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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Psalm 8:3-4—"What is Man That You Are Mindful of Him?"

Psalm 8:3-4 reads as follows:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NKJV)

Here we have one of the toughest questions in life to answer. What is man? Then the follow up—that you (God—DS) are mindful of him. We (you and I) were not, we did not exist, now we do. Birth is like a person who has been in a sound dreamless sleep and suddenly he is awakened. We are thrust into the world no questions asked on our part. We have no choice in the matter. How did we get here? Why are we here? What is it we are supposed to do or be? All is a mystery but at that early stage of life, at birth, we are spared from having to think of such things.

We enter the world naked, helpless, in poverty, having no knowledge or understanding, and unless someone has pity upon us and shows us mercy and gives us care and assistance we cannot live but a few hours at best.

Man comes into the world a frail creature made of flesh and blood and in a body that is destined for only a limited number of years of life on earth at best (Psalm 90:10). "It is appointed for men to die once." (Heb. 9:27 NKJV) Man can no more prevent his death than he could have prevented his birth. This is the story of human life but the question remains what is it all about, what is life about?

God made man out of dust (Gen. 2:7). In speaking to Adam after the fall God says to him, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:19 NKJV) David, the Psalmist, says, "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14 NKJV)

Yet, God gave to man a spirit, not just a body. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness." (Gen. 1:26 NKJV) "So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him." (Gen 1:27 NKJV) Jesus said, "God is Spirit." (John 4:24 NKJV) So man has a spirit in the image of God, or like God, but enclosed in a frame of dust.

In the Psalm at hand, Psalm 8:3-4, David the Psalmist in thinking about man and his frailty could look up into the heavens and stand amazed, awe struck, at what his eyes beheld. Few people today live in an area where they can get a clear view of the heavens on a cloudless, moonless, night. City lights, smog, and just the atmosphere itself obscures what is in the heavens to be seen but when you do get a chance to see the sky on a perfectly clear night it leaves you speechless. What do you say when you look up and see millions to billions of stars?

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4 NKJV)

What you see is what God meant for you to see—the glory of God declared. The New American Standard Bible (1977) starts verse 1 as follows: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God." (Psalm 19:1 NAS)

What do you see on a perfectly clear night when you look up into the night sky? How many stars do you see? Here is a report from a web site called ESA Space Science:

"Stars are not scattered randomly through space, they are gathered together into vast groups known as galaxies. The Sun belongs to a galaxy called the Milky Way. Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone. Outside that, there are millions upon millions of other galaxies also!"

From a site called wiki.answers.com I got this answer when looking for the number of stars that exist:

"The newest estimates gained by the Hubble space telescope places the estimate of 500billion Galaxies each with about 300 billion stars for each galaxy."

And yet the Psalmist said of God, their creator, "He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by name." (Psalm 147:4 NKJV)

David could look up into the night sky and see the stars so vast in number as to overwhelm the mind. It is an overwhelming sight to any who observe it. It is more than the human mind can take in and comprehend and we are left awe stuck. Figuratively speaking it brought David to his knees by its magnificence and the glory and might it portrayed—the glory and might of God. What was, what is, man to such a God? God is God Almighty truly and beyond doubt!

Have the heavens man can see failed in telling of the story of the glory of God? No! "For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20 NKJV)

Paul by inspiration in this passage teaches that man knows there is a God which does not mean, however, that he is willing to admit it or accept it. There are reasons for not accepting the fact that your child is causing problems in school, or that your spouse is cheating on you, or that your smoking may well lead to cancer, or a hundred other things. Likewise there are many reasons people have for not wanting to believe in God and thus not allowing themselves to do so despite clear evidence of his existence. There is enough evidence that God has shown to man to prove his existence that God said, "They are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20 NKJV)

So what is a man to such an astounding God? Human reasoning might well conclude that to such a mighty God we would be nothing, no more than the equivalent of a mite on a leaf, but that is not God's view of the matter. Man is the object of God's love. This was the thing David was puzzling over. How can such a great and mighty God care about something as lowly as a man? It is a thing we may never understand but we must come to believe and accept it and what a wonderful thing it is whether it is understood or not.

God's love for his creation was such that even before creation he determined that man would have eternal life. "In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began." (Titus 1:2 NKJV) "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:3-4 NKJV)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 NKJV) It is true that eternal life, in the sense of awareness, can be found both in heaven and hell but, "The Lord…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) God wants us with him in heaven where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4 NKJV)

In John 17 Jesus prays. He starts out praying, so it seems, for the apostles but then he says in verse 20, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word." (John 17:20 NKJV) Jesus goes on in prayer, "Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24 NKJV) God's desire is that all men be with him in heaven and live there with him throughout eternity. God "desires all men to be saved." (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV)

Jesus was sent into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 12:47). Jesus is off now preparing a place for God's faithful children (John 14:2-3). What we learn from all of this is that God created man, God loves man, and God's intent or desire is that all men be saved and join with him in heaven for eternity. Who can understand or explain the love of God for man?

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39 NKJV)

Man was made to love and be loved by God, created a spiritual being in a body of flesh with the plan being to transform at the proper time into a heavenly body. "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man." (1 Cor. 15:49 NKJV)

That is the future that God has decreed for those of his human creation who choose of their own free will to follow God and obey his commands by faith. Not only did God create us but he has also told us why. There are certain things he wants out of us. This may not be an exhaustive list but it comes close to being a good summary.

God wants man's love. "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30 NKJV)

God also wants man to love his fellowman. "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Mark 12: 31 NKJV)

This love God desires of man demands obedience to God. "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15 NKJV) "'He who does not love me does not keep my words.'" (John 14:24 NKJV)

God wants man to have faith in him. "But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6 NKJV)

God desires man's worship. "'But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth; for the father is seeking such to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'" (John 4:23-24 NKJV) Note the phrase "the father is seeking such to worship him" thus God desires that of man. "'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.'" (Matt. 4:10 NKJV)

God desires that man glorify him in both body and spirit. "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20 NKJV) The great sin of the Gentiles that Paul talks about in Romans 1 was that "although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful." (Rom. 1:21 NKJV) This, of course, led to worse and worse things.

To glorify God demands that man treat God as God which means among other things reverence, thanksgiving, and giving praise to his name. It demands a holy and reverent life of faithful obedience from a humble and a thankful heart. It has to be from the heart. It must be that my heart drives me to it.

Perhaps we could add to this list but I think for the most part everything that God desires of us could be put in one or the other of the above categories I have listed. God wants our love, our faith, our obedience, our worship, and our reverence or respect. He wants to be treated like God and honored as such.

What is man that God is mindful of him? Man is the creation of God's love and because of that love God is mindful of him. If God has loved us so much should we not reciprocate that love? Does not our heart drive us to do so? I hope we never harden our hearts against the love of God for that would be cruelty against the one who has and does love us and loved us so much so that he sacrificed his own son on our behalf. Who could be so cruel as to harden his heart against one who loves him so much?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Psalms 7:11—"God is Angry With the Wicked Every Day"

There are things a person ought to know about God. In fact, we ought to know all we can about God in view of the fact that, "The LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." (Psalms 100:3 NKJV)

In many ways life is a great mystery. There is only so much we can know about life but the one thing that is certain is that we came from God. It is either that or the Bible is a lie. It is either that or life came from non-living matter (which, I might add, brings on another question—where did the non-living matter come from).

Solomon, by inspiration, wrote, "Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed…Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Eccl. 12:6-7 NKJV) One day we must all give an account of our lives before God. This is the fate God has destined us for.

"For it is written: 'As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:11-12 NKJV)

God is only going to make two divisions in the Day of Judgment and all those who have ever lived will be placed in one division or the other. "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matt. 25:32-33 NKJV) Of the goats set on the left hand Jesus says, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matt. 25:41 NKJV) He goes on and says, "These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt. 25:46 NKJV)

This brings me to Psalms 7:11, the subject of this piece and the title of the post. The entirety of Psalms 7:11 reads, "God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day." (NKJV) With God man is either justified (we might say made righteous or forgiven) or else he must go into the category of the wicked. Man is either a sheep or a goat as God gives no other options.

Does this mean that by man's standards or yours or mine that all the wicked are what we Americans normally think of as wicked men? Not at all! Many are great guys or gals in that they are honest in their dealings, kind to and thoughtful of others, friendly, do a lot of good deeds, and are often very likeable people and fun to be around. Often their only fault is that they have left God out of their lives but you see that is as big as it gets. How does one leave his creator out of his life and not give him any thought or honor or respect? How does one live his life as though God does not matter?

What if we treated a mother or father, a son or daughter, a wife or husband this way? What then? Could it be said we love them, that we respect and honor them, and that we care about them?

When we treat God like he is nothing to us and he does not matter how can we think we are going to be seen as a sheep in his eyes? We have obviously shown we are not concerned about him. We have treated him with contempt whether we set out to do it intentionally or not. Is such a man wicked? Well, maybe not by man's measurements but how about by God's?

When we treat God this way we deeply offend him and kick sand figuratively in his face. Can we blame him if he is angry with us? The Bible teaches God has feelings as well as man does (Gen. 6:6). We hurt him when we do not care about him. Have you ever had anyone you love treat you that way? You love them but they treat you in such a way so that you know by their actions they really do not care about you. If so you know a little about how God must feel when man casts God from his life or will not allow him to enter in.

Remember John 3:16? God loves us and we treat him as though he was to be avoided at all cost, as though he was evil. No, we may not do these things intentionally but that does not change the reality of our actions. We have all heard the old saying that actions speak louder than words and many can attest to that based on their own personal relationships.

I memorized Psalms 7:11 because I felt it was something I needed to keep in mind. God is longsuffering with us not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) but the fact that my life or your life is seemingly going along well does not mean God is well pleased with us. It may only be that in God's goodness he is exercising forbearance and longsuffering in an effort to lead you or me to repentance (Rom. 2:4 NKJV).

I don't care how much your friends think of you they do not love you like God does and they are utterly powerless to save you. Neither are they going with you the day you get into a car accident that takes your life or the day you pass away in a bed somewhere, at a hospital or home, or the day your heart just stops beating. We all die alone. Even on D-Day when men were dying all over the beachhead during WW II each had to take the trip to eternity alone whether a human hand held theirs or not. Many left for eternity that day but each went alone. The only friend man has capable of being with him through his darkest hour is God.

When that day comes, and it may sneak up on you unexpected and early in life, and it will certainly come late in life if you escape it in your young and middle age years, do you want to face an angry God? Are you able to take on God and win? Do you want to be foolish enough to try it? It would not even be a bet as to how that will come out if you choose that route.

Psalms 7:11b is very short, just a very few words. The words are few. The message is powerful and ought to be life changing. Is it going to change your life? If needed, and if not, then you are sure to face an angry God.

Man has been given free will and gets to choose the route he/she will take with all the consequences that come with that. Put another way man gets to reap what he has sown (Gal. 6:7) and will indeed do so. "The way of the unfaithful is hard." (Prov. 13:15 NKJV) It is a way that is too hard for me to travel intentionally. I cannot take on God and win. It is my hope for you who read this that you come to the same conclusion for yourself. One has not known terror until he faces an angry God on the Day of Judgment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Psalms 1:1-2--Blessed is the Man


Some time back I gave some advice to another individual that he would profit by reading the Psalms and memorizing passages in it that would help him.  I ended up taking my own advice and began memorizing passages that had special meaning to me and thought I would start sharing them over time in a series of posts.  I begin with Psalms 1:1-2:

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (NKJV)

To really get a good grasp on a passage it is often good to read it from more than one translation so I want to quote the passage here from two other versions—the New Revised Standard Version and the New Living Translation.

"Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night." (NRSV)

"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night." (NLT)

The Old Testament Hebrew word translated "blessed" or "happy" in this passage ("joys" in the NLT) means, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, happy or favored.  The Hebrew can legitimately be rendered "happy" according to most commentators.  It is not a state of emotional ecstasy as in "I am so, so happy" but a state of being in which one could say he has been blessed by being saved from all the troubles and trials sinners bring upon themselves unnecessarily by the lives they live.

It is the kind of blessing or happiness that one can easily fail to recognize for it is related to things like peace, contentment, and joy rather than the momentary and fleeting ecstasy that a single solitary joyous event might bring on.  It has permanence.  It is an abiding quiet type of happiness that lies deep within the soul.

There are things a godly person will never experience which are wonderful blessings within themselves.  The godly person is not going to experience the loss of love of a loving wife and children because of his cheating on his wife.  He is not going to experience anger and bitterness against himself because of his deceitfulness, lying, and slander.  People are not going to avoid him and disrespect him because of his vulgarity, his foul mouth.  He will not be known as an unloving, unkind, and bitter man.  Because we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful and we do follow God's counsel we miss the trouble, pain, and sorrow that comes as a direct result of ungodliness.   

If we want to enjoy this blessing then we cannot walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  Who we associate with and whose counsel we take can make all the difference in the world.  "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" (1 Cor. 15:33 NKJV)  Good parents have always been concerned about the company their teenage children keep and with good scriptural reason to back it up.  It is just a fact if you hang around with the wrong people long enough and get into a close relationship with them it is going to rub off on you.  Run with the wrong crowd, avoid the righteous, and it will catch up with you in due time.

There are people out in the world whose advice or counsel needs to be ignored for it is ungodly and ultimately leads to suffering and sorrow.  Gross ungodliness is easy enough to recognize but ungodliness today is often cloaked in what the world perceives to be a mantle of righteousness and can easily draw the uninformed into its grasp.  Paul said, "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Cor. 11:14-15 NKJV)

Homosexual marriage is the latest such thing.  The Bible is clear that homosexual relationships are ungodly but the counsel of the wicked says it is bigoted, unloving, and intolerant even unchristian to prohibit these relationships.  Two generations ago when my grandparents were still living and my parents were yet young all recognized this sin as immorality.  Now days it is unloving and bigoted to be critical and some mainstream denominations are beginning to accept gay marriage as righteousness.  We cast the word of God aside and say society, not God, is the ultimate judge of godliness, righteousness, or whatever similar term you wish to use.  It seems crazy but who can deny but what we are doing that today? 

When I was growing up it was still immoral and frowned upon for a person to leave their husband or wife.  Now days you can have 3, 4, or 5 marriages, all unscriptural, and nobody bats an eye.  In fact, marriage itself is now optional, just move in together.  Adultery in America means nothing to anyone except it seems to the spouse against whom it was committed and to Christians who still refuse to take the advice of the ungodly and who have not been deceived by the one who has transformed himself into an angel of light.

What I am getting at is that it is becoming harder all the time, especially for the young and immature, to discern good from evil, godliness from ungodliness, in a secular and politically correct world where these false ministers of righteousness have gained sway over the public mind.  I know of one case where a woman who attends denominational services on a regular basis, an educated woman, gave her son and his girlfriend a hotel room for the weekend to relax.  Can you imagine?  But that is the world we live in today and people do not seem to be able to distinguish godliness from ungodliness.   Fornication is no longer considered to be ungodliness or sin but just an accepted part of growing up in America in the times in which we live.   

What will become of those who give ungodly counsel?  "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isa. 5:20 NKJV)  If you can make wickedness look good and make it seem to be the charitable and reasonable thing to do and make the Bible appear to be outdated, bound to ancient societies long since buried in history, leaving the word with little to no applicability for today then it is all the easier to get people to walk in ungodly counsel, especially the young who lack life experience.  People today are being poisoned against God's counsel.

Anything that draws boundaries that makes a clear cut line between right and wrong is considered judgmental today no matter how many scriptures you can quote to uphold a doctrine.  Why?  Because Satan has done his work and discredited a conservative reading of the scriptures.  People have lost faith that the word of God means what it literally says or that they will have to give an account to a God who will hold them accountable.  "Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, "You will not require an account." (Psalms 10:13 NKJV)

The only way to know what constitutes ungodliness is by knowing what the Bible says and believing it but when people reach the point that their faith has been destroyed in the word what then?  "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalms 11:3 NKJV)  I find it interesting that the Psalmist David left the question unanswered for I think we all know instinctively the answer.  We are getting close to the point in America where the foundations will have been destroyed in terms of faith in the word of God as having any real meaning for us as a guide for daily life. 

The great desire in our time is to have every religion known to man serve as a route to eternal salvation.  That is why the Bible can no longer be accepted by modern liberal thinkers for it says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NKJV)  We have gone from one church is as good as another, which was never true as Christ only built one church, to the point now where one religion is as good as another.  Where does it end?  Again, I think we all know the answer to that question as well. 

Note the progression towards ungodliness in this passage in Psalms 1.  First you take counsel of the ungodly, next you become one with him taking his side, standing with him, and finally you become scornful of righteousness, you are now the one giving out ungodly counsel yourself.  As the expression goes "who woulda thunk it" when you first started down that road.  Ungodliness leads to more ungodliness.  Paul says, "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13 NKJV)

One can become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  "But exhort one another daily, while it is called 'TODAY,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. 3:13 NKJV)  This passage has always scared me for it tells me such a thing can happen and if it happens to a person what then?  You no longer care.  How can you repent?

At the close of this first Psalm David says, "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalms 1:5-6 NKJV)

The good news is there is a blessed man in this Psalm, the one who ignores the wicked and ungodly, who will not take their advice, nor stand with them, nor sit in their seat, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalms 1:2 NKJV)

People who are not faithful Christians cannot understand how a person could delight in the law of the Lord nor how a person could be interested enough to meditate on it day and night.  When my Dad died he did not leave me a book he had written to me, for me.  I wish he had.  If I had such a book I would rejoice in it and read it and reread it and reread it again and think about it often.  I would find great joy in that.

God our eternal father has left us all a book and while that book is for all mankind it is also personally written to each one of us as individual children of his, or at least we can be his children if we will.  This is his letter to us, his way of communicating with us, the only thing we have that truly contains his thoughts, tells us of his love, reveals his nature, and tells us what he wants us to do, and what our future will be like. 

God is going to take care of you and make you eternally happy, at least that is his desire.  Why would you not want to read about that and meditate on it?  Why would you not take an intense interest in what he has to say to you in his word?  Why would you not delight in it?  Speaking on a personal level it is the one place I have found peace in my life.  I cannot tell you how that works, you will have to get to the point where you experience it for yourself, but there is peace to be found in reading and meditating on the word of God.

There is no space here for me to go on for there is too much to say about the value the word of God has to every man who is willing to reach down and pick his Bible up and begin the long journey of learning about God.  The 119th Psalm will tell you all about the word and its value.  Read it.  But, until you have time to do that remember there is a blessed man in the world—the one who heeds Psalms 1:1-2.