Monthly Archives: June 2021

(Psalm 119:97-104) The Master Teacher

I know there are Christians who depend heavily on Bible study curriculum to help them understand as they read God’s Word. I myself appreciate reading the opinions of Bible scholars like Matthew Henry, Warren Wiersbe, John MacArthur, and others. I actually teach a Bible Study using one such curriculum. But I stand behind my conviction that the best use of our time in God’s Word is reading God’s Word.

Referring to Bible helps occasionally and as a supplement is one thing. But substituting a Bible study guide for Scripture is another thing. The book of Job tells us we won’t find God’s wisdom from each other. Finding God’s wisdom requires searching Scripture for ourselves, digging into God’s Word one verse at a time. It requires you and I to get in there and do the work ourselves.

If you read this part of Psalm 119, you’ll hear what God inspired the psalmist to write. Verse 97 sets the stage. He expresses his love for God’s instruction. In fact, he says he meditates on it all day long.

The psalmist tells God he realizes he has more insight into and understanding of the things of the Lord than do the teachers and elders, and has learned to obey God because “you yourself have instructed me.” That is awesome! Can you have better insight into God’s Word than your pastor? Can you understand God’s Word better than your Sunday School teacher or favorite author? The psalmist seems to be indicating it’s possible if God Himself is your instructor.

So who is instructing you? I hope it’s not just me. I hope it isn’t only your pastor or the Daily Bread. I hope and pray that you spend some quiet time with your Bible open in front of you and ask God to be your teacher. I hope you’ll read the Old Testament and the New, slowly, prayerfully, expecting God to give you understanding.

You may think you “can’t” understand Scripture. Let God prove you wrong. He is the Master Teacher!

(Psalm 119:41-88) Never Changing

What does it mean that God’s Word is fixed in heaven? When you read God’s Word you can know that every promise, every warning, every word will never be erased or changed. God, who is unchanging, will be true to His Word forever.

That’s why, even in these days when evil is rampant, when lies are accepted as truth, and sin is celebrated, I can rest assured knowing that God won’t take back what He’s already promised in His Word. I can read my Bible and find strength and hope when I am weak and fearful.

It’s during those times when I find my self afraid of what the babies in my life will probably have to face in the future, I hear God remind me His “faithfulness is for all generations.” (verses 89-90) I need not fear the future because God is never changing.

So I pray that the children will learn to do what the psalmist learned: to love God’s Word, to devour it, ingest it, delight in it, and obey it. Because God promises that if they do, He will guide and protect them all the way home.

(Psalm 119:1-40) Digging for Treasure

Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was from Job 28 where Job talks about mining for treasure, and how God’s wisdom is so much more valuable than any gem or mineral men work so hard to get. Our challenge was to “mine” the treasures in God’s Word with the same intentional effort as a miner of gold.

Then today, as I continue with reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 2021, I found myself in Psalm 119. Yes, the psalm that talks about God’s Word in every verse, the psalm that celebrates the treasures in Scripture.

I love God!

I had intended to read through the entire chapter, all 176 verses. But there is so much treasure here to gather, I couldn’t just skip over the surface. I had to dig. I had to pull out everything I could, one gem at a time.

But here’s the thing: If I read God’s Word, and if I do it slowly, thinking about what I read, if I stop and look at what others have said about these verses, and go back and read the verses again, if I gain all the knowledge about what Scripture says, but don’t write in on my heart and allow it to change me, I miss out on the chance to glorify God and be blessed by Him. If I don’t actually use what treasures I’ve mined, why bother?

It would be like digging for diamonds, and just putting the lump of rock on a shelf and forgetting it. What makes the diamond valuable is the cutting and polishing and use of it.

Same thing with God’s Word. The psalmist knows the value of actually loving God’s law AND obeying it; things like happiness, a life lived without fear of being “found out” with some hidden sin, a life lived unashamed. Things like knowing God hears – really hears – when I pray. The fact that He gives me understanding of His Word when I ask Him. And the amazing blessing of life lived through God’s own righteousness.

James 1:22-25 tells us there is blessing not just from hearing God’s Word, but in obeying it.

As Christians we are God’s servants. Not the forced and oppressed kind of slaves that might come to mind. But people who are privileged to serve, people who love to please our loving Father kind-of-servants. And our loving Father has written down exactly how we can please Him, gave us our “honey-do” lists, our instruction book and lesson plan, step by step instructions that spell it all out. He makes His will known through the pages of Scripture so we CAN serve Him.

The beauty of Scripture is the fact that the more time we spend reading and taking it in, the better we get to know God. The more we know God, the more we want to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him the more we want to please Him, to spend time with Him reading what He wrote, which helps us to know Him better, love Him more, serve Him in a way that pleases Him, and so on and so on and so on.

It’s a glorious cycle! And in this cycle of knowing God, loving His Word, and obeying Him there is such joy!

Matthew Henry said that the joy that comes from knowing God like that should be the “wheels” to our obedience. It comes back to the Bible. Because if we want to obey God, we find out how to obey Him in His Word.

And if we read His Word, we want to obey Him.

Is your head spinning? It’s cool to think of this cycle like a spiral, or the ripples in the water when you toss a pebble into it. The rings get bigger and bigger as it reaches further and further out. God blesses us who love His word, and as we love His Word more, the blessing grow, reach out, multiply.

Now let me say I’m glad you are reading this post. I am thankful for people like Henry, Wiersbe, MacArthur and others who have studied God’s Word and shared their insight through hundreds of books and commentaries.

But A.W Tozer warns us about the difference between being “man taught” and “God taught.” I think that’s something we need to take seriously. The psalmist is celebrating the beauty of God’s Word, and the blessing of reading it, meditating on it, loving it, desiring it, longing for it, writing it on our hearts. Nothing – NOTHING – compares to spending time in the pages of the Bible for yourself and allowing God to open your minds and hearts to what He wants to say to you.

I pray that you will dig for treasure today as you open your Bible and begin to read. The treasure you will find is priceless.

(Psalm 109) Too Harsh?

I wouldn’t want to be the one who made David mad. If you read this psalm, the prayer concerning his enemy is harsh! David not only asked God to punish this particular enemy with severity, he asked God to wipe out any influence that wicked man may have had, which in this case included the man’s entire family. David asked God to make the man’s children suffer for what their father had done.

Like I said – harsh!

Oh that we would be as harsh concerning our enemy. No, I’m not talking about that guy down the street who plays his music too loud or that lady in the next cubicle at work who talks about you behind your back. Our enemy, unlike David’s, is NOT flesh and blood.

Our enemy is Satan. And sometimes I think we’re more concerned about hurting his feelings than we are about defeating him in this war he’s declared on our souls.

Do we pray as fervently as David prayed that God would crush Satan in our lives and eliminate any influence that snake has over us? Do we want him eradicated, pulverized, annihilated, or just slapped around a little because we really don’t want to let go of some sin? We just know we need to confess it once in a while to make us feel like a Christian.

“Satan, wait over there while I talk to God for a minute. ‘God, I’m so sorry, please forgive me of that sin. I’ll never do it again. Thanks.’ Now, let’s get out of here, Satan.”

Not exactly the kind of prayer David prayed concerning his enemy, and it’s not the kind of prayer we should be praying, either. If we want to be “Christian” we have got to learn to be as serious about our enemy as David was about his. And we have to pray that God will do His worst to our enemy and any influence that enemy has over us.

Too harsh? I don’t think we can be where Satan and sin is concerned.

(Psalm 103) True Praise

“True praise comes from a grateful heart that sincerely wants to glorify and please the Lord.” (Be Exultant; Warren Wiersbe; David C Cook Publisher, 2004; p 55)

Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise. It’s not about show. Its’ not about what a worshiper likes about worship. And it’s not about having a worship experience. Its’ about God.

True praise has nothing to do with what a person does with his hands, or whether or not he’s smiling. True praise has everything to do with clean hearts, surrendered lives, a holy people unto the Lord.

Read Psalm 103. You won’t find one “I” in the whole thing.

I recently heard someone say it should be fun to praise God. I question the “should.” Do we worship to feel good? I don’t think that’s worship. Do we praise so that our hearts soar and we are blessed? I don’t think that’s praising God. Do we organize our time of praise so that it’s fun? If that’s our goal, if that has any part of why we praise, we’ve missed the boat entirely. We can get all that going to ballgame.

We may feel all those things: joy, blessing, hearts soaring as a result of true praise. Or we may feel convicted, sorrowful, humbled while praising God. But none of those things should drive our worship.

Our reason for praising God is because He is worthy of praise. Our reason for worshiping God is because He alone is worthy of our worship.

Maybe we need to spend more time worrying about the condition of the hearts of people than how people look and feel when they praise the Lord. Maybe we need to concentrate more on being a holy people, than having fun while we worship.

(Psalm 93) Adorning the Temple

Our God reigns! He sits on His eternal throne and has absolute rule over His creation. There may be powers that would destroy what God has so lovingly and purposefully made, but God is greater than the enemy of us all.

We can put our confidence in our Eternal King because all He has said is true and completely reliable. What an incredible gift is His Word in print. We can know Him, hear Him, recognize His hand in our lives by spending time in the Bible.

We have reason to praise and worship God!

I have shared that our church fellowship is in the middle of a building project. For years we have met in the basement of a commercial building, but we are hopefully going to move to the north end of this island and occupy a brand new building with classrooms and our own parking lot before the end of this year. God is doing amazing things in and through this journey.

Warren Wiersbe said something in regard to verse 5 of this Psalm in his “Be Exultant” study (David C Cook Publisher, 2004, page 32) that I think could be engraved into the foundation of our new building if the cement wasn’t already dried:

“It is a holy people that makes the temple holy, and ‘the beauty of holiness’ (29:2) is the greatest adornment for any structure dedicated to the Lord.”

We, of course, want our new structure to be pleasing to our Lord. We want what happens inside those walls to matter for eternity. We pray that it will be a tool God uses to reach the lost. But the psalmist (and Wiersbe) reminds me it’s not about the building.

It’s about holy people. Not busy people. Not even worshiping people, or a people with great outreach programs.

Holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye; people who have repented of sin and obey God from clean hearts and minds. Holy people, not just good people.

My prayer is that as we worship and praise our Eternal King, whether in the basement or sitting inside a structure smelling of cut wood and new paint, we will each of us be that holy person who adorns the building. I pray that our focus won’t be on the new church or even in the worship and programs inside, but on God alone from clean hearts: a holy people unto the Lord.

If holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye, may it be true in the “temple” which will be Frederica Baptist Church on Saint Simons Island. Starting with me.

(Psalm 84) Is Happiness Even Possible?

Who doesn’t want to be happy? The psalmist tells us where true happiness originates. He sets the stage in verse two:

“I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”

What is it you long for? Money? Success? Relationships? Self-awareness? Health? How is that working for you? The psalmist will tell us that those who long to know God, to walk with Him in a right relationship, those who are not satisfied with a casual relationship but desire all that God is, find their happiness in Him.

“How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually.” (verse 4)

Happiness comes from constant communication with God. Happiness comes from knowing God never leaves, never forsakes, and is continually blessing those who love Him. Happiness is found in praising God for who He is, what He has done in the past, what He will do in the future. And happiness comes most preciously when our focus is on God continually. When Paul and Silas praised God while chained to a prison wall, God showed up, didn’t he? He still shows up when we praise Him.

“Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on a pilgrimage.” (verse 5)

Verse 6 tells us that is true even when we are walking through times of sorrow and pain. The lies we believe about finding our own strength, about thinking we need to handle things on our own, that we are capable and powerful, contribute to the unhappiness so many people feel. Because the truth is, you aren’t strong enough all the time. And that’s ok. God is! The psalmist tells us if our hearts are set on the “pilgrimage” of knowing God and looking forward to heaven, if we surrender our wills to His, we will go “from strength to strength.” (verse 7). We can consider God our “shield” according to verse 9 as we look to Him.

“Happy is the person who trusts in you, Lord of Armies.” verse 12)

It doesn’t say happy is the person who is living a peaceful, successful, trouble-free life. In fact, the psalmist calls God the Lord of Armies because this is war! There will be trouble. There will be hardships and disappointments and illness and loss. There will be temptation and sin and consequences. But happy is the one who trusts in God, not in himself, not in science, not in religion, not in good deeds. Happy is the one who trusts in God. Period.

Jesus said, in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” (emphasis mine)

May you be truly happy today. It’s possible.

(Psalm 77) Disappointment, Despair, and Deliverance

Have you ever gone through a time of crisis when you found yourself fighting despair, unable to sleep, not seeing an answer? Do you know that God has provided some direction in His Word for those times? Deliverance is available, and He wants you to know that.

Asaph was experiencing a time of crisis himself. And the 77th Psalm tells us how he went from disappointment and despair to confidence in the loving hand of God. I’m going to use some thoughts from Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Worshipful” (David C Cook Publisher, 2004; pp 246-249).

Asaph tells us about the darkness he was experiencing in the first nine verses. Notice that the first thing he does is cry out to God in prayer. He admits that he has refused to be comforted, that even the thought of God makes him groan, that his spirit is weak.

Does that surprise you? Aren’t believers supposed to have it all together? Aren’t we expected to exhibit joy and peace and faith at all times? Why is it so hard for us to admit there are times when we question, and hurt, and don’t have all the answers, when so often God has shown us through His word that yes, even believers have struggles? Friend, if you are hurting, admit it. Don’t hide it. Put into words what you are feeling, and cry out to God. He can take it. And He won’t leave you hanging. Let’s continue looking at Asaph’s example.

After Asaph prays and tells God exactly what he is experiencing, Asaph does something important. He remembers. He allows himself a moment to leave his pain and look back upon the blessings that he’s received in the past, the times God was faithful, the times when his relationship with God brought him joy, music, and blessings.

“So why not now?” he asks of God. Now we need a disclaimer here. When we question God – which is NOT a sin – we need to prepare ourselves to receive the answers, even if those answers hurt, or are not exactly what we expect them to be. If we ask questions of God, we need to be ready to hear HIS answers. Let’s look at the questions Asaph asked, and to God’s Word to find the answers:

  1. Verse 7 – Will the Lord reject me and never accept me again? The answer is NO! There are many verses in the Bible that reassure you of that, like James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…”
  2. Verse 8a – Has the Lord stopped loving me? Again, the answer is NO! The prophet Jeremiah tells us in the second part of 31:3 that God has “loved you with an everlasting love.” When Paul asked the question, “Who can separate us from God’s love,” he answered with: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. Verse 8b – Have God’s promises failed? That would be a resounding NO! Listen to what Paul said to the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in (Jesus). That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
  4. Verse 9a –Has God forgotten to be gracious? Another resounding NO! “For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:9b)
  5. Verse 9b – Is God too angry to show me some compassion? The answer to that is NO! The psalmist tells us “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Ps 30:5). Another psalm assures us “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (103:8)

Then, after asking God some questions, Asaph comes to a decision. In verses 1-20 he says, “I will” three times. I will remember the Lord’s work, I will remember his wonders, and I will reflect and meditate on his actions.

Asaph turned from thoughts about himself to thoughts of God. Wiersbe, on page 248 says, “When we look at our circumstances, we focus on ourselves and see no hope; but when we look by faith to the Lord, our circumstance many not change, but we do.”

Are you struggling? I’m sorry if you are. I understand life is full of trials and disappointments and struggles. But let me ask you this: Do you love God in spite of your circumstances? I pray that you do.

And if you do, let me leave you with a bit of hope straight from the mouth of the God who loves you enough to die for you:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Yes, even your struggles. I hope you’ll take time to read Psalm 77 today. Find a concordance or Google verses in God’s Word that contain the words, “compassion,” “love,” “grace,” “strength,” “worry,” “anxiety,” or whatever it is that comes to your mind. I think you’ll find tons of verses that speak to your need.

Because God wants to intervene on your behalf. You can trust Him to deliver you.

I’m praying for you.

(Psalm 71-72) Praying My Praise

Part of my study of these psalms today included reading what Warren Wiersbe had to say in his “Be Worshipful” commentary (David C Cook publisher, 2004). He asked some questions for reflection on page 233, and I just had a precious time of worship as I prayed my thoughts and praise to my dear Lord. I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Read these two psalms first, then consider these:

  1. What reasons can you cite to “rejoice and be glad” in the Lord? I know some of you are going through difficult situations. You might have to stretch yourself, but God has given you reason to rejoice and be glad today. Search your heart. Name those reasons, even if your list is short. Tell Him you recognize His grace and mercy, his blessings and provisions. Praise Him for His goodness to you.
  2. How does recounting the Lord’s faithfulness in the past help entrust your future to Him? If you’ve walked with the Lord for a day or a lifetime, you can look back and recognize His hand, His involvement in the circumstances of your life. Recall them. Bask in them. And tell Him you remember. Praise Him for His faithfulness to you.
  3. Verse 6 predicts Israel’s king will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. How does trusting Jesus bring refreshing showers into your life? Is your relationship with God showering you with peace and joy and calm and assurance? If not, why not? Search your heart and see if there are things you need to repent of, sins you may not even consider most of the time. Ask God to forgive you, and know the showers of blessings that He will pour over you. For me, his blessings look like Jesus! Praise Him for Himself. Praise Him for showers of blessings.

I hope you will have a meaningful time of worship today as you consider these psalms. I’m praying for you.

(Psalms 69-70) Jesus and the Psalms

So many of the psalms speak of what Jesus would endure on the cross. Guiltless, yet condemned. Treated horribly, rejected, scorned, beaten, He suffered and bled and died. The fact that God gave us a glimpse of our Savior’s sacrifice thousands of years before He came just cements the fact that this Book I read is true, and the God it reveals is exactly who He says He is.

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation continually say, “God is great!” (70:4)