Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Futility of Opposing God

Leroy Brownlow - Today is Mine

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.   —2:1-3.

The Second Psalm deals with conflict: Messianic power and sinner’s rebellion.
In the rebels’ rebellion they rage, imagine, set themselves, take counsel against the Lord and say what they shouldn’t. Evil men have always felt that God’s rule is too restrictive; so as these sinners chafe and gall in their ill-fated desire for uninhibited living, they say, “Let us break their [God and His Anointed] bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (ver. 3). No bands. No cords. No controls. What a terrible picture.
However, their evil imaginations are vain, to no avail. They are left defeated and crushed. The Lord shall laugh at their foolishness. Hold them in derision. “Vex them in his sore displeasure.” And “break them with a rod of iron.” God is merciful but firm. How silly for man to think he can win in opposing God. God’s rule cannot be overthrown. Every attack against Him rebounds against the attacker. Against Him, you face defeat. With Him you are a sure winner.
Fredrick William Faber
He always wins who sides with God,
To him no chance is lost;
God’s will is sweetest to him when
It triumphs at his cost.

[Brownlow books have been a vital part of my library for the better part of a third of a century. His brevity and insight is amazing. In his own words, “Living with the Psalms is a day-to-day guide containing 365 essays—devotionals—based on Psalms, which is the world’s most popular book.” rlp]

The Pathway to Mercy

Psalm 24 is a short, but powerful psalm. The setting surrounding this inspired work seems to involve the historical event of the Ark of the Covenant’s procession into Jerusalem. The broader application of this Psalm, being the prophetic imagery of Christ ascending into glory not long after His triumphant resurrection from the dead. With this background in mind, the reader should approach this Psalm from both an immediate context and a prophetic context.
The Glorious Kingdom
The Glorious Kingdom of God (24:1-6) as used in this article has a two-fold meaning.  First, we are referring to the fact that “everything” belongs to God. Second, we are referring to God’s People (i.e., the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament).
The Greatest King
In this section, the Psalmist is describing the Greatest King—God (24:7-10). In one sense, the Psalmist is likely describing the fact that God alone is worthy of man’s adoration and worship, especially in the context of the Ark approaching Jerusalem (Psa. 113:1, Mat. 4:10). Yet, is this the “only” sense in which the Psalmist is speaking? We think not. Again, the text should be considered with both the historic and prophetic view in mind. The immediate context does not need to be ignored, but then again, the prophecy pertaining to the Christ is also to obvious to ignore.
The last term in this psalm is the word “Selah.” This term likely carries with it the idea of pausing, particularly as it relates to meditation and reflection upon that which was just stated. Without question, the reader should pause and meditate on the inspired depths of this psalm.
There are perhaps countless lessons that could be derived from the powerful and wonderful Psalm 24. However, the following lessons are points of emphasis that are given as a matter of summary as well as for use in teaching and practical application:
1. Everything belongs to God (24:1).
2. Man is God’s special creation and he is on earth for a purpose (24:1).
3. God used creation not evolution as His means of bringing things into existence (24:2).
4. Christ truly is the only One Who is worthy to enter God’s Holy Place (24:3).
5. Man, through Christ and because of Christ, is able to also enter God’s fellowship and presence through faith and obedience to God (24:3).
6. Christ lived a sinless and perfect life (24:4).
7. Christ was found faithful in His obedience to the Father. He fulfilled all righteousness through perfect obedience and sinless perfection. Christ is our perfect example (24:5).
8. Through Christ’s sacrifice, obedient believers are counted as righteous (or right) before God. God’s grace is extended to all, but only those who obey the stipulations of that grace will procure it (24:5).
9. Christ freely submitted to the will of the Father while on earth. He forever showed what “seeking first” means (24:6).
10. Men, who will be found faithful, must seek God. God desires to be found and God can be found. God desires all men to be saved. However, only those who “seek” God first in their lives will please Him (24:6).
11. God is the “King of glory.” Men should worship God for Who He is - they should praise, honor and glorify His majestic name forevermore (24:7, 9).

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Pathway to Happiness

People are not happy today. Despite the fact that we are richer, with a higher standard of living, than any other people in history, suicide is a very real problem in society, especially among teenagers. Alcohol continues to serve as the numbing agent of choice for people trying to escape reality. The number of people suffering from depression continues to escalate. Many are unhappy with themselves and unhappy with the world. Nevertheless, they keep trying to discover the way to happiness but inevitably choose the same worn path of failure they have trodden many times before. People are unhappy for many reasons, but they usually occur because they have taken bad advice and refused good advice, because they are not getting everything they think they deserve, or because they believe people treat them unfairly. They then attempt to remedy these problems through an artificial happiness, which treats the symptoms rather than the disease. They tend to turn to friends who know little, the advice of secular humanists received in college or in literature, or to “self-reliance” (Jer. 10:23). They complain and begin an endless search for someone to “value” (by which we should understand “validate”) their abilities. Finally, they feel sorry for themselves and seek the sympathy of others. These people fail in their quest because they are searching for happiness in all the wrong places. God has provided the pathway to happiness in life within the treasure trove of scripture and has given the basic principles within the opening psalm.
First, the psalmist notes that happiness depends on accepting the right counsel. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psa. 1:1-2). The first lesson that people often need to learn is whose advice to ignore, and at the top of that list should be those who disregard God. You should not listen to a thief’s view on getting money, a philanderer’s advice on marriage, or a liar’s recommendations for filling out a job application. The moment you get comfortable with them and their way of life, you have stepped away from the best advice available. Rather than listening to those who are part of the problem in life, open yourself up to God’s counsel (1 Pet. 2:2). When we make spiritual wisdom and knowledge a priority and meditate upon God’s Word, we find the best advice for every aspect of life and avoid numerous problems that beset the stubborn sinner. So long as you are making the wrong kind of decisions, happiness will elude you, and to make the right decisions requires heeding God’s Word.
Second, the psalmist tells us that happiness depends on trusting God completely. “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psa. 1:3). When we know God, we will trust Him to bless us (Mat. 6:33). Therefore, we will cease turning to the things of the world for happiness and instead turn to the Creator of all things. Only by doing this, will we be able to enjoy God’s blessings as God’s blessings. Instead, we often treat blessings as the way things are supposed to be and fail to appreciate them, which in turn affects our attitude toward life. Try for a moment to comprehend the full extent of God’s blessings both physically (Jas. 1:17) and spiritually (Eph. 1:3). Perhaps then, you will realize how much having the proper perspective toward life and toward God contributes to your happiness in life.
Third, the psalmist says that happiness depends upon committing yourself to God’s judgment. “The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psa. 1:4-6). My friends, as long as you are looking for the approval of men, you will not find happiness. However, when you become Christ’s bondservant and seek to please Him, you will find not only happiness but a contentment that transcends circumstance (Gal. 1:10). When you turn to God, you have a Judge whose standard never wavers (Jho. 12:48), who judges according to truth rather than appearance and with complete fairness in every way (Jho. 17:17; Acts 10:34-35). He will reward righteous behavior regardless of what others might do. Moreover, He will judge others’ actions, including those against us, and punish them accordingly (2 The. 1:7-9). Therefore, when we have the right priorities; spiritual priorities; we can be happy in this life as we look with hope to the promise of eternal life (Tit. 1:2).
True happiness lies within your reach. Happiness comes from trusting God’s counsel, trusting His provision, and trusting His judgment. Therefore, you can be truly happy if you really want to do so. Unfortunately, we do not tend to heed the psalmist’s inspired point of view, we settle for an artificial happiness based in materialism. However, imagine approaching every day as a blessing from God, not worrying about what others might do or whether food will be there. Imagine having confidence through a study of God’s Word that He will care for you beyond measure. For by doing so, you can live each day dedicated to Him and place yourself, your life, your family, and all that you have in His hands for safe keeping. This is the pathway to happiness, and this is the message of Psalm 1.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Hard Sayings of Jesus

"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it” (Jho. 6:60)? Within the Bible, Jesus, the son of God, is portrayed as the Master Teacher. His powerful demonstration of logic (Mark 2:17), God-given authority (Mat. 28:18), unending compassion (2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Jho. 4:8), and ability to preach the gospel in a simple and forthright manner caused many people to be “astonished” (Mat. 7:28-29) at His teachings! It is no wonder then that John declared, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (Jho. 7:46). With the deepest of respect towards He who died for us (Rom. 5:8-9), may we dig deep into the Sacred Writing, that we might delight ourselves as students of the hard sayings of Jesus!

First, may I point out that the hard sayings of Jesus, in no way casts any type of negative reflection upon Deity. Rather, to the contrary, a loving earthly father, as well as, a loving God, chastises His children (Heb. 12:6-8), and warns those outside the kingdom (Jho. 3:1-8). May we never underscore the love Jesus Christ displayed to the entire world, in hanging on a tree (Gal. 3:13). Nevertheless, as faithful members of His church, we must learn not only to appreciate the hard sayings of Jesus, but to allow these principles of truth to guide us along the “strait and narrow path” (Mat. 7:13-14), that leads to eternal life.
Let us turn our attention to many of the hard sayings that came from the lips of our Lord while He graced this earth with His steps. In Matthew 7:21-24 the Bible reads, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Friends, is this not a hard saying for many people to receive? Within the foregoing passage of Scripture, Jesus declares the absolute necessity of obedience to the Father’s will! As we turn over to Matthew 10:34-38, Jesus continues with His hard sayings! “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followed after me, is not worthy of me.” Wow, this is definitely a hard saying! I suppose there is no greater recognized relationship on earth than the parent/child relationship. Therefore, if our love for Christ and His kingdom must surpass our love for our earthly parents, He will be the utmost priority in life. Last but not least, how could anyone overlook the hard sayings that our Lord gave concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage? “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
Friends, Jesus speaks highly of the institution of marriage. In Matthew 19:3, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” After a  brief controversy, He concluded His divine thoughts on this subject when He gave one of the hardest sayings the world has ever heard. “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth which is put away doth commit adultery” (Mat. 19:9). Notice, “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. .. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (vv. 11-12).  He who would give His life a ransom for the many (Mat. 20:28), never turned away from hard sayings, even when it would cost Him disciples (Jho. 6:66). Its not about how many disciples but about truth (Jho. 8:32).