Archive for August, 2007
Here we go again. This Psalm (along with the next 10 or so) all have reference to “A Psalm of Asaph.” As you may recall, Asaph the Seer was the co-writer of psalms and sacred songs with David – back in the day (see 2 Chronicles 29 for more info). Very cül, actually – as Asaph shared the ability with David to write sacred songs through the Spirit of prophecy.
But I digress.
Some think that Asaph penned this and the following ten Psalms, while others believe these were delivered to the chief musician (Asaph), so they should start out “A Psalm for Asaph.”
Enough history lessons – let’s get on with the güd stuff!
I can really relate to this one, folks. Have you ever asked God why others, who live godless lives and chase after nothing but themselves and their own selfish desires, seem to have so much success and so many resources? All the while, I try to live according to my beliefs, holding back on carnal pleasures and pursuit of worldly treasures, sacrificing my time and resources for the sake of the calling in me to further God’s glory on earth, and it seems like I can barely make it financially and emotionally. (Can you tell I’ve thought about this a few times?) I mean it’s really not fair, is it?
Well, seems like I’m not the only one thinking this way. Take a look at Psalms 73:
1 A psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. 4 They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else. 6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace, and their clothing is woven of cruelty. 7 These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! 8 They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. 9 They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. 10 And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. 11 “Does God realize what is going on?” they ask. “Is the Most High even aware of what is happening?” 12 Look at these arrogant people enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. 13 Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong? 14 All I get is trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
YES! Doesn’t that feel good? When someone like David (or even chief musician Asaph) writes this way – they’ve got my attention.
My delight is short-lived, however, as the writer of this Psalm (whomever it really was) brings us back to earth. You see, we all know better down deep inside. There is nothing more rewarding than following Christ. All the riches and carnal pleasures on earth (although fun for a season) can never compare to the reward of the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us and the promise of eternal life in the presence of our Father God. Look how the writer of this Psalm closes this chapter:
15 If I had really spoken this way, I would have been a traitor to your people. 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! 17 Then one day I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I thought about the destiny of the wicked. 18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. 19 In an instant they are destroyed, swept away by terrors. 20 Their present life is only a dream that is gone when they awake. When you arise, O Lord, you will make them vanish from this life.
21 Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. 23 Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. 24 You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. 27 But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
Satan would love to make us think we’re missing out on life, but the truth is, pursuit of earthly pleasures is fleeting and unsatisfying, always leading to wanting more and more. The law of diminishing returns applies to anything this world can offer. Only the living water of God can truly satisfy and bring contentment and peace – even in the midst of poverty and loneliness.
Thank You, my Lord, for the peace and contentment You so generously give me. I echo the words of the writer of this Psalm: “How good it is for me to be near God! I have made the sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.”
The New Living Translation starts out this chapter with “A psalm of Solomon.” So I started reading it thinking it was Solomon who wrote it. But something was wrong – it wasn’t making sense. So, I turned to my trusty “Matthew Henry’s Commentary” and cleared up the confusion.
You see, David wrote this “for” Solomon in his dying days. It’s a prayer or song of blessing for the newly anointed successor to King David. I started reading it over and was blown away by the petition from David for his son.
1 A psalm of Solomon. Give justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son. 2 Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly. 3 May the mountains yield prosperity for all, and may the hills be fruitful, because the king does what is right. 4 Help him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy, and to crush their oppressors. 5 May he live as long as the sun shines, as long as the moon continues in the skies. Yes, forever! 6 May his reign be as refreshing as the springtime rains like the showers that water the earth. 7 May all the godly flourish during his reign. May there be abundant prosperity until the end of time. 8 May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. 9 Desert nomads will bow before him; his enemies will fall before him in the dust. 10 The western kings of Tarshish and the islands will bring him tribute. The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts. 11 All kings will bow before him, and all nations will serve him. 12 He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. 13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. 14 He will save them from oppression and from violence, for their lives are precious to him. 15 Long live the king! May the gold of Sheba be given to him. May the people always pray for him and bless him all day long. 16 May there be abundant crops throughout the land, flourishing even on the mountaintops. May the fruit trees flourish as they do in Lebanon, sprouting up like grass in a field. 17 May the king’s name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun shines. May all nations be blessed through him and bring him praise.
Upon reading this chapter – I was convicted to pray for my daughters. I pray for my daughters now – every day. But, the passion and thoughtfulness of this dying man’s prayer has reminded me of the importance of prayer covering for my children. It’s probably the most important thing I can do for my girls on a daily basis.
I’m grateful for the reminder. I, like dying King David, want my children to use their position in this world as princesses of the Most High God to bless godly people God puts in their lives. I want all they are in charge of in their lives to prosper because of their relationship with Father God. I want people to look up to them for their example of how a godly woman flourishes in a dying world.
Bless my girls, Lord. Help me to pray fervently and passionately for them each day, just as David did for his son.
You may have already heard about it on Spirit FM (www.spiritfm905.com), but “The Witnesses” is coming to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (see http://www.tbpac.com/shows/show.cfm?recordID=1974 for more information) in October, 2007.
If you’re not familiar with the show, this is actually part two of “The Rock & The Rabbi” trilogy, which began in the Tampa Bay area more than 9 years ago. The original show has toured extensively all over America and other parts of the globe.
The most important thing about both of these shows is how they bring the Word of God alive through performing arts. What people think they are getting is a high-quality, broadway-style musical that is both entertaining and inspiring. What they don’t know they are getting is fed by the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and able to change lives simply by hearing. Faith is increased and people are drawn to God just from having witnessed these shows.
Please come out and support the arts and support the spreading of God’s Word.
There are actually two shows in Tampa, only one of which Spirit FM is advertising:
- Saturday, October 13th – 7:30pm (Spirit FM’s fundraiser show)
- Sunday, October 14th – 4:00pm
Hope to see you there (I’m the bald guy with the accordion!)…
Although it’s fairly uncommon for someone my age, I came down with shingles early this month. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. I had a pretty bad case of chicken pox as a child and the virus remained dormant in me until August 3. Induced by stress, sores started appearing on my chest and side and back. At first, it was just a bit annoying. However, within a week or so, the sores became extremely sensitive to pressure of any kind. Even the ceiling fan had to be turned off because the gentle wind caused my nerves to fire all the way to my toes and fingers. A strange sensation for sure.
Now, only a few weeks later, I’m practically over the drama. I had lots of folks praying and I appreciate the prayers. The sores have all but healed and the nerve pain has diminshed to nearly nothing but an occasional stab.
Through the process, my first reaction was to pray – and to praise Him. Quite possibly for the first time, this felt natural and not forced. Hmmm…perhaps I’m finally starting to learn something.
Even this personal setback pales in comparison to David’s plight. That’s why I can so relate to the writings of David.
Psalms 71 is yet another cry from David’s heart – here in his old age. Even in his advance years, David understood the need to seek God – and to praise Him even through the difficult times.
Take a look at the last half of this chapter – it’s preceeded by David’s cry of anguish for what he’s going through – people mocking him, saying God has abandoned him, whispiring against him, plotting to kill him. A far cry from an outbreak of shingles…
Yet David’s response is praise:
15 I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me. 16 I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign LORD. I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good. 17 O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I have constantly told others about the wonderful things you do. 18 Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me. 19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens. You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God? 20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. 21 You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again. 22 Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O God. I will sing for you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 23 I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have redeemed me. 24 I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long, for everyone who tried to hurt me has been shamed and humiliated.
So much for me to learn here. I want to respond like David did every time – with praise and confidence that God will rescue me. Just reading this passage gives me comfort and strength to make it through yet another trial.
God is good.
Of all the things that impress me the most about David is his understanding of God’s forgiveness and restoration. No matter how many times he sinned, David always turned back to God immediately and asked forgiveness.
In this Psalm, David asks for God’s forgiveness and then comments about how he knows God is pleased with him. I’ve included the entire Psalm since it’s rather short:
1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. 2 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. 4 I said, “O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
5 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die and his name perish?” 6 Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. 7 All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, 8 “A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.” 9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. 10 But you, O Lord, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. 11 I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. 12 In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. 13 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
Thank you, Lord, for Your forgiveness. You created me – You know everything there is to know about me – You even know when I’m going to fail You. Yet, You love me anyway. Help me to constantly remember that it’s not about me or what I do, but it’s about who I am in You. Thank You for Your love! Help me to be constantly filled with that kind of love, Oh Lord.
The 70th Psalm is yet another song from David to God – a cry of David’s heart in his time of need.
Interestingly, these 5 verses are almost exactly like the last 5 verses of Psalm 40 (must have been a popular song in those days!).
1 Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. 2 May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. 3 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. 4 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” 5 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.
It is a good reminder that our darkest trials ought to invoke our most fervent prayers.
We all go through difficult times. Life is tough. When I’m going through trials, I like to turn to Psalms and read David’s cries to God. Sometimes it helps to stop my personal “pity party” and look around at how good I actually have it. When I consider the plight of David, I realize I was never asked to be king, never hunted down by a warrior, never asked to fight a giant Philistine, never made to live in exile in the wilderness. My life, as hectic as it seems sometimes, pales in comparrison.
Today, my reading brought me to Psalms 69. The first thing I notice made me laugh. Look at verse 1:
1 For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Lilies.” Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Oh – okay, let me get my hymnal out and look up the song, “Lilies”. Too bad we don’t have the musical score from David’s day. I’m curious how these verses fit into a song. Certainly not the structure of modern music.
Next, look at the anguish in David’s soul. He cries out to God in time of need:
2 Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. 3 I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. 4 Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs on my head. These enemies who seek to destroy me are doing so without cause. They attack me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.
5 O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you. 6 Don’t let those who trust in you stumble because of me, O Sovereign LORD Almighty. Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated, O God of Israel.
7 For I am mocked and shamed for your sake; humiliation is written all over my face. 8 Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me; they treat me like a stranger. 9 Passion for your house burns within me, so those who insult you are also insulting me. 10 When I weep and fast before the LORD, they scoff at me. 11 When I dress in sackcloth to show sorrow, they make fun of me. 12 I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunkards sing about me.
13 But I keep right on praying to you, LORD, hoping this is the time you will show me favor. In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation. 14 Pull me out of the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Rescue me from those who hate me, and pull me from these deep waters. 15 Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of death devour me. 16 Answer my prayers, O LORD, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Turn and take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. 17 Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! 18 Come and rescue me; free me from all my enemies.
19 You know the insults I endure the humiliation and disgrace. You have seen all my enemies and know what they have said. 20 Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. 21 But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine to satisfy my thirst.
22 Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare, and let their security become a trap. 23 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their bodies grow weaker and weaker. 24 Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger. 25 May their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted. 26 To those you have punished, they add insult to injury; they scoff at the pain of those you have hurt. 27 Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free. 28 Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous. 29 I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.
In the typical David fashion, he always turns it around to praise for God. This is the encouragement for today for me: it’s okay to cry out to God and tell Him everything you’re feeling (He already knows anyway, right?). But, it’s important to bring it all back to praise – acknowledge Him for His favor and goodness. He cares for us more than we know – and trials themselves bring us strength and teach us and grow us.
30 Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. 31 For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing an ox or presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. 32 The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help live in joy. 33 For the LORD hears the cries of his needy ones; he does not despise his people who are oppressed. 34 Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. 35 For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah. His people will live there and take possession of the land. 36 The descendants of those who obey him will inherit the land, and those who love him will live there in safety.
Are you having a bad day? Are you having a bad year?
Tell Him! Then praise Him.
1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete purity because we fear God.
“Because we fear God.”
Fear. An interesting word. The Bible has much to say about fear. For the unbeliever, fear of God means fear of judgment and separation from God. Hollywood is famous for their interpretation of this fear of God. I recall several scenes, like that famous scene where Indiana Jones is in the cave with the ark of the covenant. You remember the scene, when they open the ark and and all …well, heaven breaks loose.
For the believer, however, fear of God is something altogether different – something more like reverence for God. Hebrews chapter 12 has a famous description:
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” (NIV)
Proverbs 1:7 declares:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…
Deuteronomy 10:12,20-21 records:
Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.
It’s this reverence and awe that’s the motivating factor for us to surrender ourselves to our Creator, Father God. We are not to be “afraid” of God. Certainly there’s no reason to be afraid of Him. He has told us that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). He promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Fearing God means having such a reverence for Him, that it affects the way we live our lives. The fear of God is respecting Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshiping Him in awe.
So – back to 2 Corinthians.
Do you fear God? What do you fear?
Consider Paul’s life – consumed with Christ. He chose to forsake all – family, friends, career, self – to follow Jesus. He went from city to city, strategically preaching and teaching, then moving on. He thought of nothing else. As a result, he ended up in prison, but even then kept up with his God-given purpose.
You see, Paul had a healthy fear of God. He understood that life is not “all about himself” and he truly wanted to please God and understand the purpose for his life. This reverence and awe of God is what drove him to surrender completely to God.
That goes completely against our human nature. As humans we want “our rights” and complain that God asks “too much.” We say we could never life the kind of life Paul did. We give our token offerings on Sundays and we volunteer just enough to keep the guilt-o-meter at tolerable levels, but a life completely surrendered? How can that be a good thing? What about my family? What about my job? What about my own free-time?
Hmmm…I imagine that is exactly the kind of questioning that Paul was writing to the church at Corinth about. I imagine if he were alive today…
It’s too bad we couldn’t see the letter Paul refers to in verse 8:
8 I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while.
Paul is apologizing for a letter he sent. This was apparently the 3rd letter to the Corinthians but has been lost. It must have been a zinger, but it was effective in bringing them back to repentance.
But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
Is there any unrepentance in your life?
Do you fear God? What do you fear?
Lord, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear You. Send us Your Holy Spirit today so we can ourselves be brought to that place where we properly fear You, and then are able to encourage others to do the same.
grace & peace,
Today is the day of salvation!
1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to reject this marvelous message of God’s great kindness. 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.
I heard these verses used hundreds of times – and have used it myself – when witnessing. How powerful they are.
4 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the Devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 17 Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.
So what is Paul trying to say here? Isn’t this a contradiction? Didn’t Paul tell us many times before about carrying out Christ’s command to tell people about salvation. How can we do this if we aren’t even allowed to associate with unbelievers? What about in 1 Corinthians 5, where he tells us that he wasn’t talking about disassociating ourselves with unbelievers who commit sins, but from believers. In 1 Corinthians 7, he urges Christians to stay with their spouses, even if they are unbelievers.
Confused? It struck me kind of odd, too, so I took a closer look. Here, I think Paul is warning of business relationships with unbelievers – and marriages that have yet to take place. He is warning us that faith compromises may occur for the success of the business – and Paul warns against putting ourselves in that position.
Have you ever had to face the choice to compromise your faith to “get the job done” or “go along with the crowd”? Perhaps the potential rewards of “teaming up” with unbelievers is not worth the risks.
Continue to show us, God, where there are situations that might cause compromise. Help us to avoid such situations with Your guidance and Your Holy Spirit. Give us discernment – make us wise as serpents. Help us to stop and listen for Your voice – call out to You before any decisions are made – so we can live in harmony with the plan You have for us. And, may You get the glory,Lord!
1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down when we die and leave these bodies we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies.
Well now, this IS good news! For all of us aging, balding, plumping, ailing oldskins – our new “tent” will be glorious – eternal bodies made by God himself: There IS Hope! And – we will not be spirits when we die, but we will have bodies. That was a question I always heard debated.
Verse 16 also caught my attention:
16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!
Once a person becomes a Christian they are brand new. My footnotes have an interesting perspective: “We are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated – we are re-created (new creations), living in vital union with Christ (Col 2: 6,7). At conversion we do not merely turn over a new leaf; we begin a new life under a new Master.”
Do you find yourself judging others by how they look (or is it just me)?
We need to realize that our Christian brothers & sisters, while not perfect, have been given new life. When our brothers fall, we need to see them as God does. We need to be concerned and not jump to gossip and condemnation – but seek restoration and healing through love…that’s what it means to me to “stop evaluating others from a human point of view.”
We aren’t perfect, so we need to encourage each other to fight the fight – and help each other get back up after a fall. Somehow it’s easier now for me to see the good in people in the midst of struggle and encourage them – rather than quickly giving up on people as was the case for me not long ago. Perhaps it’s also because of the trials God has seen me through in my own life.
Thank You, God for the trials You’ve brought me through. Thank You for my brothers and for the fellowship of godly men you have given me. I lift them up to You today. Empower them to stand and fight today – to be the men and husbands and fathers You have planned for them to be. Bring discernment in prayer for us all so we can lift each other up as needed.