September 22, 2020

The Handmaid

Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your Servant; save the Son of your handmaid.
Ps 86:16 

I'm a pretty committed Protestant, and so even a hint of the adoration of Mary is something I tend to avoid. But Christians have traditionally interpreted this section of Psalm 86 as a messianic prayer for deliverance from death, and that God's answer to the prayer was resurrection. I don't expect non-Christians to buy into this interpretation, but it is where I personally can enter into the psalm. If the Servant praying this prayer is the Anointed of God, then the handmaid spoken of as his mother must of necessity be Mary.

Mary, the handmaid of God, delivered the Christ to the world. And this handmaid was not the reticent individual we too often imagine her to be. She was a courageous prophet of God who, when she was recognized by

September 21, 2020

Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your Name.
Ps 86:11

I have always loved this verse of Psalm 86. My heart is distracted by so many things, sort of like Martha in the kitchen. It is a prayer for a heart whose attention is no longer divided among answering the phone, writing a sermon, paying the light bill, paying the rent, keeping the car running, pleasing this or that person, and honoring God. "Give me an undivided heart to revere your Name," I pray.

And that's an excellent prayer to pray all day any day. But apparently it's not quite the prayer I think it is—at least not the prayer prayed in Psalm 86:11.  The Geneva Bible comes closer to the true translation (but still not

September 20, 2020

September 20 Worship

Today's video does double duty as both the final installment of my Romans series and my least popular sermon ever. Here's the order of worship: 
  • 00:00 Chimes
  • 00:30 Prélude: Terpujilah Allah
  • 02:47 Welcome
  • 04:27 Call to Worship: Romans 11.33-36
  • 05:14 Opening Prayer
  • 05:33 Lord's Prayer
  • 06:01 Bible Study: Introduction

Time in a Bottle

On this date in 1973, Jim Croce and his band were killed in a plane crash in Louisiana. He was only 30 years old. Soon after his death, the song Time in a Bottle was released and quickly rose to #1 on the charts. Normally it would have been heard as a romantic ballad. But as a posthumous release, it was heartbreaking. I still remember it, and I was only 13 at the time.

God Is Good

Much of Psalm 86 is a prayer prayed in extremis (at the point of death)—the sort of biblical prayer that is prayed so often as to be a bit discouraging, a reminder of all the pain in the world, all the things to be afraid of. But in the middle of it is an affirmation that can be prayed not only in the context of the psalm, but can also be lifted out of it and remembered in good times and bad,

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Ps 86:5 

I see four points in this affirmation:
  1. God is good all the time. Even the best human being mixes some evil or selfishness with their good intentions. But God's goodness is unalloyed with any evil. God does not limit divine blessing only to those who already love God, which is why Jesus tells us we are free to be good to those who aren't themselves good: But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun