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Thursday, May 3, 2012

What do the sleepless think about?

Psalm 63: 1 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; 
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, 
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, 
To see Your power and Your glory. 
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, 
My lips will praise You. 
4 So I will bless You as long as I live; 
I will lift up my hands in Your name. 
5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, 
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed, 
I meditate on You in the night watches, 
7 For You have been my help, 
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 
8 My soul clings to You; 
Your right hand upholds me.

 David suffered sleeplessness.  It is reasonable to understand that David is meditating on his bed in the night watches because he is simply unable to sleep.  According to the first verse David is longing for fellowship with God, and apparently feeling His absence.  According to verse nine David is being pursued by an enemy. David doesn't lament the particular anxieties or struggles that were inhibiting his sleep, but instead he tells us how he used that sleeplessness to affirm his own faith in his own heart and mind.
 There are several lessons we can learn from this Psalm, particularly from David's practice in verse six.   Consider the following theologically practical lessons:

1)  The sleepless must meditate on the Lord, not on the cause of sleeplessness.  In Philippians 4:6-7 the apostle Paul reminds us that our anxieties are to be abandoned through the means of thankful supplication.  He promises a remedy that must be understood in order to be enjoyed.  Paul says "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  It is this promise that should inform our night watch meditations.  "Surpasses" is a key to understanding the promise.  What he promises is that God's peace is better than comprehension, not that God's peace is better than we are able to comprehend.  God is not opposed to planning, thinking, or comprehending, but he is opposed to anxiety filled planning, thinking and comprehension.    The Spirit-inspired Paul promises us that the peace we experience when we cast our anxiety upon the Lord is better than comprehending  our circumstances.  So it is with David.  He would rather meditate upon the Lord in the night watches, than work to carefully comprehend his circumstances.

2)  The sleepless will be prepared to meditate on the Lord when they have sought Him earnestly, that is, they have sought him first thing.  "O God, You are My God, I will seek You earnestly."   The Lord demands first place in our lives.  He deserves first place in our lives.  The great challenge is disciplining ourselves to acknowledge His position.  It does require discipline, but not the coldhearted, self-righteous, look-what-I-did type.  It requires joyful discipline.  There is no sense in which David dragged himself to seek the Lord earnestly.   He sought the Lord because first, because he wanted the Lord most. 

3)  The sleepless will profit from sleeplessness when they long for the Lord more than sleep (or anything else for that matter).    "My soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water."  

4)   The sleepless remember the Lord's protection. "You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wing's I sing for joy."  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is regularly quoted as telling us to "speak to ourselves more and listen to ourselves less."  Here in Psalm 63, David does just that.  He reminds himself of past help that can be translated into present confidence.  Notice, the move from past tense to present, from "You have" to "I sing."   This pattern is seen throughout the Psalms and the scriptures as a whole. 

5)  The sleepless affirm dependence on the Lord.  "My soul clings to You, your right hand upholds me"  -  It is "my soul" clinging; my soul that is weeping and in the dust (Psalm 119:25,28).  This is personal.  There is something about the darkness of night and the removal of distractions that opens our minds to the One with whom we must deal.  In the sleepless night watches, there is nothing to grasp but the Lord Jesus. 


Friday, April 27, 2012

A Kept Person

Psalm 121 - A  Song of Ascents.
 1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
 5 The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will [a]protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The LORD will [b]guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.  (NASB)
A Sobering Question - From Where comes my help? 
Who is going to help me in a time of great need or in the face of grave danger. The Psalmist knows where it will not come from - It won’t come from the hills, at least not just any hill.  The old adage,  "Head for the hills," promising safety on the high ground, the safe plateau.   Jeremiah 3:23  Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. There are a lot of hills that will promise you help but cannot help.  Relationship, marriage, career, government, religion or education will not save you.   From where comes your help?
A  Strong Confession -My help comes from the LORD.  
  This is in the sense of Savior,  not in the sense merely of helping us help ourselves. We probably hear confessions similar to this that are less than genuine.  What I mean is there are all sorts of people who live their lives as practical atheists. They live each day with little thought of the Lord and no thought for His glory.  They do not aim to please the Lord and in fact care little whether he is pleased or not. Yet in a sentimental moment they say The Lord has helped me all these years.   Sometimes they believe the Lord has helped them to continue in sin.  That Is not the help the LORD gives. 
Psalm 70: 4  Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad  in  thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.  5  But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.
The Bold and Strong confession is the one that is desperate.  The one that says there is no other help for me.  I am hopeless without Him.  I am a drowning person and completely incapable of saving myself. I need a Savior. 
A Solid Assurance - The LORD is Your keeper
    1. He is careful - He keeps me from slipping, that is, from slipping down the slope of sin.   He is careful when we are not. How often you will be able to look back on the providence of God and say with the Psalmist from Psalm 72 “My feet came close to stumbling."  You will say "If I would have taken another step in that direction I would have had a great fall."  You were warned of it early on in life -  “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great Fall, All the Kings Horses and All the Kinds men could not put humpty together again.”  If only the Lord had been Humpty Dumpty’s Keeper.  The LORD has promised to be a keeper to all who will trust in His Son Jesus Christ and he promises they will never Fall though they may stumble though they may struggle  they will never fall!
    2. He is Tireless --  He never slumbers.  The idols and false gods of the Israelite neighbors were thought to be sometimes sleeping… or vacationing or even relieving themselves in the bathroom (cf. Elijah on Mt Carmel with the prophets of Baal).  Your Lord never tires of helping you. 
    3. He Protects – Though we are not shielded from difficulty, we are shielded from destruction.  The LORD is my shade.  The psalmist in Psalm 32 speaks of “the fever heat of summer” and in Psalm 63 “being in a dry and weary land where there is no water” -  in middle eastern countries where protection from the sun was hard to find people were known to suffer from heat stroke, a condition that would cause immediate death or long term brain damage, so the promise of protection from the sun is a great comfort! 
    4. He is Meek – at my Right hand - Psalm 16: 8  I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
      1. The sad state of some -  Psalm 109: 6  Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.;  This is the state of those who live their lives apart from a genuine faith in Christ. 
    5. He is Effective  – He will guard me from all evil.  He will not protect me from encountering evil, but  will surround me with His wings and keep me from being overcome by evil.  GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU … THAN He that is in The world (1 John 4:4).  Job 13:15 Though he  slay   me , yet will I trust in him;  -  Daniel 3:  17  If it be [so], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver [us] out of thine hand, O king.  18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
    6. He is Loving – He will keep my soul.
    7. He is consistent – My going out and my coming in.  This is probably meant to include all of life, like the words in Psalm 139 "My sitting down and my rising up."  But,   we might consider the illustration to be one of a traveler who leaves home.  Maybe one who has to leave often to conduct his business.  His family wonders.. will he come home safely this time?  Will he be OK while he is away from us?  The traveler ponders in his own heart  “Will I make it home again?  Will I see my family?  Will a thief overcome me on the road?”   Here the psalmist is assured in his own heart – “He will keep me / guard me / preserve me… in my going out and my coming in!"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Separation Anxiety

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked.
(Psalm 26:4-5 ESV)

    The matter of coalitions in evangelicalism is a hot topic these days.  Deciding who should and should not be included in one's circle can be a trying task and one of importance if you have influence in a denomination or a movement.   One might conclude that the matter is of little importance for those of us who have limited influence, but that is not the case, at least not for David.
    At first glance, it might be assumed that David cannot be a test case for most of us because he held a position of power and influence that we do not share.   However, reading the passage carefully we learn that David is proclaiming his integrity in heart and mind, not in his leadership.   David is concerned about how he stands before the Lord, and whether he walks in faithfulness.   Put simply, David is concerned about the things that concern the follower of Christ today.
     Separation from certain men is central to David's claim to faithfulness.   He claims to be completely free of partnership, fellowship, or cooperation with a group he calls  "wicked", "hypocrites", "evildoers" and "men of falsehood."   Who are these men?  Are they men of the world?  Are they political opponents?  Are they foreigners, infiltrating the ranks of Israel?    They are not identified explicitly, but the context and the labels given by David help us to understand their character.  
    David contrasts himself with them.   He claims to have walked in integrity and trusted the in the Lord without wavering (vs 1).    He does not claim this as a badge of merited righteousness, but rather as the direct result of meditating on God's grace,  "His steadfast Love" (vs 2).    The men with whom he refuses to associate are those who are men of falsehood, and hypocrites.   These are men who have not trusted the Lord without wavering, or walked in integrity, but rather they are pretenders.  They give an outward manifestation of faith, but no inward commitment.   Therefore, David concludes they are evildoers and wicked.   Context alone leads me to conclude that these men are not Philistines, Canaanites,  Amalekites or any "ite" other than Israelite.    These are men from within who claim to know and serve David's God, but are in fact nefarious.  
    Such an understanding coincides with the New Testament teaching that we are not to separate from the sinners in the world, but from sinners who bear the name "brother" (cf 1 Corinthians 5).   This is the separation of which God approves.   So much is said today about the defiling influence of the outside world on Christians, but the greater concern should be the defiling effect of those who profess to be Christian but are, in fact, men of falsehood, fakers, hypocrites.  
   David saw the danger of those types of associations, still more, he understood how faking it diminishes the glory of God.   He loved to stand on level ground in the house of God, with the assembly of God's people, proclaiming thanksgiving and telling of God's wondrous deeds.   He did not want to mix his voice  with that of pretenders.  


Return to Blogging. Fanfare excepted.

  It seems prudent to admit that I have been on an extended hiatus from blogging due to simple laziness.   There is no need to lament the circumstances of life or ministry that have contributed to my extended absence.   I am back, for now.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Words of Encouragament from a wise man -

A short but encouraging message from J.I. Packer for all Christians, though it is directed at new Christians -

JI Packer Speaks To New Christians from Mike Anderson on Vimeo.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fears and Desires

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple (Psalm 27:4)
Psalm 27 begins with the declaration that "the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" This is a declaration, not a question with an uncertain answer. He has good reason to cast off his fears and place his full confidence in the Lord, for the Lord has protected him when his enemy has arisen against him. Something else is revealed through David's prayer. David reveals that the reason he does not need to fear men is because he desires nothing more than to dwell with God and to know Him. Encountering this statement gives one an opportunity for self-evaluation. What have I desired or asked from the Lord? Is the Lord's presence my priority objective, or is it something else?
Desires are complex, are they not? For the Christian, there is a constant battle. The flesh sets its desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. We must bring our desires into subjection to the will of God as it is revealed in the Word of God, which we can only do in the grace and power that God provides. Sometimes fleshly desires are difficult to detect, because they show up in the disguise of something harmless. Other times the stench of death is so strong on a desire that we can identify immediately, yet we have trouble putting it to death. The attitude David exhibits here is one any Christian who is walking in the Spirit will also exhibit. It is what we genuinely desire when we are thinking rightly. The trouble I have is with those times when I am distracted, lukewarm, fleshly minded or given to temptation. It is in such moments that I find not only is my desire for God minimized, but my fears are maximized. I fear the derision of men. I fear failure. I fear conflict. The list could go on and on, but David shows us that there is a direct link between our fears and our desires. We fear men, because we desire their affection, praise, affirmation, or even just their presence. We are delivered from the fear of men, not by self-confidence, but by a genuine desire for the presence and knowledge of the Lord.
What do you desire today? What do you fear? The two will not be far apart.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spurring One Another On

Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. (Psalm 95:6-7)

The Psalms are intensely personal, that anyone can see, but they are also corporate. The way the Psalmists write of their relationship with God so regularly in first person singular is a comfort to the soul. However, in our individualistic society there seems to me more "me" religion, and less "us" relationships. Many are unconcerned and completely uninterested in the state of their neighbor's soul, even if that neighbor sits next to them at church on Sunday. It has become a virtue in modern times to keep one's nose in one's own business, especially where matters of faith are concerned. You will not find such a virtue in the word of God. Those who love the Lord and live to praise him are concerned that others join them. Concerned enough to evangelize and disciple. Concerned enough to affirm a friend as well as warn or even chastise him if necessary.
In Psalm 95 we find encouragement to worship followed by solemn warning. The words of verses 6 and 7 are beautiful and familiar. "Come let US worship and bow down." Worship is not dependent on crowds. It can take place in solitude, but the nature of genuine worship of our Creator and Shepherd requires that we desire others to join us in worship. When we have seen the great worth of our God and Savior, then we will wish for His worth to be exclaimed by every tongue, for His glory, and also for their good. It is he who has made us and not we ourselves. We long for all of His sheep, all those who hear His voice, to lift their voices and sing His praise.
As I read this Psalm I cannot help but hear the popular tune to which it has been set in recent years. However, when these words are sung to that beautiful tune they stop just before the warning and of course repeat the chorus again- "Come let us worship and bow down...." But the warning goes hand in hand with the call to worship. There have been some before us who hardened their heart, though they had seen God's work. (Psalm 95:8-9) Those were prohibited from entering God's eternal rest. The call to worship is a call to listen to God and respond. Worship is the right response to hearing God speak. Hardness of heart is the sinful response. We are called by the scriptures to compel one another to listen and worship. Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts, but come, bow down with us, and worship Him who made us for His glory.