Archive for September, 2006
How good it is to know that we are children of the most High God!When I had to discipline my children, I felt a battle inside. I would rather not deal with it and just let it blow over (that’s my old nature), then I would feel sorry for them and not want to cause them pain, but I knew what I had to do to teach them right from wrong. I finally understood what my parents often told me, “this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.”
Today, part of David’s psalm reminded me of this perspective:
5 His anger lasts for a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.
You see, God loves us too much to leave us alone in our sin. Discipline comes with disobedience – and it can really hurt. But, oh the joy to know that He is teaching us and allowing us to go through certain things to build us up – to make us more like Him.
And, I love these verses from today’s chapter:
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, 12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
I’m thankful for how You love me, God. Please continue the work you’ve begun in me so that I may be more and more like You. -amen
Today’s Psalm is short, so I thought I’d include it in its entirety:
1 A psalm of David. Give honor to the LORD, you angels; give honor to the LORD for his glory and strength. 2 Give honor to the LORD for the glory of his name. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. 3 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf and Mount Hermon to leap like a young bull. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with lightning bolts. 8 The voice of the LORD makes the desert quake; the LORD shakes the desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare. In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!” 10 The LORD rules over the floodwaters. The LORD reigns as king forever. 11 The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.
Reading this made my heart leap. I was really taken in and started to worship Him. But, as I read it again, I wondered how it might feel for a person who is not a child of God. Look at some of the descriptors by themselves:
- The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea
- The God of glory thunders
- The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars
- The LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon
- The voice of the LORD strikes with lightning bolts
- The voice of the LORD makes the desert quake
- The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare
How frightening is that? And, what’s with the mountains dancing like young bulls?
How good to know God and know this kind of power is for us, not against us!
I worship Your majesty, Lord! You are a great God!
We’ve all heard it before – “you reap what you sow.”
In this Psalm, David demonstrates his understanding of this concept:
3 Don’t drag me away with the wicked – with those who do evil – those who speak friendly words to their neighbors while planning evil in their hearts. 4 Give them the punishment they so richly deserve! Measure it out in proportion to their wickedness. Pay them back for all their evil deeds! Give them a taste of what they have done to others.
One day, each one of us will stand before God and give an account for our deeds, both good and bad. Those who God never knew will be sent to eternal damnation, but even those whom He knew will be judged (Lamb’s Book of Life or judgement books – see Rev. 20:12).
David proclaims his faith in God’s protection by the second half of this psalm with rejoicing:
6 Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy. 7 The LORD is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. 8 The LORD protects his people and gives victory to his anointed king.
Isn’t it good to know that we will be vindicated? God will pay back those who try to slander and harm us. There’s freedom in that!
I take comfort in David’s words this morning:
1 A psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The LORD protects me from danger – so why should I tremble? 2 When evil people come to destroy me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident.
Just to know this kind of peace is available give me encouragement. To be truthful, when my enemies attack, my typical first reaction is fear and panic. But, I think I’m getting better. The Lord is definitely reminding me with His perfect timing today that I have nothing to fear and there is no reason to tremble.
And what an awsome thought David follows this up with:
4 The one thing I ask of the LORD – the thing I seek most – is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. 5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. At his Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music.
Can you imagine? This reminds me to put things in their proper perspective. If I get so caught up in my relationship with Him, everything else will just fall into place.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Mt. 6:33 KJV
Lord, that’s where I want to reside today: in Your Temple, in Your presence. Conceal me there so I can hold my head high above my enemies who continue to surround me. There I will offer You sacrifices with shouts of joy and singing and praising You.
In this Psalm, David is putting himself on trial before God. The end result is to declare his innocence before God and to bring about relief to his conscience.
Look at the things David declares:
- I have lived according to Your truth
- I don’t spend time with liars
- I don’t go along with hypocrites
- I hate the gatherings of evil people
- I refuse to join in with the wicked
Clearly, this is not about salvation because these are all things David has done – not what Christ has done. We know that no one can live a life that is perfect and merits eternity in God’s presence without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8,9).
David is asking God to test his motives and his affections. I see this chapter as a love song to God. First, he declares his loyalty and obedience to the King, then he sings of his thankfulness and love for the King. Finally, he asks the King for protection and His mercy.
If you’re like me, this came across as kind of bold and gutsy. Who would declare all these things about themselves to God? Well, as I’ve said before, there is a reason for this Psalm to be in the Bible. There’s something here for us to glean for today. Could this be a message for us to declare an account for all the good things we’ve done for God? Could it be that we’re to publically encourage one another on to good deeds?
Something to think about…
What a beautiful Psalm of David. I can really relate to this one.
2 I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. 3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
What is disgraced? I like one of the definitions I found on dictionary.com:
1.the loss of respect, honor, or esteem; ignominy; shame: the disgrace of criminals.
I think of all the things I’ve done that should bring me disgrace. But because of God’s grace, my honor has been restored. It seems to me that in this chapter David is talking about the disgrace others try to bring him. He asks the Lord to not let his enemies rejoice in his defeat. I like where he says if we trust in God we will never be disgraced, but those who try to decieve others will be disgraced.
Look at all the promises found in this chapter:
- He shows the proper path
- He leads the humble
- He leads with unfailing love & faithfulness
- He forgives our many, many sins
- He will show us the path to choose
- We will live in prosperity
- We can be friends with the Lord
- He will share His secrets
David ends this Psalm with a cry to God:
15 My eyes are always looking to the LORD for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and in deep distress. 17 My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all! 18 Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins. 19 See how many enemies I have, and how viciously they hate me! 20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for I trust in you.
Lord, I lift up my brothers who are also facing trials and traps of our enemies. Rescue them, Lord, and protect them. Do not let them be disgraced. Increase their trust in You, Lord, and send encouragement. -amen
Wow. This short chapter is kind of heavy.
Just take a look at verses 3 – 6:
3 Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. 5 They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior. 6 They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.”
Are my hands and heart pure? Do I worship idols and tell lies? I think that excludes many of us. That’s where God’s grace comes in. Because of what Jesus Christ did, if we repent of our sins and turn back, He is always faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from our sin.
The thing that I thought about as I read these verses is how many people I know who claim to be Christian, but do not seem to be seeking Him at all. Their appointment book reflects a passion for career, family, fun and other things, but not God.
Are you climbing the mountain of the Lord? Do you even want to stand in His holy place?
Lord, I long to see You. Help me put aside those things that break my relationship with You and put me on Your mountain!
Tomorrow, let’s jump back into the book of Psalms where we left off before. We’ll continue in Psalms until the end of the month.
Let’s start tomorrow, Saturday, in Psalms 24.
I’m still praying for confirmation, but I have an idea where we’ll start on October 1. It should be very interesting. So, stay tuned…
Mordy was at the right place at the right time. He overheard a plot to assasinate King Xerxes. He could have kept it to himself, but he had connections with Queen Esther, so he told her about it. She told the king and, as a result, Mordy was rewarded. An otherwise unremarkable man, Mordy was rewarded for taking action on what he heard. He was highly rewarded – to the point of second most powerful man in the region as we read in today’s short chapter.
3 Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he worked for the good of his people and was a friend at the royal court for all of them.
There are many other examples of rewards in the Bible, too. If you sit and think for a moment, I’m sure you can easily think of several. Abraham was rewarded for his faith in God. Ruth showed her faithfulness to Naomi and was rewarded with a new family. The faithful servants were rewarded when they invested wisely their talents.
Then, there’s the whole discussion of rewards in heaven. There are many promises in the Bible about crowns and prominence based on our works while in our “earth suits.”I bring all this up because I have struggled with this for some time. I believe God is trying to break through to me on this topic. I’ve fought any thought of rewards in ministry since I surrendered to Him back in 1975. It is important to emphasize here that our motivation for good works should never be the rewards. But that does not change the reality of rewards. My performance-orientation has caused many struggles in this area since I was a young Christian teen-ager. And, to be honest, I’m still not exactly sure exactly what God is trying to teach me. But, today as I meditated on Mordy and the whole story of Queen Esther, I realize there is something more to this reward issue.If you have any thoughts, please comment.I hope you’ve all enjoyed Esther’s story as much as me. I’ll be posting separately to announce the next readings, so stay tuned…peace,
As you recall, both decrees were in place and the big day finally arrived:
1 So on March 7 the two decrees of the king were put into effect. On that day, the enemies of the Jews had hoped to destroy them, but quite the opposite happened. 2 The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the king’s provinces to defend themselves against anyone who might try to harm them. But no one could make a stand against them, for everyone was afraid of them.
Because of Queen Esther, enemys of the Jewish nation were afraid for their lives. Initially, this was to be the day that everyone in all the provinces of King Xerxes had permission to slaughter all Jews and take all the plunder for themselves. Can you imagine? Sounds much like another time period in the not so distant past, doesn’t it? But, instead of the Jewish people being obliterated, the Jews rose up and began killing their enemies.
Please keep in mind: I’m no Bible scholar. I’m just a regular guy reading through the Bible. So when I read the next part of the chapter, I started thinking of questions. I began to wonder why, after they had been rescued from certain death, it was necessary for the Jews to turn the tables and slaughter hundreds of people in Susa alone – no telling how many in the total kingdom.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the history of the Jewish nation, nor am I an expert in the art of war. But I do know that this story is presented in the Bible for us to learn from. I have to believe that every word in the Bible is ordained by God and there’s something to be learned here.
I have to be honest. In light of the way I have been raised, and the things I have been taught thus far, my inclination would have been for the Jewish people to celebrate the victory when the day came and their enemies did nothing for fear of the Jews. That’s it! You won! Why the needless loss of life? Doesn’t this put you down on your enemy’s level? Haven’t you become them now?But, I have much to learn about justice. Especially lately, I’ve had the message of grace thrown at me at every turn – and I think I needed that. But, there is also the just side of God.
Taking this story to a whole different level of importance in my life is the writings of my very good friend, Roy, at the “Hook’d on Grace” blog (see http://hookiv.blogspot.com) . There’s a lot there, but if you can read his 8-part series on “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” you might start to see what I’m saying. I don’t want to steal Roy’s idea, but you have to read his post for September 12th. I think we (as a church) may be guilty of relying so heavily on God’s grace that we think we can forget about his justice! As Roy points out so well, God has become something that makes our journey better; a benefit we’re somehow entitled to. But if we really understood that we needed God to avoid eternal damnation, would we live differently?For me right now, it means the following:
- Yes, God loves us and is very loving and forgiving
- But, God is also just and cannot tollerate disobedience
- So, if we think we can just keep on living like we’re living in disobedience and then just conveniently ask forgiveness every week, and expect to see the kingdom of Heaven – we may be in for a very big surprise
- Because our disobedience has consequences
How did I take that leap, you ask? Well, the enemies of the Jews were very much looking forward to March 7th because then they could kill every Jew they saw, take their property, and nothing would happen to them. Well, as “legal” as it was, it was against the law of God. In this case, the king’s laws went directly against God’s. And, don’t forget, God calls the Jewish people His chosen people (which is a whole other theological discussion).As a result, when the day finally arrived, the enemies were afraid of the Jewish people – and for good reason. Many lost their lives.
Okay – I hope this is making some kind of sense. I don’t want to get too long with all this. The point I’m trying to make is that God is love and grace. But He is also holy and just. I know people who have taken the “grace” side of God way out of balance. Don’t get me wrong – we need God’s grace. But that can’t be an excuse to go on sinning (see Romans 6:15).Bottom line: Where are you with God? Are you still in bondage to some sin? If so, get help. Pray that God will send you a brother to confess to, and be accountable to. Tell your pastor. Don’t keep saying, “I can handle this.” I know some who’ve said it one too many times – where are they now? It’s so important.