Psalm 62:5-8 – Wait in silence.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

selah

The term “selah” is often said to meant as a call to consider, to meditate on what has been written. And that is what I set out to do this week.

This is a Psalm of confident assurance in God and God alone. This is not the desperate reassurance or the reminding tone of last week’s verse not to fear but trust in the Lord. This is a declaration of God’s greatness, and if nothing else, a lesson for us to rest quietly in the power and wonder of God.

God is a refuge for us, not only doing battle on our behalf, but also encasing us in security. Though from our own point of view we are surrounded on every side, we fear evil and the reproach of the unbelieving public, and feel as though our skin has the edge of their spears already poised and ready to pierce, we see not the spiritual reality.

Psalm 62 rectifies the difference between our eyes and God’s eyes. David declares to all who would hear, “Don’t struggle! Don’t seek for vain glory, or trust in money or your strength!” When Isaiah says “all men are like grass”, he mirrors David in verse 9, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.”

This may be one of the biggest perspective switches that have started to breach into my view in the last year. All this, the whole story, the whole song and dance of my time on earth, is not primarily about my relationship with God, though it is an extraordinary and inscrutable thing that he would allow such an exchange. No the story is ALL ABOUT GOD. He is glorious. He is righteous. He is powerful. He ordains and holds ALL THINGS. Not only did he create the universe, but Hebrews 1 tells us :

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

You and I have troubles and trials sufficient to fill our minds and fill every single day. Allow yourself to be quiet for a few moments. Listen for his voice. Forget your own weakness. Tell your soul, for God alone to wait, for your only hope is in him.

Though to us it often feels as though we stand upon a precipice, with God as the rope that ties us off, David encourages us to realize that we stand upon the mighty infallible wall of God’s providence. So if you have worry, or fear, or doubt, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Amen.

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Psalm 56:3-4 | What can flesh do to me?

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

In this past week the study and memorization of this passage has already proven helpful. Like all who follow after God, some days finding glory in his words and hanging and meditating on every one, being obedient, praying without ceasing, and seeing Jesus as supremely valuable are easy. But other days temptation is around every corner, my mind is altogether unable to focus on what is good and right and profitable.

I’m not someone who often fears physical harm. But what I do fear is losing focus. Coming to Jesus only when I am desperate only to find when he comforts me and gives strength to me I will grow complacent and make an idol of the closest thing to catch my eye or interest me.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Here is my heart Lord, Take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

David wrote Psalm 56 “when the Philistines seized him at Gath.” And his response is stunning. The beginning of the psalm is David’s only appeal to God for the removal of his trial. “Be gracious to me, O God.” That is all. The entirety of the psalm shows a curious lack of some of the most common Western Christian’s prayers. A prayer for removal of difficulty and the affliction of others.

David knows, or writes more than he knows of something so key. When he is afraid, he puts his trust in God, the God who has written down his name in his book before times eternal. The God who knows and keeps and “upholds the universe by his word of power.”

What can man do to him? God has already called him his own, just as he has called you, if you continue on in the faith, and therefore eternity and glory are sealed. But what may be in David’s words, and have been in my prayers, are the words of pleading for protection against his own flesh as well.

“Lord I am beset by many trials, I feel in my heart that I grow afraid and weak. I feel my heart wander from you, my flesh is what challenges the greatest treasure in my life, and that is your presence Lord, and it is my love for you, even that given by your hand. Strengthen my heart that I might never fear that my own flesh might lead me astray. Have mercy on me. Be gracious. But do justly, and never let me out of your hand.”

David trusts God to call all things into account, that no one who does evil is “getting away” with anything when they come to the judgment seat of Jesus. v. 8 says that God counts all of David’s tossing and has a bottle to catch every one of David’s tears that He might hold them up on that day as a weight to measure out the punishment for the wrongdoer.

Finally, for me, verse 9 holds the words that comfort my soul, and ease the burden of trust. that “Then (when justice comes) my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.

If you forget verses 3-4, remember those eight words in times of trial.

This I know, that God is for me.

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways? “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

This is the response of the apostle Paul after he writes to the church in Rome, telling of how God saw fit to graft in people not of Israel into the vine of salvation. He tells of how God let the people of Israel lapse into unfaithfulness, that his justice and mercy might be shown both to gentiles and not only the people of Israel, based on a promise that is equal in power.

When God called the people of Israel into his hand, to be his people, to follow him, to know, and to obey his commandments and show the world his greatness and righteousness, the vine was full. There were no limbs cut off and no space for you and I on that holy vine. We were lost and destined for destruction, bundles of dry sticks set aside for the fire.

So we too, now, since the coming and sacrifice of Christ, have a place to graft into that salvation, into that adoption! No wonder this is Paul’s exclamation! What a joy! Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! We have no bloodline to claim, we have no assistance to offer, we have no nationality, no perfection, no intelligence to plea. More than our lack, is his great self-contained power, glory, and good pleasure! How unsearchable are his judgments! How inscrutable are his ways? And after this, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

The focus of this passage is that glory be given to God.

We are saved through no merit of our own, by the God of the universe, the one of whom Isaiah likewise speaks in Isaiah 40:12-13

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
Or what man shows him his counsel?”

The implied answer to all of these and Paul’s questions are NO ONE.

No matter what the world considers wise, no matter what our emotions or experience claim and cry out, no matter what power we think we have, what we think we’re owed or promised, God deserves all glory and all praise. You did not orchestrate your own salvation, you are in his hand because he chose you before the world began. Not because he knew you would believe, but because as the psalmist writes, “All that pleases him, he does.”

Against all our own wisdom and judgments, knowing our own hearts and the actions of others, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Oh the depths! Oh the riches! Oh the wisdom! So unsearchable and inscrutable! Everything is chosen and placed directly by the wisdom and power of the almighty God! So of course He gets the glory! All glory, forever. Amen.

The Desolation of the Locust

(Musical recommendation: Hallelujah – Joshua Hyslop
http://http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=p7q3EDTLQ-w)

The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
 I will restore to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
    and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:24-27

Originally this post was supposed to be about my grandfather, who wrote a song once with the main line of the chorus being, “He’s given me back the years the locust had eaten.” In a positive folky tune. He would speak by way of explanation in his best Johnny Cash that, “The locust being the devil, see?”

I was going to write about the joy of having sins forgotten, putting behind the time that I spent serving darkness instead of the light, and not only forgetting, but redeeming those days. About how lovely a man my grandfather is. But that must be for another time.

Tonight my wife and I got a call, and though I could only catch bits and pieces through the phone by her ear I heard enough. Someone we had known, who struggled with drug addiction for many years had committed suicide.

That horrible, awful thing. The action that pure-hearted men and women will always feel heartbroken over. And touching us closer than I’d ever feared.

For so long this young person had struggled for light. There were periods of lucidity and hope, and times of regression and darkness, and in brightest moments, our friend has known the love of Jesus Christ. And I still don’t understand, not that I’m owed it, but can’t grasp the plan. I’m an analytical thinker and I just can’t find the pattern, the way things fit into place. The horror of the locust cloud covering over so many years of a sweet, struggling person’s life.

The mourning for someone I hardly know has just begun, but I’ll be trying to understand for longer than I’ll feel the sting of it. The mourning is complicated, I don’t know what I hope for this person, and I don’t know what will happen.

I know what I’ve prayed. I know I pray for hope in the midst of absolutely soul destroying desolation. I pray for peace for the addicted. I pray for unbelievable mercy, because I know what dark clouds have passed over my mind, and that by the grace of God I have been sustained and renewed. He renewed the years the locust ate from me.

I may differ from my Catholic friends on this point, but I pray also that our friend enter the gates of Heaven, led by sympathetic eyes and into holy grace.

There will you be given back every darkened day,
There will you eat of that which truly satisfies,
There will you see only the brightness of the Glory of God,
And despite your earthly shame at your affliction,
There you will never again be put to shame.
No distractions, for He is God, and no one else.
May he deal wondrously with you.

Only God knows the state of a human heart, and I am thankful that he does. He is sovereign and holds all things in the balance, for which I am also thankful, for it means that it is not a waste to send my prayers to him.

As I reflect on my own life, and consider what it is I truly deserve for all of my arrogance and pride, for all of my thinking much of myself and little of others, the moments I have shirked God’s law and scorned his sacrifice, and allowed the cross to become odious, I am laid flat on my face by this grace. I cannot fathom it. And I don’t want to. It will always be immeasurably more than my reach. In weaker moments, therefore, I hold to this promise:

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
    and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

O Lord, please do not tarry.

My New Year’s Toast

To my family, to our son, new this passing year,
I lift this glass with friends tonight, may it pass with cheer.
Here love abides, strangers welcome, as friends they may soon be,
I lift this glass in thankfulness, though sometimes hard to see.
And to my friends I lift this glass, through trials come and gone,
Laughter in our hearts has filled our houses and our lungs.
Friends new are pleasant, old are grand, wrought with depth and truth,
I’d raise that glass a thousand times, though ageing, from my youth.
Now to this year,  through blessings brought from God who art on high,
Our hearts and minds have reeled at gifts we have, but know not why.
Now raise with me a glass you all, for things as yet unseen,
For what is coming next, God knows, in two thousand and sixteen.

Happy new year.

After God’s Own Heart

I know how this will sound. I know what you must think. All of this talk of pursuing perfection and impossible ideals and demanding that everyone follow some stringent and Pharisaic set of principles can never be kept up. It must be a falsified, conjured, and only possible in the imagination. And perhaps that is true. It is often true, but there are moments of an inexplicable quiet lucidity that I have long felt but only recently decided to reveal to you.  I will not claim any sort of perfection or nearness to perfection, but only that I delight to ponder it daily. The God who speaks, the God who provides, the one who takes away the sins of the world, he has revealed himself to me at many times and in many ways, most often through the Bible, and he gives me hope. He gives me reasons to sing and to smile and find true joy even in adverse circumstances.

If the earlier part is what you’ve thought than what is coming next can only be considered an absurdity. But I feel this welling of my heart and soul to only attempt to put into words the things that only lightly touch upon my waking mind as if an echo of heaven, a waking eternal bliss that fills me with such joy I cannot comprehend. While I work, while I drive it hits me that I’ve spent my life hearing and learning about the God of the universe and to grow to find that he is true? To find that he is THE truth? My heart can hardly contain. There is no structure to this and I cannot apologize for it. I feel not the pressure to organize my thoughts into anything proper or dignified. So I have had it in my head to write a psalm. Not inspired scripture but script inspired by scripture. This has no doctrinal authority, it is just an expression of my affections.

So I take in a deep breath of air and this is what exhales:

O Lord, my Holy Father,
Teach me to know your ways,
Let me learn your precepts and observe well your laws.

I see and know that they are perfect,
I believe they revive the soul,
They are sure, ‘Making wise the simple.’
For, ‘No one ever spoke like this man.’

Who can lift a burden as you lift them?
Who can shower his children with such a joy?
Who can make all things new, all extraordinary?
In the desolation of my heart I could not have imagined you.

For you are good, yes, you are goodness,
Let me never forget,
Good is everything that comes from you.

Let me not be far from you O Lord!
Let me not forget your ways!
Keep my heart steadfastly attentive to your words.
Keep me in your loving arms.

For you strengthen the weak, you lift high the needy,
In my hatred of you, you brought me.
I despised, and you bore my affliction,
I was dead in my sin, but now ‘Alive in Christ’!

Could I ever turn away? I know my heart!
I am so prone to wander yet I know that you are true!
Is there darkness yet in my heart? Destroy it!
The rapture of your presence cannot be undone.

Truly, you have marked me,
The very heat of your glory has made it’s mark.
Truly I desire to know you and be fully known,
To hold not only the law but your gaze,
Could a man contain it? Could he suffer your presence Lord?
Could weak unknowing man ever draw near to the Lion of Judah?

I know the veil is torn!
I know the ransom is payed!
But dare I even still?
Would your glory not overwhelm me entirely?

I give what you have given back, take it from me,
My life, my all, my heart and soul.

Yes, your absolute presence would destroy me to my very foundations,
So destroy me, I will never need to breath if I have seen your face.
Though I am lost except in memory still I will live in you.
I might cry “Woe to me! For I am a man of unclean lips!”

But I know that I love you,
Help me to love you rightly.

All of your presence Lord.
All of your glory.
Overwhelm me.
Consume me.
I am none, and you are all.

 

Even if these words never see their full potential, even if I never stop struggling. Even if I speak an unkind word or hurt the helpless through selfishness and greed, I will pray these sorts of prayers and think in these terms as long as the Lord allows.

It has been given to me that I may be able to imagine a place I might run to in my actions and in speech. A brighter city. So I will continue to paint as loftily as I can imagine the ideals as they come along, because I need to be looking to what is greater than myself, walking out to me on these tumultuous waters, this sea of sin and transgression, lest I begin to sink, looking into my depths instead of toward his glory. Knowing that even if I begin to sink, ‘he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify all unrighteousness.’

Peace and Amen.

 

Speak a true word.

Wake, feel your worth, O my soul
Speak the word, the word that can save us all
Awed by grace, I fall on my face
And scream the word that can save us all

-Thrice, Stand and Feel Your Worth

 

“Y’know usually you come up with pretty good things to say but don’t do any more of that care bear **** alright?”

That’s what he said to me the day I decided to say what needed to be said. I was a safety representative for my job in a modular manufacturing plant and in our pre-workday meetings I would often be called upon for a “safety moment”. The idea was that every day I would draw to attention something for our interior finishing department to keep an eye out for our own safety and those of our co-workers. To care for each other’s best interest.

What I had noticed was that many of my co-worker’s first instinct early in the day was to interact in a cajoling, playfully insulting way, and that was how these men got along with each other. Some were more aggressive and abrasive than others but generally this was how the day went.

But I also knew that a young man in our department had just lost his father to cancer.

When you work in close proximity to other groups and trades all day and everyone has a job to do sometimes things can get heated, so I decided to make a point of that as my safety moment for the day. I encouraged them to find out what kind of day their co-workers were having before assuming that there could be a no holds barred session of insult and criticism and in that way maybe reduce the amount of disagreements and arguments in the workplace. That was it. Just a little consideration in case you happen to meet someone on the worst day of their life, and the first and maybe only thing you do to them is to tear them down further.

That wasn’t the only comment I received in response to my safety moment but the rest were much the same.

That was the day I started to realize that it doesn’t matter what people will say or do, they need to know the truth. Words have so much more power than we think they do sometimes. The closer in relationship you are to someone the more power they hold. My wife, for example, knows everything she could say that would rend my heart and soul to pieces. But she also knows the things that can set me up on mountaintops of self-confidence and assurance.

I used to say things like “The way guys know if they’re friends is if they can insult each other.”  But I don’t believe that anymore. I used to, but I no longer think that is the best way even for men to relate. For the last ten years the phrases “Speak the true word.” and “Speak glorious truths.” have often come to my mind and I’ve spent countless hours trying to consider what that looks like.

Ephesians 4:29-32 says:

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I believe our words change things. What we call down on others can be loosed in heaven. Our words can cause eternal activity, things that change the course of history, and I don’t want to waste time with anything that will damage for a day, much less till the end of days.

To you, reader, I want you to be encouraged, built up, loved, assured, made whole, made new, and restored. If I have to correct or rebuke I want to speak the truth in love. I don’t want to divide. I will continue (if I have truly yet begun) to be the bleeding heart. The mocked one. To be turned aside and dismissed as caring too much, as I once accused others of doing. And I regret every moment I could have told someone that I loved them when they needed to hear it, to love someone enough to say something that might destroy our friendship but restore their soul! There are such times, may they be few for you.

I remember what C.S. Lewis says about being a writer and a dreamer is that I may often imagine being a better person so vividly that I may convince others I am that person when I describe them, and convince even myself. I don’t want to do that. But I think right now that I will be content to be reviled and cast out, all for standing out in the fringe, in the desert, calling out to any who would listen:

“True joy is offered to you, and it is offered freely! I love you because God himself loves you so incorruptibly! Strike me if you must but accept His forgiveness! Hate me but love HIM! Trust that he is good! Know that he is true! Don’t look at me but look at the one who saves, who transforms, He takes away the sins of the world!”

To put to death each day the desire to see the creation as precious in itself, and to consider every person, every desire, every good thing in a 10,000 year view; these are the desires of my heart. So that in the very moment that eternity hangs in the balance, I will speak the true word.

Lord let it be so.