the Director

The Word for today:
Psalms 11, 12

When Bin Laden and his henchmen took the Twin Towers down, I’d seen that scene before:

He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent,
watching in secret for his victims.
He lies in wait like a lion in cover;
he lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed; they collapse, they fall.
 (Psalms 10:8-10)

For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
 (Psalms 11:2-3)

And I knew what prayer to pray:

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

(Psalms 10:17-18)

And I knew what would become of Bin Laden:

The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.
On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur.
 (Psalms 11:5-6)

***

The Word of God is always ahead of tomorrow. So turn to its pages when you need to put this present darkness (1) in its proper perspective. All things will unfold exactly as the prescient, omniscient pages of your Bible have decreed.

History is the handmaiden, the vassal, of Scripture. The Word of God doesn’t reflect history; it directs history, it creates history.

In the beginning, the Word created space. In the now, the Word is creating time. We think of prophecy as a fore-telling. Better to think of it as a command from the King.

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(1) Ephesians 6:12/RSV

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what the stars are saying — part 2

star wonder

The Word for today: 
Psalms 9, 10

mark this: Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him, 
And the son of man that You care for him?

Why are there so many stars? What is the cosmos doing out there? Is it just “taking up space?”

Certainly the stars have a physical purpose. The gravitational constant depends on their presence! But the stars have another purpose. In fact, they have a story to tell:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 
(Psalms 19:1-4)

What are the stars telling us? Yesterday, we provided some background for that question. Today, we’ll offer an answer.

***

The awesomeness of creation has been the subject of famous biblical poems like Job 38, Psalms 19, 33, 136, and Isaiah 45. Isaiah 40 references creation repeatedly, culminating in this expression:
“To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?”
says the Holy One.
Look up at the sky!
Who created all these heavenly lights?
He is the one who leads out their ranks;
he calls them all by name.

Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,
not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:25-26)

The power and the splendor, the majesty and the infinite reach of God’s creation give us pause. It causes each of us to wonder, “Why in the world would he bother with me?”–
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him, 
And the son of man that You care for him? (Psalms 8:3-4)

Some look for answers in the stars. But the stars weren’t made to provide answers. Indeed, they clearly show us that we don’t have all the answers.  More than anything else, the stars were made to make us wonder:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

“Awesome wonder” will prevail in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the only rational response to a God who will never be contained by his ever expanding creation:
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

Our perceptions of him might sometimes get stuck in neutral, but it must be understood that God is never confined by our perception! Puny faith and tiny intellects don’t leash the Lion of Judah. They only shackle us.

God is never contained and never confined. That’s the story the stars are telling.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder…

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what the stars are saying — part 1

The Word for today:
Psalms 7, 8
mark this: Psalm 8:3-4 
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?

Why are there so many stars? What is the cosmos doing out there? Is it just “taking up space?”

Certainly the stars have a physical purpose. The gravitational constant depends on their presence! But the stars have another purpose. In fact, they have a story to tell:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
(Psalms 19:1-4)

Over the next couple of days, Stand in the Rain will listen for what the stars are saying…

***

We saw last week, in Luke 24, that Jesus holds the Bible together, giving it shape and coherence and meaning.

He also holds the cosmos together:
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

Certainly he holds my life together:
In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

He is everywhere, all the time. Astride the cosmos, he is bigger than the universe he built. His creation cannot contain him:

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.  (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!”
(1 Kings 8:27)

Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.  (Psalm 139:7-10)

Stephen Hawking, generally considered the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein, says in the best-selling “A Brief History of Time” that our galaxy is an average-sized spiral galaxy that looks to other galaxies like a swirl in a pastry roll and that it is over 100,000 light years across–about 6 hundred trillion miles. He says, “We now know that our galaxy is only one of some hundred thousand million that can be seen using modern telescopes, each galaxy itself containing some hundred thousand million stars.”

It is commonly held that the average distance between these hundred thousand million galaxies (each six hundred trillion miles across and containing one hundred thousand million stars) is three million light years! On top of that, the work of Edwin Hubble, based on the Doppler Effect, has shown that all red-spectrumed galaxies are moving away from us–and that nearly all are red. Thus, the universe is constantly expanding. Some estimates say that the most distant galaxy is eight billion light years away–and racing away at two hundred million miles an hour.

Moreover, God created every speck of dust in the hundred thousand million galaxies of the universe. “He created every atom–the sub-microscopic solar systems with their quarks and leptons and electrons and neutrinos–all of which have no measurable size.”  (1)

So it would seem, according to our best current evidence, that physical creation is infinitely expanding, and made up of infinitely smaller building blocks…

(“The Story the Stars are Telling” will continue tomorrow. We hope to see you then.)

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(1) from “Genesis: Beginning and Blessing” by R. Kent Hughes

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a time to repent, and a time to refrain from repenting

The Word for today:

Psalm 6


In the famous opening lines of Ecclesiastes chapter three, we read that there is a time for this and a time for that:

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.


Well, the following line isn’t in Ecclesiastes, but it could be:

A time to repent, and a time to refrain from repenting.

***

As I write this, I’m in trouble again.

Trouble follows me, like metal filings incline towards a magnet: if I’m over here, trouble leans this way; if I’m over there, trouble leans that way.

Most of my trouble comes from my own wrongdoing.  But I can even get in trouble for doing right.  Lies have gotten me in loads o’ trouble, but the truth has gotten me in more trouble than you might think.

As a Bible teacher, I’m a Truth-teller.  Any faithful Bible teacher must determine not to notice who’s in the room.  Truth is universal and impartial, and thus is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34);  truth should never be tailored to fit the “room.”  But you can get in a passel of trouble when you practice that precept.

I’ve been asked on various occasions to apologize for something I’d said.  If what I’d said was just mean-spirited or nasty, then I have (usually through clenched teeth) attempted to repent.  But when it’s truth that I’m in trouble for–because the truth ruffled a feather or two–then I must run from even a hint of apology.

For if you apologize for telling the truth, the truth will be taken from your mouth.  (That isn’t in the book of Proverbs, but it could be.)

***

Psalm 6 is a repentant lament, often included among the “Penitential Psalms” (with Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102, 140, and 143).  These Psalms remind us that when we do wrong we should say we are sorry.

But when you are in the right, don’t you dare “do” Psalm 6; don’t you dare repent just for the sake of getting along.  Unwarranted repentance turns the truth inside out.  Truth will flee from you if you treat her the same way you’d treat any lowdown, low-life lie.

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I don’t know where I’m going, but I know the Way

The Word for today:
Psalm 5

mark this: Psalm 5:3 —

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.

I don’t know where I’m going.

But that doesn’t bother me. In fact, the unknown is what lends life a sense of adventure and drama. There’s a certain measure of fear in the unknown but you have to admit that there’s a measure of thrill in there as well.

And I know how to minimize the fear and maximize the thrill!

Our entire relationship with God is based on trust. So, just as salvation is received by trust, so too is God’s guidance:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
 (Proverbs 3:5-6)

That scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6, just happens to be my wife Shelley’s “life verse.” So I encounter it often. I hear her recite it to our sons, and we even have it carved into a plaque that hangs on the kitchen wall.

So I’ve thought about it more than a few times. And I’ve come to the conclusion that faith makes rational sense!

I mean, why would we lean on our own understanding when we don’t even know what the next minute will bring?

And why wouldn’t we entrust our lives to someone who sees the end from the beginning–who will never be surprised by the headlines in tomorrow’s newspaper, and who always has our best interests at heart.

Psalm 5 is a prayer for guidance, so don’t just read it, pray it!–

Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me. Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn. (Psalms 5:8/NLT)

Whenever you can, pray Psalm 5 early–the earlier the better:

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
 (Psalms 5:3)

“And I will look up.”

That’s the thrilling part! It’s an acknowledgement that the answer is not within us, so we will seek it outside of ourselves. It also conveys anticipation and expectation as we look up for his guidance and forward to what he has in store for us each day.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  You don’t have to know where you’re going when you know the Way.

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