Sunday, February 17, 2008

Who's at that table with God? (church bulletin cover)

Starbucks is not just a place for coffee. It’s a place for relationship. It’s a place to hang out with friends and share what’s on your mind or on your heart. Imagine God sitting at one of those little round tables sipping a latte. Who would be sitting with Him, hearing what’s on His mind? Who would He be leaning across the table to speak with as He shares what’s on His heart?

Psalm 25:14 speaks of that kind of relationship with God... “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” What a picture. Here’s the God who flung galaxies across the universe and who holds it all in the palm of His hands, confiding in a tiny, little resident of that univers– someone He created for a relationship with Him. Who is it David had in mind for such intimacy with God as he wrote Psalm 25? It’s not reserved for those we might consider the Somebodies of this world, but it’s also not just for anybody. Psalm 25 says that the Lord saves chairs at such tables for “those who fear Him.”

This is not an expression that fits well with our Starbucks culture. Inspiring fear in those you sit with kind of wrecks the atmosphere. Why does God only want to sit and share with people who fear Him? The answer is simple. God will only draw close in friendship to those who have first accepted His Lordship. God does not want to remain at a distance from us, but nor will He draw near to those who disrespect His counsel. He is God, and even as He sits closely at a table with us, He expects us to remember that. So who is the one who fears the Lord? Psalm 25:12 both asks and answers that very question: The person who is prepared to walk according to the way God has shown them. The rest of Psalm 25 makes it clear that such a person is by no means perfect! David, a man who truly feared the Lord, says in verse 11 that his own sin is great! But what he also says just prior to that is God “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way (v.9). It’s the humble who fear God and bow to Jesus Christ’s Lordship, and as we do, we find ourselves offered a chair and a heart-to-heart with the King of kings!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What were they Thinking? (church bulletin cover)

Here’s a sight: Two men who’ve just been publicly beaten “with many blows” with rods and who’ve just been put in stocks in the “inner prison” of a jail, and who have no idea what’s going to happen to them next (Acts 16:23-24). And Acts 16:25 says that at about midnight, these two men were praying and singing songs of praise to God while “the other prisoners were listening to them.” This is a story about Paul and Silas, and as I’ve heard people describe what a great example these men are to us, the focus has always been on what they were going through and how well they responded. But I can’t help but wonder, even if just for a moment, about the perspective of those other prisoners. What were they thinking? What a sight it must have been to see these guys singing and praying as the spilled blood dried on their backs and into their clothes. It must have impacted these on-lookers, for as an earthquake shook the place and everyone’s chains were unfastened and the prison doors were opened, all the other prisoners stayed in their places, probably looking to Paul and Silas for cues. What were they thinking of these God-centered men who didn’t escape when provided with such an opportunity? As I ponder this, I find myself musing about whether I live the kind of life that leaves people wondering about me the way those prisoners must have wondered about Paul and Silas. I don’t think I do. But if I’m honest, I know there’s a desire in me to live in a way that is so totally different than what the world around me would expect, that it gets people thinking… in a way that is so God-oriented that it causes the godless to pause and consider God. If people find me — or any of us as God’s people — truly praising God whatever our circumstances, what a sight that would be! And by God’s grace, those people around us will stop and listen until they see God at work opening their prison doors!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mercy for the Short in Spirit (church bulletin cover)

It seems that no matter what we’re going through, God expects His people to trust Him. But it also seems that even those who find it difficult to do so will still experience God’s mercy. In Exodus 6:5-6, it’s clear that God intended to deliver His people from bondage. He cared about their situation. But their battle for hope had just gotten worse after Moses’ first attempt to speak to Pharaoh. Even Moses’ confusion is evident: “Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and You have not rescued Your people at all!” (5:23). And as a result, the people’s initial belief in Moses’ promises (4:31) turned to unbelief. “They did not listen to Moses on account of their discouragement and cruel bondage” (6:9). The Hebrew word for “discouragement” there means “shortness of spirit” or impatience. Impatience? Shortness? These people had been groaning in bondage for over 400 years! And then when hope had seemed near, things had suddenly gotten worse! Yet God still called their response impatience. It’s as though He was saying, “If I am big enough in your view of the battle you’re in, then I will dwarf any length of time you compare me to or any increase in warfare you go through!” If God is big enough in my understanding, no amount of trouble should cause my spirit to be short of hope in God. And thankfully I can rely on His infinite mercy, for even as He describes the Israelites as impatient and unwilling to listen to Moses’ words of hope (6:6-8), He immediately follows through on fulfilling the promises they wouldn’t listen to (6:10ff)! Oh how I need that mercy in the battles for hope that I face, for my shortness of spirit occurs much sooner than after 400 years! The story of how God delivered His people from Egypt reminds us that we can trust God through even the most epic of battles! With His help, our spirits won’t be short in the battles we face!

© 2008 by Ken Peters