Bringing Psalm 42 Home

Psalm 42 speaks to me today as balm to my depressed soul. It doesn’t counter this depression, but encourages me in it.

Depression always looks for a scapegoat, and as I refuse to allow my depression to place the blame on my faithful God and Savior, it falls on me by default. Why would I tend to blame God? Because for years I’ve begged him to motivate me, to grow me up into a true man, ie., a Christlike man, but I still wallow in my passive depression, unable to move against this mess I’ve created around me.

I’m talking about a literal mess, as interpersonal relationships evade me at present. I look around this apartment and see tons of stuff closing in on me, chores that I haven’t done, my body settling out of condition, and words not writing themselves (even though I now type away).

Is God not strong enough to overcome my lack of will? I know better than that! Does he not love me as his word leads me to believe? That cannot be, as I know his love experientially.

That leaves just one possible explanation; my loving, faithful, gracious Lord is working in the background, unseen and unfelt, and in his perfect timing this will all make sense to me.

Psalm 42 has two very similar verses that directly minister to me:

42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, my God.

God is who he is, and I shall yet praise him.

What is, “Therefore,” There For?

Apostle Paul had the unfortunate habit in his letters of starting thoughts with, “Therefore,” which Greek word, according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions means: “then, therefore, accordingly, consequently, these things being so.” He was so fond of that word that he used it 497 times, with over half of those instances translated in the KJV as, “therefore.”

Simply stated, that is an easy way of keeping statements in the context of what came before, without having to repeat it. I said, “easy,” but to correctly understand what a passage means, a student must know what came before “therefore.” The more analytical preachers have a saying, “A text without a context is a pretext,” and that applies to garden-variety Christ-followers as well.

You already know that the only way to faithfully walk with Jesus is to internalize his word through study, memorization, meditation and prayer. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us what that means: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rightly dividing” means, “to dissect correctly.”

Have you ever correctly dissected portions of God’s word? It can seem daunting at first, but as you’ve seen, it’s not an option, and with so many excellent Bible study tools freely available on the Internet, you have no excuse for ignorance. I’ve listed them in a previous post, but in case you missed it, here they are again:

  • The one I use most often is e-Sword, possibly the best over all Bible study software out there. Author Rick Meyers offers it free-of-charge as a ministry, but after you use it for a while you will feel obligated to help support his work. The free version comes with the KJV and KJV + Strong’s numbers, which are linked to the Strong’s Dictionaries that also accompany the free download. Other free resources are available by an easy selection box within the application itself. Besides those, Meyers has provided links to premium resources, available from their publishers for a considerable discount. My personal e-Sword installation contains less-than $50 dollars worth of premium resources that would normally cost hundreds.
  • On-line Bible study sites that I use provide bunches of excellent resources for anyone with Internet access. I can rate none of them as over all best because each offers unique features that recommend them to different needs. They are, BibleGateway, Blue Letter Bible, Bible HubOpenBible, and Studylight dot org.

“Therefore,” my prayer is that conscientious Christ-followers will stumble upon this post, and that it will motivate them to act on 2 Timothy 2:15.

Shout To the Lord

I titled a previous post, “SHOUT From the Lord,” noting that it is slightly different from the popular worship song by Chris Tomlin. Those lyrics are in part:

Shout to the Lord, all the earth, Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.

From the very beginning I’ve had a problem with the refrain’s seventh line; it’s missing three words: By Your grace. They fit perfectly, with three syllables, just like “Forever.”

Okay, call me nitpicky, but isn’t the original wording just a bit presumptuous? I want to love God and stand forever. I hope to. I even need to. But I lack that mythical crystal ball to know if I will persevere.

You see, I know myself all too well to presume on the future. My greatest fear is that I might apostatize and bring a reproach on my Lord. So my fervent prayer is to glorify him in all that I do. One way to ensure that is to consume God’s Word through his Holy Spirit as I would a lean stake, with lots of chewing and savoring the flavor. Thing is, milk and pablum easily slide down the throat, but you can’t live on that alone.

Go ahead, SHOUT to the Lord! Sing his praises with joy. But remember:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.

C.S. Lewis on The Worst Kind of Sin

Uncle Jack must have been a carpenter, as he continually “hits the nail squarely on the head.” From Mere Christianity:

If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

I’m afraid Uncle Jack was a smidge off hitting this particular nail squarely. The generalization with which he opened this excerpt is wrong; most Christians do regard unchastity as the supreme vice, completely missing the the attitudinal sins Lewis mentions later on. Even if you’re reborn into a new person by faith in Jesus’ bloody sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection, you still have to deal with the sin-habit you’ve developed over the years before you came to faith.

When we’re first saved we all marvel at the sensation that freedom from sin-guilt gives us. But just as all changes become mundane after a while, we begin taking the freedom that Jesus so dearly bought for granted. The sensation fades, as does our revulsion to sin, and   (name your poison)   doesn’t seem so bad after all.

I love Lewis’ categories of sin: Animal, and Diabolical. Or, maybe I should say I hate them, as I recognize their icky feelers trying to creep into my life. All that stands in the way of those embryonic buggers is God’s Holy Spirit working through his Word and prayer; no Word, no prayer, no protection.

Any sin, regardless how slight, if unconfessed, will open the door for those buggers. And diabolical sins of attitude are the worst because they’re almost invisible.

Do you think you’re free from attitudinal sin? That’s the primary symptom of having a bad case of them. Think of homeowners; termites are never a problem until the homeowners get their house inspected by the pros. Attitudinal sin is even more destructive than termites, and God’s Holy Spirit is the Pro you need to consult for finding those diabolical, soul-chewing sin-buggers.

If you’re not read-up and prayed-up, you’ll soon become fed-up with your lackluster Christian walk. You may hang onto “a form of godliness,” but your profession will be a lie.

The Science of Happiness

If happiness sounds good to you, but you’re not interested in all that God stuff, The Science of Happiness may be just your ticket. The video I watched was certainly upbeat enough, with the “happiness scientist” admitting in the end that he was, in fact, not a real scientist. I discovered all this rampant happiness when Life Out of the Box followed my blog. BTW, if you’re watching, thanks for following my blog, but if you only want to see positive reviews of LOOTB, perhaps you’d better stop here.

“What’s not to be positive about?” you may ask, “It’s a very positive blog.”

And so it is, if you’re willing to accept the world’s generic, temporary, situational happiness.

“But, isn’t happiness always a good thing?”

No, it isn’t always a good thing, and I’ll tell you why.

Imagine a perfectly happy guy, not a care in the world, strolling along a path, happily enjoying the fresh, night air … moonless night air. You can see where I’m going with this, and where the happy guy will likely go at any moment.

Suddenly, one of his broad, happy steps finds, not solid earth, but unsolid air, and our happy guy cries out a distinctly unhappy scream as he falls eight feet into a trench carelessly left without a barrier. Why our hypothetical, happy guy chose to speed-walk along a dark path without a flashlight for his feet or lights along the path, I can’t imagine. That is, in fact, the exact situation in which travelers along life’s dark, unpredictable path find themselves when they ignore Life’s Instruction Book, the Bible. Without exception, such life-hikers will find the pit at the end of their path, and they don’t even realize they’ve been walking in darkness.

Regardless how cozy you get with God, you will never really know what the next moment holds, but God’s Word gives you a reliable hint:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Despite all the gospel tracts that lead you in “The Sinner’s Prayer,” there is no formula that magically flips the eternal “light” switch to get you in good with the Man upstairs. It’s a process that begins with opening your heart to God, admitting you need him to make the disaster you call your life into something meaningful, and accepting the brand-spanking new eternal life he is offering you through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Period!

What’s with those “Gesis” brothers?

I had only known one of them, until this morning. My acquaintance with “Exe Gesis” began a few years ago when I learned the disquieting fact that English translations of God’s Word are slightly flawed. But for God’s Holy Spirit intervening with his spiritual understanding of the texts, we’d have no way of knowing God’s exact message.

My providential introduction to “Exe Gesis” has blessed me with God’s truth, while his step-brother, “Eise Gesis,” only seeks to make a point, often at the Scripture’s expense. Let me introduce you to both of them. What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? presents both “Gesis” brothers in clear, plain language that must make those high-powered Bible scholars blush. And to facilitate those who would rather listen than read, that page has a button that opens a really slick audio player in another browser tab.

If you take your faith seriously, you no doubt take your Savior seriously, and if that is the case, you find his word both a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105), and most importantly, the reason for your eternal hope. Use this opportunity to get to know “Exe.” He’s a friend that will never fail you.

Words of Christ in Red

Opinion-time, everyone. The bug bit me while I was studying Proverbs chapter eighteen—rather odd, as it contains no “words of Christ.” But that’s where it gets interesting; Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Word in the flesh, and he authored the verbal (both the ancient, oral tradition, and the written) Word of God from start to finish (John 1:1-18, 2 Timothy 3:16). In view of these facts, can any part of God’s verbal Word not be Jesus’ words? Highlighting Jesus’ words in the gospels implies that they are somehow more reliable or have more authority than the balance of Scripture, which is theologically unsound.

That said, I understand how novices in Bible-study might prefer “Red-Word” Bible editions, but I would also caution them against assigning those red words undue significance. There is a heresy that says Jesus’ words carry divine authority, but the rest were written by (sexist) men, most especially that male-chauvinist-pig, Paul.

To deny any part of God’s Word is to deny its Author, and we wouldn’t want to do that, would we?

In-Dependence Day

Yes, I realize this post’s title appears to be a typo, but it’s purposeful. I try to live in dependence on God. That’s “in,” not “with.” By living in dependence on God I reside in that state of dependence. As usual, Apostle John said it best when he quoted Jesus as saying: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

This blog’s theme is based on John 15:1-11, so you shouldn’t be surprised at my pouncing on this opportunity. God’s Word, the creative, eternal, second Person of God, the Word he spoke to the Bible’s writers as a love-letter to us, and especially the Word incarnate in God’s only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are all precious to me.

I pray you have found God’s three-fold Word precious to yourself as well. May you celebrate this In-Dependence Day with full commitment to dependence upon God, and devotion to the Biblical principles that made America, not perfect, but the “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Confusing Biblical Principles

Star Trek’s The Borg

You may be wondering how a science fiction special effects feast like the Borg collective relates to my title for this post. If you’re not a Star Trek fan, you may not even know what the Borg is … or are. Keep reading and find out.

When I hear some ignoramus (I nearly said “pinhead,” but Bill O’Rielly probably has a copyright on it.) spouting opinions about how the Bible contradicts itself, how it’s just some old religious white guys’ attempt to control people, and how science blows it out of the firmament, I get heart-sick, and maybe just a bit stomach-sick. Of course, everyone is entitled to his (or her) opinions, even if they bitterly hold and defend them in the face of strong contradictory reasoning. People who regard the Bible through the foggy shades of cynicism refuse to acknowledge any constructive content therein; even the “Golden Rule” becomes jaded in their biased eyes, as they allege that even if Jesus existed, all those thousands of folks couldn’t have heard him. Not to mention the “myth” of the loaves and fishes.

Jesus’ miracles, however, are small fish (excuse the pun) compared to the New Testament’s weightier principles. Teachings such as Jesus’ blood washing away sin truly violate some folks’ sensibilities. For one thing, “sin” is a four-letter word to them (shows what they know), and the Bible’s credibility just goes downhill from there.

I must admit that when you dig deeply into God’s Word, things can get confusing, even if you truly believe it. When I study God’s personal nature, I find anything but a high-resolution portrait of him—loads of symbolism, but nothing I can dig my eyes into. That includes the whole tri-une thing, where God is in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, the Bible says in many places that God is One. I’ve arrived at a peaceful reconciliation with the Trinity doctrine, and if you’re interested, here’s my rationale: Comparing God’s scope to that of man is a huge stretch, greater than comparing all the water over the whole earth to one molecule of the substance. But comparing just the words, “God,” and, “man,” is a bit easier. If I consider each of those words as representing a kind or beings, I see that man comprises billions of individual people, while God comprises only three. Yet, with all those human beings, we are truly one in nature, as all of us share numerous key genetic characteristics, or attributes. And similarly, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit share key divine attributes, but those three also share one mind.

Obama of Borg

Can you imagine what this world would be like if all human beings shared the same mind? Admittedly, my theory seems like the stuff of science fiction or fantasy, thus explaining the weird photo at the top of this post (The Borg of Star Trek supposedly shared one mind.). That’s the way all things spiritual seem to those invested in the materialistic world view, but no one, including scientists, can reasonably maintain that the material universe is absolutely all there is. As far as they’re concerned, until “science” officially discovers something, it doesn’t exist. Please keep in mind, I’m not saying my theory—emphasis on theory—holds any water, but like a canvass water bag, though it has plenty of leaks, at least it keeps me cool.

The Bible presents far too many difficult teachings for me to deal with them here, but Tough Questions with R.C. Sproul can certainly help those plagued by curiosity. If you have questions, especially of the nagging kind, don’t just sit on them. Our enemy loves to aggravate reservations of faith and outright doubts. And if you aren’t interested enough to look into the Bible for answers, maybe, just maybe, your master isn’t Jesus Christ.

It Is No Secret

This morning I awoke rejoicing in my God. I don’t know why the old gospel song, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” ran through my mind, but I turned what lyrics I could remember into a song of praise to my Lord. To refresh the rest of the lyrics, I turned on my computer to listen to the whole song. What I discovered was a half-truth, but at least it didn’t tell an outright lie. While those who are in Christ have some idea what God can do, we have no idea what he will do.Stewart Hamblen’s lyrics begin with:

The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you

It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

By now, if you are older than forty you may have the tune running through your head. If not, it goes like this: Ta da da daa daaa da da da da, etcetera. Does that help?

Anyway, while the “arms wide open” part is right, it leaves out the required confession and repentance. That’s anything but a minor omission.

The second stanza begins with a gloriously true statement:

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide

In his light you indeed never walk alone, and no power in heaven or on earth can conquer you. What puts God on your side? If we don’t run away and hide, but love him with our obedience, we can safely take him at his promise, expressed in his holy word. What a mighty God we serve! And yes, I realize that’s another gospel song.