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Cheering to Jeering to Cheering Psalm 118

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s people who give thanks to the Lord for He is good said … AMEN!

Christianity is a contrast, there is no doubt about the One and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in complete love, sacrificial, selfless agape love and desire to save, reaches down to humanity, provides everything we need in order to not just live in this world, but for us to also serve in the eternal world of the resurrection.

Here He is now!  Just as it is written in prophecy: “Rejoice greatly; O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” These words written by Zechariah a prophet between 522 and 486 BC, Matthew and Luke both see what is happening as they accompany Jesus, riding into Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit nudges them both, “this is what Zechariah wrote would happen 500 years ago.” Matthew and Luke write it down as part of their Gospels. There is rejoicing, Jesus’ inner circle of disciples is parading proudly next to their Lord, the Lord of all who are there. There’s no doubt in their mind, with all this cheering that this is it! It’s going down now! They didn’t know how, but they’d seen Jesus do so much; calmed the storm, fed thousands, healed the ill, raised the dead. Driving out the Romans, putting the priests, the lawyers, the Pharisees in their place, replacing them in power, pish-posh child’s play for Jesus. He’s here to bring the Kingdom.

500 years before Zachariah, the unknown author of Psalm 118 writes: “Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord … The Lord is God and he has given us light …Bind the festal procession with branches.” Here He is, Jesus is He who is riding on the donkey. It’s seen as a gesture of humility. But understood at that time to be a sign of kingship. Versus the warhorse, the donkey was seen as Jesus proclaiming His Kingship, coming to claim His throne. There was not universal jubilation at Jesus’ entrance. Jesus’ disciples were proclaiming; “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord” according to Dr Luke 19: 39. While Matthew heard; “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” Matthew 21:9. In Luke’s account Pharisees scold Jesus; “Teacher rebuke your disciples.” Meaning, these people are saying you’re a king, that you are David’s son, to make you David’s heir as king. You have rode straight into Jerusalem on a donkey and we are all aware of what you are claiming. The only thing missing? There’s no army. The rag-tag group hailing Jesus and his posse beside Him are no army. They were all full of themselves, sure that by some supernatural means, the enemies of Jerusalem would be swept out. They would walk in, pick up the pieces, assume their rightful places under Jesus and let the new world begin that they would rule under their Lord Jesus. Before we start worship I like to say: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…” Psalm 118: 24, this is where in the Bible. The day the unknown psalmist writes about is a joyous day, he proclaims; “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Are the Pharisees, priests, lawyers, Romans, going to just stand back and let Jesus take over? Noooo! Hey Jesus the Pharisee reprimands, knock it off, tell your followers to back off, coming into town on a donkey may be nice symbolism, but we’re the sheriff, not you. That’s not going to change. We talk a good game about God, and we’re obviously the blessed ones. There’s a Joel Osteen sense with the Pharisees that since they’re the pretty ones, with the money, power and influence, they’re not going anywhere, nothing’s going to change. Have things changed? Oh yes. On a more powerful level than any of these grasping hypocrites can begin to understand. Forces have been building, the old order is being moved out. It may not be realized, but God’s Kingdom is now on earth. The stone the builders have rejected, has become the cornerstone. God the Son our Lord Jesus ends this same week, being mercilessly beaten and brutalized, then nailed to a cross to die. But it is only a prelude. What is necessary in order for Jesus to return in victory, to overcome the tomb, defeat death and the Kingdom to be realized. We live in a world that has been overcome for us. We have won the victory because we are in Jesus, entirely His and through that relationship, victors.

Friday is going to be brutal and merciless. Any palm branches people have will use them to taunt Jesus with. They will spit on Him, mock Him, jeer Him, “crucify Him”, they will demand of their pagan ruler. Jesus is abused in His Body and His Spirit. He hangs on that cross enduring all of the punishment around Him, yet still prays to God the Father “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

This coming week is a series of wrenching, exhausting, at times demoralizing results. But when they are sure that their friend, their Lord, the One who they saw and served, will overcome all of the crushing events and produce the most monumental event in history. He will defeat death for us, overcome the grave. But doing so assures us of our resurrection and eternal life in the eternal, blessed, world of unlimited possibilities and excitement in Christ. Cheers, jeers, ultimately monumental cheers. We are the ones who win through Him who suffered.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

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Such Great Things God has done for Us Psalm 126

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We begin in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all God’s children said AMEN!

Psalm 126 is another Psalm that is not by King David, probably another psalm that was written by the post-exilic, that is those who returned to Israel from Babylon after the Israelites were removed from Israel and brought to Babylon by King Nebuachadnezzar in 597 BC. They returned when King Cyrus of Persia authorized the return of the Jews to Israel in 538 BC, about 60 years that Israel was in exile. When they returned to Israel that is when the stories of Nehemiah who rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem and some of the infrastructure, Ezra re-established, the temple. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. Many think the Babylonians took the ark of the covenant from the temple at that time and brought it to Babylon. The rebuilt temple was a poor successor to Solomon’s. It was rebuilt to a more impressive building under Herod the Great about 30 years before Jesus’ birth.

The people who were returning to Jerusalem had little or no idea what Jerusalem had looked like or looked like at their time. There was no Google maps, or Fox News reporting live from Jerusalem on the return of the Jewish people. When they returned to Jerusalem they dealt with trials, under foreign/alien captors. The Persians were tolerant and seemed to have no problem including the Jewish people. Many of whom were placed in high positions in the government. We know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Esther, her uncle/guardian Mordecai, Nehemiah. These are the ones mentioned in the Bible, surely there were others. Under Queen Esther the Jewish people were given some protections and self-government, but not permitted to go back to Israel. After 60 years most had no idea, about Israel, had established lives in Babylon, and no reason to return. They would have to leave livelihoods in Babylon, make a very long journey back to Israel, either take their possessions with them, sell them in Babylon and get new stuff in Israel, or what probably most did, do without. In addition to finding a way to make a living, get what they needed in order to ply their trade: bakers need ovens, pans; blacksmiths need furnaces, hammers, anvils; farmers need ploughs, livestock, other implements. It would not be easy to return and set up a whole new life. But it was an opportunity to return to the land God promised them. To reestablish the temple, their form of government and self-determination, the customs unique to Judaism. It was an opportunity to return to the life that God had assured them they would have if they were faithful. They would not be subject to alien/pagan customs they had been surrounded by. They knew these customs were not what God wanted for them. Israel’s God was much more familiar, favorable, supportive than the pagan “gods” of the time. Many like to criticize the vengeful/  wrathful God the Bible. Compared to pagan “gods” Yahweh, was warm, supportive, strengthening comforting, none of which these pagan gods were. I was talking to a woman who is Hindu, talking about the “goddess” Kahli. She told me all about her, then she said, “you just better not make her angry”. The pagan “gods” are vengeful and punishing. God, the actual/only God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he can be angered, but He’s not vindictive, fickle, easy to anger. If God is angry it is out of pure love and righteousness. God is looking out for His own, He wants what is best for His children. That’s how you tell the real God apart from pagan Gods who are easily disturbed, solely out for themselves, not interested at all in you. Yet people believe in these fictional/hateful/selfish/ uncaring beings. They do exist, they are forms demons take on to subjugate those who are easily impressed, they are selfish, and always trying to intimidate. The true God, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, the Father of God the Son Jesus, might intimidate, but only does so to get you to follow what is genuinely good for you. Not trying to grab anything He can, intimidate or frighten you. God the Father is not at all about frightening or intimidating. How many times is someone told “fear not” in the Bible? About 130 times. God the Father is not interested in trying to frighten or intimidate us, whereas there seems to be a lot of beings out there who are trying to frighten and intimidate and a lot of people believe that they are “gods”. They’re not! Not Allah, not Vishnu, Zoroaster, Karma, etc. None of those are interested in the growth, security, strength, and overall love we receive from Abba, Jesus tells us to be familiar with Him and call Him Daddy! Don’t try that with Allah! Other “gods” are mean, vengeful, easily defeated and not “gods”.

This was what the Jewish people were subjected to in Babylon, yet they knew the truth. Can you imagine being separated from Jesus? People like to make Jesus all warm and squishy, our enabling “god”. He’s not. He’s more than ready to set someone in their place. But He loves and protects us through the Holy Spirit.

From what the psalmist wrote we see Yahweh is like that: “Those who sow in tears…” Yet the psalmist quickly adds shall reap with shouts of joy. “Tertullian defends Christianity, demanding legal toleration and that Christians be treated as all other sects of the Roman Empire. It is in this treatise that one finds the phrase: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50). [1] It is tough to be a martyr, but God has promised those who are martyr’s a crown, reward in heaven greatly exceeding the ordinary believers. A reward that is eternal and imperishable. We might think martyrdom is harsh, somehow punitive, but as we see in history up to today, the church all over the world has grown because of the blood of the martyrs dating back to St Stephen sometime around 60 AD. The church has grown exponentially and saved billions of people. In contrast to those beliefs, such as Israel was under in Babylon they always destroy themselves with their erroneous beliefs in what they believe to be a deity.

Our God sacrificed Himself for us, no other belief system promises eternal life to their believers because of the sacrifice of God. It’s only in Jesus, only what Yahweh did for the Jewish people to banish them to Babylon then restore them to Israel. Chastened, yet joyful. They knew God was teaching them to trust Him for their own good. The psalmist writes: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad…” There is not a sense of being forced to say that. You can tell the heartfelt thankfulness, sincerity of Israel to be home in the land promised to Abraham for his people. Israel has been delivered: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” They have been freed, like their freedom from Egypt. They now return to the true God, the hope and promises of God. Not evil oppression, but the expectation of the Messiah who will come to give them, us, true life, life more abundant. Dr Luther writes: “At the end the psalmist concludes that it happens – and always happens – to the saints they first suffer before they can rejoice… the saints sow with tears to reap afterward with joy… But God loves His saints so much that He regards even their death (which is truly the most abominable, accursed seed of the world) as more precious than all of the world’s treasures and goods”[2] Israel is delivered from Babylon and celebrates and is joyful. When we are delivered from the evil and oppression of the world, the sin, decadence and persecution of the world. When we are in the presence of the Lord at our death and then resurrected to the New World, the world of perfection and endless possibilities, what will our joy be like? How hard will we laugh and praise we “shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Who in your life needs to hear those promises and given the hope that they too will one day leave the Babylon of this world and go into the true hope, joy, and celebration in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who promises us “life and life more abundant…”

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus

 

[2] translated by Bruce Cameron “Reading the Psalms with Luther” CPH p 309

Be not like a mule without understanding Psalm 32 March 31, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, MD

 

 

 

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know how they feel to be confined by their sin said … AMEN!

ESV Psalm 32:1 A MASKIL OF DAVID. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” A Maskil is a poem or song, this is attributed to David. “2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” In verse 9 David writes: “ Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” We have this little dog, Uriah, he’s about the size of a large loaf of bread. He’s well named, because Uriah’s a tough little guy. I look all the way down at him about 10 inches off the floor and he’s looking back at me like “hey whaddya looking at! I want something to eat!” His namesake, one of David’s great warriors, Uriah, would be proud. Overall he’s a good dog, once in awhile … When he gets scolded, what’s he do? Just looks back at me like, “don’t know what you’re getting all spun up for, I’m just doing what dogs do…” Kind of what we’re about right?  Isn’t that special…

Verse 8 it says: “ESVBe not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” David’s saying “don’t be stupid…” It’s a common English phrase to say don’t be stubborn like a mule. Matthew Henry writes: “1. Here is a word of caution to sinners, and a good reason is given for it. The caution is, not to be unruly and ungovernable:. When the psalmist would reproach himself for the sins he repented of he compared himself to a beast before God (so foolish have I been and ignorant, Ps. 73:22) and therefore warns others not to be so. It is our honour that we have understanding, that we are capable of being governed by reason and of reasoning with ourselves. Jam. 3:3. Let us not be like them; let us not be hurried by appetite and passion, at any time, to go contrary to the dictate of right reason and to our true interest. … Sin will have sorrow, if not repented of, everlasting sorrow. It was part of the sentence, I will greatly multiply thy sorrows. “Be wise for yourselves … that you may prevent those sorrows, those many sorrows.”

If Uriah is loose, and he sees something that looks good to eat, or fun to play with he’s going for it. Dogs, horses, mules, they don’t “sin”, they do what is natural to them. We try to correct them so they won’t tear things up, but they’re only doing what they do. So it is with people who aren’t born again in Jesus. People who are born again sin too. What’s the difference? When you are genuinely in Jesus you know you’ve sinned, you turn in repentance to God. In Jesus we have the mind of Christ. It doesn’t mean that we can’t ignore what we know in Jesus, we do. But we also know that our mind in Jesus, will keep convicting us. It will keep reminding us that because of our sin it has created strain in that relationship with God. Some people call that a guilty conscience. Well… I submit, it’s much more about the Holy Spirit working through your conscience, to remind you of that strain in the relationship with God. David writes: “2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” We all know that feeling. We also know that feeling that tells us that God is keeping us away from the things that do damage us, that cause us to, as David writes: “3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” We know that feeling when everything feels much heavier, much more cumbersome. I don’t like winter, working outside in the cold. Everything is more awkward. In the summer you just grab, put it where it’s needed, light it off, everything’s good. In the winter you fumble with things, it’s harder to move physically, you’re wearing this big awkward suit… Sin is like that big suit that you have to wear, confining, inflexible, difficult to function in. Whereas when we’ve confessed, when we are in that right relationship with God, you’re warm, energetic, flexible, grab what you need, do what you need, you can feel God’s delight to see you doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Whether in terms of your physical functioning, or your state of mind. We all know how sin clouds our state of mind. We’re not little dog Uriah, or a mule, we’re people who have been born again in Jesus. We have the mind of Jesus. We know when that mind becomes clouded in sin. Uriah might look at me like “…huff, huff, just gimmee, what’s your problem, just hand it over”. Our mind is just as obsessed with what we want. We also know when our mind is really obsessed in Jesus. Everything is brighter, we’re quicker, sharper, easier to be with, joyful in Jesus. Not the slothfulness, dourness of sin dragging us down, but the love, the great spirit, the excitement of true life. We’ve left the drudge of sin behind us through our confession, our repentance, our forgiveness in Jesus, and the weight and cumbersomeness has been lifted.

David talks about “confession”, “…5 I acknowledged my sin to Thee, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” We have confession, corporate confession, what we do at the beginning of worship and individual confession that I reserve for Thursday afternoons. You don’t have to wait, if you want to talk, you can call me when you need to. When I’m giving what Roman Catholics would refer to as “Last Rites”, I ask if they have anything they want to confess. I don’t want that person going in the presence of the Lord with it on their conscience, any unforgiveness. Likewise, I don’t want anyone here to bear the burden of sin and unforgiveness. Their sin binding them up like a strait- jacket, weighing a lot, almost smothering them. David closes writing: “3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

I’m sure Uriah is joyous in what he knows, he gets something, he probably shouldn’t get, then pushes for more. For us in Jesus in the mind of Jesus, in God’s economy, we know what we should have and shouldn’t have. Uriah kind of understands relationship, when he knows I’m upset about something he’s done he often skulks away or maybe nuzzles up to reconcile. He has some understanding, we have the understanding the Holy Spirit gives us. My bones aren’t “wasting”, my spirit isn’t groaning under that weight and burden of sin. We are glad, we do rejoice when our sin, our negative spirit isn’t making us burdened and forsaken. We go back in repentance, confess what God already knows and remove that block in our relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

No other religion gives people that opportunity. I always hear this “all roads lead… ” No, they don’t. Any other “god”, belief system does not provide forgiveness, any way of lifting that burden. There’s no relationship in other beliefs, simply you messed up, it’s your problem! God doesn’t want that dampening our relationship with Him. He doesn’t want that as a barrier, or for His people to be burdened. He wants us to rejoice and shout for joy. To move on in our life, not get bogged down as we see the hypocrites, the atheists, the haters, believers in any other thing. We as Christians, if we take what God promises us seriously, we should be joyous, enthusiastic, out there living our life. You should have compassion, pity on others. They are dragged down more and more until they are dragged to death and eternal loss. What a horrible existence for all who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Who do you know who really needs the hope, joy and promise of Jesus and to be freed from the burden, clumsiness, inflexibility of their sin?

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

5 Facts About Pastors Most Church Members Are Unclear On

By Joe McKeever

-April 11, 2018

“Shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).In my experience, most pastors hesitate to teach the biblical understanding of the role of pastors because to do so might sound self-serving, as though they were trying to carve out a bigger role for themselves in leading the church. This is a serious error for which we are now paying, as many congregations are turning the minister into a hired hand, employing him as an errand boy or treating him as an executive brought in to lead their “country club.”

Pastor, preach the whole Word of God. Be bold in declaring its truth. Then, having done this, go forth and set new standards for humbly serving the congregation. Let them see you leading by serving, and no one will ever mind calling you their pastor and following you. However, lord it over them and dominate the decisions, and no one who knows his Bible will want to follow you.

What follows is the truth on the role of pastors as taught in Scripture. It’s not “all” the truth, for this is but one simple article. However, it cuts to the heart of the issues…

1) Pastors are called by God; they do not volunteer.

“He will send forth laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

“Rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things you have seen and the things which I will yet reveal to you” (Acts 26:16).

“The Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).

Volunteers in the pastoral ministry do not last. Those choosing this as a “nice career” or respectable vocation will either bail out for something more reasonable, more profitable or more doable, or they will twist the pastoral ministry into something more suited to their taste.

The work is impossible. The demands are incessant. The expectations are unending.

Only those called by God stick. Even some of them waver until they learn to do it right.

SubscribeBottom of Form2) Pastors are overseers of the church, not hirelings.

“Be on guard for yourselves, and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28).

The Greek word is episkopos. Epi = upon or over; skopos = to see. It’s the equivalent of Supervision. Supra = over or upon, Vision = to see.

Pastors are plural. I don’t see anything in Scripture that puts one man in charge of God’s church. (By the way, in Acts 20 they are called both elders and pastors. It’s the same group.)

The church that sees itself as a country club, its leadership as the board of directors, and the pastor as the hired executive answerable to the board, functions as unbiblically and detrimentally to the work of the Gospel as does the operation of the local Jehovah Witnesses kingdom hall.

Unbiblical is unbiblical. Heresy is heresy.

You do not want a hireling leading your church, friend. “The hireling flees…because he does not care about the sheep” (John 10:13).

A pastor friend once told his congregation: “Any church can fire me; but none can hire me.” Please do yourself and the kingdom a favor the next time you hear some church member refer to “hiring” a pastor. They are called, and never hired.

3) The pastor is accountable to God for the souls of his congregation.

“Obey your leaders, and submit to those who rule over you in the Lord, as those who will give account for your souls; let them do this with joy and not with grief, for that would not be profitable to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Hebrews 13:17 ranks among the scariest verses in the Bible. It informs church members that they must submit to their leaders, while warning the leaders they will stand before God and give account for their members. That, as much as anything, is why pastors have to be called.

No one in his right mind would volunteer for such accountability.

Let the pastor take this to heart, and pray daily for his flock. Let him seek God’s will for the sermons. And let him do all in his capacity to see that each one is saved and becoming a healthy disciple of the Lord Jesus.

4) The pastor leads by serving, not by lording.

Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). 

He said, “He who is greatest among you, let him be as the youngest, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:26).

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2-3).

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Servant leadership is the plan. In the same way Scripture teaches that a wife should submit to her husband, but he himself should serve her and “give himself for her” (Ephesians 5:22-29) rather than dominate her, the Bible teaches that the pastors are overseers of the congregation and should be followed, but they themselves are to serve the people, not lord it over them.

Not nearly enough husbands or pastors get the distinction: They are to follow you, but you are to serve them.

You wouldn’t mind submitting to someone who was intent on serving you. But the husband or pastor who plays the “headship” card (“God put me in charge!”) is seriously out of line and is mistreating the very ones he should be serving.

I heard the notorious pastor of a well-known independent megachurch say once, “Some people tell me, ‘You act like a dictator.’ I tell them, ‘I’m not only a dictator, I’m the only tater!” To their shame, the preachers in the audience applauded this scandalous outrage. The man, not surprisingly, ended his ministry in disgrace.

Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). The pastor is not sent to proclaim his philosophy, his opinions or his politics. He was not sent to preach his pet theories. He is to preach Jesus. He is sent to serve the Lord’s people, true, but “for Jesus’ sake.” That means the pastor does not take orders from God’s people as to how to serve them; He takes orders from the Lord as to how to serve God’s people.

A pastor told me that when he was new at his present church, he received a phone call from a woman in his congregation. “Pastor, I have bought some file cabinets for our association. Would you go get them today and bring them to the associational office?” He said, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” The woman replied, “What do you mean ‘no’?” (That brings to mind the old adage, “What part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”)

The pastor said, “Ma’am, today is my off day. My wife and I are out of town, visiting with friends. My car is not big enough to carry those file cabinets. You bought them for the director of missions; let him come get them. And besides, the associational office is closed today.”

The woman replied, “Huh! I didn’t know we had hired us a socialite!”

I smiled at the amazing presumption of the woman, and said, “It was good to let her know from the first that you would not be her errand boy. Did she learn from this?” He said, “No, she kept on making demands. Finally, she moved her membership to another church.”

I said, “Let’s pray for her pastor.”

5) The pastor is there to please God, not the congregation.

“Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). 

On one occasion, a small delegation entered my office.

“Pastor, we thought you would like to know that some in the congregation are unhappy with you.”Bottom of Form

I said, “Oh?” Pause. And then, “So?”

“Well, I should think that would matter to you.” I said, “It does. But not much.”The spokesperson said, “Then we have a misunderstanding  It’s our understanding that a pastor serves at the pleasure of God’s people. And if they are unhappy with him, he’s not doing his job.”

I said, “There is a misunderstanding, but it’s yours, not mine. The pastor is sent, not to make you happy, but to make you holy and healthy. He’s sent to make the Lord Jesus happy.”

I tell you, friend, there are not 10 members of the typical church who know this. In our Southern Baptist denomination, a large portion of our people really do believe the pastor was sent to make them happy and to carry out their plans.

There is no antidote for this heresy other than strong teaching from God’s word that …

—Pastors are called by God.

—Pastors are called by God to be the overseers of His church.

—Pastors called as overseers will one day stand before the Lord and give account of their faithfulness.

—Pastors are to serve the Lord’s people, but not to take orders from them.

—Pastors are sent, not to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.

Never stop teaching these truths to your people, shepherd of God. Do this, continue loving them and serving them, and in time, the truth will take root and you will be well on your way to having a healthy congregation.

Steadfast Love and Faithfulness will meet Psalm 85

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust in the steadfast love of God said … AMEN! …

The Psalms are unique because they are more about what the writer is feeling, experiencing. We do get caught up in our feelings, our emotions. We can’t distinguish what is important, and what is just emotional reaction. We let emotions, instead of reason dictate our actions, and then, wonder why things went wrong.

People have emotions, we’re not Vulcans. Sometimes we need to vent emotions. In last week’s psalm: “ESV 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” It’s quoted by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, ESV 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Too often we are phoney, with our emotions, but anger always seems to be a genuine emotion. God gets angry, and rightly so. He shouldn’t have to deal with all the gratuitous ugliness and sinfulness of the world. Sin that is for no good reason then “because I can”. Even when it’s some gratification, the sinner knows it’s only temporary. Then we’re left with God’s righteous anger, and our guilt and shame. Is anger sinful? For the most part yes. But there is “righteous anger”. Certainly when we see God described as angry, wrathful, indignant as described in Psalm 85.

The writer of this psalm is almost certainly not David. Yahweh really never took anything away from David that he would be asking for restoration, revival. There was at least one time when David really messed up, and a lot of innocent people suffered. It is difficult for me to reconcile that particular incident. The obvious example with Bathsheba, he commits a grievous sin with her, than compounds it many times over by the way he had her husband Uriah killed. If there was one time when David was totally scandalous in sin, that was it. Sin is sin, it’s always scandalous, although in today’s world, we define sin differently than what God does, and justify the things that are sin and try to condemn things that are justified. Today it’s sin to criticize people’s wrong choices. Wrong choices aren’t sin, it’s being “judgmental”, even though wrong choices are over and over destructive, whereas the criticism is usually intended to be corrective, often to help. We are told repeatedly in Scripture to rebuke, exhort. But especially with the intelligentsia of today, “life style choices” are just fine, you do what feels good sweetie. God tells us they’re not fine, He tells us we have to hold others accountable, rebuke them and then of course the swell little folk tell us how wrong we are, and take no responsibility for outcomes like David’s with Bathsheba and her husband. There’s no right or wrong, it’s entirely based on whose ox is or is not being gored, whether it’s right or wrong. That’s hypocrisy, but to the world everyone else is a hypocrite.

God gets angry and rightly so, that is what this psalm is about. This psalm, called a “national lament”. Tremper Longman writes: “…composed in four parts: (1)  proclamation of God’s past acts (vv.1-3);  (2) lament and prayer for restoration (vv. 4-7); (3) anticipation of God’s salvation (v 8) and (4) words of hope (vv 9-13).

It’s believed this psalm was written sometime in the post-exilic period, after the Jewish people return to Israel from exile in Babylon. It’s attributed to “Sons of Korah”, which may refer to troubles experienced by Nehemiah/Malachi who lived about 400 years after David. Israel has had a whole history of this pattern. Sound familiar? We’ve seen the United States go through these patterns even in just 200 plus years of history. It seems our culture is sliding even farther away because we are just so smart, and above all this moralistic stuff. People can do what they want, when they want, and who’s to say? Until, of course, someone doesn’t like what the other wants, decides this is all true except in this case, because it’s now about me, and that’s what’s most important. Again, a culture full of hypocrites, who don’t care how much you harm yourself until it has a negative impact on them. The depth of hypocrisy in our culture, in the culture of Israel and other nations that have peaked and fallen would be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad and destructive. It’s a culture absolutely rife with violence, suicide, drug addiction and death by overdose, the more “progressive” we get, the worse the societal effects, and those same people will tell us that we just haven’t gone far enough. These are the very things that God tries to protect us from, with His Church, with His sacraments, by bestowing the ultimate gift on us, God the Son. We ignore Him, His Word, His Sacraments, treat them casually, because we’re entitled to everything, and then wonder why we continue to dive deeper into societal despair, greed, abuse and cynicism. God has given us the answer in Jesus, but we’re just too smart for that and know that we just haven’t been given enough, when we have “enough”, … then … everything will be just smurfy. When you’re a grown-up, have to trust God and His leading and He leads you to grow, work, strive to serve Him, your church, family, community, you know there’s never “enough”. But you also learn contentment. There are people out there who are too special for contentment, they’re waiting for their enough, and then cry out in despair, lash out, or give up in depravity of their vice of choice which is never enough. The hating world around them continues to mock and laugh at them because another person has fallen for the lies of the world and is another statistic in the mounting total of statistics. We pray and reach out and do our best to show people what life in Christ is; “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (v8) We as a church fail, we wander off into our “follys” and the Lord vents His wrath. Longman writes; “The ‘wrath’ and ‘fierce anger’ of God are associated with his ‘jealousy’ when his holiness had been offended by the sin of his people’” Heavens to Betsy God jealous? He says He is, right after the Ten Commandments. Lots of ignorant prattle in our society that doesn’t understand the difference between jealousy and envy. Envy is when I want what you have, aka covetousness. Jealousy is when something is mine, I’m entitled to it. I’m jealous of my wife, she’s my wife, she’s not anyone else’s wife. We are God’s children in our baptism, in our receiving the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus. That make us completely His, because He has given Himself completely to us. When we do anything less than that, it is called sin. God does not have to tolerate our gratuitous, nasty, hateful, spiteful sin. Yet He does, He sent His Son to be the payment for all of our evil. He reached His level of tolerance with Israel many times, with other nations and cultures of the world, and will with ours, if we proceed down this ugly, self-centered path to destruction. He will inflict the destruction, because He doesn’t have to tolerate it, and neither should we.

There are those, many in what is supposed to be a church, who simply chose to follow their whim, decide to ignore God’s word because, hey, that’s old – fashioned, we’re new and hip, we know what is supposed to be done now! Then simply ignore the waste and destruction that is behind them. Wonder why there is the violence, and refuse to see it is because this society has for generations ignored the hope, promise and love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the lies of the world and left generations increasingly with no hope and promise. We pass on to our children not hope and promise, but the lies and deception of post-modernism, that technology, health care, education, wealth, justice system will make everything all right. When we find out it doesn’t, it won’t, what else is left but hopelessness. The psalmist tells us what course to take; “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other”. This can only be in God, the world has nothing of faithfulness, the world is about greed, lust, abuse, gluttony. When God has led His “saints”, us, His hasids, holy ones, to where they need to be, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” Are you more concerned with what God has given us as the truth for millennium, or more concerned with what is popular and chic? Israel chose the latter over and over and God inflicted His discipline on greedy, gross, immature people who ignored His Word. When they were subject to that discipline, they came back to God whining and sniveling. We who are in Christ, we continue to look to Him and His Word for that guidance. We will be the “good and faithful servants” of Matthew 25:23, who will be welcomed with head held high into the eternal resurrection of true life in Christ. The worthless servants, those who think the fruit is all about them? Thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” His Words, not mine.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

He has set us apart Psalm 4

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those disciplined in God’s Word in Scripture said … AMEN!

Erin Go Bragh,

David is credited with writing Psalm 4. I believe David wrote these Psalms. Do I believe he wrote them as a young man out in the pastures watching over the sheep? It’s possible. All we know about David I wouldn’t be surprised he wrote in this romanticized view. No doubt David was very devout, he knew Yahweh in a way unlike the rarest person, a handful in all of history knew God as David knew him.

Saint Benedict emphasized the importance of the Psalms in the daily life of the monastery as a discipline for monks. There are certainly spiritual disciplines. As there are disciplines in the routine in your daily life. They may seem rote, “boring”, but when we don’t practice those disciplines, we are not as effective, or effective at all. In the Coast Guard we spent much time training, over and over the fundaments, things that we would often do in cases. We were doing those things so they were hardcoated into our brains, do them automatically. The more automatic the more effective for those we are helping and the safer for all of us. Discipline in this age is seen as tedious and boring, when was the last time you reread the Bible, or have you ever read it completely? In seminary I read most of the Bible in the original language, Hebrew or Greek and I try to go back to that, to better understand God’s Word and be disciplined in His Word. Your physician practices regular disciplines in order for him to be better in healing and improving the health of his patients. Dr Luther referred to pastors as Seel Sorgers, soul healers , to be better at addressing the spiritual problems of those in need. As a police chaplain in York, dealing with gritty situations, spiritual disciplines would pop into my head at those times it was important for the comfort of a parent, spouse, of someone who had just died at 2am. At times like those, you don’t run to a reference book, there isn’t anyone available at 2am to help you with a parent whose 20 something child just committed suicide, whose spouse just committed suicide, whose young child was molested by a relative, whose child just died from a heroin overdose. You have to be prepared to help those people at the point of their need. No one expects anyone here to be an expert on spiritual counseling, but when you have acquired a level of Christian discipline that you can give someone comfort and peace in Jesus, then you will be serving those around you in their need. Too often people flounder around when that moment of truth comes in many situations, they’ve never really devoted themselves to any discipline, to any genuine means of serving and saving. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of people keep me disciplined and focused in order to serve those around me. I started in the Coast Guard when I was seventeen. At the time not appreciating my boot camp instructors. Not really understanding how much more disciplined they had to be in order to keep me disciplined and alive. I’ve known guys who have lost people they were responsible for training. Were they disciplined enough, did they insist on that person being sufficiently disciplined? It’s heart-wrenching to watch a fellow Coast Guardsman go through such trauma. In one of my doctoral classes we read The Benedict Option. The author’s main point is that to make it as Christians, we have to be more disciplined in a world that is becoming more antagonistic to Christians. We have to be monks in order to truly serve ourselves, our family, those around us we care for and ultimately how we serve Christ. We act as though 2-3 times per month of an hour of worship is sufficient for anything. Then we wonder why we really don’t feel God’s working or presence in our life. Face it, what does He really have to work with for most people? People who aren’t disciplined enough to take time daily to pray and wait on God. To truly understand His Word in Scripture. To reach out to others to help them see Christ and to be saved in Him, at least discipling their own children. The psalms were written by a man who was incredibly disciplined. He fought numerous battles. To survive all that he was involved in so that his country, Israel, guided by God would grow, David had to be immensely disciplined. He was a disciplined soldier, leader, musician, composer. He failed, seems many great men achieve greatly often fail greatly. But his words, numerous in the Psalms, are read and appreciated today over 3,000 years since he wrote them. That could never happen unless he was incredibly disciplined and hard working. When you read the life of St Patrick you see how incredibly disciplined and dedicated to his mission work in Ireland. He faced huge obstacles to bring Christ to what was a dark country at the time. That became a fortress of faith and the disciplined maintaining of Christianity during the dark ages of Europe. The dalmatic I’m wearing is called a “Book of Kells” dalmatic. Kells is the Abbey in Ireland that produced some of the finest works of literature and teaching in Christianity circa the 9th century.

In a follow up article to the book the Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. he writes: “…If the church is going to be the blessing for the world that God means it to be, then it is going to have to spend more time away from the world deepening its commitment to God, to scripture, to tradition and to each other. [A physician becomes proficient when he has spent numerous hours in study, being guided by teachers. We become proficient as a church when we learn to work, grow and support each other.] We cannot give to the world what we do not have. [Too many in the church don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian life, they’re not in a position to guide others as a Christian] We should engage with the world, but not at the expense of our fidelity and sense of ourselves as a people set apart. [No one is sent out in a cold, stormy night in January to rescue someone who was not trained sufficiently. That is a recipe for getting killed. Likewise we can’t rely on people in the church, who have no understanding of who they are] We do need monks in today’s world. Ross Douthat noted, another writer observed “…It sure seems like there are a lot of monks in this book.” Douthat’s response was “…we don’t exactly have a surplus of monks in the United States…”[1] No one expects anyone to be cloistered in a monastery. But in our readings in the Psalms, we see an example of a highly disciplined man writing them, and of highly disciplined men and women following St Benedict’s teaching of faithfully reading and living the Psalms. King David was not the pinnacle of virtue, but if your son grew to be a man as disciplined, talented and accomplished as David, you would consider yourself a success. In Psalm 4, David writes about the dysix’ man in verse 4, in Hebrew meaning: “faithful, kind, godly, holy one, saint, pious”[2] There are “Hasidic” Jews refered to as “Hasids” holy ones. Patrick Henry Reardon writes: “This adjective, Hasid, is used … 21 times in the Book of Psalms…strongly suggesting …prayer and praise of God are a major component of the biblical doctrine of holiness. One cannot live a worldly life and still expect to pray the psalms. The Psalter has nothing to say to the worldly, it is not for the unconverted, the unrepentant. It is, rather, the prayer book of those who strive for holiness of life and the unceasing praise of God.”[3] Certainly this is exemplified in such a great man as David,  as Saint Patrick as the men who wrote the Book of Kells, the monks and Saints who have brought Christ to the world in all sorts of difficult circumstances, much as we face today in Christ. David’s Son, Jesus, the ultimate of holiness God the Son who endured all the torture the world could dish out so that we would be completely holy, saved in Him and His church. We need to act accordingly. Now, “May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine be warm upon your face, May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[1] Ross Douthat  “Plough Quarterly” Summer 2017 p72

[2] Bible works translation of KJV word “Godly”

[3] Patrick Henry Reardon “Christ in the Psalms” p 7