Honest Lips

Associated reading:

  • Psalm 17

As I read Psalm 17 this morning, I was wondering if David’s recorded prayer to the Lord would be one of those moments where as we pray to God for justice from “cruel and evil people” — that God reveals something in ourselves that needs to be corrected in the heart of the prayer by a stirring of the Holy Spirit within us — and an awareness of those things we can control to improve the situation. Many times in my life, prayer does that — it shifts me from a paralyzed, victim mindset where I’m blaming others — into a purpose driven victor where I’m biased towards the action necessary to move forward.

But this Psalm 17 is either not one of those Psalms — or maybe this morning is not one of those mornings. There are healthy, mature, mountaintop moments in our Christian walk where we can say “declare me innocent” and it isn’t just because we are guilty yet again and calling to be washed by the Blood of the Lamb. We aren’t meant to be satisfied to always be walking in defiled garments and be victims who are powerless against things like temptation and pride. So it is encouraging that we can sometimes stand to declare ourselves innocent and not be lying through our teeth in the presence of a Holy God — but truly be saying, “Lord, I have done everything I possibly can myself. I really need you to help me with this.”

Yes, there is a balance and this should not become a narcissistic attitude of “I’m right and they are wrong” every day or every prayer — because that is clearly shallow and wrong hearted. But we also cannot be afraid to acknowledge that God is working in us through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we will walk upright and “Holy as He is Holy”.

The beautiful thing about the Living Word is that one morning, I might read this Psalm 17 and be convicted about how my lips weren’t honest and how I need to repent and make amends. Another morning, I might read this Psalm 17 and realize that someone I’m considering an enemy has simply offended me and I need to truly forgive them to release my heart from “the Bait of Satan”. Another morning, I might actually be at the end of my rope and need God to lay low a mountain that I can’t on my own. Isn’t that wonderful?

No matter where you are this morning, my friend, our goal should be to come to Him in prayer with honest lips. Listen to what we are saying when we are praying — and a humble prayer doesn’t have words lower than the truth in shame — nor higher than the truth in pride. That is worth repeating:

A humble prayer doesn’t have words lower then the truth in shame — nor higher than the truth in pride.

– Harold “Hop” Ballinger

Let’s strive in our prayer life for honest lips, actively listening to ourselves introspectively and for the stirring of the Holy Spirit to reveal whether we are higher or lower in our understanding of the truth of our circumstances. And let’s do everything that we can to be actively upright, honest, kind, loving, and self-controlled — but also rest in peace and patience when our faith has us eagerly waiting for God to move. Amen.

Remembering Accurately

Associated reading:

  • Genesis 8 & 9
  • Psalm 8 & 9
  • Joshua 8 & 9
  • “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling

As I read the chapters yesterday and today, they helped remind me of the the importance of remembering accurately. It also helps that I’m listening to another book on the subject of accuracy vs misconception on Audible (“Factfulness” by Hans Rosling), that was given high praise on LinkedIn by a co-worker.

When we are given instructions on how to do something — as Noah was with his instructions concerning the Ark, as Joshua was with his instructions concerning the town of Ai, and as the Israelites were in receiving their instructions for life through Moses — it is important that we remember accurately those instructions, so that we can follow them accurately. And this is critically important in the short term. Like daily manna, if we rise from our slumber and go out into God’s Word each day to gather our daily bread, and if we meet with Him in the garden for intimate time alone with Him, and on the seashore for time of restoration, and even at the cross for reflection and repentance — we will remember Him more accurately through our day’s plans, tasks, circumstances and surprises.

We also do not want to forget what He has done for us in the past or remember wrongly the history of our lives, of our family’s history, and the history of the world. Relying upon our own memory alone can be tricky — as we have a tendency to forget, to embellish, or to be selective in our long term memories of things. We are not perfect in our memories like God, even though God has favored us so undeservedly as David describes, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them… You made them only a little lower than the heavenly beings”. Humankind not only has our individual memories, but we have our spoken and written and recorded history as well. We have all that we speak amongst our families, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers during our waking lives. And we have all that might be read, listened to, or watched that we have done that might even exceed that short span of our breath- filled lungs.

Since God is of utmost importance in the story of the life of one who “walks in The Way”, shouldn’t He be the ever present salt that flavors our shared remembrance, and the testimony of our trials be the pepper and herbs, and our profession of Christ risen from the dead be our life giving drink? Just as Joshua sat the people down to hear the whole of God’s commands then, shouldn’t we gather together to read and hear the whole of His Word amongst ourselves?

As I am going through this “Old Testament” reading plan ( http://bible.com/r/H ), I don’t look at this example and pat myself on the back for making it 9 days in faithfully — because I remember accurately how many times I have started and never finished such an undertaking. And I’m not ashamed or in despair either about it. Nor am I flippant about my wanting to make it through to the end consistently this time. It reminds me accurately that but for the grace of God, I would be those people drowned outside the Ark, I would be those enemies appointed for judgement, I would be like Achan who stole from the Lord and deserved to be set up as an example of “what not to do”.

But for the grace of God, what would be remembered accurately about our lives?

What history would be left in the wake of our selfish, prideful, foolish, wicked, sinful lives if a better way (even the best and only way) hasn’t been revealed to us?

As I sat down for lunch with a leader yesterday, we talked about how our “default setting” is not that best way and that we both rely on God’s grace and power daily to strengthen us and carry us through. That too often, we make the same foolish mistakes as all the other characters in the Bible, save the one perfect Lamb of God who “got it right”. It is so refreshing and encouraging to sit with friends over a meal and just experience friendship and fellowship together!

As for me and my house, I want us to remember accurately all that the Lord has done for us. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like or how we live it out consistently, day by day — for our own benefit, for the world to see, but most importantly for the glory of God — but I’m eager to see what the Lord has in store, and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. Amen.

The Contrast

There is a great contrast between the grace and mercies found in intimate closeness to God — versus the harsh reality of death, darkness, and destruction that comes to those separated from and opposed to God.

Genesis 2 lays out for Adam and Eve an explanation of the consequences of “choosing the wrong side” when they are told “If you eat its fruit, you will surely die.” And Psalm 2 contrasts those who do not submit as “you will be destroyed in the midst of all of your activities” to “what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” And even Joshua 2 lays out a choice and consequences for Rahab the prostitute, who helped them.

In each of these situations, we see kind advice communicated — like a good father would warn his children about not touching a hot stove top — but we also see the opportunity for submission or opposition. And even more importantly, we see that the ones giving advice and extending grace have the wisdom and insight to indicate the “If you choose X, your consequences will be X — our If you choose Y, your consequences will be Y.” It would be foolish for a father to not warn his child about the consequences of a hot stove — just as it would be foolish of a child not to heed his father’s advice about the hot stove.

But we have all at times in our lives ignored the advice of our heavenly Father and traded what is best for a different set of consequences. In fact, being a slave to sin is having our joy and our greatest blessings stolen from us repeatedly, day after day, as we are tricked into giving up willingly what is best — in trade it for the momentary pleasures of “sin”.

Instead of seeing sin as “getting to do what I want instead of having to follow God’s rules” — we must understand that sin is always us “giving up what is best for us in trade for something less”.

A good father knows that his child might be foolish, and isn’t telling him “don’t touch the hot stovetop” to keep him from enjoying exploring some new areas of the kitchen — but to protect him from the hurt that he knows will be the inevitable consequence. In fact, a good father isn’t waiting eagerly to beat the foolish child for touching the hot stove and getting burnt — he longs to share wisdom and good advice for the benefit of the child.

Unfortunately, I fear that much of what extreme evangelical teaching has used (seemingly as a shortcut for denomination centered religious “conversions” not Christ centered life-altering “salvations”) — by scaring people with an emphasis upon hell and eternal torment and a wrathful, vengeful Father God, with Jesus as a “get out of hell free card” if they can explain the “Roman road” and recite a “sinner’s prayer” — has completely skewed the common understanding of God as Heavenly Father and how “sin” is understood. I know that I personally misunderstood this for decades of my young church going life.

To look at “sin” from a “do this and don’t do that” perspective alone is having information but not knowing how to truly understand it. This is what is meant by “the letter of the law kills”. That is the religious, judgemental, hypocritical perspective that would enjoy and take pleasure in repeatedly beating a child for placing their hand on a stovetop that wasn’t even hot — while using the excuse “it’s for his own good” to justify their perverse pleasure in doing harm to the child. That is not how God operates, and those who act as if it is — not only do not know Him personally — but clearly know very little “about Him” as well.

When we look at the love of a father who warns us of the dangers, yet allows us to learn — either by being his advice and enjoying the fruit of wisdom — or by ignoring his advice and experiencing the consequences of the prodigal — that grace available for both the wise and the foolish, will either have us grateful like the prodigal son, or confused and mad like the jealous older son in that story. This is the gospel, and it sees things from a spiritual perspective.

Related reading:

  • Genesis 2
  • Psalm 2
  • Joshua 2

My PrayerMate

Great is the Lord , and highly to be praised, And His greatness is [so vast and profound as to be] unsearchable [incomprehensible to man].
Psalms 145:3 AMP

I really enjoy the PrayerMate app. It helps me bring some order to my prayers while not just being repetitive. I can build out separate lists and tell it how many items to automatically give me from each list when I start a prayer. That way, many of your names come up.

For my lists, I start out praising God for who He is, with separate items praising:

Who He is as Father
Who He is as Son
Who He is as Holy Spirit
What He has done

Then I submit myself:

Confess who I am in Christ
Confess my sin
Pray to be granted Repentance
Surrender My Will to His Will

Then I pray your names and relationships:

My Closest Inner Circle
Extended Family
Church Family
Marketplace Relationships
Specific Unbelievers

At times, people ask for, or I feel led to specific intercessory prayer for others. I have a separate list of those names in that grouping.

Then I have groupings for:

My Walk with God
My Specific Needs
Missions/Outreach
Sharing My Testimony
A list of Biblical Prayers

I can set this app to remind me during the day to take a moment to pray. And by maintaining these lists, I can either have it automatically hand me a number of items to fit how much time I have right then for prayer — or I can drill down into a particular group and list.

Admittedly, I could be much more consistent and intentional with my prayer than I am at times. But this app really helps me with this, and when I’ve fallen out of practice, or when I’ve just been “phoning in my prayers” — I can look at the names and the needs listed and see the real hurt, challenge, and need and be prompted to truly contemplate the need, then pray for and try to help — rather than just grow cold.

I’m not sharing this to say “look how good I’m doing”. Nope, this is just an app that is helping me do what I should love you deeply enough to gladly remember to do on your behalf, to remember your needs, to remember our relationships and value them, and to remember that I can take it all to my Awesome God on your behalf.

I’m showing you my weakness. My crutch. That I need help, but that this is helping me — with organization, with access, with reminders, and with accountability.

I’m hoping that maybe someone else might find my crutch helpful, and maybe we could hobble along and encourage and pray for each other?

And most importantly, and as praising Him is first in my PrayerMate order, He is worthy of our praise. So whether it is with an app or not, let’s not miss out on our opportunity today to spend time with Him, to praise Him, and to walk with Him.

God bless.

If you want to be on my list, please just ask. I won’t even proudly say you’re already there. I’ll just be grateful that we have a relationship where we might be able to pray for each other and share something more than surface level things that are posted to Facebook. I want to love you, and prayer ands remembering the names of you and your family specifically ands regularly helps me. Thank you.

Seeking

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek and require the Lord [as their most essential need] rejoice.
Psalms 105:3 AMP

This morning as my wife read our morning devotional aloud, and Mia and I listened — my waking mind wandered and struggled to maintain focus. As she finished and it was time for me to pray, I realized that I wasn’t sure that I had really comprehended everything that was spoken. But lyrics from a song immediately came to mind that seemed to fit so well with the parts that I had heard — and I prayed about how God is worthy always. I prayed about when our circumstances are challenging, or when we need to let go of things like fear, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, temptations, or sin that poisons our spirit ands hinders our worship– and that anyone can easily see how those things cause hurt in the world — that time worshipping changes that. When we desire to be with the Lord and spend time with Him, He changes us in that intimate time together.

My mom shared with me yesterday how she starts each day with prayer and how some mornings it comes easy and is quick, and some mornings it is more challenging or long, but that it is always good. I shared with her that I’ve had the same experience and that I sometimes mistake “needing more time with Him” with being “my fault” or “something I’ve done” as the reason for the difference. While that can be the case, that my own self can hinder the process of prayer and worship — who is greater, and who is the solution when I need healing? JESUS!

Speaking with mom on the topic, I was reminded of a video that my pastor Mark Pangel shared of a prophet speaking “there is no wasted time, there is no wasted effort” and given instruction “clean the house” and “the lost coin will be found”. And we talked about how our limited perspective just doesn’t see things right.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10221320729860998&id=1030524632

It’s like people who foolishly say “Israel wouldn’t have had to walk through the wilderness for 40 years if they had just obeyed God” and stop there. While the facts of their statement might check out when measured by the law — and their exegesis may check all the boxes — they might have missed the whole point of God’s sovereign will and His purpose to walk close and intimate with them, and that He purposed, designed, planned and allowed that time for a specific reason.

Knowledge is easy for smart people, and rules and laws, and cause and effect makes sense to them — but wisdom is something greater than just accumulated knowledge — and wisdom begins with the fear of God.

I encourage you to watch and consider this wonderful video “He confounds the wise”:

Sometimes God has to break me out of the pattern of “just” reading comprehension, of “just” good hermeneutics, of “just” application, of “just” knowledge, of “just” understanding — to intimate time soaking in His presence.

Whether we need a quick shower to get on our way, or whether He has a long soak in the tub in store for us — whether our prayer and worship to start the morning ends up peacefully finished in our allotted timeslot — or whether it lasts through our morning commute and we must sit in our parked car for an extended time before entering our day’s responsibilities — our time is not wasted, our effort is not wasted. He is working in us to desire and to do His good pleasure, to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, to turn graves into gardens, to turn mourning into dancing, to trade ashes for beauty. Amen.

“Graves into Gardens” is a song performed by American contemporary worship band Elevation Worship and American contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Brandon Lake which was released as the second single from their eighth live album of the same name, Graves into Gardens (2020), on August 7, 2020. The song was written by Brandon Lake, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick and Tiffany Hammer.

We sing this song because we have known the power of taking time to seek the Lord, desiring to know Him better. We’ve experienced coming freely into His presence and letting our hearts rejoice in Him regardless of the circumstances around us at the time because HE IS WORTHY OF PRAISE. when we ate standing upon the Holy Ground of genuine praise and worship, and we breathe in the rarefied air of His holiness, refusing our cars and concerns to rest in awe and wonder of the His glory, His presence envelops us like a big, spiritual hug, permeating us through and through — and He turns graves into gardens, turns mourning into dancing, gives beauty for ashes.

Thank you, Jesus!

Lord, Please Help Us?

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.
Psalms 46:1‭-‬5 NLT

I read or heard one time that one of the most effective prayers is the simple surrender of, “Lord, please help me?

When we are in that genuine place of giving up on trying to fix it on our own and surrendering to receive His help, it isn’t demanding our own way or stating a complaint. It is acknowledging that He is the help that we need.

As my family started back our morning family devotionals today, the imagery of the second sentence “many people stumble out of bed in the morning and head straight for…” was perfect for reminding me that what we consume into our minds, especially for that all important first meal to start the day, will feed us. And what better meal to start our day than time with the one who is peace, is help, is a refuge.

There are many things that we could do first — and I’ll be completely honest and transparent here — while also trying to not be gross. When I first wake up, even before consuming my breakfast for my body, and even before my mind consumes the Word for that day — I have to first get rid of whatever was left over from yesterday. I stumble first to the bathroom and evacuate my physical body of its waste — just as I should evacuate my mind of its waste from the day before. A simple, surrendered, heartfelt prayer like, “Lord, please help me?” helps posture my mind to receive what is needed for today and let go of anything clinging in my mind from the days before.

Let me explain why this is important. I’m not holding onto shame that we stopped doing morning devotionals for a while. If I went into this from a place of shame for my past shortcomings, I would see it as a religious obligation and a checklist — to either do and be proud “at what I’m doing” each morning — or to miss and be shameful about “not doing enough” — and that misses The Way on either side of the narrow path.

But when I’m truly seeking to “wait in His presence”, when I’m eager for His help, when I stumble to Him as my first — it is amazing how much more fruitful to my day than turning on the TV, phone, tablet or radio first. It’s amazing how much clarity and insight comes instead of the anxiety, frustration, fear or offense that seems to drive so much of the world around us these days.

Lord, please help us in these things? Help us establish a consistency in our faith that isn’t just empty repetition, but is a meaningful washing in your Word and your presence, and that brings salt and light into our lives, so that like a good bloodhound, we know the sweet aroma of your presence and we follow you straight away — not turning to the left or to the right, but walking with you along The Way that you have cleared for us today? Amen.

Prove That You Really Are

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.

So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NLT

What does this look like?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬25 NLT

This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2‭-‬3 NLT

The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:

faith…

moral excellence…

knowledge…

self-control…

patient endurance…

godliness…

brotherly affection…

love for everyone.

You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1‭-‬17 NLT

The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15‭-‬23 NLT

If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.

If you have never truly repented and believed,

If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,

Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,

Read this Good News:

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!
Mark 1:14‭-‬15 NLT

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16‭-‬21 NLT

And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26‭-‬39 NLT

Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25‭-‬35 NLT

We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.
Luke 15:3‭-‬10 NLT

And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11‭-‬24 NLT


Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – WHY?

This morning, we continue our study on Psalm 65. We have already laid out the WHO? (the people/groups/types) in this Psalm which will serve as the actors/cast in our minds as we practice bringing this passage to life. We have also already examined the WHEN/WHERE? (Environment/background/setting) which will serve as the stage and props. And we have even diverted the HOW/WHAT? (steps/storyline/order of events) that will serve as our script.

As we look at the WHY? today, there are three different perspectives that will all come into play. The first is about the WHY? within its original context — what the original participants would have been learning, sharing, etc.

WHY? ORIGINAL CONTEXT

In Psalm 65, we see David Praising God and acknowledging his own sin. And we have to realize that this was not some personal journal note written and tucked away while he pretended to be perfect. No, he wrote this Psalm to be shared publicly, with the purpose of sending it to be sung publicly. And when he talked about forgiveness of sins, David was talking about the method that God had given them for a very public and visible day of atonement and process of each family bringing a physical sacrifice to the altar.

for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord . It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.
Leviticus 17:11 NLT

This would have been David’s original meaning for this Psalm, to celebrate the Day of Atonement that was given to Israel as part of their ceremonies and traditions. You can read about the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 and here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gotquestions.org/amp/Day-Atonement-Yom-Kippur.html

WHY? IN LIGHT OF CHRIST

Being on this side of the cross, we are privy to the gospel and the epistles to help us understand how this applies to or points to Christ.

Paul discusses atonement in the book of Hebrews:

In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22 NLT

Peter in his first epistle:

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

1 Peter 2:24 NLT

And John, in the book of Revelation:

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9 NLT

And it is pretty important that we sing miss this point of identifying how these scriptures point to Christ, if we indeed believe His warning to the pharisees:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
John 5:39 NLT

Paul echoes the importance of a Chrisst centered understanding and application of scripture in His epistle as well:

I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 10:2‭-‬4 NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3‭-‬4 NLT

WHY? APPLICABLE TO US

When I think of David writing and sharing publicly his awe in Almighty God’s willingness to forgive us it reminds me of one of my verses for today:

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 NLT

And another that makes it clear how we best do this:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:16 NLT

So my application for today is to:

1) recognize the sin — how I have fallen short

2) confess my sin to my brothers in Christ — who will encourage me and hold me accountable and pray for me

3) remember the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross — let hope spring up

4) remember the promises of God — grow in faith

5) pray for, encourage, and serve my brothers — grow in love

6) in all things, glorify God

This isn’t a checklist that I’m going to accomplish under my own power — No! This is what I’m going to witness Christ doing in me, and through me — by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the name of Jesus Christ, and by the promises of His Word — I know this is true. May it be true for you as well. Because He is the one that has laid the foundations and established our footsteps. Amen.

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – How?

As we continue our study of Psalm 65, we continue to the question of HOW?

We gained a mental picture of our actors in the first question WHO? Then we gained a mental picture of the stage and environment in the question WHEN/WHERE?

Now we will ask the question HOW?

Our goal is to now summarize and picture what happened and the sequence of events. A good way to tackle this is to consider — If you were writing out a script and recreating this as a child would in a play or game, what is the general order of events?

Matthew Henry’s commentary ( https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_065.cfm ) says about the order of events in this Psalm:

In this psalm we are directed to give to God the glory of his power and goodness, which appear,

I. In the kingdom of grace (v. 1), hearing prayer (v. 2), pardoning sin (v. 3), satisfying the souls of the people (v. 4), protecting and supporting them (v. 5).

II. In the kingdom of Providence, fixing the mountains (v. 6), calming the sea (v. 7), preserving the regular succession of day and night (v. 8), and making the earth fruitful (v. 9-13).

And we can find other commentaries online like Scott Shauf ( https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=954 ) who says similarly:

When one surveys Psalm 65 as a whole, what is most striking is the breadth of the psalm’s subject matter.

It begins with praise to God in Zion (verse 1), a setting which continues through verse 4. Even here the topics of praise are varied, including prayer being answered (verse 2), sins being forgiven (verse 3), and the blessedness of dwelling with God (verse 4). Verse 5 turns briefly to God’s mighty acts of deliverance but then quickly moves to “the ends of the earth” and “the farthest seas.” This global setting stays in view through verse 8, asserting God’s might with references to the mountains (verse 6), the seas and the “tumult of peoples” (verse 7), and the farthest points east and west (verse 8).

Verses 9-13 maintain the focus on the earth, but the emphasis moves from God’s might to God’s bounty in the harvest, which is described in lavishly descriptive language.

So if we could summarize in our own simple words, we might say something like —

SCRIPT:

1) All praise is rightfully due to you, oh God, you are worthy to be praised and lifted high, oh Lord!

2) You hear and answer our prayers. All men must come to the One from whom all blessings flow.

3) Even though in our weakness, we have fallen victim to all kinds of sin and region against you, even though not even one of us is righteous before you in and of ourselves — in your grace and mercy you have forgiven us, you have purged us, you have atoned for us, and cast our sins away from your sight.

4) It is you who have chosen us and brought us into your presence where we could not have survived, but that we now live. In fact, we are now the very temple of your holy presence — and we are the body, the physical vessels of your will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.

5) You are the source of our salvation, and it is an awesome work that you have done in our hearts and minds and desires –as you have not only given us a firm hope, but you deliver us into righteousness and holiness that was as far from our grasp as the ends of the earth or the farthest star in the sky.

6 & 7) Your mighty power is seen not only in creation of, but also in your sovereignty over, even the mountains and the seas and even over all of mankind.

8) Those who stand back and consider the things that the Lord God Almighty has done are overcome in awe at the evidence of your presence, even if they only were to consider the rising or setting of the sun.

9-13) And the visitation of your presence, the inhabitation of your creation by the Holy Spirit of its very own creator — it births an outpouring of life — and the earth and all in it are blessed — and everything with breath in creation will sing your praises.

Obviously, my “script” that came from me identifying the HOW? is not a word by word translation, but it is something that I can understand and grasp — and when combined in my mind with the actors and stage we’ve already discussed in the previous two lessons, it can begin to take a firm shape within my mind’s eye — within what my imagination can grasp hold of more easily. And in turn, it should be something that is more easily relatable to me personally, and is something that I can more easily share with another.

Yours won’t be exactly like mine either, so there’s no copying off of someone else’s paper for this type of study. In fact, there should be enough differences in each of our scripts that we can each likely pick up on things that another person noticed as important that maybe we missed, etc. This is what makes this process so valuable and revealing in a group of people with different perspectives and gifts and seasons of life. That’s why I’m so excited to see what we all have as a group once we gather together to discuss next Wednesday night!

I believe that is enough for tonight, but I encourage you to practice this on your own. Break it down into parts that make sense to you, then put it in your own words that are still true to the heart of the message but that are also a short/quick/easy summary as if you were relaying the story second-hand to someone without a copy of the written text to reference.

Next, we will tackle the question of WHY?

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – Where/When?

Continued from yesterday: https://hballinger.com/2018/01/12/small-group-psalm-65-who/

Psalm 65 itself doesn’t outright tell us when or where David wrote this Psalm. When I come to a question that I cannot answer by myself, I remember the wise advice about seeking counsel from others that is in the Bible.

You can find a wealth of information on that topic here: https://www.openbible.info/topics/wise_counsel

In this case, we are going to look at “Commentaries”. I have various physical, paper commentaries that I keep in my beside bookshelf and in my study/office, but we are going to stick to the commentaries we can easily reference online for the benefit of us researching this together.

Don’t just read what I’ve written in this post, but follow the links I provide and walk through the process yourself. This will help you learn to do this yourself. And my goal is not to gather a bunch of people listening silently in the pews with an occasional “like” as a virtual “Amen” to my “preaching”, but my goal is for you to be a disciple yourself — a student of the Word of God — a follower of Jesus who will have an active and saving Faith and a living testimony of living, serving, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations.

A few great places for multiple online Bible commentaries are here:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/

https://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/

Many of these sites have links to the related commentaries directly from the page when you go to the scripture itself on their sure as well.

I usually end up with Matthew Henry’s commentary first when working online because Google seems to provide his first if you search for something like “Psalm 65 commentary”: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_065.cfm

But we can see after reading through it, that Mr. Henry gives us no clear opinion on specifically when or where David might have written this Psalm. Since David is primarily talking about the glory of God’s goodness and power and not about something in His own life, there are few clues that point to a point along the timeline of David’s life.

If we ask Google more specifically “When did David write psalm 65”, it leads us to this exposition/ commentary:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-65-1.html

And we can find a section with three parts that read:

Whole Psalm. The author of the Psalm is mentioned, but not the date of its composition; but from an examination of its contents, it would seem to have been intended as a song for the “day of atonement,” and for the “feast of tabernacles,” which followed immediately after. Numbers 29:7 Numbers 29:12 . The sins of the year were then “covered over,” and a thorough purification of the sanctuary was made by a special service of expiation. The labours of the year were all by that time concluded, and its fruits secured; and Israel could look on the goodness of God towards them, through its entire extent; and this Psalm was penned to serve as a fitting expression of their feelings. It opens with a reference to the “silence” that reigned in the sanctuary; to the profound, unbroken, solemn stillness that reigned within it; while, in deep abasement, the people without waited in hushed expectation the return of their high priest from the immediate presence of God, Leviticus 16:17 . It goes on to a statement of the blessedness of those who are accepted of God, and admitted to fellowship with One so unspeakably great; and concludes with a description of the various processes by which the Almighty had fitted the earth to yield a year’s supplies for his people. Dalman Hapstone, in “The Ancient Psalms in appropriate Meters… with Notes.” 1867.

Whole Psalm. We have here a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung in the Temple during a public festivity, at which the sacrifices were to be offered which had been vowed during a long and protracted drought ( Psalms 65:1-2 ). To the thanksgiving, however, for a gracious rain, and the hope of an abundant harvest ( Psalms 65:9-14 ), is added gratitude for a signal deliverance during a time of distress and commotion affecting all the nations around ( Psalms 65:7-8 ). Thus the Psalm becomes a song of praise to Jehovah as the God of history and the God of nature, alike. From the “Psalms Chronologically Arranged. By Four Friends.” 1867.

Whole Psalm. This is a charming psalm. Coming after the previous sad ones, it seems like the morning after the darkness of night. There is a dewy freshness about it, and from the ninth verse to the end there is a sweet succession of landscape pictures that remind one of the loveliness of spring; and truly it is a description, in natural figures, of that happy state of men’s minds which will be the result of the “Day spring’s visiting us from on high.” Luke 1:7-8 . O. Prescott Hiller.

The first commentary speaks more primarily to the authorship, the facts, and the likely circumstances surrounding David’s writing this Psalm. The second commentary speaks more to this Psalm’s use in religious ceremonies and how it might have fit into the “Hymnal” of the day. The last focusses on the feel and the mood and the atmosphere of the Psalm itself.

Understanding all three of these components I believe will seriously help us in creating the stage in our minds for today’s question of WHERE/WHEN? today where our actors from yesterday’s question of WHO? so that this Psalm can begin to come alive within our mind’s recreation that we are working so hard in this study to see fully manifested.

That’s probably enough for this post, but dig more into the commentaries if you like. See if you can find even more that we can consider about this stage as we are building in our mind’s eye a complete picture, in order to better understand this Psalm.

Next post, we will continue our work on the questions…