Daily Psalms – Psalm 146

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 146-150

Psalm 146 is one of my favorites. As the psalter comes to a close today, we are reminded of many important beliefs and practices through these praise psalms.

I attended a funeral service yesterday that was life changing for all who were present. It was a celebration of a Christ-centered life well lived. As I read this psalm this morning I couldn’t help but recall all of these themes from yesterday’s service.

I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2 NIV

We are called to praise our God as long as we live, no matter what life holds. In the good times and the bad, in joy and sorrow, in health and in death, we are to praise God!

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4 NIV

Life is short. We are all from dust and to dust return. Nothing in this life lasts, therefore our trust should be in God alone.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

Psalm 146:6 NIV

This is difficult to remember at times. When chaos seems to affect our lives it’s difficult to remember God is faithful. Yet he always has, and always will be faithful and we are called to join him in this faithfulness. No matter what life hands, no matter how much hurt or pain or destruction comes in this life, God is faithful. We are called to be faithful as he is faithful.

The LORD watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 146:9 NIV

This is a key theme throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. God is one who looks after the widow, orphan, and foreigner. We are called to do the same. God is compassionate and cares for those in need. We are called to do the same.

Today I am thankful for who God is and for what he has done. Though I don’t always understand why things work out the way they do, he is sovereign and faithful. He loves the sinners and abhors the sin. He cares for the needy and those whom society has forgotten. He is faithful forever, and loves us in spite of our faults. And he calls us to be just like him. And for that we praise the LORD.

The Elephant In The Room

There’s an old story of three blind men who are led to different parts of an elephant. One feels the tail and thinks it’s a paint brush. One feels the leg and thinks it’s a tree. One feels the ear and thinks it is a large leaf. By the information that each person had they made their best judgement. But when they got together and compared information they realized that none of them had the full picture. Then they worked together to find the head which clearly revealed that there was an elephant in the room.

This Sunday we will be exploring 4 difficult texts that address women serving in the church (1 Corinthians 11 & 14, 1 Timothy 2 & 5). Much confusion and hurt has come from attempts to apply these texts in the history of the church. What is ok to do? What is not ok to do? And often we judge people who come to a different understanding that we do. Many times I’ve heard disagreements over Scripture summarized by someone saying, “They just don’t follow the plain reading of Scripture.” But do any of us really do that?

I think the bigger issue is not the texts themselves, but how we read those texts. All of us come to Scripture with existing biases. I read Scripture through the eyes of a white, middle class, married father of three, living in rural West Texas. That is my perspective. Someone who is middle eastern, impoverished, single, living in Europe will naturally see things differently than I do simply because of their background and surroundings. They view the world differently than I do, and that’s a good thing!

Proverbs reminds us that there is wisdom in having “many advisors” when seeking to make decisions. If I am looking at something alone, I only see things from my point of view. But if I talk about it with others who have differing views I can begin to see more of the picture.

Some have suggested that addressing controversial texts does no good. “It means what it says and says what it means, and that settles it!” But it doesn’t settle things, does it? The greatest clarity of Scripture I have ever found has come when discussing the text with people who have differing views. Though I may not agree with everything they see, I always walk away with a greater understanding of their view, my view, and most importantly the text. Just this week a new detail stood out to me in 1 Timothy 2 because I was talking with someone about the text. I’ve been reading 1 Timothy several times a week for nearly a year, and I noticed something I had never considered before because I was willing to sit down and discuss the text with someone.

I have no doubt that Sunday morning God is going to do powerful things for us, and through us as we study his word together. I also believe that all of us will see things that we haven’t seen in these texts before. My prayer is that we all listen to the voices of “many advisors,” reexamine our view in light of others, but most importantly we consider what the Scripture actually says, and grow in the grace and wisdom of the Lord. And when we do this cooperatively in community, maybe then we will better identify the elephant in the room.

See you Sunday!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 133

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 131-135

Today we conclude the psalms of ascents, and continue toward the end of book 5. Have you noticed how this portion of the psalter focuses far more on praise and worship than lament? Psalm 133 has been a favorite of mine since the first time I encountered it. Let’s look at it together.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1 NIV

Unity in God is a blessing that descends to us from our God. Keep in mind this is a psalm of ascent, so this is sung as people from all over go up together to worship. In the context of ancient Israel, this is a reminder, or a pleading for the whole of Israel to be unified. Today all of Christendom needs to hear this plead. As Paul would remind us:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Our English translations miss a little theme here in verses 2-3. NIV uses “running down”, “running down,” and “falling on” throughout this Psalm. It’s the same Hebrew word each time , “yarad” which is “descending.”

The imagery of mountains could either be people of high standing (Mt. Hermon the highest mountain) and Mount Zion (much lower in elevation but obviously of great importance to God), or people from the northern kingdom (Hermon) and people from Judah (Zion).

Whatever the psalmist intended, it is clearly a blessing from on high when all who follow our God are one. This blessing is like an anointing that descends to lower places from the head to the beard to the collar. The same blessing descends on the elevated like Mount Hermon and also descends on the lower Mount Zion.

Don’t forget that God blesses the high and the lowly. Our churches are not to be country clubs or exclusive holy huddles/cliques where the select few get to hang out. It is for everyone, high or low, to come together in unity.

“For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3 NIV

Blessings to you.

DAILY PSALM – PSALM 121

Daily Psalm Reading – 121-125

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 NIV

Saturday night in our family devotional we discussed Romans 14:7-8. The question I asked of my family was, “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yesterday as I gathered to worship with my church family, I was reminded of these verses. We sang a newer song called In the Harbor (All Will Be Well) where I was reminded once again that we have no hope unless we are anchored in the Lord.

This morning begins the songs of ascent in our psalm reading. The first song of ascent, Psalm 121 reminds me once again that my help comes from Yahweh.

This psalm is antithetical to diest view. If you are unfamiliar with the term, deists believe there is a divine being, but he is completely removed from the world and has nothing to do with it. A popular illustration of this view is this god as a clockmaker. He makes the clock, winds it, sits it on a shelf, and has nothing more to do with it. This is not our God!

Each phrase of the psalm reminds us of Yahweh’s involvement in our lives. He won’t let our foot slip (v. 3), he watches over his people (v. 4), he gives us shade (v. 5), keeps us from harm (v. 6), watches over our lives (v. 7), and will do so forever more (v. 8).

Don’t believe the lie that God is in retirement, no longer in the God business, or not involved with us in any way. That view is inaccurate and unscriptural! He is the only source of our hope. He is the only one who cares for and sustains us. Without him we would be nothing, but in him we have everything we need. As the old song says, “There is a God, He is alive, in Him we live, and we survive.”

My prayer is that we all see God at work in our lives, in our families, and in our communities today. Look for him, for he is there!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 112

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 111-115

The most common command in all of Scripture is “do not fear.” Psalm 112 is a juxtaposition of fear.

Praise the Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Psalm 112:1 NIV

What does it mean to fear the LORD, especially when we’re commanded so often to not fear? Are we supposed to cower, afraid that this all powerful God is just waiting to smite us? Perhaps if we are enemies of God this is an appropriate “fear,” but not for those who love him and have committed their lives to him.

One of the definitions of this word is “to stand in awe of, reverence, honor…” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10), and it’s the end of all other fear. As John reminds us God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and perfect love drives out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).

If we are right before God we will not be fearful of our lives before him, but we will stand in awe and reverence before him knowing full we we are not deserving. Proper “fear” before Yahweh will lead to caring for the poor and seeking justice (Ps. 112:5, 9). Proper “fear” of Yahweh leads us to fear nothing else! (v. 6-8). To “fear the LORD” is to love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:29-31).

I have known far too many Christians that face the end of life terrified of the end for fear of what God might do. This is not the “fear” we are called to. We are to live boldly in the grace we have received, and fearlessly serve our Lord in the midst of a world that hates him. The fear of the LORD drives out all fear. The fear of the LORD enables us to do what we cannot do on our own.

If you are a child or God, washed in the blood of Jesus, you have no reason to be terrified. But you are called to fear the LORD!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 106

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 106-110

Psalm 106, in many ways, is the “other side” of Psalm 105. Where 105 calls us to recount the blessings that God has given us, Psalm 106 calls us to acknowledge our sins by telling the story of our failures.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

Psalm 106:6 NIV

While harm can come from ruminating on our failures, acknowledging them in recognition of God’s grace is important. Here the Psalmist starts with praise (v. 1-3), petition (v. 4-5), confession (v. 6), and then begins the story.

The first episode recounts God’s salvation. Even though Israel forgot forgot Yahweh, he did not forget them. He saved them out of slavery and defeated the Egyptian army. Israel saw the might of Yahweh and believed! (v. 6-12)

From here the psalmist recounts many of the episodes that led to Israel’s exile. “How did we get here?” This is the confession that the psalmist makes: Yahweh asked us to do these things and time after time we did not. But that’s not the end of the story!

Once again the psalmist returns to the grace of Yahweh, and tells of his goodness, mercy, and future favor.

Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

Psalm 106:43-46 NIV

How does this captivity come to an end? It isn’t anything that the people do, but the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s faithfulness to his covenant! Our faithlessness does not nullify God’s faithfulness! (Rom. 3:3-4) He is faithful! And because of God’s faithfulness, we have hope in him for salvation!

Save us, LORD our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

Psalm 106:47 NIV

Once again, we end on a petition for rescue, not for our own benefit, but for bringing glory to Yahweh in praise. He alone is our hope. He alone is our salvation. He alone rescues us, and so we give thanks to him in praise.

It is good to tell our story. It is good to remember our past. How did we get here? Where are we going? These questions recall God’s continued blessings and our continued need for them. We must never think we have “arrived” in our walk with God, but always remember, analyze, and adjust our walk as we move forward. Yahweh is good and faithful. Don’t forget this. Live accordingly.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 106:48 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 105

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 101-105

Today we focus in on Psalm 105, a poetic history of the people of Israel. If you want a summary of the Hebrew Scriptures in a concise package, you’ve come to the right place. The psalmist begins by reminding us of our part in the story of God:

Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.

Psalm 105:1-2 NIV

How often are you stopping to “tell of all his wonderful acts?” Or better yet, how often are you stopping to recognize all his wonderful acts in your life? The psalmist recounts Israel’s history, which is also your history and my history because we are children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). We need to know this story! It’s your story!

Your personal story is also important. Every generation of believers learns the historical story of Yahweh’s people. We are also called to be witnesses of what he has done in our lives. We need to tell others the story of Jesus and how he has changed our lives! Lost souls need to hear that God remembers the promises he has made forever, and those promises extend to us as well! (v. 8-10)

Telling our story also keeps us focused on what matters. History is selective. We tend to tell about the winning goal we scored rather than what we ate for lunch in the 4th grade. We tend to leave out the unimportant details in favor of the ones we view as more important.

So how important is God to you?

How important is the saving power of Jesus in your life?

If it is important to you, are you telling that story?

If not, why not?

These questions get us thinking about what is really important in our past, and those realizations should influence us to focus on what is important in the present and the future.

Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
    seek his face always.

Psalm 105:3-4 NIV

Our history is his story. Let us all focus on what truly matters, and tell that story in our lives. Blessings.