Striving to be Intimate: Psalms 73

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

Psalms 73,  ESV

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 73

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

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

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No Apologies— Psalm 14

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For the choir director: A psalm of David.

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

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

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

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

Psalm 14, NLT

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Lifeguard: Psalm 54

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

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

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

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

Psalm 54, (NLT) 

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

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1 “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

Psalm 144:1-2, NLT

This is an incredible Psalm. In spite of the many, many centuries, we still should peer into it to gain wisdom. David is writing truth to our souls. We read of his certain issues and concerns. For the Christian believer, this Psalm of David offers us enrichment and strength for us to be faithful in our trials.

Enamored, is David’s heart. It has been captured by God’s intense love and deep care. Dostoevsky once said this, “Once a man accepts Jesus, he has a disease that no one can cure.” His change in our souls is permanent and irrevocable. We simply can’t walk away.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.”

There is absolutely nothing exceptional in any of us. Yet David becomes a “super-hero” because the Lord has decided on this. David is “trained” and understands that “my fingers are now skilled for battle.” All of this means warfare, and this we have to understand. And we must agree on this, this Psalm is all about “warfare.”

Our battles (in which we fight and sweat) are real. Yet they are first spiritual, and very seldom physical. Nevertheless, they are profoundly real. Ephesians 6 reveals the incredible reality of our spiritual conflict. Sparks fly as we advance forward, (spiritually speaking of course.) But they are no less real, or difficult.

V. 2, “He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.”

My…my…my…my. The repetition of “my” is profoundly interesting. David has linked himself on the work of God. “My” reveals a sort of possession that David has with God Himself. He sees an “ally, a fortress, a tower and a rescuer.

At least, this is quite astonishing. To have the Almighty taking a deep response is incredibly responsive. God is now our ally– and our fortress– and our tower– and if we need it, a rescuer! What potency, what an incredible effort.

V. 2, “He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

A shield is something that covers, and blocks many vicious arrows. A shield is definitely needed for all those involved in desperate battle. And when it gets a bit “out-of-hand,” we can take shelter in Him, as a “refuge,” a certain place of incredible safety.

  “The nations submit to me,” is a very bold statement. (Quite bold, actually.) But God’s power is never minimized by our personal weakness. He is constantly powerful and  tremendously concerned with us. However, the “nations” are a immense work that is directed against our Father. Rather then direct Himself  specifically, He makes us quite able to stand against this travesty.

This Psalm carries with it many fantastic wonderments. It can add many things to our simple faith. God certainly does this, and more. He brings us into a maturity that we on ourselves would never guess. Until we understand “warfare,” we can never understand faith.

This, dear ones, is a great Psalm. I hope you will read it, and you will take on the blessings that it brings. We certainly do need it.

***

ybic, Bryan

A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

 1 Oh, what joy for those 
      whose disobedience is forgiven, 
      whose sin is put out of sight! 
 2 Yes, what joy for those 
      whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,[b] 
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 
 3 When I refused to confess my sin, 
      my body wasted away, 
      and I groaned all day long. 
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. 
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 
                         Interlude

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you 
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt. 
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” 
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

What really is your source of joy? We can look and find many possibilities around us. Family, hobbies, work, music or art.  But there is far more than just that.  I believe that our deepest source of joy is the forgiveness of God for our sin. King David enters fully into this experience. I contend that joyful Christians  are those intensely aware of their salvation from sin.

This was St. Augustine’s favorite psalm, and he had it written on the wall next to his death bed, so he could read it over and over. This psalm is a “maskil,” which defined it as a teaching psalm. I think David saw his sins (2 Samuel 11) as something to be learned from. His evil was sufficient to bring him the death penalty, according to levitical law. He became an active teacher of redemption.

This is a companion psalm with Psalm 51. That psalm is a “jack-hammer” and this one is the shovel. There is a sharp breaking in  51. We learn how powerful repentance is really. But in 32 we clean the mess up. David is now our model, and from the nastiness of his past life will come life. Someone once wrote the truth as he saw it:

“We were all whores before Jesus touched and forgave us”

 

Commentary

V.1, communicates a blessing, or having special favor with God. If you don’t want blessing, your nuts! It is one of those things we are all searching for deep down, but now it has a name.  When you have it, nothing else will really matter. The word “joy” is actively used. And so is “disobedience” and “sin.” But the most significant word is “forgiven.”

V. 2, when you repeat yourself it is usually to make a point. It makes what your saying emphatic. There is wagon full of joy here. But it is only for “guilt cleared people.” Once I had a police record, and actually spent a night in jail. Things were put on my record, which was inviolable, I couldn’t change a thing on it.

V. 3-4, there seems to be a deep reluctance and a dark aversion to admitting our true state. We avoid doing this at all costs. We will not be labeled! But there are very clear consequences to this constant posturing. Our lives become hollowed out shells, full of darkness, sickness and grief. This is the price we pay to live a false life.

There is a real sense that God is in on this. It seems that He is concentrating on us, we are God’s target. All His arrows are meant for us, we turn and God is right on our tails. He is taking all the credit for this miserable state we’re in.

V. 5, perhaps this belongs in the special collection of wonderful verses. It is a sponge that is completely saturated with light. “Finally, I confessed…” There are limits to what we can handle. We end up agreeing with God. “Stopped trying to hide.” And we are such good hiders, we can hide so well we end up lost even to our own selves.

There is a profound sense of amazement here. Confession brings it to us. But to be so lost, and than found is staggering. It changes everything. “You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Realizing this will bring you incredible peace and joy. You will never, ever find it anywhere else.

 

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.

Where No Enemy Can Reach: Psalm 62:5-8

Chimney-Rock
Chimney Rock, Nebraska, U.S.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge.    Interlude

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

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Verses 5-6 are ‘almost’ duplicates with verses 1-2. I have used this thought before, but verses that seem repetitive suggest something to pay extra attention. I see them as ‘laminates.’ They come together, and become stronger.

Through these verses, David is exclusively focused on God’s excellence. His words are winsome and his zeal is admirable. David really doesn’t want to talk about anything else– he is the ultimate rarity: he is a God-intoxicated man.

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Commentary

V. 5, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

This is a repeat of verse 1. I think it is repeated as an emphasis for us. Waiting quietly is not easy for us. Our impatience and our pride sabotage the process. We just feel too self-important to wait for anyone.

V. 6, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

This is a repeat of verse 2. When a songwriter finds a theme in his work, he’ll write it in a “chorus.” This chorus usually is repeated a few times through the song. Perhaps that is what is taking place through David, in this psalm?

V. 7, “My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”

David sees himself as being evaluated by God alone. Anything of value (victory, and honor) will come as a exclusive effort from the Lord. David isn’t going to look for these things anywhere else.

A refuge is a “place of safety.” It is the place of immunity, and a place of utmost protection. Back in verse 3, David disclosed details of murder plots. When your life is threatened you’ll need a safe place to go.

V. 8, “O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. Interlude”

I think David is speaking as a king here, to his subjects. He advocates a constant trust in Him. He exhorts his people to pour out everything to God, and hold nothing back.

“For God is our refuge. Selah.” 

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ybic, Bryan

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Psalms 1:1–3: What It Means to Prosper

photo: mydailydevotionalorg.blogspot.com

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

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Job’s friends, with the exception of Elihu, were sorry comforters. They poured salt into the wounds of a grieving and shattered man by telling him, in so many words, that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It would be easy for some readers of this passage to do the same thing. This psalm is talking about a person who is on the straight and narrow path, meditates on the law of God, bears fruit in season and does not wilt in the heat of tribulation. Whatever they do prospers.

I remember reading about the dynamic of “redemption and lift” years ago in the lives of new Christians. Studies seemed to indicate that many new Christians who eschewed their old, self–destructive ways and embraced a new lifestyle were lifted into a new socio–economic status. It only makes sense that if you’re not blowing a lot of money on drugs and alcohol or superfluous expenditures but are instead working harder and saving your money, your finances will improve. The same principle also holds true for your health and marriage and family life. As far as health, all one has to do is compare the health statistics of a morally permissive place like Las Vegas to someplace like Salt Lake City to see the difference.

Yet Psalm 1:1–3 was never meant to be a formula that applies to all Christians in all situations for all times. My experience tells me that I have seen godly people experience great blessing in the area of health, finances, and relationships and I have seen godly people suffer great loss in those areas. I’ve seen saintly people experience both ends of the spectrum in one lifetime. Hebrews 11 recounts the great heroes of the faith. “Some of these heroes subdued kingdoms, closed the mouths of lions, and were made rich like Abraham. Others were commended for their faith for being stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, and wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented “(Hebrews 11:37). If the idea of prospering is limited only to the areas of health and wealth, these folks weren’t doing very well.

In light of these passages I offer the reader my definition of prospering: doing the will of God. If your preeminent desire in life is to please God and do his will, you are prospering no matter how the rest of your life might look. In fact you may have more trials if you are on the straight and narrow. St. Thomas More said, “Tribulation is a gift from God–one that he especially gives his special friends.” Sometimes I must admit that I want to be a close friend of God like Moses or Elijah but I don’t want the trials that come with that relationship. It’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God and easy to get offended and bitter if we expect to receive only roses without thorns.

 

ybic, Jonathan

 

Despondency and David’s Theology: Psalm 73

For those on the mat wrestling, things can move very fast.  Our adversary is strong, and he knows us too well.  He is counter-intuitive and knows the moves needed to pin us to the floor.  He is dangerous.  And he despises us. I get bewildered and rattled by his attacks.  He knows how to pressure me at just the right time, and he refuses to follow the rules. He is no gentleman, rather you might say that he is both a cheater and a bully.

Of course I am talking about Satan and his dark team of demons.  I will not dispute their reality with you.  There is almost as much scriptural support for his existence as there is for Jesus’.  His hostility is  toward God and His people, and his viciousness cannot be camouflaged.  Evil is real, and believe this– Satan has a terrible, and ugly plan for your life. He wants to impose it on you.

As a mentally ill Christian, my depression quickly morphs into despondency.  When I sink to that level I start to abandon hope.  It’s like I’m in a lifeboat and decide that I should abandon it and tread water on my own.  Despondency is not rational and just a little bit is deadly. David knew all about desperation.

He had been chased by his enemies, and maneuvered into the most difficult of situations.  To observe him at a distance we would say that “there is no hope for him in God.”  Nothing for him in God’s thinking.  Nothing. In the Book of Life, the angels have used “white-out” to delete the name of David, Son of Jesse. I

t would be so easy to make this judgement.  For David was a moral failure; he was an adulterer and a brazen killer.  David had sinned deeper and more intensely than Saul ever had.  Saul seems to be mentally ill, while David just presumes God will forgive him. Join with the crowd, “There is no hope for him in God!”  No hope, none, nada.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

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

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

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

–Psalm 73

David defied the theological teachers of his day.  He embraced the Lord God with a desperate passion.  It was not orthodox or logical.  You could say it was disturbing.  But David would not let go of God!  He hung on, and continued to sing in faith, in spite of logic.

I encourage you besieged brother, and embattled sister.  Hold on to Him, even if it defies logic and theology.  Seek His promises with a fervency, open your heart to Him with a passion.  Remember that sin can and will destroy you.  It is part of Satan’s stratagem.  Sing in the cave, and never lose hope. Never.  

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jer. 29:11

ybic, Bryan

Lightning Rods: Psalm 34:19-22

lightning-1 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 34:19-22

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!”

Job 14:1

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

John Heywood, (English Playwright and Poet, 1497-1580)

The conclusion of this psalm is a description of the believer’s troubles. I daresay there is as much tribulation and trial in the Bible as the subjects of grace and love. We will find a freedom in the Lord once we stumble upon this realization. It seems I am always in “hot water,” but it keeps me clean! “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

John 16:33

Commentary

V. 19, The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

To deny that there are difficulties for the believer is silly. We seem to generate new ones on a daily basis. This is God’s work bench. And He seems to be quite comfortable with this arrangement. Only He calls them “trials.” We shouldn’t think we will eventually mature and attain some powerful wisdom. (I wish this was so.) Maturity is not the absence of issues, but the result of going through them.

The Lord is into “search and rescue.” The rescue part is great! Each of His children have this knack (or grace) in their lives. This is the doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints.” God is active and in every situation He brings deliverance and extrication.

V. 20, “For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

In the Midwest, almost every home and barn has at least one lightning rod. I have seen three or four on bigger barns. Since there are so many thunderstorms, people have to protect their homes from strikes. You haven’t lived until you have seen lightning hit these rods.

We are much like this. We seem to attract all kinds of things. We are afflicted, but we have hope. Nothing can remain broken.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4

V. 21, “Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.”

This awesome dynamic only works for believers. For those still separated from God, we should only expect trials to hurt and break. The unbeliever can only expect his/her trials to harm and injure. It is a sad thing to watch, but there are so many who are in pain. “The wages of sin is death.” I’m glad I’m no longer on that particular payroll.

V. 22, “ But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”

Redeem and Refuge. Both words require some interesting initiative on our part as believers. The ‘redeem’ phrase puts out the idea of service. When we set our live to be His servants He runs out to meet us (a.k.a. “the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.)

The ‘refuge’ phrase works off the idea of the cities of Refuge in the O.T. Someone guilty could flee to them for safety. What was literal in the O.T. is a figurative (or spiritual) in the N.T. We have committed sins, indecencies, and rebellious acts. But there is a rescuer, a redeemer most gentle and kind.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 23: The Shepherd is the Difference

Sheep

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Easily the most loved psalm.

I have waited for the longest time to take this on, but I wanted to do it justice. There is also another reason I’ve waited. I felt that so much had been written on Psalm 23, that there would be an “over saturation.” But I’m not so sure anymore that this is the case.

The writer is David. He is a young man who will someday be king. It seems that all shepherds must learn to be “sheep” to be any good at all.

Commentary

V. 1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

This should be understood as a “declaration of faith.” It is not pretentious or manipulative. It is a straight forward announcement. I suppose David wants to boldly speak for God.

He is being protected from all harm. David refers to God as a shepherd, watching over his soul. Shepherds have three duties:

  1. protection,
  2. provision,
  3. and peace.

Not everyone makes a good shepherd. Some are better than others. David clearly is happy, because “the Lord is my shepherd.”

V. 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.”

There is so much that is soothing about this verse. (I think of iced tea on hot summer’s day.) There are two key words: “makes me,” and “leads me.” The shepherd is quite understanding, and he works to provide for each one. There is time when he must make the sheep rest. They must feel secure.

“Green pastures” are quality places. We are incredibly blessed to be brought to this place. And “still waters” are the only water that sheep will drink. There is no current or cataract for us to be aware. We are so blessed to be be so taken care of in this way.

V. 3, “ He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

We are dealing with solid realities here. Looking at this psalm nostalgically or sentimentally cuts the nerve of a verse that is really quite powerful. We can look at this psalm with ‘rose colored’ glasses, or we can put it to work.

We need soul restoration. We need to be put back together. It’s no secret that just living life damages us. It is also interesting to note, that only valuable things, masterpieces, are restored. We look to Him who continually restores our lives. I believe this is an ongoing process as we are being made new.

To be lead into real righteousness is an advantage. Often we try to ‘grind it out’ and make it happen. Many believers try to do this. But this verse stresses the point that He is in charge of our righteousness. He orchestrates it, and then brings it to pass. We are only righteous when He makes us so.

These first three verses of Psalm 23 are such a delight. But there is the old adage, “that familiarity breeds contempt.” I don’t think that is the case, but I do think that we’ve gotten ‘too familiar’ with this psalm. When we read it, we know what is going to happen next. But do we?

ybic, Bryan

People of the Crescendo: Psalm 51:15-17

15 “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

Psalm 51:15-17, NIV

Crescendo is a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force. It is primarily a musical term that builds and builds in intensity. A great example is Rossini’s, “William Tell Overture” which often features cannons blasting as the opera peaks, at the end. (Trivia– It’s also the theme for the “Lone Ranger.”)

With this in mind, we can imagine Psalm 51 developing and building to these last several verses. You can see David growing in confidence and assurance. He now knows he is forgiven, and more. God has changed David’s heart. He is a different man than he was in verse 1.

Commentary

V. 15,  “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Who can really know what happens between a man and his God? Those who you think are doing quite well, aren’t– and those who you regard as “lost causes” are far more than that. God knows, and He isn’t telling.

When it comes right down to it, our worship of God is initiated, by God. He must “open our lips,” in order for us to start. It’s like a garden hose, the spigot needs to be opened for the water to flow. When we start to make our ‘praise declarations’ to the Lord we will discover salvation and healing for us (and others.)

V. 16, You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.”

Often in our hearts we absorb a ‘mechanistic rigidity.’  What I mean by that is that we move externally, without moving internally. In David’s day, burning sheep and oxen as a sacrifice was the only way you operated. But David points out that God wants us to be a “living sacrifice.”

David doesn’t prohibit the sacrifice. He isn’t nullifying it at all. The very last verse in this Psalm clarifies the temple sacrifice.

“Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.” Ps. 51:19

V. 17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

David had been given an awareness of a truth that few ever grasp. This is the crescendo I mentioned earlier. Things are getting louder and clearer. Worship is redefined now in sharper terms. David doesn’t point to a bull without any blemish, he claims to have all that God really wants.

The human heart, broken and saddened by its sinfulness, is prime ‘real estate’ for our Father God. He’s been looking for broken people to make His own.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 46:10, 11: Being Still in a Restless Age

murrayriverappeal.blogspot.com

10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:10-11

As I write this my heart goes out to everyone who is struggling to find serenity in an age filled with restlessness. Been there done that. You feel the pressure on all sides. There’s too much month and not enough money. Your marriage is showing signs of fraying around the edges. You have a sullen teenager who doesn’t relate to the biblical Christianity that you have embraced. You have plenty to do but not enough time to do it. Debt seems to be piling up and the house may soon be underwater. Your job feels unsatisfying and your boss plays a big role in that. New health problems have emerged that you didn’t have in the days of your youth. In short, life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would and inner stillness and peace seem elusive.

In speaking from my heart, I just want to begin by saying that God loves you much, much more than you know. You may want inner stillness but he wants to give you that peace infinitely more than you want it. Imagine yourself as his anxious child. He will not forbid the children to come to him. You can crawl up onto his lap and tell him all your problems. Do you see his loving eyes as you’re talking to him? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you Christ’s loving eyes, because if you can see those eyes, it will help you with fear and anxiety, because perfect love casts out all fear according to John the apostle (I John 4:18). If you can’t do this, then think about someone you know who really loves you without any strings attached. Doesn’t God love you at least twice as much as this person? Of course he does and infinitely beyond that. This is the God whose lap you’re sitting on.

Please know that in all your prayers, there’s no guarantee that God will change your circumstances. The struggling business you run may not survive. The unhealthy marriage may not get better and the child with leukemia may not get healed despite your prayers and fasting. God may not change your circumstances, but he will give you the grace to triumph during your time of affliction. He will you give you a supernatural peace that transcends understanding. You will know it didn’t come from you, but, instead, its origin is divine. Guard your heart against offense because many Christians become offended at God when he doesn’t change their circumstances.

If your prayer life is almost non–existent, I don’t write this to condemn you. However, if you want inner stillness and serenity, some kind of quiet time with God is a must. Prayer is the context by which we give God our anxiety and he gives us his peace. This is where we cast all our cares on him because he cares for us. It’s a salutary exchange that we can’t live without. The Holy Spirit is a gentle teacher and will lead you into a robust prayer life. Start small and don’t despise small beginnings. 5–10 minutes is okay to begin with for awhile and then add to it as God’s grace increases in your life. If you try to pray for an hour right off the bat, you’re liable to burn out. God is patient with you so be patient with yourself.

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 2:10-12, Kiss the Son

10″ Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV

Kiss the Son should become our heart’s cry! Much can be learned if we’re willing to do this, and after all, it is his due.

These  three verses seem to deal with the tragic rebellion of our own hearts. Exhortations are being made, but we are not always willing to surrender, and the Psalmist resorts to a plaintive cry.  Keep in mind dear one, this is being written to Christians!

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

1 Corinthians 5:20 

Commentary

V. 10, ” Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.”

Teachableness is hardly a character quality for a ruling monarch. I suppose a spiteful arrogance is much more seen. Being wise and teachable might be great in theory, but quite often things work against anything being put in practice. A king often sees himself above others, and hardly humble enough to correct.

These things are a choice we must make. We decide exactly how humble we will be. We make the decision to be wise, and to receive instruction. It’s up to you.

V. 11,  “ Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.”

We are to do certain things, but with “modifiers.” We serve, but with fear. We rejoice, but with trembling.  Far to often, we won’t use these modifiers, (how often have you trembled when you were rejoicing in your worship time at church?)

Serving and rejoicing are both critical places to be. And “fear and trembling” turn our service and praise into things of great value to the Lord. After all, He is great and mighty, and we are puny and small. I doubt if there can be a true worshipper who is not a God fearer first.

V. 12, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

This is my favorite verse in Psalm 2. “Kiss the Son,” no matter what happens, or what brutal situation comes. Kiss Him. Your love at this point is critical, and it has more value than you realize. Find Him, and kiss Him.

There are sad and ugly things if you won’t. Perishing and a kindled wrath are things to anticipate if you refuse. I hope you won’t. There is a place of blessedness to everyone who places their trust in Him. This is a prime place to be, and nothing compares to it.

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 91, Take Cover!

Psalm 91

1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.”

The entire scope of this Psalm deals specifically with the strong security of the believer. It’s like wall—to—wall carpeting. Its very presence means an additional comfort. Insecurity is a deep need, and it reaches into so many of us. So many ask, “Does God still love me?”

It’s all about assurance, and having the security to know that He is desperately in love with my soul. Really, what more can I ask for? I’m unconditionally loved, and held close (what more can I ask for?) He provides me with the “complete package.”

Commentary

V. 1, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Key words— “living” and “resting.” Both of these words seem to suggest a long term commitment. This alone could be the source of much of our difficulty. We like the easy convenience of the microwave, and the “drive up” window. We not only want what we want, but we want it accelerated. We want it now, please!

But the Father has no intention of meeting us on these quick terms. He asks us for a commitment. And we want a fix. (Right now, please!) However, our desire to direct our own spiritual lives in this way will only get us “mucked up.” We don’t dictate, we can only situate.

V. 2, “This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.”

These kind of declarations are substantial. They have a profound meaning. Key words— “refuge” and “safety.” From just a pragmatic view, these are the ideal places to be. They meet us in that visceral spot. I suppose deep down, that is all any of us are looking forward to.

The last phrase, is the best. “He is my God, and I trust him.”  To trust someone is to place them in utmost confidence. We don’t expect any sort of deceit or ugliness from those we trust. When we say that we “trust God” we are really saying that He is trustworthy— all together faithful, in every way.

V. 3, “For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.”

Key words— “rescue” and “protect.” Again provision is being made for every contingency. Traps and diseases. We mull these things through, and we realize that this is a”top notch”  first class security provision. He simply gives safety to everyone who calls to Him.

V. 4, “He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Key words— “cover” and “shelter.” There is a place beyond us which continues this wonderful protection. The imagery is obvious to those us from the farm. It is the mother hen covering her babies, her chicks. She is the most protective personality on the farm, especially when she has little ones.

“Faithful promises” assure us of the veracity of His Word. They can support your weight, completely. Here in Alaska, January is the month we can venture on the ice. The lakes are completely solid. We even have car races!

“Armor and protection.” No foe, no hassle, no evil enemy can touch us. The Father has made us completely impervious to anything evil, or threatening. I once had a curse pronounced on me by a self-proclaimed witch. But I just knew she was totally powerless, and I was protected by God’s love. I didn’t worry at all.

V. 5, ” Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,  nor the arrow that flies in the day.”

I know this is all figurative, we read it and then understand it in this way. Terrors, and arrows. Night and day. No matter, I choose not to be afraid of whatever comes my way.

V. 6, ” Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.”

Evil has many ways to reach out and touch us. It comes hidden in the night, and visible during the day. But we really can’t retaliate against evil forces. Rather, we submit to God. We are told not to dread them.

V. 7, ” Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.”

My grandfather survived a brutal attack by the Nazis in Italy in ’44. In his company, only two survived. He and one other. As their position was overrun, he laid in a foxhole and pulled a corpse over him until the enemy passed.

I think of this and I’m both relieved and angry. But as we enter into life’s horribleness, we are told of a supernatural grace that protects us. Although we can’t be certain of being impervious to the dark, our hearts and souls are protected. Evil may attack and destroy very many, but you will not be touched.

V. 8, ” Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.”

We are told to watch, and discern all that is happening. We are to see and evaluate what is taking place around us. We are never to be ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. Look, and see what is happening around you.

ybic, Bryan


You Are Being Mocked: 1 Samuel 17

 

From 1 Samuel 17

Young David stood and looked at Goliath ‘face-to-face.’  Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth, armed to the teeth, we read of his armor–he was like a human tank!  David was nothing,  a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle with real and solid experience, and David was stepping up for his first try.

Goliath begins to blaspheme.  He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he is superior.  His arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion.  Nothing can compare, the glory is his, for he believes he is the ultimate warrior on planet Earth.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”. 

1 Sam. 17:48

I find David to be exceptional.  His reaction to the human mountain of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is astonishing.  Goliath is a human wood-chipper.  Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of.

Many of us face a giant called “despair”.  He has marched out on the field of battle confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We have been tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us.  We’ve been indoctrinated to accept the inevitable slavery with a spirit of sheep-like meekness.

For some reason, the concept of going to war has not been passed on to us.  The ‘enemy-giant’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Despair believes he will destroy us.  Its just a matter of time. As soldiers, we are inclined to stay in the safety of the camp. In the Army, we spread among ourselves the GI wisdom, “Never volunteer for anything.”

So many believers, cowed and intimidated, surrender to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope, and faith are leeched out of our being, and we become a empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control.

David ran to the battle.  He passed through the dark lies and defeated hearts to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the confusion and ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we desperately struggle and foolishly pout.  We turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemies workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us the liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our goliath of despair.

*

ybic, Bryan

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

noise-speakerss

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

Psalm 83:1-3, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:10-12, NLT

&

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me.)

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

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

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

Psalm 78

flourish-small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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Just Give Me Jesus: Psalm 42:1-6

Wishing to Be Near God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:4, NLT

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:14–17: What God Delights In

rebellion-seen
I am lost without you

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise

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.

Both Psalms 32 and 51 are about David’s sorrow and repentance because of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who David purposely placed on the front lines of military battle, where he would surely die. In verses 14 and 15 he asks God for forgiveness for the murder (“bloodguilt”) so that he can sing of God’s righteousness and offer him praise. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, is helpful here in suggesting that David wants to extol God for his righteousness because he (David) sees God’s crowning achievement being making an egregious sinner like David righteous!

In verses 16 and 17 it’s obvious that King David has learned from his predecessor King Saul’s mistakes. This insight is often overlooked in sermons and commentaries. Saul was given clear instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites and he disobeyed these instructions. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of the livestock so he could offer sacrifices to the Lord. Samuel’s rebuke of Saul essentially said, “Don’t think these sacrifices impress God. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Your disobedience is similar to witchcraft and idolatry. Sacrifice is good but it means nothing if your heart isn’t right.”

The parallels to our present age are legion. Anytime someone is involved in religious activities–i.e. “sacrifices”–but their heart is wrong, they are following in the footsteps of Saul. One thinks of the Pharisees, both in the time of Jesus and now, who were/are more engaged in religious activities than anyone, but their hearts were full of pride and self–righteousness.

As a Roman Catholic, I often hear complaints from fellow parishioners about “cradle Catholics,” who were born into the faith, and do many of the right Catholic things–“sacrifices”–but their hearts are not humble and contrite and they are far from an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a kind of empty “cultural Christianity” that exists in every denomination.

Movements come and go within Christendom.  Some local churches emerge to ride the next big thing.  They become the most fashionable place to be involved. Sometimes the reason some of the members give their time, talent and treasure–“sacrifices”–to these churches is not to advance the kingdom of God; no, it’s because their involvement makes them feel hip and a part of a special group in comparison to all those boring, generic suburban Christians. And they get to rebel against their un–hip parents, who they are angry with, as part of a package deal!

What does David mean in verse 17 by saying that God wants a broken and contrite heart? Because Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Matthew 25:1–13), sometimes it helps to understand biblical principles through the marriage relationship. When a husband has sinned against his wife and knows it, often he will engage in a flurry of activities–“sacrifices”– in order to extricate himself from the doghouse. Suddenly he’s bringing home flowers and candy and is doing home–improvement projects that she wanted done several months ago. However, what she really wants is not a whirlwind of goodwill gestures; no, what she really wants is an apology marked by humility and sorrow for what he did. She needs to know that he is truly sorry, not because his carelessness put him in the doghouse, but because what he did hurt, and was a sin against, her.

It’s never too late for the Pharisee, the “cultural Christian” or the “Christian hipster.” Or me, for that matter. We can still offer sacrifices that God will delight in if we come to him with a broken and contrite heart for the many ways we have offended him. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

If you liked this post, you may also like Jonathan’s 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

 

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ybic, Jonathan

Disarming Sickness, Psalm 41:3

dust_in_the_wind_by_eikoweb

“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
    and restores them from their bed of illness.”

Psalm 41:3, NIV

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

Henry Ward Beecher

It is a general rule, that when you are sick– you become very vulnerable. I can attest to this having had more than my share of medical issues. And today, I’m smack dab in the middle of another one. It’s odd when one issue can open the door to another.

Ps. 41:3 is interesting. Especially for us who find themselves very sick. It is the “bedside promise” of our Lord’s presence. He is a visitor who comes to see us, to comfort and encourage us when we are flat on our backs. We are not alone, for He is truly our best companion. Typically our issues are disbelief and discouragement. We maybe in considerable pain, but for the most part that pain is a secondary issue. I can deal with the pain. My greater issues are this sense of intense abandonment. For the sincere believer, this can be frightening.

The choice of words here is perfect– “sustains and restores.” The Spirit’s ministry to us exceeds any antibiotic or surgical procedure. At my bedside, I will receive a spiritual treatment, that is administered by the wisest and greatest doctor who is present 24/7. He braces and bolsters me, effectively putting supports around me. He really does hold me in place. But He also restores. I have heard quite a few who have been ‘fixed up’ by their time in sickness or affliction. Some will look back fondly on their time of trial, because the Lord was restoring them.

My prayer for you dear one, is not that you are kept from affliction and sickness, but rather in your issues you discover a new sense of His amazing presence. This verse is one you can trust, and one you will need.

&

ybic, Bryan