Psalm 106 – How Quickly

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But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.

In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. (Ps 106:13-14)

To read the Old Testament is to thumb through a catalog of mankind’s many failures. As much a diary as it is a mirror, the pages are rife with grotesque and subtle reminders of our own tendencies. In the two psalms that conclude Book IV of the psalter, the psalmists rehearse Israel’s repeated incidents of glorifying and celebrating God for his mighty deeds, followed by a meteoric descent into the waters of the Lethe.

Psalms 105 and 106 must be read together to gain the full impact of the psalmist’s purpose. Where 105 catalogs God’s unending faithfulness to the people who are called by His name, 106 reminds hearers of the incessant unfaithfulness. The juxtaposition of the two is jarring, and we cannot help but marvel at His Love and Israel’s failure.

And the myriad failures in our own lives.

Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. (v43)

The Christian has little excuse for continued purposeful rebellion. The Spirit serves in His role as paraclete in countless ways, one being the early warning when our tendency toward corruption threatens to affect our behavior. We can avoid repeating the history of our family line by becoming more aware and responsive to His whispers, warning us off of unglorifying speech, thoughts and behaviors.

Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. (v47)

Save us, Lord our God, from ourselves and our bent toward failing you. Let us give thanks and praise for your redemption and your power to live out the new creation you’ve begun in us.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 99–Seven

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O Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. (Ps 99:8)

As the joy and awe of Easter remains fresh in our hearts, we do well to reflect on the reality of God’s demand for holiness. Psalm 99 is linked to 97 as an expression of the benefits of the Lord’s reign over His people. These benefits are not the product of a one-sided covenant however. As mercy is extended to us, we are commanded to pull our boots from the mire that has held us captive and ascend to higher ground. Our core calling is to make holiness the objective of our efforts.

The psalmist also expresses the parallel expressions of God’s reign, mercy and correction. Grace is not license, as some mistakenly interpret it. He corrects those he loves in order to reorient their path. To be abandoned to sin is to be without hope.

Grace and peace to you.

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God So Loved The World VI

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world… John 3:16

so adv 1. In the way or manner indicated. 2. to the extent or degree indicated or suggested. 3. very or extremely. 4. very greatly. 5. most certainly…

You may come to this passage indirectly, perhaps as your first memory verse or your initial introduction to the great truth of the Bible. As you read and absorb it, you cannot help feel the Spirit move as you encounter this simple but profound reminder of the sacrificial love of God for you.

When you read God’s story from the beginning, on the other hand, and arrive at the fourth gospel and this verse, your eyes read the words in a much different light. Where it was just you and the secrets of your heart before, now you have the entirety of history casting its lengthy shadow over God’s love. The rise and fall and rise and fall tempo of man’s relationship with his creator causes you to wonder why He loves us, and marvels that He does.

Love us, that is. He most certainly does.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 67 Make Your Face to Shine Upon Us

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God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him. (v7)

A week has passed this year since the glorious rising of the sun (Son) on Easter morning yet the world does not fear God. The greatest blessing imaginable has been given in the resurrection of the Living Christ, the invitation of salvation and yet the earth does not fear God. Those around us do not fear God because they do not see the living Christ in us.

The psalmist concludes Psalm 67 with this affirmation but it is the early lines of the liturgical form that can have a greater affect on our lives. As we pray these words and absorb them into our souls they have the power to transform. To know God’s face shines upon us is one thing, to exhibit that reality to others is the affirmation that transforms the world. It shows in our trust and obedience, our love and extension of grace. Jesus lives. He lives in me.

May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make His face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known on earth,

your salvation among all nations. (vv 1-2)

 

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Fifteen

imageI remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:5-6)

It’s easy to become complacent in facing Easter. We look down the corridor of time back toward the Resurrection and want to know the power of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. As the stores fill with Peeps and colored grasses for the baskets, we find it easy to satisfy our souls with trinkets and temporary fulfillments. Our often parched and dry souls are smothered by the cultural messages that bombard us with offers to fill us up with this or that. We drink the soda only to find ourselves thirsty again and hour later.

Many in the Church view Lent as ‘that time when we give stuff up’ at best and at worst, with a suspicious eye on the implied ascetic aesthetic. Sacrifice in emulation of our Saviors sacrifice is neither. Our purpose in observing the season of Lent is to put off the things that are controlling our souls and burying the dry, cracked surface of our hearts. Only when we reveal that surface can the grace penetrate deep within us.

Grace and peace to you.

 

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Psalm 65 – Praise Awaits You, O God

imagePraise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)

When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)

Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.

Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)

Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)

Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.

 

 

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Lent 2009 – 35 Steps to the Cross

PeterStepsHis divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who call us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Before Peter could write these truths, he had to learn them for himself. Before the Lord called him away from the lake, Peter had developed a pair of traits that would undergo a transformation as he followed Jesus through the land. As a hard working fisherman he had no doubt developed a high level of self sufficiency. He knew how to fend for himself as a businessman and on the dangerous waters that he fished, especially in situations where he could rely on no one else to get him out of trouble. As a Jew, Peter had also been steeped in the legalistic practices of Judaism.

Jesus taught him something completely different as He sought to make the notion of grace clear. Peter could not nor should not bring anything to the party. God provided everything and any attempt to supplement that gift simply got in the way of the outworking of grace. Like Peter, we often find ourselves struggling with grace. We impose restrictions on ourselves that God has not in an attempt to infuse godliness into our lives but in doing so, we get in the way of the work of the Spirit. He was given to us so that the transformation of our souls could come from within, not from our own efforts. The extent of work should simply be reliance of the work of the Holy Ghost. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…”

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