Tag Archives: King David

Christ, David’s Son Psalm 9

[for the audio version click on the following icon]

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 are uplifted by the Psalms said AMEN!

We are in the season of Lent, we know that we try to “sacrifice” something for Lent. Some Lent news; “It was just announced that chocolate maker Hershey is reportedly expecting to cut its global workforce by about 15 percent. Seth Meyers observes: That’s right, for the first time ever, chocolate is giving up people for Lent.” For the Lent season, I’m “planning”, I would like to, do a sermon series on Psalms. We really don’t hear many sermons on Psalms and that really is a shame. I like to just settle in to the Psalms and take it in. Certainly all of Scripture is about the human experience. That experience is with God, and some of it is to show how things get messed up when we try to cut God out of what is going on.

There is 150 Psalms, most, not all were written by David ben Jesse, also known as  King David, husband of Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, father of Solomon, Absalon, Amnon and Tamar. These were his, let’s say more notorious children. He had 19 sons total, and 1 daughter. I’m not sure what the odds of that happening naturally are, but… I’m sure it made jockeying to be David’s successor a lot more of a story in David’s palace during his lifetime.

The book that Jesus quotes the most is … Psalms. First the Book of Psalms is very long 150 books, second because David wrote most of the Psalms, and that Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and that is because Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be in David’s line, one of David’s descendants would be the Messiah. This is referred to as the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7: 10-13: “…ESV 2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Of course “His” refers to Jesus and His Kingdom. What He established in His first coming and what will be fully realized as it is described in the Book of Revelation.

Father Patrick Reardon, who was the pastor of a church in Butler, Pa where our son Timothy is living, writes this about the Psalms: “From the very beginning of her history, when the Church of God turns to Him in love and devotion, the words of the Psalter form the expressions that spontaneously, as by an impulse of her nature, rise from her heart and take shape in her mouth.”[1] If you look, starting at about page 219 in your hymnal, you will see the “Daily Offices”. Those were the daily worships, roughly, in monasteries going back to sometime on or before the sixth century. Check the references to find that most of what is there are various recitations of Psalms. At least back to the sixth century Saint Benedict of Nursia, … prescribed the weekly reading of the Psalms, all 150, and basically called the monks at that time sissies because they didn’t recite them everyday as earlier generations of monks had done.[2]

This Psalm, Chapter 9, was written by David. It appears that this was for some sort of public declaration of victory. The Lutheran Study Bible notes: “The praise of God in the Psalter is rarely a private matter between the psalmist and the Lord. It is usually a public [that is, at the temple] celebration of God’s holy virtues or of his saving acts or gracious bestowal of blessings.” Where he proclaims God’s glorious attributes, righteous deeds, joyfully celebrate God’s glory. Probably where David is declaring victory over an enemy of Israel and proclaiming the power, might and glory of Yahweh.[3] The note in the Concordia Study Bible goes on to point out that: “This aspect of praise in the Psalms has rightly been called the Old Testament anticipation of New Testament evangelism.”[4] That is that what was written in the Old Testament was also intended for us to praise God now. Praise is the reason why we should more regularly refer to Psalms in worship, which we’re supposed to do in our personal and in daily worship in church. Worship is not just limited to Sunday morning, or once in awhile on Wednesday evenings, but intended to be regularly through the day and that is what Psalms have been. Not just about what David did 3,000 years ago, but what God is still doing today that we should be praising Him for now, daily. I’ve always thought it would be great to have a regular Daily Offices, where people would know they could go all through the week and share in worship and prayer. I think we could take such Psalms of victory, such as Psalm 9 that we’re reading today, and there are a lot of “victory psalms” out of the 150 psalms, and proclaim them as God’s victory against our enemies today, understanding that our enemies now aren’t the Philistines, but the powers of evil that are all around us. Whether that evil is demonic and all its different manifestations, spiritually or what we can actually see in the world. Not only has God defeated them but quoting the Concordia Study Bible, God has redressed the wrongs committed by them against David (and Israel).”[5] Again that is for us today. God has certainly defeated the powers of evil all around us, we who are in Christ, that we are certainly subject to demonic attack and are protected by the Holy Spirit from those attacks. Also that God does restore to us that which might be lost or destroyed, if not in this world, certainly in the world of the eternal of the resurrection. Tremper Longman writes: “It is impossible to date the psalm to a certain period in David’s (Israel’s) history. The characterization of the enemy is purposefully ambiguous so as to permit the individual lament to be used as a community lament.”[6] Again to say that while David probably wrote it for a particular occasion, it has come down to us through Jewish history and since the beginning of the Christian church. It’s interesting how both writers conflate David and Israel. David is very much Israel, Jesus certainly is Israel, and since we are in Christ we are Israel. Praise to God then, is as much praise to Him today, from His children in Jesus.

Undoubtedly David knew Who Jesus is, I have to believe that God the Father revealed to David who his descendant was and what He is. That David knew that while it was His throne that was promised to his Descendant, his “Son” by the power of His deity, would make that “Throne” the universal Throne of all power in creation. That the Name of Christ on the Throne, from all of creation to the end of all of creation was and is the power of Jesus. Reardon writes, kind of a long quote: “… particular attention should be paid to that of the “name”: “’I shall sing to Your Name, O most High,’  and ‘Let all those who know Your Name hope on You.’ This is that name of which St Peter said that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This, truly, is ‘the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9, 10). The praying of the Psalter, in fact, pertains to our sharing in that universal genuflection ‘of those in heaven, and of those on earth…’ As the only name by which we have access to God, the name of Jesus is the proper exegetical key to praying the Book of Psalms.”[7]

So you might wonder why we’re conflating Jesus and the Psalms at this time of the year on the calendar, but certainly Jesus is being proclaimed, praised and given thanks for our salvation in Him from the time of His “father” David to the present. He is known from everlasting to everlasting and we praise Him and bless His Holy Name for His sacrifice, His suffering, His separation in order to bring us to the Father, to give us the hope and promise of everlasting, life and life more abundant in Him in His crucifixion, His resurrection and the marriage feast of the Lamb that is that eternal life in Him.

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

 

 

[1] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p xv

[2] Ibid

[3] Concordia Study Bible footnote 9:1 p 794

[4] Ibid

[5] Concordia Study Bible 9:3-6 p 794

[6] Longman, Tremper “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary” p 143

[7] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p18

Simul Justus et Peccatore 2 Samuel 11:26 Luke 7:36 First St Johns June 12, 2016

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

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 the grace and joy of forgiveness and forgiving said … AMEN!

Don’t misunderstand what David did was completely repugnant. There is no acceptable reason for what he did. Bathsheba wasn’t totally innocent either. There are those who like to point out the failings of the Old Testament, the vengeful, angry God stuff. By 21st century American standards there are things that we just would not countenance in this day and age. But there is certainly a good deal of hypocrisy with those who make such judgments, a lot of what the critics do are just not acceptable and certainly not by the standards of Israel in 1,000 BC. Those critics certainly never seem to be concerned with what the peoples around Israel did which were just abhorrent. One big difference was the accountability of their leaders, especially their kings. For the rest of the world at that time, the king was the highest authority and could pretty much do whatever he pleased. Take any woman, put anyone to death, take whatever they wanted and could do it with impunity. As the king of Israel David was responsible, as any other person in Israel was to Yahweh, his position didn’t make any difference, if anything he was held more accountable. When he was confronted by Nathan the prophet, any other king of that period could have just ignored Nathan, put him in prison, executed him and no one would have said boo about it. David was always responsible to Yahweh, he did have multiple wives, wasn’t supposed to and especially not a Gentile wife, Uriah was a Hittite and so presumably was Bathsheba. But David did and was forgiven, along with his adultery with Bathsheba and his treachery toward Uriah. But Yahweh was still faithful to David in his sins and is faithful to us in ours. We, by comparison, are graceless to those who offend us, quick to take anything and everything personally and like the Pharisee in our Gospel reading, quick to reject and condemn those who don’t follow our every whim, right down the line.

In our readings we certainly have a stark contrast. We have David who has committed truly abhorrent sin, he has committed adultery and against a man who was probably a friend, or at least a close associate. Uriah is listed among the renowned mighty men of David’s bodyguards, 37 men in all, a sort of elite military Secret Service, these men were all in close contact with David, so David certainly knew Uriah and had to know Bathsheba. David is certainly taken to task for the absolutely repugnant things that he did. The big surprise? He was still forgiven. Doesn’t mean God was justifying or somehow rationalizing David’s sin and as always, when we commit sin, there are usually consequences. David was made to suffer, although you could certainly wonder why his baby son was the consequence. Nevertheless, David was penalized and he knew it deep in his heart. We even have his repentance look up Psalm 51:  A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” David knew the deal, he also knew he was forgiven. Yahweh had been so gracious to David and David knew that he failed, he knew that he had seriously failed God, who had faithfully stood by him. We have all done this to one degree or another. Served faithfully and also let down someone who had treated us with graciousness and generosity. There are people who I remember through my life who treated me kindly, were selfless in helping me and being there for me, and I was not considerate in return. Certainly I have let God down on many occasions and He has faithfully forgiven me. There were penalties and consequences. Often people have told me that they knew they sinned, that as David put it “have done what is evil in your sight”, but on the flipside, turn around and complain that God treated them badly, they resent the fact that their sin caused them unpleasant consequences. We’re really quick to sin, really quick to accept forgiveness, but equally quick to forget that there are consequences. “I asked forgiveness, God said He forgives, so why did these bad things happen to me after I asked forgiveness.” We are forgiven and should be grateful for God’s forgiveness, but instead of copping an attitude because of the inevitable consequences, we need to remember Psalm 51, be grownups go back to God and acknowledge where we’ve sinned, that we’ve failed God and accept, without bitterness, the consequences of what we’ve done, move on in our life, trust that God is going to provide and get over the attitude. It truly astounds me in ministry, there is no room for disagreement, forgiveness, grace, it’s all or nothing. Yes, that’s the way it’s become in our society, but for a people who are forgiven, we Christians seem to have little idea of how to forgive, of how to be gracious, of how to put the best face on things. We just do not seem to understand that we will not always agree, and instead of taking our ball and bat and going home, understand that the ball game is going to proceed and God expects you to play out the game and not just desert because you didn’t get your way. There is no way you could function in business or the military with that kind of mindset, but that is certainly how people in the church seem to feel.

God graciously forgave David and didn’t break off His relationship with David. Imagine if God had the same attitude we often do, “well Jim, you didn’t do what I wanted you to do, so I’m out of here, see you later, you’re on your own.” We couldn’t function with such a fickle God, we would all be lost and condemned. God doesn’t do that. Just because He gives us consequences doesn’t mean He deserts us and leaves us to go it alone, He sticks with us. That is grace! For those who profess to be Christians, they expect grace, from everyone, but they’re quick to pull the trigger on others and ignore the whole grace thing.  As I said, our readings today are a stark contrast. We have David who just messed up royally, pun intended, was forgiven, suffered the consequences, moved on and remembered that God had been faithful to him and he needed to trust God that David would continue to be faithful in return to God. In our Gospel reading we see a woman who is unquestionably guilty, Jesus never tried to deny her guilt, He admitted she had sinned much, but He treated her with grace when the legalistic Pharisee characterized her faults and by extension Jesus’ faults for allowing her to be so loving toward Him. That’s the love of grace, being so thankful that Jesus would be gracious to her, even in her sin, and essentially offering her worship for Jesus’ grace. The Pharisee sitting in judgment of both of them, devoid of grace and forgiveness and as Anthony Cook describes: “…illustrates the woman’s expression of love was in direct proportion to her cancelled sin. She is forgiven much, loves much and he who is forgiven little, the Pharisee, loves little. She is being hospitable to an extreme, while Simon failed to show Jesus the simplest of common hospitality.”[1] Jesus didn’t cut the woman off because of her lifetime of prostitution, the woman is convicted of her sins, shows her gratitude to Jesus, while Simon the Pharisee, sits in bitterness and judgment on both Jesus and the woman. After Jesus forgives her, her sin, Simon and the rest of the men become more angry and judgmental: “who is this guy who presumes to forgive?” Seems like something we all do, Jesus had more than proven who He is and should have been acknowledged as the Messiah. Instead these men immediately jump to condemn Him, God the Son, again.

It’s so easy to take something personally and decide to just walk away and condemn the one you disagree with. Certainly God didn’t even when He had good reason to with David and the prostitute. Jesus certainly didn’t deserve His treatment, being beaten, tortured, humiliated and crucified, but He did it in love for us, when He could have simply decided that those who are without sin, that’s none of us, they are saved, the rest of us, well too bad, eternal condemnation. By the same token, we need to start acting with more grace and forgiveness, remember what is important, forgive the slights, real and perceived, remember the relationships and vows and move on to the Kingdom of God. Help us Father to put the best face on the things that we find offensive, realize that things are not always going to go our way, that in Your gracious will there are times when we have to deal with the things we don’t like and join together with those who we disagree with and keep Your will and purpose in our lives and move together towards the realization of the Kingdom and the eternal resurrection in Jesus.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Anthony Cook Concordia Journal Spring 2016, volume 42, no 2, p 144

Let’s have some mutual respect instead of playing your agenda

I seem to have had a lot of “wow, it’s good to hear someone else had to deal with this and it’s just not me!” OK, this may not be particularly Christian of me, but there is nothing in the Bible that says “hey be stupid.” I could even refer to the pericope about the unjust steward (Luke 16: 1-13). I’m not sure I’d camp there and I’m not going to take the time to make the case. The point is the world seems to think that Christians, and especially Christian pastors, are there to just hand over things and not give it a second thought. Show me in the Bible where that is and we will talk. I can’t find it and so I know of no reason to be the naive and gullible victim that the world thinks I should be.

I did find this from one of our Founding Fathers, he’s even a distant relative, John Adams. “Be not intimidated … nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy or decency.” In some ways, ya I do tend to be a little naive. I’m not looking for duplicity and disingenuousness in people, I’m really not. Ya, sometimes it’s pretty obvious. As an inner city  pastor I get a lot of people just looking for money and because I’m a clueless, naive pastor in a big church, I just have gobs of money to hand over to people, no questions asked. Well it also seems to apply to most other people. In this day and age, most people seem to have a political, professional, social, or some other agenda going on that they’re sure they’re supposed to impose on the church. Reminds me of more modern iteration of President Adams quote by the O’Jays, “…they smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers.”

Ya, sure, sometimes it’s innocent passivity or callousness, but way too much it seems to be an issue of well I’m smarter than everyone and I’m going to show you how it should be. How to answer this, either this apathy or even disingenuousness,  that is the question? Should you light people up and let them know exactly where it’s at. Despite popular perception, Jesus had no compunction letting people know where they were wrong. Certainly Old Testament prophets were also as assertive. Nathan had no problem lighting David up after his affair with Bathsheba. Seems like there are too many people in the world today who think that they can skate through with no accountability to anyone or anything, and not be held to account. Then “oh, what a mean person you are for getting upset with me.”

Just another example of the duplicity you have to deal with as a Christian minister. Seems like people feel they’re almost entitled to play a minister. Should I always react loudly, ya maybe not, tell you what, you quit thinking you can take advantage, for your little political agenda, and I won’t get upset. At what point do you demand respect not only for you, but for the office?

Dress for Action Like a Man Job 38, Mark 4: 35 First St Johns Fathers Day Jun 21, 2015

[For the audio version click on the above link]

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 are a noble, self-sacrificing man of God said … AMEN. I was just expecting the guys to amen that

It is not easy to be an adult man in the world today. Even in the church that is becoming more the case. Part of the problem is that while men are called to be the leaders, they are called to be the priests of their family. But, as Rich Murphy writes: “We don’t have a submission problem in our church, we have a leadership problem. In many families, the woman is de facto head of the house, because the man isn’t. Why? Because men haven’t been taught how to be men. Our society has drawn a picture of men as bumbling, incompetent idiots who need a woman to show them how to pour water out of a boot. Don’t believe me, just look at any sitcom on television today.”[1]

Ken Broussard notes: “He takes responsibility for his children’s faith, “training them up in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). In Ephesians 6:4, God puts the responsibility on the man, the father, to make sure his children are raised on the teachings of God and in a Godly environment.”[2] Men, are called to be the leaders, called to set the tone, to take the responsibility. It may seem easy, but Jesus hardly ever just told people, “do this, do that”, but went to such trouble, pain and effort to live the life that we should be living, Jesus shows us that being the father is not “select and direct”, it is to deal with the hard situations, to do our best, not for ourselves, but for our family, to take a tough situation and overcome it. Chuck Swindoll tells the following story: ““The colorful, nineteenth-century showman and gifted violinist Niccolo Paganini was standing before a packed house, playing through a difficult piece of music. A full orchestra surrounded him with magnificent support. Suddenly one string on his violin snapped and hung gloriously down from his instrument. Beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. He frowned but continued to play improvising beautifully.

To the conductor’s surprise, a second string broke. And shortly thereafter, a third. Now there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin as the master performer completed the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and in good Italian fashion filled the hall with shouts and screams.  As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit back down. Even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore, they quietly sank back into their seats. He held the violin high for everyone to see. He nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and then he turned back to the crowd. With a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted, ‘Paganini … and one string!’ After that he placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience (and the conductor) shook their heads in silent amazement. “Paganini … and one string!” And, I might add, an attitude of fortitude.” Paganini could have just given up, caved in, admitted defeat everyone kind of expected him to. Instead he took the setbacks, and created from that, overcame and triumphed in a way people still marvel at. Guys, that’s what we’re called to do for our families and Christ.

God tells Job in our reading today: “Dress for action like a man.” Job could have whined, blamed and accused, just bail out as his wife suggested. But he didn’t he hung in, he stood tough. In our Gospel reading we see the story of Jesus and the disciples caught in a storm. If you look at your order of worship under “sermon”, you will see a picture I took in a museum in Capernaum. It is of a fishing boat that has been determined to date back to the time of the disciples and thought to be much like the boat the disciples and Jesus were in. I see that picture and I’m still amazed that they didn’t just get pitched out of that boat, or it didn’t break up and everyone drowned. The fact that they didn’t is a miracle by itself, the second more dramatic miracle is of course Jesus calming the storm. You have to be in a real rock and roll storm on the water to appreciate this story. We were on a small work boat, about 25 feet. We had been at Boston Light and were taking five electronic technicians back to Boston after spending the day working on the lighthouse. The radio all of a sudden starts squawking, everyone on the water had something to say a massive thunderstorm had descended on Boston Harbor and looking to the east we could see this kind of blue/green evil looking colored group of clouds coming out of where we had to go into. My very long time brother and I were used to bad weather, but the rain got so dense you couldn’t see five feet ahead of the boat and the lightning strikes were so close you could hear the crash on the water and smell the ozone. Our passengers were completely freaked. None of them had any real experience in small boats and certainly not with the crashing and booming that was going on around us. This was a small boat, only meant to carry people and equipment to a workplace. Didn’t have radar, although it wouldn’t have helped, it wasn’t  grounded for lightning, no GPS or LORAN, none of the equipment he and I were used to on a standard Search and Rescue/Law Enforcement boat. The other guys were huddled together, but we didn’t have that choice, we had to find a way through the storm and get the people we had to safety, despite the difficulty, to push through the danger.

That is what we expect of men in today’s world and particularly Christian men. Sure most of us are never going to be on a creaky wooden boat in the middle of a large lake or an aluminum one in Boston Harbor. But I’m sure most of the guys here know what I’m talking about, doesn’t take much for a storm to swoop in and you have a bunch of people freaking out around you and you know that you have to stay calm and strong and find a way through the storm. David was a man, a man after God’s own heart and a man who royally messed some things up, but also a man who has been truly admired throughout history as a great general, great statesman, poet we still read 3,000 years later. Not so great father and husband. He could have given up, cut everyone loose, hey he’s the king. But he stood against the storm around him, he writes: “…if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive… then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed by the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.” (Psalm 124).

I know what David is talking about, I’ll bet most if not all the guys here know what he’s talking about. David had to deal with a lot, he had to overcome a lot, some of it self-inflicted, but he did not give up, God did not give up on him and David trusted that God would forgive, overcome and get David to where he had to be. I bet God told David to “dress for action like a man” and I’ll bet he’s told many guys who are here that same thing.

Guys, dads, we’re not called to be popular. We’re not called to be everyone’s favorite person, often we have to do things that don’t endear us to our wife or children. Often we have to do what is necessary to protect and do it in a way that’s often not gentle, even upsetting. We are called to and have to stand for those things that are important, but maybe not popular. Frankly the way many women and children treat men today is not just disrespectful, but downright rude. A Christian man should never, ever respond in kind, our response is to provide, comfort and sometimes even defend, and that’s what we are expected to do, even when we’re treated rudely. Remind you of anyone? The way Jesus was treated. That’s why men are expected to be the priests in their home, to be the ones who stand up and take the hits and accept the fact that might be treated disrespectfully for the things they had to do because they upset someone else’s gentle sensibilities. You can’t get upset over it or choose to run away, accept it and move on as Jesus did.

So guys, since you are all big, tough, self-sacrificing Christian men, who I sincerely hope God blesses for your strength and courage, I have a challenge for you. I hope all the guys will take up the challenge, will come and meet at the next Men’s Network breakfast to discuss and will sign this pledge. All the guys should have a photo-copy of this, and it doesn’t matter if you’re fifteen or eighty, you’re still a Christian guy, if you accept this resolution, sign and return the photocopy to me, I will make sure you get a handsome original, suitable for framing and you will be the faithful, self-sacrificing priest of your home and a hero to your wife, children, grand-children etc and despite the popular characterization, will stand against the world that works constantly at trying to tear down Christian men.  As godly men, trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering how He lived His life as an example and as a sacrifice to save us all, we too are called to live our life in Christ, trusting in Him and not in the world’s opinions.

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

[1]http://maranathalife.com/marriage/mar-rel4.htm

[2] http://kingmovement.com/true-manhood-pt-6-a-real-man-is-priest-of-his-home-reprise/

God gives us Barnabases

I have been feeling kind of beat down lately. Things have been going, been interesting, combined with the liturgical season though, it’s been kind of a beat down. I can see where God really does provide, just the right people at the right time. I’m not going to name names. But when the meeting is getting a little hectic, when that one person pops up and quietly assures “keep doing what you’re doing”, that is absolutely priceless.  When it’s seemed that the joy is getting kind of beat down and someone comes along and tells you how joyful and another tells you how encouraging, it is truly beyond meaure.

This may sound a little goofy, but I know these are from God, because the comments pop up out of no where and often from a most unexpected person.

There certainly is a time and place for that same friend or certainly another friend with different gifts, to come along and encourage by telling you: “That’s not working” or “Jim you have to change this or that about yourself.” That is encouraging too, because you know that someone has “your six” and they’re watching out for you. I am very grateful that people have been there to encourage and redirect. It takes effort on their part and I am very grateful that they (and I’m hope they all know who they are from this blog) will exert their time and effort to spend it on me encouraging and guiding.  It certainly is a mark of friendship, the Jonathan and David kind to invest that in someone else. That’s also why men’s groups are so important. They do give guys the mutual encouragement and strength to go back out and deal with their world.  You can do that when you know another strong brother has your six.  Thanks to those guys who have mine at First St Johns they have no idea how much they have blessed me. In probably none of those cases has it been a situation where I or they have felt compelled to be friends.  But They were put there by God, they saw the need and what God was leading them to do. I saw what God was doing and was blessed to receive it.

This is a hard thing for guys, we have to be self-sufficient.  Well that’s the world talking. The smart guy remembers God’s word in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” So guys who is God putting you with for mutual strength and encouragement? Who is your Barnabases? (Refer to Acts 4:37, 9:26-28, 11:25-26).

Discipling means to confront and challenge, not to shrug you shoulders and say “whatever”.

On a personal note, I reached 5,000 views. I know that to many of you that’s kind of chump change, but I jumped that hurdle and want to mark it in this blog.

Now that I’m over that, I really want to do this blog, but I need to do a disclaimer, this is almost verbatim from a podcast (Insight for Living Feb 11, 2015), but it’s so good, and frankly something I’ve been wrestling with and that we really need to apply in all our lives. So you should buy Swindoll books, listen to the broadcasts, but in the meantime, I’m going to put it out there and I pray that you take it to heart.

“…there is  no where in the Bible that says “live and let live'” [or let die for that matter] or “whatever” or “you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone”. Jesus never promoted that message. No one ever loved like His love, he never just shrugged his shoulders when one of His disciples was moving in the wrong direction. He confronted it. Why would he confront it? Why would confrontation be that essential? It proves that we love someone. Because we love someone we care for them, about them. We care about their welfare. Because we care there are times when we must say how much we care and occasionally it’s a confrontation.”

[Samuel confronts David about Bathsheba. A lot of people were affected by this, so please don’t give me that lame “victimless crimes, or actions”, that’s the biggest copout ever. There is just no such thing. There are always other people who suffer as the result of sexual misconduct, drug abuse, divorce, and just because it’s not a crime, does not mean that misconduct doesn’t hurt/affect others. In David’s case his children and wives were profoundly affected, at the time and later. The baby conceived by David and Bathsheba died. Certainly Uriah was affected. There were many people, David’s subjects, who were directly affected by the events of just this one occurrence of sexual misconduct and were caught up in the consequences – mine]

“Good physicians confront their patients when they’re involved in unhealthy habits, we expect them to. Good coaches confront sloppiness, laziness. Parents confront misbehaving kids [well they should-mine]. Bad attitudes need to be confronted.

Our best friends, in the best way, confronting us over our bad ways.

It’s not about control or trying to be smarter, it’s about seeing someone you care about harming themselves and, usually, causing harm to others. Confrontation ought to be with tears, never with pride, never with joy. Your heart is broken and because it’s broken you have to say something, especially because you care about that individual. Confrontation is love in action, caring about another’s welfare, helping someone realize they’re headed for trouble or danger if nothing changes and the proof of your love is that you will not look the other way. It’s not for control.”

[I have no interest in controlling, or unless necessary, knowing. I really don’t. That is just not what I’m about or most pastors are. We are about the Gospel and helping people to move on from their issues. We all have issues. But a big part of the job and expectations of others is that we have to help people confront and overcome. Like it or not, it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit, but there are times that are just so profoundly difficult that we need help to overcome them in order to refocus on Jesus. That’s what pastors are for. As a Lutheran pastor, anything you discuss with me is under the “seal of the confessional”, I cannot even discuss that I talked to you. Whatever anyone tells me, they have full confidence that it will not be discussed in any other context. Once that discussion is over, I do not treat you or act any differently to you. This is confrontation also, you are bringing me your issues and trusting me that I’m there to confide in, to confess and repent and to be absolved. I don’t really want to get into it, but I do want to serve you and help you to deal with it. But wow, what would the world look like if we were all trying to reach our greatest potential in Jesus, instead of “gimme, gimme, I want”? Let’s deal with the issue of confronting and not just sitting back and letting others suffer in sin or as a consequence of sin. And we can certainly tell when someone is confronting us in love versus when they’re trying to control us- mine]

“The difference in confronting someone because they need to hear it and trying to control someone to become like you, should be a gentle experience, not shameful. Some day you might fall to the same sin. Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” The Hebrew says faithful are the bruises. Proverbs 20:30 “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.'” 

“…God loves too much to let them get away with doing such things [or how about the one who says “heck with you”, goes off does what they want, gets in trouble and come back expecting you to help. Not asking or looking for forgiveness.Their attitude usually being that somehow it was your fault, I might have gone out and done something stupid, but you have to fix it. But we do need to remember that our goal for them and us, is that we become more like Christ, not to squeeze them into our mold. But yes there will be consequences, and maybe I don’t want to suffer actual or vicarious consequences with you? -mine]

“What is necessary is lots of prayer, waiting for the right time and speaking the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15: “ Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.'”

If you can do it without tears then you probably ought not to do it. If it’s painful for you realizing the wrong that’s going on and others are being or will soon be harmed. Sometimes a pastor who needs to be confronted, whose conduct would damage the Body of Christ. Love must often do the unpleasant. Remember a moment of confrontation, how painful it was. The goal of confrontation is restoration, not condemnation [as is ex-communication, the keys Jesus gave the church.-mine] It is help to get the person back on track so their lives will count for Christ.”

“We don’t go into confrontation to ‘set somebody straight”. You go in with fear and trembling and you’re going to use God’s words on a delicate, but sinful issue. King David as the example; leader, warrior, poet, musician, [He wrote most of the Psalms]. He had a way of winning your heart. But he also understood that he had to be confronted over his sin.

Liturgical worship, music, chanting, does stir the emotions, the right ones.

Once in awhile God blesses me with a “eureka” moment and you, dear reader, are about to share that with me, or well at least I’m about to lay it on you. Groovey, huh baby?

The hit on liturgical music/worship is that there is no depth of emotion, it doesn’t lift the spirit, the emotion.

Ya, well there’s a technical term, that’s “bupkus” or as Charles Dickens wrote, “bah humbug”.

The truth of the matter is that it  most certainly does! The problem is that the past few generations are so superficial, so motivated by “eros” love, that it’s all about me, give me, give me. Liturgical worship is much deeper, it gives to God who gives back to me. Yea, well we want to cut out the middle-man and, as always, gimme, gimme. If we would really shut-up and listen we might realize how much more comforting and strengthening liturgy is, how it reaches down to your soul, because it’s the Holy Spirit who is reaching. We can stay with the shallow/superficial or we can really build that relationship with God the way that man has been doing it, which would date back to at least the time of King David, King Solomon and Solomon’s Temple.

Now, I will concede this. Because liturgical worship is difficult, and for those who lead worship and really don’t get it, they will do a lousy job. Sure there are many young pastors who can do it, but they really don’t get it and after awhile it does seem to be going through the motions. For me, who is much less talented, but who has gotten it and is better able to articulate it, but still no talent, you know what, have a little patience with me and my lack of talent won’t matter. What will matter is the depth of emotion and love that we convey to the Father in the liturgy. If you just go through the motions meaning will not come out and again, there are too many who should do it well, but just don’t get it. Sorry, but seems there are far too many of the following mindsets: “Here I am going through the motions, I don’t really know what I’m doing or how I’m doing it or why and, frankly, don’t really care. Right, wrong or indifferent and, frankly, I don’t even think there’s a “right”.”

Well yea, there is a “right” and let’s talk about it.

I have opined before, that the difference between “happy-clappy” and real worship is the emotional content. God the Holy Spirit has finally helped me to articulate the case for the liturgy much better.

We have become an “eros” society. Everything has to appeal to the superficial, emotional, put on a big show – please me, it’s all about me, feed me, sex me, give me this superficial comfort, love me in this adolescent, it’s all about me, wah, wah!!!

Liturgical worship is about agape love. I give to You (God), I lift You up, I know it’s all about You (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It’s only through You and because of You that I even exist, no less have any meaning at all. I is all about You, when I acknowledge that and praise You, You make it all about me. You make me something I could never be, Your child! You give me something that I could never get – everlasting eternal life in the resurrection. Real worship is always about completing that connection. Not me just sitting back and just taking, again that adolescent attitude.

Of course another reason we like the “eros”, is because it’s easier. It does just go to our base instincts and we don’t have to work at it. One hit that I’ve taken about being more liturgical is that in some way it’s not pleasing, doesn’t resonate well. Yea, well, get over it. Does everything have to be The Gaither Family? No in fact, that’s just another generation’s superficial “please me-please me” with no more depth of true worship. One of my past pastors, United Methodist, but definitely not of the wishy-washy liberal. If anything much more Father Flannagan. He was a military chaplain in Italy during World War II. The man couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but didn’t matter. If he had to belt it out a little louder to prod us to sing louder, he had no compunction about that and we frankly loved him for it. He was actually kind of a little prickly, nothing prissy sentimental about him, and when he started singing we’d just smile. Not a mocking smile, but a “there’s our pastor and we really do love him.” An attitude of pride, of it really doesn’t matter how we sing, just sing and lift up God in worship. That’s the way it should be done. For those prissy little perfectionists, get over yourselves and focus on worshiping God in the hymn and what the hymn is teaching and don’t worry your self about the quality. You ain’t no Pavarotti either. I have a much bigger problem with the guy who has much more talent and goes through the motions then the guy (me) who has no talent, but truly wants to lift up God in worship. I mean really, doesn’t that make sense? (I’m sitting here listening to Bob Seger and going on about hymns and liturgical worship, go figure. God surely does mix it up on you!)

The impetus that God used for what is going to be awhile longer (strap in) is an article in Christianity Today by Steven R. Guthrie Love the Lord with All your Voice (June 2013 pp 44- 47)

CT is not a high liturgy kind of publication and yet Mr Guthrie uses as the focus of his article Athanasius who lived from 293-376. Definitely not happy-clappy. “In the fourth century, the church father Athanasius articulated a different understanding of singing . It includes self-expression, but Athanasius believed singing is centrally a spiritual discipline – an important practice in Christian spiritual formation and a means of growing in the life of faith.” Now that would be for everyone, the Don Paiges, the Gaithers, Martin Luther, Me. Those who are great to listen to and those who, let’s just say can be challenging to listen to.

“In a letter to his friend Marcellinus, Athanasius enthusiastically commends the Book of Psalms and provides guidance for reading the Psalms devotionally, (B N – We are pretty sure that most, if not all, the Psalms were set to some kind of musical scoring. We don’t know how, but the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches have all taken a run at putting the Psalms to melody and most of these are what we chant during worship.) … The Book of Psalms, however, has a unique place in Christian devotions, somethiat the was true in Athanasius’ time and remained so across centuries of monastic practice and worship. Athanasius suggests that the Psalms are so spiritually significant precisely because they are not simply read or spoken but sung…

Now I am going to quote the article at length, because it is just so right on. So I may be breaking rules and I’m sorry and will happily do what I can to make up for it, but this just has to be repeated.

“…In singing, the truth of the Psalms is drawn into the depths of one’s being rather than out of the depths of one’s being…” [this is in contrast to where music today is drawn to, which is much more on the surface, definitely not the soul. This is the difference between agape and eros. Agape reaches down to give you strength, being, connection that you could never do on your own vs. Eros which is entirely about your superficial appetites, more personal titillation than truly moving your soul.- JD].

What Guthrie talks about next applies to Scripture readings also. When we read Scripture with some genuine human emotion, versus the flat/rote manner most people read it, Scripture does come alive. It gives us a sense of what is really going on in the real world. So much of other beliefs are sort of unreal, pretension, than genuine “this is the human condition” ideas. Christianity can be very mystical, it is very deep, it is right where we live because God the Son, Jesus, did live among us and did experience everything we did. So it is real versus this phoney Eastern stuff or gnosticism, that tries to deny the reality of the world.

“We might ask again why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life but something of its posture, inflection and emotional disposition.”

“When we sing, we learn not simply what to say but how and why to say it. What Athanasius recognizes (and what we might forget) is that inflection, rhythm, and tone of voice matter deeply. They are not aural decoration. For example, after someone offends us we might say, ‘It’s not so much what he said, it’s the way he said it.'”

Chanting is difficult, I keep trying to do better, make it more aesthetically pleasing. But it drives in me the opportunity to express the ideas in a deeper more meaningful way, an expression of the different emotions instead of it being some kind of rote incantation. Because of that, I hope that the hearer hears, the depth of what the writer was expressing 3,000 years ago. That the human condition has not changed a bit since the time of Solomon until now. When we get over ourselves and understand this connection that the church has had going back to the beginning, we can start to live genuine lives instead of this goofy idea that we are somehow so much smarter now than ever before. It’s not true and in some ways it should reassure you that you’re not the first one and won’t be the last. Shut-up and listen, instead of trying to convince us how brilliant you are. If you do, you might find some true comfort and connection to those who have been connected and inspired by God to live their lives in Him. The claim is that the liturgy, chanting has no depth of emotion. That is, as we say in the Greek, baloney. Most chanting is based on the Psalms, mostly written by King David. You do not know anyone who has gone through the range of emotions that David has. Shepherd, then king, great man, great sinner, hunted, hunter. This was a man after God’s own heart. When he loused up, he loused up big-time. But he took it back to God, he took the consequences, he dealt with the rubble, then came back and lived for God. He was a brilliant man, brilliant composer, brilliant king, brilliant soldier, diplomat, builder, on and on. To you guys who think that anything in the Bible is sort of silly and prissy, you need to snap out of it. David is more “man”, than any man I can think of before or since. He truly lived (omitting the really bad stuff), the way men should live. That is why the Psalms are so important, especially to guys.

“Music, Athanasius believes, is a sounding image of a soul that is no longer at odds with itself, nor at odds with itself, nor at odds with the Holy Spirit. Melody models an inner life in which the many different elements and impulses of the person are drawn together in a pleasing chorus.”

“Athanasius goes even further. Not only is this singing of Psalms an image of the well-ordered soul; it is also a means by which God brings about this order. As the Christian goes about ‘beautifully singing praises, he brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.’ This proportioned, harmonized self is not our normal state of being. Apart from Christ, the ordinary state of affairs is for the various members and impulses of our person to jostle for control, battling with one another (Rom 7: 22-23). But when one sings, body, reason, emotion, physical sense and desire come alongside one another, each enlisted together in the praise of God. As we sing, we become a harmony.”

“…Athanasius’ point, however, is that specifically by singing our praises, all the diverse elements our our humanity are drawn together and then together lifted to God in worship.”

“Athanasius portrays the Christian life as a sort of richly broadened harmony, ringing out in praise of God…”

Part of what this means? Quit the non-sense about well you can’t sing, I don’t like hearing that. If you were focused on your singing and what it truly means in respect to the guy next to you and to God, you’d realize it doesn’t matter how good/bad the other person is. What matters is how the Holy Spirit is bringing what you are doing, what he’s doing, what every Christian who is at worship at that moment anywhere in the world is doing, making it a “richly broadened harmony”. Just saying, but I get the feeling you’re going to feel pretty petty in heaven, when you truly understand how the Holy Spirit does bring all that together. And yes that includes my still in much need of improvement chanting.

I am probably not doing Mr Guthrie’s article justice, but I think that I’ve made the point. God has been using liturgical music for at least 3,000 years. It does bring us together, it does reach down to our soul in a sacrificial, it’s all about the other person, it’s all about Jesus way. Can we do it better? Absolutely. But you want genuine emotion and content in your worship? All due respect to the David Crowder Band and all Christian music going back to who knows when, but the eros emotion that music evokes, is OK, believe me, I’ve got all the albums. But when it comes to what is truly from the soul, what reaches back through three millineium, what God uses to tie together Christians around the world, is the liturgy, based on, mostly, Psalms, but also the Gospels. When we truly take this form and truly lift up God in worship and make it all about Him, then He does respond and make it truly about us. In stark contrast to eros, which is all about me and what appeals to my senses and doesn’t go deep enough to impact our soul. Only God does when we truly lift Him up in worship that’s about Him and not about us. And if Athanasius is right and singing is a spiritual discipline, then it doesn’t matter if you do it well or not so well. We worship, we take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we hear the preached word, we’re baptized, we study Scripture, we journal, we confess and absolve, and yes we should sing, in a way that is truly a spiritual discipline and not another worldly indulgence.