Monday, February 29, 2016

23 Lessons from Psalm 23


1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


 Introduction

     For the month of March, I plan to take a diversion from going through the psalms and take a new look at an old beloved psalm, the 23rd psalm, also known as the Shepherd's psalm. I will resume, Lord willing, the devotionals from all the psalms in April, continuing with the "do not destroy" psalms of Ps. 57, Ps. 58, and Ps. 59. 

     David's most famous psalm is a tranquil, assuring song and psalm is taken from his earlier years as a shepherd. Our formative early years often sets us on a path, good or bad, which can chart the rest of our lives. 

     In my formative years, I remember listening to Keith Green's soothing rendition of this psalm. Melissa and I worked one summer at a resort ministry when a young, almost angelic, boy drowned. As the rescue workers worked in vain to revive her son, the mother found comfort by listening over and over to Keith Green's passionate, powerful song. 

    The words of the 23rd psalm continue to comfort me and innumerable others. Prayerfully walk with me through this psalm during March. The following is an outline of where we will go.

Introduction
  1. The Setting: Psalm 22, 24.
  2. The Sheep: Psalm 23
Verse One
  1. The Shepherd: The LORD is my shepherd (v. 1a.)
  2. The Satisfaction: I shall not want (v. 1b)
Verse Two
  1. The Settling: He maketh me to lie down (v. 2a)
  2. The Sustenance of the : in green pastures (v. 2b)
  3. The Submission of the sheep: He leadeth me (v. 2c)
  4. The Serenity of Shepherd’s lead: beside the still waters (v. 2d)
Verse Three
  1. The Soul’s Restoration: He restoreth my soul (v. 3a)
  2. The Salvation of Righteousness: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
  3. The Sake of His Name: for His name’s sake (v. 3b)
Verse Four
  1. The Sadness Through the Valley: Yea, though I walk through the valley (v. 4a)
  2. The Shadow of Death: of the shadow of death (v. 4b)
  3. The Separation from Fear: I will fear no evil (v. 4c)
  4. The Staying of the Savior: for Thou art with me (v. 4d)
  5. The Soothing Protection Thy rod and Thy staff (v. 4e)
  6. The Solace in Correction: they comfort me (v. 4f)
Verse Five
  1. The Supply of Nourishment: Thou preparest a table before me (v. 5a)
  2. The Surrounding of Adversity: in the Presence of mine enemies (v. 5b)
  3. The Sanctification of the Spirit: Thou anointest my head with oil (v. 5c)
  4. The Superabundance of the Spirit: my cup runneth over (v. 5d)
Verse Six
  1. The Surety of Earthly Blessings: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (v. 6a)
  2. The Sanctuary of Eternal Blessings: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (v. 6b)



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Our battles are real and so is our mighty God

    Psalm 56
February 28
     I find fascinating how versatile and applicable the psalms are to our lives three thousand years later. And while application is always a must, these writings were most applicable to the situations in which they were written.

     We might think, “David was so scared, so afraid” but we must remember that David was in battle, hand-to-hand combat much of the time in which these psalms were written. He had literally killed more than 10,000 men without weapons of mass destruction. David was literally a prisoner of war and there were no Geneva Convention codes back then.

     I say that because I am honored to serve at a church on the doorstep of Fort Hood military installation, the most populous military installation in the world. I see the hardships that many military families go through and as a minister, I want the soldiers and their families to draw strength and healing from the words of the Scriptures, especially the psalms which were mostly written either in the battlefield or with the battlefield in mind.

     “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You,” (Ps. 56:3) is a great verse for children to memorize in a thunderstorm, but it was written by a mighty man of valor. The following verse (56:4), “I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” was quoted in the New Testament (Heb. 13:6) as well as elsewhere in Psalms (118:6) and later in this same psalm (verse 11). Verse 8, “Put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book” was not written by a timid man but shows that God cares and will care for us.


    Whatever you are going through, man or woman, boy or girl, God is with you and He will fight for you!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The greater the love, the greater the capacity for grief

Psalm 55

February 27

 
     Psalm 52 speaks of betrayal from an enemy. Psalm 54 is about a betrayal of a fellow countryman and even a kinsman. This psalm is from a fellow believer. It’s as though David is singing the blues and the hits they just keep coming.
     David said “I could handle it better if it was an enemy or even an acquaintance that I really didn’t like, then I could hide from him” (Ps. 55:12).  “But it was you, my equal, my companion, the one I took sweet counsel from as we walked together to worship.”
     I think about two best friends who used to go to church together and as they grew up, they also grew apart. Something snapped and they suddenly were estranged from each other and while one was indifferent to the distance, the other was devastated by her friend suddenly dropping her. The closer you are to someone, the greater the hurt that can be caused.
     If a total stranger ignored me whenever I said “Hello,” I would think it strange even rude, but it wouldn’t ruin my entire day. But if a close friend and fellow believer suddenly just ignored me, the pain would be magnified immensely.
     Turn that around to the Lord. No one loves you more than He does. And He has given so much to us. But sometimes we forget that not only can God love, He also feels hurt, pain and grief. If His love for us is immeasurable, does it not follow that His grief is also measureless when we “betray” Him in our sins, in our unfaithfulness, in our distance from Him?
     If a believer or a church or even a staff member or pastor has hurt your feelings, I truly am sorry. But undoubtedly you and I have hurt someone else, our Lord, by our actions. The greater the love, the greater the ability to be hurt. Confess the distance you have made between yourself and the Lord as sin and pledge to draw near to Him. He will also draw near to you.
 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The worst hurt of all


Psalm 54

February 26

     It is one thing to be betrayed by an enemy, but to be betrayed by your own? Wow!

     Psalm 52 was written in response to David being betrayed by an Edomite, found in 1 Sam. 22, but today’s psalm is in response to David being betrayed by his own people, based on 1 Sam. 23:19 and verses following.

     Have you had close friends or coworkers abandon you or betray you? Join the club of David and of Jesus. Both David and Jesus were of the lineage of Judah, and yet Judas betrayed Jesus. And the people of David’s own kin and tribe told King Saul, a Benjamite, where David was hiding. Earlier in Psalm 41:9, we read this prophetic passage, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me,” written by David, but applied to Jesus and Judas Iscariot.

    A church I know has a reputation of terminating more staff members and employees than any other church I have ever seen. I asked one terminated minister how long it took for his wife to get over the hurt of his termination and he said, “I don’t think she’ll ever get over it.” There are worse hurts. Some churches and even entire denominations have reputations of hurting and abusing children. The hurt from friends, family members, and family of God members can be one of the most devastating hurts that there are.

     Where did David turn when his own kin and kind suddenly became “strangers” “oppressors” (54:3) and “enemies” (54:5, 7)? He turned to God. When you need a friend or a brother, remember Jesus has called us friends (John 15:15) and if we have God as our Father, then Jesus is our brother (Matt. 12:50). And He will never betray you.

(This theme continues in Psalm 55)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Some messages bear repeating


Psalm 53

February 25

 
     Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14 with the exception of a few of the latter verses. Perhaps like our modern hymnals (is that an oxymoron?) where we list the same song to two different melodies, this psalm is sung “according to mahalath” or a different tune. Or maybe the psalmist decided like some of our contemporary artists to bring up an oldie but a goodie and add a few new lyrics.

     The targets addressed in psalm 53 are the atheists, the arrogant, and the antagonists of God’s people. All three had no fear of God… until God shows up at judgment day. Then “they are in great fear, where no fear was.” On the other hand, the people who believe in God, who recognize and repent of their sins, who are not antagonistic against God or His people, can rejoice and be glad (verse 6).

    At times, we believers are no better than the fools who don’t believe, as far as sins go. Paul would later use this verse and show that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).

    Like the arrogant, we need to remember we have all sinned. Our sin and rebellion against God is not new, seen also in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way…”  But Isaiah doesn’t end there. “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

    And sometimes we Christians are no better than that antagonists who devour the believers. Galatians 5:15 was written as a warning to Christians, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”

    Some messages need to be repeated and obviously this psalm does as well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Going from bad to worse...to outright evil

Psalm 52

February 24

     There is bad and then there is outright evil. Imagine a political leader, the head of a sovereign nation, ordering the execution of religious leaders simply because they gave his enemy some food. That’s what King Saul had done to 85 priests who had helped Saul’s enemy, David. Additionally, the entire city of priests was also destroyed, priests as well as the women and children.

     People often complain about their government or the bad things that happen to them, but there is true evil in our world, desperately wicked people. How does one get to be that evil?

     A poor shepherd by the name of Doeg saw the priests give David food and simply went and reported it to King Saul. When Saul became enraged by those who helped his enemy, he ordered the priests to be killed but no one would do it…except Doeg. He thought this was his chance to strike it rich. He was from another country so it didn’t matter to him if he killed some Israelites, even an entire city. According to Ps. 52:7, Doeg went from his bad poverty and quickly turned to outright evil.

     David felt the blow personally; after all, it was because of him that the evil had fallen on the priests. Rather than guilt or bitterness, David turned to God and to praising God. Rather than trusting in riches and power and revenge, David said, “I will trust in the mercy of God forever and ever…I will wait on your name, for it is good.”

   There is bad and there is outright evil. But there is good and outright mercy of God forever. Whatever you are going through, deepen your roots like an olive tree in the house of God. You won’t be uprooted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The best word NOT in Psalm 51

Psalm 51

February 23



    

     There are so many great and wonderful words and phrases in this marvelous psalm of confession, repentance, forgiveness and restoration. But the greatest word is perhaps NOT even in this psalm. Here are the words included:


“Wash me/ cleanse me”
“Create in me”
“Renew a steadfast spirit within me”
“Wash me”
“Restore to me”
“Uphold me”


     The word Then” is not even in verse 13 in the original language, but is inserted in most English translations, but I think it is possibly the greatest implied word in all of the Bible. If a word is italicized in NKJV/KJV translations, it generally means the word is implied but not directly stated. “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
    
The reason why I say that the word “then” is perhaps the greatest word NOT in this psalm is because David’s sins were not merely limited to David. The consequences of his sins, and our sins, extend far beyond us. David sinned against his people by not going out to war, against Uriah and Bathsheba, against his own family with consequences which would plague him even past his death, and against the child conceived by their union and the subsequent death of that child. Therefore, David’s restoration must also extend beyond himself.
   
As marvelous as David’s forgiveness, cleansing, purging, restoration and renewal, the most ultimate importance of all of those things is that verse which starts off with “then” and continues in stating that others may fear when they saw the great consequences of sin.
    
Good men are going to fall, hopefully not as greatly as David did, but the greatest of all things about this psalm is God is NEVER finished with us. God can still “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” Sinners can be converted and believers can “learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20) when they see God’s judgment as well as his restoration of even someone after his own heart like David.
      
Jesus said, “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). The writer of Hebrews said, “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens” (Heb. 12:6).
      
God loves us the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us the way we are.
 
 

Monday, February 22, 2016

One of the best ways to praise the Lord is doing what He says


Psalm 50
February 22
     Psalm 50 is a perfectly linked to Matthew 23:23, the passage our pastor, Dr. Randy Wallace, preached Sunday. Jesus called out those who tithed on the tiniest amounts but left off the more important elements: justice and mercy and faith.
    A thousand years earlier, Asaph was vocalizing the same thing to the people of God. He said he was not going to rebuke the people for tithing (Ps. 50:8), even though He was the creator and owner of everything, including “the cattle on a thousand hills” (50:10-13).
     Bringing tithes and offerings are important, but it was almost as if the people hated the other instructions from God, which were against stealing, adultery, hurting their brothers and sisters,  lying and evil talking (50:17-20). The people thought they were so godly because they brought sacrifices, “but I will rebuke you.”
    I love the line where God, clarifying why His people should bring sacrifices to Him, says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is Mine and all its fullness.” God didn’t need us to “feed” Him bulls and goats. And today, tithing doesn’t add to God’s riches, it all belongs to Him, any more than our being righteous adds to His righteousness. Being godly does not add to our salvation, since Christ paid it all.
     Our obedience does accomplish one thing, whether it is in giving or in godliness: it praises and glorifies God. A one-sentence summation of this psalm would be “One of the best ways to praise God is by doing what He says.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The redemption of souls is costly

Psalm 49

February 21

    The movie Risen has just been released and although I haven’t seen it, I obviously like the premise. A man who claimed He would rise from the dead apparently did so, and a Roman guard is tasked with the impossible job of finding the dead man’s body. It is impossible because the body ascended to heaven.

    Today’s reading is for everyone, verse 1 says, “all peoples…all inhabitants of the earth… lowly and high, poor and rich.” The passage mostly talks about the wealthy who trust their wealth. Understand, being rich is not a sin, and being poor does not make you virtuous. But beyond that, neither poverty, nor wealth, nor wisdom, nor ignorance can save you from death.

7 No one can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him—
For the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—
That he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit.

    Redemption of souls is more expensive than any person could ever pay. The writer goes on to say the wise and the fools alike both die and leave everything behind. No one’s legacy, even the most honorable, lasts forever. The grave takes everything. Kind of pessimistic, huh?

     Except…there is a verse 15: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.”

     God is the only One who could pay the price, the ransom, to redeem our souls. Some ask, "Why is Christianity the only way?" What other faith sets forth that it is God and not man's efforts who provides for our salvation? The Owner of our souls is also the Purchaser of our souls, so He alone determines the payment and only He can pay it. He did so with Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. 
     Like the soldier in Risen, we should seek after the One who claimed He would rise from the dead. But as Christ said, we should not seek the living among the dead. And rich or poor, smart or dumb, we should use what will not last for what can never fade away.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The City of the Lord Almighty, the City of our God (Ps. 48:8)

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Psalm 48

February 20

 
    Are you as excited about the “city of God” as this psalmist is? He was speaking literally about the Jerusalem of his day, but prophetically, he was writing about the coming city of God which will descend out of heaven.

“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2, NKJV).

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,” (Rev. 21:10).

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Rev. 21:23).

    There are several things in Psalm 48 that was not yet true yet of that day, and it is certainly not true today about the city of Jerusalem. But when we read this psalm with an eye on the heavenly city of God, it makes us excited about God’s present and future reign. Prophetically the psalmist wrote that at some point in the future “God will establish it (the city of God) forever” (verse 8).

     This political season is about the worse I have ever seen. The United States is getting less and less united and more and more divided. Our world fares no better than our country. But soon and very soon, we are going to see our King. What does it take to be a resident of the City of God, the New Jerusalem, that “city” that now exists in heaven? The final book and final two chapters of the Bible mentions the city of God 11 times in merely 48 verses.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Rev.22:14, ESV).

     Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? They only can be if you are among those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). The Bible says “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7b, 9).

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sing praises...with understanding

Psalm 47

February 19

 
Being a parent of four diverse kids has always been interesting. Now that they are adults, it is even more … well interesting is an understatement. New child, new job, new school, ending school, new mission, joy, sadness, fear. Imagine God’s perspective of His children.
 
I wonder if the “sons of Korah” (the music leaders in the Old Testament days) ever led congregational singing with people who didn’t want to sing. Perhaps that is why this psalm was written with so much encouragement to sing and participate in the praise of the Lord. Look at verses 5 and 6: “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth, sing praises with understanding.” That word understanding I think means, “sing with the experience and knowledge of your victory.”
 
Maybe the writers were simply overwhelmed with the greatness of God and wanted to put out there a song of triumph and praise, and to encourage others to sing. I remember when it used to be undignified or thought irreverent to clap your hands in church, and yet it is commanded for us to do so here. If we shout and cheer for our sports team, how much more should we sing for our awesome God who has brought us into victory?
 
In my era, there was a popular song of encouragement to sing which said, “Sing your praise to the Lord / I could never tell you just how much good / That it's gonna do you just to sing / Anew / The song your heart learned to sing / When He first gave His life to you / Well, life goes on and so must the song.”
 
I hope you haven’t lost your song, your song of salvation, your song of God’s deliverance. There is a time to weep, yes, and a time to mourn, but there is also a time to dance and a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
 
Whatever you are going through, there will be a shout, a song. And if you are in a congregation this Sunday and God has brought you through the valley and now on a mountaintop, then, “sing, sing, sing, let me hear you now sing, sing, sing.”

And if you are only familiar with Amy Grant's version of the song, listen to composer Rich Mullins' version. Truly awesome

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbIYPYBiejM

 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Be still" ... No, He's not just talking to the storms

Psalm 46

February 18


    A friend of mine told me years ago that worry is a subtle form of atheism. If that is true, I have symptoms of subtle atheism. Not really, but like the psalm from a few days ago, I frequently ask myself “why are you downcast, O my soul? Put your trust in God.”

     Psalm 46 has words to defeat the worrisome and stressful subtle absence of faith. From the beginning words of “a very present help in trouble,” to the ending oft-quoted verse of “be still and know that I am God,” this psalm is a Biblical refuge for those in need of God’s protection.

    There is no pie in the sky here. Believers are not immune from a healthy dose of reality. Yet, even if the earth is moved, mountains shake and fall into the sea; even if oceans roar, nations rage and kingdoms fall, the writer declares his refusal to give in to fear. He knows God is with him and in Him, he will take refuge. He knows God is Elyon, the most High God who can make even the wars of the earth to suddenly declare peace.

    One dark night the disciples were fearful that they would be drowned in the Sea of Galilee and woke the Lord, asking “don’t you care that we are about to die?” Jesus instantly calmed the storm and then had a question of His own: “Where is your faith?” They too had a question of themselves, “Who is this that commands even the winds and water?”

    Excuse me, as I need to read Psalm 46 again and then go speak to the gathering storms. I need to tell the winds and water that I am renouncing my subtle atheism.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Come away in reckless abandon

Psalm 45

February 17

    Like Proverbs 31 and the Song of Songs (Solomon), one cannot read this psalm and wonder if a woman contributed to the composition of this extremely beautiful psalm. The King James Version introduces this as a “song of loves.” The poetry of the first verse is striking, “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

  If the previous psalm cries out for a lack of response, this psalm resounds with beautiful intimacy. Whether known or not by the author, this is a psalm about the coming Christ, who was as much as a thousand years away in coming the first time (see Heb. 1:8-9). I would encourage you to read Ps. 45 in the exquisite language of the King James Version.

   Within the content of this psalm, we, the reader, identify with the role of the bride of Christ, and the Father of the Warrior is none other but God the Father. We frequently say we love God and Christ loves the church, but few passages of Scripture capture the emotionalism of such love in the sense of grandeur and poise and grace. As you read this psalm, ask yourself, “Do I truly love Christ? Do I understand God’s love for me?”

    "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him."
As a man, I often find it hard to identify a love relationship with Christ as a bridegroom and myself as the bride, the church. And yet in a platonic, spiritual and nonphysical way, we must rid ourselves of the earthly, distorted view of love and fall without restraints into an abandoned love for our Savior.

   Oswald Chambers first etched the word “abandon” onto my spiritual heart, “stating whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him.”

   The psalmist wrote of such abandonment. Like a lover whose fear has been replaced with reckless trust, fall deeply for Christ today, arouse your spiritual passions to follow this King into a relationship of devotion. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Angry at an absent God

Psalm 44:9-26
February 16


When I went to South Padre Island to be the managing editor of the newspaper, the publisher looked at my resume and said, “Tim, I see you have been a pastor and are a seminary graduate. How are you going to report on the all the drinking and what goes on at Spring Break?”

“Are you asking me if I am a prude?” I said, “When I report on a car wreck, I don’t have to approve of it, I just need to report it accurately.”

The Bible is like that. Some of the things in the Bible are not only wrong, they are disturbing. But yet the Bible reports it accurately. The writer of the 44th psalm wrote glowingly about God for the first eight verses, but bitterly for the last 18 verses. Ten times, he blames God for the calamity he is facing and professes his innocence. The writer accuses God of being asleep and hiding His face.

I told a man whose wife was losing her Christian faith that there really are no atheists, just people who are angry with the God they claim not to believe in.

I’ve heard people say that we need to be honest with God, even when we are angry with Him, and this psalm is one doozy of an example in support of that. What’s more, even the Apostle Paul quotes this psalm and not the first part, but the bitter end. Compare Ps 44:22 with Romans 8:36, when Paul surrounds this Psalmist's angry cry for help with the comforting words of “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” and “I am persuaded that (nothing) shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


If you feel abandoned by God, or even agnostic or atheistic, remember that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5). For a moment, it may seem God hides His face, “but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you” (Isa. 54:7-8). See also about the “sufferings of this present time” in Rom. 8:18, and what this “momentary light affliction” is producing in us in 2 Cor. 4:17.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Today's story is tomorrow's glory

Psalm 44:1-8

February 15

    If history is repeated for those who fail to heed the lessons from it, I would dare to say that God will manifest Himself in ways reminiscent and consistent with His ways for those who remember them. A more sure basis for that truth is because the Scriptures say that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) and “I am the Lord, I change not,” (Mal. 3:6) and “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He not said and will He not do? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19)

    In Psalm 44, the writer begins by reminding the Lord (as if He needs reminding) of God’s faithfulness in the past. Tomorrow, we will read of his disappointment in the present, but for today, we need to remember to remember. We must believe that history is in fact His story. And trust that some of God’s brightest revelations came on darkness nights (Ps. 44:3, also 43:3). He allows storms so that He can calm them. Without a cross there is no resurrection.

    Hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps you are in the middle of a future hindsight right now. If so, act like it! Look to the past glories and deliverances in the Bible and in Christian history, and even in your own life. Trust the God who hasn’t failed yet and rest assured He will not change. Not even for you! Today’s story is tomorrow’s glory!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

God's truth makes a good lighthouse

Psalm 43

February  14


If you didn’t know better, you might just think you were reading something by the Apostle John in this passage of Psalm 43, especially verse 3: “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.”

            Light and truth went hand in hand in John’s writing, making Psalm 43 a prophetic psalm. Like the psalmist, Jesus surely felt frustrated being in an “ungodly nation” even though He was born into God’s chosen people. Nevertheless, He came to His own and they did not receive Him.

If you ever feel like you are stumbling in the dark, not knowing what direction you should go in, just keep practicing the truth you do know and walk in the light that you see. 1 John 1 says, 5b…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

            What happens however is that we don’t always walk in the light or follow the truth and then wonder later on why we are stumbling over things that we should have seen. We often will lose our our joy, our song (Ps. 43:4) and our countenance is not as bright (43:5).


How much is light and truth leading you in your walk? Jesus said that “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:21).

The first Valentine's Day card


Psalm 119:159-168

February 14 Valentine's Day

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/5a/a6/1b/5aa61bdd299116d06ee889b50d9f73e6.jpgToday is Valentine's Day and Psalm 119 mentions love more than any other psalm. You may think, "Well of course it does, it is the longest psalm." Even so it mentions a form of love 14 times out of 176 verses, or on average every 13 verses. And this passage at the end of this great psalm mentions a form of love five times in nine verses.

Last night at a political debate there was not a lot of love shown, primarily because the candidates, especially one, was attempting to belittle and push down others in order to elevate himself. That type of self love is not love at all and will eventually self-destruct. True, Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but there is a healthy self-love and the other self love is not love at all but selfishness. 

How can we truly experience God's love and a healthy love? "According to Thy lovingkindness" (Ps. 119:159). We can only know truly of God's love first by His word, so in a sense, we can only understand love when we understand "God's word." 

Seven times a day, the psalmist would praise God (119:165) out of his love for God and His word. He kept God's commands not for salvation, but because God's love saves us. If you have a hard time loving God's word, remember that as a result of God's love for us, His Word became flesh (John 1:1,14) and lived with us, died for us, and raised before us so that eternal life could be in us. Love God, love others, and love His word. It is His Valentine's Day card to us.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Where can I go, but to the Rock

Psalm 42

February  13

This is one of my favorite psalms and songs. As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee. A deer will run to water when thirsty, but also when in need of shelter from danger, when combating an opponent, or when sick with fever, and needs the water’s refreshing coolness. In times of spiritual isolation, danger, battle, and affliction, we will spiritually thirst for God’s presence in prayer. God uses our bad circumstances to get us to cry out to Him.

Adversity did not lead the psalmist to give up on God. He was cast down in his soul, but not in his relationship with God.

“Yet shall I praise Him.” (Ps. 42: 5, 11; 43:5) Perhaps he remembered ancient Job, who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” (Job 13:15). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego may have remembered this psalm when they said, “even if He does not deliver us, we will not serve your gods.” Peter would say, “to whom shall we go, You have the words of life.” (John 6:68)

Paul wrote the following: 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ; we are perplexed , but not in despair ; 9 Persecuted , but not forsaken ; cast down , but not destroyed ; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Don’t despair. Don’t be downcast. “The Lord will command His lovingkindness” (42:8), God will send His light and His truth (Ps. 43:3). There is a “yet to be” in your future; you will go to the altar of God, not in tears, but in joy and delight; you will sing praises again (Ps. 43:4).

Have your hardships driven you to yearn and thirst for God? There is a “Yet to Be” in your future. In your darkest night, let His song be with you, a prayer to the God of your life.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Least of These, My Brothers

Psalm 41

Feb. 12

“Blessed are they who consider the poor, for the Lord will deliver them in time of trouble.” Being kind to the poor is a given in Christianity. Isn’t it? We give regularly to meet the needs of the needy. Or do we? A beatitude is a verse with the word “blessed” in it, which essentially means “happy.” The word implies that you will receive a blessing from God. We have benevolence envelopes mailed each month to the homes of our members, but sadly most end up in the trash.

Beatitudes in the psalms are beautiful but especially when they are echoed in the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

The Bible does not glorify the poor and needy. We can be the most greedy and selfish when we are the most needy and wealthless. The Bible commends and commands all of us, poor and rich alike, to give to those who are in need. No one is exempt from helping the poor.

Why care for the poor? It honors God (Prov. 14:31), God will repay us (Prov. 19:17), God will answer our prayers (Prov. 21:13), it is commanded (Ps. 82:4, Luke 14:21) practiced by the early church (Rom. 15:26), and in so doing, we do so as unto Christ (Matt. 25:40).

Consider giving to benevolence by clicking here. If you are a member of FBC Killeen, click here.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How do we appreciate the Lord?

Psalm 40

February 11

Nathan's "God and Family" pizza box project
made a parable for his Boy Scouts' project

    What makes a person say, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:7)? Look at the verses around this one and remember the word “appreciate”. Appreciation is a funny word. It can mean understand (“I do not believe you appreciate the danger you are in”) or it can mean increase in value (“my stocks appreciated”) but most typically it means to be grateful (“I appreciate your kindness”).

    First we need to understand that God is in charge of us (sovereignty). “In the scroll of the book it is written of me.” God opens our ears to His good news (Ps. 40:6). God writes the name of every true believer in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3, Rev. 21:27), before the foundation of the world! Rev. 13:8 says unbelievers were never written in the book, but believers and unbelievers are written in the book of the living (Ps. 69:28, Exod. 32:32-33).

    Second we need to increase our value of what God has done. He delivers us (v. 2), gives joyful new songs (v. 3), innumerable blessings (v. 5), and has forgiven us (v. 11-13). We should “raise our praise” as we increase our value of our Lord. Again the phrase “the Lord be magnified” is used in verse 16 as it was in Ps. 34:3, 35:27, and will be again in 69:30, 70:4 (NKJV).

    Third, we need to appreciate or be grateful that “The Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God” (v. 17) By waiting for the Lord (v. 1) we are refined, tested. A 10-year-old Boy Scout named Nathan came to my office today and showed me his “God and Family” book, which describes our spiritual life together as being like a pizza. All the ingredients come together, but the pizza is only truly ready when we bake the pizza, by the testing of the fire and heat. The Psalmist David waited for the Lord but only after the fire could he truly appreciate the Lord.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Despite the drama, trauma and tragedy, make this short life count

Psalm 39

February 10

I don’t know if David suffered from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) but Psalm 39 seems to the broken words of a broken man. At a young age, this future warrior who will kill his tens of thousands, killed a giant, decapitated him and carried his bloody head around. So solemn of a psalm is this that it is often read at funerals.

David felt so oppressed and was so much in despair that he got silent. It kindled up like a fire and thought about what is the whole purpose of life, how short it is like the width of his hand, like a vapor or a shadow. He had seen his fellow soldiers fall and die, often due to his own commands, and yet he survived. Even though he was silent, thoughts swirled in his head but he didn’t share them with anyone, except for God.

Rich and poor; those who live long or die young; good and bad people alike; all of them are virtually nothing compared to God. In verse seven, David asks “what am I waiting for?” Why am I still here on earth? In all my crying, in all my sins, as God gazed and stared David down, he realized all his imperfections and how much of a traveler, a sojourner, he was through this world. Like Jeremiah, the fire of silence that was shut up in his bones could not be kept silent forever. Finally, through tears and the writing down of this song, he lets it all out; he asks God to give him the strength to go on. He ends the psalm by asking God to help him make a difference before he dies.

If you, like David, are going through or have gone through a hard time, recognize this: life is short! Before this beautiful life melts away like a moth eats away at clothes, before the vapor of life evaporates, before the breath of life is blown away, make a difference here on earth. Yes, life is tough. Yes, all of us have had drama, trauma and traumatic tragedies in our lives. But don’t waste the precious few days we have left, living and reliving the sins and pain from the past. Seek God for “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Great is God’s faithfulness.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

With God, your past can never foil your future

Psalm 38

February 9

Today's psalm is wonderful for those who are going through it. Either their sins and guilt overwhelm them or their adversaries are overpowering them.

Confessing sin is very much personal, and so often hard to do. Confessing my sins to God is easier than to another person. Maybe because I know God will forgive and not hold it against me. Or use it against me. God is trustworthy. But people...well, that's a different story.

We need to find a trustworthy person who will hold our confidence. Keeps our secrets secret. Gives a empathizing nod, not a judgmental look. A listening ear rather than a lecturing word. We need someone to really pray and not just say they will pray. Maybe confession of sins to one another would happen more if the people of God were more like God; if we were willing to forgive and not bring to remembrance the sins of the past. If we would bury the sins others may share with us in the depths of the sea. Today I am convicted that I not only need someone like that...I need to be like that!

As I read today's psalm, I think about Jesus; I am thankful because, unlike David, my residence is A.D., not B.C. I live with the cross in history, not prophecy. I know that when I confess, He is faithful to forgive my sins and cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John1:9).

9 Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
15 For in You, O Lord, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

With God, your past can never foil your future!

Monday, February 8, 2016

DO be so defensive, now!


Psalm 37:21-40

February 8

The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. Psalm 37:30-31

If you watched the Super Bowl last night, you heard a lot about two defenses. A good defense keeps the score low, almost to the point where it makes you think there is not a lot of action. But there is.
For Christians, a good defense is the Word of God, especially when it is on our hearts and not just on our minds. If you didn’t notice already, Psalm 37 is unlike many of the psalms which are mostly prayerful songs to God or about God. This psalm is more of a sermon, sharing the “battle plan” between the righteous and the wicked.
Have you ever thought that God giving you the “desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4) really means that He will place new desires in your heart when your ways are pleasing to Him, rather than He will give you whatever you want? In other words, by meditating on the Word of God, combined with walking in a manner that pleases God, your desires will change to be more like His.
The musical group Roxette sang a song in the late 1980s called “Listen to Your Heart.” However the Bible says the heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). A better defense to the enemy’s battle plan is to “talk to your heart” by meditating on the word of God.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Of delights and desires

Psalm 37:1-20

February 7

Parents, don’t you love to reward your children when they are trusting in you? How can we think that God is not also like that? Today’s reading is a passage that I’ve used a lot in helping people see God’s will in their lives.

I call it the headlight principle. When we drive down a dark road with our headlights on, we don’t have to see beyond our headlights. We don’t have to see the destination as long as we follow the little bit of light that we see for our path. The further we go, the further our lights shine. If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.

In Psalm 31 and all of the psalms in between there and Psalm 37, there has been the proclamations of "trust" and here again, like chapter 31, both words translated as trust are in Psalm 37, in verses 3 and 5 (Hebrew word batach, meaning confidence) and again in verse 40 (Hebrew: chacah, meaning take refuge).

What can we trust God to do?
1) Give us our hearts’ desires when we delight in Him (37:4);
2) Provide us rest when we are content in him (37:7);
3) Lay up a good inheritance for the meek, see also the Beatitudes, Matt. 5:5 (37:11);
4) Make more in our little than the unrighteous have with their abundance (37:17,19).

The psalmist assures us that God knows the days of the upright (37:17). He knows our destination and the time of our arrival. His word, Psalm 119 will tell us later, is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

Let us abide in His word and He will light our way.