Sunday, November 30, 2008


2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
(5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering--
(6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
(7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
(8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
(9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
(10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This is one of those passages that reminds me how God's timeline is not always the same as mine. If someone wrongs me I want to see instant payback. I want to have the sense that God is right there ready to smite them for what they've done.

However, this passage shows us that it doesn't necessarily work like that. If we are in Christ we will eventually experience relief from our affliction, but it may not be until we die. We may not see the recompense for our enemies' sin, but it will happen when they die. A day of judgment is definitely coming. Are you ready for it?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thirsting for Righteousness

Psalms 119:169-176
(169) Taw. Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!
(170) Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word.
(171) My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.
(172) My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.
(173) Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
(174) I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
(175) Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.
(176) I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

I love how this prayer wraps up this Psalm, don't you? The Psalmist truly hungers and thirst for righteousness. He understands that do what he needs to do on his own so he prays for the strength to carry it out. To me, it looks like he chose God's way of doing things, but he understands his complete inability to do what he needs to do. Yet He trusts that God's zeal for His glory will motivate Him to help with doing what he needs to do.

This should give any Christian tremendous hope. This is truly what our lives in Christ are like. When we say that we want for Christ to be the Lord of our lives we are saying that we are choosing God's precepts. However, we still need to pursue righteousness and we can only do that through God's grace in our lives.

Doesn't verse 176 remind you of 1 Peter 2:25? Let's be glad for our Good Shepherd that brings us back to the fold, amen?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Exposed to the Light

Psalms 119:161-168
(161) Sin and Shin. Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
(162) I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
(163) I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
(164) Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
(165) Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
(166) I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.
(167) My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
(168) I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.

We're almost there. Tomorrow is the last stanza in this psalm. I hope that you have enjoyed this as much as I have.

Verse 168 speaks to something that is difficult for me. The Psalmist confidently lays all his ways before the Lord. He is able to do that because his soul keeps the Lord's testimonies and he loves them exceedingly. He knows that he has great peace because of his love for the Law. He hates and abhors falsehood, so he has nothing to worry about as he lays himself bare before the Lord.

Can you do that? I can't. I rejoice at the blood of Christ that washes my sins away. I think of the second glances I give women sometimes. I think of the times when I eat just because I feel like eating. I think of the times when I am lazy. And so on.

Let's rejoice at the grace that makes us righteous before the throne of the Lord, amen?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Be Careful in Application

Psalms 119:153-160
(153) Resh. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law.
(154) Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
(155) Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.
(156) Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules.
(157) Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
(158) I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
(159) Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
(160) The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

I'm going to be spending Thanksgiving with some people who are not believers. I'm not sure that I should apply verse 158 too literally today. However, what this stanza does tell me is that I need to be zealous for evangelism. Salvation is indeed far from those who do not know the Lord (remember -- we're all wicked apart from Christ); therefore, it is up to those of us who know Him to talk about Him.

If we go around talking about what we're thankful for I may just read Psalm 111:1-10.

As I read through this glorious Psalm I am also reminded of the need to guard against spiritual pride. The temptation is to see how the wicked live and then to ask God to give me my share because I love the Word. This has two main problems as I see it:
  • I don't think God works on a quid pro quo basis.
  • I don't love the Word as much as I think I do

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quiet Time

Psalms 119:145-152
(145) Qoph. With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.
(146) I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
(147) I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
(148) My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(149) Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
(150) They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.
(151) But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
(152) Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

This passage reminds me of Mark 1:35. It looks to me like the Psalmist had a regular practice of being awake very early in the morning or very late at night so that he could seek the Lord and meditate on the Word.

What do you do when you are persecuted? You may not be getting chased through caves by a wicked king like Saul chasing David. You likely don't face the persecution that an Indonesian Christian might face. However, I am certain that there is something in your life that should drive you to your knees in pursuit of the Lord.

Let's be sure that we go to Him and His Word to meet our needs and get us through persecution. All of His commandments are true. Let's rejoice in the authority and trustworthiness of the Word, amen?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Righteous

Psalms 119:137-144
(137) Tsadhe. Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules.
(138) You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
(139) My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
(140) Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
(141) I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
(142) Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.
(143) Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.
(144) Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

God is the standard for what is right. This may seem kind of obvious, but do we really live as if we believe that? This means that God's Word is the standard for what is right in our lives. It also means that everything He does is truly good, even if it doesn't seem that way at the time.

I envy the faith described by the Psalmist throughout this magnificent Psalm. Do I have a consuming zeal for God's Word? Do I remember His precepts at all times? Are His commandments my delight?

Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is a fairly resounding "no." However, this Psalm also encourages me to pray that God would shape me into someone for whom the answers are "yes," which is what I do daily.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Longing for the Law

Psalms 119:129-136
(129) Pe. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
(130) The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
(131) I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.
(132) Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
(133) Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
(134) Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts.
(135) Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
(136) My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Look at how earnestly the Psalmist desires to know God's Word. His soul keeps God's testimonies because they are wonderful. He opens his mouth and pants because of his deep longing for God's commandments. He prays that he would be redeemed from man's oppression. Normally we pray that for our own sake, but he does it so that he might be able to keep God's precepts. Finally, he cries streams of tears because there are people who do not keep God's law.

As someone on the track to ministry, this is very convicting. While I do spend more time than most reading the Bible I think it is a stretch to say that my earnestness matches this Psalmist's. More time than most doesn't necessarily equal an adequate amount of time. Nor is the quality necessarily what it should be. Frankly, I just got through my reading today and I didn't really wrestle with the text, despite some serious questions that Ezekiel 18 brings out for me.

I like the promise of verse 130. I feel simple and in need of understanding. Isn't it great that we can talk to the Author about what He meant?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Psalms 119:121-128
(121) Ayin. I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
(122) Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
(123) My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
(124) Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.
(125) I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
(126) It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken.
(127) Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.
(128) Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.

Verses 121-122 almost suggest a sort of prosperity theology. God, I've done what is right so please set me free from the oppression around me. If we take this stanza completely out of context we may reach that conclusion.

However, we've already established that there is value in affliction. I don't think that this stanza teaches us that we should expect complete deliverance from persecution if we are in Christ. So what does this stanza mean?

I think the end really shows us what this is all about. There is persecution coming from those who do not know the Word nor love it. As a result of this the Psalmist has seen the value of loving the Word more than anything else. Moreover, he also considers everything in the Word to be right. The correct attitude is fostered in verses 124-125. The Psalmist shows his complete submission to whatever God has in store for him. He prays for deliverance, but he also accepts that there are those who do not love the Word and will seek to do him harm.

In other words, I don't think that this stanza or any other passage taken in its context can support the "gospel" preached by men like Joel Osteen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Do You Hate?

Psalms 119:113-120
(113) Samekh. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
(114) You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
(115) Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
(116) Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
(117) Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!
(118) You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
(119) All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
(120) My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

It looks to me like the Psalmist does not want anyone to distract him from his love of God's Word. Now of course we are to be missional. We can't be salt and light to the world if we stay in the cupboard and never season anything. However, we also can't let the world distract us from the pursuit of God's Word.

This stanza makes it very clear that God is the one who gives us grace to walk with Him. We can't do it on our own. It also makes it clear that God will discard like dross those who do not love his testimonies.

Here's a question that I don't know enough Hebrew to answer yet -- does verse 118 imply that God spurns some people because they run away from His statutes or does it mean that they run away from His statutes because He spurned them? I think it is the former. This definitely sets up a tension with election. No one naturally wants to pursue God's statutes. Therefore, there must be some that He transforms to have that desire. In other words, he spurns those who run away from His statues, but He would have anyway because that is their natural bent.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Oath

Psalms 119:105-112
(105) Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
(106) I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
(107) I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
(108) Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.
(109) I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
(110) The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
(111) Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
(112) I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

Just about anyone who has gone through some kind of Sunday school curriculum has heard Psalm 119:105 at some point. It's a great one for illustrations too with flashlights and long winding paths. The question is -- do we really believe that?

Do we really believe that God's Word guides us in everything we do? The world around us is very dark. It tempts us with many basic behavioral things like bad entertainment options or eating too much. It also tempts us with more fundamental things like dishonoring God with our finances and living for ourselves. If we truly delight in God's Word then this won't be a problem for us. It will show us what to do.

Of course, God's Word doesn't tell us who we should marry. It doesn't tell us where we should specifically work. It doesn't tell us whether we should have pizza or pork chops for dinner. However, it does provide a framework for us to make these decisions. The ultimate question becomes whether what we do brings greater glory to God.

I don't think that verse 106 is optional. If we are Christians then we have sworn that same oath. We are committed to following God's rules. We can't do that unless we know what they are. This is why it is so important to be regularly reading Scripture.

We can call ourselves whatever we want. However, if we choose to take a buffet approach to our faith where we take what we like and leave what we don't then we have to rename our faith. That is pagan, not Christian. I recognize that some will understand some things in Scripture differently than others will. Without getting into specifics, the point is that we need to let Scripture shape us rather than letting our own opinions shape how we read Scripture.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being Hermione

Psalms 119:97-104
(97) Mem. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
(98) Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
(99) I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
(100) I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
(101) I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
(102) I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
(103) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(104) Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Apparently it's OK to have a desire to have more wisdom than other people. I don't think that this is meant to be in a way that puffs up ourselves, but it looks to be like the Psalmist is glad for how the wisdom and understanding he enjoys surpasses that of others.

It's clearly vital that we go to God's Word for the understanding we need. This is what will lead us to hate every false way. How can we hate those false ways unless we know what they look like? We also need to know what the correct ways look like too. That happens from meditating on God's Word.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That Which Endures

Psalms 119:89-96
(89) Lamedh. Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
(90) Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
(91) By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
(92) If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
(93) I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
(94) I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
(95) The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
(96) I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

Look at what lasts forever here. God's Word is firmly fixed forever. Verse 92 repeats a theme we've seen for the past few days -- God's Word is what gets us through affliction.

What do we know so far?
  • We can trust God's Word
  • We need to delight in God's Word
  • Affliction is good for us
  • The only way to get through affliction is by trusting in God's Word
We still have another week or so to go with this Psalm. I hope that you don't get too bored with this repeated theme, but if you stick with it I think that you will have no choice but to either acknowledge the supreme importance of Scripture or just toss the thing out altogether.

By the way, don't verses 90 and 91 remind you of:

Colossians 1:16-17
(16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
(17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This shows us that God's common grace holds all things together. Make sure you know Him before everything falls apart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hope in Trials

Psalms 119:81-88
(81) Kaph. My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
(82) My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?"
(83) For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
(84) How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
(85) The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.
(86) All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
(87) They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
(88) In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Earlier we saw the value of affliction. However, that doesn't mean it is fun to go through the affliction. Here we see the Psalmist really wrestling with the pain in his life. He is dealing with persecution that most American Christians could never dream of. Yet through it all he does not forsake the Word of the Lord.

Why don't Americans deal with this kind of persecution? One reason is that our liberties are guarded by the Constitution. We may complain about how the ACLU is removing prayer from various places, etc, but we really don't know what true persecution is. How many American Christians have been burned at the stake for their faith lately? Not too many as far as I know. The media is certainly biased with a materialistic worldview, but I think that would still make headlines.

Another reason is because we try to live underground. Who even knows what we believe and why? What cause would there be to persecute us? What are we doing to speak of the truth of God's Word? Do we even know it well enough to talk about it?

I still wonder where the balance is with all of it though. I don't want to stand in the hall at my office thumping a Bible and yelling at people. However, I also want to share the truth of God's Word. I guess it's good that my coworkers respect what I believe. The problem is that most of them don't seem to really believe much when it comes to God's Word.

Remember -- being a Christian is not something we do just on Sunday mornings. It has to be something that permeates our lives. Does that happen in yours? It could certainly happen more in mine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fear of the Lord

Psalms 119:73-80
(73) Yodh. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
(74) Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
(75) I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
(76) Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
(77) Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
(78) Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
(79) Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
(80) May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

The repeated theme in yesterday's stanza was the value of affliction. Today it is the fear of the Lord. We know from Proverbs 1:7 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Here we see that those who fear the Lord will go to the Psalmist for learning. It looks like the Psalmist is in something of a pastoral role here.

What undergirds all of this? God's Word. Fearing God may be the beginning of wisdom, but how do we acquire the wisdom once we have begun? The answer is in God's "testimonies." We need to go to Scripture to get the wisdom that begins with the proper fear of Him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Value of Affliction

Psalms 119:65-72
(65) Teth. You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.
(66) Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
(67) Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
(68) You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
(69) The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
(70) their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
(71) It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
(72) The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

This stanza continues the theme of how the Psalmist delights in the Word of God. It is pretty clear so far that we are to do the same because there is tremendous value in this delight. We are commanded to delight, but fortunately God gives us the grace to do just that.

Notice the common theme of verses 67 and 71. The Psalmist speaks of the value of affliction. As someone who has worked in a ministry for people struggling with enslavement to sin I can attest to this. I also can attest to it as someone who has come out of some enslaving sin. Our natures seem to like things comfortable. It takes pain and affliction to shake us out of that. God's Word recognizes that as well. It speaks of the value of affliction to incline us toward obedience.

This was something that Josh Hamilton spoke about last night. He said that as he travels to various cities he meets lots of people that either want to talk to him or have him talk to someone else. He told a story about meeting a woman and explaining to her that she needs to hit rock-bottom. He did before he was able to see his utter helplessness. Now he is walking in victory and God is glorified in his ministry.

I also wonder what the various prosperity preachers do with this stanza. They speak of the victory that we are to have in Christ. While it is true that we are to have victory, do they address the need for affliction before we can enjoy that victory? Do they define victory as enjoying God's Word more than thousands of gold and silver pieces?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is He Enough?

Psalms 119:57-64
(57) Heth. The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
(58) I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
(59) When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
(60) I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
(61) Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
(62) At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.
(63) I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(64) The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!

I think that there is a misunderstanding about the nature of joy in the Lord. We tend to think of our time as compartmentalized between "God stuff" and "our stuff." We think that we have to remove any expectation of fun when we are about the business of God. We certainly can't have fun when we read the Bible, pray, go to church, etc.

This Psalm tells us to change that attitude. The Lord is our portion. That means that He gives us what we need. Verse 62 seems particularly powerful to me. The Psalmist loves the Lord and His Word so much that he would rise in the middle of the night to praise Him. How often do we do that?

I know that personally I let myself get distracted too easily. I'm always on the lookout for some pursuit that might entertain me. Maybe it's a video game. Maybe it's a book. Maybe it's some hobby. Now I think that entertainment has its place, but I also think that this Psalm tells us that God truly does satisfy that longing in our hearts. Let's be sure to go to Him for that satisfaction.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dealing With Affliction

Psalms 119:49-56
(49) Zayin. Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
(50) This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
(51) The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
(52) When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.
(53) Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
(54) Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
(55) I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.
(56) This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.

Is verse 50 true for you? Does God's Word give you comfort in affliction? I remember sitting at the pharmacy waiting for a prescription after hearing the news of Amanda's molar pregnancy. I remember thinking that God's grace was sufficient for us. I also remember thinking of Romans 8:28 quite often. God's promises to see us through and the promise of His ultimate goodness helped to make sense of everything. Why did we have to wait an extra two years for Noah? I don't know. I'm not sure if I'll ever know on this side of heaven. However, I do know that God has a plan and a purpose which I need to trust.

Verse 53 used to be a rally cry for me. It still bothers me when I see flagrant sin. The protests in California about Prop 8 are a good example of this. How would these folks feel if there was equal fervor shown in marching against the election of President-Elect Obama? But I digress...

The point is that we should be upset by sin. The trick I've found is to be upset by sin but not in a self-righteous Pharisaical way. That has been hard for me and is perhaps one of the reasons why I don't get as upset about it as I once did. I don't subscribe to the AFA alerts anymore because I just don't think that is particularly effective. It shows the world that we are different, but it hardly makes Christ seem compelling to anyone.

Then again, is it our job to make Christ seem compelling? It is our job to bring glory to the Lord through our lives. I'm just not sure that protesting everything is the best way to do it. For the most part, I think that these people know what they are doing when they choose lives of sin. They want society to assuage their consciences, but they know what they are doing. Only the gospel will change them. To me, what AFA does is basically tell people that we have the gospel, they don't, and so we're two sides in a battle. I think a better approach would be to say that we have the gospel, they need it, and here is what it is all about. We should be friends in a sense and not combatants.

Nevertheless, we should not lose our indignation over sin. We certainly should not go to sin for entertainment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Psalms 119:41-48
(41) Waw. Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;
(42) then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
(43) And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
(44) I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
(45) and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.
(46) I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
(47) for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
(48) I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

When I took apologetics at seminary it was my first course. I was wide-eyed and just blown away by what I was learning. We got into philosophy. We studied concepts that I couldn't quite grasp (something about infinite hotel rooms). At the core, we discussed theories of apologetics.

I won't go into all of them, but I will say that I settled on what is known as cumulative case apologetics. The idea is that no one thing is compelling enough to convince someone to be a person of faith, but the evidence eventually becomes so overwhelming that they have to concede the point.

I think this does a great job of bolstering my own faith, but I'm not sure that is the biblical approach when talking to someone. More and more I realize that my soteriology demands a presuppositionalist apologetic more than anything. That presumes that the Bible holds the answers and it is up to the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the lost to give the Bible any credibility. At least that's the jist of it as I understand it.

This stanza of Psalm 119 would seem to support that as well. If we know our Bibles then we have everything we need. Now it is good to be armed with the philosophical and historical arguments. After all, it should be compelling to someone that the Bible has more manuscript evidence than any other ancient document. However, I find that nobody really cares about that because they know that by trusting the Bible they open themselves up to the conviction that they are sure it includes. They are right about that.

Verses 46-48 say it all to me. Am I delighting in His commandments? If so, I have nothing to fear from anyone. I don't care how many letters someone has after his name. If I trust Scripture as my defense then it is a matter of that person arguing with God and not with me. I much prefer that situation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Active Sanctification

Psalms 119:33-40
(33) He. Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
(34) Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
(35) Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
(36) Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
(37) Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
(38) Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
(39) Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
(40) Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Look at the prayers of this Psalm. The Psalmist keeps asking for God to change his heart. He asks that the Lord teach him the way of His statutes. He asks that God give him understanding so that he can keep the law. Verses 36 and 37 are particularly powerful for me. He asks that God incline his heart to His testimonies and that God turn his eyes from looking at worthless things.

As we approach the holiday season I am struck by how badly I need verse 37. There is so much temptation for me to look at the worthless things of this world in the form of video games and other stuff. I'm glad not to have TV so I don't know what is out there for the coveting. I don't want much of the world and I need to keep reminding myself of that fact. Otherwise my eyes will begin to covet what I don't really want or need.

Let's remember that His rules are good and that He ultimately will satisfy us, amen?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Set Free

Psalms 119:25-32
(25) Daleth. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
(26) When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
(27) Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
(28) My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
(29) Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
(30) I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
(31) I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
(32) I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

This stanza reminds me of my journey into freedom from sexual sin. My soul was clinging to the dust, but when I confessed the Lord answered and began to teach me His statutes. I had some head knowledge of what the Bible says, but I didn't really have it in my heart.

Verse 27 is where it gets really exciting for me. The prayer is for God to make me understand Scripture. I can't do it on my own. I need the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I need to take time to work at it. If that wasn't true then I'd be really upset about the time I have spent on Hebrew and Greek! At the same time we are to meditate on God's wondrous works. Let's do that for just a minute:
  • He made the world in such a way that it would sustain us
  • He made this complex system in such a way that it keeps going
  • He holds creation together (Colossians 1:17)
  • He continually showed mercy to His people despite their disobedience
  • He sent Jesus to set us free
  • He set me free in particular
  • He blessed me with a great family, a great job, and a house in a place where I can freely worship Him
  • He set me free from pornography, self-gratification, gluttony, and laziness
  • He has blessed my family and me with good health
Obviously I could go on and on. These are just off the top of my head and they pertain to me and my situation. I encourage you to do this as a frequent exercise. It's so easy to focus on what we don't have that we lose sight of the immeasurable blessings we have received.

Verse 28 deals with true repentance. This goes along with 2 Corinthians 7:10. Have you experienced true godly sorrow for your sin? If not then you are on the road to death no matter how much you are doing for God.

The last 3 verses show us what sanctification looks like. Note the prominence of Scripture in this. It is all about Scripture, not our feelings. We need to form our lives based on Scripture. I like to say that I do that and I mean to, but I know that there are areas of my life that I hold on to. My prayer is that God would reveal those to me and transform me by His Spirit. It's not fun to pray for conviction, but I know that is what I must do. Will you join me?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Praying for Insight

Psalms 119:18-20
(18) Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(19) I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!
(20) My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

This passage has profound insight on a number of levels. An obvious one is for devotions. Are we praying that the Holy Spirit would illuminate us in our understanding of Scripture? Are we asking God to open our eyes? The Bible makes a certain amount of sense to everyone, but to have the kind of insight about and love for God's Word described here takes an act of grace. Is this something that we pursue? Do we long for God's rules at all times?

One thing to note as you read through the Old Testament is that you can mentally substitute "Torah" for "law." The Torah is the first 5 books of Scripture, which is what David would have as his reference. It was all the Bible they had at the time. Now we are blessed with 61 additional books. Do we have a desire to delight in them as described in verse 20?

The other application is for our postmodern friends out there. It's great to ask questions and embrace mystery. However, God's Word promises us many answers. Let's not elevate mystery to a place where it doesn't belong. The Bible is silent on some matters, but on others it speaks very plainly. Even if we discount the ambiguous areas we have plenty to embrace as hard truth. Let's be sure to go to Scripture first for our answers and if we can't find a clear answer let's use Scripture as a basis for our answers.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

THE Psalm

I understand that Martin Luther referred to Romans as "the book." I would call Psalm 119 "the Psalm." I'm excited that I'm back to it in my reading plan. I read through it all in one sitting this morning and, as always, I found it to be a blessing. I plan to post some thoughts on it as I go through it stanza by stanza for the next few weeks. Here are some from the first two:

Psalms 119:4-5
(4) You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
(5) Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

This is pretty much my prayer every morning. I know that I cannot keep all His statutes, but I also know that I have been commanded to keep them. I need grace to be steadfast in keeping them. In fact, as I prayed this morning I realized just how many times I go back to asking God for the grace to obey Him. I have seen what my own efforts bring and it isn't pretty.

Psalms 119:9-16
(9) Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
(13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
(14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
(16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Sorry to post the whole stanza, but it is just so rich with application. This tells me that it is vital to spend regular time in the Word. We simply cannot live properly if we don't. It also tells me that we are to preach the Word. I am to declare "all the rules of your mouth" once I learn them.

Verses 14-16 are where it really gets heavy. Do I really delight in the way of His testimonies as much as I would in all riches? Do I really meditate on His precepts and fix my eyes on His ways? Do I delight in His statutes?

I do make it a point to memorize Scripture and I think that verse 16 is a ringing endorsement for that practice. Are we making a point to put God's Word in our hearts through memorizing it?

I hope that you enjoy walking through this precious psalm with me. Psalm 119 is one of those touchstones for me. I go there when I need reminders of assurance. It points me back to Scripture by using Scripture. I guess that could be seen as a circular argument, but it works for me. I hope that we are all greatly challenged and transformed by this Psalm as it entreats us to take in the whole counsel of God.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Prop 8

Proverbs 29:2
(2) When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.

I understand the arguments against Prop 8 in California. Who are we to decide someone else's morality? Just because we think an act is sinful shouldn't stop others from doing it, right?

There are problems with this argument on a couple of levels. One is that marriage is something God created, not man. Same-sex couples are welcome to have civil unions, but don't cheapen the "one flesh" relationship described by Scripture.

What I notice in reading the Old Testament is that wicked, idolatrous nations get their punishment. It happened to the nations that the Israelites eradicated in Joshua. It happened to Israel and Judah as they turned from the Lord and pursued their own idols. I realize that we do not live in a theocracy, but I don't think that God's rules have changed about sin. He must take it pretty seriously or else He would not have sent His son to die for it, right?

Let's not compromise biblical values for the sake of "tolerance," amen?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Worth Pondering

Psalms 117:1-2
(1) Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
(2) For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

A lot of people are doing verse 1 because of our new President-Elect. A fair number are having trouble believing verse 2 right now.

The Lord is faithful to His people. Sometimes it is hard to see in times like this. Scripture tells us to take the long view of things. I think that applies to the administration that is coming in. The bar is now set quite high. It will be interesting to watch.

No matter what happens, the Lord is faithful to His people forever. His steadfast love (hesed) is great. Let's remember that, amen?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obeying Instruction

I was struck by this today:

Jeremiah 35:13-19
(13) "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD.
(14) The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.
(15) I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, 'Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.' But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.
(16) The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me.
(17) Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered."
(18) But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you,
(19) therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me."

Earlier in this chapter Jeremiah had offered the sons of Rechab wine to drink and they refused because of their father's command. The Lord used them as an object lesson for the people. They had obeyed their father's command, but they did not obey His.

I think of this as we stand post-election awaiting the inauguration of President-elect Obama. I wonder if we listen to the words of the Lord? From my way of thinking I don't understand how anyone can say they believe the words of Scripture and vote for him, but I realize that good people differ on that. My complaint is that the exit polls showed that America's primary concern in this election was the economy. Their concern is not for the righteousness of our nation.

I guess I'm developing more of a pastoral heart about this. I want to see people really believe the truth of God's Word. That's my goal in whatever ministry the Lord puts me. Is it possible to vote for Obama and really believe the Bible? I'm sure that some who did vote for him do. However, I sure hope that no Christians say that the economy is their primary concern. That shows me a misplaced focus away from what the Lord tells us in His Word.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Die is Cast

I just got back from voting. We were talking this morning about what a blessing it is to be able to vote. Even if our man doesn't win we will witness the peaceful transfer of power next January. We have a say in who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years. This is incredible.

I had something very strange happen to me today. As I got to my little stall with my pen and looked down at my ballot I actually got a bit choked up when I saw the little oval next to "John McCain/Sarah Palin." It's not that I love John McCain because I certainly don't. However, the gravity of an Obama win just hit home to me all at once. I realized how significant it is regarding the continued genocide of black babies in America, in addition to the 27 million other babies who have been aborted. I realized that the two sides could not be any more different, even going beyond the abortion issue.

I feel good about making my small voice heard in the process. I will be happily surprised if I am not disappointed tomorrow morning, but I am not without hope. After all, isn't this all about hope and change?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lesson from Jeremiah

I'm in Jeremiah as part of my reading plan. There is a repeated theme that helps bring me comfort as we prepare for tomorrow's election. God is in charge of kings and kingdoms. You see this very clearly in Daniel and the minor prophets as well.

This means that we should vote if we're able, but that we don't have to feel like the future of the world hinges on this election. God is still in control. If he wants Obama in the White House then that is who will go. And if he wants McCain then that is who will be there. How this works in concert with man's will is beyond me, but I do know that it somehow works together.

Our pastor preached on this passage yesterday:

Romans 13:1-7 ESV
(1) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(2) Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
(4) for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.
(5) Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
(6) For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
(7) Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

He brought out something really interesting from verse 7. We are to give honor to our leaders. Who was the leader of Paul? Nero.

Yes, the Nero who would use Christians as tiki torches in his garden. The Nero who would wrap Christians in wet animal skins and then watch them suffocate as the skins dried. That Nero.

I don't think either McCain or Obama will be that bad, do you?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Weight off the Shoulders

I just emailed my paper to my professor. It always feels so good to finish a paper. I was living under the constant feeling of the need to get it done and turned in. Now I can concentrate on just keeping up in my classes. It's quite a liberating feeling.

In case you're wondering, it's on the text-critical issues surrounding John 7:53-8:11. You may have noticed that your bible has it set off in square brackets. My paper explains why and what you should do with it. In short, I don't think it belongs as John 7:53-8:11, but it should be put somewhere and it should still be taught.

I thought that it would share happily with Google Docs, but it looks like I have to add people individually to see it. Let me know if you'd like to read it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

God's Common Grace

John Piper puts this very well, as always.

Matthew 5:44-45 ESV
(44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.