City Of God

With “LONG LIVE THE KING!” still reverberating in our ears from Psalm 47, the sons of Korah ask us to zoom out a little farther to see how things begin to change now that the King has assumed His rightful place on the throne.

So Psalm 48 opens with the same praise with which Psalm 47 closed—Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise! The Hebrew word for great means massiveness! God is great beyond comprehension. He is larger than any problem. He is unique. He is uncontainable, unlimited, utterly beyond description. His glory is so bright that no sun is needed (see Revelation 21:23).

His glorious light reveals God’s beauty all around us. As C.S. Lewis noted, “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I can see it, but because by way of it I can see everything else.” Indeed, the psalmist reminds us that the city of our God has become “beautiful in its loftiness”(v. 2).

Look at how majestic our King is, and how majestic He makes His city, with phrases like the city of our Godthe city of the Great King, and the city of the Lord Almighty. 

God makes His city secure forever. 

Selah—pause and consider that. 

About 1200 years after this psalm was written, Augustine would write his book called The City of God in which he contrasted the City of God with the City of Man. He noted how the Romans had gods they trusted in, but the Romans had to “rescue” their gods from the invading barbarians. Rome ultimately fell to those invading barbarians, but, Augustine said, the City of God can never fall because it isn’t a tangible place. The City of God resides inside God’s people. 

So notice that after the Selah the word “city” doesn’t appear anymore. Instead, we read about:

    • God’s temple (v. 9; the Hebrew word is heykal) means the palace of God the King
    • the villages of Judah (v. 11) is translated daughters in the KJV, but it actually means “the beloved apple of My eye” 
    • her towers (v. 12) are something that has grown up because it’s been nourished, not something built up by brick and mortar
    • her citadels (v. 13) are the highest and strongest places, which recalls God’s massiveness that we read in verse 1 

Here’s the question for all of us to ask—Is my heart a City of God or a City of Man? 

God does not dwell in palaces made by men.

God dwells where He is enthroned! 

When people look at the “city” of my life, can they tell God is on the throne? The telling characteristics of a City of God are a city where…

  • … thoughts continually turn to my King and His unfailing love (v. 9)
  • … praise, rejoicing, and gladness are constantly rising to God (vv. 10, 11)
  • … the King is able to freely walk around His kingdom—anywhere He likes (v. 12)
  • … others can walk around and see what a God-enthroned life looks like (vv. 12, 13)

I’ll ask it again—Can people clearly see that God is the unrivaled King of your heart? 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Awesome God, Awesome Praise

Last I week I told you how Hebrew poetry often puts the climax in the middle. In Psalm 47 that middle climax is in verse 5—God has ascended. This is one of seven “psalms of enthronement” in the Psalter. Since all of the Scripture points to Jesus, let’s look at the definition of this word ascend and see how it fits with Jesus: 

When a king is coronated—when he is heading toward his throne—we can expect the people to be happy. So the psalmist tells us that in God’s case the people are clapping and shouting (v. 1), telling God how awesome He is (v. 2), thanking Him for subduing their enemies (v. 3), and expressing their gratitude that He has established them as His people (v. 4). 

Then comes the Selah / Pause—what is happening during this pause? The King is being crowned. He has ascended to His rightful throne. So this is selah/pause is really a deep breath that’s about to explode in a crescendo of praise! 

Now there are shouts of joy (v. 5a). In our earthly understanding, it would be something like: “LONG LIVE THE KING!!” There is also a sounding of trumpets (v. 5b) which literally means a thundering of trumpets. And then there’s the singing—lots and lots of singing. In fact, the word sing appears five times in the next two verses. 

From The Infographic Bible (click the image for more)

There are so many ways to say LONG LIVE THE KING—singing, dancing, raising our hands, falling down on our knees. shouting.  

Our God is praise-worthy. He is clap-worthy! He is sing-worthy! He is dance-worthy! He is shout-worthy! He is bowing-worthy! 

Our awesome God deserves awesome praise! 

Why does it seem that we are prone to worship so quietly? Perhaps we need to take it up a notch or two (or three or four). Perhaps we haven’t gazed into His awesome beauty enough to realize just how incredible He is! 

Do you think shouting praises to the King of kings is too undignified? Did you know that when the King of kings returns, He is going to shout and there is also going to be a thundering trumpet? For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16)! 

Here are 4 important lessons from this Psalm of Enthronement—

  1. God is the King of all kings, enthroned on the Throne above all thrones. He is worthy of your “undignified” praise and acclamation. 
  2. God should always get your best praise. In verse 7 the phrase sing praises with understanding really means to sing with insight and skill. 
  3. God deserves a holy vocabulary. We see the word awesome in verse 2. Every time this word is used in the Scripture, it’s speaking of God. So why would we use a word like this for something a hamburger!?!
  4. All nations and kings and peoples and tribes will bow before God at the end. They will bow in either acclamation for their King, or in abject terror of the All-Righteous Judge. Let’s remain missional so more people in the end are crowning Him as their All-Merciful King. 

I hope you can join me this next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

The Jesus Who Surprises (book review)

Oswald Chambers wisely noted, “God did not give a progressive revelation of Himself through the Old Testament: the people progressively grasped the revelation, which is very different.” Jesus is all throughout the Old Testament, giving us ample opportunity to discover Him on every page. A helpful guide to get you started on this journey of discovery is The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin. 

Dee wrote that she was intrigued by Christ’s words to the questioning disciples walking the road to Emmaus on the morning of His resurrection. These men were having a hard time wrapping their minds around the report from eyewitnesses who said Jesus was alive! As Jesus walked with them (although unrecognized by them for the moment), Luke records, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). 

The Jews divided their Scripture—the part we now refer to as the Old Testament—into three sections: the Law, the Writings (the poetic books), and the Prophets. In The Jesus Who Surprises, Dee divides her book into the same three sections, giving us samples of how Jesus surprises us in the pages of each section of the Old Testament Scripture. Each chapter concludes with a Bible study that can be done on your own, or in a small group setting. 

The two disciples on the road Jesus commented to each other later that they felt their hearts burning as Jesus revealed Himself all throughout the Scriptures. I pray that as you read The Jesus Who Surprises you will experience the same burning. Then I believe this book will start you on your own lifelong journey to read the Scriptures for yourself and see Jesus on every single page! 

I am a Multnomah book reviewer. 

Poetry Saturday—Let It Be On Earth

Psalm 93
The Lord sits upright on His throne, 
draped in a mountain, rising through 
the clouds, forever changeless, new, 
eternally impervious to 
all storms or time, a growing stone 
of splendor and unmeasured girth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Psalm 45:6-8
What sweetness bathes our every sense!
What radiating gladness swells 
around us! What delightful smells 
engulf, what happy music tells
Your glory! Joys beyond expense 
from You and from Your throne pour forth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Psalm 47
They gather in Elysian Fields, 
a vast and varied, joyful host, 
with one objective uttermost—
their King to celebrate and toast!
There, casting down their crowns and shields, 
they tell His holy, matchless worth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Revelation 4, 5
Throughout the vast, far-flung expanse 
a chorus rises, joyous, strong:
Unnumbered hosts, an endless throng, 
their voices joined in glorious song, 
extol their King’s eminence, 
rejoicing in His matchless worth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Hebrews 12:1
Now let us focus on one saint, 
one from that boisterous crowd of those 
who prays together, dressed in clothes 
of linen white. See how he glows 
in mien and body! No restraint 
impedes his holy, joyful mirth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Hebrews 1:7 
Christ speaks, and angels all obey, 
and hurry off to implement
His Word. They are as servants sent, 
a holy, unseen regiment, 
to guard and guide us on our way.
Of faithfulness they know no dearth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!

Psalm 97:1-6
Fire flows to mark His path, and burns 
away His foes by righteousness 
and justice, oozing forth to bless 
the world and overpave the mess 
we men have made of things. He turns 
this way and that in all His worth:
As there, Lord, let it be on earth!T.M. Moore

3 Lessons From A Devoted Dad

If you were to pick a man that would have been desperately devoted to Jesus as his Savior, Cornelius wouldn’t make anyone’s “top 10” list! 

Just take a look at all the strikes against this man. He was a… 

  • Gentile—to Jews, Gentiles were just the fuel to stoke the fires of hell. 
  • resident of the city of Caesarea—since this was the headquarters of the Roman government for Palestine, not many Jews would venture there. 
  • Roman—historians say only 10% of Romans in this era were monotheistic. 
  • centurion—not just any centurion, but an extremely powerful centurion from the Italian Regiment (not just a local mercenary who was in it for the money). And he took his name from Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general known both for his mercy and his ruthlessness.

All of this makes Cornelius a fully self-sufficient and a well-to-do man who was not likely to look for help from God. Nor was he the type of person that a Christian missionary might seek out. 

But clearly, something was missing in Cornelius’ life because he was completely countercultural in his pursuit after God. Not just his pursuit of God, but his quick understanding of exactly who Jesus was. 

Luke the historian describes Cornelius as:

  • devout and God-fearing. The Greek word for devout literally means “a right worshipper.” It’s a word Luke only uses three times in Acts, and two of those times are describing Cornelius. 
  • prayerful. The word Luke uses for him means someone who makes prayer personal and ongoing. 
  • generous. Cornelius took care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves. 

All of this got God’s attention (see Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Proverbs 19:17), and He sent an angel to direct Cornelius to Peter. 

When Peter came to Cornelius’ house, twice he said “as you know” (vv. 36, 37), showing us that Cornelius was aware that there was not only one true God, but that a relationship with Jesus was the only way to be in right relationship with God. As Peter spoke with Cornelius, his family, his relatives, his close friends, and even his fellow soldiers, the Holy Spirit baptized them just as He had done with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. 

So here are 3 vital lessons for all men to learn from the life of Cornelius the centurion—

  1. Your devotion to God is influential. People around you do notice your devoted pursuit of God.
  2. Your openness to all that God has puts your family, friends, and coworkers in a place to receive God’s blessings too.
  3. God’s blessings flowing through you have lasting and far-reaching results. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius may have opened the door for Christian evangelism to Gentiles unlike anything that had happened before.

Dads, be devoted to God. Desire all He has for you, and all He has for those around you. Pursue Him no matter how many “strikes” there may be against you. 

Be sure to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal.

Surprised By Paradox (book review)

Many years ago, as I struggled with some of the either-or challenges of Christianity, I read C.S. Lewis’ wisdom that the safest course between two either-or extremes was a course straight between them. Jen Pollock Michel embraces this profound wisdom in her thoughtful book Surprised By Paradox—The Promise of And in an Either-Or World.

Jen wrestled with many of the same either-or struggles I wrestled with, which I actually found encouraging. The reason I find this encouraging is that it tells me that I’m not alone in my wrestling, and you aren’t either! So embracing the same C.S. Lewis wisdom that helped guide me, Jen opens up her heart to us in an intimate journey of discovery. 

Surprised By Paradox felt like I was getting a glimpse at Jen’s personal diary. Every chapter seemed like it could start out “Dear Diary…” with Jen sharing what prompted her wrestling thoughts, the alternatives she considered, and then the AND solution that God revealed to her. I could feel her growing in insight and confidence as I turned to each successive chapter. 

This book will cause you to question and ponder and wrestle as well. And that’s a good thing! To help you along the way, there are some very helpful discussion questions sprinkled throughout the book. Although these would be fine questions for you to answer on your own, I encourage to invite someone else alongside you on your journey. Surprised By Paradox will help you and your friends grow in your spiritual maturity. 

I am an IVP book reviewer. 

The Mysteries Of God

“Relinquish your demand to understand; accept the fact that many things are simply beyond your comprehension. Because I am infinite and you are finite, the limitations of your mind make it impossible for you to understand much of what happens in your life—and in the world. So it’s vital to make room for mystery in your worldview.

“You are privileged to know many things that were formally mysteries—things that had been kept hidden for ages and generations. The New Testament is full of revelations that came through My incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. You are immeasurably blessed to have this priceless knowledge!

“Nonetheless, the ways I work in your world are often mysterious to you—beyond tracing out. This presents you with a choice: to resent My ways or to bow before Me and wonder and worship.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Always)

I hope you will choose wonder and worship—that’s what I’m trying to choose.

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