Precious – Psalm 116

Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of his saints.

What a mystery! How can death be “precious?”

But somehow it is. I claim this verse at funerals. I can’t say I understand it, but I claim it.

In God’s perspective, the moment of separation for us from our loved one that hurts so much, is the moment of sweet reunion for God.

After all, he created us to be in fellowship with him, walking in the garden, created in his image, being a part of himself and his joyous creation. But that was ruined by sin, and ever since then, has put us in two worlds. 

Jesus unites us by giving us the Holy Spirit, our comforter. But there is still continual sin we contend with daily. We will not be one with God, able to truly walk with him in freedom and light, until we shed this earthly body.

But dying means separation from mankind, from friends and family, from all we have known here on earth. It means letting go of the only community we know, the only love we know, flawed as it might be. It means letting go of our life work, our passions, our possessions, of what remains undone. It means letting go of what we have done right and wrong, with no ability to improve or correct.

Dying, from a human side, is awful. There is no hope. No redemption. Game over.

Dying from a spiritual side is amazing, mystifying… 

All sin is removed as far as the East from the West. No more separation from God, our creator. No more pain or tears or fear. Freedom like Adam had in the Garden of Eden. Such close fellowship with the Godhead, three in one, that we will never long for the idols, the imitations, we made in human life.

That’s from our side, but think of his… since creation, since your creation, God has been longing for you to come home to him. He’s walked with you daily. He’s seen your successes and failures.  In his grace, he’s given you strength to fulfill passions, and in his discipline, he’s given you correction when you needed it. All of it was with the day in mind he knew was coming, planned so carefully, so purposefully, when he would hold you in his arms as one of his sheep, that he was there for you every minute of your life.

And on that day, in the midst of that reunion, he calls it “precious.”

I can’t help but think of a new father holding his baby for the first time. Precious. Unbelievable. Full of awe. So many emotions. What was separated is together, with a future of life together. The pain is over; there is new life. What was created and hidden is now with its maker. It is “right” but more than right, it is “precious.” 

God considers, God feels, the moment of my reunion with him as “precious.”

Sum of “Some” – Psalm 107

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
For his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so
Whom he has redeemed from trouble…(v1-2)

How do you digest a long Psalm like Psalm 107?

Thankfully, the Psalmist helps us, first with his beginning. It’s the motivation for him to write the Psalm as well as our introduction to the Psalm. And it’s his conclusion wrapped up in the introduction — it’s God’s steadfast love that redeems us!

And how do we get in trouble?

Some wandered into desert wastes,
Finding no way to a city to dwell in; (v4)

Mankind was not made to live in isolation, physically or emotionally. We need others in our lives.

What does God do?

For he satisfies the longing soul, 
and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (v9) 

How else are we in trouble?

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Prisoners in affliction and in irons,
For the rebelled against the words of God 
and spurned the counsel of the Most High. (v10-11)

Some of us are caught in darkness brought on by rebellion, resulting in punishment as society rejects what we have done.

What does God do?

He delivered from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
And burst their bonds apart. (v14b-15)

And what other kinds of trouble needs redemption?

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
And because of their iniquities suffered affliction. (v17)

And some of us are suffering the results of our sin that we have gotten away with – you know, those little ones like gluttony, alcoholism, hatred, lust and so on which eat us up from the middle out.

He sent out his word and healed them, 
And delivered them from their destruction. (v20)

And how about one more “some” that really hits home?

Some went down to the sea in ships,
Doing business on the great waters; (v23)

All of us who are trying to gather wealth on our own, going up and down with the stock markets, watching our retirement funds dwindle, this is for us…

He delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
And the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
And he brought them to their desired haven. (v28b-30) 

The sum of “some” equals all of us. We have all sinned. We need to call on his name. We need his redemption.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
Let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD. (v43) 

Today – Psalm 95


For he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand.


Today,
if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on the at Massah in the wilderness. (7-8)

What a contrast! Sheep munching in pasture or hard hearts wandering in a wilderness.

We have a choice to make.

It’s not “if” he is God – he is God. We can claim science and believe theories, but that does not negate his existence. 

And it’s not “if” he is only the God of the universe – he is our God. He created us with a God awareness, a spirit, other animals do not have. He created us in his image.

And it’s not “if” we are the people of his pasture. He created earth, a beautiful pasture, for us to live in. It wasn’t our choice to be born on earth. He choose us and set us in an amazing location that fits our needs, our desires.

And it’s not “if” we are the his sheep, of his hand. He not only placed us here, but he holds us here. It’s so very personal. His hand guides, touches us, caresses us, protects us, is all around us.

The choice is “today.”

Today, how am I going to respond to his presence, to what he has given us, where he has placed us, is holding us in his personal and tender presence?

Today, if I hear his voice, how am I going to respond? When I see nature, the ruby red tomato on my tomato plant, am I going to take credit for its brilliance? Am I going to say it got here by evolution?

Today, am I going to harden my heart to the possibility that there is a God? Am I going to harden my heart and refuse to believe he is a personal God? 

The writer of Hebrews pondered the same questions of “Today,” repeating it 3 times (3:7, 15, 4:7). He wanted to make it clear that we have a choice on how we live. And if we don’t respond to all God is and gives to us, we will wander in our minds, hearts and spirits. We will not enter into the state of rest God desires for us.

I need rest from my own wanderings…

A Timeless Question – Psalm 82

Over and over again, I remember David asking God why he seems to be blessing the unjust. But in Psalm 82, I saw a twist I’ve never seen before.

God asks us why we judge unjustly…

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”

Wow.  In the midst of these turbulent times, it’s quite an indictment. Are we showing partiality? Why? What motivates us? How are we showing partiality? Do we judge unjustly?

He then describes to us a way out…

“Give justice to the weak and fatherless; 
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 
Rescue the weak and the needy; 
deliver them from the hand of wicked.”

I’ve avoided topics around racial tensions in the US, but this hit me as a slap in the face. It’s not a political issue. It’s a compassion issue. Even more, it’s a justice issue.

Do we dominate poorer communities because they are weaker? Are there “wicked people” who get their strength from overpowering others? Is there a people, a race, who has been afflicted and destitute of their rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Are they being taken advantage of for personal gain?  

Have I contributed to this injustice? 

What is my responsibility to give justice?

So many questions come out of one pure, timeless, question. Asked over and over again through the centuries. Through every culture. Because every culture has been the same, and it hurts the heart of God. 

 How am I going to respond? What are my answers? What is God asking me to do?

I wish I had more answers. Right now I don’t. I will listen, continue to listen, to God and to others. And I trust God will show me, will show us, what heart change that is needed and what actions need to follow.

Pray with me. 

I Am Excited! Psalm 72

There have been times when I have questioned the emotions of God – does he feel or is he emotionless, something like “the force” in Star Wars?

When I am reading scripture and come across a question, I mark a “Q” in the margin. Bob Tiede, a friend of ours, talks about “leading with questions” and I’m always fascinated with how Jesus and God’s word often asks questions so that we discover his character. 

Reading through Psalms, I decided to also mark exclamations marks. In a world where we are reprimanded for using them too much on social media and text, they are used all over in Psalms. For example, in Psalm 70, every sentence, every line is marked with an exclamation! 

In Psalm 72, all of the lines are exclamations, except for verses 12-14.

For he delivers the needy when he calls, 
the poor and him who has no helper. 
He has pity on the weak and the needy, 
and saves the lives of the needy. 
From the oppression and violence he redeems their life,
 and precious is their blood in his sight. 

In the midst of all of David’s excitement about the Lord, all his power, his might, he changes tone when talking about God’s love and compassion for the needy. It’s as if he looks down from the stars, through all of his amazing creation, and sees…me.

It’s not that he isn’t excited about me. But all that pent up power, all that majesty, would simply be too much for me to bear. Instead, he comes gently, like a shepherd, like the “good shepherd” Jesus, picking me up out of the “oppression and violence” of this world and redeems my life…and even calls me precious.

Amazing…

And I can get really, really, really excited about that!!!

How about you? Remember when he picked you up and called you precious?

And to the Children – Psalm 78

Psalm 119 is not the only long Psalm. Psalm 78 might be the next longest. But for good reason…

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord,
and his might, and the wonders he has done. (v 4)

So often we keep what God is doing tucked away in our hearts. After all, religion is deeply personal, right? It can divide, and like politics, it’s not polite conversation, at lease my mother taught me. Although now talking about politics has certainly become in vogue no matter what it’s division. So why not our faith?

Especially to our children, and our children’s children. Why should we?

So that they should set their hope in God. (v7)

Otherwise, what are they going to hope in? Science? Social change? Political parties? Money? Pleasure? 

When you are as old as many of us, we know those don’t satisfy. One scientist contradicts the other or new discoveries are made that fit into a “theory” that then become scientific truth. And who created creation, what scientist’s believe in? Scientists create systems that assume there is no god, setting themselves as gods.

Social change? Political parties? We may defund the police, but we still need systems of justice. A new power system always erupts. Money? Pleasure? Living for one’s self? Is that really satisfying? 

David recounts the history of Israel to the children, just as we recount our personal histories to our children. It’s the grace of God, nothing else, that I am still alive. It’s the grace of God we have any money as people have graciously supported our ministry. It’s the grace of God that we are still married after 50 years!

I love David not only tells the good parts, but the bad parts so

that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Have you told your kids, your grandkids, about your sin, your failure, your rebellion? We tend to whitewash the past, lest someone think negatively about us, lose respect. But we know it. And how can our kids know the depth of God’s forgiveness unless they hear about the depth of our sin? 

The rest of the chapter recounts the ups and downs of the Israelites. I’m sure our grands could not sit that long, but we can give them bits and pieces. To me it is summed up in verse 22…

Because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power.

Two things are essential: believe in God, trust his saving power.

When we do, life works. When we don’t, it may work for a while, but eventually it implodes.

Let’s tell that to our children…

(I love getting comments, so please write me!)

My Psalm – Psalm 71

Why, as an introvert, would I join Cru, one of the most evangelistic movements in the world?

In college, I was so shy, it was hard for me to buy things in stores. As soon as a clerk said, “May I help you?” I retorted, “No… just looking.” I may have known exactly what I wanted, but in that moment, I could not get the words out.

A year later, I was part of a movement that had us walking up to strangers, asking if they had “ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws.” I did it, but I wasn’t ever comfortable.

After serving seven years (painful for me in my shyness), we left for 4 years in business. But then, the Lord called us again to serve, and I struggled. God created me, and I was shy. We were also no longer college students. Why would he call us back into this movement?

Enter Psalms 71.

I won’t go through it phrase by phrase but just highlight key verses.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

I had come to know Christ young, memorized scriptures, and as long as I didn’t have to speak in public about my faith, I was comfortable with letting my faith go deep.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;  forsake me not when my strength is spent.

I wouldn’t call 30 “old age” but we now had three children and certainly felt we had entered a new era of life. Life was so chaotic, sometimes I had to pick between bathing the kids or taking a shower myself! Cru felt like college students, and I wondered if I could keep up.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wonderous deeds.  So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,  until I proclaim your might to another generation,  your power to all those to come… You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.

Cru’s emphasis was leading the next generation to Christ. I was sitting, with babies on my knee, desiring them to know Christ, desiring others to know Christ. His promise to me, in the midst of my shyness, was to be with me, never forsake me, and comfort me.

That was enough. I signed up again. That was 40 years ago. Some people are surprised to hear how shy I was because I learned to take initiative, became convinced that if the Lord was telling me to say something, it was sin for me to hide it within myself. And God has been there to comfort me as Roger and I both increased in responsibility.

Sometimes God asks us to do things outside our comfort zone. But he has promised his presence to go with us. What more do we need than to trust him?