Archive for May, 2012

Psalm 77

Psalm 77 reminds us how to interact with God.  The psalmist tells us “I cry aloud to God…..and he will hear me”.  Do you realize this truth?  God is listening.  He will respond. But that happens when we cry out.  It happens when we seek Him.  It happens when we get over our own ability and realize that God is in control – when we finally figure out it is not about me.  That is when we get to the next thing the psalmist says “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord’.

Seeking the Lord means we are pursuing Him.  We are done trying to fix things on our own and we come to the end of ourselves.  We finally understand that God is the answer to the situation.  We “remember my song…..meditate in my heart”.  We get past us and get focused on Him.  Can be be confident when we let go and let God?  “Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?”  Yes we can.  We can be very confident.  His love never ends.  His promises always come true.  God is God and always will be.

So why do we struggle so?  Because we look in the wrong place.  We forget what God has done.  The psalmist reminds us “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds”.  God has a track record, not just a long one, but an eternal track record.  God doesn’t just usually do what He says.  He ALWAYS does exactly what He says.  And that has been happening for eternity.

We just need to keep Him where He belongs.  “You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples”.  God is faithful – always faithful.  He works wonders every day.  We miss most of them as they are simple and often overlooked.  But God continues to do His mighty things and we just need to wake up and pay attention to what He is up to.  We simply need to let God be God.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is the Master of the Universe, the First, Last and Great I Am.  God has made known His might.  We just need to pay attention and remember!

Psalm 73

Psalm 73 talks about God and His goodness.  It points out that God is good “to those who are pure in heart”.  The condition of our heart is very important to God.  Out of the heart comes our actions, our words, and our life.  We need to realize that God is far more interested in our heart than what we do.  Our actions are merely an outcome of our heart.  If that is right, what we do will be too.

The psalmist confesses that “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped”.  Sounds like a slippery slope doesn’t it?  He goes on to tell us what was pulling him down: “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity”.  Ever been sucked into thinking that way – that what others have are the things we want and we will do whatever it takes to get there?  That is dangerous thinking that will lead us to fall.  Envy is a powerful heart condition and one that we must fight to overcome.

The psalmist admits the struggle to understand how to deal with the reality that the wicked seem to have so much and yet don’t deserve it.  Check out the strategy he used to find out how this can be.  “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end”.  It wasn’t until he went to God that he could see the reality – that evil doesn’t pay even when it seems so appealing in the short term.  There is a price, and it is severe, but it isn’t always obvious and often is not evident in the moment.

So what is the secret?  Get our hearts right.  “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you….God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever….for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge”.  There it is – put God where He belongs in your life.  He is to be our desire.  He is our strength and portion.  God should be center of our life and world.  It is good to be near Him.  When we get that right, God is our refuge.  He is our King.  Don’t feel close to God?  Guess who moved!

1 Chronicles 5

1 Chronicles 5 gives us the genealogies of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.  It begins with Reuben, who was the firstborn son of Jacob.  But you will recall that 1 Chronicles chapter 4 begins the list of Jacob’s sons and Judah comes first even though not the eldest son.  We are reminded why here in this chapter – in a word it was because of sin.  You may recall that back in Genesis 35:22 Reuben had gone and slept with Bilhah who was his father’s concubine.  That was a bad decision and it cost him his birthright as the oldest son.

Over and over in scripture we see the impact of sin.  It costs people much, and in this case, we are reminded again just how much that cost is.  Reuben sacrificed one of the most important things an eldest son had – his birthright.  It was the gift of a father to the son who would carry on the family name and lead the next generation.  But because of a lack of self-control, it was lost in a night on the couch of his father.  We all need to realize the destruction of sin.  Jesus takes the eternality of sin away when we receive Him as our Savior and Lord, but that doesn’t change the price of sin in our lives.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manessah did war and prevailed against the Hagrites.  It was a massacre and the Israelites won big.  The secret of their victory is noted here:  “they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him….for many fell, because the war was of God”.  They routed the enemy and took an amazing spoil –of “50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys, and 100,000 men alive”.  Not a bad days work.  But the key to victory was walking with God and calling on His name.  It was not about their own ability or strength.

And then the unbelievable happens.  These tribes that had just been handed an amazing victory “broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them”.  Hello people, does this make any sense?  God has just given you a huge win in battle because you call on His name and plead for His power, and in the next few verses we find you totally blow off faith and chase your own desires and passions.  The sins of the father do flow into future generations and we see some of that here.  They had it in their hands and then lost it because they chased other gods rather than the One who gave them everything.  

1 Chronicles 4

1 Chronicles 4 continues the list of lineage but buried in the middle of the chapter is a couple verses that jump out and shout ‘pay attention’.  Verse 9 tells us “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain”.  There is a very long list of people mentioned here, and then Jabez comes along.  For some reason the writer here stops and calls him as at more honorable – as one who was different than the rest of the names on the list.  He obviously was a pain during birth – thus his mother named him such.  But there is much more as we learn in the next verse.

Jabez called upon the God of Israel”.  Jabez knows who God is, and he knows that God is the source of all good things.  There is an obvious relationship there – which is probably the first part of this relationship.  Jabez called upon God – that was a key part of what makes him more honorable.  He has God in His right place and is reaching out to bring His action.

So what does Jabez ask?  Check out the four things he requests:

–       “Oh that you would bless me

–       enlarge my border

–       that your hand might be with me

–       that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!”

Jabez asks God to bless him, and in some translations it says bless me indeed.  Jabez is asking for big action – not just a simple little request.  We need to seek God’s hand fully – and ask Him to do the things that seem too much because they are way too much for us.  He continues and secondly asks for his territory to be expanded.  Jabez wants God to give him more influence, more ability to get outside the boundaries he has been accustomed to.  Jabez wants to do far more.

Third Jabez asks that God’s hand be with him, that God put his hand on Jabez’ shoulder.  Jabez doesn’t want to walk alone.  He wants God to be with him every step of the way.  And finally Jabez asks that he would not make mistakes and cause pain.  Jabez wants God’s direction and protection that he might walk in way worthy of the Lord.  Jabez wants God’s hedge around him so he can walk well.  So what happens?  Scripture tells us very clearly.  “And God granted what he asked”.  So what’s the big deal – what is so honorable?  A man who wants to walk well with God, who prays and asks God to act, and who receives God’s answer and blessing.  Jabez shows us what being a man walking with God should look like.  Dependence on the Father through prayer that leads us to live His way.  Are you praying like Jabez?  Do you want to be more honorable than the rest?  

1 Chronicles 3

1 Chronicles 3 picks up on the chronology of David.  It lists his sons – beginning with the first born Amnon.  He had quite a flock, not only of sons, but also wives.  Here is how scripture records it:

  1. Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite
  2. Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite
  3. Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur
  4. Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith
  5. Shephatiah, by Abital
  6.  Ithream, by his wife Eglah
  7.  Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel
  8.  Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine

There are a couple questions about the list as in the last list of nine, two names appear twice.  Speculation is that these names were given to a second child after the first passed away, which was a regular occurrence at the time.  But no matter how you cut it – David was a busy guy.  He had at least seven wives and well over a dozen sons.  Scripture tells us a bit more about him when it says “All these were David’s sons, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar was their sister”.   So he likely had more sons from the concubines in his life, and at least one daughter although elsewhere in scripture it sounds like there was more than one female amongst his kids.

Solomon is listed last in the list of four children with Bathsheba, even though he was actually the oldest of her sons.  And the passing of the leadership happens to Solomon – certainly not the oldest of all David’s sons – but the one chosen by God to lead and gifted to do so through his wisdom.  With nineteen sons you might expect a lot of history but going forward really only Solomon and Nathan get much ink. 

The list picks up with Solomon’s sons and proceeds.  Lots of history here, and the lineage leading to Christ continues to be painted.  David’s family is one of the most famous in all of scripture – not without plenty of drama and struggle – but so very important just the same in leading to the Savior.  God chose to give lots of attention to this family in the pages of scripture.  We would do well to ponder that impact and consider the outcome of our heritage and history on future generations as well.  How will your story read?  Who is carrying the message of the Cross in your family?  

Psalm 87

Psalm 87 is a very short chapter – scholars seem to think it may actually be a fragment from another Psalm – but it can help us get focused on what matters to God.  It seems to be written about Jerusalem, the city that God chose as the place for His temple and where He preferred to reside as a dwelling place.  God chose to come and live among us – we must not forget that demonstration of love.  He certainly didn’t need to but He chose to out of love.

The psalmist reminds us that there are many other places and people that did not measure up in God’s eyes.  They were not selected to a place of privilege as was Jerusalem.  And they were not “born in her” as the Psalm says.  That is something very special and we can be born of God ourselves today. How?  Through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can’t physically go there and be born, but we can be born of His spirit and have a relationship that is held most highly by the Most High himself.

God “registers the people”.  He is keeping track of where we stand in relationship with Jesus.  It does matter.  God will take account of all of our lives.  He will discover who has been born again through a relationship with Jesus.  He will know who has received a new nature through the Holy Spirit.  We are not just existing here waiting for eternity.  Life on earth is our preparation for eternity.  It determines our eternity – not just the where we spend it – but also the how it will be.  Life matters.  We may think that day by day and moment by moment it is no big deal.  But in fact, it is a very important thing.

God cares whether we are born again.  “This one was born there” will be a determining factor of where we end up.  Are you born again into a new life with Jesus Christ?  Have you been washed by the blood of the Lamb?  God will sort each of our lives based on that criteria – where is our birthplace.  If it is of God, we will spend eternity with Him.  If it is not of Him, the outcome will be very different.  Now is the time to be sure your birthplace is where you want it to be.  It is one of the most important decisions you will ever make!

Psalm 85

Psalm 85 is a great chapter that talks about the very nature of God.  It gives us a picture of God’s love – as it reveals how He treats us when we fall short.  Check out the list of actions God has taken toward His people when they were not living the way He demands.  This list is God’s love toward His people as sinners and failures in their walk:

–       “you were favorable to your land

–       you restored the fortunes

–       You forgave the iniquity of your people

–       you covered all their sin

–       You withdrew all your wrath

–       you turned from your hot anger

God loves us.  The list could have had a very different set of actions – destroyed, punished, cast out, whacked – but God is focused on one thing when it comes to us as people – reconciliation.  He wants us to fix the separation between Him and us which is called sin, and get back into right relationship.  God’s desire is not to punish us, but to redeem us.  The psalmist says “restore us again…..revive us again”.  And that has been the history of mankind.  Man screws up and disobeys and God has constantly been willing to restore and redeem.  God is always willing to let us back in His presence if we will only repent and come back.

God does love us.  “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation”.  Not only does He love us, He has taken the steps to provide us a way to salvation.  He has prepared the path.  It is up to us to receive the gift and accept His offer.  He also has given us the direction for life.  “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly”.  If  we aren’t hearing from God, we aren’t listening.  He has already written and provided the framework for how life should be lived – the Bible.  And yes, He certainly talks to us in other ways as well, but the Bible is sure the place to begin.

The real key is that we don’t turn back to folly.  Far too often we know what to do based on God’s truth, but we choose to turn and do things our way rather than God’s way.  That is called sin.  That is absolute folly.  We have been given the truth straight from God’s mouth, and yet we somehow think in our own little mind that we are smarter and know better.  How stupid is that?  We didn’t create mankind.  We don’t know the master plan of the Father.  But when it comes down to making the decisions, we are smarter than God.  Here is the real truth: “the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase”.  God is in control.  God sits on the throne.  He does not get direction from you or me.  We get this backward so often.  It is time we realize who is King and Lord and start to live that way!

Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a great chapter as it reminds us of our awesome God.  It is the foundation of a praise song – How Lovely is your Dwelling Place – which is how the chapter begins.  We need to remember that God lives where He has since the beginning of time, in heaven.  He sits on His throne as He has for eternity, and will continue to do that for all time.  God is God and He is in the place we desire to be.

My soul longs….faints… heart and flesh sing for joy”.  Do you long for God’s presence?  The psalmist certainly understands that while life on earth may be great, there is something far better, and that is to be in God’s presence.  It is much to be desired.  Why?  “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise”.  Living with God will far outweigh all good things we experience on earth.  There will be no more pain and suffering.  There will be no more darkness or evil.  There will only be light, and love and joy.  And being in God’s presence will be the ultimate glorious way to spend eternity.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion”.  Is your heart filled with the highway to heaven?  Jesus is the way, the only way, for us to be able to experience what the psalmist is writing about here.  It isn’t about living right – because we can’t.  It isn’t about doing right – because we won’t.  It isn’t about going to church or helping little old ladies across the street – although we should.  Our access to heaven comes one way and one way only – through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That is the only way – period.

Is it that big a deal?  You bet it is.  “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”.   The psalmist gets it clear here – one day with God is better than a thousand elsewhere.  It is the ultimate destination.  There are plenty of great places in His creation to visit while we are here on earth – but eternity only offers a choice of two – and trust me that heaven where God reigns and is seated on the throne is much better than the alternative.  God has prepared a place for us.  He has given us a path to get there through Christ – and it is a free path that only requires us to receive His gift of grace and make it our own.  Oh that we would understand the importance and impact of that one decision.  “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk upright….blessed is the one who trusts in you”!  God is ready to bless us.  He is ready to reserve our room in eternity.  What is left is for us to make a commitment and decision to follow the One who can take us there!

Psalm 49

Psalm 49 begins with “hear this…..give ear… mouth will speak wisdom…..incline my ear to a proverb”.  The psalmist has some very important words for us.  He is going to share truth about an area that none of us like to consider – the reality that we will die.  No one wants to consider that truth.  But whether or not we want to think about it – it will happen – it is a reality – and we will experience it.

There are few certainties we can depend on, but death is certainly one of them.  “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish”.  We all will die.  Whether rich or poor, whether old or young, it matters not our status or anything else.  We all will face death.  And we don’t know when.  We many have “foolish confidence” that it won’t happen anytime soon.  We may convince ourself that we have plenty of time.  But the reality is that we don’t know when or how it will occur.  But we do know that it will occur.

And when it does – we will have to give account.  We will stand before God at the judgment and have to give account.  The questions will be few and simple.  Do you know Jesus?  What did you do with the things I entrusted?  God will ask those two and we will answer.  The first determines where we spend eternity.  The second determines what that eternal state will be like.  If we have accepted Christ and have a relationship with Him, “God will ransom my soul….he will receive me”.   If we have not, eternity takes on a completely different outcome, but is still eternal.

The truth of death is given here.  “For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him”. We won’t take anything with us when we die.  The stuff we have spent our life accumulating can’t go along with us.  It is left behind.  It is gone for good.  We spend so much of our time on this earth gathering and saving things that will all be gone when we die.  We can’t take it with us.  It is not something that makes the trip.  So we need to think carefully about how we spend time and invest for the future.  Stuff won’t be part of the transition to eternity.  We need to let go and focus on the relationship with God!

Psalm 45

Psalm 45 is written about Jesus.  There are several versions of what this Psalm is addressing, but Spurgeon had this to say: “Some see Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter here — they are short-sighted; others see both Solomon and Christ here — they are cross-eyed.”  It doesn’t get a lot more direct than that.  Some believe it is written about someone other than Christ the King, but historically for thousands of years, the scholars have agreed it is about Jesus.

The psalmist begins by saying “my heart overflows”.  That describes the way that we should relate to Jesus.  He should cause us to have a heart overflowing with joy.  We should see Him as king, yet someone we can talk with: “I address my verses to the king” and we should be ready to proclaim all the goodness of His life: “my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe”.  Jesus is the one blessed forever.  He is full of “truth….meekness…..righteousness” and deserving of our praise.

We see the truth that Jesus reign is forever.  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever”.  Forever is a very long time.  And Jesus will be sitting on that throne from now through eternity.  He is the King.  He has the “scepter of righteousness” in His hand.  He has “loved righteousness and hated wickedness”.  If you ever wonder where Jesus comes down on good and evil – there it is.  He loves righteousness and hates wickedness.  He is for good and against all things evil.  And He will rule that way from His eternal throne!

So what will be the outcome of Jesus on the throne?  “I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever”.  Jesus will be remembered in every generation.  He will be lifted up and exalted by all nations.  What scripture says will come true – every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  It will happen.  It will happen in all generations.  Not one will pass that does not see Jesus for who He is.  That doesn’t mean all will believe, but all will know.  And He will be the center of praise and adoration and worship forever and ever!

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