Thursday, January 17, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 37


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#37

“The Favored Faithful”

Some folks need to be reminded the Bible is bigger than their favorite parts.

Some folks need to be reminded the big thing about Jesus is salvation by grace through faith in Him.

Some folks need to be reminded people who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus prove it – Calvin referred to it as “signs” of being saved – through behaviors punctuated by grace, mercy, forgiveness, and a thirst and hunger for reconciliation wrapped together by agape.

Jesus has a warning for those folks who forget the whole is equal to the sum of its parts: “Enter through the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Peterson’s paraphrase is spot on: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God.  The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time.  Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.  The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention.”

Immediately after saying that Jesus warns of false prophets who don’t speak on behalf of Him and the salvation offered to all so freely by grace through faith in Him but on behalf of themselves or someone or something else that doesn’t point to Him with the corollary being anyone who doesn’t point to Jesus alone as Lord and Savior is leading people straight to places other than heaven.

In short, prophets of God talk and walk on behalf of God and point to Jesus as Lord and Savior while false prophets talk and walk on behalf of themselves or other wolves who may even appear in sheep’s clothing like good guys.

Undeniably, Holy Scripture heralds the news that God favors the faithful.

Psalm 37 echoes this gospel truth with a verse that has brought existential comfort and eternal security to the faithful since God inspired David to sing it: “I was young but now I’m older; and for as long as I’ve lived, I’ve never seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging bread.”

Again, I Iike Peterson’s take: “I once was young, now I’m a graybeard – not once have I seen an abandoned believer, or his kids out roaming the streets.”

Again, it’s one of the greatest and most reassuring truths of our faith.

God favors the faithful.

It’s almost as if David were saying, “You’re faithful!  So don’t worry!  Be happy!”

We don’t have to “be agitated by evildoers…those who do wrong” because “They wither quickly like grass…It won’t be long before they are no more…The Lord laughs at them because He sees that their day is coming…Their swords will enter their own hearts…The arms of the wicked will be broken…The wicked will perish.”

God favors the faithful: “You’re faithful!  So don’t worry!  Be happy!”

David is certain about God favoring the faithful: “The Lord helps and delivers them from the wicked…Those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land…The humble in God will enjoy abundant prosperity…The Lord supports the righteous…The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it permanently…The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord.”

God favors the faithful: “You’re faithful!  So don’t worry!  Be happy!”

David urges lives of gratitude in response to God favoring the faithful: “Trust the Lord and do what is good…Take delight in the Lord for His favor…Commit your way to the Lord…Keep turning from evil to good…Wait for the Lord and keep His way.”

God favors the faithful: “You’re faithful!  So don’t worry!  Be happy!”

You could almost write a song like that.

David did in confirmation of the gospel truth that God favors the faithful.

Of course, to be faithful is a choice.

According to Jesus, too many people make the wrong choice and don’t go through His gate to glory.

My favorite mayor of all time sent a little story about this choice to me.

It’s about baseball coach John Scolinos.

Speaking to a baseball convention, he said, “You’re probably wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck…The reason I stand before you with a home plate around my neck is to tell you what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

He began, “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?  17 inches…Do you know how wide home plate was in Babe Ruth’s day?  That’s right.  17 inches…How wide is home plate in high school?  17 inches…How wide is home plate in college baseball?  17 inches…Minor League?  17 inches…Major League?  17 inches.”

He went on, “What do they do with pitchers who can’t throw the ball over those 17 inches?  Hit the pines!  Take a seat on the bench!  They don’t say, ‘Oh, that’s O.K. if you can’t hit a 17 inch target.  We’ll make it 18 or 19 or 20 inches; and if you can’t hit that, we’ll keep making it wider.’”

Having captivated the audience, Coach Scolinos continued, “Coaches, what do you do when your best player shows up late to practice or breaks team rules or gets caught drinking?  Do you hold him accountable?  Do you change the rules to fit him?  Do you widen home plate?”

Then he took out a Sharpie pen and began to draw on the home plate.

He drew a door and two windows.

The home plate looked like a house.

“This is the problem today with our homes and marriages and parenting today,” he explained, “as we don’t teach accountability or consequences for meeting standards.  We just keep widening the plate!”

Then he added an American flag on top of the house and said, “This is the problem in our schools today.  We’ve stripped away the tools of education and discipline for success.  We keep widening home plate.”

Then he replaced the flag with a cross: “This is the problem in our churches.  Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves and not protecting our children and saying things that just aren’t true to Jesus and Holy Scripture.”

“The same thing is true with our government,” he noted, “as our representatives and politicians make rules for us that don’t apply to them.  They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign governments.  They no longer serve us.  They have widened home plate for themselves.”

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach.  Here it is.  If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know is right…If we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards…If we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standards…If our schools and churches and government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to…”

Then he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside as he warned, “We have dark days ahead…Keep yourself at 17 inches…Don’t widen home plate.”

God favors the faithful.

Jesus has the last word on that: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Lest anyone think that’s exclusive as the satanosly distracting pretend to seduce us from salvation, that last word continues, “Come to Me, everyone and all of you, and I will take care of you…I am knocking on your door.  Just open the door and I will come in and be with you.”

Yes, God favors the faithful because being faithful means the most important choice in life has been made in favor of God.



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Blessings and Love!

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

Shatter the sound of silence!

Salt! Shine! Leavenate!





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Monday, January 14, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 36


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#36

“Time for Worship”

I’ve been asked, “Have you ever preached the same sermon more than once?”

Someone who knows I have usually asks it.

Absolutely!

Though I try not to be as rude as some people tweet, I’ve often thought, “Yeah, I’ve preached the same sermon lots of times because people like you keep proving you never got it the first or second or…time; and I’m gonna keep doing it until ya’ll get it.”

When I taught homiletics, I’d tell seminarians and doctoral candidates what I was told when I was in their place: “If it’s worth preaching once, it’s worth preaching twice; and If it’s not worth preaching twice, it’s not worth preaching once.”

I’m reminded of Harold’s response to a woman who claimed he preached a sermon just for her if you know what that means: “Well, that’s pretty arrogant of you to think that I’d preach a sermon just for you; but if the shoe fits…”

So many of David’s psalms are like that.

They seem to repeat the same timely themes over and over and over again to prepare us for an intimacy with our Father that will last forever and provides strong calm sanity, safety, and serenity in the meantime.

Simply, the shoe fits all of us because we need to keep hearing His gospel and how to show gratitude for it/Him over and over and over again until we get it.

Psalm 36 repeats three theological truths or understandings of God and our existential and eternal relationship with Him: (1) Human depravity; (2) God’s irrepressible love; and (3) the ultimately blessed destiny of the faithful.

Or as my buddy Cliff likes to exclaim, “We sin.  God saves.  What a great deal!”

Unless you’ve missed the course on original sin, you know it’s in us or quite natural for us to rebel against God’s best intentions for our lives; or as Paul wrote, “I want to be good but I’m so often bad even when I want to be good; which is why I need a Savior.”

That human depravity is echoed by David in Psalm 36: “There is no dread of God in their eyes.  They are constantly plotting evil.  They play with fire and don’t care who gets burned.”

Yes, praise Father God for Savior Jesus!

Pero don’t run too quickly away from the obvious need for salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Obviously, we’re especially “good” - naturally inclined – at insulting God’s holiness and injuring God’s people with the footnote that injuring God’s people is the same as insulting and injuring Him; remembering, as Jesus said, “Whatever you’re doing to others, you’re doing to Me.”

Surely, there are the really obvious insults and injuries listed in the big ten of Exodus 20 echoed throughout Holy Scripture.

There are also the less obvious insults and injuries to Him as we insult and injure His family.

Francis Chan sums it up so sadly in a few words about his church applicable to most churches echoed throughout Letters to the Church: “When unbelievers came to our services, they weren’t observing anything supernatural about the way we loved one another.”  

Chan’s conclusion: “We questioned…the level of love we had for one another.”

Selah.

Pause.

Ponder.

Do we really love each other with the kind of love that Jesus had in mind punctuated by grace, mercy, forgiveness, a thirst and hunger for reconciliation, and agape?

Annnnnnnd  then there is the most obvious insult and injury to Him – the place of worship in our churches.

What about our time for worship?

How much is enough for the One who forgives past, present, and future insults and injuries to Him and His so we can live confidently, calmly, and certainly about the heavenly paradise by grace through faith in Him commencing the first nano-second after the last breath?

Well, when I first arrived on the corner of Lincoln and Main, an elder said seriously with a slick, slimy, and satanosly sick smile, “You’ll be fine as long you don’t take longer than 59 minutes and 59 seconds for worship.”

He reminded me of a little boy named Dougie who tucked at the sleeve of his mommy Lila so many years ago at the Osceola Presbyterian Church in Clark, New Jersey as we turned to the closing hymn of that day’s service and complained, “Just my luck!  Six verses!”

Until we have time for worship – however long it takes to feel His presence in our adoration and exaltation and praise and thanksgiving for His existential care and eternal life which does not have to be limited to or over an hour or more or less as long as it’s sincere, authentic, from the heart, and not with eyes glued to the cellular or wall clock or calendar – we will miss His blessings “on earth as it is in heaven.’

Until we have time for worship, we will not taste paradise in time.

It’s like someone said, “Worship is like dancing.  If you’re counting the steps, you’re not doing it.”

Despite those lamentable insults and injuries that inhibit our intimacy with Him with the corollary being we’re only hurting ourselves in the humanly depraved process, God still loves us!

Talk about amazing grace!

“Lord,” sang David, “Your faithful love reaches to heaven.  No one gets lost in Your largeness.  Not a man or mouse slips through the cracks.  Your love is exquisite.”

God’s love is heavenly.

It breaks out in time as a preface to eternity by grace through faith in Jesus.

Psalm 36 ends with that assurance: “Your faithful love is spread over those who know You.”
Yes, Cliff is right.

It’s a great deal.

We sin.
God saves.

I believe that’s worth repeating over and over and over again.

Yes, we love to tell the story; for those who know it best are hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.

We’ve been singing that gospel over and over and over again since the beginning and we’ll keep singing it over and over and over again forever.

Revelation 4: “Day and night they never stop, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming…Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because…’”

Because He is Lord!

He is Lord and Savior!

By grace through faith in Him, we are saved though we have sinned and will never stop sinning until we breathe for the last time.

What a great deal!

That’s why we have time for worship!



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Blessings and Love!

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

Shatter the sound of silence!

Salt! Shine! Leavenate!




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Friday, January 11, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 35


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#35

“Enemies and the Last Word”

If America is as bad as some of its haters scream, why are so many people in the world jumping over walls, swimming across rivers, and lining up to get in?

Really.

Yeah, I’d really rather live in China, Russia, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Haiti, Argentina, South Africa, one of those Islamofascistnutball countries or, really, anywhere else.

Not.

Having spent a lot of time across the oceans picking up worthless academic certificates and degrees, I don’t know one country in the entire world as dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the USA.

Really.

I thought about that the other day while watching a film that begs us to chat more seriously about border security aka vetting the good guys from the bad guys so the bad guys don’t get in at the expense of the good guys that we’d really like to become a part of the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that doesn’t include repressive ideologies like Sharia law, socialism, statism, and other Satanic movements determined to steal our freedoms, enslave us, and inhibit our intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Truly.

Before you think I’m suffering from a little paranoia, I better mention the movie: Scarface.

It’s about illegal alien Tony Montana who illegally obtains his green card in exchange for murdering a Cuban official and makes his illegal millions by selling illegal drugs.

Parenthetically, America has always made room for legal immigration which has made us so prosperous as well as attractive.

With a name like mine, it was only natural for me to get involved with law enforcement as a police chaplain; and I’ve been one since 1979.

Unfortunately, I know it would be very easy to stop drug traffic in America.

Consumers aren’t the problem.

It’s the producers and distributors enabled by some really rotten apples in our government and law enforcement that are the problem.

If the producers, distributors, and enablers weren’t making so much money, we wouldn’t have such a nightmarish problem.

As someone explained so many years ago to me, “Just one flea can make a big dog itch.”

We’ve got some fleas in America that are making us itch.

Getting back to the movie and my paranoia about America being invaded by forces determined to undermine and steal our freedoms for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I’ll never forget that scene in Scarface when Tony confronts his old boss Frank about trying to knock him off before Tony knocks him off.

When Frank asks Tony why he’s got a gun pointed at him, Tony says, “I’m…[How do you say it?]…paranoid.”

O.K., maybe I’m a little paranoid about people in our world being fueled by satanos who live to destroy America and steal our souls.

Pero maybe I’m just being sheepdogish and trying to protect and alert the na├»ve that Jesus was right when he said there are predators in our world who want to steal our existential freedoms and eternal souls: “They come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves…Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

While I may be wrong, I believe God’s people have always been a little paranoid about those assaults on our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Surely, David felt that way.

So many of his psalms repeat the same message.

There are bad guys who want to hurt good guys; and the only certain way to beat ‘em away, be safe, and keep our freedoms is to stay close to God.

Psalm 35 repeats that message.

David was understandably paranoid.

He was constantly undermined, slandered, and targeted for assassination.

He was always looking over his shoulder for the next assassin whether it was Saul, Absalom, one of Uriah’s buddies, or any number of Goliaths and looking to God to save him: “Let those who seek to kill me be disgraced and humiliated…Oppose my opponents, Lord!”

Yet, David was close enough to God to know God would save him and praised God in advance for the victory: “I will rejoice in the Lord.  I will delight in His deliverance.  I will proclaim Your righteousness and praise You all day long.”

Jesus put it this way: “I will build my Church and the forces of evil will not prevail against it!”

Luther sang about the inevitability of our triumph over the Godless, anti-Christian, and accomplices of satanos determined to steal our lives, liberties, and happiness: “And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.  The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him.  His rage we can endure for lo his doom is sure.  One little word shall fell him…Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus!  It is He!”

Let’s be clear on this.

Jesus wins in the end and we win with Him.

I’m talking about an eternal victory that lasts infinitely longer in paradise than this sojourn in time on earth.

Jesus and Jesus alone has the last word.

Knowing we win in the end is why believers endure, overcome, and live triumphantly amid the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life in the modern world.

Only satanos and its accomplices find uneasiness to discomfort to terror in the only One with the last word: “Look, I am coming back quickly.  Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book.  I am coming back quickly and My reward is with Me.  I will repay each person according to what he has done.  Blessed are those who confess, repent, and remain in/through/for Me.”

Only believers who have prayed and tried to be God’s in time as preface to a forever bond with Him hear His pledge to return and exclaim with joyful anticipation, “Yes! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

My greatest regret in life is reading too many books about the Bible rather than spending most of my time reading the Bible.

If I had spent more time in the Bible than books about the Bible, I would have been a better person, husband, father, son, brother, pastor, and presbyter.

That’s why I’ve been so reluctant to recommend books about the Bible; knowing people need the Word enfleshed in Jesus as best revealed in the Word explained in the Bible so much more here and now and forever than books about the Word.

And let me be urgent!

The Bible’s message is far more clear than confusing to those who actually read it.

God loves us and shows us how to love Him back in gratitude for His greatest gift of love in Jesus: confident living in the assurance of eternal life by grace through faith in Him.

Everybody has enemies.

God’s people are not immune.

That’s a repeated fact in so many of David’s psalms as confirmed throughout Holy Scripture.

Moretheless, the greatest truth of all is Jesus has the last word: “You will be hated by everyone who does not love Me; but the one who endures for Me will be saved by Me in the end. “

Heaven is worth the hits.

Believers are not paralyzed by the understandable paranoia of living in a world with so many who hate God and the Godly.

That’s because we’ve got paradise in our heads, hearts, and guts in the end.



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Blessings and Love!

@#$%

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

Shatter the sound of silence!

Salt! Shine! Leavenate!



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Saturday, January 5, 2019

An Annual Report for Churches

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    It was over thirty years ago.

    Stimp and I were in the sanctuary of Winston-Salem, North Carolina's First Presbyterian Church.

    We had met to go over the liturgy for the first service.

    A florist came in, apologized for being late, and asked where he should put the flowers.

    I turned to Stimp and asked, "Well, Stimp, do you remember what they taught us about that in seminary?"

    Paul Simon: "When I look back on all the crap I learned in..."

    Churches are obsessed with so many superficial, silly to stupid, innocuous, irrelevant, and divinely insulting rubrics, rituals+ceremonies=rites, traditions, and other religious idolatries that nauseated Jesus a la Matthew 15 and 23.

    You'd think that after two thousand years...

    Yeah, churches used to have the luxury to long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.

    No more!

    With the Korean and WWII generations that paid the bills heading off to heaven in increasing numbers every day and so many Baby Boomers identifying less with them and more with succeeding generations who think as much about Jesus and His body the Church as DC, Springfield, public education, media, and other increasingly anti-Christian institutions and idiots, churches are going to have to...

    That's a big part of what Francis Chan is trying to urge in his latest called Letters to the Church.

    Denominational jingoists and idolaters ain't gonna like it.

    I think Jesus does.

    And so I've written an invitation to our church that may be applicable to your church unless, uh, you know, you're still longing for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.

It’s all about Jesus at…

First Presbyterian Church

primarily known as

Our Family of Faith on the Corner of Lincoln and Main

“Where Jesus is Lord and you are invited, welcomed, included, and loved!”

221 North Main Street
Belvidere, Illinois 61008
Office – (815) 544-6402
Prayer Line – (815) 544-3535

RRK, Undershepherd to the Good Shepherd

Beloved,

We are called to build upon the best of the past for a more faithful future.

Jesus is our model and the Bible is our manual.

Of course, all faithful churches share that same prayer and passion.

We want to increase our intimacy with Him to incarnate increasingly His best intentions for the Church.

Francis Chan wrote in Letters to the Church (2018):

           Imagine you find yourself stranded on a deserted island with
          nothing but a copy of the Bible.  You have no experience with
          Christianity whatsoever, and all you know about the Church will come from your reading of the Bible.  

How would you imagine a church to function?  

Seriously.  Close your eyes for two minutes and try to picture “Church” as you would know it.

          Now think about your current church experience.  Is it even close?

          Can you live with that?

Chan’s book is about figuring out the kind of Church that Jesus has in mind.

Cautioning us about people who “are eager to fight” and how there are many challenges to building the Church as Jesus intended, he urges, moretheless, “The clock is ticking…The end is near…There is no time to care about what I want in the Church.  There’s no time to worry about what others are looking for in a church.  I will be facing Him soon, so I have to stay focused on His desires…I’ll be standing face-to-face with God when that timer expires.  This gives me courage to say everything I think He would want me to say.  If I really was going to die, I would care very little about people’s complaints.  I would be obsessed with seeing the face of God and wanting His approval.”

I put it this way in a book back in 2004 that nobody’s read so I won’t mention it: “Remembering you’re going to live a lot longer with Jesus than anybody else makes establishing life’s priorities a no-brainer.”

“I have the same thought now.  If I knew,” Chan confesses, “I was going to die after writing this book, what would I write?  If I didn’t worry about the fallout but sought only to be faithful to God, how would this book read?”

Chan proceeds to write about the Church as he thinks He envisioned it.

Our Visioning Team on the corner of Lincoln and Main will be trying to do that for much of 2019.

We want to say the things that Jesus would say and do the things that Jesus would do where we’ve been planted.

We want to be faithful to Jesus by the book.

In addition to reading Chan’s book together to provoke prayer-filled envisioning, our Visioning Team needs your help.

We want to know what you think God intends for a faithful part of His Church on the corner of Lincoln and Main.

Sooooooo beginning in February, we’re going to have some fireside chats to hear Him through your intimacy with Him.

Groups of up to 7 will meet for about an hour to chat and then pray about His future at First.

A sign-up sheet will be posted in our Gathering Room.

Our deacons will provide caffeine and maybe a cookie or three to refresh us; pero our chats and prayers will be especially invigorating as we join together in the quest of building upon the best of the past for a more faithful future with Jesus as our model and the Bible as our manual.

I will report our inspirations and sometimes indigestions to our Visioning Team that will report to session sometime before the parousia.

Well into the second decade of our life and ministry together, I look forward to these opportunities to envision His best intentions for the next decade and beyond.

Blessings and Love,

B. Kopp



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

Shatter the sound of silence!

Salt! Shine! Leavenate!




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