Restore the Sparkle: Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13, NLT

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Life can get complicated really fast. David finds that sometimes there are no easy answers. If we look objectively at his life, we see the frayed ends where confusion rules. It was never meant to turn out this way.

Commentary

V. 1-2, David believes that he has been forgotten. A phrase is repeated an astounding four times, “How long?”  It does seem that impatience is a significant issue for him. Often when it gets this bad, we find ourselves turning to surrogates to fill the gap.

V. 2, “Anguish…sorrow, everyday.” Somehow David is alert enough to recognize the evil one. Everyday=no relief– constant, gnawing pain, which can be physical, emotional, or spiritual (or all three).

V. 3,  Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” (I love this version–“sparkle”). David knew that life was exceptional. And there is much more than breathing to life. He speaks of being restored. He seeks a reason to keep living.

V. 4, Also, he is quite aware that his life is being threatened. The word, “gloat” is interesting translation. It has the idea of boasting, or relishing someone else’s failure. The dark prince savors your defeat. He has been looking forward to this desperate moment.

V. 5,  But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” The Lord has covered David with His hand. His life has been saved by a love that never falters or weakens. Never, Never!

V. 6,  Tremendous verse; it is really wonderful. When we finally get to this last verse, we see that we have “run-the-gauntlet” with David. Often good jewelers display their diamond necklaces on a black background. The darkness intensifies the brightness of the jewels. They become even more beautiful. David is singing and praising the Lord in His nearness. It really is what we were made to do.

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He Knows Where I’m Going

“I go east, but he is not there.
    I go west, but I cannot find him.
I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
    I look to the south, but he is concealed.

10 “But he knows where I am going.
    And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
    I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”

Job 23:10-11, NLT

Job is not sure where God is exactly. He can’t be pinpointed to Job’s satisfaction. But Job knows one thing very well. The outcome will be golden (v. 10).

Especially thinking of these last two verses, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t be switched (verse 11 changing places with verse 10.)  But I most certainly won’t try to edit the Book of Job.  I guess I’m just looking for an ‘enhanced grip’ on these verses.

Job explains his confidence, “He knows…where I am going.”  That most exceptional understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God.  “He knows, where I am going.”

Verse 10 will be my trumpet blast.  Testing me, is His full intention.  He intends to make me golden. As I think of this, I first should understand that it is “He” making me.  It’s the Father’s work; it is not by my efforts.  Nevertheless, it will happen!

His intention is to put us in His crucible.  He ‘cooks’ us until we are gleaming, shiny and pure.  Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension.  We now understand why we have discipleship.Under_construction

Verse 11 now injects us with this concept of discipleship.  There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. Because Job is thrown in the crucible, his faith is transformed into a solid walk.

Job loves because he has been deeply loved. Job claims this understanding.  “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”  Some might suggest ‘hubris,’ or pride and overconfidence.  But just maybe it was the truth.  And could it be– that he has been changed by the crucible?  Changed and altered by the “heat?”  This intensity is of the Holy Spirit, and sovereignly using our various trials, completes us.  I suppose that this process is what we call—  sanctification.

“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”

Adrian Rogers

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What Could Have Been

What do you regret? As a believer it is already forgiven.

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”  

~Fulton Oursler

Regret is an ugly thing. Dictionary.com describes “regret” as, to feel remorse for, or to feel sorrow over. It is a difficult emotion for us, as there can be a dissatisfaction, or sorrow or remorse over, it can be a paralysis of sorts. It is the kind of personal sorrow about ones behavior in a certain situation, that can be overwhelming.

There will always be a deep sense of loss for “what could have been.”

I regret many things, my mind works as an active recorder. Future life continues its relentless advance, and there is from the past a constant awareness of darkness, failure and sin.

There are some who have no idea what I’m talking about. I might as well be speaking Chinese. But there are others who will “spark” on what I have just stated. Regret for many of us, is savage and bitter.

Not a day goes by when the voice of darkness doesn’t speak to us. My thinking is that it may be more reasonable to take a baseball bat across your femurs, and dealing with broken legs, than handling regret gone viral.

We think “about what could have been.” We imagine life without regret, of things we might have done not having this dark burden. However, these possible choices are things we can never be sure of.

In my younger days I dreamed of attending college, and then going to seminary. I really thought that I wanted to be a pastor, in some small Lutheran church in the Midwest. But this would never happen. It was just an aspiration, a dream. And it wasn’t reality (even though I wish it had been).

I assure you there are much nastier and blacker regrets, there are things of which I am profoundly ashamed. But my point is this, they exist, they do unsettle us, and the present moment is corrupted by my past behavior.

You are not unique or alone. There are millions of sincere Christian believers who face what you are facing.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

1 Cor. 10:13, NLT

I must tell you that there is a spiritual war. Satan is the enemy of our souls. He will bring to your mind fear and confusion. In scripture, he is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He has a diabolical ministry is to bring you down. He operates out of pure hatred, and he will never show you mercy.

We must develop a more scriptural method of wrapping up our minds in God’s Word. It stops and then alters the spiritual radiation from the enemy. The Word has tremendous power to halt the enemies attack. Ephesians 6:10ff tells of spiritual armor that must be utilized and worn.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Ephesian 6:13

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Walking With the Lord Jesus, [Humility]

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The subject and emphasis on is becoming obscure— “just like Jesus.” I suppose my main contention is this– our understanding of discipleship has too much “me, and not enough Him.” This can be a gentle error of a young believer.

When Jesus who was the fullness of God in bodily form came, He came as a lowly slave. We see Him stripping down, filling a basin, and scrubbing dirty feet. He actively made Himself a broken and humble servant. It was deliberate and conscious.

Read Philippians 2. It will blow you away!

I think we learn this from Him. The disciple never exceeds his master. He made it very clear that we were to follow Him in this. It’s processed by us when we are very firmly aware that the One who knows us. To be loved by Him is enough (or is it?)

Exceptional effort is made by the Holy Spirit to help us understand. There is a repeated thought given to us in various permutations. In one of my favorite verses King David, standing in front of God, and his people, declared,

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

1 Chronicles 29:14-15, NLT

“We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” This is the cheery assessment found in Ecclesiastes 1. This view irks us big time. Especially if we have invested so much in our wealth, gifts, experiences and accomplishments.

“Our days on earth are like grass;  like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.”

Psalm 103:15-16, NLT

In the New Testament, the emphasis is only stronger. Remember when James and John tried to get the corner on the authority and honor of being on “the right and left?” (My, but they were ambitious lads!)

“When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45, NLT

There are two certain issues here:

  • The first is authentic discipleship.
  • The second is a decided and eager servanthood.

Both ideas are often missing in our churches, and in our teaching. Somehow we are not communicating the real transferable concepts. Their simplicity evades us.

I intend to return to this fairly soon. Again, I appreciate any constructive criticism, your own thinking on this, and your prayers.

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Our Gentle God Loves Kindness

His hands are gentle
His hands are gentle

When I think “gentleness”, what pops into my mind is my wife holding and caressing my infant daughter almost 20 years ago.  Her touch is soothing.  She softly hums a lullaby.  The farthest thing from her thinking at that quiet moment, is anything  harsh or cruel. 

One of my favorite verses telegraphs the wonderous news, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.”  (Isaiah 42:3, NLT).  God’s temperament is gentle and kind.  He is patient far beyond any human logic.  As a matter of fact, his love seems to be borderline ridiculous.   As believers, we need to get used to His strange proclivities of loving all and turning away none.  I really believe that harshness and cruelty are the furthest thing from His mind or heart.

I for one, am glad God is like this.  When I’m depressed or manic, paranoid or confused, I am so glad that God is not a man.  He doesn’t give up on me, others have marked me off as a discipleship failure, and let me go.  But He loves me even more than a mother loves the baby on her lap.

A.W. Tozer writing on Psalm 18:35: “Your gentleness has made me great.”

“God is easy to live with. Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.

Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward.

Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

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– A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous, pp. 13-16. As quoted in the Banner of Truth Magazine (issue 531; Dec. 2007).

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Hidden Doves [Love]

 “My dove is hiding behind the rocks,     

behind an outcrop on the cliff.

Let me see your face; let me hear your voice.

For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”

Song of Solomon 2:14, NLT

Jesus really loves people, a lot–  and very deeply the Church that He’s saved from destruction. That dear ones, has never been an matter of debate. But honestly, how much does He love us? Please tell me again and again, because I forget so easily. (Someone, help me remember again.)

The opening verse is spoken by a young man who deeply loves a young woman. But his love seems to be a pale and anemic word, for it doesn’t begin to describe his passion and fervor. He loves this girl, and it’s a crazy, powerful love.

A minor thought, but I must share it, this book of Song of Solomon is frequently misunderstood by many– mostly because it’s not really doctrinal– it’s a Kiss! It is not fully understood because people read with their minds; but this one must be read with the heart. This book is 99.9% potent passion. It tries to explain God’s full heart to us who desperately need a crash course in the vigorous love of God.

Kisses are often reminisced over and seldom forgotten. They’re kept in the heart’s treasure chest. And you really can’t define a kiss– not a real one anyway. It can only be experienced. If you’ve been really kissed, you will understand. It can seem like a cross between being struck by lightning and a four-alarm fire. It can be gentle and soft, like the sun on a still, mountain lake.

The young man needs to see his girl. He delights in her face and voice. He has an incredible love for her. He madly yearns to see her– but she is hiding somewhere in the rocks! The chapter context tells us that she feels unworthy. Perhaps all she perceives is her ugliness and her shortcomings. She avoids him, hiding in her “safe place” of rocks and brush. It seems people still have many strategies, and varied ways to hide from God.

The certain love Jesus has for you is outrageous! It is a lot like drinking from a firehose!  It really isn’t rational. But saints– we have a problem. Somehow many can’t absorb His passion for us. I’ve been told that there are people who cannot absorb certain vitamins or minerals. Doctors step in and must find ways to compensate to help their patient.

There are some among us who really can’t take in God’s real love for them.

They may nod their heads, but it seems like they are impervious to a real, lasting love. They need seasoned brothers, and sisters to help them in this critical matter. From Jude 20-21 we read this:

20 “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

God has clearly shown His love for you– over and over. In quiet whispers and also in blasting “fog horns.” The gospel is this:  Jesus, God incarnate, was abused, and then crucified for you and your sins.  When He rose, it meant you were totally forgiven. The greatest action, or decision you can ever take is to repent and then receive this gift. He loves you, and continuously calls out your name. It is time to turn to Him.

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:2

“God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.”  C.S. Lewis

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He Won’t Give Up, [Patience]

 

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But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners.”

1 Timothy 1:16, NLT

I find that I often worry about the patience of God. Not that my worrying makes any difference. But I am quite aware of my sin and my failure. I am definitely not a “model citizen” of the Kingdom of God. I believe I’ve committed more sin as a Christian, than I ever did as a pagan.

But I must insist on God’s patience. I would easily slide through His fingers if I didn’t. But it is good to pay attention to the fact of patience. It is a good thing for us that He’s completely patient.

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved.”

2 Peter 3:15 , NLT

The very idea that God can be patient both chafes and comforts. We might see Him “tolerating” sinners. But yet we also see Him forgiving our sin. Patience gives Him the freedom to do both.

We could get critical, and maybe even frustrated with God’s love for lost people. He loves the world (John 3:16.)  However, our love doesn’t extend this far. We see the superficial, and believe that to be the whole story. But it isn’t. We give up on people, but He doesn’t.

Often, “sinners” will become disciples. (And mighty fine ones, at that.) The patience of God works effortlessly in the hearts of “sin-confused” people. At times it seems like it is “two steps forward and one back.” But that is ok. God will wait for sinners like us.

The patience of God draws us into a repentant life. He is “long- suffering,” which means that He will suffer long. But slowly, inexorably He brings us to His side. We offend Him, disregard Him, but He continues to love us. It makes no sense at all.

But He teaches us, by example to be long-suffering. We see in Him such kindness and mercy. His love for us is immeasurable. He takes it far, far beyond human reason. His patience is illogical. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.”

Francis de Sales

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