Monday, September 24, 2018

Peace in a time of Crisis

Read Psalm 55.

Someone once said, "Adversity on all sides in one of God's ways of getting our full attention."

Everyone has experienced what David describes in this Psalm as he pleads for mercy.
-I am restless
-I moan
-My heart is in anguish
-The terrors of death have fallen upon me
-Fear and trembling come upon me
-Horror overwhelms me

His wish is that he could escape by just flying away to some safe place of peace.  But running from problems only compounds and complicates them.  David is being painfully honest about his feelings, but that does not move him at all from his faith in the LORD.  God will deal with those that caused the problem.  In the meantime...

1. "Cast your burden on the LORD..." 
Literally, that means to "throw it down".  When someone says, "I cannot handle this", they are correct.  When life is too much for us, it is not too much for Him.  We must cast our dependence on the One is who bigger than our problems.  Our human nature keeps straining to pick them back up.

2. "...and he will sustain you."
God is more than able to take care of that which concerns us.  He will provide not always what we want but what is needed.   His plans are designed to bring glory to Himself through us.  The process, though painful, is an opportunity for us to grow spiritually and demonstrate to others what true faith in God looks like.

3. "...he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
The Apostle Paul urged believers to not be anxious about anything but to pray instead.  He wrote that the result would be "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)  When this is true, people will look at us and say, "I do not know how you can be so calm during this crisis."  It won't make sense to them.  That is an open door to share our faith.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

What to do when trapped in Distress

Read Psalm 54.

Do not miss the inscription of the song.

David ran for his life from King Saul.  He found refuge in the Wilderness of Ziph.  In this rugged terrain of mountains and hills, there were natural caves.  The Ziphites were of the tribe of Judah, like David.  Surely, he would be safe surrounded by kinfolks.

But in 1 Samuel 23:19-20, the Ziphites went straight to Saul to report David's hiding place, complete with directions on how to get there!  King Saul wasted no time in pursuing and surrounding David.  If ever there was a time to feel betrayed and panic, this would have been it.

What did David do when it looked as if there was no way out?  He looked up.  God is more powerful than any army.  He is able to overrule any and all human authorities.  It was a simple matter for the Lord to cause a Philistine uprising at that exact same time, prompting Saul to retreat.

1. David cried out to God. (vv.1-3)
His first response to the crisis was prayer.

2. David knew that his life was ultimately in God's hands. (vv.4-5)
In a battle it helps to have an army.  But the help he truly needed was not more warriors on his side.  "God is my helper."  It was his faith in the LORD that sustained him.

3. David took action steps in response to God's deliverance. (vv.6-7)
How many times God has answered prayer for someone only to see them go back to life as usual?  This robs God of His glory!  Not so of David.
-He presented to the LORD a freewill offering.  He called it a sacrifice.  This was over and above his tithe.
-He publicly expressed his gratitude to God for this answer to prayer and for what the LORD had done.
-And, he wrote this song for the entire nation to sing.

Today, over 3,000 years later, we read and identify with him.  When surrounded by problems and distress, the God of heaven waits for our dependence on Him.

"Call to me and I will answer you..." (Jeremiah 33:3)

Friday, September 21, 2018

A response to those who think they do not need God

Read Psalm 53.

The atheists’ national holiday must be April 1 according to King David.  So, what does life look like apart from God?  And, what should be the prayer of those who believe?

1. The Pervasiveness of Sin. (vv.1-3)
Without God there is no ultimate accountability for life and personal actions.  A person deems themselves as their own master, their own god, and can make up their own rules for life.  In doing so, one becomes a fool in morals and philosophy.  Corruption and injustice are the results.  "There is none who does good, not even one."  The Apostle Paul quoted these verses in Romans 3:10-12.  Sin separates us from God and motivates us to make foolish decisions.

2. The Perplexity of Sinners. (vv.4-5)
Without God people live lives of paradox.  On one hand they are ever seeking "to know," but on the other hand they are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  On one hand they want so-called intellectual freedom, but on the other hand they reject and mock God's word and anyone who believes it.  The Apostle Peter called this type of thinking willful ignorance (2 Peter 3:5 KJV).  In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  There are not multiple ways to heaven; there is one.  Jesus is truth personified.  To reject Him is to exist without ever understanding life.

3. The Prayer of the Believer. (v.6)
David looked forward to the day of God's deliverance, not only for himself but his nation.  That would be a day of restoration and joy.  Fortunately, believers today can read and know how this story will turn out.  While the world continues to erode in their foolishness, it is all in preparation for the revealing of Jesus in His power and glory.  What a day that will be!

"Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20b)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

When evil people Attack

Read Psalm 52.

How do you respond when people say bad things about you?  How do you feel when those same people hurt others whom you love? 

In 1 Samuel 21-22, David ran from King Saul's death threats.  Along the way he stopped for a visit with the priests at Nob for food and weapons.  Doeg, who worked for Saul, witnessed this and reported it back to the King.  Then, Saul slaughtered every priest, man, woman, child and animal in Nob.  Surely, Doeg was rewarded and promoted as a result.

David, in writing this song of remembrance, looked beyond the personal betrayal and the resulting holocaust with a spiritual perspective.

1. What was David's perspective of Doeg?
He was not only a betrayer, he was evil; a pawn in the hand of Satan.  This evil man boasted about what he had done.  His mind loved to plot evil and to destroy.  He trusted in his abundance of money as a refuge.

2. What was David's perspective of God?
Doeg and these disasters did not change the character of God one bit.  His love continued to be consistent and unmoved (v.2a).  God did not miss, nor overlook, Doeg's doings.  Severe judgment would come (v.5).

3. What was David's perspective of himself?
He could have blamed himself and wallowed in guilt, but none of this was his fault.
-He used this time to grow spiritually. (v.8a)
-His trust in the LORD never wavered. (v.8b)
-He expressed thanks to the LORD for taking care of this evil. (v.9a)
-He waited upon the Lord but not in solitude.  He surrounded himself with other believers. (v.9b) 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2 Demonstrations of Forgiveness

Read Psalm 51.

All sin is ultimately against the LORD.  The penalty for our sin was paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross.  Therefore, true forgiveness is available only from God.

Guilt is designed to prod us to seek God's forgiveness.  Inside, we feel dirty, unclean, even damaged.  The inscription refers to 2 Samuel 12.  King David was guilty of adultery, murder, and a cover up.  But God loved David too much to allow him to get away with sin.  Notice the words David used to describe his need of God's mercy and help.
-wash me (v.2)
-cleanse me (v.2)
-purge me (v.7)
-heal me (v.8)
-create in me a clean heart (v.10)
-renew a right spirit within me (v.10)
-restore me (v.12)
-uphold me (v.12)
-deliver me (v.14)

Now forgiven, notice also that David looked forward to serving God once again with a clear conscience.
1. "Then I will teach transgressors your ways." (v.13)
Forgiven people want others to experience what they have.  Every believer in Jesus has an authentic story to tell of what God has done for them.

2. "Then will you delight in right sacrifices." (v.19)
Even in the Old Testament, sacrifices and offerings were to represent a humble, repentant, and grateful heart.  Merely going through the motions of ritual was never acceptable to God.  But when our hearts are clean, our offerings delight Him.

Telling and giving are two ways we demonstrate that we have been forgiven by God.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

God is talking. Listen in.

Read Psalm 50.

All day long, God is speaking.  He is not silent.  What is He saying? (vv.1-4)

1. Concerning the Owner (vv.5-11)
Everything belongs to Me.  What you are offering to Me is only what I gave you.

2. Concerning the Offering (vv.12-15)
I am self-sufficient.  I do not need anything.
What I want from you are expressions of your appreciation and thanks.  Then, your offerings will mean something and your prayers will be answered.

3. Concerning the Others (vv.16-21)
Because of your rejection of Me and your sinful behavior, you have no rights.  Therefore, I rebuke you and charge you in judgment.

4. Concerning the Options (vv.22-23)
If you continue to disregard Me, there is only severe and eternal punishment waiting.
If you choose to live a life of thanksgiving to Me for who I AM and what I have done, there is eternal deliverance for you.

Are you listening?

Monday, September 17, 2018

What money cannot Buy

Read Psalm 49.

The psalmist was bothered by some people of wealth who had cheated him.  Evidently, they thought they could buy their way out of any difficulty.  Money had given them power.

So, this song was written to provide a perspective of wisdom and understanding to life.  Money cannot buy and control everything.  Exhibit A is death.  At that final moment, it will not matter who the person was or what they had accumulated.  Like all living things on earth death is certain.

Therefore to build one's life on temporal values that one day will all be left behind is called "foolish confidence" (v.13 ESV).  In Hebrew that means stupidity, folly, silliness.  Why would anyone place their faith in things that will not last?  There is not a shred of wisdom in ignoring eternity and accountability to God!

Wise people know better.  "But God" (v.15).  He stepped in and paid the price of our ransom from the captivity and bondage of sin.  "In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace..." (Ephesians 1:7)

The root problem with all man-made, demonic inspired faith systems is pride.  Some put their faith in government.  Some choose to trust philosophies.  Some depend upon religious traditions.  All think they know better than the One who created them.  All of them willfully choose to ignore their sin problem and that one day they will stand before the LORD.  There will be no excuses then.

Job reminds us, "Naked I came from my mother' womb, and naked shall I return."  Hebrews 9:27-"And just as it is appointed to die once, and after that comes judgment."

We have this one life to do what is right and respond to God's love and forgiveness.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Take a look Around

Read Psalm 48.

The praise continues into this song.  But what or who is being praised?  The view moves back and forth.

1. Taking a temporal look.
The beauty and setting of the city of Jerusalem literally stopped people in their tracks.  The writer tells of enemy forces marching against the city from as far away as Tarshish (Spain).  But when they came to the mount and look up, the shear splendor of the walls, towers, and structures caused them to turn back.  The nation sang about the blessings they enjoyed.  They praised God for their buildings.

2. Taking an eternal look.
Yet, it was not the bricks and mortar that thrilled the people of Jerusalem.  They knew that all the walls in the world could not protect them.  It was the unbelievers who saw only the temporal things.  The believers in the LORD had a spiritual perspective.  They praised the God of heaven for His provision of the beautiful structures, but even more they exalted His power and authority that protected them.  The LORD had made Himself known in their city (v.3).

3. Taking a personal look.
Prior to the historical incident involved, they had heard of the power of God, but now they had seen it with their own eyes (8).  What they had heard was true.  He all-powerful, no one can successfully come against Him.  He puts to flight every false way.  He is worthy of praise.  But their concern did not stop there.  They wanted to be sure the next generation knew and placed their faith in the LORD.

Look around today. Where have you seen God's protection?  Where has He provided?  Be sure to let others know about it.

Friday, September 14, 2018

3 good reasons to be Loud!

Read Psalm 47.

This is going to get loud.  For generations, clapping and shouting were not considered a part of traditional worship.  But as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time and place for everything.  The very first verse of this song exhorts the congregation physically and vocally to respond with joyful volume!

1. "For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared..." (vv.2-4)
Those who refused to respect and respond in obedience learned the hard way.  God "subdued" them at His command.  The people who fear God enjoy His love.  Clap and shout for joy!

2. "For God is the King of all the earth..." (vv.5-7)
He is sovereign and in control of this world.  "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; in the turns it wherever he will." (Proverbs 21:1)  It may not seem like it as we view world events, but the worsening turmoil is leading to a climax and revealing of the King of kings (Revelation 19).  We can read the end of the Book and know how the story will turn out.  Clap and shout for joy!

3. "For the shields of the earth belong to God..." (vv.8-9)
In the meantime, the LORD is our protection.  This world, including us, is His property.  "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1)  Our security is assured by the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.  This is worthy of some clapping and shouting!

Make some noise for God today.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Oh, how we need Him!

Read Psalm 46.

A mighty fortress is our God.  He is our refuge and strength.  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 allow 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 are not in negotiated world peace.  Our help and our hope are not in the improvement of our circumstances.  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!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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 her father's house to become the desire of her husband.  Bowing and submitting 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."  In Samuel 7, the Lord made such a promise to David.

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 the 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!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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 the physical, financial and emotional tough times.  How we respond to God in the midst of difficulties 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 we 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 by 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.  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 we came to faith in the first place.  What has God done since us since we placed our faith in Him?  Let others hear us giving thanks to the LORD "continually."

3. Remember God knows our hearts. (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 we.  Our deliverance is on its way.

Monday, September 10, 2018

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)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

3 Principles that will meet Needs

Read Psalm 41.

1. "God helps those who help 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 (v.12).  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.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

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 of our vocabulary and tone demonstrates clearly the purity of what is inside of us.  We must 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.

Friday, September 7, 2018

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 those things are 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.  Without genuine eternal hope many will behave foolishly, fall into 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)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

When guilt is Good

Read Psalm 38.

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 away from him.  Those closest to us may feel anger, embarrassment, and 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)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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 looks 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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

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!"

Monday, September 3, 2018

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 withdrawing in self-protection are natural inclinations.  Harboring anger and bitterness will only hurt us.  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.  “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.”  (v.19)  The list of our positive actions 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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The assurance of answered Prayer

Psalm 34

In 1 Samuel 21 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 ran through his mind.  So, he feigned insanity and prayed to God for deliverance.  This psalm is a song of thanksgiving to 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 come 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.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The music never Ends

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 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 perilous way.  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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

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 it as 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 people wander 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 no matter what.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

When our plans do not Work

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.  Even in the worst of circumstances, we are never truly alone and never without trust in God's purpose and plan.

When all seemed lost, David committed his life and future to the One who gave him life (vv. 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)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

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?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

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 obey His word.

4. It is His voice in our conscience.
When God wanted Elijah to listen to Him, there was a graphic display.  First, a tornadic wind swept accompanied by 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, August 27, 2018

Celebrating an answer to Prayer

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 and 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, August 26, 2018

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.  Some are frighten by the reality of things present, others by the uncertainty of the future, or by our feelings of helplessness.  Worry and self-pity can freeze right thinking and paralyze us.  Unloading our emotions on other people 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 lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

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 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, August 25, 2018

A 7-Point Personal Check-up

Read Psalm 26.

Self-evaluation is one thing.  To ask God to evaluate one's life is a 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, August 24, 2018

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.'"

Thursday, August 23, 2018

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 poetic picture 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, credibility
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)