Archive for July, 2012

Psalm 60

Psalm 60 is a tough chapter.  The psalmist is struggling – he feels alone and rejected by God.  “Oh God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses, you have been angry”!  What causes God to be angry with us?  It isn’t what He desires.  But we bring that reaction on by the way we live.  Sin and disobedience cause God to be angry and to reject us.  His nature does not allow Him to just look the other way.  He can’t pretend we didn’t do it.  He can only respond by separating Himself from us.

How do we fix it when we have messed up and made choices that cause us to be separated from God?  We have to be restored.  That is what Jesus life, death and resurrection is all about.  He came and died and rose again so we could come back into right standing with God.  He is the way we are redeemed.  Reconciliation happens, restoration occurs, when we make Jesus Lord of our life.  God isn’t going to tolerate sin.  He makes “the land to quake….torn it open….made people see hard things…..make us stagger”.  Let’s face it – God can’t look the other way.  We will pay a price for our sin.

But God “set up a banner for those who fear You, that they may flee to it”.  We can run to God.  He never leaves even when we make choices that lead to sin and separate us from Him.  We can come to Him in our pathetic sinful state, and we “may be delivered….salvation by your right hand….God has spoken with His holiness”.  God will deliver us if we come to Him through Christ.  Jesus is our means.  He is all we need to be set free from the sins we commit.  God provides us salvation, even though we make the choices to sin.  God gives salvation freely – what a blessing.  We don’t earn or deserve it.

When we sin, we lose God’s presence.  The psalmist makes it clear: “you do not go forth….with our armies”.  We have to realize that there truly is a price to pay for our sin.  The difference between facing challenges alone, without God, and facing enemies with God is huge.  “With God we shall do valiantly, it is he who will tread down our foes”.  The difference is night and day.  When we are walking with God we have His power doing battle for us.  When we are not walking His way, we are on our own and will be trampled down.  God is the difference.  He is our help.  He is the salvation of man!

Psalm 53

Psalm 53 begins with a clear definition of what it means to be a fool.  “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””  That is calling a spade a spade isn’t it?  The psalmist is clear – if you don’t understand and know in your heart that God exists – you are missing the boat.  God created all things.  Scripture tells us that even those who have never heard of God will know him because of the Creation.  Denying that God exists is foolishness.  We can see His hand all around us.  We can see the result of His touch all over.

So what is God looking for in us?  He wants us to seek Him and follow Him.  “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God”.  In Matthew 6 we are told to ‘seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness’.  God is to be the center of our life and what we are about.  That is how we let God know we understand – we are following Him.  He is the source of goodness.  He is the Creator and provider of every good thing.  Why would we not be seeking Him?

The answer is clear.  That is how we were created – to be in fellowship with the Creator.  But Adam and Eve messed that up in the garden and we have been suffering the consequences since.  “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one”.  God hasn’t moved – we have.  We have fallen away because of the choices we make.  We have fallen off the wagon because we allow sin to take control, self to be the determining factor for what we do, and evil to be our way of life.  It isn’t an isolated problem either.  The psalmist is clear that no one – not even one – is good.  We all fall short because we follow each other and convince each other that it is ok.  It’s not.  God expects us to seek and follow and obey.

So how do we fix this mess we are in?  We don’t….only God can.  “When God restores the people” tells the story.  He alone can restore us.  He put that plan in place when He sent Jesus to live on this earth some 2000 years ago.  Jesus lived, was crucified, rose again, and ascended to the Father in order to provide a way to restore us.  That gift of sacrificial grace is all we need to take away this sin and evil problem we have as people.  There is no other solution to the problem except Jesus.  But God has done His part in the restoration process.  All that remains is for us to make the choice of accepting God’s gift of grace through Christ.  All we have to do is choose to make Jesus the Lord of our life, to receive His sacrifice as our own, and be restored to a right relationship with God.  When we make Jesus our Savior, He is more than enough to pay the penalty for our sin.  It is only then that we do become good and no longer fall short.  Have you been restored?  Is Jesus alive in you?

Psalm 50

Psalm 50 reminds us of the God we serve.  He is the “Mighty One” who “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting”.  Here is the reality – God is in charge.  He is in control.  Everything that happens is His domain.  We need to keep that in mind moment by moment.  God makes it all happen.  “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth”.  When we see beauty around us – it is because of God.  He created it.  He makes the sun shine and the moon glow.  God alone is worthy of our praise.  None of creation is a result of our work – it is all God.

God doesn’t really do it silently either.  We just don’t listen or hear.  We stick our fingers in our ears and ignore the truth.  “Our God comes; he does not keep silence….He calls to the heavens above and to the earth…. The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge”!  Did you catch that truth.  God Himself is judge.  There is no other.  We spend a lot of life living to please other people, but we need to be living for an audience of One.  God alone will be the judge.  If we live in a way that pleases Him, quite honestly all the rest of life will fall into place and others will be tickled pink.  But when we lose sight of the reality that we are on this planet to serve and glorify God we can spend a lot of time in the weeds missing the mark completely.

I am God, your God”.  He is personal.  He wants a relationship with you and me as individuals – alive and interactive each and every day.  And if you thought htat what you have is yours, think again.  “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine….the world and its fullness are mine”.  How much of what is around us belongs to God?  All of it – every little detail is His.  He created it.  He owns it.  He entrusts it to us to be stewards of.  But it is all His.  And when we lose sight of that we mess up how we live.  God says we need to “perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me”.  We need to do what we are supposed to – love, worship, call out, glorify him – and let God do the hard part.

The psalmist gives us a couple other hints on how we should live.  The first has to do with controlling our tongue.  It can get us into trouble.  We need to keep it reined in and under control.  Rather than use it to “sit and speak against your brother….slander your own mother’s son” we need to use it to honor our God.  God desires our worship and praise.  He says it this way: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God”!  What a change in our relationship this would make.  To move from coming to God with a list of things we want from Him and problems we want Him to solve and blessings we want Him to give – to coming to Him with thanksgiving – calling out all that He has already done and how He has already blessed us.  That is how we glorify Him – not by laying all our wants at His feet but by recalling and praising all that He has done.  Are you a thankful Christ Follower?  Do you come to the throne to let God know just how blessed you are by His goodness?  We need to become grateful in our relationship for there is certainly plenty to be thankful for!

1 Chronicles 18

1 Chronicles 18 is a mirror to 2 Samuel 8 – lots of the same details between these two books.  David is wiping out the enemies of Israel.  I love how some of the older versions say it.  David “smote” the people.  There’s a word we don’t use much anymore.  But it gives just a little more emphasis to what happened than the modern translation of “defeated….subdued”.  David cleaned house.  He wiped them out.  Not only did he defeat them, but he made them servants who would serve him.  He took their valuables and gave them as offerings to God.  David was truly the victor.

But the chapter starts with some words that at first I just skimmed over.  “After this” is how the writer begins.  It’s easy to focus on the man who defeated enemies that had been a problem to the people for decades and centuries.  But none of that happened until…..what happened in the prior chapter.  Do you know what came first?  David was with Nathan the prophet and heard God’s promises.  David was in fellowship and communion with God.  The preparation for victory was not a big strategy session with his army leadership.  It wasn’t staying up all night plotting the attack.  What came before this series of battles and wins was time with God.  It was hearing His voice and listening to His prophet.

There is a real lesson for us in this chapter.  There is nothing here that points to David as the key.  Not only did it not occur until David heard from and obeyed God, scripture goes on to remind us a couple times that “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went”.  Are you hearing what happened?  The battle was the Lord’s.  It wasn’t David’s to win.  It was David’s when he was obedient and followed God.  All of us face challenges and battles every day.  What’s our approach?  Work harder, plan more, spend more time, get more help, go more places, seek more answers – the list goes on and on.  But the real solution is not any of those things.  It boils down to seeking God and walking in His ways.

David would never have been the King he was, the leader he was, the warrior he was – none of those would have happened if he hadn’t first been a man who was seeking after God’s heart.  It didn’t happen the other way around.  David became successful and then he got around to walking with God.  Just doesn’t work that way.  David became the amazing man and leader of his people because he was “dedicated to the Lord” first.  Not as a result of, but rather as a the reason why.  How would you describe your walk with God?  Is it core and central to who you are and what you do?  That is how we tap into the power of God in our life.  We get into deep and vital relationship with him.  What will your “after this” story be?  Do you even have an “after this” to record?  You won’t if you don’t spend time with the One who truly has the power to make all things His!

2 Samuel 9

2 Samuel 9 gives us a perfect picture of grace.  David is king, and has spent years hiding from Saul who had the throne before him.  Saul’s son Jonathan was a very close friend to David.  Now that David is on the throne and things are starting to settle down with battles won and enemies defeated and wiped out, he remembers a promise he made to Jonathan.  So David begins to ask around “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake”?  David had made a covenant to Jonathan to care for his family.

This shows the power of a covenant.  David spent a good portion of his life running from Saul.  He had a special friendship with Jonathan, who had saved his life years ago, but let’s face it, for many time dilutes what we say.  Politics and changes in the world excuse promises made.  But not in this case.  While it may not have happened as quickly as it could have, David stays true to his promise and the covenant he and Jonathan had made to each other.  Covenant relationships are important.  Words means something.  And while it may not have been convenient or even necessary in the world’s eyes, David keeps his word.

They found a former servant of Saul’s name Ziba and David called him to come.  “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet” is what David learns.  There is a son of Jonathan, and David calls for this man to be brought to him.  Can you imagine the fear?  This guys grandpa had pursued and tried to get rid of David for years.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through his head.  He had been living low key and under the radar.  Now he is being brought before the king.  “Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage”.  Quite a name – Mephibosheth – and quite a problem as “he was lame in both his feet”.  So not only was he the grandson of Saul, he couldn’t really do much serving of the king either.

But David didn’t bring him in to punish him, or put him to work as a servant.  David brings Mephibosheth in so he can keep his covenant word and show grace.  “I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always”.  Mephibosheth says “what is your servant….a dead dog”.  Not a high esteem for himself.  Yet David gives all the servants of Saul to serve him, and commanded that “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons”.  That is significant my friends.  Mephibosheth had no claim to the king’s table.  In fact, in most cases he would have been called in to be killed to end a lineage of fear and pain.  But David shows grace – he gives what was not deserved or earned – to keep his word.  God has done the same for us through Jesus Christ.  We will never earn or deserve salvation, but God’s free gift through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross allows us to receive salvation through grace.  This is a picture of that grace in a real way.  We all need to be grace givers!

2 Samuel 8

2 Samuel 8 reminds us how great a warrior David was – at least when God was with him.  We are told that “David defeated the Philistines….defeated Moab….defeated Zobah….Syrians of Damascus”.  Let’s face it – David was able to defeat pretty much anyone that was in his path and resisting him.  God came alongside and they just cleaned house.  Scripture says it this way – twice in this chapter – “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went”.  Did you catch that?  The LORD gave victory – this wasn’t about David being a great warrior but rather God being a great God!

Part of that success was obedience.  David did what God told him to do.  When he defeated Moab “he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground”.  Can you visualize it?  The people had to lie down in three lines and then David put two of those lines to death and spared one full line to be servants.  It seems like a rather brutal way to conquer but God directed him to do that to get rid of a bunch of rebellious people.

There were many spoils along the way – gold and silver and bronze that was captured from the enemies defeated – as well as some brought in peace by the neighboring kingdom of Toi.  David was king and could have taken it all for himself.  But “King David dedicated to the Lord”.  He didn’t take it as his own but gave it to the Lord who made it possible for him to capture and receive it in the first place.  That is a lesson we all need to remember.  What we have is not our own – it is God’s and as such we need to make sure we offer it to Him.

David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people”.  David was in charge.  He led the people well.  But he didn’t do it alone.  Scripture tells us who was on his leadership team.  He had one, with different men assigned to different parts of leading the kingdom.  It is important to realize that even great kings and leaders like David had others who were alongside them.  Check out his team:

  • Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the      army
  • Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder
  • Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of      Abiathar were priests
  • Seraiah was secretary
  • Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the      Cherethites and the Pelethites
  • David’s sons were priests

This is the leadership team that ruled Israel with David.  Not a guy, but a team.  Important to remember and note!

Psalm 39

Psalm 39 talks about the need to control the tongue.  We need to guard our lips so we do not sin.  The tongue is a powerful thing – it can be used as a weapon or a tool that does good.  But uncontrolled – it will get us into trouble – not just with our fellow man but with God Himself.  “I will guard my ways….that I may not sin with my tongue….I will guard my mouth with a muzzle….I was mute and silent”. Controlling our tongue is an option and a choice.  Often we hear people say they ‘couldn’t control themselves’ when it comes to what they spew from their mouth.

That simply is not true.  We choose to sin.  We choose to let our tongue and mouth run free.  We have to learn how to guard our mouth and muzzle the things that we might say.  God does hold us accountable for what we allow to flow from our mouth.  Did you catch what it says?  Words can be SIN.  We can sin with our tongue.  It is the same thing as murder, adultery, covetousness, idolatry and all the other things scripture calls sin.  We often want to give a pass on things that flow from the lips – but God doesn’t – it is clear that words matter and can be sin if we don’t guard our mouth and what we say.

The other lesson in this chapter is the short span of our life.  Oh how we miss this one.  We think we can get to most everything tomorrow.  Many of us in particular believe that about time with God and our relationship with others.  But check out what scripture tells us about life.  “Make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!  Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you…a shadow”.  Life is but a breath – it is fleeting and will be over in an instant.  A great illustration is that our life is like a single grain of sand compared to all the sand from all the beaches around the world, which would be like eternity.  It really isn’t much – just a dot on a line that never ends.  But that life matters, and it matters a lot.  During that dot we have the opportunity to create our eternity and a legacy that will follow.

So what are you living for?  Is it accumulating stuff?  Scripture tells us here that “man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather”.  We spend a whole lot of life collecting stuff that we really don’t need and often in short order don’t even want any more.  So we rent places and pile it in storage.  Scripture says we should have our ladder leaning somewhere else – not on stuff.  “My hope is in you….for it is you who have done it.”  God is the source of life and hope.  We need to get our focus where it belongs.  It is our relationship with God that is the only true source of life and joy.  Oh that we would get that right, “that I may smile again”.  When we depend on self and stuff we become slaves to the world.  There is no joy there.  It is only when we let God be God and focus our effort on walking with Him that we find the joy that He has for us.  Are you walking with the Savior?  He alone is our hope!

Psalm 36

Psalm 36 gives us a look at the two extremes in this world – evil and God.  They are mutually exclusive.  There are not shades of evil – it is what results if we are not walking with God.  The psalmist talks about what evil looks like.  He calls it transgression – another word for it is sin.  It is when we miss the mark of what what God requires.  It is when we fail to walk in obedience to God’s plan and commands.  Here is how the psalmist speaks of it:

–       “wicked deep in his heart

–       no fear of God before his eyes

–       he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated

–       words of his mouth are trouble and deceit

–       ceased to act wisely and do good

–       plots trouble while on his bed

–       sets himself in a way that is not good

–       does not reject evil

Does any of that resemble your life?  If so, we need to look closely at how to change.  This is the path to death and eternal separation from God.  It is when self is in control – when we actually believe that we are in charge and can do whatever we want.

It doesn’t take into account the reality that God alone sits on the judgment seat.  It doesn’t allow the truth that God has requirements and that there is a penalty, a very strong and severe one, when we fail to meet His expectations.  We are basically screwed as humans.  We cannot possibly live a life adequate of God’s bar on our own.  Sin has a price.  It is death and eternal separation from God, or as scripture calls it, hell.  It is not someplace we want to spend eternity.  So it then comes down to grace.  God proved His love for us when He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to the cross to pay the penalty for our falling short.  It comes down to whether or not we will accept that gift of grace thru Jesus.

The psalmist goes on to remind us just how awesome God is.  Remember that He doesn’t owe us a thing.  But He loves us in spite of our sin.  Check out the list of God’s nature and character:

–       “Your steadfast love….extends to the heavens

–       your faithfulness to the clouds

–       Your righteousness is like the mountains

–       your judgments are like the great deep

–       man and beast you save

–       How precious is your steadfast love

–       The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings

–       They feast on the abundance of your house

–       you give them drink from the river of your delights

–       with you is the fountain of life

–       in your light do we see light

Is that an awesome list of traits that describe a God who truly loves us, or what?  Keep in mind that God is offering these things to us – while we are yet sinners.  God loves us when we are living a life filled with self and evil.  He proved that love when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

But it all comes down to how we respond.  God loves us and has made provision.  We are self-consumed and disobedient – by definition we are evil because we are not living in obedience to God.  The psalmist goes on to say “continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart”.  Some wrongly come to the conclusion that everyone will make it into heaven – that God’s love will give all a pass on their past and a ticket to enter.  That is just not true.  God’s nature does not allow Him to ignore evil.  The transgressions we are guilty of must be paid for.  There are only a couple options.  Either we live a life free from sin and walk into eternity as a perfect person (fat chance of that), we accept the other (actually the only) way to spend eternity which is the gift of grace through the shed blood of Jesus, or we live how we want and take our chances (which is not chance – but a decision to spend eternity apart from God).  This is black and white.  We won’t ‘sort of’ make it to heaven.  Either we meet God’s requirement or we won’t be there.  See if you fit any of the transgression list above.  If you do, time for a plan to deal with that.  God has made a way because of this nature described in the list in the middle of this post from chapter 36.  But it won’t matter if we don’t know Him and receive His gift of grace!

Psalm 33

Psalm 33 is all about how we should interact with the Lord.  “Shout for joy…praise…..give thanks….make melody….sing….play skillfully…..loud shouts”.  Do you see a pattern in how the psalmist is telling us to connect?  Action – off our rear ends – connecting with God in real and direct ways.  Our relationship with God is not about sitting quietly with hands folded or in a pew at church.  Our relationship with God needs to be alive and active – focused on making noise and doing stuff.  God is not locked in some closet at church.  He is where we are all day every day – and we need to connect with Him there.

God is alive.  “The Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness”.  God is at work all over the universe.  He has been since the creation.  Have you thought about that truth today?  Scripture tells us “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host…. he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm”.  That is pretty cool stuff.  God spoke, and the heavens were made. He breathed and life began.  God started it all and He keeps it all going too.  He is the Creator and Sustainer.  God is in charge.

So how should we interact?  We already know it should mean action.  But beyond that the psalmist uses a couple words: “fear….stand in awe”.  We need to put God where He belongs in our life and world.  God sits on the throne.  He is King.  And as such we need to realize that.  He isn’t a genie that we can cry out to and get what we want.  He is the source of all things.  “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him….he is our help and our shield”.  The truth of the matter is that God is alive and watching.  He is waiting to connect with us when we put Him in His right place – as the Lord and King of all.

Where does that leave us as a nation?  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage”!  We have the potential to be smack dab in the middle of His blessing.  But it requires that we make God the Lord.  It means we choose Him.  And unfortunately that isn’t exactly how we are tracking right now.  We need to remember that “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength”.  It isn’t about us being strong or having a lot of resources.  Blessing happens when we put God where He belongs – not when we have built up a military or earthly power.  Oh that we would “trust in his holy name”.  That is how we will receive blessing.

Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is all about recognizing the God we have and worshipping Him for who He is.  It begins with these words: “Ascribe to the Lord”.  Another way to say it would be ‘give to the Lord’.  We are to recognize God.  Part of our role as humans is to recognize God as Creator and foundation of this universe.  What should we ascribe or give to God?  Scripture says we need to ascribe:

–       “glory

–       Strength

–       Glory due His name

–       Worship

–       Splendor of holiness

The reality is that God is worthy.  Adoration of God is a part of prayer we need to include each time we approach the throne.  It is the recognition of who God is, and where He is in the food chain, which is way up at the top.  We need to approach Him with glory and honor and praise – recognizing that He is not only Creator but also Sustainer.

The psalmist goes on to define God’s power and dominion by defining the “voice of the Lord”.  Check out how it gets demonstrated to us:

–       “over the waters

–       powerful

–       Full of majesty

–       Breaks the cedars

–       Flashes forth flames of fire

–       Shakes the wilderness

–       Makes the deer give birth

–       Strips the forest bare

–       Causes his people to cry ‘Glory’

We serve a powerful and amazing God.  He is worthy of our praise.  He has a voice that commands our praise.

So what does the voice of the Lord remind you of?  How about thunder and a powerful storm?  Those are a way for us to remember that God is all powerful.  When we hear the thunder, we should remember that God is the One behind that.  When we see the lightning, it should remind us that God is more powerful than even that.  When we feel the shudder and say ‘wow’ to the power of nature – we need to think about the God who created and crafted and planned it all at Creation.  He is the creator.  He is worthy of our glory.

The chapter rends reminding us that God was on the throne “over the flood”.  That wasn’t a surprise or accident.  God also “sits enthroned as king forever”.  God isn’t going anywhere.  He has, is and will be on the throne.  He is in charge.  He is the one who can give us strength and blessing, and we need to seek His face and make those requests.  God alone is the king of kings and Lord of Lords.  He is the Great I AM.   Are you ascribing to God that which He deserves – your praise and honor and glory?  That is His desire – that we recognize Him and give Him the adoration that is His.  Don’t just run to God with your problems and requests.  Run to Him with your praise and adoration!

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