Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Psalm

Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. Psalm 65:1

I like that word, “awaits.” We don’t use it much, but it suggests to me pictures of gifts under the Christmas tree, or on the table decorated for the baby shower. We have read in scripture about Zion, the city of God in Heaven, and the praise that will fill the air there: Hosts of angels and people from every nation singing and worshiping our God. We can’t even imagine what that will sound like, or the joy that will fill all of the Creation.

I think of the local church as the “little Zion,” in that those God has called to belong to Him gather and as a company praise Him. I look forward to every Sunday worship service. I hope God looks forward to it too. I think of the music in my bag, my organ shoes, the hymnal on the organ, the preparations I’ve made, and how they “await” the chance to praise God.

I think of the words, carefully chosen, written and printed in bulletins laboriously put together and folded, that praise God and exalt His goodness. They “await” the hour when the church will gather and speak and read together. The soloist’s and the choir’s practice and the aural expectations they have put together “await” the time of presentation to God. The communion elements, the ushers’ plates, the new batteries sitting in microphones all “await” the time when all will come together to praise God.

And why, do all these things wait for the hour when they will all fit together? The Psalm tells us, because…when we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. INDEED!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


We live in an “instant” world. Since World War II, more and more products on the market bear the label. We have instant soup, instant pudding, instant weather reports, instant fast-food, and even instant heart rate using your phone.

In this context it seems pretty unlikely that we can find the word “instant” in the Bible. Yet, there’s this from Romans 12:12(KJV) Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; a description of serious Christians.

As an illustration, I look to Nehemiah from chapter 1and 2 of the book named for him. In Nehemiah 2:4 (NIV) we read, The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God in heaven, and I answered… Sounds like an instant prayer to me.

But would Nehemiah’s prayer have carried much weight with God had the following not happened? (Nehemiah 1:4 NIV) When I heard these things [about the trouble in Jerusalem], I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. That was anything but instant prayer.

It seems to me that God answers “instant” prayers, especially when they are accompanied by a long habit of prayer. Like instant coffee that satisfies when we can’t get the real thing, instant prayers should be our watchword throughout the day. The way for those prayers to succeed is to offer them in combination with a life of devoted prayer. If all you did was “instant-message” someone, they would not likely respond well, but if you often talked for longer periods with this person and knew him or her really well, an “instant-message” would probably get extra attention.

God admonishes us to pray instantly when we need Him, but He wants more than quick “help me” prayers. He wants to know us intimately and to make real conversation with us. So save the “instant prayers” for emergencies and quick reminders.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wait…and Hurry Up!

You’ve heard the expression, “Hurry up and wait.” I think of this when I’ve hurried around all morning to make a doctor’s appointment. Then when I get there I sit in the waiting room or exam room for another hour before the doctor can see me.

Then there are the commercials that say, “Hurry! Call now…but wait.” And then they give you more of a deal than you can possibly pass up.

But, in Scripture, it seems that God makes us wait…and wait…and wait. Then when He begins to act, things happen at the speed of sound.

I think of two stories in the Old Testament. One is the story of Joseph from Genesis 39. Potiphar threw Joseph into prison under false accusations. Joseph languished in prison for two years waiting for release. The one person who said he would stick up for him on the outside, forgot him.

BUT, one day, the man remembered. Pharaoh met with Joseph and Joseph was “quickly” brought out. He was elevated to serve Pharaoh serving as governor of the entire land of Egypt.

The other major story of the Old Testament, one which gets told year after year by the Jews on Passover, is the story of the Jews as slaves in Egypt. In Exodus 2:23 we read:

...The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.

For forty years they had waited for relief. Even after Moses went to them to rescue them as God had instructed, they had to wait while God dealt with the rebellious Egyptians with punishing plagues.

BUT, on the night that the Angel of the Lord came to strike Egypt’s firstborn, Pharaoh instructed Moses and Aaron, as recorded in Exodus 12:31-39:

“Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested…33The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country…34So, the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing…39bThe dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

Amazing! There are other places in scripture where you see the word “quickly.” Usually God is working in such a situation.

When we think we have been forgotten, and have waited longer than any human should ever have to, God shows up and says “Hurry!” May we be encouraged while we wait that there WILL come a day when circumstances begin to move at lightning speed.

Glory to God!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Places and the Sons of Korah

I don’t know if there is Dutch ancestry from the Korah family, but if there is, I’m pretty sure I share it. The Psalms written for or by the Sons of Korah, these temple singers and door keepers, really resonate with me. For one thing, these Psalms talk about places.

Places have a special meaning to me. It may seem like a strange thing, or even a wrong thing to value, but I have always loved places.

From the way I viewed a certain grove of trees in the sunlight on my family farm when I was a child, to the elementary school with its large green park-like grounds where I taught for 24 years, to my present dining room with its warm honey tones, I love places. I might add that some spots even seem holy to me. God has met me there. Some are so dear that I reserve the memories to my own secret thoughts. I couldn’t begin to describe the beauty of these spaces anyway.

In Psalm 48, the Sons of Korah describe the place of worship—the city of our God, his holy mountain. See how they describe it: beautiful, lofty, the joy of the whole earth. In another of their psalms, Psalm 84, these servants of God yearn and faint for the courts of the Lord. They describe those who dwell there like birds who have found a home, a place near to God Himself. No wonder they proclaim, Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

It seems to me that many Christians have never stopped long enough to ponder the beauty of places. Maybe God has just given these people a different value system. As for me though, I find visual beauty a very important aspect of worship. If God took care to even assign “designers” to help with the original place of corporate worship, the tabernacle (really a large portable tent), how much more must HE too appreciate all we can do to adorn the place where we gather to exalt Him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Hide-Out

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NKJ

As a child I always cast jealous eyes on other children’s playhouses or clubhouses. In fact, I remember my sister and me studying one of the chicken brooder houses on our farm to see if we might "remodel" it. Inside the farmhouse we often made tents out of laundry racks and blankets. Under the warm light of a flashlight, we tucked ourselves away in our safe fantasy place.

Other secret places captivated me too. I remember seeing movies of houses with bookcases that turned and revealed either a secret passage or a little room. When I read the autobiography of Corrie TenBoom, The Hiding Place, it was fascinating to read where her family hid the Jews within their small house during World War II. Clever hiding rooms were built for slaves escaping north before the Civil War—all designed to be kept secret, except to those who knew the codes of the Underground Railroad.

But here, in this scripture, we read that the Most High God has a secret place for those who would go to Him for hiding. And what are these escapees hiding from? We read of snares, deadly pestilences, terrors, arrows, plagues, armies, disasters of all kinds. No matter what our personal worlds throw against us, those things are on the outside of that secret place in which we can go. Often times, there are others who hide with us against the same outside forces. I envision a light, maybe a lantern, filling the small space with light and warmth, because the Spirit of God, our Light provides this place for us.

I am comforted by this reminder, and the picture of a place that says, "All is well. Rest."Enjoy the fellowship of this small space until the danger is past. The Most High has provided for you.