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A Fresh Perspective

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Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26

Psalm 73 has to be one of my favorites because it points to the fact that as a child of God, it is normal to question, to wonder, and yes, to doubt. The writer of this Psalm, Asaph, struggled greatly over the fact that while he was doing his best to serve God, the wicked were seemingly enjoying a continuous state of prosperity. This caused him no small amount of doubt, dismay, and confusion, as I’m sure it does with you and I today when it appears as though the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.

To better understand his perspective, it’s important to know a little bit about Asaph. He was was from the priestly tribe of the Levites, and was one of the three men that David had put in charge of the singing part of their worship. In today’s religious circles he would be called a worship leader or a song leader. [1]

Despite his position and his loving relationship with the Lord, it did not prevent him from feeling as though he was getting the short end of the stick. While he was doing his best for the Lord, it appeared to Asaph that the wicked were living better than he was. In other words, if the wicked were prospering while at the same time living life on their own terms, why should he continue to walk the straight and narrow if the wicked were also being rewarded?

Have you ever felt this way? Have you been the person at work who is known for always taking the high road, for example, only to see someone of questionable conduct or character get the promotion? It happens all the time, doesn’t it? It’s enough to make you question what in the world is going on here, or at least say along with Asaph ” Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain“. [2]

Just like Asaph, when we feel unfairly taken advantage of or somehow slighted, questions and doubts begin to formulate in our minds. Our flesh, being what it is, causes us to be envious of the wicked who appear to be rewarded for their deeds, leaving us to wonder about the injustice of it all. Asaph himself said that he was envious of the boastful when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. [3]

The reality is that we live in a fallen world, a world of hurt, pain, and injustice. A world where what is fair and just has been supplanted with undeserved accolades being heaped upon the enemies of those who desire to do good and to follow God. In essence, the world seems to have done a 180 when it comes to what it considers right and wrong, just and unjust. Evil, it would seem, is rewarded while Godliness is reviled in our world today.

All of this of course was spoken about in the Scriptures, so no one should be surprised that it is occurring now. The truth is, none of this is new. It’s been happening for as long as man has inhabited this earth. Even Jesus said that the rain fell upon the just and the unjust. [4]

Still, believers are no strangers to doubts and struggles. After all, we have very real emotions, emotions that can get the best of us at times. It’s important then to remember that we are not robots, programmed to act and feel according to a preset narrative. 

Who doesn’t have ups and downs in their walk with the Lord? Like many of you, I can attest to the fact that sometimes our faith is strong and sometimes it is weak. There are times when we look at the world and it has no attraction for us. Other times it seems that we can’t stop looking and admiring the things of the world. Our humanity dictates that there will be times of strength and times of weakness.

Asaph allowed the seeming prosperity of the wicked to nearly shipwreck his faith. He describes how that in trying to make sense of it all that it became too painful for him. [5] We’re like that too, aren’t we? We can become so fixated on what others have or are doing that it consumes our every thought, causing us to lose sight of the big picture. Focusing on the perceived wrongdoings of others blinds us to the reality that God is the only one qualified to make righteous judgements.

It wasn’t until Asaph went into the sanctuary that God gave him understanding in the matters that were so troubling to him.  It was then that he saw that the end of the wicked was certain destruction. Yes, the wicked certainly do prosper in this life, we see it every day, but what really matters concerning them is the same thing that matters to the righteous: where will eternity be spent?

You might say that when Asaph went to church, he received a fresh perspective on things!

Once God enlightened Asaph regarding the end of the wicked, his heart was grieved and his mind was vexed at how foolish he had been not to trust that the Lord had all of this under control. It wasn’t until after he had entered the sanctuary and enquired of God that he was able to speak the words at the top of this post.

So what’s the lesson in all of this? Well, I think there are many things we can take away from this Psalm, but I want to highlight just three of them:

  1. While it is perfectly normal for us to question the injustice of wicked people prospering while the righteous suffer lack, such things are not for us to judge. God alone is righteous, therefore it is He who determines the fate of us all. This, of course, requires much faith on our part, as well as the strength to focus on our own particular calling.
  2. Sometimes the simple truth is that we need to take things to God in prayer. All of our mental wrangling over things that are beyond our ability to comprehend are best given to God. We can lay awake at night, tormented by a thousand “why’s”, only to have the sun rise upon them the next morning with nothing having been resolved. As Asaph learned, God has a different and higher perspective than we are capable of, and we can save ourselves much anguish by simply letting go of things that are outside of our own lane.
  3. Because it is a normal thing to question and doubt at times, we should use the lesson of Asaph to encourage other Christians when they too have struggles and doubts. This is far better than for us to haphazardly judge them, especially as we see so many struggling today.

I hope that you will take a few minutes today and read the 73rd Psalm in its entirety. In it you will find the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries. I don’t know about you, but from time to time I need to see things from a fresh perspective.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

[1] 1st Chronicles 15: 17 [2] Psalm 73:13 [3] Psalm 73:3 [4] Matthew 5:45 [5] Psalm 73:16

God,the lifter of my head…

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All of us need encouragement from time to time, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite Psalms with everyone today.

Psalm 3

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

It’s even more powerful when it’s sung. Enjoy!

Ron

 

 

It’s what comes OUT of a man that matters…

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Do you agree that we often place far too much emphasis on outward appearances? And in doing so, are sometimes guilty of misjudging someone? After all, isn’t it still true that looks can be deceiving?

do-not-judge

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Consider this lesson from the gospel of Mark.

One day Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and scribes because they had observed his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands.

You see, the Pharisees were all about maintaining outward appearances, and they used this opportunity to inform Jesus that his little band of followers were now defiled for failing to keep up with tradition.

Then, as now, we humans seem to have this need to elevate ourselves while tearing down others. Why is that?

At any rate the Pharisees were all about outward appearances and traditions, believing that putting on a good external show somehow equates to a healthy inward relationship with God.

NOT.

Hmmm…makes one wonder if not a lot has changed over the space of a couple thousand years. OK….back to the topic at hand.

After Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”     Mark 7:9 NKJV

In other words, Jesus is telling them that they rejected God’s word and his teachings in favor of their own man made traditions. And this is a snare that all of us must be on guard to avoid. Jesus came to set us free, but I dare say many of us are ensnared in traditions of our own making, thus rendering the word of God of no effect.

traditions of men

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Instead of worrying about and focusing on trivial things that mattered little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things, Jesus went on to explain to them what truly defiles a man.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Notice anything missing from this list? None of the things on it are matters of tradition or outward appearance, but matters of the heart!!

What defiles us, what condemns us are the evil, sinful acts born out of an unregenerate heart. That’s what Jesus is saying here. A heart that has resisted the love of Christ and has determined to forge its own path is a heart that is capable of doing the unthinkable.

As lest any of us should be lifted up with pride because we are so good, residing within each of our hearts are the seeds of each of the sins Jesus mentions above. I don’t care who you are, that’s a powerful and sobering thought.

The point is, our good intentions will never be good enough, but instead a life lived apart from God will give way to a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”?   Jer. 17:9

There is but one cure for such a thing; the Lord Jesus. He alone has the cure for what defiles a man. Only Jesus can transform our hearts from one of stone into one that is fully alive in Him. He is the heart mender.

It’s what comes out of a man that matters most, and when Jesus has been given control of our lives we must continually strive to gain control of the flesh that produces the things which defile.

Walking with Jesus is not about keeping church or religious traditions, it’s not about maintaining appearances or your standing in the church. Walking with Jesus is about relationship, one that produces the fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh.

do-not-judge-2

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Be blessed,

Ron