Wednesday, December 12, 2018

How do you measure spiritual Maturity?

Read Psalm 119:49-56.


Physical maturity can be mostly self-evident as children grow and adults grow older.  Spiritual maturity is not immediately discerned but certainly can be observed over time.  Nothing reveals the depth of one's walk with God quicker than trouble and stress.

The psalmist, in this seventh stanza, continued to reference some arrogant, wicked mocker of his faith.  It made him rage inside with anger (v.53).  So, how does this penman that God used to write this portion of the Scriptures respond in a spiritually mature way?

1. He found hope in the Word of God. (v.49)
2. He found life-giving comfort in the Word of God. (v.50,52)
3. He found the Word of God made him sing. (v.54)
4. He found solace in the Word of God in the darkest hours. (v.55)
5. He found God's blessing through faithful obedience to God's Word. (v.56)

An infant requires someone else to feed them and do everything for them.  As one grows up, they learn to feed themselves.  Spiritual maturity is knowing the Scriptures and how to put them into practice.

"But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

4 steps to overcoming criticism of your Faith

Read Psalm 119:41-48.

In this sixth stanza, the psalmist mentions a vocal enemy.  Someone had done more than criticize him; they taunted him about his faith.  This put him in a tight spot on several levels.  He felt the pressure.

Anyone who lets their faith in Jesus be known will sooner or later encounter a similar experience.  It may come from a person at work, a neighbor, or even a relative.  Dependency on God and His Word may be seen as offensive to them and foolish.  Such reactions usually come from those who are hurting, feeling guilty, or jealous that you have found forgiveness and purity in Christ.  But their hurtful words still hurt.

What did the writer do to overcome his feelings and get back on track?
1. He depended even more on the steadfast love of God. (vv.41-42)
He did not give in and he did not give up because of spiritual opposition.  He looked up to One who loves us and never changes.

2. He renewed his hope in the trustworthiness of God's Word. (vv.43-44)
The truth of God's Word will last forever.  Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."  (Matthew 24:35)  You can count on them!

3. He looked to the future with increased influence for God. (vv.45-46)
In the moment, he may have felt hemmed in or powerless against the criticism.  But his hope relied on a time when God would lead him to a new level of freedom.  "In a wide place" he would have plenty of options and opportunities to tell others of his faith in the LORD, even in the highest of places.

4. He committed himself to learn and practice the Word of God. (vv.47-48)
Such actions involved his hands and his heart.  His hands would lovingly take hold of the Scriptures.  With his mind he would meditate, turning the truth over and over in his thinking, looking for insights and applications to his life.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A prayer for Life

Read Psalm 119:33-40.

The prayer continues in this fifth stanza.  Twice, the writer cries out for "life."  The old King James translated the word "quicken" and modern translations use the word "revive."  The meaning has to do with preservation of one who is experiencing great discouragement or threatening sickness.

In the first seven verses, there are seven prayer requests.  Each one carries a resultant commitment or effect.
1. Teach me.
The purpose of being taught the Scriptures is to obey them.
2. Give me understanding.
Beyond knowing what God has said is having discernment to apply it to one's life.
3. Lead me.
Asking the LORD to guide is commonly prayed by believers.  But this request includes a predetermined attitude of delight in following God's leadership.
4. Incline my heart.
Without that inner commitment to obey God's Word, one will naturally turn to self-pleasing behaviors.  A selfish life ultimately produces emptiness.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment." (1 Timothy 6:6)
5. Turn my eyes.
It is inescapable that what we use our eyes to read or view has effect on thinking, speech and behavior.  There is no difficulty in finding an endless supply of worthless things to see and waste the time God has graciously given us.  Investing time looking into the Scriptures is life-giving with eternal consequences.
6. Confirm...your promise.
Every day, and throughout the day, God is at work.  He demonstrates His provision for us, His care of us, His protection and His love.  A hardened heart misses this constant intervention.  A spiritually sensitive heart not only enjoys this moment by moment interaction with God, but lives a life of awe and respect for His presence.
7. Turn away the reproach.
As in the last stanza, we are not told what the threat to his well-being was.  He prayed for God to take it away and in doing so that the LORD would show to all that His decisions are good and right.

May our prayer be: Give us this kind of life.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The remedy for a heavy Heart

Read Psalm 119:25-32.


We are not told what happened, but the songwriter was extremely downtrodden.  It was not a physical problem.  His heart was heavier than he could bear.  It must have felt like the end, because of his opening statement: "My soul clings to the dust."

This is the fourth stanza of Psalm 119.  God had answered his prayers in the past and now he needed the LORD's intervention again.  

1. He prayed for life. (v.25, 27, 32))
He was alive outwardly, but inwardly he felt enslaved and dying.  With a broken heart he prayed for God to break the bondage and give him the freedom to live.

2. He prayed for understanding of God's way. (v.27)
What he came to realize was that only by living according to the Word of God would he ever know clear direction for his life.  More than merely reading the Scriptures, he asked God to help him to think and gain insight into His Word.

3. He prayed to be faithful to the truth. (vv.28-31)
Once a person sees the real life implications of the Scriptures, there will be a conviction about every false way.  Ridding one's life of enslaving lies and habits against the knowledge of God brings the freedom every human heart truly desires.  Living in that freedom only comes through a commitment to diligently put the learning into practice.

How powerful then are the words of Jesus!  Coming to Him is the starting place and cure for every heavy heart.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

My reason for Living

Read Psalm 119:17-24.

What is my reason for living?  Why am I here?

The answer to those questions determines one's true success or failure in life.  We can live to please ourselves, but all the pleasure, power and possessions on earth will not fill the emptiness inside.  We can live for others and serve in great humanitarian efforts, but at the end we will have only made a few improvements on things that one day will all pass away.  When one lives to fulfill God's design for them, they discover personal satisfaction, life-changing service to others, and eternal benefits that can never be taken away.

Where does one begin to discover God's purpose for their lives?  See the psalmist's perspective here in stanza three of this song.

1. His Requests (vv.17-18)
He prayed for God's blessings on his life.  But notice why he wanted to be blessed "bountifully."  It was so he could live in alignment with God's Word.  Next, he prayed that God would help him to have spiritual insight into what he was reading.

2. His Needs (vv.19-20)
This world is not our home.  Our existence here will only be for a number of years.  Eternity is ahead.  Life on this planet then becomes a proving ground and preparation for what is ahead.  A pilgrim in a strange land needs a map, direction, and guidance along the journey.  The psalmist's desire was that God would reveal such direction from His Word and rule in his life's decisions accordingly.

3. His Story (vv.21-23)
He understood from God's Word and from observation that those who stray from God's purposes for their lives suffer the consequences.  But his prayer was that God would remove from him any temptation to stray.  His desire was to be faithful.  Even if respected authorities came against him, he determined in advance to turn to God's Word for counsel and to guide his thoughts.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The secret to avoiding personal Sin

Read Psalm 119:9-16.

The price of spiritual growth and enjoying a personal relationship with the God of heaven is purity.

Beth is the second of 22 stanzas in this acrostic psalm.  The subject continues to be the Word of God but the focus in these verses teaches us the basis of avoiding personal sin.

An unwillingness to give up sin keeps people from coming to Jesus for His forgiveness and cleansing.  For the believer, sin breaks our fellowship with Him and stunts spiritual growth.  Christianity has too many spiritual pygmies.

Many have memorized verses 9 and 11, but the secret to maintaining one's purity is found in verse 10.
1. The desire of purity.
"I seek you."  One who desires to live as they wish with eyes on what pleases them will soon find themselves enslaved in sin.  It is only when our supreme desire is to seek out what God wants that we find true freedom.  Purity begins with wanting to be right with the LORD more than personal wants.

2. The demand of purity.
"With my whole heart."  A half-hearted commitment satisfies no one.  Either we are living for God or we are not.  Purity demands that we forsake everything that displeases the LORD.

3. The determination of purity.
"Let me not wander from your commandments."  First, we must know what God has commanded in His Word.  Next, we must make a commitment to obey it.  Notice that the psalmist uses the personal reference of "I" 8 times in these 8 verses and, also, the action verbs attached to them.  Then, when confronted with temptation, we have predetermined to go God's way instead of our own.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it."  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The starting line for Life-change

Read Psalm 119:1-8.

Many know that is the longest chapter in the Bible.  But most cannot tell you why.  This is an acrostic song and each stanza of 8 verses begins with one of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  Presumably this mnemonic device was used to teach and to memorize the psalm.  Notice that every one of the 22 stanzas is focused on the Word of God.

1. The Word of God blesses those who put it into practice. (vv.1-3)
There is no little idealism in these verses, especially the words "do no wrong."  God's Word is perfect but we are not.

2. The Word of God must be diligently practiced. (v.4)
This is a command from God, not a suggestion.  The word "diligently" means quickly and with intensity.  When we know what God has to say, He expects us to do it and to do it now.  There is no easing into obedience with God.  Either we are living in obedience or we are disobedient.

3. The Word of God will drive us to prayer. (v.5)
We all identify with the psalmist's prayer.  Understanding God's perfect Word reveals our sinfulness.  It is not possible to live a life that pleases God without knowing His Word and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  Every sincere heart has cried out with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am!"

4. The Word of God should change our behaviors. (vv.6-8)
The psalmist made three personal commitments for life-change:
-"Having my eyes fixed on all your commandments."  Spiritual growth begins with high regard for the Scriptures.
-"I will praise you."  True worship comes from one whose heart is right with God.
-"I will keep your statutes."  Every moment of the day reflects our commitment to practice the Word of God by what we think, what we say, and what we do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A song for Today!

Read Psalm 118.

Picture a worshiper singing this song as they walked toward the Temple in Jerusalem.  The sacrifice for sin is being readied (v.27).  It is a feast day, possibly the Passover.  Yes, there had been difficult times in the past.  Other nations had attacked them and rejected their belief in the LORD.  But, today the heart is full of praise for God's love demonstrated in how He has faithfully delivered the nation. (v.24)

The psalmist lists many ways in which the LORD has delivered him and the nation.  Yet, there is more.  Unmistakably, at the same time, the psalm anticipates a triumphal entry of the Messiah.

"Open to me the gates." (v.19-20)

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." (v.22)
Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 21:42 as He taught the Parable of the Tenants.  It was a veiled reference to Himself.
Peter quoted it to preach that though the nation had rejected Jesus "there is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:11-12)
Paul referred to it in Ephesians 2:20 and Peter again used it again in 1 Peter 2:7 saying that Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith.

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!" (v.26)
As we read the description of Jesus' entry at the Passover, it does appear that the crowd may have in fact been singing this psalm (John 12:13).

For those who have welcomed the Messiah into their lives, there are two strong verses for today's worship and rejoicing.
"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (v.14)
"This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (v.24)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

All people will praise the LORD

Read Psalm 117.

"Praise the LORD!"

This is a short praise chorus.  It is quick and direct but packed with meaning.

1. Who is to praise Him?
Believers do this now every day.  But here all nations and all peoples are called to worship God.  The Bible knows nothing of the acceptance of many gods, nor does it allow for the concept of worship as one may choose.  When Christ returns in all His glory every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

2. Why is He to be praised?
Translations will use different words but the Hebrew focuses on two main reasons:
-God is kind, good, merciful, and loving.
-God is trustworthy, faithful and true.

His character does not change even when rejected by unbelievers.  Indeed, they experience His common grace every day.  His word does not change with our circumstances.  No matter what comes our way, our LORD's loving and reliable presence will be with us.

"Praise the LORD!"

Monday, December 3, 2018

Turning affection into Actions

Read Psalm 116.

Bill Gaither wrote the beautiful song:
"So many reasons why I love the Lord.
So many reasons I can't count them."

One reason this psalmist sang that he loved the LORD was because He answered his prayers.  In a very personal exchange with the God of heaven, he discovered that the LORD is gracious, righteous and merciful.  It changed his life.  His affection for God turned into actions.  Notice how many times the words "I will" appear.
1. I will continue to call on God. (v.2)
2. I will live a life that pleases God. (v.9)
3. I will praise God for His deliverance. (v.13)
4. I will pay what I promised. (v.14, vv.18-19)
5. I will give thanks in prayer as a sacrifice. (v.17)

Don't miss one of the most life-changing questions in the entire Bible in verse 12.  It is a question that should motivate every believer throughout every day.  It should cause us to check our own list of "I wills".

"What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?"

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Uniqueness of the God of the Bible

Read Psalm 115.

The God of the Bible is unique.  There is none like Him and there is no true God besides Him.  The song begins with the praise, giving glory to God.

Some question the very existence of God.  Many believe there is a God in heaven, but often question what He does or does not do.  However, the God of the Bible is not accountable to His creation.  "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." (v.3)

If a person rejects the God of the Bible the greater question is, "What is the alternative?"  They are left to their own made up religious devices.  They turn their faith to objects they made with their own hands.  But those manufactured idols do not work, do not speak, do not hear, do not do anything or any good.  Some worship the creation, instead of the Creator.  Others, place their faith in a philosophy of one kind or another in an attempt to rationalize God out of their conscience.  But none of those alternatives address their need of the forgiveness of sin and assurance of eternity.

The God of the Bible is the only One who personally involves Himself in our lives.  Three times in verses 9-11 we are reminded that He is our help and shield.  In other words, He is the provider of what we need and He is our protector.

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”

Friday, November 30, 2018

Remember what the LORD has Done

Read Psalm 114.

The nation was consistently reminded of those historic times where the LORD demonstrated His power on their behalf.

Three hallmark moments are in this psalm:
1. The Red Sea divided.
In Exodus 14, the rejoicing of freedom from bondage turned quickly to terror as the Egyptian army trapped Israel against the shores of the Red Sea.  But God intervened and parted the sea.  Israel crossed on dry ground.  Their pursuers all drowned as they attempted to follow.

2. The Jordan River divided.
In Joshua 3, God gave the next generation a similar experience.  Leaving their camp on the east side of the Jordan River, the nation marched toward the water at flood stage.  When the priests stepped into the river, it parted and Israel walked into the Promised Land on dry ground.

3. Water from the rock.
Between the first two miracles that are mentioned above is this one.  During the forty years of wandering the wilderness God miraculously provided for the nation.  In Exodus 17 they had no water for the millions of people in the Sinai desert.  The LORD instructed Moses to strike the rock and an ample supply of water flowed from it.

They were never to forget those times in the past when God intervened, answered their prayers, and met their needs.  More than their history, these events branded them as a nation.  No one else ever experienced these things.  But even greater was the overarching lesson of their faith.  The LORD always uses the miracles to deliver a message.  The earth trembles at His presence (vv.6-7).

God's miracles are proofs of His presence and care of His people.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

He is the God who changes Lives

Read Psalm 113.

No one who believes there is a God in heaven would argue His greatness.  The psalmist pictures the LORD seated on high watching what takes place in the universe and specifically on earth.

So, how is the God of the Bible different from all man-made mythical gods?  The LORD of heaven not only created all things, and controls all things, but He sovereignly intervenes in individual lives.  He has a purpose and a plan for each one.

Two examples are given here.
1. The poor.
He does not raise up every poor person from their poverty.  But when He does it demonstrates His power to change a life.  More than seeing this only as an economic change consider the statement in 2 Corinthians 8:9.  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."  There is no poverty like spiritual poverty.  There is no greater wealth than becoming a child of the King of Heaven.
2. The barren woman.
He does not give children to every woman.  But when He does it is evidence of His miraculous power to give life from conception.  "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:16)

Every person who comes to Him by faith experiences His grace.  That intervening grace changes our lives to be conformed to Christ.  As the songwriter began, so he closed: "Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

6 principles of blessed Life

Read Psalm 112.

It is important to distinguish between a principle and a promise.  When God makes a promise, it is a commitment that He will certainly fulfill.  When the Scriptures state a principle, it is a broad, foundational truth that may vary in its effect from person to person.

In this psalm, there are multiple, general descriptions of one who is blessed by the LORD.
1. The children will be strong champions and live uprightly.
But not every believer has children.  And, as diligent as some godly parents are, their children do not always live lives that please the LORD.  Our responsibility is to be faithful stewards of what and who God chooses to give us. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)  Being living examples of a transformed life and seeking to disciple the next generation can be powerfully used by the Holy Spirit.

2. The person will enjoy prosperity.
But not every fully-devoted follower of Jesus dies rich.  Indeed, many of the rich in every country are among the most wicked.  However, God has promised to meet the needs of generous believers. (Philippians 4:13)

3. They have discernment.
Like a light being turned on in a dark room, the Holy Spirit helps those who love the LORD to understand the word of God and apply it to life.  Such discernment comes from Him. (1 Corinthians 2:10)

4. All goes well with them.
If a person is generous and just then everything in life may bring contentment beyond circumstances.  But sometimes the most kind and giving people may experience heartache, great disappointment, and loss.  Proverbs 19:17 reminds us that "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed."  That is a promise.  God sees our good works and one day will reward us for them.

5. Their legacy will be forever.
One who fears the LORD is firmly established and their good works will always be remembered.  But many who love God serve Him quietly and in obscurity.  Even many of the so-called famous Christians are forgotten in a single generation.  But the Savior promised to never forget us.  "Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..." (Isaiah 49:15-16)

6. He is not afraid.
But many things in life can cause even the most mature in the faith to tremble.  But God's promise is "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Regardless of the individual circumstances, God’s character does not change.  "He is gracious, merciful, and righteous" no matter what our temporal evaluation may be.  Know and practice the principles, but depend on the promises.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

How to respond to an Awesome God

Read Psalm 111.

The second half of verse 9 should be memorized by all those who love the LORD.  The name of God is holy and to be revered.  Never should His name ever be used flippantly, as in OMG.  The name of God is awesome.  Too many have lost the meaning of the word awe.  He alone is truly awesome.

So, how did this songwriter respond to the holy and awesome God?

1. He gave thanks in corporate worship. (v.1)
The Bible does not know about secret believers or those who keep their faith to themselves.  Assembling with other believers to praise the LORD and to give thanks for what He has done is an essential part of genuine worship.

2. He studied God's works. (v.2-9a)
A occasional reading of the Bible will not satisfy.  One who has experienced the grace of God possesses a desire to know more.  Studying the word of God takes time and consistency.  Learning to feed oneself with the Scriptures is essential to spiritual growth.  Notice the benefits listed here:
-It reminds us what God has done.
-It reminds us what God has provided.
-It reminds us of God's power.
-It reminds us that His word is trustworthy.
-It reminds us of our redemption.
-It reminds us of God's promises.

3. He practiced what he learned. (v.10)
Just knowing what the Bible says will not change our lives.  The Scriptures were not given to us for our information but for our transformation.  That transforming work takes place as we put into practice what we know God wants us to be doing.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A glimpse of the 2nd coming of Jesus

Read Psalm 110.

Amazing!  Just imagine, David was allowed to overhear a conversation in heaven among the Godhead.  Literally, verse 1 states, "Jehovah said to Adonai," "my LORD said to my Lord," or "God, the Father, said to God, the Son."

The psalmist was reassured by revelation of the Holy Spirit that the Messiah would one day come to judge and rule over all the nations on earth.

A few hundreds of years later, Isaiah famously prophesied concerning the Messiah, "the government shall be upon his shoulders...of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom..." (Isaiah 9-6-7)

In Mark 12:36, Jesus quoted Psalm 110 and quizzed religious leaders concerning the eternal nature of the Messiah.

Peter quoted this Psalm and used it to proclaim that Jesus is both Lord and the Messiah.

Hebrews chapter 1 quotes Psalm 45 to declare Jesus is God and includes Psalm 110:1.

Jesus now serves as our eternal High Priest.  But when Jesus returns He will be the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords so vividly described in Revelation 19.  All believers will rule and reign with Him.  "Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power..."(v.3)

We will join those loud voices of heaven in singing the Hallelujah chorus that Handel could only imagine.  "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Handling hurtful Words

Read Psalm 109.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is a false statement!  Words do hurt.  And, they can hurt worse with more lasting effect than any physical pain.

There simply is no substitute for having faith in the God.  Believing that He will execute justice and ultimately right every wrong relieves us when we are helpless.  He is the God of all comfort.  When there is no remedy for our pain believers can experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit and have His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Here was David's prayer in the midst of his suffering.
1. The Cause. (vv.1-5)
He found himself surrounded by evil people who lied about him and said hateful things.  What made this hurt even more was that these were people that he loved and had helped.
2. The Curse. (vv.6-20)
In pouring his heart out to God, he presented an entire list of vengeance that could be brought upon these enemies.
3. The Cry. (vv.21-26)
"But you, O God my Lord."  Now, the turning point.  It is interesting to note that David was not taking these actions but asking the LORD to intervene on his behalf.  Once the lies, rumors and gossip spread, it is difficult for one to defend themselves.  Meanwhile, David paid an awful price physically during the suffering.  He cast himself on his faith in God's steadfast love for him.
4. The Contrast. (vv.27-29)
They curse; God blesses.  They will be put to shame; David will be glad.
5. The Confidence. (vv.30-31)
His prayer was not whining or mere venting.  Being full of faith, he prayed with thanksgiving and praise, knowing that the God of heaven was poised to step in and help.

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

David’s daily Devotional

Read Psalm 108.

King David's heart was right before God and he stood firm in his faith.  Therefore, he could pray and worship the LORD with great confidence.  The evidence is in his repeated statements of commitment.  Four times (ESV) he declared "I will."

1. "I will sing."
How he worshiped.  "With all his being" would indicate that his song was full of energy and volume.

2. "I will wake the dawn!"
When he worshiped.  He woke up early in the morning ready to boisterously worship God.  It does not seem that his daily devotions would be called a "quiet time."

3. "I will give thanks."
The beginning of his worship.  He did not initially approach God with his list of requests.  The first item was to thank the LORD for what He had already done.  And, the thanksgiving was not only in prayer but he wanted others to hear how good God had been to him.

4. "I will sing praises to you among the nations."
The extent of his worship.  Those who do not know the LORD need to hear these praises and thanksgivings from those who have experienced His wonderful love and faithfulness.  David’s worship continued throughout the day as he encountered other people.

Question: How does my personal worship compare to David's practice?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Let's sing all four Stanzas

Read Psalm 107.

The call is for all who have personally experienced God's redemption to say so.  Extolling His powerful rescues and breakthroughs are the messages of our lives.

Four examples are given by the psalmist.
1. Those who were in physical desperation. (vv.4-5)
Wandering around in life with no sense of direction, they became unable to support themselves.  They were homeless and destitute, without hope.
2. Those who were in affliction. (vv.10-12)
These people choose to rebel against God's word.  When they refused to listen, they suffered the consequences.
3. Those who brought misery on themselves. (vv.17-18)
Their own foolish, sinful decisions turned on them.  They endured such suffering that they could not eat and thought they would die.
4. Those who faced perilous storms. (vv.23-27)
They did not do anything wrong to bring on this trouble.  They merely endeavored to conduct their business and to earn their living when things turned bad.

In each instance, they came to the end of themselves.  That is when they called out to the LORD for help.  Four times the refrain is repeated (vv.6, 13, 19, 28) and each time he delivered them.  Four times the chorus includes the words, "Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love."

If you have reached the end of trying life on your own, call on the LORD for His deliverance today.

If you have experienced one of God's miraculous breakthroughs in your life, tell someone else today.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.” (v.2)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Praising God for His Goodness

Read Psalm 106.

The song recounts a few of the nation's turning points of faith.  God's character and commitment to those who belong to Him are evident.  Though the people rebelled, the LORD was faithful.  When they saw God's goodness, they sang His praise.

1. The Red Sea (vv.7-12)
For 400 years, the Jews were slaves in Egypt.  Even after witnessing God's power in the ten plagues, they rebelled in fear when cornered.  "Yet he saved them for his name's sake." It was His name and His reputation that was being questioned.  Moses had intervened.  The destruction of the Egyptian army was all about God, His plans, and His promises.  "Then they believed his words; they sang his praise."

2. The Wilderness (vv.13-23)
During the 40 years in the desert, God provided for them every day.  But His provision was not good enough for them.  They rebelled and wanted more.  "He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them."  They paid a high price for their discontent.  Next, the Person of the LORD was not enough for them.  They wanted more.  So, they rebelled and made up their own so-called gods.  Had it not been for the intercession of Moses, the nation was doomed.  God spared them in answer to prayer.

3. The Promised Land (vv.24-46)
God kept His promises to them, but it was not enough.  They complained, disobeyed and turned from the LORD to demonic worship.  God sent a plague.  "Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed."  But the cycle continued.  "Many times he delivered them" (v.43).  "For their sake he remembered his covenant" (v.45).

In spite of our many failures, God does not change.  His mercy and forgiveness are available to all.
"Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The needs of Israel yesterday and Today

Read Psalm 105.

The psalmist taught the nation the word of God and its history through song.

1. Genesis (vv.8-24)
The nation of Israel began with the LORD's unconditional covenant with Abraham.  God promised a land, innumerable descendants, and blessing upon them forever.  The covenant passed from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and so on.  The book of Genesis concludes with Joseph's rise to power and all the Jews moving to Egypt.

2. Exodus (vv.25-43)
After 400 hundreds years, the Jews had heavily populated the best of the land of Egypt.  They became a threat to Pharaoh.  His response was to put them in slavery.  But God raised up Moses and Aaron to demonstrate His power in the ten plagues.  The Jews left Egypt "with joy and singing."

3. Joshua (vv.44-45)
Joshua had been mentored by Moses.  He was the obvious choice as the next national leader.  He led the Jews in taking back the land God promised Abraham and his descendants.  Why did God want them on that land of promise?  So "that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws."  In other words, this was the place for them to live and worship the LORD in freedom and obedience.

That was history.  What did the nation need now? (vv.1-5)
-Give thanks
-Call on His name
-Make known His deeds
-Sing to Him
-Tell of His wondrous works
-Glory in His name
-Seek the LORD
-Remember who He is and what He has done

This list provides the elements of worship for all of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ.
For Israel today, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." (Romans 10:1)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Do you see what I See?

Read Psalm 104.

Anyone who thinks that creation is a merely a Genesis issue needs only to read this Psalm.  God's personal and detailed creative acts are the bases of this song of worship.  The shear greatness of God is seen everywhere.  But there is more.  It is His continued sustaining of the creation that should cause us to break out in praise with this songwriter.

1. When he looked at the sky with its lights and clouds, he saw the splendor and majesty of God. (vv.1-6)
Some only study the movements of the heavens and never open their hearts to the Creator and Controller of all things.

2. When he looked at the earth with its rivers and oceans, he marveled at God's control. (vv.7-9)
Verse 9 is a direct reference to Genesis 9:15.  God promised never to destroy the entire earth again with a flood.  The rainbow is a reminder of that promise.

3. When he looked at the birds, animals, sea life, and mankind, he realized how lovingly God provides for all of them. (vv.10-26)
The LORD did not just begin the world and then let go on its own.  He is personally involved in the care and feeding of His creation.  "These all look to you, to give them their food in due season" (v.27)

"O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
They pow'r throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art!"
-Stuart K. Hine

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rethinking the benefits of our Faith

Read Psalm 103.

King David shouted in song, "Bless the LORD, O my soul."  Then, he encouraged everyone else to join him.
Praising the LORD expresses our great gratitude for all that God has done and is doing.  This is not a church exercise, but a personal attitude that flows into each moment of the day.  No matter how great the stress or loss, one cannot be negative or depressed with this heavenly perspective.

Here is David's list of benefits in living for the LORD.
1. He provides our health. (v.3)
Each breath is a gift from God.  As long as He allows us to be here, He has a purpose for us.
2. He satisfies with His goodness. (v.5)
God is good.  It is His nature.  Therefore, He is good to us.  When a person opens their hearts to Him, they realize this truth and He fills it to overflowing with His goodness.  There is no other contentment like this.
3.  He does what is right and just. (v.6)
These character qualities of the LORD are repeated throughout the Bible.  Sooner or later, the hand of God will always do what is right and correct every wrong.
4. He extends His grace. (v.10)
God "does not deal with us according to our sins".  It is His grace to us that provides all these benefits of our faith.
5. He forgives our sins. (v.12)
"As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."  
6. He gives love and mercy. (vv.13-14)
God does not give us what we deserve, but as a father shows compassion.
7. He offers eternal redemption. (vv.15-16)
Without His intervention of salvation in Christ, we have no hope.  Notice the temporal contrast later in this psalm.

Now, that is David's list.  What is on your list today?  Take time to tell the LORD in prayer and thank Him for all His benefits to you.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

There is hope for the Future

Read Psalm 102.

This is the prayer of one who was hurting.  Physically, the psalmist ached so badly that he would forget to eat.  As a result his body suffered even more.  The restlessness prevented sleep.  On top of that there was emotional suffering from enemies.  He felt that he would soon die at a much earlier age than expected.  That was his reality.

"But you, O LORD..."  His hope was not in his physical, nor his emotional, well-being.  It was his personal faith in God that gave him confidence about the future.

1. He had hope in God regarding his nation. (vv.13-16)
The land had been given to the nation of Israel by God's unconditional promise.  Though circumstances may appear bleak for the moment, the writer knew that one day the LORD Himself would rule and reign from Jerusalem.  Then, all nations will worship Him.  The future is secure.

2. He had hope in God regarding his prayers. (v.17)
To be destitute is be stripped of everything.  It is more than being needy.  With no means or ability to help oneself, to be destitute is to be totally dependent.  That is the relationship God wants from each person.  God helps those who cannot help themselves.  Casting our inability upon His limitless power and plan is the starting point of a blessed life.

3. He had hope in God for the coming generations. (vv.18-22)
"So that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD."  That includes us some 3000 years later.  How can we praise God when all around us appears to be getting worse by the day?
-"God is enthroned forever" (v.12).  He is in control and step by step He is unfolding His future plans.
-God "hears the groans" and will "set free those who were doomed to die" (v.20).  Not only does He hear our prayers and see what we are experiencing, but He has all-power to deliver us.
-God will take care of the next generation, just as He has provided for us (v.28).

"Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand.
But I know who holds the future and I know who hold my hand."
-Stuart Hamblen

Friday, November 16, 2018

9 disciplines of godly People

Read Psalm 101.

David not only served as shepherd, a mighty warrior, and king, but he was called "the sweet psalmist of Israel."  Music gained him entrance into the service of King Saul and continues to be a major part of his legacy.  In this song he made nine commitments using the words "I will."  These do's and don'ts express the need of all who desire to live a life that pleases the LORD.

1. I will sing.
This is the new song of praise to God for His personal love and His concern to bring about justice.
2. I will make music.
His praise was not limited to his voice.  He also used instruments to worship God as well.
3. I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Doing what is right requires thinking and considering what God wants us to do.  Thoughtless words and deeds lead to sin.
4. I will walk with integrity.
Incongruity is hypocrisy.  A double-minded person behaves one way when people are watching and another privately.
5. I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
Our choices of what books and magazines we will read or not read, the television, movies and internet sites we will view or not view are tests of our integrity.  These are character decisions.
6. I will know nothing of evil.
Often, it is curiosity or the popular thing to do that leads us to explore or experience sinful things.  Sin is never victim-less.  Everyone involved and everyone around those involved are affected.  Evil is always energized by demons.
7. I will destroy slanderers.
When gossip and slander is allowed dissension will be the result.  These are cowards who use words to talk about others instead of speaking with them in love.
8. I will not endure pride-filled people.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Tolerating an egoist will hinder the grace of God in every situation.
9. I will look with favor on faith-filled people.
If you desire to live a godly life, then surround yourself with godly people.  Watch.  Listen.  Learn from them.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

6 commands about our Worship

Read Psalm 100.

At eight years of age, my Sunday School teacher led us in memorizing this Psalm.  There are six commands regarding our worshipful responses to the LORD.  Worship is not the building or the style but the praise of the person of God Himself.

1. Make joyful noise.
The call to worship is for everyone.  Worship has its solemnity and dignity but our attitude is to be one of joy.  It is an absolute privilege to know and honor the God of heaven.

2. Serve the LORD with gladness.
This has to do with work related to worshiping God.  Some lead worship.  Some are designated singers.  Some play an instrument. Some speak.  Some greet.  Some usher.  All are to participate.  Our faces, body language, and words are to reflect a glad heart.

3. Come in singing.
Not just the musicians but everyone is to vocally participate.

4. Know the focus.
He is God!  Worship helps us refocus from the distractions of this world to remember where we came from and whose we are.

5. Enter with thanksgiving.
Often we come to God wanting something from Him.  Worship is a time to thank Him for what He has already provided.

6. Bless His name.
It is His reputation that we praise and honor.

Why?  Because of His goodness, love and faithfulness.
"Oh, taste, and see that the LORD is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" (Psalm 34:8)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

3 things most people do not know about God

Read Psalm 99.

Singing has always been a part of worship.  The psalmist wanted everyone to understand to Whom they were singing.  This was not a casual chorus but praise for the One called great and awesome.

1. The LORD is to be feared. (vv.1-3)
To fear God means much more than reverential respect.  Here, the very thought of the holy LORD on His throne should cause the people to tremble and the earth to quake.  What a contrast to what most people experience in worship!  Usually, God has to scare us to near death before we tremble before Him.

2. The LORD sits in the seat of judgment. (vv.4-5)
If someone were to ask what two things does God loves, how many would respond with justice and equity?  But this One in heaven is concerned with the statutes of behavior He has prescribed.  He watches the processes and procedures of how decisions are made.  He loves it when matters are handled rightly.  His holiness will not tolerate wrongdoing by anyone.

3. The LORD hears the prayers of obedient believers. (vv.6-9)
Notice what preceded their prayers.  God spoke.  "They kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them."  They prayed.  God answered.  Knowing God's word and obeying it are precursors to asking Him for anything.  Disobedience requires repentance and forgiveness.  Experiencing God's forgiveness allows us to forgive those who sin against us.

There is nothing like a clean heart to move us to correctly worship our holy God.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Time to stop and count your Blessings

Read Psalm 98.

The psalmist is counting his blessings and calling everyone, including all nature, to join in singing praises to God.  The LORD had done marvelous things and he could not be silent.  This is a new song, much different than those estranged from God can sing.  Everyone on earth enjoys the blessings of God moment by moment throughout all of life.  But stopping to give credit and honor to the One to whom it is due requires time, thought, an open heart as well as an open mouth.

1. God had demonstrated His power. (v.1)
Where did God demonstrate His power to you this week?

2. God had made known His salvation. (v.2a)
How have you responded this week to His deliverance of you?

3. God had revealed His righteousness. (v.2b)
When this week did you see that God was right?

4. God had shown steadfast love. (v.3a)
What happened this week where God's love was evidenced to you?

5. God had been faithful. (v.3b)
In what ways did God show His faithfulness to you this week?

"Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love."
Thomas O. Chisholm

Sunday, November 11, 2018

3 Questions every person must Answer

Read Psalm 97.

This wonderful song is a universal call to praise the One and only God.  The psalm is full of theology and answers some basic questions to which every human being must respond.

1. Who is God? (vv.1-5)
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the writer provides a view of the LORD on His throne.
The visuals are further described in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4.  Note also the sounds and power that emanate from His presence.  His rule is founded upon the character qualities of righteousness and justice.  These two qualities are emphasized in light of His coming judgment upon the earth.

The Apostle Peter gave a matching preview of this coming in judgment.
"But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly...then the heavenly bodies will burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."  (2 Peter 3:7-10)

2. What about other beliefs? (vv.6-9)
Don't we all worship the same God?  The Creator of all things, the eternal God, claims absolute exclusivity.  The Bible does not mince words concerning other belief systems.  All others will be put to shame and even now are worthless.  There is an invitation here for all those so called gods to worship the LORD alone.
When the Philistines placed the Ark of God before their idol Dagon, that false god fell to the ground before the Ark and broke in pieces. (1 Samuel 5)

Jesus could not have been clearer on this point.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

3. What should we who know Jesus do about this spiritual warfare? (vv.10-12)
-Hate evil.  Believers must not tolerate personal sin, nor be complacent about the sin around them.
-Know that God delivers His own from evil people.  Indeed, the enemy of our souls has already been defeated.
-Rejoice and give thanks.
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith." (1 John 5:4)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Faith needs to be Heard

Read Psalm 96

There are times to be silent.  There are times to worship the LORD in quietness.  This Psalm is not of one of those times.  Notice some key words: sing, bless, tell, declare, ascribe, say.  The praise of God in this song is vocal, audible and loud so as to be heard around the world.

1.      We are to Sing. (vv.1-6)
Our song is a new song.  It is different than what the world sings.  The words tell how great God is and what He has done.  In contrast, all the false gods of this world are worthless. 
Question: How is my music different because of my faith in Him?

2.      We are to Speak. (vv.7-10)
Our words to this world are to include declarations of God’s glory and honor due to Him.  It is a call to come and worship the LORD because of His sovereignty and our accountability to Him.
Question: What am I saying in my daily conversations that demonstrate this?

3.      We are to Celebrate. (vv.11-13)
Our mission is to spread the message.  This is a call to all of creation to join us in celebrating our faith with joy and gladness.  God is right.  He is faithful.  He will judge.
Question: How will those around me today see and hear my celebration of joy and gladness?

“Come thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.”
-Robert Robinson

Friday, November 9, 2018

An Invitation to Sing

Read Psalm 95.

This song is an invitation for all to join in singing.  Some may feel they cannot "carry a tune" and have no capacity.  But the writer encouraged making a joyful noise.  Whether you can sing or not, make it loud.  Some may feel they have no need to sing to the LORD.  So, the writer reminds us of several reasons for this call.

1. A call to sing praises to God. (vv.1-5)
"Oh come..."  Why?  Because Jehovah is a great God and King above any other persons or objects of worship.  He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  There is no one like Him.
"I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me." (Isaiah 46:9)

2. A call to worship God. (vv.6-7a)
"Oh come..."  Why?  Because the LORD is not only God, but He is our God.  We are His people.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." (Psalm 23:1)  The eternal, life-changing word in that verse is the little word "my".  He is ours and we are His, forever.

3. A call to listen to God. (vv.7b-11)
" not harden your hearts."  Hearing God's voice requires a soft heart; one that is open to receive what He has to say.  Every moment the LORD wants to give us direction, guidance, and wisdom.  Those who close their hearts toward Him are on their own and pay an awful price.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."
(Psalm 32:8)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

4 provisions needed to overcome Injustices

Read Psalm 94.

The psalmist cried out for vengeance upon the wicked that had come against God's people.  He described them as "proud" and using "arrogant words."  They had no mercy on the most defenseless of all, murdering widows, travelers, and fatherless children.  Their thought was that God does not exist.  And if He does exist He does not see nor care about what they are doing.

The LORD of heaven not only sees, He hears, He disciplines, and He knows the thoughts of all people.  He does not forget His people.  He is a God of justice and He will eventually right every wrong.

In the meantime, while living with such injustice, how can a righteous person endure?  Living under the threat of physical death is the ultimate test of one's faith.  What kept the songwriter going?

1. The help of the LORD. (v.17)
Day by day, moment by moment God came along side to strengthen him.

2. The love of the LORD. (v.18)
It was the assurance that God loved him, even if no one else did, that caused him to stand firm in his faith.

3. The comforts of the LORD. (v.19)
When he was hurting or feeling badly about the awful things taking place around him, God was there to cheer his soul.

4. The stability of the LORD. (20)
The faithful, unchanging character of God provided a place of spiritual and emotional refuge and safety.

Without this hope, there would have been nothing left but despair.  With a confident faith in Christ, one’s perspective rises above earthly things to trust the Lord.
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The contrast of the King of Glory.

Read Psalm 93.

Earthly royalty, sitting on their thrones, are truly awe inspiring.  Their robes and crowns, their positional honor and power, cause everyone to cease what they are doing in order to hear what the monarch has to say.  The unnamed psalmist envisioned the comparisons and contrasts of the King of Glory as the ultimate ruler of all things and everyone.

1. His robe.
He is not clothed in expensive furs, but with majesty itself.
2. His belt.
He is not girded with gold, but what surrounds His personage is omnipotence.
3. His rule.
There are no shouts of "long live the king" because He has eternally been in control and always will be.
4. His power.
It is not merely the forces of an army and the exercise of might against opposing nations that He controls but the very forces of nature are under His command.
5. His word.
The rulers of this world may declare their edicts.  Sometimes those decisions prove to be false promises or simply wrong.  God's word is totally reliable, sure and faithful.
6. His habitation.
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton wrote in part, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  The kings of this world have been notorious for their immorality, greed and/or abuse of their position.  But the overarching characteristic of the presence of the LORD is His holiness.

Isaiah was allowed to see firsthand what this psalmist penned.
"In the year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to the another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'" (Isaiah 6:1-3)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A song for Thanksgiving

Read Psalm 92.

For those who love the LORD, every day is one of giving thanks.  We praise Him in the morning and at night.  It is with voice and on instruments.  While we are thankful for family, friends, those who sacrifice to keep us safe, and for blessings, ultimately all thanks belongs to God Himself.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17)

1. We thank Him for who He is. (vv.1-4)
-His love is steadfast.
-His faithfulness is new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

2. We thank Him for what He has done. (vv.5-11)
His wonderful works extend from Creation to our Redemption to bring us to today.  This requires spiritual insight.  The natural person does not understand.  He sees what God has done and ascribes it to something or someone else.  This robs God of His rightful glory and thanksgiving.

3. We thank Him for what we have. (vv.12-15)
Flourish is a relative term.  We may not have all we want, but today the LORD has supplied much more than we need.  As people grow older, they slow down or cease their professions or work.  But those who know the LORD can continue to grow spiritually and bear fruit in ministry to others.

Two anchors of our faith in God:
He is right.  We are thankful to know the truth and to be on the winning side.
He is our Rock.  We are thankful to have such unchangeable stability in our lives.

Monday, November 5, 2018

When trouble troubles You

Read Psalm 91.

Dr. Lee Roberson preached a powerful sermon on the subject of trouble.
1. Trouble energizes.  We are lazy.  It stirs us to action.
2. Trouble clarifies.  It gives us vision.
3. Trouble magnifies our weaknesses in light of the power of God.

This psalm encourages believers that we have no cause for fear when trouble comes our way.  For those who place their faith in God, He is our shelter, a shadow protection over us, a refuge, a fortress, a cover, a shield, a buckler, our dwelling place.
And, if that were not enough, "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." (v.11)

How does the LORD respond to those who trust Him in times of trouble? (vv.14-16)
1. I will deliver him
2. I will protect him
3. I will answer him
4. I will be with him
5. I will rescue him
6. I will honor him
7. I will show him my salvation
Seven quotes from God Himself.  We need nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

What to do about the brevity of Life

Read Psalm 90.

Here is song from Moses.  He began by extolling the eternal nature of God.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.  God does not exist in time.  He is not limited to space or matter.  As Creator, He is the Owner of life.  And, He is the believer's refuge and final home.

Human life is the exact opposite.  We are here only for a while and then gone into eternity.  Earthly life is described like dust, gone as if swept away by a flood, a dream, grass, a sigh.  It may last 70 years, maybe 80, then soon gone.  The last is an interesting statement from a man who lived to be 120.

Facing this reality, how should we be praying and what should we be doing?

1. Learning wisdom. (v.12)
Teach us to number our days.  It is human nature to avoid thinking about our days being numbered, let alone wisely planning our lives according to its sure brevity.  Today matters.  This understanding and learning causes us-
-to be urgent in what we do
-to be right in what we do
-to be prudent in what we do

2. Being content with God's love for us. (v.14a)
If He was all you had in this life, would you be satisfied?  Is He enough for you?

3. Rejoicing through it all. (v.14b-15)
Afflicted?  Yes.  Experienced evil?  Yes.  The secret to being "glad all our days" is being content with God and His love. 

4. Seeing God's power at work. (v.16)
Praying is one thing.  Our faith is built up as we intentionally take notice of God at work all around us every day.  He is active every moment.  Don't miss it.

5. Experiencing God's favor in all that we do. (v.17)
He is the One who opens doors of opportunity and blesses us.  It is His good hand upon us that makes all the difference in life and leaves a legacy of honor for those behind us.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

What happened to God's Promises?

Read Psalm 89.

Ethan, who wrote this song, is mentioned in two other places in the Old Testament.  He was Levite and considered to be a very wise man.  But here he was conflicted.  On one hand, Ethan praised God for His many character traits such love and faithfulness.  Then, on the other, He felt God had abandoned the nation in anger.  He even accused the LORD of renouncing His covenant with David (v.39).

Indeed, the very basis of his prayer is the Davidic Covenant found in 1 Samuel 7:5-16.  There the LORD made these eternal promises to David and his descendants.
1. I will make your name great.
2. I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.
3. I will give you rest from all your enemies.
4. I will make you a house.
5. I will raise up offspring after you.
6. I will establish his kingdom forever.
7. Your throne shall be established forever.

The context of this psalm, however, appears to have been prompted by an enemy invasion and the king's loss of control over the nation.  So, what happened to all those promises?  God did not change; Israel did.  Their disobedience resulted in them losing the blessings of those promises for a time.  With their national repentance and in God's timing He will restore and fulfill all His word.  Ultimately, Jesus, a direct and royal descendant of David (Matthew 1) will sit on that throne in Jerusalem and rule.

We must be careful not to evaluate life based upon temporal emotions.  God's word and His faithfulness do not change.  He is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  When life does not make sense, God's word is still and always trustworthy.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Suffering in the will of God

Read Psalm 88.

When one hears the name Heman, we think of a person with unusual strength, stature, and ability.  But as Heman wrote this psalm, we discover a man who was suffering, crying, and on the brink of death.

He prayed day and night, but up to this point the LORD had not answered his prayers.  Indeed, things became worse.  His "soul is full of troubles."  His health had brought him to the point of death.  All his friends had abandoned him.  There seemed to be no way out.  And, there is no happy ending to this song.

The basis of his prayer was that in death he would not be able to demonstrate the power and character of God's deliverance.  Notice the appeal to the character of God.
-"your steadfast love"
-"your faithfulness"
-"your wonders"
-"your righteousness"

Everyone, sooner or later, experiences the agony of praying with the feeling that God is not listening.  Our evaluation is based on the fact that nothing is happening to help us.  But our faith reminds us that God does see what we are going through and He hears our cries.  Further, the foundation of our hope is that the LORD is working His plan and purpose on His timetable, not ours.  It is our trust in Him that is being tested.

Suffering is as much a part of the human experience as breathing.  It may take different forms from various causes.  Suffering due to our own sin is God's design to lead a person to repentance.  But there are times in life when suffering is within the will of God to test the believer and to mature them in their faith.

Two reminders from the Apostle Paul's personal suffering in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
1. In our weakness, we learn that God' grace is sufficient for us.
2. In our weakness, we learn to be content.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In praise and prophecy for Jerusalem

Read Psalm 87.

This is a song praises the city of Jerusalem.  Not only was it a place of God's choosing, but in those days it was the center of world-wide worship of God because the temple was there.  Sitting on mount Zion, it looked beautiful.  The psalmist looked forward to the day when this will be a peaceful ("salem") city for the nations.

In that day, people will say wonderful things about Jerusalem.  Folks will be proud to have been born there.  It will be the fountain of blessings to all.

When will that happen?

The Bible explains that one day Jesus will return to rule and reign for 1,000 years from Jerusalem.  Psalm 2 describes how the God the Father will establish God the Son as king on Zion's hill.  He will "make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession."

And, one of the rewards for those who place their faith in Jesus now is that we will rule and reign with Him.

"Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years."
(Revelation 20:6)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

3 Essentials to Prayer

Read Psalm 86.

This is a prayer from King David.  Interesting, how many of the Psalms were written as a result of a threat.  We do our best praying when we realize that we cannot help ourselves and must cast our complete dependence upon God.  Follow David's thoughts as he asked the LORD to intervene.  These are essential components to seeing our prayers answered.

1. The condition of David.
The prayer came from a confident, yet humble heart.  His confidence was based upon his position and practice before God.  In verse 2, he said, "I am godly."  In other words, he did nothing wrong to bring this trouble.  He felt helpless in his ability to deliver himself.  He needed the LORD to act on his behalf.  He asked God to hear him, to spare him, to extend grace to him, and to teach him.

2. The commitment of David.
He recognized that there was still much to learn about being all that God wanted him to be.  His desire went further than the immediate help and asked "teach me."  How precious that part of the prayer must have sounded in the ears of the LORD!  What did he need to learn?  "Unite my heart to fear your name" (v.11).  James wrote that a double-minded prayer will not be answered (James 1:5-8)  The evidence of one with a whole heart for the LORD includes living according to God's truth and giving glory to His name (vv.11-12).

3. The character of God.
The basis of this entire prayer is the essence of who God is.
-"good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love" (v.5)
-"There is none like you..."  "You alone are God." (vv.8, 10b)
-"All the nations you have made..." (v.9)
-"You are great and do wondrous things." (v.10)
-able to deliver souls from eternal torment (v.13)
-"merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (v.15)
-able to show favor, help, and comfort (v.17)

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all..." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Revive us Again

Read Psalm 85.

At some point in the past Israel suffered great loss.  The psalmist admits that this happened because of their sin.  But once the sin was dealt with, God restored, or returned, their losses to them.

Now, feeling God's displeasure, even anger, they were in need of another restoration.

What is the problem?
1. Sin breaks fellowship with the LORD.
2. Sin brings discipline from the LORD.
3. Sin causes us to lose our joy in the LORD.

What is the cure?
"Let me hear what God the LORD will speak." (v.8)
Ignoring what God has to say is the first step toward sin.  Knowing and responding to what God has to say is the first step in restoring fellowship with Him.  When we acknowledge that God is right and we are wrong, we find "He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

What are the results?
-Restoration means we can bask in the love of God.
-We recognize His faithfulness to us.
-We live again doing what is right.
-We enjoy peace with God.
-His blessings will be upon our work.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What are you thinking on the way to Worship?

Read Psalm 84.

For most of us, Sunday mornings are a rush to get ready and leave.  Once there, we look for a good parking spot, quick greetings with a few people, and find a seat.  We hope the music and preaching are to our liking.

Contrast that thinking with this Psalm.  Verses 5-7 indicate that this was a song worshipers would sing as the traveled up the mountain to Jerusalem in order to worship at the temple.  The attitude is they could not wait to get there.

1. It was a time to sing.
The singer was excited about getting to the place of worship; not because of the building or others who would be around, but because they going to formally appear before and meet with God Himself.

2. It was a time to pray.
Intercessory prayer was offered for the king.  God appointed and anointed their national leader.  The people depended upon the LORD to work through him in order to lead them to do what is right.

3. It was a time to serve.
Having the privilege of standing at the door of the place of worship could not be matched at any price.

4. It was a time to be blessed.
The sun speaks of God's provision.
The shield refers to God's protection.
The favor of God opens doors of opportunity.
The honor of God is how we are treated when we walk into His opportunities.

God does not withhold good things from us.  He loves to bless those live for Him.

Now, enjoy the service.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Praying for those against You

Read Psalm 83.

Asaph began with a call for God to let His voice be heard.  The enemies of Israel were conspiring to attack and "wipe them out as a nation."  However, with heavenly insight, he realized that these "crafty plans" were not only against Israel but truly this was a spiritual battle. Those surrounding nations were demonically energized to be haters of God (v.5).

Throughout the Bible, when God's people were taunted, challenged, belittled, or attacked, a godly leader verbalized the battle behind the battle.  It was not Pharaoh against Moses, but Pharaoh against God.  It was not Goliath against David, but Goliath against God.  It was not the Prophets of Baal against Elijah, but the false prophets against God.  It was not the wizards of Babylon against Daniel, but them against God.  In each instance, the antagonists paid for their actions with their lives.

But here, the psalmist prayed differently.  Yes, he wanted God to avenge Himself, even shaming them and bringing them down in disgrace.  But notice two other parts of his prayer that have eternal significance.

1. So "that they may seek your name." (v.17)
Asking God to destroy an enemy is one thing.  Or, he could have wanted the LORD make them sorry for what they did.  But, asking Him to bring them to repentance reveals a godly perspective on his part.  When people seek the LORD with a repenting heart, life-change will take place.

2. So "that they may know that you alone...are the Most High over all the earth." (v.18)
The reason people hate God is first and foremost an attempt to get rid of their guilt.  There is no real cure for guilt other than the forgiveness of God.  He alone offers spiritual cleansing of the conscience through the shed blood of Jesus.  When people come to faith in the LORD, He receives the honor and glory due His name.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Who judges the Judges?

Read Psalm 82.

Human judges are placed in a weighty position.  They make decisions that immediately impact the lives of others; sometimes one person, sometimes an entire nation.  Since all authority ultimately comes from God (Romans 13:1), human judges are to be His representatives on earth meting out decisions in alignment with His word and wisdom.

When Asaph assessed the judges of his day, he saw a lack of understanding and accountability.  In this curious song, the writer imagined a time when God would sit in judgment of these judges.  He even wrote what God would say to them.  In balancing the scales of power in a culture, human judges are to protect at least these four groups of people:
1. The Weak
These are folks who are low on the totem pole of society.  Financially, they have no strength of resources to fight the opposition, either due to loss or threat.

2. The Fatherless
Orphaned children have no parents to defend them and protect them.  Without judicial decisions, they may become easy prey to every kind of abuse.

3. The Afflicted
People who have been brought down physically, financially, or otherwise in an unjust manner need intervention by a legal authority.

4. The Destitute
Not only have these experienced losses, but they have nothing left.  With no means of protection or help, they seek justice.

In John 10:34, as the religious leaders attempted to stone Jesus to death, He quoted verse 6.

Judges are human.  Mistakes are made.  But when there is deliberate disregard for God's word, when financial or political bribery tilts their decisions, or when partiality of any kind is shown, there is One is heaven who will indeed one day sit in judgment of the judges.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Taking time to Listen

Read Psalm 81.

It was a time to celebrate.
Everyone, by statute, was to gather at this time to loudly sing and play on the instruments.  Most believe this took place at the Feast of Tabernacles.  God answered prayer!  They called on Him and He delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt. 

But after all He had done for them, they turned aside from obeying the LORD.

It was a time to listen.
Three times (verses 8, 11, 13) the Psalmist speaking on behalf of God called the people to listen to what God had said to them.  Inexplicably, they gave themselves to strange gods and false teachings.  He chose not to strike them dead, but instead some of the most chilling words in the Bible are used, "So, I gave them over to their stubborn hearts."  (See also Romans 1:26, 28).  He left them to go their own way and suffer the consequences of their own making.  This is the essence of sin.

It was a time to return.
The call from God is "Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways."  This call to live for the LORD comes with promises of blessings.  The LORD wants to protect us from those who would do us harm.  The LORD wants to provide for us so that we may be fulfilled in life.

No one else and nothing else can satisfy the true longing of the heart but God Himself.  It is stubborn rebellion in the heart that keeps people ever seeking and never experiencing true satisfaction.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A cry for Restoration

Read Psalm 80.

On behalf of the nation, Asaph voiced their alienation from God.  Three times (vv.3, 7, 19) he prayed for the LORD to "restore us" so that they may be delivered from their distress.  The KJV translates the phrase "turn us again."

He described Israel as a vine that God had planted on this land.  The LORD cultivated the vine and gave it everything it needed to be fruitful.  Yet, instead of being a beautiful, healthy vine bearing fruit, it had been attacked, devoured, and burned.

God did not move.  They experienced this distress for a reason.  Drawn away by their own sin and disobedience, the nation had turned to other things instead of the God.  It was they who needed to return by repenting of their sin.

Here are his requests in verses 17-18 to restore his nation.
1. He prayed for the leader.
If the nation was to be all that God designed it to be, the hand of the LORD needed to be on the leader.  The "son of man" with a small "s" is a reference to the king.  Godly leadership is essential to a righteous nation.  The Apostle Paul urged that we are to pray "for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:2).

2. He prayed for the people.
"Give us life."  Their current state of human existence was not working.  He cried for something more, a kind of life that only comes from God.  Jesus spoke of this in John 10:10-"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

Every person has physical life and breath with a heart beat for only a set number of years.  It is temporary.  The life that is offered by faith in Christ is real life.  Eternal life.  Abundant life.

We join Asaph in praying for God to turn us back to Himself and restore us today.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Rethinking our prayers for Help

Psalm 79.

This song from Asaph is very similar to his Psalm 74.  Jerusalem had been attacked, the temple defiled, some of those who served there were killed and left unburied.  The enemies scoffed at Israel’s belief in God because He did not protect them.

Why did God allow this to happen?

Asaph felt that the cause was due to sin.  Their disobedience to God had brought His anger against them and this invasion was their penalty.  The result was "we are brought very low."  Humility before God is the starting point of rebuilding a relationship with Him.  It is the required attitude of prayer.

Notice how he appealed to the Lord.
1. Help us. (v.9a)
Why?  "For the glory of your name."  These were God's people.  The temple was the sole place of sacrificial worship of God.  If the LORD would step in and help them, the restoration would bring Him honor by all.

2. Deliver us and atone for our sins. (v.9b)
Why?  "For your name's sake!"  This defeat was not only against them but the very person and power of God.  The LORD's reputation had been totally disregarded and disrespected.

Asaph's question was "why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"

If God answered our prayers for help, who would get the credit?  How would God be glorified?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Overcoming a roller coaster Faith

Psalm 78.

This song recounts the historical roller coaster of Israel's spiritual journey.  They were up and down.  Casting their dependence upon God and then rejecting Him.  The call from Asaph was to stop this cycle by teaching the next generation the wonderful works of God.  This helped the teacher as much as the learner.

But this goes far beyond a set curriculum of knowledge.  The difference would only come by exercising a consistent faith in action; affecting the immediate next generation and "the children yet unborn" (v.6).

Why was Asaph so insistent?  Because as he reviewed history, he labeled the leaders of the past as "stubborn and rebellious" and unfaithful to God.  Then, he provided specific examples of this rebellion and how God responded.  Even in their times of rejection and unbelief, God graciously supplied their daily needs.  Yet, they provoked God repeatedly by their disobedience.  That prompted the LORD to intervene with discipline, sometimes with awful tragedies, to get their attention.

When the nation realized they had sinned, they repented and "remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer" (v.35).  But it proved to be mere lip service and not genuine.  Their lives did not change.

Through it all, God did not change His mind or His plans.  In His sovereignty, He chose the tribe of Judah to lead the nation.  He chose David to shepherd His people with integrity and skill.  They were back on track.

All of us can identify to one extent or another of the roller coaster experience of our faith.  God is good.  He is gracious in supplying our daily needs.   He is worthy of our trust and a consistently disciplined life.  The generations behind should be able to see it in us and hear our firsthand God stories.