Does God Delight in You?

The writers of the Psalms certainly anticipated the gospel. However, I have grown increasingly aware that their perspectives on a relationship with God reveal distinct differences from ours.

In Psalm 17:15,the Psalmist declared that his contentment in life did not come from wealth but in knowing that all was well with his soul and God.  I agree; but how does one know that things are well; how do we evaluate this? By our feelings of contentment?

In Psalm 18:19, a buoyant David gave thanks to God for victory over his enemies by saying, “He led me to a place of safety, for he delights in me.” How did he know that God delighted in him? In the next verse he said, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right, and being pure. For I have followed his commands and have not sinned by turning back from following him.” Is our righteousness the basis of God’s delight?

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time thinking that God delights in me. I also struggle with evaluating my relationship to him on the basis of how I feel or how much he has seemed to bless me. I am not being cynical or wormy here; just being honest about my own sinful nature and the fickleness of my feelings.

I think that this is where our reading of the Psalms (the whole Old Testament) needs to be informed by the gospel. Contentment and confidence in my relationship with God comes only when I realize that Christ died for me and that I am joined to him by faith (in Christ). Because God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for me, I have the confidence of knowing that I belong to him and that he will care for me unsparingly (Romans 8:32). Again, any confidence that I have is centered on Christ’s work for me and that I am in him by faith.

Martin Luther’s quest for certainty in his relationship with God was not based upon his performance or his feelings. In fact, the more he “performed” the more he became aware of his own sinfulness and hypocrisy, and the more he was terrified of God’s righteous judgment. He kept vigils, prayed, fasted, beat himself with whips, nearly froze to death in the unheated chambers of the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits where he lived as a monk. His six-hour confessionals only convinced him that even being sorry could be self-centered. Through the reading of Scripture he became convinced that his only certainty of God’s love for him came through faith in Christ work for him on the cross.

In summary, the Psalmist’s confidence of being a delight to God seems to rest on his sincerity and obedience. My confidence and certainty of God’s love for me rests upon the work of Christ on the cross. Thus when I wonder how God views me, gospel-thinking goes: I am in Christ and since God delights in his Son, therefore, God delights in me. I will hang onto this even when my own heart condemns me for God’s promises are greater than  the opinions of my heart.


A New Look at Esther

The Book of Esther is one of the most intriguing books in the Bible. It has all the makings of  a Father Brown mystery on PBS. The story takes place in Persia during the 5th century BC and gives a picture of the Israelites who were still in Captivity and did not choose to return to Jerusalem under Ezra or Nehemiah. Esther, a Jew, became queen of the empire and her cousin Mordecai the prime minister, and together they saved their people from the terrible Haman, a Persian official who wanted to eradicate the Jewish minority.

The book shows the Providence of God; his sovereign and faithful care over his covenant people. It is readily acknowledged that although the name of God is never mentioned, his fingerprints are all over this mystery, using human instruments to  accomplish his purpose. My new look at the book still holds to the main theme of God’s Providence, but it reveals a different take on why the name of God is never mentioned. I arrived at this because I am reading the Bible through again and just finished Ezra and Nehemiah.

The events in Esther occur roughly between those of Ezra and Nehemiah. If you compare them, you will soon notice that the Jews back in Jerusalem under the godly leadership of  Ezra and Nehemiah were always being led to pray, repent, and strive to make God’s Law the center of their lives. This God-centeredness was also demonstrated in the lives of Daniel and his three friends, who were Jewish captives under the Babylonians and who rose to prominence under pagan leadership. Yet, they remained faithful to God’s Law and never gave up the privilege of prayer.

In Esther, however, you see a Jewish people who were holding onto their Jewish cultural identity, but who no longer had God at the center of their lives. There was no apparent interest in God’s Law, no concern about the condition of Jerusalem or of the Temple, no response of repentance or prayer in the face of persecution. Mordecai’s counsel, Esther’s appearance before the king, and the plan that Esther and Mordecai hatched to do away with Haaman were all accomplished without any conscious reference to God or dependence upon his power or strength.

Esther certainly demonstrated courage, but her “If I perish, I perish “differs greatly from Nehemiah’s “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”  Thus could it be that the name of God was never mentioned in the book because the people of God had forgotten God; lost sight of living for his glory, obeying him, and seeking his guidance and direction?  They had hunkered down in a pagan culture and instead of influencing the culture for God’s glory, they were more concerned with their own self-preservation and power.

I apply this in two ways: 1) God’s covenant faithfulness for his people, using political circumstances to work out his purposes for them, continues even though his people forget him and move him to the periphery of their lives; 2) Is God mentioned in my life? This last application is a convicting one to me. Do I make it through the day in my own wisdom or do I pray for God’s guidance and direction?

It came to me the other day that while I prayed for wisdom in the process of selecting a new car, I never asked the Lord whether I should have one in the first place. I know that it is not in a man (or woman) to determine the course of his life, so why do I live as if it is? It may surprise you how God led me in this.

I have a dear friend (Richard Burr) who has a ministry of prayer called PRAY THINK ACT. When he started the ministry I always mixed up the title and said THINK PRAY ACT. It was funny but unfortunately it said a lot about me. I have a tendency to think first, pray later, and then act, hoping that God would bless what I have done. I see growth in my life in this area, but more is needed.  I would like not only to demonstrate the courage of Esther, but also the God-centered prayer life of Daniel. I want to be a man who prays as a first response and not as a last resort.






Forty-Five Years!

Today is the 45th Anniversary of my ordination; when a 24 yr old inexperienced seminary grad was set aside for the gospel ministry by the laying on of hands by faithful men. 

Gloria and I were married 2 weeks later and then started as the Associate Pastor of the Bethlehem Community Church- 2 weeks later. I had the privilege of working under Pastor Art Gay and being mentored in ministry by this faithful man.   

Yesterday, I also had the special privilege of being a part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Bethlehem Community Church, Delmar, NY and saw some very special friends. 

My life-ministry verse is and has been 1 Thess 5:20, “Faithful is he who has called you who will also do it.” Praise God for his faithfulness and I thank him for a faithful life-time partner in ministry, my wife Gloria. 

Please pray that we would continue to be faithful to our faithful God until he calls us home. 


That is not how you spell forbearance; it is not a golf-term. Rather, it is an essential ingredient of walking worthy of Christ and of maintaining the unity of any relationship that God has formed for you. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, 2 (minus the reference to golf).

 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith you were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love… (ASV)


Forbearance has been variously translated as putting up with, bearing with, tolerating, patience, and long-suffering — you get the idea. I have often read this passage and thought about the words humility, meekness, and forbearance. The other day, however, I was convicted by what I read; especially about forbearance in relationship to those closest to me. I would like quote a passage from Albert Barnes’ commentary (1870) in hopes that you will take some time to read it, think deeply about what he says, and be encouraged by it in your relationships at home and at church:

With all lowliness – Humility; …compare also the following places, where the same Greek word occurs: Philippians 2:3, “in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves;” Colossians 2:18, “in a voluntary humility;” Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The idea is, that humility of mind becomes those who are “called” Ephesians 4:1, and that we walk worthy of that calling when we evince it.

And meekness – Meekness relates to the manner in which we receive injuries. We are to bear them patiently, and not to retaliate, or seek revenge. The meaning here is, that; we adorn the gospel when we show its power in enabling us to bear injuries without anger or a desire of revenge, or with a mild and forgiving spirit; see 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:23; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:2; where the same Greek word occurs.

With long-suffering – Bearing patiently with the foibles, faults, and infirmities of others… The virtue here required is that which is to be manifested in our manner of receiving the provocations which we meet with from our brethren. No virtue, perhaps, is more frequently demanded in our contact with others. We do not go far with any fellow-traveler on the journey of life, before we find there is great occasion for its exercise. He has a temperament different from our own. He may be sanguine, or choleric, or melancholy; while we may be just the reverse. He has peculiarities of taste, and habits, and disposition, which differ much from ours. He has his own plans and purposes of life, and his own way and time of doing things. He may be naturally irritable, or he may have been so trained that his modes of speech and conduct differ much from ours. Neighbors have occasion to remark this in their neighbors; friends in their friends; kindred in their kindred; one church-member in another.

A husband and wife … can find enough in each other to embitter life, if they choose to magnify imperfections, and to become irritated at trifles; and there is no friendship that may not be marred in this way, if we will allow it. Hence, if we would have life move on smoothly, we must learn to bear and forbear. We must indulge the friend that we love in the little peculiarities of saying and doing things which may be important to him, but which may be of little moment to us. Like children, we must suffer each one to build his play-house in his own way, and not quarrel with him because he does not think our way the best. All usefulness, and all comfort, may be prevented by an unkind, a sour, a crabbed temper of mind – a mind that can bear with no difference of opinion or temperament. A spirit of fault-finding; an unsatisfied temper; a constant irritability; little inequalities in the look, the temper, or the manner; a brow cloudy and dissatisfied – your husband or your wife cannot tell why – will more than neutralize all the good you can do, and render life anything but a blessing.

It is in such gentle and quiet virtues as meekness and forbearance, that the happiness and usefulness of life consist, far more than in brilliant eloquence, in splendid talent, or illustrious deeds, that shall send the name to future times. It is the bubbling spring which flows gently; the little rivulet which glides through the meadow, and which runs along day and night by the farmhouse, that is useful, rather than the swollen flood or the roaring cataract. Niagara excites our wonder; and we stand amazed at the power and greatness of God there, as he “pours it from his hollow hand.” But one Niagara is enough for a continent or a world; while that same world needs thousands and tens of thousands of silver fountains, and gently flowing rivulets, that shall water every farm, and every meadow, and every garden, and that shall flow on, every day and every night, with their gentle and quiet beauty. So with the acts of our lives. It is not by great deeds only, like those of Howard – not by great sufferings only, like those of the martyrs – that good is to be done; it is by the daily and quiet virtues of life – the Christian temper, the meek forbearance, the spirit of forgiveness in the husband, the wife, the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the friend, the neighbor – that good is to be done; and in this all may be useful.

“Lord, I pray that I may live worthy of my calling today.”