Saturday, June 27, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries: Psalm 18 - A Victory Psalm

6In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
7Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
8Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
9He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
10He rode upon a cherub and flew;
And He sped upon the wings of the wind.
11He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
12From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
14He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.
15Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O LORD,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
16He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.

Victory! You can imagine the word ringing in our ears after a long fought battle. You go through a tough battle, a long haul, a very difficult time and what do you say? Many of us go, “Phew” and just carry on. Some of us recognize that it has been a spiritual thing, and so we turn our words to praise. We shout out a testimony of praise to God for delivering us. Sometimes we are not able to do that because when we encountered the trouble we never turned to the Lord for help. Why is that? Why do we often forget to bring the Friend of friends, the One who sticks closer than a brother into our life, hurts, and pain?
This Psalm is one of Victory. The text tells us David wrote it in response to his deliverance from his enemies and from Saul. Ever had someone or several people who seemed to be out for you? Are you tired of waging a war and feeling all alone? Come listen to this Psalm and the comfort it brings.

The Pattern - As mentioned previously, Hebrew poetry has several features. One of them is like a reflection. In This case we find a pattern of ABCBA. Praise and worship both start and end this Psalm. Next to them are to sections of a rehearsing of God’s deliverance. In the middle of it all is a passage that relates to the basis for that deliverance. The outline by verses looks like this:

A Verses 1-2 Praise and worship
B Verses 3-19 Rehearsal of God’s deliverance
C Verses 20-30 The basis of the deliverance
B Verses 31-48 Rehearsal of God’s deliverance
A Verses 49-50 Praise and worship

Now let us have a look at each section and see what David’s testimony consists of.

A) Praise and Worship
Look at the words found in these verses: Rock, Strength, Fortress, Deliverer, Horn of Salvation, Stronghold, Deliverance, and Lovingkindness. If you could describe a safe place, what words would you use? When you look at these words you see words of length; words that are more than just for a moment. When I go places, I like to look for rocks. I find the variety and colours and a host of other things about rocks cool. The fact that they have been around for a long time is a pretty big part of the coolness. The oldest tree is a bristle cone pine in the White Mountains east of the Sierra Nevada. It is called Methuselah and is said to be 4,768 years old. The world’s oldest rocks, found in Canada either in the NWT or on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in Quebec are said to be over 4 billion years old. Wouldn’t you like to have a place with that kind of stability to go to? Remember the story of the 3 little pigs? Through both straw and wood safety was not found. Not until the rock of brick did the enemy get held back.
These words are all descriptions about David’s (and our) relationship with God. They are rock solid, words that focus both on the security of our relationship with God because of strength, but also on the eternalness of that relationship. Our hope is in God - isn’t that a wonderful place to be? Don’t you want to use words like that in your life? These are wonderful words of life and spiritual health, of vigour and vim. If you can’t say words like "I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Then you need to pursue God more. That is what God offers to you and I.

B) Rehearsal of God’s deliverance
The words found in this passage are fascinating, and as I wrote them down there was an obvious progression to them: He (God) heard, sent, delivered, rescued, rewarded. These are all words of action. Sometimes we get the feeling that God is far away and does not know what we are going through. Don’t let that lie linger in your thoughts because it just is not true. When you look at these words you can’t help but understand that God is involved. He didn’t just wind up the earth like a clock and is off doing something else while it winds down. He is actively involved - today! And God is not just involved like some uber-human looking down and playing games with the people below Him. God is not like the Greeks or Romans concept that had their Gods running around with very human emotions doing very human things. God is beyond what we could imagine, and after millennia of trying to understand Him we can still struggle to get a good grasp of who He is.
But here we are with a God of process. This process is about God with us - Emmanuel. From God hearing us to God rescuing and rewarding us He is present in our lives, and that makes sense! If God is going to be our Rock and Fortress, He has to be involved. We can’t have security or hope if God is off somewhere else, unable to hear us. Remember the story of Elijah and the challenge with the prophets of Baal. They both built altars, and the prophets of Baal went first. They prayed and chanted and beat themselves - all day, and nothing happened. Elijah mocked them, and depending on the translation or paraphrase you read he was on vacation or having His morning constitutional. What Elijah was mocking was the inability of an idol or false god to hear the cries of his/her people. But Yahweh, now that was a different story. Elijah had them drench the alter with water. The wood was soaked through and through. He prayed a simple prayer and woomph! The fire came down and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and even the rocks. Never believe if someone says, “God can’t hear you.” They are wrong.

C) The Basis of the Deliverance
What do you sense when you hear these words the Psalmist says about himself: my righteousness, the cleanness of my hands, I have kept the ways of my Lord, blameless? You get a sense of “it is all about me”? Do you get a sense of “it is because I am so holy and Godlike that He has blessed me and delivered me. You can hear that there, can’t you? So often we get caught up in this whole Christian thing and like to think it is all about us. Sometimes in our marriages we say the same thing - I have such a wonderful marriage because I am a great husband or I do so much… Years ago the Times of London asked the question, “What is wrong with the world?” G.K. Chesterton and English writer of the early 20th Century wrote in and said, “I am.” Here and imaginative and teachable sinner hit the nail on the head. It usually takes some prodding or nudging or even a steamroller, but the Holy Spirit strives with us to recognize that we can’t do it.
It is about God in us. The Psalmist admits this when he says in verses 28-29 “For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness. For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless…” The Psalmist can only talk of his own righteousness because it is something God has done in his life. It is the path of God to be holy, and when He sets our course, He provides the way for it to happen. How reassuring that we understand that not only is God at work in the world around us, but He is at work in us. Sometimes this pilgrimage seems long. Sometimes we wonder if we will ever make it to a place in life where we are consistent. Stay the course - God is leading and providing. Keep striving with sin in the power of God. Battle in the places of your thoughts and mind. Don’t give up your affections to the things of this world.
David wasn’t perfect. In fact, he had some of the biggest sins we can think of, and was scandalized in public, all the while the king of God’s people. Today he would be tossed out on his ear and judged and given up on. Is he so different than us? Are we so holier than him? Maybe we are above adultery and murder, but have we murdered with our words and adulterated our spiritual relationship with gossip and a love for things of this world. In the end David was called the apple of God’s eye because he knew how to repent. When confronted with his sin he gave no excuses, he gave no shifting statement of blame. He simple said I sinned. Before God and God alone, I am responsible. Respond like David and pursue God with all your heart, soul and might. Love your neighbour as yourself, and set your feet upon the rock of your salvation, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers' Day - Our Father who art in heaven...

Matthew 6:9-13
9 Pray, then, in this way:
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'

We all have stories of our fathers. Maybe he was present, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was involved, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was, then wasn’t, or vicey voo. When I was a little kid, my dad worked on the fire department. They had a bomb scare and they asked for a volunteer to go out in equipment and hook things up so they could take it to a safe place to blow it up. My dad volunteered for 2 reasons. As a fire fighter he had enough insurance on his life so that his family would lack nothing if he died in the line of duty. More importantly he knew that nobody else on his shift was a Christian. He figured his life was expendable over another’s if it meant they would spend eternity in hell. Fortunately, all went well, and he is still alive today.

As we celebrate Fathers’ Day I want to speak to the men. My message would not be any different if I was just speaking to ladies, so you can listen in too and apply it where you will. What does it take to be a good father, or a good son? What dynamics do we need to relate to our heavenly Father? I like to work on genealogy so I think of generations that go by and how one influences the next. I want to talk about our heavenly Father. Jesus had a unique relationship with His Father and when He prayed to God Jesus said some very specific things. It is to this I want to speak to today. Let us go through the Lord’s prayer and see what is called of us to be good sons, good fathers, and good men and women of God.

Worship - Verse 9 “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Worship is about position. Everybody has a sense of who they are in relation to the people around them; to the world; in a spiritual sense as well. Sometimes this sense is right, or pretty accurate, and sometimes it is off. Some people have a very inflated sense of who they are to the world. They are medieval in the sense that they think the universe revolves around them. It may not even be their fault in a sense. They may feel that way because other people have told them that. Our Celebrity Culture forces that upon people; but it is still a decision to listen to those people and allow ourselves to believe it. Whatever the case, they focus way too much on what they look like, and what others think of them. At the other end of the spectrum are those people who think so poorly of themselves that they also care too much about what other people think and how they look. And they may be that way too, because of what other people have said about themselves. Both extremes are people focus on themselves: the first in pride, the second in shame.
A real man not only eats quiche, but he recognizes who he is before God. The root of his identity comes not from his job or abilities, and not from his relationships or friends, but from the truth that the Creator of the ends of the earth made him for a very special reason. Not only was he created for a special purpose, he is also loved more than he will ever know. That is our basic problem as people – we don’t grasp how much we are loved by the eternal God. If we could somehow understand the depth of the incarnation and the strength of the resurrection, our lives would be changed. That is true worship. We focus so much on our short-comings when we should be focused on God’s sovereignty and grace and love and holiness. If we could understand who God is, and give Him His due, we would much better see our place in this world. That is why Jesus started this prayer with these words, Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. And that is why we sing the words “Our God is an awesome God”.

Victory – verse 10 “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Victory is about goals. It is about accomplishing something very specific. In any conflict both sides are trying to accomplish something. Sometimes it is to overcome something or someone else, sometimes it is just to survive. In every sense of the word as Christians we are in a conflict. What is unfortunate is we invariably look at the wrong place for our enemies. We think it is other people, that there is an “US” who is righteous fighting against the “THOSE” who are unrighteous. That is not our battle. That battle and those decisions are God’s.
Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Our battle is a spiritual battle, and the thing at stake is the very soul of those people. When we talk down, when we ignore them, when we consider them beneath us we are doing that to Jesus, for He created them. The man of God has to respond to the call of God to take the freeing truth of the Good News of Jesus to the world around him. God has a plan, and we can walk in victory in that plan knowing God is in control. There are a lot of problems in life: financial, relational & political. We follow a different drummer than the one who is the God of this world. Regardless of health or wealth, of life or death even, we pursue the Lover of our soul who draws all men to Himself. We want to see Jesus’ love shine all around us and so we sing “Shine Jesus Shine”.

Dependence – verse 11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When you think of a man’s man, what do you think of? Often people think of a guy like Grizzly Adams. A man of great physical strength, of great emotional fortitude. Ethical and moral standards sometimes are less important, and as you look at the celebrity culture you find that many of these heroes are regular people. Money and fame does nothing but give them room to indulge in the excesses of life. The other thing about Grizzly Adams is his independence. He is the king of his mountain, and fierce animals nor the evil of men will overcome Him.
It’s funny then that in this prayer in a simple sentence we see dependence highlighted. The man of God is told to depend on an unseen and untouchable force for his every need; not the strength of his own 2 hands, nor the wisdom of his mind, nor the fortitude of will. We are called to ask of our Heavenly Father for all we need. But what if we don’t get what we think we need? I go shopping with Ben (who is 8) and invariably he looks at things through his eyes. He sees things at his level, things in the moment that he is sure he would love to have and play with. He sees all the pretty colours and diagrams, and blazing pictures of the toy in cartoon action. He knows it will not really be like that, but it will be pretty close. And here I am with my full 46 years of earthly and fatherly wisdom saying, ”No” because I understand the fallacies of advertising and the weakness of plastic. I know, to an extent, the values of not just looks, but playability. I also know the dangers of certain things, that a flamethrower really isn’t a toy.
How often, though, are we like that 8 year old, thinking we know what we want and whining and complaining when we don’t get it. Have you ever heard a kid tell his or her parent that they hate them. There was a court case in the States where a 14 year old boy tried to divorce his parents. How many people do you know have walked away from the church and God because they did not get what they wanted? God is our Father, and seeks to give us wonderful gifts, and to provide for us all that we need. He asks us to pursue Him and His righteousness, and let Him bless us with all these other things (Matthew 6:33). That is why we sing “Seek Ye First”.

Forgiveness – Verse 12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
There is a transition in this prayer, not unlike the 10 Commandments. The first part of this prayer is about our relationship with God. It has to do with who we are before an eternal, omniscient and all powerful God. It is about our vertical relationship, personal integrity. The second half is about how we conduct ourselves among our fellow man, our social integrity; about our horizontal relationships. This verse about forgiveness goes hand in hand with who we are before God. It is based on the character of God, the agape love which is at the heart of our faith. Anyone who hurts another in the name of Jesus is a lie. Go to any of the social media and you will find people turned off faith because of something someone did to them, or to humanity in the past. What they don’t understand is that calling yourself a Christian doesn’t change you. Following Jesus is what changes you. There have been far more secular rulers who have conquered lands in the name of themselves, than “Christian” kings who have pillaged and killed and maimed. A man who holds bitterness and hate in his heart will do bad and unnecessary things because what is in you will eventually come out, regardless of the name of his religion (including atheists).
The call for the man of God is to love. Remember those verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… Where does it say in those verses that there is a cut off point? In our relationship with God, His love is everlasting. There is only one thing that can prevent the love of God reaching you – that is rejection. If you reject God, you continually turn your back on the Holy Spirit’s promptings and nudging in your life, you tread on dangerous ground. Seek the forgiveness of God for all you are not and all you are that shouldn’t be, and then extend that to another. That is why we sing “He Paid a Debt”.

Following – Verse 13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
There are many people who have followed a leader who turned out to be bad. Both in the financial world, the political world, the celebrity world, and the spiritual world. The call of the Christian, the chief aim of our life is to follow Jesus. God is in the process of making His children into the likeness of Christ. And so here we are, as Hebrews 12:1-2 says: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. We are following Jesus. We pray, then, for guidance and direction. We know that He is a loving God. His promises are full of things for our success and fruition as His beloved children. We know that with Him by our side nothing can befall us that has taken Him by surprise, and nothing has befallen us that is so big we cannot get through with Him.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
And so we follow. We don’t need to be afraid, God is with us: Emmanuel – my favorite name of God. Fear should not even be part of our vocabulary because of how great and awesome our God is. We follow a God who leads us like the shepherd, keeping us out of dangers way, leading us to food and water, and rescuing us when we go astray. We can trust in Him. While this world is filled with chaos, and even our lives can be filled with the chaos of sickness or stress due to financial or relational issues, we can walk in the calm assurance that God is Sovereign and in control. I speak not because emotions are bad or wrong, but because the truth and reality of God is bigger than those things. That is why we sing “God Will Make a Way”.

Surrender - Verse 13b “[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]”
When it all comes down to it, who is God and who isn’t? Who sits on the throne of the universe, and, more importantly, who sits on the throne of your life? The man of God recognizes in the grand scheme of things who’s who and what’s what. There is recognition that God is at work in the world. He no longer fights God for control, but rather goes out in the power of God to do the work of God. He allows the power of God to work in him, producing holiness, a character alignment with Jesus Christ.
Matthew 16: 24-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”” Discipleship is costly. Following Jesus takes effort and initiative. Let your pride die with mine, let the things go that hold you back from God, and join with me as we follow in His footsteps. That is why we sing “Be Unto Your Name”.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Psummer Psalm Psries - Psalm 15

1 O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
3 He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent
He who does these things will never be shaken.

A Great question!
Ever heard a bad question? They say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but you know there are. I was standing behind a desk with a sign taped to the front that said, “Registration”. Above me, hanging from the ceiling is another sign that says, “Registration”. This lady comes up to the table and asks, “Is this the registration table?” Or there’s the question, “Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs this year?” Was the pole vault accidentally discovered by a clumsy javelin thrower? Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Q: Did you catch that fish?
A: No, I talked him into giving himself up.
A: No, I was sitting here minding my own business when the crazy thing jumped into my pail.

Q: (from a woman just pulled over by a police officer) Did I do something wrong, officer?
A: No, today we're giving tickets out for doing things right.
A: No, I just got tired of lugging around these heavy summonses so I decided to give some of them away.
A: No, I'm giving a ticket to this crazy street because it's going the wrong way.

Q: (from a waiter, to a husband and wife) Table for how many?
A: A hundred and twelve -- we like to change seats every few minutes.
A: One -- my wife will sit on my shoulders.

Here’s a great question in verse 1. It is one of the big questions of life: What does it take to meet God, to be in His presence? A lot of people truly want to know. They want to find God. Unfortunately they usually just get man’s ideas rather than straight to God. The church can get in the way sometimes, if we are too caught up in ourselves. The Psalmist, though, gives us and interesting answer.

The verbs:
Look at the verbs in verse 2: walks, works, speaks. There is a progression here. Remember the progression found last week in Psalm 1? This is not far off. We live our life in 3 arenas. I refer to them once in a while, and that is because of Scripture like this Psalm. There is the arena of the mind. You read through the book of Romans and find out how much the mind and our attitudes play in the outcome of our faith. Where do our thoughts dwell? There is the arena of action. This is where we do or don’t do things. While people cannot see what we are thinking, our actions are very public. Then there is the arena of speech. This is where we say or don’t say certain things. Much of the discussion of holiness in the Bible is about our speech, and keep our conversations pure. Let us follow the Psalmist as he touches on these three arenas of life.
Walk - Attitude/thoughts - integrity
This verb is talking about how we live life. Life is often referred to as a journey, or a path. How we live life is an extension of who we are. What flows out of us is a reflection of who we are on the inside. Integrity is about tying our life together, about being true to the core. I was at a camp last week and went for a walk along a stream. There are all the rocks along the river and I picked one up. On the outside it had a terra cotta colour, some kind of sandstone. The rock was broken in half, though, and inside the quarter inch shell of sandstone was a dark rock, much harder than the outside. The rock wasn’t the same all the way through. It had a covering, masking what was inside. Do you know people like that? There’s a show on TV that talks about common scams. This lady flew to India with her husband for a vacation. She booked a taxi and everything before she went so she wouldn’t have to do all that there. But upon arriving, they got pressed into a taxi they didn’t order. It took them on a roundabout route to a different hotel and all along the way they were charged more and more, and threatened when they didn’t want to pay. People all over the world aren’t what they appear to be. How is your integrity? Are you the same all the way through? Is what you do and say on Sunday the same as what you say and do on Monday? The Psalmist intimates this as a requirement to see God.

Works - actions - righteousness
The Psalmist goes on to talk about works. This is an extension of who we are on the inside. Let me repeat: what we do is a reflection of who we are. Jesus is in the business of changing us into His likeness. As such, the things we do, the things we put our hands to should reflect Him more and more. We should be doing works of righteousness because Jesus is righteousness. How do we know what righteousness or holiness or morality is? Those things are simply reflections of the character of the Creator! Even if we don’t acknowledge God, most people have a sense of morality derived from them being created in His image. My dad owned a gas station for about a year. He found it very difficult to make any money at it and so had to give it up. He knew a guy that tried to show my dad how to do it. The would ask to check a customer’s oil. If the oil level was fine, he would tell the driver he was down a quart, and then proceed to pour an empty can into the oil reservoir. He would change parts in repairs that did not need to be changed, and say he had changed parts that he never touched. That man was not a man of righteousness. Then there are the pastors or church leaders who abuse their power, and use their office to get rich. Bonnie used to attend a church where the past had several cars, several houses, and much time off. People in his congregation were going bankrupt in giving to the church, while he enjoyed the life of luxury. He was not a man of righteousness. Look through the Bible - gossip, anger, promiscuity, slothfulness, carelessness - some very common things are not rooted in righteousness.

Words - speech - truth, to the core
Then there is our speech. Throughout the Bible we see constant encouragements to line up our speech with our faith and love. We saw a pastor’s wife at Assembly who immediately began to talk down about somebody else. That is not righteousness and God will not honour that. We are to proclaim the truth, and that is not the same as judgement. There are so many people out there telling you what is wrong, but we are called to tell people what is right. Don’t get caught up in “beaking” or complaining. In my first church many years ago, a group of parents got together every week to pray for the youth. What a great idea! Unfortunately it turned into something totally different and as a result of their complaining and griping I left the church a bit disillusioned. Within a year each of those people, who had been Christians for many years, had also left the church. Their words had done much more damage to their own faith than it did to mine. Watch your words - guard them. Speak slowly so as not to use words to hurt. A word is something you can’t get back. Once you have released it, it is out there.

The Psalmist then repeats these three principles in very specific terms in verse 3, but in a reverse order.
He speaks to words with slander, to works with doing evil, and to walking with reproaching (betrayal) a friend. Verse four is about the Law, which the Psalmist was living under in the Old Testament. We are no longer under the Law, but under Grace. As so we do not despise the reprobate, but rather we love the reprobate, that he or she might find Jesus Christ.
So you live your life in three areas. I have talked mostly about what we do wrong, mostly where we err from living a life pleasing to God. Let me close with what we need to be doing right.

In the arena of your mind, dwell on the things of God. Philippians 4:6-8 encourages us in this way - “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” My encouragement to get into the Bible last week is for this very reason. Where you are looking is where you tend to go. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Read good Christian books. Memorize Scripture. Dwell on the things that point to God.

In the arena of action, let your hands be the hands of Jesus. Be generous with you money, with your time, with all you have, using your resources to share the love of Jesus with the people all around you.

In the arena of your speech, let no unwholesome word come from your lips. Use your breath to build people up, not tear them down. Use your words to proclaim the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ; that God can save us and change us.

Want to dwell on God’s holy hill? Take your faith off the shelf, put it on like a second skin, and go out and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries - Psalm 1: Foundations

Psalm 1
1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

When I go to the beach, I like to build sand castles. Though I just dabble at it, I realized quite quickly two things. The first was the importance of the foundation. If you want a big sandcastle, you need a good foundation. The second was that sand is transient. If you want to build something that will last, don’t use sand. We saw what happened when the tide came in on that sandcastle - down in a heap.

I just read an article in the paper that talked about a good builder who put up a building, but did not have it square on the foundations. It was the architect speaking and he said the structure had to be torn down and redone because it began to sag and slide even further off the foundations. Foundations are so important. As we start our Psummer Psalm Pseries, we start with Psalm 1 which really is the doorway into the Psalms. The things we read in it are foundational, and a good reminder as we go into the summer season.

Note that Hebrew poetry likes to be symmetrical. The Psalmist will often repeat a statement using slightly different words that builds on what he repeated. Contrast is another device relating to symetricality. Often both sides of the coin is presented. Keep this in mind as we go through the Psalms this summer.

Verse 1:“Blessed” - plural - Oh how very happy…
Notice the movement and progression: Walk - Stand - Sit It is almost as if you are on a journey. In a journey you head out to a destination and as you get closer you slow down so you don’t pass by where you are going. When you arrive, your journey is done and you stop. Consider also the aging process. When you are young, life is a flurry of activity. With our kids at home we now mesh 4 schedules and there are a lot of things happening. In some 15 years our life comes back to us in small ways, as much a factor of age as anything. We begin to slow down. And in our old age we arrive. We have our opinions and experience of decades and decades. We know what we like, and we like what we know. Where we end up on our journey, whether it be a road trip or life, is dependent on the road we travelled. The Psalmist reminds us of this process and encourages us to find the good path.

Charles Ryrie compared these verbs to Believe - behave - belong. These verbs are all choices. I am amazed when I read about riots how many people run to the danger and violence. Me and my feet will always seek less populated streets and places. Where do your feet take you? Do you run to things that draw you away from God? And when you get there, do you stand and watch?
I read this and think of King David. He was not with his army where he should be, and gets presented a compromising position when he sees Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. What does he do? Does he turn away, turn and pursue things that will not tempt him, or does he take the opportunity as presented and just stand there? Most of us know the story. He not only stands there, but calls her to his bedroom and commits adultery. He not only walks and stands in the place of temptation and sine, but he sits down and willingly gives himself up to his desires. All along this story arc were places where David could have made the choice that would have resulted in none of this happening. This sin led David to scheme and commit 1st degree murder. Selfish, destructive selfishness. What happened?

A big part was that David allowed his foundations to go bad. David was the shepherd boy who confronted and defeated goliath. He killed the lion and the bear to protect his little flock of sheep. So much potential, so much promise. And God did use Him still, in mighty ways; but David limited what God could do in and through him because of his personal weaknesses.
That’s why I challenge us often in three areas: Action - words - thoughts. It is in these three areas that we live out our life. It is in the private places of our brain, our mind, our heart where we erect our foundations of life. It is out of this place that flows our words and actions. I have heard people swear purposefully who call themselves a child of God, leaders even. There is a current storm in the blogging world relating to profanity in the pulpit between Mark Driscoll and John Piper. Why can’t our speech reflect the work of holiness that the Holy Spirit is working In our inner man? Why can’t our actions reflect that same character of God? Why do we give up so easily the struggle of righteousness in our behavior? Why are we so quick to admit our humanity and our weakness, when God is working so much more into our lives?

Do you see the result of having no foundation? Verse 4 says the wicked are like the chaff blown away in the wind. This is the picture of winnowing. You taking the harvested grain and throw it in the air. The heavier meat of the grain falls back down, but the light garbage of the stalk is blown away in the wind. This Psalm says that the wicked will not stand spiritually. They are judged and found wanting. They will be cast away. They may think they have control of their own destiny for a season, but they are nothing. God knows; He is not mocked.
Listen to the contrast. The picture is of a tree firmly planted by streams of water. I get a sense of those huge willow trees.

The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to survive fierce storms.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be fruitful at the right time.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be useful for many things, including shade on the hot days of summer, or a rope swing for kids into the cool waters beside.
The deep roots, the deep foundations cause the tree to be an anchor to the river bank. Erosion would tear away at the dirt if not for the tree.

Tall, majestic, long-living - these are the spiritual qualities of the righteous, the person who follows God. My dad’s friend, Ed Prosser died last Sunday. He was 80 years old, married for 57 of those to his wife Donna. He is one of those guys that I would hear about over the years - a pastor, a teacher, a District Superintendent… nothing really set him apart, no large churches, not wealthy in terms of Canadian standards. But he leaves a legacy. A legacy to his family, a legacy to the people he ministered because his foundation was deep.

There is so much that draws us away from God, from our faith in this world. It is only by sinking our roots deep in Jesus, deep into the word that we will run the race well.
Application? It is found in verse 2. Love the Word. Get it into your heart and mind. Memorize it. Read it. Use it in your conversation. Let it guide you in life. If you are not already, become a student of the Word and let it be your lifelong pursuit. My dad is 80 and still works at reading it through each year, cover to cover. This Psalm would be a great one to commit to memory.

What foundation are you building your life upon?

Read this Psalm again in closing.