A prayer for Paris

… and for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burundi, Yemen, Pakistan, and Palestine — who have also endured evil, violence, and loss of life this week.

From Psalm 10, a prayer of deliverance from enemies:

1    Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

3    For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD.
4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”;
all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

5    Their ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
as for their foes, they scoff at them.
6 They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved;
throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”

7    Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
8 They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places they murder the innocent.

Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9 they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

10    They stoop, they crouch,
and the helpless fall by their might.
11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12    Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?

14    But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.

15    Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
16 The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.

17    O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

[image by @jean_jullien]

Being and Doing

Skycroft Sunrise

Been reading a lot on the relationship between being and doing. Naturally, this was the passage that showed up in today’s devotional: Matthew 7:13-23 (from The Message).

Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Morning meditation: Be still

Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Psa. 46:4    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.

6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psa. 46:8    Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Sunset OBX

#BlackLivesMatter is a gospel issue

At The District Church, we’ve just started a series entitled “A Call for Racial Reconciliation.” Matthew kicked us off powerfully this past Sunday by talking about “Why Race Matters to God,” and included the unqualified statement that “Black Lives Matter is a gospel issue.” You can listen to that here.

Where is God in suffering, anxiety, and depression?

My good friend and brother-in-ministry Aaron Cho is one of the pastors at Quest Church in Seattle. He preached this weekend from the book of Job on suffering and delivered such a powerful word that I’m leaving it here for you.

Meanwhile, at The District Church this last Sunday, Aaron Graham (our lead pastor) preached on “Overwhelmed: The Fight Against Anxiety and Depression.” Too often our churches don’t know how to address mental illness — but we have to bring it out in the open and disarm it of its power. You can listen to that podcast here.