I Love Your Grace!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

As we recognized yesterday, David loves the Lord’s house. This sets this psalm up in the middle of a series of psalms starting with Psalm 23. The Shepherd’s psalm ends with the declaration, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But who gets to actually dwell in that house? Psalm 24 provides the answer: one who has clean hands and pure heart. But wait, I’ve already messed that up. Is there any hope for me? Psalm 25, the first psalm to explicitly mention the psalmist’s own personal sin, anticipates and answers that objection. Our God is merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (reminding us of God’s own declaration in Exodus 34:6-7). Because of God’s mercy and grace, I can climb His holy Hill and dwell in His house despite my failures and sins. And now Psalm 26 talks about life in God’s house. Before we jump to David’s integrity (a topic for tomorrow), notice how David actually got into God’s house. “Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” In whose faithfulness? David’s faithfulness? No, in God’s. This is another reference back to Exodus 34:6-7. In other words, David isn’t saying, “I’ve been so amazing, I deserve to be in Your house, Lord.” He is remembering the principles we learned in the previous psalm. He has walked in the Lord’s love and faithfulness. He has called on God’s mercy and grace. As Psalm 5:7 explained, David has entered the Lord’s house not because of his own awesomeness, but “through the abundance of your steadfast love.” It is no wonder that David’s prayer about his own integrity still ends with a request for God to “be gracious to me.” The only way to dwell in God’s house is by His grace. Don’t you just love God’s grace? David did. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

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Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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A Reason to Pray

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Today, I want to share with you the second most important lesson I’ve ever learned about prayer. The most important lesson is that prayer, whatever aspect of prayer I’m practicing, is always about God’s glory and not mine. We find that all over the psalms. But the second most important lesson is demonstrated in this psalm. Many commentators talk about how hard it is to get a hold of this psalm. Is it a lament? Is it a meditation? Is it a prayer? Is it a praise? They struggle with the outline and wonder at the mixture of prayer and meditation. But the reality is this psalmist is not only teaching prayer, but teaching one of the number one keys to effective praying. This psalm goes back and forth between prayer to God and meditation on God because the psalmist is praying and then meditating on the reason for the prayer. This is part of prayer that I skipped for a very long time. When we plan our praying and embark on a prayer, we should consider, what about God would remotely make Him willing to respond to what I’m praying right now? What about God’s character, nature, word, will, promises leads me to believe God will remotely want to respond to what I’m laying out before Him? The psalmist anticipates a problem with his trek up God’s holy hill. I’m a sinner. He knows the only way to deal with that is if God forgives him. But why would God do that? Why should the psalmist remotely expect God to respond to the request to “Remember not the sins of my youth”? Why should the psalmist remotely expect God to forgive his sins and then protect him from his enemies? Because of Exodus 34:6-7. Because God had revealed to Moses and to Israel His very nature. His character. His name. His name is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving transgression, iniquity, and sin. And so the psalmist has a reason to pray this prayer. “Don’t remember my sins, Lord. Remember Your name.” And therefore, the psalmist asks the Lord to act for His name’s sake and pardon his guilt. That was the psalmist’s reason for this prayer. When you bow, what is the reason God should or would respond to the request you are making? Think it through. Tie it to the Biblical reason, and then offer it up to God. You’ll be amazed at what this practice will do to improve your praying.

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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Unto You, O Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

The previous psalm explained that whoever lifts up his soul to what is false is not allowed to ascend the holy hill of Yahweh. As if in response, this psalm begins with a clear “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” In the previous psalm, this kind of person would receive blessing and righteousness from the Lord. In this psalm, the psalmist is asking the Lord to hold true to His word. “Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” However, it is more than a request, it is also a confident assertion. “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.” He ends this psalm the same place he begins. His foes are many. They are violent and hateful. But he takes refuge in the Lord and waits on Him. Therefore, he asks and expects the Lord to guard his soul and keep him from shame. Today, we recognize that suffering and struggle, whether from enemies or from some other source, isn’t an indication of shame nor does it lead to shame. Paul tells us our suffering produces endurance, our endurance produces character, character produces hope, and our hope does not put us to shame. Further, we are confident this is true because God’s love has been poured into our hearts and the Holy Spirit has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5). The next time you sing “Unto thee, O Lord,” remember there is no shame with the Lord. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

Continue reading “Unto You, O Lord!”

Those Who Know Your Name

Today’s reading is Psalm 9.

“Those who know your name put their trust in you”? What is that about? Yahweh? I Am that I Am? Those who know those words put their trust in God? What is it about that name? Actually, David isn’t referring to the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letter combination that represents God’s name. Actually, David is referring to God’s proclamation of what His name means found in Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (ESV). Those who know these things about God trust Him. They rely on Him. They turn to Him even when they have sinned. They turn to Him even when they know they don’t deserve it. They know that no matter what it looks like in the moments of battle, God has not forsaken them. Even when it looks like the battle tides have turned against them, they know who their God is. They know His name. They know His nature. They know that even if it looks like the needy have been forgotten, it will not always be that way. They know that even if it looks like the guilty are getting away with it, it will not always be that way. They know that God, in His time works together all things for good for those who love Him. So they hang on to Him. Only those who don’t know His name forsake Him. Then, of course, as His name says, He will not clear their guilt, but will visit their iniquity on them. Know God’s name. Trust God’s name. God will save His people for His name’s sake. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 9.

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Rejoicing to Suffer

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

Certainly, we know we are supposed to count it all joy when we face various trials. But, the apostles didn’t just face various trials. They faced persecution. They weren’t just facing the general ups and downs of life. They weren’t just doing the best they could but got sick, got fired, got hurt. They were serving the Lord faithfully and were targeted for that exact faithful service. A more natural, flesh-based response might be something like: “Lord, what’s up? I thought you were King of the world. I thought you had conquered these jokers. I thought you had seated us above all the principalities and powers on earth and in the heavenly places. Why are you letting this happen?” But that isn’t the apostles’ response. They are excited to suffer for Jesus. They are excited to sacrifice for Jesus. They rejoice to be prisoners for and of Jesus. This is so topsy-turvy. Most people rejoice when their King promotes them, gives them land, servants, money. Jesus’s ambassadors rejoice because they get to suffer for Him. In a day when Christianity is touted as the way to have your best life now, this look back at what serving Christ looked like in the beginning makes me stop and do some real self-examination. I have a lot of growing to do.

Next week’s reading is Acts 6.

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Beware Judas

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

What is up with Judas? How could this happen? Why did Jesus even let him into the group? There are plenty of opinions regarding how this happened. I think the most likely is Judas made it into the group because he was just as qualified to be in the group of disciples and apostles as the other 11. Think about it. We tend to see Judas through the negative lens because we know how the story ends for him. However, it is clear none of those who worked with him saw him that way. He was set up to be their keeper of the purse, the treasurer if you will. None of the other apostles questioned his sincerity and loyalty. When Jesus says someone at the table would betray Him, each disciple was concerned it would be himself. None of them said, “I knew you shouldn’t have let Judas in.” And this leads us to the warning we need to consider. When we say that we need to beware Judas, we are not saying that we need to watch everyone around us carefully and see if we can weed out the traitors around us. No. We need to watch ourselves. We need to fearlessly and thoroughly examine our own hearts. We need to find where the chinks in our loyalty to king Jesus are because the enemy will exploit them. The enemy will lead us down a primrose path that ends with betraying our King and ultimately destroying ourselves. Beware Judas, not the Judas out there, but the Judas within. We must never think it couldn’t be me. We need to be radically honest with ourselves and with our King. That is the only way to beware Judas.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

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It’s Not a Competition

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 4.

How should we regard great teachers and workers in God’s kingdom like Paul and Apollos? As servants and stewards, not as owners and masters. As we read yesterday, every bit of success they had came because God had provided it. Paul explains he was only using himself and Apollos as examples in order to teach the Corinthians (and us) something. Here is the key question: “What do you have that you did not receive?” Whatever talent, ability, resource, and opportunity we each have is a gift from God. Any abilities we have to teach, speak, write, serve, lead, exhort, encourage, support, give, share, show mercy are gifts from God. They do not say a single thing about how awesome we are. They say how awesome God is. We, like Paul and Apollos, are servants and, therefore, stewards of God’s gifts. Stewards are not required to have better gifts than other stewards, but to be faithful with the gifts the Master has given them. Did you get that? It isn’t a competition. We are not in a race with each other. We cannot prove we are better than anyone else because we are all in the same boat. We are all simply disciples given various gifts by God as He has chosen. Therefore, our goal is not to win. Our goal is not to beat each other. Our goal is to be faithful stewards of whatever talents, abilities, resources, and opportunities God has given us. What gifts has God given you? What is the best way for you to pursue faithfulness in those today?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5.

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Paul’s Rejected Popularity

Today’s reading is Acts 14.

Today, some want to suggest Paul started Christianity as a means to gain popularity and power. These skeptics look at many modern religious, cult leaders and see that they do start religions in order to gain followers, servants, money. Perhaps these scoffers can be excused for attributing what they see among these modern frauds to the ancients. However, notice the testimony. When Paul had the opportunity to gain in popularity, to get a following, to be thought of as something special, he rejected it. In Lystra, he was seen not as the leader of a religion, but as a god. Imagine what following, gifts, servants, popularity he could have had. But he turned it down. Why? Because he was surrendered to something real, something he knew was better than being popular among the people. He knew the gospel and was unashamed of it. He pointed people to Jesus. Let us do the same.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 15.

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When Membership Won’t Help

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5.

Disciples should be members of congregations. However, congregational membership is intended to support discipleship, not the other way around. Something that has often surprised me is people who clearly aren’t interested in being disciples but want to make sure their name stays on a congregation’s list of members. They show up just enough, they hug the line on questionable issues, they cover up blatant sins, accuse churches of awful things if the congregation takes a stand against some sin in their life, move to a church that agrees to look the other way on their issue. All of this is done as if they believe the means to be with God in heaven forever is by making sure a congregation somewhere considers them a member. If we learn anything from the fallen Christian in Corinth, this just doesn’t work. We need to remember that while congregational membership is part of discipleship, God is looking for disciples not merely church members.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 6.

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Free

Today’s reading is Galatians 5.

InĀ Galatians 5, Paul anticipates and answers a great objection. We are free from law, but does that mean we are free to sin? Of course not. We aren’t under law, but we are led by the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit we will avoid the works of the flesh not because there is a rule against these works, but because we will develop and grow the fruit of the Spirit. When the fruit of the Spirit governs us, we have nothing to worry about from law because we simply aren’t acting contrary to law. So let us walk in the freedom of the Spirit without fear, growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Tomorrow’s reading is Galatians 6.

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