Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CORRECTION: Yesterday I sent the following question out in an e-mail.

2. Ash Wednesday began:
A.) When chimney sweeps were looking to make a few dollars with all that extra ash
B.) In the year 33 A.D.
C.) In Gaul in the 9th Century

I incorrectly said the answers were B & C. Wrong! The correct answer is C. Sorry. (Thanks Steve Mattison for serving my editor!)

Speaking of corrections, I feel like that's where I've been living recently. Longing for things to be different than they are.

Last week all three of our kids missed three days of school. Yesterday they were all back in school. Whew.


Today Noah is home again. This time with what we think might be pink eye. Which is bringing symptoms he did not have last week. Corrections. When will everyone get healthy?

Last week my aunt passed away. She was my Dad's last direct connection to his family of origin. His parents are gone. His siblings are gone. We head down to southern Indiana later this week where I will officiate the funeral and will hope to offer some comfort to Dad and my cousins. Corrections. When will people stop dying?

I've been thinking about some of my friends and family. There are marriages that are on life support. There are families with reduced income or no income at all. There are children who are suffering through situations that childish adults have put them in. Corrections. When will suffering and sorrow end?

It was with this set of life's circumstances that I came to Psalm 22 again today. (I've been reading and re-reading the Psalms this past month.)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning? (v1)

A pretty useful prayer.

Sometimes the words come jumping out of our life and our own circumstances.

Sometimes they are the perfect words to pray for loved ones who don't have the words or the strength to pray themselves.

Sometimes it seems as if God is nowhere to be found. As if He changed his e-mail or phone number and let everyone but you and me know.

The Psalmist, however, is a person of faith and keeps calling:

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help. (v11)

I was thinking of the old hymn that says,
The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide.
A Shelter in the time of storm.
Secure whatever ill betide.
A Shelter in the time of storm.

That's good news when, as the Psalmist writes,

...my strength has dried up...

Because he continues...

But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me. (vv15a, 19)

When your strength is gone, He will be your Strength.

May you be developing the habit of calling out to God today. May God bring corrections, even slowly, into your world.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passing the Faith Along

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old -
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.

He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children. (Psalm 78:1-6)

Did you notice how many times the Psalmist speaks of "parents," "children," or "the next generation"?

He is making a statement: "Those who came before us told us. We will tell those who come after us."

It is an important idea in Hebrew and Christian teaching: passing the faith along.

Think about it: you know God because someone told you about God.

Maybe it was a parent or grandparent.

Maybe it was a Sunday school teacher or youth leader.

Maybe it was a neighbor or a friend.

Think about the people you have the opportunity to tell.

Are you being intentional in their lives?

Are you praying for them on a regular basis?

Why not thank God for those who have led you in the faith right now?

Why not take a moment and ask the Spirit to be at work in and through you today?

Grace & peace

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Are You Thirsting For?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Sometimes we get cravings. We'll see a billboard or an ad for some delicious looking item. We just have to have it. Well, we don't really need it. We just want it.

In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is giving us a picture of a need not a want.

He needs time with God. He needs God to show up BIG in his life.

My tears have been my food day and night...as I pour out my soul...

Have you been there recently?

Messed up marriage.

Job loss.

Feeling disconnected from others.

Feeling disconnected from God?

The Psalmist understood.

...all your waves and breakers have swept over me (v7).

When is the last time you took some extra time to hear from the Lord?

Maybe go for a walk and listen for God.

Turn off the TV and sit quietly in the chair.

Spend a few minutes reading scripture until you get the sense the words are for you.

What keeps you from doing it today?

Too busy?

Not really interested?

Take a lesson from the Psalmist.

1.) he correctly identifies his need. His need isn't for more money or a better family. He is panting for God.

2.) the correctly prescribes the cure: A fresh outpouring of God's presence. A renewed sense of Who God is.

3.) he doesn't delay or ignore the cure. The Psalmist does what he needs to do. He begins to interact with God.

And as he works his way through this panting, an intense longing for God, "a word from the Lord" begins to well up inside him:

Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (vv 5 & 11)

Twice these thoughts jump out off of the page.

Maybe you need to read that verse to yourself . Whisper it if you must. Say it out loud if you can.

Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (vv 5 & 11)

Is it possible that the sense of apathy or anger or boredom that we occasionally feel could be answered by some good, quality time alone with The Spirit?

May you be given the gift of patiently carving that time out today in your life.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Multiple Choice Bible Quiz

Certain words become attached to particular people.

In our recent Presidential campaign, (whether you agree with their claims or not), one candidate became associated with the word "change" while another became associated with the word "maverick".

Certain words become attached to particular places.

If you hear Eiffel Tower you think Paris. If you hear Fenway Park you think Boston.

The Bible is no different, I suppose, in that way. You hear particular words and you think of Scripture. Below are six of the great words the people of Scripture have used.

See if you can match the number of times each word occurs in the King James Version On the left is the word. On the right is the number of times the word occurs in the O.T./N.T. Match the correct word in column A with the correct numbers in column B.

1. Creation A. 42/1

2. Covenant B. 257/23

3. Exodus C. 79/16

4. Fatherless D. 0/6

5. Idols E. 623/14

6. Offerings F. 0/0

The answers are below (according to www.bible.com).

- "Creation" D. Occurs 0 times in the O.T. and 6 times in the N.T. "Create" and "Created"however, occur with more frequency.

- "Covenant" B. Occurs 257 times in the O.T. and 23 times in the N.T. It was #2 on our short list. It is a key component to understanding the way God views us. A covenant is based upon a relationship between two parties. Our understanding of living as people of faith in the world includes our partnering and interacting with God based upon that Covenant.

- "Exodus" F. Occurs 0 times in the O.T. and 0 times in the N.T. The idea appears all over the place and the Exodus Event is referenced often. But the word itself does not appear in Scripture.

- "Fatherless" A. Occurs 42 times in the O.T. and 1 time in the N.T. Surprised how often this one shows up? What does it say about how God thinks about the defenseless, those who are in need, and the importance of a healthy, highly functioning family?

- "Idols" C. Occurs 79 times in the O.T. and 16 times in the N.T. Another key concept in the Judeo-Christian theology. The Scripture tells us The LORD our God, the LORD is one. There are not multiple gods. We often attempt to make God in our own image or conform God to our idea. But Scripture is clear that every other idea or interpretation, ultimately, is a poor copy of the The Real.

- "Offerings" E. Occurs 623 times in the O.T. and 14 times in the N.T. Surprised how often this one occurs? Even I was. Among other things, this tells that me giving back to God is a key component in our relationship with God.

But the one that caught my attention initially was "fatherless". I was reading Psalm 10. Twice the Psalmist mentions this word and these people within the space of five verses:

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are a helper of the fatherless (v14)

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed...(v18a)

God is a "Helper of the Fatherless" and a "Defender of the Fatherless".

If those are descriptions of who God is, and we are God's people, then those should be descriptions of what we are like and what we do.

Who lives, sits, walks, laughs, yells, studies or works close to you? Do any of them fit in the categories of fatherless or oppressed?

What might you do today to carry God's help or defense to them?

Grace & peace

Monday, February 9, 2009

One Psalm, One God

It is Monday morning. I just dropped the kids off at school. This morning I spent some time in Psalm 9.

First, I'm reflecting upon our day at church together yesterday. It was a very good day. A number of us enjoyed time together in worship. We read Scripture. We prayed. We welcomed friends. We met new folks. We sang. The sun was shining. The thermometer was up. People volunteered to be part of ongoing ministries. Two people recommended ideas for new ministries.

God was at work in us and through us. I thought of many of those things as I read Psalm 9:1-2:

I will praise you, O LORD,
with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you.
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Have you spent ANY time today thanking God, declaring God's wonders, rejoicing, or singing God's praise? If not, take 15 seconds right now. (Go ahead....I'll wait.)

However, as I mentioned a moment ago, today IS Monday. Which means there is a list of things that have to get done this week. Some look very daunting. Problems all seem to knock on the door on Mondays, don't they?

There is a funeral service tomorrow for a family outside the church.
We missed you who were away from us yesterday.
We are praying for some of our church family who have lost their job.
We are interceding for others who are fighting spiritual battles.
We are lifting you up to God if you are struggling within your family and your marriage.
Some are battling depression and strongholds in their lives.
There is are families with car problems.

I thought of many of you as I read Psalm 9:9-10:

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Maybe your life's circumstances draw you to one part of that Psalm or the other. I'm living in both of them today and this week.

I'm thankful to know our God is the God of BOTH parts of Psalm 9.

May the God of Psalm 9 reign in you today, and speak personally and powerfully into your life.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Seen and Heard

Agnosticism and atheism.

Agnostics are people who "don't know" whether God exists or not. Agnosticism contends such knowledge (gnosis) is not possible.

Atheism takes it a step further: God does not exist.

As Christians, we are convinced of something different. Sometimes when I'm feeling really convinced, I even wonder how such thoughts can be reasonable. In those moments I want to shout and sing with the Psalmist:

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory. (Psalm 63:2 NIV)


...there are other times it is only reasonable that doubts and questions would creep into our minds.

Job loss.

Death of a loved one.

A dryness in my spirit.

Feeling cut off from things or people that deliver God's grace into my life.

I think it was to that person in this second category that Psalm 94:9 speaks so powerfully:

Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?

I love those questions.

Go back and read them slowly.

Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?

Now ask yourself, "What do I really enjoy hearing?"

A child's laughter.

A really good piece of music or a song with a catchy tune.

A can of ice cold cola popping on a summer's day.

The crack of a baseball bat.

The sound of the waves against the shore or a brook that gently laps against the stones.

The GPS when it says, "You have reached your destination" as I pull into my driveway after a long trip.

I wonder if those sounds might be insight into the One who implanted the ear.

Just as surely as I hear and enjoy those sounds, you just can't convince me Someone didn't know I'd appreciate them. Sometimes every fiber of my being has to say, "Thank you!" for these great sounds.

Even if I wasn't a Christian, I'd have to say "Thank you" to Someone. Do you ever feel like that?

Now ask yourself, "What do I really enjoy seeing?"

The welcoming arms of a loved one I haven't seen in awhile.

The Rocky Mountains as their peaks begin to peek over the front of the hood of the family minivan.

Blue skies and big fluffy white clouds.

A rising thermometer.

Dropping numbers on the bathroom scales.

Those are just some of the things I have enjoyed seeing at some point in my past. Things I'd like to see again.

I am reminded that if I can see them, then surely the One who so generously and creatively planned to give me eyes to see them and the ability to enjoy them, sees too. Is it conceivable that for he who formed the eye to not see?

Which must mean God sees the crummy things too. The lost job. The death. The illness. The isolation. When we have been horrible to each other. When we've been greedy or thoughtless.

Have you ever had someone come up to you in a horrible mood and they start spilling their guts to you? You sit there for a few moments without saying a thing. Then the other person ends by saying, "Thanks for listening. I feel so much better."

What did you do? Just listen.

Maybe that person only needed to know they were heard.

I think that is one function of Psalm 94:9. It is God's way of saying, "I hear you and I see you. You have not been forgotten."

If you'd allow me, I want to assure you that you have been seen and heard today.

Grace & peace

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Heritage

Their names are like a roll call in my mind of God's saints:

Rev. & Mrs. E.K. Himes of western Pennsylvania.

Rev. & Mrs. Tracy Crowder from sourthern Indiana.

They were my grandparents. And I was thinking of them this morning as I read Psalm 61:5...

For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. (italics added)

I was thinking of them because for me, they are the major part of the heritage that was passed on through my parents.

I was thinking of them because their faithfulness to Jesus calls me to be faithful too.

I was thinking of them because the heritage I have received now calls us to pass it along to children God has given me and Tammi.

I was thinking of them because who I am as a man, as a father, as a husband, and as a pastor is largely as a result of that heritage.

I was thinking of them because their modeling the Christlike life for me inspires me as I ask God to allow the Spirit to work through me.

I was thinking of them as I invite you to either live up to the heritage you have been given (if you have been shown faithful examples of what it means to live for God)


...to start a Godly heritage of your own (if your family of origin didn't give you such a heritage).

The Psalmist's words at the end of this chapter are mine and I hope they are yours too:

...I will ever sing praise to your name
and fulfill my vows day after day (61:8).

May God help you TODAY to fulfill your vows to and live worthy of such a heritage.

Grace & peace