Music the language of the human heart

Psalm is the Greek translation (psalmos) of the Hebrew word mizmor that is found in 57 psalm superscriptions. A mizmor is a song sung to musical accompaniment. Psalms is a collection of 5 books containing 150 poetical expressions mostly set to music or vocal expressions. For some of you on the 105 journey you finally found a part of the OT that is familiar and somewhat comfortable.  The Psalms connect with our hearts because we can find ourselves in the poems and in the songs.  They express what we are often feel.  They speak the struggles of our hearts, our fears, frustrations, our anger, our confusion, our questions, our longings, our hopes, and our dreams.  Most have their favorites. Ones we seem to go to that resonate with our present circumstances.  They are like a favorites playlist on our iTunes.

So what’s on your playlist?  Which Psalms resonate most with you?

One of my favorites is Psalm 63.  David finds himself in the wilderness of Judah as he has fled because of the rebellion and uprising led by his son Absalom. I can’t imagine what David is feeling.  But I can imagine what I am feeling. This is why my heart and yours connect with the Psalms.  We make them our songs. O God you are my God, earnestly will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  David is in a place where he feels empty and thirsty, a place where he is growing weary and desperate. This place pushes him towards God.  He recalls a time when he was worshiping in the sanctuary, seeing and savoring the Glory of God.   In reaching back and remembering, he is able to move ahead.  His worship moves his heart, his circumstances from being self focused to being God consuming.  God again becomes his greater passion. And he begins to worship:

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

When you feel weary, empty, frustrated, angry, anxious, or confused live the Psalm.  Reach back and remember a time when you worshiped God. When you where able to see and experience His Glory, and worship again!

So may the Psalms become what they are intended to be for us.  Not about you finding your story in them.  But about you finding your story in Him.


Have you considered Job?

A question raised by God about Job not once but  twice.  Before we look at this question  let’s see how this book opens:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

Whenever I hear a message or read a blog post about Job I always feel like I am hearing from  Job’s fourth friend.  “Job’s problem was . . .  Job struggled with . . . . Pride, that was Job’s real issue.”   Let’s remember these words that begin the prologue, “blameless, upright, feared God, shunned evil.” If you miss the prologue you miss the story of Job.

So back to this question raised by God to Satan. Listen to what God says about Job in verse 8: “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” If Job is all these things, why offer him up to the evil one?  Why allow such pain and suffering to someone who has the impeccable character of Job?  And in all this Job did not sin by blaming God. We come to chapter 2 and the unthinkable happens, God raises the question to Satan, again. God reiterates the heart of Job in verse 3: “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” So now Job sits, covered with painful sores over every inch of his body,  and in all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

So why?  This after all is the question that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar attempt to answer.   Let me throw out 2 things to think about without sounding like the fourth friend.

A Theology of Suffering and the capacity to be making much of Him forever.  Job fleshes out for us how the gospel shapes the way we look at suffering and how the glory of God is always to be penultimate. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  In the quest for answers God becomes lost in the search.  In looking to satisfy the “why” question, we forfeit being satisfied and delighted in Him.

A Theology of Perspective and seeing and savoring the greatness of God.  When God finishes speaking to Job we read this in Job 42:1-6:

Then Job replied to the LORD:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job had heard of God. He had been taught about Him, he worshiped Him, feared Him, loved Him and obeyed Him.  But now, Job sees Him.  His perspective of God has been forever reshaped by the very hand of God through suffering. His awareness of the Sovereignty and Holiness of God as well as his awareness of his own flesh have been set on a course to always be growing.

You have heard much about God, but is your life making much about Him?

when People are Big and god is small

So how’s the 105 going?  In case you are new to my blog the 105 is a journey that our fellowship (New Life) has been on since the beginning of February.  We are reading through the Bible in 105 days. It’s day 32. Yes, I am breaking sequence this week and only blogging once.  Let me encourage you about 2 things about this incredible adventure together.  The Bible is a great read.  I know I know, you are thinking right about now, “have you’ve been reading the same book??”   The answer is yes.  My prayer is that as you read you will get a sense of the big picture of Bible and see it as a whole.  The Bible is also a book that is primarily about Jesus Christ.  I would encourage you, particularly as we are reading our way through the OT, that you go back and watch again the video I posted from Tim Keller.

My friend Dr. Ed Welch wrote a book called When people are BIG and God is small. In the book he discusses how the idol beneath much of our sins is fear, particularly the fear of people.  We give people a position and a power that should only belong to God.  I think the prophet Elijah would have benefited from Ed’s book.  We find the prophet on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18 face to face with Ahab and over 800 prophets of Baal and  Asherah.  Elijah poses a significant statement:  “how long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him .” There is no doubt left to the reader who is BIG to Elijah.   But then we come to 1 Kings 19.  What happened?  What changed?  How did God become so insignificant?    “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” God became insignificant because Elijah became significant. I find my own journey in much of this story (not that I have recently called fire down from heaven).  There are times when I see God being so Big in my life, so significant, only to have my heart soon captivated by my own idolatry.

Dr. Welch shares this about the fear of people, “If the gaze of man awakens fear in us, how much more so the gaze of God.  If we feel exposed by people, we will feel devastated before God,” (p.33). Here are some steps that Dr. Welch lays out to help us in becoming consumed with the gaze of God instead of the gaze of people:

Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.

If the LORD is God, follow him . . .


The Crossings

The crossing of Moses. Deuteronomy 34:5 is one of the saddest verses to me in the OT, “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said.”  Forty years!  Forty years of wandering through the desert with all the heat, dirt, sand, and rocks.  Forty years of mana (where’s the beef!).  Forty years of bearing the burden of leading and managing this large nomad city.  Forty years of constant complaining day in and day out.  Forty years of ministering to the people of God as a humble servant.  Forty years of worshiping God.  And one moment of frustration and arrogance.  Let’s be honest, it just doesn’t seem fair!  These are the moments I find my humanity clashing with His deity.  Yet, one thing has been very clear in our journey so far, God is Holy! So Holy that he buries his servant Moses in the valley there in Moab and does not let him enter the promised land.  This is why only one sacrifice, only One,  would be sufficient to appease His holiness and our depravity (Is. 53)

The crossing of the people of Israel. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness is about to end.  Israel stands on the bank of the Jordan river as God once again prevents the water so they can cross over.  When all the people had finished crossing, Joshua instructs one person from each tribe to go into the river and pick up one stone.  With these stones he builds a memorial that is “to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”  You see the stones tell a story, a story of what the Lord had done for His people.  It amazes me, here we are today retelling the story of the stones and our God.  But something strikes me about this memorial, what’s missing from the story.  The memorial has very little to do with the people of Israel, all their failings, their complaints, their sin, why they ended up in the wilderness in the first place.  The memorial instead has everything to do with their God!  I can’t help but think of Jesus, you see he has become the greater memorial.  Our gatherings to celebrate the Lord’s table, communion, are to be a time for us to “re-tell” the Gospel, the story of Jesus Christ. And yet I find that these times tend to be consumed with the individual and their experience.  Both the stones and the elements of the bread and cup are to be making much about Christ.  So the next time you hold the elements in your hands remember . . . not your past, not your present, not your future . . . remember Jesus who has now become your past, present, and future.

best kids program

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates —  Deut. 6:4-9

Shema is a term given to a set of daily prayers recited by members of the Jewish faith. They are affirmations of the sovereignty of God, and the singular nature of God.  It is recited twice a day, during both morning and evening prayers. Shema literally means “hear.”  We believe in one God, who has revealed Himself in the Bible, in nature, and in man’s conscience as the Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge; existing eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By His sovereign power God continues to sustain His creation, and by His providence He orders the affairs of men and nations according to His wise, eternal plan. He is infinite in His wisdom, unchangeable in His attributes, righteous and loving in all His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; John 1:1-3; 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; Ephesians 1:3-14)

So what does the Shema and these commandments have to do with parenting? I find myself at a new stage in my life, the parent of a senior in HS.  It is quite terrifying at times to be perfectly honest.  While his mother and I have worked very hard in preparing him and us for this moment, it seems like there is still so much more to do.  I honestly don’t think I could ever feel perfectly prepared for this, not even sure if we are supposed to be.   But today I was again reminded of my greatest responsibility as a dad, to impress upon the hearts of my sons to Love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength.  I had the chance to have lunch with one of my sons today.  As always we laughed alot, we ate alot, I tried to embarrass him as much as humanly possible, we talked about how school was going, and then we spent the rest of the time doing my favorite thing . . . talking about God and life.  So what have I impressed upon the hearts and lives of my 2 sons?  This is a haunting question for me.  It should be a haunting question for you as well.  What is the greatest impression that you are making on the hearts and lives of your children?  What do they see written across the doorframes of your life?  What consumes your conversations and time spent with them?  What is your greatest concern for them? What is your greatest hope for them?   So today and all our tomorrows, may we live the Shema with our children. May loving and knowing God be the consuming passions of their hearts.  May it first be ours!