Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Psalm 51

Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your amazing and grace-filled love toward me. Because of your great compassion, erase the record of my rebellious deeds.
Scrub away my iniquity.
Cleanse me from my sin.
I admit that I have done wrong.
I am very aware of my sin.
Ultimately, I sin against you, because I do what you declare to be evil.
And so, you are just and altogether blameless in your judgment.
I am a sinner from birth, indeed, from the moment of my conception I was predisposed to do wrong.
But you desire truth to change my inner being, and for wisdom to reign even in the hidden recesses of my life.
As hyssop is used to purge poisons from the body, so I ask for you to purge me – then I will be clean!
Yes!  If you wash me, I will be whiter than the driven snow.
My deepest longing is to be filled with the kind of joy and happiness that comes from being forgiven.
Indeed! May my crushed spirit be revived!
Be blind to my sin, O Lord! Blot out the stain of my wrong doing!
Recreate me from the inside out and transform my inner being.
Please do not remove your presence from me!
Please do not let your Holy Spirit leave me!
Restore the joy I once had when you first set me free.
Yes, and please make me the kind of person who willingly walks in your footsteps.
Then I will be able to tell others about your merciful ways from my own experience.
When they hear, they will turn to you.
Rescue me from the guilt of bloodshed, O Lord!
You are the God of my salvation!
Then I will once more be free to sing songs about your righteous nature.
O sovereign Lord, grant me the ability to sing forth your praises once more!
I know you do not desire an outward show of repentance otherwise I would gladly offer that to you; but no, you require something far more fundamental than ritual, no matter how sincere it might be.
What you desire is for my haughty spirit to be broken and to be replaced with a humble and repentant one.
Be kind to you people, O Lord, and rebuild our broken lives.
Once our inward disposition has been changed, then our external forms of worship will be acceptable to you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Psalm 50

My paraphrase of Psalm 50

The Mighty One – God – even the Lord of lords has spoken and summoned the earth to come from the East and from the West.
God shines forth in splendor from Zion – the most perfect of all places.
Look!  God approaches – He is not silent – a consuming fire goes before Him and a raging storm surrounds Him.
He summons the heavens above and the earth beneath as witnesses, so that He may judge His people.
“Gather My people together,” says the Lord, “all those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
The heavens declare that God is a fair and righteous Judge!
“Hear my people, and I will speak! Listen, Israel, as I am about to testify against you!  I am God – your God!
I am not about to find fault with your religious rituals which you practice so diligently before me.
In fact, I do not need anything from you – even that which you think is yours to give.
Because everything is not yours – it is mine – every wild and domesticated animal – every bird in the mountains and every insect in the plains.
Do you really think that I would ask you for sustenance?  Even if I were hungry, why would I ask you for food?  Everything in all of creation is mine to do with as I please.
Do you really think that I am dependant on you and what you give to me?
So, stop all the pretence and listen!  This is what I want from you.  Are you listening?  The first act of worship should be thanksgiving and praise directed to me as your benevolent Sovereign King.
Then, by all means, ask, lament, or reach out to me in the emptiness of your despair, and I will gather you up in my arms, and deliver you, and vindicate you!”
Now, hear what God has to say to those who oppose Him. “How can you talk about what is right and what is wrong, seeing you hate my instruction and reject my Word?
You align yourselves with thieves and adulterers, you cut people to shreds with your speech, and you use your words to deceive.  You speak slanderous things about your own family members as you plot evil against them.
You thought that I was just like you because I did not react immediately, didn’t you?  Well, now the time of silence has come to an end.  You will hear my judgment as I make my case against you!
Carefully consider this, all you who forget and reject me, before you are torn to pieces with no one to rescue you!
Carefully consider this:  Whoever approaches me in gratitude offers true worship.
And whoever chooses to follow a godly lifestyle will live in true freedom.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I have but one candle of life to burn...

As I speak to many of my dear Christian brethren about the Lord's call on our lives to go labor in His harvest field in Gambela, Ethiopia, I am often told that we have lost souls right here on our own doorstep.  Why not expend our energies and our resources in reaching out to them instead? 

Yes, it is true.  There are many lost souls in our midst and the Lord yearns for each and every one of them to be part of His blessed family.  He weeps over every sinner who perishes without Him and He rejoices over just one who falls into His saving embrace.  And yes, we may even say that the Lord has brought the harvest to us – that He has brought many of the tribes, nations, and tongues of the world to be our literal neighbors.  So yes, we must seize the opportunity to reach out to them with the message of grace and truth.

However, it is equally true that there is so much light here...light that simply does not shine in so many of the dark places of this world.  Everyone here at home has ample opportunity to hear the Gospel.  Radio, television, billboards, flyers, churches filled with many who can bring them to Christ.  True, it is a sad reality that many believers here do not shine their lights in their own little worlds - their own sphere of influence - but should their disobedience invalidate the Lord's command to go into ALL the world?

I have often reminded my parishioners that Jesus' command in Acts 1 was filled with AND'S and not with OR'S...Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND the ends of the earth.  Let us then shine our lights here brightly, but also there…there where the darkness is all too keen to overcome it and extinguish it. 

However, does it not follow that the call to shine out our lights in that deep and tangible darkness is all the more urgent than to shine out our lights in the light?  To go to where there is no (or very little) opportunity?  To where there is no (or very little) witness?  To go where the light struggles to penetrate the darkness?  To go where the gates of hell strive to prevail against the plundering forces of the Kingdom of light?  John Keith Falconer once said, "I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light." 

Jesus told us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into His field as the harvest was ripe for the picking...both here and there...