Category: bible things


This is an interesting psalm: the heading in my bible says, ‘Of Solomon’ and yet verse 29 says ‘this concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse’ so who actually wrote it?

And if you read the psalm it is talking about the king and how great he is going to be, so if Solomon did write this himself then it seems to smack of a little bit of ‘Look at me! Look how great i am!’ So i thort i would make a bit of a change and go and do some investigating and whereas it does seem there is some difference on opinion about who wrote it, this is something i found:

The psalm is clearly messianic and looks forward to the millennial reign of Christ when His kingdom of peace and righteousness wilt be established. It is one of the most wonderful psalms which heavily underlines all that we embrace in our millennial teaching.

It is best summed up in the words of Scroggie himself, who says, ‘,..so the prophecy of the father, and the prayer of the son, look onto a time still future when God’s kingdom on earth shall be perfect and universal’. 

[http://www.pwmi.org/cms/index.php?page=did-solomon-pen-psalm-72]

Which makes a lot more sense – there is also apparently a direct link to 2 Samuel 7, which as you know is ‘ David’s great messianic prophecy for kingdom rule.’ [Duh!]

Here is God’s message to David from that passage:

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name,and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Which is great and a time when i am grateful for people who read commentaries for fun and find these links because then suddenly, what i would have just read as another cool psalm, is found to be spreading out all over the bible and even into future times.

In a nutshell, this seems to be a comforting message from God that, ‘I’ve got this!’

So go and read the whole psalm and see it in this space of speaking both about a local, physical kingdom and a greater spiritual one that is to come. But let’s first be reminded of the first two verses:

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.

i like how straight away with this one, the focus is on God. It is ‘Your justice’ and ‘Your righteousness’ and this gives a clear reminder to us of how we are to live on this earth – am i reflecting God’s justice? am i shining His righteousness?

i know in South Africa [and echoing across the oceans in Americaland as well] right now, these questions of justice are huge – poverty and orphans and land distribution and equality. And we can see guidance in this very psalm. We are called to be beacons of God’s justice and righteousness. We should therefore be very wary of living lives that are disconnected to the plight of the poor, needy and those who have had their voices muted in our country.

So this psalm about the greatness of the king and what he will achieve [present and future] is sandwiched with focus on God and this final praise declaration is how it ends:

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

[For the rest of the Psalms and other Bible passages i have been walking through, click here]

worshipmoney

When it comes to money and using it well, i believe this is something that relates to everyone, not exclusively Christ followers. But, writing as a Christ follower, i will give Biblical backing for the things i am wanting to share here, as i believe they are rooted in God’s heart for humanity which looks very different to when we just let mankind get on with it by themselves.

Two powerful stories comes to mind when i wrestle with the question of ‘How to follow God well in a way that involves my money.’

And interestingly enough they both come from chapters 21 of their respective books:

First up is a story in Chronicles where King David has given in to the temptation of the devil and disobeyed God and the nation of Israel is being punished severely as a result. The story ends with David making an offering to God and the plague is halted. You can find the whole story in 1 Chronicles 21, but look at these three verses near the end:

22 David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to theLord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.”

23 Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”

24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

Then in Luke 21, Jesus is hanging in the temple with His followers and this little interaction occurs:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

i like how Jesus sums up the attitude of the rich, when He says, ‘All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth.’ The Message paraphrase says it like this: All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!”

Offerings they will never miss vs. All she had to live on

And David sums it up with his statement of, I will not sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

In fact, the same story exists in 2 Samuel 24 and this time David says, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

We see a similar story acted out in Genesis 4 with the offerings of Cain and Abel. Abel gives of his absolute best while Cain gives a less enthusiastic offering. The story ends in murder. And interestingly enough it is the one who kept the best for himself and not the one who gave of his best [and thus had less for himself] who ends up doing the killing.

Does our giving cost us? There is Trust involved in this. There is Sacrifice. There is Community.

Or do we ensure that we are comfortable first and have everything we need [and everything we want] and then see what is left and give a small portion of that? Or none at all?

I will not offer worship [sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings] that costs me nothing.

For those of you who are part of a Sunday congregation church, is this possibly a question that could be extended to the community you worship with? Are you at the place you are at on a Sunday because of what it does for you, or because of what you can offer the people there? Or possibly a bit of both. This might be something to think more deeply about [especially if those people all look like you].

Let’s give good and generous gifts. 

[For more thoughts on Money and God and Life, click here]

 

beliefanddoubt

So yesterday i took a bit of a look at the idea of doubt from the perspective of being someone who is a follower of Jesus.

Is it okay to doubt? Is doubt helpful? Should we be overly worried if there is a lot of doubt in our lives?

Sadly, i was not able to arrive at a simple tick-the-box solution. This area seems to be a bit of a complex one.

Which is okay. Wrestling is good. Don’t give up hope just yet and go running away. Let’s try dig a little deeper.

In my first post, i shared a couple of verses i found in the bible about doubt. But this passage in Mark 9 has always been the most helpful one for me. It is the story of a father with a demon-possessed son who Jesus’ disciples were not able to help and so he appealed to Jesus:

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Two things stand out for me in this story:

[1] The whole ‘If you can’ exchange which speaks loudly into the question of faith.

Once again, there is the presence of doubt [otherwise faith would not be needed, correct?] and the question of where are you going to place your trust? Do you really believe that I am who I say I am and can do what you need Me to do? Well, do you?

[2] The father’s response which is something i cling to often in life, feels so raw and real and just honest.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And i think Jesus appreciated that. Because He seemed to be pretty big on real [not a big fan of the Pharisees who projected one thing while secretly being another]

And this is a statement that describes my faith probably more often than not. And especially over the last three years during our Americaland trip which was a great experience but really tough and difficult in many ways.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When i look at that phrase, i see it as two very different things. i see the ‘i believe’ as being a bigger picture thing. “Yes, Jesus, I have heard that you can do miracles and yes I do believe that you have the ability to heal my son. In the bigger picture, I absolutely believe that you can do this.”

“But I have also lived in the reality of my son not being healed despite much prayer and hope and medical treatment and even taking him to Your very disciples. In the fact of the present moment and circumstances, I really do want this to be true and hope that it will be. But I need your help in overcoming everything in me that says this is not going to happen for me today.”

Does that sound familiar? Or is it just me?[and this guy!]

Is doubt good? Yesterday would seem to suggest no.

Is doubt okay? Today would seem to suggest yes.

WAIT, WHAT? How can something be not good and okay at the same time?

It’s called holding things in tension. Seemingly opposing ideas or traits.

Like can God be a God of Love and a God of Justice at the same time? Sometimes those feel contradictory.

It is God’s love that accepts us just the way we are. It is His justice that refuses to let us remain there.

It is God’s justice that demands the cost of death as a punishment for the sin we all have in our lives. It is His love that sees Him step forward and take the punishment in our place. His Love and Justice are not contradictory – but sometimes we need to hold them in tension to be able to better understand.

In an ideal situation, doubt is not good. But it is real. And it is likely. And as long as when it is there, it causes you to reach towards Jesus and not step away from Him, then i think you will be okay.

faithdoubtdig

Psalm 34.18 reminds us that ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ 

To me those are the lowest of places you can possibly be – to have your heart broken, or to see your spirit crushed – both places which will create huge space for the temptation of doubt to appear and bring with it the questions and the accusations and the tantalising possibilities of an alternate path.

When you are faced with that doubt [and i really do believe it is more likely a question of WHEN than IF], be slow to dig up the things you planted in faith and the beliefs you once held firmly to. Remember again why you held strongly to them when you did. Remember when you did experience God’s presence, when you clearly heard Him speak, when you saw Him work and the testimony of a changed life.

Then make sure you head towards God. As you are. Not pretending to have it all together but rather, in the desperation you are in, choking out a prayer of, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Because sometimes that is all you can manage.

And trust that big mighty universal and loving God, creator and Father, who Loves you so incredibly much, will be able to deal with that and will be able to engage with and encounter you in such a way that your doubt can be dealt with and restored to faith and belief.

That is the tension i live with anyways – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – sometimes it feels like a soothing mantra to me. But i would love to hear your thoughts on Doubt – where they are the same and where they are different.

Where have you presently arrived in terms of how you think about and respond to Doubt?

[One of my favourite Twitterer people, @NatePyle79 wrote this piece last year on confronting the lie – ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’ – worth a read]

[To return to part I of the Koeksuster of Faith, click here]

doubt

A while back someone asked me to write a blog post or series about Doubt and i already had this post’s heading sitting in my draft box waiting to be written.

So today i try to write it…

…and was doing really well…

…at least until i Uncle Googled what the bible had to say about doubt which totally threw my argument on its head.

But let me share it anyway – maybe you’re smarter than me in terms of joining the dots… or maybe this is just messy and worth wrestling with and it’s okay if we don’t reach a definitive result [gasp!]

 

doubtdoesnotequalunbelief

 

What is the opposite of Faith? It’s Doubt.

Was the mantra we had growing up. And it kinda sounds like it makes sense, right? If faith is believing, then doubt which is not believing, must be the opposite.

Until some smug christian-type got up to the mic and boldly declared that, ‘No! The opposite of faith is certainty!’

WAIT? WHAT???

Think about it for a moment. If you are required to have faith, then you can’t be certain about something, and so there must be some measure of doubt present, right?

That made a lot of sense to me. And i stole it and used it in a whole bunch of talks and preaches since then.

It’s not not believing, but more not being absolutely sure that what you are believing in is right.

Faith comes from a place of not being certain and so you need to hold on to something, or express something – that is, faith – to move towards that place.

Which means that Faith and Doubt are like conjoined twins. Or a koeksuster.

koeksuster

Yes, you heard it here first. The Koeksuster of Faith. [An analogy, that if successful enough, will have people bringing koeksusters to camps for me when i speak, you know “so that i can use it for an illustration”]

For those foreigners who don’t know what a koeksuster is, the graphic is pretty self explanatory – sweet crunchy doughy goodness, folded around itself like a braid. It’s hard to tell where one piece ends and the next begins [or is it all just one piece?]

The point i was hoping to make is that doubt it okay. It is normal and natural and okay to have.

That is, until i started reading the book:

From James 1:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

In Matthew 21:

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

And in Matthew 14 when Peter joins Jesus on the water:

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Hokay, so wow, this is where it gets a little complicated. Or maybe simple? Because the strong instruction here seems to be to not doubt.

Not doubting seems to be quite closely tied to the miraculous here [water walking and mountain moving] which i definitely have not personally observed all that much of.

URGH, SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME?

faithdoubtdig

i did find that on the Internets and i do like that as an idea to consider and wrestle with and maybe hold on to. Your thoughts?

That when doubt strikes or in times of struggling faith, don’t throw out everything that you planted or held to when your faith was there. Because doubt can be something that strikes for a moment or season and sometimes when you’re doubting it can be uber helpful to look back to the times when your faith was strong and remember what sustained you in those times.

i think i would rewrite this as, ‘Be slow to dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.’ Because some things do need to go. Especially if your faith proves to have been misguided or in the wrong thing. But the point is don’t rush to break down things that used to make a lot of sense to you – so important to critique, challenge and question in a healthy way [which, sadly, the church has too often been a little scared to let us do because we might lose all faith and leave the building] but to do so positively and in a way that is healthy and helpful for all concerned.

Then i discovered this short verse in the book of Jude right at the end of the bible, which also brought me some hope:

And in Jude 1:

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

 The instruction to be merciful to those who doubt. Phew! So doubting is not the ideal situation to be in, but provision is given for me at least.

i have a whole lot more to say on a more personal experiential note, but i will keep that for a follow-up post – in the meantime i will leave you with this inspirational piece of writing to see if you agree with it or not. And i would really love for you to share some thoughts you have on doubt.

Do you think Doubt is always good or always bad? Or do you see there being a helpful relationship between them? And if so, how do you balance that with the verses above? Do they suggest to us that all Doubt is always bad? Tell us what you think.

[For the next part, looking at a more personal wrestling of the faith and doubt question, click here]

faithdoubt

This feels like a psalm for old people [like me]. So if you’re not even partly old, maybe bookmark this and come back and read it in ten years or so…

And seriously go and read the whole psalm – i am not going to go through all of it here, but it really is a good one to read all the way through:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

i may just be putting my own oldness and tiredness on to this, but it feels like that is where the author is coming from. Looking back over a lot of years , which have not all been easy [see vs.20] it is the faith of his youth that he is raising up.

You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.

That line also speaks very much of a faith that has endured. I continue to believe. It may not always have been easy and clearly hasn’t been at times, but i am still holding on, i am still running this race. You continue to sustain me and keep me going and be enough for me God.

This is encouraging in a world where so many people seem to have given up on their relationship with God. Life and having a family and needing to be responsible and the pressures of conformity and the enticement of comfortability have all proved too strong and so a passionate run with God has either declined into a once-a-week religious meeting and an attempt to ‘be kinda good’ or at least as good as the next guy, or a snuffing out of the flame completely, and in some cases turning strongly against it [and how evil it always was]

But this psalmist knows. He knows God as the rock of refuge to whom he can always turn. He knows God is his deliverer and hope. And so continues to believe and hope and live for Him.

Clearly the temptation to walk away is here for him as well:

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
    those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue him and seize him,
    for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
    come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
    may those who want to harm me
    be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

But although he has no doubt witnessed it in others, he finishes this section with the powerful words, ‘as for me’ – others may arrive at a different place, but this is how it is going to be for me.

Very reminiscent of Joshua standing before the people in Joshua 24:

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

You can do what you want. But AS FOR ME and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

And there is a whole lot more, but let’s just finish off with the opening lines of these last three paragraphs:

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.

I will praise you.

My lips will shout for joy.

My tongue will tell of your righteous acts.

Is this you?

[To take a look at any of the other Psalms i have walked through so far, click here]

Psalm number 70 is not the Lords of the Rings of the Psalming community. And because it is so short, i thought it would be helpful to actually just meditate on the whole thing together:

Hasten, O God, to save me;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

May those who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    Lord, do not delay.

What jumps out at me with this one is that it starts all inward-focused – Woe is me and all of that and has a lot of the previous psalm’s kind of tone in terms of calling on God to take out my enemies and so on.

But probably the thing that stands out most is verse 4, which is like a little interjection between the beginning and the end where David goes back to calling on God, just as he had started:

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

It’s almost like we get a deep sense that he is not in a good place and is calling on God for rescue and to take care of his enemies, but then suddenly there’s a moment of just stopping and being still and knowing He is God [see Psalm 46] and reflecting on that. I think of a raging storm that suddenly lets up for a moment and the let up is so surprising and sudden that it grabs all of your attention. Focus on god – look at God – if you’re in trouble know that He is the one to look to – keep seeking and rejoicing and being glad in Him and long fr His saving because THE. LORD. IS. GREAT.

And then, almost as suddenly as it arrived, the moment is gone ad David returns to his crying out to God, although this time he is acknowledging that God is the one who helps and delivers…

[To take a look at any of the other Psalms i have walked through so far, click here]

So hey, remember that King David guy and the ‘man after God’s own heart’ moniker? Well, here is that guy going on a little enemy rant…

22 May the table set before them become a snare;
    may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
    let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
    and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
    do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
    and not be listed with the righteous.

Just figured that was a great place to jump into Psalm 69. And an important reminder that the Bible is made up of a whole lot of different types of writing and how important it is to know and understand the type you are dealing with. If, for example, we approach the bible as purely a teaching manual [as some do] then it would look like a good thing to be praying for peoples’ names to be ‘blotted out of the book of life’ . However, that kinda seems to contradict 2 Peter 3 which says, ‘ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 

So i’m not sure this is a biblical teaching. But it is an honest glimpse into some guy’s heart. A good guy. A guy who was known for being after the things God was after. And yet we see him here, clearly a little broken, a little messed up by his enemies. Requesting something he probably knows God would not be after.

 i think sometimes that many christians have been conditioned to avoid the kind of real that David exhibits here so freely and passionately. And so on a Sunday morning, if you take a minute and look around at a typical church service, for the most part you will see a lot of smiling faces. No evidence of the imminent breakup of a marriage, or the verbal abuse that is going on behind closed doors. No idea that that mom is near to breaking point as her relationship with her daughter has met a new and ugly low. No clue that the girl sitting in front of you is wearing long sleeves to hide the fact that last night she cut her arms just so she could feel some sense of power and control in her own life. Or the many men [and some women] caught up in watching pornography. And more.

i do a preach sometimes when before worship singing time happens i get everyone to write down the ‘everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles’ that we see spoken of in Hebrews 12:

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’

Then, after the singing time, i read out all the pieces of paper we have gathered and it is always incredible how deeply some people respond. As a church body we get some sense of some of the pain and shame and struggle that is going on with our family. And after the preach i give an invitation for people to come forward and be prayed for and with.

A most powerful part of that service is often just letting people know that it is okay and maybe even a good thing to be real. To let it all out. To be honest [even if anonymously on a piece of paper which is at least a good step forward from holding it to yourself] But also just hearing and really getting that other people are struggling with the same crap you are. And giving a space to voice it. We need more occasions like David took in Psalm 69 to just be open and honest and raw and rough and real. Even if some of the sentiments we express are not godly ones. That can help create a space for God to get involved in changing them.

There is so much more in this Psalm, but i am not going to get to it all – read it and meditate on it and maybe this one requires a few days of reading and being still and taking it all in.

But two last things which jump out at me. Firstly David’s attitude and focus as displayed here:

Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    may those who hope in you
    not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
    may those who seek you
    not be put to shame because of me.

The desire that he will not be a stumbling block to those around him.

And in verse 9 we read:

for zeal for your house consumes me,
    and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

Does that describe you? And me? Does the zeal for God’s house consume you? And do you stand and take a hit when people speak against God?

So much to consider.

[To take a look at any of the other Psalms i have walked through so far, click here]

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