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.