Monday, April 9, 2018
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 1
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“How to Live Happily Ever After”
While forgetting who said it to me, it’s among the best advice that I’ve ever received: “Sometimes it’s better to talk to God about someone than to talk to someone about God.”
That’s especially true when it comes to irascibles, irregulars, and irreconcilables; or as I wrote in a book that nobody’s read, “Trying to be rational with the irrational is illogical.”
Tinkling in the wind comes to mind.
Because too many people are so auto-suggestively blinded by their ignorant ideologies and idolatries masquerading as faith or theology, intelligent conversations without hysterics about the sanctity of all human life, drugs, gangs, the environment, Islam, the 1st and 2nd amendments, human sexuality, marriage, Hillary, Donald, or just about anything are rare.
Sooooooo it’s better to talk to God about someone than to talk to someone about God; praying God will enlighten them or you or me or us or whomever needs to see things from His perspective as enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture.
While it comes as a shock to Democrats, Republicans, and other arrogantly self-righteous religions, David is right: “The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.”
That’s why psalms are so helpful.
They are songs of prayer and praise that usher us into God’s presence; increasing our intimacy with Him so much that we begin to say as we experience with the apostle, “It is no longer I who live but it is Jesus living in and through me.”
Singing and praying the psalms enable an intimacy with God that supernaturally helps us to overcome our natural distancing from God so that we begin to understand His mind and will on everyone and everything; or as David explained what happens in worship: “God inhabits the praises of His people.”
Intimacy with God informs our knowledge of His mind and will and inspires the wisdom to trust and obey Him in all things at all times in all places with all people.
Psalm 1 draws the existential distinctions with eternal consequences between those who are intimate with God and those who are not.
“How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers! Instead his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”
An intimate relationship with Jesus not a religion about Jesus is the recipe for, as Oswald Chambers put it, “strong calm sanity.”
When we are tight with God, we don’t unravel amid the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life in the modern world.
Rooted in the Word – enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture – we are not upset or upended by life’s circumstances.
Rather than our happiness depending upon favorable circumstances, it is the supernatural product of getting closer and staying close to our Lord.
That intimacy/closeness is fueled by “delighting” in Biblical revelation and meditating continually on it: focusing on the Word and filtering thoughts, words, and actions through the Word. It means ”chewing on” or “wrapping ourselves around” the Word; or as Eugene Peterson explained, “It is more like sucking on a lozenge than gulping down a meal.”
The result is personal peace no matter who, what, where, when, or why; being “like a tree planted beside streams of water…whose leaf does not wither…deeply rooted…strong…stable…solid…prosperous.”
Conversely, distance from God is unstable, risky, and impoverishing: “The wicked, those not intimate with God, are like chaff that the wind blows away…ruinous.”
Jesus provided an unforgettable metaphor to contrast the safety and security of intimacy with Him from the lethal dysfunctions of distancing from Him: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”
So the message is simple.
Stay stuck on God and we won’t drown in life’s challenges.
Stay stuck on God and be assured of the heavenly after the earthly.
In short, stay stuck on God and be saved.
Brother Daniel, a Trappist monk at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, comes to mind.
He packaged incense.
One day at the monastery, I noticed he had his Bible opened to Psalm 91 which is one of my favorites.
Knowing Brother Daniel had barely made it through 8th grade and I had studied the psalm in Hebrew under some of the greatest scholars in the world and even been to Israel on many occasions where it first showed up, I thought I would enlighten the undereducated monk.
As I talked, he was thoroughly underwhelmed.
When I asked what the psalm meant to him, the heavens opened and I began to understand the psalm in ways never before understood or entertained.
Startled by this simple monk’s superior to supernatural understanding of the psalm, I asked how he knew so much more about it than me with all of my educational benefits.
He said, “I asked God what it means.”
It was then that I understood the caution extended to me as a seminarian by John Robertson who was pastor of Belvidere, New Jersey’s First Presbyterian Church: “Don’t separate yourself from God by degrees.”
I think of a favorite story.
A Texan was visiting Princeton. He asked a young student, “Excuse me, son, where’s the library at?” The student sniffed and snipped, “A Princeton man would never end a sentence with a preposition.” “Excuse me, son,” the Texan persisted, “where’s the library at, jerk!”
Happiness, wholeness, security, joy, peace, serenity, calm, sanity – whatever words that come to mind to describe how we’d like to be – are generated exclusively, absolutely, existentially, and eternally by one Source, Sovereign, Starter, Savior, and Sustainer: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That’s Psalm 1’s message.
Happiness is the supernatural product of intimacy with God.
Jesus put Him this way: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
Of course, you can lead a horse to water but can’t…
Talking to some people about God seems like such a waste of time; and, sometimes, it is because they just won’t listen.
They’re the bad soil that Jesus warned us about.
That’s why it’s sometimes better to talk to God about someone than to talk to someone about God.
Actually, when we think about it, either way is good; because in the meantime and in the end, salvation only comes by staying stuck on Him.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!