Archive for November, 2012

30
Nov
12

Man vs. God

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”Psalm 118:8-9

These two verses speak volumes about our modern world today. The arena of politics and the role which it plays in our society has turned a large share of people into dependents on our government. In fact, there are many who openly admit that they believe that more government intervention is the best answer for everything. In believing such a lie, they turn government into their idol – the false god to whom they go to for help.

But the psalmist takes issue with such a belief, stating that God is greater than earthly rulers. Indeed, He is greater than any man. Government leaders, or influential people can never – NEVER – take the place of God. For this reason, I don't give up hope on things such as the practice of abortion, which I detest. Though it seems that our culture gravitates constantly toward more and more freedom in regards to abortion, it doesn't mean that the fight is over. God can overcome ANY obstacle, no matter how high it may seem. If God thought that the best thing for His people and His kingdom was to end abortion immediately, I believe that He would find a way to do it, no matter how entrenched it may have become in our society. Instead, He must have a greater purpose, which I don't yet understand. His ways are greater than any long-term vision attributed to mere men.

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29
Nov
12

Victory In Death

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”Psalm 116:15

I have to admit that I have never noticed this verse before – or, at least, I don't remember noticing it. But it jumped off the page at me today as a very unusual thing to read.

My initial reaction was that this must apply to those who die in the severe service of the Lord, such as the martyrs. God must love seeing the steadfast commitment of a Polycarp, who went to the flames without denying his Lord. Old Testament prophecy tells us that it pleased the Lord to send Christ to the cross for our forgiveness (Isaiah 53:10).

But my lovely wife pointed out to me that God is also pleased when any of his followers meet their death, because it means that they will join Him for eternity in heaven. This is a hard thing to immediately grasp, because we think of death as being something so final. But for God's elect, it is only the beginning.

28
Nov
12

The Proper Response To The Gift of Grace

“How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.”Psalm 116:12-14

These verses open with a great question – how can we begin to return our thanks to the Lord for all of His blessing and grace? The fact is that we can never fully repay the debt we owe.

But that doesn't mean that we should not try to honor Him for His abundant gifts. We can choose to accept His grace in a number of ways, but it really reduces down to a couple of basic approaches. We can accept the gift, and go about living our lives the way that we want, relying on grace to cover us over and over again. This is reminiscent of Paul's warning in Romans 6:1 – “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” The apostle goes on to warn us that this is not a proper response.

Rather, the response to God's goodness should be our dedication to worship Him unashamedly and to proclaim His name without reservation. And though we know that we will have times of failure, our striving should be to honor His commands and His desires for our life, attempting at every turn to live righteously in full view of the world.

27
Nov
12

Simpleheartedness

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”Psalm 116:5-7

Here is a word that I don't recall ever hearing – God protects the “simplehearted”. What exactly does this mean?

I know that “simpleminded” is not a compliment. But to be simplehearted brings to mind a person with an innocent nature, and an unclouded devotion to God. King David comes to mind, who was praised for his heart, and who demonstrated a lifelong love and single-minded devotion to the Lord. While he no doubt had a complex life, and even through the hard times and consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, David was always able to come back to his one true love – the Lord God.

So how can we have a “complicated heart”, if there is such a term? What prevents us from being “simplehearted”? Do the distractions of this world make things too complex?

26
Nov
12

A Special Place for Judah and Israel

“When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion.”Psalm 114:1-2

These short verses answer a question that I have long wondered about. Did God have any preference between the two divided nations of Israel and Judah? Recall that the nation of Israel was made up of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon. Israel consisted of the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Gad, and parts of Levi. The confusing part for me is that the modern nation of “Israel” exists, but not “Judah”. So, my preconceived notion has always been that Israel might have had some special place over Judah.

Not so, according to these verses. Both nations, Israel and Judah, were considered equally special by the Lord, and both received His special attention. The race of Jews are made up of these two nations, and so it is the Jews who were recipients of God's special favor, not just Israel.

As an interesting sideline, of the twenty kings who ruled over Judah during the days of the divided kingdom, eight of them were considered good. Of the nineteen kings who ruled Israel, ALL of them were considered evil. Also, don't forget that Jesus' ancestry came through the tribe of Judah. There is something special in that – almost a seeming preference for Judah over Israel.

One final question, when the modern nation of Israel was reestablished in 1948, why was it named Israel instead of Judah, or another name which includes all Jews? It is my impression that the current nation of Israel is made up of people from both Israelite and Judaite ancestry. Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that all twelve tribes (including Judah) came from the man called “Jacob”, who was later renamed “Israel” by an angel in Genesis 35:10.

25
Nov
12

How To Handle Bad News

“Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.”Psalm 112:5-10

When my children were first born, I recall the fear that often filled my thoughts each day – that something terrible would happen to one of them. These thoughts of worry were constantly on my mind. Since that time, I have gained a greater peace about facing potential “bad news”.

The verses in today's passage tell us that a righteous man “will have no fear of bad news”. My first thought on reading this was that it implied that bad things might not happen to the upright. But then I remembered the story of Job, who was extremely good and righteous, but who received a large amount of bad news at the beginning of the book – the loss of his possessions and of his children.

Yet, Job prevailed. And his story clarifies these verses in the Psalms. A righteous man may still receive bad news, but the worry for that news is not on his mind, because he has a long-term perspective on God's ultimate plan. He trusts in the Lord, and does not live his life in constant fear of what might happen.

And what of the wicked man? Verse ten makes it plain – he will worry and be unfulfilled and will ultimately waste away. The point is clear – while bad things may happen to both the righteous and the unrighteous, the good man has his eyes set on a godly purpose, and that will sustain him through hard times.

24
Nov
12

Blessing for Fear

“Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”Psalm 112:1-3

As a child, when my father gave orders, it was often in a stern voice. If we didn't follow his instructions, the consequences might have been a spanking or some other kind of punishment (as it should be). But there was rarely joy on our parts when we heard his commands – it was something more akin to fear.

So, it seems strange to me to read the first words in the passage above, which tell us that righteous men find great delight in God's commands. How can such a thing be? Aren't commands usually interpreted as telling us to do something that we would not naturally do when left completely on our own, and without rules. That is, perhaps, the case for many of us.

But it is the verses which follow that brought this to light for me. The psalmist tells us of the rewarding outcome of delighting in God's commands – outstanding children, and blessings in the form of wealth and riches. I, for one, can relate to both of these. By trying to follow God's word in the upbringing of our children, I now see the reward taking shape. I see children who are dynamic, talented, caring, and who fear the Lord. The efforts of my wife and me at homeschooling, and in providing a Biblical foundation for them are paying off in big ways in the lives of our children, as they mature into true disciples of the kingdom.

Further, I could recount multiple stories about how we often had to step out in faith, financially, with our giving to the church, only to find that God would immediately provide a surprise windfall in the shape of a bonus or in an unexpected raise in pay. The Lord has blessed us richly, and I believe the reason goes back to today's verse in Psalms – that the Lord gives blessing to those who fear Him first and foremost.




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