Who Follows You? Psalm 145:4

 

Five Generations
Five Generations

4One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Psalm 145:4, ESV

The worship continues, as it should. Our last post, vv. 1-3 (http://psalmslife.com/2014/09/14/the-true-king-psalm-145/) has set the pace for us.

But this particular verse has a wonderful slant. It is praise that has been embedded into the framework of family. The idea of this generational dynamic is quite alien to us, living in the West. We stress the individual, with very little thought on our effect on close kin.

Commentary

V. 4, One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

As we start to communicate trans-generationally, we find God’s work and activity in our lives passing to our children and grand-children. Our unique experiences with the Holy Spirit, the things we have learned and understood, are not lost– rather stay alive and aware. We give them a heritage, and a narrative of faith that enriches them.

“Life is but one continual course of instruction. The hand of the parent writes on the heart of the child the first faint characters which time deepens into strength so that nothing can efface them.” Unknown

My parents have given me much. Back in the 1970s they acted in faith and became hosts/sponsors of refugees from Cambodia. They took in a family into our little farmhouse. They encountered intense opposition and challenging obstacles. But my dad and mom stayed faithful to the Lord, inspite of daunting issues that dogged them. I learned about God by their life.

A father’s responsibility is not to make the child’s decisions, but to let the child watch him make his.” Ed Cole

Shoulders of Giants

When you communicate your experiences to the ‘church-to-come’ you will leave a legacy that will be a rich source of faith and hope. Because of you, they will stand on the shoulders of giants. The kingdom of our Lord will advance. And they will stand on your shoulders of faith.

Consider these verses–

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut. 6:7, ESV

“Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11

“He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,”  Ps. 78:5-6, MSG

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bry-signat (1)

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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.

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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

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ybic, Jonathan

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

Psalm 19:7 and Psalm 51:6: The Wisdom of the Word, part 2

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In our journey from initial conversion to Christ to our last breath on earth, like a seasoned sea captain, we will need wisdom to avoid shipwreck and get our boat safely into harbor. Wisdom will help us be aware of Satan’s strategies and how to respond to them. Scripture will make the simple wise (Psalm 19:7) and Christ the Word will teach us wisdom in our innermost being (Psalm 51:7).

Take the issues of unity and division, for example. A good rule of thumb is this: What Satan wants to divide, God wants to unify; and what Satan wants to unify, God wants to divide. In recent decades, we’ve had more teaching in the Church on the first half of this statement than the second.

We’ve had clarion calls to unity in many different areas of life: marriage, family, work, race relations, between the sexes, Christians within a local church, Christians in different denominations, world religions, nation to nation, etc.. There’s been no shortage of sermons or books on the importance of unity. However, the truth that where Satan wants to unify, God wants to divide, is sometimes overlooked.

For the wise man or woman who is immersed in Scripture and engaged in an intimate relationship with Christ, sometimes God will come to them like a sword or a scalpel and will divide an area of their life that Satan has combined, fused, or unified. Scripture and Christ the Word of God will visit them and be “living and active, sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Notice that when Christ visits the Seven Churches in the Book of the Revelation, he has a “sharp two–edged sword in his mouth” (Revelation 1:16). Here are three examples of that sword at work:

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One problem I saw frequently in the pastorate was when people fused their view of God with their view of a dysfunctional parent. Put another way, if they had a father who was distant, angry, abusive, vindictive, controlling, manipulative, and/or neglectful, it was easy for them to see God the Father this way. This is right out of Satan’s playbook; he loves to unify a person’s experience of an unhealthy parent with their concept of God.

However, the wise person who is immersed in Scripture and engaged in an intimate relationship with Christ will be able to separate the two. The written Word will come to them as a scalpel and separate God from the parent with passages like this:” But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). Christ the Word, who is Love, will also come to them with a sword in his mouth and separate the false union they’ve forged with their parent and God.’

Satan also loves to combine real discipleship with false discipleship. Many Christians have experienced churches that are more driven by law than grace. Instead of resting in their identity as loved children of God and having discipleship flow out of that, through self–effort and religious performance they try to earn their identity as loved sons and daughters.

The wise person, who knows both Scripture and Christ, will ultimately escape this toxic union. The Epistle to the Galatians will visit them and separate true discipleship from false with its message of our true identity in Christ. Christ the Word will come to those crushed by the law and speak tenderly to them, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29).

Satan loves to unify the concept of success with biblical faithfulness. A particular church may be preaching a false gospel of material gain, but since they’re the biggest church in town, the unwise will esteem the leadership of that church to be both successful and faithful. In reality they are successful, but are not faithful to the gospel. Rick Joyner says that God allows these churches to be blessed but he doesn’t inhabit them. Immersion in Scripture and knowing Christ defines the true gospel, separates faithfulness from success, and exposes these impostors for who they really are.

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ybic, Jonathan

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Psalm 15: The True Israelite, # 1

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Psalm 15 (NIV)

A Psalm of David

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?

Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless

and does what is righteous,

and speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,

who does his neighbor no wrong

and casts no slur on his fellow man,

4 who despises a vile man

but honors those that fear the Lord,

who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury

and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken.

Many biblical scholars regard Psalm 15 as a kind of “entrance liturgy” where those Israelites seeking to enter the temple court are made acutely aware by a temple priest what kind of conduct is necessary to enter these sacred precincts. God is holy and requires those who want to enter his temple and dwell in His presence to also be holy (Lev. 11:44). Jeremiah 7:5–7 echoes this Psalm in that the Lord tells his people that He will only dwell in the temple with them if they “do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood or follow other gods…”

The person described in Psalm 15, who qualifies to enter God’s holy presence, is first and foremost a person of sterling character and integrity. Verse 2 shows that what he says and what he does are one in the same. Verse 3 reveals that he has control of his tongue and verse 4a and b disclose that his assessment of other people’s character is accurate and commendable. His dealings with others are above reproach concerning oaths, lending money (no interest), and taking bribes (v.5). Please notice how this list of qualities is weighted heavily towards how one treats their neighbor: Our access to the presence and fellowship of God is inextricably linked with how we fulfill the Golden Rule.

Talk radio show host and virtuoso thinker Dennis Prager, who is deeply committed to Judaism, says there is a strong tradition in his religion that our judgment and reward from God in the hereafter will be mostly based on how we treated other people.

In Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, there is much focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust–as Dante himself, the protagonist, takes a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. What’s relevant for our study is that in the poem, sins like Pride, Envy and Anger are regarded as worse than sins like Sloth because they take delight in harming others.

Think of Christ Himself dividing up the sheep and goats at the end of the age in Matthew 25:31–46. One group, the sheep, are granted eternal access to the presence of God while a second group, the goats, is eternally banished from the presence of God. The criteria that Christ uses for making this judgment is how each group treated others, specifically whether they extended works of mercy to the hungry, thirsty, unclothed, alien, prisoner, and the sick.

Think of a good parent’s heart and family dynamics. Few things grieve the heart of a parent more–or God the Father–than their kids fighting, doing harm to one another, or withholding love and care to a sibling because of indifference or malice. This observation leads to the question, “Why does the abuse or neglect of our brother grieve the heart of God so, even to the point, in certain cases, of denying a person fellowship with His wonderful presence? We’ll explore that question in part 2 of our study.

ybic, Jonathan

Father, Wedge Me In Somewhere

nesting-sparrow

Psalm 46

New Living Translation (NLT)

For the choir director: A song of the descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices.[a]

1″ God is our refuge and strength,     

always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come    

 and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.    

 Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”  Interlude

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“Ever-present!” That is how another version words verse 1. I will not to have to hammer very long to get to the real point. It is as if these three verses were beautiful gems just waiting  on the ground. “Oh, look here! There is a diamond, and I saw a big ruby lying just over there!” The special promises of the Bible are just like that. I guess its just what holds our gaze.

The sons of Korah have compiled these verses for us to hold dear, close to our breasts. Korah was a family– a clan in the Jewish community. I’d like to believe that the composition of this Psalm knit them together in a profound way. (Their “family reunions” were not drunken brawls, where the police must be called in.) Rather they connected around the Word they had composed. Could it be that you are a son or daughter of Korah? I think that could be arranged. It would be a blessing.

These verses speak about the “secure security” we have in God. You’re the  98 pound weakling, with scoliosis– you wander the beach and very big bullies line up just to kick some sand in your face. And you really are sick of it. God has guaranteed our security. He now stands between us and them! And is always there, and ready to intervene.

The verses that follow all deal with calamities and natural disasters. In Mexico, I lived on the side of a volcano. I now live in Alaska with various earthquakes and tsunamis. I have been through hurricanes, tornados and floods. (I even went without coffee for three days.) But for God’s precious people, there will be triumph, even though there be at times considerable loss. We are not immune to bad things– we are just comforted and sustained in these terrible moments. We get comforted, when others can find none.

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ybic, Bryan