October 31 - Psalm 146

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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October 31 - Psalm 146

The last five Psalms are often called the Hallelujah Psalms because they begin and end with the words Hallelu – Yah … Praise the Lord!

The Psalmist stands before his people singing, “Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 146:1-2).

With this declaration, he proceeds to remind his listeners that placing trust in humanity will ultimately fail because humanity fades away.  All of the plans that we put our trust in become nothing when the person behind them is gone.

But, there is someone who never fails and who will never fade away.  The God of Jacob, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them.  This is the Lord who will be faithful forever.  His plans will last.  He cares for the oppressed and the hungry, He sets prisoners free and gives sight to the blind.  Those who are stooped under great stress and strain will be lifted up and He loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the alien, the fatherless and the widow and He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

In this Psalm we see that the fallacy of following after the ways of the popular and the wealthy, the celebrities will do us absolutely no good.  Even though these people are much more fun to watch and attempting to emulate their behavior, the way they dress and admiring the things they purchase and support; they will die and all of the things they build up will fade away.  We would be living in nothing more than a house of cards, destined to fall with a simple flick of the finger.

The things that the Lord cares about are so much more mundane.  There isn't a lot of excitement and recognition, money or power in caring for people who are oppressed and hungry, who need our help.  The Lord’s priorities are so different from our own.  He doesn't call on us to build great wealth or acquire possessions. He doesn't ask us to design extraordinary lives that will bring power and notoriety.  He simply wants us to care for those who need us, no matter what position in life they have.  The least and the lost are well known to Him and He wants us to recognize their importance in the kingdom of God, something that is so different than the kingdoms the world builds up.

The Lord is eternal, He never changes.  He reigns forever, through all generations.  This is where we place our trust.

October 30 - Psalm 141

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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October 30 - Psalm 141

For me, the strongest words of this Psalm are found in verse three.  “Set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Instead, from verse two, what we find is that the Psalmist pleads with God that his prayers be like incense and when he lifts his hands in praise, may it be like the evening sacrifice.

James 1:26 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and doesn't keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

1 Peter 3:10 says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”

The warnings against ‘evil’ speech in scripture are many.  From gossip to slander, idle talk, backbiting and false accusations; there are over one hundred references about and warnings against such behavior.

Yet, we continue to hurl venomous words out of our mouths at any opportunity; in fact, many times we feel that we are justified in speaking our mind.  If we feel we have been slighted, we rise up and speak the truth with great self-righteousness, never thinking about how our words fall on people around us.  In the middle of a political campaign, it is perfectly within our rights to speak our mind, even though we say terrible things about another human being.  I've listened as the most vile words leave people’s mouths in the middle of church meetings because they are angry about a decision which has been made. They don’t give a second thought to the people who on the other side of the argument, as if they don’t belong there.

That’s just a small part of the equation. We act as if we are taking someone into our confidence when we discuss another person’s failings.  Everyone is so self-righteous about those conversations.  We talk about entire groups of people and set ourselves above them; whether they are poor or their skin is another color or they speak in a different language or they live a different lifestyle.  Because they are different, we feel as if we must alert the world to those differences and the fact that we are obviously better than them.

Every morning, I should wake up and pray that short prayer.  Dear Lord, set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.  It is from my lips the both curses and praise can flow and it is important that the curses stay locked up while praise flows freely.

October 29 - Psalm 134

Monday, October 29, 2012

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October 29 - Psalm 134

This is the final Psalm in the collection of the Psalms of Ascents.  The Hebrew word which we've translated as Ascents actually means ‘to go up.’  In other words, these were probably Psalms that were sung as people ascended the steps of the Temple.  They were also sung as people traveled to Jerusalem on pilgrimages to the city for one of the three major festivals that happened each year.

For many of us in this day and age, it is difficult to wrap our understanding around a time when people’s lives revolved around the temple.  It wasn't just the people and priests who worked in the Temple who thought about it all the time, it was an immense part of the life of every Jew.  It was as much a part of their personal and business lives as it was their religious life.  The Lord was ever on their minds.

This Psalm would have been sung in an evening service.  The priest sang out the first two verses and the then the third verse is a blessing upon the people by the priests.

Come praise the Lord, all you who serve the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the holy place and praise the Lord!

With all that you have; with all that you are, praise the Lord!  Throw up your arms as you express your praise, let it sound out around you and fill the hearts of everyone who is near.  The Lord has given you life and all that you have.  Praise Him!

Raise your arms, stretch out your fingers, look up and praise the Lord!

October 28 - Psalm 133

Sunday, October 28, 2012

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October 28 - Psalm 133

When thousands of Israelites descended on Jerusalem for a festival, there was bound to be tension. This Psalm reminded them they were bound as a family and the Lord’s delight was found in their unity.

It would seem that the last place we might find infighting and bickering should be the church, but in my years, I have seen more ugliness, name-calling, bitter and angry words, horrendous accusations and vicious behavior within the congregations of churches than anywhere else (other than political verbiage during election season).  There were times I wondered if God could be found anywhere in the midst of all that verbal garbage.

When I was young, I remember coming home after a particularly wonderful event.  Our whole family would be at church, smiling and getting along famously; but the moment we walked in the front door, we turned into venomous snakes, pouncing on each other and biting away any niceties that had just occurred.  I would wonder what had happened.  In public we had to be nice to each other, but in private we were hurtful and awful.

I asked my mother about it once.  It made no sense to me.  She explained that we felt safe inside the four walls of our home to let everything out, the good and the ugly.  We were a family and it was safe to be angry at each other because we knew that we would always come back together.  We had to love each other, there was no other option.  She did, though, expect that we respect each other, even if we were angry or hurt.

That’s one of the things I believe has been lost in the culture today … even  within the church.  We forget that we must love each other and respect each other.  The ugliness that crosses over from the rest of our world may be there to protect ourselves, but at what cost to others?

Unity found in love and respect flows like precious oil, like dew on the mountain and it is in this we find the Lord’s blessings on His people.

October 27 - Psalm 128

Saturday, October 27, 2012

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October 27 - Psalm 128

I chuckled a little as I read this Psalm.  This is what we all want, isn't it?  To have blessings and prosperity, a family that is happy and successful, a long life lived in a community that is prosperous.  These things are a dream come true for most people.

The prosperity gospel which has been preached over the centuries tells us that if we follow Jesus, we will have all of that and more, that all we have to do is follow a certain pastor’s guidelines for successful living and everything in this life will be ours, because God promises us those things in scripture.

The thing is, that’s absolutely true.

I could stop there and you might wonder if I had lost my mind, but I haven’t. I’m as pragmatic and normal as I've always been.  You see, there are several things we forget to include in the prosperity equation.  First, we can’t just go after this for a few months and expect God to drop blessings in our laps.  It’s easy to straighten up our lives and live well for a short period of time.  Who are we kidding?

Secondly, scriptures also tell us that God knows our hearts.  If the purpose of following God is to gain prosperity and blessings then that isn’t truly a relationship, is it?  Oh, it’s a relationship many of us are familiar with, we live it out in our jobs and in many of our other relationships, but it won’t work with the Lord.

We also have to recognize that prosperity and long life have differing definitions for different people and cultures … and our definition is absolutely not going to be the same as the Lord’s definition.  He wants what is best for us within the overall scheme of what’s best for His creation.


It is easy to skip over the first verse of this Psalm: Blessed are all who fear the Lord.  We moved right past that to the part about blessings and prosperity.  The Lord has the right to expect a lifetime of honor from us.  When we live within His will and ask for His input into our lives and then live according to that, we begin to align our desires with His and discover a new understanding of blessings and prosperity. Rather than balancing ourselves against the definition given to us by the world, we define ourselves according to how God sees us and the relationship that we are in with Him.

This is transformative!  Imagine the peace that will come from living, not according to standards set by culture, which changes moment by moment, but those set by the Lord who is never-changing.  When we can do that, we will find that the blessings have been there all along and that our prosperity is more than enough to meet our needs and that our lives are lived just long enough to offer us the opportunity to be in a relationship with the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.

October 26 - Psalm 124

Friday, October 26, 2012

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October 26 - Psalm 124

This really is one of my favorite Psalms.  “If the Lord had not been on our side when …”

When I look back over my life and consider all of the things I have been through, I can not imagine how I would have done so without the Lord at my side.  I always wondered why those things happened to me and why I was forced to go through unimaginable pain, but I also always knew that I wasn't alone. Even if I did nothing other than cry out, “WHY?” I knew there was someone who would hear me and comfort me.

And, even further than that, when I cried out, “Are you really there? How can you expect me to believe in you?” I knew there was someone who would hear me and quietly say, “Yes. I’m here. I expect nothing more than that you believe in me.”

Two days after my mother died, I spoke with a friend and said, “The thing that scares me more than anything is that I might lose my faith because of my fear and frustration right now.”  She hugged me and told me that my faith was too deep and strong to lose it over death.  Death happened to everyone and the gift of a relationship with God was experienced only by those who had faith in Him.  Neither He nor I would give it up so easily.

The crazy thing about that question of mine was that my mother’s death gave me more insight into my relationship with God than any other experience in my entire life.  Though I clearly remember the day when I walked to the altar and asked Jesus Christ to be the Savior of my life, my mother’s death is the defining moment in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to be in a relationship with the God of Creation.  One small question asked out loud and from there, a lifetime of learning and comprehension began.

If the Lord had not been on our side … I would be but a shadow of the person I am today.

My help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

October 25 - Psalm 120

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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October 25 - Psalm 120

Save me from lying lips and deceitful tongues … I am a man of peace, but those whom I live among hate peace, they are for war.

When we tell a good story, we don’t feel as if exaggeration is a problem.  When we enter an interview, exaggerating our positive attributes seems like the right thing to do.  When we tell of how someone has misused us or abused us, a little bit of exaggeration gives us firmer ground to stand on and gains us a little more sympathy.

Before we know it, exaggeration leads to lies and deceitfulness because it seems right that we should ensure people are on our side!  Whatever it takes to get people to do what we want them to do is just fine.

And as for war, it might not be guns a-blazing, but we certainly enjoy stirring up trouble if it will keep people looking at others in a bad light so that we can look all lily-white.  We are a self-interested bunch of people who like to talk about honesty and civility, but have a difficult time implementing into our lives.

It really does seem as if the world today has lost any sense of civility.  That I read these words from the Psalms almost gives me hope. It reminds me that nothing much has changed, no matter how I feel as if things continually get worse and that the world is falling apart moment by moment.

The next time you feel as if you are about the tip over the edge because you feel as if the world isn’t fair or you are being mistreated by someone remember that David lived in Meschech, among the tents of Kedar. I am not going to take the time to research those locations right now, but he lived among men who preferred war to peace, battle to restoration, lying to honesty, anger to civility.

We live in a world that isn’t willing to support peace, but we are a people of peace.

October 24 - Psalm 118

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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October 24 - Psalm 118

Let the nations say, “His love endures forever.”

When I cried out, the Lord’s answer was to set me free (Psalm 118:5).

He is with me, so I won’t be afraid.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.  He is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

This Psalm is filled with words we find throughout the rest of scripture, words I have sung in praise songs throughout my life, and words which continue to inspire me to place my unfettered trust in the Lord.

I made the choice at the age of thirteen to commit my life to Jesus Christ. I thought there would be some huge, life-changing epiphany, but it was just a quiet moment between me and God.  I wrote the date down in the flyleaf of my Bible and continued to live my life.  I really wasn't all that different.  Before that day, I’d been a pretty good girl and had always known that I was a Christian, so it actually wasn't as big of a pronouncement as it had been for others.

See, I had known people who transformed their lives completely. I knew one woman who went down to the altar one week and when I saw her the next week in church, I didn't recognize her.  Everything about her was different: the way she carried herself, the hardness on her face was gone, an overwhelming amount of makeup was gone, her hair was different, and her clothing seemed different.  She was unrecognizable and the new person was better … much better. She had been set free of so much when she called out to the Lord. And she was now free to love. The Lord became her strength and her song ... He became her salvation.

I was a few years younger and still pretty naive about the world and didn't have all that much which would be outwardly visible as I released it.  What happened for me that day was the beginning of a life of trust. I think that moment was the beginning of me transferring my complete trust away from my parents to the Lord.  While they were always going to care for me and take care of me; I recognized that a lifelong relationship had begun … one which would be mine long after my parents were gone.

Through the years, I have had to release things which would bind me and each time, the Lord’s answer to me was freedom.  It is the Lord whom I trust. It is the Lord in whom I take refuge. I will trust His words and His way and His will long before I trust any human. I listen for Him as He fills my heart with song and my soul with strength. He will always be my salvation.

His love endures forever.

October 23 - Psalm 115

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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October 23 - Psalm 115

One of the difficult tensions we face in today’s culture is between the praise of self and the praise we offer to God.  We are taught to believe in ourselves and to believe that we are capable of doing anything. We build each other up by saying things like, “You’re amazing. You are the best at what you do.  Without you, I don’t know what I’d do.  You are talented. You are beautiful. You are phenomenal.”

These words are absolutely necessary in order to overcome the everyday, mundane, things we have to live with.  We say these things in order to help each other come up out of the muck, leave behind the negative and embrace the positive.

But, then we read the words which open Psalm 115 and wonder if our praise might be misplaced.

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

When I was very young and began performing, one thing my mother just abhorred was performers who deflected any accolades.  She felt (and rightly so) that the performer was telling the person offering gratitude and praise that they were wrong and had no business saying anything at all.  I learned how to accept praise graciously, knowing that the appropriate time to deflect anything was during the performance, not when someone was trying to express their gratefulness for a moment when their heart was touched.  It was better to encourage the moment of interaction and conversation than to shut them down by being rude.  That’s a difficult lesson, but one I had to learn.

However, she also wanted to be sure I understood where my talent had come from.  I did.  I also understood that the hard work I had put in as I prepared for a performance wasn't just about me. It was about my parents pushing me and encouraging me to sit at the piano and practice. They sacrificed so that I could grow as a musician.  The lesson was that it was never about me.

But, I believe these words are not telling us we aren't to encourage those around us and build them up.  These words are meant to tell us we can’t allow ourselves to believe that we have done it all alone or that we might be the best at something beyond the gifts God has given us.  We are reminded that we are nothing without Him and when we believe we have struck out on our own and been successful without Him, we've missed the point.

The gifts I have come from God. I can never forget that.  Unto Him I give all the glory because of His love and faithfulness.  He is my help and shield.  He is the One who pours out blessings.  I will extol His name forever.

October 22 - Psalm 112

Monday, October 22, 2012

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October 22 - Psalm 112

Do you know that Hallelujah means Praise the Lord?  The Hebrew for the first line of this Psalm (and others) is Hallelu Yah. You might recognize the word Yah as part of Yahweh.  Praise the Lord!  Hallelujah!

Do you revere the Lord and find delight in what He says?  You are blessed. Your children and every generation following who stand up for the Lord will also be blessed.

When it is dark, light will dawn for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.  God will be close to you as you’re a generous and give of yourself without asking for something in return. His goodness will be on those who are honest and filled with integrity.

Those who trust in the Lord without question will not fear bad news knowing that in the end, everything will be alright.

On the other hand, the one who is wicked will become nothing and no matter what he or she desires, nothing much will happen.

The Psalmist knows that there is a much longer view of life when you are connected to the Lord by doing His will and living according to His statutes.  Darkness gives way to light, goodness comes from generosity and integrity, short-term fears give way to peace.

We have been given a great gift in knowing that the Lord desires the very best for each of us.  It is our decision as to whether or not we live in His will and accept the good things He has to offer.

October 21 - Psalm 107

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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October 21 - Psalm 107

Don’t you wish sometimes people would let you use your imagination and just give you the outer frame of the picture?  Well, this is what you need to know from Psalm 107.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

“Consider the great love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43b).

There, that’s what you need to know.  You can build the picture of those whom He loves from there.  You can also read the Psalm and find out that the ones loved by God span the entirety of the human condition.

He saved people from their enemies.  He brought His people back from other lands.  Those who were far from everything and couldn't find their way home, He led them back.  He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

While you can imagine these are people who are physically far from home and physically thirty and hungry; please also recognize that there are so many who are spiritually far from home and are yearning with all they have to be filled with the love of the Lord (Psalm 107:2-9).

There were those who sat in dungeons dark and gloomy, chained because of their sins.  There were those who approached death because their rebellion had destroyed their desire to live well.  There were those who traveled far from home on the seas. They thought they were seeing everything the Lord had created, but because they were relying on their own strength, when it ran out they were lost.  He broke their chains, healed their bodies and stilled the storms of their lives (Psalm 107:10-31).

Even though the Lord dried up rivers because of wickedness, He also turned that around, bringing water to the desert of people’s lives. He created a haven for those who were hungry and thirsty and lost.  It was a place where each person could make a home and live in peace.  When they got out of hand, he humbled them, but when there were those in need, He lifted them (Psalm 107:32-42).

If you are wise, you will learn from this, the Psalmist says.  You will also consider the great love of the Lord.

October 20 - Psalm 102

Saturday, October 20, 2012

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October 20 - Psalm 102

What begins in tears ends in praise.

If you really tear into this Psalm, you will find that as the Psalmist focuses on himself, all he sees is devastation. He is crying for help, he is in distress.  He sees his life passing quickly and his body is withering up.  He doesn't eat well and groans out loud.  He doesn't sleep at night and during the day he is faced with all those things that upset him.  His food tastes like ash and tears flow into his drink.  All he can think is that the Lord is punishing him.

Then, in verse twelve, his perspective changes and he looks beyond himself to the Lord. Not only does the perspective of the Psalmist change, but the entire attitude in this Psalm begins to change.  The Psalmist sees the Lord eternally on His throne.  As soon as the perspective is off the individual and on the Lord, the entire world comes into focus.

Psalm 102:13-16 is about Zion (Jerusalem).  The Lord will have compassion on Zion, because He knows how important she is to Israel.  The Psalmist knows of the promise that has been made – that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and will be a symbol of the Lord’s righteousness to the rest of the world.  In verse seventeen, the prayers of the poor gain the Lord’s attention as well.

The Psalmist’s perspective gets even larger in verse eighteen as he says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.”  By looking at the Lord instead of his own problems, he not only sees all of the dimensions that surround him, but he looks out into the future.  Those who are yet to be born will praise the Lord.  The Lord hears the groan of the prisoners and will release the condemned.

It is difficult to look at our short lives and be comfortable with the fact that they will end.  We pray that we will continue to be healthy and live a long and happy life.  The Psalmist recognizes that the Lord is eternal. He laid the foundations of the earth and created the heavens.  All of these things, including humanity will pass away, but the Lord will still be the same.  He will be the same Lord that Adam knew, the same Lord that Joshua, David and Solomon knew; the same Lord that sent His Son to earth to become like us and transformed the life of Paul so the Gospel could spread throughout the world.  This is the same Lord the stood with Polycarp and Anselm, Martin Luther and Billy Graham.  This is the same Lord who will be there when our grandchildren and their grandchildren come to know Him.  He will always be the same and we can always live in His presence.

Our lives may be short, but we are the creation of an eternal God.

October 19 - Psalm 98

Friday, October 19, 2012

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October 19 - Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song!

If you take time to really read the words of this Psalm, I can almost guarantee you will feel your spirit lifted and your heart filled with joy.  It is a wonderful hymn of praise!

This new song is found several times in the Psalms (33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1 144:9; 149:1), in Isaiah 42:10 and also in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3.

The old has passed away and the new has come!  It is right to sing a new song of praise for the things that God has done.

What are those marvelous things?  He revealed himself to the world.  Sometimes we think we have to do all the work as Christians.  We forget the power of the One who reigns.  He will make himself known to everyone.  If He calls us to be part of that, then we need to step up and obey. If He doesn't  then He has another plan.  But, God will be in control … we need not be.

He remembered Israel and in doing so, everyone on earth sees the power of His love.  Israel was to represent God’s love, grace and mercy to the entire world so that none would be left in the dark.  We are to be that representation.  We aren't to judge whether or not someone deserves God’s love, grace and mercy; we are simply to share it.  God will take care of the rest.

All of creation makes music as it praises the Lord.  You can hear it, can’t you?  The trees sing and the leaves flutter, the rain swells and thunder rumbles, the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing together.  The earth is an orchestra that plays music which shouts for joy unto the Lord!

The Lord in His righteousness will judge the earth.  This IS a reason to sing with joy!

October 18 - Psalm 93

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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October 18 - Psalm 93

There are so many different ways to look at our relationship with God.  He is our friend.  In John 15:15, Jesus says that he calls us friend.  James 2:23 tells us that God called Abraham friend.  He is our comforter, Savior, refuge and fortress. He is our protector and He loves us.  Knowing that God cares for us so much is one of the greatest joys of being a Christian.

But, sometimes we need to step back and see the big picture of who the Lord is.  No, we need to step back even further; then take yet one more step back.  We are just glimpsing the immensity of His power.

The Lord reigns.  The Psalm doesn't tell us that He reigns over earth or the heavens or anything specifically.  It simply says that He reigns.

There is nothing, great or small that isn't under His rule.  From the smallest quark, to the vast sea of space, the Lord reigns.

The word majesty describes impressive beauty, scale or dignity. It is royal power.  It is close to the Latin for major – greater.  There is none greater than the Lord.  He is robed in majesty!  Everything that surrounds his being is greater than anything we know or can perceive.


His throne is eternal. He established the earth and its solidity.  Though the chaos of the seas and the oceans fills the world; He still reigns.  He rises above all of that chaos and His strength can overcome it.

All the laws have been set in place by the One who is holy; the One who is eternally holy.

Yes, the Lord is our shepherd, our comforter, our fortress and refuge.  But this Lord, the one who is closer to us than a brother, the one who lives in our heart; this Lord reigns over everything.  He is clothed in majesty and is eternally holy.

This is what we see when we step away from ourselves and observe Him across all of time and space.

October 17 - Psalm 85

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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October 17 - Psalm 85

Even before the Lord has granted the Psalmist’s request, he chooses to live according to God’s will.

The first three verses remember what the Lord has done in the past.  He showed favor, he restored Jacob’s fortunes; he forgave his people and covered their sins, forgetting his anger toward them.   We do the same when things get stressful, don’t we!  We look back and see how things were better in the past; how God helped us move through problems to a better life.  This is exactly what we should be doing.  It is in remembering that we find confidence to move forward.

But, just like any child, we continue in our sin.  The Israelites did it as a community, we do it as well.  We know when we have sinned; we know when we have caused the Lord to be anger.  We aren't unaware, though we might be unwilling to see all of our sins.

How many times have you wondered if God will be angry at you forever?  Or, how many times have you wondered if things will ever get better?  There are plenty of times I have said both of those things, but the Israelites were concerned that His anger at them would last generations! (Psalm 85:5)  Forever meant something quite different to them.  I can’t imagine knowing that I would never see the Lord’s love and affection again and that my children and grandchildren wouldn't either.  Their prayers for restoration of His love and salvation were desperate.

Then, look at what the Psalmist says in verse eight.  Even before there has been restoration; even while he is still worried that the Lord’s anger will continue; he promises to listen to the Lord God and trust that the Lord’s salvation is near (Psalm 85:9).

While we are still in the middle of agony, we have to draw near to the Lord and trust that He will bring salvation.

The last verses of this Psalm are a beautiful song of praise for the day when the Lord returns.

His glory will live in our land.  Love and faithfulness will meet, peace and righteousness will kiss each other. Faithfulness comes from the earth (from us); righteousness comes from heaven (from God). The Lord will return health to the land and His people.

In the middle of our sin; in the middle of trying to come back to health from our sin; we must trust that the Lord will bring salvation and look forward to restoration, to a time when peace and righteousness will kiss and love and faithfulness will meet.

October 16 - Psalm 80

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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October 16 - Psalm 80

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3).

These words are found three times throughout the Psalm as a different plea for restoration.

In the beginning of the Psalm, the Lord is called a shepherd and the reader is reminded of the early days of Israel when the Mercy Seat was part of the Ark of the Covenant and the Lord traveled with His people.  They call on him again to come and save them. (Psalm 80:1-2).

It is probably that this Psalm was written while the people were in exile under Nebuchadnezzar.  How long was God going to be angry at them?  They had prayed and prayed for relief, but his anger still held out against them.  (Psalm 80:4-6)

“Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:7).

The Lord brought a vine out of Egypt. He drove out nations and then cleared the ground and planted that vine.  It grew.  Now, they see the Lord as a gardener, not just a shepherd.  This vine that he tended grew everywhere. It covered the ground, offered shade to the people, reached from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River.  But, then, the Psalmist says, the Lord allowed others to pick its grapes, animals ravaged it and fed from it. It was cut down and burned.

The people perish because He no longer cares for the vine.

“Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:19).

The people of Israel had sinned greatly.  They were to keep themselves only for the Lord and then, they were also to ensure that the rest of the world knew of the Lord’s greatness. It was their job to bring people to Him so that the entire world would be in relationship with him.  They did neither of those things.  They fought among themselves and worshiped anything they could find. They participated in pagan rites and rituals of other religions. They were too busy protecting themselves from the fights that surrounded them and didn't care to reach out to others in the name of the Lord.

He loved his children and when they had enough, he brought them back, restoring their home to them.

Before we get pushed too far from him, pray that he will restore us, make his face shine upon us and save us.

October 15 - Psalm 71

Monday, October 15, 2012

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October 15 - Psalm 71

A few images which seem to be leaping out at me from the Psalms are refuge and fortress.  The Psalmist constantly tells the Lord that it is in Him that we take refuge.  The Lord is our rock and fortress.  In fact, a quick search tells me that these three words (rock, refuge, fortress) are used a total of eighty-nine times in forty-three Psalms.  The words deliver, rescue, protect and protection show up sixty-seven times in the Psalms. When everything is falling apart around us; the one true place of safety is with the Lord.

The Psalmist here recounts his life as lived knowing the Lord.  “From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb” (Psalm 71:6).  “Since my youth, you have taught me” (Psalm 71:17).  The Lord has been part of his life for as long as he can remember, there is not a time when he hasn't known that relationship.  Because of this, his life seems mysterious to others (Psalm 71:7).  His life is wondrous … mysterious … a portent … something out of the ordinary.  Others don’t know what to do with the fact that God is so close to him.  But, even though they might point and stare, his mouth will always be filled with praise.  No wonder God called David a man after his own heart.

From birth to his youth, he was close to the Lord, but twice in this Psalm, he cries out for God to not forsake him in his old age (Psalm 71:9, 18).  It is at that point that, though his mind might still be quick and clear; his body will not protect him from his enemies.  It is at that point, that he needs great protection.  In Psalm 71:18, he simply wants the end of his life to be a chance to declare the power of God to the next generation.

From our childhood, through our youth and into adulthood we will walk with the Lord and when we are old, He will walk with us.  This is a spoken hope of this Psalm and one that we can turn to as we attempt to understand a lifetime of relationship with God.  Our praise will come as we know that He will always be with us.  He will always be our refuge and He will always offer the protection of His fortress.



October 14 - Psalm 66

Sunday, October 14, 2012

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October 14 - Psalm 66

This morning I woke fully rested.  I’d slept through the entire night (albeit with a few interruptions).  It’s been a while since that has happened for me, so I felt great.  It is mornings like this when praise is on the tip of my tongue.  There are plenty of other mornings when the laments that have been filling the last days of this Psalm series seemed more appropriate, but today Psalm 66 fills my imagination.

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of his name: offer him glory and praise!”

The percentage of people who woke up this morning either praising God or grumbling about the day probably equals out.  But, my imagination wonders what would happen if tomorrow morning, everyone on earth woke up and recognized the gift of creation that God has given us and started the day with praise on their tongues.  Think about the power of that transformation!  The entire earth would be changed in a moment.

“Come see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5)

I am nearly a month into a ‘Thankful For’ journal.  It’s not that big of a deal, I simply ensure that every day I write down five things I’m thankful for.  I’m not just thankful to the universe for these things, I’m thankful to God for the awesome works He does on my behalf.  Every day He is working with me to bring blessings.  Every day I should praise Him for those things!

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard …” (Psalm 66:8)

I will admit that sometimes the postings on Facebook, where people share images others have created celebrating God, get a little annoying. It’s as if it is a shallow representation of a person’s true feelings regarding the power of God.  However, for the first time, the sound of praise is heard on such a large scale (even if it is only two-dimensional images of words).  These words of praise are sometimes shared with millions of people.  That’s praise in a big way!

“Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue … but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer” (Psalm 66:16-19).

We each have a story when God hears our prayers and responds.  Sometimes it is easier to focus on the times when He doesn't respond, but the truth is … God hears us and cares for us and when we leave the pity party behind, we recognize the power of His hand in our lives.

Tell the story of what God has done for you over and over. Focus on the blessings He has given you. Wake up in the morning with praise on your lips.  Let the sound of praise be heard across the earth!

October 13 - Psalm 59

Saturday, October 13, 2012

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October 13 - Psalm 59

If you read the subhead for this Psalm, you will see that David had good reason to be in prayer for his life. The story behind this Psalm is found in 1 Samuel 19:11-17.  Saul had brought David into his home, his harp playing soothed the old man’s soul when it was gripped by an evil spirit.  David had also married Saul’s daughter, Michal.  Saul wasn't ready to give up his kingdom and knew that the young man had been anointed as the next king of Israel.

Then came a day when David was playing his harp for Saul.  1 Samuel 19:9 says that an evil spirit took control of Saul and before David knew it, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear.  David escaped and ran home.  Michal knew what her father’s plan was and told David to run for his life.  She helped him escape through a window because Saul’s men were out front, ready to take him the next morning.

I wrote about a literary structure called a chiasm.  This Psalm is another example of that structure.  The theme of protection from enemies is found at the beginning (vs. 1-2); middle (9-10); and the end (16-17).  In between each of these elements the Psalmist speaks of the treachery of his enemies.

Those enemies surround him snarling like dogs.  Terrible things come out of their mouths (Psalm 59:7).  David was afraid for his life, but sometimes our enemies aren't there to actually murder us, but to destroy us in many creative ways.  The worst are those who mutter terrible things about us hoping that others will pick up the gossip and continue to spread it.  Psalm 59:15 says that they wander about for food and howl if not satisfied.  If they can’t find some way to slander, they will make it up and they will scream so loud it sounds as if they are howling.

In opposition to that type of howling, the Psalmist says that he will sing praise to God.  The words that come from his lips are words of praise. He sings of God’s strength and love.  These are what the Lord wants to hear from our lips.  Psalm 59:8 says that the Lord laughs and scoffs at those who spew terrible things.

For the Lord is our fortress.  He will deliver us from our enemies, he will shield us and is a refuge in times of trouble.  No matter how difficult it is to remember those truths; when we are in the midst of persecution, those words are what we rely on.



October 12 - Psalm 53

Friday, October 12, 2012

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October 12 - Psalm 53

A fool says in his heart “There is no God.”

If you want to see something interesting, check out Psalm 14.  These are pretty much exactly the same words.  Psalm 53 uses Elohim (God) rather than Yahweh (the Lord), but for the most part these are the same Psalm.

The changes that have occurred in this Psalm make it different enough to realize the Psalmist is talking about someone quite different.  In Psalm 14, the author is writing about those Israelites who are doing evil.  By Psalm 53, Israel has been under siege by foreign nations and the foolish are not Israelites, but those who will not call on God from other lands.

This is really the way of it, isn't it.  Sometimes we face down foes in our own lives.  They might be our own thoughts and emotions, they might come from our church or our family.  We become frustrated because they just can’t see how God could make them into something more than who they are.  They won’t acknowledge His presence in their lives or if they do, they have formed Him into their own image and limit His activity.

Other times, the assault comes from something that is completely foreign to us.  Ignorance and foolishness seems to be everywhere. The world looks as if it is coming apart. If only people would allow God to reign, everything would be fine.

Oh, that salvation for all would come.  The last sentence is a promise for Israel and for the world.  When God restores the fortunes of His people, rejoice!

Focus on the restoration and not the foolishness.  God has this.

October 11 - Psalm 49

Thursday, October 11, 2012

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This is a wisdom poem about death and wealth.  One we can be sure of, the other will not transcend the first.  But, we tend to give great power to those who have wealth, don’t we?  The Psalmist tells us it’s not worth it in the long run.

Why should we be afraid of the days when those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches surround us?  They can’t purchase our life for us, can they?  No one can pay God enough to stop death.

We try so hard to subvert death today. We pay enormous amounts of money because life is so precious.  We place life over everything else … and yet, even wise men and the foolish and senseless will die.  Their wealth will be left to others.

It occurs to me that life in the time of the Psalms isn't so different than it is today.  In that day, they named lands after themselves (Ps. 49:11); today the wealthy name buildings after themselves so they have the illusion of living forever.  But, how many college campuses have you walked through and though the name continues to be engraved on a building, no one has a clue who the donor was?

Money will not help us live forever, even if our name is on a plaque on a building.  Those who trust in themselves and hope to have followers who approve of what they did or say will still die (Ps. 49:13).

Their bodies will decay far from the beauty they created to surround themselves with while they were alive.  It matters not.

God will redeem our souls.  God will bring us to himself (Ps. 49:15).

So, the Psalmist says, don’t get too excited about a rich man; don’t be awed when he buys bigger and better homes.  He won’t take it with him.  Even though everyone around him thought he was amazing because he was rich and called him a blessed man because he was prosperous, he will still join his fathers in death and will never see the light of life (Ps. 49:19).

The Psalmist finishes by saying, “A rich man without understanding is like beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20).

Wealth can own you and make you a person who pays no attention to the Lord. You must understand that the Lord is the only one to give you life beyond death.

October 10 - Psalm 44

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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October 10 - Psalm 44

This lament is one that came after the Israelites had lost a battle.  They remembered what the Lord had done for their ancestors.  With his hand, he drove out the nations.  He brought the Israelites to the land and made it possible for them to flourish.  It was the Lord, not a group of people who had no battle training, who won the Promised Land and gave them a home (Psalm 44:1-3)

The Psalmist says that it is by the Lord’s work they push back their enemies or trample their foes.  He says that he doesn't trust in his own bow or sword, that it is the Lord who gives victory over his enemies.  Then, he says that it is in God he will boast and he will praise the name of the Lord forever (Psalm 44:4-8).

But something is wrong.  The Lord isn't paying attention. He doesn't go out with the armies when they head for battle, so they lose the battle.  The Psalmist feels as if the Lord has sold them off.  They are ridiculed by those nations surrounding them and disgraced because of the enemy (Psalm 44:9-16)

All of these things are happening, even though they haven’t forgotten the Lord or been false to the covenant.  They haven’t strayed from the path or turned their hearts from the Lord.  But, even so, the Lord has covered them with darkness (Psalm 44:17-19).

Don’t you think God would notice if we had forgotten his name or gone over to a foreign God?  Don’t you think God notices the secret places of our hearts?  Yet, we face death for your name every day, we are sheep for the slaughter (Psalm 44:20-22).

Wake up!  Do not reject us forever?  Why are you hiding and why do you not pay attention. We are miserable. We are falling and failing.  Rise up, o Lord and redeem us because of your unfailing love (Psalm 44:23-26).


This is one of those Psalms that has given me permission to question why it seems as if God simply doesn't pay attention.  Now, I am fully aware of my sin and know when the separation between me and God is my fault, but sometimes it seems as if He is just not paying attention.  And for heaven’s sake, he took care of my parents when they were struggling. I know all of those stories. I know the stories of how He cares for my friends and even for those whom I will never meet.  Why won’t you care for me … especially when I am at this point in my life?

The Psalmist isn't really expecting a literal answer.  He is really crying out.  He can’t understand why the Lord would hide from him when it seems as if the need is the greatest he has ever faced.  When I cry out and complain, I don’t need God to answer my questions, I need Him to step in and help me.

What I've learned and what I’m sure the Psalmist learned is that the Lord is helping; sometimes it just takes a little more time to understand the transformations that are occurring.  His help may not be in exactly the manner we want or expect, but it will always end up being the right thing for us.  We have a very short view of life and the Lord sees everything in all of its connections … to time and to every other thing in the universe.  It is only the Lord that can make these things work together for good.

October 9 - Psalm 38

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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There is not much worse than feeling as if you are never going to be healthy again.  Everything you do, every move you make reminds you that your humanity is stronger than your will.  We do everything we can to remain healthy. We take drugs, we listen to holistic healers, we spend millions of dollars in our medical system, we pay for insurance so we don’t have to pay millions of dollars to doctors, we chew up vitamins and spend more millions of dollars doing anything possible to keep ourselves healthy.

But, then, something attacks us and we recognize that we no longer have control over the simplest things with regards to our bodies.

The Psalmist in Psalm 38 believes that God is punishing him by allowing whatever illness has taken over.  He is guilty for the sin he has committed and begs the Lord to cease the discipline.  The guilt is overwhelming.

He has open, festering wounds. He is bowed down. His back hurts and he groans and moans because things have gotten so bad.  His heart pounds, he has lost his strength and even his eyesight is failing.  His friends and neighbors have done all they can and things have gotten so bad they are finally just staying away from him.  No one listens to him and he has nothing left to say.

We worry sometimes that God is punishing us, just like the Psalmist does, but psychologists would tell us that our own guilt will eat us up from the inside out and we find the truth of that in these words as well.  In Psalm 38:4, we read “My guilt has overwhelmed me.”  By Psalm 38:18, we finally read, ‘I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  It is time to release the guilt and deal with the sin that got us there in the first place.  The only way we can be clear of everything is to lay it out before the Lord.  Then, we can say, “Lord, do not forsake me.  Lord, be close to me.  Lord, come quickly to help me.  You are my Lord. You are my Savior.”

The Lord will never be far away.  We just have to let go of the things that separate us from Him.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  When the paralytic was lowered through the roof by his friends to see Jesus in Mark 2; the healing began when Jesus said "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Yes, sin and guilt and sickness are sometimes all tied up together.  Stress, anxiety and tension fill our souls and our bodies when we can't resolve the things we've done and wreck the tenuous control we hold over ourselves.

Let go of the guilt.  Hand it off to the One who can care for you more than anyone else and begin the journey back to wholeness.

October 8 - Psalm 36

Monday, October 8, 2012

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October 8 - Psalm 36

I have a couple of observations before I begin today’s Psalm.  First, I think I did all the easy Psalms the first two times I wrote for this blog.  These are much more difficult now.  Secondly, do you hear songs in your mind as you read through these.  So many songs and hymns were written using the words of the Psalms; so many bits and pieces of these Psalms show up in random places in our worlds.  From Psalm 31 the other day – “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Jesus says that in Luke 23:46.  He doesn't quote it, he just says it.  These words permeate our culture and for that I’m thankful.

In Psalm 36, the Psalmist makes a clear distinction between the wickedness of humanity and the loving-kindness of God.

The wicked person shows no fear of God in his eyes.  In his eyes, he flatters himself so much that he can’t see his own sin.  The words he speaks are wicked and deceitful … and because of this, his wisdom is gone and he no longer does good.  Even when he lays down at night on his own bed, he spends time plotting evil and setting a sinful course before him; he doesn't reject what is wrong (Psalm 36:1-4).

We've all come up against this type of person; probably on a very regular basis.  In talking to my sister, a teacher, about bullies, she says there are two personalities for a bully. The first is one who has absolutely no self-esteem and so attempts to drag others down below him- or herself in order to make everyone lower.  The second, though, might be unexpected. It is the person who believes that they actually are better than others and can’t see beyond that to care about anyone but themselves.  This is the type of person the Psalmist speaks about.  The wicked person flatters himself so much that he can’t see the reality of who he is and the sin he commits.

But, the Lord is completely different.  His love reaches to the heavens, he is faithful and righteous and just.  The Psalmist describes these qualities in terms of the vastness of nature – faithfulness to the heavens, righteousness like the mighty mountains, justice like the great deep.  We can see the boundless extent of the Lord’s goodness (Psalm 36:5-6).

The Lord makes no distinction between those he loves.  The high and the low among men are welcome under his wings.  He brings a feast for everyone, no one is excluded.  In Him we find life, in Him we see light (Psalm 36:7-9).

The Lord never limits his love to one person – to the self.  The Lord expands His love to all, no matter who they are or what they have done.  This distinction is continually made clear by the Psalmist, in this Psalm and in others.  A sinful man thinks only of himself while the Lord cares for everyone.

Psalm 36 ends with a prayer.  Dear Lord, continue to love those who know you and grant righteousness to those who are upright in heart.  Keep the proud and wicked away from me; let them not come between my heart and yours.  I see how they lie fallen … unable to rise.

October 7 - Psalm 31

Sunday, October 7, 2012

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October 7 - Psalm 31

This is another Psalm of lament and seems to be broken into distinct sections, with a chiasm applied to Psalm 1-18.  In this type of grammatical structure, the structure begins, comes to a point and then reverses itself so the ending is similar to the beginning.  You see a lot of this in scripture and it was a literary tool used to capture the reader’s mind.

In this Psalm we see these sections play out like this: Prayer (vs. 1-5); Trust (vs. 6-8); Lament (vs. 9-13); Trust (vs. 14); Prayer (vs. 15-18).  Read through these verses and see if you don’t agree.  This Psalm is a very full prayer.  By lifting his requests, affirming his trust in the Lord, then being honest with the Lord about those things which are hurting Him, the Psalmist establishes the relationship he has with the Lord. He can be honest about those things which frighten him, He can talk to the Lord about the things He needs and He acknowledges the power God has in his life.



When we arrive at Psalm 31:19, the literary structure and the tone of the Psalm change. David has bared his soul to the Lord and once all of that is off his chest, he lifts his voice in praise.

He said in Psalm 31:1 that he takes refuge in the Lord; in Psalm 31:19-20, he praises the Lord for that shelter which hides those who take refuge.  In Psalm 31:7, David says he will be glad and rejoice in the Lord’s love and in Psalm 31:21 he praises the Lord for the Lord’s wonderful love.

What are the things you pray for?  What are the things in your life that you affirm and acknowledge as coming from God? What are the things you anguish over?

When you lift these to the Lord, you not only release them, but you build a relationship with Him; one that will cause you to sing His praises.

October 6 - Psalm 28

Saturday, October 6, 2012

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October 6 - Psalm 28

Surely you've had times when you feel there is no one around who cares whether you exist or not; no one who will take care of you; no one who can help you.

For David, the only one left was God.  He pleaded with God to listen, because if God didn't listen to him, he might as well just die.  David was feeling so alone, in verse three, he was concerned that God wouldn't see him as he was and might see him along with the wicked and drag him to be punished.

David, in verse two, says that he lifts his hands to the Most Holy Place. In verse five, he says that the wicked show no regard for (pay no attention to) the Lord.  He wants the Lord to know that he is different.

Then, in verse six, the tone of the Psalm completely changes.  Something happened. Something good.  Instead of a lament, David begins to praise the Lord.  He was heard by the Lord and everything changed. His attitude changed, his spirit changed.  He began to sing with joy.

But, the most noticeable thing that changed is in Psalm 28:8.  David’s outlook grew beyond himself.  Rather than focusing on the things that were difficult in his own life and those who were wicked, he moved outside himself and saw that not only is the Lord his strength and shield, but so much more.  The Lord is the strength of his people.  David was finally able to pray and ask the Lord to save His people, to bless them, to be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Those times when we feel there is no one who cares if we exist or not, no one to care of us, no one to help us bring us to very self-centered behavior.  If the Lord won’t listen, we might as well just die.

Fortunately, He does listen and is patient with us.  When we come out on the other side, we recognize that we aren't the only people in the universe and that His love extends to everyone, even those who might have hurt us.

October 5 - Psalm 21

Friday, October 5, 2012

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October 5 - Psalm 21

David rejoices in the strength of the Lord, the victories bring him joy.  The Lord has granted him the desire of his heart, welcomed him with blessings, placed a crown on his head.  He has given him long life and because of those victories, David has received splendor and majesty.

The first thing I notice when reading this Psalm is that it could look as if David is pleased with the fact that he has received all of these wonderful things.  In my life, I might have a tendency to forget the power of the Lord’s hand on me and figure that I either deserved everything or that I was the one who had done all those things.

But, David’s focus is on the Lord.  It is only because of the Lord that David is able to do anything well or be the king of Israel.  These words are about God’s goodness, not the fact that David did anything to deserve or earn it.

When we get to verse eight, David begins talking about those enemies he faces in battle.  He expects the Lord to deal with them.  They are the enemies of the Lord! Since that is the case, God will seize them, consume them in fire, destroy their descendants.  Though they plot evil, those schemes will fail because the Lord is in control.

We take our enemies (whether internal or external) before the Lord and ask Him to deal with them.  We want Him to heal our bodies and take care of our friends.  We ask Him over and over to seize our foes, those things which might bring us down.

The temptation is to take all of these foes before the Lord and drop them at His feet, counting on the fact that He loves us enough to handle them.  And He does.  He’d much prefer for us to do that than to try to handle them all on our own.


But, David got it.  He saw the balance.  He acknowledged that God was responsible for all (not just some) of the good in his life.  In the same way, He knew that God would also take responsibility for the foes in His life.

October 4 - Psalm 16

Thursday, October 4, 2012

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October 4 - Psalm 16

Is it easy to accept that the Lord has assigned us our portion and cup, that what we have is what He wants us to have and that we should be content?  Absolutely not.  It’s much easier to complain and whine and wish for more.

The Psalmist, though, acknowledges that he has no good thing without the Lord and pursuing other gods in order to make a better life will not do him any good.  We want God to take care of us, but we aren't quite as ready to give our choices and decisions about our future to Him.  We like to have at least the perception of control, even if we don’t want to say it out loud.

For David, the reality of the Lord’s guidance in his life means that … the boundary lines have fallen for him in pleasant places and he has a delightful inheritance (Psalm 16:6).  He doesn't see his boundaries as limitations.  There is so much available to him within that space.  He doesn't see the inheritance he has received from God as too little, it is delightful and will give him all he needs.  These aren't just physical boundaries and a physical inheritance; these are the gifts and talents God has given to him.  They are enough to bring him great joy throughout his life.

Sometimes I get frustrated at what I consider to be my limitations.  I would have loved to have been a physicist.  Theoretical physics seems so amazing to me, but I didn't spend enough time with math and science when I was younger to be able to pull that off now.  Now, God didn't stop me from learning those things; I did.  However, even within the limitations that I designed for myself, He continually brings new, creative potential to my life.  He expands my sight and shows me that His boundaries are much bigger than anything I could imagine.

David tells us that he listens to the Lord; even at night when he sleeps, his heart teaches him.  He won’t be shaken because the Lord is always before him.   You know, the thing is … being obedient to the Lord never limits us.  Our boundaries are bigger than we can ever imagine because the Lord is the Creator of everything.  He is infinite and eternal.  The only boundaries He ever sets around us are those that will protect and keep us safe.  When we listen to Him, when we learn from Him … we are tapping into a constant source of creativity … there is no limit to what He can offer us.

In the end, we can afford to explore everything the Lord gives to us and shows us because He will be with us.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

When you look at your life, do you see limitations or potential?  God sees potential.  The boundaries He has set around you are not to stop you, but are pleasant places.  The talent (inheritance) he has given you is delightful.  Focus on that and grow, then rejoice.

October 3 - Psalm 12

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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October 3 - Psalm 12

It isn’t often I laugh out loud when reading a Psalm, but I did this time!  Take a few moments to read through the eight verses of this Psalm and then we’ll talk.

One of the reasons I laughed is that even the ‘godly’ lie and speak with deception from the flattering lips (Psalm 12:1-2).  This type of behavior is no longer relegated to just the ungodly.  Sometimes we’ll say anything to ensure that people like us or think well of us.  No, I’m not talking about telling someone who is trying really hard to do a musical solo that they did a nice job even when you were cringing in your seat. I’m not talking about telling someone they look nice when they ask you if their new outfit makes them look fat.

I’m not even talking about being quiet when your neighbor spouts out political rants that you disagree with or being tolerant of people who live differently than you do.  Sometimes quiet deception is all about caring for people in a real way.  Your brand of truth might be more harmful than helpful.  Please always remember that your measure of the truth, righteousness and goodness might be very different than God’s.  You don’t actually get to tell Him what is right and true.

In fact, this Psalm talks about people who want the world to listen to what they have to say because they speak the loudest.  Verse four says they boast and say, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

There are a lot of so-called godly people who believe that they can build their own descriptions of truth, right and wrong, righteousness; thinly based on Biblical teaching and then use those descriptions as weapons to hurt others.

The Lord will not allow that in the end.  These people oppress the weak and the needy.  They re-create perceptions so those people are seen as leeches on society rather than someone who needs help.

In Psalm 12:5b, the Lord says “I will rise up and protect them (the weak and needy) from those who malign them.”

“O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.  The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (Psalm 12:7-8).

We must constantly be on guard that we don’t corrupt the image of godly men.  If there is any possibility that you are hurting another with your words or your religion, rather than offering grace and mercy much as it has been offered to you; you very well could be honoring vile behavior.

October 2 - Psalm 5

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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October 2 - Psalm 5

The Psalmist was much better at arising with praise on his lips in the morning than I am.  I will admit that I am grateful He hears me even when I can’t focus or function yet.

When I was in high school, my bedroom was right next door to the bathroom and the shower was pretty much on the opposite side of the wall where I slept.  Every morning, Dad would talk to God in the shower.  On Sunday mornings, he was usually in there between 4:30 and 5, and during the week it was between 6 and 6:30. I became used to the sounds of him praising God and sometimes singing as I struggled out of sleep.  I could tell when he’d had a particularly restless sleep the night before, because in his groggy state, he generally asked God to remind him what his name was.  However, as much as I wanted to be annoyed because he was disturbing my well-deserved morning sleep (or so I thought), how could I tell the man he couldn't praise God?  So, I just suffered through it and dropped back to sleep when he finally went left the bathroom.

The Lord does hear us whenever we lay our requests before Him.  As we wait in expectation (Psalm 5:3), we find that we focus on His will; we become more anticipatory of what it is that the Lord wants of us, not necessarily what we want from Him.

The Psalmist alternates between his own actions of prayer and worship and the unrighteous who surround him.  We've all encountered those whom he names in Psalm 5:4-6: the evil and wicked, the arrogant, those who do wrong, and those who tell lies, are bloodthirsty and deceitful.  The Psalmist abhors them and he knows that the Lord does so also.  They can’t be in God’s presence.

On the other hand, with reverence, we can come before the Lord. We acknowledge that the Lord’s great mercy is what allows us to be there.  It is He the leads us in righteousness and it is He who will protect us from our enemies as we walk through life.

Those enemies can’t be trusted.  They are bent on destruction, they lie.

I am certain that David’s enemies were very apparent. Everyone knows that a King is surrounded by those who would destroy him. Any public figure is, no matter how well they might be loved by the majority. There is always someone who wants to take them down.  But, for those of us who aren't quite as public, our enemies might not be so obvious.  Sure, we have people in our lives who don’t particularly like us very much, but if we spent time worrying about them proactively trying to destroy us, we’d be called paranoid and that would be a correct assumption.

There are so many other things in our lives that can destroy us or lie to us.  One of the worst is our psyche asking us to compare ourselves to others and then when we don’t measure up, telling us that we aren't very good and that we are a failure.  Our minds might tell us that we aren't beautiful just as we are or that we aren't very intelligent or that we are worthless, that our friends only like us for specific reasons, not because we are just here.  There are so many lies that we hear every day and these lies do their best to hurt us.  This Psalm pleads with God to banish those who are His enemies … for they are our enemies as well.

The final stanza (Psalm 5:11-12) reminds us that all who take refuge in the Lord will sing for joy.  He will spread His protection over us and will surround us with His favor.

We don’t have to be brought down by our enemies, even when they attack us from the inside.  We have a Lord who will protect us and encourage us.

October 1 - Psalm 3

Monday, October 1, 2012

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October 1 - Psalm 3

I hope you will take a few moments to read this Psalm.  The superscription says that it is a psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.  That story is found in 2 Samuel 15 and 16.  Absalom began building a cadre of men who would support him. 2 Samuel 15:6 says that he stole the hearts of the men of Israel.  Finally, a messenger got to David, telling him that Absalom was coming.  David left Jerusalem, but everyone knew a battle was brewing between the two forces.

Commentaries say that this Psalm became a morning psalm, especially for military forces on the field of battle.  Before the day began, they sang this Psalm.   What if we were to sing this Psalm as we puttered around our homes trying to begin our day?

I don’t want to spend much time thinking about those who are against me.  Today’s psychologists might tell me that I was too self-focused and there aren't that many people who are even thinking about me. Maybe I should look at the foes I have which reside in my own heart and mind. I can find a great many there.  Those who tell me I can’t or I shouldn't  those who tell me I’m not worth it or that I will fail at anything I attempt.  Those who tell me that I’m not worthwhile to God and I've done too many awful things to warrant His love.  Those are my foes every single day.

The Lord is a shield around me, though.  He lifts up my head. When I cry out to Him, He answers me. The Psalmist doesn't tell me that I have to do anything to gain that shield around me.  I don’t have to be good or righteous or washed clean from all my sins.  The Lord is my shield.  All I have to do is cry out for Him. He won’t leave me when I need Him.

When I lie down at night, I don’t have to be frightened of all of those things that creep into my mind. David was surrounded by tens of thousands of men, any one of whom could enter his tent and assassinate him, but because he trusted in the Lord, he knew he would wake in the morning.  I know that I will wake in the morning because the Lord loves me.

It is the Lord who will strike down my enemies for me.  I don’t have to battle them.  I don’t have to spend a great deal of time worrying about my own self-worth or battle against fear and low self-confidence.  God will deliver me from those things.

It is because of the Lord that I can be delivered from those foes.

May His blessing be upon His people.  Amen.

Yes, this is a prayer to pray every morning.