Not Afraid of the Dark

December 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 5 Comments
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Psalm 112 is a post-exilic Psalm. The Psalms are not, as a rule, “in order,” although there are some exceptions where one Psalm will refer to the next.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Psalm 111:10

Psalm 111 progressively tells us to remember Who we’re dealing with here, so Psalm 111:10 is an admonition, and the blessings of heeding that admonition – the blessings of obedience – are found in Psalm 112.

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

Psalm 112:1

Psalm 112 is also in the form of an acrostic. I have to admit that I am a fan of acrostics myself: S.W.I.M.D.O.C.T.O.R.N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R.A.D.V.I.C.E.P.A.T.C.H. A good acrostic is not merely clever. It is something that helps our memory. Each line in Psalm 112 begins with a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

Psalm 112 is also a good encouragement to have a Godly home. As you can imagine, the emphasis is on the man of the house. At first glance it looks like it is all about health, wealth, success, prosperity, and happiness. I’m surprised it’s not a big hit on TBN, but I suppose the view that “faith” means not having any problems would have to be rejected based on the following verses:

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Psalm 112:4-5 (emphasis added)

Darkness and discretion are two key realities – even for the “upright.” Being right with God is not about never going through trials and difficulties, but in them God in His grace and compassion sends us caution and vigilance so that we might glorify Him.

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.

Psalm 112:7-8

Notice that this passage does not say that those who are favored by God will not hear any evil tidings. It says they will not be afraid of evil tidings. Note that it does not say that he will not be afraid because he doesn’t have any enemies. It says he will not be afraid because his heart is fixed, trusting the Lord. What’s your desire upon your earthly enemies? To see them destroyed? (Old Testament) Or to see them saved? (New Testament)

The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Psalm 112:10

If you’ve ever had your enemy gnash his teeth at you (or on you – like Stephen), that can be scary, but God says not to melt away – because ultimately He will see to it that they melt away. The wicked shall perish, so let’s pray that God makes the wicked righteous so they won’t have to perish. That’s what He did for me!

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

Psalm 112:1

We cultivate fear of the Lord, and defeat fear of problems, by getting to know the Lord more and more. We draw closer and closer. When I draw close to God, I bless my family and my generation.

His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

Psalm 112:2

Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Psalm 112:3-5

When God blesses us financially, He blesses us to be a blessing to others. To use a simple plumbing analogy, we are more like the faucet than the bathtub. If you start thinking of yourself as a bathtub and start to pool up your own blessings, God might very well cut off the water supply.

The Addict (Signs of Addiction)

November 9, 2012 at 10:19 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Outcasts of Ministry | 4 Comments
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Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church

Last time we contrasted some of the characteristics of the worldly addict with those of the ministry addict.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I Corinthians 16:15 (emphasis added)

Now we will look at the signs of addiction:

1. A strong, almost overwhelming urge to engage in a certain behavior

But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing,

Galatians 4:18

It would certainly not be good to be zealous in your affections about crack cocaine. It’s not good to be zealous in your affections about your outward appearance. But it is good to be zealous in your affections about ministry – because ministry is a good basis for addiction. In the world, you are an outcast if you are addicted to the “wrong” thing, and you’re popular if you’re addicted to the “right” thing. But these views of “right” and “wrong” are fleeting and fickle. Sometimes sexual addiction is seen as titillating or a sign of virility – until it ruins someone’s life or someone’s marriage. You might remember the “heroin chic” phase, when the media glamorized the emaciated bodies and dark eyes of runway models who used drug addiction as a means to stay thin.

Some addictions seem pretty cool until they go too far and make the addict an outcast. Likewise, an addiction to ministry might cause unbelievers to cast you out – but God won’t consider you an outcast for it.

2. Feelings of low self-esteem

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3

A drug addict or a compulsive over-eater has low self-esteem because he doesn’t think he’s worth anything. A ministry addict has low self-esteem because he believes that serving Christ is worth everything. The message of the world is “believe in yourself,” but don’t you buy into that vain philosophy! In America we love to talk about our “rights” and entitlements – that we think we deserve as individuals. But that’s a false view of freedom. Real freedom comes when we become so addicted to ministry that we give up our “right” to be first, and esteem others better than ourselves.

3. Drawing away from the normal activities of daily life

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

One of the dangers of even seemingly-harmless worldly addictions (that favorite TV show that you just can’t miss, for example) is that we become too entangled with them to have time for ministry. Ask someone who is serving active military duty in a combat zone. A soldier ready for battle at any moment can’t say, “Hold off on the fighting for a couple of days – I just started fixing up my car.” He can’t say, “I just met this new girl and she’s all I can think about right now.” Soldiers have to be focused. They can’t afford to be addicted to “fun” things. A worldly addict may find himself dropping out of polite society because of devotion to his addiction, but a ministry addict is someone who is in the world (which is the battleground of spiritual warfare), but not of the world. Nothing should capture our affection, our adoration, or our attention more than the work of the Lord.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21

4. A feeling of euphoria, or pleasure, while engaging in the addictive behavior

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

Psalm 111:2

The worldly addict gets a physical “kick” out of his addiction. That’s one of the big problems with addiction. Addicts build an immunity and need more and more of the object of their addiction. Many scientists believe this phenomenon is caused by chemicals in the brain. The truth is, God understands our need for pleasure – for a good feeling or satisfaction in the works we do. But Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. One of the quickest ways to grieve the Holy Spirit is by exposing His presence in our bodies to the false pleasure of sinfully carnal pursuits. The worldly addict can never be satisfied, but he can get brief pleasure from feeding the flesh with the object of his addiction. The ministry addict, however, surrenders to the Holy Ghost and takes pleasure in those things in which He takes pleasure.

What’s the one thing that the Holy Ghost really longs to do?

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

John 16:13-14

Glorifying the Lord Jesus is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What can we do to be used by the Holy Spirit to do that?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

I John 4:11-13

Stephanas ministered to the saints – to other believers. By so doing, he glorified Christ Jesus, and pleased the Holy Spirit of God. The worldly addict seeks a short-lived artificial high, and makes himself an outcast in pursuing it. The ministry addict seeks an eternal lasting pleasure – the pleasure of the Holy Ghost who dwells within him.

The Degrees of Estimation

January 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Posted in I Peter, Uncategorized | 15 Comments
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Christians have clear instructions from the Word of God on how to relate to the authorities the Lord has ordained to govern us. These instructions can be found in numerous passages of Scripture, but I Peter 2:17 is a good summation: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

Notice that Christians are generally to esteem others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3), but to different degrees, and with different types of deference. All men who are worthy of honor should be honored (Psalm 8:4-5). Other Christians (“the brotherhood”) are to be loved (Ephesians 1:15). Christian love is an active love, a giving love, and a love which carries a sacrifice of self, and a true desire that the recipient of love will grow in Christ-likeness (Hebrews 6:10). The king, or, in modern terms, the high-ranking government official, is to be honored in his office, regardless of personal politics (I Samuel 24:6-8).

The highest esteem – fear – is reserved for God (Matthew 10:28). This encompasses all the other forms of esteem – honor, love, reverence, etc. – and speaks of a very real desire to please a loving Father who wants to give good gifts to His children, but is not overly hesitant to chasten in love. Biblical fear of God is an often misunderstood and unpopular concept in today’s culture, but it is a great comfort for the true believer and lover of the Living Word. After all, the fear of God is both the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), and the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

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