6/24/17 “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 100-103)

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2).

I was relieved recently to find out that I'm not the only one who forgets things. According to researcher Karen Bolla, everyone does at one time or another. These are the six things people most often forget:

• (6) faces 42%
• (5) what was said 49%
• (4) words 53%
• (3) telephone numbers 57%
• (2) where something is 60%
• (1) names 83%

In an effort to remember things, especially people’s names, I would invoke a technique that involved associating the person’s name with something with which I was familiar. It worked well, but it did require conscious effort on my part to remember the names of these people as I used this technique.

In Psalm 103 King David encouraged himself to use conscious effort to remember God’s blessing upon him: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). As a man after God’s heart, David knew that he, as well as other men, had a tendency to forget about all the manifold ways in which God had blessed him.

Throughout Psalm 103, David reminds himself of how God physically blesses us: (1) God protects us and provides our daily nourishment to sustain our physical lives: “Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:4-5), and (2) the Lord executes justice for the oppressed so we can live in peace: “The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6).

However, in the majority of Psalm 103, David reminds himself of how God had spiritually blesses us: (1) God is merciful and slow to anger in His character: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever” (Psalm 103:8-9), (2) God understands our weaknesses: “As a father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14), (3) God has not given us what we deserved: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:10-11), but, instead, (4) God has forgiven us of our sins, “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases” so that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:3, 12).

Do you have a tendency to forget God’s blessings in your life? I do. I think we see great wisdom in David making a conscious effort to remind himself of all the manifold ways God had blessed his life. Today, I will remember to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

6/23/17 “God-Who-Forgives” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 97-99)

“Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool-- He is holy. Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was among those who called upon His name; they called upon the Lord, and He answered them. He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar; they kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them. You answered them, O Lord our God; You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy” (Psalm 99:5-9).

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday, 800 Pacos showed up looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

The above story illustrates forgiveness is a great need of man. Because we are prone to failure and often find ourselves hurting others, we need forgiveness from both one other and from God. The opening verses above speak about God’s forgiveness. As the Judge of Mankind, even though God executed vengeance on the wicked who would not repent, He was known to the righteous, such as Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, as “God-Who-Forgives”.

What a beautiful way to describe the God we serve, “God-Who-Forgives”! God has always eager desired to forgive His people when they have gone astray from Him. When the Lord appeared to Solomon at night following the building of the temple, He said, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). God is so eager to forgive mankind of their sins He sent His own Son to die for the sins of men to both satisfy His justice (i.e. because the penalty of sin is death and someone had to pay that penalty, Romans 6:23) and at the same time to extend an offer of forgiveness to those who are willing to accept it by humbling themselves and coming back to God (John 3:16). Our Lord is “God-Who-Forgives”!

However, what about me? What do people say about me with regard to forgiveness? Am I known to others as, as ____ (insert your name), the one who forgives? Or, am I known as ____ (insert your name), the one who bears a grudge or is full of bitterness over past hurts? T.D. Jakes stated, “We cannot embrace God's forgiveness if we are so busy clinging to past wounds and nursing old grudges”. We have to learn to let go of past hurts against us. Not only do we need forgiveness from God, we need forgiveness from one other and we need to be the granters of forgiveness to others.

Lewis B. Smedes wrote, ““To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”. Many are held in the self-imposed captivity of their own resentment and bitterness because of their unwillingness to forgive others. I want to enjoy the freedom by letting go of such dark feelings by practicing forgiveness. Mark Twain said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”. Today, regarding the wrongs to done me, I will strive to be a sweet aroma to those around me by practicing forgiveness and not stink up the place by bitterly clinging on to the past wounds of those who have hurt me. I realize I need both to be forgiven and to forgive!

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

6/22/17 “Sheep of His Hand” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 94-96)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:  Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work” (Psalm 95:6-9)

One of the pictures given of God’s care for us throughout the Scriptures is that of a shepherd who cares for his sheep. David said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). Jesus Himself said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). Once again, in Psalm 95 we have this picture of God’s guidance of His people as that of a shepherd guiding his flock of sheep.

Psalm 95 also mentions the attributes of why God is qualified to be our Shepherd: “For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:3-5). God made the entire earth. He knows everything about it. He knows where the best feeding places for his sheep are and where the abundant watering holes are. The Lord is aware of the safest places for his sheep to abide and He knows the areas where dangers may lurk. When their enemies come to attack, He faithfully defends his sheep and will not abandon them.

Because of this, as his sheep our response should be one of great praise for God as our Shepherd: “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2). As the opening verses above describe, we should want to bow down before Him and rejoice because we are blessed that we are the “people of His pasture” and the “sheep of His hand”!

However, is this how we respond to God’s shepherding of us? Unfortunately, God’s people do not always respond with rejoicing to the Good Shepherd’s care. Sadly, they often respond with rebellion as did the nation of Israel. So we are warned, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work” (Psalm 95:7-9). As a result, as a Good Shepherd, God had to respond in love by disciplining the sheep under His care, instead of blessing them: “For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest'" (Psalm 95:10-11).

How will I respond to the Good Shepherd’s care of me? Will I respond rejoicing that God is my Shepherd and eagerly submit to His direction knowing and trusting in His care as my Creator? Or, will I respond in rebellion fighting against His leadership and guidance in my life because I insist on trying to have my own way? Today, I will strive to submit to the Good Shepherd as He guides and directs me to the pastures of plenty while protecting me from the wolves that would try to devour me. I rejoice that not only does He protect my life, but He has demonstrated His devotion to me by laying down His life for me. Praise God that I am a sheep of His hand and that I dwell among the people of His pasture!

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

6/21/17 “Abiding Under the Shadow of the Almighty” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 91-93)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:1-4)

Ulysses S. Grant once said, “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity”. Do you struggle with trusting others? Are you able to trust fully in God’s sovereignty and His ability to watch over you or do you find yourself trying to control things? As God sees you through adverse times, do remember and allow your trust in Him to grow?

In Psalm 91, the writer speaks about trusting fully in God’s power over our lives and His ability to deliver us from whatever trials we may face. As the opening verses above indicate, the psalmist speaks about God as his refuge and fortress. He “abides” under the God’s shadow as God watches over him. The author pictures himself as a baby bird abiding under the wings of its mother for protection (Psalm 91:1-4). Because we can have such trust in God, we should be afraid of nothing which may come our way: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you” (Psalm 91:5-7). No enemy is too great, no obstacle if too large, and no challenge is too difficult that cannot be overcome by God’s sovereign power as He watches over those who trust in Him!

Furthermore, the author notes that not only does God watch over those who place such trust in Him, but He gives charge to His angels to keep us in their care: “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:9-12). Here we learn a little of what the angels of God do as the minister to us while we follow God (Hebrews 1:13-14). What a comforting picture of God’s protecting care of us as we trust in Him!

In addition, we learn from this psalm how God feels about us when we place such complete trust in Him: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16). God has a special place in His Heart for those who completely trust His sovereignty and His ability to preserve them!

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of trying to live trusting in my ability to control things. Over the course of my life I have learned of how inept I am in being able to determine the outcome of things. I want to enjoy the peace and serenity that the writer of Psalm 91 enjoyed. However, I recognize as I read this psalm I can only have this calmness of soul when I trust fully in God. Today, I will strive to trust in God and “abide under the shadow of the Almighty”!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

6/20/17 “Teach Us to Number Our Days” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 87-90)

The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10-12).

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. How often do we find ourselves concentrating on the future and not taking time to consider the present?

As the opening verses above show, in Psalm 90, Moses, the great man of God, speaks about the importance of our taking stock regarding the brevity of our lives. This psalm appears to have been written by Moses during the time of the 40 year wilderness sojourn of the children of Israel. Moses mentions God’s anger being directed against the children of Israel and His affliction of them because of their sins (Psalm 90:7-9, 13-17). Historically this happened following the children of Israel listening to and heeding the bad report of the evil spies regarding the Promised Land (Numbers 13:26-14:10). As a result, God was wrath was aroused and His judgment was to have them wander in the wilderness for 40 years (Number 14:20-35). I have tremendous admiration for Moses because he led God’s rebellious people during these 40 years knowing that they would not enter the Promised Land. His unselfish leadership was essential to preparing the next generation of God’s people to enter the land God had given to them as an inheritance. I look forward to seeing Moses in heaven even though he may not look like Charlton Heston.

As he is leading God’s people, Moses does not look far ahead to the future. Instead, he takes time to live in the moment. Rather than longing for a time when the Promised Land would be the dwelling place of God’s people, Moses takes time to remember that God currently is, and always will be, their dwelling place: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:1-2). Moses recalls how God had patiently worked with His people to encourage them to follow Him. The Israelites had spent much of their years wasting away in rebellion against God: “You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers” (Psalm 90:3-6). Moses mentions life is too short, 70 or 80 years typically (Psalm 90:10), to have us spend it longing for what tomorrow may hold. It is wise for God’s people to live focusing on serving the Lord today and trusting in His ability to lead His people to whatever dwelling place He may have for them on this earth: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Ultimately, God is the dwelling place of His people and that is for Whom their hearts should long.

Today, I will let God teach me to number my days. I will not let my heart long for some particular dream house or land upon this earth. I will remember that my time on this earth is very short in comparison to eternity. God is my dwelling place both now on this earth and in the future in heaven.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’ (James 4:13-15).

6/19/17 “Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 84-86)

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway” (Psalm 85:10-13).

Many of us (not so much me, but certainly my wife) love to watch a romantic movie where 2 people, who may be quite different and who may at times have a lot of tension between them, finally come together and embrace in a kiss as an expression of their love for each other. A kiss is a show of tender affection whether it is given mutually by two people who are in love, given as a greeting on one’s cheek (Romans 16:16), or, if it be given by a soldier returning to his native land as he kisses the ground, as a show of love and gratitude for one’s country.

In Psalm 85 speaks about how righteousness and peace have “kissed” (Psalm 85:10). The psalm speaks a lot about the tension between God and His people, but it also speaks about His love for His people. The tension between them exists because of their struggle with sin. God is angry with His people because of their sin and they cry out to Him for mercy: “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation” (Psalm 85:4-7). In this psalm, God’s people realize their sin has caused a breech in their relationship with God, which they desperately want to be restored.

This psalm also speaks about God’s love for His people and His willingness to forgive them: “Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob. You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger” (Psalm 85:1-3). Because of His love for His people, God is willing and eager to forgive their sin as they repent of their wrongdoing.

The author of this psalm expresses the people’s repentance and God’s forgiveness of His people in a beautiful way: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psalm 85:10). In other words, the people’s desire to be righteous and turn back to God is now met with God’s love and forgiveness as peace is restored to their relationship with God. As God and His people meet, the picture is given that they embrace in an affectionate kiss. A similar picture is described in the parable of the prodigal son following the son’s repentance and his desire to return to his father: “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:10).

How do I view God’s reacting to my desire to repent and turn from my sin? Do I view Him as still having His arms crossed and continuing to scornfully look at me with eyes of disappointment or do I view Him as rushing to me and embracing me with an affectionate kiss on the cheek? Today, I choose to take the later view of God because this is how the Scriptures picture God’s reacting towards my repentance and return back to Him. I rejoice that I the Lord, Whom I serve, has such affection for me!

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

6/18/17 “Given over to a Stubborn Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 81-83)

“I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries” (Psalm 81:10-14).

The rock musician Scott Stapp once said, “I always believed in God and Christ, but I was in rebellion trying to make my relationship with God fit into my life instead of making my life fit in with him. I was stubborn”. Can you relate to that statement? Do you find yourself at times stubbornly resisting God and trying to make Him fit into your will instead of being submissive and allowing Him to fit you into His Will?

In Psalm 81 God speaks of how He had blessed His people when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage: “I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the baskets. You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:6-7). However, His people were being tempted to turn away from Him and worship other gods (Psalm 81:8-9). God promises them great blessings if they will continue to follow Him: “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). God would give them the finest of wheat and honey from the rock if they remained faithful (Psalm 81:16). Furthermore, the Lord promises them deliverance from their enemies: “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries” (Psalm 81:13-14).

However, God’s people rejected Him: “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me” (Psalm 81:11). What an incredible statement by God! God says His people, the very ones he rescued from Egyptian bondage, would now have none of Him! God desired greatly to bless them, but now He could not. He had to leave them over to their own devices and give them up to their own stubborn will: “So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels” (Psalm 81:12). God had to let them learn the hard way by allowing them to experience the consequences of their own choice to reject Him!

Am I stubborn? It is good to be persistent and refuse to give up when following God’s Will in our lives (e.g. the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8). It is evil to stubbornly resist follow what God tells us to do. Again, do I find myself acting like the musician Scott Stapp who struggled with trying to fit God into his will instead of subjecting Himself to God’s Will? When I persist in stubbornly refusing to humble myself before God and submit myself to His Will, there will come a point when God can no longer help me and will have to give me over to my own stubborn heart. The father of the prodigal son had to do this. He had to allow his son to move away and experience the consequences of his stubborn rejection of him (Luke 15:11-21). Today, I will strive to have a submissive heart before God so that I can open my mouth and let God fill me with His blessings. I rejoice in God’s leadership in my life and will refuse to rebel against God so that He will not have to give me over to my own stubborn heart!

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:18-20).

6/17/17 “Putting up Boundaries on God’s Blessings” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 78-80)

“But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again. How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel (Psalm 78:38-41)”.

Is there anything God cannot do? Many of us have great faith in God’s power to accomplish anything He wants to do. He created the universe from nothing. He raised the dead from the grave. He makes kings rise and fall. With such great power are the some things which He is unable to accomplish? Can we affect God’s power to perform great things?

Psalm 78 recalls God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. God had given His people a law to follow, “that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:8). The Lord had performed great and awesome miracles on their behalf to deliver them from Egyptian bondage (Psalm 78:12-16). However, shortly after leaving Egypt, Israel began to complain and rebel against God. Although He had blessed them immeasurably by delivering them from slavery, they began to question God’s ability to provide for them in the wilderness (Psalm 78:17-20). It angered God that His people would not believe in Him and trust Him, but He went ahead and showered manna from heaven to feed them (Psalm 78:21-25). However, after the Israelites continued to provoke God to anger by asking for meat, God’s wrath was kindled as He slew many of them (Psalm 78:26-31). Because of their unbelief in God, instead of the Israelites enjoying the blessings of the Promised Land rejoicing in God, “…their days He consumed in futility, and their years in fear” as they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness (Psalm 78:33). By their unfaithfulness to God, they had limited His ability to bless them!

According to Psalm 78, there are some things which God cannot do. In fact, each one of us by our actions can “limit” God’s ability to bless our lives. This is what happened with the Israelites in their relationship with God. God wanted to bless them, but by their actions they limited God’s ability to bless them: “Yes, again and again they tempted God, and LIMITED (emp. Mine) the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). How could this be? God is a God full of grace, mercy, and love; but, He is also a God of justice. Although He loved His people and wanted to shower great blessings upon them, He could not be just in doing so when they were acting in rebellion against Him by their sin. During such times, instead of showering blessings upon them, He had to chasten them to correct their bad behavior. After God took time away from blessing His people and having to invest that time into chastening His people, Israel would turn back to God: “When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned and sought earnestly for God. Then they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer” (Psalm 78:34-35).

As I think about how Israel put up boundaries on how God could bless them because of their unfaithfulness, I do not want to limit God’s blessing in my life. I don’t want God to have to spend time chastening me for my sinful behavior instead of spending that time blessing me as I walk with Him. Today, I will strive not to limit God by being faithful to Him!

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

6/16/17 “Questions of a Troubled Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 74-77)

“I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? And I said, "This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High" (Psalm 77:6-10).

An old Chinese proverb says, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”. As humans we are full of questions to which we want answers. Do you ever ask God questions or do you have a list of questions you would like God to answer? If you are like me your list of questions for God grows long, especially during hard times.

As the opening verses above mention, in Psalm 77 God’s people appear to be undergoing some suffering. The author (whose name was Asaph) had a number of questions he wanted God to answer. He wanted to know if God’s mercy had ceased, if God’s promises had failed, if God was so angry with His people that He was going to no longer show them grace and mercy, and in His displeasure with them was God was going to cast off His people forever (Psalm 77:7-9)?

These questions weighed so heavily on Asaph’s heart that it troubled him and he had difficulty finding rest: “I cried out to God with my voice—to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed” (Psalm 77:1-3). His thoughts were consumed with seeking the answers to these questions so much so that his eyelids were kept open as he could not sleep (Psalm 77:4). These questions became his “song in the night” as they played over and over again in his mind (Psalm 77:6). He diligently sought the answers to these questions.

To Asaph’s credit, although these questions filled his heart and created within him a lot of anguish, he took time to reflect upon God’s wonders and His work on behalf of His people. This helped to relieve Asaph’s troubled heart: “And I said, ‘This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God?” (Psalm 77:10-13). Asaph also reflects upon God’s work regarding His creation in nature and His faithfulness in leading His people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 77:14-20).

All of us are going to have questions similar to Asaph’s during different points in our lives. We are going to wonder if God is no longer going to be gracious, merciful, or favorable to us. This is understandable, especially during hard times in our lives. These questions may keep us awake at night and trouble our hearts. However, part of my living a life of faith involves my trusting in God and remembering His grace, mercy, and favor that He will not take away from me as I continue to follow after Him. When facing adversity or suffering, by taking time to reflect upon God’s faithful dealings with both His creation and His people, I can find relief for the questions that may trouble my heart.

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth. By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise shall be continually of You” (Psalm 71:5-6).

6/15/17 “Envious of the Boastful” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 70-73)

“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3).

How well do you handle being around people who are boastful about their accomplishments? Does it bother you? Do you find yourself wishing that they would be taken down a peg or two? I think many of us can relate to feeling this way when listening to the arrogance of boastful people and it leads us to having to battle with our own spiritual struggles as we are tempted to wish evil upon them.

In Psalm 73 the writer describes his struggle with being around boastful people. He describes their arrogance as they are full of pride, violence, and having “more than heart could wish” (Psalm 73:6-9). He describes these boastful people as feeling they will not be held accountable to God for their actions: “And they say, ‘How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:11-12).

As the psalmist observes their pride, he is engaged in his own spiritual struggle. As he observed the boastful, doubt entered into his heart, and he began to question his service to God: “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14). To his credit, the author was able to recognize that the real problem he was facing was not the fact that the boastful prospered, but rather it was the envy the was swelling up in his own heart: “For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3). He tormented himself as he made assumptions that God would never bring the arrogant to justice: “For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men” (Psalm 73:4-5). The psalmist acknowledges that his own thinking was warped: “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (Psalm 73:21-22).

As he pours his heart out unto God, the writer realizes God will hold the arrogant accountable: “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me-- Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image” (Psalm 73:16-20). The psalmist realizes rather than wasting his time and effort envying the boastful, he needs to focus his heart on seeking God and trusting in Him: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). The writer had allowed the envy he felt in his heart over the boastful to cause a breech in his own relationship with God. As he ends the psalm, he realizes his need to return to God: “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28).

Can you relate to the struggle the psalmist had over being “envious of the boastful”? I can and I realize the real spiritual battle I am facing is not the prosperity of the wicked, but the envy I am struggling with in my own heart. Today, I will commit myself to God, draw near to Him, and fight against Satan by not allowing him to get a foothold in my life by tempting me to envy the boastful!

“A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

6/14/17 “The Reproaches of Those Who Reproached You Have Fallen on Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 67-69)

“Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel. Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother's children; because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psalm 69:6-9).

How do you view the sins you have committed? All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), but every person does not view the sins they have committed the same way. Some treat their sins lightly because “everyone else is doing it”, while others continue to carry the guilt of their sins around with them even after God has forgiven them. How should we view our sins? In Psalm 69 we get an idea of just how ugly our sins are.

Psalm 69 was written by David, but contains numerous prophecies about Christ. It speaks about “those who hate me without cause” (Psalm 69:4) which is quoted by Christ in John 15:25. It also mentions “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21) which was fulfilled while Christ was upon the cross (Matthew 27:48). The opening verses above also are mentioned as being fulfilled in the life of Christ (John 2:17; Romans 15:3).

In this Psalm, it mentions, “…the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psalm 69:9), and again, “Because for Your sake I have born reproach” (Psalm 69:7). The word “reproach is not a word we often use in our language today. The word translated as “reproach” carries the idea to “taunt, blaspheme, and defy”. When I think of my sin as defying God, taunting God, and scorning God, it makes me feel disgusted at myself when I give into sin. It is appropriate and healthy for me to feel this way: “For godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation, not to be regretted…” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Viewing my sins as scorning God causes me to not want to treat them lightly!

In addition, when I view the behavior of the mob around the cross of Christ, was not their behavior an accurate description of the word “reproach”? The soldiers blasphemed Jesus as they stripped Him, put a scarlet robe on Him, twisted a crown of thorns which they placed it on His head, put a reed in His hand, and bowed the knee to him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”. Afterward they scorned Him by taking the reed out of His hand, hitting Him on the head, and spitting upon Him (Matthew 27:29-30).  The chief priests mocked Him saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save” and “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (Matthew 27:41-43). The people who passed by the foot of His cross blasphemed Him saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:39-40). When I sin and reproach God, do I view myself as behaving like one of these groups of people at the cross of Christ? Perhaps, I should so I understand just how ugly sin is!

However, it is critical we remember Jesus bore our reproaches (Psalm 69:7, 9). He willingly did this and God allowed Him to because He loves us and wants us to be saved (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Today, I will strive to not sin against God because I understand how ugly sin is, but I will also rejoice greatly because God loves me so much He allowed His Son to bear my reproaches against Him!

“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

6/13/17 “Preparing My Heart to Worship God” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 64-66)

“Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved. For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalm 66:8-12).

On Sunday mornings, how to you prepare yourself to go to worship God? Many of us hurriedly get clothed, grab a bite to eat, and then drive down to the church building. We then sit through church services and some of us come away saying, “I didn’t get much out of worship today” and insinuate it was the preacher’s fault for not delivery a lesson that “stirred up our emotions” or “moved us to action”, when the real problem was we did not take time to prepare our hearts to worship God. Reading Psalm 66 is a great way to prepare one’s heart to worship God.

First, the writer of the psalm understands his need to praise God: “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, "How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.  All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name" (Psalm 66:1-4). When going to worship God, one needs to get the mind properly focused. It is a time of letting go of all the distractions and problems one may be facing in this world. It is a time of directing one’s thoughts to God and preparing the heart for a time to praise God during worship.

Second, as the psalmist prepares his heart to praise God, he reflects upon God’s actions in the life of himself and in the lives of God’s people. He looks back at God’s dealing with His people: “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him. He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; do not let the rebellious exalt themselves” (Psalm 66:5-7). The writer then reflects upon God’s actions in his own life as the opening verses above show. He speaks about how God “keeps our soul among the living” by His watch, care, and protection. Furthermore, he adds, how God has allowed them to go through hard times, but has also seen them through those hard times and had “brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalm 66:8-12).

Third, the author reflects upon himself and his commitment to God: “I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats” (Psalm 66:13-15). He desires to share with others how God has blessed him: “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” (Psalm 66:16-20).

The next Lord’s Day, as I go to worship God, I will let go of all the cares of this world and focus my heart upon praising God as I reflect upon His wonderful works in the lives of His people and in my life. In addition, during worship instead of looking around at others, I will reflect upon my life and my commitment to God. I pray all of us to get much out of our worship of God on Sunday!

“Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You” (Psalm 67:3).

6/12/17 “Following Close behind God” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 61-63)

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:6-8).

Do you ever feel far away from God? I know many times in my own life I have become so wrapped up in the daily affairs of my physical life that it seems to crowd out my ability to think about my relationship with God and the needs of my spiritual life. When this happens, I feel distant from God.

As I study the life of David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), I am amazed at his ability to continue to remain closely connected with God even in the midst of tremendous trials. In the title of Psalm 63, we read “A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah”. David probably wrote this psalm either during the period when King Saul was pursuing his life and David had fled to the wilderness of Judah to escape (1 Samuel 23:14-15) or possibly during the rebellion of his son Absalom when he had fled to the wilderness to escape (2 Samuel 15:23). Be that as it may, in this psalm David mentions his pursuers: “But those who seek my life, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. They shall fall by the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals” (Psalm 63:9-10). In this psalm, David calls upon God to help in the midst of this storm in which he finds himself.

Even though he is running for his life, as David calls upon God he says, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory” (Psalm 68:1-2). David’s greatest longing was not for deliverance from his enemies. His greatest longing was seeking after God. David’s heart dwelt upon God’s wonderful attributes, such as His lovingkindness, instead of focusing on the hatred of his enemies: “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You” (Psalm 68:3).

David desire to pursue after God was greater than his enemies’ determination to pursue after him. As a result of his relentless pursuit of God, David would find a satisfaction that few in life find when facing such adversity as what confronted him: “Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 68:4-5).

As the opening verses above show, David describes how he pursued God. He meditated upon God day and night. This involved studying God’s Word, praying, focusing his thoughts upon positive attributes of God, and recalling how God had already worked in his life. In spite of the dangers confronting him, David took time to think on God because he realized this was essential for his soul.

If you are like me, too often we let the “rat race” of life distract us. We become weighed down with the cares of the world and our souls feel starved. We allow the daily trials of life to fill our hearts and minds which results in each of us saying something like, “I have no time to study God’s Word or to pray”. Today, I will follow the example of David and pursue God as a man who is thirsty in a desert pursues water. Because I want my soul to be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, I will study God’s Word, take time to pray, and meditate on God and how He has worked in my life. My soul will follow close behind God this day!

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Psalm 62:5-6).

6/11/17 “You Have Shown Your People Hard Things” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 58-60)

“O God, You have cast us off; You have broken us down; You have been displeased; Oh, restore us again! You have made the earth tremble; You have broken it; heal its breaches, for it is shaking. You have shown Your people hard things; You have made us drink the wine of confusion” (Psalm 60:1-3).

How well do you endure God’s chastening? We are told not to despise God’s chastening (Hebrews 12:5-6). Thinking of God chastening me for some wrong which I have done in order to correct my behavior does not make me want to jump with joy. Like a child who is being disciplined by their parents, it is difficult to appreciate God when He chastens us.

In the beginning of Psalm 60 we are told this is a “A Michtam of David for teaching when he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt”. As one reads the accounts recorded in the other parts of the inspired Scriptures about David’s battles with these nations, nothing is mentioned about David feeling God had “cast us off” or “broken us down” before the battle as the opening verses above suggest (Psalm 60:1; cf. 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 1 Chronicles 18:1-13). This is a great example of how other Scriptures help shed additional light on what was really going on behind the scenes of these events.

For reasons we are not told, prior to his conquest of these nations, David felt God had shown His people “hard things” and made them “drink the wine of confusion” in His chastening of them (Psalm 60:3). As he is about to face these nations in battle, he knows he needs God’s help to fight against them, but wonders if God will help since He had recently chastened them: “Who will bring me to the strong city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God, who cast us off? …” (Psalm 60:9-10).

However, to David’s credit, he stills calls upon God to help even though he felt God had been displeased with His people and disciplined them so recently: “Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (Psalm 60:11-12). David did remember that God had spoken before in support of His people Israel and against these other nations: “God has spoken in His holiness: ‘I will rejoice; I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet for My head; Judah is My lawgiver. Moab is My washpot; over Edom I will cast My shoe; Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me’" (Psalm 60:8-10). In spite of His recent chastening of His people, David believed God still loved His people dearly. In faith, David says he will display God’s banner as he faces his enemies and look to God to save His people (Psalm 60:4-5).

As I consider these verses, I realize it is very difficult to know when God is chastening me. When I have to cope with “hard things” in my life, it is difficult to know whether this is God’s chastening of me for some wrong I have done, God’s allowing me to go through this trial that my faith in Him may grow (cf. Romans 5:3-4), or Satan’s attacking me to try to discourage me from following God (cf. Job 1:9-12). Only God and I know what has been going on in my life and in my heart that might cause Him to need to chasten me to draw me closer to Him. Whichever of these it may be, I learn a great lesson here from David: continue to call upon God in faith. Today, if I feel I am being chastened by God, I will strive to embrace His chastening and not despise His chastening!

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

6/10/17 “You Put My Tears in Your Bottle” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 55-57)

“You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), in the Lord (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:8-11).

Do you ever feel down and feel like no one is on your side? I am sure all of us have experienced that lonely feeling. However, as David relates in Psalm 56, there is some One who we can turn to Who is always on our side if we are striving to serve Him. It is not just any one. It is God!

In the title of Psalm 56 we read “A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath”. I am not sure when this was written as the only times I can think of in the recorded Scriptures when David went to the Philistine city of Gath was when he went there of his own choosing as he was fleeing for his life from King Saul (1 Samuel 21:10; 27:1-2). This doesn’t mean that he was not captured by the Philistines in Gath. It only means that it was not recorded for us in the Scriptures. Be that as it may, this was written probably during the time of David’s life when he was fleeing from King Saul before he became king over Israel.

During this time, David was feeling lonely and scared as he says, “Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, for there are many who fight against me, O Most High” (Psalm 56:1-2). Moreover, the pursuit of his enemies against him was relentless: “All day they twist my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, they hide, they mark my steps, when they lie in wait for my life” (Psalm 56:5-6). In his discouragement, he cries out to God in frustration as he longs for God to execute justice: “Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God!” (Psalm 56:7).

Yet, during this dark time, David never lost sight of the fact that God tenderly cared for him. As the opening verses above indicate, David felt God had been aware of every tear David had shed. Not only had God known about David’s shed tears, He kept a record of them as He collected each and every one into His Own bottle (Psalm 56:8). This is a beautiful description of God’s empathizing with our sufferings (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

The care that David believed God had for His soul led him to have unshakeable confidence in God’s ability to rescue him from his present crisis: “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me” (Psalm 56:9). Wow! What a great perspective to keep in mind. When one knows God Almighty is on their side, they can face any trial no matter how great! To God he said, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4, cf. v.10-11). In faith, David knew the day was coming when he would be able worship God once again (Psalm 56:12-13).

Today, like David, I will strive to remember God is for me! I will recall how He knows every tear I shed just as He knows the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30). I will put my trust in Him to see me through whatever trials I may face today!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

6/9/17 “Crying Out for God to Avenge Us” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 52-54)

“Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. You love all devouring words, you deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living” (Psalm 52:1-5).

The opening verses above which were uttered by David may on initial glance appear to be harsh as we hear him calling upon God to destroy his enemy. In fact, we might struggle with wondering if David was wrong in saying this. After all, are we not to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)? However, I think it is important for us to understand the background behind David’s uttering these words.

The beginning of Psalm 52 mentions this was a “contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech’”. This was written during a time in David’s life when he was fleeing for his life from King Saul. As he fled, David and his men came to the city of Nob to Ahimelech the priest (1 Samuel 21:1). Ahimelech did not know David was fleeing from King Saul. David left Ahimelech with the impression he was there on the king’s business. Ahimelech gave David and his men food and gave David the sword of Goliath. After receiving the provisions, David and his men then fled to Achish, the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21:2-10).

Hearing this exchange between Ahimelech and David was a man name Doeg. He was an Edomite. (1 Samuel 21:7). He knew Ahimelech had, in complete innocence, helped David. However, Doeg  reveals to King Saul how Ahimelech had helped David (1 Samuel 22:9-10). As he does so, Doeg leaves out the important fact Ahimelech didn’t know David was fleeing from King Saul. In fact, Doeg adds Ahimelech “inquired of the Lord” on behalf of David seeming to suggest Ahimelech was consipiring with David against Saul. Ahimelech strongly denied doing this (1 Samuel 22:10, 15).

In his rage, King Saul says to Ahimelech, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house!” (1 Samuel 22:16). Saul then orders his guards to kill them, but they would not strike the priest of the Lord (1 Samuel 22:17). The king then asks Doeg to kill them and he eagerly does so. Not only does Doeg kill the Ahimelech and a total of 85 priests, he also kills men, women, infants and animals in the city of Nob (1 Samuel 22:18-19). Doeg did all of this knowing Ahimelech was innocent of the crime of which King Saul had accused him.

David learns of what happened from Abiathar, one of Ahimelech’s sons who had escaped (1 Samuel 22:20-21). David felt horrible about what had happened and told Abiathar: “I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have caused the death of all the persons of your father’s house” (1 Samuel 22:22). After contemplating these events, David composes what we now know as Psalm 52. He calls upon God to render justice by destroying Doeg for the evil which he has done with his tongue that was like a sharp razor (Psalm 52:2).

Was David wrong for asking God to execute justice against such a man? God is a just God. There is nothing wrong with His people expressing their feelings to God for justice. To his credit David did not seek to avenge himself, but asked God to execute vengeance. Today, I understand there is much injustice in the world. I will strive to love my enemies, but I also will ask God to carry out His justice.

“Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

6/8/17 “A Broken and a Contrite Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 49-51)

“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:14-17).

The burden of the guilt of sin is a heavy weight to bear. Psalm 51 vividly describes the pain King David felt as he experienced the guilt of his sin in both having committed adultery with Bathsheba and having had her husband Uriah murdered on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:1-27). After being instructed by God, Nathan the prophet had come to David and confronted David about his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-14). In Psalm 51 we see David opening his heart to God as he cries out to God for help in dealing with the guilt of his own sin. As the opening verses above show, by David’s example, we get a glimpse of what it means to have a broken and contrite heart before God (Psalm 51:14-17).

First, David acknowledges to God his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight-- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4). He understood God, as his Creator, had every right to judge David for his sin. David feels the separation from God’s presence his sin had created and how it had taken away the joy out of his life: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:11-12).

In addition, as he comes before God loaded with the guilt of his sin, David does not ask for God’s justice. He knows he is guilty. Instead, David begs God to show him mercy and to forgive his sin: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Moreover, regarding his sin, David realizes how powerless he is to remove the guilt of his own sin. He acknowledges his lifelong struggle with sin (Psalm 51:5). He acknowledges that God alone has the power to remove the burden of his sins: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7-10).

Finally, David mentions that if God will forgive him of his sin, then David will share with others the good news of God’s forgiveness: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (Psalm 51:12-13).

As I consider the words of this psalm I am reminded of the difficulty I have in bearing the burden of my own sin. I rejoice that I serve a merciful God who alone has the power to remove the guilt of my own sin through the precious blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19). Today, like David I will tell others of the good news of God’s forgiveness by sharing with them the gospel of Christ!

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

6/7/17 “A Very Present Help in Trouble” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 46-48)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn” (Psalm 46:1-5).

Have you ever had to dial 911? It is comforting to know that if you had an emergency and needed help immediately, police, fire or medical crews could be at your location in a matter of minutes after you dialed 911 on your phone. However, as great as their efforts may be in responding to your call, fireman are not always able to prevent a house from burning down and medical crews cannot always save a life when responding to a 911 call.

As the opening verses above show, in Psalm 46 the writer speaks about God being a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). His unshakeable faith in the Lord enables him to have no fear in spite of whatever dangers he faces. Whether the threat he faces be the earth being removed or the mountains being carried into the sea, the psalmist knows God is reigning in the midst of His people and will care of them (Psalm 46:2-5). The inspired author has unwavering confidence in God’s power over His enemies: “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted” (Psalm 46:6). He encourages us to consider the great works of God: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire” (Psalm 46:8-9).

Do I have this kind of faith in God’s ability in my own life? Do I look upon God as a “very present help” in time of trouble. If you are like me, sometimes we struggle with viewing God as a “very present help” in our lives because we do not see Him immediately acting when we are faced with a challenging situation. Does this mean God is not present? Does it suggest God is not helping?

The faith of the psalmist did not see it that way. In fact, he understood God sometimes waits till the last moment to step in to help. He comprehended, at times in order for us to develop a stronger faith in Him, God will wait to act to help us “just at the break of dawn” (Psalm 46:5). In spite of the fact that although there is certainly a difference between when we desire for God to act and when God actually acts to help us when faced with a crisis in our lives, the inspired writer still felt God’s presence through whatever trial he faced: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:7, 11). The writer of this psalm patiently endured the trial set before him because he viewed God as being present in his life and saying: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).

I want to have this kind of unwavering faith in God. Today, I will strive to face the challenges which confront me by remembering God is my refuge and strength. When faced with the obstacles I may encounter this day, I will strive to boldly move forward with unshakeable confidence in God’s ability to help and not retreat by giving into doubt and fear. I rejoice that God is my “very present help”!

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

6/6/17 “The Help of My Countenance” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 43-45)

“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:3-5).

The word “countenance” when used as a noun (as it is in the above verses) refers to a person’s facial expression. For example, a frown on one person’s face would indicate sadness while a smile on another person’s face would indicate gladness. In Psalm 43, the writer declares that God is “the help of my countenance”. In other words, for the psalmist God is the one who could turn his facial expression from a frown to a smile!

As Psalm 43 begins, the psalmist has a frown upon his face because of the enemies: “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!” (Psalm 43:1). The writer struggles because although he looked to God in faith, thus far, he did not see God coming to his aid: “For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 43:2). His countenance is one of sadness, worry, and frustration as he feels alone in having to face his enemies. He describes his facial expression as one of “mourning”.

To his credit, even though he does not see God acting on his behalf as of yet, the psalmist still calls upon God in faith to guide him: “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle” (Psalm 43:3). He realizes the situation he is facing is too great for him to handle alone. He needs God’s help and direction. Even though, as of the present moment, he has not seen God act on his behalf, he still looks to God as his strength. This is faith and he was walking by it: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The psalmist has confidence that if he keeps looking to God in faith and continues to call upon Him, God will guide him so that he may escape from his enemies and be delivered to worship God at God’s appointed place, the tabernacle: “Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4). By faith he has confidence that God will turn the sadness, worry, and frustration he has to “exceeding joy”!

The writer questions himself about why he had allowed himself to be cast down: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5). In the face of the sadness he has experienced and felt, he reminds himself how he needs to keep his hope in God. He needs to cling to his faith in God even during these hard times because God will be faithful to see him through this trial. God will help turn his countenance from sadness to gladness.

Do I view God as the “help of my countenance”? Do I look to Him in faith as the One who can turn my sadness into gladness? To prevent from falling into excessive sadness, perhaps I should challenge myself by asking: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God”. Today, I will remember God is the help of my countenance!

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).

6/5/17 “Thirsting for God” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 40-42)

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’" (Psalm 42:1-3).

As the opening verses above indicate, in Psalm 42, which is a contemplation of the sons of Korah, the picture is given of a person who is panting because they are excessively thirsty. They describe themselves as a deer who has run a long distance and is now panting for a water brook to satisfy its thirst (Psalm 42:1). As one who enjoys outdoor activities, I can certainly relate to having great thirst. When I am thirsty, I am in hot pursuit to find some cool liquids such as water to satisfy my thirst. However, the person described in Psalm 42 does not thirst for water, but for God (Psalm 42:2).

Why is the person described in Psalm 42 panting and thirsting so much for God? It appears this person was being persecuted for their belief in God: “My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3). The enemies of this person were mocking his faith in God and it hurt him: “As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’" (Psalm 42:10).

This psalm appears to have been written during a time when the writer was unable to go to worship with God’s people. This might have been because of the persecution of his enemies. The writer reflects upon better times when he enjoyed going to feast with God’s people: “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast” (Psalm 42:4). After contemplating his inability to worship God with God’s people and having to hear his enemies him mock saying, “Where is your God?”, he felt like salt was being poured in his wounds!

The writer says his soul was “cast down” (Psalm 42:5, 6, 11). He felt completely wiped out much like how a person feels who is exhausted from working outside in the hot heat. He is so depleted he can hardly get up. His enemies have so persecuted him as to make him so thirsty that if his thirst is not soon satisfied he will no longer be able to get up and will perish.

His solution is to seek God as the deer pants for the water brooks. He will reflect and remember God’s blessings: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me-- A prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:6-8). Notice as he calls upon God, God abundantly satisfies his thirst by sending waves and waterfalls. This quenches his thirst an enables him to cling to his hope in God in the midst of his persecution!

As I read Psalm 42, I reflect and ask, “Am I thirsty for God? Do I pant for Him in prayer and pursue the water brooks of His Word?” Jesus said, “…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Today, I will strive will pant for God and seek after Him as the only one who can satisfy my thirst!

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).