Faith as a Grain of Mustard Seed

This morning’s time in the Word took me to Luke 17; and with my curiosity stirred I grabbed a couple of commentaries from the shelf to see what the writers had to say about verses 1-10.  I found Darrell Bock’s remarks on verses 5 & 6 in The NIV Application Commentary especially encouraging. Recall that it is in these verses, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you’.”

In the section of the commentary entitled Original Meaning, Bock writes:
“Another Key characteristic of discipleship is faith (vv. 5-6). The issue for Jesus is not the amount of faith, but its presence. The disciples ask for their faith to be increased, but Jesus replies that all that is needed is faith the size of a mustard seed. Such faith is able to take a black mulberry tree with a deep root system and say to it, ‘Be rooted up and planted in the sea,’ and it would happen. In other words, a small faith can accomplish amazing things and lead to unusual events.”[Darrell Bock, NIV, Luke, 439]

In the next section, entitled Bridging Contexts, he remarks:
“Faith also plays a central role in our spiritual lives. We are saved by faith and we walk by faith (Gal.5:25; Heb. 11). There is no more basic attitude of the spiritual life than to walk with God in trust, which means recognizing what God is capable of doing while accepting what he delivers. Jesus is primarily concerned that faith is present; he is not concerned about its size. We must ask God to do the extraordinary or enable us to exercise spiritual strength, not in a selfish way but for our spiritual welfare (cf. [Luke] 11:9-13). Faith may mean trusting God for spiritual insight. It may mean asking him for deliverance. It may mean accepting what he has brought into our lives and relying on his grace (1 Cor.12:7-10). Above all, it means never letting go of the commitment to go where God is taking us. What it does not mean is treating God like a king of a “give me what I want” machine, who simply answers requests we make because we have them. Our spiritual development requires that he be in charge of where we are going.” [Ibid., 440-41; emphasis, mine]

In the final section, entitled Contemporary Significance, Bock presents a series of thought provoking questions that remind us just how and where God often chooses to test and refine our faith:

“When one thinks of the issue of trust, the applications are numerous. Do I trust God that he desires what is best for my spiritual welfare? Do I recognize that sometimes suffering is what is best for spiritual growth? Do I believe he can transform my heart, so I can walk righteously? Do I believe that God will support my efforts to share his goodness with others? Do I trust God to fight for me when I uphold his honor? Can I trust God to reverse a severely damaged relationship? The sphere in which true faith can exercise itself in uprooting trees and planting them in the sea is endless.
Of course, the remarks about uprooting trees and planting them in the sea are figurative for doing amazing things. Faith has a way of opening us up for God’s use and presence to work in us. This is more than positive thinking; it is relating to and connecting with God. Sometimes faith requires going in a direction that differs from the direction our culture says we should go. Sometimes it means walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), trusting in God’s care for us. Faith that merely means living life on natural instincts is not faith. No trust is required if we simply cruise through life on the basis of our own expectations. In this passage, Jesus does not call for a magic amount of faith, just its presence. When we lean on him, his strength can carry a long way and will accomplish amazing things.” [Ibid., 442; emphasis mine]

Bock’s comments remind me of words once written to a friend who had encountered a very traumatic and life-threatening accident:

The news has come that you have been called to walk a path of uncertainty. . . Uncertainty for family, friends, maybe, even for yourself. Some may ask, “Why?”  We cannot. Instead, we must walk with you, perhaps for you, as so often you have walked for us, for others. We walk by faith. . . not sight. Sight asks. . . faith walks. Together we walk, where He leads.

It was concerning faith that James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result,  so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4)
Moreover, it was with believers such as we are, in His mind, that “Jesus said to him [i.e., Thomas], ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed’ ” (John 20:29).

“. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith!”
(Hebrews 22:2a)


“Keep Me as the Apple of the Eye!”

“Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me” (Psalm 17:8-9).

David uses the Hebrew idiom – The apple of the eye” ; also translated, “the pupil of the eye,” in Deuteronomy 32:10, where Moses says that in respect to Jacob (as representative of the Children of Israel), God “encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.”

The OT scholar Delitzsch comments on the meaning of the phrase: “The apple of the eye, which is surrounded by the iris, is called . . . the little man of the eye, because a picture in miniature of one’s self is seen, as if in a glass, when looking into another person’s eye.” The idea is that, “The saint knows himself to be so near to God, that, as it were, his image in miniature is mirrored in the great eye of God” (Keil and Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 148). David is praying that God will be so close to him, and he to God, that he might, were it possible, see his own reflection in God’s eyes.

Elsewhere, in Psalm 34 he expresses his confident trust that God does indeed see all that goes on in our lives as those who belong to Him, and that He is continuously acting on our behalf.  Assisted by the Holy Spirit, it’s one of many psalms that counters Satan’s attempts to undermine our assurance of God’s provision and protection. I encourage you to read all of it when you can, especially when, as the hymn writer put it, “The howling storms of doubt and fear assail.” [see, “Standing on the Promises,” p 271].  Here, I simply cite verses 15-17:

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.

Back in Psalm 17:8-9, David prays for God’s ultimate protection from wicked men and women, who, with their hidden agendas and their deadly schemes, are plotting the destruction of God’s people. The threats are real and keenly felt to such an extent that he says, “They have now surrounded us in our steps; they set their eyes to cast us down to the ground” (v 11).

Incidentally, David’s statements in verses 1-5 should not lead us to think that his approach to God, anymore than ours, is based on some measure of his own personal righteousness. This would be to misread his words. While he clearly trusts that God sees his heart in the particular matter at hand, and that He will act justly on his behalf, it’s evident from what David says elsewhere in Psalm 143:1, 2, & 11 that his consistent approach to God and his experience and understanding of righteousness is grounded in the righteousness of God and not some merit of his own:

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithful
ness, in Your righteousness!

And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.

For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.

Again, back in Psalm 17:7, David demonstrates where his confidence genuinely resides, namely in God’s steadfast love. “Wondrously show Your lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand from those who rise up against them.”

As New Testament believers, “taking refuge at God’s right hand” carries for us an even deeper meaning than David may have fully understood when he penned the words, “those who take refuge at Your right hand.” As the writer of Hebrews exclaims: “We have … a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb 8:1).  He both sympathizes with our weakness (Heb 4:15); and, “He is able also to save forever [‘to the uttermost’; ESV] those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).

These are just some of the many promises and assurances that are ours in Christ as God’s own possession(1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14).

One last thought in relation to David’s prayer that God would keep him as the apple of His eye. Prior to making the request, in verse 4, David says, “As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the paths of the violent. In a similar vein the writer of Psalm 119 exclaims in verse 104, “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way”; and then in 110, “The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.”  David and the fellow psalmist understood, as have so many of God’s children down through the ages, that if we are to remain in fellowship with God and walk in the paths of righteousness, then His word must have priority in our lives.

So Job exclaimed, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Interestingly, Solomon enjoins our abiding need for God’s Word in a way that brings us full circle – back to the idiom “the Apple of the Eye.”  Expressive of God’s own desire for each of us in respect to His Word, is Solomon’s counsel to his own son in Proverbs 7:1-2:

My son, keep my words
            And treasure my commandments within you.

Keep my commandments and live,
            And my teaching as the apple of your eye.

I ask myself, “Is God’s Word so much a part of my daily routine that at some point every day (or, at least on a regular basis) it is literally reflected in the pupils of my eyes?”  Perhaps, remembering James’ admonition (1:19-25), it’s even more important to ask, “Is Christ’s Word reflected in my attitude and actions day by day?”

PRAYER: Father, grant us much grace that we may abide in Christ and His Word in us!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!”

(Colossians 3:16a)

[Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

A Parable for Some People

“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

Jesus’ target audience in this parable is self-righteous people who view others with contempt. Take a few moments and observe the attitudes and actions of the two men represented in Jesus’ parable. William Hendriksen wisely observed, “The parable presents two men, two prayers, two results” (NT Commentary, Luke, p. 818).

First, note how in the parable Jesus purposely presents two men who come from two completely different backgrounds in Jewish society.  Still, they both come to pray.  This seems plain and innocent enough, but Jewish studies of the times in which Jesus ministered reveal how the religious elite – particularly the Pharisees (possibly the Sadducees) – severely censored individuals,  categorizing them as publicans or tax-collectors and sinners (see the account surrounding Matthew Levi’s calling in Matthew 9:9-13). Conditions of penance were established by the religious elite, which an individual must meet before he could and would be accepted by God.   Thus, to a Pharisee, the very presence of the tax-collector in the Temple was probably offensive and insulting. And, the idea of a tax-gatherer finding favor with God, especially apart from a prescribed penance (i.e., doing some strict and severe work demonstrating penitence) was scandalous.

Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ self-styled religious approach to God for the sham it was: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” Jesus exclaimed in Matthew 23:13, “because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”  To the Pharisee, there were few men capable of attaining the righteous standard by which he had come to appraise himself.  Jesus purposely aims this parable at the heart of the Pharisee’s pride and self-righteous attitude.

Secondly, observe the approaches to prayer taken by the two men.  The Pharisee appears completely confident that God will listen to his prayer.  In fact, as the parable unfolds, you discern that the Pharisee isn’t actually concerned with God’s response at all.  The text says “he was praying to himself.” On the one hand, this may simply mean he was “by himself” or “off to himself” as he prayed. Of greater significant, especially when contrasted with how the tax-collector prays, is the Pharisee’s brash display of familiarity with God – as far as he was concerned his approach and access to God was a given.  The inappropriateness of his attitude also stands in contrast to the accounts of repentance found in the Old Testament.  For example, consider Isaiah 6:5 and the prophet’s exclamation at being in the presence of the Lord of Glory, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”  Observe Ezra’s prayer of repentance in Ezra 9:6, “…and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens’.” Observe from David’s prayers in Psalms 38, 40, or 51 the attitude of genuine humility that accompanies one who is truly repentant before the God of all Creation, the God of Redemption:           

Psalm 38:4 – “For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.”

Psalm 40:11-12 – “You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me. For evils beyond number have surrounded me; my iniquities have    overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; they are more numerous than         the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me.”

Psalm 51: 9 – “Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.”

The tax-collector’s prayer closely models these (and other) Old Testament examples: “unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”

On another occasion, Jesus exposed the motives of the Pharisees:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; …“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men….“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men….Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew6:1ff). In Matthew 23:5, He declared, “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.”

In this parable, the Pharisee sees no distance between himself and God; the tax-collector, on the other hand, senses nothing but distance – distance created by his overwhelming iniquity in contrast to a God’s holiness and justice.

“Two men, two prayers, two results.” The tax-collector was the outcast of the society, the hated enemy of the Pharisee.  He was someone (or so reasoned the Pharisee) who deserved and could expect nothing from God for he had nothing to present to God to elicit His favor.  On the other hand, the Pharisee saw himself in a position of favor.  He was righteous, as evidenced both by what he did not do, and the religious deeds which he did do.  In his mind, God was obligated to treat him favorably.  In his mind, there was never a question as to whether his prayers would be answered – of course they would.Why wouldn’t they? D. A. Hagner captures the one truth which eluded the  Pharisee in his approach to God when he writes, “Merit before God on the basis of righteous works is a nonentity. The point is, that even if they had accomplished what they theoretically set out to do in successfully living according to a reformed oral tradition [and they couldn’t and didn’t], they had no claim upon God” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, Vol 4, p. 751).

Results of the two approaches? Jesus is clear: the tax-collector, presuming nothing, went away with everything (forgiveness and justification in God’s eyes);  the Pharisee, presuming everything, went away with nothing (no forgiveness, no justification). 

We should give serious thought to this parable, lest we think that the attitude which Jesus targets here is beyond us. “Pride goes before destruction,” wrote Solomon in Proverbs 16:18, “and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”    You might ask yourself, “Have I, or do I, ever approach God with the attitude that He owes me?”  Think about it carefully, when you go to God in prayer, is it with the sense that He owes you?  In your mind – even if you don’t express it verbally – do you come to God on the basis of what you don’t do (i.e., sins which you avoid); or do you focus on those areas in which you know you fall far short of glorifying Him, and humbly approach His throne of grace to obtain mercy and grace to help (Rom 3:23; Heb 4:16)? 

Self-examination is probably one of the most difficult tasks we face; yet it is possible with the aid of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 11:31-32; 2 Cor 13:5). One means of measuring the way you position yourself before God is to examine your attitude and reaction toward God when answers to prayer don’t come as quickly or perhaps in the way you were expecting. When this happens, do you see God as having failed to account for your merits?  Do you become frustrated, even irritated with His responses to you? Another measure of your attitude is found in how you view others.  Do their sins appear hideous and loathsome in your eyes, while your sins seem to seldom surface at all in prayer? Do you find yourself contemptuously looking at others, while resting comfortably in a self-determined measure of goodness?  Put another way, do others faults and sins dominate your prayers in place of your own? When you begin in prayer, do you mention your sins first or are you given to highlighting the sins of others?

“Two men, two prayers, two results.” Which of the two represents you?

“He told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.”

Now as before…!

Now as before, but even more! – Such is my need for God’s saving grace.
That thought pressed upon my heart as I awoke this morning. No doubt it arises out of the consciousness of my own sinfulness; but, gratefully, it is also fueled by Jeremiah’s cherished reminder in Lamentations 3:22-23:
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness!”
In Old Paths New Power, Daniel Henderson writes,“When we are captivated by the biblical truth of the worthiness of God, we will be humbled with the undeniable reality of the neediness of our own hearts”(p. 171).

A page later, he cites John Calvin:

“But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness and wisdom and virtue to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence.” (p.172).

O that we might be captivated by God’s worthiness and have an abiding awareness of His Person and presence – making much of Him . . . and less and less of ourselves “and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). 

Sovereign Lord,

When clouds of darkness, atheism, and unbelief come to me, I see your purpose of love in withdrawing the Spirit that I might prize Him more, in chastening me for my confidence in past successes, that my wound of secret godlessness might be cured. Help me to humble myself before You by seeing that Your will must alone be done, as much in denying as in giving spiritual enjoyments; by seeing that my heart is nothing but evil, mind, mouth, life void of You; by seeing that sin and Satan are allowed power in me that I might know my sin, be humbled and gain strength thereby; by seeing that unbelief shuts You from me, so that I sense not Your majesty, power, mercy, or love.
Then possess me, for you only are good and worthy. You do not play in convincing me of sin, Satan did not play in tempting me to it, I do not play when I sink in deep mire, for sin is no game, no toy, no bauble;Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied; that I am feeble and unable to do any good, but that in Him I can do all things; that what I now have in Christ is mine in part, but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven.
(Adapted from The Valley of Vision, pp 142-43).

“May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
. . . And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ!”
(1 Peter 1:2b; 2 Thessalonians 3:5)

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. . .  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

(Romans 7:18a, 24-25a)

Pastor Ryne

Good Friday / God-glorifying Friday

Today is Good Friday, and as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday, the question that often comes to mind each year around this time is “Why is it called ‘Good Friday’?” After all, what could possibly be good about what they did to Jesus when they crucified the Son of God, the One person, who, of all the men who ever lived deserved never to die?
The answer, revealed in the Scriptures, lies in the matchless wisdom and ways of our all-righteous, all-good & all-loving, sovereign God (Isaiah 55:9; 1 Corinthians 1:27).

Though the culpability of those who put the Lord to death remained, Peter, nonetheless, declared on the Day of Pentecost that all the events related to Jesus’ death (and resurrection) were according to God’s “predetermined plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). What the Jewish and Roman authorities, “meant for evil,” to borrow from the lips of Joseph (Genesis 50:20), “God meant for good.” Frankly, there can be no other view, for as Psalm 119:68 further says of God, “You are good, and do good!” And Psalm 145:7, declares, “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds.”

One of the most amazing and astounding aspects of our Lord’s death, as Paul explains in Philippians 2:1-8, is that Jesus did it with our interest, our good in mind. As another writer puts it, ” What the Jewish authorities and Romans did to Jesus was definitely not good (see Matthew chapters 26-27). However, the results of Christ’s death are very good! Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” [] And yet at the same time, as wonderful as this reality is, we can also say that Jesus had another higher interest and purpose in mind as He willingly laid down His life for us on that day – namely, the glory of His Father.

In John 8:29, Jesus, referring to His heavenly Father said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”  In the context of that verse (and other Scriptures) it’s clear that Jesus understood His death for sinners to be part His Father’s will for Him; part of the work which He had been given by His Father to finish (John 8:28; John 12:27-27; John 19:30; Isaiah 53;).  So, with His portending death an assured reality, Jesus prayed in John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth by accomplishing the work which You have given Me to do.”
While on the one hand, then, in light of what Jesus did on our behalf, today is designated “Good Friday”; on the other hand, in light of our Lord’s absolute obedience to His Father, even unto death, we could also designate it “God-glorifying Friday”.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”(1 Timothy 1:17)

Down at the cross
Where my savior died
Down where for cleansing
From sin I cried
There to my heart
Was the blood applied
Glory to His name

Verse one of “Glory to His Name,” Hymn by Elisha Hoffman,  1868

Pastor Ryne

No comparison when it comes to secrets!

“How important are their secrets, really?It’s a question that came to mind as I was reading Psalm 64 – a prayer of David for protection from evil schemers who had cloaked their actions in secrecy. Listen as he presents the scenario to the Lord in the first 6 verses of the psalm:

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
Preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers,
From the tumult of those who do iniquity,
Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword.
They aimed bitter speech as their arrow,
To shoot from concealment at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear.
They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who can see them?”
They devise injustices, saying,
“We are ready with a well-conceived plot”;
For the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep.

David is aware that his adversaries are engaged in covert activity. Secretive things are at work among them – they meet in secret counsel, shoot fromconcealment, lay snares secretly. They are expressing bold confidence in their well-conceived plot. Now if David had stopped at verse 6, we would come away with a rather bleak picture of the future; but he doesn’t. You see, what his adversaries refuse to acknowledge, David knows to be absolutely true – namely, that God is fully aware of everything that is going on behind their closed doors.He knows that when it comes to our omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere-present), omnipotent (all-powerful) God, the enemy has no real secrets! As the writer of Hebrews 4:13 penned it years later, “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.” 
David knew that nothing his opponents were up to was hidden from God; and he was confident that God not only saw, but was actively involved on his behalf. His confidence in the Lord is riding high as he concludes the psalm:

But God will shoot at them with an arrow;
Suddenly they will be wounded.
So they will make him stumble;
Their own tongue is against them;
All who see them will shake the head.
Then all men will fear,
And they will declare the work of God,
And will consider what He has done.
The righteous man will be glad in the Lord and will take refuge in Him;
And all the upright in heart will glory.

That last verse reminds us that when we take refuge in the Lord we do not have to fear any of the secret counsels of evildoers, any secretly laid snares, or any well-conceived plots,

The writer of Psalm 94 exudes this same confidence in the Lord. While his angst is evident in the first seven verses (after all, he’s human), as you come to verse 8, his faith shatters their oppressive claim that “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”  Like David in Psalm 64, he too is confident that the Lord sees all (verses 8-11) and will never fail to act on behalf of His own (verses 12-16). He concludes with a summary of the way the Lord works for us when evil confronts us (verses 17-23) :

If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?
They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
And condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
He has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The Lord our God will destroy them.

How fitting are his words for today!  We are living in a world that is changing at breakneck speed – morally, socially, and politically. Laws are being conceived, crafted, and proposed, which stand diametrically opposed to God’s ways, His righteous design, and His purpose in creation. Most likely, you and I will be confronted with real choices of bowing to godless principles or standing on the truth of God’s Word. It is imperative that we prepare for the evil day/get ready to stand by taking refuge in the Lord. How do I make the Lord my refuge? Solomon gives us the short answer:“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.”  (Proverbs 14:26).
How can I be sure that I am walking in the fear of the Lord? David anticipated the question and answers in Psalm 34:11-15:

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.

He ends in v. 22, reminding us that “none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Solomon makes the same connection between fearing the Lord and departing from evil in Proverbs 8:13, when he has wisdom exclaim, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil, pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.  And Psalm 119:104 highlights where the ability to discern and then hate evil is found: “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.”  Little wonder, then, that Proverbs 2 says, “If you will recieve my words and treasure my commandments within you (v 1) . . . then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God (v 5).

Add then, David’s claim in Psalm 25:14, that “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Himand you begin to see that there’s really no comparison between what the wicked claim to have and hold in secret (even if it is “a well-conceived plot”), and that which the Lord holds in secret for those who fear Him and make Him their refuge.

Finally, as we turn to the New Testament, the Old Testament concept of finding “refuge in the Lord” comes into even clearer focus, as the abiding relationship we experience in our Lord Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word and prayer:

Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
“Abide in me, and I in you . . . . If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” John 15:4a, 7). Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
“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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

May the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen our resolve to be much in the Word and devoted to prayer – “growing in the grace and knowledge of Him,” finding in Him our Refuge!

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

(Psalm 91:1-2, KJV)

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Ryne

Praying for my Enemies!

Ever had one of those moments when you’re reading your Bible and you come across a verse that leaves you asking yourself, “Now, why does it say that?”  I had one of those recently as I came to Proverbs 24:17-18, where Solomon says,

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Or the Lord will see it and be displeased,
And turn His anger away from him.”

Maybe it was because I had been especially engaged in the reading of Psalm 83 a few moments before, where the psalmist pleads for God’s intervention regarding his enemies. In a very real way, his pleas have become my pleas. Like him, I sincerely believe that we are now being confronted by a hostile, militant culture – a society made up of men and women who are determined to silence (if not completely do away) with anything that has to do with God, His ways, and His people.  And so, I have been praying (and I’m still praying):
O God, do not remain quiet;
Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
For behold, Your enemies make an uproar,
And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
They make shrewd plans against Your people,
And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation,
That the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
For they have conspired together with one mind;
Against You they make a covenant:

Shrewd planshave already been made(and are being made even now) against those who hold to God’s truth as set forth in the Scriptures. The reality expressed in Psalm 2, is the reality in which we live today, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'”  Like the writers of Psalm 2 and 83, we have to keep in mind that ultimately those who persecute God’s people do so out of their animosity to God Himself (see also, John 15:18-21); and we pray appealing to God as they did, “Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves.”

Incidentally, we know that at issue in Proverbs 24:17-18 is not the Lord’s position toward evil and injustice. Psalm 7:11 is clear enough on that matter: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who shows indignation every day.” And Paul declares unequivocally in Romans 1:18, that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Why then does the Lord have Solomon say what he says in Proverbs 24:17-18?  What is the lesson He would have us take to heart, the attitude He would have us exhibit in respect to our enemies, particularly if and when we discover they are experiencing God’s judgment? On the one hand, as one writer reminds us, to rejoice when our enemy “is down and out is uncanny and unpleasant… [It’s to have an attitude that] is measured with an eery, impersonal coldness.” That is displeasing to the Lord, as verse 18 makes clear.

Interestingly, Psalm 83, the very prayer I mentioned earlier that pleads with God to take up the cause of His people and deal with the enemy, at the same time models the right attitude which we are to have in respect to our enemies – one that is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord. Notice, how after requesting that God meet out some pretty severe consequences (verse 9-15), the psalmist ends with this request on behalf of his enemies:

Fill their faces with dishonor,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever,
And let them be humiliated and perish,
That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.

That is an interesting request; for Psalm 9:10 declares, And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, LORD, have not abandoned those who seek You.” It appears that after all that he is asking the Lord to do to his enemies, the writer of Psalm 83 ultimately prays not for their complete destruction but for their salvation – “that they may seek Your name, O Lord. . . . that they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”
It’s an approach to one’s enemies that has a familiar New Testament ring to it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.(Matthew 5:43-48)

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.(1 Timothy 2:1-7).

“While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).

May we, like the psalmist, continue to pray for our Lord’s personal intervention and His thwarting of the evil schemes of those who resist His will.  At the same time, may we demonstrate hearts of compassion for all who are lost, even our enemies.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12-16

Pastor Ryne

Psalm 44’s important reminder

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old.”

So begins the first of three verses in Psalm 44, where the sons of Korah rehearse God’s work in times past. Verse 4 follows with a confession of faith, “You are my King, O God!”; an urgent petition, “Command victories for Jacob!”; then more confident confessions of victory (v 5), trust (v 6), and triumph in God (vv 7-8a); capped off with thanksgiving to God forever (v 8b).

But then we come to verses 9-16; and suddenly what at first seemed to be a psalm of confident confession and praise takes an about face as it ushers us into the realm of the psalmist’s dismay and confusion. For reasons apparently known only to the Lord, there has been a reversal of all that was so wonderfully celebrated in verses 1-8.  Six times (6x) in verses 9-14 the writer attributes their now dismal plight to the actions of the Lord:“You have rejected us . . .”; “You cause us to turn back . . .”; “You give us as sheep to be eaten . . .”; “You sell Your people . . .”; “You make us a reproach . . .”; “You make us a byword  . .”

Verses 17-19 provide something of a window into his consternation over where they now find themselves:
All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You,
And we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
And our steps have not deviated from Your way,
Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals
And covered us with the shadow of death.

Most of us know what it’s like to experience difficult times as part of the Lord’s discipline and correction; say, for example, when we are struggling with a sin issue. The writer of Hebrews instructs us how to get through these times victoriously in 12:4-13. And the writer of Psalm 119 reminds us that such times are both needful and perfectly in keeping with God’s goodness and righteousness:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (v 67). . . . “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” (v 71). . . . “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (v 75).

But the scene in Psalm 44 is different. If we take the words in verses 17-19 at face value (and there is nothing in the psalm to suggest otherwise), what is at work here is not the result of discipline. In fact, verses 20-22 reiterate the point: “If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”

It’s a tough place to be in – seemingly out of sorts with God, and unable to point to a reason why. It’s as if nothing that they are encountering is matching up to how they know and believe things should be. Verse 22 may be the writer’s summary of their state: “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Incidentally, this is the exact verse (Psalm 44:22) that Paul quotes in Romans 8:36, before exclaiming, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us“; after which he concludes, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39).

Let’s be honest, there are times when our circumstances can be very difficult to understand, and even (seemingly) unbearable? Sometimes, like in Hebrews 12 and Psalm 119, you can make sense out of them; but, sometimes, well sometimes, you simply can’t (at least not in the moment); and at such times what remains is to simply trust that God is in absolute control and has ordained such times specifically for you (see, Psalm 31:15;139:16). The Scriptures are clear on that point:

“On the day of prosperity be happy, but on the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other so that a person will not discover anything that will come after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37).
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Along with these assurances, Psalm 44 was written for our instruction as well.  And one of the main points it illustrates is that our faith in God is manifested when we do exactly what the people in Psalm 44 did in the face of inexplicable circumstances –  PRAY! Having acknowledged their situation as it stood, they boldly took their circumstances to the One who alone was able to help and who, they were confident, would do so out of His great love for them:

“Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”
(v 26). 
Maybe you find yourself in circumstances that are challenging your understanding of the way things should be. If so, may Psalm 44 be a reminder and encouragement to pray (and keep praying) to your Heavenly Father, who never tires of hearing your prayers (Isaiah 40:28) through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, “who ever lives to make intercession for you”(Hebrews 7:25).

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in Christ!

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”(See Luke 18:1-8)

Pastor Ryne


I hope this finds you well – rejoicing in the assured hope that is yours in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 12:12).

It’s January 21, 2021, the first full day of a new presidential administration in the United States. What this will mean for our nation collectively, and for conservative Christians in particular, will undoubtedly become clearer in the days and months ahead.
Paul’s admonition to Timothy could not be more timely:

“First of all, then I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:1-5).
Two references from the Old Testament and one from the New are also encouraging reminders of whom will serve and how we can have complete confidence (and joy) in the days ahead:

  1. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)
  2. “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commandedit?” (Lamentations 3:37).
  3. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Looking to Him/Praying for you,

Heb 12:1-2; Eph 3:14-19

Pastor Ryne

Stepping into 2021

As I write, less than 14 of 2020’s 8,760 hours remain. What a year it has been!
Oxford Languages’ recently published a report entitled, “Words of an Unprecedented Year” in which it surveys the words and phrases that emerged most often in 2020. “A strange year? A crazy year? A lost year?” are three phrases in particular, which the report said witnessed a huge upsurge in use over 2019. One of the words and phrases that I found myself repeating was, “weird…it’s just weird.”  Whether it was another supposed impact of the “coronavirus” pandemic being touted by the media, or another “lockdown,” the unfolding of a ‘wacky’ election, or whatever…it does seem that 2020 has been “a strange, crazy, weird year!”

Notwithstanding all that and more, I know that 2020 has been another year in which God has been sovereignly in control from the moment the clock struck 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2020. And what’s more, it will be so still in 2021. There are enough Old Testament Scriptures alone that testify to this reality.

Referencing any given day, David urges us in Psalm 118:24, ” This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Solomon points to God’s sovereignty in whatever any day may bring when he writes in Ecclesiastes 7:14: “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider– God has made the one as well as the other So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.”  In Proverbs 16:9 he further reminds us that, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Jeremiah concurs, exclaiming, “I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

Having staked our lives on the salvation from our sins through faith in Christ’s righteousness (Philippians 3:7-11), such Old Testament Scriptures are unparalleled words of comfort as we leave behind 2020 and step into 2021 – a year that is sure to have its own unprecedented days.

Here are some additional promises from the New Testament that further bolster our confidence in the Lord – come what may – as we step into 2021:

“He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU, so that we confidently say, ‘THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?'” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace,” said Jesus, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also”

(John 14:1-3). 

“The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord”

(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:10-14). 

A prayer for the new year from The Valley of Vision:

O Lord,Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in your presence, in your service, to your glory.Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from you,
     but may rely on your Spirit to supply every thought, speak in every word, direct every step, prosper every work,
     build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire to show forth your praise; testify your love, advance your kingdom.I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with You O Father, as my harbour, You, O Son, at my helm, You O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt, my lamp burning, my ear open to your calls, my heart full of love, my soul free.Give me your grace to sanctify me, your comforts to cheer, your wisdom to teach, your right hand to guide,
     your counsel to instruct, your law to judge, your presence to stabilize.
May your fear by my awe, your triumphs my joy.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Ryne