Monthly Archives: June 2021

(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)

(Psalms 54-56) Faith

David knew about hardship. He knew danger and disappointment, betrayal and fear. But as he poured his heart out to God, even as he asked that his enemies be stopped by any means possible, David always declared his unwavering trust in God.

God: David’s refuge, strength, rescuer, helper, savior. Even in his darkest hours, David depended on the Light of life. When you read his psalms you can’t miss David’s faith in our Sovereign God.

I don’t know what you are experiencing in life right now. You may be living your darkest hours. I hope you’ll read these psalms and recognize that where David’s enemies were flesh and blood, yours are spiritual. But the same is true for your enemies as they were for David’s. They are not stronger than God!

May God annihilate Satan and his attempts at bringing you down. May you surrender yourself today to God, trust Him, place your faith in Him, and know that you can “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” (55:22a)

I’m praying for you today.

(Psalms 49-52) Going Through The Motions

The psalms are full of reminders that God isn’t interested in our “just going through the motions” kind of worship. He often asks the Jews, who were given the sacrificial system by God Himself, if they thought He actually needed those animals. He owns ALL the animals in the world, so why would they think He placed some special value on one of His own animals burning on an altar? The sacrificial system was never about the animal, except as a picture of Jesus. That sacrificed animal was about sin, about the sinner’s heart condition before Holy God.

Warren Wiersbe in his “Be Worshipful” commentary on the psalms said this in reference to 50:14-15):

“What the Lord wanted from His people was thanksgiving from their hearts, obedience to His Word, prayer, and a desire to honor Him in everything. But the Lord doesn’t want ritualism or formalism. He wants our worship to come from the heart.” (David C Cook publisher; 2009; page 182)

I can hear all the contemporary worship proponents shouting WOOHOO! Told ya!

But haven’t we simply replaced tradition with a new tradition? We may have stopped worshiping with hymnals in front of us, but now we worship with screens in front of us. Where hands and heads used to be bowed in worship, we’ve replaced that with hands and heads lifted.

We’re told to smile, look joyful, move our bodies, be free (but they usually don’t mean you are free to worship with your head bowed and hands folded). We are no less concerned about ritualism, we have just changed how ritualism looks.

I believe that is no less offering God a “going through the motions” kind of worship than before. And I believe that is still worship that God rejects.

“Surely you desire integrity in the inner self…purify me…wash me…turn your face away from my sin…create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me...”(51:6-10)

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit…” (vs 17)

Stop focusing on how people look when they worship. Stop organizing worship around what people like. We have got to focus on worshiping God with clean hearts, not upraised hands. We need to worship God in purity and not worry about whether people are clapping their hands or not.

You can have a rocking worship service, and still just be going through the motions.

The worship God accepts is only that which comes from people who have dealt with their sin problem first, who approach God in His holiness through the blood of Jesus. Clean hearts. Purified. Washed.

Anything else is ritual and formalism and simply going through the motions.

(Psalms 42-43) Think On These Things

The forced isolation the world has been subjected to due to the COVID mandates has been devastating for many. Disappointment, depression, and even despair are being experience by scores of people who have never been this low before – and never believed they ever would be. I’ve often said the virus is not the worst thing that has happened this past year.

The psalmist must have been experiencing the same level of low as some people feel today. He asks, “Why, my soul are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil?” (42:5a) He even describes himself as “deeply depressed,” and asks God why He has forgotten him. (verses 6,9). I think many of us have at one time or another felt like God has abandoned us when our souls are in turmoil ourselves.

I actually think the psalmist did something good here. He put into words what was troubling him. We don’t know the answers he came up with, exactly why he felt dejected and in turmoil. But so often in Scripture we are told to search our hearts. Look how many times Jesus, before he healed or forgave someone, asked, “What is it you want?” “What are you looking for?”

We would do well to get out pencil and paper and identify those things in us, too. “Why, my soul, am I dejected?” Sometimes we don’t even know why we are experiencing this level of sadness. I believe God would have us give voice to our troubles. Be specific.

Then, the psalmist did something else: he took his eyes off himself and focused on God instead. He said in verse 1 he longed for God like a parched deer longs for a flowing stream. He remembered God, His goodness and protection.

In Psalm 43 he asked God to send His light and truth, and lead him to Himself. He also demonstrated complete faith in God when he said:

The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night…” (42:8)

The Lord WILL, His song WILL…

I know it’s not easy. And if there is a chemical imbalance in a person’s body, he or she needs medication and Biblical counseling to help them navigate their physical need. But here is what I found to be true of my own tough days:

My tears have been my food day and night… (42:3a)

Warren Wiersbe said the psalmist “‘fed’ on his grief (not a wise thing to do) as his tears became his bread. His weeping was as regular as his eating had been.” (Be Worshipful; David C Cook Publisher; 2009; page 162).

Do you relate? Then ask yourself if you are feeding on your grief. Identify those things that are troubling you, but don’t stop there. Lay them at the feet of Jesus. Trust Him. Seek Him.

That’s not to say simply pretend everything is ok. The “Name it and Claim it” thing is garbage. Rather, name it and turn it over (and keep turning it over when you find yourself picking it up again).

Paul tells us to instead think on things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It’s hard to be down when our thoughts are on our blessings and God’s character.

Some people will say that’s too easy, it can’t work for everyone, that it’s wrong to believe you have the ability to change your thinking and, in turn, your feelings. I am just sharing what God has said in His Word. I’m not making this up.

I know many of us have memorized Philippians 4:6-7 which says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends our understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you get that? Paul says to pray, be thankful for what you have (including your position in Jesus through His blood), and be specific about what you want God to do. Now don’t miss this:

The result of that kind of prayer isn’t necessarily the receiving of everything you’ve asked for. The result of that kind of prayer is peace in your heart that only God can give. It’s a peace the world cannot understand. And it’s a peace that will guard your heart and mind against the thoughts and feelings that are putting you in turmoil.

Someone once said, “I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me.” Sounds like that person needs a new diet. Feeding on his grief has become normal. I pray that you, and I, will feed on the Word of God and His promises, that we will think on things that God has told us to think, that we will trust Him, seek Him, and truly look up.

I will confess that following Scripture in this area is like riding a rollercoaster. Some days I can change my thoughts, get busy looking for ways to serve my Savior, and love and seek God with all my heart, mind, and soul.

And some days I fail miserably. I feed on my grief like I’m an addict falling off the wagon.

But I thank God that He is always faithful to forgive when I ask Him to, that He is there beside me to give me the ability to obey Him, to change my thoughts, and focus on Him when I surrender to Him.

Because the Lord WILL send His faithful love to me during my day, and He WILL give me His song in the darkness if I ask Him to. That’s not wishful thinking. It’s true!

Praying for you, and me, today.