Thursday, June 20, 2019
@#Blessings and Love!
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
An honest to God undershepherd to the Good Shepherd has a love for the people entrusted to him that exceeds his need to be liked by them and understands Frederick Buechner’s conclusion in Wishful Thinking: “A prophet’s quarrel with the world is deep-down a lover’s quarrel. If they didn’t love the world, they probably wouldn’t bother to tell it that it’s going to hell. They’d just let it go. Their quarrel is God’s quarrel.”
When we really love someone and want His best for them, we sacrifice our weak though quite natural need to be liked by them.
It takes a lot of courage bolstered by ultimate allegiance to God to love without needing response, regard, or reward.
When a person cares more about perks, pensions, plaudits, and popularity than being an oak of righteousness with Jesus as the Master and the Bible as the manual, that person is no heaven good to America and her churches, children, spouse, school, job, or anyone else.
The only way to get better and save anybody is to get back to God.
That’s the constant theme of an honest to God undershepherd to the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes, the message comes inconveniently.
Colloquially, we can think of it as tinkling on the parade.
Jude comes to mind: “Though I wanted to talk to you about our common salvation and celebrate our unity, it is necessary to urge you to contend for faith because certain unGodly men have slithered into the community and its churches and are turning the grace of God into promiscuity while denying Jesus as our Master and Holy Scripture as our manual.”
Moving from that principle of fidelity to its practical implications for America, have you noticed the striking parallels and connections in the decline of America and her churches?
We have women and men who have slithered into the race to become President in 2020 that believe the Constitution of the United States with its Bill of Rights is outdated as the guiding principles for America; and do not miss their thinly veiled anti-God efforts to undermine the Constitution because of its roots in Holy Scripture.
We have woman and men who strut around America’s pulpits without having ever read or maybe read but not heeded or ignored or not understood or defied our Lord’s disdains in Matthew 23 that are making people twice as fit for hell as they are themselves - Jesus’ conclusion with which I agree - that believe the Bible may be “enlightening” but not necessarily absolutely authoritative on all issues of faith and morality.
If I have to explain that to you, as bikers say, you wouldn’t understand anyway.
It means you’re already drinking their Kool-Aid and under their spell.
Pero here’s how they view their “leadership” in America and her churches: “I know that’s what the Constitution says but I think…I know that’s what Jesus and the Bible say but I think…”
If you hear anyone talking like that in government or church or classroom or courtroom or anywhere two or three are not always gathered in His name, it’s a wolf trying to fit into sheep’s clothing.
Anyone that is conscious knows America and her churches are falling ergo failing and increasingly no heaven good to anyone.
Anyone familiar with the Bible knows God’s patience with infidelity is not eternal.
While we love ‘em and He judges ‘em, the Bible is categorically clear beyond any measure of contention that God’s ultimately eternal judgment is certain.
Anyone that doesn’t know that is Biblically illiterate and personally arrogant.
Fortunately, God made a promise to Abraham so long ago that I believe portends hope for America and her churches: “For the sake of 10 faithful people, I will not destroy everything.”
Praise God for the faithful remnant of people in America that still believe in Jesus by the book!
As long as the remnant holds, America and her churches will not drown in the cesspools of their increasingly arrogant, flamboyant, and shameless insults to God’s holiness.
That’s because the remnant embraces a prominent theme in David’s 56th psalm: “I trust God. I trust God’s Word.”
Contextually, we understand God’s Word to have been enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture; meaning fidelity is marked by allegiance to God in Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book.
David repeats familiar themes in Psalm 56.
He prays for deliverance from his enemies because they are God’s enemies.
He laments the lying, oppressing, predatory, and lethal character of those enemies.
He rejoices in God who saves him from those enemies with this ringing note: “My enemies will lose because God is for me.”
David lives triumphantly amid the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life in a fallen world because He trusts God’s Word: “When I am afraid, I trust God. I praise His Word. What can anyone do to me? I don’t fear anyone. I have the Word!”
David knows God’s Word saves.
The remnant knows God’s Word can save America.
How do we get that Word into America and her churches, courtrooms, classrooms, and government?
Jerry Kirk explained the game plan to me back in the early 80s: “When people ask me what we’re supposed to do, I tell them that we’re supposed to do everything that Jesus and the Bible tell us to do.”
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
It doesn’t always mean being liked.
It always means salvation.
Salvation for America and her churches.
Salvation for souls.
Blessings and Love!
Friday, June 14, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“Who is Betraying Whom?”
David pours out his heart to God in Psalm 55 because he’s been betrayed by a friend.
As he admitted, “It wouldn’t bother me if it were someone who’s always hated me; but this is someone who said she’s/he’s my friend. We went to school together and church together and I was in their wedding and…It hurts so badly.”
The most historically awful betrayal, of course, is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas: “Would you betray Me…[mark Me off for the bad guys]…with a kiss…a sign of affection and allegiance?”
Et as Psalm 55 suggests without objection from anyone, betrayal is one of those bad behaviors proving there is nothing original about sin.
Betrayal hurts so badly because it means misplaced trust and misplaced trust always falls, fractures, and fails.
The betrayed resonate with David’s unsettled distress: “Oh God, I really need You. My insides are being turned inside out. My heart is broken. I want to run away. I can’t stand it. I wish I were like a bird and could just fly away.”
Getting specific about the pain of betrayal, David wails, “This isn’t some stranger. This isn’t somebody that I don’t know. We grew up together. We played together. We were tight. Now, she’s/he’s bad-mouthing me and wishing me worse.”
Then David explodes naturally, “Just haul ‘em off to hell, Lord. Take care of them. Retaliate for me!”
David, like too many posers that should know better après all these years, hasn’t really caught on to the full measure of grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped in love by Jesus.
That maturity escapes everyone who isn’t tight with Jesus.
It’s like people who want to win more than love, fight more than befriend, and get over more than get along…you know…like those pathetically selfish and pandering politicians in Springfield and DC that would serve satanos and abandon the Constitution and Bible for a few more votes.
Fortunately, David is growing in/through/for the Lord and his trust in the Lord overcomes the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life in a fallen world; so he ends up praising God for the ultimate victory: “God will help me and anyone who calls on Him. God will come through sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end. He’ll never let people who love Him end up in ruin like the destiny of those who never outgrow their disrespect, defiance, disobedience, and ingratitude.”
David seems to forget or maybe ran out of parchment or something and doesn’t have the room or enough confessional humility to admit just a few psalms ago in #51 that he got caught with his pants down with somebody else’s wife and then murdered the poor fellah to cover up the crimes and only gained forgiveness from God après admitting it and pledging to do better.
That’s why we need to get together so often to remind ourselves that we’ve always got room for improvement even after receiving Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior and heading down paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even churches that should know better fall off the wagon every now and then.
Instead of following Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book, they make up stuff and turn opinions and traditions and feelings and wants into the religious idolatries that the prophets always cautioned against and Jesus criticized so severely (e.g., take a look at Matthew 15 and 23): “So man created God in the image of man. In the image of man, man created God.”
I’ll never forget reading this letter sent to someone very close to me back on November 29, 1988: “The moneyed flock at _____is more interested in an extension of their country club than in an anointed, vital hour of worship…They do not feel comfortable at the overuse of My name…They chafe at My correction.”
It happens everywhere; and it’s happened repeatedly throughout the sad history of churches that too often look into the mirror and mistake the reflection for Jesus.
Back to the letter: “The appearance of my chosen servant, who has unashamedly lifted Me up, has caused them to long for the manipulative compromises of days gone by. The Jezebel spirit among them has been alerted and aroused. They lust after the comfortable and the familiar. They would keep their sin hidden. They would say My chosen lacks wisdom and acts rashly. They would shout that he offends or is merely unwisely youthful. This noise is a clatter in My ears. I say TRUTH is the offense.”
While acknowledging the pain of anyone that dares to follow God too closely as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture, the letter, just like Psalm 55, moves from betrayal to trust in God to work it all out because God always ends up honoring those who honor Him: “I desire the whole man and not his career. He knows this. With his whole heart, he has consistently asked me to use and inhabit his clay temple. Do you not think that I will answer? Have I not heard this cry to Me? I will live in this man openly. His words are gibberish to those who have no ears to hear.”
Then turning attention to those who have betrayed, “I will answer his heart’s cry and remove all the barriers to what I am doing in this place. He must not mourn their leaving. I will erase the carefully-learned teachings that sprang from the minds of men and leave only the bursting springs of salvation. I will erase his tender need for the approval of man and leave only the raw passion to please Me and Me alone.”
Finally, “He has served many in his life, other masters have ruled over him; but he has made mention of My name by My power and Mine alone, and I will now arise and scatter and confuse his enemies.”
So it happens from Moses through David through the prophets through Jesus through the apostles through the saints of all ages right down to the recipient of that letter in 1988 with many more chapters of fidelity to be written.
Receptive clay vessels to God filled with the finest gold from God!
Read Isaiah 26 sometime for some stark commentary on that!
Simply, fidelity not betrayal is blessed by God.
Yet, again, just like David, we’ve got to be careful not to forget we never outgrow our need for God to save us because we have that instinct called original sin that keeps pulling us away from God into betrayals.
That really hit home for me when I got back from a wonderfully relaxing week with my wife in Florida with only a few weeks of winter left after Easter.
I was sitting on our back porch on May 4, 2019 during a devotional moment when He hit me.
It was as overwhelming as that moment in Montana back in October 2011 when God opened up Matthew 15 and 23 in ways that alerted me to idolatries still plaguing God’s people and how we tolerate them and how we must be more intentional about abandoning them to increase intimacy with our Lord.
Anyway, accompanied by spiritually audible gutturals reminiscent of Hebrew classes in seminary, the Lord compelled me to confess my repeated sin throughout my life and ministry of enabling, accommodating, embracing, and sometimes even participating in behaviors antithetical to Christianity according to Jesus by the book coupled with excuses, rationalizations, and other evidences of intentional as well as instinctual infidelity.
O.K., that’s a mouthful.
That was the general sense of the apocalyptic moment.
The details emerged over several hours.
I was reminded that deliverance ministries as well as most psychospiritual therapies are rarely effective if the demonized or psychospiritually dysfunctional are compromised by mood-modifying meds.
Simply, it’s a waste of time to try to heal anyone who is under the influence of legal or illegal dope.
Similarly, providing pastoral care for someone who is not “regular” in worship – the only indispensable activity of faith and surest way to increasing intimacy with God – is a pret’ near waste of time.
Practically, I was convicted of the sin of enabling, accommodating, embracing, and participating in rituals+ceremonies=rites like baptisms and weddings with people that don’t worship God with any fidelity; meaning I am sinning against God by, again, enabling, accommodating, embracing, and participating in their superficial, artificial, and inauthentic theater that disrespects God’s holiness with ingratitude for who He is and what He is done for our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.
Essentially, I was told not to cast His pearls before swine.
I was convicted.
Here, there, and everywhere, I’ve been castigating my denomination for being irretrievably apostate under current management and I’ve been baptizing babies whose parents didn’t, don’t, and won’t worship Him and presiding at weddings for couples who didn’t worship before the wedding, haven’t since, and won’t any time soon.
The echo deafens the unfaithful excuses and rationalizations as it convicts the soul: “Would you betray Me with a kiss?”
Here’s the point.
I have been accusing people of all kinds of infidelities while I’ve been enabling, accommodating, embracing, and participating in a bunch of ‘em for too many years.
“What’s that I see in my eye?”
It’s like that old song by Eric Clapton: “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.”
For me, it’s been more like this: “Before you accuse them, take a look in the mirror.”
When it comes to betrayals, who is betraying whom?
We’re hurt by betrayals and we hurt by betrayals; and that voice echoes, “As you betray them, you betray Me.”
He feels the pain that we inflict on each other as if it were being inflicted on Him.
Here’s His point.
We need a Savior.
He knows we’re going to betray each other and betray Him.
He knows that.
The good news has always been that omniscient Father God is omnipotent to provide His omnipresent salvation to all of us by grace through faith so that any of life’s betrayals will not matter in the end.
I guess this is a good time to read the best summary of that gospel in John 3:16-17.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
I’ve mentioned Dr. James I. McCord before.
President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Princeton Theological Seminary, I’ll never forget when he said to several of us during a denominational meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on the 5th floor of the Hilton Hotel back in the mid 70s through draws and exhales of one of the biggest over-the-top-ring-sized Cubans that I’ve ever seen, “For Christ’s sake, boys, do something! Do something for Christ’s sake! I don’t care if you succeed or fail but do something for Christ’s sake.”
Also, I recall how he often chastised churches for overlooking Pentecost as one of the most important festivals of the annual Christian calendar.
He referred to Pentecost as the Church’s birthday.
Christmas celebrates the incarnation/enfleshment of God in Jesus as the Babe of Bethlehem, Easter celebrates His resurrection that assures ours by grace through faith in Jesus, and Pentecost celebrates the empowerment of the Church by the promised arrival and continuing presence of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
As recorded in Matthew 28 and John 14, Jesus promised Father God and Saving Son would never leave us and always be with us as Holy Spirit to enlighten, encourage, and enable us to honor God.
God’s remaining, regenerating, and revealing presence arrived on Pentecost: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven…and…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus promised the enlightening, encouraging, and enabling power of the Holy Spirit would “fill” believers: “You will receive power.”
The word is dunamis and it means explosive, expansive, expressive, and effective energy.
Power to the people of God!
That power was to fuel the Church to make Father God, Saving Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit known as Source, Sovereign, Savior, and Sustainer and provoke love for Him known by loving like Him with grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped together in agape.
That power for the Church’s life and ministry arrived 50 days after Passover or just after that first Maundy Thursday in the Upper Room and has been empowering people who really invite Jesus into the heart as Lord and Savior for life and ministry ever since: “To each…[believer]…is given a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good.”
For a quick review of that original Pentecost, read Acts 2; and for another quick review of what God does for believers through the Holy Spirit, read Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Summarily, God’s power for life and ministry through His remaining presence as Holy Spirit is given to anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior by the book.
The Holy Spirit is that existentially enlightening, encouraging, energizing, and enabling power to know God and make Him known.
That’s why Dr. McCord emphasized celebrating Pentecost.
It got the Church going - as Jesus said would be the purpose of the Holy Spirit - to the ends of the earth with worship, service, and evangelism.
The Holy Spirit is the power for honoring God in grateful praise, Matthew 25 ministries, loving Jesus by loving like Jesus, and sharing the best news ever that confident living in the assurance of eternal life is available to anyone who invites Jesus into the heart as Lord and Savior.
So if you look around today at churches and think they don’t seem to have enough power to blow their noses and could star in next season’s The Walking Dead juxtaposed the Church in Sardis of Revelation 3, it’s because they don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit in them because they haven’t really invited Jesus into their lives and churches as Lord and Savior.
That accounts for Dr. McCord’s insistence on highlighting Pentecost along with Christmas and Easter as an important annual celebration and evangelist Gypsy Smith’s answer when asked to identify the greatest need in today’s churches:
When asked the second greatest need in today’s churches, Smith replied,
When asked the third greatest need in today’s churches, he answered,
I’ll never forget what legendary Korean missionary Samuel Moffett said at the Congress on Renewal in Dallas, Texas back in January 1985: “I’ve had decency and order up to here! But where’s the power? Where’s the power to propel us out across the world?”
Here’s Gypsy Smith’s answer: “Another Pentecost!”
We need a Pentecostal experience of God’s power to know God and make Him known.
Et according to Jesus by the book, that happens whenever Jesus is really invited into the heart as Lord and Savior.
Moffett said, “There is no renewal unless we know who Jesus is.”
It’s like James Jones wrote in Filled with New Wine, “This is the most important thing we can know about God…that He loves us and wants to draw us into deeper union with Him…The question is not whether the church will be renewed…Of course it will be. The Spirit is at work. The only question is whether you and I will prove a hindrance or a channel to God’s activity.”
Back to Moffett as he talked about the experience of that first Pentecost that Smith says needs to be experienced afresh: “They prayed and the power came…The Holy Spirit came and life flamed within them…But I must confess that the record of that first Pentecost, all wind and fire and many tongues, is a disconcerting passage to read to Presbyterians like you. It smacks too much of hot Gospelers and holy rollers and Quakers and Shakers and enthusiasts. It doesn’t really describe all that is best and most beautiful in worship…And yet the more I read of the history of the Church, the more I am impressed with the fact that some of the most creative and effective periods in the Church were those periods when the Gospel was hot not respectable.”
What do we need?
Dr. McCord was right.
Pentecost is the Church’s birthday.
That first Pentecost was when believers were empowered to know Jesus and make Him known.
I like how Oswald Chambers put it: “Pentecost did not teach the disciples anything. It made them the incarnation of what they preached.”
The Church became alive and active on Pentecost.
Et it still happens whenever Jesus is really in our heads, hearts, and guts.
That’s when we’re full of Jesus; and when we’re full of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is filling us.
Acts 29 comes to mind.
Look it up.
You won’t find it in your Bible.
That’s because we’re writing that chapter of the Church’s history right now.
Et we’ll keep writing it as long as Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior so His remaining in us as Holy Spirit keeps us going and glowing and growing with/in/through/for Him.
When we really believe in Jesus, we’re really empowered by His Holy Spirit.
That’s when, as Dr. McCord urged, we can really do something for Christ’s sake.
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place”
It’s a common idiom to indicate the stress of decision-making.
Commonly, it means we have to choose between two equally unappealing options; kinda like the last race for governor in Illinois.
Practically, when we choose the lesser of the unappealing options, it becomes the more positive action over the more pejorative one; kinda like going to the dentist instead of living with a toothache.
When it comes to living confidently with strong calm sanity because we know we’re going to live forever by grace through faith in Jesus, there is a really, really, really bad eternal option and a really, really, really excellent eternal one.
Know Jesus or No Jesus.
No Jesus means a life of doubt, stress, fear, an unquenchable quest for the extended life warranty of a Timex to keep on ticking when everybody knows everybody will return home from the graveside but…uh, oh…you or me or…sooner or later.
What a way not to live.
That’s what No Jesus means.
Uh, no trip.
Know Jesus means life with wholeness, happiness, joy, and eternal security.
Jesus said life with Him is “joy-filled” and “abundant” or “overflowing” with blessings.
Instead of feeling flushed, rushed, and razzle-dazzled by every trip to the doctor and every threat of life in an increasingly dangerous-to-our-health-and-wellness world, we have that strong calm sanity generated by knowing Jesus and the paradise to come a nano-second après the last breath by grace through faith in Jesus.
It’s the only way to go.
If not, get Him in any local church with a pastor that loves Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book.
Everybody feels caught between a rock and a hard place every now and then; and knowing Jesus is the only sure solid foundation to endure, overcome, and live triumphantly in time and forever.
Remember, Jesus is the solid rock foundation of life and eternity; and knowing Him guarantees safety and security: “A wise man builds his house on rock…[Jesus!]…so that when the inevitable rains and winds and disasters of life in time come, the house doesn’t collapse.”
That’s why Jesus looked at Peter and said to him, “Peter, you are a rock; and on this rock…[referring to Himself]…, I will build My Church and no one nor no thing will be able to destroy it.”
Peter was emphatic: “Jesus is the chief cornerstone!
Whoever believes in Him will never be put to shame!”
No Jesus is no way to live.
Know Jesus is the only way to live here and now and forever with serenity in time and certainty about eternity.
David knew all about being between a rock and a hard place.
He was surrounded my enemies.
Yet, the saving grace in his life was knowing God who said from the beginning, “Let us make man in Our image” which means Father God, saving Son, and Sustaining Spirit predestined our present, perpetual, and permanent relationship with our triune God.
Knowing his need for God, David prayed, “Save me, God! I’m desperate for your help! Outlaws are out to get me! They want to kill me! They don’t acknowledge You or know You or fear You!”
When David begs God for deliverance from evil, he reminds God that God’s reputation is at stake: “Save me by Your name!”
It’s reminiscent of Psalm 23’s plea, “He leads me…He restores me…for His name’s sake.” God’s saving graces prove He takes care of His family.
Like every child of God that knows to thank God in advance for the eventual victory over dangers, discouragements, and death, David praises the salvific incarnations of God: “God is my helper! God’s on my side! He is the Good Shepherd who beats away the bad guys! God finishes them off!”
When I was in seminary, Dr. Macleod often said, “God acts for our salvation in Jesus by grace through faith and we respond in grateful worship.”
Or as John explained, “We love because He first loved us.”
God acts on our behalf as Father God, Saving Son Jesus, and encouraging and enlightening Holy Spirit; and we respond in faith-filled-and-overflowing worship, service of loving Him back by loving like He has loved us, and sharing His gospel that we are not supposed to keep to ourselves.
I moderate a lot of church meetings on the corner of Lincoln and Main and lots of other places as a presbyter.
One early morning after a particularly laborious, painstaking, befuddling, and irritating meeting the night before, I was walking as I always do for physical exercise and early prayer; and as I kept going over how I could have been more helpful in that awful meeting, God seemed to say, “You are trying too hard. It’s not that difficult. Just do what I have already revealed to you.”
Immediately, I realized we have a tendency to complicate our lives; thinking we’re always between a rock and hard place.
If we do this, somebody’s gonna be mad and maybe divorce themselves from us.
If we do that, somebody’s gonna be mad and maybe divorce themselves from us.
I realized, again, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
If we’re gonna catch everything but heaven for anything we say and do, let’s just do the right thing as revealed to us in Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book.
It’s not that complicated.
Just trust Him as Savior and obey Him as Lord and we’ll live happily ever after and escape the captivities of being caught between a rock and a hard place.
When Jesus is our rock/cornerstone/keystone, we are unstoppable, irrepressible, and undeniably whole, happy, joyful, and secure with a strong calm sanity that is compelling, convincing, and contagious.
Trust and obey seems like fidelity’s formula.
It’s not that complicated.
I think of desert father Poemen who said, “I will explain why we must struggle so desperately. It is because we do not love others as the Scripture teaches.”
Indeed, if we loved each other like Jesus loves us, our nation, churches, families, and every relationship would be laced with grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped together by agape.
Then and only then, we would be able to live well together.
We wouldn’t be caught between a rock and a hard place.
It’s the difference between those who Know Jesus and those with No Jesus.
It’s that simple.
Know Jesus or No Jesus.
Only One is comfortable…instantaneously…and infinitely.
Blessings and Love!