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October 2018

The Night I Chased my "Stolen" Phone

Chasing tail

It was October 31, 2012. I had been at church for our annual carnival and had returned to my office in another part of town.
It was then that I noticed I did not have my phone.
I tweeted:

"My phone was stolen today and I finally realized I had a tracker on on. So we rode around town for a while tonight and I even knocked on one door where it was located, but it was not there and moved. So, I'll have to cancel the service tomorrow. I may be able to get delayed voice mails. We shall see. I've changed my main passwords. Life is fun!"

I did those things.

However, before that, I did several  other things.

I filed a police report.

I also had my wife pick me up and we followed the phone's tracks all over town. It was always a mile ahead of us, even as we drove back to our home in the country.

It was a little creepy. Why did the person with the phone come to our neighborhood and even near our house?

The next day, we found the phone in the back seat of my wife's car - under the seat actually.

We had been chasing ourselves all over town.

There must be a lesson there.



That Day

On that day

On that very day and day by day, I have known this to be true and have lived in the grace of this simple declaration:

" On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased."

 - Psalm 138:3 (ESV)

Who among us does not walk in the midst of trouble?

Yet, who among us and reading this has not survived such trouble?

Indeed, we walked in the midst and were preserved. We are alive to testify that not all trouble takes away our life or our reason to live. It is God's purpose for which we live and are alive ... and in His purpose, we thrive.

He has fashioned us for the brief moment we live and will lovingly and faithfully write the final chapter of our lives ... and a chapter that resounds with grace and love and joy.

We are not yet done. We are a people of purpose, beloved and not forsaken.

" Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands."

Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV)



Do Not Give Me Your Proxy - VOTE

We the people

While no one can do this job for you, you are, in effect, assigning your proxy to someone else if you neglect it.

This is a government of, by, and for the people, but only to the extent that we claim it as so.

There are many who would be glad for you not to vote, to assign them your choices, and to take charge of your decisions. But this is your government. You are the rulers and authorities. Under God, there is no higher authority in the country to which you must submit.

If you like the way things are going, for whatever reason, you can keep it going with your vote.

If you are dissatisfied, angry, disturbed, troubled, anxious about the future, and pricked in your conscience, you can change things. Only you can change things.

You can vote for justice, for love, for civility, for peace. for truth, for compassion, for understanding, for freedom, for good government, and for wise leaders. 

... or you can stay home and leave the decisions to the rest of us. Either way, you will have voted.

Too many people have put their lives on the line for this right. Please do not neglect it.


Thanks to: Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

unsplash-logoAnthony Garand

Come Away



Come away

Come away ... today.
Just snuggle, rock, relax.
Rock away your cares.
Find a space, a place of grace
Away from layers and layers of dares
To do this and be that ...
Rock, rock, rock and let the prayers
Of the moment and the memories of moments
And the prayers of others form a cushion for
Your soul and rock in the arms of One who
Loves you as you are and
Invites you to make yourself at home.


And now, for some "rock" music.

Rock-a-bye Baby!




The Real Test

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unsplash-logoKayla Harris

But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. - Luke 11:28

Jesus could handle controversy. He had just demonstrated that He could do so. He could handle direct attack. Now He faced an even greater challenge – how to handle praise. “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” seemed innocent enough, but Jesus knew that compliments could be dangerous and manipulative. He also knew that the greatest compliment that could ever be paid to His ministry would occur when people heard God’s Word and did something about it.

Proverbs 27:21 says that we are tested by the praise we receive. Jesus passed the test without being rude or ungrateful. What he did with that opportunity was zero in on the real issue with which He was confronting the people. It was not about how wonderful His words sounded or how magnificent His works appeared. The issue was that the people had the opportunity to hear the Word of God and the urgency to respond.

Hear and obey. It is that simple. It is the way of blessedness. It is the path of peace. It is the Jesus way.

Jesus had dealt with a difficult issue in the manner of a master teacher. He had confounded those who had accused Him of alliance with Satan. He had destroyed their argument and exalted the truth. At least one woman had been spellbound by the spectacle and profoundly impressed with His skill. She shouted out a compliment of the highest order.

So often we hear sermons and songs that are so beautiful in language and musical presentation that we are tempted to linger over them and pour out endless praise to those who have performed masterfully. Not to diminish their efforts, we must remind ourselves that it is the truth presented that carries more weight than the skill and artistry of the presentation.

Then, the real proof is in what we do with what we have heard. Having heard the Word, shall we obey? Therein, lies true blessing.



Awakening - from Hiding Counsel Without Knowledge

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unsplash-logoMichał Parzuchowski

Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. -Job 42:3

Someone has said that ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. That being the case, we say some pretty ridiculous things on the way to understanding. As a teenager, I once blurted out in church discussion led by my pastor that Paul had said, "To thine own self be true."

He very kindly informed me that I had just quoted Shakespeare.

There is nothing like a bright red face to put you in your place.

At some point, knowledge is better than ignorance and wisdom is far greater than foolishness. But both knowledge and wisdom come to us through a process of encounter with God. Though Job was humbled by the realization that He had known far less than he thought he had known, he rejoices in his new-found relationship with God and the unfolding clarity that is coming to his heart.

You can be embarrassed or instructed. Embarrassment will cripple you, but instruction will lead you on. My high school choir instructor taught us to make our mistakes blatant so that they could be corrected. He didn't want the bass section to whimper.

"If you are going to make a mistake, make a good one so we can fix it."

It is in seeking that we find.

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. -Job 42:5-6

Truth is personal. Job came to that place of understanding and it filled His heart with joy.

Who am I before God that I can ever presume to tell Him anything? That is the proper stance for us to take. He is God; we are not. He knows everything; we know nothing. We can get thickheaded and haughty in our complex theologies, but when God really wants to tell us something that we need to understand well, He speaks very clearly and simply - in His Son. Take heed of Him.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;  -Hebrews 1:1-3

Bold Prayer

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unsplash-logoHanny Naibaho


And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened… If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? - Luke 11:9–10, 13 

Jesus raises two issues. One is concerning what sort of praying people we ought to be. The other is what sort of God is it to whom we pray.

We are called to persistence and consistency in prayer. We are to be like the desperate and audacious friend who goes to his neighbor at midnight seeking bread to feed his guest. That kind of boldness gets God’s attention. He wants to develop that in us.

If we ask, we will receive. If we seek, we will find. If we knock, the door will be opened. E.M. Bounds says that God has placed himself under the law of prayer. He is Sovereign. He can do that. It is His choice. He has chosen to respond to prayer for His own reasons.

One may be the change that it affects in our own lives and the intimacy that is facilitated when we enter into partnership with God concerning the things that concern Him.

Jesus says that the neighbor, who is just a man and subject to sinful motivations, responded to the boldness of his friend and not to his friendship. By contrast, God is our Heavenly Father who is always waiting up for us. His light is always on and His delight is to give us good gifts.

That is who God is and His greatest delight is to give us the Holy Spirit, who incidentally, teaches us to pray from within and prays for us and through us.

We have two very major reasons to pray boldly: because bold prayer gets action and because we have a generous God who happens to be our Heavenly Father.

When You Pray, Say ...

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And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them,

 When ye pray, say,

 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

- Luke 11:1-4

Jesus teaches us to focus our hearts on the real issues in prayer: relationship with God, reverence for God, Kingdom concerns, practical needs, personal purity, and victory over sin.

“Our Father,” He allowed us to say with confidence and love. It accentuates our intimate and loving relationship with God. He rejoices to receive us into His presence and hear our prayers.

“Hallowed be Thy Name.”  No matter how intimate we are with God, He is God and we are not. He deserves our reverence and worship. We are not only His children, but His subjects.

His kingdom and will are our deep concerns in prayer. Kingdom motivation is the heart of praying in Jesus’ Name. We seek and request His will as we submit ourselves to His Lordship. This sort of praying pleases the heart of God.

We pray for daily bread because God wants to provide for our needs. He also wants us to ask. We bring our practical needs to God knowing that He is more concerned about our needs than we are

When we seek and offer forgiveness, we place ourselves on the altar of personal purity. We are asking God to remove any hindrance to what He desires to do in our lives, be that our own sin or our bitterness toward those who have sinned against us.

Finally, in Luke’s account, Jesus reminds us to keep our eyes on the prize and pray for victory over evil and temptation. The fact that we are authorized to pray this way gives us more than a clue that it is God’s intention to give us the victory.

So, our Master taught us to pray and so we ought to pray. In these few sentences all the prayers we will ever need to pray are included.



Spiritual Frustration

Did you ever notice this frustrating reality?

You clean up, fix up, or straighten up and it goes well for a while and then ... you relapse into a worse state than before.

There is a futility in constantly cleaning up and not dealing with the roots of what pollutes us, corrupts us, and manipulates our thinking into even deeper futility. An interruption in a cycle that is empowered by its own forces will only be temporary. Christian faith and spiritual transformation are not about momentary behavior modification or immobilization of peripheral demons. To repent is to recognize the difference between where we are going and where we can go and to change direction.

We have been invaded by the Kingdom of God and the King Himself has come to invite us into transformation, liberation, and deep significance. This is no passing matter or minor deliverance. The enemy that seeks to entrap and destroy the soul is sinister, persistent, and patient. We can choose a different master and step away from the "generation" bent on destruction. We need more than subtle reformation. We need re-FORM-ation in all of its implications.

Jesus speaks to the frustration of the human condition and its resistance to transforming grace when He says,

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

(Matthew 12:43-45 ESV)

One Needed Thing

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unsplash-logoShelby Miller

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. - Luke 10:41-42

 Martha knew how to entertain with style. It took its toll on her. She was careful and troubled all the time, especially when she had company. Perhaps she was a perfectionist and that was no doubt a great strain on her body and soul.

Mary knew how to be in the moment with Jesus. Jesus saw the value in both kinds of hospitality, but He wanted Martha to know that when tending to details interfered with tending to the Master Himself, just being with Him was all that really counted.

It is still what really counts.

It counts for the busy mother, the harried executive, the flustered teacher, the hard-driven salesman, and the politician in the pressure cooker of legislative compromise. It is what counts for the safety officer whose life is about responding to life or death emergencies, for the soldier who must be ever vigilant, and for the person caught up in the stress of ministry, working for the Lord.

We can get so absorbed with doing what needs to be done that we miss the one thing that is needed, a vital and ever deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. What did that mean for Mary who was commended for making the right choice?

Luke tells us that Mary sat at His feet and listened. We assume she was younger since it was Martha’s home. She was bold and eager and she was as absorbed in the words of the Master as Martha was in the work of the manor.

We must sit at His feet listening with youthful eagerness and bold audacity that puts our tasks in their place and elevates the times of devotional prayer, scriptural meditation, and reflection to the highest priority of our lives.

What Martha did that day would provide a meal and soon be forgotten. What Mary did could not be taken from her.

I can clear my desk, meet all my calendar demands, and execute multiple strategies to change the world for a time and leave the world inside of me unchanged. I will have some small accomplishments, but I will burn out before the end of the journey and miss the moment of meeting, the moment of transformation, the movement of grace.

It may seem that what startles you out of bed at the last minute tomorrow morning is the most important thing in the universe. It will not come close to the value of a relaxed and unhurried time at the feet of the Master.

It is the one needed thing.



Who Is My Neighbor?

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unsplash-logoRui Silvestre

Do Likewise

Luke 10:36-37 – Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

 We all know the story. It was prompted by a question and occasioned by a teaching in response to a greater question. What we have here is the application: Go and do likewise. One question led to another, then to a story, and then to the lesson Jesus desired to imprint upon every heart: that everyone is our neighbor and that loving our neighbor is about making a practical and active decision to do so and following through regardless of our feelings.

A legal expert who sought to trap Jesus in His own words asked Him what was necessary to inherit eternal life. He turned the question back to him and to his knowledge and interpretation of the law.

“Love God and love your neighbor” was both the answer he gave and the one that Jesus Himself gave on another occasion when asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus commended him and told him to go and do likewise.

That wasn’t enough for the lawyer. He needed an escape clause, something that limited his liability and reduced his responsibility.

“Define neighbor,” was his retort. So, Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and put him in a real bind. He made the hero of the story an outcast from the social and religious life of the Jews. He told the story in such a way as to make the answer to the question obvious.

“Who was the neighbor? Was he one of those who left the poor man stranded by the road or the Samaritan who gave of himself and his means to help him?”

The lawyer answered generically, and Jesus responded specifically, “Go and do likewise.”

Go; live like an outcast among outcasts if you must, but practice love as you go. Love is not revealed in the words we speak or the sentiments we feel, but in the actions, we take in being neighbors to our neighbors.

Go forth and live it.



Blessed Are the Eyes that See

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unsplash-logoNonsap Visuals


Luke 10:23-24   And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

A great teacher and writer, T.W. Hunt once said that upon arriving in Heaven, he’d want to see Jesus first and behold the Lord upon His throne. After that, he said, he’d like to see two things in Heaven that no man ever saw on earth. One would be a full holographic replay of creation and the other would be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.

For those living in Jesus’ day, it was a greater privilege than they realized to experience Him in the flesh as first-hand witnesses of His teachings and of His Passion. Those who saw Him after He was raised from the dead had mixed reactions which almost always exploded into joy once they finally “got it.”

Jesus looked back on those who had believed and hoped over the centuries for the day of His coming. How they would have given everything just to live in that particular moment of history, the dawning of redemption!

We ourselves look back to those days and often pine for that experience, wishing we could have lived in that day. Yet, we do live in that day.

We have seen what even those who lived in Jesus’ day have not seen. We have heard what they have not heard. We have two thousand years of history and a bible that interprets that history for us in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the promise of His coming again.

I agree with Dr. Hunt and would rejoice to see replays of those great events witnessed only by God and the angels. However, I would not trade one bit of what we know and celebrate this day for all the knowledge in the world. Namely, what we declare today is central to all else and we are blessed to see it and hear it:

The Lord is risen!

He is risen indeed!





The sign austin-chan-275638-unsplash

unsplash-logoAustin Chan

Days pass ... weeks, months, years
... decades slip away,
Innovating life,
Invention of our minds,

Intention of our hearts,
... or something else .... confiding ....
Residing in our soul ....
Guiding to some goal?
Is there a whole in the hole ...
A purposeful role 
we play
in the scheming dreaming of these days?
Is there more in gleaming rays to our ways 
that doth
Unfold as the story's told?
And am I bold ...
or just old?
I cannot, will not, shall not fade away in this story.
I cannot, will not, shall not wade away from glory.
I cannot, will not, shall not get stuck in a rhyme.
Not this time!
Yesterday seems so long ago.
And many yesterdays like recent past 
and present ... but it does not last.
Nothing lasts but That which Is and ...
In that Isness nothing passes, nothing is lost.
Flowers wilt as do the grasses, great the cost,
Mass the masses, lads and lasses move in great procession
Through our memories but ever present
In the heart of That which, He which Is and In that
Isness I reside for that same Isness resides in me.

Grace, peace, joy, love, and wonder, from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and always and forever more. May the Great "I Am" be within you. Amen.



Mere Men - The Nations Must Know

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unsplash-logoManos Kolovouris


Reflections on Psalm 9:6-20 and the Judgment of God

Psalm 9:6 - Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.

The wrath of God is not gentle or sentimental. He does not do a halfway job of dealing with evil. Nor ought we to desire Him to do a partial work of sanctification within us. He knows the enemy that dwells within our hearts and He is aware that His enemy within us is also our enemy. He loves us enough to deal ruthlessly with that which destroys our souls. May the cities of evil within our lives be uprooted and their memory perish.

Psalm 9:7 - The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.

Perhaps we have the notion that God's judgment is some sort of negative force - like "the dark side of God." This could not be further from the truth. It is the ultimate expression of His sovereignty and power, which fuel His grace, mercy, and love. His judgment means that He reigns. He is in charge. He determines, once and for all, what is true, acceptable, and right. As Christians, let us rejoice in His judgment. Facing the cross, Jesus said, "Now is the judgment of this world; now is the prince of darkness cast down … and … if I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me. Because God is the sovereign judge, we have hope.

Psalm 9:8 - He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.

How God judges differentiates Him for all earthly representatives of justice. All that He does is absolutely right and true. He deals fairly with every issue that comes before Him. We can trust Him to help us sort out the ambivalence in our lives. We can rest assured that when He interprets our meaning of our days and guides us in the paths He has set before us, we are safe, and we are walking in His righteousness and justice. In the last judgment, His pronouncements will be the final word on the matter. Let no one else judge your life but submit it to Him daily for His final word of the day.

Psalm 9:9 - The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

The oppressed are very dear to God. A rabbi once said that God must truly love the poor because He made so many of them. So it is with the oppressed. And the story is bigger than we imagine on the surface. We are all among the oppressed. Temptation, sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil oppress us on all sides and from within. When Israel was at the sea and the Egyptians were in pursuit, God called on Moses to lead His people into a wilderness of refuge. There appeared to be no walls and no shelter, but God had a plan to protect His people. He was their refuge and stronghold and He is ours. We, like them, must move toward Him in faith even when what is ahead looks like a vast wilderness without wall. God is your protector from all that oppresses you today.

Psalm 9:10 - Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

One of the gifts that God gave to Israel was His personal name. It was a secret that was not available outside of the covenant. It was a source of power, strength, and belonging. It was so sacred that no Jew would pronounce it or even consider it without the deepest reverence and awe. And yet, every Jew knew His name and to know it evoked a profound trust and stirred up memories of His faithfulness throughout the generations. To know His name was and is to know Him. We have, through Jesus, free access to our Heavenly Father and know Him by that name. In knowing Him, we trust Him. In trusting Him, we seek Him. And He never forsakes us. Nor shall He forsake you as you seek Him in trust today.

Psalm 9:11 - Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.

We must proclaim, not only among ourselves, but also among the nations all that our God has done. As we praise Him openly, we practice worship evangelism. Our sincerity, exuberance, and devotion all bear witness to His glory and His mighty deeds. Praise holds up His character, grace, and love for all to see. Praise declares the sovereignty and reign of God and announces His Kingdom with authenticity and veracity.  If we will praise Him with our whole hearts and let His joy and power flow through us, we will bear witness in a manner that is compelling and truthful. Many do not know. As we worship Him transparently and openly, they will see and hear of His wonderful works and be drawn to Him. But remember this is not a show that we produce for the world. It is real praise that we direct to Him with the world looking on. If we keep these first things first, we won't be able to avoid the fruit of evangelism.

Psalm 9:12 - For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.

Who can forget the image of old Jewish elder, disgusted with the injustices of the world, shaking his fist in prayer to the God he loves and adores, demanding God's attention and justice? And God does not strike him dead. In fact, God hears his cry for it comes from one of his faithful servants. Perhaps we would recommend an attitude of greater humility before a holy God, but we would not forget His willingness and determination to hear the cry of the afflicted. God forgets no injustice without remedy. He does not sweep the blood of martyrs under some cosmic rug and wipe their pain from His memory. God deals with it. Look at the cross. God is dealing with it there. He is remedying the injustice. He is correcting the wrong. He is answering the prayers of the afflicted for restoration and He is hearing your prayers as well.

Psalm 9:13-14 -  O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up form the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation.

When we are burdened and persecuted, is this the nature of our cry that of this psalmist? Are we seeing an end result in God's mercy merciful rescue that culminates in greater and more heartfelt praise for Him? Do we envision rejoicing that ultimately honors Him and brings glory to His name?  How wrapped up are our own wishes, emotions, and requests in His purposes, will, and desires? How deeply do we long for His will to be done and His reign to come on earth as it is in Heaven? Let us not cease to cry for mercy and deliverance - for we are in great need - but may we grow to see that our salvation is something intimately connected with the worship of God.

Psalm 9:15 - The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.

Like the nations, we have often fallen into puts we have dug or have become entrapped in nets of our own making. This probably does not come as news to you since it is so common to our human experience. If we are honest we will admit to our contributory role in our own troubles. Whenever we devise clever and sinister plots it is we ourselves who enter into forced servitude to the very forces that drove us to ambition. So powerful are the snares and false promises of success and competition among humans that we are lured into their captivity by a wink, a nod, or an image. The antidote is focus - clear and centered upon God through Jesus Christ. We face grave danger today if we lose our focus and untold possibilities for blessing if we keep seeking Him.

Psalm 9:16 - The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

 Have you ever considered the reputation of God? That fact that He is known by His justice is a telling sign.  Before we encounter the love and grace of God, we already understand that He is fair and righteous and truthful. We also know that in the grand scheme of things, poetic justice dictates that their own devices ensnare the wicked.  If the world already understands this dimension of God and His ways, we have good news for them. Jesus came to brings us, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.” That story is that this same God passionately and jealously loves us with a love so deep that mercy and grace flow in unbroken succession from His heart. Do not wince at the justice of God, for it is His justice that leads us into His arms.

Psalm 9:17 - The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God.

 There is no future for those who forget God. There is nothing that godlessness offers us but death. Even if we are saved by grace, nothing that we invest in sin will stand the tests of time of eternity. God will not circumvent His own ways in our lives to achieve His purposes. He is consistent and true to Himself and to His Word. Count on it and count on Him to be trustworthy and scrupulously committed to integrity in His dealings with us. If He declares that X + Y = Z, then we can plan our lives around the principle. That is not to say that He cannot and will not intervene in His grace, but we must not presume upon His character. He loves us and pines for us, but He will not force His love upon us. If we reject it and to the extent we reject it, we are left to our own devices which lead to death.

Psalm 9:18 - But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.

We have a God whose ways are not our ways and thoughts not our thoughts. He reverses the power of conventional wisdom and defies the accepted truisms of society to make His own order. He simply does not forget the needy. He has a bias for them. He will not abandon the afflicted. For those who are hopeless, He offers hope. Let us proclaim hope daily – first to our own defeated souls, weighed down with the worries and cares of life, discouraged in well doing, spent and depleted. Then let us proclaim the same message with the authentic credibility of a person who has embraced hope in his or her own life to a needy and broken world. May hope exude from our pores. May it be the aura that surrounds our lives, the given pitch that tunes our voices, the color of our countenances, and the tenor of our words. The good news of hope is the one word that broken people cannot create from wishful thinking. It is not denial; it is reality6. May we live it and speak it daily.

Psalm 9:19 - Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in you presence.

Man’s ways can be very frightening. The history of mankind is peppered with incidents of mob violence and injustice that was condoned by the crowd. Majority rule has often ruled out righteousness and minorities have been oppressed by masses simply because they had the power to do so. The prayer of the righteous man or woman always includes the desire for justice, for limits on evil, and for God’s restraint and ultimate judgment of all that goes against Him and His ways. We can pray this way with confidence because we are assured of the character and promises of God to set all things aright in His own timing and according to His purposes. Do not grow discouraged and do not stop praying for the right and for God’s will. And do not be alarmed when the evil one seems to be directing the political forces of the world. Evil shall not prevail. God wins – always.

Psalm 9:20 - Strike them with terror, O Lord; let the nations know they are but men.

There is a kind of terror that is to be desired within us and among men and women. It is that terror that absolutely melts our souls under the glaring reality of God. It is that terror that teaches us that we are but mere men. As we grow in grace, may we keep a sense of that terror. Even as we flourish in the wonderful awareness of God’s love, acceptance, dignity, and value of us as His children, may we avoid the conceit that marginalizes Him and maximizes our own importance. We are only human. That is not an excuse and not a put-down; it is basic truth. We do not overcome sin in our own strength. We do not grow in Christ because we have the best motives, the purest thoughts, and the most attractive personalities. We are absolutely, utterly dependent upon God. We are but men – male and female. It is a life-affirming and esteem-building exercise to realize this in the light of the truth that God, who also knows this, chooses to love and grace us.


And back to the beginning:

Psalm 9 Confitebor tibi

  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; *
I will tell of all your marvelous works. 
  I will be glad and rejoice in you; *
I will sing to your Name, O Most High. 
  When my enemies are driven back, *
they will stumble and perish at your presence. 
  For you have maintained my right and my cause; *
you sit upon your throne judging right. 
  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked; *
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. 



Getting Unstuck

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unsplash-logoKal Loftus

Since I need a little advice here, I think I will give it to myself.

I get stuck sometimes.

It is not usually an absence of options, but a plethora of them.

One gets stuck in the process of choosing and then shuts down.

I have decided the explore the nature of being STUCK and then I can work backwards to UNSTUCK. 

S = Stymied. That implies being thwarted by some outside force. Certainly outside forces influence us negatively or positively, but the reality is that most of the stymieing comes from within. The backwards step is to identify the cause and dis-empower it. However one need not over-identify, for analysis of paralysis can lead to even more paralysis. Just acknowledge the force standing guard to prevent your progress and relieve it of duty. It is at your command and, if there is a real problem, it can be dealt with at some other time. Confront the stymies with the supremacy of your own will over whatever resistance lies within you. The fruit of the Spirit is self-controlTHE CURE FOR THE STYMIES IS SUPREMACY

T = Timidity. We are afraid. We are afraid of the shame, embarrassment, and disappointment that failure will bring and the increased responsibility of success. Therefore, we are timid, tenuous, and terrorized by and decisions we might make or actions we might take. After all, we might make a mistake. We might produce mediocre work. We might open a keg of worms. Our "mights" take away our might. To extrapolate and combine two verses, we are taught to take our thoughts captive and giving them to the the One who has not given us a spirit of timidity. We are also instructed to think on things that are wholesome, beautiful, and good. So, we talk to ourselves or, as we used to say, "We give ourselves a good talking-to." THE CURE FOR TIMIDITY IS TALK.

U = Under the Circumstances. Being UNDER the circumstances means that we surrender to chance, coincidence, and happening. This, by the way, is the root meaning of "happy," to be subject to chance or fortune. That is why it is utter foolishness to place our happiness above all else in life. We cannot control our happiness. We can always choose it, but it is better to choose joy. "Joy," in the Greek, is from the same root word as "grace." Grace is a gift freely given and always available. We can receive it and choose to continueto live in it. It allows us to "go with the flow" and grow in the process. It gives us permission to fail and try again. It transcends happiness and happenstance. When we choose to live by grace and gratitude, we take whatever is given us and utilize it for good. We incorporate our pain as well as our pleasure into our goals and dreams. We use the cards we are dealt to win. We utilize our resources to live above the circumstances. THE CURE FOR "UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES" IS UTILIZATION.

C = Crisis. Something "comes up" and we freeze. We put our plans on hold and break our pattern of discipline. We get discouraged. The origins of the word, "crisis" are found in the ideas of judgment and the turning point of a disease. it can be either good or bad. Statistically, positive and negative events in our lives create similar levels of stress that can affect mental and physical health. Change is stressful. Sometimes in a crisis, we remain as we are, but that does not mean we freeze. It means we continue to "keep on keeping on."  One potential benefit of crisis is confrontation. It is an opportunity for bringing our ideas and practices into account, for evaluation, and for improvement. In the crisis, we must confront all the negative forces and choose that which will move us forward toward our God given dreams and goals. We must do so honestly and hopefully. See crisis as an opportunity to grow. THE CURE FOR CRISIS IS CONFRONTATION.

K = Knowledge.But isn't knowledge a good thing? It is, but Dad always said, "Son, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." It is an old question and debating point. In the Garden of Eden, it was not "The Tree of Knowledge" that threw humanity into a tailspin. It was the fruit of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It was the knowledge that distorts wisdom. It obscures truth by filtering it through a haze of negative options. Knowledge is always filtered. We are always gazing through a screen of presupposition and experience. How we see the world is as much a matter of choice as the choice to eat forbidden fruit. We choose our biases either consciously or unconsciously. We could not be fully human without the choices we were given in the very beginning. When we are stuck, there is something wrong with our beliefs and understanding of reality. To get unstuck, we have to believe differently and expand our thinking to include a larger reality of unexplored knowledge. When Adam and Eve ate from the pretty tree, they were choosing to turn their back on all then other unlimited options for knowledge and growth. The knowledge they chose was extremely limited and futile. We need to grow in our thinking and think bigger more mature thoughts. We know enough to be dangerous, discouraged, and desperate, but not enough to be dominant over our lethargy and apathy. We need more knowledge. THE CURE FOR KNOWLEDGE IS KNOWLEDGE.

Getting Unstuck - With a PREFIX!

We can insert the "UN" in front of "STUCK" by grace through faith because these are ...

U = Universal principles. They work because they are based upon truth that is enduring and preeminent. Truth is truth in anyone's hands. When activated it takes on a life of its own.

N = Neutral. They do not require anything but application to be operative. Whatever your faith system or affiliation, you can begin to put them into practice and they will help you get unstuck. However, an experience with the author of the principles will enable you to exercise greater confidence in them and fully realize all the benefits that are yours in relationship with Him: grace, mercy, forgiveness, significance, purpose, and eternal life. Click here and on the other links to explore more about that larger reality.


Enjoy the "Hymn to Freedom." Since it is instrumental, add your own lyrics as your manifesto for getting unstuck and free!




Photo by Kal Loftus on Unsplash

We Rise Up and Stand Firm - Notes on Psalm 20

In Distress


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Photo by Zach Rowlandson on Unsplash

Psalm 20:1 - May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

In the spirit of blessing and benediction, we come to pray for a friend. Such a prayer blesses the giver, the receiver, and the heart of God. In this case, the intercessor is speaking to God on behalf of another but in doing so openly, is speaking also, to the other on behalf of God. It is a ministry of healing, grace, and love that encourages the head upon which the blessing is laid. It is priestly, and it is sacramental. Protection and deliverance come to the distressed often after the prayer of another. Who can you bless today?

Psalm 20:2 - May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

In ministry, the help that we offer does not come from us. It proceeds directly from the presence of God. Our encouraging presence is not a gift of our own resources, but of the Master who fashioned us and sent us forth equipped to serve. We offer support by “being there,” but that support is the Christ within us who comes alongside. He is the Spirit, the Paraclete who lifts the broken and heals the wounded. We can withhold such a blessing to our detriment and that of others, but we cannot manufacture it. Stop withholding.

Psalm 20:3 - May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah.

This verse, interpreted in the light of the New Covenant lifts up the cross in the presence of God and the person we desire to bless. It is not our sacrifice, but that with which we identify in Christ that makes an offering of our lives acceptable to God. We can have confidence in such a sacramental act as was wrought in the passion of the Lamb of God. Into the malaise of our frail attempts to appease God, He entered with the perfect offering for sin and made this prayer possible.

Psalm 20:4 - May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

As astounding as it may sound, God desires to give us our desires, but only after He has transformed those desires and brought them into sync with His own. He wants our plans to succeed, but inasmuch as His Spirit has planted those plans in our hearts.  The progression of the blessing is the prerequisite experience of the blanket prayer. First there is distress, then divine deliverance and protection, followed by help, support, sacrifice, and offering. The transforming power of these events paves the way for success.

Psalm 20:5 – We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.

There have been many along the way that have cheered you on to spiritual success and growth. The have applauded God at your salvation, baptism, and first steps in discipleship. They have encouraged you and embraced you along your pilgrimage. It is your turn to do this for another. You are called to be an encourager or a mentor or even a cheerleader. You have the capacity to invest your life and prayers in someone other than yourself and to take great joy in his or her progress. Don’t let the opportunity slip away.

Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

It is a serendipitous moment when we realize within ourselves that God does indeed save those upon whom His purposes rest. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed and all who are found in Him are heirs of God’s purposes, promises, and privileges. We suddenly discover that we can reinterpret every event in our lives in the newly discerned light of God’s eternal program in which we are included. Live each day in the light of His promises and in the confidence of your secure position in His eternal family.

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The difference between God’s anointed and the self-appointed is a matter of trust. We don’t need more insight as Brennan Manning has noted in “Ruthless Trust,” but more trust. We need to recklessly abandon our lives to God with such radical displacement of self and fleshly confidence that we will sink, or swim based only upon God’s truth, love, and faithfulness. It is the call of the Christian to climb as far out on a limb with God as possible and then, to live there in an ever-deepening reliance upon Him and Him alone.

Psalm 20:8 - They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Those who trust in the weapons and schemes of man are ultimately frustrated in every human effort. Often, the contrast is most pronounced in times of crisis, grief, or hardship. The countenance of the worldly falls with the loss of position, strength, prosperity, or self-confidence. The godly, though battered, bruised, broken, and besieged, will rise up and stand firm. Grief and sorrow befall every soul, but “that soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose …” God “… will never, no never desert to his foes.”

Psalm 20:9 - O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

From the sanctuary of Israel rises up a song of prayer for the man who symbolized their security, well being, and success as a nation. God’s people had the impulse to pray for their nation and leaders in the days of the psalmist. They knew that no people and no potentate could stand apart from the awesome power of the King of the Universe. How seldom we pray for people in power, for decision makers, for the affairs of state and for people of note. How deeply they need our prayers. Let us commit to pray for the king.

The Grand Question - Notes on Psalm 17

Psalm 17:1 - Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.  Give ear to my prayer-it does not rise from deceitful lips.

One might think that the psalmist had stepped out of his time and looked upon ours to offer his commentary. The repulsive sight of the wicked strutting about in impunity is and always will be a source of grief to those who love God and His truth. The deeper indignity and affront to God is that what is vile is honored among men as noble, good, true, artistic, or benevolent. Little has changed. The values of society, left to its own devices, have always been at odds with God. We must carefully examine all that we place upon our cultural pedestals and pay homage to. God’s standards are different than the world’s.  We value what may contain a grain of truth, but it is so often distorted and ignoble. The numerology of apocalyptic literature takes the number 6 and repeats it three times in contrast to the holiness of the complete Trinity. Thus, 666 represents the fullness of evil. The curious thing is that the number 6 is only one whole number shy of 7 – the number of perfection. The lesson is almost hidden, but clear: That which is repugnant may be something that is very close to the truth (for instance, the devil quotes scripture and believes in God), but veers off the path of truth in a small way that is significant enough to altar everything. It should be easy for the Christian to detect the blatant and flagrant abuses of truth but be cautious that you are not caught up in the frenzy of honoring that which is popular just because it has an outer veneer of righteousness.

Psalm 17:2 - May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

In the first place, we must note that he is wrong about being abandoned and forgotten by God. That is how he feels, but not the truth of the situation – and he most likely knows it in the depths of his being. In the second place, it is OK for him to express this feeling to God because it is about emotional disclosure – not about theological accuracy. Don’t allow your desire to be theologically sound inhibit your honest prayers to God in the secrecy of your heart before Him. Trust Him to correct any misconceptions you have. He can do that as you address Him. You are not praying before an audience – not even an audience comprised of yourself and God. Get out of the way of your prayers and pour out your soul before God. He can hear you whenever you earnestly seek Him. He knows your heart, your frailties, and your strengths. He loves you and has not left you alone. If you feel He has hidden His face from you – tell Him. He loves the fact that you long for Him and desire to know Him, see Him, and experience Him at a deeper level. Get real in your prayers and God will transform your life through them.

Psalm 17:3 - Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

Unfortunately, we have to wrestle with our thoughts sometimes and we are not exempt from sorrow of heart. Sometimes, for the moment, our enemies triumph over us and the pain of it seems open-ended. “God,” we pray,” how long will this go on? I have nearly reached the end of my rope.” And God either gives us more rope or extends our patience, or, in some cases, gives us a glimpse of an end in sight. Our defeats are temporal and transient. Our victory is eternal. Our wrestling thoughts and deep sorrows do not overwhelm us for we have rest in Jesus. He is our comfort. The psalmist is not lecturing us about how to deal with eternal pain, doubt, and conflict; he is modeling it. He shows us the way out by living it out. He prays – honestly and frankly to a God He trusts and knows. The author or sponsor is identified as David, so we know that these are his sentiments, and this is his prayer. He was called a man after God’s own heart. Imagine that - God loves to hear from His children even when they are bringing Him their deepest conflicts. Pray.

Psalm 17:4 – As for the deeds of men-by the word of your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent.

This is the desperate plea of a man who knows that His only hope is in God. It may be true that our prayers will never be very effective until we come to terms with this reality in our lives. The submission to God’s will is present in the mode of address, “O Lord, my God.” The relationship is personal and vital. The prayer is for light. Eyes never see without light. David goes further – no light, no life. “I cannot live without you,” he implies. “If I cannot see from your perspective, I will simply die.” He longs deeply for truth and for God. We cannot learn to pray like that from outside instruction; we begin with that part of our soul that knows it is weak and desperate and begin – and God teaches us to dig in and cry out to Him. Ask Him to be your teacher: “Lord, I don’t know where to begin with You, so begin with me where I am. Teach me to pray, O Lord, my God. Teach me to pray.”

Psalm 17:5 - My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.

We need to get used to the fact that our enemy does not have our best interest at heart. Satan knows that we do not always believe this and capitalizes on our naiveté. He suggests thoughts and deeds that seem pleasant and alluring and, when we fall for the temptation, shouts with glee, “Ha! I’ve got him (or her)” And then he throws a party to rejoice in our fall. Enemies cannot be trusted. Evil cannot be trusted. If we flirt with sin, we will find ourselves entrapped.  People may look at us and watch for an opportunity to ridicule us in our weakness because our stand for righteousness is so strong and open. Don’t be afraid of their laughter for our defeat is not final and their approval is not necessary. Only God is necessary for our lives. Affirm that in prayer today and notice with indifference the scorn of the wicked.

Psalm 17:6 – I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.

Yes!  This is the resolution. Whatever the trouble, doubt, or scorn of enemies, God’s love does not fail, and His salvation is sure. From the same lips that cry out with impatient agony before God, the psalmist reaffirms his joyful faith in God. As a response to this joy, we are reminded to REJOICE. Philippians 4:4 calls us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And then, Paul emphatically repeats himself, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” God, all that He is and all that He does, is enough for us. His salvation lifts us out of the doldrums of defeat and translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son. There is not enough we can say about the wonder of this level of comfort and assurance.  To rejoice in the midst of persecution is the greatest statement of defiance we can make in the face of evil. It declares, “You have no power over me!” Take some time to rejoice today.

Psalm 17:7 - Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Go ahead and sing. So, you think you have no voice. Very few people – whose larynxes have been removed for instance – have no voice. You most likely do – and the voice was made for singing. Everyone can sing. Everyone is called upon to sing to the Lord. Worship through singing is not an optional exercise for trained soloists; it is a mandate for every believer. If you feel that your singing is offensive, learn to sing naturally without offense, but don’t withhold your praise from God. This business is intrinsic. God’s goodness brings a song to our hearts. If you have a song in your heart, simply release it. Do it without fanfare or expectation of praise. Do it without a motive to be accepted or admired – sing unto the Lord and unto Him only. Begin in your devotional time alone with Him. He has been good to you. Sing to Him.

Psalm 17:8 - Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings…

There are many reasons why this statement is so obviously true. Denial is not a river in Egypt. Denying God will not make God go away. Whether or not you believe in God or confess Him as God will not change who He is and that He is the sole determiner of what is wrong or right, corrupt or authentic, pure or vile. The fool, according to the psalmist, is not a theoretical atheist or philosophical agnostic. It is not someone who is struggling with the existence of God on the intellectual level, but the man or woman who has, in his or her heart, determined to be a practical atheist – to live as if there were no God or as if His existence did not matter. He is concerned with how this statement of the heart manifests itself in our lives. Now the question: Is there some area of your own life, where in your heart, you are declaring, “There is no God?” Have you pushed Him to the side in your deliberations and decision-making? Have you excluded His influence in areas where there is conflict with your own desires and lusts? God calls that foolishness and identifies the results as corrupt and vile- rotten and degraded to the core. Do business with God today in this area of your life and allow Him to scrutinize you and bring you healing grace.

Psalm 17:9 – from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.

Well, what does He find in me? That is the question I must answer. That is the question you must ask yourself. When he looks down upon me does He find understanding and seeking? Some don’t understand and don’t know that they don’t understand. Some understand and have locked their understanding into a formula and have stopped seeking. Others know that they don’t understand but have acquiesced to a position of irrational hopelessness and have given up seeking. None of these responses pleases God when He looks down upon the sons of men. There are others who both understand and seek. They understand enough to know that there is much that they do not understand and so they seek in those areas. When God gives some understanding, they don’t stop seeking and become self-satisfied with their limited knowledge, but they keep seeking – even more earnestly. That pleases God so very much. Examine your heart today using this criterion and keep seeking God – more and more.

Psalm 17:10 - They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance.

It is the universality of the fall and of sin that the psalmist is struggling with here. We were not designed to be corrupt. We were created in the image of God. But sin corrupts us to the very core. The rottenness of perverted intentions stains our lives beyond repair. We cannot fix ourselves. Our attempts at doing good to win some favor with God are also corrupt and drive us deeper into separation from God. Not even one person does good. That is amazing. But it is the reason why Jesus came and died, rose again and returned to the Father to send His Spirit to indwell us. We need the righteousness of Christ to be imparted and imputed to us. And we need His presence within us to work His goodness out through us. These words are a reminder to long-term believers not to become proud, boastful, or self-righteous. If our salvation and acceptance by God depended upon our own goodness, we would be hopeless. But God sees us not looking down from above. He looks upon us directly through the face of His Son. Thank God today, as you pray, for His mercy.

Psalm 17:11 - They have tracked me down, they now surround me, with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

We are flabbergasted at the inability of some to learn the futility of their ways. We are surrounded by masses who do not call upon the Lord and who devour believers in many ways the temptation is to bulge out our chests and lift our noses in pride proclaiming, “I’m glad I’m not like that” That’s the wrong approach. The response of faith would be to look within with the searchlight of God’s truth and pray, “Lord, is there an area of coldness and rebellion in my heart where I am refusing to learn? Am I devouring the person you made me to be?” What distinguishes and delivers the believer is that he or she calls upon the Lord.

Psalm 17:12 – They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover.

Sooner or later, even the wicked come to their senses, sometimes too late, and realize that God is present in the company of the righteous. That realization brings dread unless the message of God’s love and forgiveness intervenes. Some will fight it. Others will flee from it. But there will be some who, out of the fear and dread of judgment, will come into the flow of grace through repentance and faith. The plight of the oppressor is far worse than that of the oppressed. Therefore, we must pray for sinners to come to a knowledge of truth and live out the credibility of the gospel so that we never bring discredit to Name of Jesus. Pray today for someone who is overwhelmed with dread and examine your own life as well.

Psalm 17:13 – Rise up, O Lord, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword. 

 The complaint of the poor man is often that, as hard as he tries, he just can’t get ahead. Something or someone is always thwarting and frustrating his efforts. So it is with anyone who tries to “get ahead” spiritually on the clout of his or her own spiritual reserves. Our plans come to naught because they are wrought in the flesh and human effort. God is our refuge. That is a constant. In Him we have hope and a future. In Him, we are rich beyond our dreams. His resources cannot be depleted.  Jesus said, “blessed are the poor.” The poor in Christ know where the riches lie and rely upon God’s storehouse to supply all that they need. They  trust all their plans to Him and rely on Him for every breath.

Psalm 17:14 - O Lord, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life.  You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children.

The psalmist prays for His people and, perhaps unwittingly, all who will be blessed by them. Indeed, the salvation of Israel and all people has come out of Zion and David’s longing prayer is answered in Jesus Christ. Today is a day of worship and praise. We pray for the day when Jesus comes again to set all things right. May the words of this psalm evoke deep praise and anticipatory joy in our hearts and we lay ourselves bare before God. What fortunes of spiritual treasure would you have Him restore for you today? What is the longing for His presence in you that is most personal for you as you pray?

Psalm 17:15 - And I-in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

The grand question introduces the next set of lessons from the psalms and sparks the imagination of all earnest seekers. As believers in Christ, we have the answer in the gospel, but the very asking of the question is a matter of opening to God for all that He desires to teach us. Do not take truth for granted or treat it as if it were not ever new and renewing. Allow the question to move you to the next level of seeking as you go before the Father in prayer today.

To a People Yet Unborn - Notes on Psalm 22

Not Forsaken

Psalm 22:1 - 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?

We have the retrospective luxury of knowing the messianic significance of this psalm in. It is messianic because the Messiah took these words to the cross as He identified with the sinfulness and despair that were already resident in humanity. He expressed the root of our hopelessness: abandonment - the awful sense that the God whom we ourselves have forsaken has forsaken us. To be separate from God is to be isolated and alone. It is the very terror of the night and it is the chief horror of the cross, which Jesus bore for us that this statement might never need to be ours again.

Psalm 22:2 - O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

It is the hallmark of persistent prayer that it perseveres in silence. It is neither required nor assured that the believer will always “sense” the presence of God. What is called for is that we will remain faithful and not be silent when God is silent. In fact, God is not quieted. He is merely speaking on a frequency that we are not, at some given point in time, receiving. Keep praying – even amidst despair and doubt. Faith is found in the persistence and assurance and awareness emerge from the process. No matter how you feel about life, yourself, God, or others today, pray on!

Psalm 22:3 - Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

Immediately, out of dark despair, the worship leader of the psalms teaches us what drives persistent pray: It is the knowledge of the Holy One who is Other than us, enthroned, exalted, and worthy of praise. God does not need to earn our faithfulness in prayer and praise by making regular payments of blessings to our accounts. The starting point is that praise is due Him because He is the praise of Israel and the United States, the world, and the universe. If we can but come to some understanding that God is God no matter what we think or feel, we will begin to become messianic people.

Psalm 22:4 - In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

History is an anchor that stabilizes faith by reminding us that God can and does act to deliver His people. He, who never changes, takes a personal interest in those who trust in Him. He is a faithful God. We can count on Him to do again what He has done before. The heritage we receive from our believing fathers and mothers is a legacy we must pass on to our own children. It is an intergenerational gift that passes through our hands. Take courage from the experience of others, but never let that experience substitute for one of your own relationship with God. Build on their stories.

Psalm 22:5 - They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

What was it that our fathers did that brought them into the experience of God’s deliverance? It was very little and very much. It was very little of human effort or initiative. However, it was a great expression of faith in two parts. First, their attitude was one of trust – that resolute act of resting on God’s grace. Second, the volitional action was crying out for mercy, help, and salvation in desperate resignation. We who scatter ourselves about in frantic frenzies of futile flailing exclaim, “Is that all? It can’t be!” It is. Unless it becomes that alone, nothing we DO matters. Only God saves.

Psalm 22:6 - But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

Maybe today is your worm day. You have adopted the vision of yourself that you perceive others to have of you. You have resigned to the world, the rather than to God. It has become vitally important to you what others think of you and you are devastated. If, at any time, you allow yourself to be defined by others or even yourself, you will be depressed. Jesus identified with our struggles to understand self but overcame the temptation through a strong sense of who He was in relationship with His Father. We have the same mirror to our souls available, filtered by grace and the love of God.

Psalm 22:7 - All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

Consider Jesus today as you evaluate the evaluations of others and deflect their insults. Rather than lash out in reactionary anger or retreat in despondent silence, look to Him who endured. He was never shaken within by the opinions of people. He never lost His sense of standing with the Father or His assurance of His mission. He did not come down off the cross, nor can we. Our lives are nailed there, and our identity is securely fastened to His. Bathe in His love and acceptance when friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers mock your motives. You are cherished by Him.

Psalm 22:8 – "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."

You can expect to be attacked in that area where you are most vulnerable – your faith. The world will taunt you with that which troubles you most within – the nagging suspicion that God will not come through for you. This is the real test of faith whether the taunts come from within or without: Can you withstand them and find your trust deepened? Your lips may declare firm belief that God can deliver you from and through any trial, but do you believe it for this current trial? The answer is that faith is, also, a gift delivered amidst fire. Receive it today in your present circumstances.

Psalm 22:9 - Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.

We started with a capacity to trust God because we had no other choice. As we experienced autonomy and choice, we chose to go our own ways as did our first father and mother. But the starting place was childlike trust. It is our first and greatest capacity and our one and only connector to God within our souls. It is the essence of the image of God within us - the plug through which He reconnects us in relationship within by His mercy, grace, and love. When we first chose to sin, we pulled the plug by trusting ourselves. Let God revive your trust today and choose to trust Him.

Psalm 22:10 - From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.

This is the psalm of the cross, which our Master chose to identify with us as He bore our sins. There were three great acts of emptying in His earthly life. The first was His birth. He divested Himself of all His self-sufficiency as God and became dependent upon God –even in Mary’s womb. The second was His baptism-temptation where He conspicuously stood in the place of sinners to face every life temptation and overcome only by the power of the Spirit and the Word. Finally, the cross – and there, He remembered who He was and who He trusted. We must trust God also.

Psalm 22:11 - Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

You will find yourself in circumstances, as did our Lord, where there are no solutions, alternatives, or assistance. There is no one and nothing to help. You are empty and alone. You cannot even depend upon yourself because your resources are depleted, and your energy is sapped. You can presume nothing in that moment. No one hears your plea, but God and your only non-negotiable request is that He remains near you. That is a powerful place in our lives. We cannot go on spiritually until we have been there. Embrace it and from that place, call upon God. You will find Him all-sufficient.

Psalm 22:12 - Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.


The imagery may not be familiar, but it takes little imagination to see the precarious nature of these circumstances. What are yours? The idea of bulls surrounding you does not bring to mind the thought of a passive environment with benign enemies. These are angry bulls, poised for attack. They are frightening and intimidating, and they can do you great physical harm. But they cannot touch your soul. Only you and God know the depths of the battle you are in but know this: Jesus was there on the cross and He is with you now.

Psalm 22:13 - Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

You can see the lions devouring their prey and their eyes are now on you. You envision yourself being eaten alive by the forces within you and outside you that attack without mercy. It is a helpless feeling. Jesus experienced it fully on the cross. He placed Himself in that position willingly. He emptied Himself and “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We cannot choose our end, nor can we know if this crisis is our end, but we can know God in the midst of it and trust in Him. There is no lion, no problem, no weapon of Satan that can defeat God or destroy His child.

Psalm 22:14 – I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

What do you trust in a practical way to make it through the day? Do you count on your human resources, talents, ingenuity, or personality? You can be poured out like water. Do you trust your physical strength and fitness? Every bone can be dislocated from the others. Do you trust the strength of your character, perseverance, courage, and inner strength?  Your heart can melt like wax and you will be left with nothing but God. This is the cross and Jesus has gone before us to show us that we can bear through His resurrection. Do not despair. You may be empty, but you are not alone.

Psalm 22:15 - My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

The cross is not a position of personal strength. It was not for Jesus and is not for us. We come to the cross and are emptied as Christ Jesus emptied Himself. Speechless and helpless, we lie in the dust of death and somehow realize that a God of love has allowed this experience in our lives and brought us to this place that, out of death, we might find life. If you will know resurrection, you must be laid out as dead before God. There is no other way.  Any attempt to circumvent this process renders the cross as useless in your life. Trust God in the dry places and you will live.

Psalm 22:16 – Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

Onlookers, men and beasts, are waiting for your last breath. They are convinced that you are defeated. Around the cross, they all gathered, certain that they were about to hear the last of Jesus. Your enemies assume that personal failure and death will overcome you as well. Pain, it is felt, will conquer the spirit of any person. Not so with you. You are dead already and your life is hidden in Christ. In Him, you live. Whatever the enemy could throw at Christ was thrown, but He “arose a victor from the dark domain” and so will you in Him.  Cast off despair and celebrate life!

Psalm 22:17 - I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

Have you ever counted your bones? How emaciated from the struggles of life, temptation, and sin have you been? Have you ever felt like such an oddity that people would stare? Have you ever been so humiliated that your enemies – especially those within, would gloat over your seeming defeat? When God made the choice to incarnate Himself into human flesh, He knew that He would be casting aside His glory for the lowest state of all. Hebrews 12 reminds us to consider Jesus who despised the shame but pressed on for the glory set before Him. Let us press on as well.

Psalm 22:18 - They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

We like to think that we will have death with dignity. We must redefine dignity then, for what Jesus experienced can only be described in human terms, as humiliation. Nevertheless, human definitions do not rule the spiritual realm, nor can they rule our lives. If we must face such a cross where even our clothes are bartered among our enemies, then so be it. Either we can scream and protest for our rights and “dignity” or we can enter into a deeper experience of trust and obedience. It is a crossroads that we face. If we are to die to self that we might live, we cannot set the terms.

Psalm 22:19 – But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.


We are moving from first to second to third person intentionally in these thoughts – keeping the focus on God. That is where Jesus kept His focus in His lifetime identification with humanity. He asked only that His Father be near and trusted only in His strength. When we are empty and helpless, that is all we have and that is a very fine position for our lives. All other strength is an illusion and the sooner we understand that, the better. We have only God – He is all we ever have had, and we did not realize it. Perhaps now, we are coming to understand. Perhaps, we are coming into real life.

Psalm 22:20 - Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Did you know that your life was precious to God? Grace yourself with the thought that God cares more for you than you care for yourself. Why then, do you exercise the exhausting effort of worry? God knows all about the sword. He sees and hears the dogs. He is not removed from your suffering and He intimately acquainted with your struggles. He has never abandoned you and He has a plan for your deliverance that He has already set into motion. Call upon Him. He is ready to take your hand and walk with you through this present fire.

Did you know that your life was precious to God? Grace yourself with the thought that God cares more for you than you care for yourself. Why then, do you exercise the exhausting effort of worry? God knows all about the sword. He sees and hears the dogs. He is not removed from your suffering and He intimately acquainted with your struggles. He has never abandoned you and He has a plan for your deliverance that He has already set into motion. Call upon Him. He is ready to take your hand and walk with you through this present fire.

Psalm 22:21 - Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

Once we have come to terms with the reality of our circumstances and ceased our fruitless debates over the fairness of our surroundings, we can get down to the relevant business of petition. God does not keep us out of the lion’s den or the path of wild oxen; but He delivers us.  Deliverance is far better than avoidance because God gets the glory and we get the victory. Beside that, the world gets to see a demonstration of the power of God that exceeds the expectations of limited minds. Daniel’s victory did not rest in avoiding the conflict, but in God’s salvation in the midst. Resurrection!

Psalm 22:22 – I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

We glory in the cross. We glory far more in the resurrection. Jesus came forth from the trial of the cross and the resurrection with a message of victory, redemption, and praise. We also emerge from our spiritual battles and, more importantly, the process of dying to self and rising to new life, with a message of hope. The faith-act of identifying with Jesus is what makes us evangelists. Good news permeates our beings so that our very lives are transformed into the gospel message. Like St. Francis, we preach everywhere and, when necessary, use words.

Psalm 22:23 – You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

Praise, honor, and reverence are the responses of all who know God as God. This fear of God is recognition of His utter divinity and absolute sovereignty. It is an awareness that is burned into our life through struggles and seared onto our hearts in crisis. It does not come easily. Do not associate praise with giddiness or shallow emotionalism. When it is refined, it flows from the very deepest places in our lives and transcend the moment, rises above circumstances, and soars to the heights of Heaven.  It is a gem of great joy forged in the furnace of trial.

Psalm 22:24 - For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

The God we praise is a God of loving compassion. He knows. He cares. He heals. He listens intently to His people and He is near the broken. Jesus identified with our pain intensely and passionately. His participation in our suffering and affliction goes far beyond empathy. He entered in and continues to enter in. You can trust Him because He already understands and have your very best interest in His heart.  When we back off from God., we do so in irrational ignorance. To really know Him is to trust Him profoundly.

Psalm 22:25 - From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

It all originates with God. If we think that we might like to organize our praise of God around ideas that intrigue us, we have missed the point. The very theme of praise comes directly from Him. It is about Him, from Him, and to Him that we praise. And, as we gather among those who know Him, this is understood. There are always personal and corporate dimensions to faith. There are individual vows that you make and fulfill to the Lord, but you do so in community among those who share a common vision of the God who is worthy of our praise.

Psalm 22:26 - The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him-- may your hearts live forever!

This is the grand turn-around. God feeds the poor. He fills the hearts of those who seek Him with praise. He brings life out of death and joy out of pain. He infuses our lives with such abundance that we cannot fully receive it. He lifts our spirits to heights we have never known. He fills our lips with praise and grants us eternal life. The present darkness is never absolutely dark because the light has already come to fill every crevice. We live now and always in the present reality of the resurrection and the future hope of Christ’s second coming. Seek Him and know this reality for yourself!

Forevermore - Notes on Psalm 16


Psalm 16:1 - Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.

Never separate the two parts of this prayer or you will diffuse its power. The first part is a request made in faith. The second is a declaration of faith upon which every request is made and in which our confidence resides. Safety, in and of itself, is of limited value. We are safe from what and for what?  The end and the means are the same here. We are made safe by abiding that we might safely abide in Christ. If God is our refuge, that is enough to say. It is an end in itself. To be in Christ is the end that brings every new beginning. Where is your principal residence in this life? Every anxiety and discomfort is addressed by the answer of faith. If you reside in God and take refuge in Him, then rest in Him and abandon all concern for safety from that which you cannot control. God is in charge.

Psalm 16:2 - I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

This is so very important! First, we must recognize that to say “Lord” is not just to utter a religious word or to speak with respect toward our chosen deity. In the naming of God as Lord is a relinquishment of every other value, treasure, and prize. It is to acknowledge Him as Supreme Master and to render everything else in our lives as valueless apart from Him. It is in acknowledging Him as the source of every good gift that those gifts have worth. It is in knowing Him that every other vision fades in importance and takes its place in His court as subservient to His will.

Psalm 16:3 - As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

One of the great privileges of the new birth is that we are born into a family of saint with whom we can associate and in whose fellowship we can delight. To be a saint is to be separate, holy, and dedicated to a particular function. That function, for the Christian, is the praise and glory of God. In one sense, it is not a mysterious or otherworldly thing to be a saint. In another sense, it is to profoundly embrace a mystery that we can never fully understand and be apprehended by a world far beyond our reach in these mortal bodies. If one is a saint indeed, one loves other saints because, in them, we see God’s face as clearly as possible in this life –even among those who dwell in the land.

Psalm 16:4 - The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.  I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Today, we join the eternal chorus of welcome as the Lord Jesus Christ enters into our consciousness as the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. He is the Prince of Peace and righteousness. His Kingdom comes with glory and praise, but also with a cross of pain and disgrace. Yet, He willing enters into the sphere of time, space, and judgment to face whatever stands between Him and His mission to bring all who welcome Him into eternal fellowship with the Father. Let us lift our voices in worship as we worship Him.

Psalm 16:5  - Lord, you have assigned my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

God is righteous. That means that everything about Him is fully integrated into His holy character – He is 100% pure truth, love, goodness, and holiness. There are no contradictions in God – except those that we contrive in our own misunderstanding of Him. He loves justice. His heart delights in seeing things set aright. He loves consistency in our lives. He takes joy when His truth is integrated into the loose dimensions of our lives and we come into right relationship with Him. There is a promise in this verse, that the upright will see His face. What a glorious affirmation! The more we seek Him, the more our hearts are changed by His power within us and the clearer our vision of Who He is becomes. We can see God. His grace in Jesus Christ removes the scales from our eyes so that we may have a glimpse in this life and the hope of full disclosure in the life to come. Let that truth sink into the pores of your being today and celebrate it as you walk through the maze of confusing messages and distorted truth. You can see God.

Psalm 16:6  - The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness? Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking? Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours? Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.” We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one. “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.” From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”

Psalm 16:7  - I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust? The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth. Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies. Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal. Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.

Psalm 16:8  - I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

First, consider this on Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City.  “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said. Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial? Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes? Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves? We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. If possible, find a place this day to partake of communion with other believers and remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.

Psalm 16:9 – Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,

God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross.(Philippians 2) He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and  deliverer from sin. God has always been the champion of the weak and needy. The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you. Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross. Do not let this day pass as any other.

Psalm 16:10  - because you will not abandon my to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

Oh precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light. On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours. After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection. We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.

Psalm 16:11 - you have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).”  We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

-- Saint Francis of Assisi




The Consuming Passion

"Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Outlandish? Audacious? Extreme? Radical? Unreasonable? Shocking?


Discipleship is a consuming passion leaving all other passions in the dust by comparison.

That is the nature of consuming passions., Look what people leave behind for passions and consider that eternal significance asks no less than a temporary "burn."

The hand is to the plow. Looking back is not part of the deal.

What consumes you?

"As they were going along the road, someone said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.' To another he said, 'Follow me.' But he said, 'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' And Jesus said to him, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' Yet another said, 'I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home'” Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'”

Luke 9:57-62- (ESV)

Radical Trust - Reflections on Psalm 11

Trust noah-buscher-642192-unsplash

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Absolute Trust

 “In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?“ – Psalm 11:1

The impulse to flee is one of two that we face in any crisis situation. Fight and flight are the two extremes that confront humans. But there is a third option that occupies the seat of grace – it is to flow and to let God’s grace flow through you as you flow with the circumstances of life. Flowing does not require denial of danger. It acknowledges the truth of the situation, but embraces a greater truth in the mix of reality. It is the truth of God’s presence, His power, and His love. It is the truth that in Him we have a sturdy and steady refuge from danger. In God’s mercy, we neither run to the mountains to avoid potential pain nor stand to fight our battles ourselves alone. The life of faith is a journey of trust and balance. Find your refuge in God today.

 “For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.“ - Psalm 11:2

Wickedness lives in the midst of dark shadows. It attacks without warning and without rules of engagement. The snipers of sin and temptation align with the forces of discouragement, bitterness, despondency, and cynicism to derail our growth in grace and righteousness. Satan would have us flee to the hills and abandon our God-given assignments. Or he would be equally pleased if we would take the battle in our own strength and suffer defeat at his hand. God calls us to take refuge in Him. His is the battle; He is our protector, defender, and friend. Do not be discouraged, dismayed, or shocked by the sinister conniving of evil. Satan is an accuser and liar and hides in darkness. Bring every thought, motive, and deed to the light. Allow every memory that pains the heart to come into the brilliance of God’s grace. Then we can speak as forthrightly and with the same matter-of-factness as the psalmist. Then we can bring these matters that once caused us to tremble before a God who already knows and cares. Then we can take refuge in Him.

Foundations: Faulty and Sure

 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? “ – Psalm 11:3

Who has not expressed such a lament in the recesses of a discouraged heart?  If indeed, the foundations are destroyed, there is not much the righteous can do. The righteous person depends upon foundations to stand under the weight of external conflict and internal stress. There are values and beliefs in which we invest ourselves. We call them ultimate and we hang our lives upon them. There are irreducible standards that we set for our families, our communities, and ourselves. When these are threatened, we are flung into chaos and spasmodic reaction. We cry out to God in utter desperation and confusion. “God,” we cry, “ is there nothing that is sacred, nothing that is permanent, nothing that cannot be destroyed by the forces that afflict with without and within?” And God answers us that what we thought were the foundations were only part of the extended structure of our lives, that He is our true foundation and He will never be shaken. Paul concluded that no other foundation can be laid than that which is laid: Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:” – Psalm 11). Anything else can be destroyed, but the believer whose life is planted in Jesus Christ cannot be toppled. Trust Him in the midst of the quaking of the earth and the battering of the storm.

 “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. “ – Psalm 11:4

When the foundations are seemingly being destroyed, God remains securely seated in His holy temple and rules from His throne. There is no interruption in His reign, no pause in His oversight, and no cause for concern by His subjects. He is the true foundation that cannot be shaken. He is our refuge. He is our sure protection in times of trouble. Nothing escapes His constant attention. When, in the bleakest moments, all that is right appears vanquished, He speaks and the frayed strands of time and space come into their proper order. We are not a patient people. We are easily stirred from our strident faith. We become disturbed by the news, by prognosticating commentaries on our times, and by our own emotions. We gaze into our problems with such intensity that we, for a moment, lose sight of God on His throne. But He is there. He has not moved. He will not be displaced, replaced, or ultimately ignored. The greatest relevance in the universe is that God is active and alive in His Holy temple supervising and involved in the affairs of men and women. Tune your hearts to that reality today and live in joyful confidence in God.

God is watching. There is a popular song that announces that truth but distorts it with the words, “from a distance.” That is only half-true. There will always be a distance between God and man because He is God and we are men – but that is a distance of essential nature that Jesus bridged and brought us into intimate fellowship with the Father. Even those who do not know Him are known by Him for He is as imminent as He is transcendent.  Some envision a God so far away that He requires a telescope to observe us, but it is with His eye that He watches and nothing escapes His notice. He examines us with such divine scrutiny that all is known, even that which our hearts cannot acknowledge in awareness. Knowing that God knows frees us in prayer to be absolutely honest. It liberates us from the limitations of language to open ourselves to Him. He knows every circumstance and every deed done in darkness or in light. He has all the information and, in His wisdom, is the only true and reliable interpreter of history and current events. It would behoove us to withhold judgment until He speaks in a matter for we see only within a thin spectrum of all that is. He sees all. Understand that as you meet Him in prayer today.

 “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” - Psalm 11:4a

When the foundations are seemingly being destroyed, God remains securely seated in His holy temple and rules from His throne. There is no interruption in His reign, no pause in His oversight, and no cause for concern by His subjects. He is the true foundation that cannot be shaken. He is our refuge. He is our sure protection in times of trouble. Nothing escapes His constant attention. When, in the bleakest moments, all that is right appears vanquished, He speaks and the frayed strands of time and space come into their proper order. We are not a patient people. We are easily stirred from our strident faith. We become disturbed by the news, by prognosticating commentaries on our times, and by our own emotions. We gaze into our problems with such intensity that we, for a moment, lose sight of God on His throne. But He is there. He has not moved. He will not be displaced, replaced, or ultimately ignored. The greatest relevance in the universe is that God is active and alive in His Holy temple supervising and involved in the affairs of men and women. Tune your hearts to that reality today and live in joyful confidence in God.

“He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.” - Psalm 11:4b

God is watching. There is a popular song that announces that truth but distorts it with the words, “from a distance.” That is only half-true. There will always be a distance between God and man because He is God and we are men – but that is a distance of essential nature that Jesus bridged and brought us into intimate fellowship with the Father. Even those who do not know Him are known by Him for He is as imminent as He is transcendent.  Some envision a God so far away that He requires a telescope to observe us, but it is with His eye that He watches and nothing escapes His notice. He examines us with such divine scrutiny that all is known, even that which our hearts cannot acknowledge in awareness. Knowing that God knows frees us in prayer to be absolutely honest. It liberates us from the limitations of language to open ourselves to Him. He knows every circumstance and every deed done in darkness or in light. He has all the information and, in His wisdom, is the only true and reliable interpreter of history and current events. It would behoove us to withhold judgment until He speaks in a matter for we see only within a thin spectrum of all that is. He sees all. Understand that as you meet Him in prayer today.

The God Who Sees

 “The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. “– Psalm 11:5

Does this bother you? Are you disturbed by the psalmist’s assertion that there are people who God’s soul hates? Let me ask you this: at your best, how do you feel about that part of you that loves wickedness and violence? Do you not repudiate that false self within you in order to embrace the Christ-life which is the truth about who you are and who God made you to be? Doesn’t God know that the false self within you wars against the true you that He loves passionately and sacrificially? We must embrace this paradox in our understanding of God if we are to fully appreciate His love. It is love that produces this level of hate because it is wickedness and violence that destroy those made in the Father’s image. He despises that which destroys what He loves. Ask Him for a special grace today to hate within you that which destroys you and your relationship with Him and know that His love for you is so deep and strong that He will fight for you against all wickedness and violence.

 “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. “ – Psalm 11:6

There is another dimension of this hate that God has for the wickedly violent: judgment. When we try to assign human emotion to God it is called “anthropomorphism.” That is a complicated word that means any attempt to understand something other than a human being by human standards. God’s hate is not man’s hate. Man expresses arbitrary hatred based upon emotional considerations (or lack thereof). God’s anger is against anything that goes against Him and it is expressed in wrath and judgment. Even that is paradoxical for He is, at the same time, actively and lovingly reaching out to the individual who is embroiled in sin and rebellion. He judges the sin and the sinner while sending His Son to take the penalty upon Himself and pleading for all to come to repentance. When we would understand the horror of the wrath of God, physical descriptions are required to impress upon us how awful it is to come under His judgment. The reality is more horrible. To go against God is to place ourselves in the concentrated path of all the evil He is flushing out of a sinful world to fashion His Kingdom. Take this truth and embrace it. In Christ, you are not under judgment. Cheer for the triumph of God’s will and invite all that will hear to come into His merciful grace. Pray for the victory of truth, righteousness, and holiness in your own life and in the life of your community.

Reciprocal Sight

 “For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright. “ – Psalm 11:7

God is always true to Himself and His character. You can count on that.

God is righteous. That means that everything about Him is fully integrated into His holy character – He is 100% pure truth, love, goodness, and holiness. There are no contradictions in God – except those that we contrive in our own misunderstanding of Him. He loves justice. His heart delights in seeing things set aright. He loves consistency in our lives. He takes joy when His truth is integrated into the loose dimensions of our lives and we come into right relationship with Him.

God sees the upright. He beholds His people and watchfully follows our lives. In love, He gives us His attention and knows us completely. As He sees us clearly, we see ourselves more clearly through a growing vision of who He is.

There is another promise implied by the construction of the Hebrew words in this verse It is that the upright will see His face. What a glorious affirmation! God sees us and that vision is like a mirror. Jesus made it clear in the Beatitudes. The more we seek Him, the more our hearts are changed by His power within us and the clearer our vision of Who He is becomes. We can see God. His grace in Jesus Christ removes the scales from our eyes so that we may have a glimpse in this life and the hope of full disclosure in the life to come. Let that truth sink into the pores of your being today and celebrate it as you walk through the maze of confusing messages and distorted truth. You can see God.

God of All That Is


God of all that is without Whom there is not,
God of all that was, without who nothing has been,
God of all that can be and should be and might be,
God of all that shall be.
God of unfolding wonders and unfathomed waters of wisdom,
God all who live, who have lived, and shall live,
God of me .... my God, our God,
God of Jesus, Savior, Friend,
God revealed in Spirit and in Flesh,
You are here with us, and for that, we are ever grateful.
Hear our morning prayers.
Hear our heartfelt cries for mercy.
Hear our burning, yearning groans for those deep needs we cannot express with words.
You know our wounds, our open, oozing sores.
You know our stubborn, egotistical ugliness, but ...
You also know what beauty lies within us, that which is of You, that which You would nurture inside of us.
With penetrating eye and skillful hand, root out our sin and heal our shame.
With gentle hand, guide us into Your purpose for our being.
Arrange our lives today and supersede our presumptions.
Grant us divine appointments and the spirit of serendipity to embrace them.
Laugh with us today; weep with us; look with us upon your world with love.
Oh, Master Designer, design our lives, my life, to conform with your vision.
Fill our hearts with peace, with joy, with holy love that we might serve you in serving others.
May not a moment be wasted of this day, not a thought lost, not a word vainly spoken.
I come, Father, referred by Jesus, Whose name I gladly take as the banner over my life.
I come willing to die to self today, but weak in the flesh, I identify with Jesus and express my desire to You, to follow Him ...'
Wherever He leads.
I have no other agenda worth attending to ...

But the Real Foundations Have Not Failed

I have heard the first part of this often quoted, but It is not an open ended question.

It is answered in the next sentence. The fact is, the real foundations are not and never have been destroyed. The foundations do not consist of our laws, constitution, corporate morality, cultural norms, or anything else over which we have power and authority.

The real foundations are eternal and defined by God's presence in His holy temple, on His throne in Heaven.

" if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD's throne is in heaven ..."

-Psalm 11:3-4 (ESV) 

How God Helps

What kind of helper is God in whom we invest our hope?

His track record is creation and His ongoing record is faithfulness. He demonstrates His faithfulness by His actions:

* Executes justice for the oppressed.
* Gives food to the hungry.
* Sets the prisoners free.

If we read the rest of the Bible, it indicates that those three tasks are, to some extent, delegated to us as His agents on earth.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;"

-Psalm 146:5-7 (ESV)

And there is more .....

Pennies from Heaven to Landfills



image from

Pennies from Heaven in the Landfills of America

I just swept a small mountain - well maybe a molehill, but you know how we make them grow - of pennies off my desk, into my hand, and into my pocket.

What surprised me was my level of annoyance at the bother of it all.

See "Lessons from a Penny."


I was amazed to discover that this subject is no stranger to the world of Google nor to Snopes  where one observer named BlueScale noted "I suspect that this is one of the 16% of stats that is made up on the spot. " From there, I was referred to a discussion of investing in pennies as copper bullion.

Some years ago, Time Magazine revisited Ben Franklin's adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned." It is food for thought and you can keep the change - not to mix metaphors - at least not a primary purpose. It is there that we discover the source of the much maligned quote.

"James Benfield of the Coin Coalition, a lobby group for eliminating the penny, figures that 25% of annual penny production ends up in landfills." 

Not mine, James! Mine ends up in my two year old granddaughter's mouth or my three and a half year old grandson's collection if I can't get to them first and secure them safely in a can or other container.

Then, when I am really, really broke, I scrounge for enough of them to buy a cup of coffee.

It will take fewer of them on January 3 when I turn 55 and celebrate by going to McDonalds for a senior coffee and spend the entire morning getting refills and reading a book.

In fact, I think I financed two such mornings by cleaning my desk this morning. 

Maybe I'll join one of those old guy clubs that meets at 6:00 A.M. every morning for tall-tale-telling and post-achievement bragging.

Just how many pennies are there in the U.S.?

Estimates range from 115 billion to 200 billion. 

So, send them to me and I will take care of them. I think for 2 billion dollars I can afford a warehouse and a staff to count and catalog them. Pennies for Tom - 12638 Cumorah Dr. Clovis, CA. 93619.

No need to thank me. I just want to do my part to save the landfills of our great nation.

Do you ever check page 10 of a Google search? I did and found that we had started to degenerate into discussions of metaphorical pennies, like this excellent article of saving them and saving the environment. I will call it The Article. It is worth a look.

Finally, as I jiggle the pennies in my pocket, I want to congratulate a blogger who is saving them and giving the earth a shot in the arm. Here is a shout out to Amy Dunbar and a quote, "Not only am I saving pennies, but I am keeping a few things out of the local landfills. Go me!"

Of course, this all inspired me to a song and dance:



Civility and Critique of Public Behavior

Lest any critique of public behavior that I speak be taken out of context:

I believe in redemption and reconciliation, freely given by grace to the least deserving.

I believe in the enduring possibility of repentance for the vilest of sinners - hope of new life, abundant forgiveness, bountiful mercy, fresh and new beginnings.

The vilest of attitudes can be transformed.

The ugliest pride can be melted.

The most boisterous boasting can be tempered with humility.

The most resistant heart can be melted.

The most hardened heart can be softened.

The same mouth that speaks mean, ugly, dishonest, hateful, and divisive words can be filled with words of compassion, encouragement, blessing, and affirmation.

The very motives that drive us can be transformed.

There is nothing God cannot do in a heart truly humbled by Him and willing to confess its own need.

Newton realized this as grace taught his heart to fear and grace, his fears relieved.

If I speak against any other attitude, words, deeds, or behavioral patterns, it is in the light of this reality: Grace is greater than all of our sins.

All criticism of the public behavior of public people is in the light of my great need, depravity, and sin and the grace of God that is transforming me as the mercy of God renders me clean only through Jesus.

That being said, there is a place for calling out damaging and public belief systems while they are still a part of the shot-calling mechanisms in which we participate.

We have to name the sin in order to deal with it and find hope.

Why do good people of good conscience, who pray for guidance and evaluate candidates and initiatives based upon principles, values, and priorities vote differently? I am not bothered by this.

God likes to remind us that no matter how much insight He bestows on us, no one gets it all and no one gets it perfectly. He seems to want us to know that we have to struggle individually and in community for truth. Unity grows out of diversity of culture, perspective, experience, language (There are many versions of English in this country as an example), and suffering.

It takes work and it takes civility to make the work work. We cannot call each other names or malign the intent of the other.

It is tempting to do so once we have what we consider the correct insight or priorities, but we must resist. It we are going to have a participatory and representative democracy, we have to do it and we have to do it with imperfect leaders.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” - Luke 8:16-18 (ESV)

Prayer of a Whole Heart

God grant me wholehearted prayer, be it cry or sigh ...
or, perchance, a shout of joy!

I come with ...

whole heart, undivided, undeterred, un-distracted ....

Grant it, LORD and may I ...


I cry.

You hear.

I call.

You save. It is ...

well before dawn and my heart is awakened.

May I hear your testimonies and statutes and ...


I rise.

I cry.

I hope.

'With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words."

- Psalm 119:145-147 (ESV)

The Nation Whose God Is the LORD


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Of what nation can it be said, "Their God is the LORD?"

Israel’s God was the LORD, capitalized because the word, LORD is written and spoken as a substitute for God’s most holy personal name. It set them apart as a people to know Him by name. Yet His name was not something they would flaunt or toss around in vain.

For that reason, Israel was blessed, not because of their brilliant leadership, industrious people, vibrant economy, wise judiciary, or lovely landscapes, but because of their God and their relationship with Him.

There has been only one holy nation among the governments of men and there shall be no others. All other nations are, by definition, secular. In them, we who follow Jesus are all resident aliens. Our citizenship is in Heaven, our highest loyalty, to God.

That being the case, a nation can honor God in its justice, compassion, integrity, and fairness with others. Its people can individually honor Him with their worship and love. The nation itself can choose to stand among the blessed sheep in Matthew 25 who treat the poor and helpless with dignity and mercy and thus welcome Jesus.

That is what nations can do and how nations may be blessed.

America is blessed to the extent that those principles of human dignity, soul freedom, and justice upon which she was founded are observed and honored. In them, God is honored, the flag is dignified, and the people are blessed.

America is under judgment and prophetic criticism to the extent that those things are not true.

We honor our country for her gifts of freedom and prosperity to us and because so often, she and her citizens have done the right thing by others just because it was right and with no promise of reward.

But there is much room for repentance of past and present injustice. There is much room for improvement. True patriotism is self-critical and hopeful of the possibilities for change.

We do not need to make America great again or anything again. We need to make America what its founding documents and principles said, no matter what the authors meant, it could be: God-honoring through compassion, justice, liberty, and truth.

We can hope and pray that for every nation.



Sing a New, Skillfully Sung, Loud Song!

A new song

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

“Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.” – Psalm 33:3

There are three things that God reminds us of today that He would like for us to offer Him in worship.

The first is newness. He wants a new song.

Now an old song can be a new song if it is fresh and quickened by new awareness of God Himself or of some spiritual insight that has captured our hearts. He is not interested in innovation; He is concerned that we are being born anew in every act of worship toward Him.

He wants us to come to Him today with the same sense of wonder as when we first knew Him.

The second thing is He wants us to play skillfully. That means He wants the best we can offer.

God is not impressed with mediocrity when we can do better. He is not enamored with improvisation when it substitutes for preparation. He loves spontaneity, but He also loves and desires our full engagement of all our abilities and senses in truly worshiping Him as One who is worthy of the best we can offer.

The third thing is volume. That does not mean being loud for the sake of being loud. Nor does it mean fake volume of the sort that can be artificially produced by turning up the dial of our amplification systems.

It means engagement of the whole instrument in praise whether that is a piano, harp, guitar, or vocal mechanism. If we sing, we are called to sing with our whole bodies and souls.

It is for God and it is to God. Let us hold back nothing.



Hurry to Worry


Photo by Mubariz Mehdizadeh on Unsplash

Do I worry?
I confess that I fret.
I get in a hurry ... to worry ...
And what do I get? I forget ..
Or should ...
Or would if I could.
If would be good to leave it where it belongs,
Buried beneath and within these heartfelt songs,
All my frets and all my wrongs,
Deep regrets and resolutions for which my aching heart longs.
It would be good and it would be great.
I could take that course and it's not too late.
I can worry, yes. I can cogitate and take the bait ...
And play the line and scheme and state and restate ...
The "problem" and multiple soul-lutions (solutions too),
Expected allocutions and resolutions few ...
... of which might come to pass and
None of which form critical mass.
In other words, from far away or close at hand ...
I waste my living by living in the gray and barren land ...
.. of worry.
In the hurry to worry I get nothing done,
Solve no problems under that gun.
So, I run to One who handles it all,
Drop every burden and let them all fall ...
At His feet.
This thought is now complete.

"Reality" or Truth

Old tv ajeet-mestry-429216-unsplash

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

We have raised a generation on "reality" TV who believe that it somehow, actually represents reality.

Some, young and old, have bought the notion that meanness, pettiness, ruthlessness, narcissism, lack of civility, and vindictiveness are norms for human communities to be emulated.

At the same time, they have adopted the attitude that truthfulness is not subject to verification, that negative reports are the most likely to be accurate, and that fact-checking is a conspiracy against their cherished opinions. That is the bad news.

The good news is that there is a large contingent of thoughtful young adults from the same generation who have a healthier way of thinking and have rejected the "reality" TV mentality.

They ask a lot of questions, do not settle for simple slogans, read the fine print, dig deep, work to build cooperative relationships across ideological lines, and seek truth. I take great courage and hope from them.

So, when I say, "We have raised a generation," I am not actually referring to the Millennials or any other chronologically defined generation. I mean that broad generation of citizens from 8-80 who have bought into one of the great families of fallacy of our times - which today, I am calling, "the reality TV syndrome."

Tomorrow, I will call it something else.

Jesus, the Church, and Its Critics


Finger-pointing adi-goldstein-339915-unsplash
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

The balance between being the church's most ardent critic and most enthusiastic booster is the line where authenticity often settles.

As critics, we do so from the inside, where judgment begins in the house of the Lord. We are being self-critical.

Those who speak to the church prophetically are not seeking to tear it down, but to build it up by calling it to be what it can be. This sometimes requires difficult self-examination and a searing process of purification.

I think that one often lost point that we see in the example of Jesus is that He was critical of organized religion principally in the areas where they were most critical of others.

It was their judgmental behavior toward people and their attacks on His ministry where He was most likely to see and charge hypocrisy.

He is brutally honest with His own tribe. In order to stand before Pilate with the authority to assert the power of God's Kingdom over Rome, He must first speak to His own.

While He is clearly a subversive force against all forms of empire and injustice, He only seems harsh when dealing with those with whom He most closely aligns.

That too is subversive and contradictory of the common ways of the world where fingers most often tend to point outward.

If I must be critical, the proper order is me, mine, you, yours, and then, anyone else with deescalating severity and harshness in tone.