Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Psalm 27: The Pursuit of God Paradigm

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors."

Your life is more organized than you think. No, I don't mean that you make good use of your smartphone or your PDA. And I don't mean that you've been able to successfully control your schedule so that your days are orderly and predictable. What I mean is that your life is organized around the pursuit of something. You're not as spontaneous and reactive as you may think. Your sudden impulses may not be as impulsive as you think they are. Your snap decisions are probably more thought through than you realize. You're living for something and that something is a powerful organizing force in your life.

Confused? Well, journey with me back to the beginnings of human life in the Garden. You know significant things about who human beings are and how they function if you pay attention to what happens in humanity's early moments. Immediately upon creating Adam and Eve God begins to talk to them. Why? Because, unlike the rest of animate creation, people do not live by instinct. Peoples' lives are directed by the thoughts and motives of the heart. Every person is a theologian. Every person is a scientific researcher. Every person is a philosopher. Every person is an investigator. Every person is developing a functional view of life that becomes the tool by which they make sense out of what is and what they experience. People are also beings of purpose. They are moved by passions and desires. They live in pursuit of treasures to which they have assigned value. They have things they crave and things they detest. They run after things they love and run from things they hate. They find joy in the acquisition of what is a treasure to them and experience disappointment when their treasures slip through their fingers like sand.

This is why God immediate talks to Adam and Eve. He knows the kind of creatures he has made and so he immediately begins to define for them the paradigm that is to shape their living. He tells them what to think and what to desire. These early words make it very clear that these people were created by God and were designed to live for God. This means that everything they would do as human beings would be shaped by their love for, worship of, and obedience to God. That is what the Bible calls, "God's way." It is the unique lifestyle that will shape the actions, reactions, and responses to life that a person who acknowledges God's existence, character, and plan.

But there is another way of living that structures people lives as well. It is what the Proverbs calls, "a way that seems right to a man." Eugene Peterson makes the observation that there is a replacement trinity foe the true Trinity. It is holy wants, holy needs, and holy feelings. Here my life is functionally organized by what I want (some earthly thing that has become my treasure), what i tell myself I need (this treasure rises in influence until I am convinced I cannot live without it), and holy feelings (an emotional life that is dictated by how close I am to possessing the treasure that I have set my heart on. Here too, I am never really spontaneously reacting to life. What seem to be impulsive reactions are shaped by wants, needs, and feelings that attach themselves to the treasure is crave.

What is important to recognize is that there is a war between these two paradigms that wages in my heart. Sometimes I get it right and my life really is structured by a pursuit of God, a rest in his grace, and obedience to his plan. But other times, I am driving by my selfish cravings, convincing myself that I cannot live without this thing that I am so zealously pursuing. It is also important to recognize that God's paradigm brings life and man's paradigm leads to death. It is only when my life is shaped by a pursuit of God that I can live with a heart that is satisfied and at rest.

Your life really is more organized than you think. What paradigm shapes your responses to life and structures your day? Don't be afraid to confess that you often get it wrong. Your Lord not only offers you his forgiveness, but he also fights for your freedom. So you can say, "Lord, so often I get it wrong, won't You teach me your way once more today."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Psalm 27: Safe

"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.." (v.5)

I am safe,
not because I have no
or because I never experience
I am safe,
not because people affirm
or my plans always
work out.
I am safe,
not because I am immune from
or free of the potential for
I am safe
not because I am protected from
or separated from this
fallen world.
I am safe,
not because I am
or strong.
I am safe,
not because I deserve
comfort or have earned my
I am safe,
not because of
or power,
or position,
or intellect,
or who I know,
or where I live.
I am safe because of the glorious mystery of
I am safe because of the presence of
boundless love.
I am safe because of
divine mercy,
divine wisdom,
divine power,
divine grace.
I am safe,
not because I never face
but because you are
with me in it.
You have not given me
a ticket out of danger.
You have not promised me
a life of ease.
You have chosen to place me in
a fallen world.
I am safe
because you have given me
the one thing
that is the
only thing
that will ever keep me safe.
You have given me
I am safe
from my evil heart
and this shattered world,
not because I can escape
them both,
but because in the middle of
temptation and trial,
danger and disappointment
sickness and want,
You give me everything
I need to
fight temptation
and avoid defeat
and to point others
to the safety
that can only be found
in You.
So, I will wake up tomorrow
and face the anxiety
of not knowing,
the fear of my own weakness,
and the reality of the fall.
I will live with
and hope.
And when danger comes,
and it will,
I will whisper to
my weakening heart,
"Emmanuel is your shelter,
You are safe."