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

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The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion

17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Psalm 51:17-19, ESV

David is fully committed to Jerusalem. In spite of all the miserable complications his sin has pounded him with, the man is focused on the covenant people of God. David loves Israel, and he is quite passionate about Jerusalem.

In the Church age, we can’t point directly to the physical country and city like he did. However, the new covenant that comes through Jesus has added us to a “spiritual nation” of the faithful. We now have a valid connection with Israel and the capital city of Jerusalem. Abraham and Moses, and each “partriarch” now speak resoundly at us.

This can be a challenge for us. We seem so disjointed and scattered about. Yet, I have to believe that the opposite is true. Yes, we are a people of many different practices and ideas. The Church worldwide is culturally diverse, but has a central love for the Lord Jesus. For every believer, with a valid faith, each look to Jesus as the center of our faith.

Commentary

V. 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

It’s a bit of holy faith that can speak at the sacrificial efforts of the Jews with such awareness. King David has become quite aware that to offer a bull for sacrifice isn’t really enough. Rather, the heart of the sacrificer determines everything. Sin can never be overlooked, and somehow covered with ritual.

There must be a brokenness, and something called “contriteness.” This really is something that is formed within, we can’t fake it, we would be fools if we tried. It seems like God often focuses on the inside, before He looks at the outside.

When God sees your brokenness, your grief over the sin running rampant in your life, He responds to you. He only desires that you come to Him, really and properly.

V. 18, “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;”

David seems to be always thinking in corporate terms, even when his personal life has been turned-upside-down. I suppose he is thinking like a king, and pursues His people’s welfare. But this is also an astonishing certainty. “Please, God forgive me, but bless your people in wonderful ways.”

The “walls of Jerusalem” are key and sure. They exist to protect, define, and secure the grace of God in a secure place. Walls are also built to keep “undesirables” out. Being a city that counts on its walls to protect it means a lot of effort for many groups of people to build.

V. 19, “then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Providing a certain strength to the peripheral  doesn’t mean at all, an acceptance of built-in sin. And this psalm puts the focus on God’s certain desires. “Delight” is a great word, which carries so much.

Sacrifices can be good. They put into the physical what also belongs in the spiritual. The sacrifice describes what the spiritual declares. Ideally, what bull I sacrifice should communicate my heart to God.

So much is embedded in these verses. Much can be seen, and much must be excavated. I just know you will do what is right.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:10-11, Clean and Loyal Hearts

A Clean Heart

10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”

Psalm 51:10-11, NLT

God is a Creator, and that is quite profound. The powerful act of creating should not be lost on us. In Genesis, we see God at His creative best. He makes stars and oceans. Dogs and dandelions. Grapes and giraffes. Everything– out of nothing. And He is our maker!

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Genesis 1:1-2, ESV

God created. And God hovered. And every physical thing appeared, sequentially. Many think they understand this, I’m not one of them. I don’t understand, but I trust and believe, and that is enough.

Commentary

V. 10, Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.”

Only God has the ability to re-create and re-new the human heart. We certainly don’t. We hear David asking for a miracle– of transformation. The work is an inside job that slowly works to the outward. It is not a outside job working its way to the inside. (Believe me, I’ve found this out.)

Clean and loyal hearts are rare and precious. You don’t see them everyday. It takes a great deal of effort, which Jesus has done on a certain cross long ago. It is as if the creative work of Genesis 1 is being repeated when we truly believe in Jesus by faith.

 “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”

2 Corinthians 4:17, AMP

The NT Greek word for creature is a word we translate into English as “species.” The word is understood as biological classification. But here, something most radical has taken place. It is now a “spiritual classification.” We are so different now that we are new beings on this planet!

V. 11, “Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”

David needs to be close to God. Can you or I really understand this passion? This unsinkable desire, unwavering and unflappable is driving David to God.

David cannot imagine living a life without an intimacy with the Lord God. To be without Him is incomprehensible.  He begs not to be discarded, and driven away. To live without the Holy Spirit isn’t really life at all.

This hungry passion for God, the Re-creator is what keeps most Christian rascals from damnation. It seems once you have been touched by the Spirit, you will never be the same again.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:3-5, Recognize the Rebel Within

3 “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.[a]
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Psalm 51:3-5, NLT

In this life, we must understand our inner rebellion and  sin. We had better accept and agree with God on this basic matter. If we really are going to be truthful people we have to really focus on this fundamental understanding of our own depravity.

This is the first of seven of Psalms we call “penitential.” It is probably the best known of these seven. Psalm 51 can be broken down into subcategories. Of course, the title precisely cues us in the time David met with Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-14.

Commentary

V. 3, “ “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.”

David doesn’t cling to false platitudes. He is not deceived by creating a new image. He doesn’t care a whit about public relations. It may seem like he is being a little hard on himself. There are some that suggest that David may be too morbid, too moody. But you try to commit adultery, and than murder, then you can judge the entire scene.

But David has looked into a mirror, and he’s stepped away from it. He cannot forget what he saw. He sees his “rebellion” for what it really is– that he is warped and twisted. David can’t shake off this sense of shame and grief. He has committed adultery which has led to murder of one of his best generals.

V. 4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

All of our sins are against God. Failure to see this results in a repentance that is premature, and deficient. This inadequate repentance will not change you, but only makes you feel somewhat better.

There is no doubt that David sinned terribly against Bathsheba, and her husband Uriah. What he did to them was so wrong, on so many levels. But, what about God? David’s selfishness, greed, lust offended God. Perhaps we need to tweak our concepts. The higher in status and power a person is, the greater the offense. All sin is sin against a holy God.

What David believed is that God could say what God wanted about him, and it would be right and true, for God cannot be otherwise. But rather than stubbornly avoiding God, David sees the positive and he chooses to honor God by his authentic repentance.

V. 5,For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

David is not saying that his mother was immoral. Rather he is recognizing the depth of his own sin. (He knows who he is, he’s got this tattoo, “Born to Sin” on his biceps.)

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 133: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

pb-1309119-lightning2.photoblog900

www.earthporm.com

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 90:10-12, Transitioning to Death

misty-path-232239

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 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

Psalm 19: Stars and Scripture

night-sky-default-moon

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run the course.

6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to another; nothing is hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the Lord are right , giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

10 They are much more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Once again, this is a psalm that someone could write a book on and its treasure trove of riches can be mined over and over in future posts. The first thing to be noticed about this passage is what abundant riches of revelation God has given us through (1) the starry host above us (vv. 1-6) and (2) the written word of God (vv. 7–11).

As someone who lives in a rural area in northeast Washington without the “light pollution” of the cities and suburbs, I  wholeheartedly agree with David that the heavens above us declare the glory of God. There are nights out here on the back deck of my cabin that truly feel like heaven is intersecting with earth and you half expect to see a host of angels descend out of heaven like they did for the shepherds at the birth of Jesus or maybe ascending and descending on Jacob’s Ladder.

I think ecological degradation makes Satan extremely happy because it robs the human species of this uplifting experience. Environmental issues are a political football that have been tossed around for decades but all Christians should agree that we are called to be be responsible stewards of the earth we have inherited. It redounds to our benefit: we see the face of God in the beauty of his creation.

In observing the grandeur and majesty in the Milky Way and the Orion Nebula, we get a glimpse of the grandeur and majesty of God. In seeing the intelligent design of how the heavens have been arranged, we brush up against the greatness of the Intelligent Designer. It’s just a shadow of a greater reality, but, even as a shadow, David is right in saying that they abundantly declare the incomprehensibly sublime nature of God. Centuries later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul would proclaim this in Romans 1:20:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Apparently atheists won’t have a leg to stand on when they appear before God in the hereafter. There’s plenty of evidence in the cosmos and on earth to believe in God.

The wondrous riches of God have also come to us through Scripture, his written word, that David gives different names– law, statutes, precepts, commands, and ordinances–that describe different dimensions of the word. The psalmist also revealed what salutary effects the word has on us: it revives our soul, makes us wise, gives joy to our hearts and light to our eyes, and admonishes the man and woman of God to stay on the straight and narrow.

Stars give us a general revelation of who God is; Scripture is more specific and also answers the question, “How then should we live?” Scripture also gives us the most important revelation: the life and teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of the One who created the starry host: Jesus Christ.

Every Christian who has had even just a few years logged in the kingdom of God can attest to how the Holy Spirit illuminating the written word has changed their lives. Just the other day I was under a lot of stress and was greatly helped by Psalm 20. A good time of Bible study can put a spring in your step and keep you from making mistakes you’ll regret later. We’ve all heard sermons that have changed our lives or have been transformed by a biblically–based book or a series of teaching  tapes or CDs rooted in the Holy Writ. Scripture truly is more precious than much pure gold (v.10) and is never more precious than when it is foreshadowing (Old Testament) or revealing Jesus Christ (New Testament).

What’s obvious to me in vv.12–14 is that David didn’t merely encounter truth about God through the starry host and Scripture, he encountered God himself. These two avenues of revelation were bridges to greater intimacy with God for David. This is evidenced by his preoccupation in these verses with hidden faults, willful sins, and wanting to be blameless before God in thought, word, and deed.

I’m convinced David beheld the holy face of God in the starry host and in Scripture, saw his own sin, and emerged wanting to please God in every area of his life. These twin sources of revelation were like a mirror that showed him his blemishes and hidden faults. May the same thing happen to us when we gaze into the riches of both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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

Benjamin Franklin’s Original Bifocals

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

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

Psalm 108:5-6, ESV

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

Psalm 108:5-6, CEV

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Habakkuk 2:14, ESV

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Tripping Over the Museum: Psalm 25:15–18

14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:14–18, NLT

These are delicate verses, each one is soaked with salty tears. We slam through them so quickly, and completely disregard the meaning and purpose. It would be like taking a 10 minute tour of the National Gallery in London.

The content of these five verses alone are made sacred by suffering. They seep blood and stink of sweat. Their source is found in a broken and hurting heart (which makes up most of the human race.) Take these four verses, and compare just then with any other religious texts. There is an obvious dearth between the Christian Bible and anything coming out of comparative world religions.

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Commentary

V.14., Golly. The very well-being of this Psalm focuses on this  conspicuous fact. You just might say that our faith also depends on this– being a true friend with God. Indirectly this connects us with Abraham– he was known as “a  friend of God.” He also is brightly tutored into God’s covenant and His ways. (See James 2:23.)

V. 15,  the writer tells us things we must know about himself. There is a settled fact in his mind; he is always looking for the heart of God. He diligently continues to look at his Father’s eyes. I get the sense that this is one of those enduring habits he had decided to do “before” and he has trained his eyes to look. The idea is that there are “traps” just accentuate the urgent need. Traps only intensify the deep urgency of getting it right (and avoiding pain.)

V. 16, is  such a personal prayer to a personal God. (This is what I meant earlier when I talked about the superiority of the Christian writings.) The persistent question must be asked, “How personal is God to your soul?” Can you be this truthful or honest with Allah, or the Buddha? Are you just connecting on a superficial level, or our you in a true intimacy with the true God? Christians will talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This phrase tries very hard to make an intimacy real and authentic.

V. 17, ” My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all!”
Wondering  this will lead you through a lot of twisted theology, and logical anxiety. The stark reality is our faith was never meant to relieve us from the issues of living life. The psalmist seems to think that things may have gotten worse. I’ve read somewhere that birds in a cage will actually sing louder. It strikes me that the purpose of life is not to find your freedom– but your master. (We easily look for “so-called” freedom.)

V. 18, Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.”  Most of us would agree. We must put the “best foot forward.” We really try to clean up, and do the right things to be accepted by God. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven, and spray air freshener all over. But, this is pretty much unacceptable.

But acceptance by this (neurotic behavior) is never the basis for His love. It can’t be! We will never do enough good things to outweigh our bad. God has “junked” His scales, you will never see them in His courts. He will never measure the good you’ve done. And the all the bad– well, that has been dropped into the Mariana Trench.

“He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.’

(Micah 7:19)

(“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any.” )
― A.W. Tozer

kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us)

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The Things of the Earth Will Grow Strangely Dim– Psalm 73: 25, 26

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

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

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

For many people, in the days of our youth, life has a certain allure. We have places to go, people to see, and things to do. Life is pregnant with the promise of seemingly limitless possibilities. However, with each new experience, we find that the persons, places, and things did not satisfy us like we thought they would.

As we’re experiencing this dissatisfaction, we may, at the same time, get bombarded by messages from the world telling us that something is wrong with us because the feelings we had in our youth are gone. Messages like “Carpe diem!” (Seize the day!), live each day like it is your last, and live life to the fullest are all well and good, but I suspect that many souls are using them for inspiration to try to capture the feelings that they had in their youth.

The world and its messages are passing away. The psalmist, Asaph, realized this and was looking to God for counsel (v.24). He knew that nothing on this earth could truly satisfy and made God his portion and sustenance (v.25, 26).

Augustine had it right when he said that “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” As the old saying goes, we have a God–shaped vacuum that only God can fill. Finite, created things–persons, places, things– leave us empty; only the infinite, Uncreated God can satisfy. As we gaze into his face, this truth is highlighted and we remember the old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus/

Look full in his wonderful face/

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/

In the light of his glory and grace.

If the things of the world are growing strangely dim, we’re on the right track. If the world doesn’t feel like our home, we’re on the right track. That feeling is like the instinct within the salmon that drives it back to it’s native stream. Our native stream is heaven and we shouldn’t let the messages of the world sidetrack us from our journey.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Psalm 23:1: I Shall Not Want

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1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Recently I heard an Irish Catholic priest challenge his congregation after reading Psalm 23 by asking, “You know the psalm but do you know the shepherd?” It’s a question I must ask myself everyday. Do I know the Shepherd and trust him to meet my needs–“I shall not want”– or do I depend more on created things (idols) to fulfill me?

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on the human race by the devil is that he doesn’t exist. In this deception, he is able to kill, steal, and destroy in an anonymous capacity, and let others take the blame. He always works best in the shadows.

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on Christians is that we need to pursue something we already have. Sometimes I will catch myself in idolatry and feel a lot like a man who has 100 billion dollars in a savings account but goes out and robs a bank because he’s afraid he won’t be able to make this month’s mortgage payment. Other times, when I become over attached to some created thing, I feel like a man who leaves his wife for another woman but finds out that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and that he had everything he needed in the first relationship.

That’s the foolishness of idolatry for the Christian: trying to get something from an idol that has already been given to us from God. We have a Shepherd that can meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs–“I shall not want”–but we just look somewhere else.

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. The Lord was Adam and Eve’s Shepherd. All of their needs were met in this Edenic paradise. Everything the serpent promised them theyrecite-19175-1419221276-1r86qx7 already had.

He promised them that they would be like gods. They already were like “gods” in the sense that they were the highest order of God’s creation. He promised them that they would become wise, but they already had wisdom inherent in their harmonious relationship to God. They reverenced God and that’s the beginning of wisdom.

As much as God meets our needs during our earthly journey, we will not be completely satisfied until we get to heaven. As Augustine says, we were created for heaven and won’t be totally fulfilled until we get there. We live in a foreign country now as aliens, but in heaven, we will be home. We get the salad, appetizer, and bread now, but in heaven we will get the steak, baked potato, lobster and New York cheesecake for dessert. We are engaged to Christ the Groom now but in heaven there will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The bridge between our earthly existence and the hereafter is Hope. One thing we can do when idolatrous urges come upon us is to ask God to replace them with hope, a looking forward to heaven when all our deepest needs will be completely satisfied. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”–both on earth and in heaven.

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ybic, Jonathan

image can be purchased from the artist, http://www.etsy.com/listing/107662512/the-lord-is-my-shepherd-lamb-on-shoulder

Psalm 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

atheist-thought

1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Polls indicate that 90–92% of Americans still believe in God. Over 2,500 years ago, David said you were a fool if you didn’t believe. Recently as I looked at evidence for a finely tuned universe, I had to conclude that to not believe today, in light of this evidence, makes you more of a fool than in David’s day. The factors and the constants in the universe have to be incomprehensibly precise to support life. This points to an Intelligent Designer who created the universe.

For example, if the moon was just a little bit closer to the earth, the tides would sweep over the continents; if it was just a little bit further away, the tides would be so weak that they would not flush out the tidal estuaries that are so vital to fish breeding areas.

Gravitational force and electromagnetic force are finely tuned. If they were changed just one part in 10 to the 40th power, both biological life and the existence of stars would end.

If there’s even the tiniest of deviations in the earth’s gravity, axial tilt, rotation period, magnetic field, crust thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratio, carbon dioxide, water vapor, or ozone level, life would not be possible.

This led former atheist and legendary scientist Sir Fred Hoyle to say, “…commonsense interpretation of the facts is that a super-intelligence has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces in nature.”

There seems to be a blindness in modern atheism that denies the obvious. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church, was summing up atheism for all times and seasons when he said, “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

It’s interesting that David followed his declaration of the foolishness of atheism by saying, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one that does good.” I know atheists and agnostics who are ethical people, and, sadly, sometimes more ethical than some Christians I’ve known. At the same time, the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century–Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot– that accounted for the deaths of approximately 100 million people, were atheistic. They are now on the scrap heap of history and their foolishness is exposed for all to see.

To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.”  Ravi Zacharias

 

Blessings, Jonathan

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Psalm 40:5, The Limits of Grace?

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“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

Psalm 40:5, NLT

Sometimes when you are driving you see a pick-up coming toward you in the other lane. On it you see a banner and a flashing light. The sign on it reads “Oversize Load.”  This is the pilot truck that’s driving ahead to warn everyone of something very big coming. This 5th verse of Psalm 40 is a huge load to us believers. It is completely packed, and it stretches the seams. It is so full, that it seems as if it could explode.

This Psalm is David’s doing, he wrote it inspired by the Holy Spirit, for us. The entire Psalm is beautiful, and worth far more than silver or gold. But verse 5  sticks out to me. David’s entire tone is one of amazement, or incredulity. And God has already initiated it for us. We read of “wonders” and “plans” and “deeds” set in motion. This is what God does for His own. He is always active, setting good things in motion for everyone who loves Him (and the many who don’t yet.)

Then there is the inability of David to make an inventory of all this grace. Imagine an immense warehouse filled from top to bottom with shiny gold coins and rubies, diamonds and pearls. And then imagine something way more than that. Now you can see the dilemma of David. It is just too much. The warehouse of God’s grace cannot be fathomed by us, or even someone else.

I break out in a rash when come in contact with any leader or any person who insists on restricting the flow of grace. They design a committee to dole out mercy, piece by piece; when God wants to lavish it on us. Somehow we develop a stunted and pitiful faith when this happens– and it does happen. I think some leaders become bureaucrats who want a subtle control. They often don’t understand Grace– what it is, and all it does. Perhaps they are the new “money changers” in the Temple. But that is another story.

&

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Light My Eyes, Psalm 13:3

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“Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” 
 

Psalm 13:3, NIV

God is the sole developer of light.  He creates it and then assigns it to whom ever He chooses.  He is the proprietor and the sole creator of its properties.  Without Him actively bestowing light on us we would have no access to its power or its benefits .  He holds the exclusive patent.

As Adam’s progeny we have experienced a light moratorium.  We have been cut off from its many benefits.  Illumination, understanding and wisdom are just some of the essences of light.  When we have it, we are astounded that we lived without it, and we are amazed at the ignorance of our past days.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:30, NIV

Darkened by our sin, we struggle throughout our blinded lives, unable to understand or grasp what is our real purpose.  Meaning completely eludes us.  However, we are directed by the Psalmist to open our hearts to the gracious gift of light.  It illuminates us, giving us a sense of what is real and how life unfolds.  That word “understanding” from our text is critical .  No matter how stupid and pathetic we have become, the Word of God penetrates our fog and gives us a sense of what is true, and what is real.

Let it unfold, let it open up in your understanding.  Like an umbrella on a foggy and rainy day, when it opens it will cover you.  Notice that the source of ‘lit-up’ truth emanates from the “words”.  Place yourself in His Word, let it pour over you and let it bring you to the the place of joyful acceptance.

The verse speaks of being “simple”.  That actually is a pretty descriptive of our condition, and reveals much of human history and “so-called” progress.  The word means “naive”.  History opened up shows people to be amazingly compliant and susceptible to dictators and men with power.  We seem to follow leaders with sinister and strange purposes and agendas. History shows it over and over.  We just can’t grasp what is true and what is real.

Jesus has come as the “Good Shepherd”. He stands at the door, and rings our doorbell. Those of us who are being led into His Grace and Truth are finding light.  He is revealing to us a definitive understanding of truth.  And we need truth desperately. Let Him lead you, today.

%“Glory in Christ and you can bask in His light forever.”   Woodrow Kroll

“If you have only a little ray of light, show out distinctly that you are for Him.”   G.V. Wigram

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ybic, Bryan

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.”

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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.

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ybic, Jonathan

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Psalm 84:10: Overcoming the Greatest Temptation

temptation-of-jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

&

ybic, Jonathan

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

glorious-light

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

 Psalm 119:57-58, NLT

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

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

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

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

flourish-small,

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

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

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ybic, Bryan

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

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

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

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

This reminds me when Moses told the children of Israel that they rebelled against the command of the Lord and grumbled in their tents and said, “The Lord hates us so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us” (Deut.1:27). Perhaps the man who did all the embezzling, like the children of Israel, doubted God’s unfailing love and decided to take things into his own hands.

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

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

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ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Disarming Sickness, Psalm 41:3

dust_in_the_wind_by_eikoweb

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

Psalm 41:3, NIV

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

Henry Ward Beecher

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

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

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

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

&

ybic, Bryan

Transparent Pages, Ps. 31:6-8

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 I hate those who worship worthless idols.
I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.

Psalm 31:6-8, NLT

God’s promises are like watching a sunrise. It is beautiful, and they somehow work inside of us. Wise and patient eyes realize they are seeing something amazing, and it’s good. These three verses overlay each other. When I was a boy, I was fascinated by books that had transparent plastic pages. These pages would fold over on each other. I remember seeing the human body. You see the bones, but if you flip one of these pages– you could see the circulatory system imposed over the bones, and you can add the nervous system and see that as well. Pretty heady stuff for an eight year old boy. This was old school anatomy.

David wrote these verses, and they belong together.  “I hate those who worship worthless idols. I trust in the Lord.” This verse deals with the subject of discernment. The ability to distinguish between certain things, is not always seen as a positive. I cannot remove the stigma of this word– “hate.”  In the NT we’re anchored to this idea of love. But in Ps. 139:22,

“Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are  my enemies.”

Hatred is a dangerous emotion. It’s has a handle, just like a suitcase. It can be controlled by the Holy Spirit, or manipulated by Satan. As believers, we should be aware of this possibility. Hatred has a place. Romans 12:9 is a ready verse, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” We must walk a tightrope here; it will require wisdom and awareness. But I’m also very confident in the Holy Spirit’s ability to assist you in this matter.

The next verse carries with it an intense blessing. It is also a verse that folds into “our picture book.”

“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.”

Being truly glad is the waiting room for believers. It is an active state of a humbled heart. David is thrilled. He is quite aware of having God’s focus– he knows that he is incredibly loved. God has taken on the trials and burdens of David. David’s personal anguishes are taken up by the Lord.

“You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.”

David truly believes this. He thinks that this is a truly blessed state to be in. The deep realities of “what could have been” are factored into this awareness. God could have easily sent David to his doom. David is aware of what might have been.

These three verses, (vv. 6-8) snuggle together, like those “Russian nestling dolls.” One inside of the other, inside another. Or like our original metaphor–  multiple transparencies coming together to give us a clear view of David’s real truth.

^

ybic, Bryan