Loving People

Love each other.
-John 13:34, 15:12 & 17, 1 Peter 1:22 & 3:8, 1 John 3:18; 4:11, 12 & 19

I had this experience at the church meeting where God was sharing with me how he loves the people.  I know and we know that God loves us and all the people, but this was an experience of God's particular love for each one.

I sensed God looking at various people and loving them.  I got the impression that God was gazing with love on this person and then that person and was sharing his loving heart for them with me.  I kind of realized that God was imparting his love for his people to me as well.  He was like a proud papa.

When Jesus told his first disciples to love each other, he said that the love they had for each other, would be proof to the world that they were his disciples.  In my Christian life, I have mainly participated in going vertical, to God, alone or with others.  I know something about worship and prayer.

I also spent a lot of energy in going vertical to know about God.  I also know something about listening to people and praying for them.  I know something about fellowship and discipleship.

But Jesus did not say that anything but love would be the mark that we are his followers.  We can have the best worship or the best teaching, but those are not the sign of Jesus.  Loving people is his calling card.

I think God is teaching me about the love. His love, and my loving his people.  We need to love and be loved.  Being right or being articulate is not the mark of Jesus.  Being loving and being loved is.

When I felt God's love, it was like the love of a father for his kids.  There is concern, but there is so much grace and affection.  I felt like God let me look through his heart and it was like he was saying that he wants me to love with his heart.  I felt God's invitation to love people and I will follow.

The Time is Short

But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short.
-1 Cor. 7:29a

This past year, it has been hitting me hard, that time is limited.  Time is something that if we squander, it is gone for good, and we only get so much of it.  When you lose time, you cannot get it back.

I found the verse that says, "time is short", in 1 Corinthians 7.  The context is pretty much, marriage and singleness, in Corinth, in the first century.  We have to ask why Paul said this, before we know what it might mean for us.  

We could ask if Paul though the second coming of Christ would come soon.  If he did, there is nothing wrong with that, because Jesus warned all Christians to be ready, because he will come when we do not expect him (Matt. 24:44).  Are we in congruence with Jesus' warning and then Paul's admonition?

"Time is short", is a Biblical idea, that the Old Testament teaches.  Our length of life is like a vapor, wrote the Psalmist (Ps. 39:5).  So, Paul is on solid ground to remind us that time is short.

His statement is made in the context of instructions about singleness and marriage.  Paul's advice to singles is to be whole wholeheartedly devoted to Christ.  Paul's advice to married people is the same: wholehearted devotion to Christ, because the time is short:
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage.
-1 Cor. 7:29
Paul is not telling married people to neglect their spouses and families, but encouraging us that we need to be living with an eternal perspective.  This is what Don Williams wrote in his book, Paul and Women:
The shortness of the appointed time, tells us that the church lives in a time that bears the quality of the end within it because of the death and resurrection of Christ. In other words, the time (kairos - "season") is short (present tense verb), not because Paul has a date set for Christ's return, but because in Christ the final events of the end times have begun.  Christ's death resolves the question of our position on the Day of Judgement (Romans 8:1).  His his resurrection begins the general resurrection of the dead, He is the "first fruits" of those who have slept (1 Corinthians  15:20).  Thus we live in a time of "distress" (1 Cor. 7:26) and a time that reveals the end or goal of God's purpose (7:29).  It has grown very short (literally it is "of the nature of being wrapped up"), because Jesus has come inaugurating the goal of God's salvation towards which all history heretofore has moved. (1)
Eternal perspective means more of God in your life.  If a man or woman, in Christ, who are married, would focus more on the Lord, their marriage will be better.  It is a win-win.  Your walk with God is better if you focus more on God, rather than wasting time, and your marriage will be better.  The lesson here is to focus more on God, like the single person is even more able to do, rather than wasting time.

The context of Paul's statement about what else we should not set our focus on, helps to clarify what he means:
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage.Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.
-1 Cor. 7:29-31
Hans Kung's reflection on these verses is this:
Paul is speaking of a superior freedom in living, a wholly committed freedom... which through its commitment to God maintains an ultimate independence in the world.(2)
The super-spiritual people of Corinth actually rejected marriage, while Paul affirmed it.(3)  The marriage covenant is ordained by God and we have a higher responsibility to our spouse than we do to any other relationships, except for to God.

What 1 Cor. 7:9 means is that we need an eternal perspective and a God first, kingdom first perspective because the time that remains is very short.

__________________________________________________
The photo above if from Brittany Reveiz
1. Williams, Don; The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church, p. 59
2. Kung, Hans; The Church, p.159
3. Brauch, Manfred; The hard sayings of Paul, p. 124

Together - Psalm 133

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.
A Song of Ascents. (NRSV)
A Pilgrim Song of David (MSG)
A Song of Ascents. Of David. (ESV)
A pilgrimage song. Of David. (VOICE)
A song of David for those journeying to worship. (CEB)

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (NRSV)
How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! (MSG)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (ESV)
How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace! (VOICE)
Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one! (CEB)
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. (NRSV)
It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. (MSG)
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down onthe collar of his robes! (ESV)
It is like expensive oil poured over the head, running down onto the beard— Aaron’s beard!— which extended over the collar of his robes. (CEB)
It is like the finest oils poured on the head, sweet-smelling oils flowing down to cover the beard, Flowing down the beard of Aaron, flowing down the collar of his robe. (VOICE)

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore. (NRSV)
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion.  Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life. (MSG)
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. (ESV)
It is like the dew on Mount Hermon streaming down onto the mountains of Zion, because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing: everlasting life. (CEB)
It is like the gentle rain of Mount Hermon that falls on the hills of Zion.  Yes, from this place, the Eternal spoke the command, from there He gave His blessing—life forever. (VOICE)

-Psalm 133 (NLT)

Harmony, unity, and getting along carry with them the idea of brothers and sisters being able to stay together.  Unity is most needed for us to work together, to stay together, and to live together in harmony.  We can only have unity if we have maturity and the headship of Christ in the church.

Someone was careful to put these fifteen psalms in a certain order.  Psalm 133 certainly comes out of Psalm 132.  If You have a life of 'God first', resulting in being a blessing to others, unity or harmony with others comes naturally.

Conversely, if we do not have the maturity of a 'God first' and a 'being a blessing to others', life, then unity or getting along is hard or not possible.  'God first' is a personal and corporate thing.

The beard of Aaron might symbolize that we grow up into maturity.  We don't expect babies, toddlers, and even children to be mature.  Boys become men and girls become women.  There is a time to enter in to manhood and womanhood (1 Cor. 13:11), which I believe is age 13.

The oil that comes down on Aaron's head is the anointing that comes when we are in unity.  Notice that it comes on the head first, which symbolizes the headship of Christ.  We have Aaron's name here, which I believe is a picture of Christ as the high priest, but his sharing his priestly ministry with all believers.

I believe that the anointing oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit.  I believe that the Holy Spirit loves the headship of Jesus Christ over his people and he also loves it when his people are in unity, and that these release a blessing from him, like wheels on a cart being oiled so that they roll more freely.

Unity or harmony is refreshing.  Refresh means to make fresh again.  "May I refresh your water", the waiter might ask.

My dad used to hose down the driveway whenever we had company coming.  He refreshed everything and this made things look nicer.  That is the picture of waking up to dew being on everything.  It is fresh.  We call gentle, misty rain, "dew".  To me, everything looks kissed when there has been dew.  It is a beautiful picture of God's blessing.

God's love for us does not change, even when we sin, or when we refuse to grow up.  But since we have freedom as persons and God is also a person.  God reacts to things we do sometimes, with a blessing.  It is like sensing God's smile.  I bet Jesus felt that his whole life.  And the biggest example of God reacting perhaps was when God spoke out and said, "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased".

When God commands a blessing, it is a good thing for us that we don't want to pass up.  I believe what God is looking for is for us to be under Christ's headship and thereby, in unity with one another.  Unity comes from people who are mature, making God first and who are a blessing to others.  And unity only works when all of our life is under Christ's headship.

In summary, Psalm 133 teaches us that harmony or unity among God's people comes from learned maturity.  The mature people must come under the headship of Christ in their lives and when they function together.  This results in unity or harmony or getting along, which results in the anointing from God, which is an increased presence of the Holy Spirit among us together.  And God refreshes those who function in this oneness, all the way to eternal life.

To review the 14 steps we have now covered:
  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.
  10. We learn that suffering is part of the faith walk towards God.  God uses suffering to grow us up into Christ-likeness.  This may surprise us after we have done so well, 'going wide', in learning to walk with God, cultivating a rich relationship with him, and learning to enjoy the blessings.  After learning to 'go wide' with God, having an enlarged 'God life', we begin to learn to 'go deep'.
  11. We are surprised to learn, after we have been walking with God for some time, that God has more redemptive work that he wants to do in us.  We discover deep places where we want God.  God in turn redeems us in those deep places with his unfailing, steadfast, covenant love; and we are made more like Christ.
  12. We learn to humble our selves, and stop all the crying and chatter. We can say that we are not proud, to God, and that we don't have it all figured out, but have a lifestyle of trusting him in our lives, that dethrones pride. We patiently embrace the silence of waiting, and encouraging others in a life of hope in God.
  13. We learn to be more concerned or preoccupied with God and God's habitation in us, than with our selves, in all our lives.  We get a revelation that, "my house is Gods house", and we want to dwell in God in our whole lives and God's presence in our whole lives brings a blessing to others and God blesses us generationally.
  14. We learn that harmony or unity among God's people comes from learned maturity.  The mature people must come under the headship of Christ in their lives and when they function together.  This results in unity or harmony or getting along, which results in the anointing from God, which is an increased presence of the Holy Spirit among us together.  And God refreshes those who function in this oneness, all the way to eternal life.

My House is His House - Psalm 132

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

Lord, remember David and all that he suffered.
He made a solemn promise to the Lord.
He vowed to the Mighty One of Israel,
“I will not go home; I will not let myself rest.
I will not let my eyes sleep nor close my eyelids in slumber until I find a place to build a house for the Lord, a sanctuary for the Mighty One of Israel.”

We heard that the Ark was in Ephrathah; then we found it in the distant countryside of Jaar.
Let us go to the sanctuary of the Lord; let us worship at the footstool of his throne.
Arise, O Lord, and enter your resting place, along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.
May your priests be clothed in godliness; may your loyal servants sing for joy.
For the sake of your servant David, do not reject the king you have anointed.
The Lord swore an oath to David with a promise he will never take back:
“I will place one of your descendants on your throne.
If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant
and the laws that I teach them, then your royal line will continue forever and ever.”

For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem; he has desired it for his home.
“This is my resting place forever,” he said.
“I will live here, for this is the home I desired.
I will bless this city and make it prosperous;
I will satisfy its poor with food.
I will clothe its priests with godliness; its faithful servants will sing for joy.
Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed one will be a light for my people.
I will clothe his enemies with shame, but he will be a glorious king.”
-Psalm 132 (NLT)

Psalm 132 is the 13th song of ascent, pilgrim's song, or song of the steps; that in all are 15.  It is also the first song in the 5th set of three.  Titus Chu calls the 5th set, the stage of maturity.  To review, the five sets or stages are these, according to him:
  1. Vision
  2. Consecration
  3. Enjoyment
  4. Enlargement
  5. Maturity
Every stage and every step has matured us.  We have learned maturity or been discipled through each of the previous steps.  We start out with a large amount of selfishness or narcissism.  But then, we step outside our selves, and begin a journey towards God.  We learn to 'go vertical'.

After the first six steps or lessons, we have grown a lot, and then we come to Psalms 126-128, which we called the enjoyment set.  We learn there about living the enjoyable life.  But then we learned that we were not finished with growth.  The next stage, the enlargement stage of Psalms 129 to 131, taught us that we were shallow and still selfish.

We learned that there is still much redemption that we need from God, and we went deeper to open up to God to heal our lives.  We learned that suffering is part of the normal Christian life.  We also learned humility.

All of these things, these lessons, make us less selfish.  Maturity is a person walking before God who is generous.  The mature believer becomes a blessing to all.  He or she has learned to be blessed, then bless others; and to bless before they are themselves blessed (Luke 6:38).

Mature believers also have learned to discern the body of Christ.  They know that they are just part of the whole.  They know that their story is part of a larger story.

When we say or pray, "Lord, remember David and all that he suffered.", and what follows, about David's life; we are saying to God that we want to be like David, people who are after God's own heart.

The passion of David's life is worship.  He learned to worship, as a boy.  And he taught his people to worship, as a man, and as king.

David wanted God to be worshiped on earth.  That is why he cared so much about The Ark and building The Temple.  He wanted to build a house of worship.

The author of Psalm 132 recounts the story of David's desire to give The Ark a resting place and build a temple, and then God's response to build an everlasting dynasty through David.  The psalmist recounts this history and recites it as a prayer to God.

We now live in the far future from when this psalm was penned.  Jesus has come, who is the son of David.  Worship is now completely portable.  The Temple, that David's son built was ruined in 70 A.D.

So, what do we now learn from Psalm 132?  We learn that we, who are in Christ, David's son; are part of a bigger story.  This step or degree enjoins us to recount the story of David, and his desire to build God a house.  David is the man after God's own heart.  David was very blessed, but he also suffered.  He had afflictions, hardships, troubles, hard times, strenuous times and humblings.  He was brought to meekness and self denial by his life's circumstances.

David had good times and bad times.  He sought after God in many of the bad times and wrote psalms in them that bless us today.  David's heart ached over God's place of worship or God's house on earth.  David became so concerned about God, the presence of God, and the place for meeting with God for worship and prayer and offerings; that it overwhelmed him.  David said that God's place or God's house was more important to him than his home.

As we go up the path of maturity, as people of God, we make God and the things of God and even the people of God a priority in our lives.  And we learn to receive from God and be blessed.  "What a wonderful life God has given me", we might say.

But that is not the mountaintop of full maturity.  It is good, but not the best. We can be good Christian people, but not yet be reaching the maturity that Jesus has called us to, in giving up our lives for his sake.

David said, "I will not go home until I build God's house".  David's statement reveals his mature heart for God.  The mature person puts God over self or God's house over our house.  It means, to seek first the kingdom, it means that we count all things as loss compared to knowing him.

We are not Jesus' girlfriend.  We are his bride.  We have totally given ourselves, our whole lives to him; and we are completely in his care, for better or worse. We don't stay married to Christ only as the blessings flow, but we are married to him, because he is our only savior and because he is God.

The place of maturity is when we put him first in every aspect of our lives as our source of life.  If you don't have enough of anything, you need to first get more of him and let go of your self.

The mature believer sees everything they have as God's.  We are only stewards of it all.

David's mature faith of putting God first stepped him up into a higher level, where God gave him something beyond anything he could imagine (Eph. 3:20).

There is also something here, about rest, when the psalmist quotes David saying, "I will not let myself rest", and "arise, O Lord and enter your resting place", and David says that God said, "this is my resting place forever".  Augustine's famous words come to my mind:
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
I want to rest in God, and let God rest in me.  What if God's goal with his people, is to be able to inhabit or house himself in them, so save the world?  What if that is the application of Psalm 132 for the Christian?

The mature believer is a prophetic evangelist(1) and a priest of God, partnering with God for the world's evangelization, while ministering to other believers.  This is the degree that God wants to have all his children learn.  Space is available.

The teacher is ready.  You have to decide if you want to take this step up into maturity.  The mature life is a life of being a blessing.  And to be a blessing, we make God first.

The outflow of this life is God's blessing on the generations and a people inhabited by God, for God's purpose, which we know is to save the world.

In summary, this thirteenth step of fifteen steps of degrees or ascent, that are also called pilgrim songs; is the step into maturity, where we learn to be more concerned or preoccupied with God and God's habitation in us, than with our selves, in all our lives.  We get a revelation that, "my house is Gods house", and we want to dwell in God in our whole lives and God's presence in our whole lives brings a blessing to others and God blesses us generationally.

To review the 13 steps we have now covered:
  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.
  10. We learn that suffering is part of the faith walk towards God.  God uses suffering to grow us up into Christ-likeness.  This may surprise us after we have done so well, 'going wide', in learning to walk with God, cultivating a rich relationship with him, and learning to enjoy the blessings.  After learning to 'go wide' with God, having an enlarged 'God life', we begin to learn to 'go deep'.
  11. We are surprised to learn, after we have been walking with God for some time, that God has more redemptive work that he wants to do in us.  We discover deep places where we want God.  God in turn redeems us in those deep places with his unfailing, steadfast, covenant love; and we are made more like Christ.
  12. We learn to humble our selves, and stop all the crying and chatter. We can say that we are not proud, to God, and that we don't have it all figured out, but have a lifestyle of trusting him in our lives, that dethrones pride. We patiently embrace the silence of waiting, and encouraging others in a life of hope in God.
  13. We learn to be more concerned or preoccupied with God and God's habitation in us, than with our selves, in all our lives.  We get a revelation that, "my house is Gods house", and we want to dwell in God in our whole lives and God's presence in our whole lives brings a blessing to others and God blesses us generationally.
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1. The Logic of Evangelism By William James Abraham, 1989, p. 63; quoting David Lowes Watson

Jesus' Command To Love Generously

The Sermon of the Beatitudes by James Tissot
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

"Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
-Luke 6:27-49 (NLT)

My thoughts below are based on Luke 6:38, where Jesus says, "The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."  You might have had this verse taught to you, as being about financial giving, to your church.  That's what I heard.  While I think it can be applied to giving, I think the application of the verse is much broader.  Jesus is actually talking about a generous heart.  That is why I posted the 22 verses of context for the text of Luke 6:38.

This is what I journaled on my phone last Monday night:

The idea that we would extend grace to someone having their 3rd divorce or 3rd time in rehab. Not giving up on anyone. We have hope and are there for them- available, but they have (to carry) their own load.

Radical freedom & grace. We give out these because we are receiving them from God. They go hand and hand. We can only give out what we have or are receiving. That is the key.

How much grace would God extend to you if you failed? We need to get that for ourselves and then give it to others who are failing. This is not endorsing failure, but 'failures', as in the people who fail.
Their fail could be an attempt at something admirable or it could be sin, as in moral failure. Love the 'failure'.

Remember the word that kindness leads to repentance. What about kindness towards sinners? How can we be kind or extend grace towards failures and those who are failing and do not know it? How can we receive God's grace to such a degree that we give it out, instead of judging, shunning, teaching, or being ungracious in any way?

There may also be something to how we hold back on extending grace to anyone and it lessens the grace God flows to us, because it says give and it shall be given - with the manner that you give you shall receive. Manner is amount. It's not that God holds back, but we hold ourselves back from receiving if we don't or won't give!

Jesus is declaring a spiritual principle or law. It is absurd to cry out or desire or expect to receive but not give. You can perhaps unstop the lack of receiving by giving in the area where you have need.
(end of journal entry)

So, where Jesus has me, is in obeying his commands towards a generous heart.  I believe that the door to a wider, deeper, and more joyous life is obeying Jesus.  We know that he is the door (John 10:9).  His words here are a challenge to us Christians who need more generous hearts.

I am reflecting on all the generous people that God has brought into my life.  Generosity is at the heart of who Jesus is and at the heart of the gospel.  And when we are not generous, we actually stop up the flow of God's generosity into our lives.  Wow.  Did you get that?

Jesus, later, adds another part to this, when he said, "how you give will determine how you get", in Luke 12:48, when he says, "When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required."

I am a person who has been given much. I do not want to be high on knowledge and low on obedience.  I know he is looking for obedient love.   I want to express my love for Jesus by obeying his commands.  I want to say, "Lord", and live out his Lordship over me.  I know that is the door to the joyful, abundant life that he has for me.

It is so easy to learn and study, but then not do.  It is like the verse says, "it is for freedom that he has set you free".  I personally love to study things I am passionate about.  But I do not learn how to do them by studying.  I got the word, "study to show thyself approved", from Timothy, a long time ago.   Study, study, study; then show thyself, show thyself, show thyself.  Then God does the approval part, grading on a grace curve.

I hear the words, "show thyself", or "show me what you've got".  And it's mainly myself encouraging myself, in the Lord.  You've read it, been taught it, you've learned it, and you get it.  Now do it.  If I am going to be of any help to others, I need to go first.  The last thing I want to be is a teacher who does not do what he teaches.


Your God is Coming

O Zion, messenger of good news,
Shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
Shout and don't be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
“Your God is coming! ”
-Isaiah 40:9

Your God is coming!  This is good news.  One of my favorite messages, from my favorite preacher, asked the question of what to do while you wait for God to come.  It was an encouraging message.

The follow-up message, is, "Get Ready, God is Coming".  Here is what I believe and want to share.  I believe that God is an active God (John 5:17), who interacts with his people.  There are times and seasons (1 Thess. 5:1), and there are times when God moves (Acts 3:20).

Like a surfer catching a wave, we have to be ready to catch the wave, in order to benefit from it.  There are waves that God brings - waves of revival, refreshing, renewal, and awakening.  This reminds me of a book, called, "Another Wave of Revival", that is an eyewitness account of the Azusa Street Revival of 1907.

There have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of outpourings or moves of God, that have happened after the first one on the day of Pentecost.   And every time, there have been people who have been awesomely blessed, like a surfer who goes to the top of a mighty wave; and there have been people who were asleep or rejected and even persecuted those who participated in it.

Also, there have always been people who, "wipe out", in the wave.  Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) would be an example.  We both need to get ready for the wave and we need to be humble, when the wave hits.  As one elder put it, "bow low and drink deep".

The normal mature Christian life is a life where we live aware that life is short and we want to make the most of our limited time.  In addition, as we become more spiritual and heavenly minded, we also become aware that Jesus Christ's second coming is very near.  To preach about it and talk about it is very normal.

We not only want to live with the end of our lives in mind (2 Cor. 5:10), but we also want to get ready now, for what God is going to do today or tomorrow.  We do not want to be like those in Israel who missed Jesus (Luke 19:44).

We can miss him.  We can be unprepared or get caught flat footed, when God comes (Matt. 25:10).  Jesus said that when he comes the second time, that it will be like Noah's day (Luke 17:26).  Noah heard God and went through a long time of building.  The people made fun of him.

We also need to be like Noah, hearing God and preparing for God's coming.  If you gear your life to be ready for Jesus second coming, you will also be ready for God's next move.  The move of God, revival, awakening, and renewal all carry with them the similarity of God acting in our lives.

My favorite comment, on what is meant by, "your God is coming" (NLT), or, "behold your God" (ESV), is from Gary V. Smith :
"God will not just watch over his people in some general way by watching over the course of nature; he will personally be present in power, accomplishing his work among his people."
Dr. Smith did not get this idea out of the blue, but it comes for the next verses in Isaiah 40, that end the chapter:
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
Holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. -Isaiah 40:10-11
The word of Isaiah 40:9, "your God is coming", or "behold your God"; carries with it the implication that God is going to do something good.  I remember hearing the song, on the Oral Roberts TV show.
"Something good is going to happen to you, happen to you, this very day. Something good is going to happen to you. Jesus, of Nazareth, is passing your way".
I like that song.  There is a dynamic where God visits, and when he visits, he blesses.  The message, "your God is coming", is good news to be shouted, to be broadcast as loud and far as possible.

God has the same ministry today as he always has had.  He comes in power, he brings his reward, he feeds his flock, he carries his lambs, and he gently leads.  God personally accomplishes his work among his people.

We need to get ready for God's coming, get out of the way when he comes, and serve along side God when he moves among us.

Ready or not, here he comes.

__________________________________________
For further reflection and study, I would recommend these books:
I Believe In The Holy Spirit, by Michael Green
Christianity with Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernatural, by Charles H. Kraft
Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, by Jack S. Deere
Joy Unspeakable, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Humbling Quiet Hope in God - Psalm 131

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.

I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.  

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always.
-Psalm 131 (NLT)

Psalm 131 is more of a private prayer, than the previous psalms. After everything that the Lord has brought me through, I want to be able to say, "my heart is not proud and my eyes are not filled with arrogance". 

My flesh or my carnal self wants to be proud and wants to run the show.  It thinks it is superior to others.  Our sick selfish selves are grandiose.  We take the place of God, in our own and other's lives.

If we think we are better than others, and that is what 'haughty eyes' mean, then we are off-track, and the 'homework' from the previous eleven step psalms has not been taken seriously.  David, with all he went through, and with all the favor and blessings from God in his life, learned humility.  We have to learn it too.

When we evaluate, critique, or judge others ungraciously; we stand in danger of being the proud person that God must resist.  But, if you have embraced suffering with Christ (Psalm 129), and if you have had a revelation that there is more redemption that you need (Psalm 130); then you are ready to pray Psalm 131.

We need to know our sphere of responsibility, or what our assignment is.  There is humility in knowing that you don't know all the answers.  Kings, presidents, and leaders in every sector are wise if they realize that they don't know everything, even in their area.  There is always more to be learned and we need to know our limits.

The big idea throughout all of the songs of the steps or pilgrim songs, is trusting God, and Psalm 131 carries on this theme.  By not being proud, arrogant, pretentious, and better than others, we are displaying or living out trust in God. 

We need to remind ourselves that we are not God.  We need to learn to control our selves, to calm and quiet our souls.  We need to exercise faith, and wean ourselves from being a crying baby.  We learn dependence on God and never out grow it, as we grow up.

If you can not say, "Lord, my heart is not proud", right now, you can repent.  You might circle back to Psalm 130, and admit your sinfulness and ask God to redeem you and transform you.  Humble yourself, so that he might lift you out of that deep pit of darkness.  Wait for rescue and seek for God to change out your defective character.

It is good to know you are loved and no matter what the gifts are that are operating in your life, you are just one of God's many servants on the earth today.  That seems to be David's attitude.  We need to have a proper sense of our selves, as David did.

Psalm 131 teaches us that we need to learn to still and quiet our souls, as a way of humbling ourselves, to the point that we can say honestly that we are done with pride, the pride of thinking we know it all or the pride that thinks we are in control, even as we try to exert control through worry.

Pride needs to die on the cross.  There is a strange form of pride that says the we are uniquely so bad, that God does not want to bother with us.  That is a lie and a deception.  We need a big God and small people.  God's love and grace is beyond us.  

As we humble our selves, and stop all the crying and chatter, we will find that God will fill the space we make with depth in our lives.  And we will be patient to wait on God and wait on people, because our hope is in God, not our selves or other people.

This was our twelfth step or degree. Here is the review of the previous ones:


  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.
  10. We learn that suffering is part of the faith walk towards God.  God uses suffering to grow us up into Christ-likeness.  This may surprise us after we have done so well, 'going wide', in learning to walk with God, cultivating a rich relationship with him, and learning to enjoy the blessings.  After learning to 'go wide' with God, having an enlarged 'God life', we begin to learn to 'go deep'.
  11. We are surprised to learn, after we have been walking with God for some time, that God has more redemptive work that he wants to do in us.  We discover deep places where we want God.  God in turn redeems us in those deep places with his unfailing, steadfast, covenant love; and we are made more like Christ.
  12. We learn to humble our selves, and stop all the crying and chatter. We can say that we are not proud, to God, and that we don't have it all figured out, but have a lifestyle of trusting him in our lives, that dethrones pride. We patiently embrace the silence of waiting, and encouraging others in a life of hope in God.
________________________________________

Deep Pain, Deep Redemption - Psalm 130

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
from every kind of sin.
-Psalm 130

I have been writing a series on the songs of ascent, as they are most commonly called.  I call them the songs of the steps.  In the Hebrew, we get the idea of  degrees and the NLT, calls them pilgrim songs.

Some Bible teachers have noted that the fifteen songs are grouped into five sets of three.  Psalm 130 is in the middle of the fourth set, which has to do with going deeper, and that results in God transforming our pain into Christ-likeness.

Psalm 130 opens with, "out of the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help.  Hear my cry, O Lord.  Pay attention to my prayer." We have the picture of a person, trapped in a dark pit, with no hope, unless someone rescues them.  Jonah prayed a prayer like this, when he was in the belly of the whale.

The NLT gives us or adds the word despair here, because the translators want you to know the meaning of the phrase.  The Hebrew idea of the depths is not a happy place, but the dark place of death and the grave.

Dark, hopeless, despair may come upon us.  Our deep despair may be a hundred things.  Our cry is just, "help!"  Then we cry for God to pay attention, because it feels like he has looked away, and lost track of us.  To get in the place where you say to God, "are you hearing me?", means that we are in despair.  We feel like we are in a hole or a tunnel or somehow in the dark or down low.  If we feel the need to say, "is anybody up there?", to God, it isn't that we have bad theology or are immature, but that we feel something that does not feel good.  We are disoriented.

What is interesting is that this is a lesson we learn in mid-life.  Mid-life does not have to be age 40 or 50.  What I mean by mid-life is in your life, after some time has past.  That could mean sooner or later, depending on your desire for spiritual growth.

I believe that at some point, we get a new revelation that we need God more than we thought we did.  We need God to go down, deeper into us.  We have learned about sinking our roots deeper into Christ.  But now we learn that our salvation is kind of shallow and God wants to deepen it.  We have things like grace, hope, faith, and love working in our lives, but God wants to deepen all of these.

When we sing, "amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me", do we really see our wretchedness outside of Christ?  There is a place, where we see our personal wretchedness, and our need of deep redemption, deep healing, and deep and life-long salvation as a process.

When we discover wretchedness in our lives that we were in denial of, we invite God into that place, to redeem us.  The promise is that if you go deep into despair, that God will go with you, redeeming your pain with his covenant love (steadfast love, Ps. 130:7, ESV).  That is good news.  How great is our salvation!

The path to maturity is the path of suffering.  If Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered, then we will too.  If he builds his church and we work with him, he needs us to have his servant-hood in us, so that he can use us to help people get into the same process of Christ-likeness that we are in.

As the sun is faithful to rise every morning, God is faithful to redeem us and save us, all the way into and through the most ugly parts of our inner selves.  As you go forward and receive a blessed life, it is God's doing, to let you see that you have not arrived.  You are no finished being formed into Christ (Gal. 4:19).

If you want to be a minister who has a gift to build up the body of his church, then he takes that seriously and will be developing you, so that he can use you to build up others, just as he builds (Eph. 4:11-13).  There is a saying, that, "what is does to you, he does through you".  Everything God has brought you through, gives you moral authority to help others get through that same thing and grow up into Christ.

This was the eleventh step, in the songs of ascents or degrees, of Psalms 120-134.  Let's review the previous ten, with step eleven at the end:

  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.
  10. We learn that suffering is part of the faith walk towards God.  God uses suffering to grow us up into Christ-likeness.  This may surprise us after we have done so well, 'going wide', in learning to walk with God, cultivating a rich relationship with him, and learning to enjoy the blessings.  After learning to 'go wide' with God, having an enlarged 'God life', we begin to learn to 'go deep'.
  11. We are surprised to learn, after we have been walking with God for some time, that God has more redemptive work that he wants to do in us.  We discover deep places where we want God.  God in turn redeems us in those deep places with his unfailing, steadfast, covenant love; and we are made more like Christ.



Suffering Grows Us - Psalm 129

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me.
Let all Israel repeat this:
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me,
but they have never defeated me.
My back is covered with cuts,
as if a farmer had plowed long furrows.
But the Lord is good;
he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.

May all who hate Jerusalem (Zion)
be turned back in shameful defeat.
May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop,
turning yellow when only half grown,
ignored by the harvester,
despised by the binder.
And may those who pass by
refuse to give them this blessing:
“The Lord bless you;
we bless you in the Lord’s name.”
-Psalm 129 (NLT)

It came as a surprise to me that I had enemies.  I never learned that in church growing up, or from the older men who discipled me, nor from my parents.  Then, we had a song that I heard, that was based on Psalm 18, that had the words, "so shall I be saved from my enemies".  "My enemies?  I don't have enemies", I reasoned.  I guess I was in for a rude awakening.

If you are working your way through these songs of the steps, they are a journey that has surprises.  So, you might be surprised at the suffering awaiting you.  Or, you might join right in with this song, being encouraged in it, as an affirmation.

We, who suffer, are not alone, but are part of a long stream of God's people who have suffered.  If you have not suffered or have run from it, then Psalm 129 teaches you that suffering is part and parcel of the life of walking towards God.

Psalm 129 comes after Psalms 126-128, and to review:
  • We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. (Psalm 126)
  • We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God. (Psalm 127)
  • We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life. (Psalm 128)
After these good messages, we come to Psalm 129, that is a harder word. It tells us that we have enemies.  But, there is a "but".  The "but" is that the psalmist says that these enemies have never defeated us.  This reminds me of Jesus words:
"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Suffering is part of the Christian life.  Jesus suffered, the first disciples suffered, and the authentic church has always faced suffering.  Some people today, come to Christ, having not been told that suffering awaits.  I didn't hear much and perhaps nothing, about suffering, when I grew up in the church.  Maybe I didn't want to hear it and avoided it.

Not matter what happens to us, God promises to keep his covenant with us.  The covenant is made with the blood of Jesus, and it is a promise of salvation.  He saves us in life and he saves us in death.  We all will die and some people die too early.  But even in our deaths, God carries us; so we do not fear death.

Let's look at Psalm 129:
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me.
Let all Israel repeat this:
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me.
The repeat is not an accident.  It means that God's people have a target painted on their backs, as they say.  Persecution or affliction will very likely happen to you and it is normal.  You have enemies and God also allows afflictions to come into your life to train you.
But they have never defeated me.
We will get hit, but God is with us and God compensates us for each attack we endure (Isa. 61:3).  In the kingdom of God, there is a permanent year of jubilee, where stuff that was stolen is given back (Isa. 61:2, 2 Cor. 6:2).  There is divine compensation.  Look for it.

Apostle Paul wrote:
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (2 Cor. 4:8-12)
The good news are the "but" parts of what Paul wrote.

  • You will have troubles, but be crushed.
  • You will get perplexed, but not go into despair.
  • You will be hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
  • You will get knocked down, but not be destroyed.

 Psalm 129:
My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows.
Do you long to know Jesus Christ more?  You will discover that part of the package is to have fellowship with him in his sufferings (Phil. 3:10).  Remember when Jesus said that unless you eat his flesh and drink his blood, you will not have his life (John 6:48-66)?  He was not espousing cannibalism, but was talking about feeding on him to have life, in this life, and eternal life.  We get to have his life in our lives and live through him, which includes suffering.

Your back will be covered with cuts.  This means you are going to get hit.  You are going to get wounded.  You may get betrayed or wounded in the house of your friends (Zech. 13:6), just like Jesus did.  "Why oh why does God allow any of this", you might ask.

A.W. Tozer said that, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”  That is a hard saying that is true.  It comes from Tozer's book, The Root of The Righteous, that is based on Col. 2:6-7:
"And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness."
We have seen an ongoing theme of not only trusting God, but trusting him as you follow him.  The life is worked out in the walk.  God is building us into portable temples and lives that bear fruit.  And the roots into Christ bring the fruit.

I wondered about the context of that quote from A.W. Tozer, so here it is:
The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined. Thus, it is necessary for God to use suffering in his holy work of preparing his saints, it is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.

Back to Psalm 129:
But the Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.
Do you know that God is good?  Other translations say, "the Lord is righteous".  What he does is right.  I read what a brother had to say about the plowing that God allows in our lives, to humble us and bring us into Christ-likeness.  He said to see the suffering that God sends your way as from him and thank him for it and tell him that you need it.  Like, "thanks Lord, I needed that".

Have you been set free?  Many people have not and are bound by something.  The key might be to allow the Lord to be Lord in that area.  Pray, and ask God if you are bound up somewhere in your life and cry out for freedom.  There are people serving their time who are free and there are people who are free, but are bound up in some way, in bondage they choose to not get free of.

At the end of Psalm 129, we have the curse that is upon those who oppose God:
May all who hate Jerusalem (Zion) be turned back in shameful defeat.
May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop, turning yellow when only half grown, ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder.
And may those who pass by refuse to give them this blessing:
“The Lord bless you; we bless you in the Lord’s name.”
This is what God says will happen to the hateful ones who oppose his people.  They will be defeated, there harvest is shallow and  not useful, and they miss out on a blessed life.

How do we reconcile, that it says here that the haters will not receive a blessing from those who pass by, with Jesus command to, "bless those who curse you" (Luke 6:28)?  The picture of the curse awaiting the people who hate God's people is a picture of a bad harvest, a useless harvest that is not harvest-able, and so it is despised.  No one will admire it or praise you for it.

It is like this.  When the proud are humbled, no when blesses that.  No one blesses a bad and backwards harvest that is the result of arrogant disregard for one's neighbors.

Another way to look at it is that we don't bless a criminal's behavior that has led him to being arrested or disciplined.  We don't release a blessing, onto the toxic harvest.  We don't bless bad fruit that is the result of the curse that the person came under by hating God's people.


This was out tenth of fifteen songs of the steps, or ascent, or degrees, or pilgrim songs (Psalms 120-134). To review Psalms 120-129, as steps of degrees:

  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.
  10. We learn that suffering is part of the faith walk towards God.  God uses suffering to grow us up into Christ-likeness.  This may surprise us after we have done so well, 'going wide', in learning to walk with God, cultivating a rich relationship with him, and learning to enjoy the blessings.  After learning to 'go wide' with God, having an enlarged 'God life', we begin to learn to 'go deep'.





_______________________________________________
The painting about is from Glenda Mathes blog post, Plowmen Have Not Prevailed

Enjoying The Fruitful Life From God - Psalm 128

A song of ascents.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.

You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house.

Your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children— peace be on Israel.
--Psalm 128 (NIV)

Psalm 128 is the third psalm, in the third triad, of the five triads within the fifteen steps or degrees of the songs of ascent, found in Psalms 120 to 134.  A man named Titus Chu, postulated that the five triads I mentioned are:
  1. Vision
  2. Consecration
  3. Enjoyment
  4. Enlargement
  5. Maturity
Psalm 128 is the third psalm in the enjoyment group.  Psalm 126 was about God restoring.  Psalm 127 was about God building.  Psalm 128 is about enjoying your life from God.  You have integrated vision, a life of looking for and seeing God.  Then you consecrated yourself to God.  Now, we have been learning about enjoying the life God gives to us.

Psalm 128 is a continuation of the same ideas we learned from Psalm 127.  God builds and we build with God.  Letting God build means that I surrender to God and am obedient to God.  That's the idea of walking in his ways or keeping his commands.  The big idea is for me to let go of control and let God have his way in my life.  The main effort I exert is to bow down and yield to God.

When I choose to fear God, which means honoring him and respecting him, and being loyal to him; then following him with believing him and obeying him, the results are his blessings  - a blessed life.  Why would anyone not want that and why don't some people experience it?  

You get to the blessed life through walking with God.  People who walk with God are God-fearers, who obey God.  The blessed life is a life of true happiness.

We have been looking at degrees of walking with God, from the preceding psalms.  If you jump in here, over half way through the set of degrees; you might miss something or misunderstand.  Everything here in Psalm 128 is true, standing alone; but it is richer and more filled with meaning, when we look at in the context of the previous steps.

Psalm 128 tells us that we are blessed who fear the Lord and walk in obedience to him.  The outcome of that life is fruitfulness, blessings, and prosperity.  These will come through your family life.  It will come through your labor, through your wife (if you are a man), through your children, and through your children's children.

Seeing your children's children or having grandchildren caps off a blessed life.  The day my son was born, that was the promise I received (Ps. 128:6).  My own four grandparents were blessed to have us in their lives for between twenty and forty years.  My dad did not get to have that blessing, but I hope to have it.

I wrote about the promise I received a long time before I met my wife, of John 2:10, and how Johnathan was born at exactly 2:10 in the afternoon.  I thought the promise was about getting married.  It was like God was saying that getting married is a blessing, but the blessing that comes from marriage are children.

But that wasn't enough.  While I was experiencing that blessing on top of the previous blessing, it was like God said, said, "I have to tell you that there's more".  And I was given the word, "may you live to see your children's children."  I was astonished by God's blessing, past, present, and future.

Psalm 128 teaches us of the fortunate life of those who revere the Lord and walk in his ways.  Psalms 120 to 127 have been showing us how to do that.  We have to experience the life.  We live it out and that is how we grow.

It is not enough to hear about the life with God or just know about it.  We must live it.  We must walk with the living God.  I have a life verse that is, "Abraham... went out, without knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8).  For me, I have had to 'go out', in order to progress in my destiny journey towards God.  I recently have been realizing that it's time to 'go out' some more.

In other words, we can get stuck with the, 'not knowing where he was going', part, and forget the, 'went out' part.  I have to remember the analogy that the guidance system does not come on until the rocket is airborne.  Therefore, "get thy rocket off the pad."  Go out.  "Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him".

We want to labor with what God is doing (Psalm 127).  This applies to our lives, which our jobs are a part of.  The result of a life built by God is fruitfulness.  And that means children.  There are biological children, adopted children, spiritual children, and metaphorical children, as in giving birth to something conceived in you by God.

What about barren women or men who have never fathered?  Isaiah 54:1 says that the barren woman, and by extension, the man who has never fathered; can rejoice in God, that God sees them, and has a fruitful plan for them.  Do you feel spiritually barren?  Read Isaiah 54.  Apostle Paul picks this concept up also in Galatians 4.

Whether you are single, married, widowed, divorced, separated, infertile or fertile, young or old, rich or poor; God wants you to be fruitful and spiritually prosperous.  But the first steps are to walk with him and fear him.  That means a life given over to God, lived unto God; a surrendered life.  That is the life that becomes fruitful.

This was the ninth song or ninth step in the songs of ascent or pilgrim songs (Psalms 120-134). To review Psalms 120-128, as steps of degrees:

  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.
  9. We learn that the result of a life of revering God and walking with him is fruitfulness, which means children: your own or spiritual, or metaphorical; and having grandchildren is the end result of a blessed life.

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The painting above is Psalm 128 by Moshe Tzvi Halevi Berger

Building What God is Building - Psalm 127

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless Yahweh builds a house,
Its builders labor at it in vain.
Unless Yahweh guards a city,
A guard watches in vain.
It is in vain for you who rise early and sit late, Eating the bread of anxious toil,
When  thus he(b) provides(c) for his beloved in his sleep.(d)

Look, children(e) are the heritage(f) of Yahweh; The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children(g) of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.(h)
They shall not be put to shame when they speak with enemies at the gate.
-Psalm 127 (LEB)(i)


Are you laboring to build what God is building in all your life?  Are you working under God's work?  What are you watching over?  Are you guarding what God is guarding?  Or, are you working so hard, laboring, so much so, that you are loosing sleep or anxiously worrying?

 Did you know that God wants to be very active in your life?  God is seeking to build, and we get to build with him.  If we do not work with God, our whole life gets out of sync, or off-track, and we will fall into a life of vanity.   It is as simple as this.  If you don't look to God, you will look to your self, others, or other gods.  We want to be looking to God in all our lives, 24/7, and in everything.

Have you noticed the common thread the the songs of ascent?  It is to trust in God.  Psalm 127 keeps that theme going.  What to we walk up upon?  Trust in God.  That is the solid ground.  How do we live out life that will be enjoyable as we trust God?  Through obedience to God's words.  It is a tragedy to hear and know, but not obey; which says you don't trust.  So trusting is fundamental and the in God is built upon it.

Psalm 127 has an additional heading note at the beginning, that says, "of Solomon".  I believe that whether it was written by him or not, that this Psalm has Solomon's life in mind.  Solomon is the hermetical or interpretive key to Psalm 127 (j).

Who are the two guys in the Old Testament, who were builders?  Noah built the ark and Solomon built the temple, and more.  Solomon was a builder and he knew something about building.  Reflecting on Solomon's life, this Psalm teaches us to trust God in the building, of all of our lives.

This Psalm is a word spoken against self-reliance, and for working with and under God.  Solomon famously wrote, "vanity of vanities", in Ecclesiastes 1:2.  He knew all about a life of pleasure and every frivolity, without God.  He knew all about a misspent fortune.  He knew all about missed opportunity.  And he warns us about that path.

The back-story, to the life of Solomon, as a builder, is one of the most profound moments in the OT, when David asked God to let him build the temple.  God answered David, through Nathan the prophet, that he would not build it.  But, his son Solomon would.  God then said that he himself, would build David's house into a house that would continue forever (1 Chronicles 17:1-27).

Solomon did go on to build the temple, but God went on to build something more profound, through Solomon; which is the house or dynasty that culminated in Jesus Christ and will be everlasting.  So, the big idea here, in Psalm 127, is building with God, something eternal.  What is God building that is of eternal significance, in your life, that you get to build with him?

That is the big idea here.  Build with God, a life of lasting value.  A house is built to be a home for someone, for little someones.  And house in the Hebrew, means more than your home.  It means your life, as in your family, or your family line.  It is your heritage that God is building.

God is working in the world, and when Jesus was living his life, he modeled a life of seeing what God was doing and doing it with him (John 5:17-20).  God wants to build and we work with him.  If we build or work to create, without God, it is without meaning, hollow, and vain.

The reflection on the life of the builder, Solomon, is this: Labor, work, and build under God building activity in all your life.  If you do not, life will be foolish, meaningless, a waste, and vain.  What is God building in your life and how are your building with him?

Are you building something that God is not building?  Take a prayerful inventory of everything that you are laboring in, in your life, and see if you are following God's building, or if you are working on something that God is not building, and asking God to bless it.

A benefit of working with God is that you get to sleep well.  God likes to bless your rest.  Restlessness is a sign that something is wrong and you are not trusting God.  Sleep is a gift that we should fully enjoy.  This psalm is about trusting God, and enjoying the gifts of God.

The psalmist says next that children are something that God builds.  Children in your care.  Children that are built up by God around you and as your house.  The greatest thing in life that you get to partner with God in building his children.  Yes, they are his.

You might birth children through your womb or adopt children or have the stewardship of spiritual children.  It is an opportunity and a responsibility from and towards God.

God builds, but we work with God.  We don't leave God out of the equation, and we are not passive.  It is always a partnership, with God as the boss.  There is stewardship involved without micromanagement.  God can say both, "you do it", and "do it with me".

In conclusion, Psalm 127 is about the step in life, of learning to trust God to build everything, and laboring with God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility of raising children for God.

We learn in Psalm 127 that God is the builder of homes.  Our role is to let God work.  He does the work.  We have got it backwards and turned around, if we think that we build (a marriage, children, a home, a business, a church, a ministry) and ask God to help.  The truth is that God builds and carries the burden of being the builder, while we build with him.  Unless he builds, you build in vain.

Being married, having a home, and raising godly children is impossible without God building.  He builds and we work.  Not we build and God helps or blesses.  He builds.

This is the core of the Christian life and of discipleship.  Let God build.  Our job is to let him build and then do our home-work on the buildings he builds.  He does the hard work.  This is super good news.

He provides.  He makes a way where there seems to be no way.  He builds Christ in each one.  But he does this only when we let him or invite him in.  The way it works is that we decide, we choose, we say, "yes God", or "we welcome you".  Then we work behind what he is building.

That is the reason for this Psalm's admonishment.  It is a choice and a thousand choices to let God be God and let God into your life.  The power is available, but we have to open the door again and again.  The Christian life is not robotic, but is habitual choice over and over.

Children are a gift from God.  That's the true way to see kids. We want to treat God's gifts as precious treasures.  To invest in children's lives is among the highest priorities.  We as parents are called to train and make them disciples, so that they become like arrows that God can shoot.

The greatest reward from a life where we surrender to God's building and build with God is fruitfulness to the next generation (k).

This was the eighth song or eighth step in the songs of ascent or pilgrim songs (Psalms 120-134). To review Psalms 120-126, as steps of degrees:

  1. We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
  2. We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
  3. We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
  4. We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
  5. We cultivate seeing God's workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
  6. We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
  7. We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God. 
  8. We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility  of raising children for God.




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The painting above is by Melani Pyke
LEB Footnotes:
b. Psalm 127:2 That is, Yahweh
c. Psalm 127:2 Hebrew “gives”
d. Psalm 127:2 Or “so he gives sleep to his beloved”
e. Psalm 127:3 Hebrew “sons”
f. Psalm 127:3 That is, gift
g. Psalm 127:4 Hebrew “sons”
h. Psalm 127:5 Or “whose quiver he Yahweh fills with them”
i. Lexham English Bible After looking at Psalm 127 in many translations, including Leslie Allen's direct translation of the Hebrew, I chose to use the new Lexham, LEB translation, which you can read through Bible Gateway, or download and read, using the links above.
j.  Allen, L.C., Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 101-150, p. 178
k. Williams, D. M., The Communicator's Commentary, Psalms 73-150, p. 429