Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Psalm 145:15 Where does food come from?

"The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time."
Psalm 145:15 NASB

There are some verses in this psalm which speak to the grand design of God's Creation, His providence, and power. Others speak more to God's character and our response. In doing this psalm verse by verse, we are able to concentrate on each truth in due time, but reading the context is always necessary. If you have been following this study, I urge you to once again read the entirety of Psalm 145, just 21 verses, and see the beauty of the flow of this song of praise. I encourage everyone to meditate on the psalm as a whole, but not to lose the details either. 

Here we see David speaking of Almighty God, Yahweh, the one true God who he has known and learned about from a child, speaking as if to a personal friend yet in humility and reverence. I believe it is this balance we often see lacking in churches today. Some enjoy singing modern songs, others like older songs. I like both, but detest bad doctrine which is becoming more and more prominent in the advent of professional musicians in the church and in a realm of entertainment that sells albums, concert tickets, and merchandise. I know these things firsthand having put on quite a few Christian concerts and spending time with bands who write, perform, and sell their music. Many are honoring to God, others appeal to the flesh and are man-centered. Sadly, the discernment that should be the hallmark of the well-versed Bible student, especially those designated to choose and lead songs in worship is often lacking, giving way to the myriad heresies that exist among certain groups of song writers. 

I won't get into the specifics on this issue, except to say that the Word of God is to be our standard in all things, especially in the church where people are coming to be trained, encouraged, challenged, to worship God in spirit and in truth. Sadly, it is the culture of tolerance that seems to be leading the way in what people sing about and exposes what they believe, or even what they sing about and yet don't understand. 

Here, though, David is an instrumentalist, a singer, a song writer, a king, the psalmist of Israel, and realizes that music, while a blessing in many ways, is ultimately a tool given to us by God with which He expects us to honor Him and place ourselves humbly before Him, in reverence because of who God is, and in appreciation because of what God does. We are and have nothing without Him! 

We don't often sing about things like food, but should we? I suppose it depends upon what our purpose is, what our theology (knowledge about God) is, and what our ecclesiology (study of what God designed the Church to be) is. David's beliefs about Creation and the providence of God led him to write and lead Israel in a song that speaks of God providing food. See also Matthew 6. 

It has often been said by those seeking more donations to the church that you can tell where someone's heart is by how they handle their finances. Giving to the Lord faithfully, cheerfully, and in recognition that all we have was given to us, this is the Biblical pattern. But what about food? Should we consider our food as part of the provision for which God deserves praise? Absolutely! What about our time? Certainly! I suppose the question that is really at the heart of this is "Is there anything in which we should not give, share, and serve as stewards of all that we have, as they are all gifts of God for our benefit and for His glory. 

I always find it interesting the false dichotomies people concoct in their minds about such things. They say "Do you believe God can heal, or do you trust in doctors and medicine?" How about I pray that God would be glorified in my life, whether through trials and suffering, or through miraculous healing, and even if the wisdom God has given through science and medicine comes through an unbeliever, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ Jesus, which means that in sickness, in health, and in every situation, God is shaping the lives of His people to bring glory to Himself. If God heals me, I will praise Him. If God uses the means of medicine and doctors to heal me, I will praise Him. If God allows me to suffer great malady and difficulty for the rest of my days on Earth, He is there with me still, and I will praise Him. This is how David saw things, praising God and asking God to intervene in his life for God's glory alone. 

Does the verse we are considering today tell us where food comes from? If you ask the naturalistic scientist (an inconsistency in itself) they will say that "Mother Nature" just does what "she" does, and giving praise to a deity for such things is foolish and worthless, even as they do the same, only to another deity named Mother Nature, a false god whose praises are sung all over the Earth, another idol to worship instead of the true God. Nonetheless, the professing atheist, agnostic, Satanist, Buddhist, and all of us willingly accept food grown by sunshine, bearing fruit after its kind as if that were not a base challenge to their entire worldview, but indeed it is. If you think that nature is all there is, then you must consider its origins and realize the folly of such a view. Life does not come from non-life, and the exquisitely intricate workings of the seed from planting conditions to germination to growth all the way to harvest of fruit all demand uniformity in nature, which is not rationally defensible nor provable by the naturalistic materialist. The worldview which denies David's claim that everyone looks to God for their food is internally inconsistent and in fact idolatrous, giving praise and honor to the created things rather than the Creator and Sustainer of all things. 

For the Biblical Christian, we must agree with David and join the chorus to proclaim the wisdom and power of God's incredibly complex creation from the smallest particle to the largest living animal and beyond. But David here is saying something more, I believe. I see here David challenging Israel to place their faith and trust in God, to call them to worship Yahweh for who He is and what He does every moment which allows us to have life at all on this planet. David is reminding Israel to live and think and speak as if the provision for the just and the unjust all come from God because of His choice to give so many good things to those who don't deserve anything but condemnation. God could let those who hate Him starve to death and live in misery without any happiness at all until their final judgement and sentence to eternal conscious punishment in Hell. But herein lies the mercy and grace of our God, that He provides for not only those whom He has rescued and redeemed by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ in His bearing the wrath of the Father due to us as sinners, who He has called to Himself and adopted into His family. God also provides these things for those who hate Him, who mock Him, who trample underfoot the blood of Jesus and proclaim their own autonomy and ability to provide for themselves. 

How many of us would, when opening our homes in hospitality, feed our friends only and let strangers go without? How many of us would share the Gospel with only those we deemed willing to receive it? Sadly, I know the answer to that as I have heard hundreds of times, "This person wouldn't accept the Gospel" and then give me an excuse for why they refuse to speak to this person. Folks, we are not God. We don't know the hearts of those around us, and even the worst offender is no closer to righteousness in God's sight than the seemingly moral and community minded person. Ours is not to pick and choose those worthy of sharing the Gospel with them, but to obey our Lord and Master who told us to go everywhere and tell everyone. How dare we think we are wiser than God? How dare we think that there is any human on Earth which could or would choose Jesus Christ as Savior on their own, especially due to the perceived morality of that person! Those who are without Christ are dead. DEAD!!! They aren't sick, they aren't close to coming to Jesus, they are either dead or they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit by means of the preaching of the Gospel. Since God feeds every person and animal on the planet by His great grace and wisdom, we ought to take those things given to us by Him and use them for His glory. It keeps coming back to God's glory and obeying God's commands which lead to more glory for Him. 

Every decision, every gift, every breath, every thought, every plan, every idea that is designed for the acceptance of those who are dead in their sins is faulty and will fail in God's eyes, no matter how others may understand the results. Every one of these things that is gleaned from the wisdom of God's Word, acted upon in faith for the sole purpose of bringing glory to God in the Gospel, no matter how many mock or reject it, is immeasurably profitable. Just as many churches have succumbed to the outward appearance of being popular or thinking more about preferences than truth, we can just as easily take the food and sustenance God provides for all of His creatures and make it about what we do, something primarily about us, or even believe falsehoods about our responsibility in light of the commands of our Redeemer, Savior, and the only Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. 

May we go into all the world and proclaim the God who everyone knows exists, the God who feeds not only the people but the birds and bugs, whales and wombats, because of His great grace and in demonstration of His character. However, just because God feeds everyone doesn't mean He saves everyone. More on that at a later date as this is getting long. Go share your food with someone in need today and tell them how it is the God who created all things good, the Holy One against whom we have sinned, that saved us from our sin when we were His enemies. He is worthy! 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Psalm 145:14 -Help for those in need

"The Lord upholds all who are falling
    and raises up all who are bowed down."
~Psalm 145: 14 ESV

This past weekend gave me some time off from writing to consider other things. I try to not study specific topics on the weekends, but prepare for and meditate on the worship of God, the preaching, the singing, the prayers, the fellowship. However, yesterday caught me off guard, though it should not have. With the changing of the clocks to Daylight Savings Time (a silly notion if ever I heard one) and our desire to enjoy the sunshine from its first light and rising above the horizon as we all watched together, we got out before church began to hold some Gospel signs at the intersection near our church. 

This is one way we use to encourage Christians to be bold in their faith and unashamed to speak, by being public with our love for the Lord and for others to know and worship Him as well. To the unregenerate, it must seem that our family is either mentally ill (that accusation came this past week) or really passionate about something they don't understand. As the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom is the greatest work in which we can engage, we make it a priority to do that both in the world and in the church, so we get up early to share the Word with the world, and then go off to church to marvel in the work of God in the lives of His people and give Him the praise, honor, and worship that is due only to God. 

The hard part about my health condition is that I usually walk with a rolling walker, sometimes with just a cane if the walker won't work where we are. Such was the case yesterday as we recently had a good Nor'easter storm which dumped copious amounts of snow here in our area. After the storm, the sidewalks were buried, leaving only about a foot of bare asphalt between myself and the cars coming to the intersection. I placed my daughters farther from the roadways, and attempted to make a place for myself to stand safely in the snowbank. I packed down snow under my feet and rammed my cane into the dense snow such that it stuck firmly. 

Now that I was planted, I could hold my sign, smiling and waving at those who saw "Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD GOD Almighty, the Earth is filled with His glory!" all the while marveling at the snow covered mountain in the background, singing "How great Thou art" and a few other songs. This didn't last long, as I knew I was unstable here, and really shouldn't have put myself in such a bad position. I crossed back to where Virginia was, and found a more safe place for myself to stand, where I could lean on a telephone pole if necessary. We continued on this way until a car pulled up, driven by an old friend who is a respected leader in the cult of "Jehovah's Witnesses". 

As my friend pulled over into the parking lot where our van was parked, where Sara and the littles were practicing their catechism, Virginia and I crossed to where everyone else was and began to talk. We made some small talk and greeted one another with a friendly handshake, talked about why we were out there, and ended up talking for 20 minutes thereafter about the reason we love our friend and desire for him to leave the cult which he has dedicated decades of countless hours endorsing and recruiting people to their false religion and false Gospel. 

We talked about the deity of Jesus Christ, which my friend denies, and I invited him to come over to talk where we could be inside, warm, and we could get off to church. We were not yet late for church, but only made it in time to say hello to a few saints before it happened. I was able to endure the excitement of talking, being challenged, rebutting my friend and rebuking him for robbing Jesus of the glory due to Him as God. I urged him to repent and stop denying who Jesus really is. We have walked through the Scriptures together on many topics over the 12 years I have periodically spoken with my friend, but I was indignant over his rebellion this day, as he was relegating the Creator to the place of a mere creation, an angel. I know that my body cannot endure much challenge lately, and though we finished our conversation, I was already headed downhill. 

As we arrived at church, the spell came on suddenly and hard. God has always been gracious to me in keeping me conscious and able when needed, as if adrenaline can keep pumping me up until the valve blows, so to speak, and the pressure release valve opened all the way as I felt my energy flowing away from my brain, to the arms and legs, leaving me seated on my walker having to be held up. This continued for some time into the singing and prayer, and as I was coming back to normal, another friend from church came out barely walking, being led by her son, and dropped on the floor in a seizure. Sara and a few others tended to our friend, keeping her safe, and monitoring the situation as it is sometimes necessary to call an ambulance for our friend if her seizures persist. 

With all this going on, I totally missed the sermon, hearing a few stray phrases but still trying to keep conscious. We went to church to sing together, and I sat in the entry on my walker barely upright. We went to hear the preaching, and I missed most all of it. We went to pray together, yet I could barely concentrate with 6 children (being mostly well behaved) sitting on the floor in the entry/library while Sara helped our friend, so distracted that I began to wonder why we were there. Usually I feel pretty well for church, and enjoy talking to folks, singing, praying, and I love hearing the Word of God preached for all to hear and heed, but today seemed like a wash. However, I then began to think about this verse (you thought I forgot what I was talking about, and I did) and realized that there are days when the best thing you can do is whatever you can do. 

I began the day feeling great, getting up early, enjoying time with the family before church. I love to be in the open air preaching, holding Gospel signs at intersections, or talking with people about the Lord. Yesterday, however, I believe God was teaching me something else. As my friend recovered for some time, we began to talk. We spoke of God's provision of help for us, of how some might consider people with special needs and children more of a distraction than a benefit to the church. We spoke of the blessing of weakness that makes us rely on the Lord for every step, every hour, every day. I began to think again about this passage, "The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." I began to think over God's protection for me when I was in the snowbank where I should never have gone. I thought of the opportunity to proclaim the deity of Jesus Christ from the Word of God to a man who denies it. Sara was able to minister to a friend in need. The children watched, and some participated, in caring for those who have fallen (literally) and those who are bowed down. 

While the meaning of this verse is not necessarily about those who are physically fallen or bowed down, it is often in such physical situations of need that we see the spiritual nature of the events around us. As I sat on my walker unable to stand, I thought of how God keeps me upright, not in stature so much as by walking upright in His sight. Our gracious Lord does this through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to apply the truths of God's Word to my heart and life. As my friend was literally bowed down, robbed of consciousness and ability to control her body, I thanked the Lord that even in such physical turmoil, we can enjoy the peace of God which raises Christians not only to their feet, but to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. 

As everyone around us was singing, listening to the sermon, and enjoying fellowship, at first I felt sorry for myself and like a burden to others. I don't know if my friend feels the same way, but I have heard people talk about me when I am brought low, not knowing I can still hear even though I can't speak or move. In my training as a CNA, we were told that the last sense to go in those who are dying is hearing. When I think of that and sit or lie with other able bodied people all around me walking, talking, speaking clearly and being able to serve others, I sometimes forget the promises of God for a short while. But by God's grace to me, He always brings His Word to me, just what I need and just when I need it. He picks me up when I fall, often by the hands of others who wish to help even if they don't know what might be helpful. He raises me up each time when I am bowed low. 

God is faithful! Always. 

Today, we have some plans to minister to those in need. We are headed over to my former place of employment where a sister in Christ is being cared for as she is laid low. We want to bring her cards, sing for her, and pray for her. We plan next to visit another friend who has been physically been brought low, but whose passion for God's Word is often revealed in sharing with us. Such has often been the case, when those who need help the most are the ones ministering even in their weakness. I say these are our plans as we never know if I will be able to be part of these activities. I may have to stay in the van, unable to participate. I may get inside and collapse onto the walker, becoming a burden or fear to my former coworkers and our friend who we came to encourage. I may feel great and make people wonder why I am unable to work because they haven't seen me for a while and don't understand the nature of my disability. I don't know what will come, but I know that if God allows me to fall, He will also pick me up again. If He leaves me in the van while the family all goes to visit folks, then He will use me in that bowed down state and raise me up when He sees fit to do so. 

I don't know if my rambling this morning makes sense to anyone else, but I felt more clear when I began to write and am currently fading. I don't know what God has in store for me today, but by His grace, I will trust Him to lift me up when I fall and, if He wills, to be used by Him to do the same for others. It is my prayer that I can be part of God's work to bless our friends in need. In strength and in weakness, God is able to use us for His work, that He would be glorified in our weakness, that His strength be revealed in and through us. 

I pray that this post is a help to someone, whether those who wish to understand what it is like to be brought low, those who minister to others in difficult times, or just to know that even in the hard times, we trust in God and seek to honor Him in our words and deeds. God alone deserves all glory, honor, and praise, for He is the One who gives us each day, each breath. May we use them all to His glory! 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Psalm 145:13 Two verses in one- Where is the Nun?

I am so glad that we have passages in our Bibles like this verse, that challenge us to look not only to the oldest manuscripts, nor only the majority of manuscripts, but using every resource God has made available to us such that we know what He communicated to mankind, what He inspired men to write under direction of the Holy Spirit, and the preservation of the manifold riches of the glory and beauty of the character of God Almighty, the one true and living God in three eternally co-existent and co-substantial Persons. And yet, with even a moderate effort on the part of the Christian seeking God's truth, this passage, or its lack of inclusion in some translations tends to make people wonder about the preservation of the Bible and whether it can be trusted. If you want to learn more about this subject, I suggest to you the ministry of Dr. James White of Alpha Omega Ministries.

For now, let us look as we often have at this verse in various versions. You will see that some seem to be missing a part of this verse, or have added something which doesn't belong there. Being that this psalm is a Hebrew acrostic, and that Hebrew has 22 letters, and that this pattern is used in other psalms, specifically in Psalm 119, where each Hebrew letter is represented with an 8 verse section. So, if this passage rightly has only 21 verses (a modern invention, not inspired) then is verse 13 really broken in two and numbered incorrectly, does the verse not belong there, and what can we learn from variants in manuscript traditions? Is anything left out by not having the second part, the verse that begins in Hebrew with a "nun" or the letter "N" in English? One could go on for some time researching such things, but today I really just want to enjoy the passage while also wishing to answer the recent question about this "missing verse"... or is it "the added verse"?

Without further adieu, I give you multiple translations of Psalm 145: 11 as it appears in various English translations of the Bible.

NASB- "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations."

KJV- "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 
and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations."

ESV- "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
 and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The Lord is faithful in all his words  and kind in all his works.]

NIV-"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."
One manuscript of the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text do not have the last two lines of verse 13.

Before everyone starts ranting about the perversion of the NIV, note that the translators here are honest about their choices to include the "Nun verse" in the text, completing the acrostic, whereas others leave it out due to the challenge of which are the most authoritative, earliest, or most copied manuscripts. In my study, I have found that most charges against the NIV deleting verses are without merit. In fact, if anything they are being quite open about the challenges of such an endeavor as translating the Bible into modern languages, and don't forget that some of the versions we have available to us were translated long before we found the Dead Sea Scrolls and other major discoveries of ancient manuscripts and copies which today we have access to from our homes. We can go buy a Greek New Testament, learn the language and all its nuances, or we can trust the collection of men who God has used to preserve and protect His Word. 

So what does all this mean to you and I, the average American Christian who isn't up on the latest issues challenging textual critics, the liberals vs. the conservatives, the purist along with the one desiring to just understand God's truth? Considering in this passage, the "added" part of the verse is actually repeating other things that appear in the context, I cannot imagine anyone actually having a problem with affirming that "The LORD is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does." If you don't believe that is in wholehearted agreement with inspired Scripture, then you haven't been reading Psalm 145. The rest of the chapter certainly bears witness to the truth of this portion, giving me no reason to leave it from our discussion. 

Verses 11-13 take us through the proclamation of God's Kindgom, His power, and the multigenerational approach to making sure God's truth is passed on to others, equipping them to train the next generation, and so on. This multigenerational teaching is not limited to father or mothers to their own children, but elders to the saints in the local church, older women instructing the younger to obey that which God prepared and commanded of them, and for the father training his sons to be men of God. It even includes the elderly widow in a nursing home sharing the Gospel with fellow residents, singing praise to God wherever you find yourself, preaching on the street corner, attending church services that lift high the name of Jesus and every other way one can obey these commands to sing and shout of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, until every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ IS Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

You can see all translations agree on the dominion of the Kingdom of God, the only everlasting Kingdom which ever has or ever will exist. God rules above the heavens, for He has created them. Consider John chapter 1, 1 John 1, Hebrews 1, and other passages that speak of the beauty of God become man in the person of Jesus Christ, the God/man whose sinless and self-sacrificial life is the only reason a man like David, a murderer and adulterer, could hope that repentance and faith would bring forgiveness of his grave sins. Trusting in the everlasting King rather than his own kingdom of Israel is infinitely more wise, and we know from Scripture that God holds and turns the heart of the kings of the Earth in His hand and turns them however He will. 

This speaks of the sovereignty of God, the depravity of man, and the desperate need for a perfect Savior who has also defeated death, which is our due payment, or wages, of our sin. The free gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, would never be possible unless the Kingdom of God was an everlasting, undefeatable Kingdom, whose soldiers are ever storming the gates of Hell, knowing that even the Devil is God's devil. God made Satan, a conquered foe that is just waiting for the time when he will be finally cast into the Lake of Fire, the final judgment, never to raise his voice or marshall his troops against the True King. 

If God was not faithful and trustworthy (and able) to keep His promises, then we should just throw out our Bibles and walk away. If God could fail, then our faith is unstable and not worth laboring in, let alone giving our lives to. However, God is true and faithful, in fact we read in 1  Timothy that "if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself". God's very character is faithfulness, truth, justice, if anything these are terrifying attributes to those who hate God and live in disobedience to Him, which is every person living today besides those who were given new life in Christ, purchased with His blood, who are born again to a new and living hope. 

This hope is missing from the lives of those who neglect to worship Jesus Christ, repent and believe that He alone can save them. Their lives scurry about worrying about everything from finances to housing, how people view them, who they need to please, or how they will acquire the latest and greatest cure for their eternal hopelessness and embrace of the logical conclusion of a worthless existence because of their flagrant rejection and turning directly opposite the only way that leads to everlasting life. But this lack of hope is not a reason to stop preaching the Gospel, in fact, knowing God's power to choose and save those whom He wills, as revealed in Ephesians chapter 1, rather it is the motivator for the Christian to love and obey the Master who bought them with His blood by proclaiming His nature and His offer of salvation to all nations, every ethnicity, every tribe, tongue, and nation, including breaking down the cultural false barriers that say that we shouldn't impose our beliefs on others. 

Indeed, Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, to make disciples. He didn't say to avoid hard cases, to avoid the homeless, the divorced and single parents, the seemingly moral person who claims to be irreligious. We are to go to all, and proclaim all the Gospel. The only hope for the soul destined for Hell due to their sin (that is everyone without Christ) is the proclamation of the Gospel, in person, by email, letter, song, preaching, tracts, and many other ways which the one who loves Jesus and obeys Him as Lord and Master will employ to make Christ and His Gospel known, no matter the cost to their reputation, finances, dedicating themselves wholly to the King of Kings to fill and to proclaim His Kingdom. 

We know that God is faithful, we know His Kingdom endures forever, even if we don't have "the nun verse", but I argue that the inclusion of the verse is warranted and changes nothing except to broaden and widen the praise and glory of God. Read His Word, know His truth, follow His ways, and do all to the glory of God. Go in His grace today and fill your heart with His praise until it spills from your lips! He is worthy! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Psalm 145: 12- Here comes the evangelist!

OK folks, this is one of my favorite verses in this text because it is the evangelist verse. What do I mean by that? As we did previously, we need to set up today's verse in its context, so we know who the players are in our little drama as it unfolds in Psalm 145. We will pick up at verse 10 and then head into today's verse, the equipping verse, the pastoral verse, the parenting verse:

"10 All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;
and thy saints shall bless thee.

11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
and talk of thy power;

12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts,
and the glorious majesty of his kingdom."

You may be wondering what all the hoopla is about in my introduction, but if you bear with me a little, I want to share with you a little wider angle on what David was saying here. I believe the Holy Spirit put a lot of great truths in the Old Testament that the original hearers only knew in shadow, looking forward to when the Messiah would come and they would see greater things than the splendor of Solomon's Temple or his lavish home, to see the Kingdom of God established on the Earth through this descendant of David, by the God-man who would be born in the city of David, but that this Messiah would not come to rescue the Jews from political turmoil and oppression, but from the penalty of their sin against Almighty God, a peace maker, a heart changer, with a glorified body which offers hope beyond the grave to those who will repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it was said "The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet". Let's return from the shadows to the present, where the mystery is revealed and the Savior reigns. 

Virginia is a faithful witness of the Gospel. She learned from her Daddy, who was taught by many including "Bible Bill" Welzein who has preached in the open air at Key West's Sunset Celebration for over 30 years while pastoring the local OPC church and raising a pile of kids. Three generations of heralds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
As all the works of God praise Him, and the saints bless Him, as these saints speak of the glory of His Kingdom (that requires use of the mouth and vocal cords) and talk of His power in Creation, in sending a catastrophic worldwide flood and saving one righteous family  along with the animals by the various kinds. The power of that work also is evident in the confounding of languages and dispersal of mankind from Babel, God's judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt after the unspeakable plagues.... I could go on forever telling of God's power to other people. But my experience with God's power I pray is something that each of my readers also experience. 

When one is dead in their sin, refusing to seek God, denying His authority over us as lowly created beings, when we are at enmity with God and had done nothing to deserve His favor, then BAM! God opened my eyes to see His beauty, my ears to hear His truth, to drive me to brokenness over my sin such that I could echo the words of Isaiah, "Woe is me, I am undone!" in light of His glorious grace and mercy toward me, a wicked and undeserving self-righteous sinner. That God would send His Son to die in my place, that Jesus would willingly go, when you read verse 11, isn't that just like the Christian who has dedicated themselves to God entirely, to depart from pursuing anything this world has to offer, only to follow our Shepherd, to serve in battle under the Captain of our salvation, and then comes verse 12. After all this glorifying God in word and deed, having understood God's plan from eternity past to send His Son as a ransom for many sinners, who were washed clean in the crimson flow of the blood of Christ, to look forward to that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Then verse 12.

God reveals Himself to men, to the coming generations of mankind, throughout all the Earth beginning at the Great Commission and then on into the Acts of the Apostles, through Paul's missionary journeys to the Christian man, woman, boy, or girl who takes the truths they have learned from God's people, from God's Word, from testimonies of faithful saints of the past to the example of each saint in the local church. To know God is to wish to tell others. To be saved from eternal condemnation demands joyful proclamation of that message of hope to others. To love God and enjoy Him forever starts not after death in eternity, but today, the day that God gave you to live for His glory alone. We all fail at that, but we should never accept our failure, but repent and ask for God's strength to press on in sanctification, with every victory over sin celebrated and testified about to any who will listen. 

Christian, if you are still reading this, then you are probably stirred in emotion, as I am in sharing this with you. Don't let the passion of the stirring speech of men be the impetus to prompt you to obedience of the principle of this passage, to faithfully proclaim God's truth to all mankind. Let it be the Holy Spirit of God which, as we read the Scriptures, that continues to reveal the fullness of the mystery of God from ages past. We serve a known Savior, a Savior who died, but lives evermore, a Savior whose great love and mercy, grace and compassion, are lined in every Gospel account of His words and deeds. Go love your neighbor while they are dead in sin, because you were dead in sin and without any hope of salvation until someone proclaimed to you the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. Let His suffering, majesty, and glory motivate us all to fuller commitment to His commands, to build His Church, to purify His Bride. 

This need to teach the coming generations is not limited to parents and children, but brother to brother, sister to sister, church member to elder and so on. If your church has 100 Christians in it, then each of them faithfully prays for and witnesses to 1 person every month, then by the end of one year, that church will have not only grown immensely in their corporate faith and be blessed by the fellowship of the Gospel, but also have spent time praying and sharing the Gospel in grace and love with 1,200 people in their community. In most towns in Maine, you would have reached everyone in town in the first 3-5 years. So why, after hundreds of years of churches dotting the landscape of Maine do we still have many congregations under 50, buildings that once bursted at the seams now empty? We can't blame the culture, because God's salvation doesn't depend on culture. Rather, it depends on the faithfulness of those who began the work to teach and train, to disciple and encourage others. 

We might say that somewhere along the way, someone dropped the ball. I would call it the Judges cycle in application to our day. The first generation Christian usually is faithful to their death, having been born again. Their children often make professions that turn out to be false in the long run, or by God's grace, He regenerates them at the age of 30. The third generation carries significantly less conviction and more tradition, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. Barna has researched this as has America's Research Group. People agree on the trends, but tend to not agree on the remedy to the apathetic professing Christian toward personal holiness, evangelism, solid doctrine, and accountability. I have the answer:

Obey Psalm 145 and trust God for the results! 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Psalm 145:11 They who?

"They shall speak of the glory of Your Kingdom
and tell of Your power."
~Psalm 145:11 ESV

For those who have been following the blog, you know that we are working Psalm 145 through, one verse at a time, and today we happen upon a verse that is sadly out of context. In light of this, I want to quote also the preceding verse to make sense of who "they" and "You" are. 

"All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,

    and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom."

Psalm 145:10-12 ESV

With our context providing clarity of who "they" and "You" are in this passage, we see that it is the saints of God (Christians) who are speaking of the glory of this Kingdom, and that the Kingdom belongs to God, who is the "You". We know from other passages of Scripture that saints are the blood bought believers in Jesus Christ, who are declared righteous, not according to the works they have done, but according to God's mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus for sin, are seen and truly own the righteousness of Jesus Christ as it has been given to them as a gift from God along with being born again of the Holy Spirit.

In John's Gospel account, chapter 3, we are given the narrative account of Jesus talking to a man named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. Let's pick up the account from the Scriptures in John 3:2-8 KJV
2 The same [Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, 
we know that thou art a teacher come from God:
for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? 
Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, 
but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: 
so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

As we think about the Kingdom of God in the psalm, the saints are speaking of the glory of the Kingdom of God. However, in John 3, Jesus makes it clear that not only can one not enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again by the Holy Spirit, regenerated, quickened, brought to life from death, but they cannot even see it. This is challenging to some as the Old Testament is speaking of saints and God's Kingdom (not national Israel) through a king of Israel, but one whose line would lead to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, whose lineage traces back to King David.

Here we see God's overarching knowledge and sovereignty over time, "declaring the end from the beginning", and the trust that one can have in God as one who He chose to set His love upon, a sinner rescued from death, one who once stood condemned, but now one for whom there is no condemnation, being in Christ Jesus. John 3 goes on to speak more of the work of the Holy Spirit in this life giving salvation, and of the consequences to those who are not saints, not adopted of God, nor washed in the blood of Jesus. In verses 35- 36 we see that:

"35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;
but the wrath of God abideth on him."

Herein lies the difference between the Israelite who rejected God for idols and King David whose love for God, though he fell into sin, always produced a repentance that leads to life. In the New Testament passage, Nicodemus seems to be awakened to the truth of Jesus as Messiah, though we do not know for certain, but later on we read of Nicodemus following Jesus.

It is my contention that this discussion was not an intellectual back and forth about spirituality, but a man who knew of Jesus, heard of His signs and miracles, and was regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and thus sought Jesus out and learned great truths previously mysterious to many generations of Jews who longed for the Messiah to come, but Nicodemus now seems to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, that he needs to be born again (even if he doesn't understand at first) and it seems from later testimony that Nicodemus truly repented, believed, and was born again to a new and living hope in Jesus, even while Jesus had not yet died for sin. 

Yet, in the definite plan of God, which cannot be ruined, we see here another bridge between the Testaments, with men like Abraham and Moses looking forward in hope, trusting completely in the promises of God which were given to them, yet not fulfilled even in their lifetimes. Abraham never saw his seed as numerous as the stars in the sky, and Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land because of his sin striking the rock against God's command. Here we meet Nicodemus in John 3 due to a clue about the coming Kingdom of God in Psalm 145, and watching God's masterful plan unfold before his very eyes, we next see Nicodemus in John 19: 38-40 that Joseph of Arimathea came to recover and properly prepare Jesus' body for burial with this very same Nicodemus, and he brings along with him a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare the body. This is worth a serious amount of money, so considering the vast gift to prepare a dead man's body and his personal involvement in the burial process, it would seem that Nicodemus was born again, trusting first in Jesus early in His ministry, to Jesus' death and burial, and also for His rising from the dead and walking the Earth for another 40 days before ascending to Heaven. Nicodemus got to live in the middle of these events, speak personally with Jesus, see the crucified corpse, and presumably see Jesus again in the interim between the grave and the ascension into Heaven, where Jesus is preparing a place for those who loved Him. 

So where does this leave us, the average American who hasn't seen miracles and signs, who didn't live in Israel or have the Law of God passed on from generation to generation? Nothing has changed about how people get to see or inherit the Kingdom of God, and so we can find great solace from the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3. In fact, we have in this chapter a great explanation of how God saves sinners, one that I find is best explained by reading Romans.... the whole thing. I also highly recommend Ephesians 1-3 which speak of the character and nature of God's plan to save His elect, the fact that we are all dead in our sins without being born again, and the grace of God that gives salvation as a gift, not as any results of works on our part, but a new creation that because it is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will hate sin and love truth. 

For me, I am left wanting more. I want more wisdom about God's salvation of man, more filling of the Holy Spirit, more power and conviction in my preaching, more of the character of the perfect Husband, Jesus, and of the love the Bridegroom has for His Church, His Bride. I want more of God, and I want to share God more with others, share more with my friends, family, strangers, anyone anywhere who will listen to this Good News, the Gospel of Christ Jesus our Lord, our Redeemer. 

But to those who are not born again, those who are not saints, those who are still dead in their sins, this is a wake up call to the eternal nature of God's punishment for sin, from John 3:36, "the wrath of God abideth (remains) on them." This is what breaks my heart, this is what drives me to pray, and this is why we spend our time and resources, limited though they are, in spite of disability, pain, hardship, mockery: that there are people out there who need to hear the Gospel, maybe for the 50th time before God chooses to give them life, but people whom God loves and Christ died for, people that God will use weak servants like us to reach them in love and truth, grace and mercy, loving even those who are our enemies because Christ Jesus loved us when we were dead in sin and full of rebellion against Him. 

I don't want to go on forever in this post, but to be honest, as I write through the things that I have meditated upon the last month or so, I am again renewed in hope, bolstered in strength, and pressed to action for the cause of Christ the King. We give our lives an offering til all the Earth resounds with ceaseless praise to the Son." ~ "For the Cause" by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Until the King returns, we herald His coming to all who will listen. All Hail, King Jesus! 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Psalm 145: 10 Thanks and blessing from the saints

"All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!"
Psalm 145:10 ESV

Today is a blustery March day in Maine. The wind storm has been raging over a day here, blowing down trees, sloshing the boats in the harbor, even in Rockland as our harbor is protected by a massive breakwater. The wind is cold and chilling to the bone, though the temperature is above freezing. It is the kind of day that I am glad there is no snow, but you don't really feel like going outside. There are dangers associated with driving a high profile van like ours on very windy days, so the extent of our driving has been limited to going to the various harbors nearby and seeing how they are protected or vulnerable from certain storms. Some harbors are well protected from most directions but if the wind comes a certain direction and strength, then you can easily lose your boat or your life even in the harbor. Wisdom and experience guide the seasoned fisherman and pleasure craft operators, to know both the need to protect the boat, but also to protect their own life and abandon their boat. 

So, what does a wind storm, harbors, and boats have to do with this verse? The story in my mind is much longer than I care to write, but I will try to share what is in my mind so that the application is evident. You see, I grew up on the coast of Maine and have lived within a few miles of the ocean most of my life. I have worked on the water tending dive boats, working on mussel dragging boats, and worked in various aspects of the seafood industry for many years. Growing up, I laughed at the ignorance of tourists who would sit at the dock in Bar Harbor as my father and I broke claws off live stone crabs (the best meat available, and they regrow them) with people asking what kind of shrimp we were working on. I remember backing down harrowing ice laden alleys between shrimp shacks in areas like New Harbor, Bremen, and more. I guess it comes with the territory to have a close connection with wind and weather when you live near the ocean. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Psalm 145: 9 Yahweh is good to all!

"The Lord is good to all:
and his tender mercies are over all his works."
Psalm 145: 9 KJV

As I have considered this verse, I can already hear the complaints that I hear every time I preach the Gospel on the street, every time I confront someone with the truth from God's Word about their own condition. "That's not fair!" folks claim in light of the truth that every human alive today has knowingly and willingly transgressed God's standard of perfection, we have trespassed against the boundaries God puts before us, and we are living in a world cursed with sin, sickness, sorrow, death, and more. For today, as we look at this verse, we are going to apply to first to the hater of God, and then to the lover of God. These are the only two categories we find in the Scriptures. 

We read about lost sheep who need to be brought home to the Great Shepherd. We read of the separation of sheep and goats, but we never find goats turning into sheep. We read of the quickening/regeneration of the dead to life in Christ, but we never hear about those who weren't quite dead, just sick, that just needed a little help to find faith in Jesus Christ and true forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Ephesians chapters 1-3 speak much of who God is, how He chooses in His sovereign wisdom to rescue some from their sin while leaving others to die in their sin. So, in light of my assertions here about God's salvation and these two categories of people, it seems one group enjoys the goodness of God to all while others claim that if God truly exists as stated in the Bible, that He is an ogre, a tyrant, a monster. So how do we reconcile Psalm 145 with the rest of the Bible?

So, what is the complaint from the person who is rejecting God, mocking God, denying the very existence of the Creator who says that everyone knows Him? They might say that it isn't fair that God allows suffering, sickness, death, unplanned pregnancies (God plans every one of them) and more. Why do bad guys get away with doing bad things while the unsolved murder rate in the largest city near us is around 40%. This means that in 10 murder cases, 4 murderers will get away with it and never be punished. The atheist, agnostic, or other skeptic has no rational reason to be bothered by activities that are immoral because their worldview does not supply the justification for morality at all. Indeed, the same people who cry about God's unfairness to them is contradicted by their claims of autonomy and moral outrage when recently a married couple beat their 10 year old daughter to death here in Maine. Depraved Indifference Murder certainly seems like the right charge to me, but to those who think we all evolved from protoplasm to fish to human, where do you even get morality? Most people asked this question with one of two answers: 1) Pure democracy, or mob rule. If the majority of people say it is acceptable to kill everyone else, then it would be moral to do so. 2) The hater of God and His morality borrow His morality and try to accuse God of wrongdoing for letting man sin. Either of these answers is untenable, and yet the inconsistency of worldview on morality and justice is evident in every realm from public education to courts and politics, including whether or not it is acceptable in one's world view to kill babies in the womb. Some atheists argue against abortion, however they have to stand on a Biblical worldview of absolute right and wrong in order to do so. 

You may be saying right now that I haven't really dealt with the verse in regard to the unregenerate. However, when considering whether or not someone accepts the Word of God and the statements written therein as true, it is good to realize that God tells us that everyone knows He exists and about His divine nature and Godhead in Romans 1. Thus, the role of the professing atheist or agnostic is actually disingenuous on the face, and those who reject the existence of God then blaming Him for not being good to them is nonsensical. Yet in the face of the nonsense arguments, inconsistency, and irrational nature of the unbeliever's argument against the goodness of God, one must realize that in order to make an argument against God, they are making a moral judgement (while claiming there is no absolute morality), impugning the character of God (blasphemy), breathing air that God gave them, and pumping oxygenated blood around their vastly complex and intricate body in order to give them the ability to see, feel, taste, touch, smell, reason, and laws of logic that only make sense in the Christian worldview. So, to sum up, the one who rejects God as Creator and Judge over all that He has created is incapable of opening their mouth to speak without relying on God's good gifts of grace to all men every moment of every day of their lives. I could go on in this vein, but honestly I am bursting at the seams to get to the truth of this God who is "good to all" and whose "tender mercies are over all His works. "

Those who began this series with us extolling our God and King and proclaiming His goodness to the next generation and all throughout the world will easily agree with this statement of Yahweh/The LORD being good to all. In fact, goodness is a character attribute of God. He IS good, period! There is nothing bad in God, nothing evil, nothing lacking moral goodness, and as the Univeral Lawgiver and Creator of all things, the morality we rely on to govern our actions and cultures must come from such a source as an all good God who cannot do or be evil. 

As a Christian man, husband, father, friend, minister, and more, I will never have enough time or energy to fully proclaim the goodness of God to me, even (especially) when I was dead in my sin and living a life filled with wickedness in direct contradiction to all I knew to be true about God. I didn't think I hated Him, I tried being apathetic. But one cannot be apathetic about the redemption of the sinner's soul, the sacrifice of Jesus for a worm such as I, and I would urge you that if you think vague thoughts about God, not living a life dedicated to Him but merely acknowledging God when the topic comes up, but living your life outside of obedience to His commands, then you know not God. You cannot know the most marvelous, awesome, creative, loving entity in all the Universe and not be excited about it! The idea of the worldly, or carnal Christian is a recent invention, possibly a reaction to looking around churches and seeing a lot of worldliness and not much holiness, but moving the bar isn't our choice to make. God sets the standard, and while none of us are perfect in this life, we can live in humble obedience to our God as much as we understand about Him. We must desire growth, closeness in relations, and even correction when we sin against God. 

What are some ways in which we see the goodness of God to the Christian?
  • You woke up today and are still alive. The sin you committed yesterday deserves death, but God in His mercy left you here to learn, to obey, and to enjoy fellowship with Him and His people. 
  • You have the ability to read this post, which includes for most people eyesight, comprehension of language, a brain that can process light from your eyes into words that you understand, and whether you realize it or not, keeps your heart beating and your lungs breathing even if you aren't paying attention.
  • You have been shown mercy from God in spite of your sin, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment you deserved, and now you are not only a new creation in Christ, but you have been called as an ambassador for Christ, with the duty of urging others to be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ.
  • God has given you the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, God Himself, living in you and teaching you from the Scriptures, convicting you of sin, and interpreting your groanings that are too deep for words to Jesus Christ, the Advocate for His people, before God the Father. Your prayers are heard!
  • Most everyone who is reading this has ready access to the Word of God, in many languages and translations, such that we can continue to learn about God and share His truth with others. 
  • God has given faithful men the charge to preach the Gospel not only in churches, but on the town square, from house to house, and you live in a country where you can do this without going to jail or risking death for your beliefs. This cannot be said about everyone in this world, and even in America, a preacher was put in jail yesterday for telling people while preaching that they were "dead in their sins"and needed to be made alive in Christ Jesus. 
  • We haven't even touched on family, friends, church, communities, caregivers, police, emergency medical staff, firefighters, and more. While these people are not perfect, they are a blessing from God to those whom they serve and protect. We ought to pray for our leaders and those who protect our communities, those who guide our churches, parents who lovingly provide for and teach their children. 
As I continue to endure the struggles of my current physical and mental condition, this blog has allowed me to work as I have time and clarity of mind to share with others. Thank you for reading, and share our posts if they bless you. May you spend the rest of your day, even all your life, and into eternity, singing and marveling in the praise of our gracious and merciful God! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Psalm 145: 8 Grace, Mercy, Compassion, and Love

As we continue our study through Psalm 145, considering various translations, I am not advocating the daily use or intense study of all the versions cited here. I do, however, find that it is helpful to consider other translations, especially more literal versions, though at times the phraseology and wooden translation is difficult to understand. 

We won't be using every version here going forward, but I do want to put to rest the idea that the only way English speaking people can know what God has said is to read a specific version, or that any English version of the Bible is inspired. Rather, it is the originals which were inspired and we have plenty of evidence that what we have today is that which was originally given to the apostles, prophets, and others God used to write His Word as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 

Today, as we examine the character of God through Psalm 145, verse 8, I am going to share a whole pile of Bible versions available online to compare and contrast. For these comparisons, I find the site Bible Gateway to be helpful, as it provides up to 5 side by side translations at a time, with dozens to look at, even some in various languages for those who don't have English as their heart language. 

"The Lord is gracious and merciful;

Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness." 
NASB New American Standard Bible

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; 
slow to anger, and of great mercy." 
KJV King James Version

"The Lord is gracious and merciful,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." 
ESV English Standard Version

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love." 
NIV New International Version 

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." 
AMP Amplified Bible 

"You are merciful, Lord!
    You are kind and patient
    and always loving." 
CEV Contemporary English Version

"Gracious and merciful [is] Jehovah, 
Slow to anger, and great in kindness." 
YLT Young's Literal Translation

"The Lord is gracious, and
slow to anger, and of great mercy."
Geneva 1599, notes from this passage cited below

"He describeth after what sort God showeth himself to all his creatures, 
though our sins have provoked his vengeance against all: 
to wit, merciful, not only in pardoning the sins of his elect, 
but in doing good even to the reprobate, 
albeit they cannot feel the sweet comfort of the same." 
~ Geneva Bible notes

Given all of these various translations available to us, some using the literal word for word, thought for thought, or dynamic equivalent standards for translation, one would think we would have chaos, but rather what I see here is a harmonic blend of interpretations that all say the same things about God. What are these things upon which we all agree about the character of God, whether we are KJV only or prefer the Geneva which predates the King James.