Thursday, August 30, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 20

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#20

“Battle Prayer”

Give or take a few fractions, ¾ of the world is always at war.

It’s one of the worst though most consistent behaviors of humanity.

Obviously, we like to fight.

Yeah, there are “just” wars; or as Solomon admitted, “There is a time for war.”

Being a sheepdog trying to guide, provide, and protect sheep includes inevitable conflict with the wolves that are doing their worst to devour them.

Yet, admittedly, most fights fall into James’ conclusion: “What is the cause of the wars and the fights among you?  Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  You desire and do not have.  You murder and covet and cannot obtain.  You fight and war.”

Like American socialists who think that’ll work despite socialism never working in any country at any time, peaceniks who think forming a rap group in South Chicago will stop the current violence that makes the Capone era city look like a BB gun compared to heavy artillery are more na├»ve than Cortez, Bernie, and the rest of ‘em.

Sad truth is everyone who fights thinks they’re right.

Referring to the so-called “Dark Ages” that never seem to go away, renowned Yale historian Roland Bainton provided this stark realism about human nature in Christendom, “The degree to which centralized government had collapsed is illustrated by the fate of Augustine’s doctrine of the just war.  He had said that war should be conducted only under the auspices of the state, because private war is anarchy…He said that justice must be on one side only and that the prince should determine the justice.  He had been thinking in terms of the Christian Roman Empire over against the hordes of barbarians, but now that the multitudinous princes were feuding with each other, one prince had as much right as another to call his cause just…Consequently, theory was thrown to the winds, and those attacked took care of themselves, including bishops, priests, monks, and nuns, though the clergy often scrupled to use swords and, instead, bashed the enemy with clubs, because ‘the Church abhors the shedding of blood.’  The code had utterly collapsed.”

Still, despite our miscalculations and misinterpretations and mistakes, there are times, echoing Solomon again, when war is the right thing to do to protect sheep from wolves.

Pharaohs, Hitlers, Nazis, KKKs, Islamofascistnutballs, and other conspirators with satanos will not stop unless stopped; and anyone who thinks they’re metaphorically “better red than dead” and ready to give up divinely designed freedom for a six-pack and Bears game is deceived by the ultimate goal of the dark side to seduce, enslave, and eliminate the non-compliant.

Parenthetically, that’s why the aforementioned and their diabolical kin always take away freedoms like the first two amendments to our Constitution when they want to rule.

God will judge who’s right in the end; and, in the meantime, the faithful turn to Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense to differentiate good from bad when deciding when to pick up the rod and staff for righteous undershepherding.

Psalm 20 was David’s battle prayer.

History complementing the Bible tells us that God’s people have always been in conflict with the evil one and its accomplices; and God’s people have always prayed for God’s graces to overcome and win the battle over darkness.

While most folks assume David wrote this psalm while preparing to go to war with the Ammonites and Syrians (see 2 Samuel 10:14-19) and others have speculated the psalm predicted the big showdown between Jesus and death punctuated by His victory via resurrection, it is helpful to any contemporary believer challenging the cultures so increasingly hostile to Jesus and Biblical Christianity.

Psalm 20 begins with David asking God’s graces and success as he prepares to lead God’s people into battle: “Answer us…Protect us…Help us…Sustain us…Remember us…Give us…Fulfill us…Lift us.…”

Then David predicts victory in advance because He trusts God’s care of the faithful: “Let us shout for joy because of the coming victory and set up our banners in joyful celebration…God gives victory to His anointed.”

God’s people know they will win even before the battle begins because they are on God’s team and God’s team never loses and the final standings always have Him and His on top.

As I recall someone saying, “This is the language of faith, not after the battle, but before it.”

David and God’s people throughout history know “the Lord saves His anointed” because they live and reign ultimately “in the name of God.”

“In the name of God” means the Godly belong to God and are beholden to God and, therefore, are blessed by God.

It means messing with God’s anointed people is a recipe for divine payback and ultimate defeat.

Surely, the most anointed of all was His Son/Substance/Incarnation Jesus who beat the final enemy of death for Himself and everyone else who invites Him into the heart as Lord and Savior.

So, again, the anointed – all who love and follow Jesus by the book – sing triumphantly, “We know God saves His anointed.  He answers and assists and delivers us from our enemies that are His enemies from His holy heaven by His saving strength.”

God’s people trust Him alone as above all other pretenders to salvation: “Some trust in others but we trust in God alone…Trusting in others means collapse and fall…Trusting in God means resurrection and strong calm sanity and standing firm and victory…Trusting God is knowing He saves when we call on Him.”

Unlike the worldly who trust the world and keep falling with it, God’s people are Wordy and trusting in the enfleshed Word (Jesus) and explained Word (Holy Scripture) and always revive and survive.

I like how Spurgeon put it: “Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord’s are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all.”

You may have heard about the priest who was blessing horses at the track.  He would make the sign of the cross, place his hand on a horse’s head, bow in prayer, and then the horse would go on to win.  

After watching the ceremony through several races, an inveterate gambling junkie raced to the betting window and placed all of his money on a horse in the last race of the day after the priest made the sign of the cross, placed his hand on the horse’s head, and bowed in prayer.

The horse lost.

In fictional fact, the horse finished dead last.

The now totally busted gambling junkie ran to the priest after the race and asked why the horse finished dead last after his ceremony while the other horses that went through the same thing went on to win.

The priest said, “Son, it appears you don’t know the difference between a blessing and last rites.”

Psalm 20 is about picking a winner.

It’s about trusting and thanking God in advance for ultimate victory here, now, and forever by grace through faith in Jesus.


@#$%

Blessings and Love!

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Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

@#$%


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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Checking Checkers

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    About two hours before entering a neutral pulpit near Oil City, Pennsylvania back in 1976 to audition for a church looking for another piece of religious meat, I stopped into a greasy spoon for breakfast and to read the paper.

    Parenthetically, have you seen the price of newspapers lately?  While I usually pick up a copy of the local rag during daily visits to the hospital and never check the $, I had to splurge and pay my way this past Saturday and it cost $3 for an edition as thick as the veneer on an elementary school desk which, BTW, is a metaphor for the content!

    Anyway, as I sat for breakfast and wondered if I really wanted to go to that church with its history of having pastors for lunch, I saw a cartoon in one of their local rags that had a bald preacher inviting the congregation to pray: "And at this time our hearts go out to all those pure and perfect newsmen who search for sin in others."

    I tore it off the page and tucked it into my Bible.

    Recently, I duplicated it and taped it to my study's door at the church.

    Ever wonder what's under that hat?

    Ever wonder what's in the closets of the checkers checking the righteousness of everybody but themselves?

    Ever wonder if the White House, outhouse (Springfield and DC), local rag, national rag, and alphabet soup of news reporting from all directions are as pure and perfect as they pretend?

    What's that He sees in their eyes?

    Please don't get me wrong.

    I'm an awful sinner who knows I need Jesus as my Lord and Savior in a 1 John 1 kinda way.

    I'm dumping my garbage as fast as I can before others dig it up.

    Being born again many times, I don't have to remember who I was because that's not me.

    Of course, people like to remind me how awful I have been, am, and will always be in their estimation.

    Vocational hazard.

    If you're not big enough to pick on God, pick on somebody your own size.

    Unless you've missed the course on original sin, you know we're all in a sinking boat without Jesus.

    Besides, the ripple effects of Hybels, Pope wazzhisname, Willow Creek, RCC, Jim, Tammy, Jimmy, Elmer, and every religious guy/gal going back to that murderous peeping Tom and philanderer and psalmist David means guys like me in glass houses shouldn't be throwing so many stones.

    Watch out!

    True and false, the easiest way to shut 'em up and get rid of 'em is to accuse 'em of you know what.

    It's one of the best ways to accomplish the worst intentions of satanos.

    So easy.

    So effective.

    So evil.

    Watch out!

    Eternally as well as existentially, the measure we give is the measure that we're going to get and we're gonna be judged like we judge.

    Jesus said that in case any of the aforementioned, including moi, have forgotten.

    Maybe that's why the Bible is really big on humility.

    Over and over and over again, it reminds us that riding high in the saddle makes for an easy target.

    Kinda like ostriches; but I'll talk more about Rome, mainline denominations, Springfield, DC, rags, reporters, checkers and the rest of 'em along with you et moi later.

    Dang, I'm still wondering what's under that hat and in their closets.

    I'll bet someone's checking.

    Make that Someone.

@#$%

Blessings and Love!

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Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

@#$%


@#$%

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Save Donald

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    If you hate Donald Trump more than you love America, stop reading.

    If you love America more than you hate Donald Trump, we need your help.

    When I was a younger undershepherd in a fabulously well-to-do church in KC during the Reagan years, a woman who reminds me of Rachel, sincere but with two feet planted firmly in the air, asked me to call the President and tell him what I thought about his manipulations in Central America.

    I responded, "Ronnie hasn't called me!"

    Yeah, I've rubbed elbows with lots of "important" people over the years and even spent time with...sorry, pastoral confidentiality...pero I have no relationship with our President and the two contacts that I have would never connect us because they know I've written some chastening columns about him before and after inauguration.

    So we, those who love America more than hate Trump, need your help.

    I really think I know how he can help bring us together, uh, again while distancing himself from the rhetorically divisive and ultimately destructive styles of Maxine, Charlie, Michael, BLM, KKK, PP, GOP, DNC, Whoppi, Joy, Alan, and the other dolts on both sides of the aisle who'd rather kill America than yield an ideological inch.

    If you know Donald and can get this message to him, please tell him to dump his garbage before others dig it up.

    It's a 1 John 1 thing.

    Read it because he/we need it.

    Anyway, it would be so refreshing if he said something like this every now and then, "I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  I really love America and need your help to make America as great as it can be for the glory of God that will bless the globe as well as our citizens."

    For example, getting back to dumping garbage before others dig it up in a 1 John 1 kinda way, 45 would totally unhinge you know who if he confessed, "Yes, I had sex with those two hookers.  God loves them and, I admit, I used them.  It was wrong.  I hurt my Lord, my family, and caused you to question my character to lead the country most critical to world peace.  I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  I love you.  I pledge to pray and try to model Someone better and, with you, we can be blessings to ourselves and our world family."

    Sooooooo if you know someone who knows 45 or someone who knows someone who knows 45 or even someone in the media who will print this, I think our President could really model Someone better if he'd try the preceding.

    Of course, there seems to be lots of folks who hate Trump more than they love America and would rather destroy America than contribute to our healing.

    There's a rhetorical question for them from Someone who really matters in the end.


    "What's that I see in your eye?"

Blessings & Love!

Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

@#$%


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Friday, August 24, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 19

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#19

“WWJD by the Book”

When I was a younger undershepherd, I’d stay away from the tables filled with geezers at church potlucks because they’re always talking about their aches and pains and pills and meds and the like.

Lately, I’ve been sitting down with ‘em to compare notes.

While still assuming more kinship to Peter Pan than geezers and like Jimi Hendrix, Skynyrd, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Mountain, and the Stones a lot more than Lawrence Welk, Perry Como, Barry Manilow, Bobby Goldsboro, and elevator musicians like The Association and Abba, I’m starting to face the inevitable; though I’m with Karry Wenger and will never trade in my bike for a trike because a bike is a bike and a trike is a trike and…

Of course, I’m still haunted by Dave Bell saying to Karry and me as we scorned some trikers who were bikers riding down Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota in 2010, “Hey, that’s your future!”

What’s really starting to get to me is agreeing with my dad so often about so many things; including aches and pains and…

Actually, I’ve always paid attention to my dad even when pretending otherwise.

He’s very smart with a lotta wisdom.

My dad says, “If you’re not a liberal, you have no heart; and if you’re not a conservative, you have no brain.”

I’m reminded of Charles Krauthammer who often confessed to being “a liberal mugged by reality.”

My dad also says, “Conservatives don’t like to see anything happen for the first time; and when you look into the eyes of a liberal with two feet planted firmly in the air, you can’t tell if they’re having a vision of God or didn’t make it to the restroom in time.”

He also taught me to “tell people to go to hell in a way that they’re looking forward to the trip.”

Here’s the greatest counsel that he ever gave me about leadership: “The best leaders encourage people to think it was their idea!”

As you can see from that sampling, my dad has always been about balance.

He got it from Jesus who said we’re supposed to be tough-minded and tenderhearted: “Wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.”

Both.

Balance.

Getting back to that first quote about liberals having hearts and conservatives having brains – both needed for balanced character so rare in Springfield, D.C., and even too many churches – my dad sometimes has put it this way, “Young people think you have no heart unless you’re liberal and old people think you have no brain unless you’re conservative.”

My youngest Matthew comes to mind.

He’s a junior at Coe College; and when asked recently what he wants to do with his life, he said matter-of-factly, “I want to change the world.”

He gets the idealism of thinking he can change the world from his mom and the realism of knowing the world must be changed from his dad.

As we mature, our idealism is tempered by reality.

Read that Krauthammer quote again.

This is especially true for Christians who know the world needs changing for the better in the name of Jesus by the book and know our Lord and Savior expects us to do our best to change it; or as Paul put it, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

Christians know the perfect pattern is Jesus and perfect prescriptions are in Holy Scripture for that amelioration.

While I’m not a Trekkie, I saw a clip from Star 
Trek: The Next Generation that caught my attention.

The captain meets Mark Twain and says, “I wish I had more time. I have so many questions to ask you.”

The mythical Twain replies, “Just read my books.  Everything you need to know about me is in there.”

Catch the drift?

God has given all that we need to know about Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the book called the Bible.

God has given all that we need to know about following Him in the Bible.

WWJD?

What would Jesus do?

It’s all right there in the book!

Here’s the short course.

Ten Commandments for honoring God and helping people in Exodus 20.

Red letters in the New Testament.

Read ‘em.

If you want to know what it means to follow Jesus, just read ‘em.

That’s what David was trying to get across in Psalm 19.

Just read the book.

If we want to know who God is and what He has done for us and what He expects from us as our grateful response for who He is and what He has done for us, we just read the book and then enflesh His ethics.

Psalm 19 can be broken down into three parts.

Verses 1-6 are about God revealing Himself in creation: “The heavens and earth declare the glory of God!”

Verses 7-11 focus on the purely perfect prescriptions of Holy Scripture for honoring God and helping people which is honoring God: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting and reviving the soul.  The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making us wise.  The statutes of the Lord are right, making us glad.  The commandment of the Lord is radiant, enlightening us.  The fear of the Lord is clean and pure, enduring forever. The judgments of God are reliable, true, and altogether righteous.”

I really like how Peterson paraphrases those verses so practically: “The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.  The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road.  The life maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.  The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.”

Verse 11 emphasizes the utility of Holy Scripture: “There is great reward in keeping God’s Word in Holy Scripture…God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.  Otherwise, how will we find our way?”

Verses 12-14 are our WWJD prayer to be Jesus people by the book: “Cleanse me…Keep me from stupid sins…May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

WWJD?

It’s all there in the book!

Getting back to our maturing youthfulness of wanting to change the world and starting with ourselves, I was never that good at math in college; but I have always remembered one equation as a metaphor for the family of faith that loves Jesus and wants to say what He would say and do what He would do as gratitude for our confident living in the assurance of eternal life: “The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.”

If we do our part and join heads and hearts and guts with others doing their parts to follow Jesus by the book, life will get better on earth as it is in heaven.

The perfect pattern for doing our part is Jesus – the enfleshed Word.

The perfect prescriptions for doing our part are in the Bible – the explained Word.

When all of the parts are following Jesus by the book, life is a whole lot better.


@#$%

Blessings and Love!

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Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

@#$%


@#$%

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 18

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#18

“Our Opportunity for Overcoming”

Belvidere in Boone County, Illinois is my home.

Despite proximity to Springfield and the dolts down there who are dominated by the Chicago mob who are taxing the rest of the state to death to enable the city’s corruption, crime, waste, whoring, depravity, and defiance of federal law, there is no place on earth that I’d rather be.

Notice I said there’s no place on earth that I’d rather be.

I’m with Paul on heaven; and you can read about that in Philippians.

Sadly, my home is being challenged by cultural shifts that threaten our unity and viability for positive societal evolution.

While the challenges may seem particular to us, I think they’re analogous to the challenges facing many other communities in our country.

Though my list is more suggestive than complete or categorical, I see four undeniable challenges; recalling how Rockford street preacher William Taylor often says, “You can’t fix what you won’t face!”

1. When District 100 decided to go from one to two high schools over a decade ago, it sparked a split in the community with divisions deepening ever since.  Surely, fledgling Belvidere North has made remarkable academic and athletic advances; yet the once-proud city that heralded well-rounded education accented by football as its poster child of excellence has become increasingly disjointed, dysfunctional, and divided.

2. Many of our city and county’s icons have retired or died and have folks wondering, “Who will be stepping up to the plate?”

3. While local government has embraced “Home Rule” to the tune of gas taxes with the potential/probability for more to follow, people are concerned more about the principle than infinitesimal financial burden upon taxpayers.  Local government has the option on ignoring the majority of public sentiments to impose ordinances, create/grant licenses, tax, and incur debt apart from ballot referenda.  While terms expire and elections are forthcoming, there is a growing feeling of “taxation without representation” in our neck of the woods.

4. The selling of Belvidere/Alpine Bank to Midland States Bank is a seismic emotional challenge.  Aside from the movement from classy blue to garish orange signage that would be fitting on the turf of the Harlem Huskies but not for Bucs and Blue Thunder, there is a pronounced sense of betrayal as the hometown bank has gone regional.  I’m reminded of my first conversation with Mayor Fred Brereton at the extinct Huddle over a dozen years ago.  I asked, “Does Belvidere identity more with Chicago or Rockford?”  “Belvidere,” he answered.  That’s why orange has made folks so blue around town.

Again, Winston Churchill said we must have the courage to be candid within a collaborative context to advance civilization.

It’s not going to help anyone to become defensive or offensive or even rationalizing about the challenges before us.

Go back to William Taylor’s counsel.

While I may be wrong about the dynamics of many of our challenges and while my list doesn’t pretend to be dogmatic, it’s analogous to the problems facing just about everyone in every neighborhood; and while I’m not smart enough to prescribe particular solutions, I am faithful enough to trust God to help us overcome them if we turn to Him.

Or as Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, often urged, “Let God love you!”

Psalm 18 is all about overcoming challenges in/through/for God.

With only Psalms 78, 89, and 119 being longer, I am struck by Psalm 18’s simple prescriptive recipe for overcoming challenges and renewing relationships akin to Revelation 2:1-7.

The risen Lord Jesus provides a recipe for one particular church in Ephesus for overcoming challenges and renewing relationships applicable to all churches: “Remember your first love and repent/return to your first love so you may receive continued blessings and rejoice in Him.”

Remember

Whenever we’re falling away and down, remembering how much God loves us and how much we have loved God for loving us enables us to overcome challenges and renew relationships with Him and His.

David remembers God as “my strength…rock…fortress…deliverer…
mountain…salvation…stronghold.” 

Remembering how much God has done for us and always been here or there and everywhere for us inspires strong calm sanity in the midst of challenges by knowing we will overcome them sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end because it’s always been that way with God.

Repent and Receive

Turning afresh to God insures the same old same old that is forever renewing and refreshing; or as David exclaimed, “I called to the Lord who is worthy of praise and I was saved…I called to the Lord in my distress and I cried to the Lord for help and He heard and helped…He reached down from on high and took hold of me.  He pulled me up and out of deep waters…He rescued me because He loves me and delights in me…The Lord rewarded me.”

Rejoice

When we remember and repent and then receive His graces, we are moved to doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

David sets the tone for our praises in Psalm 18: “God’s way is perfect!  God is pure!  He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.  Only God is our rock!  The Lord lives!  May my rock be praised!  The God of my salvation is exalted!  I praise You!  I sing about Your name!  He gives victories to us!  He shows loyalty to His family!”

I like how Eugene Peterson summarized the theology of this psalm in his introduction to Mark: “The sooner we get the message, the better off we’ll be; for the message is good, incredibly good.  God is here and He’s on our side!…God is here right now and on our side; actively seeking to help us in the way we most need help…God is passionate to save us.”

Here’s one way to personalize this recipe for overcoming challenges and renewing relationships.

Remember.

Repent and Receive.

Rejoice.

Just before your next personal prayer time at home, make a list recording how God has spoken to you in the past, been with you in the past, answered your prayers in the past, intervened in your life in the past, bailed you out just in the nick of time in the past, always come through for you in the past, ignored your requests to provide something better in the past, and loved you so amazingly in the past.

Write it down.

You’ll need a lot of paper.

That’s when you’ll experience the blessings of remembering God’s love for you and your love for Him and repenting/returning to that love causing thanks and praise that raises the roof.

There’s a song that describes what will happen to us if we personalize this recipe:

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God has one.

If you’re like me, counting blessings from God takes so long that there’s usually not enough time left for intercessions, supplications, petitions, and so on.

No wonder people who really worship God are happier than those who don’t.


@#$%

Blessings and Love!

@#$%


Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

@#$%


@#$%