Thursday, August 29, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
Everybody but Miss Hannigan loved little orphan Annie; and there have been times for everyone when we’ve felt like her friends in the orphanage crying out, “It’s a hard knock life for us!...Don’t it feel like the wind is always howlin?...Don’t it seem like there’s never any light?...Once a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in?...It’s a hard knock life for us!”
Recently, with more than a hint, my wife said my beard is too long.
Wrong thing to say to me if you know what I mean.
If you don’t know what I mean, I’ll tell you what I mean because I dealt with that kinda stuff long ago.
Remember, there were five votes for George McGovern in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania when he ran for the big house in 1972 and my dad said the night après he was creamed by 37, “There were five votes for him in town and I’ve gotta be sitting down for dinner with one of them.”
It could be that Leonard Kopp, the respected burgher of Torgau who packed up the nun Katherine von Bora in a herring barrel so she could escape the convent to become Martin Luther’s wife, is one of my relatives ‘cause the DNA seems about right.
Anyway, I’ll never forget Pearl.
She made an appointment to see me and said immediately before fully seated in the chair across from my desk, “Dr. Kopp, I hate your beard.”
While clergy must have tats on their foreheads inviting such entitlements or fainthearted reputations, I responded with my best Rogerian non-direct care and counsel, “I hear you saying you hate my beard.”
Well, we finally got around to her son having a beard, her being estranged from her son and transferring that pathology to me.
So I said, “Do you think you’d feel better if I shaved it off?”
She said, “Yes, thank you.”
I shaved it off because she said my beard was reminding her of her bad relationship with her son and she couldn’t get into worship because…
Blah, blah, blah…
The next week as I saw her in line to greet me after worship, I anticipated some sugar in appreciation for what I had done for her.
She took my hand, smiled, and said rather sternly, “Now about your
I’ve had a beard ever since.
That’s trivial compared to the larger issues of life and challenges presented by people that want to control us or conquer us if they can’t control us.
Yes, it can be a hard knock life for all of us too often.
Not denying the challenges of health and finances and other important matters to which no one is immune, relational dysfunctions, confrontations and downright polemics are especially burdensome and disconcerting.
Metaphorically, for every little orphan Annie, there’s a Miss Hannigan.
David admits that in Psalm 64: “God, hear my voice. O.K., I’m whining. I’ve got feelings of doomsday and it’s a lot worse than my deodorant not keeping me dry all day along. People are out to get me. They use their tongues as a weapon against me – like poison-tipped arrows. They conspire in secret against me around corners and in closets. It’s a hard knock life for me.”
Still, David, as a believer that really trusts God to save him sooner or later and usually sooner than later and definitely in the end, celebrates Father God’s personal protection of the faithful: “But God will shoot them down for me! God always takes care of people like me that love Him. We rejoice in our relationship with the Lord and take refuge in Him.”
There’s so much being said about what’s wrong with our world, America, churches, families, schools, politics, and all of the below.
Pointing out the problem doesn’t solve it.
Surely, misery likes company and we can all banter and moan about it all and share our sympathies and it won’t make a heaven of a difference.
Pero if we’re looking for a solution, we’ve got Him!
Jesus can save us from ourselves.
He did that for our souls by grace through faith in Him; so it’s not a stretch to say He can do it for our world, America, churches, families, schools, politic, and all of the below.
Do we really want to bring civility back to our government?
Do we really want to protect the unborn?
Do we really want to counter gun violence?
Do we really want to restore Biblical ethics to family and marriage?
Do we really…?
If we really want to make anything better, we can through Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book.
We can, as the song goes, build a beautiful city!
The city of God according to the Word enfleshed in Jesus, explained in Holy Scripture, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
I’ll never forget the little girl that said to Harold, “I don’t understand people. They can be so mean.”
They are…by nature.
It takes being born anothen to put away those selfishly immature character traits for the fruit of intimacy with Jesus like mercy, grace, and forgiveness wrapped in agape.
Because not everyone is like that/Him, it’s a hard knock life for too many too often.
I think of a recent letter that I received from a very sensitive yet strong woman of God who asked, “Why do people have to be so mean?”
She went on to talk about mean-spirited gossip at a local hair salon; and, BTW, with a sister that’s been in that business for almost as long as I’ve been doing what I do, I know the viciousness of those dens of…
Like Facebook and money, hair salons don’t have to be bad unless people using them act badly.
They’re all good until tainted by humanity begging to be born anothen.
O.K., here’s the point.
Some people are going to remain mean and nasty because they’re never going to be born anothen and act like people that are following Jesus; meaning they’re making hell for people around ‘em.
Some people can’t be changed by us because they haven’t been changed by Him.
So what do we do in the meantime?
First, as I remember being told, there are times when it’s better to talk
to God about someone than to talk to someone about God.
Second, lean on Him for support like a buoy in the oceans of life when people are pulling us under.
Third, trust Jesus to sympathize with the hard knocks that are beating down on our lives and know He is the solution here and now and forever.
Remember, it’s a hard knock life for us but God saves.
The world says this and that and the other but God wins sooner or later, usually sooner than later and definitely in the end.
No one is immune to the hard knocks of life.
Erma Bombeck remains right: “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?”
There are too many Miss Hannigans around.
Anyone can overcome ‘em and live victoriously.
Just take His hand and He’ll pull you out of the pits where they’ll remain long after you’ve been saved.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
O.K., it’s time for another survey.
What’s the best rock band of all time?
If you picked the Cowsills, Partridge Family, Donnie and Marie, the Monkees, Paul Revere and Raiders, or Britney Spears, you’re probably responsible for putting Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur next to no brainers like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and Santana in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I know every hall of fame has been lowering their standards in recent years; but, c’mon, how can you not say blasphemy when Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur are in and Mountain, Jethro Tull, Ted Nugent, Warren Zevon, Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, Beck, Bad Company, Procol Harum, and ELP are not?
The next thing you know the Girl Scouts of America will be competing with the Boy Scouts of America for members.
If this keeps up, we’ll have people running for P that are socialists with more concerns about cow flatulence than the unborn.
If we’re not careful, they’ll be letting men use women’s restrooms at Starbucks and our grandchildren will have to have escorts for potty breaks because men will be able to share the facilities with little girls and women will be able to share the facilities with little boys and little girls and little boys will be told there are no gender distinctions to defy what they can see for themselves.
Well, at least we don’t have to worry about the White Sox making it to the World Series.
Some things in the universe are still normal.
Pero some things really seem to be getting out of hand or coming from the pit of hell or from the ozone layer of reality and common sense.
I mean, really, a lot of supposedly smart people are making some really stupid decisions with their two feet planted firmly in the air.
No wonder the Stones’ first big hit in 1965 was I Can’t Get No Satisfaction with Richards on the riffs and Jagger preening.
Praise God who satisfies everyone that trusts Him!
While everyone knows there’s shelf life to satisfactions attached to fragile things like positions, plaudits, popularity, prosperity and people, David’s Psalm 63 reminds us that God has always provided sustaining, enduring, overcoming and triumphant satisfaction to everyone trusting Him.
We praise God with David for His present satisfactions: “God, You’re my God! I can’t get enough of You! I’m thirsty for You! I’m hungry for You! I’m desperate for You! And You always satisfy my deepest needs when I worship You in the sanctuary and when I praise You with joyful songs!"
We praise God with David for His past satisfactions: “When I’m on my bed and thinking of You, O God, I recall how You’ve always come through for me sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end. Whenever I’ve stayed close to You, everything’s worked out.”
Having seen how God has worked so redemptively in our lives in the past and how God continues to work so redemptively in our lives here and now, we praise God with David for His future satisfactions: “Lord, we’re shouting out our certain victories in advance because of Your love for us. Just as You’ve always taken care of us, we know You’ll always take care of us. We’re not even afraid of people that want to hurt us. You’ve already marked them for doom. We spread the joy of being in Your family.”
That’s why we pray with such confidence at the table: “O Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Your mercy is upon us. By grace through faith in Jesus, every sin of the past, present, and even future are forgiven, not held against us, and our slates are wiped clean. O Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Your mercy is upon us. By grace through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven; and because we are forgiven, we know we face the future unafraid in anticipation of paradise that comes the first nano-second after the last breath.”
Certainly, there are people that sing along with the Stones and get no satisfaction in life.
They are the ones that distance themselves from God.
They are the ones that commit the only unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’s witness to Jesus as Lord and Savior of all by grace through faith.
Blasphemy is saying anything that is not true about Jesus by the book; and the most blatantly blasphemous thing that can be said about Jesus is that He doesn’t include everyone in His positively redemptive plans in time and forever by grace through faith.
That’s the sad and wrong and damning choice for people that get no satisfaction in time and forever because they reject the only One that can provide past, present, and future satisfaction.
Christians get satisfaction as a gift from God by trusting God and holding on to Him now and always.
Jesus put it this way, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be right with God, because they will be satisfied.”
The problems in our world seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity; and I’m not talking about the simple disappointments of wondering why our favorite rock band isn’t in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or why the White Sox may never get into another World Series before Jesus returns.
I’m talking about all of the violence and hate and greed and…
Anybody needing a catalogue of what’s not going right in our world is an ostrich; which, by the way, makes a really good target for the evil forces that are up to no good in our lives.
Yet, there is an answer.
There is an antidote.
Yet, He cannot be the answer and cannot be the antidote if we keep Him out and don’t let Him in.
Yes, I’m talking about our lives, marriages, families, churches, courtrooms, classrooms, commerce, entertainment, and everything with everyone else.
He’s not going to be the answer or antidote if He’s not in the conversation.
Again, we must let Him in.
He knocks at the doors of our resistance.
We must let Him in.
When we let Him in, He saves.
Let me put it/Him another way.
G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried…The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”
Is there really anyone so blind and deaf not to see and hear that we’re losing our world, country, churches, families, schools, and just about everything else to conspirators with darkness and its author?
Is there really anyone that can’t see and hear that we need to change directions – repent – turn to Jesus – before it’s too late?
Is there really anyone that doesn’t know by now that keeping God in Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit that never contradicts Jesus by the book out of our lives is why these are such perilous times?
That’s why Jesus is counting on people that know Him to make Him known as the only way to heal what’s ailing and destined to die without Him.
I guess that’s why some people refer to the Church as His salvation army.
In today’s war for souls, there’s only One that is God enough to lead us to victory.
It’s always been that way.
That’s our gospel as echoed in Psalm 63.
Satisfaction has a Savior.
Friday, August 16, 2019
Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“When You’re Behind the 8 Ball”
All of our worship services on the corner of Lincoln and Main are intended to honor God and help people in honoring God; knowing people are always helped when God is honored.
Our Sunday morning services are a little different from each other and it’s for me not to know and for you to find out for yourself.
Our Wednesday evening service is very, very, very simple and intended for those that want to go deeper into the Word and Sacrament with no distractions and also for those who’ve been turned off by churches and just want to be as alone with God as possible at the table.
If any of that sounds cryptic or even a little crude, contentious, or completely incomprehensible, I’m just trying to say worship services hit people in different ways and you’ve got to experience ‘em for yourself to decide what suits ya.
Getting back to the best liturgical intentions, faith-filled worship services honor God and help people in honoring God; again, knowing people are always helped when God is honored.
Samuel: “God honors those who honor Him.”
The corollary being people/churches/countries that don’t honor God are going to…
Well, that sentence is completed by self-determination.
Getting back to honoring God and getting helped by God along the way, everybody gets behind the 8 ball of life every now and then.
People like me and you spend a lot of time with people behind the 8 ball of life; and, sometimes, we’re the ones behind it.
We like to fix things.
Of course, when I say that, my wife thinks I’m talking about somebody else not me fixing things.
Here’s a typical exchange in our house.
Wife: “We have water coming in through the basement.”
Me acting like George Jefferson: “Uh, so why you telling me?”
Actually, I might ask, “Are you looking for sympathy or a solution?”
Pero I do like to fix things; especially relationships.
Specifically, I like to explain how God can fix broken relationships.
Confessionally, I’ve reached a humbling conclusion.
I can’t fix broken relationships in our world, America, churches, or even my own…
I can’t fix Islam to treat women and gays as the children of God that they are.
I can’t fix churches that make Jesus puke – Hey, hey, hey, read Revelation 3 if that image offends you! – because they don’t walk the talk of grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped in love that Jesus said would distinguish His followers from the rest of the world.
I can’t fix people that say they’re Christians then act more like faith-vacuous Democrats and Republicans by their pontifications and practices; appearing remotely related to Jesus by the book.
I can’t fix denominations that are more about self-perpetuating pyramid schemes than advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I can’t even fix myself.
Didn’t think so.
We are so much alike; especially when it comes to needing a Savior named Jesus.
As Francis Chan likes to say, “I’m having a hard enough time getting my act together. How do you expect me to get yours together?”
When it comes to fixing things, my personal batting average is even lower than the collective average of the White Sox.
But, thank God, we have God who specializes in fixing us; and as we honor Him in worship as Father God, Savior Jesus, and sustaining and enabling Holy Spirit, we are helped.
God saves us when we’re behind the 8 ball of life.
Psalm 62 comes to mind.
It’s David’s “fixer-upper” psalm.
Just think of it as 6+2>8.
Everybody’s behind the 8 ball of life every now and then; and when that happens, 6+2>8. 62 beats 8! Psalm 62 is God’s plan to fix up our lives when we’re stuck behind those 8 balls.
Quickly, David probably wrote this one while his son Absalom was conspiring with others to dethrone and destroy him.
In other words, David was behind the 8 ball of life and turned to God to get fixed up and survive and thrive.
The prescription for overcoming the 8 balls of life and living victoriously through life is consistent with the basic theme of the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, and entire Bible.
God alone is Savior!
God alone can be counted upon now and then and in the end and during the meantime!
An undeniable and unavoidable and terribly repetitive truth of life from which no one is immune is everybody experiences adversity and God alone can be trusted to help us meet the challenges and live triumphantly through them to peace in time and paradise after time.
Psalm 62 doesn’t hide the adversity affecting David or anyone else: “So many enemies want to kill me!”
David doesn’t pretend and everyone knows every day isn’t a hot fudge sundae.
Psalm 62 doesn’t put a lot of hope in anyone but God alone to step up to the plate and hit homeruns on our behalf: “People are like a vapor…windbags and blowbags…Oh, yeah, they say, ‘I’m praying for you’ but don’t…They say, ‘I’ve got your back’ but don’t.”
Human loyalties are so frail and false; or as David said, “They bless with their lips.”
People, David is lamenting, are mostly the same: unreliable, untrustworthy, and willfully unable to do anything that’s any heaven good.
So David concludes, “Place no trust in anyone but God” because God is not fickle and failing to help, intervene, intercede, and save.
The bad news is people are incapable of saving us and most of ‘em are unwilling as well as incapable.
The good news is God!
The good news is what God has done and keeps on doing for us and for our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.
God saves and God alone!
So David and people like David have that strong calm sanity in the midst of the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of life in the modern world: “I am at rest in God alone…My salvation comes from God alone…God alone…Because of God alone, I will not be shaken. Because of God alone, I am like a tree planted by water…Because of God alone, I survive and rise and live triumphantly and victoriously and positively and confidently and certainly…”
That’s the most basic saving truth of life and eternity.
A favorite story comes to mind.
A guy stands at the gates to heaven and Peter asks for the password before admittance.
Nervous but determined, he quotes Psalm 23.
“Popular,” Peter says, “but wrong.”
Again, he tries and quotes John 3:16.
“Popular,” Peter says, “but wrong.”
Finally, after several more failed attempts, the man exclaims in exasperation, “I give up.”
Peter smiles, opens the gates, and says, “Welcome!”
Everybody’s behind the 8 ball of life every now and then.
It’s true, unavoidable, and no one is immune.
That’s the bad news.
Now here’s the good news.
We can be saved and live happily ever after.
We can be saved by God alone when we become wise like magi at the manger and seek God alone as the way, truth, and life!
If we want to fix ourselves – a good place to start – and others whenever behind that old 8 ball of life, we can’t.
The best that we can do as a church is to be honest and say He can what we can’t.
For anyone by grace through faith in Jesus!