Monthly Archives: March 2018

Psalms 79-83; He Gave Them Over

The psalmists often cry out to God for deliverance. Restore us! Save us! Hear us! Return to us! And always, their despair comes as a result of their disobedience. God would never turn His back on His obedient children.

Not in your life. Not in a nation. Not in the world.

I, along with millions of Jesus-followers, plead with God on a regular basis to heal our land. We pray for mercy, for revival, for the defeat of the enemy. And I believe God wants to answer our prayers.

But if we are praying for a nation that continues to deny Him, we’ve got a problem. If we are praying as a Church more interested in being “cool” than obedient, we’ve got a problem. If the Church wants God to answer our prayers while we twist Scripture and accept sin, while we claim to be His yet live like the world, we’ve got a bigger problem.

I think what scares me more than nuclear war is what God says in 81:11-12:

But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own desires.

God is not talking about non-believers. He’s talking about His people. That’s me. That’s you if you know Jesus as your Savior. And what He is talking about is a slow, almost unrecognizable death.

Dear God, I pray for your Church. God, defeat Satan in our pulpits and pews, convict hearts that are comfortable living with sin. Strengthen your obedient children to stand firm for the truth revealed in Scripture. Root out those in our midst who are Your enemies disguised as Christians. Then, God, make Your church the avenue through which You can change our world. For Jesus’ sake.

 

 

Psalms 73-78; It’s Worth It

Have you ever watched an awards show on TV, or read the news about a million dollar athlete who beat his wife, or sat back and watched that dishonest coworker get all the promotions, while you struggle to make ends meet? You think, “They have it all, and they blatantly deny God. Why do I bother?”

The psalmist was thinking along those lines in Psalm 73. He admitted he almost lost his way, “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (vs 3)

Then in verse 13 he adds, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

Is he right? Are we who love and obey God foolishly living meaningless lives?

The psalmist says that was exactly what he was thinking “till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” When the psalmist turned his eyes toward heaven, he recognized the truth; that this life is temporary. Another life is ahead.

Psalm 78 recounts the ways God worked in the lives of the children of Israel; how He blessed their obedience, punished their disobedience, and forgave them every time they repented.

He (God) remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.” (78:39)

That describes your life, too. Life on Earth is just a passing breeze, and once it’s passed, there is no coming back. No do-overs. This is your moment to decide your eternity.

Is your neighbor’s bank account that important in light of eternity? I guarantee when you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you about your neighbor.

Many people seem to want the good life, with no health problems, to have without earning, or to get ahead at all cost. They measure their happiness or success according to the things they have. You know them, health and wealth are their goals.

I’ve heard the question asked: “What good is it to live the good life, to accumulate things, and die a peaceful death, if death ushers you into a painful eternity, void of any goodness, light, or hope?

I encourage you to read these psalms today and let them remind you that God is a just judge. Your impatience to see wicked people get what you think they deserve is God’s patience while He works in their hearts for eternity’s sake. It’s never about the things, or the success, or what you perceive as their happiness. It’s about a loving God who died for them and wants to call them His own.

Take your eyes off people. Quit telling God how You think He ought to be handling wicked people. Throw off jealousy. Those things are robbing you of the peace and joy that God wants to give you as His child. It’s robbing you of a right relationship with your Savior, with our loving God who is anxious to welcome you home to an eternity that is so much better than anything– ANYTHING — this world can offer.

Trust Him. It’s worth it.

Psalms 69-72; No Such Thing As A Retired Christian

I retired from public education in 2010. It was time. As much as I loved my job, I just couldn’t do it anymore with the same energy I’d had 37 years before. The kids deserved better than what I was able to give.

I attend a Sunday School class for adult women. And when I say “adult,” I’m talking about women in their 60’s and up. We’ve all retired from our jobs, children raised, grandchildren and great-grandkids abound. Some have buried husbands; some have outlived their children. Some are healthy and active, some struggle to walk to their seats.

So when I read Psalm 71, “A Prayer for Old Age,” I thought of us.

May I suggests there is never the right time to retire from serving God? The writer of this psalm seems to agree. Like the psalmist, so many of us have relied on God from birth. The Lord has been our hope and confidence since our youth. God has taught us since we were young, and we eagerly declare His wonderful deeds yet today.

We might not have the energy to teach the four-year-old Sunday School class every Sunday, or lead the youth group’s activities. But I hope your four-year-olds and your youth know who we are, and have heard our stories.

Please, Church, don’t attempt to put us on a shelf. (vs 9) Do not close your ears to the testimony of our years, do not make it “us against them.” In your attempt to be attractive to millennials, have you set aside the wisdom of the aged?

And to those of us gray-haired believers, let’s not allow our voices to be silenced. We have another generation to tell of God’s power and might. (vs 19). Let’s be faithful to do exactly that.

Psalms 62-68; Real Rest

I love the psalms that talk about resting in God. These same psalms may be describing hardship, grief, confusion, frustration, but in the midst of turmoil we are reminded there is a place of rest in the arms of our Father. Listen to some of the verses from these psalms today:

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. (62:1)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (62:5)

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (63:8)

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; (64:10a)

I wonder how often I ignore this rest while I lie awake at night with worry? Or when I replay that incident where someone treated me unfairly, over and over in my mind? Or when I get too busy to read God’s Word and pray? How often do I ignore that rest when I pursue my own agenda without giving God a thought?

One of the great joys of my life has been in being an aunt, and now a great-aunt. Is there anything more precious than when that little one climbs up into your lap, the smell of summer sunshine on his or her skin, and closes their eyes? Their breathing slows, their muscles relax, and soon you are holding that little person you would die for, while the cares of this word drift away?

Sometimes I just want to crawl up in my Father’s lap, lay my head on His shoulder, and just breathe. I can do that by opening my Bible, by shutting out the rest of the world, and talking to the One who loves me more than I can even imagine.

I am reminded my Heavenly Father receives as much joy from my times wrapped up in His arms as I do. Why would I not want to crawl up there every single day?

Psalms 56-61; Praising in the Pit

How do you pray when life seems unbearable? Or do you?

We all know David’s life was hard. I mean, he lived for years in caves, hiding from Saul who pursued him relentlessly in order to kill him. David never knew who he could trust. He was alone and tired, frustrated and discouraged. In 57:4 he describes his life like this:

I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts — men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

But then, in the very next verse David says these words:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Is that your experience? Or on those days when you feel like you’re lying among ravenous beasts, do you stop praying and just focus on the beasts? Do you sit in your cave and feel sorry for yourself? Do you watch other people who don’t have your problems and ask yourself, “Why me?”

Why not take a suggestion from David’s example?

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (56:3-4)

O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (59:17)

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (57:10)

You may be in the pit of despair, but God is worthy of praise. Praise Him! You might feel like there is no hope, but God is our hope. Praise Him! You might think you are alone, but God promises to never leave or forsake His children. Praise Him!

Praise Him just because He is, and He deserves it. Then trust Him with the details of your life.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth!

Psalms 51-55; Don’t Be A Fool

Did you know Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14? I don’t think I realized that before today. (Thank you, Dr. Wiersbe for pointing that out; With The Word, p 342)

So, if God inspired men to include these words twice in our Bible, there must be a reason. As I consider the importance of the message, I see Jesus!

David begins by saying only a fool would ever say there is no God. Then he goes on to confirm that fools exist. “They,” meaning fools, are corrupt, vile, without understanding, with no interest in God. That, my friend, is a foolish way to live.

David tells us that fools have it in for believers. They want to destroy us because our presence causes them to be overwhelmed with dread. They hate us because God is present with us, and acknowledging that means they’d have to admit they are wrong to believe He doesn’t exist. To be honest, a fool in God’s presence has every reason to be overwhelmed with dread.

But here is where I see Jesus in these psalms. David pleads with God for salvation. Without knowing it, David is praying for Jesus. Jesus came, lived and died, then rose again to restore the relationship with us that God had with Adam and Eve in the garden. We can walk with God, talk with God, serve Him, love Him through the blood of Jesus.

Because He exists. That is the honest truth.

Don’t be a fool.

Psalm 50; Get Real

Well, I didn’t come close to reaching my goal of studying five psalms a day today. I couldn’t get passed Psalm 50. While I was reading it, God seemed to be emphasizing some verses, so I read it again. And I read it a third time. God seemed to be asking me to think on these things. So I did.

Here are my thoughts. I pray they are His.

God summons all of us from sunrise to sunset. Every minute of every day all of creation is proclaiming that God Is. And God tells us He will not stop revealing Himself to the entire world as long as the world exists. It reminds me that His will is that no one perish without Him. His will is that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.

God summons all of us to be judged by Him, our Holy God, our Righteous Judge, the only one who can judge fairly. Asaph addresses two groups of people being judged by God here in this psalm.

The first group is made up of His children, those who have recognized that He is who He says He is, and have accepted His forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus.

Now back in Old Testament times, before Jesus shed His blood, they were required to offer sacrifices often. In fact, so often that the ritual became a no-brainer. The sacrifice itself became the goal. Listen to what God says about that:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need your goats? Do you think I eat steak from your sacrificed bulls for dinner each night? Those sacrifices are meaningless unless your heart is broken by the sin in your life. Those sacrifices are merely an outward expression of what needs to be going on in your heart.” (obviously a paraphrase)

Makes me think about religious people; people who go through the motions of worship every Sunday, maybe come away feeling good about their worship experience. Worship becomes the goal instead of the One who demands our worship. Maybe they teach Sunday School, refrain from vulgar language, have a fish attached to the back of their cars. But their hearts are not moved, their sins are not confessed.

God is saying:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need you to attend church? Do you think I give out attaboys for good behavior, put a star in some crown when you get your perfect attendance pin? Your service is meaningless unless your heart is broken by the presence of sin in your life. Not just broken once the day you confessed your sin and accepted the gift of salvation bought at the price of My Son Jesus. But broken over what you did or did not do yesterday, over the impure thoughts you think, or the unforgiveness you harbor toward someone. Unless your service in My Name is a result of your broken heart and the confession of sin, it’s meaningless.” (again, paraphrased)

Then God turns His attention toward those Asaph calls “wicked.” Those who can quote the Bible, who claim to be believers, yet align themselves with thieves, who gossip and slander those closest to them.

I think of so many people, whole denominations, who take God’s Word and twist it to make them feel religious without having to deal with sin. Those who deny Jesus’ godship, or who tolerate or condone sin that grieves our Holy God.

The thing is, according to verse 21, God doesn’t zap people who claim to be believers but aren’t. God doesn’t burn down churches where heresy is taught. And because God seems to be silent, they think He’s just like them. They mistake His silence for approval.

But be warned. God will accuse you to your face. He will tear you to pieces with none to rescue. (vs 22) God seems to have complete disdain for those kinds of hypocrites.

If you aren’t following God according to the Bible plus nothing, if your heart is not His through the blood of Jesus when you repented of sin, stop calling yourself a Christian. The consequences for using Jesus’ name in vain are serious, eternally serious.

The thank offering in verse 23 speaks to me of an intentional attitude of humility, recognizing that all I have and am are unmerited gifts from a Holy God. It’s the giving of myself, all of me, to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. It’s recognizing sin in my life, and repenting, asking Jesus to forgive me. And it’s serving Him out of a grateful heart for the privilege of knowing Him. Listen to God’s Words about those who come to Him with thankful hearts:

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. (vs 23)

I am reminded that God is not fooled by religious behavior. Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. And God knows the difference, and will judge us accordingly.

But to those who are real, those who come to Him on His terms, those who honor Him, He guides, directs, protects, all the way home.