Friday, January 18, 2008

Psalm 27: The Shortest Distance between Two Points

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

My Dad was the guru of shortcuts. He lived on an endless quest for the shortest route to all of the places to which he regularly drove. My Mom used to kid my Dad that most of his shortcuts were in fact "longcuts." In his search for the shortest distance to wherever, my Dad would say again and again, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."

The life to which God has called us is the ultimate straight line. This line starts with dead rebels and ends with people alive and reformed into the likeness of God's Son. The problem is that our living is seldom a straight line. We all take daily detours of thought and desire that move us off the straight path that God has placed us on by his grace. He has redeemed us from the jungle of our rebellion, lust, autonomy, foolishness, and self-focus and placed us on the narrow pathway of his Son. The problem is that we all tend to get tricked into taking detours that get us off God's path and into trouble.

Our problem is two-fold. First we get diverted because we are impatient. The trip to where God is taking us is not an event, it's a process. And the process isn't easy. God's road takes us through the heat of the sun, through storms and cold, through the dark of night, through loneliness and confusion. So, we get tired and impatient and begin to convince ourselves that there's a better way. But, this isn't all. We get diverted because we're disloyal. Our hearts aren't yet fully committed to God's glory and his kingdom. We're still attracted to the shadow glories of creation and we still carry around in us allegiance to the small-agenda purposes of the kingdom of self. So in our impatience and disloyalty, we see pathways that appear easier and more comfortable, but they only ever lead to danger.

There's no time when this temptation is more powerful than when we're facing difficulty. This is exactly what the verse we're considering recognizes. When you are being hammered by the enemy, it's very tempting to debate within yourself as to whether God's way is the best way. It starts with bad attitudes. Perhaps you begin to doubt God, doubt his goodness, and question his love. Perhaps you give way to anger, impatience, and irritation. Or maybe you begin to allow yourself to envy. You wonder why the guy next to you has such an easy life, when yours is so hard. These bad attitudes lead to bad habits. You quit praying because you reason that it doesn't seem to be doing any good. You stop reading your Bible because those promises don't seem to be coming true in your life. You quit attending your small group because you can't stand to hear the stories of God's love that others share, when your life is so hard. You even begin to give yourself reason for missing the Sunday worship service, reasons you once wouldn't have given yourself. Before too long there's a coldness and distance in your relationship with God that would have shocked you in the early days of your faith. Your difficulty has deceived you into thinking that you've reason for wandering off God's straight path, and your attitudes and habits have placed you on the dangerous side-paths of the kingdom of self.

Have you gotten off God's straight path? Have you given yourself reason to take side-paths? How about praying, once again today, "Teach me your way, O Lord, lead me in a straight path."?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Psalm 27: Mercy Prayer

"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me." (v.7)

I have no resume
to hold before you,
no track record of accomplishments,
no letters of commendation,
no rights of birth or ethnicity.
I hold nothing
that would place you in my debt,
that could curry your favor,
that would obligate you.
I wish unbridled zeal
would commends me to you.
I wish unbroken obedience
would draw your attention.
I wish model wisdom and model love
would convince you that I'm worthy.
But I have none of these things
to offer you.
I stand before you with shoulders bent
and hands that are empty.
I approach you with no
argument in my mind
or words to offer in my defense.
I stand before you
naked and undeserving,
broken and weak.
I am quite aware of the
duplicity of my heart,
the evil of my choices,
and the failure of my behavior,
but I am not afraid
because I stand before you
with one argument,
with one plea.
This argument is enough.
This plea is sufficient.
This argument is the only thing
that could ever give me
and sturdy hope.
So I come before you
with this plea;
your mercy.
Your mercy is my rest.
Your mercy is my hope.
Your mercy makes me bold.
Your mercy is all I need.
Your mercy
tells me you will hear.
Your mercy
tells me you will act.
Your mercy
tells me you will forgive.
Your mercy
tells me you will restore.
Your mercy
tells me you will strengthen.
Your mercy is my
and my rescue.
I rest in this one thing,
You are mercy
You will answer.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Psalm 27: Uber Music

"I will sing and make music to the Lord" (v.6)

While the minor-key music
of the fallen world
drones on
sung by the choir
of the lost,
the blind,
the deceived,
the wounded,
the poor,
the weak,
the rebel,
the lame,
the willful,
and the enslaved,
singing the sad notes
of a world
once beautiful,
now broken,
of hearts
once pure,
now corrupted,
of darkness
where light was meant to be,
of death,
where life was meant to flourish,
of slavery
where freedom was designed to reign,
You have given me
a song to sing.
It is a song
of boundless love.
It is a song
of rescuing grace.
It is a song
of tender mercy.
Its verses tell
how redeeming hands
touched a broken world,
giving life again
giving freedom again
giving peace again
giving hope again
giving broken hearts
a reason to sing again.
Its chorus swells
to heights never before sung
and its constant refrain
Alleluia to the Lamb,
Your grace
has placed in my mouth
the only song worth singing.
Your love
has placed on my tongue
the only words worth repeating.
Your mercy
has returned to my heart
the only music worth playing.
It is the song of songs,
and one million years
into eternity
it will be
as beautiful and new
as the moment
the first note was sung.