Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Trials. They come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are physical, like a sickness. Sometimes, they are inward, maybe a struggle that you don’t want to talk about and you keep it in. But no matter what the trial is, they have one thing in common, God desires our good to come out of them. He desires for us to be successful in coming though them. He uses these trials to stretch and grow our faith in Christ. Yet, where do temptations come from? In a financial struggle, where does the temptation to lie on your taxes or steal some money from a cash drawer originate? Is that God? By no means, God desires our good, but our own sinfulness turns a trial into a temptation. We see this in James words to these early Christians today.
James says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” Why is such a man blessed? Who would think that a trial is a blessing? These believers that James is writing to were most likely early Jewish Christians that has be driven from Jerusalem during Jewish persecution of the church. James tells these people, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” The reality is that James is continuing and building upon what he said about tests of faith that he talked about in vv 2-4 of this chapter. There he said, in essence, “Be joyful at the testing of your faith because that testing produces steadfastness or perseverance and let that have its full effect because that means you will be perfect and complete and lack nothing.” James has told us that trials produce steadfast faith and now he says we are blessed when we remain steadfast, when we remain faithful and trusting in Christ for what he has done for us. The reason we are blessed is what he says in the rest of the verse. He says, “…for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” We receive the crown of life when we are steadfast in our faith and trust.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Faithfulness. The faithfulness of God is at stake in today’s text. On many levels we struggle with God’s faithfulness. How is God faithful? How do we know that God will be faithful? How do we respond to that faithfulness? We all come to a point in our lives when we have doubts, when the burdens of our selves weigh down on us. What do we do? Do we attempt to look inward for some subjective feeling about our faith? Will we make the claim that our assurance of God’s faithfulness is based on our feelings of his faithfulness? Or will we know God’s faithfulness through His words and His signs that he has given to us through his messengers? I say, we must take seriously these words and signs that God gives through His messengers.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Previously, I dealt with the form being one of remembrance and anticipation, such that these two things make present the past and future to the worshipper. I also broke down the psalm into its parts and looked at them, I guess, somewhat devotionally and gave comments on the psalm. I reach the final part after some more reflection.
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!Here the psalmist turns his attention to the idols that are all around Israel. He describes them as being the mere creations of men’s hands. What I find so riveting about these verses is that they follow up all that the psalmist has said about God. He has spoken in detail about God’s actions in the world and His redemption accomplished for the sake of His people Israel. In verse 5, he says that the LORD is above all gods and that the LORD does as He pleases throughout all of creation. God is in absolute control of all of reality, He is beholden to no one! He has also redeemed the people of Israel from the nations. He struck down the firstborn of Egypt(vv8-9) and the kings that were in the land of Canaan (vv 10-11). He has given the land as a heritage or an inheritance to the people. These are the actions of God in the past. They are recalled with joy for they are the mighty deeds of our God and they are just as true for the current psalmist as they were for the generation that saw God doing such great works.
In verses 13-14, the psalmist anticipates God’s renown and His vindication of the people. He is sure of God’s work based on all that God has already done for His people. He has the faith that the writer of Hebrews speaks about in the eleventh chapter of his letter.
Following these words of remembrance and anticipation, the psalmist gives what I referred to as an application of the previous liturgical creed. In a sense, he sets up a comparison between the idols and God. The God of Israel is alive and active in all that He does. He accomplishes His purposes and does all that He pleases. The idols, however, can do nothing. They are created by men, made of the elements that the true God created. They don’t speak, see, or hear. They have no life in them (nor is there any breath (ruach, the word that speaks of the breath of life) in their mouths). They are the exact opposite of the great God of Israel.
The psalmist also says that all who make them will become like them, as will all those who put their trust in them! This is a severe warning and a saddening reality for us to face. Those who follow after idols will become like them. They will have no life in them, they will be left hardened in their hearts as they reject the true God. There is not much else to say in that regard! We are faced with a choice: Seek the true and living God or become like the idols that we create and worship.
This brings the psalmist to his final call to the people of Israel:
O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD! O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD! Blessed be the LORD from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!He calls upon all of the house of Israel to bless the LORD. Some translations translate “bless” as “praise.” However, the word that the psalmist uses is not the same word that he used at the beginning of this psalm. In the first verses he used the Hebrew word halal, which means “praise.” Here, though, he uses barak, which means “bless.” It is a different word, so it doesn’t just mean “praise.” So, what difference does that make? It means that the psalmist is calling for something more than praising the Lord here. He wants them to bless the Lord. But, what does that mean here? The word barak can also mean “kneel.” So, here, he is calling for kneeling and worshipping God, committing oneself wholly to the Lord. This makes sense because of what he said about the idols. The comparison of them to Yahweh should lead one to worship Yahweh alone. It means that we should lay down ourselves to God, give up what we want (which is why we often turn to idols in the first place) and take up what God wants. He is the only one who deserves our kneeling and our worship!
So, what does God want of us? This answer I think comes out of the Gospel text that I read for evening prayer tonight.
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matt 16:24)The psalmist is calling on us to follow God. We are called to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Christ. That is our duty. Why though? Because Christ died for us. He took our sins upon Himself to redeem us and to give us new life in Him. Our worship is shaped by what Christ has done for us. He has made us free so that we can follow Him and Him alone.
We are called to give up our idols, lest we become like them. If we pursue these idols, we will have no life in us; we will become deaf, dumb, and blind, completely unresponsive to the Gospel call that is given to us! Let this not happen to us! May we ever deny ourselves, bear our crosses and follow Christ, no matter where that may lead!
I close with the two prayers, one from the ‘79 BCP and the other from An Anglican Prayer Book:
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft the love of your Name in our hearts, increase in us true piety and devotion, nourish us with all that is good, and by your great mercy keep us faithful; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Your name, O LORD (or Yahweh,God’s covenant name), endures forever, Your renown, O LORD, throughout all the ages.
For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Webber goes on to note that worship that really worships will dwell on creation, incarnation, and re-creation. That is, it follows the flow of the Bible. In Scripture, God is recognized as creator. He is the one that made all things that exist. Mankind screwed all of that up by choosing to rebel against God. All of creation was then thrown into a fallen state. God, in His mercy, becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. God the Son enters into creation as a creature! Why would God do something like that? It is because He is going to redeem all of creation! Jesus didn’t just come to save me, He came to redeem the whole world, to fix all that is wrong in it. To do that He had to die for sin and conquer death and the devil. By His resurrection from the dead, He ensures that all of creation will be re-created and glorified. This is the overarching theme of the Bible.
However, in our modern worship, we mess everything up. We truncate worship and make it all about me, myself, and I. We only focus on what God is going to do for me and if it makes me feel good then I respond with worship. But then my worship becomes all about feeling a “liver quiver.” I want to get something out of worship, I want to feel good about myself. This is completely wrong! Worship isn’t about me! It’s about God and showing who God is!
So, how does this all relate to Psalm 135? Go get a Bible and look it up.
The psalm can be broken down into four parts:
1. A call to praise God. vv 1-4The first four verses are pretty self explanatory. They are a call to praise. It is a call for all people, the whole assembly of God, to give Him the praise that He deserves. In verses 3 and 4 we are given two statements that will be expanded up on the verses that follow. God is good and He has chosen Jacob for Himself. These are important verses to remember throughout the rest of the psalm. They tell us about God in shorthand. It is especially important to recognize the psalmist’s use of the name Jacob to speak of the people. Jacob was a cheat who ran from God and his family, yet he was chosen by God to be the father of the sons who would represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel has no standing before God for they are just as bad as Jacob. They are cheats and scoundrels, just as he was, yet God has chosen them as His own possession. God owns them. We should keep this in mind when we talk about God. He owns us and we literally have nothing to offer to Him. There is no good in us, nothing that should make God look upon us with love. We really only deserve His derision, yet in Christ he chooses to save us and the whole world! He chooses to take away our sin and do away with it! That is what grace is all about! We can’t do anything except trust that God is good and that He has done this!
2. A liturgical creed about all that God has and will do. vv 5-14
3. An application of the creed for life. vv16-18
4. A call to praise the God. vv 19-21
The next verses I call a liturgical creed. It’s because they have the format that our most basic creed, the Apostles’ Creed, follows. It declares God as the one who has made everything and what He has done to redeem that creation and what God will do in the end. For the Israelite, recalling something is extremely important. It is absolutely needed in worship. Recalling means remembering something from the past so much so that it makes is present to yourself. Israel did this all the time. The people constantly remembered God’s redeeming them from the hands of Egypt even though it was generations and generations ago. Yet, they were there for their ancestors were the ones redeemed. There is a deep, deep corporate solidarity here; a corporate oneness that we ultra-individualized people of today cannot even begin to grasp (but we must begin to grasp it if our worship is to be full worship).
It begins with a recalling that the LORD is great and that He is above all gods. Because of this he can do all that He pleases throughout all of creation. God can do this because He is the creator of all things! He makes the clouds, the lightning, and the winds!
Next, the psalmist recalls to the people how God brought them out of Egypt by reminding them of the climax of the plagues that led the Pharaoh to drive them out! He also recalls the many victories of the Israelites during their time in the wilderness and their coming into the land of Canaan as their inheritance. All of this is credited to God. All of this is part of God’s redemption for the people of Israel. We do well to remember the great redemption ourselves. When we recall what God did for Israel, we remember God’s faithfulness to a people that had ignored Him for generations! We must also see that the Exodus was a type, something that God did in history that would be a marker pointing forward to Christ. The Exodus was a great thing for Israel, but it was small compared to what it pointed to in the future!
Another note about this: Sometimes people feel embarrassed about verses like 8-11, speaking of God striking down the firstborn of Egypt and his killing mighty kings. We think, “How can a God of love do something so horrible??” We forget that God said that He was going to punish the peoples of Canaan for all their sins (see Gen 15:16, God says that Abraham’s children will return to the land when the iniquities of the Amorites are fulfilled). God is a God who deals with sin and it is important to not down play what God does to sinners, to those who persist in their sin, because God is a holy God.
Finally in verse 12, the psalmist speaks of God giving the land as an inheritance to the Israelites. This is the completion of God’s redemption of them from Egypt and the beginning of their lives as a nation that is set apart before God and from all the other nations. They were to be a light to all the nations, showing that God is a God full of mercy and steadfast love, but one who will punish the sins of people who resist Him and insist on doing everything their own way.
Verses 5-12 serve as the act of remembrance that is needed for worship. They are verses that bring to life the story of God’s actions in the past to the people of the present and set the context for their anticipation. That anticipation is what I will deal with in the second part of this post.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Your Name, O LORD, Endures Forever1 Praise the LORD!Praise the name of the LORD,
give praise, O servants of the LORD,
2who stand in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God!
3Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
4For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.
5For I know that the LORD is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
8He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and of beast;
9who in your midst, O Egypt,
sent signs and wonders
against Pharaoh and all his servants;
10 who struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings,
11 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
12and gave their land as a heritage,
a heritage to his people Israel.
13 Your name, O LORD, endures forever,
your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.
14 For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants.
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!
19 O house of Israel, bless the LORD!
O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!
20O house of Levi, bless the LORD!
You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!
21Blessed be the LORD from Zion,
he who dwells in Jerusalem!
Praise the LORD!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Well, this is something new for me. I’m trying out “Windows Live Writer” to write a pointless blog post. I hope that one day I will begin writing like I use to when I was only on Xanga. I don’t know what happened honestly…I just suddenly found myself unable to think clearly or concisely like I used to. Maybe it was that there was no longer a crisis in my life. I think that my main blogging was during the time that Rachel and I weren’t dating…Who knows? Anyway. I’ll hopefully write again!