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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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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Take a Second Look at Psalm 37:4: The Pearl of Great Price

4 “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4

Sometimes an interpretation of a biblical passage is like a ravenous dog that is loose and wreaking havoc in the Body of Christ. It needs to be put on a leash, kenneled, and taken to dog obedience school before it’s ready to be out in public again. Such is the case with popular interpretations of Psalm 37:4.

When I was a new Christian in the 1980s, I  held up to close scrutiny what is/was called the Prosperity Gospel and found that they used this verse to justify what could only be described as idolatrous materialism. Their basic premise was that if you love God, he will give you the lifestyle of the rich and famous or at least make sure you make the jump from poverty to middle class or middle class to upper–middle class and even beyond. Mansions, Mercedes Benz cars, Armani suits, and diamond rings were all part of this religious landscape. God became their Shield and Butler. As in Paul’s day, godliness was associated with financial gain.

Such a deceptive doctrine could only be developed in a country like the US that has had unparalleled economic prosperity in the history of the world since World War II. Sometimes being insulated from poverty for extended periods becomes the spiritual Petri dish for all manner of false doctrines. Such teachings did not gain much of a following in America during the Great Depression in the 1930s or in war–torn countries like Poland that have a history of suffering material want under authoritarian regimes.

Then I took a look at the interpretation of this verse in church circles that do not belong to the Prosperity Gospel.  In general, these circles avoided gross materialism but still had one thing in common with the “name and claim it, confess it and possess it” crowd: the desires of the heart that God grants the believer were more often than not created things.The early chapters of Genesis tell us that God’s creation is good and he likes to share that goodness with his children. Spouses, homes, jobs, vacations,  and landing trophy–sized rainbow trout are all part of his generosity.

 What is not underscored enough in the Church are the desires of our heart that are related to the Uncreatedour relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Psalm 37:4 has an inescapable theo–logic. Question: If I delight in the Lord, then what are going to be the desires of my heart? Answer: What I delight in–God himself; the Giver more than the gifts. 

The greatest gift God can give us is when he gives himself to us in intimate, loving communion. This is the Pearl of Great Price. The First Adam gave Eve a rib; the Second Adam (Christ) gives us his Body and Blood (John 6:53, 54) in an offer of intimacy that goes beyond anything in the biblical narrative. The two become one; we become flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone (Genesis 2:23). We become a partaker of his divine nature (II Peter 1:4) and begin to resemble him in:

  1. Character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control. (Galatians 5:22,23)
  2. Power: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation.
  3. The Three Offices of the Old Testament: Prophet, Priest, and King.
  4. Supernatural Graces Mentioned in Isaiah 11:1–2: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of God.

Ever notice how couples in long, happy marriages start to look like each other? We enter into a similar experience with Christ. Out of our deep communion with him, we are conformed to his image and likeness and become the Face of Christ to the watching world, a Bride preparing herself for a wedding feast on the other side of eternity.

your brother,

Jonathan

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

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.

flourish20

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

 

Psalm 19: Stars and Scripture

night-sky-default-moon

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run the course.

6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to another; nothing is hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the Lord are right , giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

10 They are much more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Once again, this is a psalm that someone could write a book on and its treasure trove of riches can be mined over and over in future posts. The first thing to be noticed about this passage is what abundant riches of revelation God has given us through (1) the starry host above us (vv. 1-6) and (2) the written word of God (vv. 7–11).

As someone who lives in a rural area in northeast Washington without the “light pollution” of the cities and suburbs, I  wholeheartedly agree with David that the heavens above us declare the glory of God. There are nights out here on the back deck of my cabin that truly feel like heaven is intersecting with earth and you half expect to see a host of angels descend out of heaven like they did for the shepherds at the birth of Jesus or maybe ascending and descending on Jacob’s Ladder.

I think ecological degradation makes Satan extremely happy because it robs the human species of this uplifting experience. Environmental issues are a political football that have been tossed around for decades but all Christians should agree that we are called to be be responsible stewards of the earth we have inherited. It redounds to our benefit: we see the face of God in the beauty of his creation.

In observing the grandeur and majesty in the Milky Way and the Orion Nebula, we get a glimpse of the grandeur and majesty of God. In seeing the intelligent design of how the heavens have been arranged, we brush up against the greatness of the Intelligent Designer. It’s just a shadow of a greater reality, but, even as a shadow, David is right in saying that they abundantly declare the incomprehensibly sublime nature of God. Centuries later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul would proclaim this in Romans 1:20:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Apparently atheists won’t have a leg to stand on when they appear before God in the hereafter. There’s plenty of evidence in the cosmos and on earth to believe in God.

The wondrous riches of God have also come to us through Scripture, his written word, that David gives different names– law, statutes, precepts, commands, and ordinances–that describe different dimensions of the word. The psalmist also revealed what salutary effects the word has on us: it revives our soul, makes us wise, gives joy to our hearts and light to our eyes, and admonishes the man and woman of God to stay on the straight and narrow.

Stars give us a general revelation of who God is; Scripture is more specific and also answers the question, “How then should we live?” Scripture also gives us the most important revelation: the life and teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of the One who created the starry host: Jesus Christ.

Every Christian who has had even just a few years logged in the kingdom of God can attest to how the Holy Spirit illuminating the written word has changed their lives. Just the other day I was under a lot of stress and was greatly helped by Psalm 20. A good time of Bible study can put a spring in your step and keep you from making mistakes you’ll regret later. We’ve all heard sermons that have changed our lives or have been transformed by a biblically–based book or a series of teaching  tapes or CDs rooted in the Holy Writ. Scripture truly is more precious than much pure gold (v.10) and is never more precious than when it is foreshadowing (Old Testament) or revealing Jesus Christ (New Testament).

What’s obvious to me in vv.12–14 is that David didn’t merely encounter truth about God through the starry host and Scripture, he encountered God himself. These two avenues of revelation were bridges to greater intimacy with God for David. This is evidenced by his preoccupation in these verses with hidden faults, willful sins, and wanting to be blameless before God in thought, word, and deed.

I’m convinced David beheld the holy face of God in the starry host and in Scripture, saw his own sin, and emerged wanting to please God in every area of his life. These twin sources of revelation were like a mirror that showed him his blemishes and hidden faults. May the same thing happen to us when we gaze into the riches of both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Psalm 16: Life!

deadroses

Psalm 16

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; 
   even at night my heart instructs me. 
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. 
   With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; 
   my body also will rest secure, 
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, 
   nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 
11 You make known to me the path of life; 
   you will fill me with joy in your presence, 
   with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of scripture.  There are so many truths enmeshed in this text.  It’s like a chocolate chip cookie, with truth spread through each bite. (Silly analogy, I know.)  But when we examine it and bring ourselves to obey it, His riches flow directly into us.

There must be an understanding, and verses 7-8 brings Him very close to us.  We connect in a special way.  The Psalmist describes us having a direct awareness of His close presence.  But he also describes his general attitude toward the Presence of God.  He wants to be aware–24 hours a day, continuously.

Verses 9-10 are describing a victory over death.  The Psalmist has come to a definite point, he can no longer see death the way everyone else does.  He understands it to be a very silly charade, and somehow he sees through it.  Because of the Lord’s intervention, he comes to this delicious point.  The ugly obscenity of death, is completely undone.

This confidence of the Psalmist is further extended.  He thinks and feels like he  is bulletproof.  Nothing touches or degrades his faith.  He walks out into life and into the confusion.  But you must understand this.  His faith in God has made him “teflon.”  And indeed he does process a deep understanding of the source of love and joy, he knows it.  As he taps into this, he will now have the real possibility of overcoming the darkness, that could very easily absorb him.

The deep truths of this particular Psalm has the incredible potential to transform us into supernatural people.  As we focus on Psalm 16, and endeavour to make it our own, it will change us and it has the power to revolutionize us in a most profound way.  I say, let it come.

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

The Real Complexity of Happiness: Psalm 1:1-3 and 16:11

joy-happy-man

1 Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.

2 But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.

3 And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].

 

Psalm 1:1-3, Amplified Bible

11 “You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Psalm 16:11

flourish-small

In the very first verse of this passage, a more accurate translation than “Blessed” is “Happy.” Happy is the man or woman who does these things. The same is true in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1–12. It is more accurate to say “Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In meditating on the above passages and others, I was reminded what a complex issue happiness is and thought a few observations may bring some clarity:

(1) Because I know and have known Christians with mental illness and neurobiological imbalances, I find it very insensitive to tell these believers, “Hey, simply do these three things and you will be happy.” Instead we need to honor the cross they carry and encourage them to be “wounded healers” with the people God brings into their lives. They are, in some ways, the mourners who will be comforted in the life to come and don’t need “Job’s Comforters” to make matters worse.

(2) We need to be on our guard that we don’t get into a “Come to Jesus and he will make you happy” philosophy. Our relationship with Jesus is not a means to some end; it is an end–in–itself. We’re called to be like Mary who sat at his feet, not the members of the crowd who were there for the loaves and fishes or the next entertaining miracle.

(3) If we do buy into (2), we may get offended at God because happiness is not guaranteed in this life, only in the next life. Along with Christians who have neurobiological imbalances, what about Christians who are being persecuted and even tortured in other countries? Haitian Christians or believers in sub–Saharan Africa who haven’t had a thing to eat for three days? Christians who are in constant pain because of an injury or illness?

happiness-key-small(4) However, for people that do not have these special circumstances, there is, in general, an inheritance of happiness that awaits the believer. There is joy in his presence and eternal pleasures at his right hand (Psalm 16:11). The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but is an inheritance of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Study after study (see Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks) offers compelling evidence that spiritually engaged (I mean prayer, Bible reading, church attendance) Christians have much higher levels of happiness than their secular counterparts.

(5) What was said in (4), can have profound consequences for every day decisions in the ‘shoe–leather’ of life. For example, we may be tempted to pass on a morsel of gossip to a friend about someone who we find arrogant and annoying. Our primary motivation for not doing this would be that such an action dishonors God, whose name we represent, and simple trafficking in hearsay can damage someone else’s name and even can break one of the Ten Commandments by bearing false witness.

A secondary motivation is that such an action will diminish our own happiness because of the conviction and guilt we will experience in the aftermath. It is not selfish to consider your own happiness in making these daily decisions no more than was it selfish for Thomas Jefferson to write about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. 

(6) One reason that it is not selfish is because being a consistently happy person is a concrete way to serve others–family, friends, acquaintances, co–workers, etc.. People, in general, like to be around upbeat, grateful people with positive attitudes especially in a culture more and more characterized by ingratitude and entitlement. May the joy we experience in God’s presence be contagious and passed on to others!

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

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ybic, Jonathan

The Stickiness of Shame, Psalm 34:5

shadow

“Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

Psalm 34:5, NLT

I keep circling this Psalm like a vulture over carrion. I look hard, step back and then refocus on it again. It’s mighty tasty stuff, and I have no real desire to walk from this fine cuisine, I have selected verses 5 for our focus. It’s just an appetizer though.

V. 5a, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy.” This is cause and effect, as we focus on God something remarkable happens, No doubt about it, there will come a time when your circumstances turn into very hungry boa constrictors, You will find that escape is not an option– and the boa has no real intention of letting you go free. What will you do then?

Well David faced this same exact kind of trial. From the heart of this a seeking heart needs to look at God. This is easy to say but hard to do, especially in the heat of things. There is the idea of becoming radiant.  This is a characteristic born out of a hard struggle. It isn’t “fairy dust” that is sprinkled on you. I believe it is far more than that. Joy seems to be the linch pin here. I have found that you can go along way on joy. It would make the “energizer bunny” envious.

V. 5b, “No shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (This is the second part of verse 5.) This is how I understand this. I think of a very large rock, like at Stonehenge or Easter Island. Let’s call that rock “shame.” Shame comes on a sunny day and drops its shadow over everything it can. But shame is much more than a shadow. It affects us emotionally, and spiritually and some see it on a physical level as well. It is immensely destructive,  a little bit goes along ways.

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Gosh, I hope this  blesses you– and anyone you share it with, I am battling in the “hot place” right now, of clinical depression and Hepatitis. I simply have little energy, and all I really want to do is sleep. I originally intended to handle v.v., 6-7, but that seemed to be far too optimistic as I “stepped” into verse 5. I’m sorry, I wanted to do more for you my readers. I pray for you all often.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Psalm 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

atheist-thought

1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Polls indicate that 90–92% of Americans still believe in God. Over 2,500 years ago, David said you were a fool if you didn’t believe. Recently as I looked at evidence for a finely tuned universe, I had to conclude that to not believe today, in light of this evidence, makes you more of a fool than in David’s day. The factors and the constants in the universe have to be incomprehensibly precise to support life. This points to an Intelligent Designer who created the universe.

For example, if the moon was just a little bit closer to the earth, the tides would sweep over the continents; if it was just a little bit further away, the tides would be so weak that they would not flush out the tidal estuaries that are so vital to fish breeding areas.

Gravitational force and electromagnetic force are finely tuned. If they were changed just one part in 10 to the 40th power, both biological life and the existence of stars would end.

If there’s even the tiniest of deviations in the earth’s gravity, axial tilt, rotation period, magnetic field, crust thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratio, carbon dioxide, water vapor, or ozone level, life would not be possible.

This led former atheist and legendary scientist Sir Fred Hoyle to say, “…commonsense interpretation of the facts is that a super-intelligence has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces in nature.”

There seems to be a blindness in modern atheism that denies the obvious. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church, was summing up atheism for all times and seasons when he said, “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

It’s interesting that David followed his declaration of the foolishness of atheism by saying, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one that does good.” I know atheists and agnostics who are ethical people, and, sadly, sometimes more ethical than some Christians I’ve known. At the same time, the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century–Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot– that accounted for the deaths of approximately 100 million people, were atheistic. They are now on the scrap heap of history and their foolishness is exposed for all to see.

To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.”  Ravi Zacharias

 

Blessings, Jonathan

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Light My Eyes, Psalm 13:3

lightmyeyes

“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