Reflections on Psalm 8

On Sunday, July 20, 1969, the world was fixated on the idea of men landing on the moon in module “Eagle.” When astronaut Neil Armstrong’s set foot on the moon surface said these memorable words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” However, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the lunar surface put everything in a Biblical perspective. He quoted Psalm 8:3,4, “When I consider Your heavens, the works of Your fingers, the moon and stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visited him?” Aldrin had a view of the universe and what our place was in that vastness of that universe.

One of the things one of many commentators has said is when David asks “What is man?” We’re the only ones in the world sitting around asking, “Who are we?” No one else is asking. Human beings are the only ones who ask, “What is a human being?” We’re the only ones who reflect. It is the question that haunts us and often our prayer life is focused on this question “Who am I?” How we answer this question has an underlying implication; it is pleading for our sense of meaning and value. We try to convince ourselves that we are valuable just by thinking we are valuable. You’re going to have to look to romance, to spouse, to love, to children, to acclaim, to achievement, to status, to money. So when we pray for our job situation to be better because we are looking to our supervisors to say, “you are ______” and this is your value. You pray for romance because we are looking for someone to say “you are_____.” We are all desperate for value and we are looking for somebody else to tell you. Take a moment to think about this. Something/someone outside has to give it to you. It’s your nature. You can’t generate it from within. So our prayer lives are filled with asking God for something outside to affirm this question of “Who am I?” The truth is that if you look to anything but God, for your self-image, your identity, it is always on the verge of failure because it can’t carry that kind of weight; you were made to image the glory of God.

Psalm 8 is giving us an answer to this question. It is saying, you’re going to have to look to someone to give you a sense of significance and worth, something and since you can’t generate it yourself there is one who has sealed that identity through His death and resurrection.

The answer is in Hebrews 2. Psalm 8 is quoted at length. “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” The Hebrews writer saying? He’s saying Jesus Christ lived the human life we were supposed to live with all the love, all the compassion, all the truth, all the nobility, all the wisdom you and I were made to have. He came, and he lived the ultimate human life we were supposed to live. At the end of it, he died the death we were supposed to die. He paid for radical evil.

So what does God do? He sends a Messiah, a rescuer…but the most perplexing moment, He sends God through what? The Creator of the universe comes as King out of the sky with a scepter? A King out with a sword. Know he comes to us through a BABY! Emmanuel! God with us. He comes into our world through in the most helpless estate in the most humblest estate. God has shown us that His power comes from his surrender of worldly power.

When you see Jesus Christ losing everything for you, when you see Jesus foregoing his beauty for you, that’s the most glorious, that’s the most beautiful thing possible. The ultimate glory and the ultimate beauty is to see the Lord losing his beauty and love and his glory and honor for you, that you could have it.

Today, pray that you turn your heart to him. With the power of the Holy Spirit using the gospel, that will turn the mirror of your soul more and more to face him fully. In fact, everything that’s happening in your life is turning your soul’s mirror toward him, even the bad things that are happening to you right now. Everything is doing that.


Prayer Prompt from James Taylor’s, “Everyday Psalms”

My God, my God,
how wonderful you are!
There is nothing like you in the whole earth.

I look up to the skies, and I see you there;
Babies and infants open their mouths,
and I hear them cry your name.
Compared to you, our weapons, our bombs,
our power to destroy,
dwindle into insignificance.
On a starry night, with your glory splashed across the skies,
I gaze into your infinite universe, and I wonder:
Who am I?
Why do I matter?
Why do you care about mere mortals?

We humans are less than specks of dust in your universe.
We have existed less than a second in the great clock of creation.
Yet you choose us as your partners.
You share the secrets of the universe with us;
you give us a special place in your household;
you trust us to look after the earth, on your behalf—
not just the sheep and oxen,
but also the wolves that prey on our domestic animals;
the birds, the plants, and even creatures we have never seen
in the depths of the sea.

My God, my God! How amazing you are.


I pray you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. It is my hope that you join us as we continue in our sermon series on prayer as we look at Psalm 27 entitled “Awaiting Beauty.” If there is anything that I can pray for you please don’t hesitate to write me at peter@kingscrossnyc.org.


Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The Advent season is upon us! Some of you may be wondering, “What is Advent?” If you did not grow up in a church that practiced the liturgical year (a.k.a. the Christian calendar; we only observe parts of it at King’s Cross), the idea of the Advent Season may seem a bit foreign. The Advent Season is the first season of the Christian calendar and it begins four Sundays before Christmas.

It is characterized by a sense of joy (because it is the season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus) juxtaposed with a heart of deepdeep longing, hope, and anticipation. If you look closely at the words of the well-known Christmas lament, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” you can almost feel the desperation of Israel as they wait for God:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

The haunting melody that underscores these words of longing are then immediately followed by joyous refrain of hope:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

These two movements of deep longing and hopeful joy are weaved together in this season. But I suppose for many of us, “hopeful joy” is more familiar to our experience than “deep longing”; most of us do not experience life in fear of death and oppression.

When I consider the plight of God’s people and their longing for a Savior expressed in this hymn and in the Psalms, I immediately think about those who are fleeing war-torn Syria in search of safe refuge. Their longing must echo that of the Jewish people in exile awaiting the Messiah who will put all things right. I was reminded this week in conversation that as we identify with the church universal, we identify not merely on doctrine and practice, but we are also to identify in suffering–their pain is our pain as their hope is our hope. If there is anything that echoes the heart of God in the Advent season, it is this: that God himself hears the cries of his people and comes in their midst.

During Advent we remember that when Christ came into this world, he came among refugees, as a refugee–among a people under the heavy yoke of another power. He is not alien to the cries of this bleeding world, nor aloof to its grief, sorrow, and anger, but has come to bring hope to the nations.

In the backdrop of chaos, confusion, and calamity, we live in expectation for the arrival of Christ and can join with God’s people through the ages as they have practiced living in hopeful suspense of the coming King.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc

Portraits of Grace: Lisa (2 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

Photo by Minnow Park

Being a mom has given me so much joy that I didn’t expect. I’ve always been a little apprehensive around children. I’m totally comfortable being with and mentoring young women and teenage girls. People have told me, “You’d be such a great mom”- but I just didn’t have that connection with babies or small people. If someone has a new baby, usually I’ll look from a distance and say “Congratulations” because I’m just not one of those women who wants to squeeze babies. I had no idea what motherhood would be like for me personally- but being a mom has totally changed me.


Portraits of Grace: Lisa (1 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

Photo by Minnow Park

A subject that can be hard for many families to talk about is infertility. It took 5 years for us to successfully conceive Avery. During that period of time I went through many emotional and spiritual lows until I finally trusted God’s plan and timing for us. Through the struggle of it, my faith grew and it has given me the ability to lift my eyes up to praise God even when circumstances might dictate otherwise. I have learned how to be thankful in everything; in all seasons, whether in waiting, wanting or plenty.


Conquering Prayerlessness by Dr. Andrew Murray

Each Friday, our staff and occasional visitors come together to pray in the morning. It is something that I have learned to really look forward to because it engages another person as we come before God in praise and petition together. I think that often our meditation on God and His word, we often come to God through the activities of prayer and not seeing the source of that activity or the goal of that activity. I lead a time with this devotion and I wanted to share it with you as your “Pray Where You Are this week.” Please take your time to read it and please prepare your hearts to use this midweek time to consider our posture before God.


CONQUERING PRAYERLESSNESS

The greatest stumbling block in the way of victory over prayerlessness is the secret feeling that we shall never obtain the blessing of being delivered from it. Often have we put forth effort in this direction, but in vain. Old habit, and the power of the flesh, our surroundings with their attractions, have been too strong for us. What good is it to attempt that which our heart assures us is out of our reach?

The change needed in the entire life is too great and difficult. If the question is put: “Is a change possible? Our sighing heart says: “Alas, for me it is entirely impossible!” Do you know why that reply comes? It is simply because you have received the call to prayer as the voice of Moses and as a command of the law. Moses and his law have never yet given any one the power to obey.

Do you really long for the courage to believe that deliverance from a prayerless life is possible for you, and may become a reality? Then you must learn the great lesson that such a deliverance is included in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, that it is one of the blessings of the New Covenant which God Himself will impart to you through Christ Jesus.

As you begin to understand this, you will find that the exhortation, “Pray without ceasing,” conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart, that the Spirit – who has been bestowed on you, to cry constantly, “Abba, Father” – will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken, not in the spirit of discouragement, but in the gladness of hope, to the voice that calls you to repentance.

Many a one has turned to his Inner Chamber, under bitter self-accusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come – there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus. If he had only understood, he would have said, “Lord, Thou seest how cold and dark my heart is. I know that I must pray, but I feel I cannot do so, I lack the urgency and desire to pray.”

He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in His tender love was looking down upon Him and saying “You cannot pray; you feel that all is cold and dark; why not give yourself over into My hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer; I long greatly to shed abroad My love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on Me to bestow the grace of prayer: Just as I will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver from the sin of prayerlessness – only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before Me as one who expects everything from his Saviour. Let your soul keep silence before Me, however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of this – I will teach you how to pray.”

Many a one will acknowledge: “I see my mistake; I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleanse me from this sin also. I had not understood that He was with me every day in the Inner Chamber, in His great love ready to keep and bless me, however sinful and guilty I felt myself to be. I had not supposed that just as He will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, above all and before all, He will bestow the grace of a praying heart.

What folly to think that all other blessings must come from Him, but that prayer whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! Thank God I begin to comprehend – the Lord Jesus is Himself in the Inner Chamber watching over me, and holding Himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. This only He demands – that I, with child-like confidence, wait upon Him and glorify Him.”
If fear and hesitation still remain, I pray you by the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, and by the unspeakable faithfulness of His tender love, dare to cast yourselves at His feet. Only believe with your whole heart –there is deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In His blood and grace there is complete deliverance from all unrighteousness, and from all prayerlessness. Praised be His Name
forever!
Rev. Andrew Murray, in The Prayer-Life (1920)


Take a moment to understand what has gripped you about this and share it below in the comments.

Prayer Prompt
Lord, help us see that our prayerlessness is a sign of our lack of faith in you. We must repent of unbelief.So much of our growth is a process of growing towards trusting you as our Lord with all our hearts (Proverbs 3:5).Remind us like you did with Thomas, that Jesus holds out to us his scarred hands to remind us that our unbelief is pathway to the invitation to each of us to your response; “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

I hope you can join us for service this Sunday as we celebrate Thanksgiving and continue our sermon series on prayer and we will take a look at Psalm 8, as I will be preaching on “The Lord, Majesty, Mindfulness and Messiah.” We will have a potluck for the community and we hope you can us as we worship together as a family.


Blood Will Have Blood: Hard for Me to Say “I’m Sorry”

Dear King’s Cross Family and Friends,

As a budding 12 year old boy in Howard Beach, my sister used to buy 45’s; yes, we would play it with the adaptor (If you don’t know what a 45 is, here is a link to it). One of the 45’s that I remember the most was this song that still rings in my memory is Chicago’s “Hard For Me to Say I’m Sorry” (I am humming it now as I write this…sigh). The chorus was:

Hold me now
It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry
I just want you to stay
And after all that you’ve been through
I will make it up to you
I promise you, baby.

Hey, I didn’t say this was stuff of Shakespeare but for a 12 year old who didn’t even have an inclination of romance, this song resonated with me. Even at that age, I knew that “it’s hard for me to say sorry” I knew in my heart that I had to face with the things I have done wrong. I had friends who I let down with my fickle friendship, parents whom I constantly let down; and most of all to myself who I have made naive promises to be “better.”

This shadow of guilt is ever present and as we get older we still deal with this haunt in much more sophisticated ways. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is an incredible scene after Macbeth murders King Duncan to seize the throne for himself, in his moment of guilty torment he cries out:

Better be with the dead
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.

Macbeth has no peace by satisfying his ambitions. He experiences this life as a “fitful fever,” that is, a fever that comes in moments or “fits,” the heat of ambition alternating where one might experience “restless ecstasy” but soon there will be the reality of eventual turbulence broken by only by transient calms. The dead, Macbeth concludes, are truly at peace; murderers and the rest of the living suffer only uncertainty and agitation, as if life were a constant unceasing alternating of torture of mind, restless ecstasy and fitful fever. I think this is where most of us are if we are emotionally aware, we have faced moments when you have to say “I’m sorry” because of some realized guilt. Most of the time we regret those we hurt and an underlying sense of violating our own sense of righteousness that makes our offense to God a secondary consideration. We ignore Him.

This Sunday, we will look at probably one of the greatest passages in the Bible about guilt and how to deal with it. Psalm 51’s title is “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David, then Nathan the Prophet Went to Him, After He Had Gone in to Bathsheba.” Here in Psalm 51, we are faced with King David and a sin that was laced with adultery, treachery, abuse of authority and premeditated murder. This is not a children’s story but one with explicit details of such murderous evil. if you want know more you can read it in 2 Samuel 11-12. What is central to the Psalm is the heart of a man who is confronted with the truth of this statement:

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

Psalm 51 gives us a portrait of repentance in response to what is done that has “displeased the Lord.” We often looked down upon repentance as a concept in our culture. We see as a judgment on us and often when we pray, we are hindered because we don’t feel that we have the appropriate credentials so we feel shame and unease. Some of us come to God with no regard to our guilt and arrogantly come before God with levity towards sin which deny the offense to God. Here is where we have distorted our gospel orientation because we have failed to see the Grace of God as well as His Holiness as God confronts our extraordinary inclination towards sin.

This regular expression of Biblical repentance is something that is essential for gospel-centered living; it is becoming more aware of God’s holiness and our sinfulness that leads us to repent and cling to the gospel of Jesus that provides forgiveness, restoration and an invitation to intimacy.

This kind of repentance frees us from our own manufactured moral uprightness and makes a way for the weight of the gospel to bear fruit in our lives. But sin taints our repentance and robs us of its fruit. So our aim in today’s prayer is to expose the ways in which we practice counterfeit repentance and move us toward genuine repentance as expressed in Psalm 51.

In one of the closing scenes of Macbeth, he writes “It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.” It is an old saying that the dead will have their revenge. In the gospel, the blood is Christ’s blood and every one of our sins demanded justice but instead of our blood, Christ became our justice ;by not taking revenge against us with our blood but by giving of His. This is where we are moved to humility because we come before God we recognize that our apology is not a payment but rather it is a plea for mercy. David discovered this in this Psalm as he pleas for mercy.

This is why so many of us to react in surprise when sin surprise us: “I can’t believe I just did that!” In other words: “ it’s not what I’m really like!” So when we fall into self-centered remorse or “be better” resolution; this causes division between us and others as well. Because we think so highly of ourselves when others don’t measure up and we respond to others’ sin with harshness and disapproval. We are very lenient toward our own sin but we resent theirs! And because we think we can change ourselves, we are frustrated when other people aren’t changing themselves faster. We become judgmental, impatient, and critical. This also applies to us when we see others who manage their sins better than we do. We feel like a failure and we don’t want mercy but we want to show we are “right.” The gospel reminds us over and over again that we are recipients of grace and the only thing we can contribute to grace is our sin. Does that just wreck you? We have nothing to give but everything to receive. To receive abundantly.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

Prayer Prompt (From “The Worship Sourcebook”)

As we draw to the close of this year
and claim the year ahead, our Father,
we need to confess to you those pieces of the past
that persist in pulling us backward.
Through admitting our failures and sharing our sin,
we would like to put away those things
that nibble and nag, de-energize and depress.
With boldness, then, and a certain measure of embarrassment, we admit to squandering time and talent,
good intentions and better ideas,
opportunities for growth and occasions for grace.
We admit that we have most often taken care of ourselves while others have stood in line.
We have defined our interests carefully and our goals precisely, using energy and expertise gainfully
to the detriment of family, friends, community, and church
We agonize with memories that sit heavily
and images that cause us to blush
and ask that you would grant us your forgiveness
as we confess our individual regrets and remorse in silence. . . .
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

I hope that you will join us in prayer today at 1 pm and consider this truth. Also may we continue to gather together this Sunday in this invitation to corporate worship.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong


Portraits of Grace: Kristen (2 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

Photo by Minnow Park

Since I was young I loved being in the kitchen with my mom. I used to watch Martha Stewart. She’s probably the most influential person in my life. Just kidding! But seriously, I loved her growing up. I used to watch her show every morning. Baking and cooking has always been an outlet for me to de-stress. In college I used it as a distraction from studying. I love to cook and host for other people.


Portraits of Grace: Kristen (1 of 2)

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.

Photo by Minnow Park

After getting engaged I have experienced a tremendous amount of joy. I’ve been surrounded by a lot of friends and family and community, seen people come by our side, and even helping us with planning. I’ve been seeing people who care and are there for me. People at church have been keeping us accountable, and asking us about our relationship. Little things like that mean a lot to me.


“What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”― Robert Murray McCheyne.

Dear King’s Cross Family and Friends,

Greetings, I hope this finds you well. November is upon us and we have only 57 days left in the year. Yes that is right, only 57 days until we can look back on 2015 as a marker of what is past and what is new is approaching. It is appropriate for us to take a moment to consider each year and all that you have learned and unlearned. If you are honest, it will be filled with a great deal of disappointments and regrets but there will be these moments of tremendous thanksgiving for how each of us has grown.

How does one grow? How does one know they are maturing? I think one is to see how we are when we pray. “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”― Robert Murray McCheyne. Christians are used to thinking about prayer as a way to get their personal needs met. This is the sentiment I often hear when people first enter into a relationship or their desire for marriage. They want to get the benefits and they do a cost analysis when they first consider the “other” as a potential. They often consider, “will I get a profit margin for my time invested in this relationship?” or they would say at the very least “will I come out with a deficit” if I pursue this relationship. This is often the posture we often have in coming before God in prayer; but when one grows in prayer, they understand that prayer as a means to delight and adore God. To know Him, to come into His presence and by transformed by the richness of his presence. So that is why as individuals we need a consideration of the “why” and “what” in our prayer life so that it will move towards the “who.”

For so many of us, our joy is based on the “why” and “what” and not on the “who.” So we are constantly looking at things are fleeting. The explanations are cold comfort to us. Anyone who are on the receiving end of bad news of a loved one’s health is not comforted with a full explanation of what disease it is and how they succumbed to it. Our desire for material things are exhilarating for a time being but it soon fades until something bigger and better comes along.

This past Sunday, I exhorted each of us to consider the psalmist’s expression of God’s invitation to find refuge in God by ending the Psalm with “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The implicit view of the psalmist is that we are all finding refuge in someone/something other than Kingship of Christ. We are all trying to establish our “kingship” by either subjecting others to our kingship or we put ourselves in subjection to be our king. So in the gospel growth, we recognize that it is hardest to submit to the way in which he is ordering your life that doesn’t go as “planned.”

This is harder.

Some people are very obedient when things go right but when God lets difficult things come into our lives that we might think, “This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. Look at how God is letting the circumstances of my life go awry,” you won’t treat him as a King then. Do you know what it means to treat him as a King? To say, “You must know best.” This posture doesn’t come naturally for us. It something that each of us have to wrestle and we have to struggle through it with hope in Christ.

This is one way we know if we are accepting the kingship of Jesus in our lives. We have to be honest and say “I don’t understand what’s going on, and it is terrifying…I wrestle, but I know if I accept what he is giving me, if I am faithful in the midst of this great trial, I will come forth as pure gold. This is what happened to a person in the Bible named Job who suffered greatly. In one of the most profound moments is captured in Job 23, he says “I don’t sense God’s presence, and the things God is allowing to happen fill me with terror. But he knows my way, and when he has tested me I will come forth as pure gold.” He submits to the reality that his circumstances are purifying. Do we give Jesus the kingship like that?

There will be times when you will state “I don’t understand what you are doing God…” and I think that is an appropriate statement because we are not God and we don’t understand, but if you are asking in a posture of “I don’t understand what you are doing God and it is obvious you don’t care and you don’t have things in control…” Then you have usurped God with your earthly wisdom. At the end of the day, I am convinced that we don’t want an explanation but the assurance that God is with us. Our greatest fear is not so much that we might suffer, but that we might suffer alone. So, what does God give us in prayer? Throughout history, God has always provided His presence in the crucible of isolation that suffering brings.

In Christ, God is assuring us that the Lord is with us and whatever darkness we experience in our lives; it is through Christ’s death he enters into that pain and in his resurrection, God brings the promise of restoration. So let’s take a moment today to pray that the truth of the final verse in Psalm 2, “Blessed are those who find refuge in the King” be an invitation to take refuge. To take rest. To take a respite from our adversity in our lives.

Prayer Prompt

Lord Jesus Christ,
we come to you sharing the suffering that you endured.
Grant us patience during this time,
that as we live with pain, disappointment, and frustration,
we may realize that suffering is a part of life,
a part of life that you know intimately.
Touch us in this time of trial,
hold us tenderly in your loving arms,
and let us know you care.
Renew us in our spirits,
even when our bodies are not being renewed,
that we might be ever prepared to dwell in your eternal home, through our faith in you, Lord Jesus,who died and are alive for evermore. Amen. 

Please join us this Sunday as we continue our sermon series on “Considering Prayer: A Pilgrimage through Psalms, Epistles and Gospels.” I will be preaching on Psalm 3 and the sermon title is “From Suffering to Salvation.” I hope you can come and join us.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong