What are You Praying For?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Alright. I’ve got a tough and challenging question for you. First of all, let me say, if you are praying, I don’t want to say anything to discourage you. I’m super glad you have a habit of prayer. That is awesome. But now that you are praying, I want to challenge you to think about where you focus your prayers. It is true that you are allowed to bring to God whatever is on your heart. Pray for your needs and your wants. Cast all your cares upon God even when you are not sure if God would even care about that or not; lift it up to Him. He is our Abba, our Father, He wants to hear it. But this psalm presents a challenging question to me. Do I ever pray for what was top on this psalmist’s mind? Think about it, he is facing enemies who are violently hateful. And it is true that the psalmist gets around to praying for protection from them. But do you see where his prayer request first focuses? “Make me know your ways, Lord.” “Teach me your paths, Lord.” Lead me in your truth, Lord.” “Teach me, Lord.” How many of your prayers are anchored here? In fact, while the psalmist gets to talking about protection, it is very clear that the psalmist believes the protection comes not simply from God acting in the lives of the enemies. It comes from knowing the way of God. It comes from knowing God’s word and will. God protects us by showing us His path, His way. And, of course, considering Psalm 1, doesn’t that just make sense? Those who know the way of the Lord are like a tree planted by waters, but the way of the wicked perishes. Too often, I just go about studying and trying to figure things out on my own and then expecting God to pick up my messes. Perhaps I should start with, “Lord, make me to know Your way.” How about you?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

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The Only One Qualified

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

Well, we’re in a bit of a quandary, aren’t we? Only the blameless get to dwell with the Lord. We water that down a bit so we can pretend we fit. However, we look at Psalm 15 as a mirror, and we can’t even see ourselves in it. Oh, we try hard. Sure, we are better than some people at it. But when the reality settles on us, we know there is really no hope for us. We start to turn away in sadness like that young ruler who had many possessions. We stop to wonder, “But who qualifies? Does anyone?” Yes! One is qualified: Jesus Christ, the righteous, the incarnate Son of God. He fulfilled every bit of this description of God’s welcome guest. He had every right to live on God’s Holy Mountain. And yet, what did He do? He died on God’s Holy Mountain. Every bit of the judgment for not fulfilling Psalm 15 was poured out on the only One who was qualified according to it. Why? To prepare a dwelling place for us (John 14:1-4, 24). The righteous requirement of the Law is that sinners die. Those who are unqualified don’t get to dwell with God. But Jesus, the only qualified one who knew no sin, died a sinner’s death fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law. Those who die with Christ fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law in Him (Romans 8:4). And through that grace of fulfillment, we are granted access to God’s Tent on His Holy Hill. Again, none of this means we ignore the Psalm 15 qualifications for dwelling with God. Rather, through Jesus’s death and God’s Holy Spirit of grace we meet the qualifications. Yes, we still often fail at these qualifications, but we hang on to Jesus and keep climbing God’s mountain. By God’s strength and grace we will summit the Holy Hill and we will dwell with the Lord. Hallelujah! So my big question for you is not how good you are at being blameless, but have you died with Christ? Do you even know how? If you are interested in learning how, read Romans 6:1-4. Then shoot us a message. We’d love to help you take up your residence on God’s Holy Hill.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 16.

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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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The Lord Tests

Today’s reading is Psalm 11.

David doesn’t believe the foundations are destroyed, and he refuses to destroy them by abandoning them. But not all of the foundations can be our favorite. It won’t surprise me if this one falls at the bottom of our favorites list. However, it is one of the foundations. The Lord tests the righteous. In other words, when the counselors tell him the jig is up, God must not be on his side anymore, he needs to toss his uppity morals and righteous principles out the window because they obviously aren’t doing him any good, David responds by saying, “Don’t you know the Lord tests His people?” There are obviously going to be bad times. God lets us into the crucible, sometimes He even puts us there. Why? Because He fell asleep on the job? No. Because that is precisely where we need to be. It is actually for our good. Like gold or silver in a crucible, God sends us through the fires so the slag can rise to the top. That is the only way it can be skimmed off. The question is when the slag rises to the top, will we let God skim it off, or will we cling to it, defending it, acting like it isn’t that bad, like we can’t be blamed for what we do while in the fires of testing? Deuteronomy 8:16 tells us God provided manna for Israel while they wandered in the wilderness in order to test them, to do them good in the end. Certainly, when the devil tempts us, his goal is to make us fall. However, when the Lord tests us, His goal is to expose us, refine us, and grow us. Walking through the fire is not a time to abandon the Lord, it is a time to rely on Him even more. The Lord tests even the righteous. It’s one of the foundations. Don’t abandon it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 11.

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The Lord Knows the Way of the Righteous

Today’s reading is Psalm 1.

The main principle of Psalm 1 is that we don’t get to choose where our path goes, we only get to choose which path we get on. When we choose our path, the choice of our end has been made. And the way of the wicked will perish. Grasp the picture here. The psalmist doesn’t say the wicked will perish, but the way of the wicked will perish. That is, the way the wicked chooses is like a path in the Everglades that promises to lead you safely through, but in the middle leads into the boggy swamp which sucks in every one who tries to pass through. Or you might envision a path in a desert that promises to lead to the oasis, but ends up only giving a mirage that turns out to be death for any who try to pass that way. However, God knows the way of the righteous. That is, the way that the Lord directs is the way of righteousness. It is the way to righteousness. It is the way to salvation. Today, we stand at the head of two paths. Both promise life, but only one delivers. That is God’s way. Which way are you walking? Know this. It will never be easier than today to get on God’s way. If we can help you do so, let us know.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 2.

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Wanted: Sinners!

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

I remember talking to a man who had decided to pursue Hinduism. He told me, “I wanted to be a Christian, but I’m not good enough for that.” I wish I had known then what I know now. I would have told Him about the Great Physician. As a doctor is looking for sick people, not well people, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, the holy, the godly, the good enough. He came looking for sinners. He came to call sinners. He came to call those who are not good enough. No doubt, He calls us unto repentance. He doesn’t call us to linger in our own sinfulness. But Jesus isn’t roaming the streets looking for the righteous. He’s looking for sinners like me. He’s looking for sinners like you. Praise the Lord! Let’s answer His call.

Next week’s reading is Luke 6.

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Calling Sinners

Today’s reading is Matthew 9.

We must all remember what Jesus declared was His mission: “I desire equity, not elitism. For I came not to call the mainstream, but the marginalized.” Wait. Sorry. That’s not it. “I desire empowerment, not oppression. For I came not to call the privileged, but the disenfranchised.” Hold on. That’s not it either. I’m not sure what is wrong with me today. He said, “I desire justice, not inequity. For I came not to call the powerful, but the vulnerable.” Nope. That’s not it either. Alright, let me just go back, read it, and quote it word for word: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Jesus likes equity, empowerment, and justice. But that wasn’t His mission. His mission was salvation. It is often the marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable who have nothing left to lose and therefore are willing to see that they are sinners. That’s why those were the classes that often responded to Jesus, though even they ultimately cried “Crucify Him!” But Jesus came to call sinners. And that is good news for me, because that is what I am. I’m a sinner. How about you? If you are clamoring for social equity, empowerment, and justice, I don’t know that Jesus has what you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you are longing for forgiveness, redemption, and salvation from your sins, Jesus is calling you. Why not respond?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 10.

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Righteous Requirement of the Law

Today’s reading is Romans 8.

Many misunderstand Romans 8:4 when it talks about how the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us through Jesus Christ. It is not, as many suspect, that Jesus’s perfectly righteous life is imputed to us and through His perfect life the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled. As shocking as it may seem to you, based on the flow and context of Romans, the righteous requirement of the law here is not a perfectly righteous life. In Romans 1:32, we were told God’s righteous decree is that sinners deserve to die. In Romans 6:23, we are told the wages of sin is death. In Romans 7:1-4, we are told we are freed from the law by death. However, we are freed not by our own death, but by the death of Jesus. And this is the righteous requirement of the law that is fulfilled in us by Jesus. The law righteously requires that sinners die for their sins. Through Jesus’s death, that righteous requirement is fulfilled in those who live according to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body. It is not that Jesus’s perfect life is imputed to us but rather His sacrificial death. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Romans 9.

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I Need Good News

Today’s reading is Romans 2.

Paul seems to give us a plan. He explains that everyone who does evil, obeying unrighteousness, whether Jew or Greek will suffer wrath and fury. However, those who seek glory, honor, and immortality by doing good will receive eternal life. Then he follows it up by saying “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” Wait a minute!!! The hinge between Paul’s teaching about the difference between the death-bound and the life-bound and this statement is “For God shows no partiality.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are good, you get life; if you sin, you get death. And that is the kicker. Romans 2:6-11 seems like an explanation of how to be saved. Instead, it is an explanation of why every one of us is lost. Sure, everyone who does good by seeking for glory, honor, and immortality by obeying truth gets eternal life. But everyone who sins whether under the Law or outside the Law perishes and is judged. Where does that leave me? I’m toast! I am a sinner. The news for me is bad. I need some good news. Praise God, Paul will be bringing some as we keep reading. Today, let the weight of the bad news settle on us, but don’t despair, Good News is coming.

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 3.

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