Psalm 15- Sacred Place

“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”

 

This is a very short chapter!  But it earns another bonus post!  I am open to suggestions about what to make the bonus post about.  Just leave a comment.

There have been times recently where I wish I could live in a Christian community, just being in fellowship and constantly in the presence of God.  Spending time learning and growing, reflecting on holy things.  Operating in God’s will and encouraging others.  Maybe it sounds too good to be true.  And as I learn, I find that the community I desire exists in the church that God has placed around me.

David starts out expressing his desire to be in the presence of God- the tabernacle was the place were man could go to met with God.  David goes on to answer his own question.  In those days, the upright were the ones who held tight to the traditional religious practices of the time.  Those of us on this side of the cross should take it to be living life in fellowship with God.  That means we follow the commandments given, bear our own cross each day, and devote time to God.  It may seem like we do less (no sacrifices or atonement through blood, no curse for disobedience, etc).  Yet, self-discipline is not something practiced by many Christians.  Our devotion to God should be just as active and evident as it was in David’s time!  Uprightness and Righteousness go hand-in-hand.  (I did a study on those a few months ago, along with obedience, and plan to make it a bonus post some day.)

Another answer David gave for the one who can enter the presence of God is that he speaks the truth.  The part that follows that is very important too, “He that backbiteth not with his tongue”.  That is slander, gossip, criticism, etc.  Basically anything that doesn’t edify, don’t say it.  David knew how important it was to treat others with kindness.  He seems to have had a lot of experience with being slandered.  The rest of the words in the chapter expand on the importance of living uprightly and speaking the truth.  The righteous man honors God, is true to his word, shows respect, uses his money wisely, etc.  Those who obey are blessed.  And reside in the presence of God forever.

Take care, brothers and sister.  Keep the Faith!

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Psalm 14: Corrupt Mankind

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.
Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”
-Psalm 14

In college, I served through a ministry in D.C. for a low-income area to young kids and their families.  It was an amazing experience, but it came with it’s fears and tragedies.  It’s was an awesome ministry, focused on after-school help and Saturday Bible school for the kids, and holiday outreach to the families involving serving up food put together by the church we worked out of.  But there was one time, I was walking around to collect some of the kids from their homes for Bible school, and I got a kid who had clearly been abused.  These were mostly really young kids, mind you.  And the other kids I had with me immediately reacted.  Got back to the complex we were working out of, and had to sit down with the kid to find out what happened.

That talk is always tough- you don’t want to be right.  You don’t want to hear that that child is beaten violently night after night by a parent with drinking problems, or who has anger problems and just sees that kid as a financial burden.  But you also really don’t want whatever it is to keep happening to this kid.  And sometimes, the kids are told not to talk about it, and they won’t tell us.  It’s heart breaking, but it is the reality we live in.  I had such a tough time with this in college- I volunteered as much as I could to make sure those kids got the love they deserved and learned that God would always be there with them.  Sometimes we had to report the happenings to social services, and I could never understand why people committed such cruel acts.

David had this problem too.  How can their be so much evil in the world; evil hearts, evil times, evil works?  He is looking on the character of one who rejects God.  And that means people who call themselves Christian are not exempt- because you can be attending church regularly, but be rejecting God inwardly.  However, David is speaking of those who do not believe at all in God.  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”  He starts off with this because the one who denies the existence of God makes them-self seem a fool- their denial doesn’t negate the existence of God.  It sure does dishearten David, though, as it should.  Imagine for yourself that your Heavenly Creator is looking down at the earth from Heaven and doesn’t find anyone seeking after Him.  And the evil comes from their heart, the place that only God knows.

I sometimes find that I learn more about what characteristics I do want by looking at what characteristics I really don’t want and developing, within myself, a hatred toward those negative qualities.  As you read this passage, do you feel like this is what David is doing?  It is discouraging to see or think on the negative happening all around you.  They do not pray, or seek God.  “Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.”  The poor are those who know they need to depend on God from a recognition of their own shortcomings.  When you witness evil around you, it should upset you.  And it should make you check yourself for any similar qualities, and them reflect on God and see what quality He desires for His children.

In typical Psalm fashion (Psalm is the new black), David closes off by rejoicing in the Lord.  Can you recall a time when you couldn’t see a positive side to a situation and just felt overwhelmed with negative?  When I was 13, my Nonna was rushed to the hospital with a brain aneurysm.  It had burst- I think she had fallen out of bed, triggering this series of events which landed her in the hospital.  I’d spent so many months with this woman of God right before this happened.  My dad had shattered his ankle, so she (his mom- my Nonna) had come to help out our family and take care of him.  Then I spent my 13th birthday with her in Italy, learning about her, having some of the most intimate conversations about God I’d ever had up to that time, and loving every outing that I got to go on and spend time with her through the lovely streets of Italy.  We got the call in the evening that she didn’t survive, a week before Christmas, and when my dad said we should be rejoicing that she was in Heaven, I couldn’t believe it.  I know now that my dad was right, but at the time I saw the loss of this wonderful woman from my life as a horrible injustice.  Why couldn’t the doctors save her?  Why was the world so against me?  Who was I supposed to write to now?  I couldn’t see any positive in this, and my dad was crying with joy in the kitchen with the rest of my family, comforting each other, and now I was just angry.  A day before all this, I had received a letter from my Nonna and she was alive and well, and I had written back to her, if I remember right…excited to have a ‘pen pal’. And now she was gone…

As years went on, and I grew in the Lord, I began reflecting regularly on what God was trying to teach me in events of the past to prepare myself for what may come.  David rejoiced in what he knew.  He knew that God was his refuge, whether he felt like it while surrounded by negative things or not, he knew he could find joy in this knowledge.  And he rejoices in the restoration and deliverance that he knows will come.  He knew that letting himself stay down over these things would not be profitable to the kingdom, or at least not as profitable, since God can do anything through anyone.  But he was determined to not be like those who deny God, so he desired to be as effective for the kingdom as he could be.

Be blessed, loved ones.  Rejoice in the Lord always.

Psalm 13: Prayer of Longing

This week is a double post week- My schedule is currently a bit crazy, and I apologize that I missed last week.

“How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”

Most of us have been in this place- feeling far from God and as though He is distancing himself.  David seems to have been facing some sort of trial.  One thing is certain from the repetition of “How long”- David yearned to be with God no matter what.  We often accept defeat when we feel far from God.  Yet, I think Jesus expressed the same feeling as he prepared for death on the cross, as surely the greatest pain He felt was actually in being separated from His Father.  It is easy to go head first into a trial when we feel God is going with us.  But perhaps your trial is meant to be like Jonahs and you can look back and see how God was really with you all along.  It doesn’t make it any easier.  Of course, God did not forget David, nor was he hiding, but perhaps David had begun to rely too much on ‘feeling’ that God was with him instead of believing it, so for David his words were true and his test difficult.

In feeling the absence of the Lord, David had looked inward.  When I feel troubled or discouraged, looking inward for uplifting has always lead to further disappointment.  I think I have shared this before, but when I focus inward for help, I spiral downward quickly.  The enemy weaves lies, he will bring up things that I thought I’d overcome, but when you feel far from the Lord those truths that you felt you had replaced the lies with are no where in sight.  It’s not until I go to Him in prayer that I feel released. (“The truth will set you free.”)  But prayer isn’t always first on my mind when God feels far.

David even prays for his relationship with God.  Sometimes God needs us to get to the place where we are desperate for Him before He will speak to our situation.  David seeks wisdom, and not only that, he seeks to avoid falling into a spiritual sleep.  He truly is desperate to know that God had heard him.  And in reality, God never said following Him would be easy.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” James 1:2- James got that these trials would be to our benefit and we should rejoice that God would let us experience difficulties for the building up of His kingdom to be realized through us.

David recognizes that his enemies may count his troubles as a victory for themselves, so he determines, as James writes, that he will rejoice.  You remember that talk of truth setting you free?  When you know that God isn’t seeking your destruction, it is easier to determine that the enemy will not claim victory over you.  God had to get Elijah to that place where he could look back and see all the goodness of God and recognize that he was never alone.  And when Elijah knew that he had reason to believe, he found it easier to continue. (Referencing the chain of events in Elijah’s life beginning in 1 Kings 18 and continuing to at least chapter 20.)  Have you ever gotten to that place?  Maybe David was facing a similar sort of trial, with enemies rising up against him, but the evidence of God’s goodness piled up around him.

Psalm 12: Craving God

“Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.”

 

This comes at a great time for me, personally, as my best and closest friend is gone for quite a while so I find myself seeking the comfort of God even more.  In the last chapter, David expressed sorrow for the ones who were telling him to flee from the wicked around him- most likely these were people near him, maybe friends, offering advice based on what they saw.  Now we see David feeling a lack of ‘quality’ comfort from friends so instead seeking God.  Perhaps he has learned that the comfort of friends, while pleasant to have someone physically present to hear his woes and troubles, don’t offer the comfort he actually needs.  God certainly is good to provide us with close friends who can listen and offer solid advice, and if you have such a friend in your life you know they are very dear and spiritually gifted people, but God also calls us to draw near to Him.  It is good to learn when God wants you nearer to Him, and when He wants you to tap into that friends’ gift He put in your life.

As always, David doesn’t beat around the bush.  He begins with the obvious plea to God, “Help, Lord”.  It’s not clear if David had a friend he watched fall away from the Lord, perhaps someone who was part of his regular time of fellowship, even, whom others would have known too and were unable to help.  Maybe he felt the advice he’d received from friends he had perceived as spiritual turned out to not be what he expected.  We also learn that David battled gossip, too, so maybe someone he had trusted with something deep had turned on him and raised strife among his friends.  Whatever the case, it is clear that David had been hurt and his immediate reaction was to turn to God.

Have you ever been there?  Maybe you told someone something you were battling with, and they went to tell someone else, maybe not even in a malicious way but to seek advice from someone they trusted, but it only resulted in unwanted gossip and the breaking up of friendships.  It hurts, when you trust someone with something and it comes back to bite you.  I have a problem with just being too blunt, but I think it has saved me from gossip many times. I also go straight to the source when someone tries to tell me something about someone.  Yet, in my school days, I certainly was part of a lot of gossip within my friendship circle and it resulted in me running to God a lot.  You feel hurt by the ones you thought loved you, and suddenly you’re not sure who you can trust.  It is tough to realize how small the circle of people is that you can really trust, but it is a beautiful thing when God builds you up in trust in Him.  Your best Friend is always beside you and knows exactly what you are feeling, not just because He created you, but because He loves you deeply and desires a deep relationship with you.  I have been most blessed by those who I seek advice from who tell me something like, “I don’t know the answer, I will pray about it, and the best thing I think you can do is to seek God in the matter for now.”  This brings me some of the greatest relief from my troubles, and often helps me problem-solve in a godly way as I reflect on what the Biblical response would be to my situation.

“They speak vanity…”. We’re not sure what David was going through, but let’s look at this gossip thing.  ‘Vanity’ here is translated to mean ’emptiness, nothingness, falsehood, or worthlessness.’  I think we can agree it doesn’t bear fruit.  It is such a hurtful thing to be involved in, especially within the body of Christ.  If a brother or sister in Christ brings up something personal to you in seeking your advice, what reason do you have to doubt that God hasn’t equipped you to help that friend?  This is where the enemy comes in to weave lies and cause trouble among believers.  Instead of feeling confident that we could seek God’s help, perhaps we turn to another friend in fear that we can’t help and engage in gossip. Gossip doesn’t always begin as an intentional attack on another like it is shown in movies- it can be as simple as me saying ‘Oh, that person struggles with _________”, and perhaps I know that person well enough that it is something I have accepted and love about them, but the person I have told hardly knows them and they begin to treat that other person differently.  And eventually that friend I spoke about learns what happened and they are hurt by it because the enemy was working something I couldn’t see.  Understanding what exactly is gossip is tough.  I’ve tried reviewing my words and asking myself “is this gossip?” and can hardly ever tell.  So my new rule is to instead ask myself “Is this something empty that won’t bear fruit or help my friend in the long run?”  This has served me much better, and now if I hear others complain of someone, I always point them to something positive about that person instead.

“with flattering lips…”.  This doesn’t mean they go around complimenting every person they met. This is a big problem today, even in the church among leaders.  These are the people who say what you want to hear.  Within the church, these may be the leaders who only speak things that are good morals that you can agree with, but never speak the truth.  There is one thing we know about speaking the truth, and that is that it will bring division among families and groups.  Jesus told his disciples “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.”  Is the person giving you advice just saying what you want to hear?  Do they give you Biblical advice, or just nice sounding advice that could be generalized to any problem?  Does it sound like it came from a fortune cookie or from a wisdom given by God?

David always prays for a solution; an end to the acts of the wicked.  “Flattering lips” are a huge problem in ‘consumer churches’.  Has your faith been challenged recently?  I don’t mean that you’ve hit a hard time and had to learn to trust God more.  I mean has your church leader spoken some truth from the Bible that you hadn’t come across yet on your own and it made you question your faith.  Has your belief system been tried?  Have you reached that place the disciples got to where they questioned if they really wanted to follow a man whose path lead to death on a cross?  If you haven’t felt challenged recently, and mostly find yourself just nodding in agreement to the ‘good morals’ or doctrine your leader teaches, it may be time to hop to a different church.  If you don’t think your leader is serious about getting the truth into the lives of the people he has agreed to shepherd, I recommend leaving.  Your faith IS life or death, it isn’t just an agreement to not commit adultery and to obey your parents, it is about a living belief that God created the earth, and you and me, and Jesus died for our sins, and that everyone deserves to know the truth.  Sit in your pew and nod all you want, the enemy nods too.  David could see that this would be a problem, that people could easily enter a persons life and speak flattery to a broken world, and he prayed it would end.  He desired that people care enough about the people around them that this sort of thing wouldn’t go on.  Do you believe you are worth it?  Worth the truth?  Are the people around you worth it?  Does your church teach from a healthy dose of the fear of God?

Without the fear of God, those who don’t speak truth feel free to say whatever they please.  But David recalls that God will rise up against these people- those who speak hurtful words.  And He will offer safety to the poor and needy.  David contrasts the empty, worthless spoken words of man to the true words of God.  His words have been tried and stood the test.  Throughout the times and ages, God’s word has stood firm.  And His words will put an end to those who speak falsely.  David was confident in God, and he knew that though he would still encounter the wicked, they would never have victory over His Word.  Do you feel this assurance when you seek God for comfort?  That was a trick question, I set you up for that- faith isn’t a feeling, is it?  David speaks from a knowledge and understanding of who God is and what God desires for him, not a feeling that he had one day while praying.  His comfort was probably ‘felt’, but more than that, he trusted and believed that God would take care of him and that He desired relief for him in the things he was going through.

Thank you for reading!  Have a blessed week, brothers and sisters!