Sunday, August 30, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries - Psalm 90: Deliverance

Here we are nearing the end of our Psummer Psalm Pseries. The Psalms is a very interesting collection of poetry authored by several different people. David’s named is on about half of the 150 Psalms, and today we come to the one written by Moses. It seems appropriate to remember a few details about Moses. He was the baby set out in a basket on the Nile watched by his sister, discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter. At this time boys born to the enslaved Hebrews were to be drowned. Instead, Moses’ own mother is called to nurse him on behalf of Pharaoh’s daughter, and she raises him as her own. For forty years he is raised as a prince, but all that comes crashing down when he kills an Egyptian overseer beating a Jewish slave. He is forced to flee for his life and crosses a desert and is taken in by a Midianite priest after protecting his daughters from some shepherds. 3 times we see his sense of justice, leading him to fight for the one being unjustly treated. After another 40 years he encounters God in the burning bush and his life is led in another direction.
He goes back to Egypt and tells Pharaoh to let God’s people go. After the 10 plagues and that little incident at the Red Sea, the people escape. In the Sinai Desert Moses gets the 10 Commandments. Sin and grumbling and another 40 years is spent wandering in the desert, before Moses is taken to God just before the people of Israel enter the promised Land. Moses was a rather unique man, talking to God face to face as it were on many occasions.
He is also credited with writing the first 5 books of the Old Testament, Genesis to Deuteronomy, also called the Torah, or the Law. This Psalm is Moses way of sharing the rich history of not just his life or his nation’s, but the working of God for deliverance of His people from Creation to the end of time. Indeed, it starts with verses 1-3 are a reflection back to the beginning of it all in Genesis.

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom pow'r and love
Our God is an awesome God

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just puttin' on the ritz
Our God is an awesome God
There is thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
Our God is an awesome God
And the Lord wasn't joking
When He kicked 'em out of Eden
It wasn't for no reason
That He shed His blood
His return is very close
And so you'd better be believin'
That our God is an awesome God

When the sky was starless
In the void of the night
Our God is an awesome God
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
Our God is an awesome God
Judgment and wrath
He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace
He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not
Too quickly forgotten
That our God is an awesome God

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back into dust
And say, "Return, O children of men.
(Psalm 90:1-3)

In moments like these
I sing out a song
I sing out a love song to Jesus
In moments like these
I lift up my hands
I lift up my hands to the Lord

Singing I love You Lord
Singing I love You Lord
Singing I love You Lord
I love You

We are reminded in these verses of God’s greatness, His awesomeness, if you will. God is everlasting - always was and always will be. The encouragement is certainly to rely on this constancy that is God eternal in our life. He is called our “dwelling place” and it is significant to note that it extends way back to before time, before Creation. Moses even then had a sense of God’s eternal purpose of love and redemption. He recognized God’s creative act in each of our lives personally, and that in death we return to Him. His breath that He breathes in us at Creation is returned to Him.
Do you have this sense of God in your life? How awesome is your God? Do you see god clearly or are you coming to Him with mistrust and doubt. Sometimes “life” conspires against us and seems to push us at every chance to doom. Know this, that there is a force at work in this world that wants our destruction. 2 Corinthians 4 tells us that the “god of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving”. We are involved in a spiritual warfare whether you realize it or not, and whether you believe it or not; but God has given us everything pertaining to life. He calls us and equips us and puts us into His service to “proclaim the kingdom of God is near”. I often refer to God as the Creator of the ends of the earth. I do that to remind us how great and awesome God is. The Bible challenges us to seek Him while He may be found; to cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you; to try Him and see that He is true. If you go home with anything today, go home with a renewed sense of how great is our God.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in
Lord still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name

For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:4-12)

As we see how great and awesome God is, we come to understand also His holiness. We see references to Noah and to the great damage sin brings. Understand the reference to a thousand years as maybe referring to the life span of people before the flood. Methuselah was just shy of 1,000 years, and it is but a few moments to God. A few verses later Moses references that life is now only 70 or 80 years; how much we have lost. Is it because of our propensity to sin that God shortened our lives? In the days of Noah, sin reigned, and God judged. In the days of slavery in Egypt God judged the Egyptians. In the years following, the fickle Israelites were judged, and so a generation wandered for 40 years until they were gone. I am sure this is in Moses’ thoughts as he writes these words, and yet how applicable to today with our own fickle hearts. It is strange that in spite of our sense of God, of seeing Him work wonders and miracles, of understanding that He is the Creator, that holiness is such a struggle. We don’t have the same sense of sin as they had in Israel. The Law was and is black and white. It was easy to know if you blew it. When they sinned they had specific things to do to show their repentance. There were sacrifices and rituals. We live in the Law of Love today, and it is much harder to know sometimes when we blow it. We read and know about the biggies: Sexual sins, capital crimes reflecting some of the 10 commandments, and physical sins against others; but what about things like gossip and slander; refusal to help those who need it or greed and selfishness. Some of these things are hard to pinpoint in our lives, and so we ask God to search us and try us.
The chorus we just sang talks about “numbering our days”. It says simply whether we experience good or bad in this life, we commit to recognize God is Sovereign and we are His. Have you experienced God’s anger? We see it mostly on a national level, but we see God interacting again and again with personal sin. The sin of Achan was harshly dealt with. David’s sins similarly brought pain. The whole 40 years wandering was a result of sin towards God. We separate sin from punishment today, so we don’t recognize the same anger God still has about sin. We understand that we are in grace now, rather than the Law and that makes a difference. How wonderful it is to experience forgiveness and peace; but we need to know God reacts to sin because sin is anything not found in Him. Sin separates us from God. At salvation Jesus bridged that separation, and we confess acts of sin; but we have to allow God to go deeper into our lives and remove the root of sin. That root goes back to the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and God has offered us graces that change us into Christ-likeness. We are called to be sanctified, to be holy as God is holy, and it is only in the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that as we surrender all of our lives to God, to make us like His Son as He wills.

God, do whatever it takes to make me like Jesus. Show me how to be a man of perfect love, agape love. Do that work in me that changes me. Help me to make the right decisions, the decisions of obedience as I walk in step with the Holy Spirit moment by moment. Help me to immerse myself in you as I number my days.

Create in me a clean heart
O my God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart
O my God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence O Lord
Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
(Psalm 90:13-17)

In His time in His time
He makes all things beautiful
In His time
Lord please show me ev'ry day
As You're teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time
In Your time in Your time
You make all things beautiful
In Your time
Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time

And so at the end of the Psalm we see Moses calling again for God to come on his behalf, on the nation he is leading. He talks about the morning, when they would daily gather up the manna. He asks for God’s blessing to outdo the evil they have seen, both brought on themselves by their sin as well as the evil visited them by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, namely Egypt. He asks God to again bless them. Sometimes evil is visited upon us. We can be the author of it by pursuing and then struggling with addictions, by engaging in behaviour that goes against the character of God. Sometimes we are the innocent bystander in life and sickness or violence visits us just like the Israelites. We live in a fallen world, and while we have breath we will experience the ravages of sin passed down from the Garden. But God knows, and so we cry out to Him. We know in His time He will answer, and in the waiting we strive to become more like Jesus in our thoughts and words and deeds. Call out to God if you are struggling. Talk to Him if you’re not. Don’t wait for a bad time in your life to get caught up. One of the stories I love in the Old Testament is King Jehoshaphat. When the enemy came he asked God what to do and then went and did it. He didn’t have to repent and get caught up and confess a multitude of sins because he was current with God.Get current and stay current, and God will hear your cry.
The other underlying current here is Messianic. Moses has a sense even way back then, that God was doing something. He asks the question “How long until you return, God?” We ask that question today; especially when life has us low and we feel broken and unable to carry on. We ask in the sense that we need God now - we need His answer today. We also ask that question today because of hope. We know Jesus is returning one day to take us all home. In a spiritual sense home is where God is, and though He resides in us as His children, Jesus said He is preparing for us a place in heaven. What a glorious day that will be when we see Him face to face. And though this thought of His coming again should encourage us to pursue God all that much more, it is also a wonderful exercise to reflect on Heaven itself. Streets of gold, the River of Life flowing from the throne of God, the Tree of Life, the presence of God for all eternity, no more sickness or death and pain, for the ravages of sin will be done away with, true Peace, true Joy with Love Incarnate, the Lion and the Lamb… What a wonderful promise to know that when the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there. Will you? Have you accepted the offer for eternal life through Jesus Christ? Don’t leave today if you haven’t made that choice to follow Jesus and accept His gift of life. You will leave knowing that if you were to die tonight that you would be in the throne room of God because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Psummer Psalm Pseries: Psalm 56 - Trust

Psalm 56
Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid
What can mere man do to me?
All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They attack, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life.
Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!
You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
In the LORD, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Your vows are binding upon me, O God;
I will render thank offerings to You.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living.

I was standing there last night doing some laundry. I was folding some towels and sheets when I came to one of those fitted sheets. The ladies know, but do you guys know what those things are? They are the sheets that go on the bed first when the bed-making fairies change the sheets. They are related to the fairies who change the empty rolls of toilet paper, bit I digress. Fitted sheets have elastic in the hem, so they stay on the mattress. How many people have tried to fold fitted sheets? How many succeeded? By succeeded I don’t mean a lump of clothe squished flat because you sat on it while you folded towels. I don’t know how my mom did it, but she somehow got the fitted sheets folded to the exact same size and shape as the flat sheets. I was sitting there wrestling with the thing, wondering where to grab what and what to fold together. I eventually just packed it really tight so it looked kind of square. Struggling with our emotions is like that. Nothing seems to fit or match or is square to something else and we eventually just pack it as tight as we can and sit on it. In the midst of all this wrestling and problems, the juncture comes up to trust God, to pray and leave it with Him and then we are promised peace. Whether it be fear or sadness or shame we think it is something that is human and so it is part of us. Yes and no. Those things can jump us, but believe me when I tell you our God is bigger than those emotions

The Story of the Missionary
Over 20 years ago a missionary couple is travelling down an isolated country road in Belize, South America. The car is stopped at gunpoint by “banditos”. Often people were just outright killed if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The banditos pulled the man out who was driving and sped down the road with his wife. He immediately dropped to his knees and started praying, asking for protection and calling God’s grace down on his wife. A few hundred meters down the road the car suddenly stopped and the wife was pushed out. The robbers then continued on down the road.

The Story of David (1 Samuel 21:10-14)
David was on the run from Saul. He was alone and made a quick decision. The Bible says he kept on running from Saul until he came to Gath. Gath was a Philistine town and the Philistines were his enemies, though Saul was his enemy too. There’s that phrase “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”. It’s like one of those movies were someone is really scared and so they run - they run without thinking, without care for direction because they are running AWAY from something. There is the thought that “anywhere would be better than here!” Often, that is simply not true. So David escapes from Saul, and then finds himself in Gath where the officers around the King have heard of David’s reputation. The reputation that says, “Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed 10,000 enemies! He is in deep trouble, and it is this Psalm that he writes. David is afraid and quickly comes up with a plan: Act crazy, and maybe they will let me go - for it was crazy that I came here in the first place. I expect David was in Gath for several days for the Philistines indeed had time to see he was crazy.
Have you ever run from something, only to find that were you ended up is as bad or worse than where you left? Often we do it without thinking - and that is part of the problem right there. Sometimes we do it in the midst of intense emotional and social pressure and we aren’t thinking straight. That is where we need close friends who can help us. Friends who will stick by us when we are at our ugliest. These are the friends who are allowed to tell us we are wrong because we trust them. And when we yell at them and throw a tantrum because we don’t like what they said, they still stand with us. I hope 2 things for each of you. The first is that you have a friend or two that will stand by you through thick or thin. That friend needs to be close to God so you are getting not just their wisdom, but God’s through them. The second is that you are that kind of friend to one or two others. You can’t just be the recipient of all things good - you need to give good things to others. Do you know people well enough to stand by them when they blow it? What if their decisions are life changing and they have to live with that altered reality? Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners… and He stands with us in the darkest of times. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The Fear
So David finds himself in Gath, with enemies threatening to kill him. His very life is in danger. He has lost his wife, Michal. He has lost the prestige he had in killing Goliath. He has lost his position as the son in law of the king. Have you been hit financially? Relationally? The loss of a job? Poor health for you or someone close to you? Fear waits in the shadows and jumps us at these times. This fear is almost never based on what has happened, but what will happen. Fear by definition is about the future and what it holds for us. David may have feared before that the king would try to kill him. When that happened fear turned into some other nasty emotion like depression or anger.
Understand that fear is not natural to man. Fear came with sin. Back in the Garden Adam and Eve hid because sin made them afraid and ashamed. There is fear of pain, of ill health, of failing finances, of death, of people and judgement, of water and spiders. I finally went to the dentist this week. I should have gone months ago when I noticed a cavity developing in a back tooth. I put it off and off because I don’t like dentists. It’s not personal, and I don’t mind them to meet them on the street. It is when I am in a reclining chair and they show up. My older brother Paul had to have a lot of work done last year. At one point he fainted in the dentist chair. The dentist did something and there was a funny noise in his mouth and out he went like a light. Maybe it is genetic. Fear is a reaction to a situation. It can jump us quite quickly when we are not expecting it. There is a famous pastor who sometimes is physically sick to his stomach because of the stress of preaching. I personally think it is better to have someone throw up before I preach than throw up when I am done - it doesn’t reflect on me then…
2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. That word fear is connected to timidity.Listen to the first 4 paragraphs Ed Silvoso’s Prayer Evangelism:

“Nothing is more extraordinary than being born again - that instant when we turned from darkness to light and saw Jesus with His arms extended to ward us. We all remember the moment when we crossed the threshold from death to life, when we learned that our names had been written in the Book of Life by God Himself. All other events in life pale in comparison.
Once we have experienced this rebirth, we want everybody else to have the same experience. We want to see our loved ones come to Jesus. We want strangers who live in foreign lands to know Him. The Holy Spirit of God who now dwells within us has put this desire in our hearts.
Paradoxically, most of us are paralyzed by the mer thought of witnessing to others, especially strangers. We want to tell them about Jesus so that they will experience the miracle of the new birth; but when we go to speak, our lips seemed to be glued together and our voices desert us at the crucial moment. We have tried and failed so many times that we feel as though we will never be able to do it.
This realization pains us deeply because Jesus told us to do it and we do want to please Him. Worse, we are tortured by the two-edged pain of letting Him down and the certainty that people within our circle of influence are going to hell.”

We all face moments of fear. But listen to the transition in this Psalm in verses 3-4:

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid what can mere man do to me?

David was afraid, but then he made a choice. And in that choice he found there was no fear.

The Choice
What was that choice? Did he decide to not be afraid? No. I have learned it is very difficult if not impossible for most people to just shut off or change emotions. There is a lion in front of you, and I come along and say, “Don’t be afraid.” That is a bit ridiculous. What you need to hear and what I need to believe, is what David’s choice was, and that is God is in control. You have to come to the point where you trust unquestioningly that God has your back. I think that is at the heart of entire sanctification. We believe that God can do the miraculous thing of changing our future spiritually from death to life, that He who created the universe also knows us intimately. Yet in a moment of fear, what do we do? Throw yourself at God’s grace for He has promised to be there. My dad sat in church one time and had a pastor talk about fear. After the service my dad asked him about it. What are we afraid of? Do we think man can do something to us without God’s knowledge? All through the Bible we see people put in very challenging positions because of their faith:
Noah was called to build an ark.
Abraham called to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
Gideon was called to deliver Israel.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were challenged with a fiery furnace.
David had his lions’ den.
Paul had shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, threats and the list goes on. What is of note is the faith of these people. People who have gone through much more than us, and had a strong faith to the end. They made a choice because they were following God with all there heart, soul, and mind… just as we should be doing.
These were real people in real places - been in a place like one of those? Make the commitment now to follow jesu with all you got, and as you go through life you will find that even though Fear tries to jump you, you give it to God and you get peace instead.

The Peace
David has peace because he knows God is in control. He knows God is watching him. Even David’s tears are recorded - God has his back. Do you see that progression? David fears, puts His trust in God, the fear is gone and he worships God! The great struggle in trust is emotion. Emotion runs away with us sometimes, even when it is flying in the face of truth. When that happens we don’t trust God. As God changes us more and more into His likeness, our emotions will align more and more with the heart of God. Bonnie and I were discussing Psalm 37:4 where it says if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart. That verse is talking about that change the Holy Spirit wroughts in our hearts. Our desires will come from Him, so that our hearts will be after God’s. David was called a man after God’s heart, in spite of his public and private sins. God is bigger than any situation you may find yourselves in, now or ever. Trust in Him. Rest in Him. Let the fear go and praise the lord. Jesus is calling you now with the words,

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Talking To The Dead - Read it yet?

If you haven't read Bonnie's first novel, you should. It is a wonderful story of a woman's journey to faith. We sometimes think salvation is where it all starts, but God's prevenient grace begins much before that, as does our ministry with people.
I am currently reading Prayer Evangelism and he talks about a fourfold process of evangelism. The fourth step is to proclaim the Good News, but there are 3 other steps before that! I think he got it right - and yes, sometimes God does work out of that box, but let us all start praying for the people around us, most of whom we have no idea what is going on in the private places of their life.