Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“Declaration of Dependence”
John Huffman, one of America’s great pastors and personal friend of Billy Graham and President Nixon, spent time during seminary with Norman Vincent Peale whose ministry was often defined by his memorable emphasis on the power of positive thinking.
Indeed, my wife Leslie framed a cross stitch for me that I have always kept within sight: “This Is A Positive Thinking Area.”
Peale understood Christians are always ultimately positive because God the Father is awesome, Jesus beat death, and the Holy Spirit sustains life.
It’s hard not to be positive once we figure out God’s undisturbed, unperturbed, and limitless love for us.
Anyway, I’ll never forget John passing on some advice to me that Peale gave to him.
Peale warned John as a young pastor who warned me as a young pastor with advice for anyone in any kinda job: “Some people are like fireworks. They burn brightly but briefly. If you’re going to last, you must
have the power of positive thinking. That power comes supernaturally as we invite Jesus into the heart as Lord and Savior.”
Jesus opened the greatest sermon of all time (Matthew 5-7) with eight ways to experience emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and happiness; recalling how Robert Schuller referred to the Beatitudes as “The Be Happy Attitudes.”
If we want to be happy for the rest of our lives as a preface to the everlasting, Jesus says, “Be poor in spirit…Mourn personal as well as corporate rejections of God’s will for your life aka sin…Be humble…Hunger and thirst to be right with God…Be merciful and gracious…Be purely motivated and wanting to give your totality to God…Bring peace into the world by pointing people to God as the only One who can overcome human instincts to divide, divorce, and destroy…and…Be willing to suffer existential persecution for being a Christian as conscious of the big picture of victory by grace through faith.”
Read those opening verses of Matthew 5 for various translations to deepen cognizance, courage, and commitment.
The first one – “Blessed are the poor in spirit because the kingdom of heaven is theirs” – is simple; paraphrasing, “How happy are those who know they need God and turn to God and depend upon God because God takes care of everyone/anyone who does that here and now and forever!”
It’s reminiscent of the first half of the big ten in Exodus 20 that basically says the same thing with severe emphasis on making God the only object of absolute attention, allegiance, and affection; noting that with God as our God, we tend to treat people a lot better as He expects of believers as outlined in the second half of the big ten and throughout Holy Scripture.
Or as we say on the corner of Lincoln and Main at the close of every worship service in summarizing how Jesus summed it up in Matthew 22:34-40, “Love God and be kind to one another…Love God by being kind to one another.”
Again, always keep that connection in mind as Jesus explained it in Matthew 25: “As you do it to/for others, you are doing it to/for Me. If so, so. If not, not.”
Psalm 25 begins with the same faith, trust, confidence, and devotion to God: “Lord, I turn my hope to You. My God, I trust in You…I’ve thrown in my lot with You.”
Psalm 25 is David’s declaration of dependence on God, echoed throughout Holy Scripture, and the reason why believers experience, as Oswald Chambers observed, strong calm sanity no matter who, what, where, when, or why.
We know God will protect us: “Our enemies which are God’s enemies because God’s enemies are our enemies won’t get the best of us…Ultimately, we won’t be disgraced or embarrassed by our faith because God wins in the end…”
It’s like Paul predicted with absolute confidence and eager anticipation about the ultimate victory of God and the Godly, “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord in the end.”
We know God will guide us: “God makes His ways known to us…God teaches us His paths…He schools us…He takes our hands and leads us down the paths of righteousness.”
He has given us Jesus by the book so that who He is, who we are, what He has done for us and our salvation in Jesus, and what He expects in grateful return are undeniable.
We know God will forgive us: “God is compassionate and loves limitlessly…God does not remember the sins of our youthful immaturity and when we rebelled against Him…He shows us how to turn our lives around in humility and greater passion for being His in all things at all times in all places with all people…God forgets our wild oats…God marks us off with His love as His…God plans only the best for us…God corrects, connects, and communes…God leads us step by step into greater unity with Him and the rest of the family of faith.”
People who love God by loving like God don’t bring up our dating habits from high school if we’ve repented from the bad ones along with our bad habits ever since if we’ve repented from the bad ones; for as long we have a heart for God like David – not meaning pure and perfect in every way but trying/wanting/praying to be better than worse and confessing rather than rationalizing old, current, and future sins – we’re on the same page with Him in time and in the end.
We know our most grateful response to God’s existential and eternal graces is worship: “Our eyes are always on the Lord…With our eyes on God, focusing on Him and filtering our lives through Him, we won’t trip up as often as before.”
As Samuel delivered the promise confirmed throughout history, “God honors everyone/anyone who honors Him.”
A friend told me about a boy named after the psalmist.
David grew up in a Christian home.
His parents kept their baptismal promises and David went to worship, Sunday School, youth group, and confirmation class.
So when the rains fell in his life, David was prepared.
Before the rains, David was a star athlete.
6’2” and over 200 ripped pounds.
He was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was preparing for full-time Christian ministry in/through whatever job would be his.
But at the age of 27 when young folks like David are thinking about the endless possibilities and opportunities before them, David was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing cancer.
It wasn’t long before the previously tall and strong athlete was reduced to a weak 80 pounds of flesh and bones.
Before going home to Jesus, he had one final moment with his dad.
He said, “Dad, do you remember when I was a little boy and how you used to hold me in your arms? Do you think you can do that one more time?”
The father bent down, picked up his son, and cradled him.
With face pressed to face, David said to his daddy, “Thank you for building the kind of character into my life that can enable me to face even a moment like this. Thank you for telling me about Jesus and making sure I was always connected to Him.”
Now go back to Peale’s advice to John that he passed on to me.
Like the old campfire song goes, pass it on.
Pass Him on.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!