All the Ends of the Earth

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“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (Psalm 65:5, ESV).

            David continues to extol the God who answers prayer and lifts up those who call upon Him.  As he speaks of the great scope of God’s works, He reflects on the Lord’s power displayed in creation (v.6) and His providential care in the bounty of the earth (vv.9-13).  God is generous, and His common grace overflows in this world; how much more should we wonder at His special grace to those who receive His redemption.

            God’s mercy is so abundant, His grace so vast.  Reflect on the wonderful generosity of His care for you, in the ordinary things of life, in the goodness of the world He has created and continually sustains; then reflect upon the marvelous mercy of His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.  May the mercy of God fill you with hope ever-new.

Satisfied

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“Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!  We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!” (Psalm 65:4, ESV).

            In this psalm, David lifts up grateful praise to God, who hears the prayers of His people.  He begins by expressing the worthiness of the Lord for honor and devotion (v.1), that God hears prayer (v.2) and forgives sin (v.3).  How wonderful it is to belong to the one true God, and how gracious, that God should draw a people to Himself (v.4).

            Wonderful indeed is the unmerited grace of God Almighty.  Under the weight of guilt and sin, look to Him to lift you up; in the grip of grief, look to Him for peace and hope.  Set your heart on the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ.  That is where true and abiding joy is found.

The Shadow of His Wings

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“for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:7-8, ESV).

            With evocative imagery, David describes the wonderful security and support of trusting in the Lord.  His reliance on God brings an inner satisfaction (v.5), and a sense of supreme safety, as of a little bird sheltering beneath the wings of its parent (v.7).  The further image of the “right hand” emphasizes God’s strength exercised on behalf of His servant (v.8).

            Rest in God’s mighty strength.  The images in these verses should impress upon us God’s compassion for His people, and the security we can know in reliance upon Him.  The world’s rage is nothing compared to the right hand of the Lord; what can harm those who take refuge in the shadow of His wings?

Earnestly Seek

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“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, ESV).

            In this psalm, David reflects on spiritual longing and the God who vindicates His people.  This expression of desperate desire for the Lord heads off words of praise (vv.2-4) and a reflection on God’s faithfulness (vv.5-8) and deliverance (vv.9-11).  God is the satisfaction and vindication of those who trust in Him.

            Seek satisfaction in the Lord.  This world is passing, and all its joys and triumphs are transitory.  But God is the eternal King, the strong Savior, the Lord of glory.  Make God is your highest joy and your deepest longing, the unshakable center of your life in a chaotic world.

Max Lucado’s Problematic Apology

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            The furor over Max Lucado’s remote preaching for the Washington National Cathedral has caught a fair amount of attention lately.  That Lucado met disapproval from some in the Episcopal church for holding elements of a biblical sexual ethic is as expected; that he was allowed to speak at all is rather surprising, and that those responsible have come to regret it is unsurprising.  But probably the most troubling part of the whole episode is the apology letter Lucado issued afterward.

            His opening paragraph suggests already a misapprehension about the seriousness of defying God’s design for the human person and relationships.  An orthodox Christian preaching to the Washington National Cathedral is undertaking a prophetic task.  This is, indeed, a “high honor”, but not, I think, in the sense that Lucado intends.  Prophets aren’t supposed to hear with dismay that their presence has been “a cause of consternation” to people who reject God’s Word; they’re supposed to expect it.

            Lucado identifies the source of this consternation, a sermon from 2004, and proceeds to apologize.  It is a good apology in that it owns responsibility without making excuses.  But what is he apologizing for?  The hurtfulness of his sermon.

            Here I must allow for the possibility that Lucado has something to apologize for.  I don’t know; I haven’t seen the whole sermon.  He thinks he was disrespectful, and I respect a man regretting being disrespectful.

            On the other hand, it seems far more probable to me that the consternation towards Lucado resulted not from how he communicated the truth, but from the truth itself.  Looking at the snippets of the sermon available in the various articles about this kerfuffle, one finds that Lucado, if not entirely on point with his inferences, was at least significantly less severe in his remarks about homosexuality than the Scriptures are (see Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27).  Apologizing for oneself is one thing, but we must never apologize for what God has said.

            God has said that He created mankind male and female, distinct and complementary, intended for union in this complementary distinction in covenant sexuality (Gen. 1:27; 2:23-24).  Lucado perhaps apologizes for this, certainly obfuscates it.  He refers without qualification to “the LGBTQ community”, “LGBTQ individuals”, “LGBTQ families”, and “LGBTQ people”, accepting these significations that frame homosexuality et al as a legitimate and morally neutral identity category instead of a rejection for God’s design for humanity.

            “Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality,” Lucado says.  Granted that true Christians can misinterpret the Bible in all kinds of ways, his words in this context surely imply more than that.  If I said, “Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about theft,” would I not be suggesting that the Bible’s teaching about theft is unclear?  So also the teaching of Scripture about human sexuality; the question is not whether it is possible for a true Christian to misunderstand, but whether God has spoken clearly.

God has spoken clearly.

            To his credit, Lucado does not himself reject the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, and he is willing to say so here—here, where it will probably nullify his apology, because that biblical teaching is the very thing that so consternates those to whom he is apologizing.  But he includes that pesky adjective “traditional”; if he had only said ‘the biblical understanding of marriage’, and left it at that!  Christians must all come to realize that framing it as the ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage is a concession, a way of putting it positively while granting legitimacy to other understandings of marriage.  If you must put an adjective before marriage, ‘real’, ‘true’, or even ‘biblical’ are all acceptable qualifiers; ‘traditional’ gives too much away.

            All this obfuscation is wedded to the basic burden of the apology, addressing the ‘hurt’ his sermon of years ago has caused.  Here it is an exquisitely contemporary apology, of the kind we are used to seeing from a variety of public figures who have said something of real or perceived offense.  Whether what Lucado said was true or not, biblical or not, appears irrelevant; it was ‘hurtful’, and that is what matters.  For a telling comparison, just look at the similarity between Lucado’s apology and Dean Hollerith’s apology for inviting him to preach.  Both have feelings firmly behind the steering wheel, and truth in the back seat—politely observing the injunction against back-seat driving.  Both suggest a therapeutic model of truth—the kind of conceptual world in which the ubiquitous contemporary sentiment ‘my truth’ is, if not coherent, at least at home.  The locus of morality is not in the voice of God coming to us from without—‘what has God said?’—but in the inward response—‘how did it make me feel?’

            Such a therapeutic model of truth is utterly opposed to the Christian faith.  Christianity has, at its center, the gospel: the wondrous message of the saving life, death, resurrection, ascension, reign, and return of Jesus Christ, and the offer of redemption to those who repent and believe.  This message comes with a conviction of the fiery holiness of God and the wickedness of our sin.  We dare not trade the clarion call of the gospel for a soothing affirmation of every man’s sense of self.

            Lucado allows for differing interpretations of the clear teaching of Scripture regarding human sexuality, adding, “but we agree that God’s holy Word must never be used as a weapon to wound others.”  We have met this before, this strange surprise that the sword of the Spirit might prove sharp and pointed.  Of course, we must not twist the Scriptures out of spite towards others.  But where the Word of God cuts truly, we must not attempt to blunt its edge.  The surgeon’s scalpel cuts to heal; the holy Scripture convicts to save. Some things ought not be apologized for.

Once Spoken, Twice Heard

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“Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love” (Psalm 62:11-12, ESV).

            At the end, David underlines the twofold basis of trust in God: His power and His love.  Why wait upon the Lord (vv.1, 5)?  Why rely upon Him as your stronghold against danger (vv.2, 6, 8)?  Because God is able and willing to save.  With a little poetic crescendo, David extols God’s might and mercy.

            Trust in the Lord, who is strong beyond measure, who is abundant in steadfast love.  Make the character of God your confidence—the unchanging, uncontestable might and mercy of your heavenly Father, not the shifting circumstances of this life.  Fix your faith upon God, who is able and willing to save.

Snowflakes

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Snowflakes fall in feathery clusters

Out on the pond and on the lawn,

Dusting buried banks, snowflakes dance

Across slight slopes, brown-reed ringed and bristling

With cattails cantankerous, whistling

In the soft chill winds;

Snowflakes scurry over fence and brush and branch

Each twisting flurry swift and free,

Somehow serene yet wild, wonderfully

Given common beauty, common grace to all

From up above the snowflakes fall.