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

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

Psalm 138:23-24,  NCV

 

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

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

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

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

Discipleship must always be intimacy at its a basic level. 

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

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

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Quality Control: Psalm 15

quality-control-approved

psalm of David.

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

Psalm 15, NLT

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:22

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

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

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

Galatians 5:16-17

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

God loves brokenness, He draws near to the humble.

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

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And the Crowd Goes Wild! Psalm 150

psalm150
Let All Things Praise the Lord

150 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150, New King James Version (NKJV)
6
Psalm 150 is the culmination of every Psalm that has preceded it. It is the capstone on the ‘palace of praise.’ If this Psalm had a ‘relevancy rating’ it would have to be five stars. Every single verse is an exhortation to praise, and the word ‘praise’ can be found 12 times in just six verses!
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This is a song of the jubilant. The writer has a singular wish, that all would praise the Lord— by any means possible. (Hence the list of appropriate musical instruments.) The impulse of this Psalm is one of fervency and creative effort. The Psalm can only be understood if we come to it this way. It requires a whole-hearted response.
 6

Commentary

v.1, Heaven is to praise Him. Angels sing already, and their worship is to enhance our own. What they do should fortify our own praise; we are to blend our voices with them. Praise must be seen in this perspective. Joyful praise is the serious business of heaven.

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v.2, Praise should be offered for what God does (“mighty acts”) and for who He is (“excellent greatness”). This teaches us to praise Him not only for what He does on our behalf, but who He is on our behalf. It is fitting for us to do both.
6
v. 3-5, lists eight musical instruments that are to be used in our worship. The list is very practical. A musical instrument is an extension of worship, (or perhaps a ‘canvas’ is the means which an artist ‘displays’ his work.) To play any instrument takes talent and of course practice. Effort must be made to ‘translate’ expertly. A good musician knows how to blend in with others who are playing their own instrument. Each has a part, and not the whole.
6
Curiously— “dance” is on this list. Perhaps we should re-evaluate its role in the worship ministry? The physicality of dance should put ‘legs’ on our worship.
6
V. 6, Everything that draws its “breath” includes all living beings. We are perhaps the only part of creation that chooses not to praise. This makes our authentic worship significant. It is also a bit of an indictment to those who will not.
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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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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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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

Escaping Death, Psalms 116

death1
Thanksgiving for Escaping Death

 1 I love the Lord, 

       because he listens to my prayers for help.
 2 He paid attention to me, 
       so I will call to him for help as long as I live.
 3 The ropes of death bound me, 
       and the fear of the grave took hold of me. 
       I was troubled and sad.
 4 Then I called out the name of the Lord. 
       I said, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

 5 The Lord is kind and does what is right; 
       our God is merciful. 
 6 The Lord watches over the foolish; 
       when I was helpless, he saved me.
 7 I said to myself, “Relax, 
       because the Lord takes care of you.”
 8 Lord, you saved me from death. 
       You stopped my eyes from crying; 
       you kept me from being defeated.
 9 So I will walk with the Lord 
       in the land of the living.
 10 I believed, so I said, 
       “I am completely ruined.”
 11 In my distress I said, 
       “All people are liars.” 

 12 What can I give the Lord 
       for all the good things he has given to me? 
 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 14 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people. 

 15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord 
       is precious in his sight. 
 16 Lord, I am your servant; 
       I am your servant and the son of your female servant. 
       You have freed me from my chains.
 17 I will give you an offering to show thanks to you, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 18 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people, 
 19 in the Temple courtyards 
       in Jerusalem. 

    Praise the Lord!

Really, no one knows for sure who the writer of Psalm 116 was. Some advance the idea that it was Hezekiah,and others firmly believe it was David. What I see that it was probably the former, but hey– all I know it was a godly man with a holy perspective regarding many things.

This Psalm is quite profound. It also has a deep awareness of things that are significant. We see that the writer has a discernment and awareness to see his heart and the things that are important. Psalm 116 is a masterpiece, the writer “shapes” things that are significant, and then he intends to let us know what he has been processing. And it’s a beauty!

Because of the length of this particular psalm I will simply attempt to think about it in a broader  sense.

Commentary

V.1 is a declaration to the world of his relationship to the Father. Things are quite obvious and exceptionally clear about things that really matter. The psalmist puts tremendous value on an attentive deity.

Vv. 2-4, comes directly at us,  the writer seems to be terribly aware of two things. The first, is the Father’s awareness of his cry. He is sadly desperate and quite aware that everything he calls out for, hinges on the Father’s action on his behalf.

The Father builds within him a confidence and assurance. The writer fully understands the myriad of attack on his soul. He sees cords that are wrapped on him. These cords are quite problematic, and to emphasize this situation he develops a deep and sincere “fear of death and dying.” Many believers, who are aware and sure, “hiccup” at this point. Death can never be handled without faith. But there is a breakthrough of sorts. He pierces his own apathy and finds his voice.  Quivering and quavering his voice is heard in the halls of heaven, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

Vv. 5-7 creates an assurance of the character of God. All that he knows about Him is that He can be trusted, no matter what! The key words are “kind”, “right” and “merciful”. This knowledge does not come to us except by the dealings of God inside our hearts.

V. 8 illuminates the realization that God has intervened, “saved” and “stopped” and “kept”. These are not minor things. They all require an action of God. He is the only one who can intervene. All I can say, is that His active presence changes everything.

V. 9 is the quiet sense of a person who is trusting the Father to be the Father.

V. 10-11 are difficult. They don’t work out smoothly in our New Testament theology of faith. Today, when we read them they are chopped up and rather odd. I suppose we can try to milk “the old cow” but I don’t think we will get much.

V. 12-14 shouts “gratitude”. Somehow the work of the Holy Spirit has done something. The writer jumps into this place where he enters his gratitude and appreciation of everything that has been done for him. He seems eager to show the goodness that has now come his way. There is a sense here of declaring to others the work of God inside his heart. If necessary he will do this publicly.

V. 15, this is indeed a revelation. Many of us wrestle almost continually with the subject of “death.” In hard moments, we struggle quite deeply (and yet subliminally) with dying. It is the dog who can’t stop nibbling at our heels.

V. 16 is nothing less then a declaration. In the mind of the writer, he knows his place. He won’t reach for the “top shelf”. He absolutely understands who he is and isn’t. Such a work is being done that he would never ever dream of being someone he really isn’t.

V. 17 is his declaration that the Father has done an exceptional work inside. The writer knows this, and he just won’t let it slide away. His life becomes deeply saturated with “thanks” and “prayer.” And then I say “whoa!” My own life is quite shallow, and it comes no where close to the psalmist

V. 18, “I will give the Lord what I promised  in front of all his people” Sometimes we , out of necessity, punch out the things which are not only important, but quite significant. “Giving” is a key word. And “promised” is another. (Strange, they are so close to each other, in this verse.) But the writer doesn’t process these issues, he only flows with them.

V. 19 focuses us at whatever might happen. The writer completely understands the importance and the significance of God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In a sense, he solidifies this particular place, as the accurate arena where all of the above is processed and configured. It all ends with a “praise to the Lord.” I suppose that ultimately this is the place we all end up. We are “praiser’s” or we are not.

ybic,

Bryan

 

What a God! Psalm 111:4-6

4 “He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.
He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

Psalm 111:4-6, NLT

If you are God, I suppose you can take things into your hands. (Who will complain?) Yet He does work in our hearts, to provoke in us the things He really wants. I suppose we put far to much weight on our own wills and efforts. The Father purposefully works so that we may remember. Discipleship, if I look at it, is as much of God’s work as it is our doing.

When we gaze into our own salvation, we will see hand prints that are not ours. They are God’s. He is working to bring us into heaven. It’s a long and deep journey, but He intends to bring us home. I’m glad. Very glad!

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Commentary

V. 4, He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!

Romans 8:31 declares that God is with us. “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” He is energized by this final effort. He fully intends to bring us to His side. As I grow older, I see more and more of His security. He seems more sure of His effort than I am of mine.

The psalmist defines Him as “gracious and merciful.” We would do well to weigh out these words, and give them the significance they truly do deserve. These are “two ringers” and the Psalmist rings them loud and clear on his anvil.

K

V. 5, “He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.”

For everyone who fears the Lord there comes a meal; something good to eat. For us who inhabit the “first world” we can’t remember going without lunch. But it seems to me that the “food” that He gives us doesn’t originate from this world system. (Press on this idea, and some good will come of it.)

A god who keeps his covenant is worth His weight in gold.

K

V. 6, “He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

I suppose power must be seem (and considered) before it becomes something valuable. The power can not be avoided, or deflected. God’s people do see it, and all of it is visible and quite truthful. I do believe He is blessed when we acknowledge this “great power.”

There is something very “tangible” about this next thought. God has designed reality to work out this. The “lands” have become something solid and real and tangible about the graciousness of God. He turns over these lands to His covenant people in order to communicate His grace and amazing power.

*

ybic, Bryan

The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

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“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses on intimacy.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks (Ex.19:4). We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

It appears that all of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

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Psalm 119:165: When His Heart Becomes Our Heart

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“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Psalm 119:165

This passage tells us two things about people who love the law of God:

  • they will have great peace and,
  • a spirit that cannot get offended

The absence of peace is worry, anxiety, and even fear. Believers often  experience these disturbances of the soul when they don’t really believe that God is in control of their lives and that all things really do work for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Or they may experience these emotions through no fault of their own because they have a chemical imbalance).

It’s often overlooked that even though some believers really do believe that God is in control, they still experience diverse anxieties because deep down they don’t really believe God loves them.They think he relishes the opportunity to rain on their parade. I’ve known of Christians who had physical ailments who said, “I know God can heal me but I feel like he doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to heal me.” This kind of heart characterized many of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1:26, 27 who balked at God’s command to take possession of Canaan land. Moses spoke to them and said:

But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.'”

Reading, meditation, and study of Scripture or the law is a bridge to intimacy with God. Put another way: knowing and loving the Word (Scripture) often, though not always, leads one to knowing and loving the Word (Jesus Christ). This leads to peace because you become intimate with the one who passionately loves you and is in control of your life. Scripture tells us that his eye is on the sparrow and that the hairs of our heads are numbered. We are precious to him (see Psalm 139). When this is written on our hearts, we then rest in his providential love and can say with Mary, the Mother of God, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus:

“…Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NAB).

Loving the law or Scripture can also lead to cultivating a spirit that cannot be offended at God or other people. Through the Holy Writ we come to know that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” In C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the character Aslan, who is Christ, is good but he is not safe. What Scripture teaches us is that we cannot give God a script for our lives and expect him to fulfill it like putting our order in at a restaurant. He is not our Shield and ‘Butler.’

In Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11:32–38, our lives may turn out to be like the heroes who conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, escaped the edge of the sword or they may turn out to be like the saints who were tortured, faced jeers and flogging, imprisoned, stoned, and were sawn asunder. Scripture teaches us to have a heart that can accept either of these outcomes and resonates with Job who said:

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” ( Job13:15)

When you love the Bible, you also love the difficult sayings of the text. This prepares you for anything life may dish out and gives you a heart that cannot be offended. You grow to love the One who was rejected by his own creation, abandoned (temporarily) by his Father on the cross, and suffered an unspeakably brutal death by asphyxiation on the cross. But he never became offended or embittered. His heart becomes our heart as we love his word and encounter the vicissitudes of life.

 

 ybic, Jonathan

 

 Jonathan’s own website is at http://www.openheavensblog.com.

Psalm 42: 1–2: God’s Greatest Gift

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1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

As a young pastor several years ago in Alaska, I was privileged to have a woman in my church who had done missionary work in our little town decades before I began my pastorate. She was well into her 80s and her love for God and zeal for his kingdom had not diminished since she became a Christian in her youth at a famous Pentecostal church on the coast of Washington state.

Her husband was a World War I veteran and suffered seizures after his service from the mustard gas that he had been exposed to during that conflict. She bore this trial with patience and grace. When I met her in the 1980s, God was still using her, especially one–on–one, to hold forth on the deeper Christian life.

She shared with me and others a vision that the Holy Spirit had given her that I will never forget. It wasn’t a vision like Ezekiel or John the Apostle experienced and shared in their writings, but was more of a deep mental image that she believed she hadn’t generated from her own imagination.

First she saw a large room with a banqueting table that was filled with all kinds of gifts wrapped in attractive wrapping paper. Scores of people entered the room and enthusiastically took the gifts they wanted and left.

In the second frame, she saw the same room and banqueting table with all kinds of delicious fruits. They were shiny, heaped, and displayed with all the skill of a veteran grocer. Again, a large group of people came in and obtained the fruit with much vigor and left.

In the third scene she saw a much smaller table with a green fern on it. Two hands reached out and pulled back the leaves of the fern to show two items that were hidden. What was revealed was a communion cup and unleavened bread. A much smaller group of people than the first two groups came into the room and partook of the cup and bread.

Her interpretation of this vision is probably obvious to many readers. Many Christians are zealous for the gifts and fruits but a much smaller group seeks intimate union with God. There’s nothing wrong with finding our gifts in life and in the church and exercising them. None of us would benefit from an excellent Bible teacher, administrator, or someone used in mercy if those people didn’t first discover the abilities God gave them and practice them.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring the fruits of the Spirit. For example many Christians find their relationships unraveling because of a lack of the fruit of the Spirit and find them restored when they grow in the character of God. Marriages are healed, friendships are mended. However, it is possible to pursue the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit and give short shrift to pursuing a communion with God where our hearts cry out like the psalmist, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

We need to constantly remind ourselves that while God has given us wonderful access to both the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit, the most important gift he has given us is himself. If we find ourselves today in a utilitarian relationship with God where the fruits and the gifts are merely a means to some end, it’s never too late to cry out to him in humility, acknowledging our obtuseness and asking him to increase our hunger and thirst for him as an end–in–itself. “Lord, make us like a deer who longs for its favorite stream and is not distracted on its journey to that stream.”

 

ybic, Jonathan

 

One Solitary Verse: Psalm 23:5

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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.

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Psalm 116: 1–7: His Name is Mercy

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1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me;

I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me.”

5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our Lord is full of compassion.

6 The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Over the years I’ve become convinced that gratitude is a spiritual discipline just like prayer, Scripture study, fasting, or partaking in the sacraments. Gratitude has many dimensions but one definition could be “a meditation on God’s mercy in our lives.” Sometimes when I want to meditate on God’s mercy,  I focus on sins God has delivered me from and sins that I could have very easily fallen into but didn’t because of his grace. I would liken this to the psalmist talking about the “cords of death that entangled me.” These sins did not threaten my physical life but they would’ve, if not repented of or embraced, threatened my spiritual life eventually.

For example, in my early and mid–20s, I had a fault that is typical of this age group in Christendom: possessing much zeal without knowledge with definite strains of legalism and self–righteousness. There’s a reason some pastors and priests have joked that a new, on–fire Christian should be locked up for five years first before turning them loose on both the church and the secular world. The wedding between religion and pride is a lethal combination: it keeps others from entering the kingdom of God.

Then I think of the sins–“cords of death”– I could’ve fallen into but didn’t because of his mercy. Just observing other men is enough grist for the mill for this meditation: men who placed achievement and money far above relationships and have suffered divorce, alienation from their kids, and friendlessness later in life because of such idolatry; men who have fallen into various addictions: chemical dependency, sexual addictions, gambling, etc.; men who got offended at God because the script they had written for their lives did not happen and either are now not serving Christ or are mired in mediocrity. I know myself and how weak I am and just how easily these cords of death could’ve become my reality: “Except for the grace of God there go I.” Such meditations cultivate gratitude and gratitude is the source of happiness and happiness and joy adorn the gospel.

Writer Marian Friedrichs has an excellent definition of mercy: “Mercy is love that bends down, grabs hold, and lifts up. In other words, when a soul is crushed under some weight–usually guilt, oppression, or weakness–mercy is the arm of love that scoops that soul off the ground, embraces it, kisses it, dusts it off, dries its tears, and sets it on its feet again.” One of the hallmarks of mercy is that it is undeserved for the recipients. Doesn’t the above definition sound like Christ on the cross?

Mercy is not an emotion or a feeling or a theory or a principle; mercy is an action. Being able to write a 300 page doctoral dissertation on the theological attribute of mercy will do us no good if our lives don’t have concrete manifestations. God has called all of us to be Signposts of Mercy. Taking the above definition by Friedrichs as a launching pad, we are called to be like the Good Samaritan. This doesn’t necessarily mean being involved in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter though that is a noble calling; what it does mean is letting the Holy Spirit make us acutely aware of people in our lives who need the mercy of God, whether their need is physical or spiritual or both.  Perhaps this should be our rule of thumb: the more undeserving, the better.

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 51: 16, 17: On Sin and Forgiveness

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16 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

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The background of these verses is the familiar story of David’s fall from grace and subsequent confession, repentance, and forgiveness. David committed some big sins (lying, adultery, and murder) and his confession and repentance resulted in a big forgiveness from God that in turn resulted in his big gratitude and love towards God for his tender mercies.

In Luke 7:36–50 we have the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed his feet with alabaster. Jesus makes the point that this woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. We see this same dynamic at work in the life of Mary Magdalene who had been delivered of seven demons and had a sordid past.

I have to admit that some of my favorite Christians have been big sinners--people who had done some really bad things, knew they had done some really bad things, and walked in the gratitude and humility of a forgiven sinner. I like being around them because they are usually free of self–righteousness and I know they won’t judge me harshly for my flaws. Usually, the mercy and grace that God has extended to them, they, in turn, freely extend to others.

I have to wonder though what goes through some Christians minds. They have been Christians all their lives, and, though they aren’t perfect, have always been on the straight and narrow and have never or rarely strayed into what we would call gross sin or what Catholics call mortal sin. I’m sure some of them must wonder “Can I love God much even though I haven’t been forgiven much? Do I have to be like Mary Magdalene in order to love much?”

The truth is they have been forgiven much. My advice for these Christians is to pursue intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you do this, you will enter the presence of God, and when you are in the presence of God, you will see that all your righteousness is as filthy rags. Our hearts are like a living room window that hasn’t been cleaned for a year. From a distance it may look okay, but, when we make a closer examination with the sun shining in, we see all the dirt, streaks, dead bugs, hand prints, and  hard water stains. This is what happened to Peter when he first met Jesus in the aftermath of catching many fish: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” To our knowledge, Peter wasn’t involved in some mortal sin; he was simply in the presence of the Lord. The same could be said of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1–6.

Another piece of advice I would give these Christians is to broaden their definition of sin. I’ve noticed in some local churches over the years that a big deal is made when an unmarried high school girl in the church gets pregnant, but little is made of the church gossip, who, in my opinion, commits the greater sin. Sometimes Christians make a big deal about sexual sin and various addictions but overlook many of the “cold–blooded” sins: gossip, envy, self–righteousness, competition, religious idolatry, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, etc.. These are gross sins too and should lead us to the same brokenness David and Mary Magdalene exhibited.

Therefore, when someone comes to your church for the first time, and, carries all the signs of coming out of a sinful lifestyle, you can look at them and say to yourself,”Hey, I’m going to go over there and greet that person. We have a lot in common.”

ybic, Jonathan

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

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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/

Something All Lit Up: Psalm 42

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“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

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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 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

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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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When You Must Act Insane, Psalm 34

 A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
    let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
    he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, and listen to me,
    and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
    his ears are open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
    he will erase their memory from the earth.
17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
    He rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
    but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
    not one of them is broken!

21 Calamity will surely overtake the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
    No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 34

The “insanity” plea works. This particular Psalm was written by David when he was brought in by the Philistines and brought before their king. Intimidated, he suddenly began act out like someone crazy. Mental illness had some serious stigma attached to it. Some thought it to be contagious, or an omen of bad luck. Needless to say, David was able to deceive King Achish by his performance.

Here’s the historical setting from 1 Samuel 21.

10 “So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. 11 But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing,

    ‘Saul has killed his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

12 David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. 13 So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.

14 Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? 15 We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”

1 Samuel 21:10-15

A couple of things you might want to consider as you read this through.insanity1

This song is an acrostic in the original Hebrew. That shows a lot of talent (and incredible effort) in its composition and form. It also tells me of the value and awareness that David had about his circumstances. He seems to understand that all he is experiencing is worth writing about. It has spiritual value for every generation.

There is also an ethical dilemma here. David is afraid. He starts to act insane, which is really deceit on his part. I think that he senses this ploy will probably save his life. But is this ok?

    1. No where does God condemn David’s actions. (But there isn’t approval either.)
    2. There are other precedents in Scripture for this kind of action.
    3. People understand that we live in an imperfect world, as imperfect people.
    4. Is David acting out of fear or faith? Was this behavior sanctioned by the Lord?

Psalm 34 doesn’t seem to have any direct link with David’s “insanity” per se, but there are undercurrents hidden through this psalm. They are really indirect though, more of a deflected influence.

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ybic, Bryan

Psalm 40: 1-3: Our Independence Day

freedom-broken-chains

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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