Psalm 145: Always Praiseworthy


Verse 2: “Every day I will praise you
and extol your name forever and ever.”

David says, “Every day, for the rest of my life, I will praise You and extol Your name.” Every day, David will remind himself of just Who You are, and acknowledge You with his words, his singing and his life. I want to do this for the rest of my life as well, King Jesus. You are more than worthy of every expression of praise I have strength to give. When I focus my life on any part of me—my concerns, my devotion, my work, my requests, whatever—my life is diminished. When I turn my attention to You, my life is enriched and revitalized. I am so slow to learn this. You are always worthy of my praise. Always. Always. Always.

(Yesterday, I arrived in Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic for the Journey Gen 1 with a group of mostly pastors here.  I’d be grateful if you’d pray for our time together through Thursday midday. I am hopeful that Jesus will continue the deep work of personal transformation and ministry discernment that began here two years ago.)

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Psalms as Pure Praise


Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from the last century, would have prayed through the psalms countless times in his personal and corporate prayer. Listen to what he says about them:

“In the Psalms, we drink divine praise at its pure and stainless source, in all its primitive sincerity and perfection. We return to the youthful strength and directness with which the ancient psalmists voiced their adoration of the God of Israel. Their adoration was intensified by the ineffable accents of new discovery: for the Psalms are the songs of men who knew who God was.” (Thomas Merton. Praying the Psalms. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1956, p. 3.)

The Psalms are the songs of those who knew God. They are expressions of living worship and praise. They aren’t just ideas or proclamations about God. They are vital words of lived relationship with God. When we read them, pray them or sing them, we are joining our faith with the living faith of countless others who have done the same.

“One of the best ways to learn to appreciate the Psalms is to acquire a habit of reciting them slowly and well. And for this it is decidedly helpful to be able to limit one’s recitation to just a few Psalms or to one only.” (Merton, p. 14.)

I find that reading psalms in the manner of lectio divina slows me down and enables me to notice what God may be drawing to my attention. Again, it is an unhurried approach to the psalms that helps me so much. I am growing more deeply convinced that inward hurry is among the greatest enemies in my spiritual growth and progress. As it relates to my formation in Christ, Vincent de Paul’s counsel is especially true: “The one who hurries delays the things of God.”

(Repost from May 2010)

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Psalm 43: Talking to Myself


A while back, Psalm 43 was a divine appointment for me in morning prayer.

Psalm 43 (TNIV)
1 Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?

At times I have felt rejected by God. Emphasis on felt. This psalm is a true prayer of the heart, even if it isn’t true of God’s posture towards me. I find myself more aware of my shortcomings than God’s mercy. I feel sadness and sorrow in my heart for my wrong-doings. I feel the oppression of my enemy’s finger pointing. Why? It’s a question I feel deep within me.

3 Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.

I need Your initiative, Lord. I need You to send Your light to expose what is real and true here in me. I need Your faithful care to lead me (rather than being paralyzed by a feeling of being abandoned). I need Your light and Your faithful care to bring me to a place of deeper dwelling with You.

4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

It is the initiative of God that will bring me with a peaceful, joyful heart to the place where I might offer myself to You. I want to experience You as my joy and my delight. I want to be freed from the depression and heaviness that burdens me. I want to know the lightness of heart that is a fruit of Your sustaining, merciful presence in me.

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

This is the kind of talking to myself that need more of in my life. Too often I rehearse negative messages. I need to ask myself why I let myself be weighed down by what God longs to forgive and put away from me. He takes no pleasure in holding my failures and offenses in mind–His or mine. When I find downcast and disturbing thoughts and feelings in me, I can remind myself that my hope here is in God Himself. I will again praise Him. I will know joy and gratitude. He will save me.

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Prayer When You Don’t Feel It


Have you ever decided to pray, sat down in God’s presence, and come to discover that your mind or heart have failed to join you there? What do you do then? The post below comes from a journal entry of about ten years ago. It was my attempt to be faithful when I didn’t find many thoughts or feelings of faith welling up within me. I read Matthew 9:14-26, then journaled my response:

Father, protect my heart from spiritual jealousy when it seems other disciples have it easier than me. Keep me from the trap of resenting the spiritual disciplines into which You lead me, especially when You don’t seem to be leading anyone else the same way. I am tempted to feel ripped off. In reality, You are making space in me for Your remarkably gracious and fulfilling Presence. Teach me to welcome Your discipline, whether difficult or easier, as another expression of Your love for me. I want to remember that You only discipline Your own children.

Keep me fresh and responsive to the new things that You are doing in and around me. May I never become like an old garment that can’t be restored by the new thing You are doing. May I never become so inflexible and rigid that I cannot welcome the renewing, restoring work of Your Spirit. May I never become so sour and staid that I cannot receive and embrace the new wine of Your Spirit’s work among Your people. May You keep me new and elastic in response to Your current work in Your church and in Your world.

Give me faith that even when it seems something I have longed for from You has become impossible, You are the One Who raises the dead and does the impossible. May I never label anything “impossible” in the presence of the Almighty. One touch from Your hand brings life where there was death, joy where there was depression, peace where there was anxiety, patience where there once was harshness, abundance where there was loss. May I become confident that Jesus will take action on my concerns in prayer in His good time.

Give me compassion and attentiveness to those who suffer. May I always be willing to set aside my planned agenda for whatever I might do to bless or help another. May I receive interruptions as opportunities. May I be a person who has something to say or do that will bring grace and power into each situation. Grant me confidence in You in the face of deep, long-standing suffering that people bring my way.

Enable me to see with eyes of faith what the crowds cannot see. Enable me to trust Your power and grace to be able to do more than I or anyone can imagine. May I not listen to the voices of the mockers and doubters. Give me simple confidence in You like Jesus had in You. May many come to find Your grace and power at work in and through me.

Looking Back: Psalms as Pure Praise


I’m grateful for this new Lord’s day morning into which I’ve awakened. It is cool and clear, and the sun has begun to glow over the Saddleback mountains here. That sense of morning praise is one we find in the psalms. Thomas Merton knew about that, and I quoted him in a post from May 2010: “In the Psalms, we drink divine praise at its pure and stainless source, in all its primitive sincerity and perfection.”

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Classic Prayers: Eighteenth Century


A prayer before any new study by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author (lightly edited).

“Almighty God, in whose hands are all our powers; who gives understanding, and takes it away; who, as it seems good to You, enlightens the thoughts of the simple, and darkens the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and inquiries.

Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life You have given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which You have hidden from me.

Enable me, by Your Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which You have allotted me; and so further with Your help that labor which, without Your help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote Your glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

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Psalms as Pure Praise


Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from the last century, would have prayed through the psalms countless times in his personal and corporate prayer. Listen to what he says about them:

“In the Psalms, we drink divine praise at its pure and stainless source, in all its primitive sincerity and perfection. We return to the youthful strength and directness with which the ancient psalmists voiced their adoration of the God of Israel. Their adoration was intensified by the ineffable accents of new discovery: for the Psalms are the songs of men who knew who God was.” (Thomas Merton. Praying the Psalms. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1956, p. 3.)

The Psalms are the songs of those who knew God. They are expressions of living worship and praise. They aren’t just ideas or proclamations about God. They are vital words of lived relationship with God. When we read them, pray them or sing them, we are joining our faith with the living faith of countless others who have done the same.

“One of the best ways to learn to appreciate the Psalms is to acquire a habit of reciting them slowly and well. And for this it is decidedly helpful to be able to limit one’s recitation to just a few Psalms or to one only.” (Merton, p. 14.)

I find that reading psalms in the manner of lectio divina slows me down and enables me to notice what God may be drawing to my attention. Again, it is an unhurried approach to the psalms that helps me so much. I am growing more deeply convinced that inward hurry is among the greatest enemies in my spiritual growth and progress. As it relates to my formation in Christ, Vincent de Paul’s counsel is especially true: “The one who hurries delays the things of God.”

Buy a copy of Praying the Psalms (By Thomas Merton) on Amazon.com

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Personalizing Scripture


Tomorrow morning, I am preaching from Isaiah 30:15-18 at Crossway Church in Santa Ana, CA. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on this passage over the last week at The Journey. Whenever I am preaching, I work on reading it for myself before I preach it to others. As an example, here is my personalized version of the passage. (“Personalized” is not a paraphrase, but more of a prayed passage, listening for how God might apply it to me). Why not read it for yourself before you read on?

“Listen to what King God, your Holy God, says to you: ‘You would find the rescue and deliverance you need if you would turn to Me and rest there. You would find strength and courage when you learn to stay with Me in quiet trust. But you weren’t buying it. Your strategy was to run from your troubles. I’m not stopping you. And when your troubles are still there, you try running harder. You never outrun your troubles. Instead, running only multiplies fear. Fear feels bigger when run from rather than faced. More horsepower as a strategy just ends up leaving you isolated and vulnerable. I won’t chase you down to show My grace. Stop. Turn towards me. Rest in me without excuses, promises or resolutions. I care deeply for your hurts and fears. I will always treat you fairly and well. The good life you’re hungry for is here with Me…in Me. Wait for Me and My initiative in those places you feel threatened and weak. You’ll find the favor you deeply need.”

Looking Back: A Little Counsel for the Morning


In October 2007, I was reading The Spiritual Life by Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Eastern Orthodox monk. I posted a great word of his counsel on how to start the morning.

LINK: “A Little Counsel for the Morning

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