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Saturday, December 2, 2017

MAKES YOU GO HMMMMM!


I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine about preaching. He asked me, “Smith, what is your study routine?” I told him, “First, I read the text at least 6 times before I pick up a pen and paper”. He said, “6 times before you pick up a pen and paper…why?” I said, “Because the first few times, I read it in my normal reading speed and if by the time I reach 4th, 5th, and 6th reading of the text if something doesn’t slow my reading down its probably not a text I should be preaching at the time”. He responded … ”Interesting!”

As I read the book of Psalms there is a word that pops up periodically…SELAH! Every time I see this word it makes me stop, like why is this word here? What does it mean? Why can’t we pronounce it right? Is the word significant? Can we make any sense out of the word?

The word selah is found in two books of the Bible, but is most prevalent in the Psalms, where it appears approx. 80 times. It also appears three times in the third chapter of the minor prophet Habakkuk. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the meaning of selah. Most versions of the Bible do not attempt to translate selah but simply transliterate the word straight from the Hebrew. The Septuagint translated the word as “daplasma” (“a division”). Well-meaning Bible scholars disagree on the definition of selah and on its root word, but since God has ordained that it be included in His Word, we should make an effort to find out, as best we can, the meaning. Proverbs 30: says; “Every word of God is flawless.”

One amazing fact about Selah is the # of times it is used in the Book Psalms. It is used some 80 times in Psalms which is more than the use of “hallelujah” and “Amen”. Makes you go hmmmmm!

One possible Hebrew word related to selah is calah, which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.” Referring to wisdom, Job says, “The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold” (Job 28:19). The word translated “valued” in this verse is the Hebrew calah. Here Job is saying that wisdom is beyond comparing against even jewels, and when weighed in the balance against wisdom, the finest jewels cannot equal its value.

Selah is also thought to be rendered from two Hebrew words: s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.” Another commentator believes it comes from salah, “to pause.” From salah comes the belief that selah is a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms. If this is true, then each time selah appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, perhaps to take a breath or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This theory would encompass all these meanings—“praise,” “lift up,” and “pause.” When we consider the three verses in Habakkuk, we also see how selah could mean “to pause and praise.” Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 inspires the reader to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency.

The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where selah appears. When we see the word selah in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths.

Clint’s understanding of the Selah based on notes and commentary of study:

Selah can be translated as a form of meditation word. In other words, before moving to the next phrase of your reading, stop and think about what has already been said. Read slow to gain more!

I believe the reason why many people misunderstand the bible is because they read it as if it’s fiction, a novel, science handbook, etc. And if we view the bible in this manner, we miss the true intent of meaning and impact on the lives of those who read it.

I also believe, we read the Word of God way too fast like we’re in a reading competition or something. Slow down! You will be amazed at what you’ve missed because you read too fast.

The best verse I can think of as I write this blog on meditating on the Word is Psalms 1:2


“…2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night..”

 

The Bible talks about meditating on God’s Word and His laws throughout Scripture. The word meditation means “thoughtful contemplation or reflection for a period of time.” Psalm 1:2 says the man is blessed “whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” The Bible directs us to think scripturally by bringing God’s Word into our everyday thought life. Christian Devotional Meditation (CDM) is an attempt to understand one’s self and focus on God’s presence.

If you can the Word of God and never have a “Make you go hmmmmmm” moment, then maybe and just maybe you’re reading too fast. So, Selah, slow down and think about what you’ve just read.

My name Clint, I love the Word and I approve this message…..

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

HANGING UNTIL YOUR CHANGE COMES


Some months ago I preached a famous passage of scripture; Proverbs 3:5-6 entitled "Trusting God at all Cost!" For months this text had been  on my heart and mind during my devotional time. So, when I got the nod to preach that morning Proverbs 3:5-6 was the text to preach. I opened with a childhood story experience….

I’m the oldest of 3 boys and in our house it was never a dull moment, we always found something crazy to do.  This particular day, we decided to play cops and robbers. My cousin and I were the robbers and my brothers were the cops. We had just robbed the Monopoly game bank and stole all the money. We lived in Lynwood, Ca on State St at the time. We had a house, with a back house, and a garage with an upper room. We were making our daring escape as the cops were fast approaching for our arrest. We went to our hideout, the garage with an upper room. We heard the sirens of cops coming to capture the two thieves. So, my cousin and I had to come up with a plan quick to escape arrest and the penalty of spending time in our homemade jail made of bushes, branches, and 2x4 lumber in a ditch filled with muddy water.

Trust me, we had no intention of getting caught with our Monopoly money. So, we decided to tie sheets together and throw over the window ledge to climb down. My cousin was much bigger than I was so I told him to hold the end of the sheet as I make my way down the side of the wall with a portion of our Monopoly money. I climbed out onto the side of the wall to walking down. About midway through, I hear…”Clint, come back I can’t hold it much longer!” I looked up and looked down. I looked up and looked down. Needless to say, I found myself in a sticky situation. Again, “Clint, come back, I can’t hold this much longer!” By this time, my brothers transitioned from being cops to firemen. They’re standing at the bottom and yelled, “Clint, let go we will catch you…TRUST US!” Well, I let go and the fall seemed like an eternity. I hit the ground and I no longer had to look down because I was looking up. All I could see was stars going around in circles above my head.

My brothers came over asking if I was alright and my response was a classic one: “What do you think bleep….bleep…bleep? I will never trust you bleep…bleep…bleep guys again!”

It is this childhood experience that reminds me daily that people, places, situations, money, etc will let you down but God will never let you down.

I also learned another lesson after the message, be prepared to fall flat on your back when you try to get ahead of God.  There comes a time in life when we say, “IN GOD I TRUST” moves from just saying it to actually living the trust we say we have in God.

I made a promise to God years ago that I would not get ahead of Him in what He wants to do in my ministry, career, personal life, relationships, and life in general. It’s hard to do when you want things to happen a certain way and quicker then right now. So, I’ve taken some radical steps of trusting God that many people won’t understand and I refuse to explain until He releases me to do so.  Until then and for now, I’m at peace with the decision I’ve made to radically trust God. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t get ahead of God, walk with God, and let him lead you. You will be at peace that surpasses everybody’s understanding.

Trust me…..NO …. TRUST GOD!

Friday, November 17, 2017

IT’S A BEHAVIOR NOT A BURDEN


Thanksgiving Bible Verses

     As a little boy, I was taught to address my elders with “Yes, Mam!” and “No, Sir!” I was taught to say “Thank you” when someone does something nice for you. And say “You’re Welcome” as the proper response to someone who says “Thank You” to you. However, I’ve noticed that getting people to say “Thank You” and/or “You’re Welcome” is like pulling teeth and they when do say “Thank You” it’s burden for them to say it.

There’s a frown on the face, with a smirk on the lips, followed by a low whisper of one crying in the wilderness. Or, some just go silent never to respond.

In no way am I after anybody with this blog about not saying “Thank You!”

However, I do want to remind us that our behavior represents the teachings we’ve received over our lifetime. And from time to time, we need to be reminded of how to behave as people and definitely as believers.  When we talk about “Christian” behavior, we are talking about the behavior of those who have accepted, by faith, Jesus Christ as their Savior and thus are indwelt with His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), making it possible for us to serve God. The “actions” that glorify our Father in heaven are those that bear much fruit (John 15:8). This is, in fact, how we show we are His disciples. Indeed, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—should be the hallmark of Christian behavior, especially love.

As well, having a heart of gratitude is just as important in our behavioral practices as is the Fruits of Spirit. Yes, I used practice with behavior because you will only do well that which you consistently do regularly. Having a thankful behavior must be practiced because we can always find reasons not to be thankful.

Thankfulness is a prominent Bible theme. First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Thankfulness should be a way of life for us, naturally flowing from our hearts and mouths.

Digging into the Scriptures a little more deeply, we understand why we should be thankful and also how to have gratitude in all circumstances. Here are a few my favorite scriptures…

  • Colossians 3:17  ESV - And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Thankful for a heavenly Father who deserves my best at all times.
     
  • Psalm 136:1 ESV - Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Thankful to God for loving more than I can ever imagine.
     
  • Hebrews 12:28  ESV - Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. Thankful to God for being part kingdom that cannot be torn down by anyone or anything.
     
  • Psalm 100:1-5  ESV - A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Thankful to God for His faithfulness to me!
     
  • Psalm 118:28-29  ESV - You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! – Thankful to God for His goodness, mercy, love, and patience with me.
     
  • 1 Cornithians 15:57 NKJV – But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ – Thankful for victory in salvation through Jesus Christ!

These are just a few of my verses but it helps develop a thankful behavior independent of circumstances.

What are your favorite verses that can develop a thankful behavior independent of circumstances?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WHY HAVE A WEDNESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY OR WORSHIP SERVICE


Have you ever wonder why a church has Wednesday Night Bible Study? If you haven’t wondered, I have.

You may be wondering now, why is he writing about Wednesday night bible study? It’s a simple complicated answer to your inquiry, people stopped coming to Wednesday night bible study.  In generations past, Wednesday night attendance was approximately 60% of a Sunday morning worship service (this is my approximation because I couldn’t find stats online that made sense to me so I used my experience). Now, attendance for Wednesday night bible study in general is more like 30-45% in attendance of Sunday morning worship service. Why is that? I could find many reasons as to why people don’t attend Wednesday night bible study or worship service because I’ve heard them all. However, I believe the bottom-line is that people don’t see the relevance of attending a mid-week service especially when their lives are so busy daily.

So, why have a Wednesday service and where did it come from?

No historical facts have been found that relate when and why Lord’s Day evening and Wednesday evening services began. Too much speculation so I will not try to sort through it all to draw a conclusion.

Therefore, I will reach back to my early days of attending mid-week service. Wednesday night meetings were originally called “prayer meetings”. This was a special time in life of the church to strategically pray for the pastor, the church, and the sick / shut-in. The service would start out with hymns, prayer, and a bible lesson. From my recollection, it took place in a small room and it was some of the best services ever. We had church in that small room. As it grew, we went to the sanctuary to have prayer meeting still consisting of hymns, prayer, and a bible lesson. It quickly transformed from a prayer meeting to worship service which included praise/worship, call to worship, scripture reading, prayer, song of preparation before the message, message, invitation, offering, and the benediction. There’s nothing wrong with the transformation. However, I just believe that we can’t forget the key element of a mid-week service that had so much impact on the church and it's effectiveness in the community which was prayer. Not just any prayer or praying but strategic prayer! 

Paul says in Philippians 4: 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The strength of the church lies in its’ prayer life! Just as a believer is strengthened from a strong prayer life so is the church. When believers come together in prayer great things happen, TOGETHER!

While I believe prayer is essential to a mid-week service that’s not the only important reason for attending mid-week service. I also believe….

  • It follows the Early Church Pattern: One of my favorite passages of scripture on the church is housed in Act 2:42-47. Verse 42 sets the principle method of doing church: “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine, in prayers, and breaking of bread from house to house”. Throughout the book Acts you will notice that the people did not go to church for fear of being killed but that didn’t stop them from having bible study and prayer meeting from house to house. It was important to the NT church to be rooted in sound doctrine and it is important to the church today, corporately and individually, to share the same mindset of the NT church. Church’s I’ve attended and even when pastored a church, most of my strategic doctrinal teachings were done during a mid-week service. I used Wednesday night worship service for systematic teaching on core Christian values. The platform afforded me and the congregation an opportunity to engage to together in a discussion for learning.
     
  • It follows the instruction of the Great Commission: Matthew 28: 19 says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples….” Here’s my conviction of disciple-making, the church has a responsibility to make disciples and disciples has the responsibility to make more disciples. In addition, I have a five-fold “P” principle in disciple-making: · Discipleship is PERSONAL—Discipleship just doesn’t happen, it’s a personal pursuit. · Discipleship is a PROCESS— Spiritual maturity starts with knowledge that leads to change but take it one step at a time. · Discipleship is PURPOSEFUL— Finish what you started! · Discipleship is about PEOPLE— Effective discipleship is relationship building. · Discipleship is POSSIBLE— Discipleship is possible to achieve, just stay in your lane.


 

-        It insures a commitment to the sharing of common goals, values, and principles: If you go back to Acts 2:42-47, you will notice that the people went to work after verse 42. The key verse is verse 44; “All the believers were together and had everything in common”. I believe Wednesday Night Bible Study (or worship) is the glue that makes everything and everybody stick together as an effective healthy church. What is the guarantee of sharing common goals, values, and principles? Verse 47; “They praised God and had favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved’.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

DON'T WAIT GET STARTED NOW


I have to admit as I read the Psalms in time past that I totally missed the beauty and brutal honesty of the Psalms. Yes, I was one of those guys who read, preached, taught, illustrated, encouraged, and edified the saints with the most popular Psalms. Translated, I ran to the shout material of the Psalms. I won’t say it was a bad thing to do at the time. It was just something I knew at the time.

However, over time, as I grow in God so does my ability to see Scripture in a more mature fashion. The Hebrew writer says; “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so” – (Hebrews 6:1-3). Translation, Grow Up and Move on!

I believe that’s why I can read Psalms now with a more mature set of eyes, I GREW UP A LIL!

As we read Psalms, we read the writers truth and honesty.

The sixteenth century Reformer John Calvin says of the Psalms; “There is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn . . . all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated. Or, as someone else noted, while the rest of the Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.

Some biblical scholars have observed three cycles in the psalms: the cycles of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation.

·         Psalms of orientation point us to the kind of relationship with God we were created for, a relationship marked by confidence and trust; delight and obedience; worship, joy, and satisfaction.

·         The psalms of disorientation show us human beings in their fallen state. Anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, depression, anger, doubt, despair – the whole kaleidoscope of toxic human emotions find a place in the Psalms.

·         But the psalms of reorientation portray reconciliation and redemption in prayers of repentance (the famous penitential psalms), songs of thanksgiving, and hymns of praise that exalt God for his saving deeds, sometimes pointing forward to Jesus, the Messianic Lord and Davidic King who will fulfill God’s promises, establish God’s kingdom, and make all things new.

The above cycles point us to the story of the Christian life: creation, fall, and redemption. Our lives, more often than not, are fraught with anxiety, shame, guilt, and fear. But when we encounter our redeeming God in the midst of those distressing situations and emotions, we respond with renewed penitence, worship, thanksgiving, hope, and praise.

Within the honesty of the writers of Psalms there is still confident trust in God that is not independent of life’s realities but right if midst of it. Honestly, that’s what living the Christian life is all about, living strong in the midst of hardships. But my question is how do we live strong without some much emphasis being placed praise your through it? I love praise and worship. But good is it without knowing the One to whom we praise and worship. Liking it to 1 Corinthians 13, we’re sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Translated, Making noise with no purpose.

One of most important things we can learn in walking with God is how to use Scripture as he intended. All Scripture is inspired by God, but not all Scripture is suited to every state of heart. There is a God-given variety in the Spirit-breathed word – a variety that befits the complexities of the human condition. Sometimes we need comfort, sometimes instruction, while at other times we need prayers of confession and the assurance of God’s grace and pardon.

For example, when we’re struggling with anxious thoughts, we are strengthened by psalms that point to God as our rock, our refuge, our shepherd, our sovereign king (e.g. Psalms 23:1, Psalms 27:1, Psalms 34:1, Psalms 44:1, Psalms 62:1, Psalms 142:1). When we’re beset with temptations, we need the wisdom of psalms that direct our steps in the ways of God’s righteous statues (e.g. Psalms 1:1, Psalms 19:1, Psalms 25:1, Psalms 37:1, Psalms 119:1). But when we’ve blown it and feel overwhelmed with guilt, we need psalms that help us hope in God’s mercy and unfailing love (e.g. Psalms 32:1, Psalms 51:1, Psalms 103:1, Psalms 130:1). And at other times, we just need to tell God how desperately we desire him, or how much we love him, or how we long to praise him (e.g. Psalms 63:1, Psalms 84:1, Psalms 116:1, Psalms 146:1).

Don’t wait to get started, see God now in the Psalms and it will help you get through the bad times.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

MY 50th BIRTHDAY



The day had finally come where I celebrated 50yrs here on earth. I didn’t think I would be that emotional about reaching this age. But when I look back over my life, here’s how I summarize it…

I’ve been through the storm and rain but I made it

You ask me how? ‘I don’t know’ but I made it!

I’ve had so many ups and down.

I know how it feels to be knocked to the ground.

Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, I made It!

The mountains been a little too high!

My friends have made me cry but I made it!

I shed so many tears.

There were times I wish I wasn’t here!

Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, I made It!

I didn’t know my day from night!

I didn’t believe things were going to be alright!

I told the Lord to send some help.

I didn’t want to be in this world all by myself.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, I made it!

All of my loved ones they got tired of me but I still made it.

I took my Master’s hand and I joined the Holy Ghost band!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah I made it!

(Disclaimer: I don’t own the rights to this poetic song. Written by Gregory Perkins Bowen)

 

In this blog I don’t feel compelled to be transparent and share my 50year life story. My story has already been written and still in writing each day as I wake up and start a new day.

 

I just thank God I made it in one piece.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MORE THAN A BOOK OF CELEBRATION





Recently, I decided for devotional reading to read the book of Psalms….what a great choice of reading! I’ve read through Psalms many times but this time my reading was little different than before.


 Allow me to open this blog by expression my deep appreciation and love for the book of Psalms. I absolutely and unequivocally love Psalms. The poetic nature for which each writer writes is simply amazing to me. The openness and honesty in expressing the reality of their life experience as a Christian provide encouragement and hope to the reader.


 However, I believe the book of Psalms has been mistreated and misunderstood because most of the attention given to the Psalms is related to celebration. Take a moment to think about it, we run to Psalms 9 - “I will praise You, O Lord with my whole heart”, Psalms 100 - “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, Psalms 150 - “Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord”,  Psalms 34 – “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise will continually be in my mouth”, Psalms 48 – “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised”, and so on and so on. We read portions of Psalms that are what we would consider to be shouting material by ignoring the context of the Psalms.


 If we read the Psalms only for celebration, we’re not reading each Psalms for what they’re meant to be. They’re testimonies of a believer’s life experience expressed with truth and honesty. The book is poetry that wakes up emotions that fit the truth of life reality that says….



It can be hard out here for a Christian most times!



Psalms is not only filled with celebration it is an expression to an amazing array of emotions that many of us can relate as being fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

  • Loneliness: “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalms 25:16).
  • Sorrow: “My life is spent with sorrow” (Psalms 31:10).
  • Regret: “I am sorry for my sin” (Psalms 38:18).
  • Contrition: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalms 51:17).
  • Discouragement and turmoil: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me” (Psalms 42:5)?
  • Shame: “Shame has covered my face” (Psalms 44:15).
  • Fear: “Being scared senseless” (Psalms 55:1-23).
  • Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalms 4:4).
  • Grief: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalms 6:7).
  • Brokenheartedness: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
  • Pain: “I am afflicted and in pain” (Psalms 69:29).
  • Abandonment: When You Feel Alone - Psalm 22:1–31
  • Disappointment: Psalm 107:1–43
  • Uncertainty: Psalm 19:1–14
  • Restlessness: Psalm 42:1–11
  • Outrage: Psalm 137:1–9
     
    Each Psalms is designed to take us on a testimonial journey that leads us back to the One who is ever present and participating in our lives daily, GOD! We cannot really celebrate the Psalms without paying attention to the fact that despite the cries for help in the Psalms, by the end of the Psalms there is joy and hope for a better tomorrow. That's how I'm reading the Psalms now. Each Psalms is personal between the writer and God and we’re privileged to read to learn from they’re journey through this thing called life.
     
    Until, next time …. Selah…