Terra Incognita

GoosePeople cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of shore.

Many Christians will proclaim a willingness to follow the Holy Spirit wherever He leads them until the moment arrives when they actually have to take the first steps, then we hesitate. Through the years we have become expert at all manner of excuse creation, justification and reasoning away in order to limit the Spirit’s influence on our lives. Breaking out of these cages is the subject of Pastor Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase.

Most churches and the Christians therein are constrained in their faith by shackles of their own making. The Holy Spirit calls each of into ministries that are wildly beyond our comfort zone. Rather than following the Wild Goose where it leads, we put a band on His leg and tether Him so that the apogee of His flight is well within our boundaries of comfort.

Batterson encourages the reader chapter after chapter to live the adventure. We miss out on the blessing of our calling because we fear that the Spirit will take us off into uncharted territory. Addressing this risk-avoidance in the early chapters, the pastor’s word become more challenging as he approaches the final pages. Here we encounter the calamity and upheaval that we were trying so hard to diligently avoid, but, as Batterson points out, many times our calling comes in the form of troubles. The spiritually diligent Christian will learn to read these signs and interpret the next flight pattern of the Goose.

Pastor Batterson’s books are always encouraging, and Wild Goose Chase is an excellent companion to his earlier volume, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Safety-minded Christians will avoid this book at all costs. Those Christians interested in the wild, free faith that we are called to will devour these pages and not stop until they follow the Goose into the wonderful, dangerous faith that the Lord intends for His Church.

I am grateful to Multnomah Books who provided this copy for review.

Psalm 86–You Are Great and Do Marvelous Deeds

imageThe arrogant are attacking me, O God;

a band of ruthless men seeks my life—men without regard for you. (Psalm 86:14)

While our lives may not be at risk from our enemies, each of us can still identify with the feeling of being vulnerable to threats by others. If our faith is strong, we call out to our Father for relief. If not, we often seek our own retribution, without a thought to how the attacks fit in the grand plan of God’s history. Do we miss an opportunity to turn the other cheek?

As we read through the Psalms we are struck by how deeply rooted in ancient culture and Jewish belief this poetry is. That is, we recognize the provenance of the literature and its history but we struggle to apply the thoughts to our life. The passages that praise God and exemplify total faith in Him are not difficult to seize hold of, but in the light of our current covenant, we are ashamed to admit that we still see our enemies in the same fashion. Publicly we advocate love for them but our private musings are made up of rambling imprecatory thoughts.

The psalmist fills this prayer with stanzas of praise as he seeks relief:

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (v5)

He is also cognizant of the ultimate outcome of history:

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord;

They will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (vv 9-10)

Christians have and advantage that the psalmist did not; we live in the time of Jesus Christ and the new covenant. We have the end of history written for us in John’s apocalypse. We can live sacrificially toward our enemies, moving toward them rather than seeking the Lord’s hand to snatch us away from trouble. Like policeman and firefighters, we can run toward danger while others run away.

Grace and peace to you..

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Psalm 57 My Heart is Steadfast, O God

image I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God send his love and his faithfulness. (vv 2-3)

We are flighty creatures, given to shifting alliances and dalliances with suspicious centers of strength, sometimes at the merest hint of a shift in the wind. Trouble pursues us, danger surrounds us on all sides and our demise seems imminent. Someone or something appears whispering the siren song of security. Follow me it says. Trust me.

Often the temptation takes the form of contrast; why trust in something you cannot see when I am here before you.

King David knew danger and yet, his trust in God never waivered. His heart was steadfastly committed to the One who would save him even though there might be danger involved.

I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. (v4)

Danger abounds but the steadfast heart trusts in God and is confirmed by observation of history and circumstances.

They spread a net for my feet—I was bowed down in distress.

They dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it. (vv 6)

Have you looked back on your years and considered how danger and trouble have passed? Perhaps for some of us, the trouble has lasted a lifetime without relief while others have been untouched and we wonder why this is. As David does, we turn our eyes back to the first verses of the psalm. We may not know the purpose that He has for us but we know from searching the scriptures that it is ultimately good in the context of His eternal plan. Can we trust in this, knowing that our troubles serve a higher purpose? It is difficult in our finiteness but, as David does, we can praise also and continue to work our hearts into trusting shape. We too can say,

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (v1b)

No matter how long that time may extend…


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Psalm 22 ~ Why Have You Forsaken Me? Part 2

As we read into the middle section of this psalm (vv 12 – 21) we find a poetic device at work to emphasize the only source of hope for the psalmist, salvation by the Lord. Notice how the dangers bracket the redeemer:

Bulls, Lions, Dogs

Hope in the Redeemer

Dogs, Lions, Bulls

Nearly all of us can identify with the despair of the psalmist as our troubles surround us on all sides, threatening to engulf us. The vicious nature of one’s enemies is on full display; the lions roar their deafening cry while tearing at the flesh, the horns of the bulls glisten red in the light as they snort and bring their enormous bulk closer and closer and, all the while, the snarling dogs snap and dodge, circling around their prey. Their teeth pierce the hands and feet of the besieged as he grows weaker and weaker.

I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (vv 17-18)

There is always hope, even if it is not restored in this life. We are children of the Lord and despite our current danger, we will rest in the safety of his hand knowing that our circumstances serve the greater purpose of God.

But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. (vv 19 – 21)

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