Monday, March 29, 2010

An Email Scammer Called Me Today!

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I write back to those email spammers/scammers who are kind enough to use a valid return email address.  I have written a short note that I have saved as "autotext" in Outlook so I only need push a few keys to insert it in a reply:
Due to the 99% chance that you are engaging in criminal activity (theft), we have no desire to do business with you. However, I do desire that God bless you. If you are indeed, as I suspect, a thief and a liar, please, give up your wickedness. Jesus will take away your bad heart and give you a new, good heart if you will allow Him. Please read a Bible and find Jesus before it is too late. All thieves and liars will go to hell. (Revelation 21:8). I don’t want that to happen to you.
I've had a few of them write back, admitting that they are fraudsters and describing a bit of the genuine hardships of living in Nigeria.

Today though, I actually had one call me on the phone!

I'd received this email on Thursday (and replied the same day):

From: Toner Needed []
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 8:13 PM
Subject: Attention Purchasing - Joseph Taylor


Kindly advise if you could supply us the items mentioned below.

1.HP CC530A Black Toner (OEM)......5 pcs

2. Usb drives 4gB Memory capacity.....50 pcs

3. Packaging/masking tape...1.1/2 x 60 YRDS..........500 rolls

Joseph Taylor

Worldlink Central
1012 West Beverly Blvd., Unit 990
Montebello, CA 90640

562.215.4843 Phone
562.443.1367 Cell
206.350.5967 Fax

This email has a number of marks of fraud. (If you don't see them, it's because you've not had the joy of running an ecommerce site for very long!  For more on recognizing scam emails, you can check out sites like  Amazingly that didn't stop the author from calling me and expressing his anger that I had "falsely" accused him of being a scammer.  Even more surprisingly, he spoke perfect English without an accent! 

After his call, I checked him out more thoroughly and found even more evidence that he is indeed a scammer.

Which raises the question: how could a thief be so brazen?  No, I'm not using this as a lead-in to a conversation about politicians.  Actually I want to talk about your heart and my heart!

When I talk with someone like "Joseph" my first reaction is to think, "Oh, what a terrible person.  I'm glad I'm not like him!"  But is that really true?  What is the real difference between Joseph's heart and mine?  He steals.  I have stolen.  He lies.  I have lied.  He pretends to be something he's not.  I've been a hypocrite too.  He's hurting people.  I've hurt people too.  The only remaining reason why Joseph seems worse than us is because he refused to admit his guilt when confronted with the truth.  But is confession after confrontation necessarily a virtue?  Admission of guilt can be a face-saving technique rather than a sign of genuine repentance.

So the only difference between Joseph's heart and Daniel's heart is that Jesus has captured mine, and is washing it clean with His blood, giving me new desires, desires to love God and love my neighbor.  Lord Jesus, please do this in Joseph's heart too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why November Won't Stop Obamacare

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
The above two quotes (original sources unknown) have been popular among conservatives since the 1950s.  Obviously foreseeing a nation's decline and avoiding it are two different things.

I think that the Democrats have overplayed their hand.  The 2010 elections will probably be a repeat of the 1994 elections.  But I doubt our president's health plan will be repealed.  The Republicans have not repealed Social Security or Medicare, so why do they think they'll repeal "Obamacare"?  In another 20 years the voters will be so hooked on government health care that any talk of privatizing it will be quickly quashed. President Obama may even win reelection in 2012 (as Clinton did in 1996) if he manages his political capital more wisely from now on.

We are quickly entering the "dependence" stage of decline.  Ironically, our "dependence" is (ultimately) a result of our attempts to become independent from God.  When we shake off the yoke of Jesus, we find ourselves in the yoke of sin.  But the yoke of sin is not "easy" and "light" like Jesus' is.  (Matthew 11:28-30).  As we refuse to bow to Jesus as Lord, we may find that Caesar (our government) becomes increasingly intrusive.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Beauty of Mennonite Singing

I've only heard Mennonites sing in person on two occasions, and both times, it was unforgettable.  They are wrong in insisting that God should not be worshiped with musical instruments, but their error has had a happy result.  They have become near expert in singing in harmony.  The only word that I know to describe it is "stunning".

For many reasons I could never be a Mennonite theologically, but I must say that you have never heard singing until you have heard Mennonites sing.  But the true sound of their singing seems to be difficult to capture adequately in a recording (perhaps because it is so multi-dimensional, like the difference between hearing an orchestra in person and on CD). The recordings uploaded by S. E. Samonte have come close to recapturing the sounds I remember.  Here's Rock of Ages for your worship.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jonathan Edwards on the Use of Food for God’s Sake

I found this section in John Piper's book, Desiring God, very insightful and practical:

Sereno Dwight tells us that Jonathan Edwards “carefully observed the effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labor.” Thus he abstained from every quantity and kind of food that made him sick or sleepy. Edwards had set his pattern when he was twenty-one years old when he wrote in his diary, “By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the head-ache.” Hence he was “resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm Now Officially... a Servant!

On Sunday our church installed two elders and two deacons. I am one of the deacons. Here is a picture of the members laying their hands on me and praying for me.

The title "deacon" is simply a transliteration of the Greek word "diakonos", which means "servant". In the New Testament use of the word, deacons are men who serve the elders (pastors) by serving the congregation's physical needs. This frees the elders to devote themselves to their primary calling, "the ministry of the Word and prayer" (Acts 6:2-4).

I'm grateful to the Lord Jesus for the opportunity to serve His bride, and for His own example of servanthood.
Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant {diakonos}, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve {diakoneo}, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28, NASB)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

If You Think Your Job is Hard...

... this brickyard worker in Bangladesh will inspire you to bloom where God has planted you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Psalm 119 verses 1 to 8

On Sunday I finished teaching Psalm 119 at my church's adult Sunday School. I felt better about how this week's lesson came out: it got beyond the mechanics of analysis into interpretation and application.

Most surprising is how many tough issues a seemingly "peaceful" passage like this raises!

Once again both video and audio are available. I apologize that the video is rather blurry, I accidentally mis-focused it.

My teaching notes are below, including a lot of juicy quotes that I didn't have time to share.

Psalm 119 (week 2)

On board:

1 – They, present

2 – They, present

3 – They, present

4 – We, past

5 – Me, future

6 – Me, future

7 – Me, future

8 – Me, future





Verses 1 – 3

Use 5 W’s and H to interrogate the text.

  • After prayer, thinking of questions is the biggest key to growing in Scripture.
  • Jesus, age 12, listening and asking questions.

  1. What are some questions you have about v 1-3?
  2. Why are they blessed? Is this teaching works righteousness? Does their righteousness result in God blessing them, or does God blessing them result in their righteousness?
    1. The Psalmist “overturns the Protestant system of justification” (Du Hamel)
    2. Scripture teaches both.

i. Law: “do this, and you will live”. “Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness” (Rom 10:5) Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” (Gal 3:11-12)

ii. Gospel: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). Also 2 Cor. 5:21

iii. So the question becomes, which “covenant” is the Psalmist experiencing and teaching? Either way it does not “overturn” justification by faith. Is this an example of an unsaved man laboring under the burden of the law, trying to obey it, not yet realizing that he cannot be perfect? Or is this an example of a saved man, who has trusted by faith in the promised redeemer who will crush the serpent’s head and has been granted the righteousness which comes by faith?

    1. Clue # 1 – the author’s delight in God’s Law

Martin Luther, (Luther's Works, Saint Louis Edition, 11:81ff)

… For there is no one who would not rather have no Law at all, and everyone finds and feels within himself that while it is difficult to be pious and do good, it is easy to be wicked and to do evil. And this difficulty or this unwillingness to do what is good prevents us from keeping God's Law; for what is kept with dislike, difficulty, and unwillingness, rates before God as not having been kept at all...

Now from all this one of two things must follow: presumption or despair. Presumption follows when a man sets himself to fulfill the Law with works and diligently sees to it that he does what the letter of the Law asks him to do. He serves God, does not swear, honors father and mother, does not kill, does not commit adultery, and the like. Meanwhile, however, he does not observe his heart, does not note the reason why he is leading such a fine, good life, that he is merely covering the old hypocrite in his hear with such a beautiful life. For if he looked at himself aright, at his own heart, he would discover that he is doing all these things with dislike and out of compulsion; that he fears hell or seeks heaven, if not also far more insignificant matters, namely, honor, goods, health; and that he is motivated by the fear of shame or harm or diseases. In short, he would have to confess that he would rather lead a different life if the consequence of such a life did not deter him; for he would not do it merely for the sake of the Law.

But because he does not see this bad reason, he lives on in security, looks only at the works, not into the heart, and so assumes that he is keeping the Law of God well. The face of Moses is, therefore, covered for him, that is, he does not recognize the meaning of the Law-- that it was to be fulfilled with joyful, free, cheerful will. Just so an unchaste person, when asked why he commits the act, can only answer: Because of the pleasure I find in it. For he commits it for the sake of neither reward nor punishment, does not proposes to gain anything by it or to escape any evil through it.

Such pleasure the Law would also find in us, so that when you ask a chaste person why he is chaste, he should say: Not for the sake of heaven or hell, not for the sake of honor or shame, but simply because it appears to me to be very fine, and I heartily approve of it even if it were not commanded. See, a heart such as this really loves God's Law and keeps it with pleasure. Such people love God and righteousness, fear and hate nothing but unrighteousness. But no man is thus constituted by nature. The others, however, love the reward and the benefit, fear and hate the punishment and the pain. Therefore they hate God and righteousness, love themselves and unrighteousness; they are hypocrites, shams, deceivers, liars, and boasters. …. Yet the Law alone is of benefit to such presumptuous people, for it was given to work this knowledge and humiliation. This is it's (the Law's) proper work...

The other word of God is not Law or commandment, nor does it require anything of us; but after the first Word, that of the Law, has done this work and distressful misery an poverty have been produced in the heart, God comes and offers his lovely, living Word, and promises, pledges, and obligates himself to give grace and help, that we may get out of this misery and that all sins not only be forgiven but also blotted out and that love and delight to fulfill the law may be given besides. See, this divine promise of his grace and of the forgiveness of his is properly called Gospel. And I say again and yet again that you should never understand Gospel to mean anything but the divine promise of his grace and of the forgiveness of sin. For this is why hitherto St. Paul's epistles were not understood and cannot be understood by our adversaries even now; they do not know what Law and Gospel really are. For they consider Christ a Legislator and the Gospel nothing but the teaching of new laws. This is nothing else but locking up the gospel and obscuring everything. For "Gospel" is Greek and means "good news," because in it is proclaimed the saving doctrine of life, of the divine promise, and grace and the forgiveness of sins are offered.

Therefore works do not belong to the gospel; for it is not laws but faith alone, because it is nothing whatever but the promise and offer of divine grace. He, then, who believes the Gospel receives grace and the Holy Spirit. Thereby the heart becomes glad and joyful in God and then keeps the Law gladly and freely, without the fear of punishment and without the expectation of reward; for it is sated and satisfied with that grace of God by which the law has been satisfied.

    1. Clue #2 Verb tense of “are” (not ‘will be’)
    2. Clue # 3 – no “rewards” listed other than their obedience itself
    3. Can you think of any other Psalms that start out talking about how blessed a person is? 1, 32, 112, 128 (Also Beatitudes…)
  1. Who are the “those”?
    1. What do we know about them? (Look for lists.)

i. 2 sets of 3 characteristics. One set relates to their commitment to God’s word, the other set to how God’s word affects their lives.

    1. What are possible answers for who they could be?

i. Hypothetical

ii. Sinless in heaven

iii. Sinless on earth

iv. Regenerated but not sinless

    1. Are they sinless?

i. Job, Zechariah and Elizabeth, elders

ii. Catholic position: when the Bible talks about these people, it means they were actually sinless!

iii. Catholic commentator Worthington: “The psalmist evidently presupposes that some can and do keep the law.”

iv. Can you think of any verses that refute this? Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 143:2

v. William Cowper quote below.

They also do no iniquity. If it be demanded here, How is it that they who walk in God's ways work no iniquity? Is there any man who lives, and sins not? And if they be not without sin, how then are they to be blessed? The answer is, as the apostle says of our knowledge, "We know but in part": so is it true of our felicity on earth, we are blessed but in a part. It is the happiness of angels that they never sinned; it is the happiness of triumphant saints, that albeit they have been sinners, yet now they sin no more; but the happiness of saints militant is, that our sins are forgiven us; and that albeit sin remains in us, yet it reigns not over us; it is done in us, but not by our allowance: "I do the evil which I would not." "Not I, but sin that dwells in me," Romans 7:17.

To the doing of iniquity, these three things must concur; first, a purpose to do it; next, a delight in doing it; thirdly, a continuance in it; which three in God's children never concur; for in sins done in them by the old man, the new man makes his exceptions and protestations against them. It is not I, says he; and so far is he from delighting in them, that rather his soul is grieved with them; even as Lot, dwelling among the Sodomites, was vexed by hearing and seeing their unrighteous deeds. In a word, the children of God are rather sufferers of sin against their wills than actors of it with their wills: like men spiritually oppressed by the power of their enemy; for which they sigh and cry unto God. "Miserable man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And in this sense it is that the apostle saith, "He who is born of God sinneth not" (1 John 3:9). William Cowper.

    1. Does the author consider himself to be one of the “those”?

i. Is the author regenerated?

ii. But see v. 10, 22

iii. So what is the diff he sees between himself and them?

iv. Do you have anyone in your life that you “look up to” like this?

  1. Who is the author talking to here? Not God. Us? Or himself? I think himself, and letting us listen in on the thoughts of his own mind.

Verse 4

  1. Who? God!
  2. What? Ordained (commanded) precepts
  3. Why? That we should keep them!
  4. How? Diligently!

A marvel that God should reveal Himself to creation. Let us apply ourselves to this privilege!

The Psalmist began with the third person: he is now coming near home, and has already reached the first person plural, according to our version; we shall soon hear him crying out personally and for himself. As the heart glows with love to holiness, we long to have a personal interest in it. The word of God is a heart affecting book, and when we begin to sing its praises it soon comes home to us, and sets us praying to be ourselves conformed to its teachings. --CHS

Verses 5-8

  1. How does 5 relate to 1? He wants his “ways” to be like “their” ways in following God’s ways.
  2. “May be established” – who will do the establishing?
  3. What does the “then” in 6 refer to? Back to 5, when his ways are established.
  4. How do we ‘look upon’ God’s commandments?
  5. What would cause us to be ashamed when we look at God’s commandments?
  6. How would having ways established help prevent this?
  7. How does learning God’s judgments cause us to thank Him? (that He hasn’t rewarded us according to our iniquities, that His justice was fulfilled at Calvary, etc)
  8. Is the emphasis of v 7 on the giving of thanks or on the uprightness of heart?
  9. How does 8 compare with 5? Man’s responsibility, God’s sovereignty.
  10. Is he saying in 8, “I earn Your presence by keeping Your statutes”? Or “I need Your presence to keep Your statutes”?
  11. What does 8 teach about whether God is equally accessible by all people?
  12. Why does he think God would forsake him?
  13. Utterly – does this indicate he already felt mostly forsaken by God?
  14. Can mere prayer affect God’s nearness to us?

v.5 Divine commands should direct us in the subject of our prayers. We cannot of ourselves keep God's statutes as he would have them kept, and yet we long to do so: what resort have we but prayer? We must ask the Lord to work our works in us, or we shall never work out his commandments. (CHS)

In tracing the connection of this verse with the preceding, we cannot forbear to remark how accurately the middle path is preserved, as keeping us at an equal: distance from the idea of self sufficiency to keep the Lord's statutes, and self justification in neglecting them. The first attempt to render spiritual obedience will quickly convince us of our utter helplessness. We might as soon create a world as create m our hearts one pulse of spiritual life. And yet our inability does not cancel our obligation. Charles Bridges, 1849. (in CHS)

It is the use and duty of the people of God to turn precepts into prayers. (Thomas Manton, CHS)

v. 6 All Your commandments

Saul slew all the Amalekites but one; and that single exception in the path of universal obedience marked the unsoundness of his profession, cost him the loss of his throne, and brought him under the awful displeasure of his God. And thus the foot, or the hand, or the right eye, the corrupt unmortified members, bring the whole body to hell. Reserves are the canker of Christian sincerity. Charles Bridges. (CHS)

Allow that any of God's commandments may be transgressed, and we shall soon have the whole decalogue set aside. Adam Clarke, 1760-1832.

v. 7

Be sure that he who prays for holiness will one day praise for happiness… Mark how well he knows upon what head to set the crown. "I will praise thee." He would himself be praiseworthy, but he counts God alone worthy of praise. CHS

We praise those who can teach a dog, a horse, this or that; but for us ass colts to learn the will of God, how to walk pleasing before him, this should be acknowledged of us as a great mercy from God. Paul Bayne.

Both the matter and the grace of thankfulness are from God. As he did with Abraham, he commanded him to worship by sacrifice, and at the same time gave him the sacrifice: so doth he with all his children; for he gives not only good things, for which they should thank him, but in like manner grace by which they are able to thank him. William Cowper.

V 8

When praise calms down into solid resolution it is well with the soul. Zeal which spends itself in singing, and leaves no practical residuum of holy living, is little worth: "I will praise" should be coupled with "I will keep." CHS

This is a happy amalgam: resolution and dependence. We meet with those who to all appearance humbly pray, but there is no force of character, no decision in them, and consequently the pleading of the closet is not embodied in the life: on the other band, we meet with abundance of resolve attended with an entire absence of dependence upon God, and this makes as poor a character as the former. CHS

The two, "I wills" needed to be seasoned with some such lowly petition, or it might have been thought that the good man's dependence was in some degree fixed upon his own determination. He presents his resolutions like a sacrifice, but he cries to heaven for the fire. CHS

Elijah was forsaken, but not as Ahab: Peter was forsaken in part, but not as Judas, who was utterly forsaken, and made a prey to the Devil. David was forsaken to be humbled and bettered; but Saul was forsaken utterly to be destroyed. Saith Theophylact, God may forsake his people so as to shut out their prayers, (Ps 80:4), so as to interrupt the peace and joy of their heart, and abate their strength, so that their spiritual life may be much at a stand, and sin may break out, and they may fall foully; but they are not utterly forsaken. One way or other, God is still present; present in light sometimes when he is not present in strength, when he manifests the evil of their present condition, so as to make them mourn under it; and present in awakening their desires, though not in giving them enjoyment. Thomas Manton

Application: what are ways we can apply verses 1 to 8?

  • Cultivate friendships with people whose walk is more pure than ours.
  • Look upon all God’s commandments. (Take time to read and study the Pentateuch.)
  • When we sense our inability to keep God’s law, turn immediately to gospel-praying.
  • Journal our prayers.

Communication: if you can’t explain what you’ve learned to someone else, you haven’t learned it. Pick a verse (from 1 to 16) and:

  • Tell us what stands out to you in this verse
  • Pray this verse back to God in your own words
  • (if too shy to actually pray) “Test pray” it (ie, “if I was going to pray this verse, I would say something like…”)


Many superficial readers have imagined that it harps upon one string, and abounds in pious repetitions and redundancies; but this arises from the shallowness of the reader's own mind: those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought. Using only a few words, the writer has produced permutations and combinations of meaning which display his holy familiarity with his subject, and the sanctified ingenuity of his mind. He never repeats himself; for if the same sentiment recurs it is placed in a fresh connection, and so exhibits another interesting shade of meaning. The more one studies it the fresher it becomes… Placid on the surface as the sea of glass before the eternal throne, it yet contains within its depths an ocean of fire, and those who devoutly gaze into it shall not only see the brightness, but feel the glow of the sacred flame. It is loaded with holy sense, and is as weighty as it is bulky. Again and again have we cried while studying it, "Oh the depths!" Yet these depths are hidden beneath an apparent simplicity, as Augustine has well and wisely said, and this makes the exposition all the more difficult. Its obscurity is hidden beneath a veil of light, and hence only those discover it who are in thorough earnest, not only to look on the word, but, like the angels, to look into it. – Charles Spurgeon

In Matthew Henry's "Account of the Life and Death of his father, Philip Henry," he says: "Once, pressing the study of the Scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of this Psalm every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in the year; and that, saith he, will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures." He often said, "All grace grows as love to the word of God grows."

"He that shall read it considerately, it will either warm him or shame him.’’ (as quoted by MH)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"The Cost of Discipleship" Audiobook - for Free!

This month is making the unabridged audiobook of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic The Cost of Discipleship available for free. We've already started listening. I can see why the book is a classic, and the reader is doing a good job delivering it to our ears.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Introduction to Psalm 119

I had the blessing of delivering the adult Sunday School lesson at my church last Sunday. If you'd like to watch it (and be annoyed by the speaker's tics in my delivery!) a video is below. For those who prefer to be put to sleep by a monotone, you can listen to just the audio if you prefer.

While my delivery left much to be desired, the Psalm itself does not. I have been repeatedly overwhelmed by the beauty, depth, and power of what appears at first glance to be a flat text.

The notes I spoke from have been pasted below for your convenience.


I. If I told you we were going to read Psalm 119 out loud this morning, what would be your reaction? (Inner dismay)

Why don’t we like Psalm 119?

  • NOT because it’s so long (we enjoy other long writings)
  • NOT because it’s sterile (it’s very emotional)
  • Because it seems repetitive
  • Because we can’t relate to the love the writer is expressing (like reading a love note to someone we don’t know, like a kid reading Song of Solomon)

II. If the Pentateuch were removed from your Bible, would it make any difference in the way you live? What role is the Pentateuch supposed to play in the life of a modern Christian?

This Psalm gives us a glimpse into the soul of a man in whom the law of God is functioning properly.

III. “It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me most to learn, and which was to my childish mind, chiefly repulsive—the 119th Psalm—has now become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the Law of God.” – John Ruskin

In the midst of a London season; in the stir and turmoil of a political crisis, 1819; William Wilberforce writes in his Diary -- "Walked from Hyde Park Corner repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort". William Alexander, in "The Witness of the Psalms". 1877.

It is recorded of the celebrated St. Augustine, who among his voluminous works left a Comment on the Book of Psalms, that he delayed to comment on this one till he had finished the whole Psalter; and then yielded only to the long and vehement urgency of his friends, "because", he says, "as often as I essayed to think thereon, it always exceeded the powers of my intent thought and the utmost grasp of my faculties". William De Burgh, 1860

IV. We’re going to look at just the first two sections of Psalm 119, but as we look at them, I’m not going to just teach you what they mean, I’m going to teach you how to study them for yourself, so you will be able to study the remaining 20 sections in your own private devotions.


It would be incredibly hypocritical for us to study a prayer for God’s help in understanding, delighting in, and obeying God’s word, without praying that God would do that for us in this chapter.

General Overview

I. Longest chapter in Bible. Longer than 30 books of the Bible. Near the center of the Bible.

* What does its length and position in the Bible perhaps signify?

II. Acrostic format. Why an acrostic?

What are some Christian acrostics? GRACE. ICHTHUS. Why do we use acrostics?

What might be the significance of using all the alphabet in your acrostic?

“One of the reasons the Psalmist may have done this was to make it easier to memorize this psalm. Another important reason may have been his desire to communicate the completeness of what he had to say about his theme. In other words, Psalm 119 was designed to communicate from “A to Z” on the topic of God’s Word.” – Sam Horn

There may be something more than fancy in the remark, that Christ's name, "the Alpha and Omega" -- equivalent to declaring him all that which every letter of the alphabet could express -- may have had a reference to the peculiarity of this Psalm, -- a Psalm in which (with the exception of verses 84 and 122, exceptions that make the rule more marked) every verse speaks of God's revelation of himself to man. Andrew A. Bonar, 1859.

It is observed that the 119th Psalm is disposed according to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, perhaps to intimate that children, when they begin to learn their alphabet, should learn that Psalm. Nathanael Hardy, 1618-1670.

III. Why did the author restrain himself to a framework for expressing his emotions? John Piper on Lamentations:

1 – a deeply emotional book – weeping, desolation, mockery, groaning, hunger, grief and the horrid loss of compassion as mothers boil their own children to eat them

2 – Seems to be the most formally crafted book of the Old Testament. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 each are 1 verse acrostics, chapter 3 is a 3 verse acrostic

These observations “imply that genuine, heartfelt expressions of our deepest emotions does not require spontaneity. Just think of all the mental work involved in finding all the right words to construct 4 alphabetical acrostics! What constraint, what limitation, what submission to form! Yet what passion and power and heart!” “After reading Lamentations we can no longer believe that unpondered prayers are more real or passionate or heartfelt or genuine or alive than prayers that are thoughtfully and earnestly (and painfully?) poured out through a carefully crafted form. The danger of formalism is real. Prayers and sermons that are read from a manuscript are unusually stiff and unnatural and artificial. But the danger of spontaneity is also great. If the heart is without passion it will produce lifeless, jargon-laden spontaneity. And if the heart is aflame, no form will quench it. But not only is spontaneity no necessary advantage and form no necessary hindrance to deep, personal expression of feeling, but even more, formed affection often strikes deeper. Deeper into reality and deeper into the hearer.” (Pg 146-147, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.)

IV. Why 8 verses per section?

A number of regeneration, renewal, resurrection? Christ raised the 8th day, 8 people on the ark, circumcision on the 8th day… Origen, the number of perfection

How to Study Any Passage

I. Look for Key Words.

What are some words that seem important or are repeated often?

  • Way(s) (1 3, 5, 9, 14, 15)
  • Law (1)
  • Testimonies (2, 14)
  • Precepts (4, 15)
  • Keep (4, 5, 8, 9)
  • Statutes (5, 8, 12, 16)
  • Word (9, 11, 16)
  • Heart (2, 7, 10, 11)
  • Ordinances (13)
  • Commandments (6, 10)
  • Judgments (7)
  • Your
  • Seek
  • Walk

What are the primary ways God has revealed Himself to man throughout history?

  • Creation
  • Law
  • Israel
  • Prophets
  • Jesus
  • Church

Which of these were available when the author wrote this?

  • Creation
  • Law
  • Israel
  • Prophets?

Which of these means of revelation did the author choose to focus on? Why?

How many different synonyms for God’s Word do you see in this passage?

  • Way(s) (?) (1 3, 5, 9, 14, 15)
  • Law (1)
  • Testimonies (2, 14)
  • Precepts (4, 15)
  • Statutes (5, 8, 12, 16)
  • Word – dabar (9, 16)
  • Word – imrah (11)
  • Commandments (6, 10)
  • Judgments (7, 13 (ordinances))
  • Truth/Righteousness(?)

Some say 8 synonyms (and think that’s why he did 8 verses per section); others say 10 (tying in to the 10 commandments).

Why does he use different words? Just trying to avoid saying “Word” repeatedly? What does this variety of words show us about the author? (cook, broil, braise, boil, simmer, stew, poach, roast, fry, bake, grill, steam, sauté)

"Focal vocabulary" is a specialized set of terms and distinctions that is particularly important to a certain group; those with a particular focus of experience or activity…. For example, the Nuer of Sudan have an elaborate vocabulary to describe cattle. The Nuer have dozens of names for cattle because of the cattle's particular histories, economies, and environments. – Wikipedia

He never uses fewer than 6 of these synonyms in each 8 verse segment, employing a different order in each stanza.

So what DO the different words mean?

Genesis 26:5

Exodus 18:16, 20

Lev. 26:46

Deut 4:45

Psalm 19:7-9

  • Law, torah, = Directions, Instructions, Guide
  • Way = course of life, habits
  • Testimonies = witnesses. Who is giving the witness? And what is he/she witnessing to? Witnesses to God’s character. May be referring to the veracity of the Word of God (God’s deposition, so to speak). God will not perjure Himself. Stories? Ark containing 10 Commandments Tablets called Ark of the testimony.
  • Precepts – only used 3 x outside this Psalm, all in the Psalms. “His precepts, because prescribed to us and not left indifferent.” – MH. “An authoritative charge or order that is binding upon the recipient.” – Dr. Lawson
  • Commandments – yes, a command!
  • Word (dabar) – the utterance of a mouth. “His word, or saying, because it is the declaration of his mind, and Christ, the essential eternal Word, is all in all in it. – MH.”
  • Word (imrah) – promises. “I’ve given my word.”
  • Statutes – boundary lines
  • Judgments/Ordinances: verdict/sentences. “His judgments, because framed in infinite wisdom, and because by them we must both judge and be judged.” – MH
  • Righteousness (not found in our section, used 6 times in chapter)

II. Author

What do we learn about the author from this passage?

  • Very familiar with the word of God (use of synonyms)
  • One person
  • Young man? (9)
  • Seeking knowledge (v.12)
  • Seeking holiness (v.6)
  • Afraid of wandering (v. 10)
  • Afraid of sinning (v.11)
  • Has “evangelized” (v 13)
  • Has had riches, or at least observed rich people (v. 14)
  • Has sought God (v10)
  • Has treasured God’s Word (v. 11)
  • Has not fully followed God as he wants (v.5,6)

Some commentators argue for David, others for a post-exilic person like Ezra. Some say a priest. Some say as late as Maccabean period. In prison? Wurmbrand. Would also explain lack of allusions to nature.

“Some interpreters complain about the tone of the Psalm: it does not seem to breathe the fresh air of the out of doors—figures from nature are rare—but savors rather of the musty air of the study” -- Leupold

III. Recipient. Who is the author writing to?

a. Do you ever write prayers down? (aka ‘journaling’)

IV. Reason for writing. Why would someone publicize their personal prayer?


Besides the sectional breaks, can we identify any verses that seem to connect together?

  • Person
    • V 1-3 (“They”)
    • V 4 (“We”)
    • V 5-8, 10-16 (“I”)
    • V 9 (“Young man”)
  • Tense
    • V 1-3 (Present)
    • V 5-8 (Future)
    • V 13-14 (Past)
    • V 15-16 (Future)
  • Type of statement
    • Panting (v 5)
    • Prayer (8b, 10b, 12b)
    • Promise (15-16)
    • Past (10a, 11, 13-14)
    • Praise (12a)
  • Positive and negative
    • + (1b, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 7, 8a, 9, 10a, 11a, etc.)
    • – (1a?, 3a, 6, 8b, 10b, 11b etc)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mago is Gone - For Now

The 39 foot statue of mother earth that was erected in my community in December has been taken down, along with the seven smaller statues at Mago Earth Park. As you can see, all that remains is the 10-foot pedestal.

I think Mago will be back up again, although perhaps in a different location. Ilchi Lee, the park's founder, aroused the ire of locals by erecting the statue before having full approval from the city planning and zoning department. He's learned that it's not always easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Mr. Lee also owns a lucrative network of yoga centers around the world, and some accuse him of using Mago as an advertisement tool for this business. So he will need to work more to show separation between his religious enterprises and his business enterprises.

But I think the best lesson we can all learn from this is that statues come down. History is littered with men trying to make a name for themselves through statues. Men like Nebuchadnezzar, Lenin, and Saddam. I pray that the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in North Korea fall soon.

Why do these men erect statues? Don't they realize that all statues fall?

Or perhaps an even better question is, why do people use statues in their worship? Why do our hearts prefer to worship a deity we make with our own hands, rather than the true and living God who made us?

Security has been defined as "structuring my life around what is eternal, and cannot be destroyed or taken away." In a way, you could say that the opposite of this is idolatry. Idolatry is basing your life on something that can be destroyed or taken away. The only thing really rock-solid is Jesus! As Hebrews 13:8 tells us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
That name still lives and will live on forever,
While kings and kingdoms will forgotten be.
Through mist or rain, ’twill be beclouded never,
That name shall shine and shine eternally. (Oscar Eliason)
Here's a video I recorded yesterday discussing another aspect of idolatry.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nineveh-Style Repentance in Haiti

Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish."

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. Jonah 3:4-10 (NASB)

The video and testimony below are the closest I have ever heard to something like this happening in modern times. Oh to see it in America! - Daniel

-by Jerry Miel (Feb 17).

I think that I will remember this day as one of the most significant in my life, not because of what I did, but for it's meaning...

Today was the one month anniversary of the great Haitian earthquake.

About 3 days ago the Haitian President announced that there would be 3 days of holiday from work for the purpose of fasting and prayer. This is absolutely historic. If you have ever been in Haiti as a visitor or missionary, could you ever have imagined such a pronouncement? Could you image such an announcement from the U.S. President? This morning I saw a young Haitian-American woman, the leader of a work team, crying because the Americans could not understand the incredible importance of this day and wanted to go about business as usual. Remember, it was only about 6 years ago that a former Haitian president called the nation to come together to rededicate the nation to Satan.

This was not "a minute of silence for the deceased" or something as equally insignificant. Whatever the President might have originally intended, this became a real commitment for the Haitian people. As I sit here this evening, I can hear the preaching coming from a nearby church. Services have been going on all day...

Let me tell you what I saw and felt today.

Peniel and I had planned an inspection trip up to the Artibonite Valley today. Right or wrong, I don't really know, but since it was the only opportunity, we went ahead with the trip. As we left the guest house about 7:30 am, we were met by throngs of well dressed people headed to various churches. The sounds of Christian music and worship filled the air everywhere. The next observation was that there was NO traffic. Port-au-Prince streets are always clogged and overflowing with bumper to bumper traffic. This morning there were only a few vehicles on the roads, a few small buses (tap taps), some UN and military vehicles, and a few private cars. We had clear sailing through town. The same was true of foot traffic. Usually the streets are clogged also with people walking. Today there were only a few and many of them dressed for church. The only place that there were traffic blocks was in front of several churches where the congregations had overflowed the buildings and the yards and had moved out into the streets as well.

The next observation was that EVERYTHING was closed! We could not find even one business or gas station open. There were no intercity buses running. Whereas the sidewalks are usually overflowing with millions of street venders, we only saw a few here and there. The huge outdoor market near the wharf where thousands work each day and is spread out to cover most of the street, was EMPTY.

Where were all the people? They were in churches and makeshift meeting sites. Every church (except a JW church) had services going on, almost always overflowing into the streets. Beside broken down churches, services were taking place outside. In homeless camps, there were services. Everywhere the nation was gathered to worship and pray. No, I did not see any voodoo, Islamic, or Buddhist services. This scene was repeated in every town and hamlet that we passed during the day.

Tonight, Pastor Ignace, who is sharing the room with me, asked this question: "Can people still say that Haiti is a voodoo country?" What has been happening and is continuing to happen in Haiti did not happen because of the earthquake. It has been happening because the Haitian people know how to pray. This is a tremendous outpouring of God's power as the result of prayer. Twenty years ago I started praying for the Gospel to change the Haitian culture. I think that I am seeing God do that work.

The only sadness that I feel today is for our nation. While a nation that has long been under Satan's domination is turning to God with total commitment, our nation, founded on Godly values has rejected God and is rapidly trying to forget that his name even exists. Let us pray for revival.