Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why God Loves All Nations!

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

One thing you will find consistent throughout the Old Testament is God's love for the "nations".  It is important to know that this word in the New Testament is translated in the Greek, "panta te ethnes".  In the New Testament it is used often but most significantly in the Great Commission where Jesus says, "Go and make disciples of "all nations"."

So if it is clear God wants to reach all nations (i.e. for God so loved the world), how do we do that?  Psalm 105 has some clues.

  1. "Give praise and proclaim his name".  Part of giving praise is proclaiming all the wonderful things God has done.  God does miraculous things to reveal himself not only to the Jews but the nations (i.e. all non-Jews).  God's purpose all along was to set apart the Israelites to shine forth His love to the nations.
  2. "Glory in his holy name." The idea is to rejoice in who God is. by our relationship with Him.  If we have no joy in our lives for others to see, what does that say about our relationship with God?
  3. "Seek the Lord and His strength.  Seek His face always."  This is call for how we live our life.  Do we depend on God for everything? Or, do we only go to him when we are in dire straits?  Do we walk in His strength alone, or do we try to do life on our own?   
As we  live in this kind of relationship with God we will proclaim him to the nations, which is our ultimate purpose in life?  Where can you improve along these lines?  Where can you grow in a deeper relationship with God that will show Him forth more clearly to the nations?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Who Created You and All That Exists?

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
    flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.

The psalmist describes God by the power he exhibited when He created the world.  The psalm is very similar to the 1st chapter of Genesis with its images of darkness and light, the heavens and the earth, and the watery chaos that eventually subsided on the earth.  At the heart of what we believe is that God created us and everything that exists.  Why is this so important?  

1. If something else created us and everything we see around us, then that something is God!  

2. When we see the heavens and the earth in this psalm, they are not described as coming into existence through an evolutionary process with no beginning.  They were purposely made by a Creator.  They reveal God's greatness and grandeur. While there may be elements of an evolutionary process, (I.e. the water flowing over the mountains and into the valleys) this does not negate God set in motion and superintended this process. 

3. Someone has said, "something cannot come from nothing".  Similarly, "nothing can come nothing".  There had to be a first cause.  Christians believe the causative agent to be God.  God spoke and it came into existence.  

So, if you believe in a Creator, what kind of relationship do you think God wants to have with you?  In Genesis 1, the writer says that we are made in God's image.  In God's image, male and female God created us. 

One of the ways we know we are created in God's image, is we alone wonder why we are here.  We alone in God's creation have a sense of right and wrong.  We alone have a soul that longs to connect with its Creator.  

God's Word created all we see and experience.  John 1 says, "the Word became flesh and lived among us."  Jesus, who was with God in the beginning, took on human flesh to reveal God's plan for humankind.   

While there are other explanations as to how we got here, they don't hold any weight with me. The only alternative to a purposeful Creator is that we are the result of some random and accidental explosion that created life and the complexity of who we are as human beings. We are thoughtful, conscientious beings who long to know where we came from, and where we are going.  We long to love and to loved, which is our ultimate purpose.  

So let me ask you a question?  What explanation of Creation are you going to bet your life on? Do you think you evolved from some pre-biotic soup that eventually became a complex human being. Or, were you made in the image of loving God who wants to know you and share the beauty of what He made with you?   

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is the God of the Old Testament Different than the God of the New Testament?

Psalm 103

Of David.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I often hear people wonder if the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. It seems as though the two testaments describe a different God.   

Psalm 103 expresses the benefits of knowing God and how God showed His character to people of god. Though the psalm is written before Jesus came, we see the same character qualities Jesus exhibited on earth are ascribed to the God of Israel. First, the psalmist starts with a call to praise God with all your soul and inmost being.  Then the psalmist goes on to explain why we should praise God with all of who we are.

1. God forgives us of our sins.  Again even though Jesus is not yet mentioned, it is looking forward to Him. 

2. God heals your diseases.  God forgives us for our sin which affects our soul and spirit, but also cleanses our bodies from infirmities. 

3. This is one we don't talk about very much.  God satisfies your desires with good things, so that our youth is renewed.  We often think desires are bad, but they are from God and if enjoyed within the limits God gives us they provide joy, happiness and renewal. 

4. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  We often think God is very judgmental in the Old Testament with the Jesus people.  But when you actually read the Old Testament you see how gracious God is and how patient He is with his people despite their continuing unfaithfulness. 

Finally, the psalmist ends with some beautiful words that show the full extent of God's love for us.  "For as the high as the heavens above, how great is the Father's love for us", and "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." 

When is the last time you praised God will all of your soul and inmost being?  As you think about who He is, and who He is to you, you can praise the God of both the Old and New Testament. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

What To Think About When Things Get Really Bad!

Psalm 102:12-17
For my days vanish like smoke;
    my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
    I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud
    and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
    like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
    like a bird alone on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me;
    those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
For I eat ashes as my food
    and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
    for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

These first verses of Psalm 102 show how bad things have gotten for the psalmist and his people. This scene is set most likely after Israel was in exile, after being defeated by her enemies.  We would say the people have hit bottom and the only way to look is up.  

Then we see a huge transition in the verses below that give him hope. 

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

The psalmist says this about His God:

1. God is infinite and unchanging.  Though circumstances change, God never does.  Though the psalmist will wither like grass and fade like the shadow into the night, God can is unshakeable and he can hold on to and rely on Him. 

2. God will show compassion and bring back favor to His people.  There is time for discipline and a time for grace and restoration.  Though sorrow may last for the night, God's joy comes in the morning.  

3. God will rebuild Zion (Jerusalem) and appear in His glory.  Ultimately the psalmist had faith that God would re-build the walls of Jerusalem.  Why? Because God had promised this in the covenant he made with Abraham, and the promise he made with King David to have a king forever on the throne of Israel. Ultimately this was a prophecy about Jesus, the King of kings, who would re-build a New Jerusalem.  

The psalmist gives us a good model for when we go through hard times.  When our trials bring us to our knees, we can look up to our infinite God.  Most of the things we go through are only for a season, and knowing that a time of favor is around the corner can give us hope!  Finally, the greatest promise is that no matter what happens to us, God can use it to restore us and make us even stronger than before.    

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Spiritual Leadership Starts With Your Own Life!

Psalm 101

Of David. A psalm.

I will sing of your love and justice;
    to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life
    when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
    with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
    on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
    I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
    I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
This is a psalm of David's response as he was anointed King of Judah, and then later over all of Israel.  David starts with God's steadfast love and mercy, but also translated "justice".  Justice can be summarized as "doing the right thing" as one is aligned with God.  David responds to God's anointing to him as king with a call to living rightly.  He realizes if he is going to be leader, he needs to lead by example, starting in his own home.  

As you might know, Martin Luther spent 1,000's of hours in the psalms, translating them into German. He also applied them as a model and prophesy for the future King, Jesus Christ.  He says this about this psalm, 

"I was startled to find that Martin Luther had done an exposition of the psalm that ran to eighty pages. The reason, I discovered, is that he was deeply concerned about civil government and wanted to expound the psalm as a listing of qualities toward which every Christian prince or magistrate should strive.” (James Montgomery Boice)

Fundamentally this is a psalm of living out the Christian life. We are saved by grace and God's mercy, which propels us to live a life set apart for God.  Right and wrong is pretty clear, and leaders need to emulate it, and stay away from others who live contrary to God's plan of righteousness.

Pray that you might lead by example, starting in your home.  Your influence will be in direct proportion to the type of life you lead.  Pray for your leaders, that they might lead by example and not in name only.