Friday, September 14, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 23

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of the Psalms



If I were a betting man which I am not, I would wager Psalm 23 and John 3:16 are the most memorized verses of the Bible.

Both generate calm certainty about God’s existential and eternal care; or as Eugene Peterson wrote, “The sooner we get the message, the better off we’ll be, for the message is 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.”

John 3:16 is a concise summary of God’s love in Jesus that guarantees the eternal after the existential by grace through faith; and whoever embraces Him experiences confident living in knowing the heavenly follows the last breath in time.

Psalm 23 spells out His existential and eternal care.

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

God’s love for us is compared to a shepherd’s care for sheep.

Sheep are notoriously – and please remember I don’t write ‘em; just read ‘em – stupid.  They wander off from what’s good for ‘em and always get into trouble when apart from the shepherd’s guidance and protection.  

Shepherds – and keep in mind that God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Good Shepherd and all who love Him by loving like Him are His undershepherds – live to guide, provide, and protect the sheep.  

Referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd and undershepherds who love Him by loving like Him, read John 10:1-18 to flesh out undershepherding as patterned perfectly by Jesus.

“I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.”

God provides as well as guides and protects.  Green pastures represent places of rest, renewal, and nourishment.  Still waters connote unhurried satiating contentment.  Depleted by the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of living in a fallen world, God regenerates our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual wholeness, happiness, joy, safety, and security.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Jesus provides the perfect pattern – way and truth leading to abundant life in time and forever – for a right relationship with God.  His example and instructions are intended to inspire us into greater intimacy with God and His will; resulting, as Don Skarr likes to say, in a life that sins less.  Though we can never be pure and perfect in every way or sinless, always needing Lord Jesus as Savior, we can be more better and sin less; resulting in an undeniable equation: more holy = more happy.

God does this “for His name’s sake” because His reputation is at risk juxtaposed to the existential and eternal welfare of people who trust Him from here to eternity; which is why I often pray, “Lord, bless Your people so those who are not Your people take notice of how You bless Your people and then turn to You!  As Your people live triumphantly with strong calm sanity no matter who, what, where, when, or why, Your reputation as true God in Jesus to save increases!  So bless, bless, bless for Your glory, laud, and honor to hasten the day when every tongue confesses Jesus is Lord and Savior and every knee bows before Him as One with Father and Spirit.”

“Though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  You are with me.  Your rod and staff comfort me.”

While the world is filled with dangerous “shadows” and dark conspiracies to hinder and hurt God’s flock, He is with us and provides the weapons for combat – rod and staff – to keep count so none are lost, guide so none lose their way, rescue those so prone to wander off into the pits of life, and protect us from predators.  

With God’s promises like Joshua 1:9, Psalm 62, Matthew 10, John 10, Ephesians 6:10-20, and countless complementary quoted assurances from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout Holy Scripture, believers know the truth of Matthew 7:24-27 in a 1 John 4:18 kinda way.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil.  My cup overflows.”

Even when surrounded by enemies of God who are enemies of anyone related to Him by grace through faith in Jesus, God’s family feels/is safe, sane, strong, and secure; or as Betsy said to sister Corrie ten Boom while dying in a concentration camp, “We must go everywhere and tell everyone that no pit is so deep that God is not deeper still!”  

Anointing oil has always been a symbol of rejoicing related to feeling/being esteemed, guided, and protected.  Intimate with God, we feel/are blessed existentially and eternally beyond expectations: “My cup overflows.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of my life.  I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Summarizing the preceding verses, anyone intimate with God knows His guidance and protection “on earth as it is in heaven” with irrepressible confident living in the assurance of eternal life.

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a movie about legendary Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, includes one of the best expositions of Matthew 10:16 within the context of Psalm 23 and John 3:16.  Wayne Kyle says to his sons, “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.  Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world…they…[don’t]…know how to protect themselves.  Those are the sheep….Then you’ve got the predators who use violence to prey on the weak…wolves…and then there are those blessed…with an overpowering need to protect the flock…who live to confront the wolf…sheepdogs.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who guides, provides, and protects the flock; and women and men who love Him by loving like Him – undershepherds – model their guiding and providing and protecting lives and ministries after Him.  

It’s not enough to heal wounds.  
Godly people prevent wounds.

That’s good undershepherding as perfectly pattern by the Good Shepherd Jesus.


Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

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

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!



Sunday, September 9, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 22

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


“Crossing Over”

What’s deep in the well comes up in the bucket.

Let’s put it another way.

Tough times don’t build character.

Tough times reveal character.

That’s especially true for folks knocking on heaven’s door.

People tend to say what they really mean when they don’t have much time left to say it.

It’s very, very, very sad to see people who do not believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior in their last breaths filled with inconsolable fear about what happens the first nano-second after the last inhale and exhale.

While only God judges in the end, some folks look and talk and act so desperately; betraying no calm or confidence or certainty in eternal life.

They remind me of Elizabeth I: “All of my possessions for one more moment of time.”

Conversely, people who know they are destined to paradise by grace through faith in Jesus are as unafraid of that last breath as President Andrew Jackson who said just before traveling home, “Please don’t cry for me or yourselves, dear children, for we will all meet in heaven.”

Or as my grandfather Hayden assured not long before his journey back to Jesus when I said I would fly home to be with him in his last days, “That’s not necessary.  When I die, you will come and preside at the service; and then I’ll see you later.”

Jesus, of course, is the perfect model of seeing through the cross of existential death to the crown of eternal life.

After betrayal and torture, he was nailed to a cross and hung out to die.

Traditionally based on Holy Scripture, we often refer to His seven last words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise…Woman, behold your son!  Behold your mother!…I thirst…Father, I commit My spirit into Your hands…It is finished.”

Those six words speak of His unconditional love and forgiveness, eternal salvation, reunion, and triumph.

There is, however, one word that is so often so misinterpreted so grossly: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

It sounds like Jesus felt abandoned on the cross.

It sounds like the last yelps of infidelity and uncertainty and resignation to becoming nothing more than worm food after the last breath.

Pero, in fact, Jesus was reciting Psalm 22 that is one of the greatest witnesses to crossing over from suffering to triumph.

The psalm acknowledges existential pain as the preface to heavenly gain that Jesus described as paradise.

Psalm 22 is often referred to as a messianic prophecy because it forecasted the betrayal, torturing, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus.

David predicted the suffering of Jesus: “Everyone who sees Me mocks Me…They sneer…Bulls surround Me…mauling and roaring…I am poured out like water…My bones are disjointed…My strength is dried up…They pierced My hands and feet…”

Psalm 22, however, ends in victory not defeat: “I will proclaim Your name…I will praise You…You hear our cries…You do not hide Your face from us…You satisfy…You take care of those who seek You…You rule…You are righteous and save…”

Just as David prayed this as a witness to the crossing over from suffering to salvation for all believers sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end, every Biblically literate person who heard Jesus utter these words from the cross knew He was acknowledging pain and rejoicing in the paradise that is the ultimate destination of the faithful.

That’s the end game.

Stick with Jesus in time and be saved for all time.

In short, Jesus saves.

I believe Jesus repeated Psalm 22 because it is so true to life and eternity.

He acknowledged that we will suffer.

There’s no way of getting around that.

That’s the bad news.

Pero nota bene!

We cross over from temporary pain to everlasting gain by grace through faith in Jesus.

That’s/He’s the gospel.

David guaranteed crossing over in Psalm 22 for the Messiah and anyone trusting Him in time and forever.

The agony of the first half of the psalm is but a temporary transition to the ecstasy of the second half.

Jesus enfleshed crossing over; and promised, in effect, “Anyone who stays with Me through the crosses of life will be with Me in the pure and perfect place of personal peace where there is no more pain or suffering or tears or anything less than My best forever!”

Let me be really personal.

Not too long ago, I looked deeply into the eyes of a woman who had many disappointments in life.  She had only hours left in time.  As she renewed her relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior, inviting Him again into her heart, she became so soft, warm, certain, confident, peaceful, and

It happens whenever we travel with Jesus through time to eternity.

We feel/are delivered from suffering to salvation.

Do you feel/have that assurance?

If so, praise God!

If not, go to the table of Holy Communion, invite Him into your heart as personal Lord and Savior for the first or second or third or…time and know as you experience the pleasures of John 3:16-17.

Look it up.

Look Him up.


Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

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

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 21

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


“Among the Biggest Reasons for Low Church Attendance”

Among the biggest reasons for low church attendance are pulpiteers and pewsitters.

If you didn’t know that, it’s because you haven’t been listening to children.

Ask most children why they don’t like to go to worship services, they’ll say, “It’s B-O-R-I-N-G!”

It’s true.

Too many churches are boring.

It’s been said, “If churches were dynamite, they wouldn’t have enough to blow their noses.”

I think of little Dougie Watson, sitting in the first pew of Clark, New Jersey’s Osceola Presbyterian Church, nudging his mom and whispering in desperation after I announced the closing hymn so many years ago, “Just my luck.  Six verses.”

Then there was the rather enthusiastic fellah who visited a church like some on most Main Streets in mainline America by mistake and really got into it.  He started waving his hands and shouting out hallelujahs. 

An usher rushed over to him and scolded, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t do that here!”

The man protested, “But I got religion!”

The usher snorted, “Well, you didn’t get it here!”

O.K., enough of the…reality…of too many very religiously rote and boring churches that are about as related to Jesus as socialists to our Constitution.

Why are they like that?

Donald Grey Barnhouse, the firebrand preacher of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church, wrote in The Love Life, “If you aren’t joyful, I mean radiantly and abundantly joyful, you don’t know what God has done for you.”

That’s David’s message in Palms 21.

Verses 1-6 esteem God not himself or others or circumstances or anything or anyone else as generating his irrepressible joy no matter who, what, where, when, or why: “Lord, the king finds joy in Your strength!  How greatly he rejoices in Your victory!…You!…You!…You!…For the king relies on the Lord!  Because of faith in the Most High, he is not shaken!”

Verses 7-12 emphasize the victory of God and the Godly over all enemies sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “God’s hand will capture all your enemies…God will make them burn like a fiery furnace…The Lord will engulf them in His wrath…Fire will devour them…Though the enemies of God and the Godly intend harm and devise wicked plans, they will not prevail…”

Verse 13 is the end game exclamation point: “Be exalted, Lord, in Your strength.  We will sing and praise Your might.”

David and every other true believer know God wins sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end…and look like winners!

Believers don’t walk around like dogs with tails between their legs.

Believers don’t look like losers.

Just like the entire tone of Psalm 12 echoed throughout Holy Scripture and in the true Church that knows and follows Jesus by the book, believers know the existential assurances and joyous buoyancy of victory, deliverance, and salvation.

Believers knew about the power of positive thinking long before Peale coined the phrase.

Surely, David wasn’t suggesting a mindless singing of This is the Day as if every day were a hot fudge sundae and believing in God is immunity to the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life.

David knew the sufferings attached to betrayal and war.

Saul, Absalom, Philistines, Ammonites, Sheba, Adonijah, and so many other enemies of Israel’s greatest king come to mind.

Pero he also knew, as Charles Spurgeon noted, “A holy confidence in Jehovah is the true mother of all victories.”

Sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end, God wins and God’s people win with Him.

That’s the irrepressible joy that overcomes all of life’s challenges.

That’s what compels us to sing, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”

So here’s the truth.

Barnhouse remains right.

If we aren’t joyful, radiantly abundantly joyful no matter who, what, where, when, or why, it means we have no idea of who God is and what He has done for us and our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Let me put that concisely.

If we aren’t joyful, we aren’t close to Jesus.

It is impossible to be close to Jesus and be a crank; though some churches should be renamed Cranks for Christ.


Joy, as Francis Schaeffer suggested, may be the most distinctive mark of a Christian.

Joy is listed by Paul in Galatians 5 as proof/evidence/fruit of intimacy with Jesus.

In short, joy is what is missing in boring pulpiteers, pewsitters, and churches; and when joy is missing, Jesus is missing.

That doesn’t sound right.

Let me try again.

If joy is missing, the doors of the church and hearts of the people inside have been closed to Him.

The only One missing in boring churches with low attendance is Jesus.

Don’t lock Him out!

Let Him in!

Make room for Him!

Get it?

Open up your heads and hearts and guts; and let Him in!

You’ll be glad you did and the church will become as He intended by incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and everlasting reign.



That’s the Church that knows Him and makes Him known.


Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

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

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!