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1/7/17

Psalm 17-How to Overcome Hardship

Psalm 17 was written by David during a time of heightened persecution.  For a Christian, it may seem shocking that the man seems to claim perfect morals.  It is important to note it is poetry, and therefore should not be governed by the sames rules as one would use in interpreting an Epistle like James' or a Gospel like John's.

Nevertheless, as a Christian who has been redeemed by Christ's perfect blood, one may speak and pray this Psalm with assurance.  At salvation, Christ's righteousness was imputed into the born-again, so that it no longer be the Christian that lives, but Christ in them (Galatians 2:20).  So, in some beautiful cosmic transaction, the Father God no longer sees the fallen human believer, but a positional-perfect child of God.  This does not mean we are totally perfected (sanctified), but we are on the road getting there (1 Peter 2:2).  So He sees a Christian as if he's perfect, but of course he is not yet.  That full-perfection happens when the believer is glorified with Christ (1 John 3:2).

Until that full glorification, the Christian may still pray Psalm 17, because although in his mortal flesh he may not be sinless, he is indeed positionally perfect, because he has taken on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

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Psalm 17

A Prayer of David.

Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry,
give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.
Let my sentence come forth from thy presence;
let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.
Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night;
thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing;
I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips
I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God:
incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.
Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness,
O thou that savest by thy right hand
them which put their trust in thee
from those that rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of the eye,
hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked that oppress me,
from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.
They are inclosed in their own fat:
with their mouth they speak proudly.
They have now compassed us in our steps:
they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth;
like as a lion that is greedy of his prey,
and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places.
Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down:
deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword:
from men which are thy hand, O Lord,
from men of the world, which have their portion in this life,
and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure:
they are full of children,
and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
--

David calls out to God for help, citing his sincerity and uprightness (v. 1) as worthy reasons for God to help. He asks God to behold the things that are equal (v. 2). This implies that David has lived righteously, similarly to a business man who has equal scales with which to measure goods (Proverbs 11:1; 16:11). This means David is saying he has defrauded no one and has dealt fairly in all his doings. He implores God to let his sentence, or judgment, come from God's presence. The psalmist seems comfortable asking for God Himself to hand down judgment since he has been sincere and dealt uprightly.

In verse three, David recounts how God has already tried, or proved, his heart and visited him in the night. "Night," here, may represent a spiritually dark time in David's life. This seems to be why David is comfortable having God judge him: Even in a spiritually dark time, perhaps depression, David has not transgressed—even with his mouth! The mouth, or speech or tongue, is a particularly difficult thing to control. James writes that if someone is able to control his tongue, he is able to control his whole body (James 3:2).

In verses four and five, David measures himself against other men. He gives two reasons for why he has been able to remain upright: 1. The Words of God's lips (following His commands) and by asking God to hold up the goings of his paths (relying on God's preserving power).

Now in verse six, David moves from defending his character to referring to God's character. David declares that God hears (v. 6), God has marvelous loving-kindness and saves those who put their trust in Him (v. 7), he is fond of his children and eyes them as a treasured possession (v. 8a), and God protects them under His wings from oppressors and enemies(v. 8b-9).

Next, the psalmist describes the characteristics of enemies of the upright. Enemies of God's children are described as "inclosed in their own fat" (v. 10). This implies their greed has enveloped them as obesity may envelop a glutton, to the point to where their heart no longer has pity. They also speak haughtily, and surround the godly seeking to break them down with proud stares and vicious words. Verse twelve explains that they may even be as patient as a young lion lurking about in secret, waiting for the right moment for a surprise attack.

Now that David has made the case for his righteousness and the enemies' evil intent, he invokes God to cast the wicked down so to deliver his soul from them (v. 13). David then recounts how the wicked have their portion in the present life: treasure, children, and an inheritance to leave to their decedents (14). As the old saying goes, “For the Christian, this world is the most Hell they will ever experience. For the ungodly, this world is the most Heaven they will ever experience.”

As for David, he seems satisfied with his present portion—to be so near to God as to see God's face. It does not seem to imply that David literally saw God's face, but rather that God is very near to David because of David's righteousness and brokenness (34:15; 18). Also, to be like God when he awakes. This may have two meanings: to be like God after the Second Coming of Christ (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54), but also with each new morning to become more and more like God through the process of sanctification (Lamentations 3:22-23), as the Christian ought to daily be in the process of sanctification (2 Corinthians 2:13).


Therefore, David, though perhaps panicked at first, slowly recalls how God is just, sovereign, and able to rescue him. One day, David reminds himself, he will receive his sentence or judgment from God's presence! He will finally be safe under God's wing, literally in His presence.

1/6/17

Our Miscarriage Story

I had just sat down to my re-heated spaghetti lunch in the break room.  It was too hot to eat quite yet, but my mouth was watering.  Some guys at work had left over rolls, and I was excited thinking they would go great with the spaghetti.

My wife made it the way I like it!  Extra sauce with plenty of vegetables--mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, and beef.  Beef is a meat vegetable I think.  My phone rang.

--

I knew she was in the emergency room, but was secretly hoping it was appendicitis or kidney stones.  That sounds cruel, but let me explain.  We have been trying to conceive for nearly 3 years.  The day after Christmas, she was barfing.  I ate all the same things she did, and I felt fine.  With the recent addition of various vitamins and being aware of her womanly cycles, I had a feeling she was pregnant.  Out of fear, I did not speak up nor give my opinion.

In the following days, she began to bleed again.  In my heart, I thought this was implantation bleeding.  I was way too scared and nervous to speak up.  I did not want to get our hopes up just to be let down, as had been the case many times.  The signs were all there: morning sickness, implantation bleeding, the twinge's of pain on the appropriate ovary.  But I said nothing.

In fact, I was relieved when she assumed she was having her period again so soon.  I jumped on the early period bandwagon, "Your cycle is probably readjusting since you began the new vitamins and hormone cream."  I tried to force myself to really believe this.  I was still hopeful, but did not want to speak up.

After a week or so of the signs showing, she began to have intense pain.  I wrote it off as bad cramps from the new cycle starting early.  When she told me she had stopped bleeding a couple days earlier, I was afraid something was wrong, but forced myself to believe it could be anything else besides a miscarriage.

--

So there I was, plopped in front of my spaghetti when the phone rang.  I would not eat that spaghetti, nor anything else for a long time.

I could not understand what she was saying, but the sounds she was making through the phone began to shatter my heart like a ballpoint hammer on a cheap windshield.  I had to ask her to repeat it.

"I'm pregnant but they think someth...." was the second time she repeated it.  I know what she was communicating, but I couldn't grasp it.  I had her say it again, "I am pregnant."  I say she "said" it, but that is just because I don't know how to explain the way words sound when they are forced through overwhelming fear like trying to force a brick through a flour sifter--you know what is trying to happen, but it ain't working right.

I told her I was on my way.  I now felt like I was playing a video game.  I could see through my eyes, but it was like I was out of my body controlling it from afar.  I directed myself back to the table after having stood up out of shock.  I directed myself to the chair, I sat down, and brought a fork-full of spaghetti to my mouth.  It touched my tongue and I as soon as I had that faint taste of sauce, I snapped out of it, gathered my things, and was on the road toward the hospital.

The trip to the hospital took longer than it should have.  Whether it was my fear blocking my brain or the tears blocking my eyes, I kept missing turns I needed to take.  I ended up driving almost completely around town and had to circle back to get to the hospital.  I cannot quite explain what I was doing.  I did not mean to prolong it, but I was driving like I was going home.  Maybe deep down that was all I wanted... to go home, have baby Ja'Mya run to the door laughing in a cute onesie, while my wife hollered from the kitchen, "Baby! You're home!" as is often the case.

--

Later that night, I would go home to get some clothes for my overnight hospital stay.  The house seemed warm, and a couple lights were on, but no toddler rushed to greet me and no wife was making dinner and welcoming me home.  An irrational thought captured my entire body:  They are all dead.

I know that sounds extreme, but I cannot explain it.  For a few moments, I stumbled around the house like a drunk.  The walls met my body as I bumbled around murmuring, "I'm OK, I'm OK" probably a hundred times.  I knew they weren't dead, but I was afraid someone else would be dead.  Plus this would be the first night I would let Ja'Mya stay with someone else.  After our struggle with the state to make sure no one would take her away earlier this year, I was having terrible, terrible imaginings.  I eventually was able to make it back to the hospital, but not after a solid half hour of wobbly knees, shaking hands, needless trips around the house, forgetting things in different rooms, and cry-screaming.  There was a lot of cry-screaming.  Our poor cat.  She looked at me wide-eyed.  I imagine she was thinking, "He finally lost his marbles.  I better hide his slippers so he don't wallop me."

--

But as I drove into the lot of the hospital for the first time that awful day, I was repeating, "God I trust you, I promise I do, I really do," a hundred times.  "I really do trust you, God.  I promise."  He probably knew I trusted Him, but I wanted to make sure He knew.  And it helped me to say it out loud, so I wouldn't forget I trusted Him.  I continued that out-of-body-like trek into the ER.

There she was, lying on an awkward chair-bed that looked to be entirely uncomfortable.  Her eyelids swollen with visible veins.  The whites of her eyes red with bloodshot.  He face splotched from the rush of blood to her face.  Her fingers involuntarily extended straight out from the morphine doses.  Her heart monitor beeping from being her heart rate being so high as her body was on the cusp of going into shock from pain.

Her body was expelling our child, but it was not doing so without a fight.  I reckon her body knew what was happening, but her soul was fighting so hard against reality.  It did not want to let go this small, precious human.

Neither did I.

And now we were not only fighting to keep the child, we were trying to keep the body parts that make children from literally rupturing.  We were trying to keep from having surgery.  We were trying to keep my beautiful wife from having to go through any of that potentially barren-womb-making or even life-taking chaos.

While now we knew we were able to get pregnant, now we were also on a the brink of losing that possibility.  Not to mention it was a bad way to find out we were pregnant.

Later my wife would say, "This is not how I imagined us finding out.  I didn't think it would happen like this."  I explained that I thought I would look good with a mustache, but we see how that turned out.  Sometimes we just don't know how it will until it happens.  If life could always be predictable how lame that would be.

I guess I will still wait for that cup of coffee she brings to me in that DAD coffee mug she got.  That was how she always planned on telling me--with a fresh cup of joe in a mug that reads, "Dad."

--

Another nurse (there were so many) came in with blood test results to confirm what the urine analysis (originally taken to check for kidney stones and appendix issues) said: pregnant.  That word put us into an emotional mess every time we heard it those couple days.

The good news is we are able to get pregnant.  The bad news of course is this time it just did not work out.  My wife would be in the ER/OB-GYN unit for around 22 hours.  The scare of an ectopic pregnancy, the hope of wacky hCG hormone levels playing tricks on us, and the countless prayers permeated us.

Her hormone levels dropped the following morning-indicating her body was making the necessary measures to protect itself from a now physically dead, 4-5 week old baby.  I say physically dead because we believe God makes life at conception, and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  That is quite literally gospel truth.

--

So now, this is where the biblical rubber meets the road.  Do we believe God is still good AND sovereign?  Or will we search for some un-biblical rationale like it was a glob of tissue, or we did not have enough faith or sow the right financial seeds, or God is mad at us, or the universe has no purpose and meaning.

Nah, ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

We have found comfort in that God is intimately in charge of all the details of our lives, and that all things were and are created for His glory.  We exist for His purpose, and our child was conceived for His purpose, will and pleasure.  We find true joy, hope, and peace in knowing that.  The child was created for Him, not us, and if He ordained that baby, and He loves that baby, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, but we do grieve.  We just grieve with hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

4/30/16

Hugged by a Child in a Fallen World

Little ones.

That is what my wife calls children.  That is what Jesus calls children, too, in the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew.

There are great rewards for being generous and kind to children.

There is a special damnation for causing harm to children.

This morning, I was waiting in line at a breakfast joint for a medium caramel latte.  Two small girls were in the line behind me, and they were adorable.

They had beautiful smiles, and the most innocent sweetness about them.  The older sister was probably about 5, and the little sister was probably about 9 months old.  How could I not smile back?

So I did.

The baby sister was clearly still getting her land legs, and she wobbled about upright as big sister held her hand.  What a show!

Once, a favorite professor of mind gave me advice I took to heart:  never allow a child to be bored in your presence if you can help it.

I suppose that is because children will look up to you, and give you a great shot at sharing the Gospel of Jesus' being able to save them for all eternity!

Once, a preacher gave me an example of how when a child is learning how to walk, when they stumble and fall, the goof father doesn't scold the baby for trying and failing--he picks her up and sets her on her feet and encourages her to still move forward.  That is how our good Father does us, too!

So as this little one smiled and looked up at me and shook her big sister's hand free to try to walk on her own right toward me, what was I supposed to do?  Push her away?

The big sister giggled a childlike giggle, and the little sister wobbled, all on her own, right to me, and hugged my leg like I was a long lost friend.


Jesus said, "See that you do not despise these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my father who is in heaven."  Matthew 18:10.  Basically, you mess with them, you mess with their guardian angels, which means you mess with the Sovereign Ruler of Everything.

Jesus also said, "So it is not the will of the Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."  Matthew 18:14

He also said, "Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."  Mark 9:42


I laughed and patted the girl's head and said, "Aw, thank you!  OK, now."  As I gently pried her away.

The breakfast crowd "aww-ed" the scene, as I smile at the mother, who was by now finally paying attention to her children.

Momma lost it.  She then scolded her older daughter for not keeping a better eye on big sister.

I felt like a fool.

I don't fault the mother for being upset.  There are creeps out there.  I certainly wish she payed more attention to her children if she planned on scolding her 5 year old for not paying attention.

Mostly, it made me long for Heaven.  Paradise.  Where children are carefree to run free and we can give and take hugs and share laughs with everyone everywhere because there will be no more creeps, no more wars, no more hate, no more evil.  Only love.

And the Bible just so happens to say, "God is love."

How do we get there?  To Heaven?

Jesus.

Questions about God?

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