Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kierkegaard on Understanding the Bible

Vanhoozer quotes Kierkegaard as saying “We pretend to be unable to understand [the Bible] because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly." Wow. How true is that and especially so of certain doctrines and Biblical teachings we don't like.

kindle loc. 2773 in "The Theodramatic View"  by Kevin J. Vanhoozer  in Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology. Edited by Stanley N. Gundry and Gary T. Meadors (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Don't Let "Knowing" Jesus Keep You from Knowing Jesus (Mark 6) @Gospel Presbyterian Church

Scripture: Mark 6
Translation: 6.1And He went out from there and came into His hometown. And His followers followed Him. 2And when it became the Sabbath, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many people who were listening were amazed, saying “Where did these things come from to Him? And what is the wisdom that was given to Him? And such great powers that are happening through His hands? 3This Guy is the child, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joses and Judah and Simon, isn’t He? And His sisters are here with us, aren’t they?” And they were tripped up by Him. 4And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not disrespected except in His hometown, and among His relatives, and in His household.” 5And He wasn’t able to do any powerful miracle there, except by putting His hands on a few sick people He healed. 6And He was amazed because of their unbelief. And He went around the villages in the surrounding area teaching.
7And He summoned the Twelve and began to send them two by two and He gave them authority over unclean spirits, 8And He commanded them that they should take nothing for the road, except only a staff, not bread, not backpack, not money for the belt. 9“But although you can put on sandals, don’t put on two shirts.” 10And He said to them, “Wherever you enter into a house, stay there until you leave from there. 11And whatever place doesn’t welcome you and doesn’t listen to you, when you travel away from there, shake off the dust under your for the purpose of a testimony against them. 12And going out, they preached that they should repent. 13And they threw out many demons. And anointed many sick people with olive oil, and they healed.
14And King Herod heard, because His Name became well-known. And they were saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead and because of this the powers were working in Him. 15But others were saying that He was Elijah. And others were saying that He was a prophet like one of the prophets. 16And Herod after hearing said, “John who I beheaded—this guy was raised! 17You see, Herod himself by sending [soldiers]  arrested John and chained him in prison because of Herodias the wife of Philipp, his brother, because he had married her, 18because John way saying to Herod, “It’s not allowed for you to have your brother’s wife!” 19And Herodias was ticked at him and wanted to kill him. And she wasn’t able to, 20because Herod was scared of John, because he knew he was a righteous and holy man, and so he was protecting him. And when he listened to him, he didn’t understand many things, and he gladly listened to him. 21And when an opportune day came, when Herod made a dinner for his birthday festivities with his high-officials, military-officers, first-ranking people over Galilee. 22And when his daughter by Herodias came in, and when she danced it was pleasing to Herod and those eating dinner with [him]. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give [it] to you!” 23And he swore an oath to her, “Whatever you ask me for I will give to you up to half of my kingdom!” 24And when she went out she said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” and she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” 25And when she came in, immediately with speed she made her request to the king, saying “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on plate right away!” 26And becoming completely sad the king because of his oaths and the dinner guests he didn’t want to reject her. 27And immediately the king after sending for the executioner commanded to bring in his head. And after leaving he decapitated him in the prison. 28And he brought in his head on a plate and he gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. 29And when they heard, his followers went and took his corpse and buried it in a tomb.
30And the apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported to Him what great things they did and what great things taught. 31And He said to them, “Come on, you yourselves, on your own into a deserted place and rest a little while,” because those who were coming and going were many people. And they didn’t even have the opportunity to eat! 32And they went out in the boat towards a deserted place on their own. 33And they saw them going and many people figured out and by land from all the cites they were running together there and went ahead of them. 34And when He went out, He saw a huge crowd and felt compassion for them, because they were “like sheep that didn’t have a shepherd” and He began to teach them many things. 35And because the hour was already getting pretty late, His followers coming to Him were saying, “This place is deserted. And the hour is pretty late. 36Let them go, so that by going away into the surrounding farms and villages they can buy something to eat for themselves.” 37And to answer He said to them, “Give them [something] to eat yourselves.” And they said to Him, “Should we leave and buy loaves of bread for 200 denarii and give [it] to them to eat?” 38And He said to them, “How many loaves of bread do you have? Go. See.” And when they knew, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39And He gave orders to them that all the people should sit down for dinner in different groups on the green grass. 40And they lay down in different groupings by a hundred and by fifty. 41And taking the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looking up into Heaven, He blessed and broke apart the loaves of bread and He was giving [them] to His followers, so that they could pass [them] out to them. And He divided up the two fish for all the people. 42And all the people ate and were fed full. 43And the broken pieces were what filled up twelve baskets and some of the fish. 44And the people who ate were five thousand men.

45And immediately He pressed His disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead to the other side, towards Bethsaida, until He dismissed the crowd. 46And saying good-bye to them, He went away into the mountain to pray. 47And when it became evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea and He was alone on the land. 48And seeing them being tormented by what was forcing them around, because the wind was against them, around the fourth watch of the night He came to them walking on the sea. And He wanted to go past them. 49And when they saw Him on the sea walking around, they thought that it was a ghost. And they screamed, 50because they all saw Him and they were freaked out. But immediately He spoke with them, and He said to them, “Be courageous! I am! Don’t be scared! 51And He went up to them into the boat and the wind stopped. And they were very shocked in themselves, 52because they didn’t understand about the loaves of bread, rather their heart was hardened. 53And having made it across to the land, they went into Gennesaret and they were anchored in the harbor. 54And when they went out of the boat, immediately because they recognized Him, 55they ran around that whole region and began to carry around on stretchers the people who were sick wherever they heard  that He was. 56And wherever He would go into the villages or the cities or the fields, in the markets they would put the sick people and they would urge Him, so that if own they could touch the edge of His clothes, and whoever touched Him, was saved/healed.
1.      Structure
2.      Themes
a.       Teaching
b.      Sending
c.       Opposition
d.      Miracles
e.       Healings
f.       Exorcism
g.      Storm
h.      Crowds
i.        Rejection
j.        Repentance
k.      Jesus is Lord over ALL
3.      Doctrines
a.       Jesus is God
b.      Jesus is Omnipotent
c.       Jesus is Omniscient
d.      Jesus is compassionate
e.       Jesus provides
1.      Don’t fall into the same trap that Jesus’ hometown did. They all thought that because they knew Jesus they could discount having to really trust Him, but it doesn’t work like that
2.      Jesus sends people out with a message no one wants to hear, and it gets opposition, and it can be dangerous, but that can’t stop us
3.      There is the same danger for us to miss the point of Jesus’ miracles and His work in our lives, and so not really trust Him, and be hardened against full faith in Him
4.      Jesus really can do anything, and He wants us to truly trust Him to do the impossible
5.      Moreover, Jesus really cares, that is why He acts the way He does, so we have to really believe that Jesus cares and understands and that He will therefore act like He cares
6.      Moreover, understand that Jesus gave us the Bible, gave us pastors and teachers, because that is what we really need. That is the mindset I need to have when I preach and teach, that Jesus loves you and He wants you to have teaching and preaching. The truth is that is why I preached at two different churches today, because that is what you and I really need! I want to love you like Jesus, and for me that means teaching and calling us all to trust in Christ and turn away from ungodly actions and thoughts and words and beliefs! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Some Pastoral Thoughts on Snarky Evangelical Blogs

Hey, so if I wanted to be funny I'd start this off with some snarky remarks about evangelical subculture, offered in that typical offhanded snarky remark kind of way (oh, wait, that was it wasn't it). But if was going to do that I might be considered a tad hypocritical about what I'm about to say, of course I wouldn't be guilty of violating hypocritical subterfuge, because I can always nuance it away so I feel better about myself (oh, I suppose that would be some more snarkiness wouldn't it, although I am going to be all nuanced, so I guess you can just laugh with me or at me).

Anyways, the main point of this to hopefully give some pastoral critique and response to an ongoing phenomenon found in our common young evangelical subculture. Specifically, I want to address our tendency to use a rather snarky tone when we engage especially with certain topics, more specifically our tendency to use creative subgenres where we talk about something else, when we are really talking about a particular topic. Don't get me wrong I don't dislike creative engagement of important issues. I think it's necessary. But I want us to be aware of what we are doing and think more about it. I don't hate snarkiness in and of itself, I afterall am a member of the same socio-cultural environment with the same proclivities and pre-understandings that deeply appreciates irony more broadly and snarkiness in particular.

By now you probably are wondering what riled me up and what I could possibly see wrong in our beloved cultural badge of snarkiness. Well, truth be told, I'm not really riled up, but I was motivated to contemplate this upon reading two evangelical blog posts, whose main points I agree with, namely today with "Why we should Legalize Murder for Hire" found here and last week with "The Subtle Art of Destroying Humans" found here Upon reading them I had two thoughts: 1) Is a depersonalized blog post the best medium for this kind of dialog, that is a snarky toned engagement of a serious issue? and 2) Who exactly do the authors think they are writing to, that is who is their intended and actual audience?

1) Is a depersonalized blog post the best medium for this snarky engagement? My question here has nothing to do with content. I think the posts are rather insightful and basically right in the main thrust of their proposal. in fact my initial reaction is enjoy their snarkiness and clever way of providing insight into a critical problem, namely that we in America and other places around the world are committing mass genocide against a particular demographic that provides only some members of our larger community with a temporary inconvenience and discomfort, but who also have the potential to enrich the lives of those same members as well as those around them even past the time when the originally impacted member dies. That is, abortion. It is the Holocaust of times. So clearly by that comparison, I don't disagree with the comparison. And in fact I have used similar arguments to those found in both articles when actually discussing the issue with real people. That said, what has been different however in my pastoral responses to the issue of abortion is that those analogies are often given in the tone and context of a caring relationship. My question is aimed at whether a blog post which is clearly public and devoid of personal relationships to people who would have had abortions or are considering abortions or who don't want to judge the two aforementioned categories is really the best way to change those people's view about abortion, or is it possible that the snarky attitude would just be interpreted as callousness and judgmentalness. It is true as the Old Testament prophets show, that a snarky response is sometimes needed, but aren't you glad that every sin, no matter how egregious, is not exposed via some snarky anecdote. It would seem to me that snarkiness is an important tool, but I'm not sure it should be used like a shotgun, but more like a surgical knife. This of course leads me to the second question.

2) Who do we think we are talking to when we engage a topic with the kinds of creative methods that lean into snarkiness as found in the two blog posts from the two elite Reformed evangelical organizations, Gospel Coalition and Desiring God (don't get me wrong they are two of my favorite ministries and I have had classes with D.A.Carson, in which I found him to be a wise and likable person with a good sense of humor even)? Well, I think that we would like to think that we are engaging with the public about an important issue that needs the Church's prophetic voice. And to be sure some non-believer somewhere will probably at some point read that article. But let's be honest here, my fellow young evangelicals, when was the last time your non-Christian friend or co-worker ever said to you, "So I was reading John Piper's blog the other day..." or even "So I found this weird Christiany site, called the Gospel Army Coalition or something like that..." ...[insert crickets here]... Yeah, me to. So, then, since we are clearly not usually talking mainly to unbelievers who are we talking to? Well, it would seem, we are probably talking to mainly believers (just like while I hope someone who doesn't know Jesus reads my blog at some point and understands the Gospel and is brought into part of God's family or even reads some posts and understands Christians a bit better or finds some post to readjust some of his/her thinking on some matter, I don't think that many will when compared to how many of my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ will read my blog). So, if we are talking to believers, that is fine. We do need creatively packaged insights into the abomination that is abortion and other important issues. The church does need reminding on what we believe and why. But my question comes because sometimes I think that we think we are preaching to the public when really we are only preaching to the choir. The choir needs a good sermon too, but we should at least know who we are preaching to. Sometimes, I feel like we evangelicals read some snarky post about some issue and sit back in our chairs with a smug grin, patting ourselves on the back for how cleverly we are commenting on some important and sometimes even on some unimportant issue. We cheerfully console ourselves for how cleverly relevant we're being on some topic, how prophetically we are speaking to our culture. But of course, the problem is, we're not do that at all. We're preaching to ourselves. We may think we are congratulating ourselves on a done well done of contextualized communication to the larger public, but really we've failed that aim, although we have achieved another. We've have indeed effective contextualized, but the problem is that we haven't really contextualized well to the larger culture, but to our narrow evangelical culture. We cheer basically for how well we've told ourselves what we already believe. I'm not saying that no new perspectives or insights were not communicated through the articles, but if our intention was really to interact with the larger culture in a prophetic way through these kinds of articles, I think we've largely failed. But perhaps Christians will be edified through the articles, and perhaps I'm wrong and they were mostly written to believers without any considerations of reaching out to the larger culture, and I hope so. Sometimes, and trust me as an avid debater I have probably been guilty of this more than most, but sometimes perhaps our intentions or our effects are not quite so charitable, perhaps what these post are is more about telling ourselves how smart we are and how dumb our adversaries are. And make no mistake, I do think Christianity has the intellectual highground, but there is a big difference between recognizing that God has graciously given us a coherent system of understanding and seeing the truth in the world, and effectively writing odes of praise to our own intellectual or moral superiority. While in some sense that charge can always be levied against someone claiming to have a message from God as we do in fact have, I mention it here just as heart-check for all of us as we write and speak and think about the goings on in the world.

However, I make these above comments mainly because I don't want us to fail to actually engage the world on the important issues. I want us young evangelicals to get beyond our narrowly constrained subculture and actually reach the world with the Gospel and to prophetically and creatively bring God's message to bear on their lives as well as our own. I want us to use our snarky commentaries in the wisest ways. I am sure there will be good times to be snarky with unbelievers, but my guess is that most of them will either come in the context of personal relationships and still be delivered with compassion (and often blogs neuter any compassion that snark may have otherwise contained). Moreover, I'm wanting us to realize that often our snark may contain an underlying arrogance that we need to repudiate. There are times to be snarky towards fellow Christians and even at times towards non-Christians, but we should both check our heart when it's filled with snark and be careful that our snark is actually valuable. I still want to see us get really creative in how we discuss and engage with issues among ourselves and with unbelievers. I just want us to be wise in our creativity (if you could create a supervirus that could kill the world, should you?). I'm not upset by pushing boundaries (especially given my cultural location among us snarky young evangelicals), but I am against not truly and compassionately and personally engaging with important issues in our culture. Long post short, I hope that we can both use snark wisely, and think about who we are really reaching so that we can reach both non-believers and the church with the prophetic message the Holy Spirit mediates to us through His Word in Jesus Name for the Glory of God our Father.

Oh, and if somehow, you are someone that doesn't trust in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life with Jesus, thanks for putting up with us Christians. I know, we're stupid and petty and often hypocritical. I know we sound arrogant, and that's because we often are. I really am sorry about that. I hope after reading this you know that it is really because of how much I love you as well as how much I love Jesus that this blog post exists. I want us Christians to be as loving and as understanding as possible as we talk with you and hear your story and understand where you are really coming from. Forgive us if our snarkiness has offended you, but I do ask that you look past that and see the message beyond the snark and beyond our failures, ultimately that Jesus is God and you will face Him as His friend or His foe, and that at least as it concerns abortion, that a human life really is on the line, and Christians love people, and that is why we hate abortion so much, and that is also why we tell you about Jesus, because it is another case where a life is on the line. And just like our stomach turns at the thought of one more person killed without mercy in the womb, our hearts break at the thought of one person not knowing Jesus for really, and one day facing Him, not as Savior, but as Judge. I know that sounds harsh and narrow-minded, and it probably doesn't make much sense to someone on the outside of our community, but I want you to know that you have a friend in me if you want a safe place to vent those concerns or confusions and if you really want to understand what we understand. I hope you'll forgive any failure in this imperfect person in an imperfect short message in an imperfect impersonal medium to communicate the love and concern I have for you, and reach out to me via comment or email if you want to either know more about Jesus, Christians, or even if you want to just have a friend who cares regardless of whether you convert or not. I love you (in a non-creepy way). Ok, that probably sounds creepy anyways, sorry, "I have genuine positive emotion and concern for you." Sorry that sounds cold, but I think you know what I mean. I'm praying for you.

With Deep Love in Christ,
Pastor Anthony

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Praying Praise (Psalm 65)

Scripture: Psalm 65
Translation: 1For the director. A Davidic psalm. A Song.

2To You the praise is appropriate, God in Zion!
And to You the vow will be completed!
3You Who listens to prayer,
Toward You all flesh will come!
4Words of iniquities overpower me,
our rebellions—You atone them!
5Blessings for [the person] You chose
and You bring close!
He lives in Your courtyard!
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your House!
Your Temple is Holy!

6You answer us with awe-inspiring things in righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
O Trust of all of the ends of the earth
and the sea that are faraway!
7You Who laid the foundation of the mountains in His strength,
Who is suited up with power!
8Who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves
and the clamor of the peoples!
9And the people who live at the ends are in awe of Your miraculous signs,
The goings out of the morning and the evening You make shout for joy! 

10You visit the earth
and You make it overflow!
You make it really rich!
God’s river is full of water,
You make their grain,
because You made it that way!
11 The drenching of its furrows,
The smoothing down of its ridges!
You dissolve it with heavy-rains!
You bless its sprouts!

12You crown the year of Your goodness!
Your paths drip with fatness!
13The pastures of the wilderness drip!
And the hills dress themselves with celebration!

14The meadows clothe themselves with sheep,
the valleys cover themselves with grain!
They are shouting for joy!
They even sing!

1.      Structure
a.       Stanza 1 (vv.2-5): God is Worthy of Praise, because He gives us closeness with Him
b.      Stanza 2 (vv.6-9): God is Worthy of Praise, because He gives us awesome miracles!
c.       Stanza 3 (vv.10-11): God is Worthy of Praise, because He gives us the rains  and their blessings
d.      Stanza 4 (vv.12-14): God is Worthy of Praise, because He gives us abundant provision and joy
2.      Themes
a.       God is Worthy of Praise
b.      God is Omnipotent
c.       God is Awe-inspiring/Terrifying
d.      God is Universally Impressive
e.       God is Gracious
f.       God is the Source of All Goodness/Blessing
g.      God is the Answerer of Prayer
h.      God is the Ruler of the Weather
i.        God is the Giver
j.        God is the Causer of Joy
k.      God is the Creator
l.        God is the Atoner of Sin
3.      Doctrines
a.       Yahweh is omnipotent
b.      Yahweh is worthy of glory/praise
c.       Yahweh is gracious
d.      Yahweh is the Giver
e.       Yahweh is Sovereign
f.       Yahweh is for more than just Jews, but for the nations too
g.      Yahweh answers prayer
h.      Yahweh is gracious
i.        Yahweh deals with sin!

1.      This is what a praising prayer can look like, while it is not the only form it can take, it is a easy and common one, so we should praise God by noting what He does, has, done, will do,
2.      God answers prayer, so we should trust when He does, and rejoice when He does!

3.      We should praise Him! At the end of the day, we should just be impressed! We should be full of joy! We should be overflowing with praise! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Praying "In Your Face" Prayers to God (Psalm 13)

Scripture: Psalm 13
1. For the Director, a song, Davidic
2. How long are You going to forget about me, Yahweh--for forever?
            How long are You going to hide Your Face from me?
3. How long am I going put recommendations in my soul?
            Sorrow is in my heart daily!
            How long will my enemy triumph against me?
4. Look! Answer me, Yahweh my God!
            Make my eyes shine [with joy/life],
                   so I don’t sleep in death!
5.                       so my enemy can’t say “I overpowered him!”
    my oppressors celebrate because I am wobbling!
6.          But I with trust in Your loyalty!
    My heart celebrates in Your Salvation
            I will sing to Yahweh,
                    because He acts to benefit me

1.      Structure
a.       Strophe 1 (vv.2-3):      How Long?!
A         How long do will You forget about me?
B         How long will You avoid me?
C         How long do I have to make plans?
D         I’m always depressed!
C         How long will my enemy win?
b.      Strophe 2 (vv.4a-5a):  Do something!
A         Look at what’s happening
B         Answer my prayer
A’        Make my eyes happy
            C         So I don’t die
            C’        So my enemy can’t gloat
c.       Strophe 3 (vv.5b-6d):  I will do something!
A         My enemy celebrates my trouble
            B         But I trust in you
A’        I celebrate in Your salvation
C         I will sing to Yahweh
D         Because/that He acts for my benefit/on my behalf
2.      Themes
a.       How long
                                                              i.      This phrase is repeated 4 times right after another, except with a minor intrusion of a short line in between the 3rd and 4th instances.
                                                            ii.      There is a strong and forceful drive of wondering how long the suffering will continue, it is at the same time both a legitimate question and an indictment/complaint against Yahweh, that is it is both asking how long he has to wait for Yahweh to do something and at the same time saying that Yahweh is taking too long, that He is not meeting the author’s expectations, that He seems to be pushing the boundaries of what keeping His promises means.
                                                          iii.      This implies a few other themes, namely that the author has a relationship with Yahweh and that Yahweh is His Savior, and that the author trusts Yahweh
                                                          iv.      It is a very bold statement, which has implications on how we can interact with God, it is a very natural conversation
b.      Enemies
                                                              i.      Two words for enemies are used, one is the traditional word “enemies” but the other one has to do with oppressors, those who cause trouble, that is one word seems to be more focused on the relationship, while the other is more focused on what they are doing that makes them enemies, איב is the more relational term, focusing on the hostile disposition, while צר seems to focus more on what the person does, namely cause trouble and difficulty, but to some extent it is a very relational term as well, since Yahweh is said to have צרים, which does imply that they are not by definition people who make someone’s life miserable and pressured, since Yahweh doesn’t get pressured by people. So here, there may be a slight emphasis on what the people do, but mostly it is used as a colorful synonym for איב. Both are probably very marked by the hostile relationship.
                                                            ii.      To some extent the mention of enemies is to function as a contrast to the psalmist, this is explicit in the final strophe especially
c.       Problems
                                                              i.      So the problems for the author are numerous and diverse
                                                            ii.      The first problem is the lack of Yahweh’s help or answering, that is the length of time that the suffering has continued
                                                          iii.      The next problem mentioned is that Yahweh seems to have withdrawn from the psalmist, it feels like Yahweh is close, that He is holding His Presence back from the psalmist, that the relationship is distant
                                                          iv.      The next problem is that the author is dealing with enemies, likely physical enemies, but it could be political/social enemies, who are getting the upper hand
                                                            v.      The final problem is that all these problems have brought the psalmist into a sad/depressed state
                                                          vi.      It is a nasty cocktail of misery, all located in the first strophe
                                                        vii.      The other strophes indicate that there could be a risk of death and the risk of shame that is troubling the psalmist
d.      Abandonment
                                                              i.      This is indicated by the first bicola, v.2, where Yahweh seems to have not just forgotten about the psalmist, at least from the psalmist’s perspective, but also have actively withheld His comforting or perhaps blessing Presence, the problem seems to be not just that Yahweh isn’t doing anything, but that He doesn’t feel close, that He won’t connect with the psalmist, this may be more implicit than explicit, but it seems to include the experiential component not just the activity component
                                                            ii.      This would feel like total abandonment to the psalmist and he wants to know how long it is going to last
e.       Seeing/eyes
                                                              i.      This is a minor theme in the central strophe
                                                            ii.      The author calls on Yahweh to look, to inspect what’s going on, but then later he asks Yahweh to make his eyes shine, which also would likely have something to do with seeing, but really has the dual force of physical and emotional vitality
f.       Celebration
                                                              i.      This is a theme of the final strophe, where there is an explicit contrast between what the enemies of the author are celebrating and what the author is celebrating, the enemies are celebrating the wavering, the near downfall of the author, but the author is celebrating the salvation of Yahweh, His rescuing the author from his enemies, the irony is the enemies are celebrating a demise not yet here, and the author is celebrating a salvation not yet here, but we know by faith that His celebration and hope is not misplaced!
g.      Singing
                                                              i.      This is under the heading of “song” and the final verse mentions singing, so the whole thing is likely a song meant to be sung
h.      Trust
                                                              i.      The trust is explicitly stated in v.6, but it is also implied by the way the first strophe is phased, it comes out of a confusion induced by the faith of the psalmist, but also it is being prayed from the perspective of faith, perhaps a wobbling faith, but faith
                                                            ii.      The central strophe is a clear prayer which depends on the trust that Yahweh will answer  
i.        Salvation
                                                              i.      The psalm hinges on the waiting for salvation, and the call for salvation and the trust in Yahweh’s salvation and delight in His salvation
j.        Prayer
                                                              i.      The whole thing is clearly a prayer, with perhaps the exception of the final two cola.
                                                            ii.      The honesty of the prayer and the gutsiness of the prayer is pretty intense.
                                                          iii.      It is filled with questions, natural conversation, and requests
k.      Relationship with Yahweh
                                                              i.      The whole psalm is predicated on the author having a relationship with Yahweh, that is why He can ask “how long” that is also why he can ask Yahweh to do something
                                                            ii.      The relationship is clearly appealed to in v.6, when He trusts in Yahweh’s loyalty, that loyalty is relational loyalty, that is the author is saying that Yahweh will be loyal to the relationship, to the relational commitments between them
                                                          iii.      The angst comes out of a close and trusting relationship with Yahweh
3.      Doctrines
a.       Yahweh saves
b.      Our prayers can be brutally honest
c.       Yahweh is all powerful
d.      Yahweh  cares
e.       Yahweh can be trusted
f.       Yahweh commits Himself to people
g.      Yahweh wants His people to be honest with Him
h.      Prayers work
i.        Yahweh’s people should trust Him
1.      This is really the kind of prayer that you can only pray if you have the guts, if you have the faith to pray it, because we can only ask “how long” if we trust in Yahweh as our God and Savior,
2.      We should thank Yahweh that He is the God Who can take our angst, our worries, our fears, our troubles, our confusion, our expectations
3.      Pray gutsy, angsty prayers!
4.      It’s ok to ask God why He is taking so long?
5.      It’s ok to tell God the problems that it seems like He is causing
6.      It’s ok to ask God to hold up His end of the relationship
7.      It’s ok to be honest with God that you are depressed
8.      It’s ok to get it God’s face a bit, it’s not ok to be disrespectful and untrusting, but it is ok to call on God to keep His promises, to take action, to tell you’re sick of what you’re going through, to say stuff that sounds a bit “risky” (that is stuff that runs contrary to the ways that we usually hear people pray or feel like our prayers are supposed to sound like, but not stuff that is theologically wrong or blasphemous or untrusting, I’m just saying our prayers don’t need to conform to “churchy” status quo prayers) as long as it is coming out of heart of faith and reliance on Yahweh
9.      Now, we have to be honest and understand that sometimes, Yahweh rejects immediate deliverance, He says that salvation is not coming in this life sometimes, and other times He says that our salvation will look different than we expect, but ultimately Yahweh also says to us right now, that our salvation on one level has already happened, that our salvation is now in Jesus the Messiah! But our expectation is not supposed to be that He won’t answer, or that He won’t save, but that He will! So don’t use the different forms of God’s answer as excuses to not believe that He does answer or that He does save, that He does keep His promises
10.  Be honest and real in your prayers

11.  Don't think that trusting in Yahweh means never praying a prayer that looks like Pslam 13, because psalm 13 is teaching us that prayers like this can be prayed and really can only be prayed genuinely and in a Godly way while holding on to Yahweh our Saving God in faith and our relationship with Him 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yahweh Saves (Psalm 3)

Scripture: Psalm 3
3.1A Davidic song, during his fleeing from the presence of Absalom, his son.

2Yahweh, how my enemies have become many!
Many people are rising up against me!
3Many people are saying to my soul,
“There is no salvation for him by God.”
4But You, Yahweh, are a shield around me—my glory—
and the One Who holds my head up high!
5With my voice I called out to Yahweh,
and He answered me from the Mountain of His Holiness!
6I lie down and sleep!
I wake up, because Yahweh helps me!
7I’m not scared by tens of thousands of people,
who take their stand all around against me!
8Rise up, Yahweh!
 Save me, my God,
because You punch all my enemies on the jaw!
You break the teeth of wicked people!
9The salvation belongs to Yahweh!
Your blessing is on Your people!

The Point I’m Stressing: Yahweh SAVES!!!

1.      Structure
a.       Heading (v.1)
b.      Statement of the Problem (vv.2-3)
c.       Summary of David’s Response (vv.4-5)
d.       David’s Response Detailed (vv.6-9)
A         Rest
            B         Yahweh protects/helps
                        C         Enemies don’t induce fear
                                    D         Plea to Take Action to Save
                                    D’        Plea to Save
                        C’        Yahweh deals with enemies
            B’        Yahweh saves
A’        Blessing
2.      Themes
a.       Speaking
                                                              i.      Much of the psalm is oriented towards the speaking of the enemies in v.3, but then also on the verbalized request from David to Yahweh
                                                            ii.      Yahweh answers, which takes the form more of action than words, but Yahweh’s answer address the evil speaking of the enemies in v.3 by breaking their jaw in v.8, also the blessing of v.9 while it is clearly in terms of actions, may also imply the spoken priestly blessing
b.      Response/Answering
                                                              i.      The psalm is set up as an answer to the smack talk of David’s enemies, the response and answer is as much verbal as non-verbal, which takes the form of Yahweh’s active intervention against David’s enemies
                                                            ii.      The first response is from David when he prays/screams for help and holds on to the promise and power of Yahweh
                                                          iii.      The second response is from Yahweh for David as summarized in v.5,
                                                          iv.      Vv.6-7 and vv.8c-9 are also Yahweh response to David’s request, which is bluntly state in v.8a-b
c.       Enemies
                                                              i.      Described at the beginning of the psalm as many, hostile, and verbally discouraging/disrespecting
                                                            ii.      Later described in vv.7-8 as wicked, militarily threatening and defeated
d.      Yahweh is stronger/bigger
                                                              i.      This comes especially in v.4, but it also is highlighted by the negative, where the enemies accuse Yahweh of either powerlessness, non-existence, or indifference in v.3
                                                            ii.      It also is reinforced by Yahweh’s decisive action of punching jaws and breaking teeth
                                                          iii.      It is also implied by David’s confidence in the face of terrifying foes in v.7 and David’s ability to sleep in safety and wake up again
                                                          iv.      The theme of Yahweh saving in general strengthens this idea
e.       Praying
                                                              i.      The whole psalm is something of a prayer, or at least a record of a prayer
                                                            ii.      The psalm turns on David’s prayer, both in the first half and in the second half
                                                          iii.      Also, note the naturalness of the conversation between David and God
                                                          iv.      Note the honesty
                                                            v.      Note the faith and hope
                                                          vi.      Note the strength it imbued
                                                        vii.      Note the joy its answer induced
                                                      viii.      Note the peace made possible through it
f.       Yahweh takes action
                                                              i.      This is a main theme which comes through in the discussion of Yahweh answering and breaking jaws and teeth
                                                            ii.      It is implied via David’s hope and dependence on it
                                                          iii.      It is indicated by the theme of Yahweh’s salvation as well
                                                          iv.      The call upon God to act strengthens the theme as well as Yahweh’s actual acting in response to the call
g.      Confidence/Trust/Hope
                                                              i.      There is an undercurrent of confidence and trust and hope in David towards Yahweh
                                                            ii.      His prayers are based on the hope and trust that Yahweh will answer them
                                                          iii.      The psalm in part turns on the accusation that David’s confidence, hope, and trust in Yahweh is misplaced, and then the vindication of that hope and trust and confidence
                                                          iv.      It is indicated by David’s ability to rest, his clinging to it in v.4, and the declaration at the end that Yahweh owns salvation and blesses His people
                                                            v.      The confidence is so strong that the numerous enemies do not dissuade it, even when those enemies are intensely personal
h.      Salvation
                                                              i.      This is the main theme of the psalm: Yahweh saves
                                                            ii.      The root for save/salvation appears 3 times, salvation twice (v.4 and v.9), and save once (v.8)
                                                          iii.      The salvation of Yahweh is the main issue, people deny He saves, but the argument of this psalm is that He does
                                                          iv.      It tells the story of how He has saved, saves, and will save
                                                            v.      It is implicitly a call on people to trust that He will save
                                                          vi.      It is all about asking Him to save
                                                        vii.      It is all about trusting Him to save
                                                      viii.      It is all about His actual salvation. He saves by answer, He saves by granting peace and protection, He saves by smashing in faces, He saves David, but He also saves His people
                                                          ix.      He saves despite the odds, opposition, or perceived impossibility
                                                            x.      He saves despite what people say, He saves in part for His own vindication, as well as the vindication of those who trust in Him
                                                          xi.      He is the God Who saves, and thus Who responds to calls for salvation
                                                        xii.      The conclusion is not only can Yahweh save, and not only can we ask Him to save, but that any and all salvation ultimately belongs to Him! Which of course also means that no matter how small the salvation may seem, it ultimately was the gracious work of the Great and Powerful God Yahweh!
i.        Large numbers
                                                              i.      This comes up in v.3 and then again in v.7-8, this is a big deal.
                                                            ii.      The point is the numbers David is facing is insane, but this large number is foiled and superseded by Yahweh singularity and yet greater power
3.      Poetic Devices
a.       Vv.2-3 parallel vv.4-5
A         Lots of enemies (v.2)
B         Enemies talking smack (v.3a)
C         The Smack Talk: God can’t/won’t save (v.3b)

A’        Yahweh is a shield for David (v.4)
B’        David screams for help (v.5a)
C’        Yahweh Answers (v.5b)
                        So, you have answers to the issues posed in the first section, the answer to lots of enemies is a powerful God Who is with and for David, the answer to the enemies smack talking is David talking to God, the answer to the smack talk that God won’t/can’t save is God answering David’s prayer
b.      Yahweh’s action against the enemies specifically eliminates the dissing of Yahweh, that’s they talk smack against God and God smacks them so hard in the jar their teeth are shattered!
c.       The trifold repetition of סלה selah at vv.3, 5, and 9 seems to indicate three main sections, which is true in terms of how the author is giving clues to the structure, but the first two sections as outlined above are clearly a pair and the final section is chiastic, so at a larger level there are two main sections, but the placement of the selah’s means that the author is putting added focus on the opposition and contrast between the issue in vv.2-3 and the answer in vv.4-5, thus, the antithesis and answer to the smack talk forms a rubric for understanding the whole psalm. This conditions us to expect a lengthier outline of David’s plea and God’s response
d.      The numbers of the enemies is focused on at the beginning of the first section and the beginning of the third (by selah count) or the second (by broader sections)
4.      Doctrines
a.       Yahweh saves, a theme that only intensifies at the coming of Jesus Christ, but He does not just save us eternally He saves us in time in our daily lives and stresses and needs
b.      Yahweh is omnipotent
c.       Yahweh is concerned with His reputation/glory, and our perception of it
d.      Yahweh’s salvation is dependable
e.       Yahweh cares about us and what we are going through and what we are threatened by
f.       Yahweh’s character gives peace
g.      Yahweh answers prayer
h.      Christians should pray naturally, honestly, and trustingly
i.        Yahweh is worthy of all confidence, Hope, and Faith!
5.      Notes
a.       Yahweh answering from His holy mountain as a phrase seems to carry connotations of Yahweh coming to the rescue, of not just help, but often it seems direct and powerful intervention, if one compares to some of the other uses in the psalms and perhaps also Jonah 2
b.      The move to “Your blessing is on Your people” in v.9b is an surprising and hopeful turn to see the corporate application of the intervention of God on behalf of David, because David is not so much talking about Himself, but the hope of all those who belong to and believe in Yahweh for salvation!
1.      We have to trust in Yahweh’s salvation!
2.      We should pray for salvation when we need it! Yahweh doesn’t just want to save us eternally, although that is the most important salvation He is working to achieve, He wants to get involved in our daily needs! He wants to save when people be trip’n! He wants to save when we are overworked, when we are sick, when we don’t know what to do, when the odds are against us, when people taunt us that we are wasting our time trusting in Yahweh!
3.      God is calling us to trust Him not just to save us individually, but to trust Him to save us as a group! To save our church, our youth group from destruction and death!
4.      Yahweh is the God of vindication. He will vindicate His Own Name, and even our faith in Him! He will ultimately vindicate us at the judgment, but sometimes He also vindicates us in real life! But do we have the guts to trust Him to save!
5.      There is nothing and no one, and no group of people that should cause us to fear and abandon hope and faith in Yahweh, because if we do look at things, at people, at situations and fear and let our hope and faith waiver, we have forgotten the God Yahweh really is! We have forgotten that He is the One Who Saves! We have stopped clinging to all that He really is! Sometimes the problem is not really that God has taken His sweet time in saving, but that we have stopped clinging to Him as the God of all salvation! We have forgotten that He IS a shield around us, that He is our glory, that He is the One Who encourages us, exalts us, and vindicates us! Sometimes the problem really is that we don’t believe that God can save, we look at what we’re up against and give up hope, because we don’t think anyone could save us, that is exactly what David’s enemies were saying, but really that is profoundly arrogant of them and profoundly sad for us, because we have forgotten exactly what will give us hope, and it is at least a little arrogant, since we are denying what Yahweh has said!
6.      We need to believe that Yahweh can and will answer powerfully, and even sometimes violently powerfully

7.      Sometimes it is those closest to us who try to hurt us the most, but Yahweh can even save you from those closest to you who are hurting you! God deals with those people, just like He dealt with Absalom. Even verbal, physical, and sexual abuse God can save you from! He can save you from the past wounds of those things and other things, just as much as He can save you from things happening now! Yahweh’s blessing is on His people, so there is hope for us no matter what we have suffered, will suffer, or are suffering! And I want you to know that if someone is physically or sexually abusing you, you can tell not just God, but me and I will do what I have to do to make it stop