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.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

First the Vive, Then the Revive

READ Psalm 85-86

Psalm 85 gives us a beautiful picture of salvation but also raises the possibility of backsliding, or leaving our first love, with a alert towards steadfastness, and concludes with a glorious prophetic portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First the vive (1-3): God saves his people by forgiving and covering all their sin and satisfying his wrath and anger towards them. We know the fullness of this truth in the work of our Savior on the cross. God has initiated his saving grace toward us.

Then the revive (4-7): We have learned from the history of the OT and hear in these words that God’s people have obviously been disobedient to him and are in need of restoration, as David said, to the joy of their salvation (Psalm 51:12). The Psalmists cry out to God for revival and spiritual awakening.

Followed by a caution (8-9): The people are warned not to “turn back to folly.” Don’t leave your first love in the words of Revelation 2:4. Hear God, fear him, “that glory may dwell in our land.”

Finally, a portrait (10-13): Read these verse 10 with Jesus in mind. Where have “steadfast love and faithfulness” met? Where have “righteousness and peace” kissed each other? In Jesus Christ. Truly righteousness has gone before him. Truly these blessings come to those who are in him.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you have sent your Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. The beauty of his person and his saving acts draws us to him as recipients of your grace and the gift of faith. Help us to walk in his footsteps. Help us to be steadfast. Help us not to turn back to folly, but to faithful to you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Life Lesson From Sons of Korah

READ Psalm 84

If we go back into OT history we learn that the Sons of Korah, the authors of this Psalm (seen inscription before v.1), were designated to be the gatekeepers (glorified janitors perhaps) in the Temple (1 Chronicles 26:1-19) There assignment was menial and humbling but the Bible says of them that they were “able men qualified for the service.” (1 Chr 26:8) That was there task among the people of God. A lowly one in many respects but one these men loved with all there hearts.

Notice how they spoke of this work: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (1-2) They loved the Lord and they loved his Temple. They also loved their work and treasured it, always looking forward to doing it for the glory of the Lord.

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (10) Obviously, the tents of wickedness refer to those who by evil means have accumulated great earthly wealth. But they would rather serve the Lord and his people than have that kind of luxury.

One of the great theater directors of all time once said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” How much more is it true that in the Body of Christ there are no small places or ways of service. Paul said the weakest member is the most necessary. Where do you serve the Lord? Are you happy and content to be used in that way like the sons of Korah? Do you even have a place of service? If not, it’s time to find one and glorify God in it.

Prayer: Father, so often we complain about our lot in life. Forgive us. Help us to be like the sons of Korah who labored in the Temple with joy and praise to you. Help us to willingly and lovingly serve the Body of Christ. Help us, through our joy in service, to be an encouragement to others.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Beat the Crowd...Worship Now!

READ Psalm 75-76

God is to be worshipped and praised in all of his glory. All of his divine attributes are displayed and we are to humble ourselves in honoring him. The Scripture tells us that every single person who ever lived one day will bow before Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

This includes those who have never worshipped him in this earthly life. Though it may be difficult for us to fully understand, God tells us here in Psalm 76 that even man’s scorn will ultimately praise him, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.” (76:10) Perhaps it will be because God will display his wisdom and power in turning aside their wrath so that they will acknowledge him. Perhaps it will only be at the coming of the Lord Jesus that all will finally see him for who he is and bow the knee before him.

But the Scripture is certain. All will bow before him. Some now leading to everlasting life. Others then, when it’s too late, leading to eternal death. You and I should beat the crowd and worship him now.

Prayer: Father, how great and marvelous are your ways. How excellent is your name in all the earth. I pray for those who do not know you that you would draw them to yourself. Lord, the horror of hell is not one that we wish on any person. I pray that you will use us and our church to point people to you and that you would save them in your grace and mercy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Solomon's Short View

READ Psalm 71-72

Solomon gives us an interesting prophecy in Psalm 72 that is a wonderful portrait of Jesus the King…but it doesn’t go far enough. Twice in this Psalm he states that this King shall reign “while the sun endures” (5) and “as long as the sun” (17). Imagine how long that is? From the fourth day of Creation until the sun is no more, King Jesus will reign.  But that’s also why Solomon’s prophecy doesn’t go far enough. Because after the sun is no more…after its light is extinguished…after that great ball of fire has fizzled out…Jesus will still reign throughout all eternity.

Isaiah prophesied about this: “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.” (Isaiah 60:19-20) He foresaw the day when there will be no need for the sun because we will dwell in the presence of God himself and his glory shall be our light. John shows us the fulfillment of this in Revelation 22:5, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

You and I can only imagine the glory of that day. But we can remember this Easter season that our risen and reigning Lord Jesus is forever on the throne and we will worship him throughout all eternity. So let our hearts be filled with worship for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Prayer: Father, my tiny little mind is so bound by time. Help me to be stretched into the wonder of eternity. Let my mind dwell on your eternal glory and help me to begin now to worship you as I will then. Help me to abandon myself to you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

God Still Strengthens His People

READ Psalm 67-68

Toward the end of these two full Psalms of praise and adoration of God, David calls on all the kingdoms of the earth to sing to God (68:32). He is inviting Gentiles and Jews alike to recognize the omnipotent greatness of God and to give him his due worship. In context, he is calling on all nations to recognize God’s unique relationship to his people Israel (35) and to praise him for his provision for them.

As we read this Psalm today, we have the fullness of the NT revelation for us. God has now opened up the mystery of the gospel that Gentiles are now fellow heirs with believing Jews as God’s special people. “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6) We all who know the Lord Jesus Christ can say with David, “he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.” (35)

Does this sound familiar in NT language to you. Perhaps Philippians 4:13 comes to mind: “I can do all things through the One who strengthens me.” Or Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Yes, just as God did in the OT for his people Israel, he does today for his people the Church. Glory!

Prayer: Father, you have accepted us in our Savior Jesus Christ. You have made us your children by adopting us into your family. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. And you do not leave us to our own feeble efforts to glorify you with our good works. No, you are at work in us to desire and to do what pleases you. You give power and strength to us! Glory be to your name!