Run To The Banner

Psalm 60 may have the longest introduction of any of the psalms, and it gives us some key historical information. David has been successful against the Philistines and the Moabites, and now he is fighting in Mesopotamia. While the army was focused elsewhere, the Edomites must have seen an opportunity to attack Israel, where they won a temporary victory (see the intro to Psalm 60 and 2 Samuel 8:1-3). 

David’s reflexive response to this temporary setback was not retaliation or blaming, but remorse and repentance. In verses 1-4 he says “You have” five times, acknowledging that God allowed this temporary defeat. He also acknowledges that only God can restore. 

Then David comes to the Selah pause: But You have raised a banner for those who fear You—a rallying point in the face of attack. Selah. (NLT) 

The Selah here is David calling us to evaluate our options just as he did. We are to consider things like: 

  • God’s help vs. our own strength 
  • the benefits of righteousness vs. the consequences of sin
  • depending on God vs. depending on man 
  • rallying under God’s banner vs. rallying under our own banner 

It’s interesting to note that in the list of David’s long string of victories in 2 Samuel 8, we read this: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v. 6). But how can that be since the Israelites were temporarily defeated by the Edomites? 

I think this is the key principle—We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent. 

When David confesses that God has allowed this temporary defeat, he is really confessing that he had attempted to navigate things on his own. Perhaps he thought his strategy would keep Israel secure, or that his men were trained and resourced enough to be victorious, or that David didn’t even have to pay attention to the Edomites any longer. 

Whatever went through David’s mind, it was clear that he had become more self-satisfied than he was God-dependent. So David correctly recognized that he needed to run to God’s banner. He recognized that was the only secure place for him to stay. 

The Bible DOESN’T say “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” but it DOES say “submit yourself to God—run to His banner and stay under His banner—and then you can resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 

Look at the keywords in the final verse of Psalm 60: “With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” 

WE WILL only because HE WILL. 

Has there been a temporary setback in your life? Repent and run to the banner of God. 

Have you felt under attack? Humble yourself and run to the banner of God. 

Have you recently won a victory? Stay humble and keep on running to the banner of God! 

If you have missed any of the other posts in this Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Trespassers

Psalm 59 is the prequel to David being betrayed by the Ziphites as well as the incident in the cave between himself and King Saul. 

This psalm is also called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” Since King Saul has sent assassins to try to kill David, you can understand why David is praying this way. But I sort of wonder why he inserts a Selah pause after two rather angry-sounding sentences in verses 5 and 13. 

When we are reading—or even praying—an imprecatory prayer, here are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • This prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. All of the words in the prayer, including the Selah pauses, are directed by the Holy Spirit. Getting our angry thoughts out in God’s presence is the safest place to vent. 
  • This is a prayer for justice because an injustice has been done, not just a prayer because David is upset with someone. 
  • Since this prayer says, “Get ‘em, God,” it’s a prayer that turns matters over to God as the Ultimate Judge, taking the judgment out of my hands. 

Really this is a prayer that seeks to balance something vital: The desire to see evil punished while at the same time desiring to see all evildoers come to salvation. 

Think of it this way: When I sin, do I want to meet a God of justice or a God of mercy? Since we are to treat others the way that we would want to be treated, if I want to receive God’s mercy, I have to desire that for others too. Even those evildoers who have hurt me. 

David’s first Selah pause comes after saying that he is innocent of any offense or wrongdoing. When we pray an imprecatory prayer, we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to reveal any trespasses we have committed (see Psalm 19:12-13; 139:23-24). 

David’s second Selah pause comes after he says, “Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Is my “Get ‘em, God” prayer a desire for me to be seen as the overcomer or for God to be seen as glorious? 

As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. 

I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

So when you get angry enough at someone who has trespassed against you that you want to pray a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, Selah pause and pray, “Holy Spirit… 

  • …show me my trespasses; 
  • …help me forgive my trespassers; and
  • …help me to focus on my God, and not on my trespassers or my forgiven trespasses.” 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find links to all of them listed here. 

Messes

My good friend Josh Schram shared a powerful message in our Selah series. 

David is the anointed king, but instead of living in a palace, he’s living in a cave. From this cave, David gave us Psalm 57. 

Here are some of my takeaways from Josh’s message, but I would encourage you to watch this 20-minute video for yourself

Takeaways: 

  • To get where God needs me to be, I often have to go through things I never expected. 
  • Even my “cave times” are directed by God. 
  • “David didn’t get down on Saul’s level; he got down on his knees.” —Josh Schram 
  • If David had taken matters into his own hands, what would his legacy have been? Instead, he worshiped God, and let God take care of Saul. 
  • “We don’t worship God because our circumstances are good but because our God is good.” —Josh Schram 
  • My little messes become big messes when I try to handle them myself. I need to run to my Heavenly Father for help with all of my messes! 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access all of them by clicking here. 

Interrupt Your Anxious Thoughts

David taught us how to pray after we’ve been stabbed in the back. Aren’t you glad that you can pray this prayer just once and everything is all better?! 

Oh, wait. It doesn’t really work that way, does it? At least it hasn’t for me. After I’ve been hurt, it takes quite a while to get to a place of healing. We have cliches for this sort of thing—phrases like “Once bitten, twice shy” and “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” 

We begin to react to the past instead of reflecting and responding in the present.  

It’s interesting that those who compiled the Psalter placed Psalm 55 where they did. There is no introduction that gives us a background or setting, but David still seems to be looking for those “Ziphites” that betrayed him to King Saul. 

Here’s an important physiological and psychological truth: Our brains cannot tell the difference between a real threat and an imagined threat. Our physical bodies react the same way in response to any threat. 

It’s interesting to note that both Selahs in Psalm 55 are in the middle of a sentence, almost as if David is interrupting his own thoughts. Which, I believe, is exactly what he’s doing. 

As this psalm opens David is still praying, but he’s praying about his internal threats: 

  • my thoughts trouble me 
  • I am distraught 
  • I notice the conversations and the stares of potential enemies  
  • my heart is in anguish 
  • I feel like terrors of death, fear and trembling, and horror are closing in on me! 

This leads to David’s fight/flight response (really, it’s his flight response): “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert.

David has been listening to himself, and he finally at least attempts to put a halt to these distressing thoughts with his first Selah— which means “pause, and calmly think of that.” 

Most of our natural reactions are driven by fear. But fear—by its very nature—is limiting. Fear keeps us tunnel-visioned on the perceived threat. Fear closes us off to accepting any new information. Fear limits our creative responses. Fear perpetuates more fear. 

So David tries a second time to Selah. He is attempting to interrupt his negative thoughts—to stop listening to himself and start talking to himself. To move from a self-preserving reaction to a God-glorifying response requires a Selah pause to reflect. Reflecting on things like:

  • Where will these thoughts ultimately take me? 
  • How has God responded before? 
  • What does God’s Word say? 
  • Could I imagine Jesus responding the way I’m responding? 
  • What changes can I make? 

I love David’s closing conclusion: “But as for me, I TRUST IN YOU.” He’s saying, “I’m not going to listen to those negative fears anymore. It’s time to put my trust in God.”  

David had to do this “evening, morning, and noon”—again and again and again! Until finally he could say, “I will cast all my cares on the Lord and He will sustain me; He will never let me fall” (Psalm 55:22). 

This is what Jesus promises us, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access them all by clicking here. 

How To Pray When You’ve Been Stabbed In The Back

Sadly, some of the people who do us the most harm are those whom we least expected to hurt us. They seemed to have our back, but then they are stabbing us in the back! 

It’s sad, but it shouldn’t be totally unexpected. Matthew Henry said it well: “Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven. … It is well that God is faithful, for men are not to be trusted. 

David learned that lesson. He rescued the town of Keilah from the Philistines, only to hear that King Saul has called out his army to destroy Keilah and kill David. This prompted David to leave Keilah and flee to the Desert of Ziph. It appears that David has given Saul the slip, but the Ziphites send a message to the king saying, “We know where David is hiding, and we’ll gladly hand him over to you.” 

Here’s the painful part for David: Both Keilah and Ziph were in Judah—David’s tribe! His own family—that should have had his back—stabbed him in the back instead! 

I wish I could say this was a once-in-awhile thing, but we all know that it’s not. In fact, this sort of betrayal probably happens more often than we would care to admit. 

It was during this time of betrayal by the Ziphites that David wrote the 54th Psalm. In the opening verses, David laments the ruthless, Godless men that have betrayed him. And then comes that word of pause: Selah. 

I believe this Selah may have come when “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the definitions of Selah is to weigh things to see what is more valuable. Notice that Jonathan took David’s attention off his evil betrayers and turned it to his loving God. So in the very next phrase after the Selah we read David saying, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.” 

Notice four key components of David’s prayer—

  1. David’s motive for praying. In the opening verse, he says, “Your Name…Your might.” To me, that sounds a lot like the opening words to the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your Name.” 
  2. David’s prayer. He said, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” It’s interesting to note that David says nothing to the Ziphites themselves, but he only speaks of them when he is alone with God in prayer.  
  3. Prayer’s result. David didn’t have to try to make things right on his own because God took care of it—evil recoiled on those who stabbed David in the back. 
  4. David’s praise. Notice the words “I will praise Your Name…[You] have delivered me.” Again, this praise and focus on God sounds like the end of the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!” 

When enemies assail, when you have been stabbed in the back, don’t look to men for help and don’t take matters in your own hands. Instead take a Selah. Consider that God is worthy of your attention, and not the “ruthless men” who hurt you. Turn your pain over to God and say with David: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me. 

Evil will recoil on evildoers, you will be kept safe, and you will be vindicated by God’s might! 

If you missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

C’mon, Let’s Go!

In May 1917, the British war cabinet was divided. Some of the generals wanted to continue a combined assault on the German forces, but other generals saw the need to confront the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. They selected General Edmund Allenby to lead the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force against the Turks.  

Allenby’s forces were able to quickly recapture Jerusalem, but the Turks had entrenched themselves at Micmash Megiddo, allowing them a place to launch counterattacks. As battle plans were being contemplated, Major Vivian Gilbert came to Allenby with an unorthodox solution. Major Gilbert was a student of history, and he remembered the name Micmash Megiddo from an ancient text. Reading in his tent by candlelight one night, he rediscovered the text. 

Gilbert brought his report to Allenby. To take advantage of this text, conventional battle plans would have to be scraped. Instead of attacking with overwhelming force, as was usually done, Allenby ordered one company out. This small force discovered just a few Turks whom they overpowered with hardly a sound. Then scaling the cliffs, the company took up their position just before daybreak. When dawn broke and the Turks saw Allenby’s men on the highest, most strategic point, they panicked, thinking they were nearly surrounded, and quickly retreated. 

In his journal, Major Gilbert wrote, “And so after thousands of years British troops successfully copied the tactics of Jonathan.” 

Who was this Jonathan that he referred to? He was the oldest son of Saul, king of Israel. 

Before his successful assault, Jonathan had another military campaign that ended poorly. The Philistines seized the high ground, the Israelite army was reduced to a fraction of its original size, and many of the Israelite soldiers who remained were defecting to the Philistines or deserting the army altogether. And if that weren’t bad enough, Israel had only two swords left: one for King Saul and one for Jonathan. 

Jonathan’s first military campaign had been with 1000 men. As he discovered, that was actually too many men! For his next assault on Micmash, Jonathan switched tactics: he alone would attack the enemy with only his armor bearer to assist him. 

Was Jonathan impetuous? reckless? a man with a death wish? No! He was a God-fearing initiator. He knew that God would fight for anyone who was fighting for God’s people. I think his inspiration came from this promise—Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as He has promised (Joshua 23:10). 

Knowing that God would help him, three times Jonathan implores his armor bearer, “C’mon, let’s go!” 

Jim Rohn noted, “The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn and shine with increasing clearness on your path.” 

Just look at the light that dawned with Jonathan’s c’mon-let’s-go initiative: 

  • his armor bearer said he was with Jonathan “heart and soul” even though he didn’t even have a sword!
  • God sent an earthquake that caused the Philistines to panic 
  • King Saul finally mobilized the remaining army that remained with him 
  • God so confused the Philistine that they turned and fought against each other
  • the Israelite deserters returned from Philistia 
  • the fearful soldiers that had deserted returned to their posts 

Could God have defeated the Philistines on His own? Of course He could have. But He was waiting for just one godly leader to say, “Enough is enough! C’mon, let’s go!” 

Godly men are never satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Godly men know that standing still is really moving backward. Godly men know that their initiative can start a momentum that liberates others. 

Fellas, your family needs you to initiate. Your Christian brothers and sisters need you to initiate. Your countrymen need you to initiate. 

Take the initiative for God’s glory, for your family’s protection, for your nation’s revival, for generations yet to be born. Let’s charge the enemy of our souls together—

C’mon, let’s go!  

Doing Justice The Right Way

Once I was asked to teach a class on business ethics but I said, “I can’t because there’s no such thing as ‘business ethics.’ There is only ethics: Either something is right or it’s not.” 

I think the same concept holds true for “social justice.” There is no such thing: Either something is just or it’s not. 

For those situations that are truly unjust, the Bible tells us how to handle them. But first, let’s get a sense of what the Bible actually means by the word “justice.” 

Psalm 50 is a courtroom scene, with God Himself presiding as the Judge, summoning all of creation into His presence (see Psalm 50:1-6). Just before The Judge begins to speak, the psalmist Asaph calls on us to Selah—or pause to consider—after saying, “The heavens proclaim God’s righteousness.” 

The New Living Translation has this verse saying, “The heavens proclaim His justice…” and the Amplified Bible uses both words: “The heavens declare His righteousness (rightness and justice)….” So which word is it: righteousness or justice? 

The Hebrew word (tsedeq) means something that is ethically right. In other words, something for which God sets the objective standard for rightness and wrongness. There is another Hebrew word that is often very closely associated with tsedeq, and that is justice (mishpat): that is the penalty for violating tsedeq. 

But here’s where things get really interesting. We usually associate the idea of justice with retribution (or payback), but God’s justice is usually portrayed as restoration. 

In other words, God’s mercy is so strong and His desire for us to be restored into right standing with Him is so passionate, that His default is restorative mercy. 

God’s response to our acts of unrighteousness wasn’t to rain down retributive justice on us, but to send His Son to earth to make restorative mercy available! 

In his first public sermon, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah. The last words Jesus read about His mission on earth were “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He left off the last phrase in Isaiah which said, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Favor (restoration) now; judgment (retribution) later for those who would not accept the restoration Jesus made available. 

Back in the Psalm 50 courtroom, God tells us the wrong way to address injustice: with angry, demeaning words (Psalm 50:19-20).  

We CANNOT do justice God’s way without two things: 

  1. Personal righteousness which comes from Jesus in us (Romans 5:1); otherwise, we’re just hypocrites pointing out the exact same injustice that’s in ourselves. 
  2. Kindness. “But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

The darkness of injustice is the absence of light. Jesus says to us, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). 

The hate of injustice is the absence of love. Jesus says to us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Here are my takeaways—

  1. Let God be The Judge. 
  2. Make sure I am in right standing with God through my relationship with Jesus Christ. 
  3. If I see injustice, address it with kindness, light, and love.

If you have missed any messages in this current series in the Selahs in the Psalms, you can get caught up by clicking here.

Feelings, Facts, and Faith

Confusing times become more stressful—and more confusing!—when the response of people seems to throw more fuel on the fire. Frustration boils up into anger. Confusion gives way to fear. Uncertainty about what to believe or what to do becomes anxiety over what might be coming next. 

You might think I’m describing current events in our country right now. But in times like these we need to remember that there have always been times like these. When I talk about frustration, anger, confusion, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, I am actually thinking about events that took place over 2000 years ago. 

Like when the residents of Ephesus became Christians and stopped buying idols of Artemis, a huge backlash broke out. “Soon the whole city was in an uproar. … The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:29-32). 

Or when some Jews thought Paul had taken some non-Jews into the part of temple restricted to Jews only. “Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.’ (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple. … Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar…” (Acts 21:27-34). 

There are three Fs at work here: feelings, facts, and faith. 

Have you heard it said, “Feelings are not facts”? Feeling are a fact to the one experiencing those feelings, so feelings can indeed be facts: subjective facts that are factual to me. 

Facts are not necessarily better than feelings because our facts might come from faulty sources. For example, Trophimos was with Paul, but Paul did not bring him into the restricted area. 

Whether feelings or facts, we need faith in God’s sovereignty. We need to remember: God has a plan, He is in control, nothing takes Him by surprise, nothing derails His purpose, He is intimately aware of everything that is happening. 

The Holy Spirit helps us evaluate both feelings and facts through the filter of truth found in God’s Word. Then the Spirit also gives us faith to stand firm despite the feelings and the facts. 

The Holy Spirit not only helps us pray through these confusing times (Romans 8:27), but He helps us know what’s really behind the confusing times, as well as how we can communicate that truth to others (1 Corinthians 2:10, 13 AMP). 

Probably my favorite promise (which I especially like in the Old English of the King James Version) is this: Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things (1 John 2:20).

So I want to encourage you again: Don’t stop at salvation—be baptized in the Holy Spirit and have that unction that will help you with all your feelings and all the facts that are thrown at you. 

If you have missed any messages in this series on Pentecostal Christians, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

Personalizing The Prayers Of The Bible

Much of the Bible is given to us in a conversational format, and many of those conversations are between humans and God.

My desire is that we wouldn’t just read through the Bible, but we would learn to pray through the Bible. The Scripture is full of prayers people have already prayed. We have the benefit of seeing the setting that led to the prayer, the prayer itself, and then the outcome of the prayer. 

The Holy Spirit can help us make each prayer in the Bible our own prayer. They can become personalized to the situations we face. 

In this 5-minute video, I demonstrate how I turned Psalm 27 into a prayer. Below the video is the text of this psalm so you can see how I began the prayer. After watching this video, I encourage you to begin to use God’s Word as a launching point for your prayers for your situations. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

Teach me Your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Impossible To Empowered

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].”  Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?” 

Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus. 

Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize. 

Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!” 

You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). 

This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly. 

Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27). 

On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection. 

Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?! 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here. 

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