Tag Archives: Psalms

Morning Thoughts (Psalm 115:8)

Psalm 115:8, "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them."

This morning, society is sadly shifting in many different and crumbling ways.  Due to the constant press of the world against the church, these crumbling and devalued mindsets sometimes infringe on the thinking of good-minded people.  One of the thoughts of the world today is that of tolerance and acceptance for things that someone does not agree with.  For example, people are being told that they must accept and tolerate things that bother their conscience.  This constant "preaching" of tolerance and acceptance has led to a misguided mindset that we must be more tolerant and accepting of ideas in a church setting.  Therefore, basic principles of doctrine are not as steadfastly adhered to as they once were and should be now.  This past weekend on a trip to another state, I saw a church sign that said, "Doctrine divides, we accept all."  While passing by, I could not even discern what type of church it was (denomination), and perhaps it did not even claim one.

Disintegrating thoughts on the importance of doctrine lead to more than just an error in that doctrine.  Like a faulty foundation on a house, crumbling doctrinal ideals will affect the structure on top of the foundation.  Have you ever heard someone espouse something akin to, "Doctrine is some deep, theological teaching.  It's something that preachers fight about, but is not really important or relevant for the rest of us."  These people's intentions may not be ill-meaning, but the espoused concept poses great danger to many realms outside of the doctrine.  What someone believes about God, what He has done, how He works, and how He interacts with us, will play a great role in how their life flows from those beliefs.

The Psalmist in the context of our study verse has laid a great contrast between God and the idols of this world.  In one of the grandest declarations of God's sovereignty, he states that our God does "whatsoever he hath pleased." (Verse 3) The contrast to that power, rule, authority, and sovereignty is that their gods are powerless: hands that do not feel, feet that do not walk, mouths that do not speak, ears that do not hear, eyes that do not see, and noses that do not smell. (Verses 4-7) No greater contrast could be found!  One has all power and might, while the others have none.

After making such a contrast, the Psalmist then states in our verse that the worshippers of these idols are like the idols themselves.  Those that trust in vain gods are just like they are.  What exactly does that mean?  From the context, we conclude that those that worship false gods are powerless with body parts (hands, noses, eyes, ears, etc.) that do not perform the expected function.  Their belief system robs them of any power, strength, or ability that one would expect them to have.  One might say, "But preacher, we all worship the same God."  Some might even say, "We all follow the same Jesus."  Do we?  Does our view of God measure up to verse 3?  If our belief system impeaches the power, rule, and authority of the God that Psalmist so sweetly declared, then we follow vain idols of our own imagination.

What conclusion does that reach?  The simple conclusion is that false ideas about God and our continuance in them affects our lives in ways other than a simple belief.  What we believe does affect our lives!  Our belief mirrors the God (or god) that we claim.  The doctrinal belief system has a substantial impact on the effectiveness of the practical structure.  Using the Psalmist's example, if our gods have no power to help or save, then how could we reasonably think that we can do all things through the strength and help of our god?  Paul says that he (and encourages us too) can do all things through the strength of Christ (Philippians 4:13), but can we really embrace the thought with the comfort and assurance of reliability if we believe that Christ "tried" to save and did not "really save?"  The simple point is that we cannot draw strength from a god that intrinsically has no strength of his own.

Let us consider two commonly held Christian worldviews about God and His Son Jesus Christ, and see what attitude that produces in people.  The first commonly held Christian worldview is that of the classic Arminian dogma that states that God wants us to accept Him and be His children.  In this scenario, the "god" is one that wants to save but leaves the power of salvation to the person.  Also, this "god" has done nothing for free.  Therefore, if one who worships such a being is "like unto them" from the language of the study verse, what kind of lifestyle would we expect to see?  We would expect that such an individual would be generally unwilling to do anything for free or strive to go over and above what is required.

Sadly, in the "works based" society in which we live, the ideas of doctrinal Arminianism have bred lifestyles in many that match the "nothing is free" attitude.  Contrast that mindset against a proponent of free grace; the proponent of free grace will strive to freely give as he has freely received.  Since the power to save fully came by the One that is worshipped, the free grace follower knows that sufficient strength has been imparted to deal with life's struggles and face the despairs of life.

Another prevailing mindset in Christian worldview espouses the idea that God diabolically controls every event of life, pitting good and evil against each other to bring some "greater good" out of things.  Quite often, proponents of this idea say that God has two wills to affect this in the world in which we live.  The "secret vs. declared will of God" is posited as some logical construct to explain the belief system.  However, the center of such an idea is two-faced falsehood.  Should God declare that He hates sinfulness but yet secretly bring it about and fashion it (use it) to some greater good, then God has "played both sides of the fence" and does not look at evil and sin really any differently than He does goodness and righteousness.

Those who claim this belief about God will have absolutely no reason whatsoever to deal equitably and honestly in their daily lives.  After all, their god does the same thing regularly.  If the god does it, one can presume that his followers will as well.  Therefore, whether the two-faced god of the Absoluters or the business-minded god of the Arminians, one can expect to find either untruthful double dealers or shrewd deal makers in those that follow them. 

However, if we believe that God has control, does what pleases Him, and has accomplished that whereunto He is pleased (Verse 3 again), then how should the lives of such believers look?  If we are like unto Him, then we show forth the power of His salvation in our lives.  Our righteousness does not affect our salvation, but rather, it shows that He has given us life by His power. (II Peter 1:3-4) We are displaying that His power dwells in us solely by His grace and mercy.  If we believe He is honest about what He does and why He does it (I.e. He does not directly or indirectly lie), then our lives will be marked by a lifestyle that is above board and earnestly seeking on a regular basis to be honest and plainly transparent individuals.  Since our God is a God of justice coupled with mercy and grace, then we as His followers should prize justice but also follow a path of mercy and compassion when we can.

How important is doctrine?  Due to the way it touches other aspects of our lives, it is vitally important.  How important is it that we stand firm on principles that other things build upon?  It is vitally important so that aspects of our lives are not compromised.  When people look at our lives, our lives should declare for them what our doctrine is.  May our lives be marked by the power of His might in a walk of newness of life.  May our compassion and mercy shine forth regularly, with a high prize being placed upon justice and equity in our dealings.  May our lives look like the God that we declare as ours, who today sits in heaven and hath done whatsoever pleases Him.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

 

Morning Thoughts (Psalm 78:41)

Psalm 78:41, "Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel."

This morning, society increasingly slides downward in many directions.  Oftentimes we see and hear the moral decline and degradation that goes on around us.  Yet, one way that modern humanity continues to decline – though it is not often discussed – is the celebration of mediocrity.  In times such as these, people do not realize the potential of a great many situations and circumstances, for there is no motivation to do so.  When medium to low grades in school are celebrated, what motivation is there for the student to do better?  When the performance of job-related duties (our job descriptions) is met with praise as if it was something special, what motivates the employee to go "over and abound" when they have the ability to do so?  When coming to church every so often, reading our Bible from time to time, and doing a good deed here and there makes someone a "good person" in the eyes of their peers, what motivates someone to put on the full wardrobe of discipleship in this world?  I heard a good example from a fellow minister not long ago that stated, "When you set your standard at 10 feet above the world, you may stay 10 feet above the world, but if the world keeps getting worse, then you are getting worse even though still 10 feet above the world."

Our study verse above is in the midst of an often told account: the journeys of the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan.  This story is found and repeated in the writings of Moses, Stephen's sermon in Acts 7, as well as many other places in Scriptures.  The reason that this story is so vitally important as to be repeated so many times is that these people are our examples. (I Corinthians 10:6) Sadly, they are oftentimes an example of what not to do instead of what to do, but another reason that these accounts should stay so vitally fresh unto us is from their description of God and His behaviour.  Even though we are not the Israelites of old, God's actions and thinking about His children's actions in this world is ever the same today as it was then.  Therefore, while the Israelites are examples for us today, these accounts should serve as a great guidepost for our expectations of God's actions and thinking regarding our lives.

Since God does not change (Malachi 3:6), then what He considered wrong then is still wrong today.  What He upheld as righteous then is still righteous today.  Before launching into the thoughts of this verse, let us quickly make one comment about the overall principle of this story.  Whether one reads this account from this Psalm, Hebrews 3-4, I Corinthians 10, or a related account like Ezekiel 16, one thing stands out prominently.  The people fell over and over again.  Likewise, God chastised them over and over again.  Yet, through it all and in spite of everything that these people did, God never quit loving them.  God never forsook them utterly and left them forever and for all time.  Such a contrast should stay with us today.  God chastises me over and over again for my repeated failures before Him, but take solace dear friends, He will NEVER quit loving us or forsake us utterly in this world or the world to come.

Our verse deals with one of those "down moments" when the children of Israel forsook the Lord by tempting Him and disobeying His commandments.  One might make a case that this particular portion of the passage deals with them at the banks of Canaan refusing to go in at the evil report of the 10 spies.  While not specific, the language could certainly point to that.  As a result of that particular occasion, God pronounced judgment on an entire generation of people.  With the exceptions of Caleb and Joshua, everyone 20 years old and above would never get into that wonderfully blessed land.  But, whether that is the particular account under consideration in our verse or not, let us look at the last phrase that has some particularly intriguing language.

The Psalmist says that they "limited" God.  Considering what the Bible says about God's power, understanding, etc. it seems an interesting statement to say that man "limited" God.  Oftentimes, I see people "attempt" to limit God by saying that "God has done all He can do, and now it is up to you to accept Jesus."  We understand that such erroneous teaching does not in actuality limit God in the way that it is promoted.  God still saves and has redeemed all those that He intended, nor will He lose one from His sight.  So, what does a phrase like "limited the Holy One of Israel" mean?

We read another interesting and similar statement in Mark 6:5, when it declares that Jesus "could there do no mighty work."  Certainly Jesus – fully God and fully man – was not in some sense diminished in power.  When He laid aside His glory to descend into this earth in fleshly form, He did not cease being the Omnipotent God of this universe. (Revelation 19:6) The statement that He basically "could not do something" was not a description of His ability.  Rather, it was a description of His willingness coupled with their perception of HIs actions.

Now, let us bring both our verse and the statement from Mark together and look at them in the lens of God's will and our perception of Him.  Standing there on the banks of Jordan in Numbers 13, God was quite willing for His children to enter Canaan's Land.  He even encouraged Moses to send spies into the land to confirm the goodness of the land that He had promised them.  God did not command this activity to "see if we can really do this or not."  God commanded this for eyewitnesses to show and confirm that "God is right."  Everything He said is exactly the way it is.  With His continued help, we shall certainly be blessed.  Yet, when only Caleb and Joshua said that, multitudes suffered lasting consequences when God's willingness ceased.

The people on this occasion failed to realize the full potential of God's blessings unto them by limiting Him, His ability, and His promises in the courtroom of their own mind and perception.  God said yes they could, and they said, "No we can't!"  Back in Mark 6, Christ kept plainly declaring that He was sent from the Father, He is God the Son, and here are these mighty works to corroborate what He is declaring.  The people kept saying, "We don't believe you."  As such, one might make the case that no matter what Christ did, they would not have accepted His Person nor thought He was certifiably the Christ and Messiah.  As such, He "could there do no mighty work" as they would not have perceived it or Him as mighty.  By such an unwillingness to accept the great power of the occasion, Christ was thereby unwilling to perform as many miracles there as He would have and did in other places.

For the sake of space and time, let us move the discussion to our lives and this present time.  How often do people settle for a lesser standard in their lives due to some perception?  Whether the student in the classroom seeing no reason to strive higher, the employee seeing no monetary benefit for doing his all, or the church-goer seeing no reason to disciple more, the general point holds true.  If you do not try any harder than to get an 85% on an exam, 100% will never be realized.  In the spiritual kingdom, if we do not try for perfection, how many blessings will be lost and unrealized along the journey?  While we realize that perfection is not possible, that should be the goal.

How often does God make the promise to bless us with His kind and gracious presence when we walk in obedience to the truth?  The teaching is richly and abundantly found throughout Scripture.  Yet, how much of that do I fail to realize by settling for less than I could perform?  Many times, ministers are posed with the statements, "I just don't get much out of church.  I don't get much out of Bible reading.  My prayers don't ever seem to go anywhere."  While the response should gently lead and nudge them along, the short but blunt answer could be that they limited God in their own mind.  How oftentimes do we attend church, read our Bibles, or pray with the underlying thought, "Well here I am like I'm supposed to be"? 

Dear ones, church services get sweeter the more we put into them, Bible reading becomes more enriching the more devoted energy (not just time but time and energy) that we devote to it, and prayer feels the sweetness of God's breeze the more humbly and reverently we enter into it.  When our mind limits God by limiting His occasions, He will many times limit HIs presence and interaction with us.  His willingness to dwell with us and enrich our service will diminish.  Yet, we should never attach a conception that Him being unwilling equates to Him being unable or without power to do so.  So oftentimes, He mercifully blesses us so far better than we deserve, but hopefully our desire with each passing day is to realize more and more of His blessings and presence with us.

We are approaching a time of the calendar when people make resolutions of sorts.  Maybe they will try to lose weight, make more money, etc.  May we daily resolve to meet more and more of the potential of service and interaction with God.  May we attend more worship services this year than last, may we read more of the Bible this year than last, may we pray more this year than last, and may our obedience to His cause shine brighter this year than last.  By doing so, may a whole area of God's special presence and power be felt in, with, and among us. 

  In Hope,

  Bro Philip