Friday, November 30, 2007

Psalm 27: The Delusion of Independence

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

Do you view yourself as a person in need of help? Do you seek to live more independently than you should? How do you respond when God sends someone your way to correct or confront you? Do you bolster yourself with evidences of your righteousness or do you regularly look in the mirror of the Word of God and admit how needy you actually are? Do you live with a sense of need for the heart-educating classroom of grace or do you think of yourself as a grace graduate? Do you think of others as needier than you? Even as you minister to others, do you think of yourself as one in need of ministry as well? When you seek to understand why you do the things you do, do you look outside of or inside of yourself for the answer?

One of the sad results of sin is that it causes all of us at some time and in some way to buy into the delusion of independence. Independence is what the serpent sold Adam and Eve, but this independence was as counterfeit as the old proverbial three dollar bill. The counterfeit currency of independence is the reward that the enemy continues to wave in front of each one of us. The lie goes this way, "You can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do." This lie is designed to make me believe that I'm wiser and more righteous than I actually am. It makes me think that I'm a mature person living in a colony of the immature. It causes me to reason that if I do bad things, I do them not because of what's inside of me, but because of the pressures that I am forced to deal with that are outside of me. This lie is meant to convince me that I'm capable and okay.

Here's what the Bible makes blatantly clear; the quest for Independence never ends in independence. It always ends in slavery. Why? Because I was carefully designed by the Creator to live in a dependent, obedient, and worshipful relationship with him and in humble, interdependent, relationships with other human beings. The quest for independence is not simply a spiritual mistake; it's a fundamental denial of my humanity. The pursuit of independence always leaves me addicted to a list of things that I've looked to in order to give me hope, life, strength and rest; in a vain attempt to distract myself from the evidence that I'm not, in fact, independent, I get hooked on things that have the ability to distract me, but can never give my heart rest.

The message of Psalm 27 and the rest of the Bible is clear, I'm a person in desperate need of help and if I walk with God for thousands of years I will continue to need his help as much as I did the first day I reached my hand out for him.

Does the way you relate to members of your family picture a person who believes that he's in daily need of help? Does the level of your commitment to Christian fellowship depict a person who thinks he's in need of help? Does your personal devotional life paint a portrait of a person who humbly acknowledges his need of help? Is your life a picture of the celebration that will result when you begin to grasp that, by the grace of Jesus Christ, you have been brought into personal relationship with the only source of the kind of help that you truly need; God himself? Do you love God's truth, love his people, love his gatherings of worship, love the work of his kingdom and love the hymns of his grace, all because you've humbly acknowledged the depth of your need and joyfully embrace the heart-transforming reality of his help?

The only way you'll ever run to the Helper is by running away from the delusion of independence. Why not do that once more today?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Psalm 27: Singleness of Focus

"One thing I ask from 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 to seek him in his temple." (v.4)

Do you live with singleness of focus? Is your life shaped, structured, and directed by the pursuit of one glorious, fulfilling, heart-satisfying thing? Or is your life a picture of a constantly changing narrative of fickle affections careening from one hope to the next?

You see, you don't live by instinct. Your life is directed by the thoughts and motives of your heart. You're always interpreting and you're always desiring. You always live in pursuit of something. You're always evaluating your progress toward that thing that you think will give you life. You're always in the possession of and in the service of some kind of dream. Maybe this is the best way to say it; you're living for something.

Now, Scriptures like Psalm 27 and Matthew 6:19ff remind us that all the things that a human being could live for fall into two categories. The first category is the CREATOR category. This means I'm living for what only can be found in God. It means my life is shaped and directed by my resting in the pursuit of his grace, glory, goodness, and plan on earth. Another name for this is the Kingdom of God. The second category is the CREATION category. This means that I'm seeking to find my identity, meaning and purpose in something that's been created. So, I look to my job, friends, possessions, a position, satisfy my heart. Another name for this is the kingdom of self.

Now, what does all of this have to do with singleness or fickleness of focus? It's only when I'm hooking my life to the glory and grace of God and it's only when I'm getting my identity from him, that I can truly live with singleness of focus for the long run. Why is this? It's because it's only God who has the power to satisfy my heart. I was made for him. I was made to have my life shaped by an acknowledgement of his presence, a rest in his love, and an active allegiance to his purposes. When I live this way, my soul is satisfied and my heart is at rest.

On the other hand, when I seek to satisfy my heart by the pursuit of a seemingly endless catalog of God-replacements, my heart will be anything but satisfied. So, I will abandon one dissatisfying creation dream for another, only to have that one leave me empty as well. I'll run from my friends, to my job, to my possessions in the frantic pursuit of what can only be found in the Lord. My life will be characterized by fickleness rather than singleness of focus. Why? Because my heart was created to be satisfied in God and God alone.

Is your life shaped by one great desire, a desire for the Lord? Or is it a picture of the constantly changing focus that's the result of asking the creation to offer what only the Creator can give. Your heart will only rest when He is the "one thing" that gives your life focus.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Psalm 27: The Worship of Another

" his tabernacle I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord."

I don't want to have to make
I want my plate
and my schedule
I want to be with people
I like,
people who are low in
maintenance and high in
I want control over
my time
my energy
my money
my things.
I want my days to be
and my plans
I want to experience
and successfully to avoid
I would rather be served than
to serve.
I would rather get the gift than
to give.
I guess this all points me to
one stunning reality.
There is never a day when
my life is
idol free.
There is never a week
when I don't give myself to the worship
of another.
It is sad to say
and humbling to admit,
that the chief of these
false deities
is none other than
I am the sovereign
I want to serve.
I am the king
I want others to obey.
I am the lord
I want to rule my days.
Yes, it is true,
Dear Father,
I want to be
My dissatisfaction is not because
You are not
but because I do not get
my own way.
So, once more I
once more I make my
once more I plead for
Once more I ask,
Dear Savior,
Please free me
from me
and cause this selfish heart
to find
in doing the
one thing
I was given breath
to do,
offer myself as a
in the service of

Monday, November 12, 2007

Psalm 27: The Rejection of Rejection

"For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up." (v.10)

impossible to conceive.
The Trinity
torn asunder.
The Son
wrenched from his Father.
Salvation realized.
I am
the liar.
I am
the thief.
I am
the gossip.
I am
the rebel.
I have wanted
my own way
my own time
my appointed place.
I have rebelled
against your law
and I have
set up my own.
I deny
your kingship
while building
a kingdom of my own.
I think
my wisdom
is wiser than you.
I think
my plan
is better than yours.
I crave
the sovereignty
that only you should have.
But you did
the inconceivable
you accomplished
the undoable.
You stood
in my place
and you satisfied
God's wrath.
in the process,
the Three in One
was torn in two.
In the process,
The Father
did the most painful thing
that has ever been done.
He turned his back
on You.
You withstood
this pain
so that I would never have to.
You took my
so that I would only ever have
So, I can
rest assured,
I can
live in hope,
I can
enjoy true peace,
Because I know
that you are always with me
For long ago
on the cross
your rejection
was for me
the final rejection of rejection.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Psalm 27: Spiritual Muscles

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

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn't about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It's actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn't just about what you're hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you'll become as you wait.

So, waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God's goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles?

It's so easy to revisit your belief system when you're not sure what God is doing. It's so easy to give way to doubt when you're being called to wait. It's so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of "unfaith" that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of "unfaith" that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength.

1. Giving way to doubt. There's a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you're called to wait you're being called to do something that wasn't part of your plan, and therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you're convinced that what you wanted was right and good, it doesn't seem loving that you're being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God's wisdom, goodness and love.

2. Giving way to anger. It's very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered,(see Psalm 73). There'll be times when it simply doesn't seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It'll feel that you're being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it's important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who's in control of those people and those circumstances. You're actually giving way to thinking that you've been wronged by him.

3. Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the "If only_____," the "What if_____," and the "What will happen if____." I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn't answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it's not answered at all? This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.

4. Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it's very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn't appear to have been called to wait. It's very easy to take on an "I wish I was that guy..." way of living. You can't give way to envy without questioning God's wisdom and his love. Here's the logic; if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guys has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.

5. Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn't as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren't helping me after all; maybe I've been kidding myself.

Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy destroy their motivation for spiritual exercise, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong, are now atrophied and weak.

The reality of waiting is that it's an expression of God's goodness. He's wise and loving. His timing is always right and his focus isn't so much on what you'll experience and enjoy, but on what you'll become. He's committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from you and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.

So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resist those habits of "unfaith," and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise. What's the equipment in God's gym of faith? Here are the things that he's designed for you that will build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word, consistent godly fellowship, looking for God's glory in Creation every day, putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture, investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (for example, as you are going off to sleep), reading excellent Christian books, and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.

Is God asking you to wait? What's happening to your muscles?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Psalm 27: The Back of God's Head

"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)

It is a wonderful thing for every child of God to know that the one thing you and I will never, ever see is the back of God's head. He will never hide his face from us. He'll never turn his back on us. He'll never turn and walk away. He'll never reject or forsake us. He'll never cast us off. Perhaps the most glorious mystery of our lives is that we've been chosen to have is his face forever toward us. We've been chosen to have his smile forever on us. We've been blessed to have him look on us with love and grace forever and ever!

What's stunning about the favor of God is that we could never have done anything to deserve, achieve or earn it. I was irritated with my wife yesterday, no not because she's a sinner and not because she did anything wrong at all. No, I was irritated because she didn't fit as well within my sovereign plan for the day as I wanted her to. In an instant I began to look at the one human being that I love most on this earth as an obstacle rather than an object of my affection. It wasn't long before I was filled with remorse and a sense of how deep my need still is for the rescuing grace of the Lord. You see, what's stunning about the favor of the Lord isn't just that there was a period in my life long ago when I got it all wrong and when I wanted to be my own king. No, even as God's child I still get it wrong. I still have moments when I'm much more excited about my kingdom than I am about God's. I still forget the glorious reality of his love for me and hook my life to the flawed glories of the created world.

Yet, in all of this, God doesn't get exasperated. He doesn't grow weary. He doesn't wonder why in the world he redeemed me in the first place. He doesn't look for ways to show me how much I have hurt him. He doesn't harbor bitterness or hold a grudge. He doesn't hide his face or run and walk away. He's patient in love and persevering in grace even though I still am not able to earn his favor.

Why am I so blessed? I am blessed, because in the most painful moment in human history, Jesus willingly subjected himself to the rejection of his father. He took on my sin and allowed himself to be rejected. In this unthinkable moment of substitution, the Trinity was torn apart as the Father turned away from the Son. Now, here's what you and I have to understand; Jesus was willing to suffer the horrible rejection of his Father so that you and I would never, ever have to experience it ourselves.

Jesus willingly looked at the back of God's head so that we would never look at anything but his face. So, today, when you envision God with the eyes of your heart, envision his face, because, if you are his child, it's the only thing you are ever going to see!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Psalm 27: Under Attack

"When my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall." (v.2)

Under attack again.
Such is life
in a broken world
where sin still
where the enemy still
where broken
and broken
do not do the things
they were made to do.
Under attack again.
Why was I surprised?
Why did I give way
to anger
to fear
to discouragement
to vengeance
to questioning
the one thing that is
You have promised
to keep me
to protect me
to nurture me
to love me
to defend me
to defeat my foes.
I have rested
in the hollow of your hand.
I have hidden
under the shelter of your wing.
I have had your peace
put me to sleep.
I have had your presence
comfort my heart.
I have had your Spirit
give me new strength.
Yet somehow
when under attack again
I forgot you
and in forgetting
I did what I
I said what gives me
I even questioned
The enemies I face
are too great.
The brokenness around me
is too pervasive.
The sin inside of me
I cannot escape.
So I have come home again,
home to this one thing
I daily need
in moments
mundane and great,
the rescue that only
can be found
in You.
I know that in the face of
your wisdom
your control
your power
your righteousness
the enemies of my soul
will stumble
will fall
will crumble in defeat.
When evil comes
and it will,
I will
remember you
run to you
believe in you
rest in you
and with
hands that are clean
and a
heart that is pure
I will fight evil,
not with words
of evil
or actions
of vengeance
but with the one thing
the enemy cannot defeat,
worship of You.