Archive for January, 2015

Finger Work

January 28, 2015

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens…

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

 the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

 what is man that you are mindful of him,

 and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1-4

 A clear sky and an innumerable collection of stars welcomes the sun today and shows the delicate, intentional work of God’s fingers (Cf. Psalm 19:1). Psalm 8 also came to mind.

Our little planet matters a great deal to God.

God stretches my vocabulary in Psalm 8! God’s glory (“LORD”; essence) sovereignly rules earth from beyond the starry host as King and Master (“Lord”). He displays His nature (“name”) and does so in “majesty” (i.e., lofty, high, noble, powerful, splendid).

I can’t forget: Everything about creation’s existence and direction is ascribed to the Son (Hebrews 1-2).

Another joy of Psalm 8: God lovingly and personally directs everything through us! “Don’t miss this mark of God’s majesty. It runs all through the Bible. The glory of God’s strength is greater because it is established through human weakness.” (John Piper)

Our value is indescribably humbling, as we go about being God’s agents to majestically reflect His glory and display His name right here on planet earth.

How might we pray Psalm 8 today?


Today, January 26, 2015

“…His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”  Nahum 1:3

“Do you know the hoverings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?” Job 37:16

This morning, just before sunrise, the attention grabbing characters were the fast moving clouds.

Clouds, figurative and actual, draw our attention to our Father. “It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child… Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?” (Oswald Chambers)

More simple…with gleaming eyes, trusting, adoring, joyful. Like a child.

I wonder what God is asking me to unlearn today. I love clouds!

The Trampoline

January 21, 2015

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?” Job 38:12-13 (NKJV)

The Trampoline

The moon is gracing the other side of earth this morning, yet the starry prelude to the sun and the sunrise itself scream of the undebatable but often avoided answer to every question and challenge.

Like a child who wasn’t listening and asks the same question over and again (I have six grandchildren…), God answers the challenges of Job and his friends about personal suffering and the wicked with a barrage of rhetorical questions—all with one answer: Himself. In particular in Job 38:12-13, everything, even the wicked, is under control because dawn’s Commander is in charge.

With several translations taken together, Job 38:13 personifies Yahweh as taking a cloth (“skirt” ESV), grabbing it by its four corners, and shaking the wicked out. I imagine a trampoline with too many people on it, with bodies flying off into the grass. The wicked are doomed.

Father, my starting point to every question today is You. Help me to keep in step with Your intentional plan (ex., Galatians 5:16-26)—to be unshakable, stable, trusting in Your all-powerful arm…which will soon shake the dickens out the wicked and redeem creation!

Don’t Go To Church

“And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.” Mark 2:4

Last Saturday, our family and friends moved ten trillion pounds of possessions belonging to my daughter, Robin, and her five-fold family. You know what this looks like: bicycles, tricycles, kid wagons and wooden horses, enough kid books to fill the Dayton Library, and an earth-mover truck tire taller than an oak tree. Yes, you heard correctly: a monstrous tire my son-in-law uses to train for triathlons. You don’t want to be on the bottom side of the ramp when this avalanche comes off the truck.

God provided perfect weather, good health, and an astounding demonstration of the Church (all followers of Jesus Christ) and church (a local congregation) in action. For example, Robin’s small group from church showed up en masse to help. Strong men and their astonishing wives showed up with pick-up trucks and trailers, strong backs and hearts.

We had fun, too. At one point, for instance, the truck tire guy outlaw/in-law relative of mine (Samuel) had to remove the front door to steal an inch of room to bring in the sofa. For a demanding few moments, while the right tools were pursued and two or three men balanced the heavy sofa sleeper halfway up the porch stairs, folks joked and someone in the crowd yelled, “Go through the roof; it’s biblical!”

Speaking of biblical things…During his days as pastor, Eugene Peterson wrote: “One of the afflictions of pastoral work has been to listen, with a straight face, to all the reasons people give for not going to church: ‘My mother made me when I was little.’ ‘There are too many hypocrites in the church.’ ‘It’s the only day I have to sleep in.’…I listen (with a straight face) and go home and pray that person will one day find the one sufficient reason for going to church, which is God.”

God is the reason to “go to” church. It is His and He calls us together as imperfect as we are. And there are important, specific calls and benefits when we commit ourselves to a local congregation. Consider: for gathered worship to God (Ephesians 5:18-21) and to be equipped for ministry for God (Ephesians 4:11-15).

I saw some other biblical, wonderful reasons Saturday. Do it for the joy of fulfilling the “one anothers” in the New Testament—serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc. Do it for the joint encouragement of faith in action that pleases Jesus like the paralytic’s friends (above). Do it for authentic “fellowship” with other believers. Do it for Mondays—to prepare our own hearts and to build up others to go into a world that lies to us and is hostile to Christ.

Don’t just go to church. Be the church. Be the Church for God.

And don’t forget the guy on the roof and the Man inside.

The Rhea Herald-News

January 21, 2015

Alphabet Sunrise

Today, January 19, 2015

“By the word of Yahweh the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their array.” Psalm 33:6

Was it the Spirit of God or caffeine kicking in—or just my silliness? Or all three?

Being the simpleton I am, I was—at first—speechless while I saturated myself in the predawn cold. Watching as the sun stretched and yawned, the first words that came to mind were Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are declaring the glory of the Lord” (a daily friend for decades).

“What word would You have for me, Father,” I asked. “S” words came to mind and they became my prayer:

The subtlety of fading night stars all named by the Son

The starry host of observers

The invigorating shivers

The snappy air

The stark, silhouetted trees in the foreground

The sensation of God’s presence.

How extravagant to begin the day with an aliveness in the presence of Glory. And, isn’t it curious God spoke and everything was made?

Writers, creative types, or creation lovers that we all are: Tomorrow, stand outside in your warm robe in the middle of sunrise and pray all the descriptive words you can using one letter. Slippers required; hot coffee or tea optional.

“Z” will be hard, but praising God can be fun!

A Winter’s Respite

Today, January 16, 2015

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.” Hebrews 1:25-27 (Cf. Psalm 102)

The sun! Ours is blue sky and the promise of a winter’s respite all the way to fifty degrees today. The sun easily calls attention to The Son of God, who is Creator and Lord and made the sun and its companions—“the heavens are the work of your hands.”

Since early this morning I have been reading about addressing the Son in worship (Psalm 45; Revelation 4-5; Hebrews 1). There must have been a huge party in heaven when the Father and angels watched the Son make the celestial congregation. For us, A.P. Gibbs, in Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation, ends his book by saying: “How good…to hear spiritually intelligent ascriptions of worship and praise addressed to the Father through His beloved Son; and also to hear the Son of God directly addressed in worship and praise by those who know, love, and adore Him!”(p. 219)

“Oh, how I love Jesus,” shouts the song of old this day of winter’s pardon and joy.

Nothing on Earth

Today, January 14, 2014

 “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:23-26

Lately, creation’s gray canopy closes me in and leaves me with earthbound thoughts. But God invites me to think beyond the clouds to heaven. From there, he sends His presence and  “holds” me, gives me “counsel,” and soon will “receive” me into His glorious presence. His strength enlivens me for each day. He is my “portion”—my life and joy (“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want”).

My daily reality, then, is both on earth and in heaven where Father and Son coordinate my day and future!

Getting Wet

Creation Today, January 12, 2015

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12

With many benefits and messages, rain is my opportunity this morning.

Hosea points to a healthy walk for today. In the prophet’s time of self and rebellion—and applied to me today—God’s rain beckons me to the rich garden of Christ-life: sowing His holiness; rejoicing in the fruit of His indescribable riches of  steadfastlove (“hesed”); pursuing the essential task of weeding out my sin.

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Father and Son, teach me to walk in your garden today.

The Cold Evaporates

Creation Today, January 9, 2015

“He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?” Psalm 147:17

The exceptional cold of the recent days uncovers my small view of God. Considered alone, the cold gives a distorted view. Does God not care about the life circumstances we endure? How harshly will He respond to our need for correction and forgiveness (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2)?

In irritable cold, I sadly limit my focus, tossing aside the splendid gifts of spectacular sunrises and sunsets, colors and clarity. At sunset last night there were amazing pink vapor trails, air-brushed by a lush pink setting sun, and a brilliant, sharply-focused celestial pair of observers. This morning, a waning gibbous moon and starry friends in the west await the sun.

The cold evaporates in the rush of our Creator’s glory!

John Burroughs caught a glimpse: “He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter…In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.”

The unnamed song writer of Psalm 147 experienced creation’s weather through clearer lenses. Calling for praises to Yahweh—“for it is good…pleasant”—he reminds Israel (think us) God builds up Jerusalem, heals the brokenhearted, lifts up the humble, delights in those who revere Him; and he strengthens, makes peace, and he commands the earth including hurling down crystals and cold (above).

Rejoice, go stand in the cold with an open heart, and drink deeply of creation each day. Our sovereign, all-powerful God reigns with outstretched, cupped hands!

The Unresolution

The Unresolution

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

While we’re still talking about resolutions in January, let’s talk about the resolution for 2015 God may desire for us but the one none of us wants to make. I’m calling it the unresolution.

By the sweet, lavish grace of God, I have not often experienced the “troubles” Jesus talks about in Matthew 6. There have been some. But it has been a holy privilege to walk alongside many suffering souls during decades of just living and “vocational Christian ministry.” Trouble doesn’t discriminate—even Godly folks and young people can have real losses and crosses that have nothing to do with sinful choices or failure. The truth of Scripture is no respecter of age or experience or wisdom or attainment when it comes to the Refiner’s fire.

One of Satan’s lies is it’s not supposed to be this way.

Recently, Cheryl and/or I have been called to do a lot of walking with others. It is an honor. Some have responded well to their circumstances, “casting all their care upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7). Others have not. May I suggest an unresolution for 2015 which none of us seek on our own: affliction? Here’s starter list to ponder the rest of your life.

Some suffering is designed by God to move us forward in holiness. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). Like a spike pounded into my forehead, it strikes me if Jesus had to learn obedience I must too (Hebrews 5:8). Yet, life with God is more than keeping the rules.

The window to learn the ways of God—deep and mysterious as they are—is cracked open by adversity. “It is good that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

In our troubles we can experience the comfort of God and gain the heart for and ministry to others with similar affliction. “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:6). I like this one a lot.

Like the mysterious deep, swift cold water below the surface on a hot day swim, the most satisfying gift in suffering is the identification and intimacy with Christ it can bring. “…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings…” (Philippians 3:8, 10). Wow.

Father, I think I am already seeing a pattern: Suffering is primarily about moving me closer to You and others. I confess I wouldn’t chose affliction on my own. But if You bring it my way 2015, please guide me to turn to you in it, grow in Christlikeness through it, and to point others to You because of it.

The Rhea Herald-News

January 7, 2014

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