Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Contradictions by Phillip Jensen

Christmas Contradictions

by Phillip Jensen
Most Christians find a degree of contradiction in the celebration of Christmas. It can be seen in our attempts to ‘put Christ back into Christmas’ or in our critique of turning the generosity of gift giving into the materialistic cash cow of the retail industry. But lying behind these issues is a far more profound contradiction between natural and revealed religion.

Humans are almost universally religious, although it is notoriously difficult to define religion. The range of activities and ideas that come under the word ‘religion’ seem almost infinite. Humans want to be connected to something larger or ‘other’ than themselves which leads to all manner of religious expressions.

While the variety of these religious expressions is great, their similarity is also noticeable. There is the creation of mood by music or dance, by candles or lighting, by incense or joss sticks, and by artwork and architecture. There is the sense of authority in the ancient and traditional, in processions and in unusual clothing and costumes. There is the sense of otherness in the elevation of the mystical, magical or miraculous and in the downplaying of the rational, sensible or normal. There is the diminution of the human in obeisance, homage, physical discomfort or even self inflicted pain and suffering. There are usually dietary rules about what can and cannot be eaten and about fasting and feasting. There is the effect of being in isolation, quietness and silence or the opposite method of losing one’s own identity in a large crowd of worshippers all concentrating on a single concern.

These are all external expressions of what can be called ‘natural religion’. They are the expression of the religious instinct that requires humans to act in ways that align them with or please the supernatural being(s) or force(s) that impact lives. It is ‘natural religion’ because it is what humans naturally can understand and participate in. It is what is done when people think of ‘religion’. It is what is expected at a religious observance. The individual custom may vary – from drums to organs, from incense to candles or to joss sticks – but the basic idea that these are ‘religious’ is the same. It may be the otherness of a medieval chant or the overwhelming power of modern electronic percussion or just the rhythmic drumming of tribal dance but it moves the participants beyond the normality of life into a religious experience.

These religious expressions have an ethereal impact on aesthetic sensibilities giving some sense of ‘otherness’. They are all attempts and activities of humans to get in touch with the spiritual side of reality. And as such are quite different to revealed religion.

For what may be known about God, He has made plain to us in his creation (Romans 1:19f). And in many and various ways He spoke by His prophets to His people of old. And in the last days He has spoken to us by His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4). He is the perfect expression of all that is God, for in Him the whole fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19). He was the Word of God become flesh. And when we beheld His glory we beheld the glory of God (John 1:1,14).

Revealed religion is not about how humans please God but how God saved humans. It is not about how we come to know God but about how God has made Himself known to us. It is not about how we perform the rituals that will bring us into the spiritual realm but how God entered into our realm to bring us to Himself. And behind revealed religion is the personal God as opposed to the spiritual force or reality or even the many gods interacting with each other. For revealed religion is about relationship with the personal God issuing in changed behaviour rather than the experience of supernatural otherness (James 1:27).

This very thing is what makes Christmas celebrations so contradictory for Christians. For if ever there was a time to celebrate the revelation of God to humanity it is at Christmas when we remember the moment in history when God became man. Yet each year the Christmas celebrations appear to be increasingly conformed to the practice of natural religion. There are the funny costumes, the large crowds, singing (often meaningless) traditional songs about mythical characters in a far away land and time. It is about food and gifts and community celebration. It is ‘seasons greetings’, ‘merry xmas’ and ‘happy holidays’.

And into this heady and enjoyable mix of natural religion, Christians try to inject revealed religion. We wish to proclaim God become man, the baby who comes to be crucified and sinful humanity’s need for a saviour. Our message is about relationship with God not ceremonies to get in touch with Him – but we declare this message in the midst of ceremonies where people are once more feeling touched by the supernatural or the nostalgia of their natural religion.

Richard Dawkins is the leader of today’s active atheists. He makes no bones about seeking to undermine Christianity. But in 2007, calling himself a cultural Christian, he confessed that he had no intention of undermining Christian tradition - “I like singing carols along with everybody else.” Natural religion is of no threat to atheism and can be joined in with enthusiasm by all and sundry even the most extreme anti-Christian atheist.

Many years ago I recall rejoicing to hear my child sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and then recoiling in horror as she segued into ‘I feel like a Tooheys’. It is the undiscriminating jump from ‘I saw mummy kissing Santa Claus’ and ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’ to ‘God of God, Light of Light, Lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb’ or ‘veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity’ that makes Christians cringe over the contradiction in Christmas celebrations.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Burdened, Blind, and Bored: God's Answer to the Contemporary Condition --- Psalm 65, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 65 (English Standard Version)

O God of Our Salvation

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

1Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!

5By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

9You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.


------------------------------------------------------


Psalm 65 speaks to the human condition apart from the God of the Bible. The psalm is universal in its scope, promising that people from all nations will make the God of Israel their God:
2O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.

5By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;

8so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
When we look at the human condition as it is estranged from God, three words could be used to describe our sad situation:

  1. Burdened. Apart from the Lord, human beings are burdened by the guilt of sin. This is man’s deepest problem. His alienation from God comes from the unrelieved burden of guilt he must carry with him throughout his life apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. People spend millions of dollars in a futile attempt to understand and heal themselves through psychology, while the Bible’s true psychology is ignored: there can be no healing and wholeness apart from confession and forgiveness from our King and Creator.

    Into this hopeless situation, God has provided a solution for his sinful human creatures:
    3When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
    Our only hope of healing is in returning to God, who created us for himself. There is a way to return to him, but only if our sins are forgiven. Our sins can only be forgiven in Jesus Christ, who bore our sins so that we could be forgiven and brought back into his favor.

    Some people wonder why God couldn’t just forgive us apart from the cross. Why did he himself have to suffer in our place in the person of his Son?

    A crude analogy might show us why Jesus had to suffer and die in our place. Suppose you borrow my car. And, for the sake of argument, let’s assume there is no such thing as insurance. You use my car but wreck it. You apologize and say, “I am so sorry. Please forgive me.” The problem with this scenario is that my car is wrecked. Who will absorb the loss of money to repair the car? It will have to be either you or me. If I am to forgive you apart from you paying for the car, I will have to absorb the loss myself.

    Something similar had to happen in order for God to forgive our sins. Our sin is a huge, unpayable debt we owe him. We do not have the resources to pay it back. Therefore, our only hope of forgiveness is if the infinite God pays and absorbs our debt. This he did at the cross.
  2. Blind. Apart from this reconciled relationship with the Father that comes through the Son, people are blind to the glory of God. They are blind to the glory of redemption and they are blind to the glory of creation.

    How glorious and satisfying it is to live in fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit. Christ’s atonement has enabled us to know and delight in the triune God. This was symbolized and tasted in the Old Testament temple:

    4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
    We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

    People are blind to the satisfaction they are missing! As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The Spirit, whom Jesus gives, brings us into the delight of God’s presence and blessing.

    But sinful, human blindness is not limited to the glory of redemption, it also extends to creation. Today, most people have a secular mindset. They no longer see God when they look at the beauty of the world. They wrongly believe that because science can describe nature, therefore God is ruled out of nature. And, so they look only at the surface of things, failing to see that the universe shows us God’s character and glory in a dazzling display. If we had eyes to see it, wherever we turn our eyes, from the smallest snowflake to the immense night time sky, to the three trillion cells of our own bodies, the glory of God is shining all around us. But in the arrogance of our scientific worldview, we miss God’s glory.

    Psalm 65 calls us to see the world in a new way. Just as life-giving water flows from the temple, so this universe is created as a vast temple. And as verse 9 says, God cares for his temple-universe by his good and providential care, as he sustains and nourishes the whole earth:

    9You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.
  3. Bored. So many people in our society are bored with life. Nothing is sacred for them. Nothing is holy. Nothing provokes wonder. Cynicism prevails.

    For such people, constant thrills and entertainment is needed. When you have lost the wonder of God and the beauty of his glory, what else is left but the next experience or thrill? But the entertainment and thrills don’t ultimately satisfy, and leave the soul without God, unrelievedly thirsty.

    How different it is for the redeemed children of God. For the baptized children of God, who know the glory of their Redeemer and Creator, there is ever increasing wonder and praise. No longer is the world a boring place! The world is charged with the glory of God. A spiritual conflict is raging all around us. And, in the midst of that conflict, the Father’s baptized children are learning to trust and praise Him, for redemption, creation, and providence. Life can no longer be boring for those who are called to the Father through the Son for his praise!

    But, notice, that praise is more than just words:

    1Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.

    The Hebrew parallelism posits praise to God and vows to God. Praise and the devotion of obedience are synonyms, if you will. Praise is not merely words. True praise is offering your life to God and his will in response to great redemption in Christ. True praise is a lifestyle of devotion to the Father and the Son through the working of the Holy Spirit.

    The ultimate issue in life is my will or God’s will. God’s will is glorious. Following his will removes the burden of guilt and brings us forgiveness through his Son. Following his will removes our blindness, and enables us to see God’s glory. Following his will, removes boredom and replaces it with wonder and praise. Following his will, ultimately means coming to Jesus Christ as our Lord and our God. Will we come?











Monday, December 14, 2009

Words that Damage like Arrows --- Psalm 64, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 64 (English Standard Version)


Hide Me from the Wicked

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
2Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
5They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, "Who can see them?"
6They search out injustice,
saying, "We have accomplished a diligent search."
For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep!

7 But God shoots his arrow at them;
they are wounded suddenly.
8They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
all who see them will wag their heads.
9Then all mankind fears;
they tell what God has brought about
and ponder what he has done.

10Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD
and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart exult!


----------------------------------------------


Psalm 64 is a lament. The early portion of the book of Psalms is filled with lament after lament. There are so many laments that we begin to get sick of laments!

But the Psalms are realistic, because our lives can also be filled with trouble after trouble after trouble. Just as Christ experienced the cross before the crown, so the trajectory of the lives of Christ’s people is first suffering and then the crown for all who overcome by holding on to their trust in Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent into the world for our salvation.

I want to focus these brief thoughts on verses 2-4:
2Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
We have all heard the children’s saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Anyone who has thought about this saying knows that it is utterly false. Words can, and do, hurt us. Psalm 64 recognizes the harm words can do when it compares words to arrows.

I was talking to a fellow a while back who was a bow hunter. If I remember right, he was talking about bow hunting for elk. Knowing nothing about bow hunting, I expressed a little surprise that a bow and arrow could bring down such a large animal, but he assured me that was not a problem.

Words, like arrows, can do great damage. There are some important observations we can learn about speech in Psalm 64:

  1. Destructive words come from godless hearts. In verse 5 we see the godlessness of the speakers when they think that no one can see them. Obviously, the Lord their creator was not in their thoughts.

    Good speech must come from a good heart. A good heart is a heart that trusts in God’s one and only Son. Since Christians belong to the Lord, body and soul, our mouths belong to him. Therefore, our speech should bring life and blessing to others, not death and destruction. Unlike the wicked, the Lord should always be in our thoughts, and our goal should be to use our words for the blessing of others.

  2. Destructive words directed against God’s Anointed One are particularly serious. Psalm 64 is a psalm of David. David was the christ or anointed one. Words against God’s anointed king were particularly sinful and wrong. To oppose God’s anointed king was to oppose God himself.

    How much more serious is it, then, to speak against Jesus Christ, the Christ, whom the Father sent into the world? Jesus is the exalted Lord of heaven and earth who rules over all things. How serious it is to speak against him or to fail to give him his proper due!

  3. Destructive words directed against Christians are also quite serious. There was always a close link in Israel between the king and his people. So many of the psalms of David end like this one with an application for his righteous people who belong to the king and the Lord.

    But if there was a close link between the king of Israel and his people, there is an even closer link between Jesus Christ and his people. All who have trusted in Jesus as their Lord are joined to him in the most intimate way. 213 times in Paul’s letters, Christians are described by the phrase in Christ. When Paul was converted, Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me.” But Paul was on his way to Damascus, not to persecute Jesus, whom he thought was dead, but Christians. Paul came to understand the truth that Jesus himself articulated when he said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mat. 25:40).

  4. Destructive words against God’s image bearers are also serious. There are really only two kinds of people on earth today: those who belong to the Father and the Son and those who don’t. Many people don’t like this way of looking at the world, but it biblical and it is the truth. It is found in this very psalm as we see the contrast between the wicked, who fail to consider God (v. 2-5), and the righteous, who rejoice and take refuge in the covenant LORD of David (v. 10).

    Not all religious paths lead to God. The way was narrow in the Old Testament, for only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the true God, and all other so-called gods were idols. The way is still narrow in the New Testament, for no one comes to the Father except through the Son. For no other sacrifice for sins has been given for us, except the one Christ accomplished outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Without this sacrifice, the wicked remain in their sins alienated from the true God of the Bible.

    But the fact many people are outside of Christ does not minimize the fact that destructive words should not be aimed at unbelievers. All people continue to bear the image of God, despite their sin. Even the most vile and hardened criminals still retain something of the image of God, and therefore, our words should be aimed at blessing and life, not cursing and death.
Sticks and stones can hurt our bodies, but words can damage our souls. Words can do great harm, but they can also do great good. As Proverbs 18:21 says:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Or as Simon Peter said to Jesus:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
What do we love? Do we love death or life, wickedness or righteousness, the Lord or ourselves? Are we following Jesus Christ and his words or our own hearts?

The only real way to change our words is to have a change of heart. Only a reverence for the Lord will lead us to reverence the Lord’s people and all who are made in his image. A good and godly heart leads to life-giving words. A wicked and ungodly heart leads to words that damage and destroy.



Friday, December 11, 2009

A Dry and Weary Land Where There Is No Water --- Psalm 63, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 63 (English Standard Version)


My Soul Thirsts for You

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

----------------------------------------------
 
Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). This is a hard saying. What does it mean to hate your life in this world? Why should we hate our life in this world?


I wonder if we might have a clue in the first verse of Psalm 63, when it speaks of “a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David was in the wilderness of Judah. It was dry, dusty, desolate, and threatening.

When the Lord created Adam, he lived in a well watered garden, the exact opposite of the wilderness. Adam enjoyed sweet fellowship with God as he and his helper served Him together in the garden. But then the first couple rebelled, and the garden was replaced by a wilderness. Self-autonomy and rebellion against God brought the first couple from a garden to a wilderness.

This is what sin does to our souls. Sin brings us existentially into a dry and weary wilderness of our own making. Our sinful independence from our Lord and King deprives our souls of the life that comes from union and communion with the Father and the Son.

Foolishly our souls look for life in this world. Our souls make idols of the good gifts of God. We make money or sex or power or work or pleasure or some other lesser thing ultimate in our lives. But sooner or later, such idols prove to be dry and dusty --- broken cisterns that can hold no water.

But David was not foolish. He did not look to this world and its anti-God ways for life. His soul looked to the Lord. He hated the way of the world that turns God’s gifts into idols, i.e., he hated his life in this world. Instead, his soul looked to the Lord, and he found true life---eternal life. Three times he uses the phrase my soul:

  • v. 1: my soul thirsts for you;
  • v. 5: my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food;
  • v. 8: my soul clings to you.
It is interesting that this psalm ends with a warning about liars: “the mouths of liars will be stopped.” Simon Weil wrote, "One has only the choice between God and idolatry. . . . If one denies God . . . one is worshiping some things of this world." Life in this world apart from union and communion with the triune God is a lie. Worshiping the things of this world is like a mirage in a desert. Life found in anything but our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer is a mirage---a lie. But Jesus is true drink, true food, and the true lover of our souls. Let’s drink of him, feast on him, and hold to him and never let him go. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Recommendation for Mark Futato's Commentary on the Psalms --- Psalm 62, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 62 (New Living Translation)

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
3 So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
4 They plan to topple me from my high position.
They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
but curse me in their hearts.
Interlude


5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
7 My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
8 O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge.
Interlude


9 Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
together they are lighter than a breath of air.

10 Don’t make your living by extortion
or put your hope in stealing.
And if your wealth increases,
don’t make it the center of your life.

11 God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
12 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
according to what they have done.


----------------------------------------------------


I want to recommend to you Mark Futato's commentary on the Psalms. Most ordinary Christians don't buy commentaries. I guess they think commentaries are just for pastors. While it is true that some commentaries are too technical for the average Christian, many are not.

The best way I can think of recommending Futato's commentary to you is to simply quote him entirely from today's psalm. You will see how helpful his comments are; how he shows us how profound and life-changing God's Word can be; and how short and simple his commentary really is. When you stop to consider that we will spend 25 dollars for a pizza, the 25 dollars it costs to buy this commentary is well worth it. After all, food only feeds our physical bodies. God's Word changes and nourishes our souls.

Here are Futato's comments:

Where does the ultimate source of your well-being lie? In what or in whom do you place your trust to get you out of hard times or keep you safe when all is well? From where do you derive your own sense of dignity? What provides you with a profound sense of security in life? For many, the answer to these questions lies in money and power. Psalm 62 provide a different answer.

The heart of the answer is found at the center of the poem (62:7): "My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me." This central line is preceded and followed by two eight-line stanzas (62:1-6.-12; see McCann 1996 for the structure). The first stanza expresses quiet confidence in God in the face of adversaries. The second encourages confidence in God, not in wealth or power.

Quiet Confidence in the Face of Adversity (62:1-6). "I wait quietly before God," said David. To wait quietly is one thing when all is well, but David waited quietly though there was a storm all around him. David was surrounded by enemies bent on his demise. These enemies were not foregners but those who had access to David. They blessed David with their words, but all the while they were cursing him in their hearts. They took pleasure in lying about him as part of the plan to topple him from his position.

Surrounding the turmoil described in 62:3-4 are two nearly identical strophes of quietness (62:1-2 and 62:5-6). These stophes show us how David could be quiet in the middle of a storm. It was in the presence of God that David found quietness. He believed that God would deliver him from trouble. God was his source of protection and security. The presence of God provided inner serenity in spite of external turmoil.

While the two strophes are nearly identical, there are three differences. First, "hope" replaces "victory" at the end of the opening line of the second strophe. Second, an imperative replaces an indicative in the second strophe. These two changes indicate the the storm had not yet passed. Third, the adverb "severely" is missing in the second strophe, indicating that David had grown inconfidence through the process of prayer. Whereas he began by being confident that he would not be severely shaken, he came to the place of being confident that he would not be shaken at all. Quieting his heart before God had changed David.

From this psalm we learn the importance of taking the time to be quiet before God when there is turmoil in our lives. Our temptation is to move into high gear to stay ahead of he storm. While there is a time and place for action, our activity is often a form of self-reliance. So our external pace is as hectic as our internal space. Quieting our souls before God and centering on him as the source of our well-being will produce the state of heart and mind needed to take action when appropriate.

Life in God Alone (62:7). Deliverance from difficulties, our sense of dignity and self-worth, and our security in life come from God alone. Idolatry is not so much a matter of external images of deity as it is a matter of the heart (Ezek. 14:1-8). Idolatry is depending in an ultimate way on anything or anyone other than God. David affirmed that God was the source of his life in the most profound sense.

The idol of misplaced trust is often hard to detect. We think we are trusting God to supply our needs until we are faced with the possibily of losing our job. The anxiety we then experience indicates the presence of a hidden idol, misplaced trust in our job as the source of our security. We think we are depending on God's approval for our sense of personal well-being, until we come under severe criticsim by others. The pain we then feel indicates the presence of an idol, misplaced dependence on the opinion of others as the source of our sense of self-worth. Such painful experiences are in reality a true blessing, as they give us the opportunity to rid our lives of idols and to grow in dependence on God alone for life.

Trust in God, Not in Wealth or Power (62:8-12). Wealth and power are two particularly insidious idols. David instructed those around him not to trust in extortion or robbery, both of which are an exertion of power over others to increase one's wealth. He also instructed them not to make wealth the center of their lives should their wealth increase for any reason (see Paul's teaching in 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Instead, they should put their tust in God at all times---when times are good as well as when times are not. David taught that when times are tough, one way we put our trust in God is by pouring out our hearts to him. We can honestly tell God all that we are thinking and feeling. We can be completely vulnerable in his presence, because he is our refuge, our place of safety, protection, and security.

Faith comes from listening to God's word (Rom. 10:17), so David reminded himself and others that God has spoken. Two key characteristics God possesses are power and love. We can replace our dependence on our own power over others with a dependence on God's power. And God's power is never abusive, for his power is exercised in keeping with his unfailing love. So when we from time to time get caught up in the turmoil of life, we can quiet our souls before God, trusting that his power is at work in us to accomplish his loving purposes for us.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

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