Who Follows You? Psalm 145:4

 

Five Generations
Five Generations

4One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Psalm 145:4, ESV

The worship continues, as it should. Our last post, vv. 1-3 (http://psalmslife.com/2014/09/14/the-true-king-psalm-145/) has set the pace for us.

But this particular verse has a wonderful slant. It is praise that has been embedded into the framework of family. The idea of this generational dynamic is quite alien to us, living in the West. We stress the individual, with very little thought on our effect on close kin.

Commentary

V. 4, One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

As we start to communicate trans-generationally, we find God’s work and activity in our lives passing to our children and grand-children. Our unique experiences with the Holy Spirit, the things we have learned and understood, are not lost– rather stay alive and aware. We give them a heritage, and a narrative of faith that enriches them.

“Life is but one continual course of instruction. The hand of the parent writes on the heart of the child the first faint characters which time deepens into strength so that nothing can efface them.” Unknown

My parents have given me much. Back in the 1970s they acted in faith and became hosts/sponsors of refugees from Cambodia. They took in a family into our little farmhouse. They encountered intense opposition and challenging obstacles. But my dad and mom stayed faithful to the Lord, inspite of daunting issues that dogged them. I learned about God by their life.

A father’s responsibility is not to make the child’s decisions, but to let the child watch him make his.” Ed Cole

Shoulders of Giants

When you communicate your experiences to the ‘church-to-come’ you will leave a legacy that will be a rich source of faith and hope. Because of you, they will stand on the shoulders of giants. The kingdom of our Lord will advance. And they will stand on your shoulders of faith.

Consider these verses–

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut. 6:7, ESV

“Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11

“He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,”  Ps. 78:5-6, MSG

*

bry-signat (1)

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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

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.

 

We Are the ‘Word People’: Psalm 119:1-8

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Ps. 119:130

א Aleph

 1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, 
   who walk according to the law of the LORD. 
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes 
   and seek him with all their heart. 
3 They do nothing wrong; 
   they walk in his ways. 
4 You have laid down precepts 
   that are to be fully obeyed. 
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast 
   in obeying your decrees! 
6 Then I would not be put to shame 
   when I consider all your commands. 
7 I will praise you with an upright heart 
   as I learn your righteous laws. 
8 I will obey your decrees; 
   do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119:1—8, NIV

This psalm has many unique characteristics.

#1, there are 22 paragraphs. Each one focuses on a single letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

#2, And to make it even more interesting, every verse in that paragraph begins with that same letter. Example vv. 1 — 8 all start the verse with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

#3, There is a complexity in this psalm, which we certainly don’t see in English; but we do see it in the original Hebrew.

#4, There is an obvious awareness of the Law, or “torah.” But there is a total of nine other synonyms that have a connection to the ‘Torah’. They’re other translations of these words— law, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, promises, word. These are all different words, each have a different connotation. And they are changeable. I suppose this has to be is a divine intelligence beyond our comprehension, and far beyond our human ability to manipulate. God’s ‘fingerprints’ are all over this psalm.

Commentary

V. 1 — 2, the word “blessed” is used. But that is only the core idea. It has the broad idea of peace, confidence, and happiness in one’s new place or position. There is a place, but it seems to come to the blameless. And just so you know, being blameless is not being sinless. We sin, constantly. But we can be blameless in that place. V.2 has put an emphasis on two verbs— keeping, and seeking.

V. 3, “They do nothing wrong,” as far as I can see the believer is lifted out of a lifestyle of hopeless sinning. It is no longer the compelling momentum that energizes us. We are now to be walking the avenues that the Lord has made for us.

V. 4,  God has taken an active role in our salvation. We can look at His precepts as a burden, or as a help. They word, “obey” gets used.  (I suppose that that word obedience is the ‘neutron bomb’ of theological terms.) Yet, it is a necessary attitude if we want to lived blessed lives.

V. 5, Is an ejaculatory cry for deliverance. It has the spirit of Romans 7 all over it. The heart that is truly following God will understand this, it is the profound desire to be more like Him. Our spirits should yearn to be like our Father in heaven.

V. 6, deep inside the writer of this psalm should be a kindred spirit for us. The driving thought in this verse is that of having a true heart, a faithful heart. In a sense the psalmist realizes there is a day of accountability and judgement for himself.

V. 7, When I read this verse I have a wonderful sense of the mechanism of Christian transformation. We see praise building as the disciple is obeying, and vice versa. Obedience is linked into praise; and praise builds obedience! One feeds the other, and they are both strengthened.

V. 8, Here we see “commitment.” We observe the hungry heart of the psalmist to obey. “Obey” is always his critical word for us. In his mind this is the pivot on which everything turns on. There exists a holy resolve to comply and to heed His will.

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

Psalm 34:4-7, Of Tailors and Cobblers

Prayer of the Abandoned Man
© Matthew Fitzke
http://www.matthewfitzke.com

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

Psalm 34:4-7, New Living Translation

flourish20

“As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” —  Martin Luther

Our lives as Christians should be our occupations, and the work that we do should be prayer. A farmer has a craft or a vocation, a welder has his profession. We, as people of faith are to be laborers of prayer.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” — Martin Luther

Within these four verses we hear David (ringing like a brass bell) calling us to pray. He extensively lists the benefits of coming into the presence of the Lord. They are quite extensive and completely attainable.

Commentary

V. 4,  I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Fear (of whatever, or whomever) can only be overcome by prayer. Perhaps fear is allowed so we start praying. My life has been threatened several times. A few of those times I really sought the Lord. The result was a supernatural gift of peace, joy and freedom which made no sense at all on a natural level.

V. 5, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

Radiance is a fine word. Often it comes wrapped in trouble, threats and difficulties. It is delivered to our door by special couriers, and it comes by God. When it arrives we find out exactly how human we are. Every Gethsemane will have an angel to minister to us.

Dark faces are the opposite of radiant ones. Shame is the opposite of joy. If we think about this, we realize that our faces are truly the “barometer” of our hearts. We are more readable than we think.

V. 6, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.”

David never really strays far from this theme of desperation does he? The word implies despair and lostness. Perhaps only desperate people find God? If you can’t admit you are quite lost, you can’t really be found.

“Troubles.” I wish they they didn’t exist. I have protested to the Lord regarding the excessive quota I have received. It hardly seems equitable in my mind. Job once wrote, “Man is born for trouble.”

V. 7,  For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Aren’t angels great? They are like God’s “Secret Service.” They have many duties to perform, and one of them is protecting you and I. The ESV uses the phrase, “encamps around.” The implication is of a perimeter guard around the believer. Your protection is assured. And they are there for a reason. I suppose they’re guarding something God considers quite valuable.

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

Gaze Into a Servant’s Eyes: Psalm 123

Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God
    A Song of Ascents.

 1 To you I lift up my eyes
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants 
   look to the hand of their master, 
as the eyes of a maidservant 
   to the hand of her mistress, 
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
   till he has mercy upon us.

 3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, 
   for we have had more than enough of contempt. 
4 Our soul has had more than enough 
   of the scorn of those who are at ease, 
   of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 123:1-4, ESV

I don’t think we get the idea of a “community” lament. When we weep, we tend to cry alone. The idea of national grief has only once or twice affected this generation. I think of the attacks on 9/11. The pain polarized us, and we seemed to lament together.

This is one of the Psalms of Ascent. It had a specific use; as the memorized songs to be sung as the Jews travelling up to the Temple. Jerusalem was elevated above the surrounding terrain. While the pilgrims sang on the roadways, the Levites would sing the same songs on the steps up to the Temple. This group of 15 Psalms are collected for us as 120-134.

Commentary

V.1 Right away I look to the obvious. The reference to “eyes” repeated four times in just two verses, vv. 1-2. Eyes are organs exclusively dedicated for sight, complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colors. We can distinguish 10 million colors. Without them, we would be severely handicapped. But many seeing persons can’t always perceive and discern things as they should.

V. 2 The theme here is “servanthood”. The person who serves another has to be focused. We look to the hand, watching and anticipating the next move the master might make. He might raise the index finger on the right hand, he wants tea. A clenched fist means I’m ready for my lunch. We must see the link between servanthood and seeing. A good servant is one who can anticipate the master’s will.

V. 3, “Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us.” The mercy needs to be sought, for there is not automatic mercy. You should plead for it, if you are serious about getting it. There is a solid boldness of coming and asking, begging.

V.4 The world is hardly a tolerant and congenial place. We often get “our belly full”. Never expect to be loved and esteemed as a believer. And if it does happen. someone has a certain self-awareness. It will never be what you think. Our “enemies” are into what is easy and what strengthens their pride. That will make them dangerous.

1Bryybicsig

Psalm 51:6-9, Give Me Back My Joy

joy

5 “For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Psalm 51:5-9, NLT

These five verses press us with their intensity. We are starting to develop a true idea of the doctrine of repentance. As fallen people, we sub-consciously erode the ‘hard things’ that rub us the wrong way. Most of us still hold on the idea that we’re basically pretty good people. That dear one, is a lie.

King David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She is now pregnant. Her husband is a general in David’s army. David hatches a plan to save his neck. He conspires to have Uriah murdered after trying very hard to get him to have sexual relations with Bathsheba.

This man who wrote so beautifully Psalm 23 is really evil to the core.

Commentary

V.6,  But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.”

To be very honest, King David reveals a understanding of Gods love and mercy is directed at him. There is no escape, he must take it as he squirms out of trouble. But to be honest, he doesn’t have a clue.

His honesty is remarkable. All that proceeds from a close place, is true and sure. He is thinking that “wisdom” comes from a certain place. He can only accept and turn, directly clean;

 “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

All of this comes out of the “deep presence of God.” The “whiteness” does come, at a specific moment in time. We do must come into a certain place, where we meet His active presence.

V. 8, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.”

True brokenness will lead us through so much darkness and foolishness.  It seems we can only pretend, but never recover the amazing awareness of God, coming into His presence. We really understand this, or accept a presence quite beyond us.

V. 9, “Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Somehow David understands how things work. His sin has become “front-line” news. Adultery and murder are definite “tipping points” that David can try only to explain.

David does feel a certain remorse. All that He brings, is something, an awareness of what is real.

ybic, Bryan

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 88:1-7, A Painful Darkness

Posted on September 28, 2012 by  • Posted in believerdepressiondiscipleshipmental illnesspain,Serving Mentally Ill Christiansspiritual lessonsunderstanding • Tagged , • Leave a comment • (Edit)
 

1 “O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
2 Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
3 For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
4 I am as good as dead,
like a strong man with no strength left.
5 They have left me among the dead,
and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
into the darkest depths.
7 Your anger weighs me down;
with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
       Interlude”

Psalm 88:1-7, NLT

  

I needed this today. Yesterday I went to the doctor and am still asked to stay on my meds. A bit discouraged as I still look for a “magical cure.” Today, I feel like I’m running a marathon with ‘leg weights’ on. And I thank God for David’s depression.  “Thank you God for letting this happen to your servant David!”

This particular Psalm is radically different than the others.  This Psalm has no kind words, and no praise to God for deliverance.  It is a singularly sad song.  Imagine if you will, a huge stone fortress in the mountains.  Every room has a door, and every room a window.  All except one.  No light enters.  There is no entrance or exit, no way to get free.  Ps. 88, would describe living that experience.

I like my Psalms to be strengthening or encouraging.  But then comes this one!  Life unravels and frays.  Everything scrambles and gets confusing. Life comes apart on me.  The thought of being one who is irretrievably lost and damned, tunnels into my thinking, like a strange kind of worm, assaulting my thinking.  The despair is beyond belief, I have no words to describe its special variety of darkness.  But anyone who has walked into this hell will understand.

Am I ‘less’ a Christian because of this vicious despair?  Some would say so.  David in verse 1-2, calls out to God.  (I guess this what you are supposed to do).  There is a sense of consistency in his cry.  In verses 3-5, we see him evaluating his position.  Again, there is a underground current of despair.  There is simply no help, no deliverance for him.

And in verses 6-7 is a painful recognition that God is doing all of this.  It’s a bitter and painful place to be.  There are no explanations why life has gotten so nasty and bitter and out-of-control.  But one thing that Psalm 88 does quite well, it is a trusty mirror that shows you stripped of any dignity that you have left.  I think that there must exist a faith behind your faith.  (If that makes any sense at all?)

There is so much embedded in the Psalms.  Comfort, faith, victory and hope are what we find,  and more.  But in Psalm 88, we find a black pearl, the only one of its kind.  Somehow, we dare not leave it behind, just because we don’t understand it.  I’m convinced that it has tremendous power to the disciple in endless pain.  Just vocalizing this Psalm does something to us.  These words help.  This Psalm is ours.  God has provided it for us. We must include it in our theology.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 90:10-12, Transitioning to Death

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10 “Seventy years are given to us!
    Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
    soon they disappear, and we fly away.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
    Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.”

Psalm 90:10-12, NLT

The most piercing and poignant moments come as we contemplate death– especially our own. I scare myself thinking about the details of my death, the funeral and the casket. I don’t want to die, and I catch myself wishing I could suspend the laws of nature so I wouldn’t have to. Death scares me– perhaps more than any other thing.

“Seventy years are given to us!
    Some even live to eighty.” (v.10).

There are some things that are limited. Our existence is one of them. We naturally age, accruing time as we wait, for that great moment. We might get 80 years. Maybe a few more barring accidents or disease. Funny, but v. 10 labels these years as a gift from the Lord. We can easily miss that salient point.

“We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands Necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”

 ~Augustine

 “Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.” (v. 12).

“Teach” seems to be the operative word. We must learn this; it isn’t automatic. (Some will never learn).

The length of years seems unlimited when you are 20, but radically changes when you are 50. All of a sudden you catch yourself reading obituaries, and drawing up a will. Time is short, and it occurs to you suddenly you have an expiration date.

“It is hard to have patience with people who say “There is no death” or “Death doesn’t matter.” There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”

  ~C.S. Lewis

“…So that we may grow in wisdom.” Growth is focused to this critical particular wisdom. It carries with it a highly specific purpose that is God’s provision for timid saints who struggle with their fear of dying. “Growing’ is His way to help us change and overcome our fear.

“Death may be the King of terrors… but Jesus is the King of kings!”

~D.L. Moody

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 111:1-2, Vanilla Extract

“Praise the Lord! [Hallelujah]
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.”

Psalm 111:1-2, NASB

vanilla

I love vanilla ice cream. While others line up for Coconut Fudge Delight or Chocolate Mocha Nut Surprise, I say “Give me vanilla!” To me it is the greatest and best ice cream on the planet. Psalm 111 strikes me as vanilla. Its verses are plain and unadorned, with little pizzazz or lofty vistas. Psalm 111 is content to do its duty, pointing worshippers to God. It certainly does that, and more.

This Psalm seems a generic or a “vanilla” one, with very little originality compared to others. It breaks little new ground, and when we compare it to others (e.g. Psalm 23) it seems to come up short. And it might come short on innovation, but certainly it is God-breathed and worthy. Besides, uniqueness is often overrated.

“Praise the Lord! [Hallelujah]
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
 In the company of the upright and in the assembly.” (v.1)

Verse 1 in Hebrew is literally “Hallelujah!” Often the  word is used by others to express sarcastic satisfaction or disdain over some “victory.” But “hallelujah” is a word revered by Christians as a single term of praise to God.

The word “all” is also noteworthy. It is a term meaning everything, as “with all my heart.” There is no diminishment, no second best. Our hearts need a complete and an entire absorption in God.

 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jer. 19:13

“In the company of” delineates society, surrounded by other worshipers. This is hard for some, but we were built for this social dimension. Solitary religion is the exception, not the rule. We really are designed for corporate worship, it’s in our spiritual DNA.

“Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.” (v. 2)

Concentration is to be on what the Lord has done (or doing.) This often takes discernment. We sometimes simply don’t recognize what He is doing. Our focus is to be on God’s work, wherever that might be. His efforts are the believer’s meditation.

The word “studied” is interesting. Study takes an effort. It doesn’t mean a flippant or casual interest, but implies work. Worshipping God is not a hobby for the Christian. It’s not done in our spare time. We must recognize this as the majesty of God is not a trifle.

The word “delight” is used. We are to be specialists in the Spirit, enjoying the Lord and all His works. Delight implies satisfied enjoyment.

This psalm may be vanilla, but obviously worthy of our attention. We should come to it, bringing it into our lives. Psalm 111 is a rich and solid contribution to those seeking to worship God fully and truly. It is a good psalm.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 140:1–5: The Importance of Defining the Battle

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1 Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence,

2 who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day.

3 They make their tongues as sharp as serpents; the poison of vipers is on their lips.

4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from men of violence who plan to trip my feet.

5 Proud men have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along the path.

Whenever we approach a passage of Scripture, it’s always good to ask at least two questions: (1) What did the passage mean to those who originally heard it? ; and (2) What does it mean to us today? In answering the first question, David obviously has men who are out to ruin his life through violence, slander, and treachery and he cries out to the Lord for help. When I tried to apply this passage to the present day, I realized that there may be many believers who are going through the same thing.

They find themselves in a situation where someone is literally trying to ruin their lives perhaps through physical violence, slander, or a costly lawsuit. One also thinks of Christians who are  being egregiously persecuted in such countries as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran where professing your faith really can put you in harm’s way through imprisonment and torture.

However, when I tried to apply this passage to my own life, I realized that, unlike David, there was no human being in my social network who was trying to destroy me through treachery, violence, or slander. Unlike some Christians in particular nations, I wasn’t being imprisoned or tortured though Christians in America often suffer a more subtle persecution in a myriad of ways. And yet this psalm still can be meaningful to someone like me if I ask the right questions:

(1) Who are my enemies? Essentially, I have three enemies according to Scripture: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is anything on the earth that is opposed to God and his ways. The flesh is anything within us that is opposed to God and his ways. The devil is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4) who is completely opposed to God and his ways. Two of my enemies are external, one is internal (the flesh). Knowing you have enemies and being able to identify them is crucial. If not, then our battle with them is futile. We are trying to capture the wind, drink coffee with a fork, or put lightning in a bottle. Good luck with that.

(2) What should my initial response be to my enemies? Before asking this question, we really need to ask the question, “How strong are my enemies?” Compared to our strength without God’s grace, the world, the flesh, and the devil, especially when they are working together in a Toxic Symphony, are vastly more powerful, intelligent, and wise than we are. Without God we are their playthings. They are the Rottweilers, we are the chew toys. This knowledge should cause us to do what David did in this psalm: cry out to God in radical dependence to deliver us from our enemies.  Confess to ourselves that Christ in us is our only hope of glory. Apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

(3) What should we do after this initial response? Learn warfare and not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes. This is rooted in a heart of dependence on God, involves a 1,001 things, and will take us the rest of your life to master. It could mean that when temptation comes upon you like it did Christ in the desert, you answer the devil like he did–with the word of God (Matthew 4: 1–11). If you have a problem with anger, it may mean identifying what things really push your buttons and crying out to God to redeem this area of your life. If the problem is sexual lust, it may mean learning to not put yourself in situations you can’t handle. If you have an addiction, it may mean joining a support group for help. All of these things are warfare, and, unfortunately, many of them we have to learn after failing, sometimes over and over. Thank God his mercies endure forever.

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

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

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

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

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

 

Psalm 1:1-3, Amplified Bible

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

Psalm 16:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

8

ybic, Jonathan

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

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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.

Psalm 19:7 and 51:6: The Wisdom of the Word, part 1

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Our deep search for Wisdom

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19:7--“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

51:6–“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

&

Imagine a scenario that plays out in your life.  A new Christian is reading the Bible one morning and comes across Proverbs 3:13–15,where Solomon encourages his audience to acquire as much wisdom as he or she can, because it is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies. This Christian has become your friend and knows that you have spent more years in the kingdom of God than they have. You see them at church, and, after church at the local diner, they ask you what they need to do to become wise.

I’ve had some of these kind of exchanges with new believers over the years and they haven’t always gone as well as I wanted. Sometimes the problem is you have so much to say that you really don’t know where to start. Another problem is that because you want to avoid clichés and formulaic approaches that often blow up later in the heat of the battle in the real world, you struggle to find words that don’t sound “canned.” A third problem may be that you have made so many mistakes in your life that you don’t feel qualified to weigh in as a wise man or woman.

If you don’t feel like a wise man or wise woman, perhaps it would be easier to start with an example of someone else. For example, in my years as a Christian, I’ve often encountered people in the Body of Christ who had very little formal education but turned out to be some of the wisest people I’ve ever met. They never went to college but had a doctorate in Wisdom. If you put all these people in one room and questioned them, you’d find that they had many things in common, but, because of the lack of space, I will only mention three.

First they have a profound fear or reverence of God and “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). They know that, if they are to navigate the tricky waters of this life, they must look to an authority higher than themselves for guidance. Radio talk show host and virtuoso thinker Dennis Prager is on–target when he says that he finds the secular world often to be long on knowledge and short on wisdom.

It’s difficult to accumulate wisdom if you don’t start with the fear of God. Prager said that this became abundantly clear to him when he attended the venerated Ivy League school, Columbia University. Early on, some of his professors asserted that, except for their sexual organs, there really was no difference between men and women. All the other differences were imaginary and socially constructed. Raised in Orthodox Judaism, Prager knew better and would go on to find more foolishness in the halls of academia.

A healthy fear of God will result in at least two things: (1) An immersion in the Word of God (Scripture); and (2) an intimacy with the Word of God (Christ). Both lead to greater wisdom.

Psalm 19:7 says that “the law of the Lord is perfect…making wise the simple”. This sentiment is echoed in the New Testament when the apostle Paul tells Timothy that he, Timothy, has known the holy Scriptures from his infancy that are able to make him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Being transformed by the renewing of our minds through Scripture can deliver us from the folly that Prager found at Columbia University and many other things that are actively destroying Western civilization: consumerism, materialism, sexual immorality, the breakdown of the family, narcissism, and many other idols described in the Bible.

King David, after going through an intense and intimate experience with God over his sin of adultery described in Psalm 51:7, declared that God taught him wisdom in his innermost being. This truth is confirmed in I Corinthians 1:30 when the apostle Paul says that, for the believer, Christ has become for us wisdom. To partake of him as our “Daily Bread” is to partake of wisdom. He doesn’t have wisdom; he is wisdom. If he is being incarnated in you, that means Wisdom is also being incarnated in you and will help you with making prudential decisions in this life.

*

ybic, Jonathan

*

&

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

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

 Psalm 119:57-58, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

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

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

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

Psalm 78

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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The Real Mystery of His Face: Psalm 131

Childlike Trust in the Lord

 A song for going up to worship at Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
    now and always.

Psalm 131, NLT

The Christian, the struggler, and the mentally ill should become avid and fanatical readers of the Psalms.  Some of us will need to take meds, that is true.  But the Psalms are pretty much required as well.  We diligently need to take a physical dose of our daily medication.  For believers, Psalm 131 is a spiritual dose that is just as mandatory, and just as necessary.

This particular Psalm is unique, and deeply insightful.  It begins its work in us right at the start; the superscription.  “A song for going up to worship,” and it strikes me that a work must happen inside of my heart.  It is a preparation that will take me higher, and help me see God more clearly. I need to worship. That is viewed by some as an option. We know it is critical. We must worship.

Verse 1 states the certain issue we have; it is called ‘pride.’  What David says seems to be a very arrogant and audacious thing to say.  There is a truism that you think you’re humble, you’re not.

A church once gave an elder a medal for humility.  But they had to take it away, because he wore it everywhere. To claim you are suddenly liberated from pride, knowing ears perk up.  It is almost always a sign of danger. Perhaps it might happen, but don’t hold your breath.

Take it at face value, King David states that he has a real contentment with limitations and weakness.  It appears that he has been freed from the vicious cycle of needing to be the center of everything, ‘in the mix,’ and a quite a very significant person.  But he admits his ignorance, and something quite significant works its way into us through this psalm.

There exists a definite place where we must renounce “ambition.”  Are you content to be the simple servant now, and delay the accolades and praise until you get to heaven?

Some make themselves, literally sick by the deep dark quest to be important.  In verse 2, we connect with some astonishing imagery.  A baby!  I am like a little baby being held by my mom. It’s not an issue of sophistication, but simplicity.  Of having limits, but never any applause. How can this be?!

The word in Hebrew, isn’t “baby,” (as in newborn) but baby, but more like a small toddler.  A “weaned” child more is a better translation.  A weaned child no longer needs his mom’s milk. You can guess that it makes the child more content.  He doesn’t fuss, or nuzzle his mothers breast, demanding his food.  The child no longer receives his nourishment this way.  There is a contentment, a simple desire just to be with mom, just because he wants to. This is a significant step into maturity.

To me, verse 2 is the centerpiece of Psalm 131.  OK, let’s apply this spiritually.  There was a time when it was necessary for me to have my mother’s milk. I screamed and would throw a terrible tantrum if she didn’t feed me from her breast.  I would starve if she didn’t give me her milk. For all practical purposes, it seems we use God to get what we need.  But we grow, and move into this new maturity.

David is saying that we need to emulate his example.  Now we come into God’s presence– just to be with Him.  That’s all.  So simple.  As a child, we just want to be where He is at.  We have no ulterior motives, there is no manipulation.  We seek His face, and not what is in His hands.

If we connect the dots, we find that we land right back to the opening superscription.  This is an amazing concept of worship– the real kind.  As a struggler, a rascal and mentally disabled, I must start at the beginning– again and again and again.  I have to worship. And I can only do this until I become a little boy again.  I finally realize I must throw ambition and pride overboard. And at this point, I must rest in Him.

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ybic, Bryan

The Flourish: the Finish

The conclusion of Psalm 92, NLT.

12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.

13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.

14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

15 They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

What an ending. I do confess, I do like watching good movies– and the final scenes can make, or break a good movie. Is it believable, does it flow into the plot, does it carry us beyond the moment?

The very way this Psalm ends intrigues me. The perfect summary for this is found in verses 1-11, which we have already covered. Verses 12-15 is our ending point. We arrive here if we will just follow the conditions of the first 11 verses.

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Commentary

V. 12, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.”

What audacity, what boldness! We must recognize that there is a certain place for these ‘flourishers.’ They just explode with a core central growth. We see them, but we are not intimidated. Instead they push us to a higher love.

The strength of us is that we can grow strong all the way through. That is just the way it works, and we take anything that we can get. Envision for a moment, the tallest cedars. I remember seeing for the first time the California Redwoods. It was astonishing, and I got a crook in my neck looking up all the time.

V. 13, “For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.”

No matter where we are, the Father will bring us closer to Himself. We may think we are “out-of-the-loop”. But He sees it all. He does “transplant,” but only within our true calling. And a “flourishing” is part of the package.

How do we process this? We are brought out of a senseless and desperate life, directly into a full life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. In this place, we start to grow branches, and new buds. Life is not just a great idea–but it starts to flow through our very being.

V. 14, “ Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”

Old age seems close to us. We age, and we determine that it works out to us in obsolescence and defeat. When we hit 60, we determine it is all over, and finished. God promises that as believers we will be green, and fresh–even in this crazy margin of age. But as it works out, we are incredibly “vital.”

I suppose that the truth of this can transform the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out our lives, Old-agedness can never be an excuse to backing out of a true and real spirituality.

V. 15, “ They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

Much of what I have shared with you is solid, but simple. We all end up at this verse though. From here we start to focus directly on all that is plain and level. After all, He is the rock and as we start to focus on this, we are ‘pulled’ into His presence.

We can see no evil in this, and yes it may seem we are in a kind of “pinball machine.” We are bound to voices that try to direct us into its version of deceit. We could be pulled even into “denial” of our faith. But never, or ever is there the slightest sense of evil that comes to us from God.

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ybic, Bryan