Friday, May 11, 2018
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
My grandfather Jacob Kopp always said, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees!”
That was his way of saying don’t sweat the small stuff so you don’t miss the big stuff.
I think of the golfer who asked a touring pro to recommend the latest and most technologically advanced equipment to improve his game. The pro said, “It’s the Indian not the arrow.”
Then there was the hacker who asked Sam Snead for advice on his swing. Slammin’ Sammy told him to take a few swings. After a few swings, the links legend deadpanned, “Quit.”
In my ghetto, I’ve often seen churches caring more about eventual dust in the wind – furniture, architecture, antependia, vestments, candles, collars, bulletins, ornaments, and such – than the only One who really matters in the end.
I like how Paul put it: “Seek what is above, where Jesus is! Set your sights on what is above, not on what is on the earth. Think heavenly not earthly thoughts!”
Indeed, Jesus taught us to pray and labor that His Kingdom come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
When I was a little boy and visiting my grandparents on Grove Street in New York City, I’d ask my grandpa to tell the same story about Mutt and Jeff to me every night.
As time has gone by, I’ve realized it’s a story with many meanings; and one of those meanings is we often have hearing problems.
Anyway, here’s the story.
Mutt and Jeff decide to make their fortune by building a soundproof room.
After construction, they test it.
Mutt goes into the room and Jeff yells from the outside, “Can you hear me, Mutt?”
Mutt yells back, “No!”
Psalm 5 is about hearing problems.
While we can be like Mutt and Jeff and have hearing problems, not really paying attention to God as revealed in Jesus by the book and focusing on the horizontal (earthly) more than the vertical (heavenly), God hears our problems, pays attention to us, and answers by grace through faith in Jesus.
God specializes in hearing our problems and solving them.
He saves us.
Psalm 5 is a prayer with four parts; asking God to hear (1-6), lead (7-8), protect (9-10), and bless (11-12).
David knows He does; pero just reminding Him, himself, and us when, you know, things are tough.
“Listen to my words, Lord,” David begins, “consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You…I need Your help.”
There are times when we are so overwhelmed by so much that we don’t have the words to articulate our feelings and stresses and all the rest.
There are times when we just gulp, gasp, groan, moan, sigh, and cry.
Fortunately, God listens and interprets what’s behind all of those inarticulate feelings and stresses through the Holy Spirit. God hears our problems even when we can’t put them into words; or as Paul wrote, “We do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. He who searches hearts knows…If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans…He knows us better than we know ourselves.”
God hears our prayers even if we can’t put them into words.
David likes to start every day with God: “At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak, I plead my case to You and watch expectantly…I place my life into Your hands every morning.”
Beginning each day with God in praise and prayer sets the tone for daily life dedicated to Him.
That’s what Jesus did and He is the perfect pattern for being Godly: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.”
The first part of the day is the most uncluttered part of the day with fewest distractions; so David and Jesus showed us that it’s the best way to begin the day with fresh focus on God, open heads and hearts to hear God, and rededicated passion to filter every day’s thoughts, words, and actions in/through/for Him.
Besides, if you wait until the end of the day, just before turning in or as your head hits Michael J. Lindell’s best invention “for the best night’s sleep in the whole wide world,” well, uh, you know…
David continues, “For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot lodge with You. The boastful cannot stand in Your presence; You hate all evildoers. You destroy those who tell lies; the Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and treachery…You don’t socialize with Wicked or invite Evil over as Your houseguest. Hot-Air-Boaster collapses in front of You. You shake Your head over Mischief-Maker. God destroys Lie-Speaker. Blood-Thirsty and Truth-bender disgust You.”
In short, God loves sinners but hates sin; and sinners better be careful because there’s a time limit on sinners getting righteous by grace through faith in Jesus.
Believers want to behave like believers and beg God’s righteous providence in their lives: “I enter Your house by the abundance of Your faithful love; I bow down toward Your holy temple in reverential awe of You. Lord, lead me in Your righteousness, because of my adversaries; make Your way straight before me…I’m waiting for Your directions to get me safely through life.”
We want God to direct our thoughts, words, and actions.
We want to be righteous.
I think of those days when Dave, Don, Ev, Harlan, and I used to get together on early Tuesday mornings at Cuppa Joe’s before Belvidere Brewers started meeting at Starbucks. We came up with something of a mantra for the goal of continuing growth or increasing sanctification unto the Lord that horrifies the grammar police who care more about jots, tittles, and other meaningless punctuations, conjugations, and so on than true righteousness by the book in the name of Jesus: “Christians pray and work to be more better than ever before!”
A true believer who wants to behave like a believer is always praying and working to be more better for Jesus.
We want Him to lead the way and clear the path of all obstacles – “Make Your way straight before us!” – to enable the increasing intimacy with Him that increases fidelity.
It’s a dangerous world and there are predators ready to pounce on us with lies, slander, gossip, and false witnesses as their weapons: “There is nothing reliable in what they say; destruction is within them…Their thoughts and motives are dark…Their talk is bad breath…an open grave…They flatter to seduce…Oh, God, protect me from them….Drive them away…While they prey on me, they’re really rebelling against You.”
God is the only One capable of shielding us; and He does!
Read Ephesians 6:10-20.
When Martin Luther was being hunted down for saying Jesus is enough to enable triumphant living and insure paradise after the last breath, he was asked who would protect him as he cut into the business of a corrupted church, he responded, “Do you ask who that may be? Christ Jesus! It is He! I am protected under the shelter the heaven.”
Everyone who invites Him into the head, heart, and gut will live victoriously no matter who, what, where, when, or why.
“There is no pit so deep,” Betsy said to Corrie ten Boom while in a Nazi concentration camp just before going home to Jesus, “that God is not deeper still!”
The faithful are fruitful: “Let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever…You shelter the faithful; so the faithful boast about You…You bless…You surround Your family with favor like a shield protecting from head to toe…You welcome us with open arms…Let the party start!…You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.”
Simply and certainly by grace through faith, Jesus saves!
Of course, we have the choice…for better or worse.
God invites us into an intimacy with Him that yields direction, protection, and salvation.
We choose to accept or reject His offer.
Too many people have hearing problems.
They don’t pay attention to God.
I recall the woman who complained to Tony about the way that he prayed; and he retorted, “Listen, lady, I wasn’t talking to you.”
More to the point, I’ve often said this to people who tell me that they never hear God when they pray: “That’s because you won’t shut up and listen! How can you hear God when you won’t shut up and listen to Him? You’re talking too much and listening too little to God!”
God doesn’t have hearing problems.
He pays attention to us.
He hears, leads, protects, and blesses.
He is, after all will be said and done, our Father.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!