Monthly Archives: April 2018

Psalms 142-150; Praise and Worship

These last chapters in the book of Psalms really has me thinking about praise and worship. The psalmists say all of creation praises God.

I’m sitting in my sunroom, looking at a flowering rose bush, listening to chirping birds, hearing the wind rustling the leaves on trees, enjoying the sunlight after yesterday’s rain, and wondering how any of that translates into praising God.

The beauty of creation is doing exactly what it was created to do. The pine tree in my back yard doesn’t seem to be trying to be a live oak. And it’s branches grow upward, pointing to heaven as though lifting hands in worship.

Now I’m not suggesting the pine tree is choosing to do what God wants it to. It just can’t help itself because it’s a tree, and God is God. And I think that’s the kind of praise these psalms talk about in reference to all of God’s creation… including us.

I love that I am reading these psalms the day after my pastor preached from Mark 7, where Jesus called out the Pharisees for their insincere worship of God. They had been more concerned about their man-made traditions than about God.

My pastor reminded us that not everyone who attends church worships, not everyone who sings the songs worships, not everyone who carries a Bible and says an occasional, “Amen,” worships.

The difference between the praise and worship of my pine tree and me is, I have a choice. Worship for me involves a setting aside of the cares of my day, my plans for the week, the chip in my nail polish, or the baby in my lap, and intentionally focusing my attention on God alone.

If I am distracted, my worship becomes like unauthorized fire. If you want to know God’s take on that, read about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.

One of my concerns about modern day worship services is the tendency to replace thinking and intention with feeling. The “worship experience” turns attention away from God and toward me, my own experience. When the drummer does a solo, or the guitar player performs an impressive run, where does my attention turn? If I sing the same phrase eight times so that my heart “soars,” my attention in on my heart, on my feelings of euphoria.

Now, lest you think I think singing hymns is the only acceptable form of worship, how many times have you had your eyes on the words in the hymnal, and your mind on the roast in the oven? Distraction is distraction whether you are are praising God with a rock band or a pipe organ.

Our God is worthy of praise. Our God demands worship. I believe Scripture tells us distracted praise and worship is neither praise nor worship.

God deserves better than that.

Psalms 133-141; Get ‘im, God

Satan is my enemy. And when the psalmists talk about their’s, I can’t help but think of mine.

Please don’t read the psalms and picture your ex, or that person at work who makes your life miserable. They are not your enemies. We live after the cross where Jesus taught us to love those people, do good to them, pray for them. If we are reading psalms and thinking, “Yeah, God, crush that person who hurt me,” we are not praying according to Scripture.

I am struck this morning how often psalmists, when talking about their enemies getting what they “deserve,” express a determination to keep their eyes on God, to praise Him, to bow down before Him.

Can you pray that someone for whom Christ died suffers physical or financial ruin, and look Jesus in the eye at the same time? Can you pray that God will cause pain in someone’s life, and honor the Savior, too?

But I can pray that God will crush Satan, that God will defeat Satan in my  life and yours, that God will show no mercy on my spiritual enemy, and that Satan will experience the fullness of God’s wrath.

As I read these psalms, I replace any reference of an enemy with the name of Satan. And I can know that is a prayer that God hears and answers. When I pray, “Get him, God,” the ‘him’ is Satan, my enemy and yours.

Psalms 123-132; The Theme

I am not what you’d call a Bible scholar. Other people have studied Scripture, dissected it, put it on a timeline, and could tell you the dimensions of the temple off the tops of their heads. I’m not that person. I just don’t like studying God’s Word through a microscope. That might be your approach, and that’s okay. But that’s just not me.

Psalm 131 has the title, “Growing in Grace,” and I would like to think it describes me. I don’t “concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” Material details just don’t interest me. But the message is my passion.

I see the Bible as one cohesive book with one theme: Jesus. From cover to cover it is all about Jesus. I don’t see it as being so much about a people group, or some mystery book that throws out clues so we can guess what’s coming in the future. I see it as a story about a God who created this universe in order to share His love. It’s about a God who chose mankind to fellowship with and save. It’s about that Savior who gave His life for love of each of us. And it’s about that same Savior who is coming again to take us to be with Him forever.

That’s how I like to read Scripture, looking for that theme in every historical account. I don’t get caught up in the historical account.  Again, if you enjoy the history I’m not telling you there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just sharing my own approach to reading and studying God’s Word.

Some will say that’s too simplistic of an approach. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m like the weaned child with his mother. (can’t get much simpler than that). That child is a blank slate. That child will grow, and learn, and love by choice.

So I will continue to read these precious pages. I will still and quiet my soul, putting my hope in the Lord both now and forever. And I will see Jesus on every page.

Dear Teacher, I want to be that blank slate today. May I, as I read Your Word and pray, recognize Jesus in every chapter, every verse Your Holy Spirit inspired the men to write. I don’t want to be sidetracked by rabbit trails that don’t have much to do with the bottom line. Teach me about Jesus, help me to grow in grace and knowledge of Him. And may I be equipped to share His story with someone today.

 

Psalm 118-122; A Treasure

Have you spent enough time in God’s Word to get it? When you read a passage that refers to another passage, do you recognize it? Like, did 118:25-28 remind you of anything?

I will say I look forward to reading God’s Word every day. Being retired, I have the luxury of opening the Bible any time of the day or night. It’s already 10:30 in the morning and I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee, pouring over Scripture and praying. What a privilege.

Over the years I have highlighted some verses in Psalm 119 that spoke to me. You probably know this psalm is about God’s Word to us. The psalmist loves Scripture with a passion. Verse after verse talks about this amazing gift we have in God’s written Word. I’d like to share some of the verses that I’ve highlighted at various times in my life:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (vs 11)

Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (vs 24)

My comfort in my suffering is this; Your promise preserves my life. (vs 50)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (vs 105)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (vs 114)

This book is a treasure. In it is everything we need to know, every answer to every question. It’s a love letter straight from the heart of God.

Take time to read it today… and tomorrow. Love it. Use it. You won’t want to miss precious verses like these:

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (121:1-2)

 

 

Psalms 107-117; The Downcast Soul, Part 2

Yesterday I shared that my soul was downcast. I was discouraged about some things, and downright sad about others. I told you what I felt God’s Word said to do about that.

So I prayed. God revealed some things I needed to confess. So I did. And with that confession I repented, asked God to forgive me, and thanked Him for His faithfulness to me in the past.

Then I told Him what was on my heart. I told Him everything. I know He already knew. But I needed to say it, to put into words the things that were breaking my heart so that I would know exactly what it was that I was handing over to Him. Then I thanked Him again for His faithfulness, and I told Him I trusted Him with each and every situation.

During the day, as those feelings came back, I knew those thoughts weren’t from God. So every time I picked up one of those cares, I prayed and laid it back at the feet of Jesus. It seems that I spent most of the day reaffirming my trust in my Heavenly Father.

Now here is why I love being a child of God. This is why I can say for certain that He is Who He says He IS, that He is intimately interested in every aspect of my life:

Last night I got a text from a friend who gave me a word of encouragement over one of the things that had been heavy on my heart just that morning. My sister in Christ did not know my source of distress. I never hinted to her my discouragement.

But I had poured my heart out to God. He heard. And He prompted my friend to give me a word straight from His heart without her even knowing.

Oh, dear one, do you know Him? Do you trust Him? Are you confident He hears and answers the prayers of His children who pray according to His will?

This is my testimony this morning. I hope it is yours as well:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2)

Psalms 102-106; A Downcast Soul

The other day I wrote about unspeakable joy that is ours through our relationship with God. I thank God for that gift that is ours through the precious blood of Jesus.

But today, with some things heavy on my heart, my soul is struggling to grasp the joy. I’m sitting here thanking God for that, actually. Because sometimes I read old posts of mine and think, do my words make this Christian walk seem too care-free? Do I give the impression that I have it all together, and I never struggle? That’s not even close to the truth. I don’t want anyone to think it is.

Honestly, sometimes the cares of my world do get me down. Sometimes it’s really hard to feel the joy with a downcast soul.

So today, feeling the unrest in my soul, I read these psalms and came away with two thoughts:

  1. Is what I’m feeling God’s hand of conviction ? Is this unrest a result of sin in my life? Is it because I have taken a step out of God’s will and into my own? Is this God’s way of getting me out of Egypt? Then I need to confront that sin, repent, and obey God’s leading even if the Red Sea is up ahead. God’s been faithful in the past. I can trust Him with today. There is joy in knowing that.
  2. Have I told God my concerns and then left them in His capable hands, knowing He hears and answers prayer? There are hundreds of examples in Scripture where God answered prayer. Abraham for Lot, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Hezekiah, Hannah, Daniel, and on and on and on. There are examples in my own life of God’s faithfulness. Why should today be any different?

So I’m going to pray, repent, tell God what’s on my heart. Then I’m going to trust the God of the universe, the Great I Am, the One who loved me enough to die for me. I’m going to stop focusing on circumstances, and focus on my Heavenly Father. I’m going to praise Him, not because of what He can do for me, but because of who He is.

I am blessed. I have the Holy Spirit right here with me. I am forgiven. I am promised eternity with Jesus Himself. And He IS my joy.

Psalms 96-101; Joy Unspeakable

Have you ever experienced joy to the point you thought your heart would burst? The day you looked into the eyes of the love of your life and said, “I do”? Holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time? Taking that dandelion from chubby fingers, stretched out to present you with their treasure? Receiving an “all clear” from your doctor? Watching a sunset?

What do you do with that joy? These psalms tell me that praising God is the steam value on a pressure cooker. Praise is a natural expression of heart-filling joy. If you read these psalms you’ll see dozens of reasons to praise God.

96:4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…

97:1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.

97:9 For you, O Lord are the Most High over all the earth…

98:1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…

But let’s be careful. The joy we receive is a result of God’s grace, His mercy and love. When we understand that, we can only respond like Ebenezer Scrooge did after spending the night hanging out with the spirits: “I don’t deserve to be so happy, I just can’t help it.”

Because true happiness, real joy comes from a right relationship through the precious blood of Jesus. Knowing your sins are forgiven, having fellowship with God can bring joy unspeakable. But let’s not make joy or happiness our goal. If we do, we are worshiping idols.

Praise God for who He is. Worship God because He deserves it. Recognize how blessed you are, and tell Him so. Let Him know how blown away you are at the thought of Him. Then experience that indescribable joy that does not come from things or circumstances. That indescribable, unspeakable joy is God Himself.