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.

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The Lord is Righteous

Today’s reading is Psalm 11.

The third foundation David will not abandon and that has not been destroyed is the righteousness of God. That righteousness is demonstrated by God living according to His name. His name declares that He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, abounding in faithfulness, and forgiving. However, it also declares that He will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:6-7). Those who abandon God’s moral principles, pursuing and persisting in guilt will be judged. God’s righteousness is not primarily a declaration that God is always right. Rather, it is a declaration that God always lives according to His name. It would be folly for David to abandon God while he is living in the crucible of God’s testing. Why? Because He will always live according to His name. Everyone who abandons God, turns away from Him, pursues and persists in guilt, gets judged. Every single one. There are no exceptions, not even for David, King of Israel. God will rain down coals of fire and send scorching winds upon the one who loves and persists in violence. This means two things for David. First, the people who are pursuing violence toward him may appear to be getting away with it for now, but David knows in the end, the righteous God always judges those who love violence. Second, he wants no part of their sin. He doesn’t want to respond to them in like manner because he is no exception to God’s righteousness. It’s a foundation. God is righteous. And that is exactly the way we want Him to be.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 11.

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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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Thank the Lord

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

David’s final claim in Psalm 7 is “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness.” The point is not “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his sinlessness,” though I completely understand why some make that application. Of course, God is sinless. God always does what is right. But I encourage you to take a survey of the Old Testament claims about God’s righteousness. You will find that the point is deeper than always doing what is right, going on to always doing what God had committed to. God always delivers whom He promises to deliver and He always judges whom He promises to judge. He always keeps His word, His loyalty, His covenants. There is comfort in knowing God will deliver His covenant people who turn to Him despite their sins. There is also comfort in knowing God will judge His enemies who make war on Him and His people. There is great comfort in knowing God never blurs those lines or mistakes whom He is dealing with. Let’s always give the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness and sing the praise due His name.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 8.

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The Lord’s Love

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

What is the basis for God’s grace even when he is angry? His steadfast love. That is how steadfast His love is. Even when He is angry, He still loves. Every time we read about God’s steadfast love, we should remember the proclamation of His name in Exodus 34:5-8. God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. It is really amazing to me how often His “name” comes up in Scripture. The faithful knew the name of God and their faith was anchored in it. God had revealed Himself to Moses and the faithful trust God that He was telling the truth. Not for the sake of my righteousness, not for the sake of my good deeds, not for the sake of my attempts to pay God back, not for the sake of my reputation, but for the sake of His own love, God delivers and forgives. That is, God loves even when He is angry because that is exactly who He is. It is His name. It is His nature. Don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean no one will be condemned. He will by no means clear the guilty. Those who linger in sin, keeping God at arm’s length, not seeking the grace and love He has to offer will be judged as they deserve. But why on earth would you want to be that person? Turn to God. Cast your sins and your cares on Him. He loves. He is gracious. He will forgive. He will deliver.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 6.

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According to the Way

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

In Acts 24:5, Tertullus calls the kingdom of Christ the “sect of the Nazarenes.” But Paul makes a correction. It isn’t a sect of anything else. That is, it isn’t a branch or philosophy under the umbrella of any other ideology. It is the Way. I have no doubt, that name is used because Jesus is the Way. One of the very intriguing aspects of Christ’s church whether referring to the universal church or to the localized manifestations of it is the New Testament never names it. Rather, His citizenry is only ever described. Sometimes the head, source, owner of the church is the basis of the description. For instance, the church or churches of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; et al), “the churches of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 2:14), “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15), “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16–the only place this is used), or simply “God’s church” (1 Timothy 3:5). Sometimes the geographical location is part of the description. For instance, “the churches of Judea that are in Christ” (Galatians 1:22) or “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). Sometimes the folks who make up the congregation are part of the descriptions. For instance, “the church of the Laodiceans” (Colossians 4:16), “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23–Notice “are” is the plural verb; the author is referring to the citizens as the firstborn, not the Christ). Sometimes the description is minimalistic, as if the authors just expected the readers to understand, and the word “church” is simply used (see 1 Timothy 5:16; James 5:14; 3 John 6, 9; et al). It is called the “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is described as a “flock” by Jesus (John 10:16) and Paul (Acts 20:28) and Peter (1 Peter 5:1-2). Notice none of these is a name. They are all descriptions. The closest the New Testament comes to naming Christ’s church is right here when Paul calls it The Way (see also Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23). And notice, it is not “a” way, it is “The Way.”

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

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J-E-S-U-S is not the Name of Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Paul baptized in the name of Jesus. He preached in the name of Jesus. He cast out demons in the name of Jesus. So Sceva’s seven sons decided to ride on his coattails. They confronted a man possessed by an evil spirit saying things like, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit didn’t listen. Instead, he attacked them, whipped them, and sent them packing. “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And we learn a significantly important point. The name of Jesus isn’t merely the word “Jesus.” Just pronouncing the collection of letters J-E-S-U-S does not mean we are acting in the name of Jesus. Acting in Jesus’s name means actually acting based upon the authority and power that He offers. You can’t just tack His name onto something and suddenly spiritualize or Christianize it, or even make it right. Cycling for Jesus. Karate for Jesus. Cooking for Jesus. Just adding the word doesn’t actually make it for Jesus. It really has to be what Jesus has asked for or authorized. Only then are we really doing something for Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.

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Baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Cornelius was a religiously devout man. He feared God and was kind and generous to people. He had received a vision from an angel. He had met an apostle. In fact, the Holy Spirit had come upon him and he had spoken in tongues. But when all of that was said and done, Peter didn’t say, “Oh, look, the sins of these Gentiles have been forgiven.” Instead, he said, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people?” And then he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. He didn’t suggest to them. He didn’t advise them. He didn’t counsel them. He commanded them. After all of this, they still needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Of course, we know from Acts 2:38, that the baptism in Jesus’s name is for the forgiveness of sins. That is, at this point, Cornelius still has his sins. They haven’t been washed away. I’d like to ask you to put everything else on pause in your life as you consider this. Are you in a similar situation? Have you got a lot of things going for you? Are you a good person? Have you been to church? Have you heard? Have you even had wonderful religious experiences? But have you been baptized, that is, immersed, in water for the forgiveness of your sins in the name of Jesus Christ? If not, if Peter were here, you know what he would do, right? He would command you to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Can we help you with that? Let us know in the comments section below.

Next week’s reading is Acts 11.

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