Saturday, June 30, 2012

Psalm 86-89

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Today is Saturday. It's Donut Day, and always has been. When we were little, my brother and I went with Dad to help him choose the right donuts. Later, the teen years, we preferred sleeping in. Still, Dad disappeared each Saturday, before we or the sun arose, and came home with a pink box. I liked the maple bar and there was always a maple bar. I could count on it. Now I'm Dad and Saturdays are Donut Day, and as soon as I finish writing this, I'm off to get donuts. 

Psalm 89 proclaims the steadfast love of the Lord, forever. Steadfast, firmly fixed, does not change, a love you can count on. God's love is bonded to his faithfulness, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you" (Psalm 89:14). Even when we were in trouble, and we often were, Saturday was Donut Day. Ethan, the writer of Psalm 89, says of God, "If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness" (Psalm 89:30-31, 33). Ethan knows what Israel has done, that they are in trouble, but he looks to the heavens, to the sun and the moon, "a faithful witness in the skies" (Psalm 89:37). He knows that the God who established the heavens is faithful to his promises, even when Israel is not. 

To be honest, this is a bit of silliness and not a perfect illustration, but still it speaks of family and faithfulness. Today is Saturday and there are donuts on the counter and I know I'm in the right house.

Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are faithful and true, and I am not. I am so glad that Your love depends on You. I know I let You down, I blow it, and mess up, yet You are always there, forever true. Thank You. I don't deserve it, but that is the way of grace.

As I draw closer to You, my God, I pick up Your ways. I learn Your love, Your faithfulness, Your grace. Draw me close, then, that I might reflect Your goodness to this world around me, so that people will know Your steadfast love and faithfulness, and that heaven is home.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Psalm 80-85

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

God made the nation of Israel out of a promise to Abraham, raising her and caring for her, delivering her from Egypt and planting her in a land of her own. "I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves." Israel was the family of God, and in all families, there are rules, "But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments..." (Leviticus 26:12-14). Israel had broken a lot of rules, important rules like, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3), and now they were in trouble.

"No throwing a ball in the house," was one of our rules. My son threw a ball. It broke a vase, so he hid the pieces, but he was 5 years old and 5-year olds don't hide well. "Go to your room," I growled, holding the pieces in my hand. 

I waited.  Five minutes feels like five hours when you're five. Opening his door, I walked in with my mad face.  He was sitting on the top bunk, frightened, but not of being punished.  His damp eyes met mine with one question: "Are we still okay, Dad? You and me?" We were and I smiled and then he wasn't scared anymore. He knew he was still in trouble, but trouble is okay as long as he knows Dad and Son are still okay. 

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved! 
~Psalm 80:3, 7, 19

Daily Prayer

My God, though I turn away and do my own thing, and break rules, and wander off the path, Your grace is still before me. When I turn back to You and see Your love and say, "I'm sorry and I'll stop," You forgive me. Even when I do it again. And again.

God, I don't want to take You for granted, and I'm sorry when I do. I do what I don't want to do a lot, but less often as I grow in my trust and faith in Your goodness. I'm amazed that You still smile down on me, and forever I thank and praise You. You are my refuge, my strength, and my salvation.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Psalm 78-79

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Sometimes it is good to step back, take a look at the big picture, and see the patterns that emerge. That's Psalm 78. Verse 13, God parted the sea so Israel could walk on dry land; verse 14, God led his people through the wilderness by cloud and fire; verses 15-16, God split rocks and water gushed out, quenching the thirst of the Israelites; verses 24-25, God rained manna for food, the bread of angels; verse 27, and quail; verses 42-53, God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt by, verse 44, turning Egypt's river to blood, verse 45, sending swarms of flies and frogs, verse 46, destroying crops and cattle with locust, verse 47, and hail and frost, verse 51, and finally God struck down the firstborn, verse 52-53, and led the people to safety; verse 54, God established his people in a new land; verse 72, and cared for this new nation.

And still Israel thinks it's a game of chance. "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?" (Psalm 78:19-20); they are still deciding if they should bet on God.

Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. ~Matthew 6:31-32

Daily Prayer

Mighty God, there is no one like You. You alone are Almighty, You alone are Sovereign. Your will be done.

It is so hard to trust, to release my illusion of control and turn my life completely over to You. The greatest commandment, the greatest life-giving act I can do is to love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength. I know that You are God, that whatever You say will happen will happen. I know it. God help me trust in what I know.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Psalm 74-77

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

"I can't sleep!" That's what Psalm 77:1-4 says, and we've all been there. Something is troubling and turning over and over in Asaph's thoughts, "You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled I cannot speak" (Psalm 77:4). He's focused on the problem and he can't figure it out. The problem is a big one, Babylon has captured Judah and there is no more Israel. Apparently God no longer cares, "Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?" (Psalm 77:9). Israel's constant rebellion has finally taken its toll, and God has given up and is no longer listening.

Then change comes, not in God, but in Asaph. His focus shifts--from his problem to his God, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old" (Psalm 77:11). He stops thinking about Babylon and remembers Egypt. Babylon is about captivity, Egypt is deliverance. God doesn't give up; he hears his people and we are his people. 

Babylon, like Egypt, does not fear God. You don't fear God, are you kidding? Water fears God! Clouds obey him, "the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook" (Psalm 77:17-18); and you don't fear God? The seas parted and Egypt met God. You should fear God, Babylon. I do, and it lets me sleep, because, "Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples." ~Psalm 77:13-14

Daily Prayer

My Creator, You are Lord of all. You establish justice and promote righteousness. You have made Your ways known, Your Laws are clear and they are good.  May I ever remember that You do not change, and that is good. You are always holy, always good, always just, and always gracious, so no matter how bad my circumstances, they will change before You do. I can count on You God, always. May I always remember that.

I will walk in Your ways, God, because Your path is straight. It gets me where You want me to go, and that is a good place.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Psalm 70-73

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

I've had on my facebook profile a picture of Charlie Brown dancing and leaping and holding hands with his dog Snoopy, and the caption reads, "What if today, we were just grateful for everything?" I'm almost halfway through the Psalms, and the recurring theme has been, "What if today, we were just grateful for everything?" Here's why:

God is great. "May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'" (Psalm 70:4).

God is good. "My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." (Psalm 71:15-16; 73:1). 

God is in charge. "May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!" (Psalm 72:8-11).

God is not done. "For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous 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" (Psalm 71:5-6, 17-18).

What if today, we were just grateful for everything? "Amen and Amen!" ~Psalm 72:19

Daily Prayer

My God, You are my rock, my fortress, my shelter, my strength, an ever present help in times of trouble, the joy of my salvation. There is nothing today that can rob the treasure of eternity. 

May I live in constant praise with a heart of peace and contentment at rest in Your hands. You are my God; my faith, my hope, and my love are in You.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Psalm 66-69

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

'Walk your talk' is an important reminder. The church is rightly accused of hypocrisy when we say one thing and do another. The book of James asks, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:14, 18). But what about when we do another and say nothing? We must earn the right to be heard, of course. living godly lives. But at some point say something. Talk your walk. Here's what I mean.

Carlos sat down to lunch with Jack. "I made a huge decision this weekend," Carlos shared. "I am now a follower of Jesus Christ."

Jack was thrilled. "Wow!" he cheered. "That's fantastic, Carlos."

"Really? I wasn't sure what you'd think."

"Why not?" Jack looked puzzled. "I've been praying for you for years."

"You have? Jack, you're a big reason it took me so long to seek God."

"What? Why? I've always tried to live a good life and be an example," Jack protested.

"That's just it," explained Carlos. "You are a really good man, but you never talk about God.  I always figured if you could be good without God, so could I."

"How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14). This is where the Psalms shine: 

Come and see what God has done: 
    he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. 
Come and hear, all you who fear God, 
    and I will tell what he has done for my soul. ~Psalm 66:5, 16

Daily Prayer

You entered this world and spoke to me, God. When I open Your Word, I hear Your voice. Your Son, also called the Word, shows me who You are. Your Spirit speaks to my Spirit. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God, teaming up for my salvation. Thank You.

Thank You, also, for those servants of yours, my friends and acquaintances, who knew You ahead of me. By their lives and their witness, they led me to You. God, use me to introduce others to You. I pray I will live godly and speak boldly and love fully, so that Your gospel will be seen and heard and received.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Psalm 58-65

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

David often begins a psalm with chutzpah, an audacious honesty which almost if not oversteps the bounds of creature to Creator. "O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!" (Psalm 58:6), he demands of God toward the wicked who would wrong him. "Deliver me from my enemies, O my God," he cries; "save me from bloodthirsty men" (Psalm 59:1-2). He then anchors himself to the one firm foundation he can trust, "the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves" (Psalm 65:6-7). "For God alone, he only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 62:6). 

Then he listens. In his psalm, in his prayer, he pulls on his anchor, an anchor secured to the mighty rock, to his God of strength. When you pull on the anchor's rope, the shore does not move, rather you are drawn closer to the shore; and this is prayer. No longer are the wicked David's concern, but God's. David's heart becomes God's heart, and he finds rest in God's goodness, satisfaction in God's justice and grace. "Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!" (Psalm 65:4). 

Daily Prayer

My God, You are the One I turn to when the world around me is in turmoil. In You I find strength and security and peace. I can give my worries to You. My concerns over trouble pale in comparison to Your care over me. I just need to remember, O God, not my will, but Yours. 

You have already saved me from sin and death. On the cross you conquered all. What else is there for me to fear? In You, my forever is certain, so what can harm me today? I will walk this world with the confidence, not of my power, but of Your Name. You are my Savior and my Lord, and for me to live is Christ.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Psalm 51-57

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

David displays an almost desperate desire to deal with his sin and be restored to righteousness. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," he pleads. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation" (Psalm 51:10, 12). You hear in his cries the shame of sin, but it isn't that which drives him. He misses his Father, "Against you, you only, have I sinned" (Psalm 51:4).

A friend in college, Craig, bought a sporty little 1978 MG Midget. Sweet car, nice looking, good paint. And then he got a ding, a 4-inch gash on the left front fender. Several weeks passed and I asked if he was going to fix it, but it was a lot of money and his insurance would go up, and, “well, no,” he said. "Maybe I can put up with it."

"How often do you notice it?" I asked.

"Every single time I get in the car," he said. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me (Psalm 51:3). I gave him the number of a good body shop.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. ~A Psalm of David 32:1

Daily Prayer

My God and Savior, What an amazing love you have for me. You sent Your only Son, the only sacrifice sufficient for my sins, so that I might be made righteous. You created me in Your image, and yet I turned to the pleasure of sin and away from the joy of paradise. Still you are willing to forgive me, to invite me back in the family, to create in me again a clean heart.

Restore right desires in me. Renew my love for righteousness and justice. I am sorry for my sins. I will turn away from them and follow You. Make me new again.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Psalm 46-50

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

In Psalm 50, God says he wants everything, because he wants nothing. He wants your sacrifice, because he doesn't need your sacrifice. This makes no sense; or it makes all the sense in the world if you understand that religion and worship are not the same thing. 

God calls Israel to judgment, "Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me" (Psalm 50:8). Okay, you are religious, says God. Let's examine your religion. "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Psalm 50:14-15). Your religion is a formula. You give God what he needs; he gives you what you need. You're using God to serve yourself. 

But, "every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills," says God. "I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine" (Psalm 50:10-11). God doesn't need anything. The formula doesn't work. Now what?

Now you can worship. You can give God everything because he needs nothing, and therefore you can trust him fully. What are you giving him that isn't his already? Yourself, and that is worship.

Daily Prayer

Father in Heaven, The world is Yours, and all that is in it. You are the source of every good and every blessing, and the greatest blessing is I am Your son. You have adopted me back into Your family by making me righteous again through the saving work of Your Son. You call it grace. I call it good news.

You have given me everything, God. I give it all back. It's yours, all of me. Now tell me what to do!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Psalm 40-45

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

David begins the 40th Psalm, "I waited patiently for the Lord" (Psalm 40:1). That seems proper, but by the end of the psalm, David's mood had changed, "O Lord, make haste to help me!" (Psalm 40:13). What happened to patience? 

The answer is in verse 12, "for evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me." David had counted his sins. 

David warns against the proud, "those who go astray after a lie" (Psalm 40:4). The lie is, "I am not so bad," and therefore their god is not so big. Great sinners, on the other hand, need a great Savior, and David's sins were countless. He was that bad, he needed God, and he needed him now. 

As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God! ~Psalm 40:17

Daily Prayer

My God, keep me from comfort in sin. May I love Your righteousness so much that I never delay to confess and turn away from the wrong I do. Thank You that Your mercy is endless, because my sins are countless, and I need your never-ending forgiveness. 

Develop in me a habit of goodness, that I would desire to do what is right all the time. When I fail, pick me up and set me on the right path again, and I will do the next right thing. I want my life to reflect Your glory, so others will desire the same salvation You have given me. I love Your salvation!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Psalm 36-39

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

The serpent spoke to Eve, "Did God actually say..." (Genesis 3:1). Nothing has changed; "transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart" (Psalm 36:1). Sin still talks to us. Made in God's image, we must be deceived to sin. "You will not surely die," said the serpent. "You will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5). The lie is not that we don't know, but that God is somehow not the final word. Every sin is deception, "there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated." (Psalm 36:1-2). 

Our defense against sin is not willpower, then, but worship, matching delight with delight, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). The fruit of the tree was delight to Eve's eyes, so "delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4), transforming our corrupted desires as we "drink from the river of your delights" (Psalm 36:8). Drink often, drink deep.

Daily Prayer

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep. 

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. ~Psalm 36:5-11


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Psalm 32-35

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Dogs protect their homes. Annoying barking dogs. King David thought he got away with it, and he almost did.

Psalm 32 is David's inside thoughts about the events of 2Samuel 11 and 12. The story begins, "In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, King David remained in Jerusalem." Sin's moment arrives when you are not where you should be. The soldiers were away, and the wife of one of them was available. She conceived a child. To cover it up, the king brought the husband home from battle. If Uriah would enjoy a night with his wife, no one would know David had, but Uriah was one of David's mighty men, an honorable man, who does not take pleasure when his fellow warriors battle. The king got Uriah drunk, but Uriah's integrity was stronger than the wine, and Uriah slept on the couch. So, the king sent Uriah back to battle and arranged so that he would be killed. David believed, at last, his secret was secure. He could rest. When you finally get a sin wrapped up all nice and tidy, you breathe a sigh of relief.

But the dogs kept barking. David had robbed their home, so they barked.  Woof, Adultery.  Woof, Deceit.  Woof, Murder.  And they don't let up. 

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. ~Psalm 32:3-4

Pray that you never find rest in sin. Worse than the barking would be peace with iniquity. Because of the dogs, David found the just discipline of the Lord, and it hurt. But through the pain, he also found God's mercy and grace. He found peace. 

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, 
   whose sin is covered. 
You are a hiding place for me; 
   you preserve me from trouble; 
   you surround me with shouts of deliverance. ~Psalm 32:1, 7

Thank goodness for barking dogs. 

Daily Prayer

Father in heaven, you are holy, you are good. Your kingdom is righteous. I long to live forever, a righteous man in a righteous kingdom. Do what it takes to prepare me for Your kingdom.

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. If there is any wicked way in me, straighten my path. Lead me in the way everlasting.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Psalm 26-31

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

The Shema is the centerpiece of the Hebrew prayer life. Shema means "Hear," and it is the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one," a prayer many Jews utter twice daily, their first words in the morning and final words before bed. A daily reminder that there is one, and only one, God, and he is our God and we are his people. 

That is the predominate sense of the Psalms. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; The Lord is the stronghold of my life" (Psalm 27:1). The Lord our God, the Lord is one, but there's more. The Lord is not only one, he is number 1. When that's true, our Sunday morning language begins changing from "Do we have to go to church today?" to "Do we get to go to church today?" 

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

How many walk into church as if God should be glad they are there? David sought God's permission to enter!

Facebook invites people to check in at the places they visit. One family checked in at Rolling Hills on a Sunday morning and commented, "God 1st." Later that afternoon, the family checked in again, this time at AT&T Park, "Baseball 2nd ~ Go GIANTS!!!" They got it right.

Daily Prayer

God, my Savior, I offer myself, body, soul, and spirit, as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You. I love You, heart, soul, mind, and strength. Transform me God, to reflect Your glory, to resemble Your Son.

You would rather I obey than play religion. My obedience is not a demonstration of my righteousness, but a sign of my love. I want to know Your Word, follow Your ways, and live in Your love. God, my strength comes from You; my life centers around You. Nothing more, nothing less.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Psalm 21-25

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Something broke at my parent's house and I needed some tools, so I went to my dad's workbench in the garage. I easily found the hammer, because it was hanging in the same spot it has hung for forty years. One hammer. I thought of my tool chest where there are two identical hammers. In fact, I have two of lots of things, two of too much. There on the wall was my dad's old circular saw, the same old drill, the same old level, I could keep going. It was a pleasant trip of nostalgia, because I had used many of these tools as a teenager. 

I buy a lot of backups and upgrades, and my dad doesn't, and his life is better for it. It's not that he is stripped to his mere needs, but his life is free of wants and full of delights, because he delights in what he has. I delight in what is new, and therefore I want what's next and what's different. I want too much because I delight in too little. 

The most familiar Psalm begins, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1), and the next line is telling, "He makes me..." (Psalm 23:2). I don't go on my own, but I'm learning to follow my shepherd, and he leads me not to my wants or even my needs, but to his delights. Somehow green pastures and still waters restore my soul. I thought a full life meant having more, but it doesn't. I have two of too many things.

Daily Prayer

Loving God, You promise a life that is full, even overflowing. My life is full of clutter. Let's clean it up. God, teach me to love what You love, to share Your delights, to seek righteousness and goodness and purity and beauty and truth, things of eternity more than things of today.

May I pursue the One that I truly need, the One who fills my heart, the One who created me and leads me in the right direction. I love what You promise, that if I follow You, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. That is what I want!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Psalm 17-20

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). When the Pharisees asked Jesus to silence his followers, Jesus replied, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out" (Luke 19:40). Nature cannot help itself. "Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Psalm 19:4). 

Scientists who study the world and the stars speak of the anthropic principle. It says that we can trace backward in time to discover the narrow set of circumstances that brought human life to earth. For example, the earth is exactly the right distance from the sun and our atmosphere has the perfect blend of gases, the sun is the proper temperature and ice floats. Most solids sink, but if ice sunk, it would gather on the bottom of the oceans and never melt, and pretty soon the whole ocean would be frozen solid and there would be no life. Everything is perfect for us to be here now. It's almost as if someone intended it to happen. Looking backward it makes sense, though, because if the universe wasn't exactly right for us, there would be no "us" to look backward.

But there is another way to look at this: forward. "In the beginning God" (Genesis 1:1). That's why the first six verses of Psalm 19 speak of the majesty of God in the heavens and the earth, and then verse 7 says, "The law of the Lord is perfect." Looking backward makes us some lucky accident, but looking forward reveals a providential purpose to our life. Someone did intend for us to happen. The universe follows God's laws, and here we are on earth. It makes sense, then, to keep following God's laws. They got us here successfully; they will keep us here, as well.   

The rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
     in keeping them there is great reward. ~Psalm 19:9-11

Daily Prayer

My God, Creator of everything, this world and all that is in it. I have no world without You, nor does anyone else, whether or not they yet acknowledge it. It truly is good to know You, because there is no good without You. 

You created me special, me and every other man and woman. A special place on earth, bearing Your image, governing Your creation, caring for this planet and its inhabitants. May I know Your laws and live Your laws so that my life will be blessed, and a blessing to all life around me. May I reflect You and Your ways in what I do, so that our eyes will look to You, and our knees will bow, and our tongues proclaim that You are God. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Psalm 9-16

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

It's supposed to be a fair system, one which puts an end to arguments. One child cuts the cake, the other chooses the first piece. It should have worked. It's not difficult to draw a line down the middle, but neither child was looking for fair. The trick was to cut the cake at a slant so one piece looks bigger, but is actually smaller. Both children sought the advantage and neither wanted mom cutting the cake because she might be fair. And, to be honest, neither wants more cake. Each just wants more than the other. 

Nothing's changed. Watch Congress draw redistricting lines or nations draw up treaties. No one aims for fair and there are no straight lines. The Hatfields and McCoys keep fighting not to get even, but to get even plus a little more. "Ties," snarls the football coach, "are like kissing your sister." 

The problem is, the system favors the devious. Baseball manager Leo Durocher knew this. "Nice guys finish last," he said. And bad guys finish first? "For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul. His ways prosper at all times" (Psalm 10:3, 5), and for a time, it seems the wicked win. That's our system, the system of advantage, of fair plus a little more. "The one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 10:3-4). We don't want mom cutting the cake.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (Psalm 14:1), and he gets the bigger piece, but not the better piece. And that's the secret. Who cares about cake! 

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:5-6).

Daily Prayer

My God, there is nothing in this world that satisfies me. For a brief time, I find something fun, but then I want something more or something else, and I spend my life looking. Until I found You, or I should say, You found me. I wasn't looking for You, but when You showed up, suddenly there was peace and contentment, strength and worth, a hope and a future. Now I have nothing to gain, because You are all I seek. And I have nothing to lose, because You provide all I need. I have stopped looking and started living. The life You give is truly abundant and overflowing. 

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Psalm 1-8

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

In front of my parents' house grows a towering redwood, over 50 feet high. It is beautiful and strong, a majestic tree. We planted two on our front lawn when my family moved into the house in 1973. They were 8 feet high then, and over the summer we watched as one grew and one did not. We watered them both, but one seemed to drink the water, to delight in the water, and it flourished. The other did not, dried up, and died. Today I can point to the spot the other tree was planted, but there is no trace it was ever there. 

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away (Psalm 1:3-4).

I was a teenager in 1973, and prayer was difficult. Speaking to someone unseen felt odd. I repeated myself a lot and talked like King James, "Thee" and "Thou." One day I opened the Psalms and was surprised by the words. They were my words, the expressions I longed for, "Give ear to my words, O Lord," and "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers," and "I will fear no evil for you are with me." I began to pray the Psalms, to walk with a Bible in hand and pray God's Word back at him. "Fight against those who fight against me" (Psalm 35:1), robust words that declared my thoughts and desires. I learned to pray by praying the Psalms, to "delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2). That man is described as blessed.

Daily Prayer

O Lord my God, early in the morning I stop and wonder what this day will bring. What have You set before me? Prepare me to meet the wonders and challenges and opportunities and delights of this world. Fill my heart this morning with Your grace and truth, make me wise and give me courage and compassion. 

May I be strong in Your love today. Whether I meet friend or enemy, may my life express Your Gospel. May I do good and right, and may You be praised.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Job 40-42

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

And the Lord said to Job: "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it" (Job 40:1-2). God's question for Job: Do you know who I am? 

"Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love and forgive Him despite His limitations, as Job does?" That was written by Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People."

Really?  An "A" for effort?  Good job for trying? Remember the Titanic? "There is no danger that Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable and nothing but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers," said Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice-President, just before midnight, April 14, 1912. The Titanic sunk, April 15, 1912, 2:20am.  If you claim you are unsinkable, don't sink.

Kushner was mistaken, about God and about Job. When bad things happen, why they happen or what to do is not as important as who to trust. "I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). Unsinkable.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job (Job 42:10).

Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are good. Every good gift comes from You. You are holy and just and righteous. You are love.

There are times when people and events may argue against that, but God, I will not be swayed. I know that You are true, the First and the Last, and that in all things, You work for the good of those who love You. Father God, I love You.  My life is Yours.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Job 38-39

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

God speaks, at last, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me." And he began to question Job, "Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?" (Job 38:8, 11).

There are 362 quintillion gallons of water in the ocean. That is 362 billion billion or 3.62×1020 or 362,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or 7,250,000,000,000,000,000 bathtubs or 15,000,000,000,000,000 swimming pools, if that makes it easier.

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?" (Job38:31, 33)

On a clear, moonless night, a few thousand stars are visible, of the 10,000,000,000 in the Milky Way galaxy. Some estimate there are 10 billion billion stars in the universe, but NASA put the number precisely at gazillions.

"Can you hunt the prey for the lion,Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, is the wild ox willing to serve you? Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?" (Job 38:39; 39:1, 5, 9, 19, 26-27)

Estimates range from 5 million to 100 million different species on earth, but we've identified less than 2 million. Breaking this down into categories, zoologists come up with 20,000 species of fish, 6,000 species of reptiles, 9,000 of birds, 1,000 amphibians, and 15,000 species of mammals. The remaining millions are, you'll be happy to know, insects and spiders. As to the total number of individual animals, the scientific estimate is, "I have absolutely no idea."

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

Job said nothing. Sometimes it is the right time to be quiet, be still, and know that He is God.

Daily Prayer

Creator God, what a world I live in, created by Your hands, Your Word, Your breath. What a delight to look at the heavens and think of You. I marvel at the myriad shapes and sizes of Your creatures.  Look at us, man and woman, a reflection of Your image.

May I, God, never cease my amazement at Your creativity. May I be a good steward of what You have placed in my care. May I use all things as You intended, to ultimately glorify You.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Job 35-37

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Elihu continued to speak, and, surprisingly, made some sense. Job's problem was not that he had sinned, but that he was too focused on himself. "Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God" (Job 37:14), was Elihu's advice, and not at all a bad reminder. Something, in fact, I should keep in mind. 

I often drive back and forth between northern and southern California, always on Interstate 5. Fast lane, of course.  It's a straight shot, no distractions.  NO DISTRACTIONS.  Nothing to see, nothing to do.  With one stop at Kettleman City for an In-N-Out double-double, I'm there. 400 miles, 6½ hours.

Interstate 5, every time. Except twice. Two times I detoured west along Highway One - a two-lane road, bending and curving, hugging the California coast. Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, San Simeon. It commands frequent stops to take in fog-shrouded cliffs, rugged canyons, windswept cypress trees, the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean. 500 miles, 9 hours.  

Ninety-eight percent of the time, I choose speed over splendor. But lately I've been asking myself, 'Why?' Why in the world do I hurry to Los Angeles  ...and bypass the wonders of God? Or as two guys named Simon and Garfunkel put it, "Slow down, you move to fast."

Daily Prayer

God of wonders, what a creation!! The stars so vast, beyond count, and yet you hold them in Your palm and name them. The depth of the oceans and height of the mountains do not surpass Your grandeur. Rather, they reflect Your majesty and mystery.

Lord, may I measure my days. May I be productive and do the work You have called me to do. May I also rest and worship. May I stop long enough to look at this world around me and reflect. May creation draw me to the wonder and worship of its Creator.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Job 32-34

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

The sign posted at the University said, "It isn't wrong to think you're right, but it isn't right to think others are wrong." Sounds so charitable, so fair, nice even. 

The ballplayer slides into second, the shortstop tags him, and the umpire calls, "You're out!" It's just a game, but try selling that to the team in blue. The call just killed a rally. The call is a travesty against all that is just and good and right in the universe. The blue coach screams, "Are you blind? He missed the tag!" The umpire explains, "I think I got it right. But, hey, I'm not saying you're wrong, either."

You can't get away with something ridiculous like, "I think I'm right, but I don't think you're wrong." Sports do not permit this. Truth and justice do not permit this. And neither does life permit this. Life has rules. Right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral exist. Every seven-year old can tell you when something is or is not fair.

Elihu, a young man, waited until his elders and Job were done talking, then he had something to say. Six chapters worth. The core of his argument is the justice of God, "Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice" (Job 34:12). 

The Almighty will not pervert justice, and we are rule breakers. We want everyone to be able to do his or her own thing, because we want to do our own thing. We who seek a world where no one is wrong cannot change the rulebook, so we try to rid ourselves of the umpire.

When Elihu stops talking (3 more chapters), we will hear from the umpire. "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said..." (Job 38:1). He has the final word and he always will. 

Daily Prayer

Sovereign God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, Your ways are good, right, and just. They are also loving. You are, at the same time, my Loving Father and my Righteous Judge. Why would I want to live in a world not ruled by righteousness? And yet, I do. Your Word seems foreign to this world, because this world would rather rule itself, and the results are not good. I can serve the kingdom of man or the Kingdom of God, but not both. The choice is clear, and I choose to be ruled by righteousness. I will follow You.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Job 29-31

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Job ignores his friends and lays out his final appeal before God: my life was good, really good (Job 29); now it's really bad (Job 30); what did I do wrong? (Job 31). Sixteen times, at least, he begins, "If I have," meaning he hasn't, and the sins he lists are common. Job is, indeed, a righteous man. 

For example, "I have made a covenant with my eyes" (Job 31:1), not that his eyes would stop seeing-that would be impossible-but that they would never stop moving. That they would not fix their gaze on what they shouldn't. The first look is free, it can't be stopped. It's the second look that costs you. He even had a back-up plan in case his eyes let him down, "if my heart has gone after my eyes" (Job 31:7), temptation met a second line of defense at his heart. "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). Job was intent on turning away.

Job presented his case before God, then he was done. "The words of Job are ended" (Job 31:40). In judicial jargon, he rested. It's called shalom, peace. The turmoil still swirled around him, but he was in the hands of God now, as he had always been. 

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:11-13

Daily Prayer

Father in heaven, You are holy, You are good. Your kingdom is righteous. I long to live forever in a righteous kingdom.

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. If there is any wicked way in me, straighten my path. Lead me in the way everlasting.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Job 24-28

Daily Reading
Daily Thought

Job challenges his friends, "Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?" (Job 28:12). Certainly not among you three is at least half the answer. The friends have knowledge, but knowledge is not wisdom, and often the more a fool knows, the greater a fool he is. Knowledge is indiscriminate, wild and promiscuous, flirting with whomever it fancies, always the pursuer; but Wisdom is its own reward.

"Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom," Job answers his own question, "and to turn away from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). But didn't Job point out that the wicked "live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power" (Job 21:7); and they seem to get away with it? (Job 24) Then why turn from evil? Because Job, stripped of all he has, has discovered all he needs. 

Daily Prayer

To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, both now and forever, may I live a life devoted to and delighting in You. Everything else is a gift, and You are the giver of all that is good and worthwhile. I will seek You because You are God and You are true and You are good. It's the wise thing to do.

I want to know You more to know You better. I see the wonder of Your ways in the world You created the heavens and oceans, the gardens and grandeur, and all that breathes. There is this marvelous world, beyond our corruption, looking forward to redemption and restoration, freed from evil, filled with wisdom, for Your glory and pleasure throughout eternity. Beyond my dreams, what more could I hope for?