Sunday Morning Coffee:This and That

I don’t have anything particular on my mind this morning, except a song that’s on an endless loop:

Actually, it’s not a bad way to start the day. It was already playing in my head when my alarm went off ūüôā

It’s only 62 F. outside! That’s as cool as it’s been in the morning for WEEKS! It’s supposed to go up to 87 today. We’ve had a little rain, but just a teaser. We could use a good, all-day soaker.

On this last day of July, I find I’m truly looking forward to cooler nights. It will still be hot, but it can’t be much worse than it’s already been. I am eager for the fall sky, so painfully blue you can hardly believe it. Fall flowers, rejoicing in the lifting of the humidity. And, I hope, some good steady rain.

We had a group of young adults here on Thursday evening, along with our pastor and his family. What a delightful bunch! I enjoyed getting to know some people a little better. We had a good time with outdoor activities and indoor conversation and laughter. I’m glad we were able to do this. I couldn’t have pulled it off on my own, but having my son and his wife here to shoulder a lot of the work made it much easier. I love it when my house if filled with laughter!

Both Mike and Janan are closing in on jobs. Janan has been working hard, studying to be an insurance adjuster. Mike has three directions in which he could go right now. It’s a matter of making the best choice, not a bad position at all.

Terry got into some poison ivy this past week. It’s all around his left eye, and it’s pretty bad. Poor guy, he reacts to it strongly. He’s not feeling good at all this morning.

All in all, it’s been a fairly normal week. We’ll be on our way to church in about 45 minutes. A normal Sunday.

I hope your Sunday will be a good one!

Saturday Soliloquy: The News

I just got my daily dose of downers. I scanned the news options, and scanned down through Facebook. Didn’t take long. It’s depressing, with very few rays of hope shining through the storm clouds.

It has been so in every generation. We all seem to think that things just can’t be much worse, don’t we? In WWI, people were believing Armageddon had arrived. Then came the horrors of mass genocide in WWII, and THAT was the worst ever–unless you remember the ongoing genocide of Communism all around the world, killing people in even greater numbers than Hitler did.

The Bible tells us that there will always be wars and rumors of wars (Matt. 24: 3-26). It is in the nature of mankind, and Satan loves to stir up that nature and destroy humanity, because WE, God’s ultimate creation, are what God loves the most. Satan hates what God loves.

What I want you to know this morning is that there IS good news! If you feel as if your heart and mind are polluted with the sin and misery of our fallen world, turn to Jesus Christ. Read the book of John to find the cure for the curse of sin.

Jesus came to satisfy the Old Testament Law, which demanded blood to be shed to cover sin. Because of Jesus, Whose blood was shed not merely to cover, but to cleanse us from sin, we have the surety of forgiveness, redemption, and heaven!

If you are already a believer, take heart! No matter how bad things look, God is still sovereign. In His time, Satan will be defeated and there will be a new heaven and earth. We will be free from the curse of sin and death forever.

If you have never confessed your sinful nature to God, you can do so right now. He tells us in John 3:16 that whosoever believes in Him will NOT perish, but will have everlasting life.

And that, my friends, is the simplest explanation there is for having hope in this terrifying world in which we live.

Consumed Because of Grief

Psalm 6:7-8.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The saying is that the eyes are the windows to the soul. The photo above certainly shows the suffering in the heart and mind of this woman.

I watched my mom endure the grief of losing the man she married when she was only 16. It was devastating. They’d been married for just over 51 years. The grief changed her face. Even after she was through the worst of it, and could freely laugh again, the traces of her deep loss remained.

David’s deep grief was over the loss of relationship with God. I wonder how many of us today truly grieve over our sin, knowing that God cannot look on our sin and that it is up to us to truly repent and seek forgiveness.

David was having a hard time enduring God’s chastisement. Apparently, some of his enemies were involved in his time of chastisement. We don’t know who they were, but it seems they had some kind of right to be near enough to David to cause him grief.

The words depart from me are imperative. He knows his enemies will keep him burdened with grief, and that he needs to rid himself of such influences. He warns them that God has heard his weeping, and that his enemies need to watch out!

Have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful who your friends are”? David sometimes chose “friends” who turned against him, betrayed him, and caused him deep grief. Often, when one of our kids was heading out for a time with friends, we’d warn him, “Remember what your last name is.” Our kids understood that any trouble they might get into would reflect back on the whole family. We all need to be careful who our friends are.

Jesus is the best friend of all.

Flood the Bed with Tears

Psalm 6:6 “I am weary¬†with my groaning;¬†all the night¬†make I my bed¬†to swim;¬†I water¬†my couch¬†with my tears.”

David was not speaking metaphorically in this verse; nor is he using hyperbole. He was, in my opinion, struggling with deep depression because of his acknowledgment of his sin.

I want to clarify here that I am not saying all depression is because of sin. That’s a simplistic explanation for a complicated condition. Of course, there is always sin because we are all sinners. But to tell anyone who is in the depths of such depression that he “just needs to repent and he’ll be fine” is not helpful. In fact, such a statement is likely to spiral the depressed person into deeper misery. There are multiple causes, and they include biological and chemical elements. To say “just” pray is to minimize what the person is experiencing, and maximize his own guilt for his depression. He doesn’t need condemnation. He needs compassion, spiritual guidance, and possibly medical intervention.

There is no doubt that David was penitent. He is weeping for his own sin, full of regret for alienating himself from his God. And that alienation, I believe, is the cause for his weeping; he is missing the presence of God so desperately that he cannot sleep; all he can do is mourn.

I also believe, on the basis of another Psalm we will look at soon, that his thinking was completely skewed. This distortion of thought can happen before and during the onset of depression. What we think about governs our emotions, words, and behaviors. What we believe to be true will reveal itself in our words and actions.

For instance, it is not unusual for a little child, who, being disciplined, hurls his fury and distress at his parent, saying “I HATE you!” Because his thinking is skewed, he fails to see his own behavior that has brought on discipline, and blames the parent instead. Of course it is distressing for any loving parent to hear such words from a child, and more so if such childishness continues into the child’s teens and adulthood. By that time, the wrong thinking is so deeply entrenched that it’s going to take some major upheaval to correct it.

David had not let his sin destroy his view of God. He knew Who God was, and believed in God’s love for him. It was that knowledge that brought him to his knees in grief over the estrangement between him and God. His tears were like a waterfall that could not be stopped. So strong was his desire for God that he could neither sleep nor find peace until his relationship with God was restored.

What I love most about this Psalm is that David knows that God will restore David to favor with Himself. David trusts that God knows his heart, and will hear his prayer and restore him to his right standing with God.

Deliver my Soul

Psalm 6: 4-5.

Return,¬†O LORD,¬†deliver¬†my soul:¬†oh save¬†me for Thy mercies’¬†sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?

The farther I study into this Psalm, the more convicted I am about my own personal need for the same mercy for which David cried; and for my nation’s need for sincere repentance and return to the Word of God. Again, we are not told what particular sin had brought David to this place of abject pleading. It doesn’t take long, though, if we are honest with ourselves, to recognize the areas in which we have our deepest need. On the national level, America has legislated God out of so much of our public life. We’re going to be pleading for mercy because of that!

By the way, did you know that the idea of separation between church and state is not a part of the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence? It was Thomas Jefferson, an acknowledged Deist, who mentioned it in a personal letter. It was also Jefferson who edited the Bible to his own liking by removing anything he personally found offensive.

What is a Deist? Glad you asked! In brief, a Deist is someone who subscribes to the liberal religious stand that values reason over revelation and rejects traditional Christian doctrines, including the Virgin Birth, original sin and the resurrection of Jesus. Jefferson would have liked a song that was popular a few years back. I don’t remember the title, but a repeated refrain was “God is watching us, God is watching us. . . . .from a distance.” While not denying the existence of God, Deism refuses the idea of a personal God Who deserves our obedience and love. More, it deletes the importance of Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation.

All that, however is a different topic for another day.

David did not deny the existence of God, nor the right God had to chastise him when he turned his back on God. What right does God have to intervene in our lives? Well, it is compound, actually. He has the right of His sovereignty; the right of creatorship; the right of ownership over that which He has created. For a believer, He has the right of the Father to discipline His child. The Bible tells us that God chastises those He loves–BECAUSE He loves us! Any good parent will chastise an erring child in order to help him understand right, wrong, and consequences.

I find it interesting that David pleads with God to deliver his soul. The word deliver is interpreted in the following ways:

to remove, draw out, draw off, take off, withdraw, equip (for war), arm for war, rescue, be rescued

    (Qal) equipped (participle)

    (Niphal)

      to be equipped

      to go equipped

      to be armed

    (Hiphil)

      to make strong, brace up

      to invigorate

to draw off or out, withdraw

    (Qal)

      to draw, draw off

      to withdraw

    (Niphal)

      to be delivered

      to be saved

    (Piel)

      to pull out, tear out

      to rescue, deliver, set free

      to take away, plunder

BlueletterBible

Soul, here is the self, life, desire, emotion, passion. When we are caught up in sin, it consumes every part of us. Only God can deliver us from the hold of sin over our desires and passions.

David asks for deliverance for Thy mercies’ sake, or because of Your mercy. David knew he did not deserve forgiveness, and pleaded for mercy instead of chastisement.

Verse 5 gives us a good picture into the Old Testament lack of sure knowledge about life after death. We learn a lot more about that in the New Testament, but David didn’t have that kind of knowledge. He understood that there would be existence past the grave, but he did not know how that would look. He also clearly knew that he needed to get things right with God before death took that opportunity away. Here’s an interesting perspective on this verse:

David’s point isn’t to present a comprehensive theology of the world beyond. He is in agony, fearing for his life, and he¬†knows¬†he can remember God and give Him thanks now. He doesn’t have the same certainty about the world beyond, so he asks God to act according to his certainty.

iv. “At rare moments the Psalms have glimpses of rescue from Sheol, in terms that suggest resurrection, or a translation like that of Enoch or Elijah (c.f.¬†16:10;¬†17:15;¬†49:15;¬†73:24).” (Kidner)

BlueletterBible

My Bones are Vexed

Psalm 6:2-3.

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?

“My bones are vexed.”

It seems to me that the depths of David’s sin is matched only by the depths of his repentance. His grief over his sin is what earned him being called the man after God’s own heart.

In v. 2, David pleads for mercy. Mercy is defined in terms of being gracious, showing favor, being full of pity toward the offender. God’s great mercy was on display for all to see when His Son, Jesus Christ, was nailed to the cross to die in our place.

David, of course, had not seen that day. He knew, though, that he richly deserved God’s judgment on him for his sin. He didn’t deny his guilt. He did plead for mercy, because he was suffering mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Those vexed bones David mentions? That speaks to me in a whole new way as I age. I took my bones for granted for years, and then they started to fall apart in my lower back. Crumbling bones pinch nerves, and cause intense pain. Have I begged God for relief? Oh yes! And I believe He sends that relief in the form of injections and pain medications that allow me to sleep comfortably and be able to face a new day.

Is my pain caused by sin? Certainly, in light of the fact that we are all born sinners. We inherited our nature to sin from Adam. But is there a specific sin I have committed that has resulted in my very bones being in agony? No, not to my knowledge. It is simply a part of living in a sin-cursed world.

David, however, clearly understood his pain to be the result of his sin. He mentions bones in other Psalms. For example, in Psalm 22, a Messianic Psalm that I hope to study here, Jesus’ body is described as being so dehydrated that even His bones were dry. There are many other references in which bones are mentioned when, under deep grief, the bones are dry and in need of healing.

David was in bad shape when he composed this prayer for mercy and healing. Most important of all, he says that his soul is sore vexed. His grief and guilt over his sin was an agony in his spirit, and he yearned for the chastening to be lighter, to be over, so that he could again find rest and peace with God.

The last words in v. 3 show his pleading: “How long?” While David accepted the chastisement, he also knew he could plead with God for his punishment to be shorter. He longed to be restored to God’s favor, and God desires that same restoration when we step away from Him.

What we tend to forget is that with every sin we commit, there is a consequence. We never escape the the results of our sin and self-indulgement.

There is a law of physics that says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.When a child jumps on a bed, the equal and opposite reaction is that he’s going to come back down and probably damage something before he lands. When we sin against God, we can expect to come back down with a terrible crash that will cause our bones and our souls to be vexed.

Prayer for Mercy

Psalm 6:1. “[[To the chief Musician¬†on Neginoth¬†upon Sheminith,¬†A Psalm¬†of David.]]¬†O LORD,¬†rebuke¬†me not in Thine anger,¬†neither chasten¬†me in Thy hot displeasure.”

Of course, we don’t know exactly what David’s instrument looked like; nor do we know how he looked, or what his clothing looked like. I like this representation, though, and felt it fitting for this Psalm.

David was literally begging for mercy during a troubled time. In the bracketed words, The chief Musician refers to the man who was in charge of all the music in the Temple; Neginoth is the song David composed for the chief musician; and Sheminith could refer to either an eight-stringed musical instrument or to a musical notation such as an octave.

We don’t know the specific sin that brought David, possibly with tears, to seek mercy from God. He clearly felt he was being chastened by God, and it is probable that he knew the cause. We don’t have to understand those details in order to hear the pleading in David’s voice as he seeks God’s mercy.

I have long been fascinated at the seeming duality of David’s personality. He truly loved God, had a close relationship with Him. At the same time, he could be devious, and rash in his decisions. He had shed the blood of many, and for that reason he was not allowed to build the glorious temple that his son Solomon built. God dealt with every sin, every shortcoming, David committed; yet, God also called David “the man after God’s own heart,” a man who desired to have a right relationship with God.

How could he be so two-faced? How could he live for God and at the same time sin against Him?

All I have to do to answer this question is to take a look at my own duplicity. I’ve never killed anyone, but there have been times I’ve wished I could! There has been hatred in my heart, living side by side with my desire to love and serve God. Even after 75 years of living, 70 of those years as a believer, I still have to guard against the flesh, sin, and indulging in my own selfishness. My battle just doesn’t seem as public as David’s was, nor perhaps as extreme–at least in the acting out on my selfishness.

What David is saying here is, in my own words, “Lord, I understand that I need to be rebuked, but could You please rebuke me a little less harshly? Could you restrain Your hot displeasure, which I know I deserve, and show me mercy as you chasten me? I don’t think I can bear Your unrestrained wrath, Lord!”

Perhaps all of us who claim the Name of Christ can understand wanting a less harsh reaction when we cross the line of God’s wrath.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Hot Enough?

Do people still ask, “Hot’nough for ya?” As if there is anyone who actually LIKES being toasted?

Well, I guess there are some who do. I am not among them. I know this present heat wave will break, and it can’t be soon enough!

Memory, however, takes me back to a time when we went outdoors to run, skate, swing, splash in whatever water was available, never giving a thought to how hot it was.

There was a place along the side of our apartment building that was shaded from the sun, and had a nice wide swath of grass-free dirt. We loved to dig roads, garages, and whatever else we could think of in that black dirt, which then, of course, was transferred onto our sweaty little bodies and our clothes. Lots of times, in cooler weather, we would simply take a “sponge bath” before bed, never filling up the tub. But on those hot summer days, we took a tub bath, and it felt like heaven! We went to bed fresh and clean, smelling of soap, and slept soundly so we could get up and do it all over again the next day ūüôā

One of the highlights of the hot weather was the occasional nickel Mom would give us so we could go to the little store a couple of doors down. We would head straight for the freezer and get popsicles, which began to melt and drip as soon as we got the paper off once we were outside. What a treat! I loved the orange ones best, even when they dripped down my arms before I could finish them.

Back then, summers seemed to last forever. Most of us were actually ready to go back to school after Labor Day, not dreading it at all. In fact, on rainy days when we had to stay inside, playing school was one of our go-to games. I don’t remember ever feeling bored, even before we got our first television when I was eight. You don’t miss what you’ve never had! Back then, kids were outdoors until the street lights went on and parents began to call us in. Toward evening, we played hide-and-go-seek, along with other games that were more fun when you had lots of kids to play with.

The only danger that worried us was mosquitos, and they were vicious–another reason to escape indoors! I clearly remember having more bites on my legs than I had skin on my legs! Scratched bloody, mosquito bites were just a part of summer.

We got up ball games on the school playground. There were no coaches, no parents. Just a bunch of kids who sometimes fussed with each other about who was safe and who was OUT!, but we didn’t need adults to solve those problems. We slugged balls as hard as we could, ran, threw, hollered and yelled, and it was glorious!

Back then, no one worried about how dangerous old-fashioned playground equipment was. Monkey bars, merry-go-rounds, and teeter-totters were a normal part of our play. I don’t remember anyone getting seriously hurt. Nor do I remember parents standing around nor sitting nearby to supervise. We took our lumps and got right back up to do it again.

We were free, young, strong, and full of energy.

What a wonderful way to grow up!

Saturday Soliloquy: Thankful

It’s time for me to catch up on that for which I am thankful. So many things!

Right this minute, I’m thankful for air conditioning and a small fan directed at me. It’s been so hot this week, and no sign of a let-up yet. It’s already 71 degrees, with a predicted high of 95. Humidity is also high. We got a little bit of rain two or three days ago, but not nearly enough. I do not thrive in this kind of weather. Hurts my bones and makes me want to just go to bed and stay there. But I am indeed thankful for the comforts of our day, like air conditioning. Wonderful!

This next thing may seem strange, but I’m delighted to have discovered Irish soda bread ūüôā

I have an Irish friend who told me about her grandmother’s recipe, and how Grandma said it helped her bones! So I found a recipe yesterday and made my first loaf. I’ll be making it again! It’s a quick bread, requiring no yeast. The rising is due to the baking soda and buttermilk that interact with each other. You can add an egg if you like–I did–and the raisins are optional for those of you who dislike them. My family loves raisins. The bread was a big hit at supper last night, and this morning I’m enjoying it toasted and buttered. It’s a great companion with your morning coffee or tea, whichever you prefer. So thanks to my Irish friend for encouraging me to try this really delicious bread!

Finally, I’m beyond thankful for the use of steroid injections to treat chronic pain. I had two injections on Monday, one on each side of my lower spine. The relief starts within minutes and continues to improve during the day. I have to take things easy for a day or two, but it gets better all the time. The effect of the medicine is to spread things out back there so that nerves aren’t being pinched. Nerves object to being pinched. They get quite angry, in fact ūüôā I know these shots don’t work for everyone, but for me they have been a wonderful and long-lasting relief.

And it definitely is NOT funny, but laughter sure helps!

So. Many of us here in my corner of PA are praying for rain. And lower gas and grocery prices. We need some showers of blessing.

One Way

Psalm 1: 5-6.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

There are only two ways: God’s way, and everything else. Our choice, then, is to follow Him completely or to walk the path of the ungodly. The way of God, the way of the righteous, is straight and narrow. The way of the ungodly is broad and seems pleasant, but it ends in eternal judgment. The ungodly are like chaff, having no weight to keep them in the threshing basket. They will be blown off like chaff in the wind, and will have no place with the righteous at the final judgment.

I’ve lived long enough to have heard way more than I need to about mankind’s reasoning concerning all the different religions. The philosophy that all roads lead to God as long as you believe in something, is a lie. Jesus said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by ME!” (John 14:6). Jesus always spoke clear truth, with no ambiguity.

Man’s way, on the other hand, is full of contradiction and debate. That’s why there are so many different denominations, variations of denominations, and such confusion created by man’s thinking. Religion is a human construct, in the sense of what man has chosen to believe. God did not create all this division. He is not the author of confusion.

In the final judgment, there will be no commingling of the righteous (God’s Way) and the ungodly (man’s way). God knows all things, even the deep and hidden things of the human heart. There will be no debate, no legal shenanigans, when the final judgment is made.

Now that we have completed this short study of Psalm 1, I would suggest you go back and read the Psalm again from start to finish. It’s a little gem of wisdom!