Friday, April 24, 2015

Praise in the Midst of Problems

READ Psalms 107-108

I recently read and posted a very thoughtful article by Keith Getty on why Christians should sing loudly in church. Let me summarize the points: we are commanded to sing; singing together completes our joy; singing is an expression of brotherhood and unites generations; we are what we sing; singing bears testimony to our faith. This last point is what I think David is doing in Psalm 108, using his voice to proclaim his faith, even when he thinks that God has somehow abandoned his people (10-11). Praise in the midst of problems!

The early words of this Psalm are one of our favorite choruses. After He declares, “I will sing and make melody with all my being!” he goes on to the substance of his song: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” (3-4).

How about you and me? Do we praise God in the midst of our problems? Do we sing “with all [our] being?” If not, could that be a reflection of where our hearts truly are…far from God? Brothers, when we gather in worship let’s let it rip to the praise of our glorious and faithful God.

Prayer: Father, my prayer is simple. Help me! Help me to praise you with all my being.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Refreshment in Running References

READ Psalms 103-104

One of the best ways to read and study the Bible is to do so by running the references that are given in the verses. As you know, if the Bible you are using has references, there are notations indicated by small superscript letters beside words or phrases in each (or most) verses. These letters correspond to references that are given in the margin or after the verse that talk about the same idea as is mentioned in the verse. Today I ran the references on one of our verses: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (103:12)

First, notice that this is telling us what God does with the sins of his people. He removes them infinitely away from us. How do we know it is infinitely? Because David said, “east is from the west.” If he had said north and south there would have been a limit on his forgiveness because one can only travel so far north on the planet until he is no longer going north, he is now headed south. But if one travels east or west he can continue going in either direction for an infinite number of miles just continually circling the globe. But back to the references. What else do these tell us that God has done with our sins?

Isaiah 38:17: “…but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”

Isaiah 43:25: “’I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.’”

Micah 7:19: “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

What an amazing picture all these verses give us of the forgiveness of God. But how is it possible for him to forgive in such final and everlasting ways? Because of what Jesus did for us at the cross where he bore our sins in his own body. He took the punishment once and for all so that we might know the forgiveness that only God can give. Glory!

Prayer: Father, thank you for the cross and for our Savior who willingly gave his life as a ransom for many. Thank you that you have removed our sins from us by blood of Jesus and you remember them no more against us. Thank you for the gift of righteousness that replaces the judgment against us. Help us to live as those who have been made righteous in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Onliness of God

READ Psalms 97-98

Psalm 97 paints an inspiring picture of God. He is declared in all his glory. It begins with a declaration of his sovereignty in v.1. Then vv. 2-6 God’s awesomeness is dramatically portrayed. Verse 7 stands alone to shout God’s holiness; he is the only God. Finally, vv. 8-9 speak of God’s righteousness.

Do you believe these revealed truths about God? Let’s take just one. To borrow from a true story from the 17th century, let me personalize it for you. Do you believe that God ruled the world quite well before you were born? Do you believe he will rule it quite well after you are gone? Then can you trust him to rule the world, including your life and affairs, while you are living? I think we all know the answer to that. But the question is do we live as if it is true.

The Psalm ends with an exhortation to God’s people to give thanks to him and to hate evil (10-12). If God is truly who this Psalm says he is, then his people ought to hate that which grieves him, i.e., sin. Can we honestly say that we hate sin or do we long for it? I believe that focusing on God and his sovereignty, holiness and righteousness will help us to hate sin in comparison to him.

Prayer: Father, you are awesome in every way. You alone are God and worthy of our worship and praise. Help us to worship you and be grateful to you all of our days. And Lord fill us with a divine hatred of the things that grieve your heart. Fill us with a longing for you and the delight we have in you. Help us to live in such a way that the world glorifies you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is Your Joy Meter Set Too Low?

READ Psalms 89-90

We have two marvelous Psalms before us today with so much rich truth from which we could learn. One is hard put to know what to choose. But, as I was reading, a term jumped off the page at me and I just can’t seem to get away from it. Not because I’m sure I know what all it means, but really just the opposite. I know that I am not fully familiar with this idea and I want to explore it and learn more.

The term is found in 89:15-16: “Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.” [emphasis mine] So what is this festal shout? First, the two words come to us from a Hebrew word that means literally “to split the ears with sound.” The sound may be used in either of two ways (common with Hebrew words) — either alarm or joy. The translators of the ESV have obviously chosen the latter for this context. I did a quick survey and found that the NASB and the KJV use “joyful sound;” the NIV says “acclaim;” the NLT paraphrases “the joyful call to worship.” Each of these emphasizes that this “shout” is one of joy before the Lord and, in context, it is a grateful response for God’s blessings.

So I have to ask myself, “Have I ever done that?” Have you? Has there ever been a time when involuntarily, spontaneously, without restraint, I simply let out a shout because of God’s ginormous blessings to me? Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I vaguely recall it happening but I can’t put my finger on the occasion. Sadly, I must confess, I know I have done it at ball games and track meets. I can remember those.

So now I have to ask why. Why is this not a more frequent occurrence? It certainly is not because of a lack of opportunity from the lack of God’s blessings. Perhaps my heart needs to be more alert and responsive. Perhaps my blessing detector needs to be turned up. Perhaps my joy meter is set too low. I’m certain that I need to grow in the art of rejoicing in the Lord.

Prayer: Father, you are great and greatly to be praised! Fill me with joy and praise to you for your vast blessings to me. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Trouble...With a Capital T

READ Psalm 87-88

Where do you turn when you have trouble, multiple troubles, heart-rending troubles, troubles that come in waves (7), “I’m-not-sure-I-can-go-on” troubles (4)? As you read this Psalm you see that the this man is so overwhelmed with his troubles that even his friends have turned away from him (8, 18). He even feels that God himself has cast his soul away and hides his face from him (14). All he knows is darkness (18). How much lower could a person possibly get? Another noticeable feature of this Psalm, unlike most Psalms of lament, is that there is no relief mentioned in the text. Perhaps it is hoped for and implied, but rescue from the troubles is not found…yet.

But what we do see in this deeply moving Psalm is where to turn in the midst of these kinds of trouble. The Psalmist points us in the right direction. He keeps on stressing that he is turning to God. “Day and night” he cries out to God (1). “Every day” he calls upon the Lord and spreads out his hands to him (9). “In the morning” his prayer goes up to God.

Though it is a tough message to accept, without the resolution of the conflict, we still can be blessed by following the Psalmist’s example. Never stop crying out to God! He alone is the source of peace and comfort and grace and strength. As his child, he will hear you.

Prayer: Father, rarely do we find ourselves in as depressing a situation as this Psalm. But sometimes, Lord, even small troubles can seem overwhelming at the time. Help us to learn the lesson of the Psalmist that we must turn to you. Lord, where else would we go? You alone have the words of life.