Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood and I, I didn't take the radii

C.S. Lewis never ceases to astound me.
I'm rereading The Great Divorce and in the first paragraph he stopped me cold in my tracks with his...well I can't really describe it so I'll just share it with you!

In describing morality, Lewis shares a metaphor for what it isn't and also one for what it is. As per usual, he hits it out of the park:

We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move toward unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.

Well spoken, Clive Staples...well spoken indeed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Stand

If there's one word that I would use to describe who God is showing Himself to be to me recently, it's faithful. He's done this in various ways and methods, but the message has been consistant and repeated. God is a God who fulfills His promises and will not abandon us.

I've shared some of the HUGE ways that God has been faithful to me on this blog before, but this time I wanted to share a fairly small one. God is in the moving and shaping of the overall courses of our lives, but God is in the details too!

Two weeks ago we had our last NavNite of the semester. Instead of the regular flow of things we had a worship night scheduled. No message planned-just a time where the students could come together and have fellowship with the Spirit and with each other.

As part of the evening, I was leading worship, but I didn't have time to print out the chord chart for one of the songs I wanted to play that night. I'd already rehearsed the song, "Jesus Paid it All," with Rachel (who was singing with me) and practiced it a bit myself, so I just figured I'd write it out from memory when I got there. Honestly, I was too rushed with all the OTHER details that I had to take care of and figured that I would just deal with it later.

When I got to Cornerstone (the church we have our NavNites at), I went to put the charts I did have on one of the music stands. As usual, there were already some charts from when other groups at the church had played music for their groups.

Out of habit I glanced through the charts that were already there. As a Worship Leader I'm always curious to know what other people and groups are singing, and sometimes it leads to some really good finds. I've therefore developed a habit of just leafing through stacks of charts wherever I come across them.

I didn't get further than the first chart this time though-my eyes landed on this sight:

That's right: the one song that I hadn't had time to print out was sitting there and waiting for me! In the right key and everything! I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of surprise mixed with thankfulness and wonder. Even now I'm smiling at that little tiny bit of providence and provision.

A God who is in the details indeed :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Forbidden by the Spirit

I've been thinking a lot about closed doors lately. Closed doors aren't what we typically want. When we have an opportunity (or THINK we do), seek God's will and receive a firm "No" as the answer despite our fervent prayers...well it typically isn't cause for celebration. Instead the focus often turns to ourselves.

"What did I do wrong?" or "Why is God punishing/holding out on me?" tends to be my default reaction when a door slams shut in front of me. If only I hadn't sinned so badly this week or if only God really loved me maybe the answer would have been different. So when the next opportunity comes, it's time to shape up and be on "best behavior" so that we'll somehow be worthy of the carrot God seems to be hanging out in front of us.

That doesn't seem to be how God decides to open or close doors in the Scriptures. Instead of seeing closed doors as God's punishment or petulance, the Word paints a picture of God working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, which is to become conformed to the likeness of His Son [paraphrase of Romans 8:28-29]...even (and especially) through closed doors.

The Apostle Paul, the author of those words, knew from personal experience what it was to not be able to proceed in the direction that he wanted to go. On his second missionary journey Paul wanted to go to Asia and Bithynia. I'm sure that he had grand plans for the people there and that he was excited to be bringing the gospel to these people who so desperately needed to hear the Truth.

Acts 16 tells us that the Paul and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go to Asia and that the Holy Spirit did not permit them to go into Bithynia (v 6-7). If ever there was a set of closed doors, it was on that mission trip: Plans A and B right out the window! If I were in Paul's shoes I think I'd have been just a bit confused. Didn't God want Paul to be preaching and spreading the Word? Why would the Holy Spirit keep them from doing ministry like that?

In a message called "The Need of the Hour," Dawson Trotman shared his interpretation of these events:
Paul found closed doors, but closed doors to him weren't the problem. I believe those closed doors were used of God to show him the open doors he was to go through next.

Closed doors are closed because God has another door that He wants us to go through.
It turned out pretty well for Paul: instead of either of his first two plans, he and his companions ended up going to Macedonia. Their stops on this second missionary trip included the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. Sound familiar? The churches that were planted as a result of the doors into Asia and Bithynia being closed resulted in at LEAST five epistles (Philippians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians) and perhaps the strongest and most faithful church that Paul planted (the Berean church is described in Acts 17:10-12).

When God closes a door in front of us, we have two options: we can either question God or we can submit to His sovereignty and trust that this closed door is an expression of His mercy rather than His judgement. Which will you choose?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Apologies for the amount of time it's been since the last update. It's not as if the blog has slipped my mind-I've been very aware that time has been slipping by without a new post. It's just that I sit down to write...and nothing comes out.

It's not as if nothing has been happening-God is moving visibly and powerfully in the ministry here in Long Beach and in my life and the lives of those close to me. I think that the problem has more to do with the vision for the blog and the purpose or function that I see it fulfilling (or lack thereof). So again, apologies.

I haven't given up on this forum for my thoughts, ideas, and updates! In fact, I've had several thoughts for upcoming blog posts even as I've written this update (as proof, here is the subject of one particular future blog that you'll see soon: Aaron or Joshua?).

I'll leave you with this: God has been speaking into my life through Psalm 39 recently. There's just something about David's cry of anguish and (more importantly) his response to his circumstances that resonates with me right now. Verse 7 has been a key verse for me for over a year now:

"And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You"

That's my prayer currently: God, may I wait and hope in You.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phil 1:29

"For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only
to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Crossing the Jordan

The specific period of wilderness that I was in the midst of is over. I can say this with confidence due to several confirmations either directly from the LORD or through those that are attuned to His will and who have spoken truth and insight into my life.

Deuteronomy 8 is a chapter that has spoken deeply to me recently. This chapter is Moses' address to the people at the end of their 40 year wandering in the Sinai Desert before they crossed into the Promised Land. He explains that God had a purpose for this time-a purpose of testing to expose what was in their hearts and a purpose of provision so that they would have no one else to give credit to other than Him.

"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not...He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that he might test you, to do good for you in the end."
~Deuteronomy 8:2, 15-16

I am currently living in Long Beach, finally able to participate in the Navigator ministry at Cal State Long Beach! (although I also am still partially focusing on raising funds) It is a great joy to be able to more fully join in with the work that God is doing here on the campus at CSULB and I am eager to get into the rhythm of things.

However, just because I have left the wilderness and have something new before me does not mean it will be any less difficult or trying. The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel's conquest of Canaan. This was not an easy task-the people that lived there had no intention of giving up the land without a fight. Leaving the wilderness did not mean an end to Israel's troubles, it just meant new problems were facing them.

Both surviving in the wilderness and conquering Canaan were impossible tasks without God-and that is exactly why God commanded Israel to do those tasks. Joshua 3:9 says: "Joshua said, 'By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the [enemies in Canaan].' " It was purely by God's might and strength that the Israelites conquered the land. It will be only by His strength and His grace that anything I do here at CSULB will succeed.

God, I need you just as much (if not more) right now then I have in the past few weeks-help me to remember that. Be with me, go before me, and continue to chip away at my faults, my pride, creating in me a new heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I love Jesus. And V-necks.

A while back my good friend Steven blogged about an article from Christianity Today that he read. It's focus was Hipster Christianity, which I will refer to from now on as "Hipsteranity" because I don't want to keep typing that out. His opinion, which I agree with, was that the article didn't do much other than describe the phenomena. There wasn't much application or analysis-just description.

Today I ran across another article that describes Hipsteranity, this time from RELEVANT magazine. The ironic thing is that even though it's written by the same author I find it to be far superior. Why? Perhaps because he is writing for a different audience the author actually makes an attempt to categorize different aspects of Hipsteranity into positive and negative categories.

I'm curious to get some feedback about the article. For those of you that have read the original also, did you find this article more interesting/insightful? What of the conclusions that the author reaches? Is his comparison of Hipsteranity to a certain second century heresy apt?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Point A to Point B

I ran across another great quote that really hit me where I'm at today and that I'd share:

"I tend to live the way I drive. I want to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time and by the easiest route possible. But I've come to realize that getting where God wants me to go isn't nearly as important as becoming who God wants me to be in the process. And God seems to be far less concerned with where I'm going than with who I'm becoming."

~Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trampling Out The Vintage

I'll be updating soon with a few more thoughts on wilderness and what God's been teaching me this past week. Isn't it funny how God works through circumstances that we would never have even thought of Him using...

Anyways, the point of THIS post is to share a pretty amazing quote that I stumbled across:

God’s call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with.

If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way!

But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

-Oswald Chambers Powerful words.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Desert Song: Behind the Scenes

Yesterday in my blog I quoted from Hillsong's "Desert Song" and included a link to a performance of it by Brooke Fraser and Jill McCloghry, two of Hillsong's worship leaders. Today I stumbled across the story of what happened in Jill's life in the weeks prior to that recording. It is a powerful testimony of Jill's incredible faith and trust in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances and really adds even more depth to the song itself. I've posted two videos, first posting the interview with Jill and second reposting the song itself.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Desert Song

***This is my 75th post on Praises with a Skillful Song!***

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame

Lately I've been dwelling on the idea of wilderness. It's one thing to sing a song like "Blessed be Your Name" and belt lyrics like "Blessed be Your name / When I'm found in the desert place / Though I walk through the wilderness / ... / On the road marked with suffering / Though there's pain in the offering" in the midst of our very American-flavored Christianity without much in the way of suffering, persecution, or hardship.

For the first time in what I would term my maturing personal relationship with Christ I've walked through a (small in some regards, not so small in others) wilderness this summer. Sure I'd had hardship these past few years, but it was always in the midst of a season of blessing and growth. I'd known that I was going to be experiencing a change in seasons with graduation and transitioning into doing EDGE with The Navigators, I just wasn't exactly sure what that was going to look like. It's turned out to be much different than I expected.

At the beginning of the summer I felt like the theme verse for this coming season in my life was the first verse of II Samuel chapter 2. After a period of waiting on God, David asks God if he should go up to one of the cities of Judah. God's answer is "Go up." David asks where he should go and God provides a specific city/path for him to follow: Hebron.

Honestly, it's been much more difficult than I'd expected. David goes up and is crowned King of Judah within three verses. Not that I was expecting to come away with a five-figure check after just one face-to-face, but what I was expecting was closer to the idea of green pastures and quiet waters and not anything like the valley of the shadow of death.

I should have expected it to be more difficult and here's why: Jesus set the example for all of us with a perfect life, right? Well not that any of our lives will line up experience for experience with his, but Jesus had to go through the wilderness before beginning His ministry too. Matthew 4:1 reads, "Then Jesus [after His baptism] was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil." Now I could literally go on for paragraph after paragraph and keep sharing, but I'll curtail my thoughts into two main points: the Spirit's leading and Jesus sustenance in the desert.

The same God that led David with the words "Go up" led Jesus into the wilderness and that same God is leading me now. And before God led David up to be crowned king He had David endure years of living, you guessed it, in the desert and running for his life from Saul. I still feel that II Samuel 2:1 is my theme verse for the present, but what I'm supposed to learn from it is completely different than I expected. It's easy to follow God when He's leading us where we want to go. Do I still follow Him when things don't turn out how I thought they should?

Before Jesus could begin His ministry, God used the wilderness and the Devil's temptations to expose what Jesus' true priorities were and where His soul was rooted: the Word. When everything was stripped away from Him, including food to eat, what did Jesus cling to and rely on? It was the Scriptures that sustained Him in the desert and enabled Him to stand up to the Devil's schemes. Am I looking for life in my own efforts and the approval or support of others or in God's Word to me?

Do you trust God to lead you, even if it isn't in the direction you expected? Where are you rooted: the world, or the Word?

Here's a video of Hillsong's "Desert Song" (the lyrics from the beginning of this post)-I've gained a much deeper appreciation for it over these past few weeks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Praise Instead of Grumbling

I'm beginning to empathize with the Israelites. Let me explain a bit.

For those of you that are unaware, I'm in the middle of fundraising as I go on staff with The Navigators at Cal State University, Long Beach. This is not an insignificant amount of funds to raise and has been my main focus these past seven weeks or so. The process has been slow as I've met with people (friends, family, pastors, businessmen, etc.), sent out letters to those I can't meet with, and cast my vision for my ministry this upcoming year. But although it's been slow overall, things have really started to pick up in the last week or so.

Before I get to campus I am required to be at 75% of my budget-currently God has provided 45% of my budget. Here's where the connection with the Israelites comes in. Less than two weeks ago I was under 20%! Then in a flurry money just started pouring in-there are lots of neat individual stories but the main point is that there was MAJOR provision in a very short amount of time.

When the Israelites wandered through the wilderness and had no food, God provided manna and quail for them to eat. This provision was miraculous and amazing-birds and bread literally falling from the sky for them. Just like God's financial provision for me over the past two weeks, this was a specific need that God acknowledged and provided an answer to.

What was the Israelites' response? Complaining about other unmet needs. In the very next chapter the Israelites are complaining about not having enough water and asking if Moses brought them out to the desert to die! In the past whenever I read through this or any other section where the Israelites complained immediately after God had done something miraculous like parting the Red Sea or providing manna I would roll my eyes-"Here we go again."

Right now I'm in a similar place-I recognize and remember that God has just provided me in some pretty amazing ways, but I still need 30% of my budget before I can get to campus! Honestly, it's much, MUCH easier to focus on the latter half of that sentence, especially since students move into the dorms on campus this weekend!

I figure that there are two types of people reading this update: those who have already committed to supporting my ministry at Long Beach (in prayer, financially, or both) and those that have not yet. I'd like to ask some very specific things from both groups. Not that you can't read what I ask the other group or anything, but know that one of the following two paragraphs is targeted more specifically at you :)

For those of you who have already committed to supporting me: First of all, thank you! It's an amazing blessing to have the support of others in an endeavor like this. For those of you that have already given financially, I'm not asking you to give any more. I know that you didn't arrive at your commitment accidentally or haphazardly and don't want to be a burden. But to EVERYONE who has already to committed to supporting me, please be praying! Specifically pray:

1) for a grant application that is currently being reviewed that has the potential to double the $5000 my church committed to giving me
2) that I would be able to meet with a big potential donor that I have been unable to connect with as of yet
3) that my attitude through all this would not be like the Israelites but instead always grateful and God-honoring
4) that God would bring me to campus in His timing and be glorified through the whole process

For those of you that have not yet committed, would you prayerfully consider if my ministry at Long Beach is something the Lord would have you support? There is never a time when I will need fewer people praying for me! And I still need people who will commit to supporting me financially. Each commitment of just $25 a month raises me a whole percent! You can give online by clicking on the banner on the right-hand side or email me at

I will be sure to update everyone on how things continue to develop and how God is moving!

Friday, August 6, 2010


My dad passed this quote along to me after he reread "Wooden," the book by Coach John Wooden (the legendary UCLA basketball coach).

In this quote he defines one of the components of his Pyramid of Success: Intentness.

"[Intentness] is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course, to concentrate on your objective with determination and resolve.

Impatience is wanting too much too soon. Intentness doesn't involve wanting something. It involves doing something.

The road to real achievement takes time, a long time, but you do not give up. You may have setbacks. You may have to start over. You may have to change your method. You may have to go around, or over, or under. You may have to back up and get another start. But you do not quit. You stay the course. To do that, you must have intentness."

This is exactly what I needed to hear. My prayer is that I will continue to be intent as I continue raising funds for my (fast approaching!) ministry at Long Beach with The Navigators.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Tomorrow I will briefly be speaking at my church, Hope Chapel of the Valley. It's Missions Sunday and my pastor has arranged it so that I'll be able to present my vision and support needs to the congregation.

Please pray that God gives me favor and moves people to support me in whatever way(s) they can. I've still got a large portion of my fundraising to do before August 15th-this could be a major way that God works to provide for me!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

YHWH is... (5 and 6 of 6)

*Today's post is a continuation of a small series of posts that I'm doing based on some insights into God's character that I received at Summit through the story of David and Goliath.*

This post took forever. Apologies. I've been a bit preoccupied, with my dad's father passing away, fundraising, and a million other things. But here it is, the conclusion of this mini-series.

Before revealing the fifth and sixth insights into God's character that I drew out of the story of David and Goliath, let's review what's come before. I've previously discussed the four following aspects of God:

1. YHWH is living. He is set apart from every other god, concrete or abstract, that we could worship in that He is ALIVE.

2. YHWH knows who we really are. If God is for you, then it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. God already knows and chooses to love you and use you anyways.

3. YHWH will prepare us. God has us undergo trials today in order to strengthen us for the trials of tomorrow.

4. YHWH won't ask us to be who we are not (and who He has not created us to be). A corollary of the second point, God will not ask us to function contrary to our design or purpose. We are as we are for a reason-because it is His will.

All of these points lead us to the fifth and sixth insights:

5. YHWH is the LORD Almighty, the LORD of hosts-YHWH Sabaoth


6. YHWH is desirous of praise

"Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands...that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD's and He will give you into our hands.' " ~1 Samuel 17:45-47

These last two points come from the same extended portion of Scripture. Perhaps some of David's most famous words (excluding some of the more famous Psalms), verses 45-47 are David's speech to Goliath before they close for combat. Though it is a very familiar passage to me, when I read through this section this last time my eyes and my heart were reopened to the raw power and beauty of the passage and I wept with joy.

David refers to YHWH in a manner that might carry little to no weight with those of us reading now, thousands of years later. In the NIV the translation is "the LORD Almighty" and in the NASB it is "The LORD of hosts." Anytime you see those specific phrases in those translations, it's this specific name for God. But really, do either of those give you a more specific insight into God's character the same way that "Lion of Judah," "The Great Physician," or "Jehovah Jireh"? They didn't for me. But I decided to find out exactly why there was a difference. What is this different name for God? YHWH Sabaoth.

YHWH Sabaoth is a name that reveals God as a God who is sovereign over all powers in heaven and earth, especially the armies of Israel. Wow. Think about that for a second. God is sovereign over ALL powers, not only those in heaven but here on earth as well. Jerry Bridges says in Trusting God that the essence of God's sovereignty is "His absolute independence to do as He pleases and His absolute control over the actions of all His creatures. No creature, person, or empire can either thwart His will or act outside the bounds of His will" (p. 34). God. is. in. control. David can have COMPLETE confidence in God because there is nothing that can occur outside of His sovereign will, and David serves Him and trusts Him. There is nothing to fear: YHWH Sabaoth was on David's side, is on mine, and has not changed!

But how can David (and how can WE) so willingly trust a Being with such complete and absolute power? What is our guarantee that we can trust Someone who is so high above us and different from us? Why wouldn't God just use His power to hurt or harm us instead of protect us or work for our ultimate good?

The answer is that "God does as He pleases, and that which pleases Him is always for His glory and our good* " (Trusting God, p. 47). David explains that the reason God will give him the victory over Goliath has nothing to do with David himself, but rather so that the whole earth will know there is a God in Israel and that everyone present will better know how God delivers His people! God's glory is the ultimate goal of David's encounter with Goliath and with every event to happen before and after that.

How does your picture of God compare with David's? There is no way that David fully understood God at the time of this story-he was human, and a young one at that. But I can't help but feel that there are huge lessons and insights to grab from the way his understanding of YHWH informed his actions. Spend some time examining the story for yourself and asking God to reveal more and more of Himself to you-you won't regret it!

*The phrase "our good" can never be separated from and only understood in the context of the phrase "God's glory." This subject merits it's own discussion, but suffice to say that a selfish and me-centered understanding of "our good" is both limited in understanding and un-Biblical.

Posted via email from askillfulsong's posterous

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

YHWH is... (4 of 6)

*Today's post is a continuation of a small series of posts that I'm doing based on some insights into God's character that I received this past week through the story of David and Goliath.*

4. YHWH won't ask us to be who we are not (and who He has not created us to be)

"Saul said to David, 'Go, and the LORD be with you.' Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head." ~1 Samuel 17:37b-38

This is effectively a corollary of the second point, which was that YHWH knows who we are. Because God knows who we are, He will ask us to function in a manner that reflects that and not in a way that is contrary to our design or purpose. In contrast to God's, Saul's actions are almost comical. After relenting and letting David face Goliath, Saul says "Go, and the LORD be with you."

Apparently God being with David just isn't enough for Saul. Rather then letting David face Goliath his way, Saul tries to exhibit some sort of control over the situation and make David fight Goliath the way that he would: in armor and in the manner of a solidier. Out of what were most likely good intentions, he tries to get David to wear his armor, but in doing so he’s asking David to be someone he’s not, a soldier instead of a shepherd.

God had no such requirement on David-all He expected was for David to show up as he was, willing to be used and trusting in God’s plan. David rejects Saul’s offer and goes just as he is-a shepherd boy with a sling and no armor. His confidence is in God and His plan, not in trying to level the playing field artificially. The fact of the matter that Saul just doesn't understand is that it's supposed to be an unfair fight. From the world's point of view, it's supposed to be unfairly balanced in Goliath's favor. But from God's point of view, which David sees, the odds are stacked in David's favor. Why? That leads into my last two points, which will come (together) tomorrow.

Posted via email from askillfulsong's posterous

Monday, June 28, 2010

YHWH is... (3 of 6)

*Today's post is a continuation of a small series of posts that I'm doing based on some insights into God's character that I received this past week through the story of David and Goliath.*

3. YHWH will prepare us

"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it, and killed it. your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." ~1 Samuel 17:37

David’s counter to Saul’s lack of faith and inability to see David from God's persepective is to list off the challenges that God has already brought him through. Although he couldn't have known until this moment, David has been training his entire life for this fight with Goliath. Among other things, David has gained confidence, experience, and faith through these encounters with the lion and the bear: confidence from his victories, experience in the practicals and "how-to" of fighting, and faith in the God that is watching over and protecting him. David can face this challenge before him without hesitation because of what God has already had him face.

Now this is not a guarantee that we’ll never face something that God has not prepared us for. The first time David ran across either of those creatures, he most likely was not prepared in the same way that he is for Goliath. And I'm betting that neither the lion nor the bear were wearing armor or had weapons like Goliath's when David fought them. But whether David succeeded the first time or not, the fact remains that God has us grow in order that we might face larger obstacles in the future. Many times that growth comes from success, but it also comes from failure. The strengthening that results from the trials of today finds its purpose and expression in the (ofttimes larger) trails of tomorrow.

Posted via email from askillfulsong's posterous

Sunday, June 27, 2010

YHWH is... (2 of 6)


*Today's post is a continuation of a small series of posts that I'm doing based on some insights into God's character that I received this past week through the story of David and Goliath.*

2. YHWH knows who we really are

"David said to Saul, 'Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." Saul replied,'You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.'" ~1 Samuel 17: 32-33

When David goes to Saul to tell him that he will be Israel's champion and fight the giant, Saul's response reveals that he's already weighed and measured David's worth and abilities. He doesn't see any way that a boy such as David could possibly take on a giant like Goliath and beat him at his own game. Goliath has the advantage in every category.  Several chapters earlier the prophet Samuel almost missed finding David from amongst his older brothers for a similar reason-everyone else was judging David as he appeared externally. I think that it's safe to say that virtually no one in the nation of Israel would have pegged David as the guy that would defeat Goliath and go on to become king of Israel. God, however, knew that David was the man for the job. It wasn't a mistake that David ended up at the camp and saw Goliath give the challenge. God: "Whoops! How'd that kid get there??? Definitely meant to send that big burley guy I handpicked the other day instead...." No-instead He chose to use David in spite of, or rather BECAUSE OF the fact that no one else believed in Him. 

So often in the Bible people chosen to do great things for God act as if He couldn't possibly be serious. The two examples that come immediately to mind are Moses and Gideon. Both of them had "Who, ME??? No, You couldn't be serious" reactions. We don't see that with David, though. Instead, he recognized the pattern in his life of God empowering and protecting him. This leads into the next point, so I'll curtail this and pick it back up tomorrow. But to apply this point to our own lives, remember that God doesn't make mistakes. God doesn't mess up when He calls someone to do something for Him and in His name. If God is behind you, then it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. God already knows and chooses to love you and use you anyways. 

Posted via email from askillfulsong's posterous

YHWH is... (1 of 6)

Summit. Was. Amazing. I had a small idea of what to expect, but the reality of the past two weeks simply blew me away. My small picture of who the Navigators are (as an organization and as individuals), who I am, and Who God Is were all challenged, expanded, grown, and ultimately brought closer to the truth over the past two weeks.

In the near future I'll might share some specifics about the time in Colorado; I'll also (*drumroll*) be sharing my theme verse for the year. Both have had an incredible impact on me and are worth sharing with you guys. And I've kept the second one to myself for (almost) long enough =P.

However, for today I thought I'd share some observations that I had when reading 1 Samuel 17, aka the story of David and Goliath, during an ETAWG* that we had at Summit. It's a story that I'd read dozens of times before and heard or seen depicted in various forms hundreds of times, but recently God has really been speaking to me via David's life. When I saw it on the list of potential chapters to read during the time, I immediately jumped at the chance to re-examine the story with a fresh perspective. 

As I read the chapter and spent time meditating on the story, six truths about Who God Is emerged. I wrote them down and shared them with the group when we reconvened and "debriefed" about how our times were, but for everyone who wasn't there (and those that were who want to read/hear again) I’ll be posting several mini-updates over the course of this week. Here’s the first::

1. YHWH is living

"David asked the men standing near him, 'What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?'"  ~1 Samuel 17:26

God is set apart from every other god, concrete or abstract, that we could worship in that He is ALIVE. And not only does God exist: He always has and always will. God is not stone or wood or any created thing. Serving a living God changes how we live our life. The Israelites let Goliath blaspheme God twice a day for FORTY DAYS because their view of God was too small. Goliath was bigger and more tangible to them, so they stayed silent and cowered because they did not trust God enough. How can you trust God if you are not acutely and intimately aware that He exists and lives? When David shows up he IMMEDIATELY acts differently than his brothers, the rest of the soldiers, and even the King. His question rests on the presumption that the Israelites serve not only a living God but THE living God. God is unique and powerful, and this prompts David to question what has become a routine, daily event that not even Saul's offers of reward (wealth, a wife, and complete tax exemption!) could change. The knowledge of YHWH as living is a powerful catalyst that changes the way David interacts with the world and sets him apart. Let it change the way you view the world as well!


*ETAWG=Extended Time Alone With God

Posted via email from askillfulsong's posterous

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gone Camping

For the next six days I will be camping. Well, the first day is driving up to Cavin's house (the greater Sacramento-ish area) and the last day is driving back, but even subtracting those days leaves four solid days of camping!

My family was never big into camping. Perhaps due to the fact that there were just SO MANY of us to drag along, my parents never really took us camping. The extent of my camping experience was pitching the tent in the backyard on the grass-not exactly roughing it. But during my college years I've gained a fine appreciation for leaving the concrete behind and sojourning into Creation.

It's often when I'm surrounded by the raw, rough, and natural beauty God created that my soul sings "How great Thou art"-this time promises to be no different. I'm the designated guitar player on the trip. It's like one of those unwritten rules of camping-if there's going to be s'mores and a campfire, there needs to be a guitar. So I'm bringing mine and looking forward to some sweet times of worship with the stars as our canopy and the sounds of nature as our accompaniment.

"Worship the LORD in holy attire; Tremble before him, all the earth. Say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns; Indeed the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.' Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the field will sing for joy before the LORD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness."

-Psalm 96:9-13

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good Riddance, Graduation! (and other corny, non green day or vitamin-c grad songs)

For those of you who don't know, last thursday I graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a B.A. in English (or, as it's more commonly referred to, a B.A. in BS =P).

I view last thursday as a dividing line or marker that separates some very distinct phases in my life. Not every transition is as clear-cut or easy to identify, but this is definitely one of them. Before, I was a full-time student. For (at least) the next year or two after, I'll be in full-time ministry.

Next Fall will be the first time in EIGHTEEN YEARS that I'm not going to be in classes! And no, I didn't repeat any grades-that's counting Pre-School and Kindergarden ;). Needless to say, that's quite a long period of time to be defined by one job or set of circumstances.

In this last season of my life, the life and story of Paul the apostle spoke deeply into my circumstances. From studying Philippians twice last summer (at STP and then SOMA), going through 1 Thessalonians with Navs, doing Romans with my Bible Study and going through Paul's letters to the churches in Philippi, Colossae, Galatia, and Ephesus with Sons of Thunder, Paul's story was the one I found myself focusing on. I learned SO much and really grew as a result of this time with Paul's writings front and center and haven't even really scratched the surface of the understanding and insight that can be gained from studying his life, but with a change in season comes a change in focus.

As I move into the summer, it's been the story of David that's become more and more prominent as I spend time in the Word. To narrow it down but not give TOO much away yet, David's life is where my theme for this year has come. In the events transpiring in my life I see a mirroring of a very specific season in David's life and feel that God has been speaking into my life via David's experiences.

I want to be a man after God's heart and definitely feel that God's got some huge lessons for me to learn in that regard. My prayer is that He keeps teaching me and that even though I'm no longer a full-time student I never use that as an excuse to stop learning.

Posted via web from askillfulsong's posterous

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Clouds on the Horizon: Plans to Prosper

Seemingly everyone knows what is perhaps the most famous passage from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 29:11 says, " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " Whenever a group of people is sharing what God is doing in their lives, there is undoubtably one whom this verse is speaking to in deep and profound ways.

This is a verse that has deep power and truth seeping off the page. The Lord's voice rumbles with strength and authority as He proclaims His intents for the people who would worship Him. However, there is an additional layer of meaning that gets left out the majority of the time this verse is referenced.

It bothers me when people consider this verse (and others) out of context. Yes, this verse is still powerful and meaningful separated from the surrounding chapter. But have you ever wondered WHY God needed to reassure His people with such a promise? What were they going through or facing that required such a strong promise from the Lord of Hosts?

While there is much too much context to even begin to properly identify in a few hundred words or so, one only needs to read the previous verse to begin to gain insight on this verse. Jeremiah 29:10 says, "This is what the Lord says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place."' " 

Immediately prior to promising that none of his plans are for their harm, God reveals that the people carried from Jerusalem in exile to Babylon will spend SEVENTY YEARS in CAPTIVITY. Think about that for a second. Seventy. YEARS. Most of the people that Jeremiah is speaking/writing to will be dead before God's deliverance is seen and His promise is fulfilled. Yet this is what God says is going to prosper the inhabitants of Jerusalem and not harm them. Verse 11 becomes then a reassurance that what seems hopeless is actually all part of God's plan.

It is easy to listen to the voices that say everything will be easy, simple, and ok-however, these voices are not always voices from God. In this chapter and others, Jeremiah is having to confront false prophets who are saying that God will immediately rescue the people of Jerusalem and not allow Babylon to take or keep them captive. Their false prophecies do nothing to change the fact that God is using Babylon as his instrument to teach His people a lesson they would not have learned otherwise and punish them in one fell swoop.

Can you call all of God's plans for you plans to prosper you and not to harm you? If God takes you through years of captivity, will this promise be enough to carry you through the darkest times? I know that for my part, God's honesty that there will be difficult times is just as comforting as his promises for good times. 

He knows that it will be tough, difficult, and hard to bear. But He will be there through it with us. There is a Hope. There is a Future for us. He gives Himself freely to us. All we need to do is accept and walk alongside Him.


(and for those of you wondering, NO, this is NOT my theme verse for the year. just something I've been pondering as I read through Jeremiah!) 

Posted via web from askillfulsong's posterous

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Summer Sends Its Love

Summer is finally here! Sorry I've been a bit remiss in updating the blog-I've had a few small things like graduating from college keeping my attention for the past few weeks ;).

But I'm back and have several entries that I have in the can-I've known what I've wanted to write and share with you all but just haven't had the time. So those will start to show up in the next few days. For now though, a preview of my summer starting today.

Week 1: home with the family. EDGE Summit Homework, Memorial Day weekend, Disneyland, catching up with friends, setting up some preliminary appointments for funding.

Week 2: NorCal camping with some Long Beach Navs! Basically the closest thing I'll have to a vacation this summer.

Weeks 3-4: EDGE Summit in Colorado Springs. Funding School and all that jazz.

Weeks 5-11: Fundraising, Fundraising, Fundraising. Diving headfirst into the labor that God has for me. Throw in my birthday and a few other things too.

That all leads up to August 15th: the day I go back to Long Beach. Miscellaneous things for the summer include finding somewhere to live in Long Beach next year and a list of personal goals about two dozen items long that I won't get into other than to say that I've got a lot on my plate.

I'm excited for this summer! The seasons of my life are changing and I'm eager to follow God into this next phase of my life. He's already given me a theme for this next year (!!) to follow up on the theme of hoping and waiting that pervaded and defined this past year. This new theme is something that I'll share in the future, but suffice to say that I'm already embracing it and soaking up the goodness and sweetness of knowing that God is for me and with me-nothing can stand against me!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Last Blast *Kaboom*

(photo credit: Ernest Lam)

Thank you, Long Beach Navs, for an amazing past two years as a student, friend, and brother involved in all your guys' lives! Thinking about the past two years makes me so excited for next year it's ridiculous! It's gonna be legen...wait for it....(and I hope you're not allergic because the next word is...)

DARY! :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


There's nothing quite like standing shoulder to shoulder with other men of God, engaging in battle with powers and authorities in Christ's name and on others' behalf, and emerging from battle victorious. I am blessed to have amazing men to stand together and call my brethren with and an awesome God to serve!

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places...With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints..."
-Ephesians 6:12, 18

"but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
-1 Corinthians 12:57

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Heading towards the EDGE

I've known since June 6, 2009 that God was calling me to do EDGE with the Navigators, inviting me to pursue Him out of the comfortable and into the unknown and trust him with everything. There's been a HUGE freedom in that knowledge and being able to rest securely in the knowledge that the path before me is laid out. In a lot of ways, that's been one of the major themes of these past two years: God knows where I'm going, so it's ok if I don't as long as I know HIM. He is worthy of my trust and has known before I was even conceived what I would be doing with my life.

However, knowing that I'm supposed to pursue doing EDGE does not equate to knowing everything about next year. There are still a million things that I just don't know the answer to, not even counting the ten million things that aren't even on my radar yet! Among those things that I didn't know was what campus I'd be serving at.

Another major theme for this season of my life has been waiting and hoping in God. Here, just as in other areas, God asked me to be content with not knowing. From a comment that my interviewer made I figured I'd find out where I'd be placed somewhere between mid-March to mid-April. March came and left. April came as well, and was well on its way to leaving and being replaced by May. Still no word.

Finally, during the last week of April that uncertainty changed: for about two weeks now I've known what campus I'll be serving at next year. I've told those of you who asked me directly about it what I know, but I haven't gone around shouting it to you whether you want to know or not :).
I feel that it's been long enough for me to process a bit about the decision to share it.

Next year I'll be on staff with the Navigators here at CSULB! I'm not ignorant of the fact that there are definitely pros and cons to being at ANY school, Long Beach included, but I can't help be anything but excited :). The best part is that it definitely fits into something I distinctly felt God tell me almost four years ago (which will either be in the next blog post or something that I share at Navnite on Tuesday...not sure which yet).

I'm excited for what God has planned for both me and those around me next year. As this season of my life comes to a close, the growth and fruitfulness that I see as I look back makes me just that much more excited about where He's taking me. My prayer for next year echoes Daniel's prayer just after God revealed the interpretation of the king's dream to him:

"Daniel said, 'Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
or wisdom and power belong to him.
It is he that changes the times and the epochs;
He removes and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is he who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
To You, O thou God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even You have made known unto us the king's matter.' "
~Daniel 2:20-23

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Attributing It to the Wrong Source

Tonight at church Johnny Hughes, who was teaching, said something that I'd never considered before. The series that they're in right now at ROCKHARBOR is called "God is..." and the point is to re-examine what our conceptions about God are. The first week the message was "God is With Us," the second it was "God is Good."

This week it was "God is Angry." Wait, wha???

It was good to hear a message that so strongly emphasized God's wrath and its intrinsic ties to His love in the midst of our culture that so emphasizes a God of love, a buddy-buddy Jesus and a Father we treat more like "Pops" than "Dad." Now these things still reflect truth-God IS love, Jesus IS our friend, and we have an intimate relationship with the Father. However, it's all too easy to forget about God's wrath.

What struck me the most was Johnny's thoughts on God's attributes. He was in the middle of defining what God's wrath is NOT to better illustrate what it actually is. Some of his points included God's wrath is not like human wrath, not trivial or petty, not inconsistent, and not easily provoked. Each had excellent corresponding points, but the one that stuck out to me was one dealing with God's nature.

God's wrath is NOT an attribute of God, but rather a response. God's wrath is a behavior of his and not a part of his nature. It's in his nature to be wrathful, but not wrath itself. It's the difference between God being loving and God being LOVE. If God is just loving, He can choose to not love-it's a behavior. But if God is LOVE, well He can't choose to do anything but be that love, can He?

I know it might seem like a small difference, but it makes a WORLD of difference! God's wrath comes from the fact that He is Love and loves us so much that He cannot bear to see us defiled, unholy, and corrupted. His desire to destroy evil and save people, (i.e. his wrath) is the response of his love and our sinfulness.

God's wrath proceeds from His love. Thank God for his wrath-without God's wrath burning against sin and evil, where is our guarantee that He'll free us from bondage to them? God's wrath now is a marker or signpost pointing to a future that is free of pain and death thanks to the fusion of Obedience and Sacrifice, Justice and Mercy, and Love and Wrath on the Cross. For that reason, I am so very thankful for God's wrath.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Personal, Ecclesiastic, Postmodern Psalm

I was going through an old journal today from my second year here at CSULB, and among the daily-update sorts of entries I stumbled upon a rather interesting poem that I wrote. I thought I'd share it :)

A few notes on the poem. First of all, I wrote it in December 2007, but revised it a tad today. I changed the break between lines three and four and substituted "But" for "For" in line changes the meaning of the line significantly I think.

Also, I'm 99% certain that I was reading a LOT of T.S. Eliot when I wrote this-the poem almost reeks of his influence haha. I feel that it's a response in the same manner as Jon Foreman's response to T.S. Eliot in "Meant to Live," which is why I included a line from the song. So without further ado:

A Cautious Optimism

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?

Where to turn?
Where to look
When nothing new sits 'neath the sun?
Where to run? Where to head?
There is no way around or through
That has not been explored, rejected.

The past is fled,
The present bleak.
The future holds no certain promise.

Amid the ruins
Beneath the towers
Lofty, dreary
We spin in circles, round and round.

Will I hear the whimper when it all ends, bang-less?
The end is near. The end is near.
But now, I choose instead of death
Life. instead of fear

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lord I give You my life, I give You my all

There is a tension that runs through the narrative of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation: Obedience versus Sacrifice.
It's the theme of first and second chances (and third, and fourth, and so on). Read any book in the Bible and the conflict between these two ideas jumps right out at you. It's inescapable.

Out of the two options, God has a preference for which one we give to him. When rebuking Saul's choice to disobey God and not wipe out the Amalekites but spare some of their herds and offer some as burnt offerings, Samuel asks this question: "Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD?" (1 Samuel 15:18, NASB). Saul is confused. What did he do wrong? It's not as if he was keeping the flocks for himself-he spared the flocks for a burnt offering, after all! "I did obey the voice of the LORD" (v 19, emphasis mine) he responds. He destroyed the Amalekites to the man and the things that they kept were to be sacrifices to God. Where is the error in that? Samuel's response leaves little doubt as to what Saul's mistake was:

"Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams" (v 22).

Obedience is better than sacrifice. Disobedience, even for the sake of sacrifice, is not acceptable. One of the other numerous passages that deal with the tension between these two ideas is found in Jeremiah 7:22-23:

"For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey my voice, and i will be your God, and you will be my people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.'"

Obedience predates sacrifice. The first recorded command in the Bible comes in Genesis 2:16-17, where God commands Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first recorded sacrifice is found in the next chapter, Genesis 3:21- "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." God killed animals and made clothes from the skin for Adam and Eve. Because of Adam's sin, it is impossible for us to fully and completely obey, thus the necessity of sacrifice.

Sacrifice covers the shame that comes from disobedience. In the case of Adam and Eve, the first sacrifice literally covered their shame, their nakedness. In the same way, all future sacrifices served as a temporary covering for shame and sin.

Obedience and sacrifice were finally reconciled on the Cross. Just as Abraham's obedience involved the sacrifice of his son Isaac, Jesus' sacrifice was the ultimate obedience to the Father. Before his sacrifice, we had no hope of measuring up to the Law and obtaining salvation through obedience. Now, however, "[We] have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer [us] who live, but Christ lives in [us]; and the life which [we] live in the flesh [we] live by faith in the Son of god, who loved [us] and gave himself up for [us]" (Galatians 2:20).

We can still fall into the trap of trying to cover our shame and sin ourselves, via sacrifice. The good old Gospel of Works is never far away from our thoughts and attempts to please God. That's why Paul doesn't stop with verse 20 in Galatians 2, but continues: "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (v 21). By reverting to a works-based attempt to save ourselves via our own efforts and sacrifice, we invalidate Christ's sacrifice.

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1). God wants our hearts and our obedience, and through the Cross He's enabled us to give it to him. What's holding you back?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not Quite A Chiasmus, But Close

Today at the Men of The Beach Barbeque, Mike Hildebrand shared some of his insight and experience with the topic of finances.
While I enjoyed everything he had to say on both the specifics of the difference between a 401k and a Roth IRA and more general Biblical principles for handling money, something he said about his attitude and experience fundraising for his upcoming position as head of staff with the Navigators at UCSB really grabbed me.

Mike was quickly explaining why he was rather dressed-up compared to the rest of us: he'd had a funding appointment that morning. Mike lives in Arizona at the moment so he's knocking a veritable flock of birds out of the air with this trip out to California. Like I said, this was just a tangent and not at all a main focus of his talk, a small eddie in the flow of the conversation up to this point. But Mike's comments about the reason he's so dedicated to fundraising just might have been the most impactful thing for me personally as I'm preparing to do EDGE.

Referring to the amount of money he raises, Mike said, "God isn't keeping track of what I get, but He IS keeping track of what they give." Hearing those words, my mind immediately went back to the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, a story that God's been teaching me a lot through recently. Both Lazarus and the Rich Man die, but Lazarus goes to heaven and the Rich Man goes to hell. The biggest lesson I'm learning to understand from this parable right now is something the pastor at Rock Harbor said several weeks ago when they covered this story.

It's true that the poor need the rich. The poor need everything the rich have-money, food, shelter, clothing, access to medical care, etc. It's all too easy to shove this truth to the corner of our minds and just not bother thinking about it, but it doesn't make it any less true. However, it's not the poor that are the only ones that need other people.

The rich need the poor just as much as the poor need the rich. In 1 Timothy 6:9 Paul writes, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." He goes on to call money a root of all kinds of sin and says later in verse 17:

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in god, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

I want to take hold of the life that is truly life AND to help others achieve that. God, in areas where I'm rich, help me to give away freely and generously. In areas that you've given me a responsibility to invite others into a relationship where they can do what you've commanded and give generously like fundraising for next year and EDGE, give me courage and humility to walk forward in Your confidence and grace.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Mourning to Morning

In Psalm 57, David is in the midst of difficult times. Trouble surrounds him and he has nowhere to turn except God. Anointed as the rightful king of Israel but waiting on God's timing, David is pursued by Saul through the desert again and again, day after day. "My soul is among lions," he says. "I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword" (verse 4).

David's first thought is not to focus on himself but rather to exalt God. How easy would it be to curse God for orchestrating where he finds himself? Does not God make everything come to pass? Could not God have kept David from hardship and danger? Why doesn't God make David king now instead of later? But David doesn't take this path, perhaps because he's already been there time and time again and it has become part of his character to respond in this manner to God. He's already tended his father's flocks and protected them from the bears and lions. He's already slain Goliath, armored and protected by the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. But whatever the reason, instead of lashing out and losing faith, David praises God. "Be exalted above the heavens, O god; Let Your glory be above all the earth" (v 5).

David is prepared to wait for what God has in store for him, and joyfully at that. "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes I will sing praises" he proclaims (v 7). Nothing can move his heart and steal the faith and joy he finds in trusting the Lord. Nothing can keep him from singing out the praises of the God who has been with him and who promises such good things to him.

David's heart literally overflows with praise for God and he cannot contain it. This is my favorite part of the Psalm-David stirs his heart and soul in a jubilant cry of praise and exaltation. "Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn" (v 8, emphasis mine). David sings in the dark of night, ushering in the morning with his strains of melodic praise. How can David sing so jubilantly? How, when it's so dark all around him, can he eagerly expect the breaking of the dawn? The answer is that the morning symbolizes God's continual faithfulness and love for us.

There's an old adage that says it's always darkest just before the dawn. David therefore sees the growing darkness around him as just a precursor to God's glory breaking through. The current troubles are just a prelude to God's might and power displayed for all to see. The darker it gets around him and around us, the brighter God's glory will be when He acts. And the morning is coming-there's no way to stop it!

David sings a song of Truth and a song of Hope-he knows the end, and so do we. Let us therefore sing along with him, extolling the Lord our God even (especially) when we don't even have enough light to see.

"For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning."
~Psalm 30:5

Friday, April 9, 2010

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

Last night some friends and I saw Fee, Family Force Five, David Crowder Band, and MercyMe (there were a few other acts too) in concert. It was an amazing time, although I wish that Fee had not opened but played longer instead and that David Crowder had headlined. But that's neither here nor there. What really stands out to me is the worship.

There were two distinct moments during David Crowder's set that stand out to me. I didn't expect this to be a necessarily profound time of worship-just a regular concert of sorts. I am a fan of David Crowder, but wouldn't consider the band to be in my top 5 of either straight up worship bands or bands in general.

As expected, they played their cover of "How He Loves." While it was John Mark Macmillan that wrote the song and Kim Walker that started popularizing it, it's David Crowder that's responsible for really bringing this powerful song to the forefront of contemporary praise music and onto the lips of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people worldwide.

This is not a song that I particularly enjoyed before tonight. In part this is due to a small change from the original lyrics, but overall I just didn't consider it that great or interesting of a song. I remember hearing a ton of people really talk the song up and then listening to it for the first time and thinking "Really? This is the song?"

Tonight was different. I didn't notice it as first as they sang through the first verse and I sang along. But somewhere between the first and second times through the chorus and in between me singing the lyrics and thinking about them, a light came on. A huge, blinding, burning light that shone intensely through me, illuminating the enormity of my sin, my failure, my depravity, and my fallenness. This came up against the sheer magnitude of God, His love for me, and His methods (literally How He Loves). The Unstoppable Force collided with the Object Immovable Save by One...and prevailed.

My heart broke within me at the same moment that my voice failed, both suddenly shattered and gone. Tears seeped slowly out the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks as I mouthed the words to the chorus, still searching for a voice and a heart that had disintegrated with no warning. Slowly I gathered up the pieces and my voice returned along with my composure. But the effect of that moment lingered. That glimpse of understanding tarried long after my cheeks dried.

The same thing happened during one of their later songs. As I sang the words "O praise Him / He is holy" the same emotions washed over me, leaving me clinging to the truth of God's love for me for support and for sanity.

My eyes and my mind were opened just a fraction of a fraction to the grandeur and weight of God's love for me, and it wrecked me. God, remind me again and again of the cost of Your love and help me to live in light of it, not in spite of it. Help me to remember You always and forever. Remind me of how You loved me in the past and how you continue to do so today and forevermore. Help me, God. Help me.