Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Desire

A fitting title for Psalm 38 is "Psalmist Under Seige." He is surrounded by enemies, and he is beset with his sins.
The psalmist spends a good share of his time describing his condition. It's not pretty, but it is good for us to know. Now what we must believe both internally and effectually is that the same pain that has come upon him will surely come upon us whenever we succumb to the pressures and temptations, whenever we walk the wayward path, whenever we choose to honor sinful flesh instead of holy God.
In earlier posts, I have commented on previous verses. It has been over a month, and I've held off writing on Psalm 38:9, because I find the statement to be so profound, so humbling, and so true.
“Lord, all my desire is before You;”  (Psalms 38:9 NAS95)
I would guess that few are so glib as to read this little phrase and think, "Yes, Lord, you know how much I desire all that You desire." It is true that we do have high and holy desires. And God knows all about them. He knows our stated desires; our praise-song professions that we desire Him more than silver or gold. But God also knows about all the other desires as well. He knows not just our professed desires, but our practiced desires; not just our desires in theory, but our desires in practice; not just our intended desires, but also all the things to which we resort in times of weakness and willfulness and fatigue and frustration. "Lord, all my desire is before You."
Our desires are what we want. We do what we desire. I do not desire one thing, and want another, nor do I do things that I don't desire. Romans 7 indicates that we have layers of desire, and I'm not sure if we most often do our deepest desires, or the ones that are closest to the surface. Nonetheless, we still do what we want, what we desire at one level or another. And God knows every one of them.
As I was thinking and preparing to write about this phrase, it was tough to avoid a strong theme with regard to desire. It is not all about my desire. It is much more about God's desire. My problem and yours is not so much that our desires are wrong, but that we don't desire what God desires. That is what makes our wayward desires wrong. Our desires trump God's desires. I'll share just two examples.
“Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (Psalms 45:10–11 NAS95)
This is a royal psalm describing the glories of the King and the privilege of those who serve Him. To apply this verse in New Covenant format, Jesus treasures His church. He loves His bride. He desires sweet fellowship with His disciples. And so, the tragedy is when the church/bride/disciple(s) spurn Jesus' desire so that they might pursue their own interests.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it." (Psalms 132:13–14 NAS95)
God the Father has focused His desire on a place that is all about a Person. Zion does not have an address so much as it has an identity or fulfillment in God Incarnate. God loves and desires the revealing of Himself in His Son. There is nothing more important or valuable than that, for it is in this way that God is glorified. 
The Psalmist Under Seige, as well as the struggling pilgrim, find true peace and rest when Jesus becomes the well from which our desires are drawn. We will experience assurance and confidence when we turn away from broken cisterns in favor of living water. God has given us Jesus, and so, in the end, not only are all of our distressing desires known to God, but we find that the one True Desire is before Him as well.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Heavenly Hug

We watched the recent movie Temple Grandin last Sunday night with our young adult group (I'm not sure why they put up with us, but they do). It is the life story of a girl with autism who fights and grows through the struggles of her condition and ends up making significant contributions in the her fields of interest.
One interesting feature of learning to cope with her condition was her "squeeze machine." She was averse to human touch, even from her mother, but evidently still had the need/desire for some kind of hug. One day, watching the herding of cattle, she saw how an animal was calmed by being confined in a pen that contricted movement, that hugged the cow. Later, in a moment of agitation, she ran to that place in the pen, and begged to be constricted in the same way. She found that it helped.
Temple later constructed her own "squeeze machine" which she used on a regular basis to provide comfort and security. What others enjoyed by way of human touch, she found and enjoyed an alternative.
I have been thinking about Jesus as our "squeeze machine." Colossians 3:3 says, "your life is hidden with Christ in God." Sure, human touch is a blessing. But frankly, human hugs are unavailable to many people much of the time. Are they just out of luck? The natural man's response is then to come up with some alternative, and some of those alternatives turn out to be perverse and destructive.
But fellowship with Jesus is sufficient and satisfying. Listen to this description: "if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion .." (Philippians 2:1). That's pretty good comfort and security. And how about one more: "and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete" (1 John 1:3,4). That would be a heavenly hug.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No Excuses

God met with Moses from out of the burning bush to assign him an important but difficult mission. Moses had been tending sheep in the wilderness for years. I'm sure there were some difficulties that accompany that kind of work. But God's mission would now push Moses beyond the realm of the uncomfortable to the land of the impossible. And Moses was not sure that he was ready.
Following God is like that. Most of us can figure out how to manage life "on the farm," so to speak. It's when we realize that God wants us to live beyond our chores and love beyond our families that it begins to get difficult. And so, like Moses, we begin to make excuses.
Excuse #1 - Who Am I?
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”” (Exodus 3:11 NAS95). This sounds humble at first. "I'm not worthy." "There are others who would be better choices." But once we get past the humble-jumble, we have to realize that God knew to whom He was talking. He had rescued Moses' life from its basket beginning. He had placed Moses for a time in Pharoah's household. He had watched over Moses during those years with the sheep. He knew Moses inside and out. He knows Moses better than Moses knows Moses. And He knows you as well.
It's a little impolite to criticize the tools when they are God's tools, made and designed by God. We are certainly invited to talk to God about our sins, our worries, our fears. But don't tell God that you can't do what He is asking you to do. If He is asking you to be His instrument, He'll provide the strength and the wisdom to get the job done.
Excuse #2 - Who Are You?
“Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”” (Exodus 3:13 NAS95). How is Moses supposed to explain Someone who is unlike anything else in the world to slaves in Egypt? It is as though he is saying, "God, I know who you are. But those people in Egypt don't. How will they follow me if they don't know You?" The truth is, none of us would know God if God hadn't revealed Himself to us. And if God doesn't reveal Himself to someone, then we can't make it happen, no matter what names or words we use.
God had revealed Himself and something about Himself to Moses out of the non-extinguishing bush. An apt image for "I Am Who I Am," God's existence owes nothing to anyone or anything else, and He borrows resources for continuing existence from no one and nothing. He simply is. He is independent, unlike us. And He is perfectly able to make Himself known as He sees fit. The ignorance and unbelief of people around us are no excuse for avoiding God's mission. 
Excuse #3 - How Will I Convince Them?
“Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?” (Exodus 4:1 NAS95). Moses is saying, "I don't have the resources I need to do this impossible job." God says, "What is that in your hand?" (v.2). A staff. Just a stinkin' staff, the symbol of Moses exile and boredom for all these years in the wilderness. And God can transform it into a fearsome serpent that Moses can once again handle. "Now put your hand into your bosom." (v.6). And Moses sees God introduce and remove plague right in his own body. And further, Moses was instructed to take some water from the Nile in Egypt and pour it on dry ground, and it would be turned to blood. God was able to actually transform properties and natural laws. 
Again, it was not up to Moses to do the convincing. God would do that. Moses was just to obey. There is no debate that the obedience was going to be tough. It would be uncomfortable and seemingly impossible. But the results would be totally up to God. So no excuses.
Excuse #4 - I Regard My Past as Determinative for My Future
“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”” (Exodus 4:10 NAS95). We only know what we've experienced. For many of us, that has been a string of disappointments. We haven't measured up to our own expectations, let alone God's. But while my imagination might be bound by my history, God's plans and purposes are not. The miracle of redemption and forgiveness is that we are set free from our pasts, and God is doing something new in us and through us.
Moses and I should learn from our past experiences. But faith would lead us to obey God and to do His will no matter what. God's mission would lead us beyond ourselves, no excuses.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Grand Praise

“Let sinners be consumed from the earth And let the wicked be no more.” (Psalms 104:35 NAS95)
Our grand piano at church has a bad string. I believe its the "A" below middle "C." It's amazing how many times that key gets played. One string affects the whole instrument. The piano tuner says that we need to either deaden that string, or replace it.
God's creation is God's piano. The whole instrument is designed to offer a pleasing praise to Him. Each element of the instrument must contribute to that praise. This is that for which the instrument was created. All of creation belongs to God and to Him alone.
Psalm 104 is an amazing exploration into the interplay between God and His creation. He provides and protects. The creation shudders and shivers at His attention. He is both absolute Master of this creation, and He is thoughtful concerning it, and shows amazing goodness toward it.
So at the close of this psalm, when the psalmist says "Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more," he is saying what the piano tuner said of our piano. The offending string needs to be deadened, or replaced. And so will be the elements of creation that refuse to sing praise to God.