Chapter-a-Day Psalm 84

035 third One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches. I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in the palace of sinPsalm 84:10 (MSG)

I have a personal struggle with church buildings. While I appreciate their function and their beauty, I find that they distract me from the truth. It's easy for me to get focused on the bricks, mortar, steel and stained glass as the house of God. It gets me thinking that the church building is God's house. I feel like go I go pay God a visit on Sunday and then leave Him behind when I walk out the door to live my own life. God becomes grandma.

Back in the ancient day the Psalms were written, the temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship. That's the way God set it up. There was a worship center on Earch where He chose to have special presence. But, after Jesus resurrection, everything changed. God made it clear that our bodies are now the temple and His Spirit takes up residence within our very own flesh and blood. My body is God's house.

That puts a whole new twist on a verse like Psalm 84:10. Better is one day worshiping God in my own body than a thousand elsewhere. I'd rather be contentedly living daily life fully aware of God present in me than running around submitting my body to willfully disobedient and unhealthy places and practices.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 84

035 third One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches. I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in the palace of sinPsalm 84:10 (MSG)

I have a personal struggle with church buildings. While I appreciate their function and their beauty, I find that they distract me from the truth. It's easy for me to get focused on the bricks, mortar, steel and stained glass as the house of God. It gets me thinking that the church building is God's house. I feel like go I go pay God a visit on Sunday and then leave Him behind when I walk out the door to live my own life. God becomes grandma.

Back in the ancient day the Psalms were written, the temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship. That's the way God set it up. There was a worship center on Earch where He chose to have special presence. But, after Jesus resurrection, everything changed. God made it clear that our bodies are now the temple and His Spirit takes up residence within our very own flesh and blood. My body is God's house.

That puts a whole new twist on a verse like Psalm 84:10. Better is one day worshiping God in my own body than a thousand elsewhere. I'd rather be contentedly living daily life fully aware of God present in me than running around submitting my body to willfully disobedient and unhealthy places and practices.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 83

Not_listeningGod, don’t shut me out; don’t give me the silent treatment, O God. Psalm 83:1 (MSG)

My daughter is trying to figure out her future. She put off her freshman year in college to spend the year on a missions trip abroad. So, she knows what’s she’s doing for the next few months, but then things get really fuzzy. She’s not sure what she’s going to do when she gets back. There are so many options available to her. She prays for clarity, but God seems silent.

I was hanging out the other morning with some friends. One of them asked another what his plan was regarding a significant life choice ahead. "I don’t know," the other answered, "I pray about it all the time. I keep asking God for the road map, but He won’t give it to me."

My wife and I have been praying consistently and continuously for years that God would answer one specific request. The answer has not come and I must admit that I am often left feeling shut out by the silence I feel from God’s end of the conversation. I hate it when God is silent. Though, it seems a common experience. Even the most faithful of followers feel their prayers bounce off the ceiling at times.

I always remind myself of some of the impassioned requests I made of my parents when I was young. Sometimes I felt that my plea fell on deaf ears, but now I look back and understand why. In some cases I was being a self-centered child and needed to grow up. In other cases, granting my request would not have, ultimately, been good for me. Despite my abject frustration at the time, I realize my parents had my best interest in mind. I have to trust that my Heavenly Father does, as well.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and benandjenn

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 82

Here_come_da_judge"You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them." Psalm 82:3-4 (MSG)

It’s so easy for me to depersonalize God’s message to the point that it seems irrelavent. I read Psalm 82, which is clearly Asaph’s rant against the judges of Israel back in his day. It is a protest psalm. So what does a 3000 year old protest song about judges have to do with me? Big deal. There’s nothing here for me.

Then, I began to think about the judgements I make everyday.

I’m a judge in my family. I dispense justice. I weigh evidence. I make rulings according to our family’s code. I hear appeals. I decide cases involving labor, wages, division of property and punishment.

I’m a judge in my business. I weigh evidence. I hear grievances. I make judgments about ethical infractions. I hear appeals. I settle arguments. I decide cases involving labor and wages.

I am a judge. I make decisions that involve the lives of others, even if it’s a small set of scales in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, I have an obligation, in my role as family judge and business judge. I have the same obligation as the judges of Israel did to judge fairly, to defend the defenseless, to stand up for the powerless, and to make sure underdogs get a fair break.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 81

DisobedienceSo I let go of the reins and told them, ‘Run! Do it your own way!’ Psalm 81:12 (MSG)

Very early in my daughters childhood, I established a principle with them. I told them that I would trust them until they did something to prove to me that they were unworthy of that trust. I then warned them that they really didn’t want to experience Dad’s wrath if they did. As they got older and entered their teen years, my promise became harder to keep. Sometimes, I had a nagging doubts. Other times, I trusted them but I didn’t necessarily trust who they were with. Nevertheless, I stuck to the principle and refused to be overly protective or to say "no" just "because I said so." If I was going to rein them in, I had to have a very good reason.

It’s a funny thing. My daughters both came to value the trust I placed in them. They didn’t want me to become like the blindly judgmental, overbearing parents they saw with some of their friends. They certainly didn’t want to lose the trust they had built up with me. They made choices accordingly.

So where did I get the idea for this parenting principle? God. I’ve tried to model my parenting after the way my heavenly Father parents me. God doesn’t stop me from running off and making stupid mistakes. In fact, I’ve learned (the hard way) over and over again that He is willing to let me fail. When I do blow it, I’m reined in by the consequences of my own actions. I can’t argue with whatever rules are suddenly placed to modify my behavior. I put them there. Bitter experience is a better teacher than overprotection.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and nhand47

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 80

The_break_upWe will never turn our back on you; breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name! God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back! Smile your blessing smile: That will be our salvation. Psalm 80: 18-19 (MSG)

I had a few dating relationships back in the day that could be described as "on again off again." I would date a girl with all of the electric emotion of young love only to break up shortly thereafter, in bitter angst, because of some trivial disagreement. After a few days withdrawl from the intensity of that endorphin pumping infatuation, I would get back together with a tide wave of promises that included words like "forever" and "never again." I cringe to think of it.

I caught a glimpse of a young, infatuated lover in the words of Psalm 80. Asaph cries out to God in bitter angst, as if he’s been jilted. He recounts all the love and favor that God showed Israel and begs God to come back, promising undying love and devotion. Asaph, however, is a bit selective in his memory. He does not address the countless times that Israel had willfully been disobedient and chased after all kinds of foreign idols (especially the fertility gods that required sex in their worship). Asaph seems to have forgotten the continuous cycle of disobedience and unfaithfulness that marked Israel’s history through the exodus and the time of the judges. When I started reading his psalm from God’s perspective, his cries and longings started to sound a bit hollow.

Nevertheless, I can’t judge Asaph. I have to take this Jr. Holy Spirit badge off my chest. My own prayers have been a reflection of his hollow lyrics many times over. I cry out to God as though He’s abandoned me, when the reality is that it’s my own stupid decisions and mistakes which created the separation. I act like a jilted, adolescent boyfriend. I point my finger at God when I should be pointing it directly back at myself.

God, forgive me. You haven’t abandoned me. I walked away from you.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and thisisawakeupcall