The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

caged-bird

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses being intimate with our heavenly Father.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks (Ex.19:4).

We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

All of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

 

Praying Authentically

front-prayer

Prayer often can be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer the does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion, and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides.

That one of the reasons why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real. As elderd they probably had lessons in prayer.

We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves.  My own heart gets pretty creative as I display a self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that real is the prayer that touches his heart.

When you talk with Jesus, do you really talk to Him? Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?

Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?

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The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.

For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:

For the love with which You love mankind:

For the love with which You love me:

For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:

For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:

For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:

I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:

Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:

Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:

Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:

Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:

Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:

Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.

Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

(Taken from Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, pp. 126-127.)

aabryscript

Wishing You a Thoughtful Christmas

Some thoughts about the meaning of Christmas:

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.    

–Augustine

There were many who saw the babe, but did not see the salvation.  

–Author Unknown

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all; No palace too great, no cottage too small.  

 –Phillips Brooks

Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity.    

–John Hus

His poverty was so great that He was born in another man’s house, and buried in another man’s tomb.    

–John Boys

It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the most profound unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. God became man; Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the incarnation.  

–J.I. Packer

Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.  

–Corrie Ten Boom

The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.  

— J.I. Packer

There were only a few shepherds at the first Bethlehem. The ox and the donkey understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem. And it is the same today.    

–Thomas Merton

Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.   

 –Vance Havner

The idea that there’s a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it. Actually, maybe even far-fetched to start with, but the idea that that same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty is genius, and brings me to my knees, literally. To me, as a poet, I am just in awe of that. It makes some sort of poetic sense. It’s the thing that makes me a believer, though it didn’t dawn on me for many years.    

–Bono

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the incarnation. They say that God became man.   

— C.S. Lewis

Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son.   

–Charles Spurgeon

Carols stir us. Holy words inspire us. The golden glow from the manger warms us. A little religion at Christmas is fine. But that glow in the manger comes from the Light of the world. It exposes evil and either redeems it or destroys it. The babe in the manger is far more than an object for sentimental sighs. He is the Son of God who must be accepted as ruler – or confronted as rival.  

–John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.  

–Charles Dickens

Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and a nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chilled hidebound hearts.  

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

Hark the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.

–Charles Wesley

This Gospel anticipates a world far different from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, where it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” The promise of the Gospel is that it is “always Christmas.”  To be “in Christ” is to enjoy each morning as a Christmas morning with the family of God, celebrating the gift of God around the tree of life.  

–Kevin VanHoozer

The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world.  

–Stuart Briscoe

Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant’s head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die.    

–John MacArthur

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Saint for Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is known for his leadership role in the Confessing Church, efforts on behalf of peace and justice, opposition to antisemitism, and writings on theology and ethics that have been influential far beyond his German Lutheran context. He was was hanged by the Nazis on April 6, 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes:

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give; life can be rich only with such realization. source: Letters and Papers from Prison

To be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey. Meditating on the Word

It is not necessary that we should discover new ideas in our meditation. It is sufficient, and far more important, if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells within us. Life Together

When we come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own limitations and responsibilities, that makes it possible more genuinely to love our neighbor. Letters and Papers…

There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world. Ethics

You have granted me many blessings; let me also accept what is hard from your hand. Prayers from Prison

The first call which every Christian experiences is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. The Cost of Discipleship

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety. The Cost of Discipleship

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them. Life Together

From God we hear the word: “If you want my goodness to stay with you then serve your neighbor, for that is where God comes to you.” In the anthology, No Rusty Swords

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves. The Cost of Discipleship

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died. Life Together

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility. Letters and Papers from Prison

Which of us has really admitted that God’s goodness can also lead us into conflict. In the Anthology, No Rusty Swords

Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus. The Cost of Discipleship

So long as we eat our bread together, we shall have sufficient even for the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue. Life Together

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger. Ethics

 A Prayer written by Bonhoeffer

In me there is darkness,

but with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart; but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.

Amen.

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