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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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

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“I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”

Psalm 145:1-3, CEB

The spirit of David opens up this psalm incredibly upbeat. He is wild and quite fervent as he unleashes his praise of God. In the past, he has been hammered many times by dark forces. And yet, David continues to praise in a way that some would consider way too excessive.

Praise has changed David. He has discovered much through trials and obstacles he has encountered. He is not bitter, but better. He has not been mauled, but amazed by the grace that has been given freely to him.

Commentary

V. 1, “I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.”

King David loves to praise his God. He calls Him the “true king.” I suppose “true” is the operative word. God is royal, and He astonishes us beyond our focus.

The idea of “blessing His name” isn’t really a part of our western mindset. It may seem to be extraneous and doubtful. But David understands something. He can impart this directly to the presence of God. He really believes he can convey “goodness” to a God who is already good and true.

V. 2,  I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.

I suppose we are seeing something that drives David further. David is focused on delivering his blessing directly on the Lord. He is blessing when so many are cursing.

I think that this verse directs us a to an admirable consistency of faith. But David presses us in this psalm to focus on a worthy God, who deserves a daily acknowledgement. David shepherds us into the concreteness of our belief.

“Forever and always. Simply understood, we must realize we are offering up something quite eternal and everlasting. David understands that his faith is fairly understood. (But understanding doesn’t mean acceptance). But certainly, there is a grace that punches into our malaise. We suddenly understand a grace that is beyond us.

V. 3,  The Lord is great and so worthy of praise God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”  It seems David is running on an understanding of this worthy God. David is focused on “greatness” and “worthiness” of God. Simply, the understanding this deep awareness will change us completely. He turns us “upside down.”

“Can’t be grasped,” propels us into a deep awareness of His goodness. We see it, and then we try to focus, but our silliness and foolishness deflects so much. And yet it pushes us into an ignorant place. Humility will bring us directly into His presence. (But that may seem very hard.)

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Use the Psalms as a Touchstone in Your Life

TouchStone

There are many compelling reasons why we should read the Psalms. One reason takes the believer to perhaps what is an unexpected passage in I Corinthians 3:10–15. In these verses the apostle Paul exhorts church leaders to take heed how they build the house of God, because at the judgment seat of Christ, their work will be evaluated by fire. It will either endure and be rewarded as gold, silver, and precious stones or it will be consumed as worthless wood, hay, and stubble.

Such a future examination should be sobering to Christian leaders everywhere and at all times. However, there’s no reason to believe that the laity or non–leaders will not also receive a similar evaluation. In the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible of the New Testament on page 288, a scholar’s comment reads: “Although Paul is speaking directly to ministers of the gospel, his words apply to all Christians inasmuch as all are called to ‘build up’ the Church in love (I Cor. 14:4; Eph. 4:11–16; I Thess. 5:11…).”

Because God is loving and merciful, he wants every believer to stand before him and be rewarded for a substantial “body of work” that endures the fiery test. He wants no one to endure the shame of seeing their total life’s thoughts, words, and deeds consumed in the revelation of their own pride and vanity. Because of his generosity, he has provided his sons and daughters with Touchstones to help them judge their life in the here and now so that their final Day of Judgment will be a time of great joy and not sorrow.

According to dictionary.search.yahoo.com, a touchstone is “a hard black stone, such as jasper or basalt, formerly used to test the quality of gold or silver by comparing the streak left on the stone by one of these metals with that of a standard alloy.”

The streak left by gold and silver represents thoughts, words, and deeds that are pleasing to God; the streak left by the alloy is like the wood, hay, and stubble that are works that are substandard and not approved.

The Psalms are Scripture; they are inspired by God and give us a Touchstone through which to test our lives. II Timothy 3:16 describes this Touchstone as being, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We read the Psalms, meditate on their meaning, and take a look at what kind of streak our lives are leaving on the stone.

Over the years the life of David as revealed in the Psalms– both as a luminous life of passionate devotion to God and as a great sinner– has become in many ways a Touchstone for me. Simply read Psalm 63. He fervently thirsts for God in dry and thirsty land where there is no water. He has seen God in the temple in his power and glory and has found the loving kindness of God to be better than life itself. God himself has satisfied him like a banqueting table full of the choicest of foods.

When I test my life on this Touchstone, it reveals both my own authentic devotion but also all my half–hearted religious gestures, “playing church,” going through the motions, and everything that is perfunctory, artificial, and hollow.

David the great sinner is also like a basalt or jasper stone to test my own confession, repentance, and brokenness.

After his famous moral debacle involving adultery, lying, and murder, he offers God a broken and contrite heart. He is like the publican who beat his breast and said, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” or the woman of ill–repute who cleaned Jesus’ feet with her tears.” They gave God the sacrifice that he really wants: true repentance with godly sorrow. When my life rubs up against this Touchstone it reveals my own genuine brokenness but also all my rationalizing, blame shifting, phony apologies, and lame excuses: “The dog ate my homework.” May the Psalms as a Touchstone help us to put away such childish things and move on to maturity in Christ.

ybic, Jonathan

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

http://lettersfromfawncreek.tateauthor.com/

 

 

 

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

Psalms 149: 1–4: More Thoughts on Entering a Heavenly Worship Service

1 Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.

2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their king.

3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with the tambourine and harp.

4 For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

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An observation was made in a post published on April 5, 2014, called Entering a Heavenly Worship Service that when the writers of the Psalms talk about worshipping in the temple, they mean the Jerusalem Temple. Secondly, the post took a look at what the apostle John saw in Revelation 4 and 5 when the curtain was rolled back and he witnessed the worship service that was going on in heaven.

What was striking was that the figures and fixtures one finds in the Jerusalem Temple in the Old Testament, one also finds in the heavenly worship service in the last book of the Bible: a Throne, seven torches (menorah), a sacrificial Lamb, golden bowls, etc.. The profound conclusion that we can draw from this is that when both the Old Testament saints and especially the believers under a new covenant worship God here on earth, they are in some mystical and very real way joining the worship service in heaven. They have a dual citizenship.

When this is embraced by faith, it should turn hollow, mechanical worship into a dynamic experience. To thoroughly compare Psalm 149:1–4 with Revelation 4 and 5 would take several posts so I will limit my observations to three things:

(1) When you worship God at your local church, always remember you are coming to the Throne of Grace.

Look at the language in verse 4: ” For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” This is the language of grace. In Revelation 4:1, the apostle John looked and beheld an open door in heaven. In Revelation 4:3, there is an exquisite rainbow around the throne that hearkens back to the covenant of Noah when God promised never again to flood the earth. Again, these are images of God’s grace and compassion and mercy on our lives.

I realize that what I just wrote has been repeated so often from pulpits and from worship leaders that it may sound like a cliché; however, I still meet Christians from time to time who are bound by the fetters of legalism, guilt, and shame and can’t seem to find the Throne of Second Chances (and third chances and fourth chances and fifth chances…ad infinitum). If you’ve done some big sinning, what a blessing 1 John 1:9 is for you:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Hebrews 4:12 tells us to draw close to the Throne to find mercy and grace in a time of need.I know this is basic Christianity but I never get tired of hearing the good news. We may get tired of asking for forgiveness but God never gets tired of granting it. Wanting to enter into the heavenly worship service can be good motivation for confession, repentance, and making things right with the people in our lives so that we can draw near to God and better experience his delight in us.

(2) When you enter the heavenly worship service, your worship will be directed towards God the Creator.

Check out Revelation 4:11:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

We owe God our very existence. It is better to exist than not to exist and God deserves our praise for all that entails–the pleasant gifts, the neutral gifts, and the painful gifts–because it is all working for good in order to conform us to the image of his Son.

Psalms 149:2 tells Israel to rejoice in their Maker. When we look at the creation we see the glory of God and it causes us to bow before him in the light of his Beauty, Goodness, and Truth. A majestic mountain range reveals a majestic God; a vast ocean displays his infinity and all the flora and fauna remind us that he is the Living God who sustains all things by the word of his power.

(3) When you enter the heavenly worship service, your worship will be directed towards God the Son who according to Revelation 5:10 was slain and ransomed men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Psalm 149:4 says that we are to praise God “who crowns the humble with salvation.” All we need to do to elicit praise and worship in our lives is think about our lives before Christ and after Christ and think about what it would be like to be eternally separated from God for eternity. All we need to do is meditate on the incomprehensible love of God who endured such a heinous death to bring us into relationship with him and gladly usher us into a worship service that will go on for all of eternity.

ybic, Jonathan

 

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

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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/

The Things of the Earth Will Grow Strangely Dim– Psalm 73: 25, 26

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

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

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

For many people, in the days of our youth, life has a certain allure. We have places to go, people to see, and things to do. Life is pregnant with the promise of seemingly limitless possibilities. However, with each new experience, we find that the persons, places, and things did not satisfy us like we thought they would.

As we’re experiencing this dissatisfaction, we may, at the same time, get bombarded by messages from the world telling us that something is wrong with us because the feelings we had in our youth are gone. Messages like “Carpe diem!” (Seize the day!), live each day like it is your last, and live life to the fullest are all well and good, but I suspect that many souls are using them for inspiration to try to capture the feelings that they had in their youth.

The world and its messages are passing away. The psalmist, Asaph, realized this and was looking to God for counsel (v.24). He knew that nothing on this earth could truly satisfy and made God his portion and sustenance (v.25, 26).

Augustine had it right when he said that “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” As the old saying goes, we have a God–shaped vacuum that only God can fill. Finite, created things–persons, places, things– leave us empty; only the infinite, Uncreated God can satisfy. As we gaze into his face, this truth is highlighted and we remember the old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus/

Look full in his wonderful face/

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/

In the light of his glory and grace.

If the things of the world are growing strangely dim, we’re on the right track. If the world doesn’t feel like our home, we’re on the right track. That feeling is like the instinct within the salmon that drives it back to it’s native stream. Our native stream is heaven and we shouldn’t let the messages of the world sidetrack us from our journey.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Psalm 23:1: I Shall Not Want

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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.

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ybic, Jonathan

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

Psalm 40: 1-3: Our Independence Day

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1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

For Americans, tomorrow is Independence Day. On this holiday we celebrate our independence from Britain and the tyrannical rule of King George. We honor the men and women who made sacrifices to preserve our liberty (e.g., people who serve in the military) and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy that others in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes do not. For example, we should all be grateful that we can speak our mind without getting put in the Gulag or a concentration camp.

In the above text, David is also celebrating his independence day. No one knows for sure what he was delivered from–sin, sickness, sorrow, military trouble–but he is praising God for the victory. Additional to celebrating the  holiday tomorrow, it would behoove us all to give thanks and praise to God for all the independence days (plural) we’ve been so fortunate to enjoy. For each and everyone of us have found ourselves confined to slimy pits, mud, and mire.

According to Scripture we were slaves to sin and Satan, but we have been bought with the blood of Christ.  We are now translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our personal spiritual Declaration of Independence comes in many ways:

Sometimes it is financial and we experience his provision; other times it is an addiction and we are delivered to sobriety. Sometimes we are lonely and he brings us friends or a spouse; other times we mourn and he brings us comfort. Sometimes we are sick and he brings us his healing; other times we have been falsely accused and he works to exonerate us. Sometimes we are estranged from a loved one or friend and he brings us reconciliation; other times we have a “thorn in the flesh” and he removes it.

Whatever the case, be sure to take a moment this 4th of July and acknowledge all of his wondrous works and all the freedoms you enjoy because his mercies endure forever. When he said, “It is finished,” your own Independence Day began.

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ybic, Jonathan

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Come visit me at http://www.openheavensblog.com/. I really think you will be blessed.

Light My Eyes, Psalm 13:3

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“Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” 
 

Psalm 13:3, NIV

God is the sole developer of light.  He creates it and then assigns it to whom ever He chooses.  He is the proprietor and the sole creator of its properties.  Without Him actively bestowing light on us we would have no access to its power or its benefits .  He holds the exclusive patent.

As Adam’s progeny we have experienced a light moratorium.  We have been cut off from its many benefits.  Illumination, understanding and wisdom are just some of the essences of light.  When we have it, we are astounded that we lived without it, and we are amazed at the ignorance of our past days.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:30, NIV

Darkened by our sin, we struggle throughout our blinded lives, unable to understand or grasp what is our real purpose.  Meaning completely eludes us.  However, we are directed by the Psalmist to open our hearts to the gracious gift of light.  It illuminates us, giving us a sense of what is real and how life unfolds.  That word “understanding” from our text is critical .  No matter how stupid and pathetic we have become, the Word of God penetrates our fog and gives us a sense of what is true, and what is real.

Let it unfold, let it open up in your understanding.  Like an umbrella on a foggy and rainy day, when it opens it will cover you.  Notice that the source of ‘lit-up’ truth emanates from the “words”.  Place yourself in His Word, let it pour over you and let it bring you to the the place of joyful acceptance.

The verse speaks of being “simple”.  That actually is a pretty descriptive of our condition, and reveals much of human history and “so-called” progress.  The word means “naive”.  History opened up shows people to be amazingly compliant and susceptible to dictators and men with power.  We seem to follow leaders with sinister and strange purposes and agendas. History shows it over and over.  We just can’t grasp what is true and what is real.

Jesus has come as the “Good Shepherd”. He stands at the door, and rings our doorbell. Those of us who are being led into His Grace and Truth are finding light.  He is revealing to us a definitive understanding of truth.  And we need truth desperately. Let Him lead you, today.

%“Glory in Christ and you can bask in His light forever.”   Woodrow Kroll

“If you have only a little ray of light, show out distinctly that you are for Him.”   G.V. Wigram

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ybic, Bryan

Lord! You Are All Mine– Psalm 119:57-58

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57 “Lord, you are mine!
    I promise to obey your words!
58 With all my heart I want your blessings.
    Be merciful as you promised.”

 Psalm 119:57-58, NLT

What certainty, and what confidence in these two verses. Within these verses we encounter a faith that excels over all that could disturb it. Verse 57 implies a pronounced boldness,  “Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words!” Obedience for the Christian, can only settle us. We step into it, very much sure and confident of His love for our souls. “You are mine.” This can only be a distinct work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.

We declare our love by our obedience. They are chained together like inmates on a Georgia prison farm. Love, and obedience should move as one.

There are two who are making promises. The psalmist promises to obey God’s words in v.57. And God in an active act will respond–a promise of a living mercy. Now all vows, or promises are part of any relationship of significance we have.  We call this “devotion,” God devotes Himself first, and we in turn dedicate our lives in obedience.

The idea of ‘blessings’ must be worked into all of this wonder– “With all my heart I want your blessings.” Now if  you feel you can skip this special touch, you may do so, but at your own personal loss. The Lord is quite patient, but both sin and Satan are quite aggressive. And the world will fight you ‘tooth-and-nail.” There is no such thing as uncontested territories. It’s not mere hyperbole when we say this. It is our opportunity to leave unreality for good–forever.

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“Lord, whatever you want, wherever you want it, and whenever you want it, that’s what I want.”   Richard Baxter

“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe. ”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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ybic, Bryan

Psalm 78: 9-11: Turning Back in the Day of Battle

"White Feather" The Universal Symbol for Cowardice
“White Feather”
The Universal Symbol for Cowardice

 9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenants and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.

Psalm 78

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In reading this passage I’m reminded of pithy sayings I’ve heard over the years such as, “Adversity not only builds character in a person; it reveals character.” The same has also been said about involvement in sports. I’d like to add a third to the collection: “Experiencing signs and wonders can change a person’s heart but it can also reveal what’s in a person’s heart.” We’ve all heard stories of agnostics, atheists, and lukewarm Christians who became devout followers of Christ after witnessing a miracle or a healing. However, sometimes hearts were left unchanged or a change occurred that didn’t bear lasting fruit.

As a young Christian I was mystified by the behavior of the children of Israel in the years that followed their deliverance from Egypt. They saw the Ten Plagues, the Red Sea divided, the manna from heaven, the pillar of fire at night, the cloud of protection by day, and water coming from the cleft rock. And yet with all these signs and wonders, they did not enter God’s rest in the Promised Land and remained a stubborn and rebellious people.

Jesus ran into a similar problem in his ministry and condemned entire towns because of it: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than you” (Luke 10:13,14). Korazin, Bethsaida, and not to mention Capernaum, followed in the footsteps of the children of Israel.

After several years of being a Christian, my experiences with people and their responses to the supernatural agreed with the biblical narrative. While living in Minnesota, I met a couple whose youngest son was healed of a rare disease through a Christian ministry and it changed the whole family from having a tepid faith to whole-hearted devotion. And yet, in other cases, I’ve known people who, despite experiencing the supernatural, displayed a heart similar to the men of Ephraim. What they saw did not have long-term benefits for them and they faltered in the day of testing. The faith of some has even been shipwrecked.

In my time as a Christian, I have seen another group emerge that I believe is especially dear to Jesus: they have seen very little or no dramatic supernatural activity and remain devoted to and in love with Jesus all their lives. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ until he saw his Lord in the flesh. Jesus said,“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We should all strive to be in this group of disciples, because, unlike the men of Ephraim, they will not turn back in the day of battle. We may feel like we will never belong to this group, but we can always ask Jesus, like the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit, “Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He will not deny us. He will not give us a snake when we ask for a loaf of bread.

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ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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You Have Chosen Wisely– Psalm 113:5-7

5 “Who can be compared with the Lord our God,
who is enthroned on high?
He stoops to look down
on heaven and on earth.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.”

St. Ambrose c. 340-397
St. Ambrose
c. 340-397

We often make comparisons. And I honestly think it is a good thing. When we compare one thing to another, we almost always choose the better over the inferior. Will it be Chinese or Mexican tonight?  That depends. Do we attend this church or another? God lead me. Wear a sweater or a coat? Maybe a raincoat? Choices will often define us, whether they are small or large. We make 100s of them everyday.

The psalmist wants us to make a comparison. In his mind there is no one around that can come close to Yahweh, that sits on the throne supreme. But the psalmist asks the question anyway. He assumes that we will agree, and settle ourselves in this truth aware.

The question gets asked in verse 5. And the verses that follow (v.v. 6-9) are a true and accurate descriptions of our incredible God. Reading these will give God shape. These are profoundly remarkable, in scope and merit. He is an excellent God. He stoops and lifts the poor and needy. Most Sovereigns try to protect their thrones, and maintain an image of power and control. They clearly avoid any unscripted spontaneous contact with their “unwashed” multitudes.

Our Heavenly Father does not do this. Actually, He does the opposite. Truly remarkable.

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Ambrose’s Prayer

“Lord who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,

and mercifully kindle in me the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me the heart of flesh,

a heart to love and adore you, a heart to delight in you,

to follow and enjoy you. For Christ’s sake. Amen.”

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ybic, Bryan

Just Give Me Jesus: Psalm 42:1-6

Wishing to Be Near God

For the director of music. A maskil of the sons of Korah.

 1 As a deer thirsts for streams of water, 
       so I thirst for you, God. 
 2 I thirst for the living God. 
       When can I go to meet with him?
 3 Day and night, my tears have been my food. 
    People are always saying, 
       “Where is your God?”
 4 When I remember these things, 
       I speak with a broken heart. 
    I used to walk with the crowd 
       and lead them to God’s Temple 
       with songs of praise. 

 5 Why am I so sad? 
       Why am I so upset? 
    I should put my hope in God 
       and keep praising him, 
       my Savior and 6 my God. 

    I am very sad. 
       So I remember you where the Jordan River begins, 
    near the peaks of Hermon and Mount Mizar.

These verses ask that we truly understand a “seeking heart.” Unless we are in this specific frame of mind we will never understand. This has to be the precursor of all that follows. And only an adoring heart can enter these private chambers. These rooms can only be opened with a special key– humility blended with worship.

Have you ever been really thirsty? I mean  bone-dry, parched, dehydrated. It seems that all you think about is a big glass of sweet tea, with ice cubes! Psalms 42 is a very accurate description of a heart that only wants God. There is nothing on this planet that draws a desperately thirsty heart like His presence.

Commentary

V. 1, 2  David compares himself to a desperate deer, that is driven to the clear streams of water. Funny, but deer are very reliant on a water source, much more than other animals. They will stay close to their water. David described his need for God in these terms. Are you thirsty? The living God is your soul’s real source.

V. 3, there is a profound sadness in David’s words. There are far too many people who will mock and discourage his deep need for God. Tears are David’s only response. Lots of tears. They cynically demand to know, “where is your God?” There will always be resistance, no matter what. What it works in us though is rich and true.

V. 4, is an active memory of things– the way they used to be. However it is only heart-broken nostalgia set ablaze. The enemy, he pushes us into an amnesia. We no longer think clearly about things. But David remembers his response, of travelling into His presence. What he remembered was glorious, he sang and danced as he led God’s dear people. But there is a caveat; we can only truly worship what we love and respect.

V.  5, David processes things as he looks inside. He asks himself certain questions. He doesn’t ask real questions. As he knows true answers. He talks about “sadness.” And a grief that can’t be assuaged.  He makes comments that will never be understood apart from “trial.”

V. 6. only develops things that would be “sadness.” Our grief would only irrigate this understanding. David truly understands sadness, and everything he embraces is full of sadness and woe. But David penetrates past his deep grief, and God’s presence meets him on the way. All that we see at this point is sadness. We must accept all that we can. We can only take the things that come too us.

“God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4, NLT

ybic, Bryan

Meet Our Authors

Psalmslife is written and maintained by two people, Bryan Lowe and Jonathan Coe. These Christian brothers have formed a relationship of more than 30 years. They have come together as partners to study the Book of Psalms. They have two separate voices, but they strive to hear from one God. We really hope Psalms Life will bless you as you personally workout the Psalms in your own life.

Bryan Lowe graduated from Alaska Bible Institute in 1984. He served with SOS Ministries in San Francisco, and with NLM in Mexico. A bonafide rascal with definite issues, who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher.  Diagnosed as Bipolar Depression and disabled. Hepatitis C and also a brain trauma survivor. Enjoys life in Alaska.  Email: flash99603@hotmail.com. His other websites are www.Brokenbelievers.com and www.crossquotes.org.

 

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Jonathan Coe is a graduate of Bethel University and Bethel Theological Seminary and has served in both pastoral and campus ministry. In 2004 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and now lives in Colville, Washington working as a writer in the area of Christian spirituality. He writes for audiences across denominational lines and will be coming out with a book with Tate Publishing later in 2013 presently titled “Letters from Fawn Creek: Wisdom for the Journey to the Gold Rush.” His personal site is http://www.openheavensblog.com/wp/.

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

Hearing Aids, Psalm 40:6

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Ears attuned to the Father’s Voice

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[b]
burnt offerings and sin offerings[c] you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.[d]

Psalm 40:6, NIV

I am hard of hearing. I find I am constantly asking for people to speak up. At times I admit I just shake my head, and pretend I heard what was just said to me. I’ve been tested and I have significant hearing loss. Perhaps the years of rock concerts have taken there toll on my poor ear drums. And if the background noise is fairly loud I find myself in an auditory nightmare. But I am highly resistant to being fitted with a hearing aid.

David is writing about his hearing. Or, more precisely, his new found ability to hear. It would seem that the Father has given David the very real and significant ability to hear His voice. “My ears you have opened.” A work has been done in David’s life. He now has the supernatural ability to hear and listen to what the Lord is saying. I suggest that this is mot a casual or ordinary capability to the average person. This seems like a case when God has given David a special ability to hear what God is saying.

Open ears improve our service, and gives us wisdom, and a solid assurance. Many of us try hard to serve the Lord, but if we are spiritually deaf, we will constantly falter in this. Hearing as a sense is way too crucial to fake. Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit has to resort to “sign” language to communicate to us. If we can not hear Him, how are we going to serve Him?

“My ears you have opened.”  This suggests a true work of the Father. I once saw a poignant sequence of photos, which were taken of a boy whose hearing had been surgically restored. His face lit up, when he heard the voice of his father for the very first time. Somehow, I have to believe that this takes place when we hear Him spiritually for the first time.

Far too often, our hearing is blocked by the steady drone of background noise. There is too much noise, much is media driven. Temptation and sin create a bubble that filters out the Father’s voice. We are deafened by our own wrong choices and desires. Our spiritual hearing is compromised.

“Father, help us to hear you. Help us to do all that is necessary to tune your voice in. May our hearts receive your voice, that we may follow you even closer than we now do. In Jesus’ name.” Amen.

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ybic, Bryan

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