The Lord’s Hand Revisited

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

In Psalm 31, we were excited to place our spirit and our times in God’s hands. In Psalm 32, we’re back to the Lord’s hands. But this isn’t so exciting. “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” Oh man! That sounds tough. I don’t like that. “Ease up, Lord,” I want to cry out. “Your hand is too heavy.” But wait! Do I really trust the Lord’s hand with my spirit and my times, or don’t I? In fact, David is thankful for the Lord’s heavy hand here. He understands without that heavy hand, he wouldn’t feel the guilt quite as intensely. If he doesn’t feel his guilt quite as intensely, he will never come to confession. If he doesn’t come to confession, he will not receive forgiveness.

Entrusting our spirit and our times into the Lord’s hands means we believe God knows when to be heavy-handed. In fact, we are glad when He is because we know it is for our good.

It’s not that we enjoy the heavy hand of God, but we know where it leads. As Hebrews 12:5-11 explains, the Lord disciplines us for our good. Therefore, though it is painful in the moment, it trains us, and we yield peaceful fruit of righteousness. That is something we do enjoy. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

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The Lord’s Anger

Today’s reading is Psalm 30.

Why should the saints praise the Lord and give thanks to His holy name? Because His anger is for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Well, this doesn’t sound like the Lord’s anger at all, does it? God’s wrath and judgment are eternal. If we face the judgment outside of Jesus, it is going to be a forever issue. How can David say it only lasts for a moment? Is he saying God is one of those flash in the pan folks who can’t control His anger, it bursts forth like an eruption, but then He backs off? Is Yahweh fickle like Baal, Zeus, and other pagan gods? You never know what will cause Him to explode or how long it will last? No. David isn’t saying any of these things. David is remembering his own covenant with Yahweh that is also Israel’s covenant. In 2 Samuel 7:14-15, the Lord covenanted with David saying, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” Look again at Psalm 30:4. This is the reason the Lord’s saints can praise and give thanks. Not just anyone can praise and thank God for this. Sometimes we, the Lord’s saints, do things worthy of the Lord’s anger. In these times, like a loving Father, He disciplines us (see Hebrews 12:4-11). However, He knows our frame. He remembers we are but dust (see Psalm 103:14). He does not carry on in His anger forever. He doesn’t bear a grudge against us. Rather, in love, He restores us and brings His favor to us. And the moments of discipline develop within us peaceful fruits of righteousness for which we can rejoice. In other words, we can give thanks and praise God because with us, His saints, He doesn’t use His anger to merely vent His spleen. He uses it as a tool for our discipline, our growth, our good which will lead us to rejoice in the long run. What an amazing Abba, Father God we have. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 30.

PODCAST!!!

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But I Love These Guys!

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

As we acknowledged yesterday, the last half of Psalm 21 is hard for us to stomach. The declaration of judgment is hard to swallow. It is full of consuming fire, encompassing destruction, engulfing death. The enemies will be found out. They will face God’s wrath. They will be consumed as in a fiery furnace. More than that, their descendants will be cut off from the earth. The Lord, either directly or through His king, will not only put them to flight but will fire His arrows into their faces. And this pulls us up short. Some of these enemies are co-workers that we admire. Some are neighbors whose company we enjoy. Some of them are friends we like. Some of them are family members we love. And this just doesn’t seem right. Sure, back in those barbaric days of ancient, land-grabbing warriors, this kind of thing was taken well, but today? It is as if we have forgotten that almost all of the Israel’s enemies were actually her cousins. Here’s the thing. Judgment is coming. God’s enemies will be consumed. And if we really love all those people who will be facing judgment as much as we claim, we have only one choice: tell them about Jesus. Sitting back and trying to redefine God’s wrath, love, punishment, or reward in hopes of making one not so bad and the other a little more imaginable isn’t going to help. The only thing that will help is getting the message out. The only thing that will help is letting folks know that God hates the idea of judging them more than we do. God loves them more than we do. In fact, God loves them so much and hates the idea of judging them so much, He sacrificed His Son in order to save them. Let’s tell them about it. Otherwise, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking we love them very much.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 21.

PODCAST!!!

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Falling into His Own Pit

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

On the one hand, the imagery of Psalm 7:12-16 is tragic and terrifying. I don’t love it in the sense of taking sadistic glee in the downfall of my enemies anymore than God desires and delights in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 18:23). On the other hand, I do love the picture David presents as it clarifies an aspect of God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment on the wicked. Often, when we consider God’s wrath, we only think in terms of Psalm 7:12-13. That is, our imagery is simply of an angry God who has lost control and is throwing a barrage of attacks at those who didn’t measure up to His rules. However, David’s picture goes on modifying and clarifying. This wrath of God is not that of an unruly child who is picking up his toys and going home because others wouldn’t play by his rules. Rather, it is the anger of One who has provided every way possible for protection and salvation, but the others have decided to follow their own path. They have decided to pursue their own mischief. What do God’s deadly weapons and fiery shafts actually look like? They look like withdrawing His hand of protection and letting the sinners face the consequences of their own actions. It is not that God alone has fashioned deadly weapons, it is that the sinner has been fashioning those weapons for God. Remember in Psalm 1 it is not the wicked that perish, but the way of the wicked perishes. Obviously, any who are on a perishing way will also perish. God has provided His counsel and protection, but those who push back against Him will suffer His wrath, which means they will suffer the natural consequences of deadly sins they have committed. They have been digging pits; God will let them fall into them. God didn’t dig their pits; they did. The lesson is clear. Don’t dig pits!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 7.

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The Lord’s Anger

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

Anger and wrath. Today, these two words don’t often get connected to God. In fact, many believe the God of all the universe would never get angry. Anger is a strictly negative emotion, some think. God wouldn’t do that. However, David is not at all surprised that God would be angry. David understands he has even done things for which God has every right to be angry. And there is only one thing to be done with that realization. He can’t pay the Lord back. He can’t justify Himself. He can’t argue his way out of it. He can do only one thing. He can ask the Lord not to act based on His anger. Wow! Have you ever thought the Lord was angry with you? Have you ever faced circumstances that you believed were the discipline and rebuke of the Lord? Here is the great news. If that is what is going on, the Lord will let you seek an audience with Him. He will still let you pray. Don’t complain about it to others. Don’t try to run from it. Don’t work yourself up into your own anger as if you have the same right as God to be angry. Turn to Him. Talk to Him about it. He will listen.

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

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Faith in the Midst of the Lord’s Discipline

Today’s reading is Psalm 3.

The heading of this psalm claims it was written when David fled from Absalom. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 makes one thing painfully clear. Absalom’s rebellion was part of God’s discipline against David over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. As David flees Jerusalem, he seems to have a painful awareness he deserves these circumstances and it may be that God has decided to fully turn the kingdom over to Absalom (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14). In this context, David writes this psalm. Does that shock you like it does me? He knows he is being disciplined for his own sin. He knows he deserves everything he is receiving. But what does he do? He prays for mercy, deliverance, and salvation anyway. Because that is the kind of God he believes in. He believes in a merciful, saving, delivering God. Honestly, I don’t know what you are facing right now. I don’t know; you may be in a mess of your own making. You probably do deserve every bit of hardship, suffering, and trauma you are experiencing. Maybe not, but maybe. But our God isn’t one who saves people who deserve it. Our God isn’t one who delivers those who have earned it. He saves those who call on Him, those who know they have no place to turn but Him. Praise the Lord! He saves and delivers people like David, people like you and me.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 3.

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Please, Forgive Me

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

Since I missed putting up a message this past Monday, I thought I’d give you a bonus weekend message and wrap up this series on Jesus’s incredibly hard teaching on forgiveness. And, apologies up front. It will be a little longer than usual.

In the earlier messages we focused on the person Jesus focused on, the person who needs to forgive. There is one draw back to that approach. It ignores the person who needs forgiveness. Perhaps I should say, the one who needs to repent. Sadly, that person is often quick to jump on the one from whom they want to receive forgiveness, twist this teaching, weaponize it, and misuse it in an attempt to actually ignore their own sin all while making the person who may be responsible to forgive look like the bad guy. With that in mind, let’s remember some foundational concepts about repentance and forgiveness. First, as I pointed out to the children in yesterday’s post, notice that Jesus uses the phrase “I repent,” not “I’m sorry.” The statement of “I repent” doesn’t mean I simply feel sorry for what I’ve done or for the consequences. It means I’m going to change my behavior. As I say, “I repent,” I should be willing to say what the behavior change is actually going to be. If I don’t actually plan to change my behavior, can’t even name the behavior that needs to be changed, and am unwilling to commit to the new behavior, then I’m not actually repenting, am I? Second,”I repent” is not a magical phrase that automatically obligates forgiveness. That is, even in Jesus’s teaching, the phrase “I repent” is predicated on actual repentance. “If he repents, forgive him.” Jesus’s follow-up statement about the person coming seven times in a day and saying “I repent” is figure of speech called synecdoche. That is, it is using one part of the process to refer to the whole process. It mentions only the spoken promise of repentance to refer to real repentance. While the person who is forgiving is not granted permission from Jesus to withhold forgiveness until repentance is proven by changed behavior throughout even that day, there are some people adept at saying “I repent” while actually demonstrating they don’t repent at all. For instance: “I’m sorry I yelled at you, honey. I won’t do that anymore. But when the house is a mess when I get home, I just can’t help myself. Why do you make me do that?” Let’s face it, that apologizer said some words of repentance (“I won’t do that anymore”), but also demonstrated that he is not repenting at all. He has actually demonstrated he doesn’t believe his action is a sin, but is the natural and only response to his wife’s action. He is actually declaring she is the one in sin. Further, he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, saying he will change the behavior while also saying he will only change his behavior if she changes hers. That is neither an actual apology, a correct confession, or remotely real repentance. Third, when asking for forgiveness, we are asking for mercy. Mercy is never owed. In other words, when I am truly asking for forgiveness, I realize I’m asking for something I have absolutely no permission to demand. I cannot remotely view the person I’m asking as if my mere request for it obligates them to give it. Then it wouldn’t be mercy, would it? It may truly be that the person I’m asking forgiveness from is required by God to forgive me. But that is something they owe God, not something they owe me. God can demand it. He can send messengers to teach them about it. But I don’t ever get to be that messenger. I never get to demand forgiveness. I merely get to ask and hope they will respond. Until they do, I need to humbly remember my sins were the cause of this struggle not their lack of forgiveness. The moment I start acting like someone is obligated to forgive me, I’ve ceased asking for forgiveness. I have actually demonstrated I am not really repenting at all. This leads to our fourth foundational concept. I should read this passage for what it says to me, not what it says to the person on the other side of it. In other words, if I am the one who sinned, I shouldn’t take this passage as a sermon to preach to the person whom I want to forgive me. In like manner, if I am the one who is sinned against, I really shouldn’t take it as a sermon to preach against the one who sinned (remembering, of course, part of the lesson it teaches me is I need to love someone enough to rebuke them). Finally, the fifth foundational concept is that forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences. For instance, God forgave David. However, the child still died, Absalom still rebelled and publicly humiliated David by going into his father’s concubines, and on the list of consequences goes. If I embezzle funds from the business my best friend and I started together, when I repent, he may forgive me. However, he is not obligated to maintain the business with me. If I commit adultery, when I repent, my wife may forgive me. However, she is not obligated to stay married to me. When some of us ask for forgiveness, what we really want is the removal of all consequences, then we want to treat the people through whom those consequences come as if they haven’t obeyed God. Granted, this can get very complex, very quickly. Each forgiver has to wrestle with what is simply natural consequences and what is continued acts of punishment. I can’t provide cut and dried rules for you on that one. But, at this point, the person being forgiven needs to remember foundational concept #3. When I’m being forgiven, I don’t get to make demands about what that looks like. I don’t get to treat others like they are obligated to forgive me in a certain way. After all, as we learned above, forgiveness is mercy. Therefore, it is never owed to me.

Monday’s reading is Luke 18.

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Consequences

Today’s reading is Acts 25.

“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.” WOW! What a statement. This is one of the characteristics of penitence. Often, we aren’t actually penitent, we just want to escape the consequences of our actions. The great thing is God has promised if we repent and surrender to Jesus, we will not face the ultimate consequence of separation from Him through eternity, which we call Hell. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t face earthly, temporal, and natural consequences to our actions. Paul wasn’t trying to escape the consequences. He was willing to accept them. When we repent and respond to the gospel, that is exactly the mindset we need to have. That is, when we repent and submit to the gospel, we escape Hell and the judgment of God’s wrath because He removes our sins from us by the blood of Jesus, but our sins have consequences in this life. People have been hurt. Sometimes laws have been broken. Being penitent means accepting that and being willing to face the consequences. Of course, it is so much easier to do that when you know God has wiped the slate clean by the blood of Jesus and that no matter what you face now, you will be with Him forever. Whatever you’ve done, whatever the consequences, turn to Jesus and hang on to Him. It will be worth it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 26.

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He Is Coming

Today’s reading is Revelation 22.

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

I know this will sound shocking, but I do not believe this statement is limited to what we commonly call the “second coming.” Jesus is not saying, “At the end of time, I’ll come and bring judgment on everyone.” He is telling the original readers of Revelation, He will come in judgment on Rome (possibly Jerusalem) and it will be soon (for them). The message for us is not: at the end of time Jesus will come and bring final judgment on everyone, so get ready. The message for us is: no matter who our enemy is, no matter how strong a front they put up, no matter how much success they seem to have in the fight, no matter how bad it looks for our side, Jesus is coming in judgment on them and they don’t stand a chance. Sure, at this point, the next judgment may be the final one on all the world. But then again, it may just be a temporal judgment on Washington and the Unites States of America, or a temporal judgment on Mecca, or even just a temporal judgment on your co-worker who mocks you for your faith and your spouse who denies your faith and mistreats you. John’s point to us is whatever our enemy does, hang on. Jesus will judge. He will win. Don’t abandon Him. Don’t quit. Don’t concede. He is coming, Jesus will judge our enemies, and Jesus Always Wins! Praise the Lord!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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