Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do you desire the glory of God?

READ Psalms 57-58

Twice in Psalm 57 David prays the same prayer: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (5, 11) What a beautiful prayer. But do you know what he is actually praying?

First, we must remember and acknowledge that God’s glory is already over all the earth. “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) And Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20 that, “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” All of creation is displaying the wonder of God’s attributes. In a very real sense, God’s glory was over all the earth before David prayed this prayer. So what was he praying?

Clearly, the only thing left concerning the glory of God being over all the earth is for the people of the earth to acknowledge his glory. David was praying that people of every tribe, tongue and nation would come to a knowledge of the glory of God. And how can they come to this knowledge? Only through the Lord Jesus Christ. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

David was praying for the true worship of God to come to all peoples. He was praying for peoples everywhere to come to know God and believe in him and surrender their lives to him. David was praying for missions!

Is that the desire of your heart today? If so, what are you doing about it?

Prayer: Father, fill my heart with the wonder of your glory. Fill me with the desire to see others know you in all your glory. Help me to use my time and my talents and my treasure to see the message of your glory go throughout the earth.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gravitational potential energy

READ Psalm 53-54

54:4 says, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Picture a brace or support holding up a wall during construction. That is the meaning of the word “upholder.” This brace keeps the wall from falling. In fact, if there were no brace, the wall would always fall. The brace keeps the wall upright where it’s supposed to be.

Science tells us that a wall or any object placed upright on one end has what is called “stored gravity” or gravitational potential energy. Gravitational potential energy is the energy stored in an object as the result of its vertical position or height. What that means is that any object so standing will inevitably fall if pushed to its “tipping point.”

Do you see God as your brace? Are you always aware that it is not your own power or strength that allows you to stand? Are you conscious of that “gravitational potential energy” in you known as the principle of sin that dwells within us (Romans 7:15-20)? Yes, every one of us when tempted (pushed toward our tipping point) will fall were it not for the fact that God is holding us up. He is our “upholder,” our brace, our support.

Recognize this truth. It is God who is at work within you both to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Constantly and consciously depend on him to help you stand.

Prayer: Father, were it not for you we would always fall. Thank you that you are faithful to uphold us and to keep us standing. Help us to rely on you and trust in you always for your grace and strength in our lives.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Heart Sacrifices

READ Psalm 51-52

True worship of God is always a matter of the innermost disposition of the worshiper. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) David helps us to see this from an OT perspective: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (51:16-17)

It doesn’t seem that David is saying that God does not want the sacrificial system that he has instituted for OT believers because in v. 19 David speaks of God delighting in them. Rather David is saying that God does not delight in sacrifice or burnt offering that is given from a worshiper who is not broken in spirit and contrite of heart before him. This strikes at the heart of our worship today. Do we offer worship to God from a broken and contrite heart. Or do we try to worship from a proud heart? Or from a distracted heart? Or from a bitter and angry heart? Or any kind of heart that is not humble and contrite before God?

Let us humble ourselves and draw near to God as he has promised: “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6)  

Prayer: Father, help us to humble ourselves before you. You have promised that the one to whom you will look is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at your word. So help us to live with a spirit of humility and contrition before you at all times, for all of our lives are to be an act of worship.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Never, No Never, Forsaken

READ Psalm 43-44

In one of my favorite passages in the NT one of the verses from our Psalms today is quoted. The verse is 44:22, “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Taken out of its setting, you might have a difficult time remembering exactly where it is in the NT. Here in the Psalms the verse is pointing out the fact that God’s people have at times suffered death because of their faith.

Paul takes this verse and plops it down in the middle of Romans 8 where he is reminding believers that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ…even death. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God 's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died —more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “ For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

What a blessed assurance for us as the Lord’s people. Glory!

Prayer: Father, thank you again for the reminder of your grace and your steadfast love. That you that we have nothing to fear, not even death. Help us to see death in the victory of the cross because it simply delivers us into your eternal presence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fill my cup, Lord!

READ Psalms 41-42

Jesus said, ““ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) David expresses this exact desire in the first two verses of Psalm 42, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” In some way the enemies of David have managed to cut him off from attending the worship in the temple and he longs for the presence of God.

May I ask if you are experiencing that same thirst? Do you truly thirst for God “as a deer pants” for the water? Imagine a deer running through the mountains. Perhaps he has been startled by a predator or a hunter and he is fleeing for his life. He runs and he runs and he runs. Finally, tongue hanging out and breaths coming in great gasping gulps, he searches for the one thing that will satisfy him…water.

Only God can satisfy the longing of our hearts. Only God can fill the need of our soul. We must, as Jesus said, continually hunger and thirst for him. Is your spiritual tongue hanging out from weariness or frustration? Are you gasping for something to satisfy your thirst? Perhaps you might be trying to “fill your cup” with the wrong things; with substitutes for the living water. It’s time to pour out the substitutes, the false gods (Jeremiah 2:13) and let God fill your cup with himself.

Prayer: Fill my cup, Lord. I lift it up, Lord. Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

Friday, March 13, 2015

High or Low?

READ Psalm 35-36

May I be thoroughly transparent this morning. David mentions two sins that particularly affect pastors (not only pastors so don’t think anyone else is off the hook – ha). I have known many pastors who knowingly, or not, were afflicted with one of the sins at times, including myself. Beyond that, what is more common is that we are beset by both of these sins at various times so that life is like a sin roller coaster when these two come along.

What are they? Pride and discouragement. “Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.” (36:11) David understood. When one is in a place of spiritual leadership with a group of God’s people these two extremes can be deadly.

First, pride. There are those times when we pastors see things going well or we preach a good sermon or we have a good counseling session and we fall into the trap of thinking it was because of our own great skill, wisdom or abilities that has caused all this. We forget, usually for a moment, that the glorious grace and power of God is what brings every good gift. It is not by our might nor by our power but by God’s spirit that things go well in the service of the Lord (Zechariah 4:6). The boasting must be in him and not in ourselves.

Second, discouragement. Every pastor knows the discouragement that comes when things don’t go well or some critic attacks or we are exhausted or any one of a host of possibilities that cause us to have a pity party and feel sorry for ourselves. After the events of most Sundays, sheer fatigue can bring this on. They taught us in seminary never to resign on Monday. (smile)

But I have the sneaking suspicion that these two sins are closely related. Perhaps they both come from thinking too much of ourselves and too little of God. We think that things are dependent on our abilities and not on the working of God in his people. Let me say again. The same things can be said of every Christian no matter the line of work. Learn to boast and trust in God in the highs and lows of life.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your steadfast love that you give to your children. Thank you that your grace is sufficient for every need. Thank you that you humble us when needed and build us up when needed. Your perfect love is perfect for us. Praise your name!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Does God Taste Good In Trouble?

READ Psalm 33-34

For the second time in two years, while away at the same conference, one of the dearest young couples in our church is experiencing a scary, traumatic situation with a newborn son. Two years ago their first child almost died at a month old from E-coli. Now their second son is in the emergency room with a, as yet undetermined malady, but in serious condition. The fleshly tendency is to say, “Really, God? Couldn’t you give them a break?”

But that was not David’s response. David, even in the midst of the threat of death from others, knew that his only hope was in God. “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (33:20-22)

I am encouraged by this young couples faith and trust in the Lord. I find myself wondering, as I try to encourage them, would I show the same faith they are showing? Would I be as steadfast in my trust in the Lord as David was? I think so. I hope so. By the grace of God I would. How about you?

Prayer: Father, you promise that you will never give us more than we can bear with your grace, strength and love sustaining us. You promise you will walk with us even when there is the looming shadow of possible death over us. You promise that you alone are our shield and fortress. Help us to taste and see that you are good and to make our refuge in you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

BOOM! The Scripture Nailed Me!

READ Psalm 31-32  

BOOM! The Scripture nailed me…right between the eyes! Ouch! “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” (32:9)

That’s me, way too often. Mule seems rather fitting for the times that I am so stubborn in my own will and way and so fixed on my own desires and so resistant to the directions of God’s Word or the nudges of the Holy Spirit. David says, don’t be like that. Don’t force the Lord to have to curb you with a bit or bridle just to keep you close to him. Be the one who trusts in the Lord in all that the word “trusts” entails. I do not trust in a chair simply because I believe it exists. No, rather my trust is demonstrated when I place the full weight of my body on that chair to hold me up and never let me fall. Trust is not just simple believing that God exists, but humbling myself before him and surrendering my life to him with the calm and full assurance that he knows best and he will ultimately bring me through the difficulties of life.

I’m sad that God must treat me like a mule at times. I’m glad that he is willing to bridle me when I need it.

Prayer: Father, your loving hand is shown to me in so many ways, certainly not the least of which is the your hand of restraint. Thank you for your steadfast love displayed in your firm discipline for me. Help me to bend my will to yours and be broken to your gentle hold on the reins of my life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Grace in the Hidden Face of God

READ Psalm 29-30

Honesty forces us to admit that sometimes, in times of peace and prosperity, we are tempted to be a bit puffed up and think that it is our own wisdom and strength that has brought these good times to us. This happened to David, “As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.” (30:6-7)

But God did David a favor and hid his face from him. Just as he did with Hezekiah when he was proud and acted foolishly, “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” (2 Chronicles 32:31)

Isn’t it amazing that God leaving us to ourselves for a time can be good for us if it causes us to remember that he alone is God and he alone is the provider of all things for us. The glory and the credit always go to him and not to us.

Prayer: Father, one of the blessings of aging is the realization more and more of just how weak I am and how undeserving I am of your grace, mercy and love. Help me never to forget that you are my Source. I praise you for your blessings to me and my family. Help me to pass on to them the truth of your greatness.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Do You Pray About?

READ Psalm 25-26

What do you pray about? The Bible, of course, tells us to pray about everything at all times (1 Thess 5:17). But think about the things you specifically tend to pray about the most. Now notice David’s Psalm 25 which is a prayer in its entirety. Though it would not constitute a comprehensive list, there are some great reminders of what we should take to the Lord that we may not be doing on a regular basis.

Are you concerned for honoring the Lord in all you do? Then pray about it. “Let me not be put to shame.” (1)

Are you desiring to be a more mature Christian? The pray, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me.” (3-4)

Do you sometimes get discouraged about former sins and wonder how God could possibly love someone like you? Ask God, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!” (6-7) And ask him to “pardon [your] guilt” (11) and “forgive all [your] sins.” (18)

Do you fear what others might do to you? Pray: “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” (20)

Now add your list to these and pray without ceasing.

Prayer: Father, teach us to pray. Help us to pray. Forgive us when we are prayer-less. Draw us into your holy presence with a desire to commune with you. Remind us that you are the fountain of life and all things are from you. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Passing On His Praise

READ Psalm 21-22

In Psalm 22 David is crying to God for help in the midst of trouble and danger. He is asking God to come to his aid and save him (19). Then he talks of what he will do when God does save him. He will praise the Lord and he will see the praise of God extend to many others.

He will praise God in the “midst of the congregation” of Israel (22-26). Then “all the families of the nations” shall praise him (27-29). And finally, in a much more intimate conversation, he will pass the praises of the Lord on to posterity, to the coming generation, to those yet unborn.

So here’s my question. Almost every person reading this email is a father or grandfather or an uncle (a few moms, grandmothers and aunts too). Are you talking about the Lord and praising the Lord to your posterity? Are you proclaiming his righteousness to them? Talk with your children, your grandchildren, your siblings offspring and their offspring. Spread the word in your own line of descent of the glorious grace and greatness of God.

Prayer: Father, you are worthy of our praise. You alone are the one who saves us and gives us aid. You alone are the one whose power is perfected in our weakness. Help us to have hearts of praise and tongues of praise and help us to pass that praise on to the ones who are coming after us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Effect of God's Word

READ Psalm 19-20

After reflecting in depth on the general revelation of God himself in creation (19:1-6) and the specific revelation of God through his Word (19:7-11), David turns his thoughts to himself. He clearly sees that God’s Word does not cause him to be proud or boastful about his own life. Rather it produces a humility in response to his own awareness of sin and his humble desire to walk in the ways of God.

First, he demonstrates his awareness of his own sins. “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.” (12-13a) Notice he is concerned for the times that he doesn’t know he is sinning (12) and the times that he does (13a).

Next, David anticipates the loving forgiveness of God: “Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” (13b) Only through God’s grace can he, or we, be blameless and truly innocent, for we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).

Finally, David cries to the Lord to protect him from sin and to make him pure in thoughts and words. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (14) Is that the prayer of your heart today?

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you have revealed yourself to all people in creation. No one has an excuse for not believing in you. And thank you even more that you have chosen to reveal yourself more intimately through your written Word. We would not truly know you if we did not have the testimony from you of who you are and what you have done. Help us to live according to your Word and honor you in all that we think, say and do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bragging On God

READ Psalm 17-18

Today I want to comment a bit differently than normal. You might think I am not commenting on the Scripture itself but that is not correct. This is a part of the Scripture, as written by David, though it is not included in the verse numbering that we are accustomed to. Remember, these numbers were added later.

What I’m referring to is the inscription at the beginning of Psalm 18. “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:”

Why am I commenting on this inscription? Because it is a record of what David did. Psalm 18, as a whole, is a Psalm of praise written on the occasion of God’s rescue of David from his enemies and Saul. You and I should learn and be encouraged by what David did.

First, he recognized that it was God indeed who had rescued him. Though David may have been strong in battle and clever in his strategies, he knew that his strength and wisdom came from the Lord. Do we always recognized God’s hand in the good things that happen to us? We should, shouldn’t we?

Second, David took time, not only to thank and praise the Lord but to write it down for others to read and join him in the praise of God. Paul tells us these things in the OT were written “for our instruction.” (1 Cor 10:11) When we recognize that God has blessed us in any way, let’s be sure to stop and give him the praise and glory due to him. And then let us share with others what God has done for us. Believe me, your brothers and sisters in the Lord will be encouraged by hearing of God’s blessing in your life.

Prayer: Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Help us to be very alert and discerning to see your hand at work in our lives. Help us to have sincere hearts of gratitude for what you have done for us. And help us to encourage others by bragging on you. Let our boasts always be in you.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Are You Content

READ Psalm 15-16

Are you content? David expresses deep contentment in Psalm 16:5-6: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” He is satisfied both with God and with God’s provision for him: lot, lines, inheritance. David knows in his heart that the provision of his life is providentially determined. God is the one who provides what we need and decides how much or how little we have.

The words bring to mind the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

So I ask again, are you content? If not, seek the Lord and earnestly pray for him to give you peace and contentment in your soul. He is the source of this contentment. You can do all things through his strength.

Prayer: Father, help me to be content. Help me to know that you will supply all my needs according to your riches in glory in Christ Jesus. So help me to trust you daily, moment by moment, and to work knowing that you will bless the work of my hands. Thank you for your bountiful provision.