Monthly Archives: May 2021

(Psalm 36) Who’s To Blame?

I doubt if anyone (believers and non-believers alike) can look at this world and think things are going well. I doubt the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when describing society is “love, peace, or perfection.” Why is that?

Most Christians would say Satan is to blame. Or they would point a finger at atheists, Muslims, and the like. But I wonder.

Warren Wiersbe said something in his commentary on Psalm 36 that has me thinking. He writes: “If there were more salt and light in this world, there would be less decay and darkness in society.” (Be Worshipful; David Cook Publisher; 2009; p. 134)

Read that again. Think about it for a minute.

David said this about the wicked in Psalm 36:

Dread of God has no effect on him. For with his flattering opinion of himself, he does not discover and hate his iniquity. (vv 1b-2)

Are non-believers the only ones flattering themselves and not dreading the judgment of God for sin? Are only non-believers accepting sin instead of recognizing it and repenting of it? I’m pretty sure Christians are having difficulty discovering our own sins, too.

Even in Christian circles, we would rather talk about the love of God than address sin. We would rather talk about God as our friend, instead of a fierce and frightening Holy Judge. The result is watered down salt and dimmed light, and darkness in the world.

Yes, I believe the fault of our decaying society falls on God’s people, the Church, we Christians, and NOT on non-believers. Non-Christians will act like non-Christians. We can’t expect them not to.

The truth is you can’t legislate good behavior, no matter how much big-government proponents want us to believe they can. You can’t write enough laws, throw enough money at programs, change history or demand equality enough to solve the world’s dilemma.

Only God can do that. And He has chosen to work through Christians to accomplish His will. Because if we are obedient, if we are holy and set apart, fleeing sin, and surrendered to God, God would do what He longs to do, what Jesus came to do…

save the world!

So to answer the question in the title of this post, “Who’s To Blame?,” the answer is, Christian, you and I.

(Psalm 32) There Is Joy

Have you experienced the joy of sins forgiven? There is nothing like it, is there? Guilt gone, replaced by peace. Shame replaced with joy. Lies replaced with Truth.

Yet sometimes sin creeps in and begins to steal our peace and joy. We put smiles on our faces and lie to ourselves and others that we’re fine. But the truth is not in us.

Day and night God’s heavy hand of conviction is upon us, our strength, our resolve to follow God is drained. It isn’t until we confess our sins and receive the grace of God’s forgiveness that we can once again know the joy that comes from being absolutely clean.

Therefore, let everyone who is faithful pray immediately. (vs 6)

We must not let sin gain a foothold. The moment God brings a sin to our awareness, we must pray immediately. The longer we wait, the easier it is to wait, and the harder our hearts become the harder it is to repent.

Look to God who says, “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.” (vs 8)

Then, with David we can “be glad in the Lord and rejoice.”

There is joy for us who have been made clean by the precious blood of Jesus. I pray that you will know that joy today.

(Psalm 25) For The Sake Of The Name

LORD, for the sake of your name, forgive my iniquity, for it is immense. (v 11)

Sometimes I think we spend too much of our worship thanking God for the blessings of home and family and comfort and peace and health and heaven, all of which are amazing benefits of knowing Jesus. We ought to be thanking God for all of that and more!

But David reminded me that none of it compares with the Name. None if it even comes close to equaling Creator God, the Person of Jesus Christ, or the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Paul, in Philippians 3:8-11 says:

I count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in himthat I may know him…

We are saved to be a gift to the Savior, not so the Savior can gift us with things. Paul tells us that anything short of Jesus Himself is rubbish!

The other thing about this verse is David’s admission that the sins God forgave him were “immense.” I can’t help but say the same of my sins.

Immense.

But God forgives me, cleans me up, dresses me in purity, and gives me as a gift to His Son.

I am saved for His sake! And I am blessed with Jesus Himself in return.

(Psalm 19) If Necessary Use Words

Creation is considered the “wordless book,” and Psalm 19 emphasizes that fact:

The heavens declare the glory of God… (verse 1a)

I’ve often said that I believe the most overlooked verse in the Bible is Genesis 1:16b (it doesn’t even rate its own verse number):

He made the stars also.

Just threw them up there like it’s no big deal. But the more scientists and astronomers learn about what is out there among the stars, the more that sentence reveals the amazing glory of God.

… and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1b)

It’s believed there are more than a million and a half different species of fungi in the world, 10,000 species of ants, 300,000 species of flowering plants, not to mention the delicate and precise workings of nature itself. All of it reveals an intelligent designer – much more intelligent than those who twist the facts to try to disprove the existence of the Designer.

Verse 4 of this psalm tells us creation is a message that “has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world.

Paul reiterated that in his letter to the Romans:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

So, does that let us off the hook? Shouldn’t our neighbor be able to be saved by watching his grass grow in his back yard? Is there salvation in the “wordless book” of creation?

I mean, I’ve heard it said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Maybe it’s not necessary to sit with my unsaved neighbor, open God’s Word, and talk to him about Jesus.

Whew! Dodged that bullet!

But then I remember verses like John 14:6 where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Or when he said in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I tell you. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I don’t know how anyone can be born again simply by observing creation, according to what Jesus said.

How about Paul’s letter to the Romans:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Again, I don’t see how that can happen just by star-gazing. So which is it? Is there salvation in the wordless book of Creation, or in God’s Son Jesus Christ?

The answer is YES! But you can’t separate the two because Jesus IS the Creator:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

I would encourage you to read that chapter in John. The Apostle very clearly tells us Jesus is that Word!

Creation reveals that there is a God, and the Gospel of Jesus reveals how God made the provision to redeem sinful people.

But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14)

Sounds like we who have received God’s grace through Jesus Christ need to be telling people about their only hope for salvation. Creation is preparing their hearts. It’s up to us to go and make disciples.

And, yes. Words are necessary.

Your words are necessary.

(Psalm 15) Acceptable Worship

Evidently Psalm 15 was an “entrance” psalm. People who wanted to worship God in the temple didn’t just barge in there. They were to meet the following requirements first:

  1. Be blameless. Doesn’t mean “sinless.” The requirement for worship was receiving Jesus’ righteousness by faith. The Old Testament people looked forward to the Messiah with the same faith we who live after the cross have. Faith in the saving work of God’s Son makes us blameless before our Holy God.
  2. Practice righteousness. Our walk throughout the week must be an expression of our salvation. The psalmist will give us practical ways to practice righteousness in later verses.
  3. Stand for Truth. Jesus IS the Truth. God is the only God and His Words as found in the Bible are True. Period. If we want to worship Him we must worship Him in spirit and Truth.

The psalmist goes on with some specific actions that need to be true of we who worship God according to His Word:

Verse 3 – don’t gossip. Don’t maliciously talk behind someone’s back.

Next is – don’t harm friends. Sometimes we can be cruelest to those closest to us. God wants his worshipers to express patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness…

Be considerate of your neighbor. Yes, that means the person living in the house next to yours. But Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan when asked, “who is my neighbor.”

Verse 4 – We who want to worship God must hate what he hates. And he hates those who reject Him. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when we know God is love. But how did Jesus tell us to treat our enemies? Pray for them. Do good to them. And the best good you can do for anyone is introduce them to their Savior.

The psalmist tells us that another requirement of acceptable worship of God is to honor our brothers and sisters. We need to consider our fellow believers more important than ourselves, serve them instead of expecting to be served, mourn with them and rejoice with them, encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

We must keep God’s Word NO MATTER THE COST. That means protecting the Truth by listening to preaching and teaching with discernment, and speaking out against false teaching. It means speaking up when people twist Scripture. And it means obeying what God inspired men to write, even if it’s not politically correct, or pleasant to hear, or easy to do.

Verse 5 – Treat others the way you want to be treated. God’s people need to be the most fair, the most trustworthy, having the most integrity of anyone, but especially to those who are weak and innocent. We represent God Himself to a world that is looking for reasons to reject Him. May they never find those reasons in your life or mine.

The worship of God is a serious thing. If we read the Old Testament we see examples of what happens when people try to take short-cuts to worship. Unauthorized fire, carrying the ark on a new cart, gold calves at the foot of the mountain where God was meeting with Moses, and other examples that all ended in death.

God does not accept all worship, no matter how sincere that worship might be. God might not accept your worship if you don’t meet His requirements.

Please do not invite your unsaved friends into God’s house for a worship service. That is not the place for them to be saved. It’s the place where the saved worship God according to His rules.

Your unsaved friend should be meeting their Savior in your living room or their’s, on a park bench, or over coffee at the local coffee shop where you share the Gospel with them.

Then, when they have received what Jesus died to give them, invite them to worship with you and other believers in sprit and Truth.

And may I suggest that this Sunday when you walk into the sanctuary, instead of chatting with someone about last night’s ballgame, or your problems with your rose bushes, or that new recipe you found, prepare your heart. Find your seat and bow your head, quiet your mind, take inventory to see if you are ready to worship God according to His rules. Are there things you need to confess? Confess them. Center yourself on the One whom you are there to worship.

If we took the “entrance” test this Sunday, would be pass? May we offer God only acceptable worship.

(Psalms 7-10) On Being A Human

We are often reminded that God’s ways are not always our ways. More often than not, we don’t understand why things are like they are. We wait for God to crush evil people or to relieve the burdens of His children. We wait. And it often seems God isn’t paying attention. It just doesn’t seem fair.

But the truth is, God’s patience is at play because He’s not as concerned about displaying our definition of “fair,” as much as displaying His grace and mercy toward people who need Him. His ways are not our ways. They are always better than our ways.

David reminds us we humans are made “a little less than God.” (8:5a) Yes, we are crowned with glory and honor and placed in charge of creation; to care for and rule over everything God made. But we are still NOT God, and never will be because we were not created His equal. We were created less than God.

Russel D. Moore addressed that in my Apologetics Study Bible (CSB Apologetics Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2017, p645) and pointed out that people who reject creation as described in the Bible, and especially those who believe in the theory of evolution, believe humans are created – or evolved – a little higher than animals.

That’s a different mind-set than believing we are created a bit lower than God. No wonder it’s so easy for many evolutionists to support abortion and euthanasia. They believe human life is no different from that of an amoeba, no more valuable than a rodent or an ape.

Yet the Bible tells us we are uniquely created in the image of God; like Him with a higher ability to think, feel, choose, deduce, plan, and recognize the difference between good and evil, than the rest of creation. Designed just one rung below God. But that rung isn’t close to God’s.

Closer, yes. But not even close to equal.

That’s why we bow to His sovereignty, we trust His plan even if we are unable to understand it. We who know Him because God created us with the ability to know Him (unlike anything else in all of creation), can rest in His righteousness and sing about the name of the LORD Most High.

LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! (8:1)

(Psalms 3-4) Prayers Morning and Evening

A morning prayer from Psalm 3:

I have challenges today, Lord. Some people say I can’t win, that there is no hope for me. “Loser!” they cry. But they don’t realize that You are a shield around me. If my enemy plans an attack on me today, he has to go through You first. I can be confident knowing that I am in Your care. So God, defeat my enemy Satan today. Punch him in the face. Knock his teeth out. I can face today because my salvation comes from You!

An evening prayer from Psalm 4:

You did it, Lord! You heard my prayers and were gracious to me today. People around me follow lies, they love what is worthless, and condemn me because I don’t go along with them. They don’t understand that what I have with You is worth more than anything they consider valuable. Let them see the beauty in knowing You. I can go to sleep tonight in peace, trusting You. You are my safety and my joy.

(Psalm 2) Chains? Or Lifelines?

Verses 1-3: This psalm paints a picture of a wild animal fighting against the chains which hold him captive. Snarling, writhing, pulling this way and that with teeth bared. But he is only hurting himself.

He doesn’t understand why he is chained. He just knows he wants to be free of them.

Verses 4-6: The one who has placed the chains on the beast sits back and waits for the beast to wear itself out. He knows those chains has placed the beast under his control, not the other way around.

Verses 7-9: In fact, he gets his authority from the owner of the beast, the big boss. The owner has made him his son! He’s been given the power to control the situation, extending to the ends of the earth.

Verses 10-12: The beast is better off in the hands of his captor, under the protection of the one given authority. Instead of fighting against him, the beast would do better to submit to him. “All who take refuge in him are happy.” (verse 12b)

Here’s what the beast doesn’t understand. He is chained for his protection. There are enemies out there stronger than he, determined to kill him. While he is under the protection of the one with authority he can move around, enjoy freedom within the safe boundaries set out by the one with authority.

Warren Wiersbe says: “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.” (Be Worshipful; David C Cook Publisher; 2009; p 24)

Let me say that again. “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.”

We are seeing a society of people racing toward destruction because they want to throw off the shackles of Truth, of rules, of religion. They want to create their own truth and will fight anyone who disagrees. Anarchy leads to destruction.

I’m not just talking about society in general. The same is true of the modern Church. We want the freedom to worship like we want, believe what we want, live like we want. Throw traditional dogma out and be free. Anarchy leads to destruction.

But there ARE rules. There IS Truth. There IS right and there is wrong. You may consider them chains. I see them as lifelines.

I am sure most of you get it. This psalm is talking about Jesus, the One given authority by the Father. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus who tells us to follow Him, to be holy, to believe and be saved.

Jesus is not a bully-captor holding us back with cruel chains. He is the lifeline!

All who take refuge in him are happy!

(Psalm 1) Blessed To Bless

I’ve never really studied the psalms. I’ve read them often and have been blessed and challenged by certain phrases that stand out to me as I quickly read over them. But I’ve never dug deeper into them as I have other places in God’s Word. I think it’s time.

So using the opinions written by Bible scholars like those who contribute to my Apologetics Study Bible, Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Worshipful,” Matthew Henry, Josh Hunt, and others, I’m going to take one psalm at a time, word by word, and prayerfully consider this portion of Scripture like I’ve never done before. This could take a while.

I memorized Psalm 1 in the KJV when I was a youth. It’s taken decades to really look at what God would have me know through these familiar verses. In fact, as I’ve looked at this psalm for the past 2 1/2 hours, I am challenged to do what it says!

The first word in this psalm is “blessed,” or “happy,” and isn’t that something we all aspire to? I don’t know that anyone would say they just want to be miserable and to go through hard times. So, here is the key to happiness according to God’s Word:

First what not to do. Don’t go the way of the world. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t take what your professors or politicians or rockstars or pro-athletes or peers or news anchors say as gospel. The loudest voices aren’t always the right voices, aren’t always the truthful voices.

Some of those voices mock Christianity, reject Truth, deny God. Do you want to be happy and blessed? Don’t walk with them. God would have us know that the blessed, the happiest people are those who don’t listen to the ungodly, are those who don’t align themselves with unbelievers.

Here’s the other aspect of the key to happiness: Love God’s Word. Yes, love the Bible. Read it, but don’t stop there. Pray about it. Think about it day and night. Let it become a part of you.

Commentaries and study guides help. I’m going to be looking at several while I study the psalms in the next few weeks (or months at the rate I’m going). But there isn’t a Bible teacher or Bible scholar who can replace the treasure that is God’s own Words.

In fact, if you need counsel, direction, advice for life, there is no better place to go than to the Giver of life! Happy, blessed, are those who make Scripture a priority.

The psalmist compares people who are grounded in God’s Word to a healthy tree, planted by water, and bearing fruit. It is a picture which demonstrates that our nourishment comes from spending time in God’s Word. Reading the Bible and allowing it to feed us produces fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Now here is something Warren Wiersbe said, “We must remember that the tree doesn’t eat the fruit; others eat it.” (Be Worshipful; by Warren Wiersbe; David C Cook publisher; 2009; p 22))

When we delight in God’s Word, we bear fruit that will bless others. That in itself is WHY we are blessed. If we want to be blessed so we feel blessed, if the blessing stays with us and becomes more important than the Giver of the blessing, that is idolatry. And idolatry is sin. (from page 21 of “Be Worshipful)

The prosperity the psalmist speaks of is the number of eternal souls saved by the fruit we bear.

The psalmist gives a warning to those he calls, “wicked,” those who follow the way of sinners and sit with the ungodly. Their judgment is sure. In the end, they will be separated from the righteous (not the sinless because none of us are without sin. But righteousness comes to those who delight in God’s Word and bear fruit for the kingdom as a result of an encounter with Jesus).

That separation is ruin. Loss. Pain. The antithesis of anything right. And it will never end.

I am challenged today. I do love spending time in God’s Word. I want to love it more. I am blessed by the Spirit’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But I don’t want to just sit here and get fat on my blessings. I want to bless others with the blessings I’ve received.

Well, this was a long post. If you are still with me, thanks! Not sure I would have done the same if I were you. I pray that you and I will delight in God’s Word every day, think about it throughout the day, let it nourish us and strengthen us so that we bear fruit today, and that someone will be drawn to our precious Savior because we are doing what Psalm 1 instructs us to do.

To we who are blessed, let’s be a blessing.

(Job 37-42) Blessed Be The Name of the LORD

So after God spoke and Job repented, God blessed Job with even more material blessings than he’d had before the trouble began. Doesn’t that seem to support the prosperity gospel so appealing to so many theses days? If you say the right thing, manufacture the right faith, BOOM – you win the lottery. Makes me want to get my checkbook out and write a big one to Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Peter Popoff, Kenneth Hagin, and the like. Let that “seed money” do its thing.

I’ve sat here for quite a while this morning, trying to make sense of this because I don’t believe the property gospel is Biblical. I can think of many examples of believers who struggle physically and financially, yet consider themselves blessed. I believe the above mentioned public figures are charlatans. But the health and wealth gospel seems to be here in Job’s life. I went to the internet and read things from sources I trust, and even from sources I consider questionable to try to make sense of this passage.

Then I prayed.

Yeah, I know. I got that backwards, didn’t I?

God seemed to point me back to chapter one. And I was reminded that the book of Job is not primarily about suffering or loss, or even restoration. It’s about worship. Remember Satan challenged God on the idea that Job worshiped God because his life was easy. Satan’s premises was that if things turned for the worst in Job’s life, he would stop worshiping God.

The book of Job is full of imagery. We see pictures of nature, of creation, God’s supremacy, and His intelligence which is far above our own. We hear Job question, and can almost feel his agony. But what we don’t see is Job turning his back on God.

In fact, in the end, Job confesses his sin and falls on his face before the one true God as he realizes God’s ways are far above our own, and that through it all, God can be trusted.

However, as demonstrated in the book of Job, God delights in blessing his obedient children. Job once again enjoyed a materially blessed life. He had other children to fill his household. His physical problems were behind him. But here is what I think God pointed out to me today: Job wasn’t blessed because of things. He was blessed by his relationship with God. Remember what he’d said from the beginning?

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (1:21)

If we make the book of Job about material blessings, we miss the point. The question asked and answered in these chapters is: is God worthy of praise and worship no matter the circumstances of life?

The answer is a resounding YES! Read what God says about Himself as He asks Job those probing questions. Is He worthy?

Paul told the church in Philippi (4:11-13)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

That’s the message from Job’s life. Is it your experience as well, or are you waiting until your ship comes in before you truly worship God?

I pray we will all bow before our Creator God who is holy and righteous and does all things well. I pray that no matter what our struggles or disappointments or challenges or devastating circumstances, we will with Job continue to say:

Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Not because we think saying that will get us out of our trouble or move us to Easy Street. May we say it believing it’s true because:

The NAME of the LORD is worthy.