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Archive for Psalms


Word Pictures from Psalm 30

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This week I spent some time in Psalm 30, and during my study discovered a couple of really interesting word pictures that I’d never seen before. The first one came in verse 3, which in the NLT reads, “You have brought me up from the grave, O Lord…” The imagery here by David is that of drawing water from a well.

This discovery took me back to my childhood. As a kid my parents would take me to visit my maternal grandparents who lived a very simple rural life. In fact they didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was in junior high. With no rural water co-op available, they had a well from which they drew their water. I remember watching my dad and my uncle dig the well. My grandfather, believe it or not, used a water witch to find the spot where he wanted the well dug and then the shoveling commenced. Once they dug the well they lined it with old brick and capped it with a hand crank pump. I remember taking the water bucket to the well and cranking that pump until water began to dribble out of the spout. The dribble turned into a trickle, followed by a steady stream. That picture of drawing water from a well is how David described his deliverance from illness. God “drew him up” from his sick bed and restored his health.

The second word picture came as a pleasant surprise from the most famous verse in the Psalm. Verse 5 says, “”Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” In this verse, weeping is presented as an unwelcome overnight guest that rises and departs with the break of day. The ESV captures this a bit better, translating the verse, “Weeping may tarry for the night…” This imagery changes the focus of the verse from weeping to the source of weeping, and reminds the reader that while we may experienced problems in life, those problems are temporary; they come and go. Grace is forever.

Categories : Bible Study, Psalms
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“Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:1-5, NLT).

Yesterday I posted some observations regarding Psalm 100. Within this call to corporate worship are five reasons why we should give thanks and offer our praise to God. The Psalmist’s list may not look exactly like your recently composed list of blessings from last week, but he certainly gives us plenty that we can agree with.

1. God has made us
The Psalmist makes no bones about the fact that we are not self made. The first declaration the Bible makes about God is that he is creator. As creator, he knows us intimately. But more than that, his work is ongoing. He’s not finished with his creation. Philippians 1:6 affirms that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” It’s vogue to say, “I’ve never forgotten where I came from.” It’s better to say, “I’ve never forgotten whom I have come from.”

2. We belong to him
Using the imagery of sheep and shepherd, we need to remember that we belong to God. We belong to him because he has redeemed us. No matter what happens to us in life, we belong to God. He calls us his own.

3. God is good
The gods and idols of David’s contemporaries were brutal and exacting. Those pagan worshippers lived in fear of their gods. Their servitude to those idols was more about superstitious belief than true worship. But God is different…He is good! The first thing the Bible wants us to know about God is that he is creator, but the second thing it reveals is that God is also good. Our fundamental conviction about God is that at the very core of his being he is good.

4. His love endures forever
This is a hard one to get, because our love is generally conditional and performance based. Conditional love is love that says, “I’ll love you if…” Performance based love is love that says, “I love you because you…” God doesn’t love us that way. His love is unconditional. It’s not based on our performance. It is totally impartial. We can’t do anything to cause him to love us anymore than he does and we can’t do anything to cause him to love us any less.

5. His faithfulness never waivers
God stays with us, never abandoning us. He is not only for us, he is with us.

Psalm 100 is one of my favorites. It’s simple and direct, and reminds readers that while it is appropriate to give thanks for the wonderful blessings that come from God, we should also focus on the nature and character of the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Categories : Psalms, Thanksgiving
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A Call to Worship

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“Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:1-5, NLT).

Your Bible probably has a subtitle to this text that says something like “A Psalm of thanksgiving.” While this is true of the content of the Psalm, the Psalm is really a Call to Worship. A Call to Worship is an invitation to the people of God to gather together in worship. It beckons us to put aside our distractions and to focus on the presence of God.

I remember when television preachers first became popular. Men like Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, and Jerry Falwell graced our screens with eloquence and style. As a child I recall listening to those who expressed their fears that people would forsake assembling together for the opportunity to “have church” at home in their pajamas, complete with coffee. But people continued to worship corporately. Then came the advent of the internet and with it the online church. Again, people mused that the assembly would be forsaken by those who would favor of “having church” at their convenience. Neither the television or the internet has replaced the dynamic of gathering with others in a worship experience. Truth be known, it probably hasn’t even made a dent.

My community is still buzzing following the miraculous double overtime victory by Iowa State over the second ranked Oklahoma State football team. I watched the game at home, while my son attended the game in person. Watching the game at home in many ways is better. You can see each play from multiple camera angles. You can see if the ref really missed the call. The television provides a superior view of the plays in the game.

But if you go to the game in person you get the experience. You fight the traffic and strive to find a parking place. You enjoy the tailgating. You march to the stadium and wait in line to show your ticket. You feel the press of the crowd as you find your seat. You breathe deeply and take in the smells of the concession stand. You listen to the music blasting from the public address system. The band comes on the field and plays the fight song, and, if you know the words, you sing along with gusto. The team runs out of the tunnel and you cheer with fans and scream as they take the field. You stand and cover your heart for the playing of the national anthem. The game begins. You may not have the best seat or the clearest vantage point, but you have the experience of watching the game together with friends and strangers. You’ve not only attended the game, you’ve made a memory.

That’s the value of corporate worship. Their is a synergy that occurs when you encounter God with others who are encountering God. Private worship is important and necessary. But worshipping together is a valuable part of your Christian experience. Don’t be content to go it alone. Have the experience, and make a memory!

Categories : Psalms, Worship
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(Missional) Psalm 2

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“I will declare the LORD’S decree: He said to me, ‘You are My Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will shatter them like pottery'” (Psalm 2:7-9, HCSB).

Notice how Yahweh calls the kings his sons! This reveals how closely tied God is to his mission on earth. The relationship between the Father and the king imparted power and privilege as well as responsibility to mediate justice and equity to the people of God and to lead them in the way of true faith. What was clearly evident with the kings of Israel was even more evident in the Messiah. But I believe that relationship extends to the people of God today as we operate in the Kingdom of God as “Kings and Priests” (1 Peter 2:1-10).

God promised the kings that the nations would be their inheritance. This reminds me of God’s promise to the patriarchs of Israel (Abram, Isaac, Jacob, et al) that whatever direction they looked or where ever they stepped their feet would be their new land. Like those patriarchs, we are to extend the rule of God where ever our feet step. We are the presence of Christ where ever we are! The commission of Jesus to the church was to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. He has delegated the authority to spread the rule of the Kingdom of God where ever and whenever.

But reaching out begins with reaching up in prayer. God said that we are to ask Him for the nations. We are to begin in prayer, asking God to expand our territory and grow our influence. I think there are a lot of good things being done in the name of missions. People are giving sacrificially. People are participating in short term mission trips around the world like never before. New organizations and networks are popping up all over the grid to help facilitate mission work far and wide. All of this should be heartily affirmed. But it all begins with prayer. We can do nothing more than pray until we have prayed. But once we have prayed, God releases us to the nations to extend and implement the Kingdom of God. So what are you waiting for? Ask.


(Missional) Psalm 2

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How does God respond to the “raging nations?” Continuing from yesterday’s post from Psalm 2, the Psalmist writes, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, ‘I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem,a on my holy mountain'” (Psalm 2:4-6, NLT). God is enthroned in heaven, but not at a distance. His enthronement represents his exaltation. There are no threats to his sovereign rule, neither is He unsettled by popular opinion. God is changeless and strong, and reigns from his throne whether we acknowledge it or not. Our faith does not enthrone God. He is God whether we acknowledge Him as such.

Years ago it was popular for preachers and teachers to rail upon the people of God about the need to defend God and to defend our faith. I realize that believers certainly need to be equipped to “be able to explain” their Christian hope to those who sincerely seek to understand it (1 Peter 3:15), but at the same time God is more than able to take care of himself! God is rightfully on His throne. The raging of the nations will not diminish that fact, and our assertations won’t further establish it either.


(Missional) Psalm 2

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Recently I did some work from Psalm 2 as a part of our church’s annual Global Missions Month emphasis. I felt led to speak one week on the role of prayer in the missionary enterprise, and came to Psalm 2. I was already familiar with verse 8, but what I found in the rest of the chapter was a huge blessing.

Psalm 2 is often quoted in the New Testament, both for its high claims for the person of God’s anointed and for its vision of the universal Kingdom of God. It clearly takes delight in God’s dominion here and now. It is the first of several coronation Psalms (aka Royal Psalms), which were compositions primarily concerned with the human kings of Judah who understood themselves to be uniquely authorized and empowered to rule as God’s own adopted sons. These coronation Psalms give some helpful insights as to how the kings of Israel understood themselves, their authority, their roles, and their expectations.

Like the other coronation hymns, Psalm 2 has layers of interpretation. In its most direct context, Psalm 2 speaks to the kings who were situated in Old Testament history. But there are also many allusions to the Messiah. What the human kings had been unable to do in Old Testament history, God would accomplish through the Messiah. Jesus, who would come in the future, would be fully empowered to usher in the Kingdom of God. But Jesus didn’t complete the work. He handed off the ongoing process of implementing and extending the Kingdom of God to the Church. So even though we are seperated by thousands of years, we can identify with Psalm 2 and see ourselves as the believing community of faith participating in the sentness described in this Old Testament text.

Psalm 2 begins with a cry of disbelief at the disbelief of the nations. “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from slavery to God.'” (Psalm 2:1-3, NLT)

The nations are presented as ones who have gathered in international conspiracy against the God of the universe. In their resistence they demand freedom and autonomy from God, insisting on their rights to self rule. Notice the astonishment of the author! Why?! Why can’t the nations see the goodness of God? Why can’t they observe his blessed ones? Why do they refuse to acknowledge God’s rule? Why can’t they see their resistence is futile?

Sometimes we want to share in that same disbelief as we look at our own world today. We scratch our heads and are, at times, admittedly confused at the rejection of God. But careful reading of the text reveals that the Psalmist answers his own question.

I recently read an interview that was conducted by one of our box office heroes. In the interview, the gentleman discussed his conservative religious upbringing and his fidelity to the church and its beliefs. He then went on to say that as he matured he found Christianity to be too “constrictive,” citing, “When I broke away from faith, I discovered myself.”

What the Psalmist is saying makes total sense: Disbelief is not just the rejection of God’s rule, its exaltation of one’s own self rule. That is why the nations rage.


Why Give?

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As I posted yesterday, God has no needs. He is totally self existent and self sufficient. So why bother with giving? What’s the purpose? Psalm 50:14-15 gives three compelling reasons why we should give; each beneficial to us and our development as disciples of Jesus Christ. The first reason is that giving is an expression of thankfulness. “Sacrifice a thank offering to God” (Psalm 50:14). The God who owns everything is to receive the credit for every blessing in life. One of the first Bible verses I memorized was James 1:17, which says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” When we give we acknowledge the gifts and blessings of God with gratitude.

The second reason we give is to cultivate obedience. Psalm 50:14 continues, “And pay your vows to the Most High.” When we give we are being obedient. With deep humility we acknowledge that the owner of the universe has the right to make claims over the gifts he has entrusted to us, and one of the claims he makes is for us to share our blessings. Why does God command giving? In some ways that seems contrary to the motive of simple gratitude. I believe the command of God for us to give is not unlike a parent teaching his or her child to share. Small children can be selfish, hoarding their toys and candy for themselves. Even though the child didn’t buy the toys or candy, they make clear lines of ownership, punctuated with the pronoun, “MINE!” Children don’t share naturally. They have to be taught to share with others. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. We don’t share our blessings naturally. We cling to our blessings and hoard our gifts. Like children, we have to be taught to share. That is why God commands us to give.

The text concludes with the final reason we are to give: to expess trust in God. Check out verse 15, “Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:15). Every problem in life, financial or otherwise is an invitation to pray. Every problem in life, financial or otherwise, is an invitation to trust. The exciting element of faith is knowing that God will come through as promised even though you don’t know how. But He does. And when He does, we honor Him.

Categories : Psalms, Stewardship
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The God With No Needs

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Last weekend I spoke about stewardship from Psalm 50. Although I have never taught from this text, I found it to be timely for where we are as a church and as a nation, given the economy. Here’s the gist of what I shared in worship. This Psalm of Asaph opens with an introduction of Holy God who desired to assemble his people in order to share some thoughts about the worship of his people. The God who speaks revealed himself as radiant and perfect in beauty; exalted and righteous in his judgments.

In God’s opening statement he declared, “I am God, your God.” The first “God” does not appear in the Hebrew manuscript, so the statement would literally read, “I Am, your God.” Sound familiar? The use of “I Am” invites the audience to a walk down memory lane to the account of Moses standing before the burning bush as he encountered the “I AM.” So what was God trying to convey? God was reminding his people that He is self-existent and self sufficient. He has no needs. There is nothing that completes Him or causes Him to exist. God isn’t poor, and He isn’t “broke!” Everything in creation exists in dependent relationships. Fish need water, people need air, and so forth. God, on the other hand, is completely self existent.

From this opening remark, God then described his dissatisfaction with the offerings and the sacrifices of the people. His problem was not with the offerings in and of themselves (Psalm 50:8), but with the attitude and motivation of the worshippers. He further laid claim to ownership of all things in the universe. “For every animal of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains and the creatures of the fields are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and everything in it is Mine” (Psalm 50:10-12). In other words, our offerings and sacrifices do not complete God. He doesn’t need them!

Some of the ancients believed that their offerings and sacrifices actually nourished the deities, leading God to this clarification: “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” (Psalm 50:13) The answer to this rhetorical question is clearly no. So if our giving does not complete God or fulfill a need that He has, why give? What is the purpose of making our regular offerings and our sacrificial contributions? Tomorrow I’ll describe the proper motivation for giving found in the next two verses.

Categories : Psalms, Stewardship
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What to Do In Times of Trouble

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Back in my days as a Bible beater…err college student…I can recall making fun of preachers who preached from the book of Psalms. “Soft,” I’d think. “Sissies,” I’d judge. “Dumb,” I was. Thankfully I’ve matured a bit, recognizing that the Psalms contain more than gentle musings and platitudes about sheep and sunsets. The Psalms are the prayers and worship lyrics of David and other writers who experienced some real world challenges. Through prayer and worship they discover God in the midst of their messes, even when their messes are self inflicted.

Psalm 116 caught my eye in my daily Bible reading this week. Clearly in despair, the Psalmist rejoiced in God’s miraculous deliverence from his trouble, whatever it was. Meditating on the Psalm revealed a simple pattern for how we can respond to trouble that is beyond our ability to resolve.

First, the psalmist encourages us to pray with the expectation that God will come through (Psalm 116:1-11). Check out this sampling:  “I love the Lord because he has heard my appeal for mercy. Because he has turned his ear to me, I will call out to him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save me!'”

Next, the Psalmist commits to worship God. Psalm 116:13 says, “I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord;” and again in verse 17, “I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord.”

Finally, he determines to live with integrity. “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:14, 18).

Pray with expectation. Worship God. Live with integrity. That’s how we ought to live when things are going good, let alone when times are tough. Don’t let the adversity that invades your life keep you from doing life the way you’re supposed to do life. In other words, your problems are not an excuse to bail on God. Keep praying, keep worshipping, and keep living with integrity in front of your peers.

Categories : Prayer, Psalms
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By way of quick review, Psalm 128 begins with a word of instruction on how to become a blessed and happy person. It all hinges on having the fear of the Lord at the center of your life and the Word of God at the circumference of your life.

When the center and the circumference is in place, God promises to care for four essentials: our needs, our attitudes, our futures, and our families. What do the blessed do with their blessings? What are they for? That’s the subject of the concluding verses of this Psalm.

“May the Lord bless you from Zion (the spiritual dwelling place of God), so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life, and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel” (Psalm 128:5-6, HCSB).

Notice the flow of David’s thought process. He began with “you,” and expanded the thought to “Jerusalem,” ending with “Israel.” Do you see it? God blesses your life so that you will have an impact on those around you. It begins in your life and your home, and spills over into the community and ultimately your nation and world. God blesses us so that we will in turn become a blessing to others.

Israel struggled immensely with what to do with their blessings. From time to time, the people of Israel would confuse the favor of God with being the favorite of God. When we comprehend the blessing of God as his favor, we understand that his favor is not just for us. His blessings are given to us and through us. But when we take the blessings of God and make them about us we become indulgent and deserving. God’s blessings are available to us, and he promises to give them to us. He gives “grace upon grace” as we take those blessings and bless those around us.

Categories : Blessing, Enough, Psalms
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