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Jason Silver

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2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 |

Thoughts and Reflections on Scripture

2019

January February March April May June July August

August

Friday, August 23rd, 2019
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Sometimes I find myself using a metaphor without even realizing it. For example, I might say something like, "stay on the straight and narrow," or refer to my life as a "journey." This section of Psalm 119 also uses the pathway to describe the preferred choices one can make in life.

In today's video, I filmed a route that crosses through our village, which is called the "Cataraqui Trail." It is a former railway line between Kingston and Smiths Falls, Ontario. It's a beautiful walk, which I find relaxing and peaceful.

Years ago, when the engineers first laid out the route for this railway line, they carefully noted the landscape through which it must pass. Because locomotives are not able to navigate sharp corners or climb steep grades, planning the route had to have been a time-consuming and challenging task! The railway line needs to visit specific towns and cities, be as direct as possible, avoid hilly terrain, span deep valleys, cross rivers, lakes, and swamps.

In a similar way, the ultimate Engineer, the God of all creation, has mapped out the ideal route to take through life. He didn't stop there, but also has walked it before us, and asks us to follow Him on this path to salvation. He knows our limitations. He understands that we face mountains of difficulty in life, valleys of sorrow, and many times encounter sharp corners which can take us by surprise.

Where are you on this path? Are you trying to find your own way, or walking in the law of the Lord? Perhaps it's time to consider whether your life has "jumped off the rails," if you need to "reorient" yourself to the truths of God?

I invite you now, to reaffirm your decision to follow in the ways of the Lord.

Amen

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Friday, August 16th, 2019
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Have you ever encountered a person who believes that true Christians should never suffer? Have you met someone who claims a "prosperity gospel," regularly praying for self, wealth, and health?

On Facebook, I often see posts by supposed Christian people claiming that their financial desires will be met if they only type "Amen" in the comment box. Others are less obvious, praying only that their needs will be met.

Of course, an absence of suffering is nothing like true Christianity, for we are modeling our lives after Jesus, the "suffering servant!"

Perhaps it's scripture like Psalm 112 which have brought some individuals to this doubtful place? Verses that say, "Happy are those who fear the lord," and "wealth and riches are in their houses," seem like compelling proof that this prosperity doctrine is true.

It's important to remember that even if we accumulate piles of gold and silver, we cannot take it with us to the afterlife. As it says in verse 9 of this psalm, we are righteous when we have distributed freely, and have given to the poor. What we receive, we should give away!

If you're tempted to focus on your own needs when you pray, maybe I can challenge you with this. Perhaps you can view your life as blessed, when you are more like Jesus, when you become a participant in his suffering. Maybe then you'll find yourself blest with a different kind of wealth and riches, rising in darkness as a light for the upright! Deal generously and lend, and conduct your affairs with justice, and then you will become gracious, merciful, and righteous!

Amen

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Friday, August 9th, 2019
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It almost looks as if the entire world is changing. Since 2014, Big walls are planned, or already built in countries like Greece, Spain, Hungary, Belize, Turkey, Costa Rica, Estonia, India, Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon, the United States, and many more.

These countries say they are attempting to protect against illegal immigration and terrorism. But for many, any immigration is seen as a type of invasion! Leaders are being elected who espouse "protectionism" and "anti-other," with promises to do even more to close borders.

"Fake news" from sites like Facebook may play a part in encouraging this fear, but the real problem is our hearts.

The fear in our hearts causes us to protect ourselves from pain, remove ourselves from challenging conversations, avoid conflict, withdraw from difficult relationships. We shutout points-of-view that differ from our own. It may be the easier reaction, but it's not the right reaction.

It's not the way of God. The way of God is love!

Despite what you may have heard, love does not come naturally to we humans. Rather, we need a supernatural injection of the Holy Spirit so we can recognize others as true brothers and sisters. We will be able to look at our whole planet as a unified country of souls, rather than aliens and outsiders who are somehow intrinsically different than we are.

There is a better leader to elect as King of this new world! He is a King who brings prosperity, who defends the cause of the poor, who acts justly and righteously! This King promotes peace, compassion, and deliverance! He is a Redeemer!

Let's take responsibility for the part we play in fear-mongering, and invite the Holy Spirit to rain down upon us, and cleanse the fear from our hearts! Let's recognize this new King as our true leader, and follow in His ways!

Amen

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Friday, August 2nd, 2019
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When I am close to nature, I feel close to God. I love feeling close to God, and so I spend as much time in nature as I can.

When I do, there are so many things to take pleasure in: limestone and granite poking out of the ground like the bones of the earth; crystal-clear lakes lapping the shoreline; loons, lamenting with eerie cries; cattails casting fluff to the breeze, to seed another generation; wind whipping my hair as I survey the endless skies; secret streams, sliding toward some unseen destination.

Taking in this beauty is like seeing the heart of God, the master creator.

Only a few believe in God anymore. The cities swell, the villages shrink, and I wonder if apathy toward the spiritual has anything to do with humanity's separation from nature. The wonder of the wild has been supplanted by the temptation of technology.

The human's faith in God is not a hinge upon which God's faithfulness to us swings. He is loyal and true when we are treacherous and false. He is always seeking us, revealing himself, waiting for a moment to break through our distractions. My immaturity and selfish ambition doesn't hinder God from using me to bless others. In fact, my weakness is the very thing through which God is best glorified.

The next time you have the opportunity to get away from the buildings, bustle, and busyness of your life, look for Him in the beauty of the earth. Recall the times He's faithfully cared for your needs, and worship Him for all He has done for you!

You are His child, His own. He loves you with a fierce and loyal love. He will never leave you, nor forsake you!

He is faithful.

Amen

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July

Friday, July 26th, 2019
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I really love to sing; there's something so freeing about singing. It feels like the singing voice is somehow connected to a primordial, ancient wire, deep within my chest. I feel a connection to something bigger than I am, something older than I am, something true, and right, and good.

I'm sure it's partly to do with the sudden increase of oxygen as I breathe deeply to belt out my praise. It may have something to do with the psychology of group participation, since my brothers and sisters next to me are experiencing many of the same emotions. Whatever the physiological reasons, as I vocalize, it's almost as if something awakens within me.

I suspect that singing might be our true species vocalization- before words, even. I imagine our earliest ancestors joining in song as they stare into the fire, slowly becoming aware of the beauty and the complexity of the world around them.

So how appropriate, then, to sing to the Lord! Is there any better use of our vocal cords? The expression of our intellect and our emotions, our mind and our heart; the use of our tongue to glorify our great God, to tell of his glory, to testify to those around us that he is greatly to be praised, and revered above all "gods;" there is nothing more natural, nothing more beneficial.

It's one more important reason to go to church. Like a log on a fire, burning alone, the hermit-Christian will find his spiritual flame flickering, perhaps even extinguishing altogether. We must gather together, to share the flame of faith, to be part of the great, unified conflagration of spiritual awakening!

So sing along with Psalm 96 today! Open your mouth, sing out your praise! Ascribe to the Lord glory, and strength; tell the nations that the Lord is king!

Amen.

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Friday, July 19th, 2019
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I love coming upon a path in a unexpected place!

I'll be weaving through the woods, for example, ducking under branches, tripping over obstacles, when I finally notice a track. Even if this track is made by animals, it represents the tried-and-true way through the forest. It has seen enough traffic to be visible, wearing down the vegetation, and it's a safe route. If I walk this path, then at the very least, I can avoid the pitfalls one encounters when blazing their own trail.

In Psalm 25, David uses the path as a metaphor, to describe the ideal behaviour for a person who wants to live in a "right" way. God's law is like a map to a meaningful life. The routes are written down for us to find our way through an often difficult and tragic life.

The people who came before us, passed these pathways down to us; first as spoken words, inspired by God, and then when writing was invented, encoded for all generations to come.

"All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees."

God's scripture is like a guide. We don't have to make our own roads, nor should we. Just because a road is old, that doesn't make it irrelevant, in fact, the opposite is true!

Follow the way!

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Friday, July 12th, 2019
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It sounds sappy, but the best day of my life was when I married my sweetheart, Joanne.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes, I understand. But that day marked the beginning of a new life for us both. We decided, each of us, to try to put the other at the top of our priorities. We embarked upon a journey of personal self-sacrifice. As a result, we have over 25 years experience together, in which we have supported one another through joys and sorrows, pains and pleasures, moments of despair, and moments of elation! We have four wonderful and interesting children, photo albums full of memories, and we look forward to a blessed future.

So you can see why I honour the day of our wedding! It was truly a holy day!

Speaking of holy, the wedding is an appropriate metaphor we see throughout scripture. Ancient writers describe the coming messiah as the bridegroom, and his people, the bride, who wait expectantly for his arrival.

Like a marriage, the God-relationship requires commitment, even when things are tough. Joanne and I have let each other down numerous times, failing to live up to the ideal. Our commitment to God also requires fidelity, honesty, vulnerability, and truthfulness.

Classical Jewish scholars have long agreed that Psalm 45 refers to the Jewish messiah. As Christians we believe that this messiah has come, in the person of Jesus, himself a Jew descended from the line of David! This holy Groom inserts himself into our lives and he 'husbands' us toward character and truth. We, in turn, receive him. We submit to his love and direction, and so bear the fruit of this holy union: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!

In each of the Gospels, the writers describe Jesus as this messianic bridegroom, and the church as his bride. The book of Hebrews actually quotes from Psalms 45, and Revelation is full of bridegroom/bride references!

Even if it sounds sappy, I am eager to be pursued by my bridegroom, Jesus Christ! I welcome him into my life and home, and want nothing more than to serve him eagerly, and passionately.

Who's with me?

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Friday, July 5th, 2019
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In this video, you may notice a discomforting juxtaposition between energetic music, paired with dark images.

I went with this combination because it is a real tension for believers. On one hand, as people of faith, we push ourselves to find comfort in God. We know we should sing, even on the darkest day. We do not want to be brooders, sorrowing and disheartened.

Yet, as this psalmist says, sometimes we refuse to be comforted. Perhaps the comfort is superficial, a distraction from the pain and brokenness we feel. Sometimes we refuse to be comforted because we are afraid to forget, even for a moment, the troubling circumstances which hold us in their grip.

I've said it before: the antidote for suffering is to stop focusing on one's own pain, and to instead focus on the deeds of God. Remember, as the psalmist does: the deeds of the Lord, the wonders of old, his work, his holiness, his greatness displayed among his people!

I try to set up memory mile-markers, as touch-stones for my own life. I can look back at these moments, because I demarcated the times God rescued me. As one person put it, never doubt in the darkness what God has clearly shown in the light. If you fail to note those times of grace, how will you recall them?

Has God shown himself to you? Perhaps you should write down those "mercy moments" in which he made himself known. Use it as a reference every time you cry aloud to God.

Amen.

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June

Friday, June 28th, 2019
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I asked my wife, Joanne today, "Do you have any ideas for a blog to write to go with this week's Psalm?"

After she listened through it, she said, "You know, you and I are drawn more to the melancholy, sad songs. We like the worship that pulls us up from despair when we feel hopeless. We sing out with songs like, 'I am a sinner, if it's not one thing, it's another.' But when I hear this kind of exuberant praise song with bouncy music, I have a hard time relating to it."

For a moment, I didn't know what to say. I was thinking, "Okay, that's no help."

But then she continued, "This is exactly the kind of song we need to sing, even if we don't feel it! God deserves our praise!"

As always, Joanne nailed it. It's so true. A few weeks ago we realized that nearly all of the worship songs in our congregation's repertoire were slow. We decided to set a goal to change that, and to start introducing songs which worship our God in a celebratory way!

Even if we don't feel like singing, and even if we're in a difficult period of time, God is no less deserving. And many times, when we go through the motions of praise and celebration, we take command of a downcast attitude and find our feelings following our lead!

Not just that, but It's good for us to look for things to be thankful for. It's good for us to develop a discipline of praise, and to remember that God is always bigger than our problems.

None of this is simple, it's certainly not easy. I'm still on a journey myself, but I know where I'm headed! I'm getting my eyes of myself, I'm looking up at the beauty of this world, I'm finding things to be thankful for!

Want to join me?

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Friday, June 21st, 2019
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Where have the faithful gone? Are there any remaining among humankind, who are godly?

This is the question King David asks at the beginning of his song, and then he starts describing examples of this godlessness. I want you to note something: all of his examples involve speech!

He says these ungodly lie to one other, and they flatter with “double hearts,” in other words, dishonest motivation. They are boasters, and try to convince people with their wagging tongues. They believe these tongues are all they need to “prevail.”

An out-of-control tongue can cause great trouble. If in doubt, consider a few of these verses from Proverbs:

• Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. (Proverbs 10:19)
• The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
• The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (Proverbs 15:28)
• Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
• Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity. (Proverbs 21:23)
• Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20)

There are dozens of examples!

When I was a young man, I thought of flattery as a good thing. By flattering a person, I could make them feel good about themselves, and possibly put myself in that person's “good graces.”

The truth about flattery, which I eventually realized, is that it's a type of deceit, since the recipient can't trust a flatterer's motivations. Maybe it's just a nice compliment, or maybe someone is looking to ingratiate themselves to you.

In the second half of the song, David contrasts the evil words of the wicked, with the pure promises of the Lord. He likens them to the purest of silver; something of great value!

What can we conclude from this? It matters what we say! We are to reflect the love, truth, and kindness of the Father in our speech! We are representing Him!

Amen

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Friday, June 14th, 2019
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If you've seen a few of my lyric videos, you've probably noticed by now how much I love the outdoors! Trees, lakes, valleys and hills provoke a sense of well-being in my soul.

Now that I'm videoing with a higher quality camera, I'm often amazed at the complexity of detail one can see, when zooming in closely. The texture of tree bark, the soft velvet of a flower petal, the intricate design, so evident in everything. It's easy to pass by these common views and never even notice.

The reason I mention this is because this irreducible complexity seems to exist in scripture too! As one reads and studies God's holy word, new layers and details come into view. What I may have glossed over at one time, suddenly has new texture and detail I didn't notice before!

Take, for example, Psalm 61. One layer might be found in the phrase, “shelter of your wings.” We may be familiar with the picture of a mother-hen protecting her chicks, but another reference David could be referring to, are the cherubim wings of the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. Maybe also, the wings surrounding the interior of God's holy tabernacle.

What a metaphor! We are truly safe when we align our lives with worship and adoration! When we are in God, immersing ourselves in holy worship, we are then beneath the shelter, and protection, of His wings!

There is no place I would rather be. Father, gather me and my brothers and sisters together, as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings!

God is certainly a source of safety! Living our lives aligned by his rules and directives provides one level of protection, as does make one's life oriented toward worship.

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Friday, June 7th, 2019
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Is God even paying attention?

I mean, look at what happens under God's very nose: the poor are persecuted, the helpless are ambushed, the innocent are killed! The wicked person brazenly does whatever they want, and essentially, they taunt God.

If God is watching, how can he let these things happen?

I'm not being heretical here; these are the thoughts from the writer of Psalm 10. He says it's like God is hiding in times of trouble.

Harsh words. Does it make you feel uneasy when someone puts doubt into words? For a lot of people, thinking such things is a lack of faith.

I believe that it takes MORE faith to acknowledge doubt and continue to believe, than it does to ignore nagging uncertainty and pretend your faith is unshakeable. How will you know it's unshakeable if you don't put it to the test?

Throughout this Psalm, the writer seems to complain of the evildoers but also the God who doesn't seem to be noticing. It's not a question of whether the psalmist has faith or not, because in the end, he expresses confidence in God's judgement.

He chooses to believe that God will hear, and that God will do right for the helpless. He chooses to believe that God will continue to act the way he has in history. He acknowledges that the LORD is truly King forever, and in the end, he will see justice is done.

Do you agree?

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May

Friday, May 31st, 2019
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Are you needy?

Sometimes I meet people who present themselves as highly successful, amazing, individuals. They seem preoccupied with how wonderful they are, and I often ponder how they can be so self-deceived.

I suspect that part of the reason people want to come across as amazing, is that they want others to like them. Perhaps they think that if they talk about all of their successes and abilities, then others will be impressed.

The opposite is usually true.

I do understand how demeaning it can seem to confess of one's own insignificance. To be unremarkable seems like a step away from being unworthy, and no one wants to be unworthy, especially before God.

Yet, in David's Prayer, from Psalm 86, he appeals to God by saying, “For I am poor and needy...” It's the first of several reasons he proposes to God for why God should help him.

Why does David think that confessing his own inabilities, and admitting his own weakness, should cause God to hear and answer him? It's because David knows that God is full of love and compassion. He knows that God is, in fact, moved by David's neediness. He's correct! A proud and haughty heart is despised by the Lord.

Many of us are afraid that if we don't deserve God's care, we won't receive it. The actual truth is that we could never deserve it, for we are incredibly unworthy. All of us.

We think we must somehow induce God to forgive us, through tears, promises of better behaviour, religious observances; in fact, God is ready to forgive us now, and we need only admit our weakness.

Don't wait to repent, and to ask for forgiveness. Time doesn't make God more forgiving. It isn't possible! He is ready to forgive you now. Admit to your weakness, own up to your faults, tell him you are poor and needy, and the God of compassion will hear!

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Friday, May 24th, 2019
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Do you have any enemies?

It's kind of weird to think about; when I think of the word “enemy,” I imagine some silhouetted figure, hiding in the shadows, waiting to take me down.

Stop for a moment, and recall those who might seem to be against you. The Psalms make mention of enemies quite a bit, so I think it's a worthy consideration. Maybe you know of people who gossip about you behind your back, or accuse you of things you don't do. Maybe their war against you is more subtle than the stranger in the alleyway. Perhaps they're kind to your face, but slander you to others.

In the early days of Christianity, believers in the Messiah were persecuted as well. The people of the Roman Empire accused Christians of all kinds of deviant behaviour:

· They were accused of hostility to the emperors and conspiracy against the state.
· They were accused of incest.
· They were accused of cannibalism (eating the Lord's supper).
· They were accused of being atheists.
· They were accused of being “haters of humanity.”
· They were accused of being the reason why problems plagued the empire.

Of course, none of these things were true. Christians were good citizens and prayed for the emperor, they lived pure moral lives, and never practiced anything like cannibalism! They were certainly not atheists! Haters of humanity? Christians loved others, and showed it all the time. They made the empire better, not worse.

These lies were commonly held and believed, and Christians were persecuted because of them. The apologists of the early church did what they could to tell the truth, but it was a losing public-relations battle.

There are many mistruths and much disinformation held about Christians, even today. Christians are accused of being child molesters, truth deniers, violence lovers, overbearing and domineering, angry and obstinate.

Yes, we sin, and yes, we fall short of God's ideal for us, but like David, in verse 4, we can say, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

Let's join as brothers and sisters for humanity, to consider the poor, to maintain integrity, and to live as God would have us live!

Amen.

Source: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/psalm-41/

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Friday, May 17th, 2019
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Stuck - completely stuck in the mud. It didn't matter if I went in forward or reverse, my car wouldn't move.

I was going to be late, and there was nothing to be done. I called out in desperation to my God: give ear to my words, O Lord!

Unfortunately, it didn't matter how passionately I cried out, He would not give my wheels any more traction. I put it all on the line, I used every ounce of faith, I recalled scripture about moving mountains and mustard seeds, but to no avail.

We've all been in a similar situation; probably a lot more serious than being late for work. It doesn't matter how desperately we cry out to God, sometimes He just doesn't seem to be listening. In order to save some semblance of faith, we tell ourselves that our prayers must be outside of God's will, or that he has different timing. It's either that, or question his existence, right?

Eventually I found a neighbour who used a tractor to tow me back onto the road, but that event has remained with me for 30 years. Since God didn't come through in the way I thought he needed to, how would I re-evaluate prayer and faith? There must be something to learn in this, right? What part of my assumptions were wrong?

I don't think it helps to say that God had some other purpose in mind, or that I wasn't praying in his will, or that I didn't have enough faith, or the timing was wrong. I think we have to be honest about our disappointment with God, and decide whether or not our faith is dependent on how he answers our prayers.

I've come to look at it from a parent's point of view. Children are constantly asking for things, they are continually pushing against the limits, crying for this or that, and my job as a parent is to provide boundaries, and to be a gatekeeper for their fleshly desires. Even though they think they need everything they ask for; even though they're pushing against the rules they encounter, they actually thrive when there's a hard boundary in place.

It's not good for children when they can control their guardians. As an outsider looking at pushover parents, I'm tempted to lose respect for the one who is supposed to be the adult. In the same way, we would not benefit from, nor respect a God who we can control.

So when I'm stuck in the metaphorical mud, and God doesn't seem to be listening, I remind myself of this. Sometimes he answers, and it's strong and clear. Other times, maybe even most times, there doesn't seem to be an answer.

Can you accept that?

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Friday, May 10th, 2019
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Holiness: it's not a word we use in everyday conversation. Some people might not even really understand what it means, other than an adjective for profanity! But in this Psalm, it's definitely a keyword of importance, and I think it's worth unpacking its meaning.

In English, if someone says something is holy, the common definition is pure, sacred, righteous or pious. But this isn't the correct Biblical definition at all.

The original Hebrew word, “qadosh” is more accurately defined as “set apart for a special purpose.” Israel was qadosh because they were separated from the other nations as servants of Elohiym. The furnishings in the tabernacle were also qadosh, as they were not to be used for anything except for the work in the tabernacle. While we may not think of ourselves as “holy,” we are in fact set apart from the world to be Elohiym's servants and his representatives.

I thought about how Psalm 99, and the Bible in general, state that God is Qadosh (holy), and it made me wonder how he is set apart “for a special purpose.” To say that seems like we “use” God for special purposes, which doesn't seem right. But then I found an article which said simply, that he is set apart from us! Maybe it's similar to a King being set apart from his subjects. Our Holy King must be approached with reverence and respect.

But despite being “wholly other,” he's not removed from us. He has inserted himself right into our midst, moving among us and drawing us to himself. His “Holy” Spirit is the means by which he communicates intimately with us.

Knowing this about God's holiness, let's reevaluate Psalm 99!

If you were to divide it into three sections, verses 1 to 3 seem to be about the Holy Presence of God; verses 4 and 5 are the Holy Strength of God; and verses 6 and 7, the Holy Revelation of God.

Think about what makes God's presence set apart: His presence makes people tremble; he is exalted above all people; he has a great and awesome name!

Think about what makes God's strength set apart: He is a mighty king; he loves justice, and executes it fairly among us!

Think about what makes his revelation set apart: he calls common, everyday people – people who make mistakes and need to be corrected – to be his priests, and when these individuals cry to him, he answers! How different, how set apart that is from any other God!

We can agree with the psalm-writers response of worship! Verse 8 and 9 tell us to worship our Holy God, for he is forgiving and an avenger of wrongs!

Come, let us worship at his feet!

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Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
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Have you ever encountered a person who is afraid to welcome religion into their life for fear of losing freedom?

I think it's pretty common. Most people think of Christianity as based on rules, and I can understand why. I see it modeled in terrible stereotypes on television, and most of us can recall a bad experience with a zealous “Christian” relative.

It looks like people have felt this way about religion for thousands of years! Take the first three verses of Psalm 2 as an example:

1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.’

These verses describe how the various people of the earth plot and plan to escape what they perceive as the restrictions that God puts upon them. They see God as a “bondage-bringer,” and this very attitude is evidence of their spiritual deficit. God is, in fact, a bondage breaker!

How little time we spend thinking of the things we're in bondage to: our worries and fears, our phobias, our anger, our pet-annoyances, grievances, and discomforts. We're slaves to our addictions, our bad habits, our controlling natures; our childhood traumas, pains, and disappointments.

Imagine having these chains broken for once and for all! It's not only possible, it's reality, proven over and over again by anyone who has taken up their cross and found help in God.

Happy are all who take refuge in him.

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April

Friday, April 26th, 2019
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Down a dead-end road, past a tiny hamlet, in an area where hardly anyone comes, stands a building with dry, gray walls. The antique rail fences around it seem to fend off encroaching modernity.

In situations like this, when I come upon a bit of a mystery, I can't help but weave a story in my mind. Whether or not this building was ever a home, I try to imagine the circumstances which might cause it to be abandoned. What sort of trouble did these people come upon? Did a mother or father find themselves in a difficult situation, in need of protection, but without a place to turn?

As the camera pans over the flaking skin of this building, the words of Psalm 20 seem to echo in a type of irony: May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary, from the very city of Zion!

One trite response might be that these people could not have called upon God, or they would never have found themselves in such a situation. But let's be honest: misfortune awaits us all, whether we are godly or ungodly. In fact, at times it would appear that those who orient their lives around God are more likely to suffer such circumstances.

Life is tragedy! If you haven't experienced it yet, just wait a little while. And when you do, keep your trust in God, and the principles of truth. Yes, some people take pride in earthly strength, the metaphorical chariots and horses, but these will collapse and fail! Instead of taking pride in these things, take pride in God's name, and you will stand upright, even as life falls to ruin around you.

Amen.

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Friday, April 19th, 2019
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In the 1870s, a group of vigilante farmers from nearby Verona, who were upset about their flooded fields and ruined crops, crept down late one night and blew up the Petworth dam.

Today, the village is nearly a ghost town, and only a few ruins remain from the heyday of Petworth's rein.

When I view these kingdoms of men in decay, stones fallen to the ground, trees growing through foundations, it makes me wonder why we find beauty in these types of structures? What about ruins is so appealing?

Could it be that these structures awaken within us a sense of the impermanence of the physical? It has become an archetype of literature today: this awareness that humanity is here for a brief moment. Our time is fleeting, our kingdoms are temporary, while God's kingdom is eternal!

I'm struck by the obvious contrast to the never-ending Kingdom of God!

His kingdom truly is forever! For all time, all the works of his hands, all the angels and hosts of heaven, will bless him! Let's add our voice to the cacophony of praise!

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Amen.

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Friday, April 12th, 2019
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As our icy winter melts away this year, many of the beautiful waterfalls in our area are even more stunning than usual. The roar of these torrents is something amazing to experience! As you can see in this video, the water has surpassed its boundaries, swamped the nearest trees, and rushed out to make new paths.

I would imagine it to be very difficult to constrain water. Blocking one route would just force the water to find a different way, and then perhaps cause even more destruction. It MUST flow, almost as if it has a life and power of its own!

There are a lot of verses in the Psalms that compare rushing waters, torrents and floods to the mighty power of God, and one can certainly see why! The rush of the river cleans everything in its path, it scrubs away even at the rocks it encounters and even breaks up the ice! All the while, it brings life to the many types of creatures who drink and grow near it!

As I stood on the outcrops overlooking this power, I focused on planting my feet, and I was careful not to fall over the edge. Sometimes the swirling water almost made me dizzy, so that I would lose my balance and sway a bit from side to side!

Aren't these wonderful metaphors for the power of the Holy Spirit? God is terrifying, and indescribably powerful! Everything in his way must be scrubbed clean or destroyed! And yet the life that He brings is undeniable!

“How awesome are your deeds, O God! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you!”

Amen.

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Thursday, April 4th, 2019
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David was a man after “God's own heart.” Even from a young age, David depended upon his God to protect him. In faith, David, the shepherd, could fight off wild animals to protect the sheep, and recognized the role God played in giving him victory.

David the young boy-soldier, boldly confronted the Philistines without armour, confident in his success, because he knew God would help him.

So in verse 2, when his enemies taunt him that there is no “no help for him in God,” this is the ultimate of insult. The fact that David included it in his song may be a window into his heart: perhaps he himself feared it could be true.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have my own son rise up against me, as Absalom did against David. At this time, many were siding with Absalom, and even David's advisor, Ahithophel, had turned his back on him.

But despite all of this, I love how David says, “though ten thousand rise against me, I will not be afraid.” His lack of fear wasn't because of some self-confidence in his own abilities, but simply because of his faith in God to deliver him, as he had so many times before.

David could sleep, and rise again the next day, because he trusted God. There's something beautiful about being able to continue on in life, simply because one trusts God.

This is how I would like to encourage you. When you feel discouraged, disheartened, threatened even, rest in full peace, and wake, ready to serve your God. Let God be your protection, and trust his love.

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March

Friday, March 29th, 2019
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I read a quote today by Biblical scholar Charles Spurgeon, where he referred to tears as ‘liquid prayers.’ It's an interesting way to think of it. This Psalm mentions tears a lot. David poetically describes how he floods his bed with tears, and his couch with weeping. Further on, he says that God has heard the sound of his weeping.

It's not that our loving Father in heaven is impressed with displays of emotion, but rather, he loves passionate hearts! David wasn”t afraid to cry before the LORD, and God honored the voice of his weeping.

As is so often the case in David's Psalms, he acknowledges that God's anger against him is his own fault. We don't know what David feels guilty about, but he calls upon God for mercy.

The fact of the matter is that none of us can be good enough for God's pleasure. If we're honest with ourselves and with God, we too should soberly acknowledge our need for grace, and the absense of our own righteousness.

God saves us from ourselves, not because we deserve it, but because he loves us. Let us all orient ourselves around our real need for God, and call to him to save us! When we're in despair, even the product of our own making, God wants to help us!

Call on him, and see how he can make beauty out of chaos!

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Thursday, March 21st, 2019
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Ah, revival. There have been moments in history where entire cultures came back to God at once. During John and Charles Wesley's era, for example, or via revivalists like Charles Finney. Even recently, we saw Billy Graham awaken the hearts of people all over the world.

It's like a pendulum swing as culture turns their back on God, then returns to him. The ancient Israelites are a great example of this back and forth, back and forth.

Now we find ourselves in this situation. Churches all over the country have closed their doors, and those which remain open are dismally empty.

“Will you be angry with us forever?” This question resonates with me. What will be the impact of our culture's decision to turn from God? When will he put away his indignation, and when will he bring revival back to our land?

The ‘fear’ of God, the respect and awe which causes a person to approach Him with humilty and reverence, well this is something sadly missing today.

Let's join together, let's turn our hearts back to God! When we do, we'll see peace come upon our land! We'll see our land become prosperous and good!

Let's unite in purpose! Let's become the church again! Not full of judgement, anger, selfishness, seeking after wealth, but instead seeking first his kingdom. Then the Lord will give what is good and the land will yeild its increase.

Amen?

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Friday, March 15th, 2019
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This Psalm is used often in different religious traditions for the dedication of a temple, cathedral, or church. It makes sense: the author sings about the loveliness of God's house, and how he'd rather be there than anywhere else!

As I considered this, it got me to thinking: wouldn't it be different for Christians, since Jesus came to dwell in our bodies, making us living temples of his Holy Spirit?

Well, for one thing, we don't need to go to a special building to meet with God. He lives within us, and we can find him in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ!

That's great news for me, because there's something supernatural about standing alone in the woods, with running water nearby maybe; the tall pines and oak trees like pillars in a temple of the forest. Everywhere you look, new life springs up, finding protection in the cracks of rocks, surviving on the life-giving water in such plentiful supply.

I still love worshipping with others at church, of course! However, there's something very meaningful to me in getting away from the hubbub, technology everywhere, and to acquaint myself with what it means to be a creature in creation.

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Friday, March 8th, 2019
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One of the things I love about this portion of scripture, is the honest way the author acknoledges how life can be terrible! We're caught
“in the net,” as he says, and we are given unreasonably heavy burdens on our backs! God lets people ride right over us, and we're forced through tests.
Our integrity is determined in a crucible much like the way one purifies and tests silver, by melting it down.

This is tough stuff!

Despite this honest look at life, at the very beginning of verse 8, we're encouraged to bless God. We should praise him, and loudly! He has kept us alive, and throughout it all, these challenges, we have not slipped, thanks to God.

If you've come through difficult experiences, and you bother to acknowledge that your survival of the challenge was in large part because of God's provisional hand, then you know exactly what I mean. You just want to sing out, “Come and hear, all you who fear our God, and I will tell what he has done! I cried aloud to him, and he heard my prayer!”

Life can be tragic”” actually, that might not even be a truthful statement. It might be more truthful to say life IS tragic. I have friends who are struggling with some of the worst things we humans are asked to deal with. Children with mental health issues, spouses who betray our trust, abusive situations, the list goes on.

But God has TRULY listened, and he has given heed to the words of our prayer!

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer!

Amen

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Friday, March 1st, 2019
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In this Psalm, David sings about praising God with his “whole heart,” and that might make you stop and think for a moment”“ how is it significant to think of our heart as being wholly involved in the worship of our God?

It's something we should think about: whether or not we're praising God as much as we can, in as many ways as we can.

Since I'm a musician, I tend to think of music as the primary way to worship, but that is just plain wrong. In this Psalm, David describes an important, and often neglected way to praise Him: to tell of all His marvellous works. As one article put it, “simply remembering and telling the great things God has done is a wonderful way to praise Him!”

David doesn't stop there! After recalling how God had saved his people, and destroyed their enemies, he goes on to recount aspects of God's personality. He celebrates that God is a stronghold for the oppressed, and a fortress in times of trouble. He thanks God that He has not forsaken those who seek Him. He affirms that God hears the cry of the afflicted, and lifts us all up from the gates of death!

This whole Psalm could read like instructions for how to praise the Lord. Let's join where we're all sitting right now, and soak in the truth of this Psalm: let's worship Him!

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February

Friday, February 22nd, 2019
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From what I have discovered in a commentary, David wrote this Psalm as a response to some terrible actions carried out by a guy named Doeg, ‘the Edomite.’ Because Saul's own soldiers would not, he instead asked Doeg to murder priests and others in the tabernacle of the Lord. This amounted to a total of 85 priests, and untold women and children from the priestly village! The story is described in 1 Samuel, chapters 21 and 22.

Perhaps David was sarcastically speaking, when in the first line he refers to Doeg as “O ‘mighty’ man,” since it doesn't take much bravery nor strength to kill priests, women, children, infants, cattle, donkeys and sheep!

I'm impressed with the last line of 1 Samuel 22, where David takes the responsibility upon himself. He said he knew that Doeg would betray him to Saul: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don”t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”

I think I've known a few people who loved evil more than good. I've had the misfortune of working with people who wove their speech in such a way that destruction was the result. Each of us should make an effort to connect with our inner motivations, and to govern our tongue accordingly.

I also understand that each of us is responsible for the evil around us. I am culpable, even complicit, for not standing up, saying something, taking charge and responsibility, and initiating the change.

Join with me, take ownership of the state of our world, bathe it in prayer, and also take action to initiate change within your own reach.

Amen

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Friday, February 15th, 2019
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"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” A famous question we all recall as Jesus’ words upon the cross at the moment before his death. But how many realize it's a quote from this Psalm?

It makes me wonder if Jesus’ intent was for his followers to look up this Psalm, and see it ”“ in it's entirety ”“ in the context of Jesus’ life and death?

It's certainly an interesting suggestion. He refers to his ancestors’ faith, he refers to his being a worm. We typically break up this Psalm within liturgical services by ending it at verse 15.

At least that was my experience in the Anglican church, where I served for a few years. It's a shame we end at verse 15, because it goes on to reference Jesus’ hands and feet being pierced, the dividing of his clothing, it also refers to “his afflicted one,” an obvious reference to the suffering servant!

If you haven't done so yet, I recommend you really soak through this entire Psalm, because it's beautiful, and an obvious prophecy by his own forefather, David!

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Friday, February 8th, 2019
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When I lead worship at my church, I regularly remind people that God is DUE praise. He DESERVES it. It is so much his due, that Jesus tells us that the rocks and trees will cry out in praise if we do not.

That would be a pretty unfortunate state-of-affairs if those who are made in the very image of God were outdone by an inanimate rock!

Sometimes I like to rethink verses in my own words:

· You deserve praise and our commitment to you.
· All life will someday come and praise you.
· Why? When we're drowning in sin, you forgive us.
· It makes everyone happy when you choose us, and bring us into your presence!
· One place where we'll actually feel deeply satisfied, is in your holy place.
· You save us in amazing ways!
· It doesn't matter how far away we are on earth, you rescue us.
· Think about how strong someone would have to be to build mountains, to silence crashing waves, or to hear over noisy people!
· Everywhere you go, people stop in awe because of you and your deeds!
· You replenish everything constantly, with life-giving water!
· Even our food comes from you - actually all we have is from your goodness!
· All of nature is expressing joy because of you! Their beauty is like a shout of joy, attesting to your provision!

How's that?

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January

Friday, January 25th, 2019
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Frankly, I'd love to hear God speak to me out loud”“ especially in times of struggle. Oh, to hear a clear, obvious voice: “Jason, do this, or that.”

Most of the time, it's more of a quiet leading, a sense that if I only admit it to myself, I know exactly what God would have me do. I hear him speaking that I should reach out, to love more, to sacrifice my own needs for the needs of those around me.

If you've been part of the church for any length of time, you're probably accustomed to the idea that God speaks in a still small voice. Yet, imagine the power in that voice, which would cause such a quiet sound to break strong timbers, make mountains jump, or flash fire from the heavens!

I wonder if it's one of those “upside down kingdom” things. You know, the first are last, the least are the greatest, that kind of thing. God's still, small voice is actually so intense that it overpowers and overwhelms everything!

It may not be loud in volume, but it's great in impact!

Amen

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Friday, January 4th, 2019
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When I was a kid, there were times when I was expected to wait silently. I was asked to be patient, and not get pushy or demanding or whiny. It was hard as a child, and it's still a difficult thing to do!

Now try putting yourself in the position of this Psalm-writer, who says his soul waits silently on God! This is not easy! Who else finds waiting a really hard thing to do?

I think the key to patience when waiting on God is hidden in verse 5, which says “...for my hope is from him.” He can wait in silence because he has HOPE! That's how we wait. (Note too that he says even the hope comes FROM God).

A couple of weeks ago our pastor reminded us that hope is not the same as wishful thinking. We wish for things we don't often expect to happen, like wishing we had a million dollars!

Though we tend to use the word “hope” interchangeably with “wish,” there is a big difference between the words: hope has a sense of EXPECTATION!

I hope Christ returns, and that means I await it with expectation.

He is my rock: stable and sure.
He is my salvation: the one who rescues me from myself!
He is my fortress: he protects me from harm!

Even in the midst of waiting with expectation, we all struggle with disappointment and pain, and the Psalm-writer encourages us to pour out our heart before him!

I hope this is encouraging to you! God is the source of all hope and power, and love, so wait silently before him, in expectation!

Amen

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Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
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When I was a kid, I loved to build forts. You probably did too: drape a blanket over the coffee table, or nail some boards to a tree. I also liked to draw castles on graph paper, complete with secret passages, unconquerable defenses, integrated escape routes, and more.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I think I was acting out an ancestral instinct to find a place of protection.

I looked up ‘refuge’ using Google, and it defines it as a place to hide, a place to be protected from one's enemies. When you have refuge, you are safe from pursuit, from danger, or from trouble. A refuge is a type of shelter from whatever may assail.

It might not make sense to the casual observer why someone would seek refuge in God. God can't be seen, or touched, and some might even say it seems foolhardy to put one's safety in the hands of something so intangible.

And yet, if you speak with someone who stands on this faith, you'll hear the same thing: God is a protector! He blesses us in innumerable ways when we put our trust in him! He helps us to “not be moved.” He provides us with gladness and moves our souls to rejoicing!

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