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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No Apologies— Psalm 14

no_apologies_title

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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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

ingodshands-13
“I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”

Psalm 145:1-3, CEB

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Use the Psalms as a Touchstone in Your Life

TouchStone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Jonathan

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

http://lettersfromfawncreek.tateauthor.com/

 

 

 

A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

warrior

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

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

flourish20

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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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

Gratitude and Humility: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

rootsblog.typepad.com

Over and over again in the Psalms, the reader is exhorted to be thankful and humble. We are to enter his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts (Psalm 100:4). We are told that the real sacrifice God wants from us is a humble and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). In this brief excerpt from Letters from Fawn Creek, we are shown how the two virtues are related and how they protect us during our sojourn here on earth. On our journey to hearing Christ say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant,” we are like adventurers coming out West in the late 1840s to prospect for gold. Gratitude and humility will protect us on the journey like two divisions of Union soldiers until we strike gold. In Letters from Fawn Creek, striking gold is symbolic for hearing Christ say to us, “Well done you good and faithful servant.” Here’s the excerpt; enjoy:

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Gratitude is the offspring of humility. Humility acknowledges that we are nothing without God; gratitude gives thanks for everything we receive beyond nothing: physical existence and its gifts (pleasant, neutral, and painful) and the gift of eternal life that is inaugurated in this life and is fulfilled in heaven where we receive everything forever. Gratitude and humility are not one-time events but are disciplines that need to be regularly practiced. That’s why your grandmother emphasized the importance of counting your blessings.

If we are journeying from New York City to northern California for the gold rush of 1849, having gratitude and humility dominant in our lives is like having two divisions of Union soldiers along for the journey. That’s 24,000 soldiers providing protection, provision, wisdom, and guidance as our wagon train heads west. If bandits, outlaws, unfriendly Indians, wild animals, inclement weather, and scarcity of water (the world, the flesh, and the devil) try to afflict us, we will still make it to the gold rush (“Well done, you good and faithful servant”). The world, the flesh, and the devil tempt us to see the journey through the lens of entitlement, ingratitude, and victimhood rather than the prism of humility, gratitude, and victory.

If we have an unbroken series of pleasant gifts, the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to entice us with pride and complacency. In contrast, humility and gratitude will constantly remind us that we are nothing without God and that every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights (James 1:16-18).

If we encounter adversity and trauma, humility and gratitude will try to lead us on a journey where we realize that our scars are painful gifts and that the redemptive workings of God through us to others come mostly through these scars. Everything humility and gratitude try to teach us, the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to teach the opposite.

If you liked this excerpt from Letters from Fawn Creek, you may be interested in purchasing the book at this link:

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

Psalm 108:5-6: Wearing the Holy Spirits Vision

Benjamin Franklin’s Original Bifocals

Here are two versions of the same reference from Psalms 108. The first is from the English Standard Version (or ESV.) The second from the Contemporary English Version (or CEV.)

5 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
    give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”

Psalm 108:5-6, ESV

5″Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.
Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.”

Psalm 108:5-6, CEV

I’m wearing bifocals now. And false teeth are probably in my future fairly soon. (I’m debating the pros and cons of “denture glue.”) If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

Bifocals though are great, just to be able to see close up, and then far away. Two lenses give me just what I need. I don’t see double, or two different objects. But it is seamless and unified.

We have put on bifocals for Psalmslife today. Now we need to use them.

Commentary

V. 5, Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!”

This is David’s heart. He asks God to exalt Himself. He seems to have a strong concern for God’s reputation. If God exalts Himself, than (and only then) are we are blessed.

Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.” 

To be concerned about God’s honor only strengthens the Church. We not only want Him to look good, but to do good. He is a good God, and we want everyone to know it. Wherever people go on this planet, they will be able to see the Glory of God. After all, it’s all about Him, isn’t it?

“For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.”

Habakkuk 2:14, ESV

V. 6,That your beloved ones may be delivered,give salvation by your right hand and answer me!” 

The ‘beloved ones’ speak of the Church– the saints whom God strongly loves. In David’s heart, the glory is the cradle of deliverance. When God is loved supremely, we commence a walk of freedom.

“Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.” (CEV)

A prayer life is not about me; it effects every believer. The power of my prayer is that it touches God, who touches everyone. “Then the people you love will be safe.”

One should learn soon on how to accept “prayer assignments” from the Lord. He is recruiting an army that will step into vital places of the Spirit. People– neighbors, towns, states and even entire nations can be touched by God from your prayer closet. Just as a cobbler fixes shoes, and the carpenter builds a chair, so it is the work of every Christian to pray.

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ybic, Bryan

Something All Lit Up: Psalm 42

all-lit-up

“Oh Father, I want us to be swallowed up in this Psalm. Not that it’s a happy place to be. But to learn how to be in an unhappy place is what we need. And this Psalmist does it so well. He is miserable so well. I want You to teach Your people how to be struck down, well. How to be in turmoil, well. How to be downcast, well. How to have waves break over them, well. And the Psalms, and this one in particular, is so well suited to help us. So grant that we would know how to feel and how to think with You in the Psalms. Through Christ I pray. Amen”

~Dr. John Piper, referencing Psalm 42

Psalm 42 is a distillation of a wonderful theology. It is quite profound in the certain ways it understands God.

These 11 verses carry us into presence of God, and these 11 verses put us into His presence. What more could we ever want?

Vv. 1-3, establishes  the incredible hunger (whether or not we see it) we as humans have for God. Hunger and thirst are the particular desires, and these are strong needs. Don’t underestimate them. They’re quite intense.

Vv. 4-7, carries a special awareness of a cluster of memories. They somehow remember of how things once were, a long time ago. Any frustration, or discouragement should never become the very method of living. It’s  just temporary, and never something to lock down on. Too many believers could lose faith at this moment.

V. 8 presses on to us by God’s great love and power. He reacts to us, as we ourselves reacted in v. 1-3. He presses us, just like we insisted earlier.

V. 9-11, we work over the language of earlier verses. So much is simmering here, and so much to consider.  We do indeed to wrestle through so much resistance, but yet, it can be expected, if we are who we say we are.

All together, we see that the complete spectrum is covered. Psalm 42 meets us, in whatever frame of mind/heart we find ourselves. It’s precisely what we need, no matter where we find ourselves. We are His, because He wills us to be. His own love, carries us to His side. )

ybic, Bryan

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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.)

What To Do When You Are a Persecuted Minority, Psalm 3:1–8

tree-shiny

A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.

1 O Lord, how many are my foes!

How many rise up against me!

2 Many are saying of me,

“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you are a shield around me, O Lord;

you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

4 To the Lord I cry aloud

and he answers me from his holy hill.

5 I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands

drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!

Strike all my enemies on the jaw;

Break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.

May your blessing be on your people.

The historical background of this psalm is when David, fled Jerusalem because his son Absalom was coming to usurp his kingdom. Through cunning and treachery, Absalom had turned the hearts of a majority of the Israelites away from King David and toward himself. David must flee for his life; he, and those loyal to him, are now a persecuted minority. In commenting on the decline of Christian influence in the Bible Belt, Russell Moore, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention said,”...we are no longer the moral majority. We are a prophetic minority.”

When I was first married in Alaska, I went out and  worked as a laborer on a construction crew. I was the only Christian on the crew. and was reminded of that fact everyday through the other workers’ coarse language, and derisive comments about Christians. I admit, their use of profanity, and especially the f–word, as nouns, verbs, heard in adjectives, adverbs, etc., definitely showed unusual creativity. They really liked to “bait” me, by saying provocative things to see how I would react. As the Apostle Paul says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

What do we do, when we find that we are part of a persecuted minority? King David’s response is exemplary:

For David, who in such a furnace of affliction, what’s really in his heart was revealed. Character or virtue is not only formed in such adversity; it’s also revealed. Out of a heart of humility, David cried out in radical dependence on God and God heard him. In times of severe testing, we often turn to our idols, but David didn’t put his trust “in chariots, horses, alliances, or other nations” but in God alone.  But you and I must decide.

His extremity became God’s opportunity. His fervent prayer and desperate clinging to the Lord resulted in confidence in God’s protection, (v.3) And a peace of mind  while he slept and while he approached the battle (vv.5 and 6).

David was free of despair and could walk with his head held high (v.3b). And like all of God’s best friends, his concern was not just for himself but for the welfare of all of God’s people: “May your blessing be on your people” (v.8b).

David expected to be delivered and he was. Should the believer always have such expectations? Not really. Stephen, the first martyr in the Christian faith, didn’t. The Christians that were thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum didn’t. Think of the three children of Israel who were a persecuted minority, and were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. They told Nebuchadnezzar that whether God delivered them or not, they would not worship false idols. Not being delivered was a very real possibility to them.

What God wants more than anything else from us is not that we have an assurance of his deliverance; it’s that we have a heart that abandons itself to his providence and echoes his Son’s words: “Not my will but your will be done.”

Such a psalm should cause us, by the grace of God, to want to purge all that is nominal, lukewarm, half–hearted, and double–minded from our faith. As we go deeper into the last days and Christians become more of a persecuted minority even here in America, devout souls like David will stand firm in their faith but the lukewarm will have a tendency to compromise and cut deals with the “Absalom majority.” Unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will bow to the gods of this present age. May God grant us the mantle and spirit of David so that we will remain faithful in the day of great testing.

&

ybic, Jonathan

Jonathan’s website is at http://www.openheavensblog.com. It is a good site, and worthy of your attention.

Restore the Sparkle: Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13, NLT

Life can really get complicated– really, really fast. David finds that there are no easy answers. If we look objectively at his life, we can see the frayed ends where confusion rules. It was never meant to turn out this way. But truly, isn’t that how life works sometimes?

The Short and Sweet of this Psalm

V. 1, David believes that he has been forgotten. Note a  phrase is repeated four times, “How long?”  It does seem that impatience is a significant issue for him. Often when it gets this bad, we find ourselves turning to surrogates to fill the gap.

“Never was a faithful prayer lost. Some prayers have a longer voyage than others, but then they return with their richer lading at last, so that the praying soul is a gainer by waiting for an answer.”   William Gurnall

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V. 2, “Struggle…anguish…sorrow, everyday.” These all are “pain words.” And  somehow David is alert enough to recognize the work of the evil one. We were never meant to serve sin or encourage Satan.

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V. 3,  Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” David knew that life could be quite exceptional. And there is much more than breathing to life. He speaks of being restored. He waits for newness of God’s sparkling presence. (Do our eyes “sparkle?”)

“Wherever you are – be all there.”   Jim Elliot

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V. 4, Also, he is quite aware that his life is being threatened. The word, “gloat” is interesting word. It has the idea of boasting, or relishing someone else’s failure. (I hate it when my opponent decides to gloat.)

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V. 5,  But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” The Lord has covered David with His hand. His life has been saved by a love that never falters or weakens.

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V. 6 is really beautiful. Singing and praising the Lord in awareness of  His nearness. It really is what we were made to do. David certainly comes through some really hard issues.

“It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men.”   C.S. Lewis

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

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

bibsword (1)

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

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

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

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

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

sword1

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

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

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

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

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

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ybic, Jonathan

F

Psalm 84:10: Overcoming the Greatest Temptation

temptation-of-jesus

10″ Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

This may be one of the most profound verses in the Psalms, if not in the entire Bible. In it David is saying that he would rather have the most humble place in the house of God than the highest position among the godless. This proclamation is the exact opposite of what Satan said in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” What makes this passage so weighty is that it encapsulates the greatest temptation of created beings from before the creation of the world to the present day.

What temptation would cause Satan, an exalted angel who dwelled in the presence of the glory of God for eons before his fall from grace, to rebel and inaugurate his own kingdom of darkness? What enticement would cause a significant number of angels (probably one–third; see Revelation 12:4), who also dwelt in the exquisite splendor of God, to follow him in this rebellion? What temptation would provoke Adam and Eve, who lived in Edenic paradise in unbroken communion with God, to disobey God’s clear command and go their own way? What enticement led the nation of Israel, who had amazing, supernatural provision and a special relationship with the Almighty, to reject their Creator and worship other gods?

Satan, the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, and the nation of Israel all succumbed to the same temptation. It goes by different names but I will, for lack of a better word, call it godship. Godship is rooted in pride, the root sin of all sins, and its nature is to make oneself God and to pursue an autonomous existence apart from God and his will. It means taking God off the throne of our hearts, and, in self–exaltation, putting ourselves on that throne.

Satan and the fallen angels did this, and, in the spirit of Milton’s poem, essentially said, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” Adam and Eve made their proclamation of godship when they ate the forbidden food because they thought they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Israel’s sin of godship is vividly revealed in Judges 21:25, a passage that describes their entire history:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

David’s proclamation in Psalm 84:10 is a watershed moment because he is gazing into the face of the history of fallen creation and is saying, ” I will not join the Rebellion; I will not commit the sin of godship; I would rather have the lowest place in the house of God than rule in the tents of the ungodly.” David would go on to commit egregious sins in his life (adultery, murder, etc.), but he was still a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and would not commit the most egregious sin of all: godship.

One reason Roman Catholics venerate Mary is because she also submitted herself to the will of God. She was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior and said, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, the devil tempted Jesus to commit the sin of godship and live a life autonomous from God and his will. Jesus also stared into the face of the history of fallen creation and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:11). He did this again during his Passion when he said to the Father, “Not my will but your will be done.”

Dear reader, by the grace of God, we can all follow in the footsteps of David, Mary, and especially our Lord. We can get up each morning, look into the mirror, and start our day by saying, ” Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of another day of life. By your grace I choose to be a doorkeeper in your house instead of taking my fate upon myself. I reject the deception of godship and choose to be your servant.”

&

ybic, Jonathan

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

glorious-light

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

 Psalm 119:57-58, NLT

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

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

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

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

flourish-small,

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

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

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ybic, Bryan

Postscript to Psalm 78:9–11: Two Reasons Why People Turn Back in the Day of Battle

The Battle of the Somme July 1, 1916
The Battle of the Somme
July 1, 1916

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about a man in his town who had been arrested for embezzling both from his workplace and at his church. If turning back in the day of battle is defined as a breakdown of character in a time of adversity, then this man would be Exhibit A in any discussion on that topic. I don’t know all the details and can only use my imagination. Perhaps his personal finances were in shambles and this created fertile soil for a temptation to skim off the top and hope no one would notice.

Throughout the Psalms, David talks about the importance of trusting in God’s unfailing love (e.g., Ps. 13:5). Years ago I heard a Christian minister who God used in facilitating emotional and physical healing in people’s lives say, “More and more I run into Christians who believe that God can heal them but are not sure that he wants to heal them. They doubt God’s love for them for whatever reason.”

This reminds me when Moses told the children of Israel that they rebelled against the command of the Lord and grumbled in their 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” (Deut.1:27). Perhaps the man who did all the embezzling, like the children of Israel, doubted God’s unfailing love and decided to take things into his own hands.

A second reason (and there are many) people turn back in the day of battle is because they have too narrow a definition of God’s unfailing love. In Daniel 3 Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. It’s evident from 3:16–18 that they knew that if God decided to deliver them, then his love was unfailing; and they also knew that if he didn’t decide to deliver them, his love was also unfailing.

Many Christians understand the former but not the latter. God may not heal our child who has a terminal disease, save our floundering marriage, or rescue our drowning finances, but his love is still unfailing. Many Christians go through something traumatic, doubt God’s unfailing love, become offended at God, and then turn back in the day of battle. They expected life to be “X”, and when it turned out to be “Y”, they became scandalized and decided to take things into their own hands. God give us a trusting heart like Job who said, “Though he [God] slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15).

^

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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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Time in a Small Bottle

Time in a Bottle
Time in a Bottle

10″ The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:10-12, ESV

(Actually, in order to scoop this up, you should read Ps. 90:7-17. I can honestly predict good thing emanating from your reading.)

I once attempted to carry Bibles into the village of Minto, Alaska in January 1985. Minto is small and isolated, and it is north of the Arctic Circle. In winter, it is a cold, beyond cold. We saw the temperature drop to a -30, with a windchill of -50 F.

When it gets this cold, the tires on your car freeze. They get flat spots, frozen rubber that keeps its shape. So you hear a clumping  sort of sound when someone drives by. This is readily seen in Fairbanks.

Our car just had to breakdown in this frozen waste. We were quite isolated, we were the only vehicle in 50 miles. I tell you this. The cold was horrific. The dead car now was nothing more than a “windbreak”. Since the engine couldn’t run, the temp quickly plummeted. And I knew two things.

      • One, I discovered that this kind of cold could quickly  kill you.
      • Second, I was going to die, as “a Bryan flavored popsicle.”

But we found a miracle. Twelve hours later, a singular snowplow right at the point of turning around, saw the red top of our little Toyota. The driver  hesitated, and then decided to find out this mystery. He discovered us, and yes, we were quite close to dying. (No melodrama here folks, just keep moving).

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

This is a Psalm of Moses, and we see him connect the dots. This particular verse should lift us up. Just the idea of enumeration should connect us to a deeply eternal watch. Moses is writing directly to the psalmist, and we must accept all that he has said.

Things are astonishingly brief for us. Even as believers (expecting something better) are never really content. We think that we deserve much more than this. But our life is shortened to a set of days, and we have no recourse but to take all that is given to us.

In 1985, in a beat-up Toyota Corolla I suddenly understood the issues. My life was negotiable. This was my certain moment, when I could really understand. We must “count our days”. Only the person who discovers his mortality, can really appreciate” eternal life”.

Its simple, really. We focus on the numbers, and the numerical count we have accrued. We can honestly do nothing less– and nothing more. It seems we are  living on a tether, and we can only advance so far. But this is not a bad thing.

There is an “old world”  idea of bravery. It’s not so popular lately. But we will only advance if we understand “bravery.” Courage is the only accepted currency in the spirituality of this moment, today. We will trust in the things He gives us.

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ybic, Bryan

O Lord, The Battle is Far Too Fierce: Psalm 70

For the director of music. A psalm of David. To help people remember.

 1 God, come quickly and save me. 
       LORD, hurry to help me.
 2 Let those who are trying to kill me 
       be ashamed and disgraced. 
    Let those who want to hurt me 
       run away in disgrace.
 3 Let those who make fun of me 
       stop because of their shame.
 4 But let all those who worship you 
       rejoice and be glad. 
    Let those who love your salvation 
       always say, “Praise the greatness of God.” 
 5 I am poor and helpless; 
       God, hurry to me. 
    You help me and save me.” 
       Lord, do not wait.

Psalm 70:1-5, NCV

“As in all warfare, the two essential elements in victory are knowing your enemy and knowing your resources.”

Sinclair B. Ferguson

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Welcome to the war! It’s very seldom that a new convert realizes what we are all up against. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have become a target for hell to shoot their arrows at. What was never an issue before, now becomes an universal adjudication.

There is a nasty viciousness about Satan’s attacks. We look into his kingdom and see such hostility and spite that it takes your breath away. David saw it also. He was able to write cogently and forcefully about what he had experienced. What we have here in Psalm 70 is nothing less then a “first person” account of a war that’s going on for David’s very soul.

Commentary

V. 1, there is a plea of desperate alacrity in this verse. There is a deep earnestness to David’s words. Figuratively, he has been pinned down by the enemy, and is making an urgent call for help. It’s typical for a soldier under a withering assault will cry out to be saved.

V. 2, Sometimes we start viewing the darkness as a kind of foggy philosophy of ‘anti-god’ protoplasm. But David won’t do that. His enemies are real, and they possess solid identities. They can be forced to be backed down. And yet David can’t push these bullies away, and so we see him on the radio to HQ for divine intervention.

V. 3, I can just imagine God hearing these words from David. I can see the hint of a smile that the Father has for such audacity and zeal. I can hear Him say, “Now that’s my boy!” The Father releases His power on those who are desperate.

V. 4, Now David doesn’t remain in this same place. We see him getting up and advancing directly into worship. (I always wanted to get a tattoo, “Born to Worship.”) David finds his footing enough to exhort and encourage his brothers and sisters. Warfare does that to you, David understood where everything was leading to.

V. 5, This verse always struck me as being out of sequence. V. 4 after all seems to be the pinnacle. This arrangement though creates a real sense of the cyclical nature of spiritual warfare. In a certain sense we will never see a final battle in our lifetimes. There will always be high places to tear down, and towering giants to kill. But our Helper is just a prayer away. Thank God.

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Kyrie Eleison.

ybic, Bryan

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