Taste and See-Psalm 34:8

Psalms and God’s Presence562563_10150775597772962_1566758683_n

As I continue to mediate and think through what the Psalms have to offer us today in our worship practices, I have been reading this book by Tremper Longman. Here are a few thoughts on what it looks like to soak in these wonderful liturgical reminders of the character and nature of God.

God is present in every corner of his creation. He is with us whether or not we are at work or at home, shopping or studying, in the city or the country, at sea or on land. He is everywhere and with us no matter what we do.

Nonetheless, the Scriptures make it clear that though God’s presence permeates the world, he chooses to dwell in a special way in certain places and to make his presence known at certain times. For instance, the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20) in a special way at the time that Moses received the law. His presence was manifested and experienced in a way that was not repeated on any other mountain until he chose to dwell on Mount Zion in the time of Solomon.

These special places of God’s presence are places of intimate and at times fearful encounters with the God of the universe. The are places which demand human response; they demand worshipful prayer. 

As we read the Psalms, we are entering into the sanctuary, the place where God meets men and women in a special way. We will see that the conversation between God and his people is direct, intense, intimate and, above all else honest. 

Thus the Psalms are a kind of literary sanctuary in the Scripture. The place where God meets his people in a special way, where his people may address him with their praise and lament.

Who’s in Charge?

The Psalms challenge us to think through who is in charge. When our children demand something from us because of discomfort, boredom or hunger (among other reasons) we remind them that they have forgotten who is in charge. The Psalms make us pause, and back up for a minute to consider how our presumptuous living lacks sobriety. We are reminded in the Psalms that all of our existence comes from God. All of creation is sustained by his hand and all or our steps are directed by the Creator of the Universe.

This ought to affect our hearts and remind us of who we are. The Psalms encourage us to dig deep into the humanity of our spirituality and work us over in such a way that we either fall to our knees in adoration and worship of God or we fall to or knees in repentance and lament. Either way, we cannot walk away from them unchanged.

A thought from John Calvin on the Psalms.

What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury (Psalms), it were difficult to find words to describe…I have been wont to call this book not inappropriately, an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.

Incarnational Intersection

Calvin paints a wonderful picture of how the Psalms speak to every part of our soul. They hold up a mirror and incite in our hearts the eager longing to connect where we once thought we were isolated. Consider Psalm 35:22-23 where the Psalmist pleads for God’s intervention in his life in the midst of suffering at the hands of others, “Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord!”

The prayers offered in these verses reflect a desire for the incarnation of God. “Do not be far from me!” Draw near to me, the Psalmist cries out! As these words pour from the lips of the poet, who among us has not felt this same way? This mirror that Calvin speaks of is impossible to ignore once we see how physical these spiritual prayers are.

Not only do these Psalms speak of how God and man intersect they unceasingly point to the realized incarnation in Christ. For the Christian we not only read the Psalms with eyes to see the worship of God and ears to hear of his mighty hand, we also see the beauty of Christ and the redemption that we, by faith, eat and drink in his incarnation.

Consider the words of N.T. Wright here on Christ and the Psalms.

I am suggesting that the entire worldview that the Psalms are inculcating was to do with that intersection of our time, space, and matter with God’s, (time, space and matter) which Christians believe happen uniquely and dramatically in Jesus.

Taste and See…

When Time, Space and Matter collide the witnesses to this event are never the same. God came down. We see this incarnation played out fully in the Gospels but this incarnation was foreshadowed in the Psalms. Not only was Christ foreshadowed in the Psalms but It was through these practices, prayers and postures presented in the Psalms that [was] the “hymnbook that Jesus and his followers would have known by heart.” (N.T. Wright).

Allow the beauty of these Scriptural treasures to wash over you and your family. Take a moment and chew on the incarnational truth that the Psalms have to offer. Practicing this daily, for the believer who does so in faith, changes, shapes and moulds our hearts to be more like Christ’s.

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

The command to taste and see is an incarnational call to know God in our humanity. This call to taste and see points us to the incarnational meal that God himself, in Christ shared with his disciples and with us with these words, “This is my body, given for you” and “This is the blood of the covenant, poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Forgiveness-Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night you hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with the songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule who have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart.

Fear of Exposure

Growing up I was always afraid that I was lukewarm in my faith in Jesus (enter spitting sound…now). He gave himself for me and I don’t even want to sing the hymns at church! Well, It was true, I was 574447_10151482366557962_655928704_nlukewarm. But worse than not liking to sing the church hymns, (I’d rather have sung Bon Jovi…hey Bon Jovi even lived on a prayer…am I right?…ok I’ll stop) I didn’t feel like God liked me. I knew that I had sin, but I just couldn’t get it right! Wasn’t that the point of being a Christian? Getting it right so that God would now at least like me?

The affect that this belief had on my heart was that when I did sin I certainly couldn’t tell anyone. Fear of exposure became my worst nightmare. Fearing that we are alone in our sin and struggles leaves us abandoned to isolation, or as the Psalmist puts it “day and night your hand was heavy on me…” And Jesus’ words in John 9:41 remind us that our guilt remains if we claim that we don’t have sin. Truly, confession is still incredibly difficult. I don’t want to, but need to come clean. Confession of sin and exposure to the Lord, and sometimes to friends, what is going on in my heart is essential for growth in Christ.

2 Truths and A Promise

These 2 things are true about sin in scripture, 1. all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and 2. everyone needs forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). I don’t like to confess sin. I don’t like to go to God over and over again with the same struggles. It’s not fun. But when I read Psalm 32 I’m reminded of the Grace of God found in Christ.

Blessed is the one (man in the Hebrew) whose sins are forgiven! What happens to this man if he keeps his sin to himself? The crusting weight of his isolation is too much for him. He has to tell someone. He has to tell his Lord what he has done. But in confessing his sin, he demonstrates faith in who God says he is. And with each demonstration of weakness, his faith grows.

I remember when Brady (our now 9 year-old) came to me one day with tears in his eyes. He had scratched the “treasured” minivan (not this minivan) and just couldn’t live without telling us about it. I can remember times when the guilt and conviction of sin against another person was so strong that there was no activity that I could engage in until I told them what I had done.

We practice a weekly corporate confession of sin in our worship service. It is a message to those who believe that we must take sin seriously. But this time of confession is always followed up with a wonderful promise of forgiveness. This time of confession is also for the unbeliever in our midst. It is a time for them to consider whether or not they believe that there is sin in their lives and whether they have faith to trust in Christ.

The Apostle John reminds us of this promise of forgiveness. “For if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleans us form all unrighteousness.” John is repeating what the Psalmist is saying here. But from John and from Psalm 32 we are reminded of how essential it is to acknowledge our sin and then to talk to God about it.

No Blood No Forgiveness

The author of Hebrews expounds on the Old Testament laws and comments on their sacrificial practices. Hebrews reminds us that sin brings death and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins. No matter what we do, or give up, or try to accomplish, we cannot provide for that sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the One who would be sacrificed for us. We have that sacrifice in Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest.

The blessing that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 32 is the freedom that we have when we are bold enough to stop hiding. Every opportunity to confess what sin does to us if a equal reminder to consider what Christ has done for us.

There is no greater freedom than to be in right standing with our Creator. There is no greater freedom to know that someone fully knows us and that God our Father has forgiven our sins. Do not be the horse or the mule who gets pulled here and there acting as if nothing is wrong.

Remember that the…”Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart” Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Glory-Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it;
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in and idol or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up you ancient doors.
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty-He is the King of glory.

כָּבוֹד The Battle For Glory

I’m not much of a sports guy, but I do find that at times I am jealous for those who are. I wish I had a “team” or a “player” that I loved to follow. Whether you’re a fan or not it’s not hard to argue the case that all pro sports have their glory hounds. An article published in The Bleacher Report a few years ago highlights a struggle for athletes who are good at their craft.  In the article, the author presents the 20 most self-centered athletes in the world. This is of course subjective but nonetheless it leaves the reader with 20 opportunities to judge those who make more money than we do. In this short article we see 20 people scrutinized for their attempt to make much of themselves.

In Psalm 24 David uses the Hebrew word כָּבוֹד kavowd to describe God’s glory. The definition is complex and can be defined in a few ways but the overall idea is evidence of greatness, or wonder and amazement at the power and prominence of someone’s performance. Whew…that’s kind of wordy but we all understand what it boils down to. Glory means that someone get’s the credit.

But someone has to get credit right? If we play basketball against LeBron James and lose we can’t say that it was because we had an off day. LeBron wins every time. He gets the glory. Making much of ourselves has never been a problem for only pro athletes. One of the  greatest struggle in humanity is our battle for the glory that is due to God and God alone. Pastor and counselor Paul Tripp puts it well when he says,

“human beings are glory junkies…Whether you like to admit to it or not, you’re addicted to glory. Glory junkies talk about themselves a lot. Their story is the most important and their interests are better than anyone else’s. This may seem harsh, but be honest – you and I often see people as a waste of time. When we’re overly confident and independent, people become an irritating and unhelpful interruption of what we could accomplish on our own.”

Glory Comes From Sacrifice

Psalm 24 gives us a glimpse of The Kingdom of God. In a kingdom it’s only the King who gets the glory. David starts with a reminder of our condition in verses 1-3, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” Glory is rooted in ownership. As kids we would taunt each other on the court with phrases like, “I own you!” Our intent was to gain glory by ousting the other. This is fun when it’s sports and it’s done for humor, but it’s sin when done to gain glory for ourselves. David is painting a picture to remind us of who owns what.

In verse 3 we are exhorted by way of the rhetorical question, “who may stand in God’s holy place?” There is a 2 fold answer: 1. No body (see Psalm 14) unless they are 2. Clean. But how can we possibly be clean? In verse 4 we see a picture of Christ, holy, perfect and clean. His glory was revealed in his service to us making us pure and clean. Paul says in Romans 1:4 that Christ was vindicated as the Son of God by his defeating death! This was done so that we might be able to “ascend God’s holy hill” and “stand in his holy place.” We serve a king who first served us. God get’s the credit; He wins every time.

The king Submits to The King

When we see how Christ offered himself for us and how his offering enables fellowship with God it changes us. Psalm 24 wasn’t just written to encourage us to look to Christ, because even King David only saw types and shadows of what was to come. We are called to seek righteousness and holiness. It’s a wonderful reminder that here we have a king (little k) writing of his desire to serve a King (big K). David understood what it meant to seek to bring God the glory and for a king to submit to The King.

In God’s Kingdom there is a reversal of values. At some point Christians should wrestle with the temptation to seek a life that glorifies self or one that gives Glory to God. The way up is the way down. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord Almighty-He is the King of Glory!

Beauty in Rebuke

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend are faithful, but an enemy multiplies kisses. One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” Proverbs 27:5-7

How do you handle criticism and honesty? I don’t mean the rash or brazen criticism that’s easy to shirk off. I am talking about the sit down one-anothering that comes from difficult words by a loving friend. What if you worked really hard at something and felt really proud of your work only to have it criticized and for lack of a better word, “rejected.”

I used to find any criticism as an attack. I would discount all words of correction as a personal affront, truly I still struggle with this. But isn’t the rebuke of a friend and the words of correction necessary for growth? If we are only around people who offer us coke a cola answers to our struggles and “performances” we are in a dangerous place.

Growth for anyone requires a good friend to be honest with you. For the Christian, this type of friendship is essential. The version of Jesus that I was taught to believe in was the nice guy who let people punch him on both cheeks and then let men kill him. But if we read the Gospels carefully we see phrases that don’t fit that mold. Many places Jesus holds nothing back, “You brood of vipers”, “You should not be surprised by this”, “Oh, you of little faith”, “Go and learn what this means”, “Woe to you”, “You’re a teacher of Israel and you don’t understand this”, “Get out of here!”, “Does this offend you?” and many others.

This certainly doesn’t sum up who Jesus was but it does demonstrate the truth of love. Love isn’t a door mat. Love isn’t a feeling that you get when someone likes your Facebook pictures. Love isn’t acceptance by a group that never holds you accountable. Love is hard. Love is faithful. Love is offensive because it requires. The author of Hebrews reiterates the teachings in Psalms and Proverbs when he says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined-and everyone undergoes discipline (if they are true children)-then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”

There is beauty in rebuke. If we didn’t require rebuke then why did Christ die? The author of Hebrews continues in chapter 12, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

The real beauty of rebuke is that it demonstrates to us the love of God in Christ enduring the cross on our behalf. Jesus did not ignore the hard work of discipline and was/and is not a god of complete and utter acceptance. If we ignore rebuke and correction for training in righteousness and surround ourselves with communities of people who never offer hard truths then we ignore the suffering and anguish that Christ endured on our behalf.

Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs because true love, God’s love took on all of those wrongs when he offered himself up for us. He didn’t just forget about our offenses without consequence, he absorbed them. Give thanks if you are loved by a friend who can offer you open rebuke and then remind you that you are more wicked than you could possible imagine but more deeply loved that you could ever understand.

Our instruction to understand discipline and correction is driven by the knowledge that Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us of, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God doesn’t discipline out of anger or out of inexperience, he does so as one who is fully disciplined and endured. He disciplines out of love.

Blessed are you who undergo discipline. For to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

The Road and the Sword

Too often I forget myself. My pride swells like a Cracker Barrell-egg-shell-toy-dinosaur that has been left in it’s bowl of water too long. At times like these I’m gently and sometimes subtly reminded with a nudge by the staff of Christ to return to the sheepfold. This reminding is at best a slight, noticeable bump, but at other times it is a sword. A sword that cuts deep into the idols that I cling so tightly to. My grasped knuckles of pride and arrogance, disbelief and panic are as white as my woolen coat. The Shepherd wins, always.

As I walk the road that has been set before me, I seem to long more often for the destination than I ever have before.

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…God Meant it for Good…

French Artist Gustave Dore’ Joseph and His Brothers

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 NLT.

When I was a younger man I struggled greatly with losing my hair. It started to thin when I was a senior in high school. By the time I graduated from college I was consoling myself with the fact that I shared this trait with both Officer John McClane and James Bond (well former James Bond anyway)…but then I remembered that saving 200 hostages and keeping international relations secure for all of the Western World gave them a bit of an advantage over a college graduate with 1000 hours running a backhoe and a class B commercial Truck driving license. Neither was I Bruce Willis nor Sean Connery.

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Considering Rubbish

Friendship is truly a gift from God. We have some friends who live too far away and we consequently don’t get to see nearly often enough. Our hearts think of them often as they tweet their way into our thoughts and sometimes prayers. Their writing is encouraging and thought-provoking and I’m thankful to know them. Recently Amber has been writing on chains and as go our lives so go the links in the chains.

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