My Spirit and My Times

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

“Into your hand I commit my spirit,” David says in Psalm 31:4. That sounds beautiful. I want to do that. But what does it mean? Practically, how do I commit my spirit to the Lord? Perhaps Psalm 31:15 gives us some insight. David also says, “My times are in your hand.” That is, my circumstance, my life events, my days, my nights, my seasons, my weeks, my years. If “my times” are in God’s hands, doesn’t that imply my behavior during those times is in God’s hands? Paul provides a great example of this in 2 Corinthians 12:10. Having become convinced of God’s grace in his life through a thorn in the flesh, he says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words, “My circumstances are in the Lord’s hands. If He decides to make me sick, if He decides to make me go through a shipwreck, if He decides to put me in prison, if He decides to make me abound in prosperity, I’ll trust Him that He is doing what is right; and I’ll just obey Him no matter what.” Of course, Jesus demonstrates this on the cross. He even quotes it (Luke 23:46). Even if God puts me on a cross. Even if I’m thrown in a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. Even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, there is no fruit on the vine, the produce of the olive fail, the fields yield no food, the flocks and herds get destroyed, I will rejoice in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17-18). He’ll get me through. I trust Him. My job will just be to do whatever He says and rejoice in Him no matter what. I know in the end, He’ll work it out for His glory and my good. My spirit and my times are in the Lord’s hands. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Are You Sure You Trust the Lord?

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

“I trusted the Lord and look where it got me,” says the person who went to church for a while, started obeying the Lord, but then faced a hardship and decided to jump ship. Let me ask you this. Which of the following most demonstrates trust in the Lord? Doing what the Lord says when everything is going your way and turning out exactly as you expected or doing what the Lord says when everything is still going against you and it is not turning out how you expected? David is in some hardship. Enemies have laid a trap for him. He is afflicted and distressed. He has become a reproach to his neighbors, his acquaintances, and even perfect strangers because of his enemies. He is facing terror on every side and the schemes of those who plot to take his life. And all of this has caused his eyes, his body, and his soul to waste away because of how long it has been going on. Yet, he says, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.'” It is one thing to say, “I trust You, Lord,” when the Lord behaves exactly like we expect, giving us everything we want and ask for. It is another thing to trust Him by continuing to do what He says and pray to Him when He is not responding the way we want and when it seems like it is doing no good at all. May I suggest we can’t be sure we trust God until that trust has been put to the test in the crucible of shocking circumstances, circumstances in which God isn’t behaving exactly like we expected, in which He isn’t delivering as quickly as we had hoped. In fact, I also suggest we can’t be sure we truly trust God until we continue doing what He says even in the moments when it looks like it is not working at all. You know, moments like when you are hanging on a cross, dying, feeling forsaken, and then say, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit.” I’m not trying to make us fear we don’t have enough faith. I am simply trying to encourage us to hang on to our faith in those moments when we are ready to give up. Because if we don’t, I’m not so sure what we have is actually faith and trust.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

PODCAST!!!

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Riding the Pendulum

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Whether this psalm and the last are placed next to each other for this purpose or not, there is a striking contrast between the two. In Psalm 30:6, David wrote, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.'” in Psalm 31:22, he writes, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.'” In the previous psalm, because of David’s confidence, pride, and swagger, the Lord hid His face and David was dismayed (though, admittedly, the ultimate outcome of that psalm is David’s deliverance). In this psalm, because of David’s humility, penitence, and prayer, the Lord delivers. This contrast shows what happens in our life. We ride the pendulum. One day, we ride high in confidence. The next, we scrape the bottom in terror. One day, our pride is getting the better of us. The next, our humility draws us closer to God. As all this is going on, this contrast draws out something we learned in Psalm 30 as well. We all want the good times, the mountaintop experiences, but often it is the valleys that teach and grow us the most. It’s hard to thank God for His testing and refining fires, but this gives us reason to count it all joy when we meet various trials. After all, the trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness grows us to maturity, maturity strengthens love, and those who love God receive the crown of life (see James 1:2-4, 12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Saved by Dismay

Today’s reading is Psalm 30.

David begins the psalm explaining why he will extol the Lord. “For you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” Now, we must be careful at this point lest we make a mistake later in the psalm. In Psalm 30:7, David declares he was dismayed. The next verse repeats his earlier claim of crying out to the Lord. We may be tempted to believe David was saved from his dismay. But that isn’t what is happening at all. God did not save David from dismay; God saved David by dismay. I know, shocking, right? Look at what has happened. Because of the prosperity he had received by God’s grace, David had become overconfident in himself. He was believing his own press. He was forgetting God. So, God hid His face from David. He made his mountain quake. He caused David to dismay. It was this dismay that reminded David from where his strength actually came. It was the dismay that caused him to turn back to Yahweh. Like Peter sinking in the water (Matthew 14:30) or Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), the Lord allows us to face dismay because it can save us. Of course, we have to respond to it properly. Sadly, some people decide if they face dismay God must not be out there or God doesn’t care and abandon God further. Don’t respond to your dismay in that way. Rather, when you experience dismay, turn even closer to God. Grab hold of him even more. He will hear your cries. He will respond. He will lift you up out of the waters. And after all this is done, David decides to extol God. Not because God saved him from his dismay, but because God saved him by his dismay.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 30.

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The God of Jacob

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

In Genesis 34, Simeon and Levi did the unthinkable. They carried out a plan and attack against an entire city-state in Canaan, wiping out all of their men in a single night raid. Jacob became petrified. He looked at his tiny family in comparison to the other city-states of the Canaanites and said, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household” (Genesis 34:30, ESV). In the next chapter, however, God calls Jacob to go to Bethel to make good on the promise Jacob had made as he was fleeing Esau years earlier. Jacob tells his family to put away their idols and even give up the jewelry they might use later to re-forge their idols. And then he says, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answer me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Genesis 35:3, ESV). Then the text lets us know that Jacob’s fears were completely unfounded: “And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (Genesis 35:5, ESV). Years later, David writes Psalm 20. A prayer Israel can pray when he is leading her armies to war. And what is the blessing they seek? “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble [distress]! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!” (Psalm 20:1, ESV). Do you see why Israel would call on the “God of Jacob” for their king and for their armies? Do you see why we can call on the “God of Jacob” for our churches and our brethren? We have nothing to fear. The God who protected Jacob from the provoked people around him, the God who had been with Jacob as he fled Esau and as he plundered Laban, the God who saw Jacob through his days of distress is our God. He will be with us wherever we go. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 20.

PODCAST!!!

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

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The Lord’s Word

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

In another study, we’ve talked about our job as a branch. That is, our job is simply to abide in Jesus, being the conduits through whom His power, strength, and life flow in order that the Vinedresser can bear fruit through us for His glory (see John 15:1-11). One of the three super-charged activities of Jesus-abiding is to abide in His Word and let His Word abide in us (John 15:7). In Psalm 19, we discover why this mutual abiding is so powerful. The psalm uses six terms to describe the Lord’s Word (Torah/Law, testimony, precept, commandment, fear, rules [ESV]). These terms encompass every aspect of the Lord’s Word from the generic to the specific (Torah to commandment), from its source to our response (God’s testimonies to our fear), from where it provides limitations to where it provides equipping (precepts to rules/judgments). This sixfold repetition is not supposed to send us down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out the nuanced differences between the terms, but rather to help us see that David is talking about the Word, all the Word, every aspect of the Word, every feature of the Word, and the Word in its entirety. The Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true. Can anything else to which we have constant physical access make these claims? Notice what the Word accomplishes. Like the good shepherd of Psalm 23:3, it revives the soul. Like the Proverbs, it wisens the simple. Like a great victory or great feast, it rejoices the heart. Like a dab of honey after a long day of battle, it enlightens the eyes (see 1 Samuel 14:24-30). Like nothing else but God alone, it endures forever and, by implication, is the means by which we will endure forever. And again, like nothing and no one but God, it is altogether righteous; that is, it sanctifies us. And David claims if a pile of gold was behind Door #1, a feast of the sweetest foods behind Door #2, and God’s Word behind Door #3, he would choose Door #3. He would choose that not because abiding in the Word would get him gold and feasting, but because the Word is greater riches and more satisfying than those other two choices. With all this on the table, why would we do anything but abide in the Word of the Lord? We can abide in no other way.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation with Edwin Crozier and Andrew Roberts that expands on this post!

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The Fear of Defeat

Today’s reading is Psalm 13.

David feared death in Psalm 13. He also feared defeat. Honestly, it makes me wonder if he provided this list in ascending or descending order. Did he start with his biggest fear or the smallest one. Either way, the #2 fear on the list is the fear that he will lose: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God…lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him.'” And isn’t that exactly what Satan wants us to fear? He wants us to fear we’ve chosen the losing side. He wants us to fear that God, in the end, can’t actually win the battle. And what greater time to perpetuate that fear than in the interim? What greater time to perpetuate that fear than before God has struck the decisive blow against the enemy? In these moments, we will be tempted to switch sides, but in these moments we must remember another of David’s prayers: “Yours O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). And as Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Of course, I was half-joking when I asked if David was starting with his biggest fear or working up to it. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 demonstrates these two fears are not so different. When our living is anything but Jesus Christ, death seems like the greatest loss. But when we are in Christ and our lives are focused on gaining Christ, death is no defeat. Rather, even in death we have the victory in Jesus Christ. Of course, the only way we will have this victory is through faith (1 John 5:4). No matter what it looks like today or tomorrow, we are going to win. Feel free to ask God how long it is going to be until we win, but always remember we will win. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 13.

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The Fear of Death

Today’s reading is Psalm 13.

In Psalm 13, as in many psalms, David is living in the interim between when God gives a promise and God grants the promise. He lists three fears we often have in this time. The first is fear of death. “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” In 1 Samuel 27:1, though God had promised the throne, David begins to fear Saul will actually succeed at killing him. Honestly, this is a low point regarding David’s faith. I can’t say for certain that Psalm 13 was written at this time. However, I know that his fear of death at either time was unnecessary. And the same is true for us. According to Hebrews 2:14-16, Jesus has shared in flesh and blood so that through death He might defeat the the one who has the power of death, the devil. Because Jesus has defeated the devil and death, we who are in Jesus have no need to fear death either. Like Paul in Philippians 1:21 death is not a loss for us. It is gain for us. No matter how bad it gets, even though we walk through the shadow of death, we do not have to fear any evil, not even death. Whether we live or die, Jesus is leading us to victory. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 13.

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O Kings, Be Wise

Today’s reading is Psalm 2.

Be wise! But how? By serving the Lord with fear. Every one of us who have ever read the Proverbs should nod in recognition. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But did you notice how this psalm and its wisdom parallels the first psalm? In Psalm 1, the way of the wicked will perish. In Psalm 2, those who don’t kiss the Son will perish. In Psalm 2, those who take refuge in the Anointed Son/King of God will be blessed. In Psalm 1, those who meditate on God’s Law are blessed. In Psalm 1, the blessed man refuses the counsel of the wicked, the way of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer. In Psalm 2, the kings do the exact opposite. They rage against the Lord and revel in the counsel of one another. I will say as I have said before, I have no idea why the psalms in general are in the order they are in. However, I believe I know why these first two psalms are the first two. They are the doorway to the entire wisdom of the psalmody. There is the Lord’s Law and the Lord’s Leader. They go hand in hand. Wisdom and blessing are found in the Lord’s King and the Lord’s Covenant. Any other way is death and judgment. Without this understanding, no psalm, in fact no text in the Bible, can make true sense. It is no wonder that under the New Covenant, both the Scripture and the Savior are called the Word of God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 2.

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God Shows NO Partiality

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” That is, Jesus didn’t die for Jews or Gentiles. He didn’t die for the rich or the poor. He didn’t die for the educated or the ignorant. He didn’t die for the American or the Russian. He didn’t die for the Republican or the Democrat. He didn’t die for the Capitalist or the Socialist. He died for everyone. He has no partiality. He doesn’t care who your parents are. He doesn’t care what town you grew up in. He doesn’t care what language you speak. He doesn’t care what is the color of your skin. He wants to save everyone. Of course, please note, Peter doesn’t say He will save everyone. Rather, in any nation, those who fear Him and do what is right will be acceptable to Him. Therefore, Cornelius can be saved by Jesus just as Peter can. You can be saved by Jesus just as I can. The conditions are the same for all and everyone can meet the conditions. The question is will you turn to Jesus? Will you fear the Lord and do what is right? Will you follow in Cornelius’s footsteps? If we can help you do so, please let us know in the comments section below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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