Conflict: Inside and Out

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 69 (day two)
Conflict. Most of us are experts at avoiding it. Some of us are experts at winning in it. All of us face it. We are treated unjustly (69:4). We are insulted (69:7). We are overwhelmed and cry out for escape (69:1). Is there hope? Jesus says, “Yes!” “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you” (John 15:19). When we clash with those outside the community of faith because of our faith, we have an opportunity be a living example of Jesus. But what about our conflicts with those within the community of faith? The Apostle Paul applies the same logic. When I clash with a church member, receive angry emails and even endure thoughtless comments, I have an opportunity to give my brother a living example of Jesus. “Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please himself…” (Romans 15:2-3). Conflict may be unavoidable, but it is never unredeemable when Jesus followers follow His example.

Do I pray?

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 69 (day one)
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. . .Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs on my head. . .But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.”  (vs 1, 4, 13)  Do I pray?  When circumstances overwhelm me, do I immediately cry out to God?  When people are unfair or unkind or unconcerned about me, do I turn to God and find strength in Him?  David is teaching us to do so.  Do not grumble.  Do not withdraw in wounded pessimism.  Pray!  It is a clear sign of real faith.  Do not panic.  Do not deflate.  Ask and expect God’s help!  Abraham Lincoln once said that in the darkest days of the Civil War he prayed because, “frankly, I had no where else to turn.”  When life gangs up on me, do I pray?  Do you?

Heart foolish, heart wise

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day 7)
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, and their ways are vile.”  (vs 1)  They are fools.  People (ancient and modern)  who say that there is no God.  People who deny conscience and the testimony of nature.  Foolish because this denial of God’s existence unconsciously, dramatically and negatively impacts moral choice.  Ultimately, a belief in God and in His righteous judgement is the only guarantee and the strongest motivation for good behavior.  Without the standard of God’s holiness, men and societies disintegrate morally.  Witness our present age.  And the payback is fear.  “There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread.”  (vs 5)  Part of faith’s payment is peace.  Peace that passes understanding.  Peace that makes us confident in every circumstance. Wisdom or folly?  It happens as we make decisions about God and what we say with our mouths counts less than what we say in our hearts.

Loving God’s people

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day seven)
“Will the evildoers never learn–those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God?”  (vs 4)  Do you love God’s people?  It is one of the deep questions of life.  While it may not be clear to us why God chooses people and puts his favor on them, one thing is certain.  At the end of time one of the standards by which we will be judged is the treatment (or mistreatment) of the people that God calls His own.  “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse.”  (Genesis 12:3)  “Depart from Me, accursed ones. . .to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did not do it to Me.”  (Matthew 25:41, 45)  It is a warning for evildoers.  It is a question for us all.  Do we love God’s people?

The log in my eye

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day six)
“THEY are corrupt. . .you put THEM to shame.”  (vs 1, 5)  It is an easy mistake to make.  To see clearly the sinfulness in others while missing it (or dismissing it) in ourselves.  Giving ourselves the “benefit of the doubt.”  Applying a harsh standard to others.  In Psalm 53 David describes accurately the sins of the world.  What he lacks (at least in this song) is an honest accounting of the sins of Israel.  Paul will not make the same mistake.  When he quotes David in Romans 3:1, 10, 23, his point is that we are ALL sinners.  Including himself!  (See Romans 7 “What I want to do, I don’t do.  In fact, I practise the very evil that I hate.”)  Jesus taught us to be as careful and critical of our own sin as that which we see in others.  “First take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:5)

No Fear!

Re: Verse reading – Psalm 53 (Day Four)
Unger’s Bible Dictionary
says, “In scripture, the ‘fool,’ …, is the person who casts off the fear of God, and thinks and acts as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of God’s righteousness.”  You have known people like that…they think they can completely ignore God’s holiness and commands and get away with it.  It is folly!  What is the result of a life that acts this way toward God?  Wickedness of mammoth proportions…there is corruption and abominable acts of injustice.  Darkness acts, like darkness is.  Take a look around the world…there are nations that completely reject God and we see violence and wickedness as common experience.  Psalm 53 says God has searched for just one who seeks good, but there was none.  In contrast to the fool is the one who fears God and obeys His principles.  What is the result for them?  God will restore His captives and there will be rejoicing and gladness.  God will not be mocked!


Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day three)
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”  “The universe can and will create itself from nothing” (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinaw, The Grand Design, 180).  The aforementioned quote from Stephen Hawking’s book is not meant to label the brilliant physicist a fool.  It is meant, though, to highlight the lengths to which we will go to place something—anything—at the center of the universe other than a God who has created us and holds us accountable.  If we have to posit a universe that pulls itself into existence by its own bootstraps, so be it.  If we must have something because we want it, if we decide that we have not harmed someone because we did not intend to do so, so be it.  All such thinking comes from the kind of foolish thinking that convinces us that we create our own reality.

Confessions of a Functional Atheist

Re:Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day two)
Over worked, over stressed, always rushing in to save the project, the friend in need, the person in crisis. This is the life of the functional atheist. He serves his church, his family, his work, his community…yet secretly he resents those he serves. “Why can’t they take care of themselves? Why won’t they step up and take responsibility? Why aren’t they more like…more like me?!” Now the heart is being exposed. He would never say with his lips, “there is no God,” but his heart has said, “I must be the savior, the deliverer, the problem-solver, the provider.” His heart has said, “there is no God, so I must do the best I can to be god.” He is a functional atheist even while being a confessing Christian. A wrong idea has infected his heart, and only replacing it with a right idea will restore his being.  There is a Savior, Deliverer, Problem-Solver and Provider. His name is Jesus.

Not even one

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day one)
“There is no one who does good, not even one”  (vs 3)  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)  It is ultimately a great comfort.  It isn’t just me.  Not just you.  Every human on the planet has the same problem before a holy God.  “Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt.”  (Psalm 53:3)  Our reading and reflection (Psalm 53) was a well-known passage to the Jewish nation.  Over time,  it came to be applied mainly to the enemies of Israel.  See vs 4.  1000 years later, the Apostle Paul applies it in a larger way.  He includes the Jewish people in God’s judgement on the race for sin.  Paul declares that we are all sinners.  All in need of the righteousness that comes through “faith in Jesus Christ’.  (Romans 3:22)  First judgement, then comfort, God’s verdict is that none of us are righteous apart from Christ.  Not even one.

Patience and prayer

Re: Verse reading–Psalm 40 (day seven)
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”  (vs 1)  Both of these assignments come to the believer from God.  We are to be patient!  “Those who WAIT on the Lord will renew their strength”  (Isaiah 40:30)  We are to pray!  “There was a widow in that city, and she KEPT COMING TO HIM, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ ” (Luke 18:3)  Even David, as he waited on God, did not stop crying out to God.  It is an important and difficult balance to find.  Waiting on God is not stoic, silent or sullen resignation.  As believers, we bear up under the difficulties of life, but we never cease to cry out to God for His help.  We are His children, asking our Father for His help.  We are His adult sons and daughters, facing hardships with confidence and hope.  Patience and prayer.  We do both.