Category Archives: 2018 Poetry

Wisdom, Women, Wine and Woes

Proverbs 20-24; Solomon continues to speak of Wisdom, beyond just knowledge and facts, but the proper implementing of what is known = wisdom. There is a constant contrast in the Proverbs between the Wicked and the Righteous – the wicked scoff at wisdom or life teachings and lessons,; whereas the righteous learn from and pursue understating of life and our Creator God through the wisdom insights about life. In Christianity I have found that many people/believers know  plenty “about” the scriptures, but lack the understanding of the relevancy to life, more specifically their own life.  Foolishness seems to be the dominant characteristic of the unredeemed. You and I have been accosted by people who think they know better than anyone else or the facts. “There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof is death.” Wisdom, the great desire of Solomon and the gift from Jehovah; Solomon as we find in Ecclesiastics has the ability to TEST all that the world has to offer and measure it against the knowledge and wisdom of God. In the end Solomon says that all is vanity – the truth is fear God and live Holy, that is what really matters.

Solomon uses almost a “barb” sometimes in these Proverbs to expose the wily desires and destruction of the wayward woman or wife. Two time Solomon talks about a “contentious woman/wife.” I wonder at this point how much Solomon was exposed to the inordinate wishes of His some 1000 women? Scripture indicates that he entered into many of these “marriages” for political reasons and alliances with neighboring lands. But Solomon speaks of the “temptress” who seeks to have a love affair with men, only to enact their downfall. Speaking of which – even this year there have been many men brought low because of the temptress tactics – both politically and spiritually. I wonder sometimes about the motivation and desires of the #metoomovement? I do understand and support the equality of women – I am a complementarian; we are all equal before God [Gal. 3:28], however God in His wisdom has outlined and identified the specific roles for men and women, especially within the Church body.

Moving on, the Wine topic. Scripture tells that Kings were not to drink “strong drink/wine” but the bible does not prohibit drinking of wine – only the excess of wine. I know this is a hot topic for most believers with a conservative position on the Bible; but let the scripture speak not the wiles of often misguided clergy. It is obvious to all of us that a drunken man/woman is obnoxious and usually a vagabond of sorts. Solomon ties the lazy or sluggard to one who has a lifestyle of drinking; especially in Proverbs 23:29-35. We live today as in the past in a cultural society that does not know or adhere to a “balance life,” but rather swings from one extreme to another. I personally do not drink – I know what it does to me [experiences from my youthful/rebellious days] and have chosen not to drink at all. I hold to what Apostle Paul said – he would refrain from his liberty if it would cause a brother to stumble.

The last W is woes – the sorrows for living out of the will of God. The unredeemed bring upon themselves by their choices a condition of consequences for their actions. I hear too often when things go wrong in life, the first place ridicule and blame is put is on God in Heaven. I know that God is long-suffering and compassionate; but I also know He is just. While there is forgiveness with the Lord – we are not to expect that the actions we put in motion will be wiped away. The Wicked will have woe, the Christian will also have woes, if they disobey the Word of the Lord and Wisdom.

So in life we are accountable for our actions; yes we have a battle with the flesh – but the Word of God, a pure Heart and a righteously motivated life God will bless. I cannot blame the Heavenly Father for my own rejection of His Word. God loves all, not all loves God. Yet He is willing that none should perish. His Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Simple enough, yet so many stumble over what God has written.

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Life Application

Beginning in Proverbs 19, the topic changes from contrasting a wicked/worldly life and a righteous/godly life to how to live out the God-honoring life. When preaching I always have to remember that it is one thing to share knowledge of the scriptures; quite another to give instruction on How to Apply the scriptures to our daily living. Knowledge in and of itself does not make life change. Wisdom the application of the knowledge is the vehicle to make life transformation. Just because I know about God doesn’t mean I fear or revere Him as My God. God’s Law given to Israel/Jews became a system of rules and regulations rather than a code of conduct for living. The Jews/Pharisees/Scribes missed the “Spirit or intent” of the Law and made keeping the Law the litmus test for righteousness. In the culture of society today we have a dual threat to holy living. First, the thought of “consumerism” – the idea that life exist for us to have pleasure without any accountability. Secondly, the ideological thought that a person/people “have entitlement” or in other words that they are owed a living or the expectations that they deserve whatever without any expectation of working or earning on their part the necessities of life. In American philosophy it is held that for every person there is the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Happiness is now not just to be pursued – be an expectation that the “life of happiness” is an entitlement that should be provided to them by others without any obligation on their part to achieve such status.

As a pastor for some 20 plus years; there has been at times a disconnect between what people hear, say they believe and what the practice. If we say we believe something from scripture and don’t practice it then we really don’t believe what we say we believe. James tells us to be “doers of the word, not hearers only – deceiving ourselves.” If we believe scripture it becomes part of our living, and find application in our daily life – this is called conviction.

Again the believer in Jesus Christ is admonished to “walk in the Spirit” and they will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The difference between believing scripture and living scripture is the space between our heads and our hearts.

Often living out our faith causes many conflicts, in our minds and in the world that sees us. In the world you will have persecution, but know that I have overcome the world. Jesus also said, if they listen to My words, they will listen to yours. As we live out our faith openly before the worldly and carnal, there will be and should be times of struggle and mind reasoning on whether we will be true to our profession of certain behaviors and beliefs. If our aim is to live successfully in this world, we will compromise on what our heart AND head tell us is right – I have said over and over to my congregation that salvation and Lordship of Jesus Christ has to mean more than a destination change. Salvation has to be more that just missing Hell, or the guilt for all our wrongs doings and sins. We must be prepared to live out the scripture according to the Holy Spirit within us. Yes it will mean that we are out of step with the rest of the world – in fact scripture warns us “Woe unto you when all the world approves of you.”

We are not to be of the world, yet we find our ministry and living IN the world. What a contrast and conflict – How do I live in the world without letting the world adversely affect me? It is difficult – walking by the Spirit, putting our daily lives in the control of Jesus – stay in the scripture, pray constantly, fellowship with other believers, attach to a bible believing God-Honoring church. Oh, I just gave you application of LIFE APPLICATION!

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The Upright and the Wicked

In Proverbs 10-18 we find the heading of the chapters identifying a continuing contrast between the righteous and the wicked. We could state this as the Lost and the Saved, but that wouldn’t hold true. I know believers that at times act like the lost and Lost acting more godly than believers. A better way might be the Worldly and the Godly. In our current culture, which has been identified as pro-Christian [I think it’s more pre-Christian again] the world is upside down. In almost every instance or life situation we find that there is a right and wrong that has been diluted – making people think that much of life [if not all] is full of gray areas. The moral, ethical, educational, gender, wealth, poor, social justice, marriage, divorce, abortion, right to bear arms and anything else we could talk about has become a battle field. In a bible study recently I asked the question is there right and wrong? Or do we really live in a gray area where every subject is up to the discretion of the individual? Solomon is very clear in distinguishing the practices of the wicked [worldly] and those of the Upright. Reading through these chapters an overarching theme is present – that of the mouth and lips. Over and over again Solomon relates the good or bad through the words echoed from the mouths of the person. It seems that Solomon is trying to make sure that we understand that what “comes out of a man” is what defiles him; indicating the condition of the heart.

I have found today’s cultural society is mind-blowing. I hear and see things that are both appalling and unbelievable. How depraved we are as people. I keep coming back to the verse in Judges 21:24 – “there was no King in the land, and every man did that which is right in his own eyes.”  Is it too late? Have we fallen into the abyss of wickedness everywhere, where there is no hope? Is this the last days? Are we to expect the imminent return of Jesus? All these questions come to me as a Pastor. Honestly, we are in the last days. Are we beyond hope? I would say no on an individual basis, but I cannot say that about the corruption of our nation, church and world.

There is the struggle with people and with me – do we become pessimistic or should we try to remain optimistic? When we read the Proverbs and the daily life scenarios presented – we have to keep in mind there is still choices to be made everyday by us. We can choose to love the Lord God and obey His precepts and Word, or we can reject Him and live for ourselves – knowing that judgement will be incurred.

Daily life is difficult when all things seem to be in order – Life becomes a daily battle of the Spirit and the Flesh when two worlds collide that of righteousness and wickedness. Wisdom and discernment is absolutely required to keep from falling into the wiles of the Wicked – i.e. Satanic forces.

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Proverbs Parenting

Last week was more of an introduction to Proverbs, written by King Solomon the heir of King David to the throne of united Israel. King Solomon is known for his many wives and concubines, his myriad of chariots and horses, the “Solomon mines” myth or reality story; our focus is on his Wisdom. At the request of God, Solomon was asked to request one gift or wish – He asked for Wisdom and God granted him the “wisest man ever” title with all the luxuries and wealth besides.

Where did he get the ability to know how/what to ask for? In Proverbs 4 we find that his father had been teaching and instructing him in the understanding of Wisdom. So when we wonder how Solomon knew to ask for wisdom rather than some other “human desire”, we find that he was following his father David’s advice.

Being a Proverbs Parent is difficult, especially in today’s cultural environment. There is a tendency to give way too much credence to youth and their ideas, than to give them the hard-earned and learned sage wisdom of living. Children of all ages do not need “friendly parenting” they need a strong loving and disciplining parent. I can already hear some saying “oh hear we go someone who is out of touch with reality is going to tell me how to raise my children.” Nope I’m going to let God’s Word do that. I remember growing up and hearing about a well-known author on parenting – Dr. Spock ring a bell? When i think of how many parents followed his advice [he wasn’t married and didn’t even have children when he wrote his parenting book]; how many bought into the ill-advice he promoted? We got plenty of Dr. Spock parented kids running around out of control as adults!  The christian environment has been trying to offset such teaching with things from James Dobson and others – Parenting By Grace.

Parenting is the hardest job anyone can do; and the results are eternal. I know as a pastor so many broken and dysfunctional families in and out of the church. Often I hear parents talk and say “I took them to Church, they attended the youth group, or went to Youth Camps” “I don’t know why they are they way they are – I’ve done everything!” Hummm, not to guilt trip parents but the youth minister, camps and weekly church activities do not suffice if they are not reinforced at home!

There is such a contrast between a “home schooled child” and a church schooled child.” Parents must talk about life with their children. I know it’s embarrassing; better to learn from you than from the kids at school. I grew up in a disciplining home; I did fear getting in trouble because I knew the consequences if I did. We wonder why children are rebellious, uncontrollable and flat out brats? Someone told me one time if you don’t like what your kids are acting like – look in the mirror! Ouch! Parenting with “I’m counting to three!; you’re going grounded and I will put you in time out – doesn’t work. Children need instruction from their parents; they need examples from their parents. Proverbs is a great book for self-reflection. The book is filled with adult topics of discussion for families.

There are warnings after warnings of what happens to rebellious, sensual, godless living. Life has repercussions – so does sin! We talk to our children about everything except the very topics they need to hear from parents not liberal teachers and street lawyers. The “Living for Me” attitude is catastrophic for the person and society. Immorality is not benign; pornography is not harmless – it is an opioid of addiction. Proverbs 6 is a great warning to both men and women about their sexual prowess. The sanctity of marriage is real – divorce is terrible and damaging to lives – Tell your children “Don’t Go There!” There could be volumes written on the attraction of beauty. Sensual living has its moment; but it also has its scars and disgrace.

I know this may sound like ranting and raving – but our society and our global are filled with the debasing of women, children and the homosexual agenda that promotes itself as “Born that way”  – “It’s how God made me” LGBTQA has been around a lot longer than just this generation. Remember the evil cities that were destroyed because of defiled men? It saddens me to think that my grandchildren are growing up in a world that has so inundated us with their ideological heresy that my grandchildren think that “alternate lifestyles” is a right. Proverbs gives every mom and dad the topics of discussions for their children. Talk about these topics from the vantage point of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Solomon isn’t the only one who can ask for wisdom and get – James 1:5 we can have it too!

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Proverbs -Daily Living all Month

I know the title is a bit weird, but when we look at the book of Proverbs, there are 31 of them which easily transfers to a month of reading.  When we come out of the Praise and Worship of the Psalms we tend to feel exhilarated a bit. Proverbs brings us back to reality. The book of Proverbs is the work of the Son of King David by Bathsheba – Solomon. Surprised, we shouldn’t be, God uses what everyone else says is nothing [1 Corinthians 1:20-31]

Proverbs, written by the wisest man ever is the daily application of the Word of God. In our culture today we have books and reports, investigations and research galore. The bible says that knowledge will increase and men will go to and fro, their hearts failing them for the stress – my paraphrase. So what is the difference between knowledge, wisdom, instruction, and application? Knowledge is just the awareness of facts and ideas. People have all kinds of knowledge, yet no nothing of how to apply it, much less understand what the information means. Wisdom is the understanding the WHAT and the WHY of knowledge. Wisdom does not come cheap, as we find in the Proverbs.  Instruction is the How the information and understanding fit together to achieve results. The last variable needed to put it all together is APPLICATION to life. I know many people who read a lot, know so much more than I and understand the significance of the information, yet can’t seem to get the life application for themselves.

Solomon does a great job with trying to communicate what God has blessed him with from his prayer. I don’t want to get too far ahead, but the book of Ecclesiastes was a test by Solomon to find out if there was anything in the world that rivaled God. He was in position to do so having abundant resources and unlimited opportunities. In the end he determined – Serve God all else was futile.

Our book at hand – Proverbs is a daily living manual for the believer. I often had to tell my girls growing up that “all that glitters isn’t gold.” Proverbs gives us the reality check for many issues and vices found in the fallen world. Sin can look so tantalizing, never revealing the full repercussions of sinful behavior in the end. Solomon is straight forwards about prostitutes and flirting by “ladies of the evening.” Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines. Yet he knows that his dad had an adulterous affair. I am not saying Bathsheba was a woman on the prowl, I am saying that men fall for the fleshly beauty of a woman! When Solomon writes about the wiles of woman and how they can tempt men – he is warning men STAY WAY! In our current day we have heard of so many men that have failed over wrongful sexual relationships in and out of the Church.

Solomon gives insight in to daily activities, then brings us the penalty and effects of participating is such behavior. Throughout the month we will be looking a so many of life’s vices and their failings effect on mankind.

On a personal note – Proverbs alone will beat you up about your life. That is why so many advocate reading other scripture so one doesn’t get beat into the ground. Again, Proverbs will hit us right where we live-if convicted, then repentance and restitution is necessary – readers beware, Proverbs will expose your life!!

Another way I could put the effect on its reader is – reproof. Read Proverbs in your prayer closet – get the work done that is indicated by the Holy Spirit. It is easy for us to say that we are okay – we haven’t done any of those things – Aright, then please read Matthew 5:21-48; then tell me you are perfect!

As we read, capture the Warning and the Application Solomon gives to us – prevention, abstention; good advice is hard to come by these days – don’t miss this time to reflect, repent and be restored. Oh that we had people talk to us about these things so many years ago!

 

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Hallelujah Chorous

We finish the Psalms this week, well almost – Psalm 150 is next week. But the point of the Psalms reading this week is about the crescendo that comes at the end of 150 Psalms – a shout of Hallelujah comes resonating from the Psalmist. David has given us a birds-eye view of his prayers and relationship with the LORD. The last fifty Psalms are called the Ascents and Halle; these were used to worship the Lord during the various feast celebrations. I noticed with these final praise Psalms there is almost a personalizing of creation. In Psalm 147:16-18 we have an extended look at the various ways water can be seen – further displaying the creative and artistic ability of our Creator God. Psalm 148: 7-12 gives a running flow of creation depicted in Genesis 1, and creations Praising of their creator. It almost seems like the Psalmist is trying to give a human personality to creation. Yet we have to know that Romans 8:20-22 tells us that creation groans and longs to for the day of its restoration. So a anthromorphistic connotation to creation besides mankind really isn’t out of bounds theologically.

In these final Psalms, we have a continuous Praising and singing – I have been asked “what will we do it heaven? Just Sing?” With all the music and worship wars here in American churches the last 30 years – we will have to come to grips that our audience is God and that He loves repeated choruses! See Revelation 5 and Isaiah 6.  The pleasure of our Lord is what we should seek. The last fifty Psalms are there on purpose – so many times we find that there is annotation about many of the Psalms – “Written for the Choir Director.” Today we have many song writers using the Psalms and other scripture for the lyrics of their songs. Yet I hear too often – I don’t like that music – Why can’t we have hymns!? Believers should sing the Word back to God. It is in the music sang for the LORD in Worship that prepares our hearts for the spoken word through pastors and teachers. If we are so focused on whether we like a song or not and get fixated on our displeasure – we have missed out on the pleasure of the Lord hearing our [your] voice sing praises to Him.

Pleasure – the greatest pleasure should not be our own; but the pleasure of someone else. Yes we need to be pleased with worship – but not to the point that it becomes all about us – musical likes and dislikes is deeper that personal tastes. The song is used to stir the hearts of those signing, and bring pleasure to the hearers. Make a joyful noise! Sometimes I think that we haven’t really gone too far – I remember the music wars in the 60’s and 70’s between parents and children. I’m talking about secular music – those that came out of the 30’s and 40’s had their own style of music – when something else came along – many times it was rejected because it wasn’t what people were use to. Do we really want to spend out time with God complaining about music that He loves to hears – yes God loves the music of all people – especially when it is praising from the Heart of His Child!

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Hunted and Haunted

In Psalms 140-144 we again get the prayerful writings of King David. The prayers are two-fold for David. He knows he is but dust; he is a fallen man and sinned against the God who continually loves him. When we pray and seek the face of God in our prayers; the Holy Spirit brings to our minds the sin and rebellion in our hearts and thoughts. These thoughts can and do haunt us for we know, God is righteous and He demands holiness; and we fail miserably. Yet he is also a hunted man for King Saul pursues him out of jealousy. It is one thing for believers to be haunted by their continual sins; past and present – quite another to know our conscience is clear and yet we encounter turmoil and tribulation. This is natural for the believer; yet we balk at the slightest inconvenience and complain. David in Psalm 142 cries out to God to hear him and answer his prayers. David who has been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s next king is being sought after by King Saul. The Spirit of God has left Saul – it only took a matter of about 18 months for Saul [the people’s choice] to fail terribly and experience the loss of God with him. Yet Saul will continue to reign for another 10 years or so. David has to wait; he knows the God has made him king. Saul has tried many times to kill David – the people are enthralled  with David – “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands.”  David has had at least two occasions to kill King Saul – See 1 Samuel 24. Saul is relieving himself in the cave opening; even David’s soldiers tell him to kill Saul – saying that God has delivered him into David’s hand. David only cuts off a piece of Saul’s robe. David says he will not come against the Lord’s anointed. I wonder how many pastors wish that sentiment from their congregations! But let’s look at this a bit more. David is in the cave because he is being hunted by Saul and his army. What has David done wrong? nothing the sadistic thoughts and raging jealousy of Saul are the reason David is on the run. How many of us could be like David? Our enemies are delivered right into our hands; yet we do nothing to harm those that mean evil to us?

In Psalm 143 David demonstrates an honorable humility in the way he understands that none could stand before God, righteous in our own right. Verse three revives the haunting of our sins. I had a time some years ago that the haunting and hunting came after me. It was relentless, I had nowhere to hide. The enemy pursued after all day and into the night. The enemy was right in his allegations; I was guilty; I was rebellious and had no defense. Satan is like that; he seek to kill and destroy – John 10:10a. After a period of some 38 days of unrentless conviction and accusations from the devil, I broke. When I say I broke, I mean I came undone. I was a helpless heap of humanity; in my brokenness my Hope, My Savior and Lord came to me in that most darkest hour of my life and “touched Me.” Jesus simply said – “Jim this is why I died for.” The greatest peace shot thought my flesh and bones. Before I was just trying to keep from going to Hell when I die. But now I was compelled and driven to live – yet not me living but Jesus IN me! I didn’t quite understand what the “Dark Night of my Soul” was all about for a few years. Then it came to me I was the prize. Satan desired to paralyze me for my past. Jesus liberated me from it. David was sought after by an enemy; to destroy him – Why – because of the possibilities of what God could do in and through us. I am not a King David, nor are you. But God has fought and won your soul! David turned to the LORD – you are my rock, my shield, my defender, in you and you alone do I take my refuge.

There are people I deal with daily that are being attacked, haunted and hunted by the Adversary. I would say to you don’t give up. Continue to live in Christ’s righteousness. Do not be overcome with evil – but do good to those who persecute you. Jesus has won – do not let the dark nights of your soul become a “haunting cave.” David went on after Saul died to be the greatest King Israel ever had. Had David dealt with Saul in the flesh I believe he would never have been the great King that he was. Always remember when the “why” keeps coming to you about your life situations,, realize God is in the middle of your situation.

 

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An Open Book

Psalm 135-139, specifically Psalm 139

A Man After God’s Own Heart –  have heard this statement about King David for years. I remember wondering why did God honor David so? A shepherd boy last of Jesse’s children; yet elevated to position of King over all of Israel. It will be upon “David’s throne” that the Lion of Judah – Jesus Christ will reign; honored by having 19 kings of one dynasty from the line of David sit upon the throne of divided Israel. Yet when I read the Old Testament about David I find many times that he failed. He failed to deal with Ammon’s rape of Tamar; he failed to address Absalom’s rebellion and attempt to usurp the kingdom from him; we know of the moral failure with Uriah and Bathsheba. Even Joab went somewhat unpunished for siding with Absalom against David. So why did God honor David so? Truly David was a man after God’s own heart. When we read the Psalms from this week there is a underlining position which David always returned to; that of being known by God and desiring intimacy with God. David was an open book before the LORD.

I visited Israel back in 1993; I was surprised by the memorial established with the sarcophagus of David. People thronged to it to worship and pray at this very old memorial setting. We know that many prophecies that are attributed to David find their fulfillment in Jesus. We know of the fear of the Lord versus the fear of Goliath; David trusted God even though there were many times of testing. David was exalted for his bravery and honor brought to Israel in defeating the Philistines. David was a human like all of us, yes he had many failings – but amidst the failing David knew that it was the right relationship – transparent relationship that was his strength.  We could look at Psalm 51 along with 139 and find that one shows a broken heart; the other 139; begs for transparency and intimacy. I wonder if we are willing to be an “Open Book” before the Lord? I don’t find this spirit within to many people. Most of the time we spend more effort in trying to hide our true self from others and even think we can hide from our Lord Jesus.

In Psalm 51; after being approached by Nathan about his sin; David breaks with conviction and repentance over his sin. Restoration is the order of the day in Psalm 51; David knows the struggle and conviction he has endured in the year between his sin with Bathsheba and Nathan’s rebuke. One can hear the gut wrenching ethos from David’s heart – search me, purify me, cleanse me, wash me, make me, create within me, restore me, deliver me Oh God for I have sinned against You.

I find that as a believer, we all struggle with sin; we know our lives should be “better than they are” we long for deliverance over our habitual sins; we practice Christianity and go to Church, read or bibles and try to muster up the strength to overcome our past and current sin. Our sins haunt us, they plague us and keep us living in fear of discovery. David didn’t care what others thought; I do not find cover up in him. Psalm 51 – a broken and contrite heart are the sacrifices David brings to God for his sins.

In Psalm 139 there is a different tone; David is keenly aware of the omniscience of God; it is ludicrous to try to hide from God, so don’t waste energy on trying. Here we find that David is intimately aware of the Presence of God not only in the created realm, but in the thoughts and intents of our hearts. David is overwhelmed by the “behind the scenes” work of God in his life. When we look back at our lives; we should be awed not by the things we have accomplished, but what God has done in and through us despite our condition as fallen humanity. I believe that we are all born at a very particular time in history; God has brought us together for “Such a time as this.” As David was God’s instrument then – we are to be today. David continually ask God to “search him, Try or test him, know my anxious thought – see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting Way.”

An Open Book – a well read book, some of our lives are like an Unopened Book; others are like a dog-eared well used book that has been read over and over again. Yet I believe we all should be the latter book – God knows that we do not live pristine lives – my challenge to all of us; will we be an OPEN or CLOSED book? A man after God’s own heart requires a heart that is open to all that God desires for us and a transparent intimacy with our Savior daily.

 

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Humble dependency

Psalm 131 will be the focus of this blog entry. Looking at Psalm 131; I couldn’t help but think of the line in a Clint Eastwood movie that says “a man has got to know his limits.” At the crux of this Psalm 131 we find humility. Now I don’t know about anyone else but this is the hardest of all Christian attributes to gain and maintain. I guess the reason is we like to have our egos stroked with compliments and praise. Being puffed up or arrogant usually doesn’t bode well for people in ministry. As I write this blog I have read several articles and reports about Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. To say this is devastating and disappointing is an understatement. Willow Creek has been a stalwart organization and ministry for thousands of believers. Bill Hybels has written great books on “seeker sensitive” groups. I was once overly impressed with Hybels when he discovered that Willow Creek after being evaluated was a “mile wide and an inch deep.” Hybels shut down the Willow Creek machine, for in the evaluation, it was discovered that the discipleship which was the flagship of Willow Creek was woefully substandard. I though very highly of Hybels for recognizing and shutting down operations until they fixed the problem. I don’t know what to say about all the allegations, so I won’t comment. Needless to say Bill is not the first nor the last of spiritual leaders to fall into sin. The bible is filled with men and women who have “skeletons” in the past. I recent wrote another article indicating that pastors and ministry people cannot allow the thought that they are bigger than the ministry itself. Others within my own denomination just this year have caused great hurt and disappointment. Frank Page, and Paige Patterson are two that quickly come to mind, I continue to pray for both of these men – knowing that except the grace of God it could be me!. Man is a sinner, we have a fallen nature; we must always remember that we are only one decision away from great failure.

In Psalm 131; the humility and genuine dependency on the strength and provision of the Lord ring with confidence ONLY in the Lord. Paul said he had learned that in whatever state to therewith to be content. But the writer here brings more than just a confidence in God, but also a great intimacy in relationship with the LORD. The picture of a child nestling a mother’s breast depicts this intimacy. The Psalmist goes on to describe this dependent intimacy exposing his heart of humility by not getting “airs” about himself; not boasting; to have haughty eyes or an arrogant heart. One of the decisions of most importance in ministry is to know what to engage in and what to stay away from. The Psalmist intentionally stays away from matters that “are too big for me.”

Too often in ministry there is the enticement to be known publicly, to have others know your name and to “be on the platform” at conferences. This all in a worldly sense tells you that you have arrived. Francis Chan did something a few years ago, that absolutely further raised my appreciation for him. He found that the “speaker’s circuit and platform personality” world got bigger and consumed him. He resigned his church, left the circuit and went to Indonesia for a year. He didn’t even preach for six months! He said he felt overwhelmed by it all and had to stop. Scripture says “woe unto you when all the world thinks highly of you.” Pride before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Knowing that this Psalm was written to be sung as Israel ascended to the Temple to worship, reminds us that we are not God. Idolatry worshipping something or someone other than God. We are but dust, that’s a good thought to remember when with more highly of ourselves than we ought [Romans 12:3].

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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

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Filed under 2018 Poetry