Thursday, March 14, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 45


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#45

“Marriage Made in Heaven”

Ernie Campbell, one of America’s brightest high steeple pastors and preaching professors who went home to Jesus back in July 2010, wrote Where Cross the Crowded Ways: Prayers of a City Pastor (1973).

As I’ve been repenting from my academic idolatries and trying to spend most of my time in the book than books about the book to be a better man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, pastor, and presbyter, It’s one of the few books that I’ve kept in my study; often going back to his prayers: “May it be our joy and uppermost intention to rest in Thee, to work for Thee, to become like Thee…Grant us what we need to be more like Jesus: a quiet mind, a forgiving spirit, indifference to wealth, a humbler estimate of self, a readiness to pray, a clearer vision of Thy purposes, courage to do the right we know…Help us to clarify our convictions, to subordinate personal whims and private fears to the larger goals of Christ…Bless Thy church, O God, with leaders who both think and feel; with shepherds who love their sheep; with theologians who balance faith and reason; with members whose loyalty to Christ is a seven day a week affair for life…”

I’ll never forget when he said to a graduating class at our seminary, “Those who lead also serve.”

He also put it another way: “Leadership is service.”

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that this way: “Shepherds don’t follow sheep.”

Specifically, undershepherds to the Good Shepherd guide, provide, and protect sheep as led by Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.

Unfortunately, as RC Sproul lamented, “The greatest weakness in the church today is that the servants of God keep looking over their shoulder for the approval of man.”

Indeed, so many of today’s people-pleasing-pastors agree with the last person that they’ve talked to like bad sentences ending in prepositions.

Rather than loving people by pointing them to Jesus by the book for confident living and eternal security with enthusiasm and without equivocation, their need to be “liked” seduces them into people-pleasing at the expense of the glory, laud, and honor due Lord and Savior Jesus.

Their need to be liked by people exceeds their responsibility to love people for Christ’s sake.

So they water down the truth of Jesus by the book to get along for temporary favors with His voice echoing in the distance, “You are making people twice as fit for hell as you are yourselves.”

It’s a sad codependency in which pulpit and pew enable each other’s addictions to everything and everyone apart from the allegiance and affection due God alone.

Instead of God’s approval as the highest goal, greatest ambition, and most fervent prayer, pastor and people rely on each other for their sense of identity and worth.

In short, they enable each other’s infidelities by not holding themselves accountable to the Authority higher than themselves.

They turn to each other more than God Himself to meet their emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical needs.

God is second string.

Essentially, pulpit and pew divorce themselves from God.

Surely, that’s one of the reasons why churches are so sick these days.

Too many churches forget the Biblical metaphor of marriage.

God is the groom and the Church is His bride.

Too many pulpits and pews have moved their marital vows from God to themselves which is why churches aren’t as divine as intended.

They write their own vows without respect, reverence, trust, and obedience to the only Word(s) worth keeping: the enfleshed Word in Jesus and explained Word in the Bible.

Psalm 45 comes to mind.

It’s a messianic psalm picturing God as groom and people as His bride.

Of course, contextually, we understand Jesus as the groom and the Church as His bride.

Precisely, this psalm is all about keeping our vows in a marriage made in heaven.

The Church at His best adores Jesus: “My heart bursts out like a love poem to You…No one compares to Your beauty…I savor every word from Your lips.”

Jesus adores His Church: “Forget everything – country and kin – because I am wild for you…I’ll make you famous.  You’ll be the talk of the town.”

Revelation looks to the consummation of the marriage: “Hallelujah!  Let us be glad, rejoice, and give glory to God because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself.”

Getting back to Campbell, I like this prayer about the royal marriage of Jesus to His Church: “Grant that fences that keep…[us]…apart may be fashioned into bridges so that the hurts of any may be the concern of all…O God, for whom all times and places are Thy habitation, be Thou our God for we would be Thy people.”

Then there’s Francis Chan’s prayer at the end of Letters to the Church:  “Father, thank You for choosing us to be part of something so sacred.  Forgive us for the times when our laziness weakened the Church or our pride divided her.  Give us childlike faith to have an impact on the Church with Holy Spirit power…May Your Bride become attractive, devoted, and powerful beyond earthly explanation…May we each become consumed with her…Stir our affections daily so we can be found serving Your Bride faithfully when You return to judge.”

Chan preceded that prayer by saying, “Serve His Bride.  Jesus is returning soon.  We can’t afford to be doing our own thing while His Bride lies unhealthy.”

All it takes for us to heal the marriage is to renew our vows: “I do and I will.”

That’s true love.

Total devotion to each other; forsaking all others.

That’s marriage made in heaven.



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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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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 44


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#44

“Picking Relatives”

          While she meant well - noting my daddy always said the road to hell is paved with good intentions – a lot of parents were offended by a rather enthusiastic high school football fan who wore a sweatshirt to games with an emblazoned boast or invitation or both on it: “Mother of All ___s!”

          The blank is for the nickname of the team.

          The blank is also for some of the parents who were really, really, really offended.

          Again, I trusted her intentions.

          She just wanted everybody to know how much she loved the players.

          I think of Aunt Gen; or, at least, that’s what she wanted me to call her.

          I didn’t.

          When I got to the church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, she introduced herself to me as “Aunt Gen” and said she was everybody’s “Aunt Gen” and now mine.

          Well, I never called her “Aunt Gen” and she confronted me about it after a few years: “Why don’t you call me Aunt Gen?”

          I said, “Because you aren’t my Aunt Gen. I love you as a sister in the Lord; but you’re just not my Aunt Gen. I already have lots of aunts and uncles and you’re not one of them.”

          She bought it…reluctantly…with a snarky grunt.

          Confessionally, I’ve always been suspicious of folks who want to be called my or your or anybody’s mom or dad or aunt or uncle when they’re not really.

          There are exceptions; but most of ‘em seem to have some kinda need left for the shrink.

          Maybe they weren’t that hot to their own relatives and trying to make up for it or have some kinda control need or have some kinda ego need or…

          I don’t know; but it just doesn’t seem right.

          Maybe I’m reading too much into it; but it comes close to my shared disdain with God’s Decalogue , the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles against idolatry or the detouring and distracting of the affection, allegiance, and affirmation due God alone.

          Our real relatives deserve real recognition for their place in our lives and there’s just something not totally right about people who infringe on what’s real.

          Besides, only our real moms and dads at His best are always there to change our diapers and pick up after us and come through for us and love us no matter who, what, where, when, or why when others bail because they’re not really related to us and don’t really care for us and aren’t really prepared to love us…to death.

          O.K., if I were convinced the mother of all ___s and Aunt Gen were gonna do that, then maybe…

          Getting back to God which is always best, God is our most reliable relative from here to eternity.

          He has loved us to death.

          Get it/Him?

          David understood that.

          While even our closest relatives disappoint us on occasion, we still trust them more than less.

          That’s how David felt about God.

          He sang about it in Psalm 44.

          David esteemed God for history being His story; praising God’s past favors as an assurance of future favors: “Our forefathers have told us all about You, O God, and how You always came through for them sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end.”

          God’s previous reliability fueled David’s present trust: “You’re my King, O God!…You will give victory to us!”

          Pero David also admits some disappointments in the meantime: “Where are you now?  Have you rejected us?  We’re being humiliated by our enemies that are Your enemies.  We feel like sheep before the butcher.  Aren’t you going to deliver us from the evil one and its accomplices?  If You love us so much, help us right now!”

          David’s ultimate trust in God coming through for him sooner than later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end is not shaken by disappointments in the meantime: “All of this has happened to us, but we have not forgotten You or betrayed Your covenant.  Our hearts have not turned away from You.  Our steps have not strayed from Your path.  We trust You.  We believe You will wake up to our plight and save us.”

          Most expositors assume David wrote this after losing a particular battle.

          He was disappointed that God did not help him to win.

          Yet, he still kept the faith that God always takes His people from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory, again, sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end.

          That is the sustaining hope/expectation of belief.

          God delivers.

          Jesus saves.

          He is our most reliable relative.

          Father God.

          Saving Son.

          Sustaining Spirit.

          I go back to Psalm 37 that I often repeat and repeat and repeat when the storms of life threaten to overwhelm me: “I was young.  But having been around as long as I’ve been, I know God comes through sooner or later, usually sooner or later, and definitely in the end if we stick with Him.”

          Like you and all believers, I can say that about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
          None of us can really say that about folks posing to be our moms or dads or aunts or uncles or…

          The real family by grace through faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knows who can be counted on right now and forever.

          To keep that trust fueled, we must stay close to Him.

          I think of the first real Bible that was given to me: “To Bobby Kopp from the Junior Fellowship of the First Presbyterian Church of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania on May 18, 1964.”

          I’ll never forget these lines from the back of it about reading the Bible: “Butterflies cover more ground, but bees gather more honey…Do not read too fast…It takes time and labor to secure it…Learn to feed yourself…Read the Bible!”

          Then there’s this summary in one sentence: “The key to the whole Bible is Jesus Christ.”

          Now here are the lines that have really stayed with me for almost six decades: “Do not expect ever to exhaust the full meaning of Scripture.  A supernatural God must have a supernatural book.  Finite minds cannot grasp the infinite.  That is one reason why men who know the Bible best find it ever new.”

          Then I read and have often read again to remind myself, “George Muller wrote that he had read the Bible through a hundred times in order, and every time with increasing joy.”

          Not too long ago, I came across this conclusion from Muller: “Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study.  I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God.”

          While I have no doubts about God’s providence in my life, I have many regrets about how I have squandered so many opportunities to honor Him with my greatest regret in life being spending more time in books about the Bible than spending time in devotional reading of the Bible itself.

          I know I would have been a much better husband, father, son, brother, uncle, pastor, presbyter, and person if I had spent more time reading the Bible than reading books about the Bible.

          Fortunately, I’m still breathing and can make up for wasted time.

          Here’s the point.
          Trust in God increases as we stay in touch with God.

          There is no better way to stay in touch with God than in the worship generated by intimacy with the Word in Jesus by the book.

          That’s the message of Psalm 44 as reiterated throughout Holy Scripture and testimonies of the faithful.

          Only by staying in touch with God through intimacy with the Word enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture can we make it from here to eternity or through the meantime to heavenly glory.



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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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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Done with Democrats and Republicans to Help Save America


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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    I'm a Christian.

    If you don't know what that means, get a Bible with red letters and read it/em.

    Because I'm a Christian, I've always been uncomfortable identifying myself with one political party over the other.

    I didn't miss the course on original sin and find both to be, uh, as Calvinists say, depraved.

    Democrats have no perceivable principles with instincts dictated by their loins.

    Republicans pretend principles but have no spine to prove they have principles.

    Exceptions?

    Yes.

    Pero exceptions to the rules are called exceptions to the rules because they occur so infrequently that they are called exceptions to the rules; which means it's prudent to play by the rules while acknowledging exceptions.

    Will I vote?

    Absolutely!

    I will vote for candidates who are dedicated to the agape love of Jesus that prays and works for the best for everybody as expressed through grace, mercy, forgiveness, and a thirst and hunger for reconciliation overcoming color, class, and cultural segregations.

    That means I'm done voting for the lesser of two evils; realizing voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.

    I'm done with Democrats and Republicans.

    America is done apart from values enfleshed in Jesus and explained in the Bible.

    Of course, we can't have Him as Savior if we won't have Him as Lord.

    I can hear Don Meredith singing.

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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, March 1, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms - 43


Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms


#43

“The Fact of Feeling Good”

          Have you ever met someone who’s always right?

          They remind me of the college sophomore who said, “I was the most conceited person on campus last year; but this year, you won’t find a nicer person around.”

          You know what I mean.

          What makes ‘em so infuriating is they’ll insist they’re right even when presented with facts proving ‘em wrong.

          They’re so exasperating because they’ll be at the meeting or in a class or around the dinner table or on Twitter or Facebook of wherever insisting they’re right no matter what anyone says or how many are saying it.

          “The Bob Rule” comes to mind.

          BTW, I did not come up with this rule; for if I did, you might have read one of my books and I wouldn’t be trailing the toothy guy in Texas by about a trillion to one in sales. 

          Be that as it is by the indisputable fact that I’ve never had a bestseller and even my family admits they don’t read what I write because they’re too busy with the more important things on Facebook, I’ve used “The Bob Rule” with some efficacy when counseling someone who’s always right.

          The rule goes like this: “If everyone disagrees with you and says you’re wrong, you may be right; but if everyone disagrees with you and says you’re wrong, you may want to consider the possibility that they’re right and you’re wrong.”

          It’s like I often repeat in marriage counseling: “There are three sides to every story – her side, his side, and the truth.”

          Of course, you know how that goes; which brings us back to “The Bob Rule.”

          It is a basic rule of parliamentary procedure.
          It’s how American representative democracy works; and don’t forget our republic’s governance came from presbyterianism or decision-making by majority rule in which ordered groups with the most votes win rather than some kinda monarchical dictatorship known as kings or state dictatorship known as socialism.

          Majority rules.

          Whoever gets the most votes wins; unless, of course, you’re voting for President in America.

          BTW, do you know why there is an electoral college in America that determines who becomes P rather than the popular vote as in, again, who gets the most votes wins? 

          While every other election is by popular vote because it’s local or regional, our founding mothers and fathers figured out national elections needed an electoral college or every P would be the favorite of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia because of voter, uh, density.  Weighted voting seemed reasonable or the cities would rule the country.

          Today, if we went by popular vote for P rather than the weighted voting of our electoral college, it means every P would be the darling of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, California, and…

          That’s pure democracy.

          But, again, that’s not the democracy established for this republic by our founding mothers and fathers. 

          We’re a republic patterned on presbyterian governance that is constitutional and representative in which decisions are made by ordered groups not individuals.

          Before we go too far down that rabbit hole, let’s get back to majority rule.

          For the most part, it’s excellent.

          For the most part, “The Bob Rule” makes sense.

          Pero God knows there are times when the majority is wrong.

          There are times when the most votes aren’t a measure of fidelity.

          Sometimes the majority elects the wrong people and puts ‘em in charge.

          That’s why we keep talking about the remnant in today’s America.

          The remnant in government that still sees the Constitution as the manual of operations.

          The remnant in churches that still sees Jesus as Master and the Bible as its manual of operations.

          There are times in history when the minority is right even though majority rules.

          Again, while it seems “majority rules” has worked best throughout most of history and especially in America for the health, welfare, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all not just the few with the most money and power, there have been times when the minority was right despite majority rule.

          Moses, the prophets, and certainly Jesus come quickly to mind.

          David must have felt like that when inspired to write Psalm 43: “Vindicate me, God, and defend my cause against this unGodly nation…Clear my name and stick up for me against these loveless and immoral people.”

          David feels like a remnant of fidelity – vastly outnumbered by unbelievers who have seized control of church and state: “Get me out of here from these lying degenerates!  Rescue me!”

          Desperately, he turns to God while feeling abandoned by God and under the heel of those most opposed to Godliness: “You are my only refuge yet I feel rejected by You.  I count on You.  It seems like You’ve walked out on me.”

          Surely, David knows God wins in the end but, in the meantime, he feels like he’s on the losing side and under the heel of unGodlyness: “Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?  I am pacing the floor and wringing my hands over these unGodly people.”

          Anyone who loves God has felt that way.

          Anyone who loves God knows what it’s like to be in the minority in the courtroom, town council, school board, faculty lounge, bowling alley, locker room, 19th hole, and wherever two or three or more aren’t always gathered in His name.

          Anyone who loves God knows what it’s like to be hated for loving God.

          So, like David, we want God to expose ‘em: “Light up my life!  Light up the world!  Help me to overcome the darkness!”

          And, praise God, He has done that in Jesus!

          Jesus exposes the darkness!

          Jesus overcomes the darkness!

          And, praise God, we do too!

          And so, like David, we know our disappointments and depressions in the meantime, the feelings of failure and doom, are outmatched by the fact of His ultimate victory that sustains us til then.  The desired end for believers is certainly inevitable: “Let’s fix our eyes on God!  Let’s stop crying the blues!  We can get out of the dumps by depending upon Him who wins in the end!  We’re only depressed and in turmoil when we take our eyes off of Him!  Keep the big picture in mind!  See beyond the bounds of vision!  Consider heaven by grace through faith in Jesus!” 

          The fact that Jesus wins in the end and we win with Him puts an incorruptible and indestructible smile on our souls radiating from our faces.

          David’s soul brightened not because of his temporary feelings of loss and persecution but because he knew God writes the final chapter of life after life.

          When we believe that fact – trust Him through time to eternity – we always feel better than worse.

          It’s like that sobering song with the strength of faith by Katharina von Schlegel called “Be Still, My Soul.”

          Not much is known about the author who probably wrote this in the early 18th century.  Her name suggests some aristocratic link in Germany.  What is certain is she understood the feelings that David had about life not always being a hot fudge sundae and the fact that the end more than makes up for the meantime; or as Paul wrote, “I consider our present sufferings not worth comparing to the glory to come.”
          Parenthetically, this hymn is said to be the favorite of Eric Liddell who was immortalized in Chariots of Fire.  The 1924 Olympics champion who refused to run on Sunday and was a martyred missionary in China is said to have taught this hymn to other prisoners.

          The point is no one is immune to pain and suffering and disappointment in this life yet the Godly overcome the bad times with heads, hearts, and guts fixed on the One who guarantees the heavenly after the last breath through faith.

          That fact overcomes the negative feelings and inspires the good ones.

          Get out your hymnbook and sing it!

          Be still, my soul!  The Lord is on your side!
          Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain.
          Leave to your God to order and provide.
          In every change, God faithful will remain.

          Be still, my soul!  Your best, Your heavenly Friend
          through thorny ways leads to a joyful end!

          We don’t know much about the author of that hymn.

          Pero we know the Author of our lives.

          We know He loved us before the womb and will love us after the tomb.

          We know He’d just die to prove that love.

          He did.

          I think of the Scottish Protestant who figured out the meaning of the crucifix or version of the cross with the figure of Jesus on it; as he exclaimed, “Jesus loves you that much.”

          Through the cross to the crown.

          Through death in time to heavenly life forever.

          A bridge over troubled waters.

          The way through, over, and out.

          The truth overshadowing everything false, fragile, failing, falling, and fixed in time.

          The life to come so great that only one word approaches its inarticulate serenity – paradise.

          We don’t know much; but we know we love Him.

          And that’s all we need to know in the end.

          Yes, it’s lyrical – lifting the soul to get satisfaction.

          It’s so saving.

          It’s the fact of feeling good.

          Jesus loves you!

          Jesus loves the world!


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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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