I Love Your Ways!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

Do you recall how the Psalms began? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV). Psalm 26 is David’s declaration that he is choosing the right path. He is not walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of scoffers. He is walking in his integrity. Before we object too much, as I am usually wont to do, we should be aware God himself testified David walked in integrity in 1 Kings 9:4. I love Dale Ralph Davis’s explanation of this, “One might say he is not claiming to be without fault but without apostasy.” David refuses to turn to another god. He refuses to worship at another temple. He refuses to be guided by another’s counsel. He may not always quite live up to the standards of his God, but he always uses Yahweh’s standards as his guide, counsel, and meditation. And when he stumbles in his walk, it will always be the Lord’s counsel that calls him back and brings him to repentance. Therefore, this psalm begins and ends with a walk in integrity. He trusts the Lord and love’s living in the Lord’s house, so he will love and will walk the Lord’s way. This reminds us that God’s grace (yesterday’s love) is not cheap, and that there is another facet of His nature as declared in Exodus 34:6-7. God’s love not only abounds to the thousandth generation of those who love Him, but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the father’s iniquity on the children to the fourth generation. In other words, if I enter the Lord’s house and then start bringing rebellion, falsehood, stubbornness, idolatry, wickedness into it, He will kick me out. He will forgive my sin if I bring it to Him in humble submission. He will not forgive my sin if I decide that I’m just going to continue in it while I live in His house. Sadly, many people love the Lord’s house and His grace, but they do not love His ways. They want to walk their own ways, but still end up in the Lord’s house. It simply doesn’t work like that. If you love the Lord’s house, you must love the Lord’s ways. They go together. And He is ready to lead us in those paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

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But I’m a Sinner!

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Yesterday, we recognized a connection between Psalm 24 and who may ascend the Lord’s hill and Psalm 25, this week’s psalm. But there is another connection. It is almost as if this psalm were written or placed here as a response to the previous one. Or maybe it would be better said that it is placed here to deal with an anticipated objection. According to Psalm 24, the one who has clean hands and a pure heart can climb the Lord’s hill. In Psalm 25, we have the anticipated objection. “But what about me? I’m a sinner.” Psalm 25:7 is the first explicit mention from the psalmist of his own sinfulness (Psalm 6:1 implies it; Psalm 23:3 almost implies it). It is almost as if Psalm 25 is finally expressing the objection we’ve brought up on several occasions as we’ve gone through these psalms. I do lift my soul up to the Lord. I do trust Him. But I haven’t been perfect. I’m a sinner. My hands are befouled. My heart is defiled. I want to be clean. I want to be perfect. But I’ve blown it. What now? The great news is our God is merciful. Our God forgives. Our God loves. Our God is faithful and true to His covenant. Yes, we have failed. But we can lift our soul up to our God, seek mercy and we will go away justified. Honestly, it really defies reason. I mean, I know we’ve been trained up on 2000 years of Christianity and the love and forgiveness of the sacrifice of Jesus. But if you think about it, why would anyone expect the supreme power of the universe to be loving, merciful, and forgiving? We could much more expect Him to be exacting, demanding, and unsparing. And yet, He is not what we expect. He wants us to climb His hill and He will forgive us so we can. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

PODCAST!!!

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Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

We’ve decided to lay down our tools for building our own personal hill. We’ve decide there really is a hill to climb. But we are still left with the question of who actually gets to climb it. The God who “dwells” on this hill owns everything because He created it all. Surely, not just anyone can make their way into His presence. A similar question was asked in Psalm 15. Almost every bit of that qualification list had to do with the worshipers relationship with others. This list, however, seems to give the other side. This one is mostly about our relationship with God. The four qualifications: 1) Clean hands. 2) Pure heart. 3) Worship God only. 4) Honest; though, considering the list, this is probably more about not profaning God’s name (see Leviticus 19:12). Isaiah seems to have these same principles in mind in the context of Isaiah 59:3. God doesn’t listen to the worship offered by those with defiled hands. Paul makes this same point in 1 Timothy 2:8 when he points out men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger and quarreling. While this statement demonstrates prayer with uplifted hands was a norm for Christians in the New Testament, his main emphasis is those uplifted hands were supposed to be clean. Perhaps the most pointed allusion to this passage is often overlooked by commentators and search engines (maybe because the Greek words aren’t the same as those in the LXX for Psalm 24:4). In James 4:8, James says sinners need to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. But, contextually, this was part of drawing near to God so He will draw near to us. This is part of submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil. It is part of humbling ourselves before God. And the pure heart actually means to be single-minded, which, of course, means our mind doesn’t go after other masters. We don’t become friends with the world or with false gods. But here is a fantastic principle we need to grasp. The person of Psalm 24:4 is not the sinlessly perfect person who has brought his/her own righteousness to lay out before God. After all, who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Rather, this person is blessed with “righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:5). If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10). In other words, even the clean hands and pure heart are not made that way by our own strength, but are made so by the strength and grace of God as we resist the devil and draw near to the Lord. Who can ascend the Holy Hill? The one who resists the devil and draws near to the Lord. The one who seeks the face of the God of Jacob. Why the God of Jacob? Because Jacob was the one who sought the Lord’s blessing and simply would not let go no matter how much it hurt and how much it cost him until he got it (see Genesis 32:22-32). In other words, we were wrong in the beginning. Anyone can climb this Holy Hill. That is, anyone who really wants God more than he or she wants anything else. What do you want?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

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Protect Me from Sin

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Yesterday, I wanted to make the connection between the Lord’s Word and our words. But to do so, I did jump over one of the most important aspects of the connection. We skipped over the important operation of the Lord’s Word in our lives and the mechanism by which it makes my words acceptable. Why do I need the Lord’s Word? Because I am a sinner. In that state, my outlook is skewed and my perspective distorted. In that state, my words and my thoughts are full of error and folly because they can be no other way. The only tool that will correct this is the Lord’s Word. Just as no one is hidden from the sun’s daily shining sermon, there is nothing in anyone of us that is hidden from the piercing glare of the Lord’s Word. The Lord’s Word uncovers my errors. The Lord’s Word unearths my secret sins. The Lord’s Word restrains me from presumptuous and rebellious sin. The Lord’s Word is what will make me blameless and keep me innocent of great transgression. As Hebrews 4:12-13 explains, the Lord’s Word is as a double-edged sword. It is living and active and is so effective it can even divide between things we aren’t even sure we know how to distinguish (for instance, the soul and the spirit). No one and nothing is hidden from its sight. We are all exposed when we open God’s Word. And that sounds painful, doesn’t it? I’ll be honest. It is. Being pruned by the two-edged sword rarely, if ever, feels pleasant in the moment. But in the end, when we are branches in The Fruitful Vine yielding the peaceful fruits of righteousness, we will rejoice with joy inexpressible. Let us cry out to God to protect us from sin, but then let us dig in to His Word and let Him do His Work with it.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 20.

PODCAST!!!

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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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But Wait! Psalm 14

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

Is anyone else struggling with this week’s psalm? Honestly, I’m a bit tired of reading one commentary after another explaining away Psalm 15:2. One after another after another has an explanation of why “blamelessly” shouldn’t concern us too deeply. Certainly, this is the word that described Noah in Genesis 6:9. We know he wasn’t perfect. So there is that. But it’s most common use is in reference to sacrifices that must be “without blemish”–not mostly without blemish, completely without blemish. Some will say the better translation is “integrity” or “uprightly.” Then they pretend these words are more attainable. Others, recognizing the root idea of “wholeness” claim it would be better to say the welcome guest of the Lord walks “wholeheartedly.” However, doesn’t that mean if any part of our heart has ever gone in a different direction than God, we can’t really claim it either? No matter how we translate the word, doesn’t it still get us back to a problem? Who among us has done it? I mean, really lived it? Didn’t we just read Psalm 14, which told us none of us have lived like the person in Psalm 15? Consider David himself. On the day after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered Uriah, what would he think about this psalm? To be honest, I think most commentators and most readers approach this psalm the way the one we call the rich, young ruler approached Jesus when he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.” Without much thought we say, “Cool! I’ve been doing that.” Jesus has to come back and say, “Are you sure? Let Me give you a hard dose of reality right now.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this psalm doesn’t matter or has no application. I’m not saying we aren’t to continue to strive for everything mentioned in this psalm. Certainly, anyone who gives up on these characteristics will never dwell with the Lord. But I think we make a grave mistake when we water down the requirements to something we think we have accomplished or can accomplish if we try really, really hard. The fact is we have all hopelessly failed at the very first requirement. And, I imagine most of us have failed at several of the others as well. I know that today’s post doesn’t leave us in a very pleasant place. But take heart, those who are poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven, and those who mourn will be comforted. We’ll have more hopeful things to say before the week is out, but perhaps it is good for us to simply spend some time in the seeming hopeless place this psalm leaves us. Let’s face it. We want to dwell with the Lord, but we are unqualified.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 15.

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Wait! Who Did You Call a Fool?

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

Yesterday, I felt pretty self-satisfied. After all, I’m no fool. I believe in God. I go to church. I pray and read my Bible. But wait…what’s that you say? There is none who does good? Is it really so bad you had to say it twice? God looked down from heaven to see if any understand and seek after him and He couldn’t find any? Not a single one? How many of them have turned aside? All of them? But wait, that means you’re talking about…me! Yup! In fact, no less than the apostle Paul quotes this psalm in Romans 3:10-12 as part of his argument that you and me and everyone else are sinners in need of a Savior. I have been a fool. I, alongside everyone else, have diminished God in my own mind and heart. I, alongside everyone else, decided at some point in my life that God was inconsequential, His will didn’t matter, His promises were not true, His law was not supreme. And I decided to neglect and ignore His direction, His pleading, His instruction to do what I wanted to do instead. I am a fool. I need a Savior. Praise God! He sent One to Zion!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 14.

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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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Get Back Up When You Fall

Today’s reading is Acts 3.

Let’s think about the healed lame man for one more day. He responded to Peter in faith and accessed the healing grace of God meaning he could walk. He went walking, leaping, and praising God not just that day but for every day thereafter, knowing with every step he was walking because of God’s power and grace and not his own ability. No matter how he felt about the responsibilities of walking, he knew he had been healed, so he kept walking. And then…then the unthinkable happened. He tripped and fell. Who knows? Maybe he just stubbed his toe on a rock jutting out in the road. Maybe he simply got his feet tangled up with one another. Maybe some of the local kids made a game out of tripping up that old beggar man who used to be lame. However it happened, he is lying face down in the dust, that old familiar position. What do you think went through his mind in that moment? I can imagine what would go through my mind. “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it couldn’t last.” But even with those fleeting thoughts, what did he need to remember? “I have been healed by the power of Jesus Christ. I’m a healed man. It is time for me to get back up and keep walking.” That is just like our salvation. We are going to trip. We are going to stumble. We are going to fall. For any number of reasons, we will find ourselves face down in the spiritual dust. And in that moment, Satan will whisper in our ears, “You knew it was too good to be true. You knew you couldn’t keep it up. You knew you couldn’t make it. You should just stay down here in the dirt and grime and filth of the ground with me.” But what do you need to do? You need to remember you are a healed Christian. You have been saved by the crucified blood of Jesus Christ. Your sins are washed away. You are healed. You need to get back up when you fall and walk like the healed Christian God has made you into. That is who you are. You aren’t the fallen sinner, you are the saved Christian. Get back up when you fall and walk like a healed Christian. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Acts 4.

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What’s Up with Barabbas?

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

What on earth is this about a guy named Barabbas? Okay, okay, you may have read the other gospel accounts about this guy and understand what is going on. But imagine for a moment that this was your first exposure to the gospel story. Luke doesn’t give us many details. All we have is some rebellious, murdering insurrectionist who gets to go free because the people ask that he be set free while innocent Jesus gets executed essentially for the same kinds of crimes Barabbas actually committed. And in this trade off, we see a powerful picture of what is actually happening as Jesus dies on the cross. A man, whose name literally means “son of the Father” by the way, guilty of insurrection and murder should go to the cross. He should be executed for his crimes. However, he doesn’t. On the other hand, a man, whose name means “God is salvation” by the way, completely innocent should never see a cross. But He does. Barabbas is us. We are the children of the Father who are guilty. We deserve the death. However, we are released. Jesus endures the death in our place. The one contrast between us and Barabbas is he was freed because the word of the people prevailed, we are freed because the Word of God prevailed. I often wonder how Barabbas behaved after witnessing Jesus condemned for his crimes and sins. How should he have behaved? How should he have thought of and related to Jesus from that day forward? That leads me to wonder about me. How should I behave? How should I relate to Jesus? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 23.

Continue reading “What’s Up with Barabbas?”