Forgotten God

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5

 

A few years back Francis Chan, the well-known author of Crazy Love, wrote a book on the Holy Spirit. He called it Forgotten God, an intriguing title. His point was that the church in America has largely neglected the Holy Spirit.

Is that true? I think so. When you compare the numbers-driven, consumer-oriented church in America with the prayer-fueled, Spirit-empowered church in Acts that turned the Roman world upside down there is quite a difference. Something, or Someone, is missing. 1 Corinthians 4:20 says: "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power." That is not so obvious of the church in America, where there is more talk than power.

Some struggle with the name, Holy Spirit. They get Jesus. They get the Father. But the Holy Spirit remains elusive for many. In fact, some think of the Spirit as a force or an energy.

But the Bible is emphatic, the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is a Person. The Holy Spirit is a He, not an it. The Holy Spirit is inside every Christian. If you know Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells you. The Almighty, Sovereign God indwells you. Christian life is life in the Spirit, life by the Spirit, life from the Spirit. I suspect that for most of us, including me, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, God has more for us. Consider the ever-quotable A.W. Tozer's comment:

We may as well face it: the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher plateaus in the things of the Spirit is all but gone ... [We] have imitated the world, sought popular favor, manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost.

O Lord, fill me afresh, fill us afresh with your Spirit!

What God Has Done

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:3-4

 

Seven expressions in these two verses warrant comment:

1. For God has done.

Religion is spelled D-O, what we do, what we achieve. The gospel is spelled D-O-N-E, what God has done, what we receive. Salvation is not the work of man for God, but the work of God for man.

2. The law, weakened by the flesh.

The problem is not the law, but our flesh - our sinful, selfish tendency that we are born with. Because of our sinfulness, the Old Testament law could not justify us (make us right with God) and could not sanctify us (make us holy).

3. By sending his own Son.

The incarnation and crucifixion reveal the sacrifice of the Father. This is his own Son, the Son of his love, that he has sent to save us.

4. In the likeness of sinful flesh.

His humanity was real but he was without sin. So in the incarnation, Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

5. For sin.

This is why God sent his Son - for sin, to pay for sin, to atone for sin, to obliterate our sin. Jesus came for sin.

6. He condemned sin.

Jesus paid for sin. He defeated sin. He condemned sin. The only reason sin does not condemn us is because Jesus has already condemned our sin.

7. Who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We become more and more holy, more and more Christlike, not by the flesh, our own efforts, but by the Spirit, the Spirit who infuses us with power. We depend upon the Spirit, and therefore we are empowered by the Spirit.

Lord, help me to live my life depending on you, on your Spirit, and not upon me, my trying hard.

Work of the Spirit

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

 

In Paul's writings, there are two pivotal passages on the work of the Holy Spirit. One is found in Romans 8 and the other is found in Galatians 5. In the first seven chapters of Romans, he mentions the Holy Spirit four times. But in Romans 8, in just the first 27 verses, the Spirit is mentioned 19 times!

The first mention comes in verse 2: "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." This verse raises the question: Exactly what are we set free from? The answer is found in Romans 7: We are set free from the law, even though the law is God's law and it is holy and good in itself.

Still, our sinful tendency, our flesh, takes this good thing and uses it to stir up a bad thing, sin. This same point was made early in chapter 7: "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (7:6).

The Old Testament was basically life under the law. The New Testament is life under the Spirit. We are set free from our own efforts, from striving, from performance, from religion, from rules, from measuring up. The key motif of the spiritual life is no longer strive, but surrender. Surrender to the Spirit.

The Christian life is a supernatural life and that requires supernatural power, the power of the Spirit. We now live in the age of the Spirit. The Old Testament prophets foretold this day. For example, Ezekiel 36:26-27 states:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Beginning with Acts 2, this promise has been fulfilled. God has put a new spirit, his Spirit, within us to empower us to live for him. As Zechariah 4:6 puts it: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts."

Lord, would you fill us afresh with your Spirit. Your power, not mine.

No Condemnation

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

 

Romans 8 begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.

We have no condemnation because of God's grace to us. We have no separation because of God's love for us. All though this chapter - which is arguably the greatest chapter in all the Bible - we see that we are safe, we are assured that we are safe in the steadfast, unfailing love and grace of God.

To say the word No is such a short word, but it carries complete and absolute finality here. No condemnation. None! Zero! You are completely and eternally set free from condemnation.

When is this true? When you get to heaven? No. It's true right now. "There is therefore now no condemnation."

Who is this true for? Is it true of good people? People who never fail? People who are superstar Christians? People who try hard to please God? People who measure up?

No! It's true for people who are in Christ Jesus. That's it? They are joined, by faith, to Christ. The blood of Jesus cleanses them from all sin. All sin. Past, present, future.

The famed psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day.

If you have failed in your marriage, there's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you fell into sexual sin, there's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you have struggled with alcoholism or drug addiction, there's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you have committed some horrible sin, there's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. If you are a self-centered jerk, there's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The blood of Jesus cleanses you of all your sin.

There is an ocean of love, grace and peace in this one verse! Stand on it! Cling to it! Believe it!

Lord, how could we ever thank you enough that we have been set free from all condemnation forever?

No Telling

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

 

William Tyndale was the first person to translate the Bible into English. He translated it in the early 1500s, when it was not OK to do so. He eventually was burned at the stake at the young age of 42. Seventy years later, the King James Version was published, and most of it was taken from Tyndale's translation work.

Tyndale once wrote that the book of Romans was the best book in the New Testament and the guide to understanding the entire Bible. He said that no one can read it too often or study it too much, because this book is so rich. He even felt that every Christian should memorize the book of Romans.

So far we have covered Romans 1-7 in this devotional series. Here are the main sections so far:

  • 1:1-17   Introduction
  • 1:18-3:20Sin
  • 3:21-5:21   Salvation by Grace
  • 6:1-8:39   Spiritual Life

Interestingly, for each of these three sections on sin, on salvation, and on the spiritual life, the passages in Romans are considered the most important sections in the Bible for these topics. No wonder the writer J.I. Packer once commented: "When the message of Romans gets into a man's heart, there's no telling what may happen!"

I urge you to make this book, the book of Romans, a priority in your life. I urge you to read it, study it, meditate upon it, seek to obey it and treasure it all your days!

Lord, thank you for this grand book. Help me to know it better and thereby to know you better.

The Heart of Prayer

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

Psalm 18:1

 

Prayer is all about love. It's loving Jesus.

Yes, prayer is also asking for needs, interceding for others, confessing sins, giving thanks, adoring God. But the heart and soul of prayer is love.

Prayer is about two persons in love. One of those persons is God! He loves us perfectly, immeasurably, outlandishly. And we are falling in love more and more. Prayer is the overflow of this love relationship. Prayer is the expression of this love relationship. Prayer is the cultivation of this love relationship.

Lovers talk. Lovers hang out together. Lovers enjoy each other's presence. This is how God feels about you. Ideally, this is the way we are beginning to feel about God.

David felt it. Oh, did he ever! Do you feel it? Are you beginning to feel it? Deep within your heart, the stirrings of love? This yearning for God? This desire? This passion?

Prayer is all about love. Not duty. Not obligation. Not religious ritual. But love. Love like we've never known.

"I love you, O Lord, my strength."

Identity

To the choirmaster. A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.

Psalm 18 Superscription

 

Most psalms have a superscription before the first verse. These notes frequently give the psalm's author or the psalm's setting or a musical directive. The superscription is part of the biblical text; it is not a note added by the publisher of the Bible.

The superscription for Psalm 18 is especially interesting. We find the musical note. We find the authorship note. We find the setting. We even read that David sang the words of this song and that he sang them to the Lord.

But what grabs my attention is how David sees himself. Not as David the future king. Not as David the famed general. Not as David the brave warrior. Not as David the accomplished poet. Not as David the conqueror of Goliath. Not as David the administrative genius. None of those, though all were true.

David sees himself as the Lord's servant. The Lord's slave. The Lord's errand boy. That's who he was. And he knew it.

"I am not high and mighty. I am not the exalted ruler. I am not the point of the story. I am nothing special. I am merely the Lord's servant. And that's all."

This reminds me of Paul, David's counterpart in the New Testament, in his passion for God. Paul saw himself the same way: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ."

This is who we are. This is our ultimate identity. This is our calling. This is our destiny. This is our privilege.

Be clear on who you are. Never be confused again about who you are.

"I am a servant of Jesus. That's who I am. Whatever he says. Wherever he calls. However he leads ... Just say the word, Lord. You're in charge, not me. You're the Lord, not me. You're in control, not me. I'm the servant, you're the Master."

Focus on Jesus

I have set the Lord always before me.

Psalm 16:8a

 

What did David mean? What does it mean to set the Lord always before you? What would that look like for you and me?

We would focus on Jesus.

We would think about Jesus frequently. We would think about his cross, his resurrection, his resurrection power in us, his tender love for us, his beauty.

We would sing to Jesus. Quite a bit.

We would speak of Jesus. He would just come up in our conversations. Naturally, not forced.

We would depend upon Jesus. We would depend upon him throughout the day. We would depend upon him for every need, big and small. We would rely upon his power not our own.

We would live for Jesus' approval. Only his approval would matter. No one else's.

We would talk with Jesus. We would have a running conversation throughout the day, listening, talking, smiling, enjoying. We would spend our days in his presence.

We would fear Jesus. We would fear him with a healthy respect and awe and desire to please him. We would fear him alone, no one else and nothing else. Nothing else could shake us.

We would become more and more preoccupied with Jesus and less and less preoccupied with ourselves. We would become somewhat self-forgetful, self-oblivious. We would become Jesus-preoccupied, Jesus-enamored, Jesus-intoxicated.

And, we would not be shaken. No matter what happens, we would not be shaken.

 

God our Councelor

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel.

Psalm 16:7a

 

Thank God for Christian counselors. God uses them to help us with spiritual and mental and emotional and relational problems. Certainly God has used counselors to help me.

But who is the counselor? It is God. God himself is our main counselor. Go to him first. Go to him always. Rely primarily on him. He is the all-knowing, ever-present, ever-loving counselor. In fact, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, which means Encourager or Counselor. God the Holy Spirit is our Counselor. And what a counselor he is!

David understood that God counseled him. Even at night God counseled him.

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

In the night also my heart instructs me. (16:7)

David is saying: God counsels me. God guides me. God leads me. God ministers to me. God comforts me.

Even at night God counsels me. He moves my heart. He shapes my mind. He heals my heart. Sometimes he gives me dreams. At other times he wakes me in the night to speak to me or move me.

Imagine: Your own personal Counselor! Ready to listen, ready to guide, ready to heal.

No wonder David exclaimed: "I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel."

Family

As for the saints in the land,

they are the excellent ones,

in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 16:3

 

Interesting perspective. David calls God's people "saints, excellent ones," those "in whom is all my delight." Strong language!

The saints are God's people. Not God's perfect people but God's flawed people. God's stubborn people. God's neurotic people. God's all-too-human people.

David doesn't delight in them so because they are good but because they are God's. David had a tender affection for them in spite of their flaws (flaws that David shared of course).

I understand what David is saying. I didn't understand it as a young pastor. Not really. But I am beginning to understand it.

As I have gotten older, perhaps closer to God, I feel this love for God's people. I feel this growing sense of tenderness, affection, love, especially for the people in our church family.

When I am gone on a Sunday, I miss seeing fellow WoodsEdgers. When I am there, I light up inside when I see people. I am glad for our Wednesday prayer service so I can see some of them more.

Sure, some of God's people I know better. Some of God's people are easier to enjoy. Naturally. But there is a bond there that's bigger than us. It is a Spirit-produced bond. We are bound together as a body. We are bound together as a family. We are bound together in loyalty to our King. We are bound together as brothers and sisters, as servants and soldiers. We are bound together in the great cosmic battle. We are bound together by blood, the blood of Jesus. We are bound together for eternity.

There is a bond here that's bigger than us.

So the Spirit of God moves in my heart, and perhaps in yours:

  • Love them. Love them fervently.
  • Love them patiently and graciously.
  • Love for my sake. Love and live in community.

How is your heart toward God's flawed people? Hear David's: As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

No Good Thing

I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing."

Psalm 16:2 (NIV)

 

David's statement seems at first like exaggeration. Apart from you I have no good thing? Not one thing? 

What about marriage? Children? Friends? Health? Good restaurants? Great books? Beautiful music? The smile of a child? The Olympics?

Isn't the world full of good things?

Yes. But all are from God. Every good thing in the universe comes from God.

Hear James: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17/NIV).

Hear Paul: "What do you have that you have not received?" (1 Corinthians 4:7/NIV).

Yes. Every good thing we've ever experienced comes from God.

But there's more. Not only is God the source of all good, but when we desire these good things we are desiring God. That is, when we desire a good marriage, or children, or a new job, or more income, or a beautiful house, or a vacation in Cancun, or a new car, we are desiring God. We don't know it perhaps, but we are. We are longing for God. We are longing to fill the empty places in our soul that only God can fill. We are longing for joy that only God can bring.

We are thirsting for God.

Yes, David. Yes.

 

You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.

Honest Praying

 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

Psalm 13:1

 

In Psalm 13, David is feeling abandoned by God. He is hurting. He is desperate. He cries out to God. And God doesn't do anything. In fact, it seems to David that God doesn't even listen, that his prayers don't matter to God, that God has abandoned David. David feels alone, neglected, forsaken by the God he serves. And so he cries out to God.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 13:1-2

 

I feel this way at times. I understand what David is saying.

God wants us to be honest in our praying. Real. Authentic. If you feel disappointed with God, tell him! Pour out your heart to your Father. Talk with him about it.

I am amazed at the honest prayers in the Bible. Prayers by people such as David, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah. Men who knew God, men who were close to God, men who were greatly used by God.

And not only do they pray these honest prayers, expressing their heartache and disappointment, but God chooses to include these prayers in Scripture. Why? Well, part of it is to be an example for us, an example of honesty.

And then there's Jesus himself, hanging on the cross, praying those words that David first prayed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). How's that for honest prayer?

God never wants us to "say our prayers." He wants us to pray. He does not want us to say sweet, spiritual, pious prayers. He wants us to talk with him, pour out our hearts to him, be honest with him. He wants us to pray from our heart. He wants us to talk with him about whatever we are feeling. He's our Father. He loves us. He is full of grace and patience with us. And, he is big enough to handle our honesty.

The Hiddenness of God

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 10:1

 

Sometimes God seems hidden. Distant. Remote. Absent.

Maybe it is a season of doubt. Or a season of difficulties and suffering. Or a season of spiritual onslaught. Or a season of unanswered prayer. But God seems absent.

Have you experienced this?

David did. Can you hear the pain in his voice? Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1).

Or, a few psalms later, David again lifts his lonely voice to the Lord: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1).

Even Jesus, the Son of David, felt God's absence. On the cross he cries out with great emotion: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).

Perhaps right now it feels to you that God is hidden. If so, you are in good company. David and Jesus and many more felt this.

What do you do when God seems absent? Here are some thoughts:

Cry out. That's what David did. And Jesus did. Cry out. Don't be silent. Bring the matter to God's attention. He is listening even when we don't sense he is. Cry out.

Keep talking. Don't run and hide from God. Don't withdraw. Keep talking.

Enlist intercessors. Get others to pray for you. That's what the body of Christ is for, to love one another and pray for one another. Enlist intercessors.

Recognize God uses these times. God uses times of hiddenness to build faith in us. We become more desperate for God, more dependent on God.

Stand on God's promises. Take one or two promises in the Bible and cling to them. Here are a few ideas:

[God] has said:

"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5b

 

Cast your burden on the Lord,

and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

 

And behold, I am with you always,

to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:20b

 

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and through the rivers,

they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire

you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2

 

Knowing Him, Trusting Him

And those who know your name put their trust in you,

for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:10

 

I want to trust God more. I struggle plenty, but I want to trust God in the face of the unseen, the unknown, the uncertain. During times of trouble I want to trust God and experience his peace no matter what.

David tells us in this passage the kind of people who trust God. It is those who know God, those who know God's name. Those who know God naturally and inevitably trust God.

David is not referring to the person who knows about God. He's referring to the person who knows God. The person who is intimate with God. The person who walks with God.

The person who knows God doesn't focus on his faith. (How much faith do I have?) Rather, this person focuses on God. (God can do it. God will take care of me.)

So draw close to God. Seek God. Pursue God. Listen to God. Talk with God. Live in God's presence. Seek to please God.

When we seek God in this way, then slowly, over time, we will find that we have come to know God, really know God. And when this happens we will naturally, inevitably, trust God.

Refuge

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,

a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:9

God is your stronghold. God is your refuge.

Run to him for protection. Run to him for deliverance. Run to him for safety.

When you are afraid, flee to him. When you are hurting, look to him. When you are overwhelmed, call to him.

He cares. His eyes are upon you, like a loving father riveted to his son's first soccer game. His ears are attentive to your cry, like a grateful mother listening for the cry of her newborn baby.

Safety is not a place. Safety is not a possession. Safety is not a contract. Safety is not a retirement account.

Safety is a person, and that person is God. He wants to be your stronghold. He longs to be your refuge.

Look to him. Run to him. Flee to him. Put your trust in him, your stronghold and your refuge.

God On His Throne

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;

he has established his throne for justice.

Psalm 9:7

God reigns. God rules. God sits on his throne. This theme is peppered throughout the Psalms.

 

God reigns over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

(47:8)

 

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty.

(93:1)

 

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;

Let the many coastlands be glad!

(97:1)

 

The Lord reigns; let the people tremble!

He sits enthroned upon the cherubim;

Let the earth quake.

(99:1)

The situation may seem dire. Enemies may be at the gate. But David remembers: The Lord reigns.

I can remember talking with Ernest McCollum. I was a young Christian. Ernest knew God very well. His teenage son had been in an accident and might lose an eye. He was concerned, of course, but he exuded peace and joy. At one point, he commented: "But God's still on his throne." In other words, God is still God. God still rules. God can be trusted. Ernest was not trying to sound spiritual. This was just how he saw life.

Whatever your situation is, remember: God is still on his throne. The Lord reigns.

Your teenager rebels: God is still on his throne.

You lose your job: God is still on his throne.

You face financial disaster: God is still on his throne.

You are diagnosed with cancer: God is still on his throne.

Your spouse leaves you: God is still on his throne.

You lose a loved one: God is still on his throne.

See the world as Ernest saw it. See the world as David saw it. See the world as it is.

God is on his throne. God rules. God is in charge. God can be trusted. God is big enough to take care of you.

Songs

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:2b

 

It is surprising that singing is such a big part of the spiritual life.

After Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, what was the first thing they did? They sang. Can you imagine how much heart they put into their song?

Then Moses and the people of Israel

sang this song to the Lord, saying,

"I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously.

The Lord is my strength and my song."

(Exodus 15:1a,b, 2a)

All through the Bible God talks about singing songs of praise. The final reference, near the end of the Book of Revelation, includes lines from that first song, the song of Moses in Exodus 15:

Standing beside the sea of glass

with harps of God in their hands.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God,

and the song of the Lamb.

(Revelation 15.2d-3a)

Nowhere in the Bible is singing as prominent as it is in Psalms. The very word Psalms refers to Songs. These are the songs of Israel, meant to be sung to God. We have the lyrics but not the music.

In the Book of Psalms there are over a hundred references to the word singor to the word song. Just a few of them:

 

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

(Psalm 9:2)

 

Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!

(9:11a)

 

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints.

(30:4a)

 

But I will sing of your strength;

I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.

(59:16a,b)

 

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord.

(95:1a)

 

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!

(96:1)

 

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,

For he has done marvelous things!

(98:1a,b)

 

Why does singing matter so much to God?

Well, what else expresses the heart so powerfully as singing? What else is so powerful to express our love to God?

God created us to sing. He created us to sing to him. He has implanted a "singing gene" into our souls. This "singing gene" is not singing ability but singing desire. We yearn to sing to God.

You may have suppressed this yearning. You may have suppressed it for years. But it is there.

So with the singer, David, sing.

Sing to Jesus. Sing with all your heart.

Sing with God's people. Sing on your own.

Sing!

Wholehearted

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.

Psalm 9:1a

 

What does it mean to praise God with all your heart? What does that look like?

Let's start with what it does not mean.

 

Praising God with all your heart is not a lukewarm affair.

It is not sitting silently while others worship.

It is not passive.

It is not without emotion.

It is not going through the motions.

It is not mechanical.

It is not boring.

 

Praising God with all your heart is passionate.

It is uninhibited, unrestrained, uncensored.

It is focused wholly on God, not people around you.

It is more focused on the heart of worship than on the art of worship.

It is active, participative, engaged.

It involves deep emotion at times.

It involves the body at times - tongue, hands, arms, knees, feet, eyes.

It is soul-nurturing, soul-restoring.

It is life-giving.

It involves a one-person audience, Jesus.

It does not focus on self (How am I worshiping?) but on God.

It is anything but boring.

It enthralls.

It touches God.

 

What is Man?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

 

If David only knew the half of it!

If David had some grasp of the size of the universe, if he had some notion that there are billions of galaxies and each contains billions of stars, if he had some knowledge of the dizzying distances between the stars, how much more he would be amazed!

God is so big. He is not like we are. He is fundamentally Other. He is without limits. Infinite. He can hang the sun in the sky!

God is so big. But is he too big? Is he so big that he could not possibly care about me? David wondered:

What is man that you are mindful of him,
      and the son of man that you care for him? (8:4)

God, do you really care about humans? Do you notice these sometimes odd creatures on this tiny backwater planet in the Milky Way galaxy? God, are you mindful of me?

David doesn't stop there. Inspired by the Spirit of God, he goes on:

Yet you have made him a little lower

           than the heavenly beings

     and crowned him with glory and honor. (8:5)

 

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
      you have put all things under his feet. (8:6)

Yes God! Yes! You do care! You have bestowed dignity upon us, majesty, authority, greatness. You have made us just a little lower than the angels. You have crowned us with glory, with honor. You have given us authority over the earth, over the animals, over the birds, over the fish. Compared to God, we may seem oh, so small. For indeed we are.

But we are imagebearers. We bear the image of Almighty God. We reflect his glory. He has set eternity in our hearts. We will live forever. We have glory and honor, dignity and value.

What is man? We mean the world to God. So much so, that his own Eternal Son would die on a cross to save us.

Glory!

 

Creation Around Us

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:1a,b

 

You can imagine David sitting out in the fields, tending his sheep while gazing at the stars that filled the Middle Eastern sky, marveling at the majesty of God.

O Lord, our Lord,
      how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. (8:1)

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
      the moon and the stars, which you have set in place. (8:3)

 

O Lord, our Lord,
      how majestic is your name in all the earth! (8:9)

Nature glorifies God!

When we look at nature, at the creation around us, we see God's hand. We see glimpses of God's beauty, God's majesty, God's grandeur, God's goodness, God's wisdom, God's power.

Think of a golden-pink sunset, a rushing waterfall, towering mountains, the full moon, the star-filled night, a rugged coast, a Redwood forest, roses in glorious bloom, immense icebergs soaring out of the sea, white-sanded beaches, the quivering hummingbird, the mighty tiger, the newborn baby.

Sometimes the beauty is so intense one aches.

This is God's beauty, God's glory, God's majesty. We know it. We know God is behind such a creation. Some people suppress this knowledge (Romans 1) but down deep we know it. This is God's world.

Nature glorifies God! Nature leads us to worship!

O Lord, our Lord,
      how majestic is your name in all the earth! (8:9)