Monday, September 30, 2013

We Need Him!

Read Psalm 46.

A mighty fortress is our God.  He is our refuge and strength.  In fact, trouble that puts us on the run creates the need for a fortress.  The need for protection causes us to seek a refuge.  Weakness motivates us to find a source of strength.  Without problems, we will not sense a need for those things.

We say our trust is in God.  We believe that God is sovereign and in control.  We sing the songs of our confidence in Him.  But, how we respond when disaster strikes is the real proof of our faith.

The psalmist claimed that even if the entire physical world crumbled and went into upheaval, his faith would stand firm.  Politically, morally, spiritually, economically our world is crumbling day by day.  War and violence are escalating on every continent.  Peace talks for the most part only allows factions to rearm themselves.  Increasingly, around the world, from Littleton, Colorado to Nairobi, Kenya people are being killed only because they are Christians.

Where is the peace?  Where is the fortress?

Dr. Crawford Loritts presented the following simple outline of this Psalm to grasp its message:
1. We need help
2. We need hope
3. We need Him

Our help and our hope is not in negotiated world peace.  Our help and our hope is not in the improvement of our circumstances in life.  Regardless of what our culture and even the devil himself may throw at us, our eternal confidence is in Him.

"Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Here comes the Groom

Read Psalm 45.

The songwriter is literally "bubbling over" with excitement and he cannot wait to tell about it.  This psalm anticipates a royal wedding.

The Groom. (vv.2-9)
In American culture the attention at weddings is on the bride.  In eastern tradition, all eyes are on the groom.  How handsome he is!  How blessed by God he is!  He is a mighty warrior, motivated by truth, humility and what is right.  He is referred to as God.  In the historical context, those in ultimate authority were to serve in God's stead.  They were to rule and make judgments as God's representatives on earth.  In several places human judges and kings are referred to as God (Elohim).  See Exodus 21:6.  And, this "God" has a God in heaven who has appointed him to this position of king (v.7).

The Bride. (vv.10-15)
She is beautiful and told to leave and father's house and become the desire of her husband.  The word of submission corresponds to Ephesians 5:22.  The young woman is colorfully dressed, wearing gold jewelry.  It is a joyous occasion.

The Future. (16-17)
They look forward to a large family that will carry on the royal dynasty in praise "forever."  Regarding King David, this refers to the LORD's promise to him in 2 Samuel 7.

But the Bible does not stop there.  Jesus was born in the royal line of David and has a right to the throne of Israel.  The writer of Hebrews details who Jesus truly is in opening verses of chapter 1.  He is fully God in the flesh.   Then, in 1:8-9, he quotes Psalm 45:7 and states that Jesus is the fulfillment of that verse.  The Apostle John wrote that one day Jesus will enter as a groom for His bride, the Church, and celebrate in a marriage feast (Revelation 19).

Get ready for the wedding!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Failure is not Final

Read Psalm 44.

It is easy to praise the LORD when everything is going well.  But what we think, say and do when circumstances do not turn out in our favor demonstrates our true faith.

In the middle of this Psalm we learn of a national defeat.  The enemy triumphed.  Embarrassment, confusion, and humiliation were the emotional results.  In addition, their very lives were at risk.  Weren't they God's people?  Were they not doing what He wanted them to do?  The answer to both questions was, "Yes!"

Then, why weren't they experiencing victory?   Verse 22 provides the most graphic description of their plight.  "Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

That verse is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:36 to remind believers that life is not always health, wealth and happiness.  Real life is full of challenges.  The greatest tests are beyond physical, financial and emotional.  How we respond to God in the difficult times is a test of faith.

Exhibit A of this truth is that fact that this same verse is quoted two additional times in Scripture to refer to Jesus!  In Isaiah 53, the prophet predicted that the Messiah would suffer and die for "the iniquity of us all" and quoted Psalm 44:22.  When Philip spoke with the Ethiopian official in Acts 8, he explained that Jesus fulfilled what Isaiah predicted.

So, how can we not only endure tests of faith but actually grow through them?  Here are three things you can do today.
1. Remember God delights in you. (vv.1-3)
Self-esteem and self-worth can hit bottom in the middle of a test.  Psalm 44 opens remembering that God delivered His people because He delighted in them.  When the LORD delivered David out of a tight spot, he wrote, "He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me." (Psalm 18:19)  As believers, we are children of God.  We are members of the family of God.  Think about that.  God not only loves us, He likes us!

2. Remember all the good things God has done for you already. (vv.4-8)
Speak about how you came to faith in the first place.  What has God done since.  Let others hear you giving thanks to the LORD "continually."

3. Remember God knows your heart. (vv.17-21)
Stay true to your commitment to the LORD.  The Psalmist could say, "we have not been false to your covenant.  Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way."  Refuse to give in to temptation just because you feel bad.

The cross was not final.  In His sufferings, Jesus knew that resurrection was coming.  He trusted the Father to bring Him through it.  And, so can you.  Your deliverance is on its way.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where is your God?

Psalm 42-43.

The insides of the songwriter were churning.  Something happened to cause his emotions to hit bottom and even to struggle with his faith.  This appears to be a mix of prayer and a good dose of self-talk to encourage himself in his faith.

In his distress, the unbelievers (43:1) ask, "Where is your God?"  Where is this One you say you trust when you need Him?

These two Psalms were most likely one song originally.  Three times he wrote, "Hope in God".  His hope was not in his circumstances.  His future was not based on things getting better.  His faith caused him to believe that God had a plan and a purpose that would one day cause him to "again praise Him."

How can we endure such tests?
1. Only God can truly satisfy us. (42:1-5)
His soul was parched.  There is no thirst on earth like the longing for God to intervene at a critical moment in life.  He was panting for God, crying out to Him day and night.  What sustained him were the wonderful memories of worshiping the LORD in the past.

2. Only God can truly secure us. (42:6-11)
In the midst of overwhelming despair, he looked to God for stability.  He called God "my rock."  William B. Bradbury wrote in the old hymn The Solid Rock, "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay."

3. Only God can truly show us clear direction. (43)  
The way out of tough times is directed by two provisions from the LORD.  First, He gives us "light".  When darkness closes in and we cannot see our next step, God can help.  He can turn the light on with insight and wisdom to follow Him successfully out of the test.  Second, He gives us "truth" that does not change with the shifting sands of culture and time.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3 Principles that will meet Needs

Read Psalm 41.

1. "God helps those who helps themselves." 
That old adage is not a quote from the Bible, yet it is true that God has ordained that our needs be met by our labor.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "...we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

2. "God helps those who cannot help themselves."
Concerning how to attain eternal life Jesus said, "With man this impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

3."God helps those who help others who cannot help themselves."
And then we come to Psalm 41.  David was in need of help.  Apparently he suffered from some life-threatening ailment.  His enemies waited for him to die.  Even his friends turned against him.  How serious was this offence by the so-called friends?  The words of verse 9 were quoted by Jesus to described Judas!

The basis of David's appeal to God was his integrity of life.  He had come to the relief of the poor.  He came to the rescue of the needy.  And, now when he was in need, he prayed to the One who ultimately heals and delivers.

Opportunities abound everyday to work, to depend on God, and be ready to help others in need.

Monday, September 23, 2013

It is time for your Check-up

Read Psalm 40.

Regular check-ups are part of maintaining a healthy life.  While physically we may undergo an annual examination, the believer in Jesus needs a spiritual one everyday.  Too often we wait until something is wrong to visit with the doctor and run the tests.  David felt overwhelmed by sin (v.12) and threatened by enemies (v.14).  He turned to the Great Physician for a complete analysis.  Here is the checklist for all of us.

1. My feet. (v.2)
He had been bogged down in a pit and was sinking.  When we get away from God, we dig a hole for ourselves that can only lead to self-destruction.  But God brought him out of it and put his feet on solid ground.  The steps of his life were now secure.

2. My mouth. (vv.3-6)
God looks beyond our words to the source inside.  What is in the heart and thinking comes out of the mouth.  We need regular cleansing.  When a person places their faith in the LORD, He puts a new set of words within us.  They are words of praise to God and everyone around us hears them.  So much so that they want the faith that we have.

3. My ears. (v.6)
Figuratively, God had to dig out David's ears so he could hear what God wanted done.  This world can plug up our listening ability and drown out what God is trying to say to us.

4. My heart. (vv.8,10,12)
A healthy spiritual heart begins with a commitment to do God's will, instead of our own.  What God wants becomes the guiding desire of life.  It pumps life and energy throughout everything we do.  Sin causes us to causes spiritual heart failure.

5. My lips. (v.9)
A speech analysis demonstrates clearly the genuineness of our heart's commitment.  We restrain and get rid of words that displease the LORD.  Our new speech proclaims the good news of what God has done for us.

6. My head. (v.12)
His sense of a guilty conscience and feelings of being overwhelmed prompted this check-up in the first place.  Jesus offers cleansing through the forgiveness of sins.  The result is clarity of thinking and peace of mind.

The Doctor is always in and waiting for us.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Evidence you belong to God

Read Psalm 39.

This song continues a similar theme as Psalm 38.  David tried to ignore his sin and not talk about his feelings.  But his stress only increased.  Stuffing one's emotions eventually leads to an eruption.

Reading into Psalm 38 and 39 only slightly, it appears he suffered from some debilitating physical ailment.  He hurt inside and out.  This caused him to consider how short life truly is.  Note his descriptions of human life.
-a few handbreadths
-nothing before God
-a mere breath
-a shadow
-all the gain will be left behind

While that is true, he did not stop there.  What else did he know?
1. God was the source of his hope. (v.7)
This is the difference-maker.  If in this life only we have hope, our time here will prove to be empty and without lasting meaning.  Such realization brings many to foolishness, depression or worse.  Faith in God provides a very different perspective on life and eternity.  The brevity of life should cause one to live with eternity's values in view.

2. His sin was the source of this suffering. (v.8)
He came to realize that there was no one to blame but himself.  His guilt was good in that it led him to agree with God about his sin and to seek restoration.

2. God was the source of this discipline. (vv.9-10)
The pressure he experienced came from God.  One of the evidences that we belong to the LORD is His discipline.  A parent does not discipline the neighbor kids.  Parents are responsible to discipline their own.  God's love and eternal commitment to us is demonstrated as He pursues us in restoring our relationship with Him.

"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How Good is Guilt?

Read Psalm 38.

What was the problem?  He brought this on himself.  It was his own foolish decision.  David had sinned.  Many scholars believe that this is one of several songs written after Nathan confronted him in 2 Samuel 12.

The inscription states "for a memorial".  David did not write this to remember his sin, but that he would never forget the consequences.  All sin carries a price to pay.  Convicting individuals of their sin is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8).  God brings the full weight of guilt upon us to bring us back to Himself.

1. The guilt caused him to look inward. (vv.1-10)
He paid a price physically and emotionally for what he did.  He lost his health (v.3).  It was as if he had been wounded.  The wounds festered and began to stink.  The pain became so great he lay flat on the floor in agony.
"And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

2. The guilt caused him to look outward. (vv.11-14)
He paid a price relationally.  To say, "I'm hurting no one but myself" is not true.  Sin carries consequences for everyone around us.  He paid a great price in lost relationships.  His family and friends backed off from him.  Those closest to us may feel anger, embarrassment, disappointment when we mess up.  Then, his enemies started plotting against him.  With his reputation and position weakened, they became emboldened to attack.
"When my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me." (Psalm 27:10)

3. The guilt caused him to look upward. (vv.15-22)  
He paid a price spiritually.  The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is not merely to make us feel bad.  It should motivate us to come clean with God and to restore our fellowship with Him.  It was when he looked up that he made the following commitments:
>He turned to God for hope. (v.15)
>He confessed his sin to God. (v.18)
>He renewed his direction to do good. (v.20)

Friday, September 20, 2013

6 things we need when life does not go our Way

Read Psalm 37.

A believer in Jesus may tithe and  be driving a car that needs to be replaced.  Meanwhile, the local drug dealer buys a new luxury car.  We may work hard at our jobs and try to stay ahead.  Meanwhile, a co-worker lies, inflates their numbers, and gets promoted.  How are we to respond?

Three times David admonished not to worry about evil doers and the wicked who prosper (vv.1,7,8).  If our focus is only on temporal gain, we will become discouraged.  But the believer's perspective is to look at the end.  This life is as good as it will get for the unbeliever and has only eternal punishment ahead.

Here is the principle: "Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked" (v.16).

So, what are we to think and do?
1. "Trust in the LORD." (v.3)
"Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." (Psalm 34:10)

2. "Do good." (v.3)
Our job is to continue to be honest, faithful, and helpful, adding value to everyone around us.  We are not to allow any envy of evil gain to taint our thinking or behavior.

3. "Delight yourself in the LORD." (v.4)
Literally, "keep your heart soft for God".  If we are not careful, the cares of this world can harden our hearts and cause us to be cynical.  He knows what we need.  Our greatest need is to keep our eyes and attention on Jesus.  Our eternal future is where the true rewards are being stored up for us.

4. "Commit your way to the LORD." (v.5)
Surrendering one's self to God is the starting point of a successful life.  Give it all to Him and follow through by obeying His word.  "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."  (Joshua 1:8)

5. "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him." (v. 7)
This is where our faith is put to the test.  If we truly trust God and have committed our lives to His plan for us, then how do we behave when things do not go our way immediately?  Waiting on God's timing, waiting while He works in the lives of those around us, waiting while He works mightily in us is part of the process in spiritual growth.

6. "Refrain from anger." (v.8)
We cannot allow our emotions to control us when we experience injustices and things are not resolved on our time table.  That is why we need numbers 1-5 above in place first.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

For those who want to live on their own Terms

Read Psalm 36.

Here is a contrast for all to consider.  Does it make a difference if a person chooses to live independently of God?  Do those who live for God truly experience something better?

Those living independently of God
-They have no fear of God. (v.1)
-They are self-focused. (v.2)
-They speak words that are deceitful. (v.3)
-They behave foolishly. (v.3)
-They have stopped doing good. (v.3)
-They lie awake thinking about their next sin. (v.4)
-They do not reject evil. (v.4)
-They fall and cannot get up. (v.12)

Those living dependently on God
-They know the immeasurable love of the LORD. (v.5)
-They experience the faithfulness of God. (v.5)
-They are taught what is right. (v.6)
-They trust in God's ultimate justice. (v.6)
-They have been delivered by God. (v.6)
-They have a refuge in His care. (v.7)
-They enjoy the abundant blessings of God. (v.8)
-They have a personal relationship with the very source of all life. (v.9)
-They can see and understand the world around them. (v.9)

As he begins the conclusion of his assessment, David asks God to keep pouring it on.
"Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart!"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Betrayed by so-called Friends

Read Psalm 35.

In bad times one discovers who their true friends are.

We are not told what took place, but in David's life there was "stumbling" (v.15).  The Hebrew word has to do with a "limping".  Perhaps, it was a slip-up on his part.  Was it an innocent mistake or a weak area in his life?  Whatever happened, there were those who could not wait to pounce upon him.  "Aha!" they proclaimed (v.21), as if they finally caught him in a weak moment.  The lying, gossip, and plotting of evil began.  They turned on this good man without just cause.

Even worse, these were the same people that David had helped in the past.  When they were sick and in need, he had come alongside them, hurt with them, and prayed for them (v.13).

Feeling betrayed by the very ones who should have been his support, he prayed again.  He asked God to deliver him.  He also asked God to deal with those who were fighting against him so they would feel ashamed and that their plans would be disappointed.

Surely, all of us have experienced disappointment in the behavior of those we trusted.  Retaliation or self-protective withdrawal are a natural inclinations.  Harboring anger and bitterness will only hurt ourselves.  Sadly, some refuse to release the hurts of the past.  There is a better choice, however.

In Romans 12:9-21, the Apostle Paul provided strict instructions regarding how we are to treat one another.  The list includes love, hospitality, "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep", and "overcome evil with good."  Putting that list into practice is the only path that will lead to the praise that David sings at the end of this song.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Open Invitation from the King

Psalm 34.

David was literally running for his life.  Saul and his army were trying to hunt him down.  David crossed the border into Philistia to hide, but he was recognized and captured.  Fear of torture and death is too trite to describe what must have been going through his mind.  So, he feigned insanity and prayed to God for deliverance.  (1 Samuel 21:10-22:1)  Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving for God answering his prayer that day.

At least three times, he wrote:
I prayed.
The LORD heard.
He delivered me.

In the middle (vv.8-11), he extended an invitation for others to experience the same joy of answered prayer.
1. "Taste."
Try it for yourself.

2. "See that the LORD is good!"
God delights in showing Himself strong on behalf of those who fear Him.

3.  "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
Blessings await when we seek God as our place of safety and help.

4. "Fear the LORD, you his saints."
This is a surrender of life.  God alone is awesome.  We stand in holy reverence and bow in humility before Him.

5. "Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."
He knows what is best for us.  He is trustworthy in the most perilous times.  God knows how to provide for us and protect us.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Music should never End

Read Psalm 33.

Shouting, praising, giving thanks by playing instruments and singing!  Why?  What brought on this exuberance?

The answer is so simple to some of us that we may miss it.  We can so easily take for granted the daily evidences of God's presence and power.  Not David.  He wrote this song for the entire nation to sing so they would not overlook and never forget the goodness of God.

1. The word of the LORD is right.(v.4a)
When God speaks, it is correct and without error.  Many who reject God's word have never read it for themselves.  Those who have read it and reject it want inexplicably to continue in going their own way to their peril.  Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:67)

2. The work of the LORD is faithful. (v.4b)
He is trustworthy.  What He says He will do.  What He commands will be done.  Exhibit A in this Psalm is the creation of the heavens and the earth.  It was accomplished at His spoken word, by "the breath of his mouth".  All these things were brought forth instantaneously with His voice.

3. The watch of the LORD is personal. (vv.13-15,19)
He sees.  He looks.  He "fashions the hearts" "and observes all their deeds."  Why is the God of the universe paying such close attention to us?  So that He may "deliver" and "keep" us.

With that kind of attention and care from Almighty God, we should be audibly rejoicing all day, everyday.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

4 Reasons to Stop Running from God

Read Psalm 32.

Running from God never works.  Where could one possibly go to avoid an omnipresent LORD?

Francis Thompson titled his book, The Hound of Heaven.  In love, He pursues us.  He loves us too much to allow us to continue in sin and disobedience.

Like all of us, David learned this lesson the hard way.  When he "kept silent" about what he did wrong, he paid an emotional, even physical price (vv.3-4).  He recognized God trying to get his attention to deal with his sin.  Things turned completely around when "I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not cover my iniquity."

The one who chooses to go their own way becomes hardened and seared in their conscience toward spiritual things.  As a stubborn mule, eventually they must be reined in by others.  Freedom comes through confession.

Confession means to agree with God about the wrong.  The results include:

1.  Forgiveness! (v.5)
Even the Pharisees of Jesus day understood that no one can forgive sins but God. (Luke 5:20-21)  The Old Testament saints offered sacrifices of blood in order to symbolically cover their sin (v.1).  When Messiah appeared as the Lamb of God, He took away the sin of the world once and for all. (John 1:29)

2. A hiding place. (v.7)
With fellowship with God restored, He becomes our place of safety and comfort rather than someone to avoid.

3. Guidance for life. (v.8)
So many end up wandering around through life without direction or satisfaction.  God offers personal instruction and counsel.

4. Faithful love. (v.10)
Without the LORD, people are bound to look for love in all the wrong places.  Those who put their trust in the LORD will find Him ever faithful to us no matter what.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When our plans do not Work Out

Read Psalm 31.

What about those times when God does not protect us from pain and suffering?  What are we to say and think then?

It appears that David wrote this song after his enemies gained the upper hand.  He felt hemmed in and all seemed lost.  But to those of us who believe in the LORD our hope was never in this life to begin with.  Even in the worst of circumstances, we are never truly alone and never without trust in God's purpose and plans.

When all seemed lost, David committed his life and future to the One who gave him life.  See verses 5 and 15.  "Into your hand I commit my spirit."   These were the very words the Lord Jesus quoted on the cross (Luke 23:46).  Suffering, or at worst death, does not constitute the end.  Eternity is ahead.

David realized that the true battle was spiritual.  "I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD."  It was a choice.  Believers can become distracted and latch onto other things when our plans do not go our way.   Jonah's decision was to run from what God wanted.  In doing so, he brought the suffering on himself and others.  In his prayer of repentance he said, "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love" (Jonah 2:8).  One translation has it, they "forsake the grace that could be theirs."  God wants us to learn that no matter what happens to us in this life, His love and His grace are there to sustain us.

It felt as though he was in a tight spot, between a rock and a hard place, with no way out.  But he soon realized that God had set his "feet in a broad place" (v.8b).  With God there are options and escapes that are not always immediately apparent.

Only those who trust Him through it all get to sing the victory song.
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!" (v.24)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Turning tears into Joy

Read Psalm 30.

David was an overcomer.  From his youth into his last years, he faced down life-threatening challenges.  Each time he cried out to God and each time he experienced God's deliverance.

1. He overcame personal attacks. (v.1)
His enemies wished him ill.  They wanted him to fail.  Watching for him to slip up, they could not wait to say, "We told you so."  But it did not happen.

2. He overcame physical ailments. (v.2)
"You have healed me" was his prayer.  Yes, the LORD has supplied doctors and medicinal help.  But ultimately it is God who is in control.  "See now that I, even I, am he and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand." (Deuteronomy 32:29)
So, we should pray for God's help and take our medicine, thanking Him for the provision.

3. He overcame spiritual abyss. (v.3)
Emotionally, he had been "in the pits".  But God lifted him up and restored his hope.  Eternally, he realized but for the intervening grace of God he would have been forever separated from the LORD.  But God stepped in and gave him the assurance of everlasting life.

As a result, David's tears turned to joy; his mourning into dancing; his crying into singing God's praises for all to hear.

Charles Spurgeon wrote: "Grace has uplifted us from the pit of hell, from the ditch of sin, from the slough of despond, from the bed of sickness, from the bondage of doubt and fears; have we no song to offer for all this?"

Be of good cheer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Power of God's Voice

Read Psalm 29.

This is a call to worship the LORD because of His almighty power over creation.  Whether the waters, thunders, trees, lightning, earthquakes...all are His and under His authority.

The emphasis in this song is the process God uses.  Seven times in verses 3-8 the phrase "the voice of the LORD" appears.

1. It was His voice at creation.
Repeatedly in Genesis 1 we read "And God said" or "And God called".  The process of creation itself was instantaneous at the all-powerful spoken command of the LORD.  He "calls into existence the things that do not exist." (Romans 4:17b)

2. It was His voice issuing personal assignments.
Often referred to as a calling, God speaks to individuals to guide them on His path for their lives.  Though few have experienced the drama of Moses at the burning bush, it was "when Moses turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush."  (Exodus 3:4)  God wants to get our attention.  We must "turn aside" from our stuff in order to hear what He has to say.  Jesus simply said, "Follow Me."

3. It was His voice that commanded miracles.
Jesus stilled the storm with "Peace be still."  He healed the one possessed by demons by demanding to "Come out of the man."  He raised Lazarus from the dead when he cried, "Lazarus come out."  As the One with ultimate authority, when he speaks, all things in this life obey His word.

4. It is His voice in our conscience.
When God wanted Elijah to listen to Him, there was a graphic display for us all.  First, a tornadic wind swept by with an earthquake.  "But the LORD was not in the wind."  Next, a raging fire appeared.  "But the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire the sound of a low whisper."  It is that still small voice of God in our conscience that tells us throughout the day of what is right and wrong, directing us to respond to Him.
"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying 'This is the way, walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:21)

Because of that voice King David urged, "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Celebrating an answer to Prayer

Read Psalm 28.

How do you feel when you think your prayers are not being heard?
How do you feel when the answer to your prayers is delayed?
How do you feel when your prayers are answered?

David expressed all the above feelings in this Psalm.  He was concerned that God's seeming silence might leave him without mercy in his time of need.  But then his deliverance came.  His prayers were answered.  God had stepped in.  It was time to celebrate.

David praised the LORD for who He is.  Notice how personal the relationship is.

1. The LORD is my strength.
This is internal fortitude in times of great stress.  Paul did not see his prayer answered but God gave him the strength he needed to persevere.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. The LORD is my shield.
This is external protection.  Believers are instructed to "put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:11,16)

3. The LORD is my trust.
This is spiritual  confidence.  Sure, he possessed skills to fight and he had an army, but his ultimate trust was in God.
"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." (Psalm 147:10-11)

The results were rejoicing and singing.  Charles Spurgeon wrote, "When God blesses us, we should bless Him with all our heart."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

3 ways God helps us overcome our Fears

Read Psalm 27.

Who would have thought that David-the shepherd boy who killed a lion and a bear in the open field, the young man who faced down Goliath and killed him, the mighty warrior and general of Israel's armies-struggled with fear?

All of us fight our fears, whether is the reality of things that frighten us, the uncertainty of the future, or our feelings of helplessness.  Worry and self-pity can freeze right thinking and paralyze us.  Dumping on others about our circumstances often causes us to sound like we are stuck in repeat mode, saying things over and over.  Some may become aggressive in their behaviors to fight back in an attempt to mask their fears.  None of these approaches will prove to resolve the root issue.

The Psalmist turns our attention to the all-powerful LORD, the One who is truly in charge.  What is it about our faith in God that meets our real needs.

1. The LORD is my light.
Our concerns about what might happen, what might be lurking in the dark ahead that we cannot see, is alleviated when someone turns on the light.  The things around us become visible and clear.  Most of  the time we discover that our fears were unfounded.  With understanding we can see our way and become confident in taking the next steps.
One of the claims of Jesus was this: "I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
"Your word is a light to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 115:105)

2. The LORD is my salvation.
When the fears are real and must be faced, the believer places their trust in God to deliver them one way or another.  This requires faith in God's plans that will bring about good for us and glory to Him.  His deliverance is what we seek.
Daniel refused to renounce his faith in God.  Darius, king of the Persian Empire, was tricked into executing Daniel by throwing him into a den of lions.  It was an impossible situation, but the LORD was Daniel's salvation, or deliverance.  In response, the king wrote a decree that all the people of the empire were to "tremble and fear the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions." (Daniel 6:26-27)

3. The LORD is the stronghold of my life.
He is the first place to run when feeling threatened.
"...we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul..." (Hebrews 6:18b-19a)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A 7-Point Personal Check-up

Read Psalm 26.

Self-evaluation is one thing.  To ask God to evaluate one's life is totally different matter.

David did not proclaim these statements about himself out of pride or perfection but because of his innocence.  Obviously, something had taken place.   Perhaps, he had been falsely accused.  This warrior wanted it on record that he had nothing to do with it.

The personal assessment could not have been more thorough.
-his heart and mind v.2
-his eyes and behavior v.3
-his influencers v.4
-his attitude toward sin v.5
-his worship v.6
-his speech v.7
-his love of God v.8

We may fool other people.  We may deceive ourselves.  But the LORD looks on our hearts.  The growing believer in Jesus has an intentional daily time with such a check-up in the Scriptures and prayer.  When God declares us forgiven and clean, we are spiritually healthy indeed!

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
(Hebrews 4:11-12)

Friday, September 6, 2013

6 Benefits for trusting God in Hard Times

Read Psalm 25.

If you have ever felt lonely, afflicted, troubled, distressed, and hated you are in good company.  To say that King David was under duress when he wrote this song would be an understatement.  He experienced all those emotions at the same time!

He prayed to the LORD to know what to do and which way to go. (vv.4-5).  His fear was that after all his praying and trying to please the LORD that he would come to an embarrassing end.  So, he waited, waited, and waited some more for God to act on his behalf.

This test of his faith caused him to go back to the basics.  Instead of living in fear of circumstances, what is a person who trusts in God supposed to be experiencing?  "Who is the man who fears the LORD?" (v.12).  What does God do for that person?

6 Benefits for Trusting God. (vv.12-16)
1. God will show what to do.
"Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose."
God has a plan and He knows the way.  Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

2. God will give His peace.
"His soul shall abide in well-being."
He is the only true source of peace.  Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

3. God will sustain the future.
"His offspring shall inherit the land."
More than material goods, there is a legacy of our faith we leave for the next generation and beyond.
Psalm 22:30-31 "Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the LORD to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it."

4. God will be the best friend forever.
"The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him."
We may be lonely, but we are never alone.  God's presence is always with us.
Hebrews 13:5b-6 "I will never leave you nor forsake you.  So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'"

5. God will keep His promise.
"He makes know to him His covenant."
More than instruction, God has made eternal promises and He will fulfill them.  Galatians 3:13-14 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'--so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith."
6. God will protect us.
"For he will pluck my feet out of the net."
There all kinds of dangers with each and every step in life.  Psalm 91:2 "I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Sovereign's Crown

Read Psalm 24.

These three songs, Psalms 22-24, present a full picture of the Messiah.  He died on the cross.  He cares for and leads His people.  But there is even a greater view of who Jesus is.  He is the eternal King of glory!

The perspective is that of the watchman on the city wall.  Suddenly, he sees someone coming and recognizes the king immediately.  With that he shouts the order to those in charge, "Open the gates!"  After a victorious battle, David had experienced such triumphal entries.  But here he imagined the day when the Messiah would enter to rule and reign, once and for all.

Why is this One so immediately welcomed?
1. He is the Owner. (vv.1-2)
Everything and everyone in heaven and on earth belongs to Him.  It is His by creation.  As the rightful Owner, He has full claim.

2. He is Holy. (vv.3-6)
The Messiah is Immanuel, God with us.  Then, David asked a logical question, "Who can stand in the presence of this Holy LORD?"  The requirements are not a secret.
-Clean hands: what we do, conduct
-Pure heart: who we are, character
-Honest speech: what we say, commitments
Such personal holiness is impossible apart from the forgiveness of the Savior and a life surrendered to Him.  The results are blessing and righteousness.

3. He is All-powerful. (v.8)
This is not the meek and mild Jesus of the manger.  This is not the suffering Savior on the cross.  The King of glory is coming in power to take over His world.  The Prophet Isaiah foretold both the first and second comings of Christ.
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

"Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Shepherd's Crook

Read Psalm 23.

This Psalm is surely quoted more than any other passage in all the Old Testament.  It paints a graphic picture of the LORD being a shepherd of His people.  The same metaphor is used throughout the Scriptures but none provides a more complete and poetic rendering.

1. A Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. (vv.2-3)
His loving care is seen by providing food, water, rest, and a good path for the journey.  His staff is a walking stick for leading the sheep.  On the end is a crook for pulling back the wayward.

2. A Good Shepherd comforts His sheep. (v.4)
Sheep can be easily frightened.  They are defenseless.  But even in the darkest, scariest places the loving shepherd is there watching and protecting.  His rod, or club, can fend off any threatening wild beast.

3. A Good Shepherd celebrates with His sheep. (vv.5-6)
Note that David shifts the analogy to his own reality and hope.  This is a personal celebration of victory now in this life and a promise of an eternity with this Shepherd.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)

"The LORD is my shepherd."  What is the most important, life-changing word in that phrase?  That the LORD is a shepherd of His people is a fact.  The difference maker is the word "my".  When a person confesses this personal relationship with Jesus, their eternal destiny immediately changes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Savior's Cross

Read Psalm 22.

David described his suffering to be so intense it was like being put to death by his enemies.  Anyone who is familiar with the New Testament cannot help but see how prophetic this picture is of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Though on his own David certainly was not writing about Messiah directly (a thousand years in advance), the typology is there.  The Holy Spirit gave David the poetic descriptions of his circumstances and the Gospel writers got to see its ultimate fulfillment in the passion of Christ.

1. The cry of Christ (vv.1-2)
These are the exact words that Jesus used hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:46).  It came in the very moment that God, the Father, laid the sin of the world upon the Savior.
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

2. The criticism of Christ (vv.6-8)
Amazingly, in the fulfillment of God's prophetic word, the unbelieving crowd did not realize they were quoting these verses as they ridiculed Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:39-44).
About 500 years in advance Isaiah wrote, "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

3. The crucifixion of Christ (vv.14-18)
There is no mention of crucifixion in David's day.  It was the Romans used it to publicly humiliate those who dared oppose them.  The prophetic typology was fulfilled to the last detail, including the soldiers gambling for his garments. (Matthew 27:35)

Obviously, David did not die in this instance.  God answered his prayer.  Though Jesus died on the cross and was buried, He rose from the grave in proof that He is God.  In Acts 2:27, the Apostle Peter quoted Psalm 16:10 as a prophetic word concerning the resurrection of Jesus.  "For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption."

David's deliverance caused him to praise the LORD and want to tell others about it (v.22).  In addition, he looked forward to a day when "all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you." (v.27)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Counting our many Blessings

Read Psalm 21.

Quite often people only see prayer as a means for what they can get next from God.  Few take time to celebrate what He has already done.  King David took that time in this song.  God had been good to him and he wanted everyone else to know about it.

1. He celebrated God's provision in his life.
-God answered his prayers (v.2)
-God gave him material blessings (v.3)
-God spared his life and legacy (v.4)
-God honored him (v.5)
-God made His presence personally known to him (v.6)
-God established his life with His love (v.7)

2. He celebrated God protection of his life.
-God knows His enemies.  David's enemies were haters of God. (v.8)
-God judges those who oppose Him (v.9)
-God destroys the legacy of the wicked (v.10)
-God ensures that the plans of His enemies ultimately fail (v.11)
-God puts His enemies on the run (v.12)

This is an encouragement for all of us to stop and make our own lists of how God has blessed us and protected us.  Let the music begin.

"We will sing and praise your power." (v.13b)