The Fellowship of the Saints

The fellowship of the saints

The following is Psalm 16:3 in several different versions.  They differ from each other but all express the same fundamental thought.  The variation is refreshing and allows for a stronger development of thought.

 3 As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” (NKJV)  

 

3As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. (NASB)

 

3 The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!  I take pleasure in them! (NLT)
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No matter how we look at it, the Psalmist knows the value of other believers.  He exults in their companionship and rejoices in their presence in his life.  He knows that they have an excellence in them and about them.  He savours all contact with them.

We could say the psalmist has struck gold.  Whenever he has contact with them, good things start to happen.  A joy is awakened in him and bubbles to the surface. ( This Psalm 16 should be read in its entirety, I am only pulling out a single verse because of the light within it.)

Friendship, or companionship is a critical necessity for us, especially when the momentum of our culture is towards isolation.  I’ve been told of a certain kind of rock will begin to resonate, becoming warm in the presence of a rock of the same type.  (IDK if this is true but it is a great story).

I need brothers and sisters to awaken me.  As a man who struggles with physical and mental illness that connection brings me healing and wholeness.  I in turn through this same connection transmit grace and wisdom to them (or whatever).

There is not a lot of things better, and more invigorating than coffee with a Christian friend.  In heaven, there will be a Starbucks on every other corner serving up Vanilla Lattes for disciples wanting to visit and share their hearts (that is my personal theory anyway.)

The Psalmist puts our relationships into the light and evaluates them by the encouragement they bring.  We need to have that awareness as we contact each other.  As a “closet-hermit” I need that extra push.  I would anticipate or even expect it. 

The Holy Spirit works in the specific area of relationships.  That is His strength and forte’.  I believe that the way the Kingdom of God works, flows and advances is in large part because of godly relationships.  The more we cultivate them, the more the Church grows.

Your Face is Shining on Me: Psalm 67

Your Face is Shining on Me: Psalm 67
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.  “Make Your Face Shine Upon Us”

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
Selah

2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Selah

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

This dear one, is what we call a “liturgical” song, it’s a classic. The author was most likely a Levite, one of the priest’s assistants, but he had a gift for this. The song had been created for Israel, for the profound purpose of bringing and guiding God’s covenant people into a special place of worship. I suppose we all could use the help in this.

Two “Selahs”. I believe this is our first contact with this term in our study. We don’t grasp the meaning, but a Hebrew psalmist would. Actually almost every school boy would understand this. But it keeps everyone aware that we are reading songs (but you don’t read them, you sing them!)  These are lyrics, people. You got to sing them, even if you annoy your neighbors. And so singing is perhaps what we should being doing, and less reading.

Our lives don’t do that, we would vastly prefer reading or studying. The musical part of us, is to a large degree, atrophied and crippled.  Back in the day, I was a student in a small Bible college. One class was something fiendishly called “Music Conducting.” Now I’m tone-deaf, and furthermore have the musical rhythmic acumen of a tree sloth. I passed the class due to the incredible kindness of my instructor, who understood my calling to someday be a pastor; and she couldn’t bear to be the one to fail me.

Commentary

V.1, and bring out the howitzers! No one does this better and more intensely than writer of Ps. 67. Key words are “graciousness and blessing.” If we wake up tomorrow without these two graces,  we would definitely know it. The writer uses the phrase, “make his face to shine upon us”. This is taken from the Priest’s Prayer we find in Numbers 6:24-26, I’m using the Message Bible here.

24 God bless you and keep you,
25 God smile on you and gift you,
26 God look you full in the face
–and make you prosper.

Blessing, and then keeping: Smiling, and then gifting: Caring, and then making you prosper. Additionally the word for “God” is “Jehovah.”  That was the name He chose to use with His own people. The Levitical Blessing was a wonderful place to pray (or sing!) like this.

V. 2-3 places the deep-seated need to take God on a “world tour.”  However v. 1 tells us that this special friendship between God and His people needs to be genuinely figured out first. But the vision is universal– for everyone, everywhere. The joy just oozes out, like a very saturated and soggy sponge.

V. 4 doesn’t seem to have the charismatic personality of its brother in v.1. But neither is it to be trifled with. It places everything God wants to do, with all that He intends. My brother John Piper, has used v. 4 as the title of his book on World Missions, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” Great book, see DesiringGod.org.

V. 5 repeats v.3. It doesn’t compete with it, or supersede it in anyway. Maybe I need two feet to be mobile– a right and a left? Perhaps it made sense lyrically, or even musically?

V. 6 is well done as you would appreciate living in an agrarian society like Israel. It’s often seems like these guys are from Iowa, they know what a manure spreader looks like (and how it smells). Everything in terms of surviving or feasting was from the land. God’s presence, His name, and His deep care was a measurable and tangible blessing. Theology is reduced and perhaps, most appreciated by the poor farmer watching a tornado bypass his property.

V.7, is as sure of itself you could ever get. Boldness, without cockiness. Confidence, without arrogance. Steady, like a rock.

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Restrain Them: Psalms 141:8-10

8″ I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
    You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me.
Keep me from the traps they have set for me,
    from the snares of those who do wrong.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    but let me escape.”

 Psalms 141:8-10, NLT

Spoken like a man who knows and has experienced a whole lot of trouble. David speaks from the matrix of his heart. In this day of cool indifference and sterile objectivity, you rarely see a passionate life being lived.

Perhaps we need a baptism of trouble and woe. I like softness, and love comfort. I am easily taken in by a menu at my favorite diner, and I adore Starbucks. I seem to have an “instant Christian” mentality. I want patience, and I want it now!

Commentary

V. 8, “I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord.
    You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me.”

This is one of those deep, “rock-bottom” prayers. There is no flowery elegance in this verse. I can smell the sweat, and see the grime. There is dirt under the fingernails of David. It is a cry of somebody in trouble.

But David’s vision is full of God. He chooses to call on the Lord for the help he must have. People want to kill him, and David needs a temporary restraining order desperately.

As I read these verses, there is an absence of anxiety. This man has taken his refuge in the cave of God’s heart. David will be kept securely and safely in that place. He is aware, but he also trusts.

V. 9, “Keep me from the traps they have set for me,
    from the snares of those who do wrong.”

The nature of traps and snares is that they must be hidden. A snare only works by surprise. They must be stealthy. The psalmist doesn’t rely on his own abilities to detect and escape these traps. Rather he reaches out to his Father, and he relies on God’s abilities.

V. 10,  “Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    but let me escape.”

What we see around us must be (and will be) reversed. The righteous and the wicked will switch places. We need to believe this. Those who have buried themselves in darkness are the ones caught. We must understand this transforming “swap.” It happens when embattled hearts seek the Lord, just like David has done.

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Beyond Worship, [True Understanding]

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“But I will sing about your strength. In the morning I will sing about your love. You are my defender, my place of safety in times of trouble. God, my strength, I will sing praises to you.  God, my defender, you are the God who loves me.”

Psalm 59:16-17, NCV

I’ve always considered singing as strange.  To vocalize with music as a bit bizarre.  The dictionary doesn’t clarify it, but makes it even stranger,

“to utter words or sounds in succession with musical modulations of the voice; vocalize melodically.”
 
And yet from this strangeness, David can find a solid reason to sing.  At this time in David’s life, things are quite tense.  Saul has been focussed on him, and has come very close to pinning David down.  I’m sure David is struggling with anxiety, doubt and despair.  And yet, it is from these considerable issues that David starts singing.
A precedent has been set.  Singing while in deep water.  The song has a theme and direction.  David sings about God.  He sings about His strength, and love, and protection.  I suppose if you are walking through an evil mob– it is really good to be watched over, and to be securely protected is very much appreciated.
When evil is immense and active, our first response should be to sing.  When we direct ourselves toward the Lord, and begin to sing to Him, the enemy scrambles for cover.  Worship scares him.  Satan is confused and frightened when we start to praise our God.  (I tend to think he has an allergy.)
I consider myself to be pragmatic and logical.  There are things I see right through.  Pyramid schemes, Nigerian banking plans, and multilevel marketing are things that are discernible to me.  But this particular Psalm punches through, and I confess I have come to understand this extraordinary power of worship.  When I decide to worship, all heaven breaks loose.
Often, I think, we can “sugar-coat” worship, and make it for feeling good about ourselves.  And yet when we do come into His presence, it is a joy and there is peace for us.  And this is terrific.  But we should reformat our thinking.
Worship is warfare.  As we stand and praise Him, the kingdom of Satan is substantially degraded and minimized.  Worship does this and more. It is an offensive weapon against dark forces. It is a defensive weapon to protect our minds.
Satan fully hopes that we will forget this idea of worship, he strategizes actively against it.  It frightens him when we start to understand.  Worship of the True God drains Satan of his power and authority.  Perhaps sinners truly become kings and queens when we start to praise our God. And that doesn’t sit well with the darkness.
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