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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My Words

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Yesterday, we learned about the significant power of God’s Word. In fact, one blog post was not even remotely enough to mine the depths of what this week’s psalm shares about God’s Word. But we must move on to see the impact the Lord’s Word must have on us. The Lord’s Word is not supposed to remain in the pages of a book. If it is going to do all that David claimed, it must find its way into my mouth and my meditations. My words and my thoughts need to be anchored in it. The Lord is my Rock and my Redeemer, but only if the Lord’s Word is the bedrock upon which my life is being built, only if the Lord’s Word is the soil in which my life is planted and growing. My life is only about God if my days are spent in His Word. Don’t just read God’s Word, saturate your life with God’s Word. Let it change your words. Let it change your thoughts. Let it occupy your heart, mind, and life. There is no television show, no song on the radio, no movie, no book, no magazine, no blog, no Instagram feed so great and powerful as God’s Word. Do not let any of those things have more impact on your words and thinking today than God’s Word. You are here today. So, I assume the Lord’s Word is important to you. Keep it up. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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The Lord’s Word

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

In another study, we’ve talked about our job as a branch. That is, our job is simply to abide in Jesus, being the conduits through whom His power, strength, and life flow in order that the Vinedresser can bear fruit through us for His glory (see John 15:1-11). One of the three super-charged activities of Jesus-abiding is to abide in His Word and let His Word abide in us (John 15:7). In Psalm 19, we discover why this mutual abiding is so powerful. The psalm uses six terms to describe the Lord’s Word (Torah/Law, testimony, precept, commandment, fear, rules [ESV]). These terms encompass every aspect of the Lord’s Word from the generic to the specific (Torah to commandment), from its source to our response (God’s testimonies to our fear), from where it provides limitations to where it provides equipping (precepts to rules/judgments). This sixfold repetition is not supposed to send us down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out the nuanced differences between the terms, but rather to help us see that David is talking about the Word, all the Word, every aspect of the Word, every feature of the Word, and the Word in its entirety. The Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true. Can anything else to which we have constant physical access make these claims? Notice what the Word accomplishes. Like the good shepherd of Psalm 23:3, it revives the soul. Like the Proverbs, it wisens the simple. Like a great victory or great feast, it rejoices the heart. Like a dab of honey after a long day of battle, it enlightens the eyes (see 1 Samuel 14:24-30). Like nothing else but God alone, it endures forever and, by implication, is the means by which we will endure forever. And again, like nothing and no one but God, it is altogether righteous; that is, it sanctifies us. And David claims if a pile of gold was behind Door #1, a feast of the sweetest foods behind Door #2, and God’s Word behind Door #3, he would choose Door #3. He would choose that not because abiding in the Word would get him gold and feasting, but because the Word is greater riches and more satisfying than those other two choices. With all this on the table, why would we do anything but abide in the Word of the Lord? We can abide in no other way.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

PODCAST!!!

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My Rock and My Redeemer

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Let’s begin this week with the end in mind. Where is this psalm going? “O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Absolutely! It is how Psalm 18 began. Once again, we find two psalms that seem to go together. They form a wonderful package. Yes, yes, we can study them separately as individual literary units, but they are placed together because they complement each other. Back in Psalm 18, David had claimed he was blameless in vs. 23. However, in vs. 32, he also explained that he wasn’t blameless because of his own strength, but because God had equipped him with strength and made his way blameless. All in the context of God being his rock, fortress, salvation. And now we discover the nature of the Lord’s equipment and strengths. It’s the Lord’s Word! We cannot claim the Lord is our rock and redeemer if we ignore His Word. Make the Lord your Rock. Make Him your Redeemer. Get into His Word. Love it. Learn it. Live it. Then you will be like the man who builds his house on the rock and when the storms of judgment come, your house will stand. Otherwise…

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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The Lord’s Refined Word

Today’s reading is Psalm 12.

Look at the words of the liars and blasphemers. “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” (vs. 4). The faithless, wicked, blaspheming liars trust in their own words. It is as if they believe something is so simply because they said it is so. But it doesn’t matter how many times the flattering boasters declare they will prevail. It doesn’t matter how loudly they proclaim they are their own masters. Their words come into conflict with the Lord’s. And the Lord’s words are “pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” The words of the wicked haven’t even begun to enter the fire, but they are about to. The Lord’s words have already been through the refining fire seven times. That is, His Word is completely refined. His Word contains no dross, no slag, no lies, no impurities. His Word has nothing to fear from the fire. Has the Lord promised deliverance? He will give it. His promises are always true. He always keeps His covenants. He never fails. Neither He nor His Word are consumed by the fire. But the liars and their lies will be. Read God’s Word. Know God’s Word. Trust God’s Word. It has been refined. It doesn’t need to be rethought. It doesn’t need to be adjusted for modern times. It won’t be changed to fit the boasting blasphemies of the wicked. God’s Word has been refined. Trust it. Live in it and live by it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 12.

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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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The Wicked Will Not Stand

Today’s reading is Psalm 1.

The first psalm talks a lot about the blessed. But it also talks about someone else. It talks about the wicked. None of us like to think we are the wicked. But the psalm leaves no wiggle room. As good as we think we are, as good as we have tried to be, as good as others might think us to be, if we are not those who meditate on and delight in God’s Law, we are the wicked. And the wicked are the complete opposite of a tree that stands next to a stream of water. Instead, they are like the chaff that has been crushed out of the wheat that when it is tossed up in the air gives driven away by the gentlest of breezes.  We have a choice, delight in God and His Will or be driven away from God like chaff. Which choice will you make?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 1.

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Delighting in God’s Law

Today’s reading is Psalm 1.

The blessed avoid the counsel of the wicked and instead delight in God’s Law. What?! Delight in Law? Really? Who’s going to do that? Law is restrictive and confining. Law is a real downer. It is always telling me what I can’t do when I want to and what I have to do even if I don’t want to. It’s going to be really hard for me to delight in any Law, even God’s. However, this is a complete misunderstanding of Law. Think about the law of the road. It is true that there are some laws that restrict activities. We are told when we can go, how fast we can go, what direction we should go. Yet, it is all those rules that actually allow us to go safely. Driving is a dangerous prospect as is, but imagine if there were no laws and everyone was just doing whatever they felt like in the given moment. That would be a truly frightening prospect, one that would keep many of us off the road for fear. But the law of the road sets us free to drive in relative safety. Can we delight in that kind of law? Sure. God’s law is very similar. Rather than merely a restrictive code of conduct, think of God’s Law as a map. In fact, Torah, the word translated “Law” here can mean a way or a direction. His Law is telling us the way to find Him. It is telling us where He is, where He hangs out. If I decide to ignore a map, I’m not objectively punished for breaking the map rules. But I never get to my destination which is punishment enough. Not getting to God, being away from Him is most certainly punishment enough. In fact, we call that hell. Just like I can delight in a map that gets me to my family or friends in distant places, I can delight in a Law that leads me to God. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 1.

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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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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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