A Lamp and a Light

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105


We are like pilgrims who find ourselves alone at night in a dense, dark forest.  We are lost and we cannot see the way.  We need a light to guide us, a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  

The psalmist cries out: Your word, O Lord, is that lamp.  Your word is that light.  

The Bible is a light that shines from heaven and reveals who God is and who I am.  The Bible tells us what life is all about, how to live life well, how to find joy and peace and contentment.  The Bible is a light that shines into the darkness of the world around us and makes sense out of the confusion.  

Robert Coles is a psychiatrist at Harvard and the author of more than 80 books.  He is a Pulitzer Prize winner and TIME once called him the greatest living psychiatrist.  At some point on his pilgrimage, he became a Christ-follower.  In an interview with Philip Yancey, Coles described the Bible as a source of light and wisdom:  

Nothing I have discovered about the makeup of human beings contradicts in any way what I learn from the Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, and from the Book of Ecclesiastes, and from Jesus and the lives of those he touched.  Anything I can say as a result of my research into human behavior is a mere footnote to those lives in the Old and New Testament.  

If you want wisdom beyond your own,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want guidance for a thriving marriage,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want practical wisdom for raising kids,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want perspective on the trials and sufferings of life,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want insight on relationships,then get into God’s Word.

If you want understanding about God and his will for your life,then get into God’s Word.

If you want guidance for all areas of life,then get into God’s Word.  

For God’s Word is a lamp for your feet and a light for your path.

Soak in It

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Psalm 119:97  

Psalm 119 calls us to mediate on God’s Word.  Don’t merely read the Bible but meditate on it – ponder, reflect, consider, pray through, think over.  Chew on it like your dog chews on a bone!  

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day. (vs. 97)  

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways. (vs. 15)  

I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation. (vs. 99)  

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise. (vs. 148)  

George Müller, who led an orphanage in England during the nineteenth century, in which he took care of over 10,000 orphans.  He never asked for money, but relied on prayer alone.  He did not just read God’s Word, he meditated on it.  He described his daily practice.  

The first thing I did … was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching … every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.  The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not … give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately … into prayer.  When I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others.  

When you read God’s Word, be all there.  Soak in it.  Pray through it.  Meditate upon it.  Let it marinate in your heart all the day.

Suffering and the Bible

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
Psalm 119:92


The psalmist says that at times in his life, the trials have been so difficult, the pain so great, that he would not have survived if it had not been for God’s Word.  He says that he would not have made it.  He would have shriveled up and died, spiritually and emotionally and perhaps even physically – if it had not been for the Word of God.  

Let me ask you:  Do you understand what he’s saying?  Have you experienced what the psalmist experienced?  Does this ring true in your life?  

It does for me.  There have been times of my life that were so difficult, so overwhelming, so scary, that I would not have survived if it had not been for God’s Word.  Certainly, this is true for times of deep anguish with a mental disorder, OCD.  But there have been other dark times, health crises for children and grandchildren, challenging seasons of marriage, periods in my ministry when I felt like a failure, times of unrelenting financial pressure.  

In all of these times, the Bible has been a rock in my life.  It has been a foundation to stand upon.  It has been a source of endless comfort and peace and rest.  Where would I be without it?  I don’t know that I would have survived.  

It’s not that there was a simple answer to the problem or a spiritual jolt each day.  Rather, when you meet God in the Scriptures, day in and day out, over a long period of time, something happens inside you.  You feel an increasing connection and closeness to God, a bond that will not break.  You find yourself changing.  There is a strength and peace within you.  You breathe the breath of God.  You have a rock to stand on.  There is a solid foundation for life.  God gives you all of this through his Word.  

Begin today.  Meet God in the pages of Scripture every day.  You need it.

Treasure It

The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Psalm 119:72


The psalmist delighted in God’s Word.  To delight in God’s Word is to love it, to treasure it, to value it, to regard it as priceless.  

The remarkable thing is that the psalmist’s Bible was Genesis through Deuteronomy.  We’ve got so much more to delight in – Psalms, Isaiah, Proverbs, John, Acts, Romans, Ephesians and more!  

In his extraordinary book,The Heavenly Man,Brother Yun tells this story:  

After his conversion as a young man, he found out about the Bible.  He did not have one.  He did not know anyone who had one.  Bibles were scarce in China in those days.  He was so hungry for the Bible.  His mother had heard of an old man in another village who had been a pastor.  They went to visit him.  The old man told him to pray for a Bible.  So, day after day, he knelt down with one simple prayer, “Lord, please give me a Bible.  Amen.”  

After a month nothing happened, so he went back to the old man’s house and this time the pastor told him he needed to fast and weep for a Bible.  So for the next 100 days, he fasted morning and noon and ate a little bit in the evening, weeping and praying for a Bible.  Still no Bible.  

Then one morning at 4 a.m., he received a vivid vision in which two men give him a Bible.  The vision was so real that he got up in the middle of the night and began looking for a Bible in the house.  Not finding it he began weeping loudly and woke his parents.  His parents rushed in to see what was wrong and they wept with him.  Just at that desperate moment, they hear a faint knock at the door.  He answers it and there are two strangers at the door, the same two men that he had just seen in his vision.  They give him a bag containing a Bible.  

In his own words, he wrote:  “My heart raced as I opened the bag and held in my hands my very own Bible!  The two men quickly departed into the still darkness.  I clutched my new Bible to my heart and fell down on my knees outside the door.  I thanked God again and again!  I promised Jesus that from that moment on I would devour his Word like a hungry child.”  

That’s what it means to treasure God’s Word.

Obey It

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Psalm 119:1

Psalm 119 is a passionate love song in praise of Scripture.  It is also a work of literary beauty.  The first eight lines all begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The next eight lines begin with the second letter.  And so on throughout the psalm.  The 22 stanzas take us through the entire Hebrew alphabet, eight lines at a time.  Furthermore, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  This is one striking psalm!  

Psalm 119 begins with a call to obey God’s Word.  God will bless us, the Bible says, not if we have God’s Word or if we read God’s Word or if we study God’s Word.  No, God will bless us if we obey God’s Word, if we walk according to God’s Word.    "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!"

Obedience is a major theme of Psalm 119. Just a few of the examples:  

You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently. (vs. 4)  

Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes! (vs. 5)  

I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me! (vs. 8)  

If you want the blessing and favor and protection of God on your life, there’s no other way:   Obey God’s Word.  

Obey Scripture whether you like the command or not.  Obey whether you agree with the command or not.  Obey immediately and completely.  Obey no matter what.  Obey because God is God and you are not.  Understanding can wait, but obedience cannot.  

To read a passage and not obey is to defy God.  This includes commands on lying, gossip, giving, divorce, sexual purity, giving thanks in all circumstances, loving your wife, respecting your husband.  

The writer Flannery O’Connor observed:  “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  

Obey it!  Obey God’s holy Word.  Obey God’s holy Word and God will bless you.

Aim at Heaven

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
Psalm 103:15-16


Life is brief!  It is oh so brief!  

When we are 20, it seems that we will live forever.  At age 30:  “Well, maybe not quite forever.”  At age 40:  “Whoa!  I’m halfway there!”  At age 50, “Time is racing by!”  And it just speeds up from there.  

Why do we humans, unlike the animals, never quite adjust to the brevity of life?  Because we were made for eternity.  God has put eternity in our hearts “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  

How should we respond to life’s brevity?  There is only one solution:  Live for eternity.  Accept the biblical truth that this world is not home.  We were made for the next world not this world.  Like Paul, long for the next world.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  

This means we decide that we will not live for things or money or stuff.  We will live for Jesus Christ.  We will surrender our life to him.  We will love people, not things.  We will invest our time and resources in reaching people and loving people.  We will live our life for the next world.  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:  “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Papa

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:13


God is Father.  He is the perfect Father.  Loving, kind, wise, gentle, fair, honest, dependable, strong.  He is all that a father should be. Father is the Christian name for God.  

But perhaps your earthly father was not a loving father.  Maybe he was absent or preoccupied or angry or even abusive.  The writer George MacDonald, who was such a big influence on C.S. Lewis, offered wise counsel in his book Unspoken Sermons: 

In my own childhood and boyhood my father was the refuge from all the ills of life, even sharp pain itself.  Therefore I say to son or daughter who has no pleasure in the name Father, “You must interpret the word by all that you have missed in life.  All that human tenderness can give or desire in the nearness and readiness of love, all and infinitely more must be true of the perfect Father – of the maker of fatherhood.”  

To see God as Father means so much.  It means you see God as loving you deeply, tenderly and fiercely, committed to your highest welfare.  

It means you see him as strong and powerful.  He can take care of you, rescue you, protect you, provide for you.  

It means you see him as wise.  He knows what is best for you.  He understands you completely.  There is no wiser parent anywhere.  

It means you are never confused about who you are.  You are a child of Father, a child of Papa.  Much loved.  Joyfully adopted.  Completely accepted.  Delighted in.  

That’s who you are!

Endless Grace

As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12


This is a promise to claim!  

God is saying to you and me: All your sin is gone!  Gone forever!  Gone completely!  Gone never to return!  Gone!

David, who wrote this Psalm, had some big sins.  But he believed that God’s grace was bigger than his sin.  Even if the sin was adultery, God’s grace was bigger.  Even if the sin was murder, God’s grace was bigger.  Even if the sin was rampant pride, God’s grace was bigger.  

David understood grace.  And he lived before the cross, before he could see the full wonder of a Savior dying in our place and paying for all our sin.  

Those of us who live after the cross, surely we too must grasp grace.  

David would have loved John Newton, the former slave ship owner who discovered grace and penned the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.”  Newton had been responsible for ripping families apart, husbands from wives, parents from children.  He had been responsible for unthinkable brutality on voyages across the Atlantic, when slaves suffered horribly and so many died, thrown overboard into the sea.  Newton’s sin was so big!  But he discovered grace.  Amazing grace.  Grace that’s bigger than all our sin.  Grace that removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. All our sins.  Past, present, future.  Thoughts, words, deeds. All our sins.  

Yes, David would have loved Newton.  

The next time you wrestle with guilt and condemnation, turn to the great promise of grace, Psalm 103:12.  Read it.  Learn it.  Revel in it.  Believe it.  

This is a promise to claim!

God's Great Love

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.
Psalm 103:11


God is saying to us,  

My love for you is so great!  It is as high as the heavens are above the earth.  It is higher than you could ever imagine.  There is no limit to my love for you.  My love for you is inexhaustible.  I will never stop loving you.  Never.  In fact, I will never love you one bit less than I love you right now, no matter how much you mess up, because my love for you is perfect and unconditional.  This is my love for you: as high as the heavens are above the earth!  

In a movie called The Bear, a young cub loses his mother to hunters.  It has little chance of surviving in the wild.  But an enormous papa bear takes the cub under his care and begins to look after the cub, showing the little bear how to forage for food and survive in the wilderness.  One day, the cub is ready to venture out on his own.  He is off on an adventure!  But a mountain lion spots the cub and begins stalking it.  The mountain lion creeps up and attacks the cub.  The cub escapes but the mountain lion is stronger and faster.  When things look the bleakest, when it looks like the cub is going to be killed, the little cub rears up on its hind legs like he had seen the papa bear do.  

Just at that moment, the mountain lion, inexplicably, backs up and slinks away.  What happened?  A mountain lion is not frightened by a mere bear cub.  The camera lens widens and you see what the cub couldn’t see, the giant papa bear was 20 yards behind the cub, reared up on its hind legs, ready to pulverize that mountain lion.  

You realize that the papa bear had kept his eye on the cub the entire time.  Yes he gave the cub space and freedom to depart, but the papa bear still cared and he kept his eyes upon the cub he loved.  And when the mountain lion attacked, papa bear came running!  

You are that cub.  God is that papa bear.  Yes, God will give you space and freedom to leave him.  But he keeps right on loving you.  And he never takes his eyes off of you.  And when you are desperate, God will rescue you from the prowling lion who seeks to destroy you.  

For your entire life, every single day, God has never, ever taken his eyes off you.  

Time to go home, back to God.

God's Smile

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Psalm 103:8


Do you see God this way?  In your heart of hearts, do you see him as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love?  

So many people see God as stern, harsh, demanding, joyless, hard to please.  A cosmic Scrooge.  But that’s not the God of the Bible!  That’s not the real God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ!  

The real God is merciful.  He is bursting with tenderness and affection.  He feels for you when you are hurting.  All through the Bible we see God’s tender heart for the widow and the orphan.  In Matthew 9:36, we read of Jesus:  “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  That’s God!  Full of compassion and mercy!  For you!  

The real God is gracious.  He extends grace to the guilty.  He forgives all our sins.  In fact, two verses later Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”  Four verses later, in verse 12, we read:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  God is so gracious to us!  

The real God is slow to anger.  Because we can be impatient and quick-tempered, we might feel that God is this way.  But it is not so.  God is so patient, so gentle, so slow to anger.  God never loses his temper.  He is easy to live with.  

The real God is abounding in love.  He is not just a little loving, but he abounds in love.  He overflows with the most relentless love and affection.  He is crazy about you!  His love knows no bounds!  Picture new parents tenderly gazing at their long-awaited baby, eyes brimming with love and compassion.  That’s God gazing at you!  

We have no idea of the tender heart of our God.  

But if we did, would we not love him more?  Would we not trust him more?  Would we not obey him more?  Would we not enjoy him more?  Would we not rest in his love and care?  Would it not transform our whole outlook on life?  

A.W. Tozer once said of God:  “He meant us to see him and live with him and draw our life from his smile.”  Do you draw your life from God’s smile?

Forget Not

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
Psalm 103:2

It is so easy to forget all that God has done for us.  It is so easy to focus on our problems and needs, rather than on all the good things God has given us.  We are prone to forget.  

Not surprisingly, throughout the Old Testament God calls his people to remember.  Remember what God has done for you.  Remember God’s provisions for you.  Remember God’s gifts to you.  Remember God’s rescues of you.  Remember!  

The whole purpose of Passover was for the Jews to remember what God had done in rescuing them out of slavery in Egypt.  Similarly, Jesus gave us communion so that we would regularly remember what he did for us on the cross, in delivering us from our slavery to sin.  

We humans can forget so quickly the things God has done for us.  We must be deliberate and intentional in remembering how God has gifted us and rescued us and blessed us and protected us.  

So, dear child of God, remember!  Remember with a grateful heart.  Remember with gratitude.  Remember and give thanks.   

Sometime soon, carve out an unhurried time with the Lord and make a list of all God’s gifts to you.  Write down everything you can think of.  Write down big things and little things, distant things and recent things.  Routine things and exceptional things.  Write down as many things as you can.  Then get down on your knees and give thanks.  

Bless the Lord, O my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits.

The Power of Praise

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1

Psalm 103 is one of the greatest psalms in the Bible.  I consider Psalms 23, 63 and 103 the richest psalms in the Psalter.  

Psalm 103 includes some of the most exalted language in all the Bible for God’s love, God’s forgiveness and God’s goodness.  If you have ever struggled to understand and feel how much God loves you, as I have, then Psalm 103 is a psalm to soak in over and over.  This psalm is a “Mount Everest” in the Bible.  

Psalm 103 begins with a charge to bless God or to praise God.  Note carefully:  David is telling himself to praise.  He is talking to himself.  Sometimes, we need to talk to ourselves, especially when we feel discouraged or lonely or depressed or guilty.  Talk to yourself and remind yourself of the promises and commands in the Bible.  

Why is it so vital that we praise God?  Several reasons:  

First of all, it is only right to praise God.  He deserves our highest praise.  He is worthy of our deepest adoration.  Praise reflects reality.  We live in a world ruled by a sovereign God who is unfathomably great and unutterably good.  It simply would not be right for us to not praise God.  

Second, praise is the language of love.  Because we love God, we want to praise him and adore him.  It is our privilege, our delight, our desire.  We express our love for God when we praise him.  Moreover praise not only expresses our love to God, but it also nurtures our love for God. Think about it:  When we are praising God for his grace and goodness and mercy and faithfulness, we are moved to love our God all the more.  

A third reason that praise is so vital is because in praise we gain perspective on our problems and needs.  When we begin our praying with praise, we lift our gaze from a focus on our problems to a focus on our God.  We see things from heaven’s perspective, not earth’s perspective.  We are more likely to trust God.  Praise is absolutely essential to a life of trusting God. 

For each of these reasons, praise is vital to our praying.  No wonder the pages of Scripture are peppered with praise!  

Bless the Lord, O my soul, 
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Zeal for God

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
Psalm 96:3


From Genesis to Revelation we see that God is a missionary God.  God’s concern was never only with Israel, but with all the nations of the earth.  

Psalm 96 is one of the great missions passages in the entire Old Testament.  With verse 3, we come to the very heart of God’s missionary purpose.  

What is the driving motivation behind missions?  It is not our love for people, as important as that is.  It is not our concern for people’s salvation, as essential as that is.  No, the highest motivation for missions is God-centered, not man-centered.  Missions must be fueled by a burning desire to see God’s name exalted in all the world.  

Missions, first and foremost, is about the glory of God, not the salvation of people.  Missions is about the name and the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ among all the peoples of the world.  Every tongue and tribe and nation and people must proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.  

Pastor John Piper wrote:  

The final goal of all things is that God might be worshiped with white-hot affection by a redeemed company of countless numbers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9 and 7:9).  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  When the kingdom finally comes in glory, missions will cease.  Missions is penultimate; worship is ultimate.  If we forget this and reverse the roles, the passion and the power for both diminish.  


Christian leader John Stott sounded a similar note:  

We should be “jealous” for the honour of his name – troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it.  The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is), but rather zeal – burning and passionate zeal – for the glory of Jesus Christ.  Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die.

A Shade and a Shelter

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1


Many Christians around the globe cannot read this verse without thinking of the life of Jim Elliot.  

He was born in Oregon in 1927.  Raised in a family devoted to Christ, early on he exuded a fearless resolve to follow Christ.  A natural leader, he would not shrink back from speaking out for Christ.  

He made it his practice to meet God daily in the Scriptures.  He knew the Bible.  He loved the Bible.  He loved the God of the Bible.  In fact, he had a most unusual hunger to know God.  

He was also a gifted writer and he kept a journal.  He once wrote, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”  (He wrote this as a college student!)  

As a young man, he went to Ecuador to reach people for Christ.  He learned Spanish.  Then he moved to the edge of the Amazon jungle to minister to Quichua Indians.  There he married Elisabeth, a woman he had known since college.  

But he and four other young missionaries were drawn to the Huaoranis, a small tribe that had never been reached for Christ.  The tribe was also primitive and dangerous.  

In 1956, Jim and his four friends were martyred by the Huaoranis.  Jim was only 28.  Fortunately, his wife Elisabeth compiled his letters and journal entries into a book about his life and convictions.  She decided to title the book from Psalm 91:1, and called it Shadow of the Almighty.  The book is powerful.  

Jim Elliot epitomized Psalm 91:1.  God was his shelter, his refuge.  He lived his life, too brief by our standards, full out, resting in the shadow of the Almighty.  

If I could choose one person in the last 100 years who best reflected the passion Paul had for Jesus, I would choose Jim Elliot.  He is one of those few people who could say what Paul said and mean it just as much as Paul meant it:  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Your True Home

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Psalm 90:1    


Sometimes a husband who has been married to his wife for a long time, and who is deeply in love with her, can truly say:  “Home is wherever my wife is.  I am home whenever I am with her.  Wherever on the globe she happens to be, that’s home.”  That’s the way I feel about my wife, Gayle.  

But what this husband says of his wife is most true of God.  For the deeply devoted believer, home is found in God.  Home is found not in a place, but in a person.  Home is being with God.  He is my home.  

Moses gives voice to this heart at the outset of Psalm 90: Lord, you are our dwelling place.  You are our home.  You are our place of refuge.  Indeed, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  
Because God is God, because he is the everlasting God, because he was God before the Rocky Mountains were formed, because he was God before the creation of the universe, because he has been God from everlasting and will be God to everlasting, God is our true dwelling place.  

Home is being with God.  

He is your heart’s true home.  He is what you’re looking for.  He is what you’re longing for.

Desperate

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Psalm 86:1  


With these words David expresses his deep dependence upon God.  “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.”  

What?  David is poor and needy?  Isn’t David the king of Israel?  Isn’t David wealthy and powerful beyond words?  Is David not king over Israel at the height of Israel’s glory?  

Yes, David is king.  So how can he cry out, “I am poor and needy”?  

David refers not to financial poverty, but spiritual poverty.  This is poverty of spirit.  This is the first beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  

This is the first beatitude because it is the basic beatitude.  This is where our relationship with God begins, with dependence, with humility, with our deep sense of need for God.  

David is saying,Lord, how I need you.  I’m totally dependent upon you.  If you don’t deliver me, I have no chance.  If you don’t rescue me, I’m sunk.  O God, hear my prayer.  Hear and answer. The word for this is desperate.  David is desperate for God.  

Do you feel this way?  Do you feel desperate for God? Lord, if you don’t intervene, I’m sunk!  

Jackson Senyonga is a pastor in Uganda who has seen revival and transformation in his country.   On his trips to the U.S. he has commented:  “You in America are not desperate enough.  You are addicted to a spirit of ease and comfort.”  

O Lord, help us in America to realize how desperate we really are.

Passion

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.

Psalm 63:5


Worship satisfies your soul.  

Worship satisfies your soul because God satisfies your soul.  Just as delicious food satisfies the stomach, heartfelt worship satisfies the soul.  

You are hungry for worship.  You are hungry for worship because you are longing for God.  In worship, you encounter God.  

You are hungry for God because you are made in the image of God.  You are an imagebearer.  An immortal being.  Only God can satisfy the soul of an immortal being made in God’s image.   

Augustine gave expression to his passion for God when he wrote:  

You flashed, you shone; 
and you chased away my blindness.
You became fragrant; 
     and I inhaled and sighed for you.
I tasted, 
     and now hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me; 
     and I burned for your embrace.  

Nothing else will satisfy your soul cravings.  Not marriage.  Not a child.  Not riches.  Not things.  Not a new car.  Not a vacation.  Not a dream house.  Not a sport or hobby.  Not sexual pleasure.  Not food.  Not alcohol.  Not a sleeker body.  Not plastic surgery.  Not retirement.  Not a getaway.  Not anything.

Only God.  

God alone.

I Lift My Hands

So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:4


Perhaps this idea of raising your hands in worship is foreign to you.  It’s not your background.  You’re not used to it.  It doesn’t feel natural.  You don’t want to feel pressured to raise your hands.  It’s not you!  

All of that is understandable, but there is more to be said.  Down deep, there are times when you want to lift your hands to God.  There are times when you want to raise your hands to God above because this is the natural expression of joy and worship in your heart.  

You feel something, something deep in your heart.  You feel something inside and you want to give expression to these feelings of joy and praise.  You want to give expression with your voice and with your hands.  Your hands want to fly up to heaven.  Or you want to clap or stand or kneel or dance.  Youwantto express with all you are – heart, voice and body – what you feel inside, the depths of your praise and joy.  

Think of a football game.  It’s the championship.  It’s a close game, a nail biter.  The score is tied.  The final seconds are ticking off.  Your team throws a desperation pass to the end zone.  Your team scores!  They win! The whole place erupts.  Hands and arms fly up!  People shout and holler, clap and roar!   

This is no polite golf applause.  No one is sitting on their hands.  Of course not!  We want to give expression to our hearts.  It’s completely normal and appropriate.  It’s the way God made us.  

When I gather in worship with God’s people, there are times when I feel so deeply that I must lift my hands to God, just as I lift my voice to God.  It feels right.  It feels good.  It feels the way God intended it to feel.  

Don’t feel pressured.  Do feel free.  

Give full voice to the praise and joy that you feel in your heart.

A Private Sanctuary

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

Psalm 63:2  

I find some of the psalms to be so rich.  I think of psalms like Psalms 23, 27, 34, 46, 86, 103, 121 and 145.  But of all psalms, my favorite would have to be Psalm 63.  Where else in the Bible do you find such a passionate heart for God as you do in Psalm 63, especially in the first five or six verses?  

Verse 2 is a bit surprising.  What does David mean, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary”?  David is in the Judean desert, fleeing for his life from his own son.  There is no sanctuary in the desert.  Is David referring to the tabernacle back in Jerusalem?  

I don’t think so.  A sanctuary is a place to meet God and David would have to find a sanctuary in the desert, a private sanctuary beneath the stars, a place where he could meet with his God and worship.  

Above all, David was a worshipper.  He could not wait to worship.  He could not not worship.  He would have to find a sanctuary in the desert, a place where he would encounter God, a place to see the power and glory of God.  

What about you?  Are you a worshipper?  Wherever you are, at home, in the car, in an airport, on a golf course, in a hotel room, do you find a sanctuary, a place to worship and pray and sing and listen?  Do you seek a place to draw close in holy wonder and meet with your God?

Love Affair

O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Do you hear the heart for God?  The passion, the longing, the desire for God?  Does it stir you?  Does it awaken something deep in your heart?  

What makes this psalm especially remarkable is the life situation behind it.  David is on the run, fleeing from his own son, fleeing for his own life.  Can you imagine his broken, grief-stricken heart?  His own son!  

Yet here he is pursuing God with all his heart.  “O God, you are my God.”  David is saying,My whole world has unraveled, but you are still my God.  You are the Almighty God.  You are my Shepherd.  You are my God and you will see me through!  

“Earnestly I seek you.”  Not casually.  Not half-heartedly.  But passionately, fervently, wholeheartedly.  This is not religious ritual.  This is not duty.  This is a love affair.  The whole kingdom is at stake, including David’s very life.  And yet here he is, seeking God with all his heart.  Is this not David’s greatness, this passionate heart for God?  

“My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  There is no water in the dry, desolate Judean desert, where David is as he writes.  David’s physical thirst for water is a picture of his spiritual thirst for God.  He is saying,Lord, only you, only you, can satisfy the deepest longings of my soul.  

I think of Mother Teresa, who was going through a dry period in her spiritual life and yet still had such a passion for Christ that she prayed this prayer:  “I want to love you, Jesus, like you have never been loved before.”  

What hearts for God!  

Why do some people have such unusual passion for Christ?  I don’t know.  Ultimately, this kind of heart for God is a gift.  Every good thing is a gift from God.  But you can ask for the gift. Lord give me this kind of heart for you!  This thirst for you!  This love for you!