Christian Contemplations

Apr. 7, 2020

Psalm 91: 3 (AMPC) “For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.”

Where am I dwelling, or abiding, or “hanging out” spiritually and mentally in these times? Refer back to verse 1 in your Bible as it connects with verse. Am I in that secret place of the Most High? Am I recalling His promises, staying in His Word and in prayer? (There is no better place to be.) Or am I found fanning the flames of fear, at least in my own mind, if not elsewhere. Do I find myself emotionally scattered? 

This verse is an amazing promise to take to heart, to ponder, to trust and rely on - pointing us to the One Who keeps us from the snare of the fowler. A fowler was one who hunted birds or trapped them. There was every device to entice!  Apparently there are spiritual traps that we need to be kept from too. What are some of those that might be lurking in these current days for you?

There is also the promise to be kept from the deadly pestilence, real or imagined… spiritual or physical.

In the absence of not being allowed to go to our usual meeting places of worship, it might be good to become proficient at finding His promises, learning some of them by heart… The Psalms are full of them. They are also full of examples of King David, who wrote most of the Psalms, as he often came into the Presence of the Lord in the most unbelievably vexing situations. Yet it’s also wise to understand their context, so we do not become claim something that is immediately descriptive and not broadly prescriptive.

I never regretted learning Scripture passages in Lutheran School when I was a child. While it was not necessarily my favorite thing to do then, how often those passages - even sometimes long forgotten -  spring into mind when needed, usually if I need an attitude adjustment, or when feeling stressed. Ultimately they always point us to Jesus Himself as Deliverer.

There’s great comfort and power when slipping away into God’s Presence consciously and intentionally when needed, in His Word and prayer. And when don't we need it? Whatever is dark that may seem to close in on us (like a fowler ready to trap a bird) will be chased away by His light. As the old song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, looks full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” He never fails us!

Apr. 7, 2020

Ps 78:52,53. “But He led forth His own people like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; And led them safely so they did not fear; But the sea engulfed their enemies.”

This entire Psalm is a recitation of the Lord’s dealings with His people in 72 verses, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. To hear the singing of it was a way of learning not only their history, but of the interactivity of the Lord in it, and how faithful He is.

It would be incredibly complex, but one wonders how that would look if we would see all of history that way. Not only that, but what if we were to see and acknowledge our Lord in current events unfolding, especially where His people who love and trust in Him are concerned?

When God’s people walked through the standing walls of water of the Red Sea, that had to have seemed frighteningly unnatural. What if it doesn’t hold? What if it crashes in on us? Yet there’s only one way through!

However, He led His people safely so they did not fear. Yet the Egyptians - careless and crazed in hot pursuit, mad with the goal of regaining control - went after them, only to be swallowed up and drowned as the walls of water crashed down and closed in upon them.

Pause here. Full stop. Ponder. Meditate on this.

What seemed deadly and threatening became a way through and out into freedom for those pursued; but to their pursuers it became a deadly trap and their demise.

Primarily the Red Sea is about Baptism and entering a new life in Christ. It is also reminiscent of the rending of the veil as Jesus died, splitting open the Way for former slaves of darkness and of the devil to walk forward into the freedom, righteousness, and blessing through the cross and the empty tomb. We walk forward by faith into His truth for us!

All is according to His plans and purposes - for us, in us, and through us whom He loves and calls to follow Him. We must keep following right on through. He always makes a way for us - even though to the natural eye it may seem as if what we pass through is about to fall upon us and engulf us (like 2 walls of water).

What is life to the sons and daughters of God will be death to the servants of darkness, although to the natural eye it may seem as if it is the other way around. We need to see with the eye of faith, not according to sight or here say! They will eventually, inevitably fall into their own traps.

Our ”work” is to keep our eye on Christ as the former captives to Pharaoh kept their eyes on Moses, up at the head of the line. Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ has us covered on both sides and also “covers our 6.” Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

The evil one may have all his high tech weaponry combined with his designer diseases ( or the illusion thereof?) within his “chariot” full of tricks, in hot pursuit of the sons and daughters of God. Yet at the right moment, those walls of water are scheduled to fall upon and cover the evil one and those who follow him. Their own schemes will be their demise, while the people born of the Holy Spirit walk forward, set free to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, enjoying His every benefit and blessing.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

PS: This is not one of those “hope they get theirs” messages. It does make the case for divine justice, or "what goes around comes around.” The hardest thing to do is to pray from someone who hates us, but that is always the first desire, in keeping with God’s desire to have all men saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. There is a time and a purpose for everything under heaven.

Mar. 7, 2020

Psalm 91: 2 (AMPC) “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!"

It is helpful to picture this dwelling place - as revealed in verse 1 - as a refuge or a fortress. Think about the pictures you have seen of ancient castles, hewn from the very mountain in which they are set. These to be sure can be called strongholds! Often on one side is a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet straight into the ocean. The sea crashes against this “wall” in all its great force and fury relentlessly, but in futility, for it cannot penetrate what is on the other side of that wall. Nor can any invading force arriving by ship even hope to enter and overtake. Those who arrive to attack will likely not survive their own efforts.

Huge walls surround this fortress on its other sides, which themselves are surrounded by craggy mountains and beast filled forests that threaten anyone who might be so audacious as to attempt to storm such a refuge.

A drawbridge is its front door - the only way in. Only those with the King’s permission can enter, coming and going, doing his bidding. Only one path leads to this entrance, a circuitous and narrow way. It is well protected by heavily armed and well trained guards, vigilant day and night as they patrol this path and surveil from its towers. One look at them would make anyone approaching think twice about his reasons for doing so! Unless of course his intention is to surrender himself in full to the King, to once and for all throw himself down before the mercies of the throne.

Spiritually speaking, King and Fortress and Refuge are one for such souls. The WAY to the fortress is through Jesus Christ alone, for any in need of God’s mercy, protection, and healing. Everything necessary is inside, for those who have greatly realized their need, having been assaulted by thieves and robbers (false teachers, the devil, the world system, and the flesh, and more - all adversaries of this fortress and those who seek refuge in Him). 

Those who seek asylum in this refuge will never be turned away, for here we have Jesus’ own promise to such souls: “All whom the Father has given (entrusted) to Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out - I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me.” (John 6:37 AMPC) 

Life may not seem like such a dwelling place. Even our churches - because of the culture which has assaulted and penetrated all too many of them - may no longer seem like places where it is conducive to finding a spiritual refuge, a place of quiet and reverence, where there is any sort of genuine sense of being “en-fortressed” by the Almighty.

Paradoxically this may have its purpose. Might it be in order for us to better redirect our orientation and intention toward a more prayerful and personal experience of our Lord God as refuge and fortress, in preparation for a time when the outer structures may not be as easily accessible?  Or so that we may be as Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of Him, to comprehend and apprehend Him as refuge and fortress - as the Holy Spirit, through His written Word, makes us increasingly aware that, through Christ alone by grace through faith, we now indwell Him and He indwells us? Could it be so that we become intimately acquainted with the Omnipotent yet personal One Who is not bound by walls made by man?

This is He Who “richly and daily supplies me with everything I need to support this body and life. He shields me from all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does out of pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Can it get any better than this? 

So we can pray this verse in praise of Him in Whom we live, move, and have our being, You are my refuge! You are my fortress, my God in Whom I trust! All thanks and praise be to You alone for this magnificent reality given to me because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ Who purchased and won me to be Your own! Let me live continually, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the awareness of Your life transforming love for me. Amen.

Mar. 6, 2020

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]." (Psalm 91:1 AMPC) 

What might it mean to dwell in this “place”, the Presence of the One Who is the Person of God Himself? We can only come into this through our Lord Jesus Christ, as we continually trust in Him. We’re shown here that we remain “stable and fixed,” as we “dwell in” - abide, remain, stay put - through abiding faith / trust / confidence in our Lord! 

This entire Psalm is chock full of many promises to those who love God and have been brought to faith in Christ. We should take this to heart, “For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes [answer] in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20.) Therefore, this is a good Psalm to keep before us in these days of great instability and disinformation and obfuscation, to meditate on it, and to personalize it as a prayer - even commit it to heart. 

Remember - We can take the cue from the very beginning - Psalm1:1,2 about where to fix our prayerful thoughts and attention:  “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.” 

The promise here in Psalm 91:1 is that no foe can withstand the power of Christ (to Whom is given all authority in heaven and on earth, per Matthew 28:18). Often the biggest foe is where we fix our attention. Will it be on this life’s concerns, or riches and wealth, the news, worries, or some other thing? Or instead might we “look up”?! “If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) Realize that if your new life is hidden with Christ in God, then you can see that you dwell in that “secret place” spiritually, and these promises are yours! 

Isn’t it worth knowing what they are? A daily verse by verse prayerful contemplation of Psalm 91 might be a very fruitful place to start, to make His promises your own, if you can see that you are God's own in Christ Jesus!

Jan. 18, 2020

Ephesians 2:3 (context verses 1-10). Among them (referring to those dead in trespasses and sins, the sons of disobedience under the prince of the power of the air) we too all (“we” - clearly Paul includes himself, although he had been quite “religious”) formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

At times it can seem like life is giving us a beating. The following are some thoughts about what this might be about, if we love Jesus and are truly desirous to follow Him. It helps to get some clarification on how things work in this relationship with Him.

When we are born of the Holy Spirit, or “born from above”, there is a difference between what we were by nature and what we have become and are becoming in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing short of a spiritual sea change (a transformation) - in thought, attitude, word, deed, worldview, and more. Everything of the self centered, self absorbed life decreases as Christ increases. That includes self righteousness appealing to human pride. Sometimes this is fast and drastic; at other times the pace is very slow. It depends on what God is doing and what He has in mind for the individual.

Locally along the coast of Lake Michigan, where the Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as the “Inland Seas”, we are being given a glimpse of this by the powerful forces of nature - if only we have eyes to see it. There is much of the “sea” rising up against the shore - sand, dunes, bluffs, trees, flora and fauna, trees, and even a few houses of those who have built on the sand are being washed away. The dirt and rocks are no match for the power of ever encroaching wind and waves combined. A sea change is being imposed upon the land by the forces of nature. 

Could this be a lesson God has placed in front of us through His creation? As the purpose of the water and wind will have its way, so shall the purpose of God!

The soil, sand, and whatever is growing from it, or is built on it, is being washed away by the power of the water. The “dirt” must go. It stands in the way of God’s plans and purposes for our life, to remold and reshape us into His likeness. We cannot move what stands in the way of that of our own volition. We are part of it in fact. But it cannot stand against the Holy Spirit, represented by the strong wind and relentless waves. Once this process is occurring, it reconfigures everything, never to be the same again. This is God’s kind of “re-formation”. It may mean a dismantling of how things have been entirely, followed by a restart. 

This analogy might be a poor one. When we ask and keep on asking for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:5-13), He does not damage us irreparably. He demolishes within us that which keeps us captive to the prince of this world, the works of the devil in us which Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8), his “hooks” of the world, and the flesh. He does not damage us like the waters beating against the shore, but He does “storm” the kingdom of darkness within us which has established a beachhead and a foothold in His kingdom! This occupation of His Kingdom by darkness is not to be allowed. Our body and being are God’s holy temple, and His will is to remove all within it that has been set up by the prince of this world (with our complicity!), that stands against His good intentions for us, which is His love and blessing. That is what brings brings Him glory.

At the same time He restores and rejuvenates us, evidentially validating all of God’s promises, which are yea (sure) and amen (firm) in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

If one is born from above, the process goes on to which we surrender, like the sands must surrender to the invincible sea - to His grace which changes us, causing a sea change within us. At times God’s love must be tough and persistent as a maelstrom. So it is good to understand that this can be a possibility. 

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Deuteronomy 32:39. 

If anyone is experiencing God’s sea changes, the evidence will be that we will see changes in that person. This witnesses to the reality taking place, in a living relationship with Christ Jesus. The old heart - core of the being and its motivations - is replaced by a heart that resembles Jesus, because His transformation is taking place within. What takes place on the inside is seen on the outside. At some point. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes very gradually.  

For truly, we are His workmanship! (Ephesians 2:10).