Dig a pit for your Lion

I’m excited about today’s study, because it is about traps:

Stick with me, and I think that you’ll enjoy the journey we have for today in God’s Word…

Traps.

Let go back… way back…

The Word of God first warns Cain to “beware of sin that crouches at the door” in the old testament book of Genesis:

And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. But Abel brought [an offering of] the [finest] firstborn of his flock and the fat portions. And the Lord had respect (regard) for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and his offering He had no respect. So Cain became extremely angry (indignant), and he looked annoyed and hostile. And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? And why do you look annoyed? If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it.” Cain talked with Abel his brother [about what God had said]. And when they were [alone, working] in the field, Cain attacked Abel his brother and killed him.
GENESIS 4:3‭-‬8 AMP

So we are talking about a “hidden danger” of which Cain was ignorant and unaware of — a trap.

And we see Peter speaking of this Age old enemy again in the new testament:

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack–rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.] After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen.
1 PETER 5:8‭-‬11 AMP

But we see two different results described in these two passages. In the first, we see an example where the truth of the Word of God hardened Cain even more in rebellion because of his pride, his wanting his own will and way to reign supreme. And when Cain fed that lion of pride, it resulted in murder, death, the spilling of innocent blood. In the second, we see a promise of what is possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, imparted by the innocent blood that was spilled by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Let’s chase a rabbit for a moment… Or better yet, a lion…

Genesis mentions sin as crouching by a door, and 1 Peter speaks of it as a lion prowling. There is another story of lions we also see in the old testament about Daniel and we see two very differing results there as well:

It seemed good to Darius [who became king after Belshazzar] to appoint over the kingdom 120 satraps who would be in charge throughout the kingdom, and over them three chief commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, so that the king would have no loss [from disloyalty or mismanagement]. Then this Daniel, because of the extraordinary spirit within him, began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and the satraps, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire realm. Then the [other two] commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a reason to bring a complaint against Daniel concerning the [administration of the] kingdom; but they could find no reason for an accusation or evidence of corruption, because he was faithful [a man of high moral character and personal integrity], and no negligence or corruption [of any kind] was found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any basis for an accusation against this Daniel unless we find something against him in connection with the law of his God.

Then these commissioners and satraps agreed to approach the king and said to him, “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors have consulted and agreed together that the king should establish a royal statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who petitions (prays to) any god or man besides you, O king, during the next thirty days, shall be thrown into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which [insures that it] may not be altered or revoked.” So King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction. Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he went into his house (now in his roof chamber his windows were open toward Jerusalem); he continued to get down on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.

Then, by agreement, these men came [together] and found Daniel praying and making requests before his God. Then they approached and spoke before the king regarding his injunction, “Have you not signed an injunction that anyone who petitions (prays to) any god or man except you, O king, within the designated thirty days, is to be thrown into the den of lions?” The king answered, “The statement is true, in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be altered or revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, does not pay any attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you have signed, but keeps praying [to his God] three times a day.” Then, as soon as the king heard these words, he was deeply distressed [over what he had done] and set his mind on rescuing Daniel; and he struggled until the sun went down [trying to work out a way] to save him. Then, by agreement, these same men came to the king and said, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be altered or revoked.” Then the king gave a command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you constantly serve, rescue you Himself!

A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no music or entertainment was brought before him, and he remained unable to sleep. Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and hurried to the den of lions. When he had come near the den, he called out to Daniel with a troubled voice. The king said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! My God has sent His angel and has shut the mouths of the lions so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also before you, O king, I have committed no crime.” Then the king was greatly pleased and ordered that Daniel be taken out of the den. So Daniel was taken out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in and relied on and trusted in his God. The king then gave a command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions, they, their children and their wives; and before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and speakers of every language who were living in all the land: “May peace abound to you! I issue a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to [reverently] fear and tremble before the God of Daniel, For He is the living God, enduring and steadfast forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. “He rescues and saves and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth– He who has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” So this [man] Daniel prospered and enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
DANIEL 6:1‭-‬28 AMP

And we can see Peter’s exhortation that we should “be firm in [our] faith” –girded up, supported by, and proven by this example of a moment in the life of Daniel. Yes, Daniel and the Lion’s Den is a familiar tale of man and lion that many will have heard of in the Bible. A wonderful story of how God is faithful to protect those who trust and obey Him, and how He is just to punish the wicked and rebellious and conniving.

But what have you heard of the story of Benaiah?

Have you heard that you do not have to be powerless against sin, but that you can see the lion slain?

Benaiah (Hebrew: בניהו‎, “Yahweh builds up”)

Do you realize that Yahweh is “building you up” — just like in the name Benaiah, and in the promise Peter spoke of in the end of that passage we looked at earlier:

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be].
1 PETER 5:10 AMP

So who is this Benaiah that I’m talking about?

I suggest you check out this article on Benaiah for a fuller grasp: https://overviewbible.com/benaiah-facts/

The most important point in this discussion of Benaiah:

“Benaiah killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day”

We see it twice in the Old Testament:

Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many notable acts, killed two [famous] warriors of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.
2 SAMUEL 23:20 AMP

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a courageous man of Kabzeel who had done great things, killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab. Also he went down and killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.
1 CHRONICLES 11:22 AMP

It would not be notable to have dug a pit, caught a lion, and then killed it from standing safely above shooting arrows or throwing spears — but he went down and killed this lion himself, in the middle of the pit, lion against man, man against lion.

I wonder how many of us foolishly cower and hide from our sinful temptations (or needlessly fall victim to them) instead of standing firm against them, resisting them to either see them flee powerless, or be slain by the power of the Holy Spirit that abides in us?

What demon needs to be slain in your life?

What temptation needs to be overcome, what addiction needs deliverance, what sickness needs healing so that it can no longer return at its leisure to attack you?

Have we been content being tossed to and fro by our desires, like we are a little mouse that the cat plays with but has not yet killed?

We are not mice, but we are Men of God — unless we indeed have failed the test and do not truly believe! So let’s remember who we are in Christ.

And let’s remember that Jesus Christ has already gone down into the pit with that enemy and secured victory over sin and death:

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. And He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last [absolute Deity, the Son of God], and the Ever-living One [living in and beyond all time and space]. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of [absolute control and victory over] death and of Hades (the realm of the dead).
REVELATION 1:17‭-‬18 AMP

O death , where is your victory ? O death , where is your sting ?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin [by which it brings death] is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [as conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].
1 CORINTHIANS 15:55‭-‬58 AMP

If we’ve allowed that lion to hang around — it is not just attacking us, but is attacking and impacting those around us as well. Benaiah didn’t just resist that lion, scare it enough so that it wouldn’t come after him anymore. No, he didn’t just leave it alive so that it could slay and devour his brothers and sisters or the little helpless and defenseless ones in the camp.

No, he slayed it.

And furthermore, that is both the example Christ has given us to follow, and the instruction the Word of God gives us in how to live our renewed lives.

For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another. For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “Y ou shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage–our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
GALATIANS 5:13‭-‬26 AMP

What pit do you need to dig to see your lion slain?

What faith do you need to have stirred up, maybe even awakened for the first time, into true deep and passionate belief that goes beyond your own comfortable understanding of the do’s and don’ts and steps into trusting the Lord to prove Himself powerful and victorious in your life?

Today is the day.

Is anyone among you suffering? He must pray. Is anyone joyful? He is to sing praises [to God]. Is anyone among you sick? He must call for the elders (spiritual leaders) of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God–it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours [with the same physical, mental, and spiritual limitations and shortcomings], and he prayed intensely for it not to rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its crops [as usual]. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you strays from the truth and falls into error and [another] one turns him back [to God], let the [latter] one know that the one who has turned a sinner from the error of his way will save that one’s soul from death and cover a multitude of sins [that is, obtain the pardon of the many sins committed by the one who has been restored].
JAMES 5:13‭-‬20 AMP

More desirable than prosperity and pleasures

What could be more desirable than prosperity and pleasures?

Seems like a bold claim.

What if an add on television made such a claim?

Would we immediately dismiss it as a lie?

Would we pay attention in detail to the claims they were making and then test it to see if such claims could possibly be true?

Would we sell everything we had to buy such a thing?

The Bible makes a bold claim:

They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. – PSALM 19:10 AMP

And for anyone who prefers KJV or references to the original Hebrew, you can dig in a little deeper to be sure we haven’t stepped of the reservation in this morning’s line of study:

Let’s look at that word gold and what is referring to:

So we can see that it is talking about gold, something shimmery, even metaphorically of the splendor of the sun or the heavens. It is talking about what is pleasing and valuable in the eyes of men.

Now, let’s look at that word for honey:

And now we are talking about soft, sticky, sweet delicacies. I can think of so many things that are soft, sticky, and sweet to my other senses of touch, taste, and even smell — clearly some that are meant as edible fullfillment, but even those that are sensually fulfilling as well. Yes, this is talking about what is pleasurable to be held and “partaken of” by men.

So this is quite a claim! Something more desirable than the desires of our eyes and more desirable than the desires of our fleshly cravings — that seems to truly be a bold claim. And recognizing those terms “desires of the eyes” and “desires of the flesh”, doesn’t that lead us to an interesting cross reference in scripture?

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:15‭-‬17 ESV

So the new testament in 1 John chapter 2 makes quite a bold claim indeed. It references both of these things we see from the Psalm 19 verse, and makes clear that these things, these types of desires “are not from the Father”. Bold indeed!

But you wonder if I’ve led you on a wild goose chase. You wonder if I’ve chased a rabbit out of context. The enemy would love for you to step away at this moment and miss out on what part of this truly is for you. And you wonder to yourself, “It couldn’t really be that me wanting that vehicle/ house that I really don’t need is revealing in my heart an opposition to God that needs to be surrendered? It couldn’t really be that my looking at things that aren’t appropriate, or aren’t glorifying God, or are stirring up desires in my heart towards prosperity and pleasures instead of towards God are evidence of a bigger problem could it?”

If you think that I’ve stepped outside of an original meaning or interpretation of the original text, look back to Psalm 19. Verse 10 sits right in the middle of the section it speaks to:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:7‭-‬14 ESV

I have highlighted in bold above, over and over again, we see this reference to the same thing repeatedly, described from different perspectives to make it clear and undeniable what is being spoken of — it calls it:

  • The law of the Lord
  • the testimony of the Lord
  • the precepts of the Lord
  • the commandment of the Lord
  • the fear of the Lord
  • the rules of the Lord

It does not say “the law of Moses” or “the testimony of Hop” or “the fear of poverty”. No, all of these are “of the Lord”, they are speaking to “the will of God” as opposed to “the will of man”. Yes, you have been opposed to God in many ways, rebellious man, rebellious woman! But the Lord God Almighty cries out to you, “Turn back to the Lord! Acknowledge your sin, confess it, repent, and choose today to serve the Lord! Lay down your life so that you might live, truly live! And it is then that you will know the treasure that is greater than what your eyes can see or your senses can indulge in. Come, meet with the Lord, and see that God is so good!”

And what is this “Law of the Lord”? If you know who the Lord IS, it is not hard to find a reference. Christ is the Lord, and all the law points to Him:

[Jesus Christ spoke:] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
John 5:39 ESV

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9‭-‬11 NLT

We see, then who the scriptures testify is Lord, it is Jesus Christ!

And what is His law? This law that is more valuable than prosperity or pleasure — what is it?

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

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 NLT

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36‭-‬40 NLT

Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV

Treasure this truth.

Let go of what is worthless in comparison. Cling to what is truly valuable. May the Lord bless you through His Word that is shared today, and may you call upon Christ as YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR, fully surrendered and trusting in Him to see you through. Amen.

My response to compliments

If I’m a better person today
than I was in days gone past
It’s because true “Jesus change”
Is change that always lasts.

You see,

I used to try and try
To always get my way
No matter, whatever the cost
No care, whatever the play.

But I met this wonderful man,
I found Him in this book,
It’s called the Holy Bible,
And He’s changing my whole look.

I can see the changes
These things He’s teaching me
To care about you
To love all of WE.

I know it seems religious
I know it resembles the fake
But this Jesus living inside me
It’s something I just can’t shake.

He’s touched me and He’s changed me
He’s making all things new
And if you’ll get to know Him closer
He’ll do a great work in you.

So when you have that need
And when you hear that call
Reach out reach out to Jesus
And make Him your all in all.

For nothing will shine brighter
And nothing taste as sweet
As when you meet my Jesus
And kiss His nail pierced feet.

His love is overwhelming
His forgiveness is complete
And when you meet my Jesus
Your new start will be complete.

So step out on this journey
step out, step out in faith
This narrow path we follow
Won’t forever wait.

Our every day is numbered
Our time is drawing near
So cry out to my Jesus
And He will meet you here.

He lovingly made you precious
And beautiful in His own eyes
He speaks to you the truth
And casts away the lies.

For He is your dear Father
In heaven up on high
And when you call on my Jesus
It’s you He can’t deny.

So call on my dear Jesus
And know Him close and dear
And nothing, even death
Shall you ever fear.

But even more than that
You’ll begin to take His form.
He’ll be recognized in you
And that’s far, far from the norm.

So walk with my dear Jesus
Stay right there by His side
He will never leave you
And He will never hide.

Look up look up to Jesus
In Him you can truly trust
And if you want to truly live
In Him, in Him you must.

—-

God bless you, Tonya Pinkleton, for honoring Him this morning by honoring me. Your kind words inspired me to put this poem down in words this morning. Thank you.

Happy Days

Tonight we had a beautiful time together as a family. I had originally thought that I would be at a gathering in Greer tonight — but Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled program was pre-empted by a more pressing matter, time with Mandee and Mia. I felt that was the way things were headed, but on the drive home when my usual ride on Tuesday night was needed in a different capacity, it was like a refreshing confirmation of what was already on my heart — “go home, love your family well” my spirit seemed to sing to me.

And tonight was a wonderful mix of dinner together, unpacking and preparing supplies for the Good News Club we are starting up next week, tickle wars, pillow fights, mad libs, teaching Mia sudoku, and praying and praising the Lord together. It was sweet and precious and valuable beyond measure.

What an amazing life! What happy days I get to enjoy.

Last night I sat with a friend at Spruce Pine Apartments and we just talked in awe about what God has done, is doing, and what is to come. It wasn’t some academic Bible Study, it was two men in utter awe of the things of God for an hour and a half where a physical Bible wasn’t opened, but so much Word of God was spoken, and so many stories, parables, promises and instructions were recalled, revealed, and rejoiced.

Where did this amazing life rise up from?

When did such glorious things begin to manifest so overwhelmingly in my life that my only arguments seem to be with well intentioned men of God so passionate about “getting it right” — and that even then heartfelt apologies outweigh my insistence upon “proving myself the smartest guy in the room”.

I’m amazed. I’m in awe. Even though I am still imperfect. Even though I still fall short of His glorious and perfect example, I can see an awakening, a change, welling up from the inside. And it seems to infect EVERYTHING!

For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
1 Peter 3:10‭-‬17 NLT

And the good times are so sweet, even as the fiery trials are so hot, but even when the serpents bite I can shake them off and crush their heads under foot — because my eyes are on the work of the Lord — He is God and He is good in all of it.
https://player.vimeo.com/video/229912988

Come, catch fire with me friend.

Uncertainty

I work for a great company.

no-road-is-long-with-good-company-6

I’m excited and thrilled to be a part of what we have put together.

I enjoy the relationships that I’ve built with my coworkers and our customers and the value that we are able to bring them.

But…

It’s a pretty big company, and they have multiple divisions and plenty of plates in the fire. Recently, there has been a LOT of change going on. A lot of reorganization, a lot of new management, and a lot of redistribution of resources amongst the different divisions. And our division has been pared down significantly, in numbers, in office locations, etc. So there are plenty of rumors and concerns going around amongst the troops about what might end up happening to us.

job-insecurity-and-how-to-cope-with-it

Will they sell us off?

Will our customers and contracts be bought off by someone who doesn’t need the staff?

There are all kinds of questions that come in an environment of uncertainty.

uncertainty_800px

We’ve already seen some key co-workers leaving for other opportunities over the past year, and a reoccurring theme seems to be the uncertainty. Many chose this company because of its size, stability, and because it was slow to change. But when the perception changes to your division possibly being “on the outside”, a lot of that perceived value can shift quickly. And whether they are “paranoid, non-loyal ex-employees” or they are “rats abandoning a sinking ship” — or more likely somewhere in the middle — the change gets conversations started around the proverbial water cooler.

"You're not being paranoiac.You have every reason to fear losing your job."

People like the illusion of certainty, the illusion of security, the illusion of control.

But we have to remember that we aren’t promised our desk will still be there tomorrow anymore than we are promised that we will wake up to another morning of breathing.

Mind Tricks

We could die today. A few miscalculations and misguided moves by the powers that be and we could all know the reality of nuclear war. A distracted glance at our phone on the drive home, and our lives here could come to a stop as quickly as that car coming to stop wrapped around a tree. So why do we insist on expectations of certainty?

There is a saying that, “Nothing is certain in this life but death and taxes.” But I’ll tell you that there are people that don’t pay taxes, don’t work, don’t contribute at all to society or to helping those around them, but that the government still pays them and takes care of them on some level. And Jesus Christ made a pretty wild promise that those who believe in him will have life everlasting. So we probably won’t even all agree on the absolute truth of that familiar saying.

So what do we do? Do we live worried, anxious lives — shuffling along like roaches from one shadow to the next hoping the blinding light of uncertainty won’t ever blind our gaze long enough for the foot of destruction to fall on us? Do we run to another opportunity, hopeful that we will leave before  we are forced by circumstances to leave when it isn’t convenient for us?

What do I do?

Whatever it Takes

I do whatever it takes… I do my best… and I have to settle for where that takes me.

I do feel like I get to cheat on this one, because I have these promises that I believe that I can count on no matter what happens. I have something bigger than a specific company that provides for me. Yes, I’m one of those crazy Jesus followers who actually believes in the promises of a God that I can’t see or touch or taste or measure with scientific precision. So I know that the rain will come. And that doesn’t leave me lazy on the couch, but it encourages me to press on even harder and with a greater purpose.

Calvin-Illusion-of-Control

Faith. It really does make a huge difference in my life.

Hebrews 11 1

 

 

Harmony/Unity

Last night I got to join some new friends at their house to hang out, spend time getting to know each other better, and then fire up the mics, instruments, and amps and sing and play together until it was time to go home.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dxew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.
Psalms 133:1‭-‬3 NLT

Some translations here use the word unity here instead of harmony, and I like both. Because I see the need for both words in order for someone to really understand what is being said here. If we only had the word unity, people might believe that we each had to talk and act and behave and look exactly the same on the outside to be “in unity” — but that isn’t the way the body of Christ works.

With the body of Christ, we have a unity of the spirit of Christ, but we each have specific gifts, callings, purpose, and personalities — and the work in harmony to sing a beautiful new song together.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice ; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
1 Corinthians 12:4‭-‬11 NLT

It is quite easy for people to gather with like minded (or like gifted) persons and create a country club/clique for those who fit into what is familiar to them. This is called division, it is called preferential treatment, and it is not of God.

“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.
Leviticus 19:15 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/lev.19.15.NLT

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
James 2:1‭-‬13 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/jas.2.1-13.NLT

I pray that today we would not just “leave room for one another’s differences” but they we would wonder in awe at how the Lord God uses such unique and flawed individuals tho build this beautiful body of believers that go out and love and serve otters as the body of Christ. Isn’t that the amazing testimony of the Good News? It wouldn’t be that amazing orc shocking for someone to make a beautiful crown out of precious metals and jems. But our God is gaining Himself a beautiful bride out of the dust of the earth, out of the filthy of our wretched sinful state, from the midst of those who were once His enemies — He is doing a mighty work to mold us, refine us, rebirth in us something new and different and beautiful. And it isn’t in us the unique individual quite so much as it is in us as the unified harmonious body of believers.

So I encourage you to come back into unity, into harmony, into fellowship with your brothers and sisters. Forgive where forgiveness needs to restore that flow and connection. Lift up and encourage and help where there is one who needs your hand. Do not turn away to the other side of the road from one who is not comfortably “just like you”, but appreciate what is valuable in each other, because you are created in the image of Almighty God and He loves. Yes, He loves.

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – My Journal

 

So here’s my journal entry for Psalm 65:

Psalm65 Journal

I’m making this post so you can see what my journal looks like for Psalm 65. I walked through each step in detail in the posts demonstrating how this process works, but you don’t need a whole book when you’re going through this process on your own. Most of my notes that I included in the previous posts were to help teach and guide you through the process itself.

If you’re just now tuning in, our study of Psalm 65 kicked off here: https://hballinger.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/small-group-a-new-season-of-faith/

We first examined the question of WHO?:
https://hballinger.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/small-group-psalm-65-who/

We next examined the question of WHERE/WHEN?:
https://hballinger.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/small-group-psalm-65-where-when/

We then examined the question of HOW?:
https://hballinger.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/small-group-psalm-65-how/

And finally, we wrapped up examining the question of WHY?:
https://hballinger.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/small-group-psalm-65-why/

It may seem complicated and like a lot of work if you look at the detail that went into my individual posts, but you can see that the process actually goes pretty quickly on paper when you aren’t having to walk through your explanation of each item. I encourage you to keep it simple, manageable, and enjoyable — remember, that the only point of this exercise it to get the scriptures to be come more real, more memorable, and more applicable.

Don’t make it a chore, make it a game — reverting to that child-like faith. We’re exercising our imagination, our mind to see things that aren’t right in front of us — and from my experience, intentionally practicing this opening up of sorts in our time of study — this allowing ourselves to get past the academic study and into something close an personal — will help us to begin seeing the Word of God come alive even when we aren’t actively “going through this process”. It will ignite the Word that is written on your heart so that it is brought to your remembrance more readily when you need it during the trials of life. And if you practice this regularly in your study time, you’ll find yourself more often meditating upon and contemplating scripture during your quiet times rather than dwelling on thoughts that might bring anxiety, worry, etc.

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may His spirit settle upon you and lead you, guide you, teach you, and even correct you, to walk in His way. 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…