Sunday, March 30, 2014

How many times do I have to tell you?

Read Proverbs 7.

Three chapters in a row, Solomon gives wisdom concerning sex outside of marriage.  He even does a bit of name calling.
-"simple" means "silly (that is seducible); foolish."
-"lacking sense" or "void of understanding."

1. He looked. (vv.8-9)
The writer observed a young man strolling in a place where he should not have been but the indication is that he knew where he was going.  Notice the metaphor of darkness.

2. She lured. (vv. 10-20)
Men are particularly attracted to women who are nice to them and relationally available.  She is unfaithful to her husband.  She has lied concerning her marriage vows and she is lying to this man.  Her character is bankrupt.

3. He lunged. (vv.21-23)
"All at once," he jumped at this opportunity to sin.  If he had only stopped to think of the consequences, he may have chosen to act wisely instead.  But voluntarily he gave in to this trap, like an animal caught and ready to be slaughtered.  It will pierce his insides when he realizes his stupidity.  "It will cost him his life."  There is no fun here.

4. The lesson.
>Guard your heart (v.25a)
>Be where you are supposed to be (v.25b)
>Remember the full consequences of sin (vv.26-27)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The other side of God

Read Proverbs 6.

The character of the God of the Bible is love and grace.  Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).   Unfortunately, some only hear the word "free" and proceed to abuse the grace of God by violating His truth.  The LORD is also a God of justice, accountability, and, yes, there are things that God hates.

This chapter contains no less than five sections of warning.  These are not mere suggestions or principles but red flags of what to urgently avoid.  Putting ourselves at risk by co-signing a loan for a non-family member is foolish.  Committing adultery will compound sin upon sin.  But a person's character remains the core of all behaviors.

Here are seven character traits God hates from verses 16-19.
1. Haughty eyes.
Both Old and New Testaments condemn personal pride.  "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
2. Lying.
Jesus said, "I am....the truth" (John 14:6)  To believe in Jesus is to come to the truth about who God is, what He has done for us, and what He says about us.  A genuine Christian lives out the truth of God's Word.  The sin of lying destroys all credibility of our message to a world that needs to know Him.
3. Murder of the innocent.
Chapter one warns against associating with those who are lawless and ambush people for sport.  Killing for the sake of blood-thirst reveals the ultimate violence that God hates.
4. Planning to sin.
Some dream and then plot how they could sin.  Whether that means fraudulent financial scheming or sexual sin, the heart becomes obsessed with doing evil, instead planning to do good.
5. Running to do evil.
There is no planning here.  In quick fashion, when the opportunity to sin presents itself, the person jumps at it.  God wants us to live lives of discipline and responsibility.
6. False witness.
This takes lying to a higher level.  No longer is the person lying about themselves but now they lie about other people.  Most often, this may be done for self-protection, self-promotion, or vengeance.
7. Sowing discord.
How many church families have been disarmed in their ministries due to rumor, gossip, and power plays of sinful people?  The effectiveness of a church, the health of any group of people, depends on the ability to lovingly work together.  To do otherwise is destructive and sin.  We are to serve one another "until we all attain to the unity of the faith." (Ephesians 4:13).

Friday, March 28, 2014

The high cost of Adultery

Read Proverbs 5.

Television and movies constantly present sex outside of marriage.  Their presumption often is that adultery is inevitable, everyone does it, and it won't hurt anyone.  Such thinking is based upon multiple lies.

1. Not everyone physically violates their vows.
2. The marriage vow states that both parties will be faithful to the other until their death.
3. No one gets away with it.  What is not shown are the long-term consequences.

Solomon held nothing back in this chapter.  He tells it like it really is.  Do not miss all his descriptions of what is involved.

It is foolish and shows a lack of wise behavior.  The results will be bitter.  It will cut the insides like a sword.  The adulterer is playing on the path to hell and not life.  The persons will lose honor and respect.  Strangers will take everything you have without any mercy.  You risk STDs that can lead to death.  So much for the glamour of Hollywood.  This is the real story.

How do people get into such sin?
"How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors." (v.12)

What is the solution?
"Drink water from your own cistern." (v.15)  In other words, enjoy who God has provided for you at home.  Don't share yourself with anyone else. (v.17)
"Be intoxicated always with her love." (v.19)
Remember, God sees and holds us accountable for our actions. (v.21)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wisdom in Action

Read Proverbs 4.

This may be the strongest admonition in the Bible to get wisdom, insight and understanding.  Again, it is addressed from one generation to the younger.  Note that this is not a religious call, nor is it optional.  Three times we are told that such wisdom is life itself.

"Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life." (v.13)
"For they are life to those who find them." (v.22)
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (v.23)

What are the action steps in my life that demonstrate a heart that is committed to wisdom?
1. My Words. (v.24)
The charge here to put away all crooked speech and devious talk.  Lying and deception are the elements of a fool's communication.  Sooner or later it will be discovered.  Shame follows a fool as sure as day follows night.  A person committed to God is committed to truth.  Words are carefully spoken by those who keep their heart with all vigilance.

2. My Watch. (v.25)
The choices we make in our viewing habits reveal whether we are foolish or wise.  A wise person is vigilant about what they allow their eyes to see.  This is not referring to the casual glance but the "gaze" on things that displease the LORD.

3. My Walk. (v.26)
A person committed to wisdom is careful about the direction and places they go.  Each step in life is a decision to obey God or behave foolishly.

Ken Taylor's paraphrase of 4:23 communicates the intent so well.  "Above all else, guard your affections.  For they influence everything else in your life."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Listen to your Father

Read Proverbs 3.

The wisest man who ever lived passed godly wisdom to the next generation and ultimately to us.  Throughout Proverbs the term "my son" is used to give direct fatherly advice.  The principles, though written nearly 3,000 year ago are timeless and as needed today as never before.

The overarching message of this chapter are all the benefits of listening to and practicing these principles.  But, as we were first instructed in 1:7, success in life begins with a holy reverence for who God is.  So, if we are to be truly wise, what are those practical action steps that demonstrate our commitment to God.

1. Trust in the LORD. (vv.3-8)
Whom do you trust?  One is the Creator, Controller, and has all power, who designed each life with a plan and purpose.  The other is a human who is guessing.  There is an internal struggle to give into what seems right to us, or feels good at the moment, versus what is right according to God.  The admonition here is to not trust in yourself.  Self-reliance will lead to egoism and selfish decisions that will hurt everyone around them.  But wholehearted trust in God, leads to true success in life and will prove helpful to others.

2. Honor the LORD. (vv.9-10)
The black and white, clear and quantitative evidence of one's trust in the LORD is the surrender of their money.  Jesus spoke to this issue more than prayer or any other subject.  From the time of Cain and Abel, through the Old Testament sacrificial system to this very day, giving to God according to His Word is not optional.  We are not allowed to "lean on your own understanding."  Giving is an outward sign of surrender to God and my trust in Him to take care of my needs.  Notice, left overs are not acceptable.  This is the first thing on the budget list before anything else.  God demands priority in our lives.  As a result, He will be faithful to us.

3. Do not despise the LORD's discipline. (vv.11-12)
Because we are human, it is not a matter of if we will receive discipline; we will.  The difference in being wise is learning from our mistakes, or sin.  Some people waste their lives making the same foolish decisions over and over.  When God steps in to correct us, it is a proof of His love for us.  Negligence is worse than hatred.  A parent does not discipline the neighbor kids.  When we are reproved by God, it is another evidence that we belong to Him.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The secret to guarding and guiding your Life

Read Proverbs 2.

Some of the best selling books are those with a so-called new life-guidance plan for success.  Those books will come and go.  In addition, they usually are strongly based upon modern American culture.  But true life principles are timeless and transcend culture.

The Bible continues to be the world's best seller and for good reason.  The Scriptures provide all the basics of life-coaching.  These lessons only come to those who meet the qualifications.

1. "If you receive..." (vv.1-2)
There is no substitute for investing personal time in the Word of God to know exactly what is said.  False thinking and foolish talk come from those who have never studied the Bible for themselves.  More than merely reading, there must be a receiving of God's wisdom and understanding.  An open and ready heart is required.

2. "If you call out..." (v.3)
Even after eagerly reading, there may still be a lack of understanding and of how to apply what is written.  Praying and asking the Author for guidance is essential.  Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of truth" and "he will guide you into all truth."  Without that dependence, one will be left to their own devices and certainly come to error.  In addition to calling out to the LORD for help, there are mature believers available who can provide wise counsel in implementing God's principles.

3. "If you seek..." (v.4)
This is not puzzle to be put together over a weekend and declare it done.  As long as life goes on and so does the search and discovery.  The journey of digging into and mining out the wealth of the Scriptures is the most rewarding adventure.  "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Romans 11:33)

There are two key results:
"Then you will understand the fear of the LORD..." (vv.5-8)
The result here is "he is a shield to those who walk in integrity."
Guarding your life.

"Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity and every good path." (vv.6-15)
Guiding your life.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3 things that separate the wise from Fools

Read Proverbs 1.

Solomon had been divinely gifted by God with unusual wisdom and understanding.  As he laid the foundation for this book, he set forth three lessons that will determine one's success in life.  These literally separate the a fool from those who are truly wise.

1. Reverence for the LORD. (v.7)
Holding the God of heaven in high regard is the beginning.  Without a sense of awe for Him and accountability to Him, one will make life choices that ultimately lead to self-destruction.  When a person understands this first lesson, they will hunger to know what God has said and desire to please Him in all they do.

2. Respect for parents. (vv.8-9)
A child is Biblically charged by God to honor and obey parents.  It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children to love God and to know right from wrong.  When grown and on their own,  a child is no longer living under the obedience of parents, but the requirement to honor them and their words never goes away.  The godly disciplines of the father and the precepts of the mother are never to be cast aside.  

3. Resistance of wrong friends. (vv.10-19)
Perhaps, nothing is more influential on a person's life development and world view that than those closest to  them.  Peer pressure, at any age, can sway one's thinking and responses.  Spending time with the wrong people will only result in mischief and sin.  Here is the evaluation question in order to choose a true friend.  Have they learned the first two lessons above?  If not, our commission is to be a godly influence on them but not allow them to be an influence on us.  No one can grow in their faith being alone.  We need to be taught.  We need wise models to follow.  We need interaction with wise people on a regular basis to maintain a life full of wise choices.  

Wisdom for life is immediately available.  It is written down for us in this book.

Friday, March 21, 2014

6 ways to praise the LORD

Read Psalm 150.

The book of songs hits its crescendo with loud praises to the LORD!

1. Praise Him in His sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a holy place set apart for the worship of God.  In the 1 Corinthians 6:19 we read that the believer in Jesus "is a temple of the Holy Spirit."  Praise begins in the heart.

2. Praise Him in the heavens.
Next the praise moves from the most intimate and private place to public praise from the open sky.  Previously, all the angelic beings and even the planets and stars were called upon to join the song.

3. Praise Him for what He has done.
Counting one's blessings and the faithfulness of God should spark within us spontaneous praise.  God is good  to us and worthy of our praise.

4. Praise Him for who He is.
The shear magnitude of His person is beyond human comprehension.  Our best efforts fall short.  As Stuart Hamblen wrote in his song "How Big is God?", "He is big enough to rule this mighty universe, yet small enough to live within the heart."

5. Praise Him with instruments and dance.
This is a full orchestra with horns, strings, percussion, and pipes.  Most churches have a long way to go to catch up to such a full compliment of praise described here.

6. Praise Him with voice.
The final call to worship the LORD is not limited to believers or even just to humans.  "Everything that has breath" has been given life by a loving God is fulfill His purpose.  There is no greater response than to praise the One who has given us the breath of life.

Praise the LORD!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How shall we praise the LORD?

Read Psalm 149.

Our culture and upbringing tend to shape how we are comfortable in praising God.  It is always interesting, refreshing, and sometimes uncomfortable to experience worship with believers who do it differently than we are used to.  Some want the architecture to be to their liking.  Most are inspired by a particular style of music.  Often churches are formal and structured, while others are very informal and casual.  As this book of songs builds to a loud and all-encompassing conclusion, notice the ways Israel worshiped the LORD.

1. Singing. (v.1)
The content was crucial.  It was a new song they sang.  When one embraces Jesus, He puts a new song in our hearts, even praise to our God.

2. Dancing. (v3a)
This is not social dancing but spiritual praise to the new song in choreographed physical movements.  When done well the visual display enhances the message.  It requires planning, work, and excellence to present such dancing well.

3. Instruments. (v.3b)
Music in the Bible was accompanied, even led, by stringed instruments, various kinds of percussion, and horns.  Interestingly, that so many think of the organ as the standard of traditional church music.  But historically the organ is a relatively newer invention in the worship of God.  Some churches even have a highly trained drumline used to praise the LORD.

4. Obeying. (vv.6-9)
Obviously, these verses are specific to Israel at the time.  However, the believer is in a spiritual war all the time.  Praising our faith without practicing our faith is hypocrisy.  We should be armed and ready to face the daily battles in obedience to the Word of God.

Any art form is appreciated according to individual taste.  The focus of worship is not how but Who is being praised.  Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3 perspectives on Praise

Read Psalm 148.

The praises of God continue in this series of five songs, heading for a crescendo.  The psalmist wrote this exaltation in an orderly fashion.  Looking up; then looking around; and, finally, looking in.

1. The Celestial perspective of praise. (vv.1-6)
Looking up at the sky, this is a call for all the angelic hosts, the planets and all the stars to give forth their praises to God, the Creator.  How did God create?  "He commanded" (v.5) "and it was so" (Genesis 1).  The March 18, 2014 edition of USA TODAY reported on page 5A a huge new finding by scientists regarding "gravitational waves."  Their theory is that just after the so-called big bang, "space expanded violently and almost instantaneously."  Anyone whoever read and believed Genesis 1 agrees.  That truth has been in the Bible for thousands of years.  It was not a big bang, but a BIG VOICE that instantly commanded the creation into being.  Any other view robs God of His rightful praise.  "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Psalm 19:1)

2. The Terrestrial perspective on praise. (vv.7-12)
Looking around at all of earth's creation on land, sea and air, who could not help but praise God for the beauty and intricacies of His handiwork.  This includes all human life, regardless of status or age group.  All are called upon to join in the song.

3. The Essential perspective on praise. (vv.13-14)
Looking in, the heart of man is distracted toward many objects, people and philosophies,  But the God of heaven demands exclusive praise for what He has done and who He is.  Praises come from those who are near to God and enjoying His presence.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Is God pleased with us?

Read Psalm 147.

Our options for personal pleasure are many.  There seems to be no end to the list of items and activities that could capture our attention and time.  But the psalmist reminds us from verse 1 of the ultimate source of what is good, delightful and beautiful.

Taking notice of what God is doing all around us should ignite praise and singing in response.  This psalm appears to be written in three stanzas and each stanza has three parts.
1. vv.1-6
v.1- A call to  praise
vv.2-4 A cause to praise
vv.5-6 A conclusion to praise

2. vv.7-11
v.7- A call to praise
vv.8-9 A cause to praise
vv.10-11 A conclusion to praise

3. vv.12-20
v.12 A call to praise
vv.13-19 A cause to praise
v.20- A conclusion to praise

But right in the middle (v.11) is, perhaps, the strongest teaching point of all.  The LORD Himself takes pleasure in us!  What an amazing thought--that the all-powerful God of heaven would not only consider us but be pleased with us.  There are two qualifiers.  "The LORD takes pleasure..."
>"in those who fear him,"  Understanding who God is and our accountability to Him results in a holy respect and holy living.
>"in those who hope in this his steadfast love."  God is a jealous God and demands exclusive loyalty.  We hope in no one else for guidance and direction in this life and for the life to come.  It is His faithful love for us that compels us to praise and please Him.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

7 Reasons to praise the LORD

Read Psalm 146.

We have cause to praise the LORD.  Putting our trust in anything or anyone else will eventually prove disappointing.  But placing trust in the one and only Eternal God, Creator of heaven and earth, we find help and hope (v.5).

That God loves us as individuals would be enough to praise Him forever.  But the the psalmist cites observable reasons for such adulation.
1. The LORD executes justice for the oppressed. (v.7a)
God is the ultimate Judge.  He has promised to right every wrong.

2. The LORD gives food to the hungry. (v.7b)
God sees the individual plight of human beings.  He has promised to meet our needs.

3. The LORD sets the prisoners free. (v.7c)
Before experiencing God's deliverance, people are bound by sin.  He offers complete forgiveness and freedom in Christ.

4. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. (v.8a)
Naturally, people are spiritually dead.  When by faith they become alive in Christ, the veil is lifted and they can begin to see and understand spiritual truth.

5. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down. (v.8b)
The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter.  He comes alongside the believer in Jesus to encourage and strengthen us.

6. The LORD watches over the sojourners. (v.9a)
We are strangers and pilgrims in this world.  Our true home is in heaven.  In the meantime, while we are here, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who watches over us and cares for us.

7. The LORD upholds the widow and fatherless. (v.9b)
God's special attention is given to those who cannot help themselves.  The Scriptures contain severe warnings for those who would try to take advantage of the helpless.

How can we NOT praise the LORD?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Let's praise the LORD!

Read Psalm 145.

What does it mean to praise the LORD?

These last six psalms in the book are all songs of praise.  Psalm 145 is alphabetical, meaning that each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  However, instead of 22 verses, this song only contains 21.  One of the letters is missing.  No one is quite sure why.

Praising God is not simply a euphoric experience.  Thanksgiving and rejoicing have substantial reasoning underpinning the praises.

1. The investigation of praise. (vv.1-7)
Like a good investigative reporter, David writes the who, what, where, when, why, and how.  This praise is personal, exalting the God of heaven everyday for His wonderful works.  But the praise is not done in private.  The concern moves to the next generation.  Note the word "they" in verses 6 and 7.  The children and beyond them must have their own faith in the LORD and sing His praises.

2. The inspiration of praise. (vv.8-16)
Over and over, David praised God for His character.  The LORD is gracious, merciful, patient, loving and kind.  He praised God for what He had already done in sustaining, encouraging,, and providing.  Notice the pronoun change from talking about God (He) to talking to God (You).

3. The invitation of praise. (vv.17-21)
In verses 18-20, there is a list of five things God does for those who call on Him, who fear Him, and who love Him.  With those qualifiers:
>The LORD is near
>He fulfills desires
>He hears prayers
>He saves
>He preserves
David's commitment was to verbally praise the LORD.  The call is for every person on earth to join him.
Let's praise the LORD!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The happiest people on Earth

Read Psalm 144.

"Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!"

This song begins and ends with blessing.  However, they are two different Hebrew words.  In verse 1, "Blessed be the LORD", the Hebrew word is "praise."  King David is praising God with the implication of kneeling before Him.

1. His reasons for praise.  (vv.1-4)
God not only gave him strength and ability but, out of His faithful love, protected him.  Such thoughts humbled him.  Why would the God of heaven give such personal attention to human beings?

2. His requests for God's power. (vv.5-11)
David appealed to God for His all-powerful intervention.  The descriptives are awesome in the truest sense of the word.  He faced challenges from which only the LORD could deliver him.

3. His requests for prosperity. (vv.12-14)
With full confidence in the LORD for the future, he presented his requests:
>He prayed for his children to become mature and admired.
>He prayed for abundant economic provision and protection from loss.
>He prayed for public peace.

These would be blessings from God.  "Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!"  In verse 15, the Hebrew word is "happy."  Not all of life's circumstances are happy occasions.  David's was not either.  But those of us know know and serve God have a different perspective, even in the most difficult times.  God is in control.  He is trustworthy.  Our faith is indeed the victory.  Of all peoples on the planet, we should be the happiest of all.  Blessed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 prayer requests for the spiritually Stressed

Read Psalm 143.

This psalm continues the themes of Psalm 145.  David was hiding in a cave as Saul and his army searched for him.  Instead of feeling protected by the shelter, he felt trapped.  The stress wore on his soul to the point that he cried out to God for mercy.

He described his feelings.  (vv.3-4)
Notice how David described his inner feelings in verses 3-4.  The enemy wanted to kill him but could not find him.  Yet, inside he felt pursued and crushed.  He likened sitting in the darkness to being entombed.  Spiritually, he thought he had reached an end to his endurance.

He remembered God's faithfulness. (vv.5-6)
What thoughts guided him toward hope?  The LORD had delivered him in the past.  He counted his blessings.  He physically and spiritually reached out to God to sustain him.

He prayed for his future. (vv.7-10)
His requests were specific and included the key elements for living beyond the current crisis.
1. "Let me hear."  He longed to hear again how much God loved him.
2. "Make me know."  He needed wisdom and guidance in what to do.
3. "Deliver me."  He needed immediate help.  Without God's intervention, he would have no future.  He cast his total dependence on the LORD, since there was no apparent way he could save himself in this situation.
4. "Teach me."  His longing was to know and do the will of God for his life.  Such actions would give him the confidence of being right with God and doing what pleased the LORD.
5. "Lead me."  The emotional ups and downs brought unbearable stresses.  He submitted himself to the Spirit of God to be able to live rightly on level ground.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

When your spirit is Overwhelmed

Read Psalm 142.

Anyone who has ever been overwhelmed by a seemingly hopeless situation will identify with the elements of this prayer.  David ran for his life.  When King Saul's army was tipped off about David's area of hiding, they came quickly and camped there.  David took refuge in a cave but instead of feeling safe, he felt trapped.  In fact, he called it a prison.  See 1 Samuel 22 for details.

1. Defenseless (vv.1-4)
The threat was real.  Those seeking his life did not know his exact location.  But the sense of terror, loneliness, and abandonment caused him to feel totally insecure.  There was no escape and no one cared.

2. Desperate (vv.5-6a)
He had fought his way out of tough circumstances before, but not this time.  It was not possible to fight an army by himself.  This song is truly a cry for mercy.  He has nothing left.  His only resource was his faith in God.  Someone once said, "When you reach the place where God is all  you have, you will find that God is all you need."

3. Dependence (vv.6b-7)
He cast his dependence on the only One who could help him.  "You are my refuge."  "Deliver me."  "Bring me out."  Knowing that God would never forsake him, he prayed with hope for the future.  He looked forward to giving thanks to the LORD for answering his prayer.  He looked forward to being surrounded instead by good and godly friends.  He looked forward to freedom and God's blessings.

When no one else can help, God will.
When no one else cares, God does.
Trust Him and see.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A personal response to an evil World

Read Psalm 141.

Living in a world of evil and injustice is a daily vexation to those who desire to do what is right.  It is tempting to retaliate in kind, but in doing so we become like them.  The powerful alternative is to turn to God for personal help and intervention.

Here David called on the LORD for some quick help.  However, notice his personal checklist of requests.

1. My mouth. (v.3)
Purity of speech.  He asked God stand guard over his words.  Jesus said that we will be held accountable for every word (Matthew 12:37).  "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Colossians 4:6)

2. My heart. (v.4)
Purity of thought.  Proverbs 4:23: "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."  The seat of our emotions, the command center of our thinking, controls everything else we do.  Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34b)  Whatever comes out was first born in our hearts.

3. My eyes. (v.8)
Purity of perspective.  David's focus was not limited to the world around him.  He cast his dependence on God to give him the bigger picture on life and afterlife.  The LORD, the Righteous Judge, will one day right every wrong and judge every evil deed.  Such a world view gives hope to the believer.  "The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes." (Psalm 19:8)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Preparing for Spiritual War

Read Psalm 140.

If a person is not aware of their spiritual battle, they have already lost the battle.

Notice David's spiritual perspective on what he was experiencing.  Much like the time he faced down Goliath, he looked beyond the human factors involved and saw the evil behind them.  We need not cower and back down when confronted by sin and sinful minded people.

1. He prayed for God to deliver him from the battle. (vv.1-5)
This was not his word against theirs.  These men were evil in their thoughts, words, plans and actions.  There is only one source of evil.  Satan, the deceiver of old, the father of lies, wages war by energizing those who minds are open to him.  Such a battle cannot be won by positive thinking.  There is One greater who is all-powerful.  It is the LORD to whom we turn to guard us in the battle and to deliver us from evil.

2. He prayed for God to protect him in the battle. (vv.6-8)
The battle is inescapable.  Everyone in involved every day, throughout the day, against the enemy of our souls.  Without God and His deliverance there is no protection from evil.  People, then, become pawns of evil.  The LORD provides salvation, or deliverance, both eternally and daily.

3. He prayed for God to give victory over the battle. (vv.9-13)
The spiritual battle is the LORD's.  He has the power to overcome evil.  "Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord." (Romans 12:19)  And, He has the power to give us personal victory over evil.  God has provided the believer in Jesus all that is needed for victory.  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."  (Ephesians 6:10-17)

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8b)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The confidence of an examined Life

Read Psalm 139.

Dr. Ray Steadman wrote, "We would never understand ourselves if God did not tell us who we are."
In this psalm we learn much about God, but we also learn a lot about ourselves.

1. (vv.1-6)
What we learn about God in these verses is His omniscience; that is, He knows everything about everyone.  The LORD searches or examines us throughout every moment of every day.
What we learn about ourselves is we have constant and consistent accountability to God.  To try to understand that God does this work in the lives of billions of people all at the same time is beyond human comprehension.  And, it was for David.

2. (vv.7-12)
What we learn about God here is His omnipresence; that is, He is everywhere at the same time.  He does not show up when we pray or worship Him.  He is already there waiting for us to acknowledge His presence.
What we learn about ourselves is that there is no hiding place.  Adam and Eve discovered that quickly and so has anyone who thinks they can conceal or self-cover their sin.

3. (vv.13-18)
What we learn about God is His omnipotence; that is, He is all-powerful without any limitations.  He not only created the universe by speaking it into existence, but He personally supervises human formation in the womb.
What we learn about ourselves is that all of our attributes are the result of His workmanship.  This speaks directly to our self-acceptance.  What we may see as imperfections from birth, God sees as His design.  David declared, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

4. (vv.19-24)
What we learn about God is His thoughtfulness.  The fact that the LORD of heaven would think about him like this was "precious" or highly valued.  No one knows us better the LORD and no one loves us more.  
What we learn about ourselves is that such a personal relationship with God causes us to love the things that He loves and hate the things that He hates.

Selfishness and sin causes one to run from God with the foolish notion that a human can hide from Him.  A forgiven person with a clear conscience before God humbly desires His presence.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart!"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How would you know if true worship Happened?

Read Psalm 138.

If you were to outline the elements of true worship, what would be on your list?  Much of our natural tendencies are to put some emphases on emotions, on style, on environment, or what we got out of it in meeting our needs.

King David was a man after God's own heart.  He was musician and knew a thing or two about worshiping the LORD.  Here in this song, he provides the core elements of Biblical worship for all of us.  Because it is a song, singing is a given part of worship.
1.  He began with a grateful heart to God. (v.1)
Praising the LORD is the first requirement of worship.  Psalm 100 states that we are to "enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise."

2.  He bowed down in submission and obedience to God. (v.2a)
When one realizes how much God loves them and how faithful He is in spite of our failures, who would not want to respond in such a way?

3.  He acknowledged the two things that God has made absolute priority. (v.2b)
The LORD has place His name (Who He is) and His word (what He has said, the Scriptures) above everything else.  If God is not honored and His message is not the focus, then true worship does not take happen.

4.  He verbalized his prayer requests to God. (vv.3-6)
First, he rejoiced in the prayers God had already answered.  Nothing energizes our faith like a specific answer to prayer.  Second, as a king he prayed for all other kings to come to know the LORD and experience God's goodness.  These others had heard the Word of God, but coming to faith in Him requires laying aside pride and humbly acknowledging the insurmountable need for forgiveness.

5.  He looked forward to how God would fulfill His purpose in his life. (vv.7-8)
Knowing the Scriptures provides guidance.  Experiencing a personal relationship with God sustains us.  Trusting His purpose for our lives gives us hope.  Inspiration is not enough.  Life-change only takes place when applies their faith in real life everyday.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The day the music Stopped

Read Psalm 137.

This is a song of remembrance.  It recalls the time when the nation was taken captive by the Babylonians.  There they stayed for 70 years.  They lost their land, their houses, their incomes, the Temple.  Living in servitude, all was gone.

Anyone who has ever experienced great loss can identify with this psalm and the words "there we sat down and wept."  At the time, it was all they could do.

To add insult to their injury, their captures wanted them to sing one of the old psalms about the LORD.  But they did not have it in them to praise God and sing of joy.  The music had stopped.

What made all this especially sad was the nation had brought this pain on themselves by their sinful choices.  God had sent His prophets to warn them, but they would not listen and turn from their sin.  As a result, the nation ended up in a place where they did not want to be.  They never dreamed such a disaster would happen to them.  They felt separated from God and His blessings.

But that is not the end of the story.  As the prophets also had preached, at the end of the 70 years the LORD allowed them to return to Jerusalem and begin the rebuilding process.  He proved His faithfulness to them by providing godly leaders and teachers to rebuild their spiritual lives, as well as the city.

Sin always has consequences.  Without confession and seeking God's forgiveness the consequences will only become more painful and the losses greater.  How grateful we should be for the LORD's offer of mercy!  He pursues us, offers to cleanse us from our sin, and help us in building lives that please Him.  It is called grace.  Anyone who had experienced God's grace wants to sing about it.