Saturday, May 30, 2015

Psalm 139:22

I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 

As I said yesterday, I bristle at verses like these. I am not watering anything down here: we are to hate sin because it is an offense to the holiness of God. But I don't think the Bible tells us to hate people who sin. In fact, I believe it says the opposite. 

You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, "you fool!" will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22 

Based on this, and what I know to be true of God, I don't believe it is His will got us to hate anyone. It's not our job. He is the judge, not us. I also believe the Bible and know that every word is profitable for instruction, so I still want to take this verse seriously. 

My thought it that the psalmist is actually in sin here (David? A sinner? Nah...adultery what? Uriah who?). Anyway, this may be evidence of his sinful condition; after all what will Jesus tell us about our enemies? 

But love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28 

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 

There is no indication that we are ever called to hate anyone. Should we hate sin? Yes. Should we be able to recognize enemies of the cross and be aware of what that might mean for us? Yes. But we don't hate people. We bless them, we pray for them, we do good, and we are merciful. 

Sorry David. I think you need a heart check on this one. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Psalm 139:21

Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you, O Lord? 

When God saves you, you are a rebel. He doesn't save you because you're already pretty good, He saves you because He is rich in mercy and has decided to love you from before time through all eternity. You have no good apart from the Lord (Psalm 16:2). But after you've been rescued, this amazing thing happens: you come to know and love Jesus more and more, and all the rebellion starts to lose its appeal. You want less of that which God hates and more of that which God loves. Your old friends with whom you sinned have less sway with you, and you pursue community in God's people, the church. You serve and love those outside the family, but they no longer define you. You belong to Jesus and pursue His likeness. Ephesians 2 is a great chapter to read here. I'll include a short selection at the end, but in summary, it is the core of the gospel: God made the world good, we broke it with our rebellion, He promised to fix it, Jesus saved us from ourselves, and He's coming again to bring forth full restoration and wipe every tear from every eye.

Therefore, remember that at one tim you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision - remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of  promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-14

Maybe it's my heart for evangelism that keeps sidetracking me with Psalm 139, here, but I find it really difficult to discuss the wicked, the sinners, the rebels without acknowledging that 1) I have just described every person who ever lived (besides Jesus, duh) and 2) No one is too wicked, sinful or rebellious to be saved by Jesus and welcomed into the family of God. It doesn't matter how far you are from Jesus or how righteous you purport to be, when measured against the holy God, there is no scale, no curve. The only passing grade is a 100%. It takes God Himself in the person of Christ to save us. No one is worthy. So all are welcome. Isn't that pretty amazing? We are all made equals in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 139:20

They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 

Here we see some more details as to what it means to be wicked. If you speak against God and take His name in vain, you are His enemy and He will come against you. This is cause for us to take pause, after all, in suffering, what does Job's wife say?

Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and died" Job 2:9 

She wasn't asking Job a one-time thing. She was asking him to become the enemy of God, to turn from the living God and worship instead the gods of ease and comfort. These are the people from whom the psalmist wants to run, and for good reason. Satan is the ultimate enemy of God. Satan hates you and wants you to die. Meanwhile, God is for you, His chosen people, and wants you to have life and life abundant. So it really is a question of life and death; choose this day which one you will pursue.

Psalm 139:19

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 

This marks quite the change of direction! After eighteen verses on God's protection, care and presence, we address a reason why we doubt these things - other people. Those who don't obey and trust God don't want you to either. Satan hates Jesus and he hates you and he wants you to die. For someone striving to believe Jesus and live according to His truth, the wicked are a dangerous group. It only makes sense for the psalmist to want them out of here.

Of course, we have to consider: aren't I wicked too? Haven't I rebelled against God? Yes. That's who you were. But that's not who you are.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

The fact that you want to be removed from the wicked is a pretty good sign that you have indeed been called into God's family. Your desires have changed - you want more Jesus and less of the world! And this is a desire the Lord is sure to give you.

Psalm 139:18

If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 

The 'them' here, of course, refers to the thoughts the Lord has. The psalmist again highlights their enormity so that it begins to sink in for us: you are on God's mind! The second half of the verse is a return to the idea of God's omnipresence - He is always with us. Here, I get the idea that the psalmist with imagining these things, the ascending to heaven, the turning to the sea, the counting of God's thoughts - and now he wakes up to reality. And reality is this: God is the Lord, He will never leave you or forsake you. This is not a dream or your imagination; this is the truth of who we are in Christ. You have the Spirit of God dwelling inside you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Psalm 139:17

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God, how vast is the sum of them! 

For God to know everything about you - your past, your future, the places you like to hide - He has to have quite the compilation of thoughts on you. I think what's impressive, though, isn't even the quantity. Let's face it - spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves too; too much time if you're anything like me. But how many of those are high quality thoughts? How many wreak of guilt, shame and condemnation? But God, every one of His thoughts for you is only for your good. He looks at you as He looks at His precious Son. Jesus covers you; you belong to God as one of His precious children. You are no longer a slave, but a dear son. He could not love you any more than He does right now or think any more highly of you. Guard this truth as precious! 


Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. 

This is my proof text for everything I've been saying about how to have peace about the future. When you were in the womb, God had already mapped out each one of your days. They were formed for you, by the God who loves you and laid down His life for you. I take so much comfort in this. I hope you do too. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Psalm 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

I wrote this verse down early in the morning added it to its thirteen predecessors. It memorized easily. The reflecting, though, has been over a thirteen hour process.

When I decided to tackle this psalm, I knew that, right now, this verse would be the hardest. When you are struggling with your body, against your very self, declaring this verse is a serious challenge. To thank God for making you, to say that you are one of His wonderful works, to declare that you know this from the inside out, this sits somewhere between a lie and a dream. It may be someone else's truth, but certainly not your own.

I have a strong memory of a professor (Muslim, at a liberal arts college) declaring this over our Quest for Justice class on our last day, of it being an overwhelmingly positive affirmation and the perfect culmination to a semester of discovery.

But now, I don't know how to believe it could be true - am I really fearfully and wonderfully made? Can my soul really know that?

I don't have a tidy wrap up tonight. I am still some way from integrating this truth into my being. But I do have hope that I too will sing with David, because I know that God shines light into my darkness and I can never go too far to be out of His hands. This is where I will rest.

From Safe by Phil Wickham 

These are the hands that built the mountains, 
The hands that calm the sea
These are the arms that hold the lame 
And they are holding you and me 
These are the hands that heal the leper, 
Pull the lame up to their feet 
These are the arms that were nailed to the cross
To break our chains and set us free

You will be safe in His arms
You will be safe in His arms 
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made
He will be with you always 
When everything is falling apart 
You will be safe in His arms

Psalm 139:13

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 

How can we be sure that God is always with us? Because He made us, and He made us for Himself. And no matter bow far we run or try to hide, if we are faithfulness, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Your Father in heaven has known you since before you were born. He know your greatest fears and deepest longings better than anyone, even you. He has even the hairs on your head numbered (Luke 12:7). He hand crafted you, a vessel to proclaim His glory and wonder to the world. Nothing you har is too much for The Lord because everyone about you is known by Him. You were created. 
God made you. How does that change your today and tomorrow and next Tuesday and ten years from now? You are His! 

Oh, and I finished Judges: 

Follow the leaders 
Given to you from The Lord 
They point straight to Him 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Psalm 139:12

even the darkness is not dark to you; the light is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you 

I've reflected and written on this verse a number of times in the past, and I don't have a groundbreaking new insight for you. I do, however, have the gospel. 

Today may be the most messed up day of your entire life. But if you have Jesus, you have the light of the world. You have hope. You have life because He is all light and no dark and nothing is too dark, miserable or difficult for Him. This is the God who rose from the dead! Death died because Jesus rose from the grave. This is the light that shines in your darkness, in every darkness. This is the light that is your life. 

In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. John 1:4-5 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Psalm 139:11

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me and the light about me be night", 

This, here, is utter depression. Nothing good is coming and the good I have will turn away from me. There is no hope. With the last two verses, and now this one and the next, I'd thought about doing them in pairs, because, for example, this verse without its punchline is pretty gloomy. I'm just dying to say, "But God!" But I think that by sitting on just this verse, I see something else: I am reminded that there are people who live in this place, who have no hope, or cannot see it right now. There are many people, in and out of the church, who struggle with depression, who don't see anything beyond the darkness in which they currently reside. Perhaps you have visited this place or even live there now. If I want to love and serve you, I have to know it, even on some small level. I have to see a glimpse of what it's like to be unable to claim "But God!" for myself. And this dwelling in darkness is what will make tomorrow's verse shine even brighter.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Psalm 139:10

even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me 

In this verse, we see that The Lord is both our guidance and our protection. As He draws us forward into His kingdom, He also keeps us steady. It's as if He knows we are afraid of the unknown. No matter where we travel, God will be there; in fact, He will be there before us, and will be there looking after us as well. 

I'm singing Oceans to myself 

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you're my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

My favorite line is "You've never failed, and You won't start now" This captures my thoughts on today's verse; we can go anywhere, do anything, no matter how far or how scary, because The Lord is faithful to be with us and for us. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Psalm 139:9

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea...

I'm now wondering if this psalm doesn't address patterns of iniquity laid out in Isaiah 14:13-14 The psalmist, here, sure seems to be describing escapism. It's a kind of forget it all approach; it's a hiding from reality by creating an alternative. I think there's something in all of us that would just love to get out. Flee the country. Live on a goat farm ;) But not matter where you go, there you are, as they say. The desire to escape may be rooted in fear, in discontentment, in any number of things. If you go hide on a mountain in Nepal, even though you claim to have made it out, those roots will still be there. It's far better to cut off the roots, to face them head on and accept the challenges they bring. You may find it brings you closer to God and truer happiness than you ever imagined.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Psalm 139:8

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 

You can't out-good God and you can't be too bad for Him to welcome you into His family. This verse appeals to both sides of human nature. In one case, we try to be good so God will love us. We determine to white-knuckle our way to heaven. In the other, we tell ourselves God would never accept us because of what we've done. But the good news is that Jesus came to save us from both sides of this coin. The Lord is waiting for us, no matter where we're coming from. 

Psalm 139:7

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 

The answer is, of course, that no on can hide from The Lord. I am thankful that, because of the sacrifice Jesus made for me, I have nothing to hide from God. It's something I need to be reminded of often: He knows me and loves me and holds me close. He protects me. Even if I could hide from him, I have no reason to desire it. 

Psalm 139:6

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it 

This is what I've been wanting to say every day so far - the fact that God knows me as deeply and intimately as He does is an incomprehensibly wonderful thing. He knows even my heart better than I can ever hope to; He knows more about my future than I could imagine in wildest dreams, and He knows more about His work in my life than I can learn in an eternity. He is so far above me that I will only ever scratch the surface on His knowledge of me. For the saint, for those covered by the blood of Jesus, to be known by Him is the most incredible feeling, the greatest comfort and the brightest hope. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Psalm 139:5

You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 

I have pretty much only ever heard the word "hem" in relation to sewing. I decided to check out a dictionary to see what else I could glean.

2. to enclose or confine 
Origin: before 1,000, Middle English, hem (m), old English hem, probably akin to hamm, enclosure; see home. 

I love that hem is related to home. It shows that God protects us. He makes us at home with Him and gives us a deep, abiding safety and security. Later in the Psalm, David will say that there's nowhere to go to escape from the Lord. God is so with us that He will never leave us - in fact, if you are in Christ, you have full and unfettered access to God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Isn't that a crazy thing? And it's not as though this hemming in is a constriction or jail cell; for God lays His hand upon us. He hems us in, that He would be our caregiver and provider. As Paul writes in Romans 8, if God is for us, who can be against us? Having God's protection is better than the best security system, the most resilient armor, or the entire US defense budget ;)

As I wrote this, I thought of the hymn, How Firm a Foundation, which finds its roots in Scipture. In the song, we recall that God will help us and cause us to stand strong (Isaiah 41:10), that He will be with us in the deep waters and fiery trials (Isaiah 43:2 and 2 Corinthians 12:4), and that not even all the powers of hell can disrupt the relationship we have with God in Christ (John 10:27-29, Romans 8:38-39, Hebrews 13:5-66, Psalm 37:28). This hymns is a great way to remind ourselves of the promises God has to be with us always. [I was too lazy to actually try to find a video of this song that includes verse 3. It is often passed over and I don't know why. It might be my favorite verse. I like Fernando Ortega's recording, but it skips this verse. Sigh. ]

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word 
What more can He say than to you He hath said
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled 

Fear not I am with you, O be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid 
I'll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand 
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go 
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow 
For I will be with you, thy troubles to bless 
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply 
The flame shall not hurt thee I only design 
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes 
And though even hell should endeavor to shake
I'll never, no never, no never forsake

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Psalm 139:4

Even before a word is on my tongue; behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 

Sometimes whe. I'm angry, frustrated or upset, I'm afraid to verbalized it because of how I will be perceived. I don't want people to be mad at me, so I usually just keep quiet, or else I end up feeling guilty for speaking up. But this is not how it is with The Lord. He already knows what I'm thinking and feeling and has already judged me as one covered by the blood of Jesus. He longs for me to find rest by His Spirit, so for me to come to Him honestly is only for my good. I can talk freely with God because He already knows my worst. I don't have to worry about Him rejecting me because I am accepted in Christ. Knowing Jesus is such a great freedom. God is not mad at you; His wrath has been poured out on His Son. You have no reason to fear Him. He is for you! 

Monday, May 11, 2015


You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 

I recently more or less quit my job (as of June 27th - no one panic). I don't have another solid plan already in place. And yet, I have total peace. I think this verse expressed the comfort I have in knowing Jesus. God is faithful to call me and to place me in the right spot at the right time. He already know every minute of the rest of my life. He qualifies those whom He calls and I praise Jesus for calling me out of darkness and into His marvelous light. I don't have to strive in vain - God is present in my future. Beyond my work, God also knows my rest. He knows my deep need of security, of His peace. He knows my gifts and desires and my patterns of iniquity an my needs and longings and He knows how to satisfy each one. This is something to hold on to. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal

Not too long ago, Tina sent me a page from her journal with a quote from Hinds Feet on High Places and the line "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal" on the bottom. I thought she was just being profound until I heard this lyric on the radio. I looked it up and it was Crowder, one of her favorite bands (apparently she only knew it was a song lyric, a friend had passed it to her, but she didn't know the song - she was pumped to learn it was Crowder). In any event, today, I made it my moving meditation - 

I love yoga because it helps me see the rest I have in this already/not yet world. Breathing, bending, stretching, balancing, it's all an expression that I live as a blood-bought sinner being prepared to meet Christ in His forever kingdom. This world is not my home, and no matter how I am called to travel through it, I will meet Jesus and spend eternity enjoying Him in all HIs fullness. There will be no more death, no more sickness or pain; every single sad thing will have come untrue. And although a tear-free reality is not yet ours to be grasped, the hope of it it is. And it is in this hope that we are saved (See Romans 8:18-25). 

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are
There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

Psalm 139:2

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 

This weekend, I've been thinking about rest a lot. Augustine said, "You, O Lord, have made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee". This is a great truth. This morning I woke up in soft blankets and peaked my head up to see water and mountain. This is what God has made, not for its own glory, but for us - to show us who He is. If we find rest in these things, we still miss Jesus. The mountains can't know my rising and my thinking; only God does. He may use these things to bring us closer to Himself, but He cannot be any closer in His knowledge of us. What a beautiful thought!

Psalm 139:1

I just started memorizing Psalm 139 and I'm using verse by verse meditation to do so. Here is the first one in a series of meditations on this beautiful psalm.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. 

Isn't it something, that the God of the universe condescends to search us and know us. Certainly it is we who should be searching and striving for knowledge of the holy God. And yet He is the one who pursues us. I sat in that knowledge today: Jesus knew that I would mock Him, that I would break His law, that I would make Him look terrible and worthless, that I would run from Him, that I would worship other gods, that I would live in shame for sins He's already forgiven. He knows every single one of the recesses of my heart and yet He calls me His own. I stood out on this spectacular deck (I'm housesitting for rich people this week)
and watched the mountains and the sunset and the water. I moved my body through a flow, this body that was formed by God for His glory, this body that has been redeemed by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has searched me and He has known me and He loves me from the inside out.

From the Inside Out is an old favorite song of mine. I heard it again today as I though on the Lord's knowledge of me and it just fit. The more I open up to the Lord and to His Church, the more peace and rest I find. Jesus, You are beautiful to me. Amen.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again 
Still I'm caught in your grace
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame 

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise 
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame 

In my heart and my soul 
I give you control 
Consume me from the inside out 
Let justice and praise 
Become my embrace 
To love you from the inside out 

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame 
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise 
From the inside out 
Lord my soul cries out. 

Catching up

I have several posts coming at you tonight. I've had them brewing but have been too lazy to get out my computer and type them up. Until now.

I finished Romans. I was surprised by Romans in the best way. I think Romans and I think sin and grace and remember who you were and what Christ has done for you. That is most certainly there, but I also saw this week what you are supposed to do with that knowledge and how you are to live in community with your fellow sinner/saints. This is the haiku I came up with:

We who died to sin
Have life in Christ to be shared
With one another

I also started Judges, a book that before our study of the minor prophets, I had little deep knowledge about. But, because God is so rich in His grace towards me, I've already been looking at how all this judgey stuff fits in with the larger arc of the entire Biblical story, so my heart is ready to dive into the book twenty times over.

Here's a quick note from today's reading

Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress. And the people of Israel said to the Lord, We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. Judges 10:13-16
This exchange is quite incredible. God was ready to give the people over to their sin and then they cried to Him. They understood that they deserved wrath and instead asked for mercy. And because they received that mercy in their time of need, they turned from their idols to worship and serve the Lord. This is repentance. This is faith.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

On the Mat

Written today 

I see that yoga is a wonderful and terrible thing right now, because when you're on your mat, there is nowhere to hide. I have to face myself and my demons head on. There is nothing with which to cover up, there is nowhere to run. There is nothing to cut, nothing to vomit, and no burpees to do. There is just my body and my mat. I am forced to be aware of how much and how little space I am using, how much of it I am creating, and what I'm doing what I have. Whether I stand on one foot or two hands or a head or all fours, I am made to look myself not in the eyes but beyond, into the recesses of my brain. I have to listen to the beat of my heart and hear and feel and honor my breath. I find limits; I am compelled to acknowledge them and wait to see what will happen. 

It is beautiful, and it can be terrifying. But this, of course, is practice, and even more so, life itself.