Psalm 113 ~ Distances


Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? Psalm 113:5-6

In this brief recital of God’s great glory, the careful reader notes the psalmist’s use of contrast in the verses. As you read and meditate on the verses you are struck by the various ‘distances’ that bookend the effusive worship.

Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. (v2)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, (v3)

the One who sits on high, who stoops down to look (v6)

He raises the poor from the dust (v7)

The God of All, seated in the Heavens surveying all in His domain is also the intimate God. He is seated next to you in trouble, He is present in His full glory no matter the distance we attempt to place between us. He is timeless; there was, is, and never will be, a time in which we are not His beloved. Bending a knee in humble adoration does not call Him screaming across the heavens to be with us, He is already present, His heart overflowing with love.

In our Lenten reflections we focus on the redemption that has transformed our lives. This same distance applies to our forgiven sins..

Let our sins be forgiven and forgotten, both now and forevermore..

Let us walk in the light of God’s glory from the rising of the sun to the time at which it sets..

Let us be mindful of the One who sits on high, who desires to look down on lives of holiness..

Let us remember always that we are the poor and lost who He raised from the dust…


Grace and peace to you..

image Horia Varlan

Psalm 80 – Restore Us, O Lord God Almighty

imageRestore us, O God;

make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. (Ps 80:3)

This plea for restoration  echoes three times in the psalm, and it is very familiar to readers of the psalter. Israel pleas for God’s love to return to her and to save her from her enemies. In many of the preceding psalms we have heard this same petition sounded on an individual basis, as the king asks to be relieved of the many enemies who come against him. The corporate plea is of the same timbre, how long God? How long will your punishment last?

Israel’s petition takes the path of covenant reminders. She reminds God of what He has done for her in the past, reminding Him of her special status in His eyes. Yes, we’ve been bad God. Yes, we’ve deserved punishment. But how much God? How long will you punish us for the sins of our fathers?

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Though we are forgiven of all, past, present and future, we are not given to license. Should our choices lead to consequence, we ask our Lord for relief. How long, we ask. How long must we suffer the consequence of our choice? We often follow the same pattern in pleading for relief. We remind God—as though He has forgotten—how he saved us. We remind Him of all that He has done to change our circumstance. We may even try to convince God that all of this punishment makes Him look bad.

We rarely see Israel and her unfaithfulness in ourselves.

Grace and peace to you.

Ted Haggard (mis)Interprets James

imageAfter doing immeasurable harm to the brothers and sisters of New Life Church, the members of the National Association of Evangelicals, and to the Church of Jesus Christ at large, Ted Haggard is again placing himself into a leadership position as he plants the new St. James church in Colorado Springs. The new body draws its name from the Epistle of James from which Haggard quotes verse 2:17 “ by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” and witnesses to the number of times in the past three years that he and wife Gayle have been the recipients of love in action. This is a noble application of the verse Ted, but what is the definition of faith? Is it to sin boldly so as to receive more grace?

Apparently he didn’t read any further in the book. Verse 3:1 of this practical letter says “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” There’s a higher standard Ted, a standard for those who influence the lives of so many others. “We all stumble in many ways.” (3:2) How true! None of us is sinless but we pursue holiness with a vigor that is unmatched.

And we do it every day to the furthest extent of our Spirit-led abilities so that when we step up to pulpit we have the integrity to look into the eyes of those that God has seated before us and to speak the Gospel into their lives…

…without having to worry about our hidden lives being revealed.

Are those who take to seats in St. James church going to know that Haggard has been pursuing holiness rather than drugs and sexual liaisons? What accountability will he have this time that he did not before? The nagging question that burns in the minds of many right now is whether or not the standards of holiness will be relaxed to accommodate the very behaviors that precipitated his previous fall. Will the standards be such that God will be present when the body is gathered?

As a brother in Christ I take seriously my responsibility to Ted. I love him and extend all measure of grace to him and his family and pray for nothing but redemption in his life. I believe that the Lord’s grace has blanketed and forgiven his sin and worked to knit together the Haggard family and make it whole. On the other hand, I don’t believe that he should be stepping back into the pulpit and leading a new body at this time. Had he placed himself under the leadership of another pastor and the accountability of another Elder board for some time to demonstrate a restored soul and measure of integrity this move would make sense but not this way. If God has called him back to the pulpit then I’m moving out of the way as fast as I can. If Ted has called himself back to preaching, it’s my responsibility to take his measure in accordance with the scriptures.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 73 – It is Good to Be Near God

image But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from the burdens common to man; (Psalm 73:2-5a)

We rarely hear of the Seven Deadly Sins within our Protestant tradition but we intuitively know that envy is not good. Whether it be the Ten Commandments, selections from the Proverbs, or passages such as Ephesians 4:17-32 being preached, we have undoubtedly been warned against the subtlety of the sin of envy. All sin starts in the mind as we toy with it, roll it over in (what we think is) a safe, hidden environment. The psalmist reflects on this game we all play, allowing the envious fantasy to play about in our minds while, at the same time, dismissing the danger.

What danger? The peril inherent in the truth we know but avoid; the step from thought to action is the shortest of all of our strides. We lose our foothold when envy makes itself at home in our thoughts.

Envy, for the Christian, is an especially challenging issue because the enemy preys on our sometimes immature sense of fairness. Our hearts are tempted to look upon the riches, health, and ease of life the ungodly enjoy and compare it to our struggles or relative poverty and ask, how is this fair God? Why do those who express an open malice toward God appear to have riches that remain out of the grasp of the believer?  The psalmist expresses our moments of doubt well;

This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. (vv 12-13)

We’ve all been there. We may have even expressed it out loud. Some have stepped over the line to create their own ‘fairness.’ Our hearts have been led astray but Spirit has brought the majority of us back from the edge. Our faith has been renewed as the eventual destination of the wicked becomes clearer in our sight and we realize that nothing is worth the separation it creates between ourselves and our Father.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. (vv 21-23)

We have faith into eternity, it lasts beyond the next few weeks, months, or years. The Spirit gives us a glimpse of eternity and the wisdom to understand that it is better to be close to God and know His glory forever rather than to enjoy material wealth now and separation later. Doubts approach us from all directions but we give them no harbor. The Lord is our refuge.

Grace and peace to you.

image Bright Star

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day One

imageWe’ve all spent time in the psalms. They are a source of challenge, comfort, and promise for us today in the same way that they were for the people of Israel. At times pleading and others praising, God and His incredible works remain front and center in this poetry. The Church enters the season of Lent today, a period of pointed reflection on the Lord that moves day by day toward the celebration of Easter. We meditate on the bloody and horrible cost of salvation, how the perfect Seder lamb had to be sacrificed so that you and I might be saved. It is at the same time a sober and celebratory time.

Psalm 85 expresses our need and desire perfectly. The psalmist pleads,

Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.

Will you be angry with us forever?

Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. (vv 4-7)

Begin our walk through the desert toward Calvary by asking yourself, what am I contributing to prolonging God’s anger?  What must I shed on this trip through the wilderness? Our goal is to reach the cross rid of the dead weight  and dross that interfere with our relationship with the Savior.

Grace and peace to you.


image wolfgang staudt

Psalm 51 Create In Me a Pure Heart

David and BathshebaYou do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (vv 16 – 17)

This truth has very nearly become obsolete in the modern church. We have replaced contrition and brokenness with ministry busyness, our ‘offerings’ and church attendance. Sin has become rule-breaking rather than a personal affront; it has become external instead of internal. Repentance has become little more than ‘I’m sorry…’.

Psalm 51 is traditionally seen as being composed by David after his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and then being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12). We know how the single transgression of Bathsheba leads to further abhorrent behavior on the part of the King and we know all too well the horrible price that he pays for this string of evils. We don’t know how an exemplar like David can succumb to sin in this fashion but we do know that, if it can happen to someone so close to God it can happen to us as well.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (vv 1-3)

Is God moved to offer pardon through this string of praise? Exclaiming God’s unfailing love, His great compassion, and His mercy, is this proclamation of what must be entirely self evident to Him what will invite Him to offer grace? He must view these prefaces to our admission of guilt much as we do our teenager’s statements that they love and respect our household standards: we ask them why they performed such and such and act if they hold such great respect for our rules? No, we should believe that God is moved when our hearts finally arrive at the core truth of our relationship with Him voiced in verse 4.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (v 4)

We must restore the proper understanding of sin in our lives and in His Church. Sin is properly viewed as being personally enacted against God. We have been lured to see sin as an external act, sort of a third party action of simply breaking a rule in which no one gets harmed like running a few miles over the speed limit. No harm, no foul. This is not how God views sin however. He views each act against His holiness personally, as though we look Him in the eye and while defiling His throne. It becomes even more serious when imagine how God must see our sin in the shadow of the Cross.

Statistically, few people read these posts on the Psalms. More people are interested in the Calvinism-Arminianism argument or my posts on the Hebrews warning passages but my prayer is that more will take the time to at least return to their Bibles and prayerfully consider this Psalm. Doctrine is important and it is valuable time spent considering the facts and searching the scriptures for the truths that underlie the doctrines but this cannot be at the expense of our relationship with God and our personal holiness. Far more important in our lives should be a plea similar to David’s:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (vv 10-12)

Psalm 38 – Come Quickly to Help Me


For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.

I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.

May are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous.

Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. (vv 17-20)

Modern readers are tempted to dismiss this psalm as the product of ancient superstition and ignorance of the source of bodily infirmities. The psalmist attributes the overwhelming pain and agony of his suffering to a personal attack by God due to his sinfulness. We understand disease and the decay of body from a scientific perspective but we should be slow to allow this knowledge to color our understanding of God’s hand on our lives.

O Lord, do not rebuke me in you anger or discipline me in your wrath. (v1)

Our actions have consequences, good and bad. Should the Lord prevent us from suffering the consequence of our choices because of his deep love for us? We do this for our children, more often than not. God wants us to grow and mature in our holiness and sometimes that requires pain to enter our lives. The pain reminds us of the choices that we made and gives us an incentive to make better choices in the future. On the other hand, there are numerous pains that are significantly disconnected by time and distance from their original source and we can mistakenly attribute them to chance or label them unexplainable. Anger with God can mount: why God, why? Why would you allow this into my life now? These moments, when we most desire to understand, are the times when our knees should hit the floor as we seek understanding.

O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.

Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior. (vv 21 –22)


Photo by Patrick Denker

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Friday is for Rawk! Guest Contributor

Christians and (Christian) Music by Ken Hicks of


Before we start I want to make some points so that people don’t immediately get their dander up. If you keep these points in mind as you read this it should help you understand where I am coming from.


The main thing to remember when considering my stance is that Paul tells us that “…everything that does not come from faith is sin” Rom 14:23. So in this article the mention of sin will be in this context not in an accusatory “You are in sin” sort of matter. Also remember that though we are “justified” sinners we are sinners none the less and we still possess the propensity for sin that we inherited from Adam and the fall. Everything we do has the stain of sin on it and it is only Christ in us that pleases God. As we live out our daily lives we fall short in many respects without even actively engaging in things that we know to be sin. Our thoughts wander, we are complacent, we are judgmental, we don’t make the most of our opportunities to share the Gospel, etc. Everything we do is a sort of “yes and no” in regards to sin. Glory to God that it is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us that makes us right with God and that He is gracious and merciful towards our shortcomings.


Having said that, let’s talk about Christians and music or more specifically modern western Christians and music. Do I think Christians that listen to secular music are in sin? Well, “yes and no”. Yes in that we still maintain the flesh and so all we do is tainted by sin. No in that all things are permissible (but not necessarily profitable 1Cor 10”23). Are you a youth that has parents that don’t want you to listen to secular music but you do anyway? Then you are in sin and need to repent and honor your parents. Are you a new Christian that still clings to the world and the music you listen to keeps reminding you/drawing you back to your old ways? Then you should probably give it up for awhile. Are you a mature Christian that can listen without being sucked in by the World’s agenda to corrupt? Then go ahead. Go ahead as long as you are not causing a weaker brother to stumble. But to those that would adamantly oppose secular music I would ask them if we should stop reading secular books or enjoying secular art too? In reality it comes down to one’s convictions and for others to judge is not their place.


But now let’s get into some meat and talk about some biblical concepts. Mainly “types and shadows”. Types and shadows are a concept that everything that goes on in the earthly, temporal realm is a type or shadow of things in the heavenly realm. The classic four year old’s question “Why is the sky blue?” can be met one of two ways (three if you count abdicating and shrugging your shoulders). The first could be the scientific explanation that the visible spectrum of light from the sun passing through the various elements within our atmosphere cause the sky to appear blue. But if one believes that it is our God that has created all the elements, set up all the laws of physics, created the human eye to perceive the above mentioned interactions in the way it does then the first answer hasn’t really explained WHY. God could have very easily set things up so that the sky appeared green. The why is the “type and shadow”. Ex 24:10 …and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. Anthropomorphically speaking, we consider the heavens as being above us. Our blue sky is a “type and shadow” of the sapphire “floor” that separates God and the heavens above from the earth below. The concept can also be seen in the notion of the City of God as opposed to the City of Man. Is it a coincidence that the areas that are fulfilling God’s mandate to subdue the earth, i.e. farms and rural areas, are relatively free of the corruption and crime that goes on in the cities of men with their towers being built to reach the heavens (that God knocks down every once in awhile but that’s another topic of discussion)? This type and shadow concept plays out in the fall too. Lucifer was cast down because he desired the praise and glory that was due God alone. He desired to be like God and he enticed Adam and Eve with the same thing. “You can become like God.” So how does this relate to (modern) Christians and (Christian) music? Well I see the same thing going on in Christian bands. A type and shadow of the fall and the impulses that have resulted from it. Praise and adoration heaped upon the members of the band. Does the atmosphere of a concert differ that much from the descriptions we have of what is going on in the heavenly realm other than the object of that praise and glory? We are wired to worship/praise and the fall distorts/distracts so that we spend our time heaping our praise and adoration on “idols” and our “idols” seek it out.


Now I’m not saying that if you are in a band you are in sin (so to speak) I just see the fall playing out in our lives daily. Our sin nature drives us to seek to become like God. To make a name for oneself (you should look into the concept of name theology). Remember how consumed with making a name for himself and being remembered by history Brad Pitt’s character in Troy was? We as Christians should desire to claim the name of Christ but the flesh wants to make a name for itself apart from God. Having one’s name means you belongs to them and the autonomous flesh will have none of that but it does want the praise and adoration due to God. So now we’re back to the “yes and no”. I think, as modern Christians, we spend most of our time worrying about our wants and desires and give little thought to what is really going on around us. “But God has called me to be in this band.” Did He really? How? I think, as with most things, we just do things because we want to. We usually only scratch the surface in seeking God’s will in things. Personally I think that all the reasons given for the existence of modern Christian music are excuses. God doesn’t need us to be relevant to get His Gospel proclaimed. He needs us to be lights to a fallen world. To do that we need to set ourselves apart from the world not copy it and act like it. So in the above sense yes you are in sin because you have been complacent (at least and rebellious at worst) in examining your motives for listening to the music you do or the reason you are in a band. No in that all things are permissible. You want to listen to Slayer? Have at it. You want to be a band? More power to you. I would just encourage you to engage in more self-examination. Holding your wants, desires, motives, etc. up to the light of God’s Word and let it illuminate the reality of what is going on. If your convictions allow for you to listen to whatever, to tear it up on stage, to drink (but not unto drunkenness) who am I to judge?


Stones in Our Fields

I came upon this downed Pine tree this weekend while hiking. At about 11,000 feet, the growing season is short and the conditions are hard. The soil in which the seed had HoldingtheRockto germinate was composed mainly of crushed granite and rocks that had yet to decompose; not exactly fertile ground for growth. And still, this tree had managed to attain a height of 35 or 40 feet until it expired and was toppled by the wind or some other natural force. As its shallow root system was exposed, the rock that was lodged within it also came to light. If you look closely at the roots, rather than moving off into an alternate direction when they came in contact with the impediment, the roots grew right around the boulder, conforming to it and making the unfertile, unsupportive rock a part of the tree itself. An already fragile life was made even more challenging.

When I saw this I was immediately aware of a message greater than the natural anomaly. For many Christians, the stone represents a sin – past or present – that inhibits our growth in holiness. Failing to confess a sin and releasing it to the Holy Spirit can allow it to be subsumed into our lives forcing us to grow around it. The danger of not pushing away from it is obvious. We are unable to develop a strong connection to the vine with this impediment in place. The connection that is made is weakened by this foreign body until one day, when forces buffet our faith and damage our link to the vine.

If there is a stone polluting your otherwise fertile ground, dig it up and discard it to the border fence. The roots of your faith will be stronger, deeper, and will find ever deeper and cleaner sources  of living water without having to invest their growth energy in pushing around the rocks.