7/13/17 “Slow to Anger” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 15-17)

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

Chuck Norris once said, “Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth”. As the opening verse above indicates, much is said in the book of Proverbs regarding the need for a person to be able to keep their temper under control. In fact, the ability to “rule” one’s spirit is esteemed of greater value than of an army leader’s ability to capture an entire city (Proverbs 16:32)!

The person who is “quick tempered” is going to constantly be engaged in needless strife with others: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22). He “abounds” in committing many different types of transgressions. In fact, He acts so foolishly that people don’t enjoy being around him: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated” (Proverbs 14:17). His failure to keep his temper under control makes him an easy prey for Satan’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows his weaknesses and easily exploits him: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

In fact, we are encouraged to avoid those who cannot keep their temper under control: “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). In keeping company with the quick tempered man we can find ourselves beginning to emulate him and find ourselves in fights with others: “A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows” (Proverbs 18:6). Such a person will get in trouble again and again because of their failure to control their temper. “A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).

Do you struggle with keeping your temper under control? Proverbs is filled with wisdom we can glean to learn how to better “rule” over our spirits. First, we need to determine to exercise self-control and work on being “slow” to want to get angry: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). Solomon adds, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (Proverbs 15:18). Second, we need to use discretion and choose what things we should get angry over and what things we should simply overlook: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). Discretion is the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information. It is the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation. All because something bad happens to me or someone I love, doesn’t mean I have to choose to get angry over it. I can choose to simply overlook it, let the matter go, and give it over to God. God still gives me the power to choose the path of glory and “overlook” the transgression!

Have you ever known people who seem to angry over everything? “Ruling” one’s spirit is no easy task. I have struggled with this my whole life and it is a constant battle. However, I know that Christ can strengthen me to do this (Philippians 4:13). Today, I will strive to be slow to get angry and work on reigning in my temper that I may glorify God. I will work on choosing to “overlook” many of the transgressions committed against me as God has chosen to “overlook” my sin by forgiving me through the precious blood of His Son (Matthew 6:14-15; John 3:16).

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

7/12/17 “Guarding My Mouth” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 11-14)

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).

In certain sports athletes wear a mouth guard which is designed to protect the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips and gums. Unfortunately, there is no device that we can wear that can prevent the injuries we can do with the words that come out of our mouths. Proverbs is filled with wisdom regarding how we use our tongues.

God warns us about the destructive nature of our many of our words: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Like a sword unsheathed, our words can hurt others: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18). Not only can we commit sin, but we can provoke others to sin with the words we use: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). We can also show our own foolishness by the words which come out of our mouths: “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (Proverbs 12:23). Solomon adds, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11). Because of the destructive nature of our words and what they say about the state of our hearts, we need to consider what we say. Much damage can result if we put no restraints on the words we use!

However, Solomon also writes that our words can accomplish good. The tongue has the potential to be a “tree of life”: “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). With our words we can encourage others: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). There is both “death” and “life” in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). The key is to have the wisdom to know how to properly use it.

What wisdom can we glean from Proverbs that will help us to make better use of our speech? First, we must guard what we say: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). Figuratively, we need to picture having a guard that stands outside our mouths guarding what comes out! Second, we need to work on being swifter to hear and slower to speak (James 1:19). We need to listen intently trying to understand the other person’s point of view: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2). Solomon adds how we need to hear the other person completely out, before giving our answer: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Finally, when we do speak, we need to give thought regarding the words we use and how we say them: “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Proverbs 15:28).

I am greatly humbled as I read the wisdom found in Proverbs regarding the use of my tongue. This is an area in which I need to grow. While the task is daunting, I am grateful that God gives me guidance on how to use the words which come out of my mouth. Today, I will strive to guard my mouth and use my words in a way which glorifies God and edifies others!

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom (James 3:10-13)”.

7/11/17 “The Hand of the Diligent” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 7-10)

“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Proverbs 10:4-5).

When Adam and Eve sinned, God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19)." Ever since then, man has worked and sweated for his bread. How do I feel about having to work? How do I view my job and the labor I do for my employer?

For many, “work” is a dirty word. They hate the idea of having to work. As the opening verses above indicate, such an attitude leads to poverty and shame. Proverbs is filled with warnings about having the wrong attitude towards work. For example, the wise man warns us about loving sleep instead of wanting to work: “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread” (Proverbs 20:13). Again we are warned about loving pleasure instead of valuing a good day of work: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17). It is comical how Proverbs describes the lazy man who doesn’t want to work: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (Proverbs 26:13-16). Do you know anyone like this?

On the other hand, Proverbs speaks much about how one should view labor and work. Over and over again we are encouraged to be diligent: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). This is because such an attitude and ambition brings much the blessings of plenty and wealth: “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 13:4). “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). This does not mean one should trust in riches. Wealth is a tool that can be used to do much good as well as providing for our families. In addition, material prosperity prevents one from having to be slave to those to whom he is indebted: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).

While encouraging diligence, God does warn against being unscrupulous in an effort to get rich: “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Proverbs 28:6). In addition, the wise man also warns against becoming a “workaholic” in an effort to get rich: “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Today, I will strive to have the right attitude towards my work. I will guard against laziness because it brings trouble and poverty. I will endeavor to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and thus honor God and provide for my family: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep-- so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

7/10/17 “Guarding Against the Immoral Woman” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 3-6)

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell” (Proverbs 5:1-5).

It is amazing how much time the Proverb writer spends in Proverbs chapters 5-7 in trying to warn men of the dangers of going astray after an immoral woman. Certainly, all women are not immoral. I have been blessed to be married to a terrific, godly woman for the past 28 years. However, one has to only look at the boom in pornography and the way seductive women are used in TV ads to realize many in our society have made a lot of money exploiting man’s weaknesses when it comes to sexual immorality. I would encourage all of you men to take time to read Proverbs chapters 5 through 7 to gain wisdom in dealing with this weakness that is so common to many of us men.

First, the writer speaks of how easily the foolish man is led astray by an immoral woman (Proverbs 7:6-23). As he concludes how the immoral woman tempted the young fool to go after her, the inspired writer states, “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks” (Proverbs 7:21-22). Because sexual immorality is a sin with which so many men struggle, it is essential that men seek after God’s wisdom in how to avoid this temptation: “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words” (Proverbs 7:4-5).

Second, the wise writer warns men to be aware of the tactics of the immoral woman. She uses smooth, flattering words to entice her victims (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24). She uses her beauty to seduce men (Proverbs 6:25). Those who give in and go after her will find trouble: “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29). The writer makes it painfully clear the end that waits for the foolish man who caves into her temptations. Following her leads to: (1) pain and bitterness (Proverbs 5:4), (2) losing your honor (Proverbs 5:9-13), (3) destroying your own soul (Proverbs 6:32), and death (Proverbs 6:33-35).

Finally, the author shares with us some wisdom when it comes to dealing with the danger of being tempted by an immoral woman: First, don’t go near her path. Don’t even ponder for a moment going after her (Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 7:24-27). “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8). Second, for those who are married, be content and rejoice in the sexual relationship you enjoy with your wife with which God has blessed you (Proverbs 5:15-20). The marriage bed is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). However, the bed of the fornicator and adulterer will not only lead to shame, disgrace, and dishonor, it will also bring God’s judgment!

All because society tries to exploit men’s weaknesses with sexual immorality, I don’t have to be a fool and give into it. Today, I will strive to be wise and avoid the immoral woman and beware of the tactics she uses to lead my heart astray into her path of destruction. I will be content and rejoice with the wife of my youth and praise God for the sexual relationship we enjoy together!

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

7/9/17 “Receiving the Instruction of Wisdom” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 150-Proverbs 2)

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion-- a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:2-5).

The key word in the book of Proverbs is “wisdom” (i.e. the ability to live life skillfully). A godly life in an ungodly world, however, is no easy assignment. It is challenging to navigate. Through Proverbs, in God’s infinite wisdom, He provides detailed instructions for His people to deal successfully with the affairs of everyday life: how to relate to God, parents, children, neighbors, and the government.

Regarding wisdom and the role it plays in our life, God has much to say. First, wisdom will enter our life only if we fear the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom begins when one places his faith in God!

Second, wisdom will not force its way into our lives; it must be welcomed: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9). Solomon adds, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: ‘How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you’” (Proverbs 1:20-23).

Third, not only do we need to welcome wisdom into our lives, we need to seek it as we would seek treasure: “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5). If we will exercise such diligence in seeking wisdom, God will give us wisdom in abundance: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints” (Proverbs 2:6-8).

Finally, whether we seek and welcome wisdom into our lives, or choose to reject God’s wisdom, wisdom’s principles will prevail. Wisdom is described as saying to those who reject her, “Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes” (Proverbs 1:24-26). However if we embrace the wisdom which God offers to give us, wisdom will lead us to a safe and secure life: “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:32-33).

The book of Proverbs is a marvelous treasure filled with God’s wisdom for daily living. Today, I will welcome God’s wisdom into my life and seek after it as after hidden treasure so that I may live and safe and secure life. Praise God for the wisdom He gives!

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

7/8/17 “Praise the Lord!” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 146-149)

“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (Psalm 147:1).

It is interesting that the last 5 psalms from the book of Psalms all begin the same way: “Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:1; 147:1; 148:1; 149:1; 150:1). Why did the Holy Spirit believe it was important to end the book of Psalms in this way (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21)? I believe He is trying to stress to us that it is important for us to take time to praise God!

The psalmist mentions a number of reasons of why he praised God. First, he praised God for God’s work in creation: “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:4-5). It is hard to imagine, but not only does God know the number of stars in the universe, He also has named each of them. This is because His understanding is beyond our comprehension. His understanding is infinite.

Second, the author also adds how he praised God for how He provides for His creation and His people. God continues to nourish His creation: “Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry” (Psalm 147:8-9). The blessings God’s people enjoy are because of God’s bountiful care: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat” (Psalm 147:12-14).

Third, the psalmist praised God for His deliverance and comfort during times of affliction: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:2-3). He adds, “The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground” (Psalm 147:6). It is comforting to know that God shows tender care to those whose hearts have been broken. He is always there to bind up our wounds when we turn to Him!

Finally, the author praises God for the power of His Word. He mentions the power of God’s Word over His creation: “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow” (Psalm 147:15-18). It is awesome to consider the power of God’s Word at work as it swiftly goes to all corners of the globe to carry out God’s desires. Not only is God’s Word powerful as it works in the world, but it can also powerfully work in the lives of His people if they will let it: “He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 147:19-20).

God has a special regard for those who fear Him and who render such praises to the Lord: “He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:10-11). Today, I will praise the Lord for His work in creation, for his providing my daily needs, and the comfort He gives me when I am brokenhearted. I will also praise Him for His Awesome Word that is at work in all of creation and is at work in my life helping me to become all that God wants me to be!

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2).

7/7/17 “The Unsearchable Greatness of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 143-145)

“I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3).

Man loves to search for new things. Great explorers such as Christopher Columbus searched for new lands. Great scientists like Albert Einstein researched to explain great scientific mysteries. Great inventors like Thomas Edison sought and discovered new devices which have enable man to enjoy modern conveniences.

However, as the opening verses above show, regarding the extents of the greatness of God, one cannot search its depths. God’s greatness is unsearchable. The vastness of the greatness of God is like the universe and just seems to go on and on. David was in awe of God’s greatness and he meditated upon it often. He also believed all should declare God’s greatness to the coming generations: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness” (Psalm 145:3-6).

God’s greatness is both seen in His Character and in His Creation: “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power” (Psalm 145:7-11). David describes that God has stamped “His tender mercies” upon everything He has made. In other words, the sun that brightens the day, the rain that falls from heaven, and the crops that grow up from the fields are all ways in which God has shown his “tender mercies” to both men and animals. Regarding God, David says, “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16).

Furthermore, David mentions God’s greatness is seen over His care of His people: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20). Those who serve God have are special to God. David adds, “The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).

Failing to recall God’s greatness is one of the reasons people, as well as nations, fall. Regarding the Gentiles who fell away from God, the apostle Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21). Today, I will remember God’s greatness as seen in His character, His creation, and in His care of those who faithfully follow after Him. Like David, I stand in awe of God’s unsearchable greatness and I will share God’s greatness with those around me!

“My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21).

7/6/17 “Commendable Suffering” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 140-142)

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked” (Psalm 141:3-5).

Do you ever struggle with remaining godly while you are being treated ungodly by others? Does it tempt you to want to lash out at them for treating you this way? I admit that I struggle greatly with this. It is so easy to want to do unto them as they have done unto you. But is this what God wants?

One of the aspects of King David’s life that I am always amazed at is during the years when Saul was persecuting him and chasing him all over the countryside in an attempt to kill David, David had opportunities to exact revenge on Saul and kill him, but he did not. On 2 different occasions David chose to spare Saul’s life instead of taking matters in his own hands (1 Samuel 24:1-15; 26:5-25). David chose to remain godly and not take matters in his own hands by striking God’s anointed king.

How was David able to remain godly while being treated ungodly? In Psalm 141 we get an insight of what David did during times when he was being treated wrongfully by others. This psalm was written during a time when David’s life was being severely threatened. David writes, “Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, as when one plows and breaks up the earth” (Psalm 141:7). His enemies had plotted against his life: “Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 141:9). During such times, David turned to God instead of trying to take matters in his own hands: “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute” (Psalm 141:8). He called upon God to hear his prayer: “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:1-2).

Not only did David pray for deliverance from such a trial, but he prayed that God would help him to conduct himself in a godly manner in the midst of such persecution: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies” (Psalm 141:3-4). He asked God’s help to control his tongue and to give him the self-restraint not render evil for evil by entering into plots with men who wanted to work iniquity. David was even open to the being rebuked if any of his actions were ungodly: “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked” (Psalm 141:5).

I learn from David the actions I need to take when I am treated wrongfully by others. Rather than lashing out against them, I need to take my case to God in prayer. I need to ask God to help me control my tongue and actions as I face harsh treatment from others that I may honor God by my life. Today, I will strive to suffer commendably when wronged by others!

“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:19-20).

7/5/17 “The Lord Who Knows Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 137-139)

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

Have you ever talked to someone who you felt was not paying attention, but was thinking of something else as you were talking to them? I am sure most of us have experienced that. It makes us feel they do not care about us, what we have to say, and it leaves us feeling they don’t really want to know us and what is on our hearts.

In Psalm 139 David paints a very different portrait of God. David describes God as One Who is so attentive He knows everything about us. First, as the opening verses above describe, God knows where we are (i.e. “my sitting down and my rising up”, “my path and my lying down”, Psalm 139:2-3). Second, God knows what is going on in our hearts and minds (i.e. “understand my thoughts afar off”, Psalm 139:2). David adds, “For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). As David contemplates how well God knew him and understood him, he exclaims, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).

Furthermore, David believed nothing could distract or interfere with God attentiveness to David: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You” (Psalm 139:7-12).

Why was God so attentive to David? God created David and cared for the welfare of His creation: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16). God attentiveness to David was so great that God’s thoughts regarding David were too numerous to count: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18). David took great comfort in serving such a God who cared about him and understood the struggles of his heart: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. When I get to feeling down and thinking no one cares about me, this psalm is such a wonderful reminder that God cares and that his thoughts to me are too numerous for me to count. Today, I will praise God and ask Him to: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

7/4/17 “God’s Ever Enduring Mercy” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 134-136)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1-3).

Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you do not get the punishment you deserve. Grace is when you are blessed with what you do not deserve. Throughout Psalm 136 the 2nd phrase of each verse says, “For His mercy endures forever”. The psalm constantly stresses the significance of God’s mercy in the lives of His people.

John Gill states, “This Psalm was very probably composed by David, and given to the Levites to sing every day (1 Chronicles 16:41). Solomon his son followed his example, and made use of it in singing at the dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:3-6); as Jehoshaphat seems to have done when he went out to war against his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21). Charles Spurgeon, regarding this psalm, adds, “From the striking form of it we should infer that it was a popular hymn among the Lord's ancient people. Most hymns with a solid, simple chorus become favorites with congregations, and this is sure to have been one of the best beloved. It contains nothing but praise. It is tuned to rapture, and can only be fully enjoyed by a devoutly grateful heart”.

In reading the psalm, the phrase, “For His mercy endures forever”, should not be viewed as something which is just redundant. Instead, it should be viewed as something for which we continually need to praise God. In Psalm 136 we see a number of reasons why God’s enduring mercy should continually be on the minds of His people and should be expressed with gratitude as they sing of His enduring mercy with their lips. First, God is good (Psalm 136:1-3). Second, the Lord showed His mercy in giving man a beautiful earth on which to live (Psalm 136:4-9). Third, Jehovah shows mercyto His people by protecting them as He defeats their enemies such as ancient Egypt during the time of the Exodus and as they went on to conquer and dwell in the Promised Land (Psalm 136:5-22). Of the Lord, the psalmist wrote: “Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:23-24). Finally, the author states that God shows His mercy by giving all flesh, both man and beast, their daily food: “Who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:25).

It is interesting that among God’s people, singing this phrase, “For His mercy endures forever” was important to them as we see them sing it at the dedication of the temple and during times when the Lord had given them victory (2 Chronicles 7:3-6; 20:21). In fact, it appears David wanted God’s people to be reminded of God’s enduring mercy every day as it appears he gave this psalm to the Levites to sing daily. If this is the case, should I not be contemplating on God’s enduring mercy every day and the manifold ways in which God shows His mercy to me? Today, I will strive to keep my spiritual eyes open and look for different ways in which God shows His enduring mercy to me! “Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136: 26).

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

7/3/17 “Dwelling in Unity” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 131-133)

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Do you observe the divisions among people? Turn on the news and you’ll see people screaming at each other over political differences. Division among people is not limited to politics, it even occurs in churches. The early church struggled with divisions among them (cf. Acts 15:1-11). Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10-11).

Unity among God’s people requires a great deal of effort because, in our weaknesses, we tend to want to fight with each other. The apostle Paul wrote how we need to be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Jesus prayed for unity among His followers: “"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus, who has been tempted in all points which we have (Hebrews 4:15), knew it would be challenging for His followers to keep united.

However, when the followers of God endeavor to keep unity among them, something beautiful occurs. As the opening verse above indicates, it is “good” and “pleasant” when brethren dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). The psalmist likens this unity to 2 separate things. First, regarding brethren dwelling together in unity, the author writes, “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Psalm 133:2). When Aaron became high priest, Moses took some of the holy oil which had which had been used to anoint the tabernacle and all of its furnishings (Lev. 8:10-11), and anointed Aaron by pouring this holy oil upon his head (Lev. 8:12). Thus, as the holy oil was used to make holy the tabernacle and its furnishings, the holy oil was used to indicate Aaron was holy and ready to serve God as High Priest of the Israelite nation. Unity among brethren is holy! It is sacred and it should be cherished! Furthermore, the holy oil flowed from Aaron’s head and beard and ran down to the edge of his garments. When a spirit of unity exists among God’s people, it flows throughout the church and blesses everyone who is in it.

Second, the psalmist tells us regarding unity among God’s people: “It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing-- life forevermore” (Psalm 133:3). As the dew that fell upon Mt. Hermon eventually descended and provided water for God’s people in Zion (i.e. Jerusalem), so unity among God’s people is a great source of nourishment for God’s people. It is encouraging knowing I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are united with me and are a source of spiritual encouragement to me.

Today, I will “endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). I will not focus on differences in personalities and personal opinions that often separate brethren. I will submit to the standard of God’s Word and encouragement my brethren to do the same so that we may all say together, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

“Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Philippians 3:16).

7/2/17 “My Soul Waits for the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 127-130)

“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope” (Psalm 130:1-5).

In the depths of the cave, as well as in the depths of the ocean, there is complete darkness. One cannot even see their hand in front of their face in such places. In Psalm 130, the psalmist speaks about crying unto the Lord “out of the depths”. The picture is one in which all appears dark and hopeless for the writer, yet He calls upon God to hear his voice (Psalm 130:1-2).

In the title of Psalm 130, it mentions that this was “A Song of Ascents”. These “Song of Ascents” were sung as the worshippers ascended the road leading up to Jerusalem as they went to attend 3 Jewish Feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16). As the ancient Israelites were going up to worship God by singing these “Song of Ascents”, they were reminding themselves of why they should worship God.

In this psalm the author asks the question, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). If God were, as some people picture Him, One whose sole focus was upon pointing out our faults, none of us would have a chance because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). However, while God is just and will punish those who persist in sin, His main focus is to save man from sin. The psalmist adds, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Why is it that the author fears God? It is because with God there is forgiveness!

Charles Spurgeon, in writing about this verse says regarding this phrase, “that You may be feared” states, “This is the fruitful root of piety. None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him”. Only when one understands and appreciates that they have been blessed to be a recipient of God’s wonderful grace, as shown in Him forgiving their sins, will they develop a healthy fear of God!

Because the author understood God’s grace in forgiving him of past sins, he will now wait on God in spite of the turmoil of the depths which surround him at the present moment: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning-- yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:5-8). When we understand just how great of an act it was for God to forgive us of our sins, it helps us to trust in His power to deliver us from any other trials we may face!

Today, I will fear God, not because He is going to bring His wrath upon me if I do not. I will fear God because there is forgiveness with Him! I revere Him because I realize how great it is for Him to extend to me the forgiveness of my past sins through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). Because I fear the Lord, whatever trials come upon me this day, I will “wait for the Lord” to deliver me. I will hope in Him because with Him there is “mercy” and “abundant redemption”!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

7/1/17 “The Blessing of Returning to the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 123-126)

“Bring back our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:4-6).

As Christians we face a lifelong struggle with sin. At times, we succumb to temptation and fall into sin. Sadly, most of us have known Christians who have fallen away from the Lord and given themselves back over to a life of sin. On the other hand, many of us have also known Christians who fell away, but then repented and turned once again to the Lord.

In the title of Psalm 126, it mentions that this was “A Song of Ascents”. Many scholars believe these “Song of Ascents” were sung as the worshippers ascended the road leading up to Jerusalem as they went to attend 3 Jewish Feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16). This psalm speaks about the blessings of God’s people returning to the Lord following their captivity in Babylon because of their sin.

The psalmist cries out to the Lord: “Bring back our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South”. The streams in the desert south of Judea were dependent on rain. These streams would disappear during the dry seasons and then reappear following the dry seasons. This is a vivid picture of where the life of sin leads. The momentary pleasure of sin soon disappears and leaves one desolate and thirsty for nourishment (cf. Hebrews 11:24-25). What a person thought was going to be fun, exciting, and satisfying, when they took the path of sin, has now led them to a waterless desert. Sin enslaves us. Jesus said, “"Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34).

However, while the psalmist describes a bleak picture regarding the path of sin, he also paints a beautiful picture for those who are willing to leave the path of sin and return to the Lord. He pictures them as being satisfied with the streams that have been restored following the dry season (Psalm 126:4). He describes them being filled with laughter and the nations around them recognizing God’s blessings upon His restored people: “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad” (Psalm 126:1-3).

However, before they were restored to the Lord, they had to undergo the pain of experiencing godly sorrow. Having true sorrow over one’s sins is what leads a person to repent and return to the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:10). The psalmist wonderfully portrays the godly sorrow God’s people returning from captivity underwent before returning to the Lord: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:4). He pictures the tears they cried over their sins as planted seeds leading to a time when there would be much rejoicing as they bore much fruit for God!

How do I view things when I fall into sin? Do I treat it as “no big deal” and harden my heart against God? On the other hand, when I fall into sin, do I led the guilt of my struggle with sin weigh me down and discourage me from wanting to get back up and ask for God’s help? I thank God that there are such psalms as this to teach me it is right and appropriate for me to feel godly sorrow over my sins, but then I can always return back to the Lord in repentance and once again have my mouth filled with laughter, my tongue with singing, and come to Him again rejoicing bringing in the sheaves”!

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

6/30/17 “The One Who Watches Over Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 120-122)

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:1-3).

For those of us who had served in the military we know the importance of standing guard and being watchful. In fact, during times of war, being alert and vigilant while standing guard is so important that if one falls asleep while on guard duty the punishment can be death. Paul spoke to Timothy about the importance of Christians being watchful, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). As Christians, we are to be watchful for the devil (1 Peter 5:8), watchful for one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and watchful as we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:42).

However, in Psalm 121 the psalmist speaks not about our being watchful, but rather about God being watchful over us. He speaks about the vigilance with which God watches over us: “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). He is diligent to preserve us from harm: “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Psalm 121:7-8). God is so careful in His watch over us that not even a ray of light can get past Him and through to us if He does not want it to: “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:5-6).

As He watches over us, God will not allow anything to come near us or happen to us that He does not want: “He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3). This doesn’t mean that no trials ever happen to us as Christians. God allows us to go through trials in order that we may grow in our faith and mature as Christians (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-4). However, isn’t it comforting to know that God sets up boundaries regarding the trials He will allow to come upon us? God knows how much each of us can withstand. He will not allow a trial to come upon us that is too great for us to bear: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Because the psalmist knew of God’s watchful care over him, he could face the challenges of life with confidence: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). No trial or threat would be too great for him because He knew God was looking out for him and was ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Today, I rejoice that God has such watchful care over me. He doesn’t fall asleep while he is standing guard over me and my soul. He will not allow anything to come upon me that He does not believe I can handle as long as I place my faith in Him. I praise God for He is the One Who watches over me!

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-30).

6/29/17 “Teach me Your Statutes!” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 119)

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You”! (Psalm 119:9-11).

I find it interesting that the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119) is overwhelmingly filled with stressing the importance of God’s Word in the lives of His followers. Time and space prevent me from being able to give this psalm the justice it deserves, but I do want to mention a few points that I believe are important regarding how we should view God’s Word and the role it is to play in our lives.

 First, the psalmist stresses how we need to embrace God’s commandments. Rather than questioning the reasoning behind God’s commandments, the author acknowledges that all of God’s statutes are righteous: “Righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments. Your testimonies, which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful” (Psalm 119:137-138); “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160). Because he esteems God’s Word, it pains him to see God’s Will being violated: “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136).

Second, the psalmist fully trusts in God’s Word given to him through the Scriptures: “Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord-- Your salvation according to Your word. So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word” (Psalm 119:41-42); “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides” (Psalm 119:89-90). The author placed his trust in God’s promises as found in His Word. God’s Law saw him through many trials: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). God’s Word had given him the wisdom he needed to navigate and guide his life: “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:98-100); “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Finally, the psalmist valued and treasured God’s Word: “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (Psalm 119:162); “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” (Psalm 119:54). Since he treasured God’s commands, he made it a priority in His life to study them: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). The writer allowed nothing to distract him from his pursuit to think on God’s statutes: “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You” (Psalm 119:36-38).

As I reflect upon this great psalm it challenges me with a number of questions I need to ask myself: How do I feel about God’s commands? Do I question them or do I embrace them? Does it bother me when I violate God’s Will or see others violate God’s Will? Do I trust fully in God’s promises as given through His Law or do I trust in something else? Do I treasure God’s commands so much that I make it a priority to daily study them or do I allow other things to distract me from studying God’s Word? Today, I will rejoice in God’s law, embrace it, trust fully in it, and make it a point to study it and apply it to my life!

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).

6/28/17 “Return to Your Rest, O My Soul” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 115-118)

The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!’ Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3-7).

Have you ever lost something that was important to you and then found it? This would be an occasion for great rejoicing for you. On the other hand, how to you feel when you are at peace and find something you wish you did not? How do you react when you find trouble and sorrow?

In psalm 116, the author mentions he found “trouble and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3). Whatever it was he found, it was very serious because it threatened his life (Psalm 116:3). The situation appears to have involved some men who had lied to him because one of the author’s initial reactions was towards them: “I said in my haste, ‘All men are liars’" (Psalm 116:11). However, he also reacted by calling on the Lord: “Then I called upon the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!’ (Psalm 116:4); “I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” (Psalm 116:10). Because the nature of the Lord is to be gracious and merciful (Psalm 116:5), the author notes God delivered him from death (Psalm 116:6). The trouble he had found now left him and the psalmist says to his soul, “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).

As the writer reflects upon God’s nature, he finds comfort in how God views the death of His saints: “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Knowing that God watches over His followers and views their death as something which is “precious”, the psalmist by faith and trust in God commits himself fully to God’s protection and states, “I will walk before the Lord In the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).

He then considers, “What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12). He will pay to the Lord the vows he has made and will focus on worshipping God and praising Him: ‘”I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord Now in the presence of all His people” (Psalm 116:13-14). He strongly desired to worship God because of all God had done for him: “O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord's house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 116:16-19).

Unfortunately, in life all of us at times will find “trouble and sorrow”. How will I react if I find trouble and sorrow this day: In fear or in faith? I take encouragement from this psalm that, by trusting in God and remembering that He views my death as something that is “precious”, in faith I can believe that, if it is His Will, God will deliver me from whatever trouble and sorrow comes my way. If it is not His Will to deliver me, but to call me to my heavenly home, then I can rejoice as did Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Whichever is the case, I don’t have let the trouble and sorrow that I may find this day rob me or my peace, love, and joy I have in Christ. I can say to my soul, “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).

“You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115:11).

6/27/17 “In Everlasting Remembrance” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 112-114)

“A good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:5-7).

Do you ever struggle with doubting if God remembers you? If you believe God does remember you, do you think God remembers you for your sins against Him or does He remember your service to Him? How long does God remember our service to Him before our service to Him is forgotten?

In Psalm 112, we see the blessing of those who strive to be righteous in their walk before God: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1). The man who sets His heart to follow God’s commandments and who holds God in reverence will be blessed in a number of ways. In general, his descendants who follow him will be blessed and he himself will enjoy material prosperity because he has followed the principles laid out in God’s Word that enable him to receive God’s blessings (Psalm 112:2-3). This is a generality because a man’s descendants have a free will to choose for themselves whether or not they will obey God and God does allow us to go through trials such as financial trials, physical health challenges, and other struggles to test and strengthen our faith (Romans 5:3-4).

However, more importantly than material prosperity or our descendants becoming mighty, the spiritual blessings that the righteous man receives are mentioned in this psalm: First, the righteous are given light and guidance in darkness: “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4). Second, God remembers each act of service the righteous performs on God’s behalf: “Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance” (Psalm 112:6), “Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:3). The services of the righteous are not soon forgotten by God, but rather their work “endures forever” as God hold them in “everlasting remembrance”.

Knowing God views their service to Him in this manner, gives the righteous great confidence as they face various trials. Regarding the righteous, the psalmist says, “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.” (Psalm 112:7-8). The righteous have this confidence not because they are trusting in their own acts of righteousness which they have done, but because they are trusting in the Lord who is watching over them, appreciating, and remembering their service unto Him. Because of His confidence in God power to work in his life, the heart of the righteous is “established” (Psalm 112:8), and he can be bold and not be easily shaken when trouble arises (Psalm 112:6).

I find great encouragement from this Psalm as I think about my service to God. God does not easily forget me service to Him. He remembers each and every act of service to Him. This doesn’t mean I am trying to “earn my salvation” or “work my way to heaven”. It only means that I find great comfort knowing God takes notice of my service to Him. I praise God my service to him “endures forever”. This encourages me to have an “established heart” that can be steadfast if I will continue to trust in the Lord as my strength. I can have confidence that I will “never be shaken” if I place all my faith in God. Today, I rejoice that God holds me in “everlasting remembrance”!

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

6/26/17 “Studying the Great Works of the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 108-111)

The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:2-4).

Have you ever marveled at a beautiful sunrise to begin the day? Have you felt overwhelmed as you stare out at the vastness of the ocean when you have walked along the beach? Have you gazed in wonder as you saw an eagle soar? Have you stopped to behold the beauty of a flower blossoming?

As the opening verses above indicate, it is good to be filled with awe as you behold the beauty and majesty of all that God has created. God’s works are great and we should want to “study” them to learn just how great God’s power is in creating them (Psalm 111:2). A failure to take the time to observe the hand of God in creation can lead one to depart from God and the darkening of one’s heart: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21).

As the psalmist beheld God’s creation he observed a number of things. First, he noticed God’s work is honorable (Psalm 111:2). Everything in God’s creation serves a purpose for which God intended it whether it is the bee that can sting us, but also pollinates the fruit trees or whether it is the river that can flood its banks and damage our homes, but also provides the water to nourish the crops of which we eat. Second, the author observed God’s creation is glorious (Psalm 111:2). God designed His creation in such a way it would fill our hearts with a sense of His majesty as we behold it: “He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:4). Third, God’s creation reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His promises: “He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant” (Psalm 111:5). “The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8). As we behold the change in seasons from year to year and see the rainbow in the sky, we are reminded God’s faithfulness to continue to uphold His precepts and to keep His promises (cf. Genesis 9:12-17). Fourth, the writer states that the works of God testify of His great power: “He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations” (Psalm 111:6). Who can behold a hurricane or a tornado and not be filled with a sense of the incredible power of God?

Observing God’s awesome creation caused the psalmist to say, “Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1). It filled His heart with reverence for God and prompted Him to want to keep God’s commandments (Psalm 111:10). He rejoiced that such an awesome God had reached out to a sinful people to save them from their sins: “He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name” (Psalm 111:9).

Today, I will stop to “smell the roses” and behold the Hand of God in His awesome creation. I will face this day as “This is the day which the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).

6/25/17 “O That Men Would Give Thanks to the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 104-107)

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:6-9).

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings”.

Ingratitude towards God is something with which mankind has struggled. Recall, out of the 10 lepers Jesus healed, only one returned to say thank you (Luke 17:12-19). Failure to be thankful is a reason men depart from following after God: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:20-22). Notice that at the time when they knew God, they failed to glorify Him and be thankful to Him. This led to their hearts being darkened and their departing from God. No wonder in the New Testament Christians are often reminded “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

In Psalm 107, four times we see the statement, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). This statement follows several examples of God’s work on behalf of His people. This statement follows: (1) After He redeemed His people from the hand of the enemy and fed and clothed them (Psalm 107:2-7), (2) After He had delivered those who cried unto Him after being punished by Him for their rebellion against Him (Psalm 107:10-14, 16-20), and (3) After He had calmed the storm and delivered sailors who had cried to Him in the midst of the storm (Psalm 107:23-30).

This emphasis upon our giving thanks to the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful work on behalf of the children of men is made because the Lord knows we struggle with remembering to give thanks. We are often tempted to take all the blessings of the Lord for granted. This type of attitude can lead to our heart becoming darkened (Romans 1:21). On the other hand, remembering to give thanks to the Lord for all his goodness towards us is a wise path to take: “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43).

Today, I do not want to take God’s blessings for granted. Like the magnet sweeping through the sand attracting the iron particles to it, I want to challenge myself to search for God’s blessings every hour of the day. As the psalmist in Psalm 107 shows, the blessings of God are numerous. They are not difficult to find. The difficulty lies in my heart becoming so distracted by this world and its cares that I can fail to take the time to express to God how thankful I am for how He has enriched my life!

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is , the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

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).