Monthly Archives: August 2018

BECAUSE

Excerpts from Psalm 55 NIV
1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;  2 hear me and answer me.  My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught,
17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 18 He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days.  But as for me, I trust in you

This Psalm reads as if it must be the apex of David’s anguish.  I hope the remaining four on my list are not as intense.  My brain and my heart can’t handle it.  This powerful and imperfect king has given me an appreciation of what the desire to trust God so completely really looks like. These Psalms are sort of like reading David’s personal diary of ugly stuff.  Over and over no matter what, or whose, sin David was dealing with, his choice was to depend on God’s integrity not his own.

I can understand the need to write down his intense and troubling thoughts knowing no one else needed to know them.  I can imagine him reading and editing them at length to distill them into as truthful a representation of his faith before God as he could.  What is so much braver than I can imagine is his choice to write down the reality of his fears, flaws and failings to be sung from the mouths of others for heavens sake!

That’s enough to bring tears to my eyes as I type.  After 40+ years of following Jesus I still have ugly stuff.  I’ve not written it down for anyone to sing about but there are family and other people in my life who’ve seen what I couldn’t write and they surely could.  

These Psalms have become a lesson for me.  The  power of God was revealed  “for Heaven’s sake” in the imperfections of this king BECAUSE he knew exactly what to do with the ugly stuff!

Sovereign Reliability

Psalm 35 – Here are some verses grouped to show both David’s contentiousness and his wisdom in realizing his relationship to God was interactive. NIV

:1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. 3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. [AND] Say to me,  “I am your salvation.”

:4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay…8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. [AND] 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. 10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord?

:17 How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. [AND] 18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

:22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord.  23 Awake, and rise to my defense!  Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; [AND] do not let them gloat over me.

:26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. [AND] 28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.

David’s interaction with God was a private place where he could pour out his words of frustration and fear about circumstances beyond his control.  His words to God were often controversial, even contentious. It’s interesting to note these Psalms are filled with David’s contentious words AND they’re the same place he came to his undeniable certainty of the Sovereign reliability of God.

David knew God was there to “contend” [to fight] for him when his own righteousness was clouded by contentiousness and fear. Here’s the thing the giant slayer came to understand: Life is just another giant you can’t fight alone.  That’s the reality of Sovereign reliability.

No wonder David was a man after God’s own heart. 

Connection

Psalm 7:6 Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies.  Awake, my God; decree justice. 7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high.  8  Let the Lord judge the peoples.  Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. 9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.  10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

The NIV describes this Psalm as a “Shiggaion of David.”  The specific character of such a Psalm is no longer really known but perhaps it means a “wild, mournful ode.”  It certainly is a picture of a man who is so confident in his relationship with God he’s free to advise God and demand action.  It sort of feels like David is bossing God around doesn’t it?  David trusted so completely in God’s Sovereign reliability there was nothing he ever felt he had to hold back. He had an aggressive faith and a uniquely personal relationship to God.  That’s the connection between this Psalm and our story.

God ultimately chose to intervene in his global creation through the life of Jesus and with the Holy Spirit for one specific reason: to make that same kind of freedom, personal relationship and aggressive faith with the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God available to each of us. 

That’s †rust!

Ps 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!  Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

“Imprecatory Psalms, contained within the Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (תנ”ך), are *those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.” [Wikipedia] 

I had never heard the word imprecatory let alone of Imprecatory Psalms until this week. Here’s one of the lists I found: Psalms: 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139.  I began at the end of the list because I was more familiar with this Psalm. It had been meaningful enough to me that I’d written a song about it years ago.  When I reviewed the Psalm and my song I discovered I’d skipped right over verses *19 to 22* to the  last two verses pleading for God to search my heart and know me.  Now I’m surprised to discover he’s doing just that with those four verses I’d skipped back then.  

Skipping over those harsh “imprecatory” verses seems typical of the “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” mentality to me.  That mindset is more an indicator of not being willing to admit what God already knows I’m afraid to speak rather than of my own generous nature.  That’s the problem.

That’s what makes me think my reluctance to admit to, let alone speak, such harsh words to God may be his enemy using fake guilt to influence my heart with divided loyalties.  Is it  better to speak words and thoughts that sound so harsh and vindictive to God, than to not speak to him at all about them?  The reality is the only person I’ve been fooling is myself. 

I want my prayers to be like David’s.  I want my heart to be so certain of God’s Sovereign reliability that I am not afraid of the effect my hostile and harsh thoughts and words against his enemies and injustice will have on God’s opinion of me. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  That’s †rust!

The Seed

James 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Seed: a plant’s unit of reproduction, capable of developing into another such plant. 

Patience is a necessary thread that connects my mind to the idea of comparing faith, seed and farming.  James has been challenging me through this whole book as I’ve considered my √ list of traits for a believer.  Patience wasn’t even on my list but I see that it may well be the  seed that reproduces the valuable crop of endurance, need, mercy, personality, relationships, integrity, prayer and happiness in life.  Daily faith is more about seed gathering than crop production.  Plant the seed you have, pray for rain and stand firm.  The Lord will produce the crop.

Double √√

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √
Double √√

I’m struck by how complicated the life of a believer becomes with the reality of needing to submit [accept or yield], and at the same time resist [withstand the action or effect].  Submission and resistance are not as black and white as they may seem at first glance. 

We all know our response to those complications is critical but sometimes the right choice slips by unnoticed in a world of gray.  Ask the right questions.  Comfort can make submitting to the wrong thing seem easy.  Beware!   We’ve all experienced the futility of wasting our energy resisting the “right” thing.
Be aware! 

The right choice is all about the need to  double √√ who you’re submitting to and who you’re resisting.   Submit to the need to ask the right questions of the right person!  Resist the lie this is a simple choice based on comfort or effort. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Personality

James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds… 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Endurance √
Need √
Mercy √
Personality √

The big debate about his book has always been verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”  James has taken a lot of flack for those words.  The very human temptation is to make faith and deeds a competition of either/or but here’s how I fit that debate into my √ list of traits for the followers of Christ.  I think James is addressing personality.  

Personality is the fabric of our lives.  The weaving of that fabric is the key here for me.  The process of weaving is always the same: two distinct sets of yarns or threads [like faith and deeds] are laced together at right angles to form the strength of the cloth.  It’s Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that turns those threads into something more than a loose pile of strings when he weaves both faith and deeds into the fabric of a unique personality of one of his beloved. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”