Christianity 201

April 19, 2017

Building from the Materials God Provides

Psalm 104:14 NRSV:

 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,

Today we’re paying a return visit to the website, Theology of Work. Many scripture references are embedded in the commentary today; feel free to click back and forth. (Suggestion: With most PCs, right-click and select “Open in New Tab.” This allows you to go back and forth more easily.)

Human creativity with God (Psalm 104)

From the beginning, God intended human work as a form of creativity under or alongside God’s own creativity (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:5, 15-18). Human work is meant to fulfill God’s creative intent, bring each person into relationship with other people and with God, and glorify God. Psalm 104 gives a delightful depiction of this creative partnership. It begins with a broad canvas of the glory of God’s creation (Psalms 104:1-9). This leads naturally to God’s active work in sustaining the world of animals, birds and sea creatures (Ps.104:10-12, 14, 16-18, 20-22, 25). God provides richly for human beings as well (Ps. 104:13-15, 23). God’s work makes possible the fruitfulness of nature and humanity. “From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work” (Ps. 104:13).

The work of humans is to build further, using what God gives. We have to gather and use the plants. “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle and plants for people to cultivate” (Ps. 104: 14, alternate reading from NRSV footnote f). We make the wine and bread and extract the oil from the plants God causes to grow (Ps. 104:15). God provides so richly, in part, by populating his creation with people who labor six days a week. Thus, while this psalm speaks of all creatures looking to God for food, and God opening his hand to supply it (Ps. 104:27-28), people still have to work hard to process and use God’s good gifts. Psalm 104 goes so far as to name some of the tools used for the work of God’s world—tents, garments, beams, fire, ships (Ps. 104:1, 2, 3, 4, 26, respectively). Intriguingly, the Psalm happily ascribes use of such tools to God himself, as well as to human beings. We work with God, and God’s ample provision comes in part through human effort.

Even so, remember that we are the junior partners in creation with God. In keeping with Genesis, human beings are the last creatures mentioned in Psalm 104. But in distinction from Genesis, we come on the scene here with little fanfare. We are just one more of God’s creatures, going about their business alongside the cattle, birds, wild goats, coneys, and lions (Ps. 104:14-23). Each has its proper activity—for humans it is work and labor until the evening—but underneath every activity, it is God who provides all that is needed (Ps. 104:21). Psalm 104 reminds us that God has done his work supremely well. In him our work may be done supremely well also, if only we work humbly in the strength his Spirit supplies, cultivating the beautiful world in which he has placed us by his grace.


© 2014 by the Theology of Work Project, Inc.; used by permission
Unless otherwise noted, the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.


Read another devotion from the same source: God’s Guidance in Our Work: Psalm 25


Because we often get first time readers, every few months we like to review our purpose statement:

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!


Introducing EMU Music. “Emu is a collaborative ministry focused on contemporary, Biblical, Christ-centered music in church. Founded in Sydney, Australia, and now operating throughout the world…” This is the 2nd most-viewed (in the last year) video on their YouTube channel:

This is their highest viewed song in the same period:

 

 

January 30, 2016

Psalms Provide Keys to Longed-For Happiness in Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Devotionals at C201 are usually either (a) original or (b) drawn from more recent writings of authors we’ve used before or (c) drawn from leads or running down various ‘rabbit trails’ of good devotional articles. Sometimes in running the trails there are some interesting discoveries. Today we introduce you to Alfred D. Byrd of Lexington, KY who has about a dozen-and-a-half blogs devoted to his various interests which include writing, microbiology, Christian theology, ancient history, American history, science fiction and horror!

In January he kicked off Happiness in the Psalms, a new blog devoted to the places in the Psalms where the writer provides us with an understanding of what it takes to be happy. (In your older Bibles, the word blessed might be used instead.) Happiness is something everyone longs for.

In selecting today’s reading, I read almost half of the devotions archived and I would encourage you to click the title below, and the select other readings from the margin on the left of his blog.

#6 The Right Confidence

Happy is the one who puts one’s confidence in the LORD and does not look for guidance to proud persons or those who turn aside to lies.

— Psalm 40:4

The road to happiness runs through trusting others. Seeking happiness, you must know whom you may trust, and whom you may not.

The Psalmist points out two categories of persons who will make you unhappy if you trust them. The first category consists of the proud, who, the Psalmist implies, will lead you astray from happiness.

Properly to interpret the Psalmist’s teaching, you should know that Scripture sees two kinds of pride, a right kind and a wrong. The right kind is rooted in a realistic appraisal of who you are in relation to others and to God. This kind of pride expresses itself through proper care for your body, your belongings, and your relationships, and through proper development of your abilities. This kind of pride in itself helps lead you to happiness.

The proud persons against whom the Psalmist warns us express the wrong kind of pride. This is a selfish, self-centered pride that falsely inflates the self-image of the person possessed by it. It leads that person to regard him- or herself more highly than he or she ought to in respect of others and of God. It leads the falsely proud person to value possessions over sharing, domination over friendship, and instant gratification over long-term well-being. Such a person, seeing you only as a means to an end, will ignore your need for happiness in favor of his or her distorted view of his or her own happiness.

False pride is based on a false assessment of who one is. It is no wonder, then, that the Psalmist follows mention of the proud with mention of the second category of those who will make you unhappy if you trust them, those who turn aside to lies. The person possessed by false pride is out of touch with reality. He or she is living a lie and must rely on lies to get from you what he or she wants. If you follow a person who has turned aside to lies, you yourself will turn aside from the way that leads to true happiness.

That way lies in putting your confidence in the LORD. He is the Source of truth, which alone can lead you to true happiness. He, the Creator of all things, is not consumed with the need to possess them, but shares them freely with His creatures. He, Who is both unimaginably far above and inexpressibly close to us, does not remain on His throne in the heavens, but comes down to us and lives among us to be closer to us than our own earthly relatives and friends are. He, Who is eternal, gives us rewards that are everlasting.

Only turning from false pride and lies to confidence in the LORD can give us true happiness.

February 22, 2015

The Bible on Depression

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During Sundays in February we’ve been visiting the blog Christian Fellowship Devotions.  Archives at the blog go back to 1996, and today I want to link you to their topical index.

For our final Sunday with them, I wanted to use an older item by Janice that deals with a topic I know is very real to many of you.  (I think by NNAS she is referring to the updated New American Standard.) Click the title below to read at source.

depression

Passages about Depression

Depression — it’s something many of us struggle with — yes, even Christians. Being depressed does not mean you are “not a good Christian.” In fact, some of the “heroes of our faith” went through periods of what used to be called “melancholy.” Sometimes depression is a result of sin, but at other times, it is as Christian psychiatrist Frank Meier says, simply “…the result of life stresses.” Here is a bit of what God’s word has to say about it.

Biblical Examples of Depression

Neh 1:3-4 (NNAS) They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Psa 13:1-3 (NNAS) How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.

Psa 102:9-11 (NNAS) For I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping. Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, For You have lifted me up and cast me away.My days are like a lengthened shadow, And I wither away like grass.

Prov 14:13 (NNAS) Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

What We Are to Do About Depression?

We should follow Nehemiah’s and the Psalmist’s examples, pouring our hearts out to God:

Neh 1:6-7 (NNAS) Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

James 4:8-10 (NNAS) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Find things to be thankful for, even in the most painful times. God will honor that.

1 Th 5:18 (NNAS) In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Share with a trustworthy friend. Let him minister to you.

Rom 12:15 (NNAS) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

February 9, 2015

When Your World Collapses

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You may have noticed that we tend not to use devotional material here that begins in personal anecdotes and stories. We tend to go straight to the hardcover exposition of the day’s passage or theme. But in this devotion, writer Katherine Harms interweaves her journey with Psalm 62 in a way that helps us relate to what the Psalmist is writing. Click the title below to read at her blog, Living on Tilt.

Stop and Think About the Bible

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

One day at 4:30PM my supervisor asked me to join her in her office. I sat down expecting an extra work assignment, because two days before she had told me my productivity statistics were the highest on the team. On this day, however, she laid me off. She held me in the office till all the other employees had left. Then she told me to clean out my desk and take my belongings home. Budget cuts. I was a great employee. Blah Blah. There are rules. Blah Blah. Last in, first out. I could not verbalize my need with the eloquence of the psalmist, but I knew what he meant.

Have you ever felt as if your heart were pouring out through deep wounds inflicted by unexpected disaster? Have you ever felt that you were melting away in fear of the future? What did you do? How does the psalmist face his debacle?

Before the psalmist reached this depth, he knew that anything was possible. Life threw him curve balls, just like my experience. He got ready ahead of time:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

How can the psalmist be so sure he can expect God in his hour of need?

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Psalm 62:6-7

I would have felt pretty sure of things before my supervisor spoke with me. I would have said that God is my rock, but when the bottom fell out of my world, I felt shaken, not like being on a rock at all. How does the psalmist remind me that I can still trust the Lord?

I have returned to the starting point. When trouble shakes our foundations, we may feel as if we are in a swirling storm. We need to go back to the sure rock, the refuge, the place where we can hide and heal.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

What will you do when you feel that your very roots are being pulled up by disaster? What will you do when the air you breathe is being sucked out of you by the vacuum you feel in your future?

My network was failing me. I even failed myself. I had believed that it was enough to give quality and quantity to my work. I could assure my own future. It was all in my own hands.

I turned to friends, but there was no help for me. I had built a career and earned every penny of my wages. Last in. First out.

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
Psalm 62:9-10

When my world turned upside down and dumped me on the street, I had nothing. Unemployment in my county was 18%. All the sure things in my life were falling apart. I had only one assurance.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

Have you experienced complete collapse? Have you watched all the supports fall apart? What did you do? What will you do?

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

June 18, 2014

Loricas: Genuine Prayers or Magical Chants?

Just when you think you know everything — no, I’m not being serious — you discover words and phrases that have been heretofore foreign to your Christian experience, and then face the task of deciding whether you are comfortable with incorporating them into your personal theology or Christian worldview.

This week I encountered a blogger who we have featured here before using the term lorica. A quick trip to Wikipedia offered this:

In the Christian monastic tradition, a lorica is a prayer recited for protection. The Latin word lorica originally meant “armor” or “breastplate.” Both meanings come together in the practice of placing verbal inscriptions on the shields or armorial trappings of knights, who might recite them before going into battle.

Notable loricas include Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride, which in its English translation provides the text for the hymn Be Thou My Vision, the Lorica of Laidcenn and the Lorica of Saint Patrick, which begins

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Okay. So far so good. After all the Bible offers many “prayers for protection” many of which are Psalms:

Ps. 17:1 Lord, hear a just cause;
pay attention to my cry;
listen to my prayer—
from lips free of deceit. (HCSB)

Ps. 64:1 Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity (KJV)

Ps. 140:1 Save me, Lord, from evildoers;
    keep me safe from violent people.
They are always plotting evil,
    always stirring up quarrels  (NIV)

Ps. 54:1 Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
    Defend me with your might.
Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Pay attention to my plea.
For strangers are attacking me;
    violent people are trying to kill me.
    They care nothing for God. (NLT)

So these texts might fit the definition of a lorica.

However, what concerned me greatly was that the Wikipedia entry was disambiguated (in other words distinguished from other uses of the word) this way: “Lorica (incantation).”

That’s scary. Dictionary.com defines an incantation as:

1. the chanting or uttering of words purporting to have magical power.
2. the formula employed; a spell or charm.
3. magical ceremonies.
4. magic; sorcery.
5. repetitious wordiness used to conceal a lack of content; obfuscation: Her prose too often resorts to incantation.

Even before I saw the last definition, I was reminded of this verse in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches:

Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

The problem here is that those who practice these repeated prayers believe the source of help lies in the repetition of the words themselves, not in a trust in the one to whom before the request is laid.

Many things might come to mind here, and perhaps the most obvious would be the Roman Catholic teaching that when praying the Rosary, or when carrying out penance for a confessed sin, one needs to repeat the “Our Father” several times and the “Hail Mary” many times. Over and over again.

On one of the Catholic cable channels, there are half-hour blocks consisting entirely of nuns and priests leading people in a constant repetition of the prayer to Mary. (That it is a prayer to Mary is a subject that will have to wait for another day.) Honestly, it’s neither great theology or great television.

But we do this as Evangelicals and Protestants as well; investing ourselves in the believe that our help is found in the prayer, when our help is found in God.  (I’m not talking here about the times when you are interceding in the middle of a serious or urgent situation; in those times, our focus is on little else, and so we feel we must apply ourselves to pleading with God.)

So what do we do with the idea of loricas? I think it’s a rather gray area. We don’t need believe in the prayer itself, or give special significance to special prayer forms, we simply need to bring our concerns before our Heavenly Father.

I John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.  (NASB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2013

Reasons to Praise God

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Today’s thoughts are from the blog Filled with God’s Fulness by a writer who simply goes by the name Gracious. In reading this in preparation, the thought occurred to me that I have fallen out of the habit of simply offering praise to God that is not motivated by circumstances; simply taking time to express something back to God that goes beyond the emotions of a specific moment.  Click here to read this at source.

Why You Must Praise God

If we are to praise God effectively, we must know and have a reason for doing so. The popular saying goes: ‘where purpose in not known, abuse is inevitable’.

When we don’t know why we must praise God despite our prevalent challenges, it is possible that we might abuse such virtue, express ingratitude and become unappreciative.

Let us learn more reasons we must praise God so we can do it confidently and effectively.

1. Praise God for who He is. Psalm 48:1 He is God, the maker of all things. He is our father and friend. He is our sustainer- He sustains us even when we have nothing to rely on. He is the ultimate and final authority over our lives. It doesn’t matter who said nor did anything to us- God is the final authority over that situation.

He is God, He is not a man. He doesn’t change.

He is ever faithful. He is the, I AM.

2. Praise Glorifies God. When you praise God, you glorify Him. Psalm 50:23  Do you want to see God’s glory? Praise Him!

3. God commands Praise. Romans 12:1 All through the Scriptures we see different commands as regarding our praise and worship to God. ‘Praise God, Make known His praise, offer and give yourself to God.’

4. Praise God for all His benefits. Psalm 103:2. His grace, infinite love, mercies, protection, provision, health, redemption, family, life, job, home- all His benefits to you and those you love.

Praise Him for all the benefits and display of love you have enjoyed.

5. Praise Him for His Goodness and for His works. Psalm 107:21. If the Lord has been good, kind faithful and loving to you in any way, then you owe Him your praise.

6. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Psalm 150:2. Praise Him for all His acts of love, redemption plan and mercy. Praise Him for all the miracles, healings, deliverances, divine provision, and protection and any other act you have experienced personally and have seen in the lives of other believers.

7. God is worthy of our Praise. 2 Samuel 22:4, Revelation 4:11. Even if you do not have anything physical or tangible thing to praise God for, He would still deserve your undivided praise and worship even till the next age.

God has given us all things He owns, all that He is, Himself and all things that pertains to life and godliness.

You know the saying: ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion’? But we are neither dogs nor dead lions. We are God’s most treasured and priced creature. He put all that He is and had to make us.

For the fact that we are alive and have everything working well alone, He deserves our highest praise. Whatever our situation is or challenge we face, as long as it has not taken our lives or robbed us our salvation; then God deserves our highest praise.

8. Praise magnifies God.

9. Praise is proper and comely.

10 God dwells in our praise

11. Praise generates power.Praise moves God to begin to act on our behalf. Praise provokes prophecy, Psalm 89:3-5. God speaks more often when we praise Him than He does in prayer.

12. Praise brings our heart desires. Psalm 37:4. Praising God is one way we can receive immediate and instant answer to long years of prayer.

Worshiping God produces more effective and instant results, and solution to problems.

There are various instances of miracles, healing and met expectations in the Bible that occurred as a result of worship and praise. We can see it in Mark 7:24-26, John 11:32-34, and John 6:11.

13. Praise precedes victory. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-29, we see practically how God used the praise of His people to procure victory against the Moabites and Ammonites. Do you want victory over the battles in your life? Praise God.

SO, my Friend, what reasons do you have to praise God? Praise Him, and praise Him NOW!!!

Here’s another article from the same blog: Five Good Ways to Praise the Lord (Some of you might #4 a bit of a stretch!!)

November 13, 2013

To The Chief Musician

Although many of the Bible’s books are poetic in nature, you don’t see a proportionate number of contemporary writers using that form. But there are a few Christian blogs devoted to poetry. Yesterday, I discovered CHRISTian Poetry by Deborah Ann.  Here’s a sample:

Did You?

Did you feel the Lord’s hand,
in your life today
did you feel Him gently
nudging you His way?

Did you feel His tender touch,
in your soul today
did you notice Him tenderly
guiding you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s breath,
in your ear today
did you hear Him softly
calling you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s love,
in your heart today
did you sense Him quietly
beckoning you His way?

Did you feel the Lord,
in your life today
did you know He wants you
to always feel this way?

At the end of a long day, I found that poem to be quite challenging. Poetry has a potential that prose does not. But in our society, we don’t have a lot of poets, what we have instead is songwriters. They are our modern poets. But despite the evocative nature of music, we often minimize its power.

The Bible’s best known book of poetry is Psalms, but we forget that Psalms is really a book of song lyrics; the songs were sung and in some cases the title of the song tells us a tune name. It would be interesting to know what those tunes were, but perhaps its for the best that we cannot force the Psalms to be associated with a particular musical genre.

Many of the Psalms were written by David. His songwriting career got off to a slow start, performing before an audience of one, i.e. Saul.

I Sam 16:14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the Lord tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

But perhaps the best worship we can offer today is when it is performed before an audience of One, i.e. the Lord.

Of this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

…Only his instrumental music with his harp is mentioned, but it should seem, by the account Josephus gives, that he added vocal music to it, and sung hymns, probably divine hymns, songs of praise, to his harp. David’s music was Saul’s physic.

[1.] Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind, when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of his spirits, 2 Kgs. 3:15. On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and, probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit, but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal spirits by which the devil had advantage against him… Music cannot work upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access to the mind.

[2.] David’s music was extraordinary, and in mercy to him, that he might gain a reputation at court, as one that had the Lord with him. God made his performances in music more successful, in this case, than those of others would have been. Saul found, even after he had conceived an enmity to David, that no one else could do him the same service (1 Sam. 19:9, 10), which was a great aggravation of his outrage against him. It is a pity that music, which may be so serviceable to the good temper of the mind, should ever be abused by any to the support of vanity and luxury, and made an occasion of drawing the heart away from God and serious things: if this be to any the effect of it, it drives away the good Spirit, not the evil spirit.

The second point reminds us that the powerful potential of music and poetry can be used for things that are spiritual profitable, and things that are spiritually harmful.

We have to decide what we allow to shape us.

April 24, 2013

The Heavens Are Trying To Get Your Attention

Today we’re featuring Charlie LeHardy, who writes at AnotherThink.  At first look, this particular devotional article may seem somewhat elementary, but allow yourself to dig a little deeper with this.  You’re encouraged to read this at source, where it appeared simply as Look Up!

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
— Psalm 19:1-4, NLT, a Psalm of King David

On Tuesday night, my friend Parks set his camera up on a hillside and captured an image of the comet Pan-STARRS, below. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I attempted the same thing, but failed to even see the comet much less get a photo. Millions of people around the globe saw the comet, but not me. Thousands of people on every continent photographed this visitor as it passed by, but I completely missed it.

The problem, of course (aside from my bad eyes) is that while the heavens are busy proclaiming the glory of God, they do it silently and subtly. What I needed were icons, arrows, and flashing pop-up messages in the sky. If I had been wearing one of those Google Spectacle™ gizmos, I could have turned my head in the general direction of the comet Pan-STARRS and an animated Google Doodle™ would have directed me right to it. Oh brave new world.

Because the heavens “speak” of God’s glory “without a sound or word,” their message is admittedly ambiguous. As David looked up at the night sky, especially on those long night watches in the fields as a shepherd, he had the time to really study what he was seeing, time to ponder what it all meant. He saw beauty. He would have observed the way the stars moved across the sky night after night, always returning to their places for the next night’s performance. He saw the faster-moving planets, the cyclical phases of the moon, streaking meteors, perhaps even a comet or two. When you take the time to look deep and long into the night sky, the universe seems almost alive, immense, ordered but sprinkled with random acts of unpredictability and surprise.

In all that wondrous beauty and ordered chaos, David saw God at work. But what about today?

Well, for one thing, half of us live in the midst of so much artificial light pollution that we never see the stars at all. And even when we might have a chance to look up, there are so many wondrous things dragging our gaze downward that we seldom do.

I ate lunch yesterday at a Thai restaurant with some friends, and during the meal I noticed a table of four young men, all with their heads bowed. I smiled, assuming they were praying together. On closer inspection I could see that each of them was hunched over his smart phone, oblivious to the others sitting nearby, lost in the artificial wonders to be found in a tiny glowing screen.

That may be an apt metaphor for our times: the heavens still declare the glory of God, but we’re all engrossed in our cell phones, too busy surfing and chatting and tweeting to look up.

God is speaking. Are you listening? God’s glory is displayed in the heavens. When was the last time you paused to look up?

Here’s a classic worship song from The Maranatha Singers’ Psalms Alive project based on today’s text:

April 23, 2013

By The Rivers of Babylon

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There are many verses that are used in sermons on music in the Church, but this one rarely comes up in a discussion on worship:

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our lyres, hanging them on the branches of the willow trees. For there our captors demanded a song of us. Our tormentors requested a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Psalm 137: 1-4 NLT

“C’mon. Sing us one of your camp songs. Sing us some Chris Tomlin. Let’s hear some classic Maranatha! Music choruses. How about some Hillsongs? Know any Graham Kendrick?”

That would be the modern equivalent(s). I think it’s interesting that they were taunted in terms of their music. Made to sing at a time they didn’t feel like singing.

The last verse really states the challenge facing us in these times:

But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Turf was important to the Jewish nation. Land was history. Land was security. Land was a medium of exchange. When you are people of a land, a territory, a nation; captivity doesn’t fit well. Finding yourself on someone else’s turf is like wearing someone else’s clothing. Going by someone else’s name. Speaking someone else’s language.

Some days you don’t feel like singing. Some days it just feels all wrong.

But then:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill upon the harp.

Psalm 137:5 NLT

It’s like a giant “nevertheless.”

Spiritually speaking, as Christians we live in an occupied territory. The challenge of singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land is our challenge.

Nevertheless…


Bonus item today:

The church I grew up had a huge missions conference every year in which every available bit of wall space was covered with banners sporting all manner of quotations and slogans.

The one that is most memorable is:

Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?

I’ve often thought about that. It does seem a bit unfair that North Americans experience so much exposure to the gospel message while in other parts of the world people are still waiting to hear this message for the first time.

Sometimes it amazes me that anyone in any part of the world ever gets to hear the gospel. What I mean is this: It is truly amazing that such a message of good news even exists.

Philip Yancey quotes Walter Wink saying:

If Jesus had never lived we never would have been able to invent him.

I would add:

If this gospel of grace, forgiveness, atonement and justification had never been invented, no fiction writer, no playwright, no artist  would have ever been able to compose it or conceive of it.

That’s good news.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last I shall see
‘Twil be my joy through the ages
To sing of his love for me.

April 6, 2013

Stones of Remembrance

This appeared a few weeks ago at Brilliant Perspectives, the blog of Graham Cooke, this article is written by Allison Bown. To view this at source, with an additional personal application from the author,  click here.

Remembering is essential in encouraging ourselves in the Lord. David did it often. In Psalm 77:10-11,

“And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. ”I will remember the works of the LORD. Surely, I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Graham (Cooke) has said that faith is cold blooded on days – an act of our will, not of our emotions – and that’s what I see in David’s words here. (Check out Psalms 42, 63, 78 & 111 for more examples). Meditating on God’s previous faithfulness and goodness strengthens us in the Lord.

Joshua knew this truth too. In Joshua 4, he followed God’s instructions to take 12 stones as they crossed the Jordan to build a memorial on the shore of the Promised Land. God wanted future generations to ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” and their elders were to tell them the stories of God’s deliverance from Egypt and of His faithfulness in the wilderness.

But Joshua took it one step further. He made it personal. In verse 9 it says,

“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”

Why? Why did Joshua do it and why did the Holy Spirit include it in the story?

On the day that his apprenticeship ended and his destiny was validated by God in the sight of all Israel – I believe Joshua wanted to remember. What if each stone was a memory of God’s faithfulness? In the wilderness …in the days of living in the tabernacle…growing up under Moses’ mentorship… with his friend Caleb…

Lost in the the vast crowd of Israelites crossing over, was Joshua able to set up his own private “thank you” to the God who had been so constant in his life for over 40 years? I think so.

Graham has often talked about the power of thanksgiving, to still our souls and to expand our hearts to hear and see all that God is doing. Thanksgiving is how we enter into the presence of God. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Ps 11:4). Not through study or effort… but through thanksgiving, which always leads to praise. How could it not?

Remembering the goodness of God has saved my life on many occasions. It has kept me in the “land of the living” (Ps. 27) when nothing else could. It has given me courage to fight and has been the Holy Spirit’s favorite way to bring comfort and make me smile.

I have a journal in which I record my thanks, usually just in a short sentence. On challenging days, I pull it out and read it out loud to God. Just the weight of the accumulated goodness of God has the power to give me a higher perspective of my circumstances. *Around my office are objects that remind me of our journey together. Each has a story of goodness that goes with it, and while many seem to be simple decorations, they are stones of remembrance that encourage me.

I’ve often imagined Joshua stopping by the Jordan in the years that followed, possibly after the not-so-great days. Off in the distance, there may have been a family gathered around the visible memorial stones that commemorated Israel’s beginnings. But I think Joshua preferred to spend his time looking at the smooth waters of the Jordan, remembering the hidden memorial of personal thanks that lay just below the surface and the faithful God who inspired it.

When it was time to go, he was encouraged and strengthened. Stones of Remembrance seem to have that effect, both then and now.

~Allison Bown

November 18, 2012

Worship in the Psalms

The blog Fresh Read is working through a study of The Psalms and provides some excellent online devotional commentary. Here are two recent posts, one dealing with Psalm 146 and the other with the first verse of Psalm 147. Click the title for each to link directly and locate other entries.

Together & Alone – Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live

Psalm 146:1-2 (NIV_84)

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word.  It is a verb that calls us to Praise the Lord.  It is possible in Hebrew to have verbs for an individual or for a group.  This word is for a group.  It means, “Let us, together, praise the Lord.”

While Israel lived in tents, before they entered the Promised Land.  They would put the Tent of God in the middle of all their tents.  Each tribe was arranged around the tent of worship.  God was at the center of their community.  (Numbers 2)

When they enter the Promised Land they put the tent of worship in one place.  Later Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem.  The people would come from all over to worship God in this one place.  They worshiped together in Jerusalem.  (Psalm 48)

Worshiping God is something that we do together.  Hallelujah is a command. It calls us to get together, and to worship God together.  You could watch a church meeting on TV or on the Computer.  You could stay at home with a cup of tea and be part of a church service.  You could go to TV church in my pajamas.  It would be much easier when it snows here in Wisconsin?

“Hallelujah” is a call to meet together.  His people honor the Lord when they meet together.  They show that God loves many people and many kinds of people when we meet together.  They give each other encouragement when they meet together and say “Welcome.”  And when they say, “Praise the Lord.”

It is also important to praise the Lord alone.

In verse 1 the Psalmist speaks to his own soul.  He says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

In verse 2 he says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live.”

These verses are for the individual.  The bible has stories about how God looks on the heart, not on the outside.  David was chosen to be king, even though he was the youngest in his family, because his heart was strong for the Lord.  Isaiah spoke in warning of those whose lips offered praise, but their hearts were not in it. (Is 29:13)

It is important to Praise God together. It is also important to  praise God from the heart.

There is balance in the pronouns.


Why Worship? Psalm 147:1

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

We gather to praise the Lord together.  Have you ever wondered why?  Maybe it is a tradition – your parents and their parents did this.  But there are better reasons than simple repetition and tradition.

This psalm says that praising the Lord is good, pleasant and fitting.

It is good in many ways.  Only the ungrateful do not give thanks for a gift.  We all think it good to thanks our parents, to thank a vet, to thank a neighbor who lends a hand.  It is good because there is not harm in it, not sin.  It is good because Praise realigns our hearts from despair or doubt – when we praise we remember what God has done.

It is pleasant. Isn’t it delightful to hear good music?  Don’t you enjoy singing a great old hymn, even if you have more enthusiasm than skill?  God desires that our walk with him is delightful and pleasant.  We are not called to be grim, sour legalists.  We are called to live in delight.

It is fitting.   Sooner or later you will run into someone who says that this is all a waste of time.  Why are we here praising God when we could be doing something useful?  During the Civil War the army wanted to close churches and turn them into hospitals.  Lincoln stopped this idea because he said that a nation has to have a place to pray, especially in times of distress and danger.


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August 9, 2012

Seven Penitential Psalms

Most of us are familiar with Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance following his affair with Bathsheba. But we’re less familiar with the idea that there are actually seven ‘penitential’ psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143; although Psalm 102 does not contain a specific confession of sin.  Here are the seven, each from a different translation, with key verses underlined:

Psalm 6

New International Version (NIV)

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Psalm 32

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Our God, you bless everyone
whose sins you forgive
and wipe away.
You bless them by saying,
“You told me your sins,
without trying to hide them,
and now I forgive you.”

Before I confessed my sins,
my bones felt limp,
and I groaned all day long.
Night and day your hand
weighed heavily on me,
and my strength was gone
as in the summer heat.

So I confessed my sins
and told them all to you.
I said, “I’ll tell the Lord
each one of my sins.”
Then you forgave me
and took away my guilt.

We worship you, Lord,
and we should always pray
whenever we find out
that we have sinned.
Then we won’t be swept away
by a raging flood.
You are my hiding place!
You protect me from trouble,
and you put songs in my heart
because you have saved me.

You said to me,
“I will point out the road
that you should follow.
I will be your teacher
and watch over you.
Don’t be stupid
like horses and mules
that must be led with ropes
to make them obey.”

10 All kinds of troubles
will strike the wicked,
but your kindness shields those
who trust you, Lord.
11 And so your good people
should celebrate and shout.

Psalm 38

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

A psalm by David; to be kept in mind.

  O Lord, do not angrily punish me
or discipline me in your wrath.
        Your arrows have struck me.
Your hand has struck me hard.
No healthy spot is left on my body
because of your rage.
There is no peace in my bones
because of my sin.

My guilt has overwhelmed me.
    Like a heavy load, it is more than I can bear.
My wounds smell rotten.
They fester because of my stupidity.
I am bent over and bowed down very low.
All day I walk around in mourning.
My insides are filled with burning pain,
and no healthy spot is left on my body.
I am numb and completely devastated.
I roar because my heart’s in turmoil.
You know all my desires, O Lord,
    and my groaning has not been hidden from you.
10 My heart is pounding.
I have lost my strength.
Even the light of my eyes has left me.

11 My loved ones and my friends keep their distance
and my relatives stand far away because of my sickness.
12 Those who seek my life lay traps for me.
Those who are out to harm me talk about ruining me.
All day long they think of ways to deceive me.
13 But I am like a person who cannot hear
and like a person who cannot speak.
14 I am like one who cannot hear
and who can offer no arguments.

15 But I wait with hope for you, O Lord.
You will answer, O Lord, my God.
16 I said, “Do not let them gloat over me.
When my foot slips,
do not let them promote themselves at my expense.”
17 I am ready to fall.
I am continually aware of my pain.
18 I confess my guilt.
My sin troubles me.

19 My mortal enemies are growing stronger.
Many hate me for no reason.
20 They pay me back with evil instead of good,
and they accuse me because I try to do what is good.

21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
O my God, do not be so distant from me.
22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my savior.

Psalm 51

The Message (MSG)

Psalm 51

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!

Psalm 102

New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Lord, hear my prayer!
    Listen to my plea!
2 Don’t turn away from me
    in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen,
and answer me quickly when I call to you.
For my days disappear like smoke,
and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning,
I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.
I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
My enemies taunt me day after day.
They mock and curse me.
I eat ashes for food.
My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
For you have picked me up and thrown me out.
11 My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
I am withering away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
Your fame will endure to every generation.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem—
and now is the time to pity her,
now is the time you promised to help.
14 For your people love every stone in her walls
and cherish even the dust in her streets.
15 Then the nations will tremble before the Lord.
The kings of the earth will tremble before his glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
He will not reject their pleas.

18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.
19 Tell them the Lord looked down
from his heavenly sanctuary.
He looked down to earth from heaven
20     to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to release those condemned to die.
21 And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
his praises in Jerusalem,
22 when multitudes gather together
and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.

23 He broke my strength in midlife,
cutting short my days.
24 But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
don’t take my life while I am so young!
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
and made the heavens with your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain forever;
they will wear out like old clothing.
You will change them like a garment
and discard them.
27 But you are always the same;
you will live forever.
28 The children of your people
will live in security.
Their children’s children
will thrive in your presence.”

Psalm 130

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

  Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Psalm 143

New Century Version (NCV)

 1 Lord, hear my prayer;
       listen to my cry for mercy.
    Answer me
       because you are loyal and good.
 2 Don’t judge me, your servant,
       because no one alive is right before you.
 3 My enemies are chasing me;
       they crushed me to the ground.
    They made me live in darkness
       like those long dead.
 4 I am afraid;
       my courage is gone.

 5 I remember what happened long ago;
       I consider everything you have done.
       I think about all you have made.
 6 I lift my hands to you in prayer.
       As a dry land needs rain, I thirst for you.
                         Selah

  7 Lord, answer me quickly,
       because I am getting weak.
    Don’t turn away from me,
       or I will be like those who are dead.
 8 Tell me in the morning about your love,
       because I trust you.
    Show me what I should do,
       because my prayers go up to you.
 9 Lord, save me from my enemies;
       I hide in you.
 10 Teach me to do what you want,
       because you are my God.
    Let your good Spirit
       lead me on level ground.

 11 Lord, let me live
       so people will praise you.
    In your goodness
       save me from my troubles.
 12 In your love defeat my enemies.
       Destroy all those who trouble me,
       because I am your servant.

 

January 11, 2012

The Way of Jesus is not The Way of Perfectionism

Psalm 51
The Message
 1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
   Scrub away my guilt,
      soak out my sins in your laundry.
   I know how bad I’ve been;
      my sins are staring me down.

 4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
   You have all the facts before you;
      whatever you decide about me is fair.
   I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
      in the wrong since before I was born.
   What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
      Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

 7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
      scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
   Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
      set these once-broken bones to dancing.
   Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
   Don’t throw me out with the trash,
      or fail to breathe holiness in me.
   Bring me back from gray exile,
      put a fresh wind in my sails!
   Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
      so the lost can find their way home.
   Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
      and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
   Unbutton my lips, dear God;
      I’ll let loose with your praise.

 16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
      a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship
      when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love
      don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Eugene Peterson:

The attempt to impose perfection on either oneself or another, whether parent on child, pastor on congregation, CEO on a company, teacher on student, husband on wife, wife on husband, is decidedly not the way of Jesus.

And how do we know?  In large part because of David, the ancestor of Jesus, who was unembarrassed to be called Son of David.  David provides a large chunk of the evidence that disabuses us of the idea that perfection is part of the job description of the men and women who follow Jesus.  More narrative space is given in our Scriptures to the story of David than to any other single person, and there are no perfectionist elements in it.  The way of David is, from start to finish, a way of imperfection.

… David was a person of prayer.  As it turns out we wend up knowing far more about David’s dealings with God than we do about his dealings with Goliath and Saul, Jonathan and Abigail, Bathsheba and Tamar. And we kneed to know this, for God is the large, totally encompassing reality in which “we live and move and have our being.”  John Calvin described the Psalms as “an anatomy of all the parts of the sou.l”  We will never understand the first thing about who we are and what we are doing if we know ourselves only from the outside. Not that the inside can be understood apart from the outside (nor the outside apart from the inside.)  We need access to both: the story and the prayers. And we have both. There are some ancient manuscripts in which copyists left a gap after each incident in David’s life into which the reader could insert an appropriate Psalm, praying his or her human action into God’s presence and action.

There is not the slightest effort given in the biblical story to make David admirable in any moral or spiritual sense. And yet there is the assumption in all of this that flawed and faithless and failed as is he is, he is representative — not a warning against bad behavior but a witness, inadvertent as it was, to the normalcy, yes, the inevitability of imperfection

The Jesus Way, pp. 79-82

June 14, 2011

After That He Took The Cup…

While reading through the Psalms, Cindy at Cindy by the Sea gets some new insights into Passover…  There’s much more than that here as well, you might want to click the link at the very bottom and catch up on previous installments of this study…

“Who shut up the sea behind doors, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment, and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it, and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther, here is where your proud waves halt?’”  Job 38:8-11

God separates light from dark, sea from land and the righteous from the unrighteous.

————————————

Yesterday afternoon, I went out shopping and when I returned to my car, I found the following hand written words scrawled in blue pen on a white sheet of paper and attached to my windshield –

“Please do every one a favor and learn how to park!’  Signed, “the public.”

Indignant, I looked at the note and then at my tires and sure enough, I was parked a little over the line; well, maybe just a little more than a little, but, not that much!  I then glanced around at the cars parked near me and wondered who had the gall to write such a note and who would make such a big deal out of such a small thing.  After all, I had only gone a little over the line.

It didn’t occur to me until this morning, that my little parking episode had provided the perfect opening for today’s post.

————————-

When I started researching these Psalms, I came across a foot note in my Bible that really excited me, a foot-note, which at least for me provided the key to understanding the prophetic implication of this particular group of Psalms.

According to my foot-note, Psalms 113- 118, (the Egyptian Hallel)  is broken in to two parts, when read at Passover. The first two Psalms (113 & 114) are recited before the pouring of the second cup and the last three Psalms (115-118) are recited before the filling of the fourth cup.  Now this is very important. As someone who loves Passover and has taught on it many times, I was blown away, when I understood the implications of this.

Let’s start here:

There are four cups of wine at a Passover Seder.  In order, they are:

The cup of Sanctification, the cup of Judgment, the cup of Redemption and the cup of Praise.

If Psalms 113 and 114 correspond with years 2013 and 2014, then, we would expect to see someone or something sanctified (set apart) before judgment (wrath) falls.  *not to be confused with the chaos of 2012, which is a type of judgment, but, is not the wrath that falls during the last 3.5 years of the seven-year period.

Now, Sanctification is a big word which simply means to “set apart”. 

Passover, of course, did exactly that. By bringing his people out of Egypt, God separated them unto himself.  In the last days, there will be another group of people sanctified or “called out”.  We find these people listed in Revelation chapter 7, and they are the 144,000, 12,000 Jewish men from each tribe. 

Starting with Psalm 114 and working backwards –

The 114th Psalm opens with a recounting of the Exodus events –

“When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.  The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, O sea that you fled, O Jordan that you turned back, you mountains that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs?” Psalm 114:1-6

Now, why would it be important for the 114th Psalm to start out this way?  If God is going to call out this great group of people, who will be instrumental in bringing a remnant to faith in Christ during this period, what better way than recalling the great events of the Exodus.  Don’t you just love the wording used, this was a time of incredible joy for the Father, “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs!”  This was marvelous, this was incredible, God had chosen a people for himself and called them out of Egypt.

Life in Egypt was darkness, life in Egypt was slavery, life in Egypt was hopeless – but, God delivered them!  Out of the chaos of 2012, a light shines, God raises up 144,000 spirit filled dynamos that will powerfully preach the message of the cross.  And, people will be saved!  A remnant to be sure, but, nevertheless, people will be saved!

Psalm 114, therefore, serves as a reminder that God is not yet finished – even in the midst of chaos God has set apart, chosen and sealed a people for his purposes. 

The Psalm ends with these words:

“Tremble, O earth at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock in to a pool, the hard rock in to springs of water.”  Psalm 114:8

The indication here I believe, that the same God who brought water out of the rock, will turn even these terrible events of the tribulation period in to springs of living water for those who will hear and believe.

How many will be saved during this period, I don’t know. But, I do know that we are told in the book of Zechariah that 2/3 of the population of Israel will die, while 1/3  will survive – therefore, of the estimated six million people living in Israel today, at least two million will come to faith in Jesus Christ at some time during this period. (Zechariah 13:8)

Backing up to Psalm 113 – the year that follows on the heels of the opening of the six seals during the year 2012.  The Psalmist opens with these words:

“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forever more. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

God has begun a mighty work; world-wide in scope which will culminate in triumph over his enemies. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED!

The Psalmist reminds us in verses 4-6 that God is exalted ABOVE the nations, enthroned on high, he stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 113: 4-6

Can you imagine? God stoops down to see who is making such a fuss. The nations raging against Israel are really raging against God. In their vain imaginations and their pride, they think by defeating Israel, they can defeat God. They don’t want their ten commandments and they sure don’t want their Messiah. They want their self-made, man-made religion without any restrictions, without any boundaries and without any responsibilities. And, as long as Jews and Christians are around, it’s a sore reminder of a God who says otherwise.

During this chaotic time period, those who are poor and needy ( in other words, those who see their spiritual need and respond to the call of Jesus) will be lifted from the ash heap and the dust to be seated with princes.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.” Psalm 113:7-8

Every Passover Seder begins with an invitation to Passover. A call for any one who is hungry or thirsty to come to the table. The implication, that what ever your needs, they will be met at the Passover table.  And, of course, in a very large sense it is true, as the Passover Seder is a wonderful picture of the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus, who also said, ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” To be seated with the princes, is to be seated with Christ.

And, the Psalm concludes –

“He settles the barren woman in her home, as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 113:9

The barren woman (Rachel) matriarch of the Jewish people, was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin; Joseph, a type of Christ. Israel, will never be moved from their land. And, Jew and Gentile believers, their happy-off spring of whom there are many, will share in this blessed inheritance.

I started todays post with my little parking incident and though minor and of no real consequence, I have to admit, how quickly, I took offense at being shown the error of my ways. There are laws and boundaries that govern even nature itself. Only man has the choice and the capability of defying the creator. Humbleness is not easy to come by and without the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, not one of us would see our sin and how desperately in need of a Savior, we really are. 

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6   Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!  

~Cindy

May 4, 2011

Counting The Towers

Today’s post first appeared on Tim Stafford’s blog as Jerusalem the Golden.

The end of Psalm 48 has lately stuck to me; I’ve been pondering it all week.

“Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers, consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them to the next generation.
For this God is our God for ever and ever;
He will be our guide even to the end.”

There is a paradox here: you count the towers of Jerusalem in order to tell the next generation about them. That assumes they won’t be able to count them for themselves. The towers, ramparts and citadels won’t stay the same.

Yet somehow they show God’s everlasting qualities. Did the psalmist intuit their coming destruction? Now, caught in the moment before their collapse, they demonstrate God’s eternal lovingkindness.

Counting the towers is something like counting your blessings, except that it is decidedly physical and external. The psalmist does not have a metaphor in mind. He exults in the holy city, “beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.” (verse 2) This is a place, situated on a hill, protected by God, but made by human skill and art. Stone and bricks are involved. In Jerusalem God’s creation, his ongoing nurture of a people, and human creativity mesh together.

Two thoughts: first, we appreciate God’s eternity (which we cannot grasp) when we focus on the very tangible, very changeable but very precious realities of life. Right now I love my garden, with its fountain and roses and abundant spring sunshine. All—even the parts I designed, bought or built—speak of God.

Second, the New Jerusalem will be like this too. We will build it, with our hands. God will protect it, God will make new heavens and new earth to build upon. But the towers and citadels will be our work. We will not, and we never have been, merely passive spirits. We are God’s partners.

~Tim Stafford

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