Friday, February 22, 2008

Psalm 27: The World's Best Security System

"The Lord is my light and salvation - whom shall I fear?" (v.1)

It was only the second house we'd ever owned and we thought we ought to take all the necessary precautions to keep our family, our possessions and our investment safe. So we contacted the local security company and had them revitalize and update the security system that had been previously installed in the house. It should be called an insecurity system. It's never quite worked the way it was designed. The crucial motion detector that was installed in the living room malfunctioned quickly. The system is still there, but we never use it anymore.

There are all kinds of security systems that you can look to in your life. Perhaps you look to your investments; you track their growth, and you dream of the life they'll provide for you in the future. Yet in your heart of hearts you really do know that there is no such thing as a truly secure investment. Occasionally you do face the fact that the comfortable future that you've envisioned you may never experience because the return on those investments are determined by things that are way outside of your control. Or maybe your security system is your relationships. You've sought to build around yourself a circle of loving people. You're thankful every day for your family and friends. You find real comfort in their presence in your life and the love they seem to have for you. You do everything you can to make those relationships healthy. Yet in your quiet and reflective moments you know that you can't depend on the permanence of those people in your life. An accident or a disease could remove a loved one very quickly. Sin could do irrepairable damage to one of those relationships. A necessary move could put distance between you and someone you thought you'd always have near. Perhaps your security is in the body of Christ. You're deeply thankful that God has gifted you with a church that has practical biblical preaching and solid Christian fellowship. You should be thankful, but you should also face the fact that this side of eternity the body of Christ is marred by difficulty. Our family was in a wonderful church that radically changed with the removal of a leader due to ongoing sin.

Perhaps your security system is actually you. Maybe you live with lots of self-confidence. You had a plan for your life and so far you've been able to pull it off. You've been able to be successful at the things you've attempted. You've built business and economic success that appears to bode well for your future. You've learned to trust yourself. You've learned to trust your intuition and your instincts and you've learned when to act fast and when to hold your cards. You're pretty secure with the way that you've conducted your life. I had an investment banker who controlled the portfolio of many people tell me that he was at the top of his game. He had confidence in his own ability, as did many investors. But, it all came crashing down with one mistake. His error cost a client his fortune and his other customers quickly abandoned him.

Or maybe you have no security system at all. Maybe your days are a cycle of concern, fear and dread. Perhaps you hyper-analyze every decision you make and you brutalize yourself with doubt after you make them. Perhaps you look back with regret at past decisions. Perhaps you give yourself way too much credit for the development of your story. Maybe, if you were able to be honest, you'd have to admit that you not only fear people, circumstances, and the future, but you fear something nearer, you fear you. You've no confidence in yourself and you look at life as a big minefield. You're just working hard to not get blown up!

Deep in our hearts we all know that the typical places we look for security really offer us little of what we seek. That's why this Psalm is so practically important. The very first verse of Psalm 27 introduces us to the world's best security system. It isn't to be found horizontally as you scan all the potential places where security can be found. Deep and lasting security, resilient hope, and sturdy rest of heart and mind, can only be found vertically. You'll only know the rest for which you seek when you begin to embrace the astounding reality of who you are as a child of God. If you're God's child you're the object of the love of the person who rules everything that there is to rule. It's fundamentally impossible to be in a situation, location, or relationship where he's not present. It's impossible for anything to exist outside of the sphere of his control. It's impossible for anything or anyone to be more powerful than him. It's impossible for anything or anyone to be wiser than him. It's impossible; for what he desires, has chosen, and has planned not to come to be. He rules every microbe of physical and spiritual creation. There's no rule of law that stands above him. There's no one to whom he must answers. His is perfect in every way, existing entirely without flaw of will or character. He's the beginning and epicenter of everything that's good, loving, wise, and true. He never forgets and his never fails to deliver on any of his promises. And Scripture says that he exercises his rule for the sake of his body, the Church. (See Ephesians 2:22, 23.)

You're secure not because you have control or understanding. You're secure even though you're weak, imperfect, and short-sighted. You're secure for one reason and one reason alone. God exists and he is your Father. He'll never leave your side. He'll never fail to provide. He'll make good on everything he's promised. And he has the power to do so; HE IS LORD!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Psalm 27: On Christ the Solid Rock

"...he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon on rock." (v5b)

We all look for it. We all refuse to live without it. We all think we've found it, but it can only really be found one place. What is it that I'm talking about? Well, here it is; every human being is on a search somehow someway to find that solid rock on which to stand. That one thing that they can bank on. That one thing that will keep them upright when the storms of life are raging. That one thing that will remain firm for the duration. That one thing that will give them security when nothing else does. That one thing that will give them that deep and abiding inner sense of well-being that every rational human being desires. That one thing that gives you the courage to face what you otherwise wouldn't want to face. That one thing that you can rely on. That one thing that will keep you safe. Everyone is searching for that solid rock.

No human being enjoys feeling that they're living in the sinking sand of unpredictability, disappointment, and danger, with no rock to reach for and stand on. In fact, this quest, this desire for surety which is with us everyday, points us again and again to the reality of God's existence and our identity as his creatures, his image bearers. We aren't hardwired to live by instinct. Like God, we're in possession of thoughts, desires, and emotions. Like God, we're beings of vision and purpose. Like God, we're spiritual beings. As people made in his likeness, we long for our hearts to be satisfied and our minds at rest. We think, analyze, and wonder. We toss our lives over and over again in our hearts, trying our best to make sense of the mystery of our own story and recognizing the scary reality that there's little that we're actually in charge of. In our honest moments, we know that we couldn't have written ourselves into the situations, locations, and relationships that make up our daily lives. We couldn't have written the story of even one day. Yet, we long for our lives to make sense. We long to have meaning and purpose, and we long to have lasting stability.

The problem is, that the longer we live, the more we know that there's little around us in this fallen world that's truly stable. I have a wonderful marriage to a lady who in many ways is my hero, but our marriage is still marred by our sin and this reality still introduces pain and unpredictability into a relationship we've been working on for 37 years! You may think your job is a source of stability, but a bit of a turn in the global economy could have you out on the street in a relatively short period of time. It may seem that your material possessions are permanent, but every physical thing that exists is in a state of decay and even in their greatest longevity they don't have the ability to quiet your heart.

So here's the dilemma of your humanity. You're clearly not in control of the details or destiny of your life, yet as a rational, purposeful, emotional being, you cry for a deep and abiding sense of well-being. In your quest, what you're actually discovering is that you were hardwired to be connected to Another. You weren't hardwired to walk the pathway of life all by yourself. You weren't hardwired to be independently okay. You weren't hardwired to produce in yourself a system of experiences, relationships, and conclusions that would give you rest. You were designed to only find your "solid rock" in a dependent, loving worshipful relationship with Another. In this way, every human being is on a quest for God; the problem is we don't know that, and in our quest for stability, we attempt to stand on an endless catalog of God-replacements that end up sinking with us.

In fact, our inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we'd never find the One who is to be our Rock on our own, no he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here, "he will...set me high upon a rock." It doesn't say, "I will find the rock and I will climb up on it."

Here's the hope for every weary traveler whose feet are tired of the slippery instability of mud of a fallen world. Your weariness is a signpost. It's meant to cause you to cry out for help. It's meant to cause you to quit looking for your stability horizontally and begin to cry out for it vertically. It's meant to put an end to your belief that situations, people, locations, possessions, positions, or answers will satisfy the longing of your heart. Your weariness is meant to drive you to God. He's the Rock for which you're longing. He's the one who alone is able to give to you the sense that all is well. And as you abandon your hope in the mirage rocks of this fallen world, and begin to hunger for the True Rock, he'll reach out and place you on solid ground.

There is a Rock to be found. There is an inner rest to be experienced that's deeper than conceptual understanding, human love, personal success, and the accumulation of possessions. There is a rock that will give you rest even when all of those things have been taken away. That rock is Christ and you were hardwired to find what you are seeking in him. In his grace, he won't play hide and seek with you. In your weakness and weariness, cry out to him. He will find you and he will be your Rock.

"On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Psalm 27: Sight Problems

"...that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord." (v.4)

I've learned so much from George. He's been my friend for over thirty years. He's a man of insight and determination. He's dealt with some of the harshest realities of life in this fallen world. George is blind. The things that George struggles with in his overt blindness have taught me much about the covert blindness of the heart that every sinner struggles with in some way. There's a way in which George's entire life is shaped by recognition of his blindness and daily strategies to compensate for it. I've learned so much from George.

1. I've learned that there are no more important set of eyes than the eyes of the heart. Yes, George is physically blind, but spiritually he's very good vision. Everyday George exercises that mysterious ability that God gives to his children to see the unseen. Now, to people who have embraced the truth that their entire hope in life is centered in a God of grace and glory who is a spirit, the exercise of this gift of spiritual sight is essential. I've learned from George that your life is always shaped by what your eyes see. If this is true of the physical eyes, how much more is it true of the eyes of the heart?

2. I've learned how important it is to humbly accept your blindness. George's life is one of courage, hope, and accomplishment precisely because he doesn't live in denial. As a young boy, he confronted the sad reality of his blindness and determined that he would do anything in his power to live, fully live, even though he was blind. Scripture is quite clear about the blinding power of sin. Sin is deceitful and guess who it deceives first? I have no problem whatsoever seeing the sin of my wife, children, and friends, but I can be quite surprised when mine is pointed out. Spiritual blindness not only blinds me to the reality of my sin, but it also blinds me to the glory of God that's everywhere around me. God has created his world to be a constant sight and sound display of his power, glory, faithfulness, and love. Yet, the eyes of my heart can be so clouded by the duties of the day, by the busyness of the schedule, and by the problems of life, that I don't see the God of grace whose glory is evident everywhere I look. Like George, I need to accept that I have a significant sight problem that has the power to radically alter the way I live my life.

3. I've learned that you always deal with your blindness in community with others. When George got serious about dealing with his handicap, he welcomed people in his life who had the concern, knowledge and skills to help him. Hebrews 3:13 talks about how we need to "encourage one another daily less we become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." The fact of the matter is this; personal spiritual insight is the product of community. I need people who not only help me to see what I couldn't see without them, but I also need people who will loving help me to admit how blind I actually am and who will teach me how to live, fully live. Even as long as sin remains in me, I will continue to have pockets of spiritual blindness.

4. I've learned to long for 20/20 vision. George has learned to accept his blindness. He's learned to open himself up to a community of help. He's learned how to compensate for his handicap. But, George is not content. He longs for the day when he'll be given eyes that see clearly. He looks expectantly for the day when he'll no longer be blind. In the same way, there should be a deep desire in the heart of every sinner to see, really see. We should be tired of being deceived. We should be weary of being blind again and again to the beauty-display of the glory of God that's everywhere around us and that's meant to fill us with a moment-by-moment sense of his presence and grace. We should be tired of the way our lives are bent and twisted by our blindness; tired of the reality that we wouldn't do and say the things that we do if we were really able to see. And we should live for the day when the eyes of our heart will no longer be blind and, with 20/20 vision we will be welcomed to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord forever!

I've learned so much from George. I've learned that I'm more like him than unlike him, and in a profound way, that's changed my life.