The Blessed of God: Psalm 112:1-3

“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”

Psalm 112:1-3, ESV

It seems that never has so much blessing rested on so little effort.

Fearing God and the delight of obedience would be reasonably easy; given what we understand about God. Following Him are should be quite winsome and inviting and altogether attractive. It should be easy. But our hearts are profoundly wicked, and we soon trade righteousness for sin’s disobedience.

Our trade for sin could be compared to the Lenape Indians selling Manhattan Island in 1626 for $24.00 of trinkets and costume jewelry. We trade for “the fleeting pleasures of sin” for comparatively far less (Heb. 11).

But the  theme of vv.1-3 is much more positive. It ‘s like a flickering neon light that blinks in our darkness. It’s quite obvious if it is there.

This psalm is an acrostic poem, each line beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This reveals to me the great care and craft in the author’s heart as he wrote.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Hallelujah! The Hebrew word for ‘praise God.’ Three words that matter the most,

  1. praising, (the area of worship)
  2. fearing, (the area of obedience)
  3. delighting, (the area of enjoying God deeply)

These are the three ‘must-haves.’ Your spiritual well-being depends on these. Expand it further, and it pushes into blessing.

Blessing really is what we seek for ourselves, and our families, and our neighbors. In my thinking it is being enriched, or favored and uses a great metaphor of a flourishing tree. Psalm 1:4,

“He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

“Greatly delighting” is somewhat like joy (on steroids!)

V. 2, “His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.”

Believing believers open their lives up to tremendous blessing. But they also exude a powerful influence over others. Israel was promised this in Lev. 26:8,

“Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”

Faith would infuse them, and they would be able to do wonders. God shared His strength with those who made a decision to honor Him. But in reverse, it would be terrible. People would scatter like scared rabbits at just the rumor of an enemies approach. In Lev. 26:17,

 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.”

V. 3, “Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”

However, this is a Psalm of Blessing! That blessing can be tangible, but it is also something quite spiritual. Something happens to the soul of anyone who intends to fear and honor Jehovah. Many of us understand this.

A curse on the other hand, is also something we know. Having been ‘lost in sin’ I understand living life devoid of God’s special grace. It was an empty and futile way of life.

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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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Hostile Territory: Psalm 61

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

 1 Hear my cry, O God, 
   listen to my prayer; 
2 from the end of the earth I call to you 
   when my heart is faint. 
Lead me to the rock 
   that is higher than I, 
3 for you have been my refuge, 
   a strong tower against the enemy.

 4 Let me dwell in your tent forever! 
   Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! 
                         Selah

5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; 
   you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 6 Prolong the life of the king; 
   may his years endure to all generations! 
7 May he be enthroned forever before God; 
   appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

 8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, 
   as I perform my vows day after day.

Psalm 61

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As human beings we live our lives under assault.  As we grow up very little gets communicated to us about spiritual warfare.  The stark realities of heaven and hell are seldom passed down to us. Evil remains abstract; it never becomes personal. Until.

Psalm 61 was written by David, who understood pretty clearly the evil that wanted to destroy him. He was someone who understood the vicious nature of reality. It seems that David wrote this song while he was running from his son. But there are only a couple of hints for that, nothing more. Ps. 61 is meant for the pursued soul, it is designed not to be autobiographical. The details may change from person to person, but we all live in hostile territory.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

 C.S. Lewis

Commentary

V. 1, have you ever talked to someone about something very important, but they aren’t listening? So, you raise the volume a bit, and put more energy behind your words.

V. 2, describes the vast scope of prayer, and its potency and clout. Even out there, teetering on the edge, God hears. David knows exactly where he needs to be. A rock that is way beyond me in scope and size. The “high ground” of the presence of God.

V. 3,  “for you are my safe refuge,  a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me” (NLT). In the Army, I learned tactics of “cover and concealment.” Essentially it’s to put yourself in the place of safety. It’s actually a great skill to have. High ground, thick walls, and out of the weather were all prime ways to find it. David announces to God, that He is his safe place. David has irrevocably put his trust in Him.

V. 4, Here are dual images that work together. God is to be a tent we live in, and wings to hide under. A hen opens up her wings, just enough for the chicks to collect. Now a chicken is not very formidable on our level. But God is. Under His wings we are in the safest place possible.

V. 5, isn’t really a popular truth today. Vows seem antiquated and part of the Old Testament.  But I think that is a bit harsh. We make vows when we get married. It’s a promise made before God and God’s people. Those vows are exceptional words of true commitment.

V. 6-7, we hear David speaking of himself in the “third person.” I think that this reveals a lot of humility. He doesn’t demean or diminish himself here, but in the light of what he knows its quite refreshing. David knows now what is of value, and what isn’t.

V. 8, within this verse we see David establishing a way of life. Vows and praises! Furthermore, David wants God to understand exactly how he intends to supervise his life from this moment on. He fully intends to be an eager servant in the ways of the Lord.

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We Grow, Somehow: Psalm 111:9-10 (the Conclusion)

9He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.”

“Praise him forever!”

 

Today, when someone says, “I work security,” we have a tendency to think of a “mall cop.” Someone who works for minimum wage, who thinks he/she is the ‘FBI.’ They thrive on greasy donuts and black coffee, with ego/control problems as they ride around on their “Segway.”

He is the One, who brings us security. He is not a “mall cop” by any means. He has no ego to protect, and prefers “loaves and fishes” over donuts. Yet, it is He who has decisively intervened over His own people.

Commentary

V. 9, “He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”

A “full ransom.” This implies that a “cut-rate” bargain could of been negotiated, but it would only leading to doubts whether the transaction was really legitimate in the first place. (One never knows about these “back room” deals in a smoke-filled rooms.) But, we are assured that the full ransom has been paid.

The solid guarantee is the “forever-kind.” It is a definite improvement (by far) than we have ever encountered. For the discerning heart, we realize that all of this is an astonishment. We deserve nothing but have been given everything! And of course the word, “forever” intensifies everything.

The verse finishes with a spiritual flourish! What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”  It directs us back to consider, the worthiness of He who has done so much for us. Good worship comes out of that kind of thinking.

 

V. 10, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!”

The truth has been definitely established in many other verses of scripture. “To fear God,” is the distinct point where we might start to consider being blessed. If you have no fear, you will remain forever lost and confused. The originating point for us is the fear of God.

The wisdom comes in the sense of growth. It is intrinsically tied with the idea of obedience to His requirements (or commandments.) Obedience gets a lot of “air play” in the Word. Obedience doesn’t save, but to obey means you have really have been saved.

I hope Psalm 111 has been a blessing to you. The entire series is archived on this website.

@

ybic, Bryan

 

Fantastically Solid: Psalm 111:7-8

Typical Ice-fishing shack

7 “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Psalm 111:7-8, NLT

I seem to be in a place of learning “appreciation”— the study of God, through the majesty of the Word– the very promises– through acquired ideas of Him. We are starting to become gracious people and recognize the presence of grace.

Thankfulness is not confined to a holiday. It is the way we grow up in God. It is the main ingredient in this concoction of maturity.

“Thanksgiving is the language of heaven, and we had better start to learn it if we are not to be mere dumb aliens there.” A.J. Gossip

Note: This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; after the introductory note of praise, each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Commentary

V. 7, “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.”

These twin ideas, “justice and goodness,” not only go together, but enhance each other. Being “just” without being “good” would be something awful. And to be good without being just would be very hard to imagine.

Everything God does is stellar. He is completely exceptional. And we can’t imagine all that it means. But, who’s complaining. It seems like I’m always reducing Him to my own level. It’s never too high, or too excessive. My understanding is far from complete.

“He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:”

(V. 11-12, Message)

I grew up in the 1960s in Wisconsin. The winters there are frequently below zero, with a nasty ‘wind-chill’ factor. But in the fall, people would get their ice fishing ‘shacks’ ready to await the go ahead of trekking out on the ice. People wanted to fish, but the ice thickness determined everything.

What God is, is quite solid. He is a “rock.” You can land a 747 on a Wisconsin lake in January, no problem at all, it’s like concrete. God and all He promises are even more substantial, “like a rock.”

V. 8, “They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Not just true, but “a forever-kind-of-true.” He is fully consistent, no cracks or ‘thaws.’ We on the other hand are unstable, liquid, weak. Even at our best we are vaporous. When we look about the spiritual landscape, strewn about with collapses and sin– the best of us, will admit to faults and sin.

God is so solid, and so true. Because of this, we have an obligation and a willingness to become people of a true integrity.

 

ybic, Bryan

What a God! Psalm 111:4-6

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

Psalm 111:4-6, NLT

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

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

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Commentary

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

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

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

K

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

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

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

K

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

‘Fear God Onlye’: Psalm 62:9-10

 

Lintel, a house in Edinburgh, Scotland

9 “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great.
All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.
10 Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

Psalm 62:9-10, CEV

If the truth be told, our perception of value and significance as persons is totally “whacked!” Many of us point to our wealth, achievements, our talents, education or even our sex appeal as the evidence we have arrived (and should be envied!) We may admit to a few “character flaws,” but after all, our innate charm overrides all of this.

We will cling to this self-centered facade with all our might. We add to it, enhance it; we become our best PR department. Money becomes the first measure of achievement. Fame is perhaps the second. These are things we learn quickly in life. We never realize that this is a delusion.

One of the Bible’s favorite metaphor is that humanity is grass. In a dozen or so references we find this stated. Here are two–

“Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Psalm 103:15, NLT

As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.”

1 Peter 1:24, NLT

Other metaphors are used as well. Men are compared to dust, worms, grasshoppers, tenants in a house of clay and chaff. None of these is a reason to gloat about.

To be fair, we should see that mankind has several unique roles in scripture. None of these should be diminished or reduced in any way.

  1. We are all equal in God’s eyes, Prov. 22:2
  2. We are created in the image of God, Gen. 1:27
  3. We have dominion over the created world, Psalms 8:6
  4. We are spiritual beings, Job 32:8
  5. We have infinite value, 1 Peter 1:18-19

Commentary

V. 9, “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.”

David continues to remind himself that this is how things really are. This understanding of people enables him to rest and trust in God alone.

“Only a breath.” When we breathe we are pretty much unaware of what we are doing. We draw in air, and we push it out– quite oblivious to what we are doing. I do this 14-18 times every minute, and it never requires me to be aware (unless I choose to, like right now, lol.)

Weight is compared to reputation or glory. A ‘weighty’ person, in our opinion, is one with an great amount of influence or a solid reputation.

But notice the verse says, “All of us together.” Pile up all of humanity throughout our history– with our artists, doctors, scientists, theologians and the like, and it is nothing! It actually goes into negative numbers. “Less than nothing.”

This is healthy place to be. Aware of the frailty of man, and not to be intimidated or influenced by their presence. I know that this was the place where David stood.

V. 10, “ Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

With the understanding we have from verse 9, this verse makes excellent sense. There are three issues, and also three responses. Violence, dishonesty, great wealth. And trust, depend, rely. Don’t do it, the verse emphasizes.

The reality, I suppose, is that any sin might have been used. These three are what David is having to deal with at that particular moment.

I think that “fearing God” has a lot to do with “not fearing man.” When you finally see the “vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1.) you just don’t have room in your soul for being fearful of powerful people.

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ybic, Bryan

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

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

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

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

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

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

y

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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Psalm 34:8-10: The Tastiness of God

Artist–Lynda Finch, http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

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

Psalm 34:8-10, NLT

The verbs through these three verses are great–

  1. taste,
  2. see,
  3. fear
  4. and trust.

 Are you a taster, a see-er, a fear-er and a trust-er? These three verses provide us with much to consider. There will be solid and tangible growth as we work-out each one.

Promises are only as good as the “promiser.” If I promised you a million dollars next Friday, it would be extremely unlikely I could deliver. But if I was Bill Gates, and he made you that promise, then you could truly anticipate that promise being kept. (You probably would be out today buying a new BMW!)

Commentary

V. 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Tasting is one of our five basic senses. (It’s also a spiritual sense as well!) To taste something is an act of discernment. We taste spaghetti, and the first bites are just evaluating the chef’s work. But tasting is more than testing. It has to do with enjoyment. When we taste something that is very good, we usually go for “seconds.” It has brought us pleasure, and we tell others that its wonderful!

Faith is the souls taste. We need to be people who are always tasting the goodness of God. Each of us must experience this for ourselves. I can’t taste for you. Some birds regurgitate food for their young, and perhaps as a baby Christian we will need this, but it is obviously a very brief period. We are exhorted to find out for ourselves God’s goodness.

Seeing is the next critical word in this verse. It is another of our five senses. I have never seen Paris, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can only imagine. When we see something, we become connected with it. What we look at, gaze upon, will alter us. In some sense we become what we look at. The beauty of the Lord is a most wonderful thing for us to behold. He deeply wants us to come and dine.

V. 9, “ Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.”

The fear of man, and the fear of the world can only be a crippling thing. It stunts us, turning us into victims and slaves. Some of us also carry phobias. I have “arachnophobia”  (a fear of spiders) which when viral when I lived with tarantulas in the deserts of Mexico.

We recognize anxiety to be one of the core emotions of fear. What makes you anxious? I think the only cure for fear, is more fear! Keep in mind that the world’s fear is craven, morbid and manipulating. The fear of God is clean and healthy. We aren’t to be “theophobic;” but “sinphobic.” We fear God with love as the center core.

V. 10, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

David uses this metaphor of nature. Lions! Young and strong they are powerful. They are not known as “the King of Beasts” for nothing. They are not house cats (although my cat would beg to differ, lol.)  A lion must eat. They are the consummate predators, at the very top of the food chain. Yet, there is an insecurity. They must find red meat. Last weeks gazelle isn’t enough for todays hunger.

Believers who seek the Lord will never lack. Even the hard things provide a spiritual feast. It is His promise to you. It isn’t really logical, but it is spiritually true. The One who multiplied the loaves and fishes, turned water into wine, and fed the Israelites manna in the Wilderness intends to meet your every need. He hasn’t changed a whit.

aabryplain

The artist of the above art is Lynda Finch. She uses her talent to bless believers. Check her out. She has an online gallery, and you can buy her art–

http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Full Throttle Praise: Psalm 34:1-3, NLT

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

Worship should be something we do all the time–it is a perpetual focus on the Lord God. David refers to a lifetime of continual praise. But what does this “look” like? How is this done? Is this realistic?

I would suggest that our definition should adjust to broaden “praise and worship.” If you think about it, praise and worship is far more than Sunday morning at your Church. (And yet that is a major part of it.) There must be an eagerness on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday morning.

Commentary

V. 1, “I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.”

“All times,” “constantly speak,” must elevate our standards of praise. There is a certain fervency, and desire that compels David in his approach to his life. I find it fascinating that he says twice, “I will.”  Sometimes we end up weakening the will seeing it as “bad Christianity.”

Our wills are simply “brothers” to obedience. We dare not extract will from our lives. There is an obedience, subject to faith that will allow us to become “fire Christians.”

V. 2, “I will boast only in the Lord;
    let all who are helpless take heart.”

This is a great verse! When we praise our Lord, do we boast? It is nothing more then “bragging” or “showing off” our God to a watching world. (And it’s entirely biblical!) This bragging in David’s context, belongs to God exclusively.

Being helpless suggests weakness understood. People will dismiss you if your weak and pathetic. David exhorts that those who are feeble and incapable, to take heart–God has not forgotten you, by no means.

V. 3, “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.”

David was a shepherd long before he was a king. He never lost those skills from working out in the pasture. We see him gathering people, of bringing them for a common purpose.

Perhaps our gathering times could be strengthened, by these two vital words– tell and exalt. Both of these are potent words for a heart that is His.

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

Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord Builds the House

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1 Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain.

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There are definitely situations we run into in life where we say, “If God’s in it, it will happen.” This passage should be a good safeguard against pride because it talks about our success and protection coming from the Lord. We could add to that list our health, talents, treasure, and good name in the community. Every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1). We are helpless, contingent beings and are upheld by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). These passages are tonic for the malady of arrogance and put us in our place as weak, dependent creatures whose every breath comes from the Almighty. We may think we built the house, but we really didn’t.

Local churches and the Church Universal are sometimes called the house of God. Individual Christians are also called the house of God. What’s often overlooked in all these cases is that just because a house is blessed by God doesn’t mean that God inhabits that house. This concept I learned from the ministry of Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries. Think of the time of Ezekiel. The temple in Jerusalem was well-furnished and carried out all the rituals and sacrifices, but, because of egregious sin, the glory left the temple (Ezekiel 10–12).

In some local churches and denominations, there is a sacred trinity: Budget, Building, and Attendance. If all three of those are in good shape, it is assumed that God is blessing the work and that he is in it. He may be blessing it but he is not necessarily inhabiting it. Ever go to a highly successful church but feel something is missing? You may be impressed with the church in many ways, but you can’t say what Jacob said at Bethel: “Surely God is in this place!” Ever been in a church that is struggling in the areas of budget, building, and attendance but you left there rejoicing after having encountered the presence of the Living God?

When people don’t discern the difference between the two churches, it usually reveals an idol of success in their heart. They are so smitten with building, budget, and attendance they forgot to notice that Someone was not in attendance: God.

ybic, Jonathan

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

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

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

Psalm 46:10-11

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

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

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

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

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 126: Bringing in the Sheaves

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1 When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:1-6

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Like Psalm 137 the historical background of this psalm is Israel returning from years of captivity in Babylon. For Christians today, captivity can mean many things that are not physical. It may mean bondage to a particular sin that really has become an addiction. It may mean the reality of a loved one who doesn’t believe and is a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil. It may be a prolonged trial that we didn’t cause or maybe one that we did. Captivity has many faces.

In verses 2 and 3 the people of Israel are so blessed by their release that they feel like they are in a dream. Their fortunes have dramatically changed and other nations have taken notice and confess that they are experiencing divine favor. The blessing of the Lord’s deliverance has been exceedingly above what they could ask for or think. Sometimes because of the disappointments of life, we become pessimists and don’t have faith for such a blessing. Something good happens and we sit around waiting for the other shoe to drop. Often this can limit what God can do in setting the captives free because our unbelief negates the power of God. Jesus couldn’t heal or perform miracles in his hometown because of unbelief. Lord, help our unbelief.

We also need to remind ourselves that most captivities don’t last forever. Tradition indicates that a major saying in Solomon’s arsenal of wisdom was “This too shall pass.” He knew that whether we are in a time of blessing or trial that it wouldn’t last forever. The addiction you have now will probably become a vanquished foe months or years from now. The trial you have now will probably become yesterday’s news next month. This too shall pass.

In verse 4, the psalmist asks God to restore their fortunes again like streams in the Negev. The Negev is actually a dry river bed. Why is the writer asking for this; hadn’t they already experienced a wonderful deliverance? He’s asking this because God’s work in their life is far from over. The recovering alcoholic who is now clean and sober knows there is much more work to do if he is to remain sober and become all that God wants him to be. The couple who almost divorced but is now experiencing a marriage renewal knows that God still has much to do in their lives besides keeping them out of the divorce courts. Water in the Negev is a miraculous happening and we will need his supernatural grace until the day we die.

Verses 5 and 6 talk about sowing in sorrow and reaping in joy, planting with tears but later harvesting with great happiness. Another way of summing up this passage is to say, “No birth without travail.” Monica cried many tears during her prayers for her pagan son Augustine who would go on to become one of the greatest church fathers. I know a mother who cried many tearful prayers several years ago for a son bent on destruction. He is now a solid, mature Christian and devoted family man. Often there is much mourning over our own sins before we are delivered of them which Paul calls “a godly sorrow that leads to repentance.” This repentance is a harvest of righteousness born of sowing seeds with tears.

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 2:10-12, Kiss the Son

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

Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 5:20 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan


Gratitude and Humility: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

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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 91, Take Cover!

Psalm 91

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 133: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

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1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forever more.

One wonders how often this chapter has been quoted and used in sermons and homilies since it was first written by David. My guess is hundreds of millions which makes it a bit daunting to try to post on it and say something fresh that doesn’t sound trite.

I like the King James Version for verse one: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” One gets the sense that this is a rare and wonderful situation as if lightning has been caught in a bottle. It certainly had been for King David who had seen all manner of disunity: persecution from Saul before he was king, palace intrigue, treachery and betrayal from evil men, and worst of all, violent opposition and betrayal from his own son, Absalom. Unity was so wonderful to him that he compared it to the anointing oil on Aaron’s beard and the dew that falls of Mount Hermon. Both are symbols of blessing and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

It certainly must be a wonderful sight to God. One of the things that brings the most amount of grief to parents is when their children don’t get along. Conversely, one of the things that brings them the most joy is when all their kids have a harmonious relationship. God the Father has the same heart. Proverbs 6:19b lists as one of the seven things God hates: “…a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Once again, David and God share the same heart.

One reason why the unity of the brethren is such a rare and beautiful thing is because of the weakness and fragility of the human condition. The Book of James asks the question “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The writer answers that it is corrupt desires that rage within us. We want what we can’t have and then ask God for things with impure motives.

Think about how this plays out in a local church and the seeds of discord it sows. A church leader can be there for all the wrong reasons. He wants to build his own little kingdom rather than building the kingdom of God. The people are there for him instead of him being there for the people. Disunity will be the putrid outcome.

Another common scenario: three or four families have held power in a particular church for years. A new pastor or priest is installed and, being led of the Holy Spirit, wants to take the congregation in a new direction. These families now feel like their power is threatened and their misguided motives will taint everything they do. Again, next stop: Discord City.

Compare this with the model for unity the apostle Paul sets out in Philippians 2: 1–11. Here unity is cultivated and maintained by each person doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Humility is the fertile soil unity grows in. There are no shortcuts here; all pride and vanity must be crucified on the cross. The resurrection life that emerges out of this will be fragrant like the precious oil poured on Aaron’s beard. It will be refreshing, like the dew of Hermon.

Unity of the brethren is like catching lightning in a bottle. Without God it is impossible; Lord help our unbelief!

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If you liked this post by Jonathan, you may also be interested in his book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available at this link:

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

Psalm 78:1-4, The Next Generation

Painting by El Couse, "The Campfire"
Painting by El Couse, “The Campfire”

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
2     for I will speak to you in a parable.

4 We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.

Psalm 78 is long. Far too long for impatient people who feel they must read it. I ponder its relevance, and decide just to skim through it, just to say I did. But there are shining moments in this Psalm that are worth a moment.

A writer, Asaph is tasked to write a psalm that carries a “brief” story of the Lord God’s dealings with Israel. But he cues up on this idea of telling a story to a new generation. He is driven to tell the children of God’s wonders. I suppose this is “story telling” with a twist; for it is true and amazing all at the same time.

“I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
3     stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.” (v.2-3).

I see a man and woman, sitting around the fire. Their children draw close, and the parents begin to speak. They tell a story with a purpose. They want to share something real I believe our faith grows well in times like this.

It is not a story of witches, ghosts or goblins. Nor is it a tale of “the high seas” or buried treasure. But these stories are true, and have been passed down; from one generation to another. A faithful story fitting the glorious events of Israel’s history. This is how it was done.

We are people who can tell a really good story. I’ve had an interesting life following the Lord. I can regale you with the miracles I’ve seen, and of divine protection and provision made. Sometimes its been great, sometimes not-so-much. But it is my legacy to my children.

If I don’t do it, somebody else will; but we are responsible, whether we like it or not. Do not abdicate your responsibility in this. Become aware of this privilege and the blessing it will bring to your life.

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Chuck Swindoll

“It is easier to build a boy than to mend a man.’   Author Unknown

“The soul is healed by being with children.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky

ybic,

Bryan

Psalm 131:1: Relax, You Don’t Need to Know Everything

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1 “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”

No one can deny that knowledge is essential in our progress in the kingdom of God. For example, if a husband is wondering how he should relate to his wife, Ephesians 5:22–33 will be very helpful in exhorting him to lay down his life for her as Christ did for the church. Scripture, church tradition, experience, reason, other people, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit all provide us with knowledge that helps us navigate the tricky waters of a fallen world.

However, there are times in life when we encounter situations where knowledge gives way to mystery. We must humble ourselves and confess with David that something is simply beyond our comprehension. If our heart is proud we will have a difficult time with this, because, in saying “I don’t know,” we feel like our stature is diminished. If we’re a person that always has to be in control, we will have a hard time embracing mystery because saying “I don’t know,” makes us feel like we are out of control. There are times in our walk with God when he wants our restful trust of him more than understanding a situation and knowing exactly what to do.

Here are some common situations that believers face where knowledge should give way to mystery:

(1) Guidance. The psalmist says that the word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. In biblical times this lamp would illuminate the path for a person only a few feet ahead of where they were walking. The word is a lamp not a high–powered searchlight that lightens the path 100 feet down the trail. In a certain situation, God may show you what to do for that day and that day only. You may not have the benefit of divine guidance for next week, next month, or next year.

(2) Ministering to Hurting People. When people go through trauma (e.g., loss of a loved one) or suffer loss, often one of the most damaging things we can do is explore the question why it happened. The truth is often we really don’t know the reason why. At times like this people don’t need our theological and philosophical reflections; they need a caring and loving presence. They don’t need Job’s awful comforters; they need wounded healers.

(3) Judging Others. Let’s say it comes to light that a woman we barely know was unfaithful to her husband and had a six month affair with another man. There’s nothing wrong with us assessing that behavior as sinful because it is sinful. However, after that it is best to suspend judgment because you don’t many of the details. Perhaps the husband had such a pattern of neglect and abuse in the marriage that it created fertile soil for adultery. Perhaps she had a terrible childhood that also made her predisposed to such behavior. We don’t know her heart; only God knows her heart and, therefore, should render judgment in the situation. Practice mercy and God will be merciful to you.

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 87:7, Where Does the Beauty Come From?

Creativity-1024x768

7 “Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”

Psalm 87:7, ESV

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.”

C.S. Lewis

Giftedness has fascinated me for years. I have had the honor of knowing painters, writers, dancers, poets, singers, musicians, and actors, (not sure about ‘mimes’ though)– all creative people. Most of these have been believers, although not all. But each was an artist, through and through.

What is the intangible spark that sets them apart? What is the ‘difference’ between them and me? I believe it is not as simple as some would suggest.

My daughter sculpts in miniature. She is very good. I watch her create and I just know I’m in the presence of the extraordinary. My wife is a gifted musician. Thecreativity-music heavens open up when her fingers brush the ivory keys. And me, well– I’m the hack– trying to write a blog and the occasional poem. Oh, I paint sometimes. (Acrylics, mostly). I guess I just know enough about giftedness to recognize it when it comes along.

The psalmist hears the artists of his day say, “All my springs are in you.” Someone has described the creative process as just opening up a “spigot.” It’s probably more than that. The source itself is found in God. When something beautiful is done– its origins are supernatural, filtered through a person. It uses that person’s training and latent talents to express the beautiful.

There is an authentic mystery to this. Elements must be considered: being created in God’s image, and our unique aptitudes. Our own spiritual formation plays a keen role.

I praise God for “the fountains” that enrich our lives. They are in Him. I can live with that.

ybic,

Bryan