Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Psalms (page 1 of 5)

Calibrating Your Life to God

New Testament scholar J.B. Phillips once wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small.  The indication is that there is a direct link between our view of God and the way we think about and conduct ourselves in life. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He went on to say that the most foreboding and prophetic “fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.

tree sky night star milky way atmosphere galaxy night sky astronomy midnight astronomical object

How big is your God? The writer of Psalm 113 revealed something of his perception of God when he queried, “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?” (vv.5-6).

We are told that light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Were we to discover and board a vehicle that could travel at that rate of speed, after lifting off the face of the earth we would pass our moon in approximately one minute. Were we able to continue at such a rate of speed we would blow by our sun in approximately 8.3 minutes. If we wanted to continue on our joy ride it would take us approximately another 80,000 years to reach the far side of our galaxy!

With those phenomenal dimensions fixed in our minds, do with me as someone once invited me … in your mind travel to a far off place. Imagine yourself walking barefoot along miles of sandy beach. After a long walk you take your seat in the warm sand and with your hand reach down and draw up a handful of the grainy substance. You allow the sand to trickle out from between your fingers. They you blow, ever so gently, upon the surface of your palm until one tiny grain of sand is left in your palm. That solitary grain of sand would represent our earth and the grains of sand stretching out for miles on either side of you would represent the number of other planetary bodies in our Milky Way!

Now put your hands together and dust away that grain of sand. Start over. With a new handful of sand, again allow it to run through your fingers. Blow once again until you have one lone grain of sand left in your palm. Now consider that grain to be our Milky Way and all the grains of sand stretching out in the distance in either direction around you to be the approximately one trillion other such galaxies now estimated to exist by our scientists. It is believed that every one of those one trillion galaxies probably averages some one billion stars within it.

How far could you go into God’s creation if you traveled the rest of your days at the speed of light upon your marvelous vehicle? God tells us, through His psalmist, that He is so vast, infinite and beyond our measure that He must stoop to even behold the galaxies He has made. “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?”

The prophet Daniel lived in difficult days. He prophesied about even more difficult days yet to come. But in the midst of his troubles and with the revelation from God that even more difficult days were on the way he said that “Those who know their God will display strength and take action” (Daniel 11:32). Far from being overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, those who know their God will display strength and take action! What we think of when we think of God is the most important thing about us.

I hope that this summer you get the chance to be outdoors in God’s vast creation, to look up into a cloudless night sky, to gaze over some scene of natural beauty, to be still, observe, and be amazed. Not primarily at the creation—marvelous as it is—but at the One who created it all, providentially rules over and directs it, and who gave it as a hint at the vast greatness of His infinite being.

Take the moment to sing out from your heart: “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 Savior God, to Thee.  How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

Helps on Prayer

My book Praying Through is, through Jan. 31, being offered on the publisher’s website at a remarkable discount–just $7.00 a copy (that’s 50% off retail). Hope you’ll consider getting a copy, reading it and then passing it on to someone else who might be helped by it.

Goodreads Giveaway!

I’m hosting a giveaway of copies of Life as Worship over at Goodreads. Be sure to enter! Let your friends know as well. Share the link. Post to Facebook. Tweet it. Get the word out!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Life as Worship by John Kitchen

Life as Worship

by John Kitchen

Giveaway ends December 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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He Knows

i_saw_that“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”

(Psalm 56:8)

Pain is no phantom. It is a real enemy and a persistent goad to our souls. If it isn’t always excruciating, it is, at least a burr buried in the weave of our hearts, annoying and inescapable.

David wrote Psalm 56 out of pain. In this case his present pain was more than irritating; it was a spike of the highest order. It was “when the Philistines seized him in Gath,” according to the ancient title ascribed to the psalm text (cf. 1 Sam. 21:10-11). Life was at its lowest ebb for David. He had fled jealous King Saul’s murderous plots and in desperation had sought refuge in the hometown of Goliath (17:4). What is worse, David strode into town with the giant’s own sword strapped to his side (21:9; 22:10)!

How bad must things be to find your last best hope in the hometown of the fallen hero in your greatest military exploits?

Things didn’t go well for David in Gath and he had to play the madman to get away (21:12-15). Fleeing to a cave, he threw himself within and cried out to God (22:1a). Psalm 56 is the result.

The prayer-song is predictably laced with anguish. But there is faith as well. Twice David prayed, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (vv.3-4, cf. vv.10-11).

Did you catch that? “When I am afraid … I shall not be afraid.”

Umm … what?

How’s that work? It could come in handy.

The full answer is beyond the scope of this short article (see chapter 2 of my book Praying Through for a longer answer), but a good bit of it comes from the truth about God that David worshipfully rested upon. Simply stated: He knows.

David prayed, “You have kept count of my tossings.” In his heart of hearts he believed that not one step of his wanderings, not one anxious flip-flop in the midst of a sleepless night had gone unnoticed by God.

David told God, [You] “put my tears in your bottle.” Every tear that David had shed was kept as a treasure, precious to God, somewhere in His great bottle of sorrows.

David confidently asked, “Are they not in your book?” David knew that every salty drop meticulously had been noted down and divinely kept in a sacred record of all his distresses.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained

To deeply for mirth and song;

As the burdens press, and the cares distress,

And the way grows weary and long?

 

Does Jesus care when my way is dark

With a nameless dread and fear?

As the daylight fades into deep might shades

Does He care enough to be near?

 The hymn writer’s answer is an echo of David’s own conclusion and exudes his full confidence!

Oh, yes, He cares;

I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief;

When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,

I know my Savior cares.

 There are moments when that’s all we have – the confident knowledge that whatever else may be true, He knows. And, wonderfully, that is enough for now.

What Do You Say When You Pray?

“I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”

(Psalm 16:2)

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We all know the story of the elderly couple whose love had grown both old and cold. She complained to him, “Do don’t tell me you love me anymore!” He replied, “I told you that I loved you the day I married you. If I ever change my mind I’ll let you know.”

She didn’t find it very funny.

Frankly, in my experience, women seldom laugh at that story. Men, foolishly, do.

Yet it gets retold again and again—mostly by men who never seem to notice (or maybe just don’t care) that the women are not laughing with them.

David was determined he would not treat the lover of his soul this way. In Psalm 16:2 David tells us what he prays when he bows before the heavenly lover of his soul.

The upper case (capitalized) “LORD” is the English translation’s way of telling us he is using the personal, covenant name of God: Yahweh. The lower case “Lord” is the translators’ rendering of the Hebrew Adonai.

The difference is not unimportant.

Yahweh designates God as the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. He is the one who pursues us. He seeks us out. He establishes covenant with us—taking upon Himself the obligation of forming and keeping the covenant. He simply invites us into relationship with Himself. That, of course, ultimately and finally found expression through Jesus Christ and His redemptive work at the cross and in His resurrection. God is personal and personally seeks you in love.

Adonai, on the other hand, emphasizes God as “master” or “owner.” He is over us. He rules us. God has authority over us. He has the right to our submission and obedience.

Thus, “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord,” is tantamount to saying “In view of your great redemptive love that sought and bought me for yourself, I gladly bow my entire life to you, I am glad to live under your rule and authority and to curb my life to fulfill your mission and to build your kingdom.”

I say to the lover of my soul, “You are my Owner, Master, and Lord.”

It is sacrificial and pursuing love that makes a life of submissive obedience both possible and delightful. Such love woos our submission and obedience and in so doing transforms it into an expression of our love to Him.

Indeed, David must add, “I have no good apart from you.” I can’t even enjoy life without sharing it with you, Lord! Good just isn’t good unless I can enjoy it in fellowship with you.

Oh great Lover of my soul, thank you for being the initiator, pursuer, and complete provider in our relationship. Thank you for making me your own through Jesus. I bless you for sending your Holy Spirit to make large in my eyes the magnitude of your love. Gladly and with my whole heart I say to you again today, “You are my Lord. Own this life. Rule me in every part. Walk this day with me, making all your good gifts scattered throughout these coming hours a fellowship of joy as we share them together.

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