Showing posts from February, 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.

     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 i…

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 i…

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 i…

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…

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…

Going from bad 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. …

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 peop…

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 Min…

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—
8 For the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—
9 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 …

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

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, please put your email in the blank on the right. 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 ofGod 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 …

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 w…

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

Psalm 46February 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 de…

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…

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 i…

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…

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 wit…

The first Valentine's Day card

Psalm 119:159-168February 14 Valentine's Day
Today 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 love14 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…

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 …

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…

How do we appreciate the Lord?

Psalm 40 February 11
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 …

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 al…

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 on…

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 …

Of delights and desires

Psalm 37:1-20 February 7Parents, 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’ desi…