord." (v.4)

One thing,
One thing,
One thing!
It's hard to imagine
One thing
When I seem to be attracted
to so many things.
It is a continuing
It is a daily
It is my constant
The world of the physical
attracts me
excites me
magnetizes me
addicts me.
I confuse consumption
with satisfaction.
I confuse satisfied senses
with true joy.
I confuse a stomach that is full
with a heart at rest.
Sometimes I would rather have
my appetites satisfied
than a grace filled heart.
Sometimes I would rather hold
the physical
than have the eyes of my heart
be filled
with the beauty of
the spiritual.
I am tired of only seeing
my physical eyes
can see.
I want eyes
to see
cannot be seen.
I am tired of craving
Somewhere in my heart
I know that only you
Deep in my heart
I want you to be
I must quit
I need to
I need to
be quiet.
I need to sit
in the seat of grace
and wait
and wait
until these blind eyes
until this cold heart
the one beauty that
the one beauty that
is You.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Psalm 27: Wanting What's Right When You are Wronged

"When evil men advance against me...One thing..." (v2,4)

If you had an army of evil men out to "devour your flesh," if there was a plot against you to end you life, what would you want, what would you do. The response of the Psalmist here is significant and challenging. When you are being wronged, when a family member, a neighbor, a member of the body of Christ, or a co-worker has wronged you or in some way is out to get you, it is so easy to lose your way. It is so easy to drop the good things that you have been doing; things that protect your heart and nurture your soul. It is so easy to meditate on evil and forget what is good, true, beauty, and wholesome.

Perhaps losing your way for you means that you allow your mind to be consumed with playing the DVD in your brain over and over again of what that person said or did. Perhaps it means allowing yourself to give way to the fears of what in the world could happen next. Maybe losing your way means fantasizing ways in which you could settle the score; you know, the things that you would like to say and do to that person that would make them hurt the way they have hurt you. Maybe losing your way means that you allow your hurt and dismay to take you away from good habits of personal devotion and ministry. Or sadly, perhaps losing your way means beginning to doubt God, his promises, his presence, and his love.

I wish I could say that, in the face of mistreatment, I had never lost my way, but I can't. I was a young pastor. I was doing everything that I could to grow and exercise the teaching gift that God had given me. But there was a critical man in our congregation who seemed never to be satisfied. One evening he came to me and said, "Paul, your preaching in killing us!" Now, these are happy words for a young pastor to hear. I said, "Well, what do you suggest?" He handed me a set of tapes and said, "I suggest you listen to these." Naively, I said, "And what do you think I should get out of the tapes?" He said, "Just mimic the preacher on the tapes, that will be better than what we have been getting."

I don't think I realized how hurt I was. I know I did think I had lost my way. But the very next Sunday, when I got up to speak and looked out at the congregation, everyone's head was the normal size, except for my critical friend. To me his head looked to be the size of a fully-inflated beach ball. I seemed unable to ignore his reactions. It seemed impossible to avoid his critical gaze. I think I hated that man and I know I was determined to do anything I could to convince him that I was a good preacher. I was no longer preaching to honor God and his calling. I was no longer preaching for the spiritual benefit of the congregation. I was no longer working to prepare content that was true to the text, I was preparing content that I thought would finally silence my enemy in the fifth pew.

But my preaching got worse. I was fearful and nervous. I stumbled over my words. I was not confident with my content. I was a mess and I was increasingly discouraged. I didn't know it, but in my hurt and distress, I had run from the Lord rather than to him. I thought winning would heal my heart, but my heart would only be healed, confident, and satisfied when it was filled with the love of the Lord. The acceptance of this man would never be achieved and if it were, it would not satisfy my heart.

At the end of the morning service one Sunday, I noticed the oldest lady in our congregation hanging around, waiting to talk. I waited until the crowd had cleared and ask her what she wanted. She said, "Paul, I don't want to talk about me, I want to talk about you. Over the last few weeks I have become concerned about your preaching. You have lost all of your confidence. I have become convinced that someone has gotten to you and that you are preaching to please that person and not the Lord." I couldn't believe what I was hearing! then she said, "Monday you get up, forget that person, and study God's Word and then you preach what God has given you with confidence and joy or we're all in trouble." And she turned and walked out of the church.

At that moment I knew she was right. In the face of mistreatment, I had lost my way. I had not run to the Lord. I had not allowed my heart to be healed by his grace and my confidence to be restored by his presence. I had decided I would beat my "enemy" at his game. I had decided that I would win. And it left me with a empty heart and a mouth that was unable.

I did get up that Monday morning and confess my sin. And I did enter that next Sunday with excitement at the truths that God had given me to share. And it was not long before my critical friend had left the church.

I would ask you one question, "When you are wrong, where do you run?" There is only one place where your heart can be healed, restored, satisfied, and protected. It won't be healed by winning human wars. It won't be satisfied in human acceptance. It won't be restored when you have meted out vengeance. It will only be filled, satisfied, and at rest when it is filled with the beauty of the Lord.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Psalm 27: People in Need of Help

"Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior." (v.9)

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you ever feel that the tasks that God has given you are too big for you to do? Do you ever feel that God has gotten a wrong address? How do you go about assessing your need of help?

It's something all human beings do. It's called "measuring you potential." We all do if often. The little toddler, who's standing on newly mobile legs, looking across the room at his Daddy as he holds onto his mothers knee, is measuring his potential to make it the five steps from Mommy's knee to Daddy's knee. The teenager who's driving to his first day at his first job, holding the steering wheel with clammy, nervous hands; he's measuring his potential to do well enough in this new world of employment without getting himself quickly fired. The bride who's an upset stomach as she's having her hair coiffed, is measuring her potential to live in life-long intimacy with another human being.

A person normally measures his potential based on two factors. The first is his track record. He does a quick scan of his life assessing how he's done so far. He looks to the past to give him some kind of read on his potential for being successful in the present. He next examines the size of the task. Does he have what it takes to take on a task of this size?

While there's some logic to this way of assessing personal potential, the little phrase in v.9 which says, "you have been my helper," reveals the inadequacy of this kind of assessment for a believer. The problem is that it doesn't account for your new identity, and therefore, new potential as a child of God.

God is the ultimate Helper. He alone has the grace to rescue you from you. What does this mean? He gives you power to deal with all the sins of thought and desire that get in the way of you doing what God has called you to do. Not only does he help you with internal weaknesses, he alone is able to remove external obstacles. Because he's our helper, we don't have to place the completion or success of the task on our shoulders. It's not our job to complete the task, it's our job to obey God's call; he will complete the task. I don't have the power to get people to respond. I don't have the power to make situations change. I can't make my husband or wife love me. I can't get my children to believe. I can't force two people to reconcile. I can't make my neighbor be committed to peace. It's not my job to make these things happen. It's my job to respond to the call of God in each of these areas; the hearts of people and the control of situations are in his hands.

He promise is that when we go he goes with us. He'll never call us to do a task without giving us what we need to do it. He's unshakably committed to meet the needs of his people. He is unshakably committed to the success of his kingdom. Since you're his child, wherever you go his presence and power go as well. He really is with you always and he really is the Helper that you need.

So how are you measuring your potential? Are there places where you're living more in fear and avoidance than with courage and hope? Are there places where you feel completely overwhelmed? Could it be that as you've assessed your potential that you've forgotten who your helper is? You're now personally connected to the ultimate source of help. How's that for potential?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Psalm 27: Watch out for the Flesh Eaters!

"When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall." (v.2)

I wish that it were
right now
you can't live that way.
Temptation is all around.
It's a smile
a whisper
a wish
an invitation
a sword.
There's little escape,
so little time to rest,
evil flirts with you
but will consume your flesh.
Do you really think
you're not at risk?
Has your enemy
lost his power
to tempt
to seduce
to ensnare
to trap?
Do you really have
the liberty
to coast
to rest
to relax, to slide on through?
When no day is an escape
there's seldom rest,
evil hungers for you
to digest your flesh.
There is war being made;
darkness and light
truth and lie
right and wrong
wise and foolish
holy and sin
God and the devil
demon and Friend,
So there's little escape
there's precious little rest,
evil lurks out there
it will eat your flesh.
This world
is shattered glass.
It does not look
It does not do
as designed.
You are infected
with the disease.
You are flawed
from within.
Sin still lives.
It is a law
a war
a prison
a trap
a drug.
Not many roads of escape
really not much rest
evil sings to you
but will devour your flesh.
There is but one
Just one thing
you can do.
Focus your eyes on
what you see.
Fix your gaze.
Look at the beauty
the treasure
the majesty
the glory
the Lord.
Run to the temple
Be in awe.
Be enthralled.
And remember
what's holy
what's eternal
what's gorgeous
what's true.
Bask in the beauty
It will rescue you.
Because there's little escape
there's a famine of rest,
evil waits for you
but will dine on your flesh.
May beauty be
your fortress.
May glory be
your rock.
May the Lord be
your refuge
Until the war
is over
Until you've arrived
at rest
Until evil has been
And you're home at last.
For there's scant escape
there's a real lack of rest,
evil hunts for you
to consume your flesh.