Quality Control: Psalm 15

quality-control-approved

psalm of David.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Psalm 15, NLT

Some commentaries view this Psalm as a kind of an initiation for worshippers in the Jewish temple. A process that must be taken before the worshipper can offer up his sacrifice. The person just didn’t saunter in and slap up a lamb on his own accord. He most likely was ‘interviewed’ by the priest who was on duty at the time, before he could enter.

Commentary

V.1,  Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?”

God’s grace is free, but it is not cheap. Often we feel like God’s presence is like a candy store, it’s full of the tastiest things— and we are children who have been given full liberty to gobble down whatever (and whenever) we want. No rules, a ‘free-for-all.’ David asks the question, “Who may worship…?”

Vv.2-3, “Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
   Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.”

Verses 2-5 are a description of the ideal worshipper. These verses describe an inward holiness that must supersede legalism. If we are counting on adhering to a legalistic code that is all of these things— we will fail. We cannot do these things on our own. It takes the Holy Spirit inside. It is His fruits growing in the interior that enable us to please God. Every Christian’s heart is a ‘green-house’ producing good things for the master gardener— we are to be, fruitful.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22

Vv. 4-5, “Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
   Such people will stand firm forever.”

Now the “works of our flesh” make us unacceptable and unable to “enter in.” Galatians 5:19-25 are a description of an unholy man or woman. We “work” in our flesh in a very awful way. We lie, cheat, get drunk, murder, steal, and lust all because we refuse to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

Galatians 5:16-17

The ideal worshipper isn’t perfect yet. But under the direction of another, (the Holy Spirit) we will meet God’s ‘quality control.’ As we are infused with the Spirit we will begin to see holy fruit growing. But be aware: God’s presence will never be shared with a person filled with the works of the flesh— no matter how pious and sincere we might want to be. You truly can not please God in this way.

God loves brokenness, He draws near to the humble.

Admitting your sin, confessing it will open up the door into His presence. He is Holy, and we are not, but He truly wants to us to change. We take off our nasty rags, and receive the white robe of righteousness by faith.

bry-signat (1)

A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

 1 Oh, what joy for those 
      whose disobedience is forgiven, 
      whose sin is put out of sight! 
 2 Yes, what joy for those 
      whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,[b] 
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 
 3 When I refused to confess my sin, 
      my body wasted away, 
      and I groaned all day long. 
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. 
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 
                         Interlude

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you 
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt. 
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” 
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

What really is your source of joy? We can look and find many possibilities around us. Family, hobbies, work, music or art.  But there is far more than just that.  I believe that our deepest source of joy is the forgiveness of God for our sin. King David enters fully into this experience. I contend that joyful Christians  are those intensely aware of their salvation from sin.

This was St. Augustine’s favorite psalm, and he had it written on the wall next to his death bed, so he could read it over and over. This psalm is a “maskil,” which defined it as a teaching psalm. I think David saw his sins (2 Samuel 11) as something to be learned from. His evil was sufficient to bring him the death penalty, according to levitical law. He became an active teacher of redemption.

This is a companion psalm with Psalm 51. That psalm is a “jack-hammer” and this one is the shovel. There is a sharp breaking in  51. We learn how powerful repentance is really. But in 32 we clean the mess up. David is now our model, and from the nastiness of his past life will come life. Someone once wrote the truth as he saw it:

“We were all whores before Jesus touched and forgave us”

 

Commentary

V.1, communicates a blessing, or having special favor with God. If you don’t want blessing, your nuts! It is one of those things we are all searching for deep down, but now it has a name.  When you have it, nothing else will really matter. The word “joy” is actively used. And so is “disobedience” and “sin.” But the most significant word is “forgiven.”

V. 2, when you repeat yourself it is usually to make a point. It makes what your saying emphatic. There is wagon full of joy here. But it is only for “guilt cleared people.” Once I had a police record, and actually spent a night in jail. Things were put on my record, which was inviolable, I couldn’t change a thing on it.

V. 3-4, there seems to be a deep reluctance and a dark aversion to admitting our true state. We avoid doing this at all costs. We will not be labeled! But there are very clear consequences to this constant posturing. Our lives become hollowed out shells, full of darkness, sickness and grief. This is the price we pay to live a false life.

There is a real sense that God is in on this. It seems that He is concentrating on us, we are God’s target. All His arrows are meant for us, we turn and God is right on our tails. He is taking all the credit for this miserable state we’re in.

V. 5, perhaps this belongs in the special collection of wonderful verses. It is a sponge that is completely saturated with light. “Finally, I confessed…” There are limits to what we can handle. We end up agreeing with God. “Stopped trying to hide.” And we are such good hiders, we can hide so well we end up lost even to our own selves.

There is a profound sense of amazement here. Confession brings it to us. But to be so lost, and than found is staggering. It changes everything. “You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Realizing this will bring you incredible peace and joy. You will never, ever find it anywhere else.

 

Out of Sight: Psalm 32:1-3

joy

“Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.”

Psalm 32:1-3, NLT

This psalm has a personal contrast. King David has an understanding of the extremes, going from elated joy to deep sorrow. He experienced both first-hand. He describes the joy in plain terms.

“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!” (v. 1).

David never denies his sin and guilt. However, he is aware of the mercy God has for him; he is indeed guilty of the sin of a murderous adultery. He has irrevocably harmed several people and that sin will affect his entire life.

And yet, David comes out clean and true. His sins have been forgiven, and forgotten. (Pretty remarkable, isn’t it?)

“Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (v. 2).

Joy is the true response to confessed and forgiven sin.

The guilt may have been great, but there is no sin immense enough to thwart God’s mercy. And their is no transition time; sort of a purgatory where you must prove yourself worthy. Grace is grace; we don’t know why or how it comes, but it brings joy to our souls. That joy of forgiveness fuels our new walk of obedience. That joy is needed to power your new life in Him. joy-of-the-lord

 “When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.” (v.3).

I encourage you to reread David’s story of his sin in 2 Samuel 11-12. This is a sad and evil act by David; motivated by sexual lust, he betrays everyone close to him. Perhaps he felt like being a king gave him certain rights to bed with Bathsheba, and murders her husband. Verse 3 must be understood as the pressure he endured living with sin unconfessed and unrepented.

We have this beautiful psalm of joy reminding us, that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

 

aabryplain

 

 

‘Fear God Onlye’: Psalm 62:9-10

 

Lintel, a house in Edinburgh, Scotland

9 “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great.
All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.
10 Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

Psalm 62:9-10, CEV

If the truth be told, our perception of value and significance as persons is totally “whacked!” Many of us point to our wealth, achievements, our talents, education or even our sex appeal as the evidence we have arrived (and should be envied!) We may admit to a few “character flaws,” but after all, our innate charm overrides all of this.

We will cling to this self-centered facade with all our might. We add to it, enhance it; we become our best PR department. Money becomes the first measure of achievement. Fame is perhaps the second. These are things we learn quickly in life. We never realize that this is a delusion.

One of the Bible’s favorite metaphor is that humanity is grass. In a dozen or so references we find this stated. Here are two–

“Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Psalm 103:15, NLT

As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.”

1 Peter 1:24, NLT

Other metaphors are used as well. Men are compared to dust, worms, grasshoppers, tenants in a house of clay and chaff. None of these is a reason to gloat about.

To be fair, we should see that mankind has several unique roles in scripture. None of these should be diminished or reduced in any way.

  1. We are all equal in God’s eyes, Prov. 22:2
  2. We are created in the image of God, Gen. 1:27
  3. We have dominion over the created world, Psalms 8:6
  4. We are spiritual beings, Job 32:8
  5. We have infinite value, 1 Peter 1:18-19

Commentary

V. 9, “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.”

David continues to remind himself that this is how things really are. This understanding of people enables him to rest and trust in God alone.

“Only a breath.” When we breathe we are pretty much unaware of what we are doing. We draw in air, and we push it out– quite oblivious to what we are doing. I do this 14-18 times every minute, and it never requires me to be aware (unless I choose to, like right now, lol.)

Weight is compared to reputation or glory. A ‘weighty’ person, in our opinion, is one with an great amount of influence or a solid reputation.

But notice the verse says, “All of us together.” Pile up all of humanity throughout our history– with our artists, doctors, scientists, theologians and the like, and it is nothing! It actually goes into negative numbers. “Less than nothing.”

This is healthy place to be. Aware of the frailty of man, and not to be intimidated or influenced by their presence. I know that this was the place where David stood.

V. 10, “ Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

With the understanding we have from verse 9, this verse makes excellent sense. There are three issues, and also three responses. Violence, dishonesty, great wealth. And trust, depend, rely. Don’t do it, the verse emphasizes.

The reality, I suppose, is that any sin might have been used. These three are what David is having to deal with at that particular moment.

I think that “fearing God” has a lot to do with “not fearing man.” When you finally see the “vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1.) you just don’t have room in your soul for being fearful of powerful people.

#

ybic, Bryan

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The Fork in the Way: Psalms 1

Two Paths

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalms 1:1-3, ESV

There is nothing more to say.  These verses describe a profound awareness between two kinds of people.  It is imperative that we work within the Psalm, as it adroitly handles the issues of life and death. If we drop the ball, we are close to losing the war.

This Psalm is “true blue”.  It essentially reduces the complexity of our lives, and breaks things down to the lowest common denominator.  The simplicity that is flowing through this Psalm is a true tonic for our hearts.

When I read it, I often trip myself up with its easiness, and clarity. Typically, I will find myself in a religious quagmire of confused Christianity. What the Holy Spirit intends as simple, I convert into a sort of particle physics. As He clarifies, I complicate.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalms 1:4-6

Here’s the second fork. We find ourselves wandering the road of wickedness. There is chaff everywhere. The wind blows and nothing is really rooted or fixed. Insecurity is the currency of all those travelling this journey. We should realize that life is quite temporary on this path.

Perhaps this is far too simple for some. But the clarity is a welcome one.  The concepts of the Gospel are filled with directness and ease, little children grab a hold of things that philosophers and theologians long to pick-up for themselves.

This Psalm is astringent, but it is also kind. It is quite clear (simple) and it really does set the table for the 149 other Psalms.  We will start to realize that the writers will use very obvious metaphors and similes.  You could say that the psalmists have a 3rd grade reading level, and not be far from the truth.

This is your Psalm. I encourage you to take ownership of it.  But remember you must descend before you can ascend.

ybic, Bryan

 

 

Despondency and David’s Theology: Psalm 73

For those on the mat wrestling, things can move very fast.  Our adversary is strong, and he knows us too well.  He is counter-intuitive and knows the moves needed to pin us to the floor.  He is dangerous.  And he despises us. I get bewildered and rattled by his attacks.  He knows how to pressure me at just the right time, and he refuses to follow the rules. He is no gentleman, rather you might say that he is both a cheater and a bully.

Of course I am talking about Satan and his dark team of demons.  I will not dispute their reality with you.  There is almost as much scriptural support for his existence as there is for Jesus’.  His hostility is  toward God and His people, and his viciousness cannot be camouflaged.  Evil is real, and believe this– Satan has a terrible, and ugly plan for your life. He wants to impose it on you.

As a mentally ill Christian, my depression quickly morphs into despondency.  When I sink to that level I start to abandon hope.  It’s like I’m in a lifeboat and decide that I should abandon it and tread water on my own.  Despondency is not rational and just a little bit is deadly. David knew all about desperation.

He had been chased by his enemies, and maneuvered into the most difficult of situations.  To observe him at a distance we would say that “there is no hope for him in God.”  Nothing for him in God’s thinking.  Nothing. In the Book of Life, the angels have used “white-out” to delete the name of David, Son of Jesse. I

t would be so easy to make this judgement.  For David was a moral failure; he was an adulterer and a brazen killer.  David had sinned deeper and more intensely than Saul ever had.  Saul seems to be mentally ill, while David just presumes God will forgive him. Join with the crowd, “There is no hope for him in God!”  No hope, none, nada.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

–Psalm 73

David defied the theological teachers of his day.  He embraced the Lord God with a desperate passion.  It was not orthodox or logical.  You could say it was disturbing.  But David would not let go of God!  He hung on, and continued to sing in faith, in spite of logic.

I encourage you besieged brother, and embattled sister.  Hold on to Him, even if it defies logic and theology.  Seek His promises with a fervency, open your heart to Him with a passion.  Remember that sin can and will destroy you.  It is part of Satan’s stratagem.  Sing in the cave, and never lose hope. Never.  

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jer. 29:11

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 46:10, 11: Being Still in a Restless Age

murrayriverappeal.blogspot.com

10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:10-11

As I write this my heart goes out to everyone who is struggling to find serenity in an age filled with restlessness. Been there done that. You feel the pressure on all sides. There’s too much month and not enough money. Your marriage is showing signs of fraying around the edges. You have a sullen teenager who doesn’t relate to the biblical Christianity that you have embraced. You have plenty to do but not enough time to do it. Debt seems to be piling up and the house may soon be underwater. Your job feels unsatisfying and your boss plays a big role in that. New health problems have emerged that you didn’t have in the days of your youth. In short, life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would and inner stillness and peace seem elusive.

In speaking from my heart, I just want to begin by saying that God loves you much, much more than you know. You may want inner stillness but he wants to give you that peace infinitely more than you want it. Imagine yourself as his anxious child. He will not forbid the children to come to him. You can crawl up onto his lap and tell him all your problems. Do you see his loving eyes as you’re talking to him? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you Christ’s loving eyes, because if you can see those eyes, it will help you with fear and anxiety, because perfect love casts out all fear according to John the apostle (I John 4:18). If you can’t do this, then think about someone you know who really loves you without any strings attached. Doesn’t God love you at least twice as much as this person? Of course he does and infinitely beyond that. This is the God whose lap you’re sitting on.

Please know that in all your prayers, there’s no guarantee that God will change your circumstances. The struggling business you run may not survive. The unhealthy marriage may not get better and the child with leukemia may not get healed despite your prayers and fasting. God may not change your circumstances, but he will give you the grace to triumph during your time of affliction. He will you give you a supernatural peace that transcends understanding. You will know it didn’t come from you, but, instead, its origin is divine. Guard your heart against offense because many Christians become offended at God when he doesn’t change their circumstances.

If your prayer life is almost non–existent, I don’t write this to condemn you. However, if you want inner stillness and serenity, some kind of quiet time with God is a must. Prayer is the context by which we give God our anxiety and he gives us his peace. This is where we cast all our cares on him because he cares for us. It’s a salutary exchange that we can’t live without. The Holy Spirit is a gentle teacher and will lead you into a robust prayer life. Start small and don’t despise small beginnings. 5–10 minutes is okay to begin with for awhile and then add to it as God’s grace increases in your life. If you try to pray for an hour right off the bat, you’re liable to burn out. God is patient with you so be patient with yourself.

ybic,

Jonathan

Learning from King David’s Mistakes in Fighting Sexual Sin: Excerpt from “Letters from Fawn Creek”

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Both Psalm 32 and 51 concern David’s repentance after it came to light that he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and that he lied to cover it up and arranged for the demise of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, on the battlefield.

Father Augie Lattimore is a Trappist monk and fictional character in Letters from Fawn Creek, who before he became a priest, struggled with substance abuse and sexual addictions. In the excerpt below, he gives his readers some advice on battling sexual sin that would’ve certainly helped King David in his day of testing. Father Lattimore has much more to say beyond this excerpt on this subject, but you’ll have to buy the book to find out. LOL :

In battling a disordered sexuality, one of the obvious things that is so often overlooked is the importance of avoiding the occasion for sin. Another way of saying this is that you cannot sin if you don’t put yourself in the position to sin. You can’t get eaten by a rampaging bear unless you put yourself in close proximity to it. I’m embarrassed to admit how long this took me to learn.

For example, if you’re in a restaurant and there is a very attractive waitress that is causing your mind to go places it shouldn’t, then sit facing the wall. Preferably a wall without a mirror. If you have problems with soft–core pornography late at night on cable TV, then call the cable company and arrange your programming so it’s 100% clean. Or forget cable and TV altogether. Do the same thing with the internet. Put filters on your computer that make it difficult for pornography to come in to you or for you to go to pornography. If you’re traveling on a business trip, only stay in at a motel or hotel that has clean cable programming at night.

Sometimes you may have to end a relationship or get eaten by the bear. This happened to me about six months after I became a Catholic. I began to date a very attractive woman who I thought was on a similar path as mine. After several years in the fashion industry, she had become disillusioned with “Vanity Fair” and was pursuing a more spiritual direction.

She claimed to be a Christian but later said that she had given up on trying to abstain from premarital sex a long time ago because it was simply too hard when she met someone she loved and trusted. Physically, the relationship went too far. Way too far. She had a lot of wonderful qualities, but it became clear that I either would have to end the relationship or be “bear food” as long as I stayed in it.

Being accountable to other men for your sexuality is invaluable in the battle. Even now as a Trappist monk, especially because of my past, I’m accountable to another priest for my thoughts and actions in this arena. If I travel, I will call him and check in and he makes sure I’m staying on the straight and narrow. Men can get in trouble if they are away from home and have time on their hands. The old saying, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop,” didn’t gain currency for nothing.

The primal sexuality within each of us is powerful and it’s helpful to have to answer to someone else besides God: ‘Two are better than one: they get a good wage for their labor. If one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up’” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10)

If you liked this excerpt from Letters from Fawn Creek, you may also want to purchase the book at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

Psalm 17:15: Make Sure Your Spiritual GPS is Working

Salmon_Jumping

15 And I–in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Psalm 17:15

From nature we learn that salmon have a kind of GPS– related to their sense of smell and the earth’s magnetic field– that lead them back to the stream where they were born. On their way back to their native stream, salmon must escape different predators before they arrive home to spawn: commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, larger fish, birds, large mammals, and lots of hungry bears.

In this passage from the Psalms, David has a preeminent goal in his life that acts as a spiritual GPS: he wants to make it to heaven where he will see God’s face and arrive home bearing the image and likeness of his Creator. Like the salmon this goal will give him a single focus which he will need to prevail against the men who are enemies of his soul, whom he describes in verse 12 as being like a lion who is hungry for the prey.

A wonderful companion passage in the New Testament that fulfills the yearnings of David in Psalm 17:15 is I John 3:2–3 where the apostle John talks about the hope within the believer to behold the face of God and to appear before God bearing his image and likeness. This is what Paul called being conformed to the image of Christ.

“2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

John goes so far to say that this hope purifies us. I think that is another way of saying that the goal and hope of heaven and personal godliness acts as a spiritual GPS that helps us navigate the difficulties of this life. Whereas this GPS helped David overcome his physical enemies, it helps us overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil on our way to our heavenly homeland. Like the salmon we overcome our enemies, return to our native stream (heaven) and, like Christ, out of our death comes life as we hatch the eggs of the next generation.

Think about how all–consuming goals shape one’s behavior. A person who wants to be an Olympic athlete makes great sacrifices to achieve that goal. A person who wants to be accepted to an elite college works extremely hard to achieve academic excellence so their application is accepted. A person who wants to be Christ–like and behold him in his glory will also make great sacrifices to hear, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”

Unfortunately, sometimes we get our eyes off the prize and our spiritual GPS is not working. Again, the apostle John is helpful in identifying the three primary causes for a broken GPS:

  • the lust of the flesh,
  • the lust of the eyes,
  • and the pride of life, (I John 2:16).

These three things caused Adam and Eve and the nation of Israel to lose their way. Many throughout church history have succumbed to their wiles. May the God of all grace keep us single–focused for our journey back to our native stream.

 

If you like this post by Jonathan, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that can be purchased at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com

The Unfailing Love of God: Psalm 63:2–5

Broken_Hearted_by_HopelessSoul

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63:2–5

flourish-small

When David was in the Desert of Judah, he made an amazing statement. He said that knowing God’s love was better than life. Only here in the Old Testament is anything prized above life itself. We find a similar passage in Ephesians 3:14–19 when the apostle Paul prays that the Ephesians will know the many dimensions of the love of God and, as a result, be filled with all the fullness of God. Nothing in this life is more wonderful than the experiential knowledge of God’s love for us, that he delights in us and holds us close in his arms as sons and daughters of God.

In just a casual survey of the Psalms, I found several references to the “unfailing love of God”: 6:4; 13:5; 33:18,22; 119:41; 147:11. Truly, one of the central dramas of David’s life was trusting in the unfailing love of God despite evidence to the contrary. In the furnace of affliction, whether it be in a military battle, opposition by evil men, or the betrayal of his own son (Absalom), David needed to trust in the unfailing love of God even if he didn’t feel that love. His faith superseded his feelings.

In the muck and mire of his own egregious sin with Bathsheba– against God involved an unholy trinity that reeked of adultery, lying, and murder, David, in repentance and contrition, had to trust in the unfailing love of God for his forgiveness, and reconciliation with God ( see both Psalm 32 and 51). Like the apostle Paul, he knew that nothing could separate him from the love of God, but sometimes our greatest doubts about this come when we feel our own sins stand between us and God and we doubt that his mercies endure forever. Dear believer, his mercies do endure forever!

We all know John 3:16– it declares that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” to die for it. We accept the concept of God’s love for us in our sin before conversion but often struggle with experiencing his love for us in our sin after conversion.

One of the bad fruits of not trusting in the love of God is that we take things into our own hands. If I’m concerned about one of my kids walking away from the Lord and don’t  trust in God’s unfailing love, then I will become what people call a “helicopter parent” that is hovering constantly over their child’s life, meddling in their affairs in such a way that will drive them away from the kingdom of God. If I trust in God’s love and that he is in control, I won’t do this. There’s still no guarantee that my child will serve God, but at least that meddlesome influence has been removed and I can stand before the Lord with a clear conscience.

We must love and trust, when unbelief seems to be our only transportation.

If you liked this post, you my also like Jonathan’s new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available to buy at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

Check out the good doctor J at his own blog, http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Endangered Species: Psalm 12:1-4

Lies Concept

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by an eight-stringed instrument.

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
    The faithful have vanished from the earth!
2 Neighbors lie to each other,
    speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
3 May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
    and silence their boastful tongues.
4 They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content.
    Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”

Psalm 12:1-4, NLT

Entire cultures can be evaluated in this way. How does our society measure its health? What are the things that are necessary to a people? David evaluates his nation by the presence of godly people. He is disturbed by a “holiness shortage.” The faithful people have become an endangered species, and you walk down the street and into the marketplaces and everyone you meet has an evil agenda.

We’re not used to seeing our communities in this way. Some would suggest that it isn’t right for us to judge in this way. It seems coarse and rude. The discernment that is used seems just a touch insensitive to other people’s lifestyles. However, David does make a clear distinction. He does think this through.

He is stricken by the shortage of “people of faith.” In verse 2 we read of people who are liars, who only flatter, and trick their neighbors. The neighborhood has become dangerous, and truth and faith can’t be found anywhere. This is disturbing to David, who pleads to God with a solid awareness of the effect on his society.

I can only suggest that verse 3 is hyperbole– and yet as desperate as the literal. But note, it is not David’s place to deal with the liars. This is the Lord’s place and His prerogative alone.  Rather than mount a crusade, he simply prays. David has the discernment to see his kingdom heading to the sewer, but he refuses to get medieval on these evil people. He prays and rests on God’s perfect judgement. And that is a peaceful wisdom to have.

“Godliness makes a nation great,
    but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

Proverbs 14:34, NLT

 

ybic, Bryan

The God Who Won’t Go Away: Psalm 139:7–12

"Closer than a brother."
“Closer than a brother.”

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as night to you.

flourish-small

Martin Luther was right when he said that “the entire Bible is contained in the Psalms.” In the Psalms, we find the same God who we find in the rest of the Bible, who, despite our sins and weaknesses, stubbornly and relentlessly sticks with us–the God who won’t go away. This God was fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who said that he is with us always, even unto the very end of the world (Matthew 28: 20).

In contrast, human relationships are fragile. People, for a variety of reasons, do go away. Sometimes, as in the case of my father who passed away a little over a year ago, it has nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do. His father (my grandfather) died when he was 13. My brother and my father’s firstborn named Cary, who was neurologically handicapped, went on to be with the Lord in his early 50s, ten years before my father would join him. My mother would die three and a half years before he would. My father was well–acquainted with the fact that people go away.

Sometimes people go away because of something we did or didn’t do. Over the years, I’ve heard some people confess that they feel like other people like them until they get to know the real them and then they go away. They have difficulty keeping friends who will love them warts and all. I’ve also seen marriages and friendships where one of the friends or spouses go through major changes and the relationship doesn’t survive in the aftermath. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and can’t be put back together again. Someone goes away.

One human characteristic that the devil exploits is our tendency to project onto God flawed human qualities. The old joke is that in the beginning God created man in his image, and then, shortly thereafter, man returned the favor by creating God in his image. If the reader only gets one thing out of this post, let it be this: People may go away but God won’t go away. Please rest in his stubborn love.

Psalm 139:7–12 provides abundant evidence to that fact: no matter where we go, God is there. The Psalms are very comforting to me because God is there for David in every situation–in his ups and downs, virtues and vices, complaints and thanksgivings. David represents the human heart writ large and God will not forsake him. He commits egregious sins–adultery, lying, murder– but in his brokenness and repentance, God won’t go away.

So often, when we have it out with another person, someone goes away. Not God. David has it out with God over a variety of issues. He feels forsaken, complains about his enemies prospering, and questions God’s justice, but God is big enough to handle his darkest moments and stay with him. That’s one of the major lessons of the Psalms: God can handle the full fury of the human heart–it’s anger, desolation, questions, and despair– and not forsake that person unless he or she continually and willfully rejects and forsakes God for the rest of their lives. He doesn’t go away but we have a choice to go away.

Often when we have it out with God, in the aftermath, there is greater intimacy between us and the Lord. His ways are vindicated and we rest in his wisdom and mercy. This is much different than when we become embittered at God and our deep offence at him destroys intimacy. May we all guard our hearts against such bitterness and rejoice in the God who doesn’t go away.

If you liked this post from Jonathan, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that can now be purchased at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

*

ybic, Jonathan

Please check out my other blog at http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Even When I Don’t Feel Grateful: Psalm 100:1–2

be-grateful-billboard

1 “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;

2 Worship the Lord with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.”

I must admit sometimes, that when I encounter psalms of thanksgiving or exhortations in Scripture to be thankful, I just balk at the idea,

I simply don’t feel thankful. Then I remember that the Christian faith isn’t based on my feelings, but it is an act of my will which is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So many happy Christian couples will testify that love is a choice. Once the heightened feelings of the newlywed days are over, you will have many days when you will have to put aside your feelings. You will choose to love your spouse, even without those feelings. Please, you need to see this as well. Thanksgiving is also a choice, and it is a spiritual discipline that must be practiced with regularity.

When I finally shake off my spiritual stupor, I find there are at least three different kinds of gifts for which I am grateful. The first are what I call pleasant gifts. These are things like God’s provision, protection, and deliverance. A delicious meal, an entertaining DVD, a walk in the woods, an enriching friendship, making love, the pleasure of learning something new, and satisfying work, are all pleasant gifts that cause us to give thanks.

Second, there are the painful gifts that many of us, and certainly myself, often struggle to recognize as gifts. These are all the experiences that involve adversity and pain whether it be physical, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual. They are gifts because of the effects they have in our lives. As C.S. Lewis said, “pain is sometimes God’s megaphone” that he uses to get our attention, and keep us on the straight and narrow.

Fiery trials purify our character just as gold is refined in the fire. Painful gifts create fertile soil for intimacy with God, as we are driven to his side for comfort and guidance. Sometimes adversity will leave emotional and spiritual wounds. From these wounds we should heal others as wounded healers.

Third, there is the gift of eternal life. This is our most precious gift. We may feel like a magnet for trials, and seem to be pelted with adversity from every direction,  but knowing this, that our lives are short–lived and we evaporate like the fog in the noonday sun. If we know Christ, we have our sins forgiven and eternal life. But if we have Christ, we have everything forever!

There is no greater gift than this, and it should be a source of great rejoicing. It is the great hope of heaven. “We are blessed with every blessing in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 1:3). “Eye hasn’t seen, nor has ear heard, nor has entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for them that love him”, (I Corinthians 2:9). This is  the hope that sustains us during our struggles here on earth. They are passing ‘like a shadow.’ This is the main reason I suppose, that despite our tribulations, we can enter “his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and his courts with praise.”

 

If you like this post by Jonathan, you may also like his book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

*

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 23:1: I Shall Not Want

sheep-shepherds-shoulder2

1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Recently I heard an Irish Catholic priest challenge his congregation after reading Psalm 23 by asking, “You know the psalm but do you know the shepherd?” It’s a question I must ask myself everyday. Do I know the Shepherd and trust him to meet my needs–“I shall not want”– or do I depend more on created things (idols) to fulfill me?

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on the human race by the devil is that he doesn’t exist. In this deception, he is able to kill, steal, and destroy in an anonymous capacity, and let others take the blame. He always works best in the shadows.

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on Christians is that we need to pursue something we already have. Sometimes I will catch myself in idolatry and feel a lot like a man who has 100 billion dollars in a savings account but goes out and robs a bank because he’s afraid he won’t be able to make this month’s mortgage payment. Other times, when I become over attached to some created thing, I feel like a man who leaves his wife for another woman but finds out that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and that he had everything he needed in the first relationship.

That’s the foolishness of idolatry for the Christian: trying to get something from an idol that has already been given to us from God. We have a Shepherd that can meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs–“I shall not want”–but we just look somewhere else.

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. The Lord was Adam and Eve’s Shepherd. All of their needs were met in this Edenic paradise. Everything the serpent promised them theyrecite-19175-1419221276-1r86qx7 already had.

He promised them that they would be like gods. They already were like “gods” in the sense that they were the highest order of God’s creation. He promised them that they would become wise, but they already had wisdom inherent in their harmonious relationship to God. They reverenced God and that’s the beginning of wisdom.

As much as God meets our needs during our earthly journey, we will not be completely satisfied until we get to heaven. As Augustine says, we were created for heaven and won’t be totally fulfilled until we get there. We live in a foreign country now as aliens, but in heaven, we will be home. We get the salad, appetizer, and bread now, but in heaven we will get the steak, baked potato, lobster and New York cheesecake for dessert. We are engaged to Christ the Groom now but in heaven there will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The bridge between our earthly existence and the hereafter is Hope. One thing we can do when idolatrous urges come upon us is to ask God to replace them with hope, a looking forward to heaven when all our deepest needs will be completely satisfied. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”–both on earth and in heaven.

*

ybic, Jonathan

image can be purchased from the artist, http://www.etsy.com/listing/107662512/the-lord-is-my-shepherd-lamb-on-shoulder