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 Psalms – Psalm 65

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalms 61-65

Today we turn our attention to Psalm 65: a song of thanksgiving, but also one of supplication.

The psalmist begins with a focus on public acknowledgement of sin, something that seems to rarely happen anymore. We think of sin as an individualistic. If I sin it’s my problem, and if you sin it’s your problem. Scripture views sin as effecting everything and everyone. You would offer sacrifices for your sin, I would offer for mine, and corporately the nation would offer sacrifices, seeking forgiveness for the nation as a whole.

When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.

Psalm 65:3 NIV

Can you imagine our political leaders doing something like this? Can you imagine a joint session of congress where political leaders acknowledge the sins of the nation and petition God for forgiveness? I can’t imagine it either, but it is something that truly needs to happen. Until that time comes, we as believers (individual) and the church (corporate) need to intercede for the forgiveness of our nation. In doing so, we draw nearer to God who welcomes us to do so.

Why should we praise God? He answers prayer (v. 2), he forgives (v. 3), he allows us to draw near (v. 4), he sits over creation in power (v. 5-8), and he blesses us with provisions (v. 9-13).

So will we honor him? Will we dedicate our lives to him? Will we give God what he deserves for being so good to the undeserving?

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.

Psalm 65:1 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 57

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalms 56-60

Psalm 57 is a much needed psalm in our world today. A glance at any form of news media will show you that things are bad in this world. Poverty, hunger, job loss, homelessness, rumors of wars, natural disasters, death…it doesn’t take long to get discouraged over all the chaos.

But the psalmist reminds us that our God sits over the chaos. The pleading for mercy is coupled by the trust of protection in the shadow of God’s wings.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
Rebuking those who hotly pursue me –
God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.

Psalm 57:2-3 NIV

Even though the psalmist is surrounded by destruction, violence, and danger, the reaction is not despair, but worship!

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Psalm 57:7-10 NIV

What’s your first reaction when life brings pain your way? Is it to run toward God in trust and in worship, or to stay home and hide?

The psalmist reminds us that there is healing involved in worship. There is strength, reassurance, trust, and blessings that pour forth when we worship. Don’t run from God in times of trouble, run to him! Find an opportunity to worship with others, even if it isn’t Sunday morning.

It’s easy to look at our world and conclude that everything is hopeless, but the psalmist disagrees. Psalm 57 reminds us that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are to be enjoyed and praised, even in the midst of the storm.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 57:11 NIV

You’re Killing Yourself! (And You Don’t Even Realize It)

“I’m so busy…I have so much going on!” How often do you hear that statement? We’re all far busier than we used to be. Busyness and stress have become a way of life for most Americans, and it’s literally killing us!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected mounds of data showing that  stress-related disorders and diseases have been steadily increasing across the American population for many years, and middle-aged members of the workforce are dying in increasingly higher numbers each year. The cause? Stress-related disorders and diseases. Our crazy busy schedules are killing us!

I read an article recently that shared the struggle a parent was having just trying to set up a play date between his daughter and her friend. Here’s the quoted exchange: “The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

I think Jesus’ job was stressful. Imagine knowing every morning when you woke up that you must be perfect, not sin, and set an example for the entirety of human history to follow. You would be challenged at every corner, you’re working with unbelievably stubborn people that don’t seem to grasp what you tell them, and you get to do it all over again tomorrow…until it’s your turn to be executed in the most inhumane way possible. Doesn’t exactly sound like the dream job, does it? Yet we see Jesus display great wisdom in facing this struggle. Here’s what he did that you and I should absolutely do as often as possible: He rested.

Luke 5:16-17 – But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

The Gospels include many references to Jesus withdrawing from the crowds, getting alone to spend time with God in prayer, and sleeping. Our culture promotes just the opposite…sleep is laziness, don’t ever be alone, and run toward the crowds…especially when there’s a deal to be had on another object to put in your house!

I understand that we live in a far different world than the first century world of Jesus, but I think there are some important principles for this situation. We have filled our lives with so much stuff that there isn’t enough time for God’s presence in our lives. We’ve crowded him out.

As we enter on of the busiest and most stressful seasons of the year, make time for God, make time for your family, and make time for yourself. It’s what Jesus would do!

The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard About Stress

What is it with stress? Why are we so overwhelmed about stress? Did you know that over 30 million Americans are currently on antidepressants?

We are a stressed out society that thrives on the idea of working yourself to death, being miserable, and wearing it as a badge of honor. And we get absolutely nothing for it! (Click to Tweet)

As a high school band director, 16-18 hour days are more common than not during the school year. During marching season, I put in 82 hours a week for three straight weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Just this week I overheard someone at school say “Feeling stressed is how you know you are working hard enough!”

It’s been a rough year for sure, and the holiday season only adds stress. But last night I sat by my Magnavox Astro-Sonic stereo (I inherited from my great aunt), listened to Christmas music, drank apple cider, felt the warmth of the fire in the fireplace, and watched my daughters play in the glow of the Christmas tree, everything seemed right. I took a deep breath, sat back in my chair, and the stress melted away. While relaxing I heard the words of Jesus playing through my head:

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Our lives are so upside down. We spend our days worrying about all kinds of things and neglect our families, our friends, and our Father. Instead, Jesus says focus on the Kingdom, the things that truly matter, and everything else will fall into place. Why do you have so little faith?

Lord, help our unbelief. Help us to trust in you, and to not let the distractions of this world steal the joyful peace that only you can give.

It’s my prayer that we can all rest in Christ, divert our energy and attention into serving Him, and allow everything else to be under the control of God.

Blessings to you and your family!