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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The Fear of Ridicule

Today’s reading is Psalm 13.

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God…lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.” David’s third fear in the interim between God giving His promises and God fulfilling His promises is the fear of ridicule. The enemies may rejoice, belittle, mock. Knowing David’s history with the taunts of Goliath and David’s ensuing victory, it is a little surprising David has this fear. And yet, as we’ve really recognized this week, even a valiant warrior like David has times of struggle and weakness. This should give us a great deal of comfort. However, the reality is the taunts, rejoicing, and ridicule of the enemy shouldn’t bother us all that much. After all, whether we are winning or losing, that is how they are going to behave. In fact, Jesus said we should rejoice when our enemies are ridiculing us. That is actually when we are most blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). And in Psalm 13, we are seeing one of those prophets. We are seeing one who was ridiculed. We are seeing one whose enemies were rejoicing over him, belittling him, mocking him, threatening him. He may have been early enough in the history to be justified in this fear. We, however, having read our Bibles, have seen it happen again and again and again, and then seen God accomplish the victory. We have no need to fear ridicule, it’s just part of the discipleship experience. In fact, if we aren’t experiencing it, that is when we need to be concerned.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 13.

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Second Verse, Worse than the First

Today’s reading is Psalm 10.

We don’t see it in our English translations, but Psalm 10 is linked to Psalm 9. In fact, in the Greek version of the Old Testament, they are joined together as one psalm. In the Hebrew, though they are separate psalms, they are together because they form an acrostic poem going through the Hebrew alphabet, though it is not complete. Scholars argue whether it was originally one poem broken in two for some reason by the Hebrew “editors” of the psalms, two poems melded together for some reason by Greek “editors” of the psalms, or one poem (Psalm 9) to which a later writer came along and tacked on a “second” verse (Psalm 10). Whatever the case may be, the psalms go together. There are simply too many connections between them to think they just accidentally got placed side by side in the ancient hymnal. To my mind, they are like two episodes in the same story. The first episode ends with absolute faith that God is going to do something; the second episode begins some time later, but God hasn’t done anything yet. Therefore, the situation has gone from bad to worse. The wicked have been getting away with their wickedness. The poor and needy have become poorer and needier. The afflicted have suffered worse affliction. And to add insult to injury, the psalmist has been praying in faith, but nothing has been happening. Perhaps you have been there. Perhaps you are there. Perhaps you are thinking about giving up. Perhaps you are thinking about abandoning God. You are not alone. You aren’t the first to have been in this situation, and you won’t be the last. May I encourage you to take a lesson from the Psalmist. We thought the psalmist’s faith was being tested in Psalm 9. That test has gone into overdrive in Psalm 10. But what is the psalmist still doing? Praying. Praying with more fervor, more intensity, more helplessness, more powerlessness, and more faith. After all, wouldn’t you agree it takes greater and stronger faith to keep hanging on the longer there seems to be no response? I don’t know what you are waiting on from God, but let this psalmist be your example. Keep praying. After all, there is only One who can provide your answer: God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 10.

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Judge My Enemies

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

In the New Testament, we are told to love our enemies and pray for them. Thus, when we read David’s request for his enemies to be judged, that leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Is something wrong? Is this a change between the Old Covenant and the New? There are two principles that help me with this. First, as we will say again and again, psalms are snapshots of the emotions a psalmist was experiencing in a given moment. They are not doctoral dissertations about doctrinal dilemmas. David was facing enemies. No doubt he was angry with them and confused about why God hadn’t done anything yet. The key to notice is what David did with these emotions. He took them to God in prayer. He didn’t take them to Cush in battle. This is especially so if Cush is bringing these charges and attacks against David when he was running from Saul. Imagine the fear, anger, sadness, distress, anxiety David must have felt during that time. But he never took his own vengeance (well, almost with Nabal, but Abigail helped his calmer self prevail). He took these prayers and desires to God in prayer, and he let God decide if Cush needed to be judged. Second, notice his statement about those who refuse to repent (vs. 12, ESV). Notice that David sees not just an enemy but a wicked man who is pregnant with mischief and giving birth to evil. Yes, we are to love our enemies and pray for them that they may bring glory to God, but there is a place to recognize that someone who is pursuing a path of sin is an enemy of God and judgment is the right outcome for them. None of us want that. We know God doesn’t want that. He sent Jesus to die for them just as He did for everyone else. But those who, like Pharaoh and other enemies of God who will not relinquish their sin and repent, will be judged. One of the comforts of serving the righteous Judge as our God is knowing He will be faithful to judge those who wage war against us and persecute us without repentance. Praying that God will do what He has promised in these circumstances is allowed even under the New Covenant (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 7.

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Take Refuge in Your Real King

Today’s reading is Psalm 5.

Have you ever seen the awful pictures of refugees in foreign lands? Have you seen on the news the horrible images of the survivors of genocide in one nation trying to escape to a neighboring land, seeking asylum and protection from their enemies? In those pictures, did you see bright eyes and wide smiles? Did you see peace and joy as they carried only the bare essentials on their backs, leaving their homes, sometimes abandoning family, marching for miles in ragged clothes, only to be herded into camps and live on rations in nations that often can’t afford to care for them or won’t spend the money to adequately do so? Of course not. There is no joy and peace there. Why would anyone choose that life? Because that is the only choice they have if they are going to live. But look at David’s plea and proclamation. David talks about happy refugees, blessed refugees, protected refugees, shielded refugees. David recognizes that if he follows the counsel of the enemies, all that awaits him is death. His only choice is to flee as a refugee. But his refuge is God. And refuge with God isn’t like living in a concentration camp. It isn’t like being a prisoner of war while being protected. It is joy. It is peace. It is life. The Lord is our refuge when the world starts to attack. Run to Him. Yes, we will be refugees, but not like any refugees the world has ever seen. We will be in protected peace, sheltered under the mighty wing of God.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 6.

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Trust In the Lord

Today’s reading is Psalm 4.

There are some aspects of Psalm 4 that are hard to nail down. Are vss. 4-5 David’s continued speech to the men who are turning his honor to shame and going after vanity and lies? Is he giving them corrective instruction? Or are vss. 4-5 the beginning of David’s speech to the “us” of vs. 6? Has he already started encouraging his supporters? It seems to me a good case could be made for either. Maybe it is purposefully vague so that anyone who reads it, whether friend or foe, could make personal application. In fact, does it really matter? Isn’t the advice appropriate no matter which group David is addressing? The enemies have been attacking the Lord’s anointed. Even if they are angry and agitated with David and the Lord, instead of going after vanity and lies, they need to trust the Lord, offer right sacrifices, avoid sin. The supporters, on the other hand, might be getting very discouraged. They may wonder why the Lord hasn’t acted yet to defend His anointed against the lies and conspiracies. In fact, they may even be thinking the Lord has abandoned David. They may be getting angry and agitated. They may even be getting angry and agitated at the Lord for seemingly dropping His end of the covenant with David. David tells them to avoid sin, ponder and reflect silently without rebellion or angry words. Offer their sacrifices to the Lord and then trust Him to do what is right. The fact is no matter where I am today spiritually, the answer is I need to turn to the Lord in trust. Whether that means I need to repent and start trusting Him again or maintain my faithfulness and keep trusting Him, trusting the Lord is the right response. No matter what, today, I need to trust the Lord. Will you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 4.

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The Apostles and Psalm 2

Today’s reading is Psalm 2.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested after healing a lame man and preaching the resurrection through Jesus Christ. When they were released, they immediately went to their friends. What kind of friends did they have? They had friends who prayed. Not only that, they had friends that prayed the psalms. That is, the psalms informed their praying. When they considered what happened to Jesus and what was continuing to happen to them, they saw Psalm 2 in action. The nations and the kings of the earth were raging. They were plotting against God and trying to overthrow God’s plans. They didn’t sit there in fear, wringing their hands, wondering how they would manage; they remembered Psalm 2. They knew who they were. They were those who had kissed the Son. That is, they were the ones who had given their allegiance to the one, true King, the anointed of God. And they asked God to give them the boldness and confidence to believe Psalm 2 and behave as though Psalm 2 were 100% true. Yes, the kings of the earth were against them. Yes, the rulers were gathered together to plot against them and against God. But, ultimately, the nations are the heritage of Jesus. He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will bring judgment upon any who fight against His kingdom. The King is set on His holy hill. No matter what it seems like today, let us remember this psalm. Let us pray this psalm. Let us live this psalm. It is, after all, true.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 3.

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The Kingdom Unchained

Today’s reading is Acts 28.

I can’t believe Luke ended this history where he did. What a downer. Paul is awaiting his audience with Caesar. The “trial” has been going on for years now. He’s traveled from Jerusalem to Caesarea, from Caesarea to Rome. He’s been before the Jewish Council, before Felix, before Festus, before Agrippa. He has been through a shipwreck. Couldn’t Luke just go ahead and let us know the outcome of Paul’s trial? It may be that Luke was actually writing during this imprisonment. That hindrance to the missionary journeys may have been just the sabbatical from travel Luke needed to write his two books. But still, makes me wonder why the Holy Spirit worked things out to end this book right here. I mean the main character is in prison. That’s not how you expect a story to end. Except, that’s not true. The main character in the story is not in prison. The main character is not Paul. The main character is the Word of God, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. And here is what is amazing. Paul is in prison, but even in chains, he is teaching anyone and everyone he can. He is proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is in chains, but the Gospel of the Kingdom is unchained. On the surface, it may look like the Jews or Rome is winning. After all, they’ve got Christianity’s greatest ambassador locked up. But they are not winning, because they can’t lock up the Kingdom. It is growing. It is succeeding. It is winning. And that is still true today. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 1.

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Why Did God Let This Shipwreck Happen?

Today’s reading is Acts 27.

On the one hand, we can easily recognize why there might be persecution. The kingdom of Christ will have enemies. We are in a fight. We expect the soldiers of the other kingdoms to attack. But this shipwreck isn’t persecution. It is neither the Romans nor the Jews attacking Paul. This is just an “act of nature.” It is just a hardship. It something anyone might end up having to go through. But you would think God would keep His children out of such difficulties. You would think God would make the path to Rome a little easier for Paul. Why does God allow this? First, God has never promised to keep His children from all hardships and troubles. Life is full of trouble. Everyone’s life is full of trouble, Christian and non-Christian alike. Second, because God had plans for His own glory that He was going to fulfill through this shipwreck. His glory was displayed by the saving of the sailors and prisoners despite the loss of the ship. We will see God’s glory displayed on Malta in the next chapter. God’s glory is far more important than our ease. And sometimes, God’s glory is displayed by how we endure suffering and hardship. As we go through hardship, rather than asking God merely to deliver us or remove it, we should seek God’s glory. That’s tough, but it is what is most important.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 27.

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Inspiration

Today’s reading is Acts 27.

In Acts 27:10, Paul perceived if they traveled away from the Fair Havens, it would mean great loss of not only the ship and cargo, but of their lives. However, by the time we finish the chapter, we learn nobody died. What’s up with that? Isn’t Paul inspired? No. Paul is not inspired. The Scriptures are inspired. We need to recognize the difference. Inspiration does not mean everything Paul ever said came from God. Inspiration means God got what He wants in the Scriptures. Paul didn’t walk around spouting God’s Word. Certainly, as a prophet, some things he said were a result of that gift. Most definitely, the letters we have left behind, since they are Scripture, were what God wanted written. But this statement was Paul speaking from his own wisdom and knowledge of sea travel. He was a smart man. Without God’s intervention, what he said would obviously have been true. However, it wasn’t God’s message to the captain or the people. The message from the angel, of course, was God’s Word. That message was God-breathed; it was inspired. Apostles, prophets, people are not inspired, God’s message is. We need to maintain the difference.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 27.

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