One thing I have asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27: 4

 

So, David liked to hang out at church, in his case that would be the Temple, and while there, he enjoyed the beauty of his surroundings. This seems rather straight forward and simple to understand. I enjoy the architecture, the vivid colors of stained glass, and the richness of ancient tapestries just as much as David probably did. While the location has some value and the picture that we have of ancient temple appointments and décor is exquisite, none of that matters all that much; plus, the great Temple was built by David’s son Solomon. The beauty that is resident in that house of God comes from a source other than the building itself. The Lord was tangibly present with David there, and He is likewise with us today when we visit our own places of worship. However, He was also with David during all of the other hours of his days, and our Lord is in our midst throughout all times of day and night as well. David knew that wisdom and guidance for life came from the Lord and out of His Word, and for us today this has all become even more true and accessible. The Lord’s greatest beauty is seen in His nature and character, and He has provided us with untold millions of examples of this beauty to view and to interact with.

 

The beauty of the Lord is perhaps most profoundly visible in His presence within people. God tells us that He has created each of us in His image. Even with the remarkable variety that is present in those images, we are each and every one of us a reflection of God, Himself. This is true of our skin, eyes, and hair. This idea is also valid when it comes to the sound of our voices, the language that we speak, our personalities, and thought processes. There is nothing about who we are that is not touched by the hand of the Creator. The greatest challenge that we all face in dealing with other people and also with living in our own skin is that we have all been touched by the brokenness and the corrupting influence of sin. All people are born into life as fallen beings who are granted breath with that sinful bent in our hearts and minds so that each of us enters life as a person who is destined for the death of unending separation from our God. This brokenness and separation is the source for all of our anger, violence, disease, and other forms of strife and oppression. That is why Christ came and defeated sin’s hold upon us; so, now all people who choose Christ can be redeemed and brought into the unending presence of the Lord.

 

In Christ, David’s desire and request become our own reality, for the Lord takes our lives and relocates us from the world of our birth and places us into His unending presence. In that new dwelling place, the beauty of the Lord is with us in many ways. His Word provides comfort, wisdom, guidance, and encouragement, and the Spirit speaks all of that and more into our minds and hearts. In Christ, we are granted the ability to see the world around us with the clarity of righteousness as our filter and with Christ’s balancing love, grace, and redemptive zeal as our purpose. When we see with Christ’s eyes, the beauty of this world is found in its people as it is defined for us by our ability to see God’s image portrayed on and in each of them. As we reside in the presence of Christ, we dwell in the fulfillment of David’s desire, for we are truly surrounded by the beauty of the Lord when we see His Creation through God’s eyes of love.

 

 

 

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8: 1

 

Almost everyone has read poetry. Most of us have written some of it, too. You may read or write it because you were required to do this by a teacher or a parent, or you may do it out of interest and even with great enjoyment and pleasure. Regardless of the personal reason for the contact with poetry, its highly stylized and emotion-charged words can be very impactful. These words are often fanciful and chosen for the way that they sound over what they actually say, or, at least, so it seems. In the two simple lines above we are granted the opportunity to look into the mind and the heart of one of history’s great poets, who also happens to be a passionate follower of God and a keen observer of His hand at work in our world.

 

From his early days as the young son that was left out to care for the family’s sheep on through his years of serving God and Israel as king, David was very much aware of the presence of the Lord. He experienced God’s creative hand in the land where he walked each day, in the animals that he cared for and that he encountered, and in the manner by which his needs were met, whether that was accomplished in the mundane course of the day’s occupation or through means that were nothing if not miraculous. The eyes of David’s heart were open and attuned to the touch of the Creator in everything in his world. The sun and the moon, the sky and the earth, the mountains and the valleys were all formed and placed by David’s God. The animals that fed his family and the ones that sought to kill and devour them and him were also a part of that Divine tableau. Even the flea that would bite and suck blood and the Swallowtail butterfly with its tuxedo-like appearance told the story of a God who was intimately involved in the details.

 

Thus, David could shout and sing out about the nature and the character of the God who it seemed had fabricated and maintained the world for the sake of His beloved child. Every experience of life was one more episode in the story of dwelling in the glorious presence of the Lord. For David and for us, the exquisite and splendid beauty of this world speaks of the One who formed it and of the remarkable way that His creation is designed so that my ancestors, my descendants, and myself would be fed and cared for in both body and in spirit. David’s poetry may be fanciful, beautiful, and highly creative and mine is not, but that doesn’t really matter. We both travel the roads that God sets out for us, and I can do exactly what David did in his days. I can go about everything that I do with my eyes open and my heart surrendered to the presence of my Lord. Then, His name will be on my tongue as the song of my heart, and every step of the journey can be taken in worshipful response to His name.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation.

Psalm 68: 19

 

Your story may be something like mine, and you may be able to say that salvation is something that was secured long ago; or, you might have very recently recognized the need for Christ in you and surrendered your life to Him. Another possibility is that you haven’t made that decision, and Jesus is still someone that you know something about, but He is not your God, your Lord, and your Savior. Regardless of how your story reads, God is your salvation; for, this has proven to be true for me, and it has been true throughout the long history of human existence on this earth.

 

Christ is actively in my world, and He isn’t just existing in the background or involved in only the church oriented aspects of my life. The Lord is working in every area of this world, and He has an involved interest in how even the most routine events and situations play out. As he was writing this Psalm, David might have been thinking about the many times that God had revealed Himself to him, and he could have been recognizing the fact that he had been saved from harm and death by the hand of God on what might have seemed like a daily basis. During David’s many days of wandering and his numerous struggles he had witnessed simple and profound times when God reached into his world with His loving touch that brought a safe place to rest, a pool of fresh water to drink, a friend to offer encouragement, and His Spirit to speak truth when David’s mind was filled with the deceptive voice of evil.

 

I know from experience that the Lord desires to help me go through this day with a lightness to my step that comes from the support and the encouragement that He gives me. Christ provides me with the only true and clear picture of how to navigate through the numerous twists and turns that life will throw at me today. The Lord does not want to tell me exactly what to do or specifically how to respond throughout my day; instead, He wants me to draw near to Him and to be so filled wit His presence that my thoughts and actions are fully influenced by His Spirit and are informed by His Word. There is no time in this life when I am strong enough to go it on my own, and there is no moment of my day when I am beyond my need for Christ’s salvation.

 

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

Sleep is a wonderful thing. There are innumerable studies that demonstrate its value and connection in maintaining or regaining health. These bodies were created to enter into those restorative daily times of sabbatical from all else that we are dealing with in our lives. That idea of sleep as a form of sabbatical also involves the primary element of the biblical ones, and that is trust. When we enter fully into sabbatical, whether for a day or for a year as in some older practices, we trust the Lord to provide and to protect. In sabbatical living we are to surrender control of the course of our journey to God, set aside our defensive and our offensive practices, and grant to the Lord total sovereignty over every breath that we take.

 

So, perhaps in making this comparison between holy sabbatical and sleep I am over valuing something that is just a natural part of the way that people are constructed. Yet, I wonder, and I do so for two reasons. On the one hand, sleep itself is restorative, healing, and replenishes us in order to continue the life that God has set out for each person; yet, it can be easily interrupted, disturbed, and become illusive. In the other instance, sabbatical is also restorative, healing, and brings about a very special form of healing from the Lord. Here is where I think that they connect. When Davis wrote this Psalm and those around it he was living in dangerous and troubled times. There were certainly days when sleep was hard to find and in which closing his eyes for even a few minutes was risky.

 

For David to indicate that he could lie down and sleep was no small statement, and for him to say that he could do so in peace was monumental. Although he was talking about that particular time of trouble in his life, the same sort of truth applied to the rest of his life, and it is also true for me and for everyone who knows Christ. Although it can be very hard to let go of the issues, both small and large, in our lives in order to allow our minds and bodies to relax into sleep, Christ speaks trust into our hearts as He brings truth and real perspective to our minds. As with David, the only actual safety we will experience comes in and from the presence of the Lord. He cares about and for each of His people and He is present with us in His absolute sovereignty over this world. So, Christ calls upon us to be people who daily repent of our sins, trust His grace and forgiveness, set aside our fearful and aggressive ways, and allow His Spirit to speak truth and Godly wisdom into our troubles and cares. This is what it means to enter into the God-given gift of sabbatical, and this is what allows our bodies to be at peace in those daily times of sabbatical sleep.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51: 10

 

Creativity is a wonderful thing. Its presence within us changes the way that we see our world. It makes colors brighter and sounds more vibrant, and it allows us to more fully see the wonderful depth and glorious variety that is present in the people that we meet. We enter into the realm of creator when we paint pictures, transform words into stories, mold ingredients into a meal, and see the beauty behind the woundedness of people’s lives. I think that this quality that we call creativity is something that God, Himself, put into us as His hand shaped each of us. It is a part of who God is, and so it comes into people by virtue of the fact that God makes us in His own image.

 

When David wrote the words of this psalm, he was desperate and deeply troubled by the ways that he had turned away from God. He realized the depths of his sinfulness, and he also knew that he wanted to return to God’s righteous way of living life. David needed a Creator to see beyond the depravity and the broken nature of his thoughts and actions so that this lost son could return to the presence of his Lord. David had turned to the right place, for God does look beyond the surface of our lives so that he views all that is within us. However, He views what is there with an eye attuned to the possibilities, the potential, and God’s view of us isn’t impeded by what is present now. In fact, God desires to take the misshapen lives that we are living and reform them into ones that bring His glory into our world.

 

When the weight of his sin was too great to handle, David turned to God seeking forgiveness and restoration. We can do the same thing. We can trust God to listen, to hear us well, and to see the tarnished beauty that is the redeemed nature of His beloved child. In the great act of re-creation, Jesus took all of our sinfulness upon Himself. As we accept Christ as our Lord and submit to His grace and to His will, we enter into that creative rebirth, and His Spirit begins to work within us to reshape and reform our hearts and our minds into ones that portray the character and the nature of our Creator. God’s creative nature provides great hope to me, for it speaks to the fact that He sees the potential for living out His will in my life that lies beneath the damage that I have caused. For Christ takes the broken stones and shattered windows that I have caused and transforms them into His marvelous dwelling place.

 

 

 

 

Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed.

1 Chronicles 22: 13

 

If you become a perfect follower of all of the rules that exist for living rightly in God’s eyes, you will be blessed with all of the riches and the wealth that your mind can imagine. That is a very interesting idea. It is also both a total myth and a very dangerous trap. Some people try to tell us that God promises a wealth of possessions, money, and even fame to people who trust Him enough and who do not deviate from His will. But I simply don’t see those ideas on display anywhere in God’s Word. That is certainly not what David was sharing with his son Solomon in this passage. David was leaving a legacy of money, power, and immediate international fame; so, Solomon didn’t need to gain those through any form of Godly blessing.

 

Instead, David was concerned about passing along the hard lessons that he had learned through a life that had been lived in and out of God’s will. These were lessons about life that had caused David great pain and sorrow and that also found him dwelling in the presence of the Lord as David’s every real need was met by his Savior. David knew that strength and courage were not things that he could generate on his own. Even as a physically powerful youth he had gained much by yielding all of his control to the God who loved him and who was sovereign over everything and everyone on the earth. In order to follow God by living out the Lord’s directive to Moses, to Joshua, and to all of His people David and each of us need to surrender our fears and our apprehensions to God’s truth as found in His Word and as illuminated by His Spirit.

 

God is our only source of real strength, and Jesus is the example of what that strength looks like as applied to life in this world. He knew pain and sorrow, but Jesus was comforted by the Father. He became weary and the burdens of life were heavy; yet, Christ was granted strength in His spirit and out to His limbs as He surrendered the cares and the exhaustion to God’s gracious mercy and peace. As we follow Christ we probably will not know great earthly wealth or enjoy prominence among people; however, we can be prosperous beyond imagining. True abundance is found in the lives of others who are brought into Christ’s presence through the kindness, consideration, loving care, and healing touch of individuals and of communities who set aside rational fear and normal discouragement in order to love their enemies and care for the needs of the oppressed. This is living in prosperity. This is how Christ wants us to display strength and courage.

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

 

Here is David in the desert away from the comfort of home and without the surety of water and food that were found inside of the city. But there is something about the way that he turns toward God that suggests a deeper thirst and more fundamental hunger than even the lack of those life-sustaining basics of life would bring about. David wants to be in the presence of the Lord. His heart, mind, and soul are thirsty for the water of life that pours out from the word of God, and his body is weakened by intense hunger for the spiritual nourishment that God provides in order to strengthen and encourage His people.

 

David’s passion leads me into questioning my own. Do I truly thirst for that same sort of deep and intimate presence of the Lord in my life? Is my hunger directed toward His feast of truth, righteousness, and loving grace? There are many hours of too many days when the practices of my life don’t reflect this form of desire or level of committed trust in Christ to meet all of my needs. That sort of trust is what David is expressing here. He knows that the Lord will enter into his life where he is at that moment and provide everything that he requires to enable David to continue to fulfill God’s calling for his days. The current situation and location where David finds himself do not matter, and I need to realize that the same is true for me.

 

As a follower of Christ, the Lord is present in every moment of my day. He is with me in my own times of desert travel, and just as the Lord did for David, Christ does for me. He fills my mouth with the sweet water of His Word, and my body is nourished by the wisdom of eternity that His Spirit speaks into me. My times of thirst and hunger are mostly caused by my own thoughts and actions. The sort of desire for the Lord that David expresses is a natural part of the new person that I am in Christ, but it operates in opposition to the old person that I was before Him. That old person keeps looking back to sources of satisfaction that are worldly and seem to provide immediate gratification. Yet, these sources of nourishment are temporary and always fail. Christ is with me, and as I turn toward Him and seek His face, my thirst and my hunger are completely satisfied.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25: 5

 

When we surrender ourselves to Christ, we receive a rather remarkable package of blessings. Yet, some of them don’t always seem so pleasant or joyous to the recipient; at least not in the moment. The teaching that God does in us can be disturbing and unsettling. He opens our eyes to His truth, and that usually challenges some of the things that we have thought previously. It also collides with the way that most of us have conducted our lives; so, this newly revealed truth tends to force us into new disciplines and practices with the result that we are stretched and forced to allow Christ to reshape the basic rhythms of our days.

 

Yet, as David had discovered, our salvation is found in the Lord. Although eternity might seem like a very significant subject, this salvation is much bigger than even that. This is about Christ removing us from under the tyranny of living as slaves to the sin of our births and freeing us to dwell in His kingdom of grace, love, and mercy every day that remains in our earthly lives. In Christ, we are granted the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit as our unceasing companion and guide. He speaks the truth of God into the core of our beings, and provides wisdom and counsel to direct our steps along this day’s path. This is that new way of thinking and of living that is often so hard for us to settle into. These are the new disciplines and practices that will, over time, reshape our lives.

 

This process of acceptance and change is seldom easy. Our old nature with its settled ways of thinking and practiced routines does not quickly accept the new. In addition, we live in a world that possesses a powerful spiritual realm, and there are forces at work in our world that fight against the transformation of even one life. Although these voices of doubt and regret have no real or eternal power, they still speak confusion and fear into our ears, and they can and do cause very real anguish in our hearts. This sort of internal struggle may have been a part of what motivated David to cry out to the Lord with these words that seek out His leading and instruction. Like David, when this world speaks confusion into our hearts, we can turn to Christ with God’s words of truth and seek His guidance in traveling along the path of salvation.

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.

Psalm 26: 2

 

David must have a been a bit off when he penned these words; since, my sense of David is that he was a very real man with flaws, weakness, and the sort of sinful heart that I possess. So, to ask God to look this closely at his mind and his heart was to ask the Lord to shine His righteous light into David’s darkest and most desperately hidden places, and this focuses way too much attention on those flaws of character to be comfortable or seem safe. Yet, that is exactly the point of doing what David did.

 

There is no time of greater need for the close scrutiny of the Lord than when I am experiencing deeply rooted pain, fear, anxiety, or than when my mind and my heart are dwelling on thoughts and images that are sinful. These are times when I don’t want anyone to know what is going on inside of me, and during these points in my life, I am certainly not operating out of a close and an open relationship with my Lord. However, this life of hiddenness is a plainly irrational way to operate, and it is highly dysfunctional, too.

 

When I invite the Spirit of Christ into my deepest recesses, I am actually just recognizing a reality that already exists, for He is a part of me, and He is fully aware of everything that goes on inside of me. The imaginings of my mind and the yearnings of my heart are tangible facts to God. Even when the contents of my inner self are at their darkest point, the Lord is never harsh and judgmental with me; rather, He does what He needs to do to redirect my thoughts onto His will and He orients my heart toward His righteous way of living. One of the best ways to stay centered and focused on the healthiest path through the day is to continually seek God’s insight and wisdom and to be transparently open to His Spirit’s examination of all of my inner self. Like David, the Lord’s examination of my heart can lead to healing as I yield to His will.

 

As for me, I am poor and needy;

but the Lord takes thought of me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

Do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 40: 17

 

These are the words of a person who appreciates exactly what it is that he brings to God by way of contribution to their relationship. As he was setting out these words, it seems that David was more than aware that his personal bank account of strength, wisdom, righteousness, and holiness was more than empty. He needed the Lord to provide even the most basic of life’s requirements. This was true in the area of physical provision, and it was powerfully true in the area of spiritual matters. David was dependent upon God for all in this life.

 

This sort of utter emptiness and weakness is very uncomfortable for most people. We want to have our own answers and provide for ourselves. This is how our world works. However, this is not the way that God’s kingdom operates. The wisdom, understanding, and strength that we bring to the process of living life are all tainted by the presence of sin in them and in our utilization of them. We see dimly and function darkly because the cloud of self-importance that swirls about our heads obscures our vision, and thoughts and actions are influenced by our desire for pleasure, comfort, and power. So, God often allows us to try it all on our own. He steps back and grants us the right to operate out of our own supply of resources until they run dry and until the strength that seemed so mighty has evaporated as dew in the mid-day sun.

 

Then, we are like David, poor and needy. Also, like it was for David, God does take thought of us. In fact, we are never out of His thoughts, for even in those times of living for self and operating as if God’s way were trivial, He has been present. The Lord is absolutely faithful in His relational engagement with each of His people. When we are at our weakest, He upholds our spirits. As we are desperately hungry, He sustains our hearts with His Word of truth and comfort. At the hour when our resources have all been depleted, we are most ready to surrender to the love that gave all to save each of us from ourselves. I am poor and needy, Christ come and fill my need with Your grace, mercy, love, and truth!