Monthly Archives: May 2021

(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.

(Job 32-37) Whatever Your Age

I found myself laughing out loud today as I read these chapters in God’s Word. And every time I have that experience, it’s because I see myself in what I read. And usually, not in a good way.

I don’t know how much younger Elihu was than Job and his buddies. But is seems there were more than a few years between them because Elihu sat with them for some time without speaking, out of respect for his elders.

Now, I’m projecting here but I imagine Elihu was a typical young person. I see him rolling his eyes, shaking his head, snickering under his breath at what he perceived as ignorance in the older generation. After all, Elihu was woke. So when he got his chance, he would teach those old geezers the wisdom of youth.

“Pay attention,” he says. “I’m going to open my mouth and tell you where you are wrong.”

He then proceeds to prove he has no more understanding than the others. If you read his sermon, you’ll see him refer to himself about as often as he refers to God. Elihu isn’t hesitant about pointing out his knowledge and wisdom.

Oh, there are several times Elihu gives God a nod for giving him knowledge, and for having superior knowledge. But I see a lot of young Elihu in these chapters.

Now, before anyone thinks I am targeting millennials, let me confess I remember being young, too. I remember rolling my eyes at the things my dad would say. I mean, I’d gone to college and he didn’t. I was enlightened and he wasn’t (or so I thought).

Trust me when I say this, kids. One day you are going to be faced with the realization that you aren’t as stupid as your kids will think you are, either.

I don’t think this portion of Scripture has to be only about youth versus age. There’s a little Elihu in all of us. And it’s a sin. It was a sin when Adam and Eve thought they understood God apart from His Word, and it’s a sin today. There is no wisdom, no understanding that isn’t written in the pages of the Bible.

Now here is where I laughed out loud today. Elihu’s final words are found in verse 37:24b and they are hilarious.

(God) does not look favorably on any who are wise in heart.

Except, of course, me. Right?

Dear Elihu is condemning the very thing he himself is guilty of. But I don’t think he sees it like that. He thinks he’s pointing a finger at Job and his friends, not considering there are three fingers pointed back at him.

I hope you have knowledge of Scripture. I hope you study your Bible, memorize verses, can share the accounts of people who lived during that time. I hope you have an understanding of who God is and what His plan is according to the Words He inspired men to write down. I hope you have wisdom from above.

But let’s not think, even for a second, that any of that is our own doing. Let’s not put ourselves anywhere near the level of God. I don’t care how old you are, or how young.

It’s about God. Whatever your age.

(Job 29-31) Prejudice

Do we get a glimpse at the less-than-righteous side of Job here? I have no doubt the man was a good, generous, upright guy who truly loved and feared God. God Himself called Job a righteous man, and God doesn’t lie.

But this man, who gave to the poor and fed the traveler, encouraged those who mourned, and received respect and honor from others, might have been a bit prejudice. In speaking of the young men who were harassing him, Job said this of their fathers:

I wouldn’t have put them with my dogs. They were emaciated, ate tree roots and shrubs like animals. These fathers weren’t fit for human society, and everyone treated them like thieves. They howled like wolves, and were forced out of the land.

Then Job says:

Now I am mocked by THEIR songs. I have become an object of scorn to THEM. THEY despise ME and keep their distance from ME. (30:9-10, emphasis mine)

Job is indignant at the very thought that the dregs of society would dare look down on him. But my question is, Job, why consider anyone throw-away?

I ask the same thing of us. ALL people are equally precious in God’s sight, and should be in the sight of all of His children: the unborn, the physically and mentally handicapped, the poor and the rich, the homeless and those living in luxury, homosexuals and those who reject that lifestyle, people with different skin color and nationalities, people with differing opinions, tattoos and piercings, grey hair and wrinkles.

We can be doing all the “right” things, we can be generous and loving and devoted to God. But is there a bit of prejudice in us, too? Because the truth is, ALL people need Jesus. Everyone needs Jesus, no matter what kind of life they are living!

God is asking me to do a prejudice check in my own heart. Might He be asking you to do the same?

(Job 25-28) Answers to Questions

Question: Who is the shortest person in the Bible? If you answered Zacchaeus, you would be wrong. The shortest person in the Bible is Bildad the Shuhite (shoe-height).

Groan.

Job and his friends have been talking about sin and righteousness, judgment and blessing. We know none of them have a lock on any of it. Once in awhile, though, someone will say something that resembles truth.

Like when Bildad, while comparing God’s greatness to man’s insignificance, asks the questions:

How can a human be justified before God? How can one born of woman be pure? (25:4)

The implied answer to those questions is – we can’t. You and I can’t compare our righteousness, our goodness, our love to God’s. A maggot can’t make itself pure any more than we can make ourselves pure before our holy God.

Then Job, as he has done consistently, points us to God, God’s vastness, power and perfection. We must bow to God. He doesn’t bow to us.

Yet we want to understand. We want to know what He knows.

So Job tells us, if we really want answers:

The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom. And to turn from evil is understanding. (28:28)

So many people want God to “show up,” to reveal Himself, give us a sign, change a circumstance. But God is telling us wisdom and understanding is available IF we go to Him on His terms: Fear Him, and repent of sin.

And if you go to Him on His terms, either answers will follow, or you’ll realize having the answers isn’t all that important, anyway. That’s wisdom. That’s understanding. And both are gifts from God to those who follow Him.

(Job 22-24) Find Him

Job makes me sad. He is in such pain and hopelessness, and his friends just aren’t helping him. He wants to trust God, but it’s hard. He wants to understand, but he can’t. His words break my heart:

If only I knew how to find him. (23:3a)

Where is God in our times of trouble? Why does He seem the furtherest when we hurt the most? Where can we go, what can we do to find Him?

The answer is too simple for some. Go to His Word. Get out your Bible and begin to read. But let me warn you, you may not like what is written there.

What is hard for some to accept is the truth that the only way to find God is to go through His Son Jesus. Scripture will tell you He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. (John 14:6)

You may look for God in nature, in religions, gurus and mystics, but you will only find forgeries. You may look for Him in commentaries, and self-help books, but you will just find opinions.

Why not look to the source? If I am baking a cake I look at a cake recipe and not a recipe for fried fish. If I am looking to build a cabinet I look at the blueprint of a cabinet and not a jet airplane. If I’m looking for the definition of “approbation” or “congruity” I don’t go to Fortnite. I go to a dictionary.

Do you, like Job, wish you knew where to find God? He’s not hiding. He’s right there in the pages of the Book He inspired men to write to you.

Read it for yourself. Ask Him to give you understanding, and to reveal Himself to you. You can find Him. But you have to look in the right place.

(Job 8-10) Prosperity

Bildad was perhaps the first health-and-wealth-gospel preacher.

But if you earnestly seek God and ask the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright… your final days will be full of prosperity. (8:5-7)

If you do this, this, and this, God will pay your bills and heal you. So yes, the prosperity gospel is in the Bible. Are we to base our faith upon it?

Even Job questioned the truth of it. He realized God’s ways are not our ways, and God is not accountable to us humans.

He destroys both the blameless and the wicked. (9:22b))

If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye, then you dip me in a pit of mud, and my own clothes despise me. (9:30-31)

Job’s outlook is bleak. But he is acknowledging that the evidence proves that good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. The truth is you can’t buy God’s blessings with good behavior. So, no Bildad. What you say is not true.

Job needed to learn, as do we, that God’s ultimate goal has nothing to do with our comfort or material blessings. Paul emphasized this fact when he said in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself.

Let go of expecting that check in the mail, and turn off the preacher who promises it will come if you do this or that, pray the right words, have enough faith, give enough money. That prosperity gospel was wrong when Bildad preached it, and it’s wrong in 2021.