A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

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

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

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

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

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

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

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

 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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

Praise is How We Grow: Psalm 111:1-3

“Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.”

Psalm 111:1-3, NLT

This is a teaching psalm that’s purpose is to instruct or educate. This Psalm is a strict acrostic, with each line having an “ABC…” pattern. The first line (V.1) is the Hebriac phrase, “Hallel-jah” which we use in English, but it means “praise the Lord”.

Psalm 111 was part of a group of hymns sung while celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. It is very possible that Jesus sang this song with His disciples just before His arrest in Gethsemane.

Because this psalm is constructed so well and so precisely we can safely assume it should have a honor and reverence among both Jews and Christians.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!” I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.”

Why is praising God so important? Why should we thank Him? I suppose the answer can be found in His worthiness. Our relationship is with a Someone who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, He is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing.

Verse 1 also carries the idea of an existing fellowship of the “godly.” When we meet with each other to worship and praise, we activate and fortify each other. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts, and we will find a way to encourage each one.

V. 2, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!”
    All who delight in him should ponder them.”

We are cordially invited to wrap our heads and hearts around “the deeds of the Lord.” These are actions that God has done. These are things creative and redemptive. Our past, present and future are full of them. These deeds can be understood by those who delight in God, and ponder what He is doing.

Pondering is not ‘a piece of cake.’ You have to be motivated to ponder, and that takes a certain discipline. This Psalm has praise embedded all through it– so perhaps that is where we must begin.

V. 3, “Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.”

When we are exhorted by our elders to seek the Lord, that is a good thing. But how do we start? Remember, this Psalm is a teaching psalm. If we only listen to it, very closely, we will understand what we are to do.

The writer explains that we seek God by looking at what God does. (His actions speak louder than words.) He is creative– stars and galaxies, hummingbirds and salmon, snowflakes and monsoons. He created people and culture– Africans and Asians, Eskimos and Puerto Ricans. Indeed the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.

To love Him is to honor His acts. To ponder all that He has done, or is doing, to save us from our sins and free us from our bondage. What He did to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the story of us all. We should be people of joy, set apart to the Glory of God.

ybic, Bryan

I Wear Myself Out With Desire: Psalm 119:17-24

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17 Do good to me, your servant, so I can live, 
       so I can obey your word. 
18 Open my eyes to see 
       the miracles in your teachings. 
19 I am a stranger on earth. 
       Do not hide your commands from me. 
20 I wear myself out with desire 
       for your laws all the time. 
21 You scold proud people; 
       those who ignore your commands are cursed. 
22 Don’t let me be insulted and hated 
       because I keep your rules. 
23 Even if princes speak against me, 
       I, your servant, will think about your demands. 
24 Your rules give me pleasure; 
       they give me good advice. 

Psalm 119:17-24, NCV

Perhaps we wear ourselves out too quickly, as we advance on something good and true. We do try to step up, but we find a need for endurance. Our culture seems to ‘spoon feed’ us, we are sorely lacking in anything that requires any kind of spiritual stamina. From this mindset we simply can’t ever come up with anything fresh or certain. So we just let it slide. We bring it out without any kind of personal adjustments or demands.

I’m convinced we can face Him without any deceitfulness. But somehow we still can’t seem to grasp truth as we should. We seem to live in a ‘bubble’ of our own making. This is a profound sadness, and an incredible loss. We really can’t work tethered to the unreal. As I consider all of this, I must escape this unreality and turn to His sweet goodness into a certain faith.

Sometimes it seems we separate ‘grace’ from effort. But the psalmist suggests we work, “wearing ourselves out with desire.” Perhaps this is asking too much from this generation? What ‘value’ do we put on apprehending the Word? Yes, we are saved by grace– yet is there room for seeking His Word passionately?

 

I Enjoy Living By Your Rules: Psalm 119:9-16

 

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9 How can a young person live a pure life? 
       By obeying your word. 
10 With all my heart I try to obey you. 
       Don’t let me break your commands. 
11 I have taken your words to heart 
       so I would not sin against you. 
12 Lord, you should be praised. 
       Teach me your demands. 
13 My lips will tell about 
       all the laws you have spoken. 
14 I enjoy living by your rules 
       as people enjoy great riches. 
15 I think about your orders 
       and study your ways. 
16 I enjoy obeying your demands, 
       and I will not forget your word. 

Psalm 119:9-16, NCV

 This psalm continues to leak over us all. And that is what the Holy Spirit intends . We must continue to soak in what has been released, and accept what is directed on us. Verses like these are unique, they really start to direct and guide us into the things which are necessary.

Commentary

 V. 9  is obvious to all who are trying to process  their youth. There is such a thing as a pure life.  For many of us, who  step out and look are amazed at all that comes out. And we discover that the enemy pursues us seeks to drive us away from the presence of Jesus. Impurity of heart and mind is exceedingly destructive. Lust can be powerful; redirecting it to seek the Lord’s presence is crucial.

V. 10 we find that the writer knows all about “obedience” and our need to act from this awareness. God is in control, and He insists we understand this. Know this– if the Lord asks you to do something difficult, He will provide exactly what is needed. He supplies what He requires.

V. 11, this verse causes us to to take up a serious attachment to the truth. There is the necessary connection that we must make to the Word. There can be no passive or casual attitude toward the Bible. When you find His words, you must cling to them with both hands.

The writer in v. 11 picks up a deep, but necessary link to the truth, there is an adjustment that must be made, for us to obey.

V. 12, is a person who has reorganize his priorities to be God centered.

V. 13, this is a very groovy verse. It can be understood as a sincere dedication, of a true heart that belongs now to Him.

V. 14, the word “enjoy” is mentioned twice. And are these really something we want to enjoy? The writer seems to think so. And perhaps we should as well. Pleasure should not be pursued, but seek out God (and His ways) instead. The intensity you had needs to be directed toward God. I was once a fervent sinner, and now I want to be a sincere and godly believer.

V. 15, this is not a cosmetic faith or hope, it isn’t superficial. It is what the psalmist dwells on. Centers on, and draws himself to. He has a “students” heart.

V. 16, There is something quite exceptional. He enjoys obedience! He loves it. And perhaps that is a lesson in itself.

A ‘Forever’ Kind of Reign: Psalm 93

Psalm 93

The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past. The floods have risen up, O Lord. The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves. But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore—  the Lord above is mightier than these! Your royal laws cannot be changed. Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever. flourish14
Those Israelites taken into captivity needed most desperately was an understanding of His sovereignty. The psalmist complies and delivers. What we have in Ps. 93, is something diplomatic, quite subtle but bold. The psalmist  (probably King David) insists that we recognize the presence of God in our daily lives.
This Psalm declares the reality of God’s rule over us. He is exclusively in charge, and it is His will that dictates our reality. What He decides to control is us, and our redeemed understandings.
Commentary V. 1, I suppose we should equate the majesty of God with the strength of God. The fact of His rule over us is based on His certain majesty. The fact of being majestic has a great deal to a personal strength over the environment one must face. We accept that God created, and that He sustains the world, as we understand it. What He has done, will never be undone, until He decides. The earth maintains a certain and specific orbit, it doesn’t wander around like a common meteorite. It has been placed into a certain position by God, and it stabilizes our reality.
V. 2, the throne of God is the reigning influence in the entire universe. The implication of this verse has to do with something “forever” and eternal. He really does rule over everything. This hasn’t really ever been reasonably contested. He is a power, the power that takes the ultimate control over everything in our history as humans.
V.3, the best this planet can offer is most often seen in the power and majesty of the seas. Immense and unknown, the ocean covers  75% of earth’s area. But it is controlled. It is something we must acknowledge. He rules over it. He controls it, perhaps a bit  like a lion tamer in a cage with a lion. Only more so. When we do accurately envision Him, we will see Someone totally and magnificently in control.
V. 4, extends this idea, and amplifies it. Interesting, “mightier” is repeated 3x in this verse. The psalmist understands something beyond human comprehension. The specific issues that God faces, He is supreme. Never defeated or even sidetracked. He is a force, that is beyond any equal, yet He is much more.
V. 5, all that He determines is completely beyond objection. It is a fact! We should accede this, and bring ourselves to submit to it.

 “Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever.”

 

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51: 16, 17: On Sin and Forgiveness

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16 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

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The background of these verses is the familiar story of David’s fall from grace and subsequent confession, repentance, and forgiveness. David committed some big sins (lying, adultery, and murder) and his confession and repentance resulted in a big forgiveness from God that in turn resulted in his big gratitude and love towards God for his tender mercies.

In Luke 7:36–50 we have the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed his feet with alabaster. Jesus makes the point that this woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. We see this same dynamic at work in the life of Mary Magdalene who had been delivered of seven demons and had a sordid past.

I have to admit that some of my favorite Christians have been big sinners--people who had done some really bad things, knew they had done some really bad things, and walked in the gratitude and humility of a forgiven sinner. I like being around them because they are usually free of self–righteousness and I know they won’t judge me harshly for my flaws. Usually, the mercy and grace that God has extended to them, they, in turn, freely extend to others.

I have to wonder though what goes through some Christians minds. They have been Christians all their lives, and, though they aren’t perfect, have always been on the straight and narrow and have never or rarely strayed into what we would call gross sin or what Catholics call mortal sin. I’m sure some of them must wonder “Can I love God much even though I haven’t been forgiven much? Do I have to be like Mary Magdalene in order to love much?”

The truth is they have been forgiven much. My advice for these Christians is to pursue intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you do this, you will enter the presence of God, and when you are in the presence of God, you will see that all your righteousness is as filthy rags. Our hearts are like a living room window that hasn’t been cleaned for a year. From a distance it may look okay, but, when we make a closer examination with the sun shining in, we see all the dirt, streaks, dead bugs, hand prints, and  hard water stains. This is what happened to Peter when he first met Jesus in the aftermath of catching many fish: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” To our knowledge, Peter wasn’t involved in some mortal sin; he was simply in the presence of the Lord. The same could be said of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1–6.

Another piece of advice I would give these Christians is to broaden their definition of sin. I’ve noticed in some local churches over the years that a big deal is made when an unmarried high school girl in the church gets pregnant, but little is made of the church gossip, who, in my opinion, commits the greater sin. Sometimes Christians make a big deal about sexual sin and various addictions but overlook many of the “cold–blooded” sins: gossip, envy, self–righteousness, competition, religious idolatry, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, etc.. These are gross sins too and should lead us to the same brokenness David and Mary Magdalene exhibited.

Therefore, when someone comes to your church for the first time, and, carries all the signs of coming out of a sinful lifestyle, you can look at them and say to yourself,”Hey, I’m going to go over there and greet that person. We have a lot in common.”

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 2:10-12, Kiss the Son

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

Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 5:20 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 55:1-3– Targeted by Evil

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.

1″ Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!
Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me,
making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
and angrily hunt me down.”

Psalm 55:1-3, NLT

I used to hunt deer as a boy in Wisconsin. Deer season was one of the highlights of my life. I would literally dream of “the hunt”– of big 8 point bucks hanging in our garage.

These three verses of Psalm 55 were written when David was being hunted by men. He was the quarry, and they were the predators.  It was a savage hunt, and there was “no mercy” to be had.

We live in a world that the Prophet Micah described as this,

“The godly has perished from the earth,
    and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
    and each hunts the other with a net.” -Micah 7:2, ESV

There are quite a few verses which convey the very same sentiment. Particularly we find Proverbs telling us, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (Prov. 6:5). We simply can not escape this metaphor of the hunted. It explains much about this world.  Revelation 18 tells us of the “Babylonian” system of merchants who trade in gold, ivory, cinnamon,“and bodies and souls of men.” That frightens me.

I zipped through “The Hunger Games” trilogy. In a ugly and gory twist,  we find that the protagonist must survive a battle in an arena. Perhaps the popularity of the books and the movie, will bring fresh understanding to a generation of young people. Evil wants your head on a pike.

Commentary

V. 1, ” Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!

See David come into the presence of the King, he enters the throne room with an earnest plea. He is seeking divine intervention; his desire is that God would move his personal crisis to the “front burner.” David refuses to be ignored.

We have the same right (maybe more so) than David. We have Jesus, our high priest, making intercession for us. Romans 8 reveals that “God is for us.” The Holy Spirit is empowering each believer. Our prayers will be heard!

V. 2, “Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.”

There are some in the ranks of believers who just won’t acknowledge trouble. I sympathize. Perhaps they are partly right. I do not want trouble, without Jesus standing alongside of me. He is my Friend, and my Savior. Bitter things become sweet when He is present.

We have a listening God. He is a the One who answers. I hate answering machines, “Leave a message, we’ll get back to you.” The Kingdom is not run in this manner. He “picks up” and you can speak directly with Him.

V. 3, “My enemies shout at me,
making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
and angrily hunt me down.”

Evil seems very energetic at times. It is both verbal and also active. Pressure and intimidation are our enemies essential nature. David had become a definite target,”numero uno.”

Imagine walking down your street. The hatred is incredible, with people shouting, mocking and hissing at you. They surround you, full of spite and meanness. This is what David faced. It was imperative that he come into his Father’s presence. When your life is full of poisonous snakes, this is where you need to go.

ybic, Bryan

Christmas: A Rose in the Snow

Merry Christmas, dear ones!  I can only hope, and also pray that Jesus will direct and keep you in His care.  I’m looking to a Christmas a thousand years from today, when He will bring us all together.  I think that we’ll all kick back, and we will try to remember Christmas, 2013.  We will most likely say, “But that was so long ago, it feels like a dream, I’m not sure now…”

Like me, I trust your deepest hopes are pinned on an incredible grace.  The gifts that were for me, under the tree are fabulous.  But we have been given a gift– of gifts.  It is something that ‘rocks our world’.  It’s called ‘eternal life’.  It has been given to us freely, and without any stipulations.  We’ve been ‘cut-loose’ from the tangled mass of sin.  We are now very much free.

I know I need to learn to live like a free man. I’m saddened by my weaknesses.  But by extending myself and straining, I can just touch this grace, I pull it in and take and make it as my own.  Jesus has freed me, and I want to walk in truth, with Him, and with you.

Jesus is truly a “rose in the snow.” He has come to this hostile environment, and is precious and beautiful in the eyes of the faithful. I pray that you find Him flourishing in your heart.

Merry Christmas from Psalmslife!

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 28:1-2– Hotline to Heaven

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“To you, O Lord, I call;
    my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
    I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
    when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
    toward your most holy sanctuary.”

Psalm 28:1-2, ESV

Having a person who really wants to listen is priceless. King David is at his best when he is at his worst, as this Psalm is strong evidence of this truth. David is a model of the desperate soul that sees reality crushingly close.

Verse 1 is translated by the New Living Translation as:

“I pray to you, O Lord, my rock.
    Do not turn a deaf ear to me.
 For if you are silent,
    I might as well give up and die.”

If this is a better version I cannot tell. I suggest understanding both. One expresses fear of going “to the pit.” The other of death, “give up and die.” Both are horrible fates. with staggering repercussions. David faces his own mortality, and rather than hide his fear uses it as a “springboard” into God’s presence. In dramatic fashion he starts off with this desire to cheat death of his own soul. (This has side-effects benefiting David, lol.)

More precisely,  David needs God’s focused and undivided attention. A man hanging be a slender taut rope would be a clear picture. And the world’s  maxim goes– “When at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” This psalm describes this effort of “tying.”telephone_300

2 “Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.”

David believes that God is a listening God. He is always on duty and responsive, like a celestial 911 operator.  Both voice, and hands make the call– right into the sanctuary– the Holy of Holies. David is completely absorbed in this, for his hope is real, and he is confident that God will show up and save Him. And this is always the believer’s right and privilege.

The rest of this psalm is super, as well.

ybic,

Bryan

Psalm 145:17-18– A Very Certain Kindness

His kindness covers me

17″ The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:17-18, NLT

If you are going to have a God, I hope you choose the God of the Bible. He is full of kindness, and always is doing the right thing, He is consistent, dependable, steady and true.

Consistency is perhaps the most under-rated traits of His personality. We see so little of it in the world of men. He is unchanging and unfailing. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed, and Mondays are just another day in the world of men.

Commentary

V. 17, “The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.”

We have never met anyone who is like this. Imagine having never sinned, or, never will sin. I’ve come to see that David is slicing through God’s character in these verses, and giving us just a small piece at a time. It’s really all we can handle.

David insists that the Lord God is “filled with kindness.” In Romans 2:4 Paul insists we get a grip on it,

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

Kindness is far more than being nice and friendly. In the UK they have a “Kindness Day” every November 13th. I’ll occasionally see a bumper-sticker exhorting me to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Kindness has a central idea of being for the undeserving. Within Judaism the word is “mitzvah” of good things and blessings done to others. Judaism also teaches that God made the whole earth based on kindness.

V. 18, “The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

I like cheddar cheese, and summer sausage. I  recently discovered that both taste better sliced thin. And I guess that’s what I’m doing here taking just a verse at a time. I also think that is what the psalmist is doing. Little slices of the heart of God.

In another place it says, “the nearness of God is my good.” Proximity to God brings Him closer to you. He draws us, and if we decide to obey, He then comes Himself to our lives.

“Calling on Him in truth,” means no duplicity— not a shred of manipulation. I always think of Nathanael being called to walk with Jesus in John 1:47-49.

 “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 103, From Out of a Deep Pit

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
                                      3who forgives all your iniquity,
                                        who heals all your diseases,
                                      4who redeems your life from the pit.”

Psalm 103:2-4, ESV

Your gratitude is not really an option.

You have been lifted to a place of safety.  He has poured on you extraordinary blessings.  Complete forgiveness, total healing, and a secure redemption–you’ve been purchased off “the slave block.”  So much has happened to you since you met Jesus.

The Psalmist energizes himself. He states truths, and then pulls himself up to them.  He isn’t crazy, and yet he talks to himself.  Perhaps we should do this, much more frequently then we do.  It appears we might have definite advantages if we do.

A pit has been dug to trap you.  If you fall into it, you won’t be able to escape. It does its work, grimly and exceptionally.  Falling into it should be most complete. But there are so many living who reside in this pit.  It is most evil and desperate, and fully destructive to the souls of men.

In the light of this “atrocity of the pit,” deliverance is monumental.  When we are lifted out of it, we have a freedom that was nothing more than a fantasy– a really horrid dream.  This alone should generate an overflowing heart. If you will only walk in understanding, you will start to find victory!

Forgiveness, healing and redemption.  This triumvirate bores into our heart.  These three words create salvation deep inside us.  Each concept shapes us into ways that could never happen unless the Father wanted it.  He lifts us out of that wicked trap. He wants to free us!

Our simple response must be only to worship.  For many of us, it will take time and practice.  Worship needs to be learned, we simply don’t do it naturally.  But, thats ok.  Simply put, we need to start, and not forget all that He has done.  Please, don’t forget.  But remember all that He has done for you!  Psalm 103 will teach you, and bring you to a special place.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 103:7: On the Outside Looking In?

11-23-11iStock_000017828185 (1)
Moving toward Him, and home

7 “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”  Psalm 103:7

A person can have a generous grandfather who lives in a different country and never really get to know them. The grandparent sends money and gifts for their birthday, Christmas, and high school graduation. They may even get a sweater from the grandparent during winter and a fishing pole during summer and have a brief phone conversation once a year because long distance phone rates are high. After a lifetime of this, it becomes apparent that the grandchild knows the deeds of generosity of the grandfather but doesn’t really know him personally. There’s no intimacy; the grandchild merely knows him “from the outside looking in.”

This analogy is fitting when comparing Moses’ relationship with God and the vast majority of the children of Israel after they left Egypt. Moses’ heart is revealed in Exodus 33:13 when he asks God:

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The heart of the vast majority of Israelites was revealed when they left Egypt. When life did not live up to their expectations, they complained to Moses and wanted to return to Egypt, where they would get their fill of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, garlic, and onions.

These two stories highlight the difference between Moses and the children of Israel: Moses sought an intimate relationship with God as an end–in–itself  while, for most of the Israelites, God was a means to an end. The latter were very similar to the crowds who followed Jesus around because they wanted to get their fill of the loaves and fishes. They knew the acts of God but not his ways. They were into the gifts but not the Giver.

Matthew 7:21–23 is a breathtaking passage because it talks about people who cast out demons and performed miracles in Christ’s name, but Jesus said he did not know them and called them evildoers. Many during the time of Moses saw the acts of God and didn’t know God personally; Jesus predicted that there would be people who would perform the acts of God and not know him.

These are all sobering passages that drive one to take a searching moral and spiritual inventory of one’s soul. However, this should all be counterbalanced with the truth that God’s grace is amazing and that his mercies endure forever. To a lukewarm church (Laodicea) that did many things that Christ found offensive, he still reached out to them with an invitation of intimate fellowship:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

What’s sometimes overlooked is that this invitation was extended in this passage not to secular people but to church–going Christians. The same opportunity is offered to us every day: to not only know God’s acts but to know his ways, to be on the inside looking out and not on the outside looking in.

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

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/

3..2..1..We Have Worship! Psalm 108:1-4

With God We Shall Do Valiantly

A Song. A Psalm of David.

108 “My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

Psalm 108:1-4, ESV

Today, we peer down this well of Psalm 108. It is deep, but that depth protects it from the heat of the sun. It holds a sweet water that quenches our spiritual thirst.

One issue for anyone looking at the Psalms is apparent repetition of vv, 1-5 which you can read in Psalm 57. And, vv. 6-13 are lifted from Psalm 60. I’ve read a few scholars (and pastors) who usually are pretty perplexed. But for me, I think of laminating wood to make it much stronger, and I think that this is worth considering.

I figured we’ll take about five posts to do 108 properly. We could easily do more, as the Word always continues to give more and more than we expect. It is always fresh and a real joy to share with you like this.

Commentary

V. 1, “My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!”

To be a worshipper doesn’t mean you play guitar or piano well enough to join a worship team and stand up on a stage. The first mention in the Word of a worship instrument was a “knife.”

“Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

Genesis 22

I would like to ask every worship leader, “Do you understand the “ministry of the knife?”

The implication of verse 1 is that we are the instrument of worship. I make music, “with all of my being.” Guitars are merely auxiliary. Worship that is done with the heart, doesn’t need them. (But it is nice to have them.)

V.2, “Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!”

This a weird idea, but it appears that our musical instruments, just being objects can “wake up.” They are inanimate objects that the worshipper uses, and they must “come to life” with the touch of a worshipping musician.

The dawn was very early. And all through scripture we see it as a time of “urgent expectation.” The dawn is a propitious time, and God always seems to honor it above any other time of the day.

V. 3, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Thanks and praises. Peoples and nations. These ideas form a ‘methodology’ of worship.  “To you” is the focal point in that methodology. It’s all about Jesus. Always Him, past-present-future.

It’s worth noting that our “evangelism” be fueled by our worship and praise. I worked the streets in San Francisco as a ‘street evangelist.’ I was full-time for three years, and I encountered many different kinds of outreach.

Perhaps the most effective was getting a street closure permit and setting up a worship team right out there on the street. There was a festival feeling as the team played, and believers would mingle. The band would play for hours, and many good things happened.

V. 4, “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

Dimensions are used– primarily of extreme heights. It is used in this sense to express definition. How do I truly explain God’s love for me? (Or for you, for that matter?)

This metaphor is David’s particular favorite…”above the heavens (not just to the heavens, but above them.) Also, the sterling quality of this love shows up in the word “steadfast.” It endures, and endures, and then endures even more. And 20,000 years from now, our vocal chords will just be getting warmed up.

+

ybic, Bryan

I Love the House! Psalm 84:1-4

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
      O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
 2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
      to enter the courts of the Lord.
   With my whole being, body and soul,
      I will shout joyfully to the living God.
 3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
      and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
   at a place near your altar,
      O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
 4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
      always singing your praises.

 Psalm 84:1-4

There are some things that leave an indelible mark inside, deep on our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous.  I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had a awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, braunschweiger  and fresh sourdough bread.   I returned to my room to build my sandwich.  I remember the windows were open and a beautiful breeze was there.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit are just about ready to intersect in my life.

It was simply a moment I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place.

That nostalgia is thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers, and savors the memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something in that particular moment that  would haunt him for the rest of his life.  In his thinking, the beauty of the temple could never ever be the same again.  The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  But it was his, and he would never forget.

God gives moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  His presence is very likely the tipping point in these.  When He is present, a connecting link is made and we receive grace.  We will longingly look back on these moments when grace was so close.  The psalmist has the same hunger .  These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ruined him.   Special times of God’s presence have resulted in a sanctified dissatisfaction with the present.

When we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In the exact same way, our lives get very green and lush.  This is in contrast to our dry, and desperate life without His presence.

I am hungry for His presence.  I want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace, and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be in black & white, He turns it into a vibrant color.  The psalmist begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more then anything.

ybic, Bryan

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

joy-happy-man

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

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

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

 

Psalm 1:1-3, Amplified Bible

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

Psalm 16:11

flourish-small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

8

ybic, Jonathan

The One Important Thing, Psalm 27:4

1thing-seeGod

4 “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple.”

It’s interesting to compare this passage with other places in Scripture where one thing was emphasized. In Luke 10:41 Jesus tells Martha, who is anxious and worried about many things, that only one thing was necessary and Mary was doing just that: sitting at Christ’s feet and learning of him. In Philippians 3:13 and 14 the apostle Paul declares that he is focused on one thing and that is knowing Christ. All three of these passages have a common theme: they all emphasize the supreme good of pursuing an intimate relationship with God and his Son, Jesus.

Sometimes I don’t envy a new believer who’s entering the life of the church for the first time. Often they hear a cacophony of voices that will try to take them away from the one thing. Here’s a sampling:

(1) Sometimes a relationship with Christ is emphasized but not as an end in itself, but, instead, as a means to some other end. This is like the people in the crowd who followed Jesus around to see a miracle or to get another fill of the loaves and the fishes. They were way more into the gifts than the Giver of the gifts. The message here is “Come to Jesus and he will give you more financial security, a better marriage, and/or more success at work.” It’s not about him but what he can do for you. Christ is utilized but he is not worshipped.

(2) Part of the cacophony of voices a new believer is likely to hear are the many emphases that are trumpeted concerning the Christian life: evangelism, social justice, spiritual warfare, the love of God, tithing, etc.. These are all well and good but can lead one away from the one important thing if they are over–emphasized in an unhealthy manner. This is an error by emphasis.

(3) Anything in the Christian life can become a “religious idol.”  Zealous adherence to a particular doctrine or devotion to a particular church denomination can eclipse our devotion to Christ if we’re not careful. Many people think they are home free when they’ve given up their secular idols (e.g., Money, Sex, and Power), but religious idols can be just as corrosive to our souls.

(4) Related to (2) and (3) and  is what some have called “Bible–olatry.” Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that they search the Scriptures to find life but they wouldn’t come to him and sit at his feet as Mary did and find that life. They were lost in the wonders of exegesis or more accurately “exit Jesus.” In all their Bible studies, somehow Jesus had left the building. Bible study should be merely a means to this end: fervent devotion to Christ.

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” What’s sometimes overlooked is that this was addressed to Christians, not unbelievers. May God give us the grace, amidst a cacophony of voices, to eschew both secular and religious idols and open the door to communion with him.

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

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ybic, Jonathan

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

earth

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/

The God Who Won’t Go Away: Psalm 139:7–12

"Closer than a brother."
“Closer than a brother.”

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as night to you.

flourish-small

Martin Luther was right when he said that “the entire Bible is contained in the Psalms.” In the Psalms, we find the same God who we find in the rest of the Bible, who, despite our sins and weaknesses, stubbornly and relentlessly sticks with us–the God who won’t go away. This God was fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who said that he is with us always, even unto the very end of the world (Matthew 28: 20).

In contrast, human relationships are fragile. People, for a variety of reasons, do go away. Sometimes, as in the case of my father who passed away a little over a year ago, it has nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do. His father (my grandfather) died when he was 13. My brother and my father’s firstborn named Cary, who was neurologically handicapped, went on to be with the Lord in his early 50s, ten years before my father would join him. My mother would die three and a half years before he would. My father was well–acquainted with the fact that people go away.

Sometimes people go away because of something we did or didn’t do. Over the years, I’ve heard some people confess that they feel like other people like them until they get to know the real them and then they go away. They have difficulty keeping friends who will love them warts and all. I’ve also seen marriages and friendships where one of the friends or spouses go through major changes and the relationship doesn’t survive in the aftermath. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and can’t be put back together again. Someone goes away.

One human characteristic that the devil exploits is our tendency to project onto God flawed human qualities. The old joke is that in the beginning God created man in his image, and then, shortly thereafter, man returned the favor by creating God in his image. If the reader only gets one thing out of this post, let it be this: People may go away but God won’t go away. Please rest in his stubborn love.

Psalm 139:7–12 provides abundant evidence to that fact: no matter where we go, God is there. The Psalms are very comforting to me because God is there for David in every situation–in his ups and downs, virtues and vices, complaints and thanksgivings. David represents the human heart writ large and God will not forsake him. He commits egregious sins–adultery, lying, murder– but in his brokenness and repentance, God won’t go away.

So often, when we have it out with another person, someone goes away. Not God. David has it out with God over a variety of issues. He feels forsaken, complains about his enemies prospering, and questions God’s justice, but God is big enough to handle his darkest moments and stay with him. That’s one of the major lessons of the Psalms: God can handle the full fury of the human heart–it’s anger, desolation, questions, and despair– and not forsake that person unless he or she continually and willfully rejects and forsakes God for the rest of their lives. He doesn’t go away but we have a choice to go away.

Often when we have it out with God, in the aftermath, there is greater intimacy between us and the Lord. His ways are vindicated and we rest in his wisdom and mercy. This is much different than when we become embittered at God and our deep offence at him destroys intimacy. May we all guard our hearts against such bitterness and rejoice in the God who doesn’t go away.

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

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ybic, Jonathan

Please check out my other blog at http://www.openheavensblog.com/