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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

I pray that you and yours have a great Christmas and that celebrating the birth of Christ will bring you closer to the one true God.

Have a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 12.24.08


Mr. Parker, played by Darren McGavin, on The Christmas Story, when he is angry at his wife for breaking his "major award."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 12.10.08

The note G makes our china sing and coffee makes our mugs buzz.

My daugher, Jessica. It would take too long to explain.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

In the Beginning

A friend of mine has recently had a book published. It is entitled In the Beginning (click title to see it on Amazon) by Leanne Thomas. It is a retelling of the first seven chapters of Genesis.

You can read sections of this book from her blog Leanne Thomas Writes.

If you are needing a Christmas gift for someone, purchase this unique book for them. They will love it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

That "That" That I Use

As an instructor and as someone who writes my thoughts down regularly, I try to continually educate myself on proper grammar, sentence structure, and other issues in the English language (I will deal with my use of the comma before "and" in another post). I have noticed THAT I have spent a great deal of time talking to students about the use of that word "that."

It has been my experience that most of the time, when "that" is used, it is really not needed, it can be simply eliminated from the sentence, and the sentence would read just as well. However, there are times it must be used. So I set out on a quest to find when and when not to use the word "that." I came across some helpful articles.

This article shows THAT the sentence, "He said that that 'that' that that man used was wrong" is a grammatically correct sentence and why it is so.

This article is a brief summary of the rules of when to use "which" and when to use "that."

This article gives the rules again but in a more technical sense (restrictive and non-restrictive clauses).

Sometimes when I read students papers, I can mark out about 80% of their uses of the word "that" and it reads great. However, these articles have helped me judge when it is time to use THAT word and when it is not.

I hope THAT this has helped you, too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Summary of Psalms of Ascents

If you have not been to my blog before, I have just finished posting on a series through the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134). I have really enjoyed posting on these and hope the reader has benefited from the post. I wanted to sum up my thoughts on these psalms and my posts regarding them.

First, I want to acknowledge that these are songs which were meant to be sung and they were not necessarily meant to be analyzed as deeply as I may have done. Do not get me wrong, because the Psalms are God's Word and inspired by Him, they are valuable to teach through (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But I want to let the reader know that I know these are poetry and I have attempted to handle them as poetry while I have attemped to form them into something I can communicate to the modern hearer.

Second, and related to the first, the reader may be tempted to think that I am more concerned about the structure of the outline of the sermon/lesson than I am about the content of the sermon. This simply is not true. I want to communicate to today's audience what the audience heard when these psalms were sung. This is the main reason I have attempted to connect a "modern" song to each of these. I hoped to communicate the same message the psalmist was sending through his words. In the post, it looks like the outline is the source of the discussion. I did post the outline first but the discussion which follows each outline is really the basis for which the outline comes. Whenever one is studying Scripture in an attempt to teach it, the content is the most important part of the passage; not the outline we use to communicate that content.
Rabbit Trail: By the way, I was preparing these for my home church, which sing mostly hymns which is why these songs are hymns and not "contemporary" (i.e. 80's) praise songs. I have nothing against praise songs and enjoy utilizing them in worship. The audience I have preparing these for, however, do not enjoy nor utilize these in their worship. Thus, I used what would communicate to them. If you use these outlines as a the basis for a sermon series, and you are going to attach a song to each psalm, you should think about what song would best communicate to your audience.

Finally, I pray these will be useful for someone. I hope that if you are pastor or a Christian leader wanting to preaching through these psalms, these psalms will provide you with "sermon seeds" which will allow to you powerfully commuincate the message God has laid on your heart. If you have used these, would you let me know by either posting here or emailing me at rkenneson[at]gmail[dot]com. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Because the blog puts the most recent posting first, all the posts are in reverse order. Thus, below I have made a list in numerical order so that you can bookmark this page and simply refer to it to get each post in the order you want.

Psalm 120 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Dissatisfaction of living in a foreign land
Title: Longing to Go Home
Song: Beulah Land

Psalm 121 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Protection along the journey
Title: My Help Comes from the Lord       part 1      part 2
Song: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Psalm 122 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Praising God at the arrival to Jerusalem
Title: When We All Get to Heaven
Song: When We All Get to Heaven

Psalm 123 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Asking God for mercy
Title: Finding Mercy
Song: ?

Psalm 124 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Praising God for past help
Title: Whose Side is God On?
Song: God Will Take Care of You

Psalm 125 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Praising God for a relationship with Him
Title: I Have Found a Friend in Jesus
Song: Lily of the Valley

Psalm 126 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Remembering redemption from slavery and prayer for restoration
Title: Remembering the Great Acts of God       part 1      part 2
Song: Count Your Blessings

Psalm 127 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Vanity and family
Title: Vanity and Children
Song: ?

Psalm 128 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Family and corporate worship
Title: When We Walk with the Lord
Song: Trust and Obey

Psalm 129 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Persecution from enemies
Title: My God will Deliver Me
Song: He Hideth My Soul

Psalm 130 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Conflict within self
Title: The Comfort which Comes from God
Song: Heaven Came Down

Psalm 131 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Benefits of relationship with God
Title: The Life which Comes from God
Song: The Solid Rock

Psalm 132 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Prayer for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom
Title: The Davidic King is Coming
Song: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Psalm 133 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Unity with the people of God
Title: True Unity
Song: The Family of God

Psalm 134 (NASB, NIV, KJV)
Subject: Continuation of worship
Title: Wrapping Up with Worship
Song: Amazing Grace

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Book Review: Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament

I recently read Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. In this book the author addresses a critical issue needed to be heard by today's church leaders: the importance of Old Testament to believers and they manner in which the Old Testament should be taught to the people of God.

Kaiser begins his book with the need to preach and teach from the Old Testament. Too many times pastors either skim over the Old Testament material or they simply neglect it. When, for example, was the last time you heard a sermon in Zephaniah, Micah, or Obadiah? How does 1 Chronicles impact the 21st century Christian? How are we to apply the Song of Solomon in the body of Christ? Kaiser spends four chapters convincing his readers the need to recapture the importance of the Old Testament. He argues for the value of the Old Testament and then defines the problem which the Old Testament provides today's exegete. He speaks a little on preaching the Old Testament and moves into the importance of expository preaching as it relates to the first 39 books of the bible.

After this section of the book, Kaiser moves to the practical section of the book in which he puts forth the mechanics of how to preach and teach different genres from the Old Testament. He provides instructions on how to preach through narrative sections of the Old Testament, Hebrew wisdom literature, and the Prophets. He addresses the lament found throughout the Old Testament and give a guidance on teaching through the Torah. He spends time discussing the praise psalm and finally he writes on apocalyptic literature. In each of these sections, the author provides a sample sermon to show how one can move from exegesis to homiletics and provide a challenging exhortation to today's believers.

Kaiser concludes the book with chapter which encourages Christian leaders to change the world with the Word of God. The whole of the author's argument throughout the entire book is that Scripture is the Word of God and the Old Testament is part of Scripture and therefore the Old Testament should be taught regularly so believers can receive the whole counsel of God. In this concluding chapter, he says,

So let us mark it down as a principle: Where the preaching of God's Word is thin or abandoned for more "relevant" issues and encouragements, the growth, power, and effectiveness of the church wanes and ultimately is extinguished. But where the Word of God multiplies, spreads, and is sought after by all, the body of Christ demonstrates a resourcefulness and a power that goes forward despite all modern or ancient barriers, oppositions, or persecutions.

This is what the book is about. Recovering ALL of the Word of God and making it a priority to be preached and taught throughout the churches of the world.

The book has two small appendices. Both are useful for the serious reader. Appendix A is a worksheet for doing syntatical-tehological exegesis. It is worksheet the author uses and provided it to the readers as a helpful tool in doing studies in the Old Testament. Appendix B is reproduction of an article entitled, Biblical Integrity in an age of Theological Pluralism (Evangelical Journal 18 (2000) 19-28). The author of this article says that in 1946, W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsly wrote an article in the Swanee Review entitled "The Intential Fallacy" which began the thought which denies meaning is found in what the author intended to say but instead what the reader thinks is said. Biblical Integrity in an Age of Theological Pluralism is an article worth reading to show the importance of the concept of "authorial intent" and how that plays a part in biblical interpretation.

This book combines two of my favorite interests: the Old Testament and preaching. I think it is must read for anyone who want to preach the whole counsel of Scripture faithfully. The principles put forth in this book will help the bible student not only reclaim this part of Scripture in the life of the church, but will renew in them a passion for the Old Testament.

2t22 rating:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 11.3.08

Good thing you didn't say 'Wackenhut.'

Ben Bailey, Host of the Discovery Channel show Cash Cab. By the way, Wackenhut is a security company like Brinks.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Wrapping Up With Worship

As we come to the last psalm in our study of the Psalms of Ascents, we come to Psalm 134. A quick review will allow us to see the themes which lead up to the final of these psalms. In Psalm 130, the psalmist prays about the conflict which comes from inside himself. In the next psalm, Psalm 131, the psalmist praises God for the life which God gives him. In Psalm 132, he begins to pray for the whole of God's people by anticipating the restoration of the Davidic line. In Psalm 133, the psalmist praises God for the unity found in the people of God. Not surprisingly, with Psalm 134 this series of psalms ends in a prayer for more worship to flow from God's people.

Read Psalm 134 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. I would appreciate any suggestions for improvement.

The Worship of the Lord

I. The continuation of worship (1)

II. The expectation in worship (2)

III. The blessing from worship (3)

It is fitting that the last psalm of this series ends in an exhortation to continue in worship. One can imagine the priest climbing the steps of the temple singing one of these fifteen psalms for every step he takes. Then he stands at the top of the stairs and sings at the top of his voice the words of this psalm.

He begins by first encouraging those who are to serve the Lord into the night to continue to praise the Lord. The priests did not serve 24 hours a day. Instead, they served in shifts. The psalmist came to Jerusalem to participate in one of the yearly celebrations which required all the males to return to Jerusalem. He came to worship and they had been worshipping all day. The psalmist now asks those serving in the temple to continue this worship into the night. The worship of the Lord should and will always continue.

Next, the psalmist tells those who are worshipping to lift their hands to the Lord in their worship. This is a physical posture which indicates a spiritual attitude of expectation. The lifting of hands to heaven shows the worshipper is expecting to receive whatever they have asked for from the Lord. It shows they know the Lord is able and willing to give to His people. The NASB says raise your hands "to" the sanctuary and the NIV says to raise your hands "in" the sanctuary. The NASB is indicating where the receiving is coming from and the NIV seems to connote the place where the worship is taking place. While a minor issue, it is one which needs to be addressed.

Finally, the psalmist asks the Lord will bless the reader. One of the draw backs of the NIV translation is that it translates the word "Bless" as "Praise" as in verse 1. However, the NASB translates this psalm better in showing that verse 1 and verse 3 both have the word "bless" in. In this case, it is almost a reciprocal relationship: you bless the Lord and He will bless you. Whatever the best translation should be, the point is that there is a benefit of worshipping the Lord, specifically, that He will bless His people.

This is a great way to finish our study of the Psalms of Ascents: We should pray for the continuation of the worship of the Lord, we should have expecation that God will work great things when we engage in worship, and there are great benefits of worshipping the Lord.

As I have tried with all these psalms, I want to find a song sung in today's churches which communicates the same theme as the psalm. For this final hymn, I think Amazing Grace communicates the message of Psalm 134. I think the three points of the outline are represented in reverse order in this psalm. The first three verses of Amazing Grace portrays the benefits of worshipping the Lord. The fourth verse relays the expectation of receiving good things from God. The final verse of Amazing Grace pictures the continuation of worship all throughout time.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

I will have one more post on the Psalms of Ascents to sum up the whole study. Please let me know if any of these have been helpful.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween. Here is our pumpkins from several years ago. (Click image for larger picture)

If you are not familiary with Veggie Tales, this is, from left to right, Bob, the Tomato; Larry, the Cumcumber; and Jimmy and Jerry Gourd (I may have those two confused - I never know which is which). Here is a picture of the whole Veggie Tales gang.

And, as Bob, the Tomato, always says, "Remember, God made you special and He loves you very much!"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

True Unity

After the longest psalm in our study of the Psalms of Ascents, we find the second to the last psalm in this series. The psalmist has just spend a comparatively considerable amount of time reminding God of His oath with David and praying for the installation of the Davidic king. He now turns to what could be considered the beginning of the conclusion of these particular psalms. The psalmist proclaims how good it has been to be in Jerusalem with the people of God.

Read Psalm 133 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. As always, it needs work and I would greatly appreciate any suggestions in improving it.

The Blessing of Unity

I. Unity with the people of God is good (1-3a)
     A. Religious illustration - oil
           1. It is a sanctifying oil
          2. It is a fragrant oil
     B. Natural illustration - dew
          1. It is refreshing
          2. It is fruitful

II. Unity with the people of God brings God's blessings (3b)
     A. It come through Christ ("there" = Zion)
     B. It is eternal

This is another little psalm (see Psalm 131) which has a big message. Interestingly, it amplifies a theme found in Psalm 122:4-5, which is unity. Verse one sets the topic for the entire psalm: how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.

Before any mention of the similes used in this passage to speak of unity, two things should be mentioned. First, the psalmist spoke of "brothers" having unity, that is, the people of God. Without God, there is no real unity. Which is really the starting place for point two: this concept of unity should be seen in the context of what these psalms have already said about unity. Specifically, Psalm 122 talks about unity and that unity does not mean uniformity nor does it mean licentiousness. In today's Western society, unity means the opposite of this. From a biblical Worldview, unity begins and ends with God.

This unity the psalmist has enjoyed brings to mind two images to his mind: one religious and one natural. Each of these bring an interesting aspect to his concept of unity. First, the oil mentioned here is the priestly oil for which God gave the recipe in Exodus 30:22-33, and with which Aaron was initially anointed and thus sanctified (Lev. 8:12). It must have also been incredibly fragrant (see the recipe in Exodus).

Both the issue of sanctified and fragrant speak to the believer. First Peter 2:9-10 calls believers a royal priesthood. This means we have been set apart for the service of God to represent the people to God and God to the people. Additionally, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 speaks of how the Christian is to "stink" like Christ. The point here is that unity is based upon the work of Christ in the person's life.

The second illustration used to speak of the unity the psalmist experienced was dew from Mount Hermon. It is my understand Mount Hermon stands at almost 10,000 feet (what we call "tree line" here in Colorado). Click HERE to see pictures of Mount Hermon and read a little about it. In a desert place, where there is virtually no rain in the summer months, the dew which forms on Mount Hermon is a picture of refreshment and fruitfulness (with water available in the summer months, there is apparently something growing there all the time). The beleiver can easily see the application of unity with fellow believers producing a refreshing and fruitful time.

The psalmist finishes with the blessing this unity has produced. He first points out that the dew comes down from Hermon to Mount Zion, which is the temple mount, which is the place of sacrifice. It is here, on Mount Zion, where the Lord will give his blessing. This blessing was provided in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And it is this work which will provide everlasting life.

As I think of a song which is sung in churches today to capture the heart of this psalm, two come to mind. One of these songs is "Blest be the Tie that Binds." In fact, the Baptist Hymnal indicates that Psalm 133:1 is the Scriptural basis for this song (pg. 737). However, my church sings another song more frequently which also captures the theme of Psalm 133: "The Family of God" (click to listen).

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God

You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here,
It's because we're a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I'm not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Davidic King is Coming

We are coming close to the end of our study of the Psalms of Ascents and we have come to the longest in this series. By way of review, the psalmist cries out to God because of the persecution he faces from his enemies. The psalmist confesses the conflict within himself in Psalm 130. Then in Psalm 131, he praises God for the benefits which come with a relationship with God. In this next psalm, Psalm 132, the psalmist lifts up the king of Israel, specifically the king from the Davidic line.

Read Psalm 132 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. It is not a teaching outline yet but is more of an exegetical outline. To teach this, it really needs work to become a homiletical outline. If you have any teaching points which could be made from these main points, please do not hesitate to post your suggestions.

David and the Lord
I. Remember David (1-9)
          A. David swore an oath to the Lord (2-5)
          B. We heard about it/it was renown (6)
          C. David fulfilled his oath (7-9)
          ??There is a request for...??
                    1. Worship (7)
                    2. Lord and ark came (8)
                    3. Priest are righteous (9a)
                    4. Saints have joy (9b)

II. Restore David (10-18)
          A. The Lord swore an oath to David (10-12)
                    1. David's descendants on the throne (11)
                    2. Based in faithfulness ???? (12)
NOTE: (This last point needs to be researched and rethought in light of the unconditional Davidic> covenant. Nevertheless, in this psalm, there is this big "IF" which needs to be dealt with. )

          B. The Lord chose Zion
                    1. His dwelling place forever (14)
                    2. Abundant provisions (16)
                    3. Priest and saints worship (16)
                    4. The king will rise (17-18)

I find this psalm the most fascinating of the 15 Psalms of Ascents. First, the structure is really interesting (I got the following structure analysis from a commentary but I do not remember which one. When I remember, I will post it.):

v.1 Davidic dynasty was a memory
          v. 2 Intro to quote
              vv. 3-5 quote
          v. 6 Intro to quote
              vv. 7-9 quote

v. 10 Davidic dynasty needs restoration
          v. 11 Intro to quote
              vv. 11-12 quote
          v. 13 Intro to quote
              vv. 14-18 quote

I think this is not a forces structure but one that leaps out of the text. I can see the priest standing on the second step to the top leading to the temple and singing as loud as he can asking God to remember and restore the Davidic kingdom. Even more striking is thinking about when Christ walked the earth and standing in listening distance of the priest, when the priest was actually singing about Him.

Second, I think the reciprocal oaths in this passage are interesting. David swore an oath to the Lord and the Lord in return swore an oath to David. It is on the basis of these reciprocal oaths the psalmist asks the Lord to remember David (v. 1) and then not to reject his anointed one (v. 10). In the psalmist's context, the anointed one was the Davidic king (note the distinction in verse 10: "For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one"). To the New Testament believer, one immediately thinks of THE Anointed One, Jesus Christ, who will always be on the throne (v. 11), who will be a light (v. 17), and whose crown will be resplendent (v. 18).

In short, this is an amazing psalm which shows that God responds to things humans' do. The psalmist shows that David wanted to please the Lord by making a place for God to dwell, so to speak (v. 5). In response to that, the Lord made an oath to David which said that one of David's descendants would be on the throne forever.

I think a song is sung in churches today which speaks of the Davidic King coming and ruling and being worshiped by those under His rule is "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." There may be better songs but I love content of this hymn and I love the fact that there are three versions in the Baptist Hymnal. Click HERE for the Diadem version (my favorite, mainly due to the bass line), Click HERE for the Coronation version, and Click HERE for the Miles Lane version. The words are the same for all the version with the exception of how many "crown Him's" you want to sing and which part of the verse you repeat. The following verses are for the Diadem version.

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!
Let angels prostrate fall, Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race,
ye ransomed from the fall, ye ransomed from the fall;
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
and crown Him Lord of all.

Let ev' ry kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball, On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
and crown Him Lord of all.

O that, with yonder sacred throng,
we at His feet may fall, we at His feet may fall!
We'll join in the everlasting song,
And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
and crown Him Lord of all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 10.26.07

We're gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess.

Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, played by Paul Gleason, in the movied Die Hard.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Life Which Comes From God

In a review of our study of the Psalms of Ascents, the psalm laments the persecution he faces from others in Psalm 129. In Psalm 130, he speaks to the conflict which comes from inside himself. In the next psalm, Psalm 131, the psalmist praises God for the life which God gives him.

Read Psalm 131 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my outline for this little psalm (the outline is bigger than the entire psalm):

The Life which Comes from God
(the title could use some work)
The life which comes from God produces...

I. Humility (1)
          A. Pride undervalues others (1a)
          B. Pride overvalues oneself (1b)
This is opposite of Jesus' teaching

II. Contentment (2)
          A. Freedom from spiritual unrest (2a)
          B. Freedom from spiritual dissatisfaction (2b)

III. Hope (3)
          A. Place of hope (3a)
          B. Permanence of hope (3b)

In this pithy psalm, the author brings up three characteristics which he brings up in his conversation with God. He first brings up Humility. He verse one, he says his eyes are not haughty. This is the idea of being better than another; looking down on others. The point in the outline is the negative statement about this: Pride undervalues others. It could just as easily been said: Humility is not looking down at others, or something like that. He finishes the first verse by saying that he does not concern himself with things too wonderful for him. This does not mean that the psalmist does not think about great things. We are called to love the Lord with all we have, including our mind. What the psalmist is referring to here is the issue of trying to run things as only God could. It is stated negatively again in the outline: Pride overvalues oneself. With these two points, pride is nailed down. Pride is thinking less of others than one should and it is think more about oneself than one should. The psalmist is thanking God that God has brought humility into his life.

Second, the psalmist thanks God for the contentment he feels. The image is great but must be understood how the psalmist meant the image to be seen. It is a weaned child with his mother. An "un-weaned" child goes to his mother for a reason. He wants something. Specifically, he wants to be fed. However, a weaned child no longer feeds from the mother and comes to the mother for love and comfort. This image is the image of contentment within the soul. The author first states that he has quieted his soul, which means he is free from spiritual unrest. Then he uses the image of the mother and child to amplify the concept of contentment to show that the psalmist is satisfied with his relationship with God. His life with God has rid of him the spiritual unrest and dissatisfaction this world brings. He is now truly content with God.

Finally, the psalmist thanks God for the hope God brings him. Encouraging the people of God to join him, he confesses that God is the one place in which he can place his hope, for God does not change and God's promises will come to be. Then he praises God for the permanence of this hope: both now and forevermore.

The life which God gives us through Jesus Christ brings humility, contentment, and hope. Are you in need of these today? Ask Christ into your life today, renew your relationship with him, and they will be yours.

I have been trying to end the Psalms of Ascents with a song sung in today's church which communicates the same message as the psalm. I thought of "The Solid Rock." You can hear humility (dependence upon God), contentment, and hope in these verses. Click Here to listen.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the vale.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Comfort Which Comes From God

In our last study of the Psalms of Ascents, the psalmist was lamenting to God concerning the persecution he faced from others. In Psalm 130, the psalmist turns introspective and cries out to the Lord because of the conflict inside.

Read Psalm 130 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. As always, suggestions are wanted and desparately needed.

The Comfort which Comes from God

I. We can cry out to the Lord (1-2)
we can cry out and He answers

II. We can have forgiveness with the Lord (3-4)

III. We wait on the Lord (5-6)
III. We have faith in the Lord (5-6)??

wait = hopeful expectation
         A. Based in His Word (5)
         B. Sure as Morning (6)

IV. We have hope in the Lord (7-8)
this is because of His ...
         A. Lovingkindness/Loyal Love (Heb. Hesed) (7a)
         B. Redemption (7b-8)
                    1. Abundant (7b)??
                    2. Complete (8)??
                    (are these these the same thing??)

After the last few psalms, this one seems much more self-explanatory. However, there are just a couple of issues I will point out to clarify my outline. The first two verses are clear that the psalmist cried out to God and asks him not only to hear and be attentive to his pleas. Anyone with children or dogs realize the difference between hearing and being attentive. The psalmist wanted God to act in response to his request.

Verse 3 and 4 are about forgiveness. Thankfully, the psalmist says, that God forgives those who surrender their lives to Him. Forgiveness can be found, but it is only found through God on His terms, which is the foot of the cross of Christ.

Verse 5 and 6 are where I want to expand my thoughts a bit. Here the psalmist commits to waiting on the Lord. "Waiting" in scripture is an expectation of God to work. So he waits and does not take matters into his own hands. He waits because God's Word says God will act for His people. Because of his trust in God and His Word, the psalmist is more sure of God acting than the sun rising in the morning (6). If the title is the issue of comfort in trying times, which the psalm seems to be about, then I am not sure if "waiting" or "faith" is more comforting. I tend to think emphasis on waiting is more comforting because it indicates I know God is going to act and I am waiting for it. It may be all semantics and not worth worrying over.

Finally, the psalmist is comforted by the hope we have in the Lord. The clauses in the text indicate this hope is due to God's Loyal Love (Hebrew: Hesed - tranlated many times as Lovingkindness but is probably better translated Loyal Love - see interesting articles here, and here). The psalmist also has hop in the Lord because of his redemption. Because of the "and" found at the beginning of verse 8, it seems like he is praising God for his "abundant" redemption and his complete ("all iniquities") redeption. However, these almost sound the same. Obviously, redemption is the other source of his hope. Again, the other issue of abundant and/or complete is simply semantics...probably.

As I think of hymn used in today's churches, one does not immediately come to mind which captures the essence of this psalm. The Baptist Hymnal uses Psalm 130:1 for the basis for the hymn "Out of My Bondage, Sorrow, and Night," which sounds like a great song but I do not think I have ever heard it. I think a more appropriate and interesting pick for a hymn which conveys the author's intent is "Heaven Came Down" (click here to listen). I may change my mind but for now, I think I like this pick.

O what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget;
After I'd wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend, He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God's family divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary's love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer, of grace He did proffer, He saved me, O praise His dear name!

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Now I've a hope that will surely endure after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure there in those mansions sublime.
And it's because of that wonderful day, when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal, from His precious hand I received.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My God Will Deliver Me

In our journey through the Psalms of Ascents, we have encountered a couple of psalms which seems a little different and hard to summarize with one thought. That is perfectly normal for psalms, as they were songs and not meant to be analyzed in the fashion in which we are doing. However, because they are additionally the Word of God, we can look at them in a critical fashion and pull out the message we are intended to receive through them. In 127, there seemed to a strange shift from vanity to family. In 128, the issue of family continues only to change into the topic of corporate worship. In 129, the psalmist seems to go back to communicating one idea through the entire psalm. In this case, he is concerned about persecution.

Read Psalm 129 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline for Psalm 129. Like the many before it, it needs work and I need your help in that. Please help me and those reading through this blog with your comments and suggestions.

Still Working on Title - maybe God Delivers

I. The enemy's persecution...(1-4)
         A. Was often (1-2a)
         B. Has not prevailed (2b)
         C. Was intense (3)
         D. Was stopped (4)

II. God's Retribution...(5-8)
The enemies of the God will ...
         A. Be turned back/put to shame (5)
         B. Wither (6)
         C. Be unfruitful/ineffective (7)
         D. Be un-blessed (8) (I know it is not a word)

The psalmist, with psalm 129, pens a lament of the persecution he faces simply for being one of God's people. He begins by repeating how many times the enemies have persecuted him, ever since he was a child. They continually persecuted him. However, he is clear to point out they have not prevailed. He brings in word pictures of farming to show how intense these persecutions have been. It is as if they have plowed on his back and made their furrows long and deep. This is no light trial. However, even thought they consistently and intensely persecuted him, God in His righteousness puts a stop to it. Using another farming metaphor, the cords indicate the reins one would use on a plowing animal. They have been plowing on my back but God cut the reins and they stopped. The psalmist is lamenting to God concerning the persecution he has faced but then praises God for his deliverance from those trials.

The psalmist moves into a discussion of God's retribution of those who rebel against Him.

Rabbit Trail: hating the Lord does not mean an atheist or a Satan worshipper. Hating the Lord in Scripture is someone who disregards the Creator and Sustainer of life. They are the ones who say "So what if God has said thus and so. I will life my life as I want." These are the haters of God. This principle is affirmed in the New Testament as well. James 4:4 says, "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (NASB) Jesus says in John 14:1, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (NASB) In the mind of God, one either loves Him and lives in accordance to His word, or one hates Him.

The psalmist looks to God's retribution of those who hate God. God will first put them to shame. "Turning back" and "put to shame" are in parallel here and are used to say the same thing.

God will also cause them to wither like the grass which grew on the their rooftops. In the Ancient Near East, houses were made of clay and had flat roofs. Dirt would collect on these flat roofs and many times grass and weeds would begin to poke up through the ground. However, since the soil was so shallow, the grass would quickly wither. The psalmist says this would be like those who hate God.

Additionally, this grass would not help anyone who was harvesting. the reaper would not be able to harvest anything from this grass. Nor could the one binding the sheaves find anything to bind from this grass. In essence, the reaper and the binder would be ineffective. This is the plea of the psalmist. God will make His enemies ineffective.

Finally, the psalmist indicates that the enemies of God would not receive the blessings which others usually would put forth to others. They are not blessed. Since the psalm ends on this issue, one could place this side-by-side with the previous psalm and see a comparison of those who are blessed by God and those who are not. Perhaps that is the point of this psalm.

I am not sure about a song we know today which captures the point of this psalm. There are not many hymns which sings about God's retribution on those who live their lives independent of them. However, the other side of that coin is the issue of God's deliverance of this people. Thus, perhaps "He Hideth My Soul" would then be appropriate. I will tentatively post it as this psalm's modern equivalent until a better one is brought to my attention (click here to listen).

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When We Walk With the Lord...

Since I received such a rousing response to my question regarding feedback about this blog, as you can see from the comments posted on the previous post, I will nevertheless continue in my study of the Psalms of Ascents since it is, as the very least, somewhat therapeutic for me.

In the last post, I noted that Psalm 127 seemed to be the pivotal point of these 15 psalms. This does not mean that Psalms 128-134 all spiral down into despair. Instead, it seems there is a shift of focus in the last half of these psalms than from the first half. The first seven Psalms of Ascent seem to about the anticipation of going to Jerusalem, the praise of being there, and worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though there are aspects of lament and supplication in these first seven psalms, the major thrust seems upbeat.

Starting in Psalm 128, the Psalms of Ascent seem to go another direction. Playing off the last half of 127, Psalm 128 is concerned about the family and spiritual health of his people. In Psalm 129-132, the psalmist cries out to God about different concerns he has (we will address them as we continue on through our study).

I am not sure if this shift in focus is correct, but it seems like the tone changes after 127. Any insights on this would be helpful. Nevertheless, lets look at Psalm 128.

Read Psalm 128 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

I am really struggling on an outline for this psalm. I am getting closer but I really need help with this. If you are reading this, please put your two-cents in.

Still working on a title

I. Personal Blessings (1-4) ??
          A. Our work will be blessed (2)
          B. Our families will be blessed (3)
                    1. They will be prosperous (3a)
                    2. They will be stable (3b)
          C. Certainty of blessing (4) ??

II. Spiritual Blessings (5-6) ??
          A. God will bless you wherever you go (5a) ??
          B. The worship of God will continue (5b)??
          C. The people of God will be whole (6) ??

This outline needs serious help but I thought I would post it in its current form to get help and to show the development of thought. The main thing I am struggling with is the two main points. It seems obvious to me that the psalm has two main thoughts: the blessings one has when you live a life obedient to God and the thoughts about Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel. This second set is harder to nail down a thought which encapsulates what the author is saying. I will cover that in a minute.

I summed up the first thought with "Personal Blessings." Verse one is clearly tells the qualification of these blessings. When a person walks in God's ways, lives a life habitually obedient to God and His Word, then God will bless that person. It should always be in the forefront of one's mind that the psalms are not promises. This may put a bur under someone's saddle but that is the case, nonetheless. Therefore, this is the psalmist saying a lot of the time, when a person walks with the Lord, that person will experience these blessings. It goes without saying that a single person who is walking with the Lord, will not have a spouse or children, but they will still be blessed. However, this psalm refers to these things. This does not nullify the blessings for anyone who walks obediently.

The first blessing the psalmist mentions is that the work of one's hands will be productive, satisfying, and will be enjoyed. He continues to move from work to family. He says one's wife will be fruitful like a vine. Many will say this has to do with bearing children, but it has more a thrust of a Proverbs 31 woman. One who is industrious and does whatever is necessary to provide for her family. Staying with the theme of family, the author says that the children of one who is faithful will be like olive plants. This is a picture of stability. When olive trees are young, they do not produce fruit. When an olive tree ages to about 14 to 15 years old, it begins to produce fruit and can continue to do so for an extremely long time. One who faithfully obeys the Lord will be blessed with children who will be stable and produce fruit for a long time. Again, this is not a promise but a condition that usually is the case. He finishes this section by restating what he did in verse one, these blessings are for those who revere the Lord (4) and thus live in accordance to His ways (1).

The next section moves into a spiritual realm of blessings. It may be this is not personal blessings but more communal blessings. However, verse 5 does not indicate a communal aspect (maybe you can convince me otherwise). He begins to pray that Lord will bless his reader from Zion. The issue here is that God's presence was understood to be in the temple on Mount Zion and blessings would be issued out from there. This indicates that wherever the faithful would travel, God would bless them from Zion. It is more about the source of blessing then where the person receiving the blessing is located.

Second, the psalmist prays that the reader would see Jerusalem prosper all the days of his life, and he prays that the reader would live a long, long life. He is praying for the city which was the center of worship for his people. There is a direct relationship between the welfare of Jerusalem the the welfare of the worship of God. If Jerusalem was doing well, then the worship of Yahweh was doing well. If Jerusalem was ransacked and the enemy had taken residence, then not only was the author's worship interupted, but the entire people's worship had stopped. Thus, he prayed for Jerusalem so that the worship of God would continue. The first half of verse six is part of this request. If the reader would see Jerusalem prosper all the days of his life, then the psalmist is also asking God to let the reader live a long life.

Finally, the psalmist asks for the peace of Israel. "Peace" here is the word "Shalom" and it means much more than "lack of war." It connotes the issues of "completeness, wholeness, wellness, peace." In short, the psalmist is praying for the well-being of those who worship the one true God. He not only wants the worship of Yahweh to prosper (above) but he wants the worshippers of Yahweh to be well, too.

As I say at the end of all these posts, any suggestions you give would not only help me, but would also help many who have been looking at and reading through the Psalms of Ascents posts.

As with the rest of these particular psalms, I have been trying to match a song we sing today which would relay the same heart as the psalmist for that individual psalm. The Baptist Hymnal uses Psalm 128:1 for the basis of the hymn "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families," but I do not know that hymn. When I think of this psalm, the hymn "Trust and Obey" comes to mind. The psalm begins by essentially saying, "if you trust and obey the Lord, then He will bless you." This is the same message of this hymn (click here to listen).

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie and knew something more was going on than what you were reading or seeing on the surface? Have read a popular fiction book and thought it seemed awfully familiar but you convinced yourself you were reading too much into it. Have you watched Pleasantville or The Truman Show and wondered just what the director wanted to convey? If you have and you want to become better at reading between the lines, I have recently finished a book which you should enjoy.

The book is entitled How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster of the University of Michigan at Flint (New York: Harper Collins, 2003). Foster must be a fantastic professor because the book easily guides the reader along different themes which convey a deeper meaning than at first glance and teaching the reader great insights without sounding like a textbook. His easy and humorous style make the book easy to comprehend and keeps it from being intimidating. It was a fun read.

In twenty-six short chapters, he enlightens the reader to this new world of symbolism, metaphor, and authorial intent (kind of). After these chapters, he presents a test case with which the reader can test what he or she has learned from the book. As a good instructor, he asks questions of the students understanding and then asks the students to compare their insights with his. For what is essentially “homework” is was quite fun.

Some of the chapters which really helped me was the chapters which spoke of the literary connotations of rain (10), the Christ figure (14), sex (16 and 17), and then the issue of irony in literature (26). The test case (27) was a nice touch for the book. I also appreciated Foster’s Reading List found in the Appendix.

There was some things I did not care for in the book. For one thing, Foster cites a lot of books (as well he should) to prove his point and as he does, it feels like he is consistently showing me how little I am well-read. This is not his fault as I am sure he must read and enjoys reading these books he mentioned. Most the books I have to read for my classes and enjoy reading for my self are non-fiction and if one attempts to go deeper than what the author is saying, then one is really distorting the book. Nevertheless, when he cites these books, he does a fantastic job with telling the reader who has never heard of these books why he is using them. In fact, there are several, after he explained his point, which I will want to pick up and read for myself.

Additionally, I did not find the chapter on Sonnets all that helpful, but again, that is not Fosters fault. I just do not read much poetry. This is because I do not understand poetry. Which may be because I do not read poetry. Anyway…the Sonnet chapter really did nothing for me.

I appreciate the fact that Foster did make brief mention of movies. I have been able to see things in movies that are deeper than the surface more than I have in literature. In fact, because of this post, I may post on this later. I have not been that observant with literature. This may be because 1) I do not read that much fiction and 2) I just have not been actively looking. After reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor, you can be sure that the next fiction book I read will be slowly reading through the rainstorm, or really looking at that road in the book, or wondering why the character has that particular illness. Who knows, maybe I will see something which will make the story even better.

2T22 Rating

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Anyone There?

I have not posted in a week but have not forgot our study through the Psalms of Ascents. However, I was hoping for some feedback before I moved forward with more on these special psalms.

Has any of the posts on the Psalms of Ascents helped you in some way? Maybe helped you in a preparation of a bible study or sermon? Or helped you in your personal study? Do you have any suggestions on the outlines which would help others?

If you are just stopping by, but found these posts helpful or even a little interesting, I would appreciate a quick post to share that.

I am not trying to be self-serving. After all, we all could use a little encouragment every now and then.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vanity and Children...but Not Related Topics

The next psalm in our journey through the Psalms of Ascents is interesting. It is found in the exact middle of the fifteen ascent psalms. It is the only one of the fifteen written by Solomon. There are seven psalms before it (120-126), two of which were written by David and five which are anonymous. After Psalm 127, there are seven psalms, two of which were written by David and five of which are anonymous. With the Hebrew propensity for chiasms (see here, here, here, and here), and the symmetry that appears to be here, the psalm may be the high point of the Psalms of Ascents. It is not perfect but close enough to take a minute to examine it.

    121 David
            124 David
                     127 Solomon
         131 David
   133 David

Additionally, the psalm seems to be a bit different in that it seems to address two different issues in the psalm: The vanity of life without the Lord, and children.

Read Psalm 127 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. Once again, I would love any suggestions which may improve the flow of thought in this outline. This outline needs much improvement.

Still Working on a Title

I. Vanity (1-2)
          A. Vain labor - unless the Lord builds
          B. Vain watching - unless the Lord guards

          still working on #C.
          C. Vain vigilance - because the Lord gives in sleep
          C. Vain to do anything - unless the Lord gives

II. Children (3-4)
          A. Children are a gift
          B. Children are a defense
          C. Children are a blessing

Many people want to make this whole psalm about family. I am not sure the context will allow that. Granted, when the Hebrew author wrote about a "house", as in verse 1, it could mean a literal house or a house as in "family" or even "dynasty." However, the rest of verse one speaks of guarding a city and verse three speaks of work. I am not sure each of these could be figurative for family. It is interesting to note that verse three talks about God "giving" during sleeping and then the next verse says that children are a "gift." Perhaps this is the connection between the two sections of this psalms. However, unlike the previous psalms in this study (120-126, so far), this does not seem to have a unifying theme through the psalm. In that, it is very much like the proverbs, most of which are attributed to Solomon, just like this psalm.

As for explanation of the outline, I think verse one is somewhat self-explanatory. If a person builds or a person guards, and thinks they are doing it in their own power, they are gravely mistaken. It may be human work that builds a building phyiscally but it is God who give the strength to do so, the resources to be able to, the weather which does not blow it down, and on and on. A guard may think he is protecting the city but it is actually the Lord doing so.

Verse 2 give the idea that it is vain to do anything without the Lord. The idea of rising early and going to bed late means when we rise, when we go to bed, and everything inbetween. In fact, even when we are sleeping, God is at work. We sometimes believe that we can do great things and accomplish fantastic tasks. The fact of the matter is, anything good we have done is becasue the Lord has allowed it and He should get the credit. These versed do not discount human effort, but indicate that without the Lord's intervention, it is vain.

The topic shifts to that of children. The real issue in this section is verse 4. The question is, "How are children like arrows?" When dealing with Hebrew poetry, it is good to let the image sink in for a while. What do we think of when we think of arrows? They are long-range weapons and are not used for hand-to-hand combat. In fact, they were used for defense. The archers would not be the on the frontline but would fire a curtain of defense for those fighting on the battle front.

This is like children to those who are aged. The phrase about the "gate" in verse 5 points to the place where legal issues would be taken up with the city's leaders. If someone had wronged you, you could go to the city's gate and plead your case. If you had children, they would go with you and stand behind you to back you up, much like archers would. They would take up your defense and fight with you. Thus, they are blessing to have.

I am not sure of a song from today which would capture the heart of this psalm because this psalm seems to have two "hearts." If anyone has any insight to this, please post so we can all benefit from it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 8.27.08

"...Barak Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya, and a white man from Kansas."

Terry Moran, from ABC's Nightline

Remember the Great Acts of God - Addendum

In my last post, I was working with Psalm 126. This post is an expansion of verses 5-6 of this psalm.

Read Psalm 126 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

The context of this passage is the return of the Israelites from captivity. When they returned to Jerusalem and the promise land, they had to start again. Being an agricultural society, planting seed was of primary importance because they needed food. These farmers weep while sowing in remembrance of the good life before the Babylonian captivity. Sowing is hard work and starting over is never easy. These Israelites had to trust God completely to bless them. They released everything they owned, their seeds, and planted it in the ground. After that, it was up to God to bless them with a great harvest. And that is the promise given here.

Many want to relate this verse to the parable of the soils that Jesus told (Matt 13:1-9, 37-43; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). However, the force of the verse is closer to Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (NASB). This certainly does include evangelism, but it includes so much more.

A loss of a job may be sown in tears but reliance upon God during the time of uncertainty reaps shouts of joy. A child going their own rebellious way brings weeping but when reconciliation with the Lord occurs it comes with rejoicing. A passing of a precious believer may bring sorrow to those left behind but if one comes to the Lord through the witness of the life that deceased loved one there will be sheaves of joy, even in heaven (Luke 15:10).

The Christian can rejoice that whatever valley they are going through, whatever calamity has been brought upon them, whatever it is in their life that has been sown with weeping and tears, God will bring about a joyful harvest. And ultimately, believers, with a "shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" will enter into God presence.

What in your life today can you identify as being "sown in tears?" Trust God during this difficult time. He will bring about a joyful harvest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Remember the Great Acts of God

(See the addendum to this post here)

I have been blogging recently on the Psalms of Ascents and hoping that my posts on them will firm up some of my outlines. I also hope that others will contribute to the process and provide suggestions which will improve the outlines and provide a great skeleton for teaching through these psalms.

To briefly sum up where we have been so far, the psalmist travels to Jerusalem (120-122). He begins his worship by asking God for mercy, praising God for His help in the past, and about the relationship they have currently (123-125). In the next psalm, Psalm 126, the psalmist now remembers how the Lord brought them back to Jerusalem and requests that the Lord will restore them to what they once were.

Read Psalm 126 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. It really needs improved so any suggestions anyone could give, please post those in the comments. I know that many will be helped by it (I have notices a little more traffic coming to the posts regarding these psalms so you will be helping many other pastors by posting your thoughts):

Still Looking for a Title

I. Past rescue/redemption (1-3)
          A. Too good to be true/Astonishment (1)
          B. Rejoicing (2b)
          C. Noctice by others/Noticable (2b)
          D. Gratitude (3)

II. Present Request for Restoration (4)

II. Future Blessing/Rejoicing (5-6)
          A. Sow in tears -> Reap joyful shouting
          B. Weeping with bag -> joy with sheaves

One of the reasons I have waited so long between posts is because the incompleteness of these outlines. They really need some serious work, but I thought I could post these and maybe we could get a dialogue going to hone them a bit.

The first three verses is an obvious "flashback" to a time when God brought the people back to Jerusalem. It seems that this is a reference to the Babylonian exile but it could be a reference to the Exodus from Egypt. The issue for me is the term "brought back." While the Exodus did bring the people back to the land Jacob lived in before they moved to Egypt, the fact is they were there 400 years and everyone who came out of Egypt had never lived in the promised land. However, they were only in Babylon 70 years and many of the people remember what living in Judah was like. Additionally, the context (especially verse 4) indicates the psalmist is referring to captivity. While they were slaves in Egypt, they were not captured. They moved there and eventually became slaves. Babylon came and captured them. However, this is really not the main point of this psalm or this section.

The point is, the psalmist is remembering a past rescue God preformed for His people. The psalmist expresses his emotions concerning this act. It was like a dream, they would have never imagined it. They laughed and laughed and shouted with joy. It was such a marvelous act, the lost nations even commented on the great things their God did for them. They just were glad that God had done so many great things for them.

The remembrance of these past acts of God prompts the psalmist to petition God for restoration. He asks God to restore the people to what they were before they were taken captive. The simile used here is that of the seasonal wadis found in southern part of Israel. In the months of little rain, these streams will completely dry up and there will be nothing remaining but a ravine where the water once ran. In the spring, when the rains come again, the streams will fill up again, some almost immediately (if you can find a video clip of this, you should watch it because it is pretty amazing how fast and furious these streams become one the rain begins).

Finally, the psalmist declares his faith in God's activity to bring about the restoration of his people. To 21st-century believers who have both the Old and New Testament at their disposal, and who are familiar with Jesus' parable of the soils, it is easy to read a message of evangelism in these verse. However, these verses speak about broader issues than just evangelism. I will post more about this tomorrow because these two verses deserve a little closer look. The point here is that when God's people returned to the promise land from their captivity, there was sorry for what they had lost (tears, weeping). However, the psalmist is looking forward to the time when God will restore them to what He wants them to be (joyful shouting, shouts of joy).

I think the believer can walk away with from this psalm thinking about the great things God has done for us in the past, the most amazing being salvation. These thing, when recounted, can really astound us at how great God really is. But in times of trouble, or doubt, or struggles, we cry out to God for restoration. And we place our faith in the goodness of God that even though we may be crying now because of our tough circumstances, God will use it for His glory and our refinement.

Calvin said, "The reason why so many examples of the grace of God contribute nothing to our profit, and fail in edifying our faith, is, that as soon as we have begun to make them subjects of our consideration, our inconstancy draws us away to something else, and thus at the very commencement, our minds lose sight of them." Remembering the past acts of God will strengthen our faith as we go through or are coming out of troubled times. If God is has been faithful in the past, and God does not change, then He will be faithful in the present and in the future. We can count on it.

As I have been posting for this psalm, the hymn "Count Your Blessings" has been coming to mind. Perhaps, this hymn conveys the mindset of the psalmist (click to listen).

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Have Found a Friend in Jesus

In our series of the Psalms of Ascents, we come to psalm 125. to recap briefly, the psalmist travels to Jerusalem (120-122). He begins his worship by asking God for mercy (123) and then recounting how God has been the source of their help in the past (124). In this psalm (125), he sings about the current relationship he has with the Lord.

Read Psalm 125 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is the tentative outline I developed for this psalm. As always, please send feedback. I think they always can be improved. I would like the flow of thought to be better than this. This is just the initial thoughts.
Our Relationship with God

I. A relationship with God provides...(1-2)
          A. Stability (1)
          B. Protection (2)

II. Warning to those who have a relationship with God. (3)
          A. God's people do not have control over this land (3a).
          B. God's people should not be tempted to do evil (3b).

III. Holiness is expected of those who have a relationship with God. (4-5)
          A. Prayer for the good
          B. Warning for the bad

I want to give some of the thought process of my outline briefly. In verses 1-2, the psalmist uses geographical analogies to communicate a truth about the people of God. First, he mentions Mount Zion. This is by no means the highest "mountain" in Jerusalem and is in fact more a hill (I live in Colorado so I may be biased). The point of using Mount Zion is it permanency. Mount Zion was the temple mount and was the center of the Jewish religious system and the center of religious activity in the future (Rev. 14:1, for example). The use of this imagery is to show how God's people are stable in Him. He makes them like Mount Zion: permanent, stable.

The next geographical analogy used is the mountains which surround Jerusalem (although probably still hills by Colorado standards). Here, instead of the analogy being used to describe His people, the picture is used to describe God. His people are like little Mount Zion but God is like those big mountains which surround Jerusalem and protect it from attack. The Lord gives His people protection.

In the next point, point II, there are two warnings given in this psalm. The first half of verse 3 indicates that those that do not trust in God (the wicked) are in control of lands around Jerusalem (septer) but will not rest on the land of God's people. The point here is that in this world, there are evil people who are leaders around the world (most call them politicians) :-) God's people are not in control of this world. While God is ultimately in control of all things, He has temporarily given authority of this world over to Satan. This is a warning to God's people. This world is not home.

The second warning comes in the last half of verse 3: the reason the wicked's septer will not reach the land of God's people is so they will not be tempted to do wrong things. The warning is that God's people should not be tempted to do evil in this world. If the wicked are in charge, they may tempt God's people to engage in behavior and activities which would defile them. Becare, the psalmist says, to not let this happen.

The last two verses, making up point III, are pretty self-explanatory: the psalmist is praying that God will do good to those who are faithful to Him (those who do good) and he is warning those who live as they want (who turn aside to their crooked ways) that God will punish them. In short, the Lord expects holiness (upright in their hearts) from those who are to be in relationship with him.

I think this message is would be a great message for new believers and matures believers, alike. A relationship with God through Christ will bring us stability and protection. However, that does not mean that this life will be easy. Those who are lost are in control for now but we must not be tempted to live like them. Instead, God expects holiness from us. Any Christian could benefit from a reminder like this.

As I was thinking about a song from today which captures the essence of this psalm, my mind when to "The Lily of the Valley" (click to listen) because it tells how we are in relationship with God through Christ and that in temptation he helps us stay pure.
I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll.

He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tower;
I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
From my heart and now He keeps me by His power.
Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,
Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal.

He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
While I live by faith and do His blessèd will;
A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.
Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessèd face,
Where the rivers of delight shall ever roll.

He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.