Friday, July 26, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms #59

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)

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Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#59

“Protection Prompts Praise”

I’ll never forget a mentor beginning a message by saying, “I’d like to tell you everything that I know, but I don’t have five minutes.”

Truth is nobody knows everything.


Dr. Wolfgang Lowe really put me in my place while studying in Heidelberg.

I kept asking question after question after question during one class and, finally, exasperated, he groaned, “Unfortunately, Herr Kopp, we are not all omniscient.”

Truth is we’re all scratching the surface of our relationship with Jesus even if we’ve just finished eighth grade or just come home from our freshman year in college or just passed the bar or just been ordained or just…

You know what I mean.

Nobody likes a know-it-all because nobody knows it all but One.

Only God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

And that, my friends, while never releasing us from the personal responsibility of our choices, explains predestination.

God knows.

Period.

That’s part of being, uh, God the Father Almighty.

I’m reminded of the professor at one of my schools that was lecturing on the paradox of being predestined by God while still having free will to mess up things for ourselves.

Again, if that paradox keeps Advil in business for you, let it go, let God, and realize there are things about God that are bigger and better and unknown to the created until, as Paul promised in 1 Corinthians 13, we’ll get it all.  Yeah, read down past the love stuff to the lines about knowing now dimly and then knowing completely.

Anyway, the professor catches someone sleeping, slams his hand on the young seminarian’s desk, and demands, “Well, what do you think?”

The startled fellah blurts, “I knew yesterday but forgot.”

The professor said with a smile, “Such a pity!  The only man who knew and he forgot!”

Sometimes the most intelligent answer is, “I don’t know.”

Pero if we are, at least, scratching the surface of our relationship with Jesus, we know some things.

We know He will take care of us in time and after time according to His gracious love for us through faith in Jesus.

We know He will enable us to keep keepin’ on if we worship Him regularly, wrap our souls around His Word in Jesus according to the book, allow the winds of His Holy Spirit to sustain and support us, and declare our independence from the worldly in total dependence upon Him.

Or as our American coins pray as well as proclaim, “In God We Trust.”

When Matthew broke his foot in June 2019 before his senior year after a stellar junior season of football at Coe College, I wrote to him and directed my son to his Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit.

I don’t know much, but I know God takes care of those who love Him; or as Paul said, “God works for good in all things with those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

The immediate moment of crisis may be a total bummer; yet God always works through those moments to His something better in mind if we hang with Him, keep the faith, and declare our dependence upon Him in total trust.

Even in death.

Remember, death to time is a nano-second from permanent paradise.

Well, I told Matt to read Psalm 37:25: “I am old but was young; and in all of my time, I’ve never seen God abandon those who really love Him.”

I told him to read Psalm 91 which, in essence, says God will always save those that really love Him and never fudge on fidelity to Him.

Then I texted, “Those psalms, especially the last verses, have been my certain and sustaining trust through every shadowy detour in life…You surpassed every goal and won every award last year and, as you pledged personally with determination, ‘showed’ everyone…God, as he has done for everyone with David’s heart, notably and including your brother, has something spectacular in store for you around the corner…Trust Him more than ever…Believe in His best graces for you that are coming…I love you, son, and I am so proud of what you have accomplished and look forward to what He will be accomplishing in/through/for you…My prayers are passionately victorious…You have seen His hand on Dan from disappointment to triumph…Your turn!...Now read Psalm 23 and Philippians.”

I don’t know much but I know God protects the faithful and prompts their praise even before His fresh graces arrive.

Psalm 59 comes to mind.

David was always aware of God’s enemies being his enemies and his enemies being God’s enemies.

He also knew God protects the faithful.

So in the midst of another assault from Saul or one of his many other enemies, David prayed for protection: “Deliver me from my enemies…Protect me from those who rise up against me…Deliver me from those that love to sin, insult You and injure Your people…They are sneaky ambushers. liars, and rage against me and everyone that loves You.”

Then, David quickly praises God in advance for the protection that God will provide.  He trusts God’s protection and praises God for it even before it happens because God always comes through for the faithful sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “But I will sing of Your strength and shout joyfully of Your faithful love from morning til night…You save!...Great is Your faithfulness!”

We worship God because God is to be worshipped.

We are so respectfully grateful for every blessing in time, His Holy Spirit that helps us to endure and overcome the challenges in time, and the amazing grace through faith in Jesus after time in heaven.

That’s why, as Eugene Peterson often said, “You don’t have to motivate Christians.  Christians are already motivated!”

Christians know who He is and what He has done for the faithful here and now and forever by grace through faith in Jesus.

So when worship is down and support for the body of Christ aka the Church is down, it exposes people that don’t get it/Him.  They don’t know why they should be praising Him.

I think of the pastor who was told by an elder, “You better start asking people for more money or we’re not going to be around much longer.”

The pastor said, “Well, as you know, I’m called to address spiritual problems in the church.  I suggest you take this financial problem to the trustees and finance committee and get on it.”

Well, things got much worse and the elder returned: “Pastor, you really need to get on this.  We can’t pay our bills and we’re going to have to start cutting back on staff and maybe even your salary.”

“Oh,” said the pastor, “I didn’t realize it’s that serious; but as you know, I’m called to address spiritual problems in the church.  So you better take this financial problem to the trustees and finance committee.”

“Pastor,” said the elder, “I don’t think you understand.  We have a spiritual problem in our church.”

There are no financial problems in the church.

There are no relational problems in the church.

There are no lack of worship attendance problems in the church.

There are no problems with parents and grandparents not keeping their baptismal promises.

There are no…

There are only spiritual problems in churches that aren’t getting along and keeping on with worship, service, evangelism, baptismal promises, and all of the other signs of salvation aka fruit of the Holy Spirit like grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped in love.

We don’t know everything.

Nobody but God does.

Yet knowing God protects the faithful from here to eternity prompts praise reflected in behaviors modeled by Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture.

While I may be wrong but don’t think so or I wouldn’t say it, I believe that’s enough to know now and then and in the end.

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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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms #58

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)


Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#58

“God and Country”

Anybody with me on Chicago becoming its own state?

Among the many reasons why I’d like to see Chicago become its own state is Saul Alinsky.

Born in Chicago on January 30, 1909, he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1930 and became a community organizer and political activist.

Sound familiar?

While many Americans that still love our Constitution and its Bill of Rights rooted in Holy Scripture understand Alinsky as anathema to everything that we’ve preserved, protected, and promoted about our country’s historical values in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for everyone without regard to color, class, or culture, he is the inspiration fueling the current flirtation - ah, let’s say infatuation - with socialism in many of the candidates for the White House in 2020.

Even two recent Presidents and another candidate for P in 2016 were influenced markedly by Alinsky and his manual for restructuring America with values antithetical to Biblical Christianity and republican democracy titled Rules for Radicals written from his poison pen just before he died in 1972.

I read it in the early 70s.

I read it because I had an academic mentor that said it’s important to know what people that are disagreeing with you are thinking if you are going to engage them.

That’s a nice way of saying you can’t defeat your enemy if you don’t know your enemy’s soul and strategy.

That’s why coaches scout teams that they’re going to play.

Or as Jesus said, “Be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.”

To be fair, Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals because he believed America must be restructured to improve the living conditions for all Americans; and as I outline his ideas for ripping America from its roots and replacing republican democracy, free enterprise, and Christianity with socialism, you can guess which Presidents were influenced by him and which past and current candidates for P are in league with him.

Some of this will sound very familiar, some of it may horrify you as someone that still loves America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights rooted in Holy Scripture, and some will resonate with people that want America restructured apart from its traditional and historical values because they think Alinsky and his idolaters are right in saying socialism is better for America even though it’s never worked anywhere at any time for any people on the planet.

While tempted to temper my comments about Alinsky because he and those who adore him claim to change America from what it was and is to their idea of benevolent statism with the heralded goal of community organizing so have-nots get socioeconomic power, I am still startled by this dedication in his handbook for leftist takeover of the country and, therefore, suspicious of anyone that invokes him as a mentor and model for making-over America: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical from all our legends, mythology, and history…the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”

Though lampooned ever since he dared to run against one of Alinsky’s acolytes and especially since working for 45, Ben Carson asked a question back in 2016 that should cause pause for Christians when they pull the curtain then lever, “So are we willing to elect someone as President who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?”

Yes, I know there are too many brain head baaaahhh baaaahhh sheep in the clothing of Republicans and Democrats that would vote for satanos if it were their party’s nominee, Christians are supposed to, as the apostles said, “Obey God not man” and certainly not those esteeming the evil one.

Anyway, while you can look up the rules via Google that loves guys like Alinsky, here are a few of the 13 (Hmmmmmmm…) that caught my attention: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon…A good tactic is one your people enjoy…Keep the pressure on…If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside…Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Sound familiar?

Doesn’t sound very, uh, Christian, does it?

Essentially, Alinsky thought people are too stupid to live in a republican democracy with theocratic notions as in the roots of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Nope.

If you read Alinsky and follow his acolytes that studied his book in the 70s and rose and continue to rise in American politics, you will find they share a lot with him; sounding like Leninists and Maoists advocating state control over everything including health care, liberties, employment, enjoyment, and everything with God being the first target to remove from government and education.

Wow!

Look at the progress that they’ve made on getting rid of God from government and education!

I’m sure that sounds good to some people.

Not Bible-believing Christ followers!

We’re still reeling from the masquerade at the public library in Rockford in which a drag queen in full drag read stories to 3-8 year olds.

We’re still reeling because most of our government, educational institutions, churches, and citizenry aren’t going apoplectic over increasingly legalized infanticide.

We’re still reeling that most folks, I guess, find no problems in having more slots than Matthew 25 ministries in town.

We’re still reeling that only the mayor and a county chairman attended the Heritage Days worship service on June 29th in Belvidere and not one city council member, school board member, or District 100 administrator attended.

I’m sure that’s no big deal to some folks and sounds good to others.

Obviously, it does sound really good to a lot of pollsters because we’ve got a bunch of candidates lusting to room in that Pennsylvania Avenue White House that are counting on America’s flirtation to infatuation with socialism becoming a fact.

Truth is a lot of people in America either are too tired to resist the move to restructure the country from its standard operating procedures that have worked for more people in the world than anything else ever before, which is one of the reasons why people keep crossing rivers and jumping over walls and going through hoops to get in, or don’t really care anymore or have been so deceived by darkness and its father that they have become the fools described by Jesus that can’t think, see, or hear what’s real and righteous.

America has reached a crossroads.

Are we going to continue to embrace values that have produced so much life, liberty, and happiness for so many or roll the dice and risk it all for another idea that has never worked at any time in any place for any people?

David understood the choice.

He wrote about it in Psalm 58.

He cried out to God about the world’s wickedness: 

“The wicked crawl from the wrong side of the cradle. Their first words are lies. Poison, lethal rattlesnake poison, drips from their forked tongues.”

Turning his attention to church and state leaders, he lamented, “Is this any way to run a country?  Is there an honest politician in the house?  Behind the scenes you brew cauldrons of evil, behind closed doors you make deals with demons.”

Then he begs God, “Smash their teeth to bits, leave them toothless tigers…God, throw it out with the garbage!”

He concludes with confidence of the ultimate celebration of God’s victory: “The righteous will call up their friends when they see the wicked get their reward…There is a God who judges on earth!”

Yes, as Martha Young, the first female African-American elder of Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s First Presbyterian Church, counseled me so many years ago, “You love ‘em and let God judge ‘em; but love ‘em enough to tell ‘em that God’s comin’ back to judge ‘em!”

Getting back to Heritage Days 2019 and that poorly 
attended worship service at the Community Building – evidence that our country, community, county, and churches are in peril – there were seven pastors in attendance that came with a simple and saving message.

The only way to get better and save the country and world and ourselves is to get back to God.

Jude told us about perilous times like ours: 

“Though I wanted to talk to you about our common salvation and celebrate our community unity, it is necessary to urge you to contend for faith because certain unGodly men have slithered into the community and its churches and government and schools and are turning the grace of God into promiscuity while denying Jesus as our Master and Holy Scripture as our manual.”

Then the apostle provided the prescription for getting better: “But as for you, remember Jesus!...But as for you, remember the Word enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture!...But as for you, build up for yourselves your most holy faith!”

Samuel promised and warned at the same time, “God honors those who honor Him.”

If so, so.

If not, not.

God’s people are all about God and country because we know there is no country without God…sooner or later…usually sooner than later…and definitely in the end.

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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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms #57

Kopp Disclosure

(John 3:19-21)

Scratching the Surface of the Psalms

#57

“The Cold Showers and Living Waters of Following Jesus”

Whenever people expect too much from others and sometimes even themselves apr├Ęs a confessional moment prompted by the mirror’s reflection, I often ask, “Did you miss the course on original sin?”

Everybody’s tainted by it.

It’s in our genes.

It’s the bad behavior that we’ve inherited and learned.

It began in the garden.

It’s our first family called the Adamsons.

We are the daughters and sons of Adam and Eve with the instinct to insult God’s holiness and injure God’s people with regularity.

That’s why we’re so respectfully grateful to God for Savior Jesus by grace through faith.

Our only strong calm sanity in time is fueled by our faith in Jesus that guarantees paradise a nano-second after the last breath.

Knowing time is limited and heaven is not, we overcome and endure and live triumphantly.

Certainly, every day is not a hot fudge sundae; yet any day without intimacy with Father God, Savior Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit is hopeless, hapless, helpless, and hellish.

Jesus.

He is Father God’s gift to us by grace through faith with the Holy Spirit always compelling increasing intimacy with Him and respectfully grateful worship.

Jesus describes our relationship with Him this way: “Anyone who believes in Me will have rivers of living water flowing from Me into her/him and will be as refreshing as refreshed by Me.”

Following Jesus is when we really come alive to the beauty of His creation and relationships and romance and aren’t pulled down into the many variations of doom and gloom and depression and disappointment and defeat that have become the hallmarks of people without heaven on their minds and in their hearts and guts.

Yet, even if we haven’t missed the course on original sin and have been saved from its hellish consequences by grace through faith in Jesus, there are many cold showers in time to remind us of that sin and our need for Jesus to save us from it.

I’ll never forget when Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship that following Jesus means leaving the monasteries of safety and security and going out into the world with the gospel: “When Christ calls a man, he bids come and die with Me…It may be a death like Luther’s who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world…or it may be a death like…”

It’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed in a denomination irretrievably apostate under current management; or as Hans Evans told me back in 1977, “Stay in our denomination.  It’s the best mission field open to us today.”

I learned those lessons so starkly and sadly and devastatingly within weeks of leaving my monastery aka seminary for my first church as undershepherd to the Good Shepherd.

My first pastoral call was a cold shower.

I was only 25 and filled with enthusiasm and wanting to save the world for Jesus.

Though I was a tad deluded in thinking it was possible to take a 200 member congregation in a town of 2900 with nine other churches and be the Heartland of our day, I thought churches really want to grow and glow for Jesus with people hungering and thirsting to know Him and make Him known.

It didn’t take long before I realized I had missed the course on original sin.

There was a church picnic after worship on my first Sunday.

Jeff, the reigning arm wrestling champ, came over to me and asked with a smirk if I’d like to give it a go.

Noticing everybody was watching and that he was measuring his masculinity against mine, I begged off and said he’d kill me for sure and that I was a little tired anyway and…

“Our new pastor’s a chicken,” he said and people laughed.

Now I don’t like to talk about my limited positives in messages, preferring to tell people that I’m as messed up as they are and need Jesus just as much as they do, yet God has given some strength to me that I don’t like to talk about and only use when necessary.

Ask me about Stanley in Clark, New Jersey some time.

Anyway, he baited and baited and baited and eventually hooked me; and I put him down in less than ten seconds.

Three times.

It was the first time that I learned there are lots of people in churches that prefer emasculated preachers.

Look around.

If I have to explain that to you…

Then there was our first session meeting.

Elder Don asked, “Pastor, what is your vision for our church?”

Immediately upon sharing my vision for the church, he said, “If you think we’re doing any of that, you’re crazy?”

It was the first time that I realized there are lots of people in churches that don’t really want their pastors to be their undershepherds to the Good Shepherd.  It’s the lead-us-but-we’ll-fight-you-every-step-of-the-way-we-were-fine-before-you-got-here virus that has infected all churches.

My favorite lesson came from Jack.

Jack was a big shot in the local steel mill about five miles down the road.

Greeting me after worship on my first Sunday, he whispered into my ear, “If you’d like, I will do for you what I’ve done for your predecessors.  I will leave a brown bag with a six pack in it on your back porch every Saturday morning.  No one will have to know and you won’t get caught at the liquor store.”

I said I like cigars.

He said, “Pastors shouldn’t smoke.”

It was the first time that I realized churches aren’t big on the truth, lie a lot, rationalize their infidelities, and don’t think the Bible is bigger than their favorite parts.

Seminary didn’t teach me about that kinda stuff; like the time that a florist asked one of my assistant pastors and me on an early Sunday in the sanctuary, “How would you like me to arrange the flowers for you?”  I said, “I forget, Stimp, what did they teach us about that in seminary?”

The point is there’s a cold shower or sin’s reality coming even after bathing in His living waters.

Our challenge is to get out of those cold showers as quickly as possible and dive back into His living waters.

David’s Psalm 57 comes to mind.

Most folks think he wrote it while hiding in a cave somewhere close to the Dead Sea while be hunted down by Saul.

The particulars aren’t as important as the problem; or as Dr. Stuart told me in one of the few helpful things that I learned in seminary, “You can’t build a theology on broken pickle jars.”

Anyway, David is hiding from danger again with the note that history proves followers of Jesus are not immune to life’s dangers.

As the desert fathers often said, “Life’s challenges never end.  As soon as one challenge is conquered, another comes.”

Bikers put it this way: “There’s always rain.  You’re either in rain or out of rain riding into rain.  There’s always rain.”

Faith in God is the only way to overcome, survive, and thrive.

So while acknowledging the challenge, David finds strong calm sanity in knowing it will end with God’s help.

Again, he acknowledges the challenge and asks God’s help: “Be good to me, God.  Help me now!  I’ve run to you for dear life.  I’m hiding under your wings until this tornado blows over.  Save me!  Deliver me!  Be true to Your word!  They want to kill me for sure and I turn to You to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

Then, David praises God for saving him even before it happens because he knows God always comes through for the faithful sooner than later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end: “I’m ready to praise You, God!  Wake up, everybody, and praise God for His blessings that flow!  Praise Him all creatures here below!  God, I am praising You!  I am worshipping You!  You save!  God is great and God is good!  Let us thank Him for everything!”

Psalm 57 repeats a common theme throughout Holy Scripture.

Challenges come and go and come and go and come and go and there’s always somebody who wants to tinkle on our parades and drown us in cold showers.

The most important truth in life as preface to eternity is God saves those who trust Him with His best intentions that last forever.

I’ll never forget hearing about the coach that said to a player, “Son, I don’t understand you.  Is it ignorance or apathy?”

The player said, “Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

I think a lot of people are like that today.

So many don’t know what God has done for them.

So many don’t care what God has done for them.

Just look at…

Again, if I have to explain that to you…

Pero, if you’re still reading this, you know and you care.

Praise God!

Now run through that cold shower and dive back into your relationship with Jesus!

Don’t stop there!

Invite everyone to swim with you!

Everybody gets wet.

Not everybody has to drown.


Blessings and Love!
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