Saturday, September 22, 2007

Be Reconciled - It's Yom Kippur

I'm not Jewish. I'm not one of those Christians that keep High Holy Days. I do honor the traditions and keep them in my heart. Today is Yom Kippur.

The LA Times has a good article.

Today we are to avoid:

  1. Eating and drinking
  2. Anointing with perfumes or lotions
  3. Marital relations
  4. Washing
  5. Wearing leather shoes

In this season of reflection things seem to be in upheavel all around us. There seems to be fear and trepidation everywhere. Seems like things are out of balance. Thats why it's good to have this time of reconcilliation.

It seems like the world is out of order at this turn of the year.

I am confident this upheaval is of God and good will come of it. Sometimes he has to shake things up to correct them. That shaking is taking place right now.

The word of God speaks to this situation:

Haggii 2:5b-9
My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'
6"For thus says the LORD of hosts, Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.
7'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.
8'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts.
9'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."

Who we really when the heat is on. Nothing takes the masks off like the shaking and pressure of God to reveal men for who they really are.

Hebrews 12:25-end
Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”[k] 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.
28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

Watch the next month. Things are shaking right now. We entered the year 5768 12 days ago on Rosh Hashanah.

Happy New Year. Let's hope it really is. Things seem to be in a state of high change.

Friday, September 21, 2007

He that Pisseth against the wall

NOTE: this is a serious post about a serious problem. If you don't read the whole thing and are put off by the King James English you miss the point.

When I was growing up in North Dakota we had flying ants. They were called Piss Ants. Everyone called them that. It was not vulgar. It was the name of an insect.

It was a word we used in common everyday language. We didn't talk about being Pissed. That's a recent thing. That would be wrong, even vulgar. How could one BE Pissed?

The King James Bible talked in straightforward terminology about defecation, urination, and lots of other bodily language. If you translate the words from the ancient Greek and Hebrew be prepared to be surprised by the bluntness of the text regarding what people did. But, today we live in a vanilla politically Correct Feminized world and church.
Somehow we have diluted our capacity to talk clearly the way the King James Bible does without shame and without giving offense. I think we have lost something. I am not one of those King James Bible Purists. I like it, but my main translation is New American Standard.

Some years ago a beloved Pastor Friend of Mine, Dan Rothwell preached at First Assembly on the topic, HE WHO PISSETH AGAINST THE WALL. It shocked some people. But there was a solemn point to be made.

There are several times that phrase is used in the word of God:
1 Samuel 25:22
So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that [pertain] to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
1 Samuel 25:34
For in very deed, [as] the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
1 Kings 14:10
Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, [and] him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.
1 Kings 16:11
And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, [that] he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.
1 Kings 21:21
Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,
2 Kings 9:8
For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:

The importance and meaning of these passages is that it is a terrible curse to threaten or to carry out the threat that every male who carries your bloodline who can still piss against the wall will be destroyed, killed. Particularly when God himself makes the threat or carries it out which he did six times.
That cuts off posterity. That shuts off the flow of the gene pool. That stops the line. If that happened to the Redlin clan there are no more Redlins.
So to threaten to do this meant that it was worse than killing you, it was terminating once and for all all of whoever you might ever be in posterity thru your children and grandchildren. Most modern translations insist in translating the "he that pisseth against the wall" as all male children, or all male relatives . Other weaker translations talk about "all blood relatives". It's true at one level but doesn't have the power and effect of the idea that your sons will be eliminated and your name will die here and now. Posterity stops with you. It's a type of castration that men understand.
The devil makes that threat today. He wants to terminate your gene pool. He wants to see to it your Children, particularly your Male Children who would carry your name are lost forever and the heritage you have tried to impart to them is lost.
That is what has happened in the black community and is part of the reason why there is so much dysfunction. Black men many times don't know who they are. Worse fathers have fathered children they have never seen. Particularly male children. Even if they "pisseth against the wall" they do so without an understanding of who they are and more important who's they are.

Last Sunday at the Lutheran Church Pastor Phil showed a slide show about Children coming to visit their fathers in prison at Angola. I cried like a baby. I am touched when I see fathers and sons particularly. I believe it's a sign of the last days that I long for when Malachi 4:6 says:
King James Bible
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse

Don Martens a good friend of mine works in prisons a great deal. Fatherlessness is the core issue with many of the young men who live there. They don't know who they are and worse, the father who's genes they carry no longer know who they are. The curse has happened without killing the children physically, but spiritually.
He that pisseth against the wall is already lost. It's not profane, it might be archaic but it certainly has meaning for our world today.
We are under attack once again. Our male children are under attack. Even the idea that some might be offended by the language that a generation ago was normative has shown how an effort to effeminate our young men has tried to neutralize those who pisseth against the wall.
Stand up young men, resume.

What is Happening to Western World - do we even deserve to survive?

 Here's a story that turns my stomach.  A woman falls to the ground with pancreatic failure.  She is dying.  (My brother, a diabetic, died in somewhat the same way). 
A bystander watches her fall and dying and instead of trying to help finds an accomplice to get a video of it for YOU TUBE.  The man laughs at the woman, goes over to her dying in pain on the ground and pees on her.  Takes it out and pees right on the dying woman.  Then covers her in shaving cream.  Later perhaps out of repentance he gets a bucket of water and throws on her.  She's already dead.
There are comments on the tails of both these stories.  This didn't happen in some Mayan jungle.  (I just watched Apocolypto).  This didn't happen in the slums of Rio.  This didn't happen in Sudan.
This happened in Merry Old England.  The soul of the world once said.  The sun never sets on the British Empire they said.
How did a country that used to be spiritually and morally such that Bobbies didn't even carry guns.  How did a country like Britain drift so far.  Even in the USA this kind of mans inhumanity to man is out there.
We were not always like this.  Do we deserve to survive as a society?  I would like to fix blame.  TV.  Jackass TV Shows.  You Tube Fame.  Stupid Human Tricks.  He blames Marijuana and Alcohol.  I blame a lack of any sense of humanity at all.
Several people in the comments section have noted that he should be castrated for this crime against humanity.
I would go further if you get my drift.  I'd make it that for the rest of his life on earth he would never be able to do this again and that he would have to sit to pee forevermore.
But, that's why I'm not king.

Abortion is never without consequence

An actress who is now 74 years old, Ellen Burstyn says the lowest point in her life was when she had an abortion. She was young and independent then.

Now 50 years later it haunts her.

I worked with women who had been victims of abortionists, even if they paid for it, and lived with the regret afterward.

The pain in those girls eyes, the grief they carried can't be explained away by some empty "it's just a blob of tissue" philosophy.

It's much more and they come to know it as time goes by.

Regret over an abortion destroys marriages, ends relationships, causes people who might have otherwise been good moms and dads to live under a cloud of regret.

God is forgiving. He does not hold our sins against us.

But we do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm Just your average Gene

Spotted this on the Anchoress. It's a civics test. Harvard seniors get 69% right on average. Of College Seniors from over a hundred colleges the average is less than 50%. Of the people that are taking the test online the average score is 75%. Mine was 75%. So, I'm average Gene.

The Anchoress got 91. I'm impressed.

You take the test and don't lie. Are smarter than the average Harvard Senior? Report back.

Anchoress' readers are mostly conservatives. They are reporting out fabulous scores. So much for the theory that conservatives are stupid and uninformed. I'm of the opinion the direct opposite is true.

If you get less than 50% should you be voting? Thomas Jefferson didn't think so.

If you gave this test to a broad sampling of those voting Democrat in 2006 and those voting Republican where would you put your money on who gets better scores? Think about who the base is for both parties.

I'm just asking.

I've got a licence to sin

I've been pretty bad today. But I'm like 007, I've got a licence to sin. This should be funnier but it isn't. Most Christians believe they have this license and use it to the full extent of the law. I'm guilty of it as well. We sin like there is no God. We are idiots.

The Litmus Test

About four hundred years ago, a German theologian named Rupertus Meldenius, was frustrated with the infighting and backbiting in the church. And he said something so profound that it has passed the test of time.

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Yes, the church has its theological non-negotiables. Jesus is the son of God. He lived a sinless life; died a substitutionary death on the cross; and was raised from the dead. There is no room for disagreement on essential theological truths. But there are lots of peripheral theological issues about which we'll disagree. By peripheral I don't mean unimportant. But they aren't essential for salvation. And in those areas we need a degree of liberty! And in all things, we need charity. Love is the litmus test. Not our systematic theology!

From Mark Batterson

PS: One thing I love about Mark is his problems. They in addition to the Services on Sunday, they have two on Saturday Nights. The big problem he has is they are both too full. He is begging people to consider coming another time. There's standing room only in the services. Fire folks are giving him hassles.

Oh, to have that problem.

Mark is the son in Law of a long passed pastor and Friend, Bob Schmidgall of Calvary Temple in Naperville IL. An AG Church. We used to have Jewish Folks call up during high holy days and see when services would be. They were incensed that we called ourselves a "Temple". It didn't dawn on them the CALVARY part. That's why before Pastor Schmidgall died they changed the name to Calvary Church.

This Makes Sense

Ever the romantic and with the opinion that the elaboration of a wedding is inversly proportional to the potential for the marriage to succeed, you have to see this.

Wedding Dresses made of TOILET PAPER.

That's my girl.

A Nugget of Gold

I don't know if this is real or not. I have read a great deal of what he has written and think I believe. You decide.

This is a blog written by a man who defines himself as the fake Rick Warren. Fake Rick. Except, I think it's him. It's written first person and sounds like him. Yes I have read PDL.

I found it by noodling around another neat ministry website and following some links. I get good stuff following links sometime.

There are two posts on "Fake Rick's" blog that are really clever. First is a group of Southern California Blonds and why they don't need Jesus or the Church.

The one that led me to this is a poke at Pastor's in the line of the Bud Lite commercials. REAL MEN OF GENIUS. It says:

Today we salute you "Pastors who download their sermons off the internet and read them verbatim." You share those funny illustrations like they actually happened to you. O' master of the keyword, you've even opted for the pro-subscription with the matching powerpoint and video vignette.

You are bold to tell your staff that 2-days a week are devoted to sermon preparation, but you've figured out that in 5 minutes you can pull down someone else's work.

Original greek? Not for you- more like original geek - cause you've memorized all the central pastor sermon urls. Some may ask "Don't you have any original thoughts or words for our congregation?" The answer, "Of course I do, I picked a great sermon out of the list."

Now you too can wake up on Sunday morning when your congregation does, show up 5 minutes before, and feel refreshed and ready to read. Here's to you "Pastors who download their sermons off the internet and read them verbatim."

Once when driving on a Sunday Morning From Fargo to Omaha on I-29 I wanted to hear some good preaching. I tuned in the radio and found several live Lutheran services. I was on the road early and so I had a chance to tune in starting at 8am and listened well into the afternoon.

I was astonished and then disappointed to hear 4 different Lutheran pastors READ the exact same sermon from 4 different churches ON THE RADIO. This was ten years ago perhaps. I don't know if they still do, but I was told that these pastors subscribe to some Lutheran service that provides these sermons.

Why bother. Just mail it in.

Now, this isn't just Lutheran. I know Charismatics and Evangelicals (I'll bet Methodists and Baptists) that do the same thing. I use the Internet to search things out. But in the end it must become MINE in prayer and meditation or don't use it. Otherwise I'm just parroting empty words.

Sadly, I am convinced much of what passes for preaching is more like the real men of genius fake Rick describes than the Pastor who gets away with God and hears His voice instructing him on what he is to say.

I have the same problem with sermon series. I think the lack of the unknown, the lack of the spontaneous, the predictability defeats the expectancy that a person coming to Church should have.

When Pastor Dan preached even though he might have a theme (which he did in the month of February, faith and stewardship) you never knew what he was going to say. Many times during the worship service God would give him something new or fresh to add. You could see him writing madly getting it all down.

When Pastor Dan stood to preach you were sure you were getting a fresh word of the Lord and not some downloaded or sermon spice subscription pap. When he brought the word of the Lord anything could happen. Anything. It was spontaneous and creative. I miss Pastor Dan.

Men of God.

There is a big black book you have somewhere in your office. USE IT. Preach what God gives you, even if it's not what the sermon series calls for. What if God wants to give your people a fresh word next Sunday. Unless, you don't believe God speaks anymore. Then, dial up the ol internet download and continue to fake it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

200,000 or bust

I have always enjoyed long life in the vehicles I drive. I am of the firm conviction that it is cheaper to keep a car in good repair and drive it till the wheels fall off than buy one every year or two. I just hate that showroom depreciation. You know what that is. Drive a brand new car off the lot and it's worth 5 grand less than the minute before you bought it.

Consumer reports has a pretty good take on the idea of driving a car to 200,000 miles. The moon is 240,000 miles from the earth. I always try to drive a car to the moon before I discard it.

The only argument I have with the whole concept is the "when to get rid of the car". I don't agree with the recommendation they make that if it costs more to fix the car than the car is worth to throw it away.

The flaw in that argument is this, when you fix a car you buy miles. If the are will run safely and efficiently with a thousand dollar repair even if it's only worth five hundred bucks is a good investment IF you drive it until it breaks again.

You are buying miles.

If you are in fact thinking about buying new or fixing up you must read this article.

I like the idea that a car doesn't "owe me anything". I also like the idea of having a good quality reliable ride. I keep my outfits in good repair and drive them to the moon.

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day - September 19th

I hope you put up your tree. It's talk like a pirate day.


You will enjoy this. From Chicago Boyz, It's the 4th annual talk like a pirate day post. Read the bit under the picture and put your cursor on the mouth of the pirate in the picture on their website. You'll enjoy this. Dave Barry wrote on this in 2002.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dr Doug Beacham - The Church Is Flat

Doug Beacham has written something you need to read. I am a friend of Dr. Beacham. I have contributed a bit to a recent book he has written. He's a good man and I appreciate his ministry.

He is a leader in our denomination, The IPHC. International Pentecostal Holiness Church. In the many years I have been a minister under the covering of the denomination I have come to appreciate him more and more.

One thing he wrote in Ministry Today recently that I really agree with is that the Church is Flat. This is not a dig, This is a comment responding to Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat".

What I take away from this article and having heard him recently share on the same topic and in a conversation with him is simply this: All church work is now missions work. We live in a post Christian world and society in America. Our concentration must now be to evangelize the Jerusalem we now live in and maybe Judea. The Samaria and uttermost is doing much better than we are and now are doing it better without us.

So, if you are a pastor it's time to focus your efforts on the biggest mission field you will face in the next many years. The circle within 50 miles of your little church.

We are in such deep weed in America and have so little influence or impact we must renew our efforts on reaching this country and stop being diverted by what seems to be good productive activity.

The diversion is killing the Church.

Read Dr Beacham's whole article. It's well worth the effort.

Sort of How I Feel About it all

Loving the Bride

I got this from a good friend this morning via email. I read it twice and thought it was very good.

I have been criticized by friends of mine who no longer attend church that Church is irrelevant to them. These are people born and raised in the Church. Many are evangelical and pentecostal. They will not long come to a church that doesn't fit what they are looking for. One is wrong. They don't like looking for Jesus in places he isn't.

I love the church, but it is wrinkled and spotted, flawed and fallen, more like the wife of Hosea than the bride of Christ.

Hosea loved her anyhow and I do too.

It doesn't mean she is to be accepted in her current state. She needs to come back to her bridegroom. She needs to discover who she really is. Who's name she carries.

So in that way I love the Church and give myself for her washing in redemption.

She many times hates me for that. Thinks she is OK. She's always been like this and why should she change now. I'm not dissuaded. She needs to come back to the bedroom and know her Master. Read the Song of Songs again. She is the Shulamite. I am the Shulamite. You are.

The daughters of Jerusalem are those who beat her. That's religion. When she begins to seek her beloved Religion says NO!

She needs to learn to run to the high mountains once again and not be content to stay at home when the Bridegroom beckons.

So, read this whole thing. It should, will stir you.

WE must love the Church but press hard for her redemption. It's the only hope for salvation on the earth, the Body of Christ.

You Can’t Love Jesus and Hate His Wife

Ed Stetzer writes: "Get this. I'm standing in a reception line with my wife following a speaking engagement when this guy comes up to me and starts telling me how he's read all my books, has heard me speak on several occasions and told me how influential I've been to his ministry. (Please, go on!) He talks about how he's introduced a number of his pastor friends to all things Stetzer and how they actually traveled across country to be at this event. Wow!

But then, he starts verbally ripping on my wife like she's not even standing there. She's right there! He thinks my wife, who has been the love of my life and a partner in ministry for 25 years, is a drain on my ability to influence others. He says she's obsolete and that the "old girl is a little faded." I'm in shock.

Suddenly, the cheesy Christian motto of the 1990s flashes through my mind: What would Jesus do? Turn the other cheek? Pray for His enemy? Hand this guy His cloak? I'm about to go Jack Bauer on him..."

I think Jesus would have been ticked - like any normal husband would be. You see, the church is the Bride of Christ. And, you don’t mess with a man’s wife.

The story about my wife is made up. The reality of what professing believers of Christ do to and what they say about His bride - the church - is not. And it is exponentially more serious than saying my wife is “a little faded.” (And I would take that pretty seriously!).

You cannot say you love Jesus and abuse His wife.

Unfortunately, there is a prevailing wind currently blowing across Western Evangelicalism that has caused an ecclesiological (church) drift into dangerous waters. Research stalwart George Barna documented the trend in a longitudinal study released in 2005. One alarming element of the study showed that 70 percent of respondents found their primary means of spiritual expression through the local church in 2000, but by 2025 he predicts those numbers to decrease by at least half. Did you get that? Now, I have some quibbles about the numbers and more about the theology. But, if Barna is right, in less than 20 years, only 30-35 people out of 100 will believe that the church holds a primary significance in their relationship with Christ. That’s stunning for someone who loves the church (like I do).

We were surprised that in our recent research on young adult dropouts, the most common reasons young adults dropped out of church were lifestyle reasons. They got too busy, moved too far away, or experienced some other life change. And the church did not make the new list of priorities. Nice.

My question is how can anyone give even a cursory read of the New Testament and miss the supreme importance given to the church by the One who is most Supreme? Paul says that we were once “alienated and hostile in mind because of [our] evil actions. But now He has reconciled [us] by His physical body through His death, to present [us] holy, faultless and blameless before Him.” Paul goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering because his suffering is “completing in [his] flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:21-24 HCSB)

The worst president in history spits again

I don't get Jimmy Carter. He's the worst President there ever was and yet the left holds him up as some kind of saint. He's no saint. I don't care how many nails he has hammered for humanity, the damage he tries to do far outweighs his irrelevance.

One thing is clear, he despises Israel. In this he and the President of Iran are in Sync. Israel has to go.

Look at this interview he did with left wing whacko radio Democracy Now with Amy (I never wear makeup) Goodman a couple weeks ago. You read it and then, look back on exactly what he said.

Americans don't want to know and many Israelis don't want to know what is going on inside Palestine. It's a terrible human rights persecution that far transcends what any outsider would imagine. And there are powerful political forces in America that prevent any objective analysis of the problem in the Holy Land. I think it's accurate to say that not a single member of Congress with whom I'm familiar would possibly speak out and call for Israel to withdraw to their legal boundaries or to publicize the plight of the Palestinians or even to call publicly and repeatedly for good faith peace talks. There hasn't been a day of peace talks now in more than seven years. So this is a taboo subject. And I would say that if any member of Congress did speak out, as I've just described, they would probably not be back in the Congress the next term.

Amy Goodman never challenged him, never asked a probing question. Left wing journlaists don't ask unless they are talking over Right Wingers.

Then Carter said:

Well, there's an inherent commitment in America, which I share as a Christian, of a deep commitment to make sure that Israel is safe and that Israel is free and that they can seek for peace. So there's a strong inclination for all of us to support Israel's continued existence in peace. And that is added onto by the very effective work of the American Israeli group called AIPAC, which is performing its completely legitimate task of convincing Americans to support the policies of the Israeli government. And AIPAC is not dedicated to peace. They're dedicated to inducing the maximum support in America, in the White House, in the Congress and in the public media, for whatever policies the Israeli government has at a particular time. And they're extremely effective.

WHAT? I support Israel but not it's policies. Oh, yea, that's like I oppose the war but support the troops. 1984 doublespeak.

Then Carter the Former President and Liar said this about President Bush:

I admire him in many ways. And I've never criticized an incumbent president. I've criticized sometimes the policies of presidents, first President Bush and President Reagan and President Clinton and President Bush. But I have never criticized a president.

Never Critisized? Really. Of course Goodman said nothing. Why. She hates Bush too.

Let's see what Carter said a while back about GWB as reported in the Washington Post, not right wing tool them.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter said. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations . . . has been the most disturbing to me."

And that was after the verbal abuse President Bush sat silently thru at Coretta Scott King's funeral at the hands of Former President Liar and Israel Hater Carter.

But Amy Goodman said nothing.

I just did.

Psalms 23 as a Sacred Cow revisited

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is a great comfort and inspiration to me. I find much there to live on. You do too if you are a Christian.

Robert Alter who is a Hebrew Scholar is taking another look at the book of Psalms. He is taking the Hebrew and asking that painful question, "What does the Text Say"?

I don't know Mr Alter. I do know a bit about Hebrew and think he may have some insight for us to grasp if we can just get past our religion for a minute.

If you go to any funeral, most of them will at some point have the beloved 23rd Psalm read. If you go to any old folks home you will see a plaque with it on. It's very inspiring and comforting.

I take nothing away from it's beauty. I do take something away from it's implied theology. As we know it:

The 23rd Psalm (King James Version)

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


You can rest with that. And should. It was translated at a time when people's lives were hard and hope of heaven was all there was left. Kind of like those at the end of life. Does that mean that for the first 50 or 60 years we read it and say, "Very Nice" but it's richness eludes us.

I believe that the KJV translation is beautiful and in the sense it leans is accurate in it's theology. It's just not (according to Alter) exactly what the Psalm meant. Here's what he has to say:

'The Book of Psalms'

by Robert Alter


1 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 In grass meadows He makes me lie down,
by quiet waters guides me.
3 My life He brings back.
He leads me on pathways of justice
for His name's sake.

1. The LORD is my shepherd. Although the likening of God or a ruler to a shepherd is a commonplace in this pastoral culture, this psalm is justly famous for the affecting simplicity and concreteness with which it realizes the metaphor. Thus, in the next line the shepherd leads his sheep to meadows where there is abundant grass and riverbanks and where quiet waters run that the sheep can drink.

2. makes me lie down. The verb used here, hirbits, is a specialized one for making animals lie down; hence the sheep-shepherd metaphor is carefully sustained.

3. My life He brings back. Though "He restoreth my soul" is time-honored, the Hebrew nefesh does not mean "soul" but "life breath" or "life." The image is of someone who has almost stopped breathing and is revived, brought back to life.
pathways of justice. With this phrase, the speaker glides from the sheep metaphor to speaking of himself in human terms.

Though I walk in the vale of death's shadow, 4
I fear no harm,
for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff—
it is they that console me.
You set out a table before me 5
in the face of my foes.
You moisten my head with oil,
my cup overflows.

4. in the vale of death's shadow. The intent of the translation here is not to avoid the virtually proverbial "in the shadow of the valley of death" but rather to cut through the proliferation of syllables in the King James Version, however eloquent, and better approximate the compactness of the Hebrew—begey tsalmawet. Though philologists assume that the Masoretic tsalmawet is actually a misleading vocalization of tsalmut—probably a poetic word for "darkness" with the ut ending simply a suffix of abstraction—the traditional vocalization reflects something like an orthographic pun or a folk etymology (tsel means "shadow," mawet means "death"), so there is justification in retaining the death component.

I fear no harm. The imbalance between this extremely brief verset and the relatively long first verset, equally evident in the Hebrew, gives these words a climactic effect as an affirmation of trust after the relatively lengthy evocation of the place of fear.

You are with me. / Your rod and Your staff. At this crucial moment of terror in the valley of the shadow, the speaker turns to God in the second person, though the rod and staff are carried over from the shepherd image.

5. You moisten my head with oil. The verb here, dishen, is not the one that is used for anointment, and its associations are sensual rather than sacramental. Etymologically, it means something like "to make luxuriant." This verse, then, lists all the physical elements of a happy life—a table laid out with good things to eat, a head of hair well rubbed with olive oil, and an overflowing cup of wine.

6 Let but goodness and kindness pursue me
all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for many long days.

6. for many long days. This concluding phrase catches up the reference to "all the days of my life" in the preceding line. It does not mean "forever"; the viewpoint of the poem is in and of the here and now and is in no way eschatological. The speaker hopes for a happy fate all his born days, and prays for the good fortune to abide in the Lord's sanctuary—a place of security and harmony with the divine—all, or perhaps at least most, of those days.

Excerpted from The Book of Psalms Copyright © 2007 by Robert Alter.


I take particular note that he deals in the here and now. That is a particularly Jewish concept. God is the God of NOW. Not someday.

If that's the case then we must live in more of NOW with God and all he has for us. What is that? It's not JUST heaven. It's more.

If I read the Hebrew Alter describes its:

  • God's intention towards me is to lead me to good places and things
  • He provides a place I can rest in his protection here and now
  • He revives me when I am near death metaphorically or otherwise
  • He makes the wrong things right in my life (he justifies them)
  • He does what he does because it glorifies HIS NAME, not because I deserve anything, but simply because his name is Salvation
  • He is with me even in my darkest hour, my deepest discouragement, even death , I will not fear anything or anyone, who should I fear anyway?
  • He uses manifestations I may not always see directly as him (Rod and Staff) to console me in these difficult times.
  • He provides for me in spite of the enemies around me, overflowing cups of wine, a full table spread and he massages my scalp, shoulders and neck with the comforts of his fresh Oil. This is living higher than just a hope of heaven.
  • He pursues me with Goodness and His Kindness all the days I live on this side of the veil. Then after that I even get to go to heaven too. That's a bonus.
  • He provides a sanctuary of hope and His deep love for me to live in as long as I live. All the days of my life.

I love the heavenward look of the KJV 23rd Psalm, but I want the here and now promises that Alter properly defines in his essay. So should we all. To seek any less is in a way to reject what God prepared for us before the foundations of the earth.

I want that. How about you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why is this News?

John McCain has "confessed" that he and his family are members of and steady attenders of a Baptist Church in Arizona.

Have been for years.

Yet, he talks in terms of being Episcopalian. That has confused some people.

I get it.

I was born a Lutheran. I even attend a Lutheran Church that I care about and do ministry in our area.

In that way like McCain is Episcopalian I'm Lutheran. But, I attend and am a member (whatever that means, Jesus didn't have many membership cards he made people sign) of a Pentecostal group. I have been for years. In fact, I have been a pentecostal longer than I was ever a Lutheran. Yet in my heart I can still do the creeds and all the liturgy without a book. I know many of the old hymns by number and name. I can quote much of the Small Catechism. That didn't make me Christian, just a church attender who learns well.

Like McCain I honor my roots. I don't reject them, I hope to help the Church of my Youth. There is a higher call and McCain answered it for his family. The Episcopal church didn't make that call. The Baptists did.

Yesterday in Church a woman in her late 30's came to a few of us pastors and said, "I'm tired of living below my spiritual potential. I want EVERYTHING God has for me". We prayed, imparted, laid on hands, spoke over her and believed God for her. A breakthrough took place. That's the sound of the Higher Call.

I am hoping the Episcopal and Lutheran Church will both get their voices back to be able to make that call. I'll do all I can to help them find it again.

Otherwise people like John McCain and me will love the church of our youth but be forced to leave for a higher call in another place when both of our preferences would have been to hear that call in the Church of our youths. Neither of us did and so we found what we were looking for elsewhere.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Future of Book Publishing

I have been interested in Print on Demand technology for book publishing.

The libraries of the world will now have all books in digital format ready to be printed on demand. Read this whole article in the Chicago Tribune. This is a big change. It means that a person can browse a library and buy a book on the spot.

This will change everything.

If I could afford it I would buy one of these and print my own.

Hang on to your publishing hat. Life is about to change - again.