Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The End of the Book

6 Many are asking, "Who can show us anything good?"
Lord, let us see your face smiling on us with favor.
7 You have filled my heart with great joy.
It is greater than the joy of people who have lots of grain and fresh wine.
8 I will lie down and sleep in peace.
Lord, you alone keep me safe. -- Psalm 4:6-8 (NIRV)

We live in a very negative world. People tune into the news daily, hungry to know what is wrong in their world--and they are seldom disappointed. Although there is plenty of encouraging news to be had every day, it's just "not newsworthy." Our culture is like the stock market, a self-fulfilling prophecy; as "consumer confidence" drops, so does the stock market; as the stock market drops, so does "consumer confidence." Dow Jones is a fool's prophet; but many in our culture still swear by him. And, if our hearts rise and fall by economic indicators, then who rules our hearts--who is our god--but the Dollar?

Our culture soaks up negativity like a sponge, until we are too saturated to pick up on what is positive. As the Psalmist puts it, "Many are asking, 'Who can show us anything good?'" We are jaded, going through life in silent despair.

But, what about the people of God? As in every dimension of our lives, we often absorb the culture that washes over us, rather than impacting that culture with God's truth. We are so saturated with the spirit of negativity that it cripples our effectiveness as ambassadors of the God of Life.

Let us quiet our hearts, let us pull down the shades on the windows of our spirit and shut out the lethal rays of negativity a while, as we spend time alone with God at the opening of the day. Suddenly, His face takes shape in our vision, and we can see Him smiling on us with favor. Imagine that! God Himself is smiling on us; there is nothing negative about Him! We begin to realize that we just lay down and slept in peace, and we awoke alive and healthy. No enemy bombs rained on our home overnight, no sudden ruptured aneurysm, stroke, or heart failure snatched us away from our loved ones unexpectedly. The Lord alone kept us safe.

Let our hearts be filled with great joy, greater than the joy of people who have lots of grain and fresh wine. This the key that shuts off the destructive engine of negativity: spending time in God's presence, meditating on all that is right in this world He created. Wherever His Kingdom is embraced, He is at work, and we can see Him smiling there.

We Christians have read the end of the Book, and there is nothing depressing about it. Let us be encouraged and go forth to a new day full of hope, as the Psalmist says, with God's smile giving us strength to overcome every challenge. This is true joy, greater than the joy of people who have lots of grain and fresh wine, i.e., greater than the rich and famous can ever hope to find in their empty existence.

Oh Lord, You're beautiful, Your face is all I see, For when Your eyes are on this
child, Your grace abounds to me. -
- Keith Green (Click here for full lyrics.)

Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face, and the things of
earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
--Helen H. Lemmel (1922) (Click here for full lyrics.)