Tag Archives: Scripture

Psalm 40 – my psalm

This morning it was warm – only 20 something degrees.  So I walked to work (took the days off that were in the single digits).  Actually, I danced in the streets, so it felt in my heart.  Not sure why.

Kori questioned me at lunch – what was it?  Well, for one – our family seems to be done vomiting.  But I don’t think that is it.  I read Psalm 40 this morning and it seemed to be filled with divinely inspired words describing my life over the past few months. 

Weird, because in the Psalm, David even references that “the scroll of the book was written of him” (v.8)… which promted him to delight all the more to serve the Lord and safekeep the  law within his heart.  I could not have had more of a feeling than that “the 40th Psalm of the book was written of me.”  I considered v.9, how I have spent the last 3 months preaching as the launch-pastor of West Valley Presbyterian Churchplant (our sermons are now online by the way – www.westvalleypres.org).   Yes, I have sought to “tell the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation.”  We have  not failed to celebrate and declare the gospel alone through the Word.  But this has not just been formal declartation.  Of late, I have shared with our congregation the work God has been doing to rescue me from myopia and some of the internal people-pleasing and selfish struggles of my life that a church plant has revealed… all the way down to family dynamics (is a pastor supposed to keep such growth plates hidden?).  It has been kinda like v.10 – “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”

Then v.12 hits the heart of the matter.  “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see.”  Interestingly, I have been overcome by iniquity before, since about … O … age 2.  I can name them: anger, lust, pride, self-righteousness.  But this season has been one in which I have felt encompassed by the evil of a fallen world – sickness, dark winter depression, anxiety… things that seem outside of the realm of the iniquity I know so well!  It has been a miry bog (v.2) that has ironically collided with a glorious time for WVPC!  While in the miry bog, I didn’t blog much, reach out much, or say much – even though things were moving well by God’s design in “the great congregation.”   Why the melancholy?  Because I couldn’t see (v.12) 

Wow.  God you are a God of grace and mercy who truly loves the broken-hearted.  You have shown the hearts of many at West Valley PCA just how broken we are SO THAT we can now offer a sacrifice that is pleasing and acceptable through Christ our righteousness.  Thank you. 

So… today, why did I float to my ipod down main street?  Is it not because “all who seek you will rejoice and be glad in you; we who love our salvation will say, ‘Great is the Lord!'”(v.16)  Yes, I think that is it.  And no vomiting.  And yet, the posture of a pastor in the great congregation (OK, a churchplant of chaos but growth) is told to me at the close of the the text in v.17 – “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!”

Yes, I can say that I see I am poor and needy, yet the Lord looks upon me so much that he would SHOW THAT TO ME in these first 3 months at West Valley.  Thank you God.  When I am weak, then you are strong – in my home, my life, my vocation.  Amen.

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A kingdom of humility, contrition and trembling

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Smack in the middle of a vision of the New Heavens and Earth – the beautiful restoration of God that includes his judgment and justice and KINGDOM – is a beautiful description of the people to whom God’s grace and righteousness will rest.  THOSE WHO HUMBLY AND CONTRITELY TREMBLE AT HIS WORD.

Here we are, on the verge of planting a church in the Lehigh Valley of PA.  The thoughts (and methodological books) pour into my head.  Be relevant.  Be faithful.  Be risky.  Be patient.  Be holy.  Be original.  Be missional.  Be Spirit-led.  Be this or that or this or that.  Many of those things I DO want!  But O God, I want  most for us to be your kingdom on earth! 

What will that be like, I wonder.  One thing is clear according to Isaiah’s kingdom vision.  The kingdom on earth WILL be a place where the Word of God revealed to man is CENTRAL to life and ethics and obedience and worship.  We are to be “West Valley Presbyterian Church that trembles contritely at the word of God.”  Nice.

Whether I am seeing this because I am on the heals of a workshop on biblical exposition, or I am resting in it because it is God’s purpose for me to discover the centrality of his Word while outside of a bunch of crazy Word-centered preachers… I am not sure – except I love the Word.  Yes, it is hard to read.  Yes, it is often uninteresting to our visual and emotive culture.  BUT, it is the living Word and revelation of the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my soul.  Is it not a powerful gift of grace around which ALL of our church plant should center?!

One thing I humbly had to confess at the workshop was this: I generally try to discern how the text of Scripture applies to me, or the congregation to which I preach.  But the problem with such a philosophy is that I am making myself, or others the center point of relating to God.  “How does this apply to ME?”  It is egocentric (though normal in our Western culture)!  The question is rather, “How do I apply my life to the Word?”  “How do I relate to the TRUTH of the text?” rather than “How does this text relate to my perceived reality?”

All I can say is that I can’t possibly imagine being in the New Heavens/Earth of Isaiah 66 and thinking, “How does this Kingdom fit into my reality?”  No, my reality will be defined by such a kingdom!  This is the reason that the kingdom is for those who humbly and contritely tremble at the Word – because IT IS the bar.  IT IS the barometer of reality.  IT IS the density of the gravity by which things float or fall.  How does my reality square with TRUE, GOD REVEALED REALITY?  That is humbling… it induces trembling.  What a grace – that those who are humbled and contrite and trembling at God’s Word are the ones to whom he will look in his kingdom (66:2)! 

SO, it must be Word-now, because it will be Word-then!!!  The kingdom is thus here and then through the Word revealed!

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