Monthly Archives: July 2018

Post-exilic Psalms

Continuing the “Ascent” Psalms – Remember that the Ascent Psalms were sang as the Jews ascended to Temple Mount – a Praise and worship time as they reflected on what Yahweh had done in the past. Praise for who God is and was – an act of worship in preparation for the Passover time and celebration.  Specifically, this weeks readings and remarks come from Psalms 125-129. It becomes evident that these Psalms [some anyhow] were written after the return from Babylonian captivity. When looking at Psalm 125, the trust in Zion and the surrounding mountains, were a protective, or security from approaching marauders. Knowing that Solomon’s Temple with its walls being built in 800 BC estimated; and to know that there are parts of the Herodian Temple in Jesus’ day that still stands adds to the statement that Mount Zion remains forever. If we consider that Jesus when He returns will descend on Mount Olivet [from which He ascended] is further credence that God still has plans for Temple Mount. I know that today the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim Masque is currently sitting on the exact place where the Temple exists; we cannot lose site that Jerusalem is still in the Plans of God.

At least twice we find the phrase “Peace Be Upon Israel” – I have received many emails and articles that encourage people to pray for the peace of Israel – no peace for Israel until they are restored to Jehovah. If we look at the total peace time in Israel’s history it is a mere 40 some years, and that was during King David’s reign. Israel has always been a land that everyone wants for one reason or another. Some it is the natural “King’s Highway” for travel and trade. For others it is the Promised Land, the Muslims/Arabs seek possession from Ishmael’s line. Yet we find that Esau’s line [Edom -Idumean] seeks first born rights over Jacob/Israel. How can a small place the size of America’s state of New Jersey cause such turmoil and fighting? Don’t forget, God promised Abraham the Promise Land as an eternal possession.

Further in our reading we find the well known and often quoted Psalm 127 – specifically verse 1; unless the Lord builds the house, the labor is in vain; unless the LORD keeps guard over the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. Really, unless God is sovereign over what happens in Jerusalem and our lives, we work in vain. John 15:5 tells us without Jesus we can do nothing; yet Phil 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We live life in the Power of Jesus’ name.

Another consistent statement is “Blessed are those who fear the LORD.” Now even in churches there seems to be a falling away of respect/fear/ awe for God. How have we supplanted the omnipotent God? We have eliminated the need for God in our daily lives. We see ourselves as the master of our own lives. It is only when we fail or are overcome by our “self created crisis” that we turn to God for relief. We today are no different that Israel/Jews. If we trust the Lord, if we fear and I mean a real fear, not an awe of God – fear that instills within our minds and hearts to be obedient. The Father will discipline His children [Heb. 12] If we will fear God – the we are promised prosperity, peace and progeny. [Psalms 128] Picture if you would a mass of people ascending up to the Temple to worship, the people are preparing for worship by recounting God’s blessings on them. I wonder if we prepared intentionally in such a way how our worship would be different? Do we rush in expecting that we can flip a switch and instantly move from the world to the presence of God? I don’t think so; hence by the time the service is over, many have just come to the place of worship. Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that

1 Comment

Filed under 2018 Poetry

I Lift My Eyes unto the Hills

Psalms 120-134 are called “ascent” Psalms. This is defined as songs or psalms the people sang as they ascended to the Temple Mount. “Lifting their eyes to the hills” – this would mean as they ascended Mount Moriah, they would sing to the LORD. Mount Moriah is the mountain that Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, and was spared by God with a ram sheep. It is also the future place that Jesus the Son of God walked up carrying the Cross – we know this as Calvary’s mountain. Here there was no sparing of Jesus by the Father, for Jesus was/is the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.

The Jews were required to ascend to Jerusalem three times a year for the Feast of the Tabernacles [booths], the Feast of the Passover/Leavened Bread and the Pentecost. Obviously, the Temple during this time had to be the Temple of Solomon [David didn’t write all the Psalms, those Psalms 1-72, comprise his, other writers did the others]; or the Tabernacle which had been returned to Jerusalem by David in 2 Samuel. Regardless of the actual Temple; the Jews were to ascend up the Mount to worship the LORD God.

When I think of lifting “My eyes towards the hills” it causes me to think of how much time I look down on the ground. I am a penny picker upper. That means I find plenty of pennies because I look down a lot. The Psalms 120-124; have challenged me to lift up my eyes to the Lord more. Looking down really denotes my down trodden approach to my day. There is enough negativity in our society right now to make one hang their heads in disgust and defeat. Too much of the time we forget about our Lord God being on His throne and that He is working out His plan for our lives and the world we live in. Singing is good for the soul; looking up is good for the countenance. I like to look at stars at night; it overwhelms me to see the vast array of stars glistening in the night, and I am humbled that the God of the Universe and of all creation is even aware that I exist!

Singing is great for my demeanor, now I don’t sing well; but I like to sing. As Israel climbed up the steps to the Temple, they sang, you have to look upwards to climb the steps, lifting our heads and eyes symbolically to the Lord who we are going to worship. I take this to mean, get our focus right. Too many people rush into churches and expect to instantly be ready to worship – that doesn’t happen for me, and I’m sure doesn’t happen for most. My/our worship takes preparation of the soul and mind. To get into the frame of mind to worship.

“I was glad when the said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” I have heard that phrase so many times – We are going to the House of the LORD – He is on His throne, we are going there to come into His presence. We enter His gates with praise; we sing to Him a new song; our whole point of going in giving praise to the Lord. This point is missed today by a lot of churches and believers – we go to the house of the LORD for HIM; not for our pleasures. Consumer mentality in churches today is foreign from what God intended our “corporate worship” to be.

Our songs, our spirit our lives are to be “lifted up” to the Lord in worship. The trek to the top of Mount Moriah took some time; during that walk to the Lord’s House was meant to be a time of preparation. Look up – quit looking and thinking on the things of this world; refocus our thoughts and eyes on the LORD. Be prepared to meet the LORD God in His Sanctuary. I am sure that there were plenty of times that Israel /Jews went to the Temple our of ritual and routine – but the still went. Some of the most blessed times I have had in worship was when I really didn’t want to go – go anyway – meet the Lord in His House!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2018 Poetry

Hidden Your Word in My Heart

The Theme of this long Psalm 119 invariably relates to the WORD of God – the writer has repeatedly term such as: testimonies, precepts, ordinance, statutes, Word and commandments. I have been doing some research on the topic of “Spiritual Formation” – it basically boils down to sanctification working in the life of the believer; years ago we would have called it discipleship. With in Spiritual Formation is the premise of incorporating such things as fasting, prayer, bible reading , reflection and solitude. All this doesn’t sound like anything new. So why the new emphasis? Because while people are doing those things, their lives are not changed. Anyone can read and get head knowledge; but there should be a change in behavior. While I was doing my doctoral work and project, I had to remind myself of the tangible results I wanted to see in people after the project was done. Three things specifically I was looking for were cognitive learning, affective or change in the person, but finally a lasting behavioral change which indicated the incorporated what was learned into part of their lives. As Church people go – we can read and learn plenty of facts and stories of how God changed people or events; and at the same time miss completely the affect/effect it is supposed to have on us. The Psalmist continually talks of reading, meditating and incorporating the Word of God into his life. More than a ritual or routine approach to the Bible. The Word of God is powerful, it does have a divine effect on our souls when it is read and folded into our daily practice/living of life.

While it is wonderful to read how the Psalmist garnered the Word of God; depended on it for soul sustenance; I am not so sure that happen today in our hectic fast paced world. Do we read the bible, learn of God’s working; yet fail to see the significance the Word should have in our walk in this world.

Spiritual Formation has been called a movement; even has a Latin name attached to it lectio divina – “divine reading.” A Benedictine philosophy for spiritually nourishing the soul.  When investigating the Spiritual Formation one finds that while it presents a “normal spiritual growth process” it becomes almost like a monastic style of living without the monastery. I don’t mean to be critical of this “movement” but shouldn’t we already be doing these things?

I work and have a great interest in Church Revitalization, often in churches that are declining, drifting or dying one can find there is a “coldness” towards what the bible says and a desire to do what the Church says. I have written in one of my bibles, this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book! This pretty much sums up the Believer’s life. Even pastors must be cautious not to just read the scriptures for a “message” and to spend time for personal growth and discipline.

James 1:22 admonishes the believer not to be just a hearer but a doer also. To read the bible and not ask “what does this mean to me, and what changes is the Word indicating I must make;” is like Paul says “we look into a mirror and when we turn away, we forget what we look like.” In preaching classes, the preacher is always reminded tell the hearer what scripture says, but be sure to communicate what you want them to do – application in other words. If over the course of time the Church/individual has only read the Bible without applying it, hasn’t this become nothing more than a futile exercise of religion? The Believer is to have “Christ fully formed in them” – the Life of Christ is the difference maker for the sinner and the believer – His life [Jesus] being lived out Through Me – Galatians 2:20. If a person is trying to live the Christian Life without the power of the Living Christ in him/her – can’t do it. Only Jesus can live the Christian life!

The believer has been given the Written Word, the Spoken Word and the Indwelling Word. All three are essential to the Spirit Filled life. SO why is the movement of “Spiritual Formation” catching on with Christians? For the first time the are being “formed into the Son of God by the power of the Word and sanctification process. More of Jesus in more of me!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2018 Poetry

Do it Again LORD!

Psalms 119:107, 149, and 156 speak of being revived by ordinances, and Word. An ordinance is a decree, law, order or rule. I have read more than a few books on revival; two that have been most beneficial are Lewis Drummond and Walter Kaiser’s books. Kaiser indicates more of a pattern or formula for revival; while Drummond speaks of a “God revealed, driven revival.” Wilt thou not revive us again? Psalm 85:6-8 The Psalmist asks the question, will you oh Lord revive us according to you Word? it is apparent that many today do not even know what revival is. I have asked pastor and congregations “how many have ever experienced “God directed revival?” I have been astounded of how few have ever experienced it. We have debate today as in days past, is revival something that man can orchestrate or is it the Work of God only?

I have heard for years in the ministry of churches having revival services. But when I ask did revival come, there was the pathetic No. In John 3, Jesus says the wind blows where it will and no one knows. G.K. Chesterson has been credited with the saying about revival “Set the sail and wait for the wind to blow.” This makes sense for two reasons, we never know when revival will come; yet we must be prepared to receive it when the “Spirit blows.” This would appear that revival is more “caught” than brought.

The psalmist seems to know the answer of how revival occurs. Through the Word of God. Revival must be prayed through, the purpose may not be so much as to get revival, but to immerse oneself into the Word of God, and as a result of meditation, praying and consecration. Verse 105 – a well-known verse taught in children’s Sunday school classes – Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. In my previous blog entry, there was the discussion of departing from God in acts of rebellion which resulted in punishment and affliction. As a people, we are prone to wander, especially in good times or lack of conflict in our lives. It takes adversity at times to “drive us” back to the bible. I know even in my own life time, when a national or personal crisis occurs, man I beat feet back to the bible and God. However, our nation and churches are guilty of relaxing, or better said return to laissez-faire  lifestyle.

I am concerned for our present day culture, communities and churches; it seems that instead of running to God in distressful times, we have hardened our heart and refuse to return. Judgment looms for every person and institution if we will not return to our Lord.

Revival hurts, it means that repentance has occurred and that I am admitting that I have sinned and drifted from God. The Word of God has the power to restore, but also to cut with conviction. If there isn’t conviction for sin, repentance is not real. We can feel bad for what we have done in a moral sense; but unless we admit that our sin is a result of who we are and our hard heartedness; it’s just feeling bad, but not bad enough to do anything about it.

Revival has often been described as a formula from 2 Chronicles 7:14; however, I do not see this verse and a prescription for revival as much as I see it as a “description” of when revival happens. “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land. Sin is singular; sin of rebellion and unbelief – sin is a nature which produces sins in the flesh. There is a lot of work on the part of the believer before God hears our prayers and responds. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear my prayers.” Conviction [Word of God]; Confession with our mouth; Repentance  with our heart and restoration by God’s mercy and Grace.

If we neglect the Word – If the Word is not in us – why do we expect God to deliver us? People there is work to be done – and it begins with you and me!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2018 Poetry

Afflicted on Every Side

Psalm 119: Heth – Lamed; I know that is a weird way of starting this blog entry, but with the 119th Psalm and its construction, I didn’t know of a better way. As we continue reading this Psalm, it is evident by the repetitious words of “statutes, Word, Testimonies, Ordinances and Precepts usage, the focus is the Law -Bible. Repeatedly, the writer makes metaphors to the Law and describes it with various similes. I want to draw attention to the fact that the writer, loves the word of God; he knows that it is “like a two-edged sword” because when he reads it, like a knife it cuts with conviction and truth.

In verses 67, 71 and 75; the word afflicted is used and the writer is pleased to have been afflicted; knowing that his affliction has brought great benefit and restoration with the Lord. This makes a point for every believer; during the good times, we can become lax in meditating and reading the Word of God. In Hebrews 12:4-6 we find that God disciplines those whom He loves. Now I grew up during the time that it was not only right, but expected to correct/punish children and adults for improper behavior. In fact if my neighbors saw me doing something that was wrong [community law] he corrected me and told my dad. Without correction and or discipline, there is a vast amount of unruly children who someday become adults that act just like children, whining and bellyaching about not getting their way. Does this sound all too familiar of our present day culture?

The Psalmist understands that to be admonished, punished, corrected and disciplined was to be loved. We all have heard the phrase – spare the rod hate the child. While there does need to be more firm discipline and correction of obvious bad behavior, the whole point of discipline is to use the correct amount of punishment to bring behaviors back into alignment. I don’t know what the Psalmist did, but whatever it was “he was afflicted by God and he knew it.” Being afflicted can be for various reasons; it may be for wrongful actions, but also may be for strengthening, as was the case for Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9

Verse 75, in faithfulness you have afflicted me. In other words we will find God faithful in executing His responsibilities are our “heavenly Father.”  Something I learned, being a parent doesn’t have it limitations. After the children are married and gone with children of their own, I am still just as much a parent to them. The reason for the affliction is found in verse 65 – the child had gone astray – went their own way, as an act of rebellion. The Psalmist knows the Word of God; He knows it is Truth, it is righteous and that it is eternal – it won’t change with the winds of society or culture. There are times when the only way to teach a child a lesson is to allow them to endure hurt or hardship. God does the same to us, He isn’t a tyrant or an evil Father; but there are times when like the Prodigal Son who had to be let go so he could learn just how faithful and loving His Father was. Many believers do not grasp the mercy, grace and goodness of God until they are out in the world on their own – usually in direct disobedience.

Restoration is the purpose of the affliction in this case; having drifted away, the Father “nudges” us back. Obviously there are times when the nudge, or hint doesn’t work and more drastic measures have to be employed.

The Apostle Paul endured much hardship; not for doing wrong, but for the refining of his nature. Someone once told me that is God would have healed Paul’s affliction in the flesh, He would have lost Paul. So the thorn was used to keep Paul close to the Lord in dependency. The Psalmist desired the Word of God, to meditate and to gain discernment and understanding. The Psalmist see the treatment of affliction to have as its reward – Personal revival. A renewed joy of salvation.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2018 Poetry