Tag Archives: Psalms

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: It’s War, but Faith Beats Fear

This blog was never intended to become a ministerial diary, of sorts, but reality is what reality is, not what we want or perceive it to be.

Therefore, I will continue to share my observations as we press forward in this new (to us) work in Georgia.

Reality Check

Getting strait to the point, there is a spiritual war going on, and you and I are involved in the conflict. It doesn’t matter where you and I are; the war is on-going and world-wide. We will never escape it until it’s over.

Unfortunately, too many think that life, with all its problems, is rarely affected by the spiritual conflict that rages all around us, even within us. Yet, the reality is that nearly everything we experience in this life is tactically connected to innumerable, web-like strategies meant to bring either victory of defeat. And depending on which side you are on – and that is debatable – victory may mean either bondage and destruction, or hope and deliverance.

There are no coincidences, and no small decision is devoid of long-reaching consequences. This is reality, and that’s a check you can cash.

The Influence Factor

To be fair, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what responsibility you’ve been given: you’ll never know the full extent of how your life and your decisions will affect others. However, what is equally true is that the more influence a person has, the more of a “high-value” target he or she becomes. And because we are in a spiritual war, this is especially true for those in ministry.

Just since the last post I wrote, the one about “Food and Fur,” I have been reminded that the more influence one has, the more the enemy will attack. I have been reminded that the enemy will wait until we are comfortable, then strike where we are least expecting it, and usually with weapons and tactics for which we have little defense. Or, rather, the defense we do have is more than adequate, but the enemy knows we have not done much training on how to use it.  Either way, the attack is meant to knock us back and reconsider our ability to continue the fight.

This is why it should never be an aspiration for a minister to obtain a “larger church” or anything like that, for unless it’s in God’s timing, and unless the minister and his family are equipped, because of the “influence factor,” they – and I do say “they” – may not be able to handle it. The more influence over the lives of others, the more the Enemy will desire your destruction.

The “Fear” Factor

You do remember the TV show Fear Factor, don’t you? Do you remember how that it was perfectly possible for every contestant to complete the required challenges, if only they could conquer their own fears? They all had the strength, the coordination, and the skill, but it was so often the fear that immobilized the contestant who failed. So often in this spiritual warfare what we find is that we’ve been given all we need by the Holy Spirit to be victorious, but fear – fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of sacrifice, fear of inadequacy, fear of the Enemy – saps our strength, makes us weak in the knees, causes us to run, or convinces us to surrender.

This week (even yesterday) my family was threatened. The threat is hard to assess, but it is being taken seriously, so much so that police departments in two states are now involved. Yet, should we live in fear? Should we be intimidated?

Or, should we refuse to cower and hide, put feet on our faith, and trust our God to deliver?

In the Messianic Psalm 91, David wrote of how he would handle threats. He wrote:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust’” (Psa. 91:1-2).

Later in verse five he writes: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.”

Then King Solomon, David’s son, echoes these very words when he describes the kind of peace one can enjoy when he puts his faith in the true God and trusts His word:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths…When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:5-6, 24-26).

Believe me, I am concerned. I am concerned for the safety of my daughters, my family in general, myself, and even my friends and congregation. But I refuse to live in fear! I refuse to live in hiding. I refuse to accept that threats from enemies of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, the One who tells me to call Him “Abba” (Daddy) – carry more weight than the promises from God’s Word!

Conclusion

Since I’m already at 907 words, I should bring this “Observation” to a conclusion.

First, I don’t think it’s wise to share specific details about what is going on that made me write this post. Doing so would not help keep anyone safe any more than what is already being done. So, don’t expect any real details to come out in future posts.

However, I will say this: Even in America there are those who will swear they are not radical, but will nevertheless use the “fear card” credit their fellow faith-members have earned as a tool. Even should their veiled threats be hollow and only mean, it is impossible to know what is truly in the heart or intended, and should therefore be taken seriously.

Evidently, the Enemy wants to put a stop to what God is doing, and he’s not going to play nice. When people down here said they’d heard I was stirring things up, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind! And whether or not what we are going through right now as a family is related at all to the overall plan here in Georgia, in reality, it’s all related.

So, pray for us.

Your soldiers on the battlefield in middle Georgia


BONUS: Here’s a song my daughter Katie sang several years ago (I think she was 17). I think it’s pretty appropriate for today. Are we fearless, or full of faith?

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We’re All Sinners. Selah.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” – Psalm 4:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for a moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse, we are told to “commune” with our own hearts upon our beds. What about? Let’s think about it.

How Long?

Before, in the previous selah in Psalm 4:2, David was asking the question “How long?” How long would those whom he had once trusted betray him? How long would his former friends treat him like an enemy? How long would they promote lies over truth, and turn his “glory into shame?”

You and I may not be kings in exile, or have former commanders in our personal guard out for our head. However, there may be people who lie about you; spread untruths about you at work; misrepresent you to your children, or withhold that little bit of evidence just to win their case against you. How long will they get away with it?

You observe the culture. You watch the news and see the movies. You shake your head with disgust as you witness sin and shame, practically every deviancy known to man, promoted like it was the new gospel. You narrow your eyes and grit your teeth and whisper under your breath, “They should be glad I’m not God.” How long will God let them get away with it?

Awful Angry

Stand in awe, and sin not…” The Septuagint renders it “Be ye angry, and sin not…” The same is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:26 when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” So why awe in one and angry in the other?

The word translated both as “awe” and “angry” is an interesting one. Consider Strong’s treatment of it:

רָגַז râgaz, raw-gaz’; a primitive root; to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear):—be afraid, stand in awe, disquiet, fall out, fret, move, provoke, quake, rage, shake, tremble, trouble, be wroth.

So, when David is telling us to stand in “awe,” he is not telling us to do something like look up to the stars and go, “WOW!” No, David is giving us permission, as Paul did, to be angry; angry to the point of violently shaking, full of emotion and rage.

Just without sin.

Go to Bed?

So, just to make it clear, it’s OK to get angry, just as long as it’s a righteous anger (the last thing we want to be found guilty of is a lack of emotion when confronted with perversion and injustice; apathy is its own sin).  But in an apparent contrast with the later writing of Paul, what does King David suggest we do?

Go to bed and think about it? He said, “…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

But wait! I thought the Apostle Paul said we shouldn’t go to bed angry? What’s the difference?

The difference is GRACE, pure and simple. And hallelujah for that!

Humble Communion

Go ahead, get angry at the sin of the world. Go ahead, tremble with indignant anger at the way the glory of God is impugned on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, quiver and shake with anger over the way people have been treating you – you have that right. But there’s something else you need to do: Remember the grace of God.

No, David is not telling us to go to bed angry and stew on it; he is encouraging us to remember that we are sinners, also.

To “commune with your own heart” means to reflect on yourself and your own condition. And when we add to that the words “be still” (דָּמַם [dā·mǎm]), which according to some* carries with it the idea of wailing and lamenting, along with being silent, what we have is the suggestion to be angry, but to remember we are sinners, too.

When David was treated horribly, he got angry, but he also remembered that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy he would suffer the same fate as the wicked. So, although we should get angry, at times, it is important for us to remember that although God is righteous, He is also gracious and good.

Thank Him for His mercy as you commune with your soul, and let Him handle those other people. Selah.

 


 

*William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 72.

*James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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He Heard! Selah.

“I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” – Psalm 3:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. It’s a musical notation meant to make us pause and reflect on what we’ve just read (or sung – the Psalms were songs). And what better to think about than the Lord of heaven hearing our cries?

I Cried

קָרָא qârâʼ (kä·rä’), translated as “cried,” could mean to recite, read, cry out, or proclaim. But in the context, and especially sense this word has also been used of animals crying out – and since the root of this word has to do with the sound a person makes when confronted unexpectedly, or accosted – I think the cry David made was more like a loud, desperate call for help . . . like the desperate plea from a fallen child.

Just think about that for a moment. Are you a parent? What does it do to you when your child cries out for help? What does that cry sound like to you? When your child is being chased by a dog, or when he falls and gets hurt, does he recite his proclamation of displeasure? You know the difference, don’t you?

So does God for His children when they cry out for Him.

He Heard Me

What an expression of hope! What an expression of joy! David was thrilled that God would actually hear him when he called.

He heard me from his holy hill” was an expression humility…of wonder…of amazement that the Holy One would be mindful of him (Psalm 8:4). But it was also a testimony to David’s enemies who had said previously that there was “no help for him in God” (Psalm 3:2).

Oh, God hears! David wrote this song as a testimony to that fact. He reminds us that heaven is not deaf, but attentive and listening. Our prayers are not worthless words read or recited to a spaghetti monster in the sky. No, there is a God, and He hears His own.

Pause and think about that for a while. 

 

 

 

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He Made My Day

“You Made My Day!”

Not long ago I performed a wedding service in which the whole wedding party and myself were brought to tears. Now, there were only 3 people in the room (the groom, the bride, and myself), but everyone of us were finding it difficult to keep water out of our eyes.

It was a very simple ceremony, one with no decoration, no cake, not even a tuxedo or wedding dress; just a wedding chapel, wedding rings, a man and a woman, and a pastor.

But what made this little ceremony so special was the reason behind it: the couple were getting re-married.

Long story short, they had gotten a divorce, but because of their love for their four children and the fear of how growing up in a split family might affect them, they determined to find a way to come back together. Whatever differences they had which led to their divorce were evidently able to be overcome, at least they were going to try – because they understood there were more important things than their own feelings.

As I stood there with them, I could sense the seriousness, the somber mood, and the need to go off script when it came to my normal wedding ceremony. In every wedding ceremony I conduct I always talk about how marriage is to be a reflection of God’s love for us, but I went full marriage-counselor mode/preacher this time.

As I referenced the selfless, unabashed love God displayed for us on the cross of Calvary, and how that true love, the unconditional kind, can forgive even as Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the tears began to flow down the brides face…then mine.

With tears on everyone’s face, as I continued into the part where the vows were to be exchanged, the bride held the groom’s hands and said, “And if Jesus can forgive us for all we’ve done, we can forgive each other, too.” I literally about lost it! (I’m getting teary-eyed just typing this!)

Ryan and Catherine after getting re-married

When all was said and done, I extended my hand to thank them, saying, “I just want you to know, you made my day.”

The bride bypassed my hand and rushed me with a bear hug, then said, “No, YOU made OUR day!”

Then right before I was able to take a picture of the two as they stood on the stage, a newly re-married couple, the bride whispered to the groom, “God was here today.”

Amen to that!

He Made My Day

The fact of the matter is that even though we may make each other’s days, like I did for that couple and they did for me, God has LITERALLY made our day!

This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

God doesn’t just do things for us that make us happy, therefore giving us a reason to praise Him for making our day memorable; He literally makes the day – every day – in which we live.

Think about this for just a second… the Hebrew word used in this case is in the perfect tense, meaning that the act of making the day was done, finished, once and for all completed. In other words, in God’s eyes, though it may appear to us as being as in the process of being made, it’s a done deal – finished. This is the day that the Lord has made.

Therefore, instead of worrying about the outcomes, the challenges, the twists and turns, why not rejoice in the moment, in the day, as we watch with amazement how God unfolds the gift that He has prepared for us?

I enjoyed hearing someone say, “You made my day.” I would bet God is no different. And since He knows what’s best for me, what I need, and how I can bring Him glory through my thoughts and actions in the next few hours, it will surely be a day worth remembering if I just pay attention and hold His hand.

Lord, You made my day!

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Just Stomp Me. Selah.

“Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take [it]; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.” – Psalm 7:5

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse David asks God to let his enemy “persecute” him and essentially pound him into the earth! Why? Let’s think about it.

Out of Context

Should we read this verse as a stand-alone statement, apart from the context in which it was written, David would appear to have some serious mental problems. Is that what he is telling us to think about?

In this one verse there are three separate actions for which David is asking God to allow.

  1. Let the enemy persecute and take my soul.
  2. Let the enemy tread down (walk all over and stomp on) my life.
  3. Let the enemy lay my honour in the dust.

Why would David ask God to allow these things? Was he crazy? Not hardly.

In Proper Context

When we examine the full context of Psalm 7,  what we see is David crying out to God for deliverance from another one of his enemies, Cush the Benjamite. Evidently Cush had made some serious accusations concerning David’s actions, accusing him of some very bad things.

“O LORD my God, if I have done this: If there is iniquity in my hands, If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, Or have plundered my enemy without cause…” – Psalm 7:3-4 NKJV

Iniquity…doing evil to the one with whom he was at peace…plundering his enemy without cause… What in the world did Cush think David did? We may never know.

However, David was so confident that whatever Cush was accusing him of was a fabrication – a lie – that he was willing to suggest his own destruction should the accusation be true.

Making Application

Are you living in such a way that you could pray with confidence: “Lord, let my enemy destroy me, even drag my soul to hell, should I actually be guilty of whatever he’s accusing me of.”

If not, then maybe we should pray another prayer, one in which David asked God to show him anything that needed changing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 KJV

I’d say it’s far better to let God do a work on us before our enemy does a number on us.

 

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We’re All Sinners. Selah.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” – Psalm 4:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for a moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse, we are told to “commune” with our own hearts upon our beds. What about? Let’s think about it.

How Long?

Before, in the previous selah in Psalm 4:2, David was asking the question “How long?” How long would those whom he had once trusted betray him? How long would his former friends treat him like an enemy? How long would they promote lies over truth, and turn his “glory into shame?”

You and I may not be kings in exile, or have former commanders in our personal guard out for our head. However, there may be people who lie about you; spread untruths about you at work; misrepresent you to your children, or withhold that little bit of evidence just to win their case against you. How long will they get away with it?

You observe the culture. You watch the news and see the movies. You shake your head with disgust as you witness sin and shame, practically every deviancy known to man, promoted like it was the new gospel. You narrow your eyes and grit your teeth and whisper under your breath, “They should be glad I’m not God.” How long will God let them get away with it?

Awful Angry

Stand in awe, and sin not…” The Septuagint renders it “Be ye angry, and sin not…” The same is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:26 when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” So why awe in one and angry in the other?

The word translated both as “awe” and “angry” is an interesting one. Consider Strong’s treatment of it:

רָגַז râgaz, raw-gaz’; a primitive root; to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear):—be afraid, stand in awe, disquiet, fall out, fret, move, provoke, quake, rage, shake, tremble, trouble, be wroth.

So, when David is telling us to stand in “awe,” he is not telling us to do something like look up to the stars and go, “WOW!” No, David is giving us permission, as Paul did, to be angry; angry to the point of violently shaking, full of emotion and rage.

Just without sin.

Go to Bed?

So, just to make it clear, it’s OK to get angry, just as long as it’s a righteous anger (the last thing we want to be found guilty of is a lack of emotion when confronted with perversion and injustice; apathy is its own sin).  But in an apparent contrast with the later writing of Paul, what does King David suggest we do?

Go to bed and think about it? He said, “…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

But wait! I thought the Apostle Paul said we shouldn’t go to bed angry? What’s the difference?

The difference is GRACE, pure and simple. And hallelujah for that!

Humble Communion

Go ahead, get angry at the sin of the world. Go ahead, tremble with indignant anger at the way the glory of God is impugned on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, quiver and shake with anger over the way people have been treating you – you have that right. But there’s something else you need to do: Remember the grace of God.

No, David is not telling us to go to bed angry and stew on it; he is encouraging us to remember that we are sinners, also.

To “commune with your own heart” means to reflect on yourself and your own condition. And when we add to that the words “be still” (דָּמַם [dā·mǎm]), which according to some* carries with it the idea of wailing and lamenting, along with being silent, what we have is the suggestion to be angry, but to remember we are sinners, too.

When David was treated horribly, he got angry, but he also remembered that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy he would suffer the same fate as the wicked. So, although we should get angry, at times, it is important for us to remember that although God is righteous, He is also gracious and good.

Thank Him for His mercy as you commune with your soul, and let Him handle those other people. Selah.

 


 

*William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 72.

*James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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He Heard! Selah.

“I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” – Psalm 3:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. It’s a musical notation meant to make us pause and reflect on what we’ve just read (or sung – the Psalms were songs). And what better to think about than the Lord of heaven hearing our cries?

I Cried

קָרָא qârâʼ (kä·rä’), translated as “cried,” could mean to recite, read, cry out, or proclaim. But in the context, and especially sense this word has also been used of animals crying out – and since the root of this word has to do with the sound a person makes when confronted unexpectedly, or accosted – I think the cry David made was more like a loud, desperate call for help . . . like the desperate plea from a fallen child.

Just think about that for a moment. Are you a parent? What does it do to you when your child cries out for help? What does that cry sound like to you? When your child is being chased by a dog, or when he falls and gets hurt, does he recite his proclamation of displeasure? You know the difference, don’t you?

So does God for His children when they cry out for Him.

He Heard Me

What an expression of hope! What an expression of joy! David was thrilled that God would actually hear him when he called.

He heard me from his holy hill” was an expression humility…of wonder…of amazement that the Holy One would be mindful of him (Psalm 8:4). But it was also a testimony to David’s enemies who had said previously that there was “no help for him in God” (Psalm 3:2).

Oh, God hears! David wrote this song as a testimony to that fact. He reminds us that heaven is not deaf, but attentive and listening. Our prayers are not worthless words read or recited to a spaghetti monster in the sky. No, there is a God, and He hears His own.

Pause and think about that for a while. 

 

 

 

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