Purity of Heart, Psalm 86:11-13

pure-heart

“Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.”

Psalm 86:11-13, NLT

We must come with the desire. That desire to be taught, and then changed. Deep down— that is what we want. God gives his instruction so we can truly have life. He offers the truth, and that truth is a liberating force.

God, our teacher, is in a position to offer us ‘purity of heart.’ Sometimes purity can be regarded as ‘naivety’— but that is not the case. Purity is a spiritual state that cooperates with wisdom and discernment.To be pure is to be ‘without mixture.’ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To be pure is incredibly advantageous, especially in an age of rampant lust and confusing messages.

There is a real spiritual dimension to the person who has a pure heart. These are the most peaceful lives I have ever met. They radiate an inner goodness that is attractive and winsome, and you can see it in their countenance. David (the writer of this Psalm) prayed this for himself. He wants to be given ‘purity of heart’ so he would find the strength to really honor God.

Verse 12 reveals a whole worshipping heart. David seldom does things part way. He’s kind of ‘all my heart’ kind of guy. I linger over the word “forever.” It’s good to be reminded that we will exist forever with the Lord.

Verse 13 establishes the fact of God’s love to the reader. That love is “very great.” Saint, do not doubt that you are the object of the divine love. And this is no ordinary love, for it extends to those who need to be rescued. It is a real ‘roll up your sleeves’ kind of love.

 

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Striving to be Intimate: Psalms 73

23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
   you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalms 73,  ESV

Continuity is a medicine for us who are always on the edge of losing control. But the promise is for a continuous presence.  There is no flickering, or no jumping about.  God is steady.  He does not flit or fluctuate.  He is always, and forever, constantly focused with you.

He provides guidance, ‘free of charge’.  We can experience many confusing days.  We make the attempt to walk through them, but we quickly grasp our ineptitude.  It goes very much better when He is speaking into our hearts.  Since He is present with us on a continuous basis anyway, let us turn to Him for direction.

There is a realization in verse 25.  An understanding of who and what is real.  The psalmist has an ‘umbilical cord’ attached to heavenly places.  This feeds him and gives him a radical strength to stand up and ‘to be’.  He is completely over with the things of this earth.  He desires only heavenly things, that which really matters after looking down the long corridors of eternity.

In verse 26 he admits a desperate weakness.  He understands the foolishness of his flesh.  He knows that it is pathetic  and feeble.  There is absolutely nothing he can do about this.  He has tried and tried repeatedly.  His heart is like a colander that drains away all the grace and mercy that comes.  We can hold nothing.  But, there is a profound realization that God is strengthening his heart.  He has done this on an eternal level.  What this means is this:  He has touched me and by that touch has made me eternal, like Him.  “Eternal life…” John 3:16.

 27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
   you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
   I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
   that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73

Proximity determines everything.  Some will bounce to the other end of the spectrum.  But being close to Him confers life.  Moving away from Him brings nothing but certain death.  The issue in this Psalm is of ‘unfaithfulness’.  This is a biggie.  Being unfaithful means treachery, and a wagon load of deception, for good cause.  But down deep it implies ‘denial’.  But unfaithfulness is an umbrella word or concept.

The Psalmist again deals with proximity.  The closer we come, the further our unfaithfulness recedes.  (But don’t give up!). The Psalmist applauds his nearness to God.  He realizes that by taking refuge in God there is something that must be ’made’.  There is some effort that must happen.  He makes God his refuge.  The Lord God is now a  bomb shelter or a covering for our souls.  He continues this process with the deep commitment to sharing ‘the works of God’.  We carry that with us– the seeds of our redemption.

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Get Ready For Your Exam: Psalm 138:23-24

“God, examine me and know my heart;
       test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 See if there is any bad thing in me.
       Lead me on the road to everlasting life.”

Psalm 138:23-24,  NCV

 

“Examine me |  Test me | See me | Lead me.”  When we think about an examination, we are never happy or relaxed about it.  In our thinking an examination could mean the exposure of weakness.  And that is exactly what we want to avoid.  Funny though, the psalmist puts himself under the microscope.  He invites full disclosure, he anticipates God’s x-ray machine.  He wants it.

But his life isn’t perfect or complete.  There are fears, and anxieties laying deep inside his heart.  Many times this would divide us, and split us from Him.  Anxiety will often become a strong wall, that would grow into an issue of some significance.  The psalmist moves into God’s presence.  So much in him had to be extracted.  Understanding that the Father is incredibly aware of us is only the first step.

Examine me |  Test me | See me | Lead me.  Four words that we must get to know.  The Christian life “pivots” on these four words. The four brought together, get dynamically linked into our hearts.  These four concepts will become quite critical as we come closer to Him.  There is a synergy, when the elements of discipleship are mixed together.  For example, if we extract “the examine me” part of this equation, we will not be able to conclude the situations we face very effectively.

I once made a couple loaves of bread where I mistakenly substituted sugar instead of flour.  I was frustrated because the lump of dough, was not responding.  So what did I do?  I added more “flour” which was really powered sugar, from the unmarked canister.  Later, what I buried in the backyard was a big lump of something that would never, ever work.   Not even if I wished it very hard.

Discipleship must always be intimacy at its a basic level. 

That takes God examining my life, full disclosure of everything.  We need to be intimate, by being astonishingly open to Him.  The things we share will be confidential.  And it will also be essential.

“May it be the real me who finds the real You.”

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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.

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No Apologies— Psalm 14

no_apologies_title

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.[a]
No one does good,
    not a single one!

Will those who do evil never learn?
    They eat up my people like bread
    and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
Terror will grip them,
    for God is with those who obey him.
The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
    but the Lord will protect his people.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
    When the Lord restores his people,
    Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

Psalm 14, NLT

It seems that v.1 monopolizes this particular psalm of David. It is as a bold and clear statement on atheism that you can find in all of scripture. Psalm 14:1 is the ‘go-to’ verse for dealing with those pesky unbelievers. It defines and declares unequivocally the foolishness of those who won’t believe.

But this psalm has six other verses! They aren’t as well known as verse 1, but they certainly are valuable to us. Simply put, they are significant as well.

Commentary

V.1,  “Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!”

The human heart is the seat of either faith or unbelief. It operates by the decision of the will, and it effects our actions. Whatever is in our hearts leaks out into what we do. David passes an opinion on atheism— it only ends in folly, and the consequences of ‘no-faith’ are a twisted and a corrupted life.

David makes no apologies for verse 1. It is an analysis of what he sees and comes from his experiences.

V.2-3, “The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.[a]
No one does good,
    not a single one!”

God is always watching. We see each other on such a superficial level— we really can’t see more than ‘skin deep.’ But God can, and does. To go further— the entire human race is infected with the sin of unbelief. God makes the effort to do a detailed search; only to find a complete absence of wisdom. There are simply no ‘worthy’ people on planet Earth.

V.4-5, “Will those who do evil never learn?
    They eat up my people like bread
    and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
Terror will grip them,
    for God is with those who obey him.”

I think David is perplexed by the presence of evil. He sees it triumph over goodness, at least temporarily. The basic unteachableness of unbelievers poses a problem. In this confused world it is the believers in God who are often the victimized.

V.6-7, “The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
    but the Lord will protect his people.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
    When the Lord restores his people,
    Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

Again— no apologies. The wicked are alive and well on planet earth. The people of God will be given protection (which is something the unbelievers don’t have.) The ‘rescue helicopters’ have been dispatched, and His people will be saved. A full scale restoration will commence; there will be no more sin (other verses tell us this.) Joy is to become the overwhelming characteristic of those who are being fully redeemed.

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My Lifeguard: Psalm 54

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “We know where David is hiding.” To be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
    Defend me with your might.
Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Pay attention to my plea.
For strangers are attacking me;
    violent people are trying to kill me.
    They care nothing for God.  Selah

But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!
May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
    Do as you promised and put an end to them.

I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you;
    I will praise your name, O Lord,
    for it is good.
For you have rescued me from my troubles
    and helped me to triumph over my enemies.

Psalm 54, (NLT) 

All of us are facing a considerable, unrelenting assault. It really doesn’t matter if you are a believer, or not. One of my favorite “Far Side” by Gary Larson is two deer talking in the woods. One of them has a humongous target on his chest. The other comments, “Bummer of a birthmark, Larry.”

We are all born marked. We each have something on us we can’t get rid of. Think of it as a  bull’s-eye,  that the enemy has trained his spiritual weaponry upon. This occupied planet, full of deep darkness and black sin, is a dangerous place to live. We are being stalked.

David touches on this in this particular psalm. He knows physically which we can know spiritually. That there is a violence that focuses on me. Something quite wicked that will show me no mercy or pity.

Commentary

V. 1 puts us at a point of dependency in all of this. Martin Luther, in his best hymn wrote,

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.”

This is the very first thing we must assimilate. On our own, Satan will chew us up, and spit us out.

V. 2, having the ear of God is what we should truly covet. We must have His attentive ear. We must be heard! “God! Please listen to me. Look at me, I need you desperately.”

V. 3, this is no fairy tale world full of glee and flowers. David grasps the situation without illusion. People want to kill him, to assassinate him. He isn’t being paranoid or deluded. He has a big target on him. He is hated and despised.

V. 4, “But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!”

Praise has an element of boastfulness in it. That is its compelling power. When you stand in this remarkable Grace, you can face down anything. Perhaps David at this moment is remembering his showdown with the giant, Goliath. That was a bold approach then, and now another one is now needed.

V. 5,  “May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
   Do as you promised and put an end to them.”

Not only is our enemy defeated, but his planning and strategies actually work against him. When we were in language school in McAllen, Texas, my young son came down with a terrible fever. Lynn and I were quite anxious, we were completely broke. There was no money for a visit to the ER. Zilch. I went upstairs to his room. I got down on my knees at his bedside, and I began to pray. When I laid my hands on him, he was burning up. So I prayed some more, pleading for God’s intervention. A few minutes later, I laid my hands on him again, and he was completely cool! It was God’s miracle (It certainly wasn’t mine). My faith soared.

V. 6, When joy is present, really there, there is no such thing as a demanding sacrifice. We give, without counting the cost. When I am truly grateful, I will feel no pain, and never consider any issues of value.

V. 7, ” For you have rescued me from my troubles
and helped me to triumph over my enemies.”

Two phrases that connect like puzzle pieces; “rescued me, and helped me.” When I think about this, I think of a lifeguard watching swimmers on a beach. He’s on duty, and on the beach all have his complete focus. Everyone is under His care.

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As Good As It Gets: Psalm 66:1-5

praise

1 Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
    Sing about the glory of his name!
    Tell the world how glorious he is.ee
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
Everything on earth will worship you;
    they will sing your praises,
    shouting your name in glorious songs.” Interlude

Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles he performs for people!

There is an idyllic here. We trample down an idea of what should be, but not quite yet. Many things are being thrown apart, and a certain reality is being infused by our steady awareness.  We stand alert of such incredible awareness. It’s about the “goose-pimple” awareness that affects us sometimes turns into an object of praise.

So much is being declared. The power of the Lord is being praised, and we should back off and let Him take our praise in. God does absorb our praise and worship. He needs nothing, but takes all we give Him.

“Shout ‘ is a loud word. We are speaking out loud here. And we rest in all that is spoken. We suddenly start speaking in the very language of heaven. The things God does is worthy of our praise, we look upon them and we are astounded. Only He can merit such devotion.

The basic idea here spins off of the idea of worship. Can we really praise him who rules a complicated universe? So much is foul, and things let askew are misplaced. Where is the God who has arranged these things? This psalm is been a voice for sanity.

We worship because it is what we should do so. Yet we seem to accrue obstacles to block our worship of such a fine God. Why is this? Perhaps it is we feel threatened. He seems to claim too much glory, and after all, can’t we share? But this is not ‘biblical’ nor is it logical. We are not God, nor will we ever be.

He claims to do miracles among His people (v. 5). brings Perhaps that alone is reason to accept His ongoing care over our souls. He has cared over us, far more than we admit. We are His, and we will accept no other God.

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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.

 

Praise is How We Grow: Psalm 111:1-3

“Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.”

Psalm 111:1-3, NLT

This is a teaching psalm that’s purpose is to instruct or educate. This Psalm is a strict acrostic, with each line having an “ABC…” pattern. The first line (V.1) is the Hebriac phrase, “Hallel-jah” which we use in English, but it means “praise the Lord”.

Psalm 111 was part of a group of hymns sung while celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. It is very possible that Jesus sang this song with His disciples just before His arrest in Gethsemane.

Because this psalm is constructed so well and so precisely we can safely assume it should have a honor and reverence among both Jews and Christians.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!” I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.”

Why is praising God so important? Why should we thank Him? I suppose the answer can be found in His worthiness. Our relationship is with a Someone who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, He is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing.

Verse 1 also carries the idea of an existing fellowship of the “godly.” When we meet with each other to worship and praise, we activate and fortify each other. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts, and we will find a way to encourage each one.

V. 2, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!”
    All who delight in him should ponder them.”

We are cordially invited to wrap our heads and hearts around “the deeds of the Lord.” These are actions that God has done. These are things creative and redemptive. Our past, present and future are full of them. These deeds can be understood by those who delight in God, and ponder what He is doing.

Pondering is not ‘a piece of cake.’ You have to be motivated to ponder, and that takes a certain discipline. This Psalm has praise embedded all through it– so perhaps that is where we must begin.

V. 3, “Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.”

When we are exhorted by our elders to seek the Lord, that is a good thing. But how do we start? Remember, this Psalm is a teaching psalm. If we only listen to it, very closely, we will understand what we are to do.

The writer explains that we seek God by looking at what God does. (His actions speak louder than words.) He is creative– stars and galaxies, hummingbirds and salmon, snowflakes and monsoons. He created people and culture– Africans and Asians, Eskimos and Puerto Ricans. Indeed the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.

To love Him is to honor His acts. To ponder all that He has done, or is doing, to save us from our sins and free us from our bondage. What He did to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the story of us all. We should be people of joy, set apart to the Glory of God.

ybic, Bryan

We Are the ‘Word People’: Psalm 119:1-8

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Ps. 119:130

א Aleph

 1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, 
   who walk according to the law of the LORD. 
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes 
   and seek him with all their heart. 
3 They do nothing wrong; 
   they walk in his ways. 
4 You have laid down precepts 
   that are to be fully obeyed. 
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast 
   in obeying your decrees! 
6 Then I would not be put to shame 
   when I consider all your commands. 
7 I will praise you with an upright heart 
   as I learn your righteous laws. 
8 I will obey your decrees; 
   do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119:1—8, NIV

This psalm has many unique characteristics.

#1, there are 22 paragraphs. Each one focuses on a single letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

#2, And to make it even more interesting, every verse in that paragraph begins with that same letter. Example vv. 1 — 8 all start the verse with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

#3, There is a complexity in this psalm, which we certainly don’t see in English; but we do see it in the original Hebrew.

#4, There is an obvious awareness of the Law, or “torah.” But there is a total of nine other synonyms that have a connection to the ‘Torah’. They’re other translations of these words— law, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, promises, word. These are all different words, each have a different connotation. And they are changeable. I suppose this has to be is a divine intelligence beyond our comprehension, and far beyond our human ability to manipulate. God’s ‘fingerprints’ are all over this psalm.

Commentary

V. 1 — 2, the word “blessed” is used. But that is only the core idea. It has the broad idea of peace, confidence, and happiness in one’s new place or position. There is a place, but it seems to come to the blameless. And just so you know, being blameless is not being sinless. We sin, constantly. But we can be blameless in that place. V.2 has put an emphasis on two verbs— keeping, and seeking.

V. 3, “They do nothing wrong,” as far as I can see the believer is lifted out of a lifestyle of hopeless sinning. It is no longer the compelling momentum that energizes us. We are now to be walking the avenues that the Lord has made for us.

V. 4,  God has taken an active role in our salvation. We can look at His precepts as a burden, or as a help. They word, “obey” gets used.  (I suppose that that word obedience is the ‘neutron bomb’ of theological terms.) Yet, it is a necessary attitude if we want to lived blessed lives.

V. 5, Is an ejaculatory cry for deliverance. It has the spirit of Romans 7 all over it. The heart that is truly following God will understand this, it is the profound desire to be more like Him. Our spirits should yearn to be like our Father in heaven.

V. 6, deep inside the writer of this psalm should be a kindred spirit for us. The driving thought in this verse is that of having a true heart, a faithful heart. In a sense the psalmist realizes there is a day of accountability and judgement for himself.

V. 7, When I read this verse I have a wonderful sense of the mechanism of Christian transformation. We see praise building as the disciple is obeying, and vice versa. Obedience is linked into praise; and praise builds obedience! One feeds the other, and they are both strengthened.

V. 8, Here we see “commitment.” We observe the hungry heart of the psalmist to obey. “Obey” is always his critical word for us. In his mind this is the pivot on which everything turns on. There exists a holy resolve to comply and to heed His will.

New Things New, Psalm 136

Behold-I-Make-all-Things-NewBIG

Written to bless God’s people, Psalm 136 takes on the issues of life, and the grind of the day. I hope it encourages you to give thanks and praises to God. If you feel like it, add your own verses. His love endures forever.

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Psalm 136, New Bryan Version

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
When I feel lost and alone
His love endures forever.
When my prayers are not answered:
His love endures forever.

When I have marriage problems,
His love endures forever.
When I’m misunderstood,
His love endures forever.
When my job is a big hassle,
His love endures forever.
When my children go astray—
His love endures forever.
When I can’t pay my bills on time,
His love endures forever.
When my ‘discipleship is in doubt;
His love endures forever.

9 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
10 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
11 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

12 When I just been diagnosed with cancer,
His love endures forever.
13 When I face chronic depression,
His love endures forever.
14 When I am filled with doubt,
His love endures forever.
15 When everyone wants to rip me off–
His love endures forever.
16 When I can’t see the sun for weeks,
His love endures forever.
17 When it seems like its just one thing after another,
His love endures forever.

Selah

One Solitary Verse: Psalm 23:5

Eat up!
Eat up!

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Psalm 23:5

The six verses of Psalm 23 are truly a wonder. Even the secular world acknowledges their powerful presence. What they contain can’t be found anywhere else. This psalm exists to encourage the faltering and fearing. The heart of a ‘broken’ Christian can find solace and comfort in each verse; the peace given truly lights our darkness like nothing else. Yet verse five is my favorite. The Father is revealed as the “hostess with the mostess.”  A waiting table is set for us. I assume it is full of wonderful things– things that are delicious and delightful. It looks inviting. And we are His guests.

“In the presence of mine enemies,” tells me that I’m not dining alone. The word for ‘presence’ is literally ‘in the face of.‘ Satan is so aware of our blessings. Also note: the enemies are plural. This motley bunch have become witnesses of God’s grace and mercy on a sinner. I am a man who feasts while they can only watch.

To be ‘anointed with oil’ evokes the Shepherd’s care for His sheep. The oil would not only be medicinal, but also defining. It would define ‘ownership.’ Only His sheep would receive this tender care. And again, the enemies see this.

“My cup runneth over,” is the ultimate blessing. We find ourselves being given the best metaphor of an overflowing life. I once picked apples and used a five gallon bucket; I had so many apples the bucket wouldn’t hold them all. That’s the way the Kingdom of God works. We’re always blessed with a ‘super-abundance.’ And all is grace.

aabryplain   flourish-61

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

I Really Love This City: Psalm 87

God Loves Jerusalem

A song. A psalm of the sons of Korah.

1 The Lord built Jerusalem on the holy mountain. 2 He loves its gates more than any other place in Israel. 3 City of God, wonderful things are said about you. Selah

4 God says, “I will put Egypt and Babylonia on the list of nations that know me. People from Philistia, Tyre, and Cush will be born there.”

5 They will say about Jerusalem, “This one and that one were born there. God Most High will strengthen her.” 6 The Lord will keep a list of the nations. He will note, “This person was born there.” Selah 7 They will dance and sing, “All good things come from Jerusalem.”

 

This is the Psalm that honestly deals with Jerusalem as a significant subject. When we read it, we’re brought into a special place where we start believing the possibilities. The Father is most gracious and wonderful as He waits for us to catch up with Him.

He loves Jerusalem. On His planet He thinks quite directly on a certain place. I suppose each of us have a definite place we feel at home and at peace. For me personally it is Mendocino, California. I have a connection there, and it resonates deeply within me. When I visit there, it’s like ‘falling in love,’ all over again.

God loves Jerusalem. He truly has an affection for this particular place. It is what He desires, and it’s where He wants to be. You might say that He has an exclusive “crush” on this place on earth. Like me, with Mendocino, He has settled into a wonderful and truly special place. He has found that “all good things come from Jerusalem.”

We might try to diminish this, it seems way too much and it smacks quite too much of a nationalism, or an affinity toward a solid patriotism of Jerusalem. But He is not into this, not by a long shot. He admits His infatuation with this City, but isn’t brought into anything strange. He is elegant and refrained, and most kind in revealing His love toward us.

I must tell you upfront, for many preachers and expositors, believe we are ‘Jerusalem.’ The Church is now the city of God. The Church has been selected to fill the role of the city of Jerusalem. I must admit, I don’t know how I feel about this. I do know as the Church we have inherited so much, I have no doubt that so much has just been turned-over, and given to us. But are we now. ‘Jerusalem”?

I honestly do not have the slightest idea. (Theology is not one of my strong suits.) I do know that we are now God’s covenant people through the blood of Jesus Christ. Either way, we have a “deep lot” to consider. And yet, I have to tell you, that within 30 minutes of worshipping Him, quite exclusively, you will probably know and you’ll figure it all out. When you do, please let me know, ok?

ybic, Bryan

 

 

Psalm 87:7, Where Does the Beauty Come From?

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7 “Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”

Psalm 87:7, ESV

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.”

C.S. Lewis

Giftedness has fascinated me for years. I have had the honor of knowing painters, writers, dancers, poets, singers, musicians, and actors, (not sure about ‘mimes’ though)– all creative people. Most of these have been believers, although not all. But each was an artist, through and through.

What is the intangible spark that sets them apart? What is the ‘difference’ between them and me? I believe it is not as simple as some would suggest.

My daughter sculpts in miniature. She is very good. I watch her create and I just know I’m in the presence of the extraordinary. My wife is a gifted musician. Thecreativity-music heavens open up when her fingers brush the ivory keys. And me, well– I’m the hack– trying to write a blog and the occasional poem. Oh, I paint sometimes. (Acrylics, mostly). I guess I just know enough about giftedness to recognize it when it comes along.

The psalmist hears the artists of his day say, “All my springs are in you.” Someone has described the creative process as just opening up a “spigot.” It’s probably more than that. The source itself is found in God. When something beautiful is done– its origins are supernatural, filtered through a person. It uses that person’s training and latent talents to express the beautiful.

There is an authentic mystery to this. Elements must be considered: being created in God’s image, and our unique aptitudes. Our own spiritual formation plays a keen role.

I praise God for “the fountains” that enrich our lives. They are in Him. I can live with that.

ybic,

Bryan

Psalm 111:1-2, Vanilla Extract

“Praise the Lord! [Hallelujah]
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.”

Psalm 111:1-2, NASB

vanilla

I love vanilla ice cream. While others line up for Coconut Fudge Delight or Chocolate Mocha Nut Surprise, I say “Give me vanilla!” To me it is the greatest and best ice cream on the planet. Psalm 111 strikes me as vanilla. Its verses are plain and unadorned, with little pizzazz or lofty vistas. Psalm 111 is content to do its duty, pointing worshippers to God. It certainly does that, and more.

This Psalm seems a generic or a “vanilla” one, with very little originality compared to others. It breaks little new ground, and when we compare it to others (e.g. Psalm 23) it seems to come up short. And it might come short on innovation, but certainly it is God-breathed and worthy. Besides, uniqueness is often overrated.

“Praise the Lord! [Hallelujah]
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
 In the company of the upright and in the assembly.” (v.1)

Verse 1 in Hebrew is literally “Hallelujah!” Often the  word is used by others to express sarcastic satisfaction or disdain over some “victory.” But “hallelujah” is a word revered by Christians as a single term of praise to God.

The word “all” is also noteworthy. It is a term meaning everything, as “with all my heart.” There is no diminishment, no second best. Our hearts need a complete and an entire absorption in God.

 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer. 19:13

“In the company of” delineates society, surrounded by other worshipers. This is hard for some, but we were built for this social dimension. Solitary religion is the exception, not the rule. We really are designed for corporate worship, it’s in our spiritual DNA.

“Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.” (v. 2)

Concentration is to be on what the Lord has done (or doing.) This often takes discernment. We sometimes simply don’t recognize what He is doing. Our focus is to be on God’s work, wherever that might be. His efforts are the believer’s meditation.

The word “studied” is interesting. Study takes an effort. It doesn’t mean a flippant or casual interest, but implies work. Worshipping God is not a hobby for the Christian. It’s not done in our spare time. We must recognize this as the majesty of God is not a trifle.

The word “delight” is used. We are to be specialists in the Spirit, enjoying the Lord and all His works. Delight implies satisfied enjoyment.

This psalm may be vanilla, but obviously worthy of our attention. We should come to it, bringing it into our lives. Psalm 111 is a rich and solid contribution to those seeking to worship God fully and truly. It is a good psalm.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 16:1-2– Safe and Sound Passage

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In His hands we are safe

“Keep me safe, O God,
    for I have come to you for refuge.

2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
    Every good thing I have comes from you.”

Ps. 16:1-2, NLT

Safe and sound. That is the place of the faithful believer. (Relax. Faithful doesn’t mean perfect). We are given an immunity from many hardships because we wear our salvation as a signet ring, (Not a “mood ring.”) We are free to do anything but sin.

Keep me safe. The Lord is a “keeping God” to each. His wings provide a Kevlar-like safety and instills a confidence. But verse 1 also tells us that we must come– its our decision– protection must be sought out.

Verse 2 establishes a verbal connection with the one who is Almighty. And what is said is “my Master!” Clearly the speaker sees himself as the servant in the relationship. This is not presumption, but of faith . When you have met your “master” make sure He is a good and wise and loving one. Be fully mastered by Him insures umbrellathat every part of you is protected, all is being ‘under the umbrella.’ And the purpose of your life is not seeking freedom but a Master. Jesus is the finest of them all.

An umbrella of protection is a powerful incentive of walking with God. He covers all who proclaim His rulership over them. But more than this provision was made for all that I need while under His protection. In the culture of the Middle Eastern hospitality is a phenomenal action. It is a bad thing not to meet the needs of your guest, As long as they are under your tent, they are protected and provided for.

“Every good thing I have comes from you.” What a promise. But it’s that contains all the good things. He is God’s piñata   — broken open provides for each of His children. He empties Himself to fill us up.

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ybic, Bryan

 

Something All Lit Up: Psalm 42

all-lit-up

“Oh Father, I want us to be swallowed up in this Psalm. Not that it’s a happy place to be. But to learn how to be in an unhappy place is what we need. And this Psalmist does it so well. He is miserable so well. I want You to teach Your people how to be struck down, well. How to be in turmoil, well. How to be downcast, well. How to have waves break over them, well. And the Psalms, and this one in particular, is so well suited to help us. So grant that we would know how to feel and how to think with You in the Psalms. Through Christ I pray. Amen”

~Dr. John Piper, referencing Psalm 42

Psalm 42 is a distillation of a wonderful theology. It is quite profound in the certain ways it understands God.

These 11 verses carry us into presence of God, and these 11 verses put us into His presence. What more could we ever want?

Vv. 1-3, establishes  the incredible hunger (whether or not we see it) we as humans have for God. Hunger and thirst are the particular desires, and these are strong needs. Don’t underestimate them. They’re quite intense.

Vv. 4-7, carries a special awareness of a cluster of memories. They somehow remember of how things once were, a long time ago. Any frustration, or discouragement should never become the very method of living. It’s  just temporary, and never something to lock down on. Too many believers could lose faith at this moment.

V. 8 presses on to us by God’s great love and power. He reacts to us, as we ourselves reacted in v. 1-3. He presses us, just like we insisted earlier.

V. 9-11, we work over the language of earlier verses. So much is simmering here, and so much to consider.  We do indeed to wrestle through so much resistance, but yet, it can be expected, if we are who we say we are.

All together, we see that the complete spectrum is covered. Psalm 42 meets us, in whatever frame of mind/heart we find ourselves. It’s precisely what we need, no matter where we find ourselves. We are His, because He wills us to be. His own love, carries us to His side. )

ybic, Bryan

U

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

It’s Getting Noisy Down Here, Psalm 83:1-3

noise-speakerss

“O God, do not be silent!
Do not be deaf.
Do not be quiet, O God.
2 Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies?
Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up?
3 They devise crafty schemes against your people;
they conspire against your precious ones.”

Psalm 83:1-3, NLT

Someday, someone is going to invent a tactile/sensory function for the Psalms. I’m thinking of a whole audiovisual experience that you could download. You could reach out and feel the dampness of a cave, or smell the incense burning at the Temple Mount. That would be pretty cool. But I suppose in a way, God has given us an imagination for these things. We just need to practice, and learn to use it.

V. 1, Right out of the chute, this Psalm starts us off. We hear someone stepping forward before the Lord. And it sounds like this person has a real issue with God. Or at least His silence. But it really, truly does trouble the Psalmist, enough so is that he defies religious protocol and etiquette, steps up and unloads. The speaker is quite disturbed by how quiet God seems to be, the silence itself is disturbing. Is He deaf? Why don’t you say something? Anytime Lord– we are waiting!

When you “mash” these three verses together, I get the distinct feeling that the Psalmist wants God to “go nuclear.” (I don’t think the speaker would object in the slightest.) In v.2, the writer moves from making direct statements (v. 1), to asking serious questions (v. 2). But these questions are those that are “leading” in nature. They are asked with the idea that the answer is very obvious. (Its like asking a five-year old if he wants chocolate ice cream– of course he does!)

The words, “uproar,” “arrogant” and “uprising” are some pretty inflammatory words. But these are on the “front burner” for the Psalmist, and he uses them to persuade God to act. As I think of this one’s boldness, I think I would distance myself from him. I would be scared of the lightning strike that would be inbound any moment. (Or maybe the “ground opening up and swallowing trick.”) But I suppose the lesson would be for us always to come forward step up, and speak out. “Always speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

V. 3, “They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones.” God’s own people have always been attacked by evil, crafty people. It started when Cain slew Abel, then came Noah, Lot, and then Joseph got his turn. Evil and wickedness has always tried to destroy every godly soul. One of the key words is “conspire.” My dictionary tells me that the verb form is “to agree together, especially secretly, to do something wrong, evil, or illegal.” It is always evil, (although I suppose one might be a “conspirator of good,” but I think that might be pushing it.)

The truth is that “light and night” are serious factors. They are locked with each other. We think we can stand aside, relax and avoid the carnage, but all of a sudden we realize, “Hey, this is about me; at least, it seems like it, and the Book of Ephesians. But in chapter 6, we clearly see a serious war, and the armor necessary to survive. Wow, maybe my heart is at the center of this mess?” The answer is obvious, “You better believe it.”

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:10-12, NLT

&

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me.)