UNDER ATTACK (Part 1)

PSALM 55:1-11 – 6/21/21

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Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me,” vs. 1 and 2a.

Worse than any dread and distress David faces, is the thought that God would abandon him. So right off the bat David entreats God three times. “Do you hear me, God? Do you care?” He prioritizes this because if this matter is affirmed, he can handle whatever giant calamity breathes fire in his face. If God does not hear him or care, the smallest foe will bring him down. He invokes Jewish custom that if a man sees a neighbor in trouble and ignores him, he is said to be hiding from him. Jesus echoes this sentiment centuries later on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mt. 27.)

“I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked; for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me,” vs. 2b-5.

Our mighty man is consumed with terror to a point of paralysis. Fear and distress rise within him and threaten to ravage him. Trouble torments him like ravenous lions circling in for the kill. Someone’s lose words are about to cost him his life. He is utterly terrified. And with good reason – his enemy means business.

Knowing that God hears him, and will therefore act, David mounts on the wings of the predatory twins Horror and Terror and they fly him to God’s throne room. May all your sufferings and turmoil, no matter their source, consistently fuel you to the throne room.

“Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect Plea
A great high priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.”

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest,” vs. 6-8.

Does the present danger transport David back to better days of his difficult youth? Does he remember his prowess at slaying the lion and the bear in the wilderness? Does he remember rushing giant Goliath and felling him like a grand oak? Our mighty man is not one to escape. Those murderous predators he could handle.

The ones that currently hem him in baffle him. He does not understand their ways. Their venomous tongues have brought him to the end of himself. Their slander and threats are more than he can bear. He prefers the deadly sand storms and tempestuous wadis. Those were as rest to him compared to these vicious attacks.

Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets,” vs. 9-11.

Because the enemy uses their tongue to destroy David, he calls upon God to shatter that self-same weapon. They pride themselves in the use of their words to annihilate him. He knows that his God confounded language at the Tower of Babel. He sees how they elevate themselves to the place of God by seeking to take lives. The results are that violence, strife, malice, abuse, destruction, threats, and lies prowl around the city like so much filthy vermin.

If you find yourself in David’s dusty sandals today, fly to the father. He hears you. He cares. Then you can say with him, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Ps. 18:2-6.

PROVERBS 15:16-33 – 6/18/21

“ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST, TO ONE THAT’S NOT A BEAST”

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“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred,” Pr. 15:16, 17.

Sure, great wealth is more appealing than leanness of the pocket; a sumptuous meal more than a bowl vegetables. Rarely do we pre-calculate the price of enticing things. It is possible for their appeal to immediately hijack our desire so that it bypasses our executive thinking capacities such as judgement (hindsight, insight, and foresight), planning (e.g. for rest and play).

The problem is that there is no arrival point with uncontrolled appetites. Fulfilling uncontrolled desire does not satiate it, it inflames it! It is never “enough.” No sooner is it filled, than it is yawning for more.

“Over-indulging does not mean cherishing.”

Hannah TK, Napping in Delilah’s Lap.

One of the traits of the fear of the Lord is self-control and discipline whereby one says, “no more, thank you.” Contentment with godliness is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness,” 1 Timothy 6:6-11.

These verses bring up another crucial aspect – it is a shame to whole-heartedly pursue our cravings at the expense of relationships. The subject has attained great wealth and eats extravagant meals but his or her life is marked by “turmoil” and “hatred.” In life we exchange things all the time – skills for money, sleep for success in tomorrow’s exam, luxuries for our children’s education fund, etc. If we have exchanged stuff and status for peace of mind and people, we have failed.

Put That in your Pipe and Smoke it

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That’s how my fantastic father-in-law Jim punctuates his profound sentences. It tickles my heart every time. I don’t want to promote smoking, so I need your help coming up with another wonderful phrase to say, “so there!”

This morning I started off ready to dive into our devotion of Psalm 50 and immediately snagged on the subtitle, ‘A psalm of Asaph.’ Studying him made for a riveting time of study as scripture has much to say about this obscure character.

Asaph was a Levite, the son of Berekiah. He was chief among those King David appointed “to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel,” (1 Chronicles 16:4.) He was assigned to play bronze cymbals while the ark of the covenant was being carried by the Levites to the Tent of Meeting. This was the great day when David danced with all his might before his God till his clothes fell off and his wife Michal despised him. (Please read chapter 26 titled Dr. Exposure of my book Napping in Delilah’s Lap which recounts this amazing tale and describes 10 traits of the spirit of Michal.) Asaph was later permanently placed in that position and served in Solomon’s Temple (1 Chronicles 16:37.)

Here are 3 thoughts on his life. Put them in your pipe and smoke it.

1. Asaph was a team-oriented leader: “Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel,” (1 Chron. 16:4.) Despite his prominence, it was not just Asaph’s show. He is almost always named alongside others, as we saw above. Another example is in 1 Chronicles 25 which lists him beside Heman and Jeduthun (Ethan.) Please take the time to read the two chapters referenced here. They are quick and very insightful.

Heart-search: You, my friend, are a leader in one circle or another. Despite your position, you are a leader at home, in your work, in your church, and in your community. Your strength and success as a leader depend on your capacity to be a team-player. Where are you leading? Who are you leading? Who is leading with you? How seriously are you taking your leadership role? Do you even recognize your leadership role?

2. Asaph valued heirarchy: “The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision,” (1 Chronicles 25:2.) Asaph supervised 68 people and it is stated repeatedly that he himself was under supervision. Hierarchy is very important to God. He always places even the most gifted and prominent people under the supervision of others. All of us are to submit to someone else. Church, like life, is not a one man show and there are no top dogs. God alone is top dog.

Please read that magnificent chapter at this point. It expounds the tremendous work God expected and set up for the ministry of praising God in the Temple and applies beautifully to our lives.

Heart-search: Who do you supervise? Who supervises you? With what attitude do you supervise others? How would they describe your supervision? With what attitude do you receive supervision? How would your supervisor describe you? We balk at being supervised. Bring all such tendencies in your heart under submission. Your thoughts, words, and actions in this area are important to God.

3. Asaph left a tremendous legacy: During King Ahaz’s reign, the Temple of God was defiled and grossly neglected until ultimately, its doors were nailed shut. King Hezekiah, who is called a son of David (because he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord – you too are called a child of David 😊,) was convicted to reestablish Temple worship. He undertook to reopen the Temple, clean it out, and consecrate it.

“When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped. King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped. Then Hezekiah said, “You have now dedicated yourselves to the Lord. Come and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the temple of the Lord.” 2 Chron. 29:29-31a. That’s yet another grand chapter that warrants reading. Please do so now.

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Heart-search: What legacy are you leaving? Ten, twenty, fifty years from now what will people use that you put out for the Most High? What influence and impact will you have had? What can you reestablish that has been destroyed? How can you maximize his gifts and talents to you? Your work, even in the world, though it may be menial is divine. Ask him to show you how what you are doing right now in life can double as having daily mundane impact and also have lasting impact for the kingdom.

Again, please take the time to read or listen to:

1 Chronicles 15 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chron+15&version=NIV);

1 Chronicles 16 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chron+16&version=NIV);

1 Chronicles 25 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chron+25&version=NIV); and

2 Chronicles 29 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+chron+25&version=NIV).

May the spirit of Asaph bless you today and for the rest of your life. May it impact and inspire you to have lasting impact for God. Put that in your…

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“YOU’RE A DAMNED LIAR!”

5 strategies to telling the truth.
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A devotion on PROVERBS 12: 15-28

“An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies,” Pr. 12:17. That’s as basic as it gets. I consider myself an “honest witness.” Few would claim to consistently be a false witness. Withal, I don’t have to dig very far under the surface to realize that if placed under scrutiny, I may not be as honest as I think I am or claim to be. I lie all too easily.

My friend Amanda shares a hilarious memory of her older family members reminiscing. One person remembers events one way and of course the other remembers it completely differently. The inevitable end is one old coot passionately informing the other, “You’re a damned liar.” The other promptly – and more passionately – retorts, “No, you’re a damned liar!”

I grew up in a community-based culture in Africa. In a more pronounced way than individual-based ones like the USA, these amazing cultures experience an interesting bifurcation. They tend to be shame-driven on the one hand yet specialize in face-saving strategies. That means that by the time you’re done sucking your thumb, you’ve mastered lying. You’re thoroughly trained in being a false witness. You’re a bona fide damned liar!

People who grew up in such a culture (including a family culture, regardless of location) can relate to the story of having a parent who sees a visitor they don’t want to face. The parent darts into the house rushes you to pretend to play by the front door and tells you to inform the visitor that Mum isn’t home. This is because she doesn’t have time to visit, or doesn’t want to visit, or doesn’t have the rent money, or a thousand other reasons.

The visitor knocks on the door and I pretend to be pleasantly surprised to see her. Lie number one. She greets me and asks if Mum is home. I say, straight faced, that she left not too long ago for a women’s meeting at the church. Lie number two – I get extra points from Mum if I come up with a good story about where she went. I’m doing great. They will sing my praises for being a smart child!

“Oh,” says the visitor, “what time will she be back?”

Well, six year old Hannah is only so good at this and she turns towards the closed bedroom door, raises her voice and yells, “Mum, what time will you be back?”

I realize instantly but too late nonetheless that I just blew it. I’ll likely never make that particular mistake again. Next time – and there will be a next time – I’ll remember to make up a detail about that in advance. Needless to say, numerous such experiences day in and day out reinforce lying in blatant and subtle ways.

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I must admit that if the culture didn’t train me to lie, I’d probably come up with lies anyway. It’s just the way of the heart to protect itself and to “protect” others. Because we know that, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy,” Pr. 12:22, here are some principles for the lying heart to abide by:

1. Think long-term. “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment,” v. 19. It has been said that if you’re going to be a liar, you’d better have a good memory. I say tell the truth and you won’t have to try and remember so much. People quickly smell a rat when fed a lie or two but trust a person who owns up consistently. In the long run, the temporary success of the lie feeds the blight to your character. It’s not worth it.

2. Own up and expose lies. The Lord ALWAYS exposes a lie. Because he is the truth and the light, and he calls us to be children of the light, he gives us opportunity to expose lies and if we don’t, he will do it for us. We may appear to get away with lies for a while, but they will most certainly come to light. Better to zahar (shine a light) on them than to have someone else do so.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” Eph. 5:6-11.

3. Do a heart check. “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy,” v. 20. If there is a lie, evil is afoot. That includes ‘little white lies.’ When tempted to lie – and we well know when we are – do a quick heart check and root out the evil that seeks to trip you up in that moment. Are you being tempted to steal? To cover-up? To be unfaithful? To appear better than you are by hiding a deep-rooted fault such as tardiness?

You will soon learn you have a common thread of triggers. For example, when I’m running late to an engagement, I automatically come up with some story that puts the blame on something or someone other than me. Why? I do not want to be seen as disorganized, or forgetful. I want to be viewed as thoughtful and honoring of people and their time (but not so much that I actually leave 15 minutes earlier than I think I should.) Upon examining this, I see pride and people-pleasing as issues in my life. I have to wrestle with myself to own and work against tardiness and its associated lies, because it is a symptom of some pretty sick heart-excrement.

4. Don’t allow lying to pay off in your life. A human being’s worst fears are death and pain (emotional and physical.) We tell lies to ward off emotional pain for ourselves or someone else. We get a dopamine and somewhat of an adrenaline rush when we get away with a lie. We also temporarily avoid trouble. That’s why it’s so easy to do.

Honesty is a hard skill to master and only practice will help us to master it.

– Be mindful about this matter in your life and pray about it regularly

– Practice saying, “I messed up, …” and explain what you did or what you could have done differently. The associated embarrassment or shame from confessing the lie will thoroughly renew your brain pathways and lead you down the down of eradicating automatically lying.

– Ask someone to keep you accountable.

– Avoid situations that tempt you to lie. In the example I shared above, leaving the house 15 minutes earlier than I think I should sets me up for success in this matter.

– Prepare in advance and practice telling the truth the next time.

5. Shut your mouth. “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly,” v. 22. Our words and actions lie but most lies are verbal. If we can keep our mouths shut, that eradicates a majority of the lies. Let your words be few. “In the multitude of words there is no absence of sin, and he that controls his lips is wise,” Pr. 10:19.

There are times when it is fitting to lie but these are a rare exception. Scripture shares a few and we can develop that theme another time. In my line of work, we have what’s called a “therapeutic fib.” If a demented patient in distress says she is on a train and doesn’t know what stop to get off at, you do not tell her the truth that she isn’t on a train.  That would confuse her further and increase her anxiety. We could argue about for an hour.

My job is to enter her reality, not to try and pull her into mine, which she is no longer capable of doing. Because “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongueof the wise brings healing,” v. 18, I can reassure her that I know where she needs to get off and that she has a long way to go. I can tell her I’d love to sit with her till then, or that she can fall back asleep and I’ll come wake her up when it’s time to get off. That five-minute conversation would result in peace for both of us. “Anxietyweighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up,” v. 25.

Honesty is a way of righteousness. “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality,” v. 28. Don’t be a damned liar!

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10 Traits of the Temptress

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A devotional on Proverbs 7:6-27

Pr 7 NKJV – The Wiles of a Harlot – My son, keep my – Bible Gateway

All temptation starts with a natural appetite and a desire/lust to fill it. The word ‘lust’ doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation. It merely means desire. Desire is the focal point in temptation. How we manage the appetite determines whether we end up overcoming or succumbing to sin. Sin means to miss the mark (as in archery,) so when we succumb to a temptation, we’ve missed the mark. Scripture uses the temptress or seductress as a metaphor of all types of temptation because sex is such a primal and powerful drive.

“Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”(2) By the time we meet him, the ‘young fool’ in the Proverbs 7 passage is knee deep in the process of…

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10 Traits of the Temptress

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A devotional on Proverbs 7:6-27

Pr 7 NKJV – The Wiles of a Harlot – My son, keep my – Bible Gateway

All temptation starts with a natural appetite and a desire/lust to fill it. The word ‘lust’ doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation. It merely means desire. Desire is the focal point in temptation. How we manage the appetite determines whether we end up overcoming or succumbing to sin. Sin means to miss the mark (as in archery,) so when we succumb to a temptation, we’ve missed the mark. Scripture uses the temptress or seductress as a metaphor of all types of temptation because sex is such a primal and powerful drive.

“Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (2) By the time we meet him, the ‘young fool’ in the Proverbs 7 passage is knee deep in the process of temptation. Whether it is a chance encounter or premeditated, he “finds” himself strategically at the right place (near her house) at the most opportune time (in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.)

The temptress takes over from there. Note these 10 characteristics and apply them to the context of your besetting sin, whatever it may be:

  1. She is prepared in advance and looks the part, v. 10.

2. Her heart has already determined this is what she wants. She is committed and not wishy-washy.

3. She has the corner market. She trolls everywhere and physically puts herself out very strategically. Not only is her home on a corner, but she also goes to every corner, v. 12.

4. Once she catches him, she wastes no time further arousing him, v. 13.

5. She may be a religious woman, v. 14.

6. She customizes the lure that he’s already bitten so she can set the hook, v. 15.

7. She appeals to his senses and aesthetics, vs. 16, 17.

8. She promises that fulfillment of the desire won’t be perfunctory, v. 18.

9. She reduces the risk factors and downplays the consequences, bolstering his comfort v. 19, 20. (like Satan saying to Eve, “you will not surely die,” Gen. 3:4.)

10. In this ‘honey and oil’ stage, (view my YouTube teaching on this https://youtu.be/SvGgTHpbETI) she uses her words and lips to set the hook, v. 21.

The rest of the passage clearly speaks for itself: “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.

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Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Pr. 7:22-27.

Here’s a promise for the wise: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death,” James 1:12-15.

Please order my new book Napping in Delilah’s Lap from tribalminded.com for an in depth biblical and scientific look at the problem of and solution to temptation.

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(2) James 1:14

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Let Pleasure Flow

A meditation on Psalm 36.

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Sin speaks. Anyone can hear it if they listen. It speaks to the sinner and it speaks to the righteous. “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes,” Ps. 36:1. Spurgeon says, “Men’s sins have a voice to godly ears.” The evil man has no fear of God. That is the underlying characteristic of his life. Paul picks up this truth in Romans 3:18 after he outlines the deeds of sinful man: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Commentator Morgan teaches, “The description of the evil man is graphic. He has by some means persuaded himself that God does not interfere with men. Consequently he has no fear of God, enthrones himself at the centre of his own being, and goes in the way of wickedness in thought and in action.”

Paul instructs us, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” Romans 12:3. Yet what does the wicked person do? “For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates,” Ps. 36:2.

He is neither surprised nor appalled by iniquity in his heart. That and hatred contribute to his self-elevation. “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil,” vs. 3, 4. Out of the fullness of his wickedness heart, his mouth gushes further wickedness and deceit. Even when he is at rest, all that swirls in his mind is evil. And when he has rested and is ready to take on the day, he steps onto an evil path. He does not abhor evil – he relishes and harbors it. Every single aspect of it thrills him: the conception, the outworking, and the outcome of it.

Guzik quotes Spurgeon, “He had not God before his eyes in holy awe, therefore he puts himself there in unholy admiration. He who makes little of God makes much of himself. They who forget adoration fall into adulation. The eyes must see something, and if they admire not God they will flatter self.”

David changes topics suddenly as though to say, “But enough of those men already. Let’s dwell on something better.” I picture David in the wilderness coming upon a favorite high rock with a sweeping, majestic view of the sky above and grand, mysterious canyons below. His heart wells up within him and he cries, “Your mercy, O Lord, is like the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, you preserve man and beast,” vs. 5, 6. Any and all grandeur he sees, is a selfie of God and his goodness.

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!” v. 7a. David not only fears God but greatly esteems and cherishes him. God is of great value in David’s eyes, unlike the wicked who despise him. “Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings,” v. 7b. What a wonderful picture of security and comfort. Yet it is dark there and we must be still. Might dark, immobilized times be God sheltering us in the shadow of his wing? Like little chicks we might tire and desire to poke our heads out and see what’s happening, but we must trust Father hen to lift up when the coast is clear. Not whenever we are ready to resume our play.

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“They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures,” v. 8. What decadence! God is not handing out matchbox size blessings. Look at those words: abundance, satisfaction, fullness, river of pleasures! They are drenched, saturated, intoxicated with blessings. Fullness is translated as fatness. Picture a gorgeous juicy steak. Consider the careful animal husbandry that tends to cattle in tranquility and fattens them at the end for slaughter. The word drink has to do with irrigation. How painstakingly the farmer lays out pipe before connecting the irrigation water to reach the whole crop. While God does not tire, he expends himself for us. He is as a host who knocks himself out for the pleasure of his guest, he floods him with pleasure.

We were created for pleasure – God’s pleasure. The elders in heaven throw their crowns at God’s feet and say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” Rev. 4:11. In his lovingkindness, he extends that pleasure to us as we walk in his ways. Rivers of it. With no regrets. I think of our pleasure neurochemicals – oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, and others. As we learn to love him and is ways, we delight in these glorious chemicals in ways that bless us, unlike addictions that hijack and flood our systems with dangerous levels.

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light,” v. 9. Fountains are a wonderful thing. They are a source of quenching, cleansing, and irrigation. They bring out the child in us and evoke playful squeals of glee. God wants that for us and is our all-purpose fountain of pleasure.

David leans back on the warm rock in satisfaction, a smile on his face as a nap creeps in. “Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise,” vs. 10-12. The righteous man may fall seven times, but he rises up (Prov. 24:16.) Not so the wicked. They will fall, never to rise again. And God’s lovingkindness to those who fear him will flow and flow and flow…

Revival in Adullam

Psalm 34:11-22

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There’s something peculiar about a born leader. Wherever he goes, there the Lord exalts him. Among many or few, among the genteel and among the rough around the edges; among the rich and among the poor. Even when this person is not seeking leadership, it follows him. This is a gifting and an anointing from God. Watch it unfold in David’s life.

“David therefore departed from there [acting like a crazy man in from of Abimelech] and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. (1Sa 22:1-2).

This is the context of Psalm 34. David, a young man, finds himself alone in these caves. He is amazed that he escaped with his life, yet again. He is physically and mentally exhausted. Suddenly he hears a misplaced noise in the heat of the afternoon. His heart starts racing again and he ducks instinctively. The voice is not alone. David wonders, ‘Will I have no rest?’ The voices are getting louder. Suddenly he recognizes one voice. Then another one. It is his brothers’ voices. From his vantage point, he peers carefully. Sure enough, his family is standing around looking lost. They are dusty, worn out, and look pitiful.

Playfully, he leaps from a high rock right in their midst and scares them to death. A couple of them grab him and wrestle him to the ground. They are thrilled to see him. Soon, more and more people arrive. Many he recognizes and some he does not. He doesn’t understand why they are here. He thought he had carefully escaped and covered all his tracks. But not so from the Lord. Even when he was in plenty of his own trouble, the Lord was strategically placing him as leader over others. Here in the barren wilderness with no resources and no support, the Lord was exalting him as their head. He who had no food and no weapons was to be the sustenance and the protector of this crowd.

They weren’t a group of outstanding citizens either. These are vagabonds and bums, vagrants and rascals. Some have escaped from the law. Others are wanted. These shady characters, all four hundred of them, are “the children” that David is recounting his adventure to. These people love David and he is a rallying point for them. God has raised David up in their hearts and in their midst as the kingpin.

This cave must be like an amphitheater. He is a runaway among runaways. He marvels at his God as he studies the dry, chapped faces that look at him expectantly. His voice carries, crisp and clear and a shaft of sunlight shines on his scratched-up body like a spotlight. ‘What can I offer them?’ his gentle heart wonders to his God.

What would you offer them if it were you? Would you send off a party to hunt down some grub? Would you rally them around you and start a coup? Would you send them away or try to get away from them? After all, you had enough troubles of your own, without taking on those of four hundred others. God gives him water for their thirsty souls.

“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” v.11. Children refers to a group or herd of young people or animals; or members of a specific guild. What do these desperadoes need more than anything? David taps deep down into the Spirit and comes to a strange conclusion: what they need more than anything is the fear of the Lord.

Lack of it may have gotten some of them where they are. A good dose of it will rescue them. “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?” v. 12. They only reason they are here is because they desire life. They were drowning in hopelessness, despair, and the threat of sure death where they were. Sometimes life is so hard that it seems you will do unreasonable things just to save your own hide. When all else had failed, they escaped to the wilderness – that’s desperation!  

Already there is squabbling in the ranks. With a stern eye, David quells that instantly among this dog-eat-dog pack. He knows how quickly strife spreads in an already riled-up mob. “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit,” v. 13. Things are going to change. His eyes scan the crowd. “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Those in this crowd are not famous for peace. In fact, many pride themselves in violence. They are being introduced to a new paradigm. Here’s why they are to fear the Lord. David is teaching them a new identity they can choose – righteousness. A communal, uncomfortable chuckle sweeps across the space. Many shift and avert their gaze.

David doesn’t let up. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry,” v. 15. They eye of the law has been on them, hunting them down. But there’s a greater law.  He presses in on the jugular, “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth,” v. 16. If you think the government and society is your enemy, you have one to be even more afraid of. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell,” Mt. 10:28.

He is pushing righteousness like an ice-cream van by a park on a lazy summer afternoon. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles,” v. 17. He locks eyes with Malachi. Then with Benaiah. His eyes bore through their souls in conviction. He shifts his gaze to Abishai and leans in. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit,” v. 18. A tear rolls down that hard face.

David leaps to his feet before his mesmerized posse and then drops to his knees, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken,” vs. 19, 20. He leans back and begs them. This very moment they can go from being evil to being righteous!

“Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned,” vs. 21, 22. What words of hope to the damned, the doomed. God promises to redeem their parched souls. He will turn around their will, their affections, their minds, their passions, their endeavors, and their desires. Revival ensues in the cave of Adullam…

“GO GET THE GATE”

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We had a gate growing up. I didn’t realize what an important symbol that heavy metal port was at the time. It was painted various colors at various times. Mum would holler, “go get the gate,” and one of us kids would jump at it. I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me and ground to a halt once I got to it, my heart pounding from the sprint. I would stand on tip-toe and press my body against the sun-warmed metal, a curious, eager eye-ball peeking through the opening I could barely reach, to see who was there.

There were two gates, but most cars fit through just one. Fumbling with the lock and chain was like trying to release a toy from a playful dog’s mouth when he wants you to throw it but also wants you to work at getting it from him. I would finally wrangle the heavy, clanging chain free, being careful not to pinch my fingers in it. I’d lead the huge contraption slowly with the heavy, chain leash as it swung open, always wary lest it bit you in the ankle. If you let it swing on its own it would bang against its end with such momentum that it bounce back and knock you right to the ground.

Opening the grand gate thus provided this dramatic revealing, as it were, of the guest. First, you’d see them through the tiny peephole in the gate, then you’d glance at them when you first freed the chain and the gate started to swing open. Each step to took disclosed more and more. They would smile and wave from their car and carefully inch their way through the opening. If it was a nice person, they’d step on their squeaking brakes and clear off the clutter from their front seat while you locked the gate and let you hop in for a short a ride to the house, saving you a walk back, and as a thank you token.

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Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

This puzzling line has been interpreted many ways. Here’s my take. The head of anything or anyone is the top part, the highest. In it are functions of thought as well as perception. This is in keeping with the theme of ascension from earlier in the chapter– we are dealing with matters of primacy – what’s the highest, the best, the most important?

Hebrew views the heart as the center and repository of man of his thoughts. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Pr. 27:3. It is the highest, noblest organ. It is a wellspring so deep it is unfathomable. We could say that the word picture in Psalm 24 paints the heart as our ‘gate.’ Gates speak of security and access. Our hearts are the access points to our lives. We “allow” people into our hearts.

Psalm 24 therefore calls us to lift up the heart for examination. We are also to lift it up to provide entry. We are to ‘lift’ it up because left to itself, it becomes darker and darker, lower and lower. This gate of our lives is the access point for the Creator, Master and Savior. What a thought, that though the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it as we saw earlier in the chapter, this small gate can bar him entry.

It is no peon that desires entrance into your gates. It is nobility. It is none other than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, hallelujah! He desires you. He desires access into your heart and therefore your life. He wants to come in and dine with you. He wants to spend today with you. He wants to spend eternity with you. Jump for joy. May your heart and mine afford the King of glory a very grand entrance. Put on a party and go get the gate!

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. Ps 24:8-10

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GLOATING – Karma is a Bitch

Funny Quotes About Karma
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“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” Proverbs 24:17, 18.

I live for the poetic justice that life flings at a jerk. We all know the gladdening of the heart that wells up within us and makes us want to say – you know it, “Ha, ha, ha!” God is calling us to a different reaction. Not only are we to obey Proverbs 24:29, “Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did,” if we have the chance; but when God takes care of the business and walks an enemy to the shed, we are not to delight in that.

That just sounds like a bummer deal. It therefore becomes an act of maturity and trust in God that the flesh will likely balk at.

This is the same heart behind Romans 12:20 which quotes Proverbs 25:21, 22, ““If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

Who do you need to do that with today?

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