Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Saturday, August 28, 2010

THE RESTORATION OF JOY

Joy is always fragile. But, the human spirit is resilient, even in the face of scary circumstances. For me, my faith is the basis of that resiliency because I always know the Spirit of my Father is my constant defender. That doesn't mean I never experience times of anger or fear or doubt, but they are always short lived. I've learned that like all the human family, I always go in the direction of my dominant thought. And, I can choose my own thoughts.
David sang, "Have mercy on me O Lord, for to you I call all day long. Bring joy to your servant for to you I call all day long. Bring joy to your servant for to you O Lord, I lift up my soul." Psalm 86:3-4 NIV
David made a choice and it wasn't to wallow in self pity or anger or fear. That only takes one into a dark place which will fill up the empty spirit. He chose to cry out to God for mercy in the sure knowledge that only God could give him back the joy that others had sucked out of his spirit.
Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi for casting a demon out of a young girl who was being exploited by ruthless men too lazy to make an honest living. Paul put up with Satan's diversion for a time, but when it became a distraction from the good news he was trying to share, he took action against the one he knew was the enemy. The jailer was instructed to put them in stocks and tucked them away in the inner prison. Then he went home to his family to have dinner. At midnight, he and the entire prison population were awakened by singing. His prisoners were singing praises to God and were actually released from their bonds by the God they were worshiping. So was the jailer and his entire household, released from their bondage to sin.
It is quite possible that the praises they were singing to God was David's Psalm 86. I love that thought even though it is only speculation. Our God is like that. Even after a severe beating and threats of worse punishment, two faithful men refused to allow Satan to win by stealing their joy. HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

AN INCH AT A TIME

I think this is very cool - "Train me O God, to walk straight; then I'll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind, then undivided I'll worship you in joyful fear." Psalm 86:11 MSG
Looking back, I have often failed to "walk straight" because of a divided heart and mind. My heart wanted one thing and my mind wanted something very different. Since we all live simultaneously in both flesh and spirit, life often gets confusing. I think Paul admitted that at Romans 7 and cried out to God in utter frustration.
An undivided heart is a lifelong challenge for the human spirit because each of us is a walking battlefield. More often than not, the flesh wins the battle and we give in to temptations that we surely know will lead us into a dark, blind alley.
David seems to be in that blind alley and he's reaching up to God to help him know how to "walk straight". Seeing light in a dark alley is possible for the heart that finally recognizes it's divided nature and that only God can pull it all together within us. There is a "true path" back into the light.
If we live long enough, I think we reach a spiritual place where the dominance of the flesh is a reality of the past. As I inch my way to seeing John's Revelation vision for myself, my fleshly nature becomes more memory than reality. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit - to help me inch along God's true path to see the absolute reality of faith. I think this is what David is referring to with the phrase "joyful fear". Getting to that place is done one inch at a time. HALLELUJAH!

Monday, August 16, 2010

TENDERHEARTED FATHER

I suppose many well meaning people have a difficult time seeing God as tenderhearted or compassionate. There is certainly enough biblical and extra biblical evidence to support such an assumption if that is what one looks for. However, taken on balance, the totality of evidence easily tips the scale in favor of Gods tender fatherhood of those who love and serve him.
David wrote, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear (respect & trust) him, for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:13-14 NIV
There probably isn't a man or woman alive today who experienced a deeper sadness over the destruction of all they held dear than Jeremiah. Following the absolute destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah walked amid the rubble of his once beautiful city and cried out to God in abject distress. He fully understood why this had happened, that it was all about God's judgment of the evil of his people and their refusal to repent of their idolatry. But in the midst of his grief, he saw through the sadness and wrote, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him." Lamentations 3:23-26,28 NIV
The word "tender" may not be one of the favorite descriptions we hear of God, but he is portrayed that way throughout the Bible and his tenderness is seen everywhere even in our world today. To be sure, his judgment and discipline are prominent in the ancient words of his prophets and the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, however if you just keep reading and looking, you will see his tenderness toward all he has made.
So, please don't allow man's igNOrance of God's love and judgment discourage your faith. His anger at our sin is always tempered by his tenderhearted love for his children. As a father myself, I get that! HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?

For a long time I have loved Psalm 103 and used it for much devotional reading because it addresses one of the most human questions of every age and society - What's In It For Me? Although we may not always verbalize that question, it's there, floating around in the background with a powerful impact on every relationship. We enter into all relationships with expectations and all of them center around that umbrella question. Even when a relationship is primarily one of giving rather than receiving, we still expect to receive something from it.
David wrote - "Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits." He then begins to list a catalogue of those benefits i.e. "forgives all your iniquity", "heals all your diseases", "redeems your life from the pit", "crowns you with steadfast love and mercy", "satisfies you with good", all of which are just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of David's song is proof of God's benefits.
You may not realize it but you don't really have to ask God "What's in it for me?", although I feel certain he wouldn't mind. He will direct your question to Jesus. He is THE ANSWER.
Jesus may not always provide a personally acceptable answer to every question that may arise in our life, but if we're patient and just trust him, his Spirit will give us grace necessary to keep on walking in faith.
Do you remember Paul's statement at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10? He experienced a painful, life altering situation that three times he asked the Lord to remove, but Jesus refused saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." So Paul learned to boast about his challenge because, over time, he realized that Jesus gave him power through it.
So, "WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?" is a legitimate concern that we have every right to ask. However, Jesus is God's answer to all the struggles that plague even men and women of great faith. God's unfailing love will always trump our greatest fear - if we allow his Spirit to give us the grace to see past the moment. HALLELUJAH!

Monday, August 9, 2010

THE SHORTEST PSALM - HUGE STATEMENT

I didn't grow up saying things like "Praise the Lord" or "Hallelujah". Not really sure why but probably because I never heard others around me saying those and similar phrases. They still feel a bit awkward on my tongue sometimes, especially in Bible studies or worship with people who grew up like I did. But, I do praise God constantly and worship him daily in a way that I was never taught as a child or teenager.
I have come to truly love the shortest of the Psalms because it expresses my deepest thoughts about my Father. "Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives, God's faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!" Psalm 117 MSG
Trying to visualize the man or woman who wrote these words has occupied a good bit of my attention as I have wandered through the Psalms of David all of this year. This one just intrigues me. What prompted the writer to record these words that no doubt had been in his/her heart for a long time? The term "hallelujah" means "praise the Lord", so this author was someone who worshiped God spontaneously and calls on "everybody/all nations" to join in.
If only all people in the world would do that! Its a fact, no one who truly praises God and knows Jesus Christ as Lord can live in fear or hate. We all experience times of aggravation and anger but praising God will always put us back into the frame of mind that allows his love to take over our lives. HALLELUJAH!

Friday, August 6, 2010

"SORRY GOD, I GOT DISTRACTED"

Distractions abound in our world. We drive distracted, we work distracted, we parent distracted, we even worship God distracted. We all know that taking our eyes off the road ahead (even for a moment) can be disastrous, but we're human and do it anyhow. We know that every day when we go to our jobs, we owe our employer our best effort, but it's very easy to waste half of a workday on personal or nonsensical distractions. This could go on and on, but you get the point don't you!
Habitual distraction eventually ends badly. In no area of our lives is this any truer than our relationship with God our Father. It all began with our ancient parents, Adam and Eve in God's garden, and has been passed along to every generation of the human family since. There is an antidote to spiritual distraction - but it requires uncommon faith.
David understood his own heart and made an uncommon commitment - "I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever." Psalm 145:1-2 He continues, "...I will meditate on your wonderful works....I will proclaim your great deeds."
I truly believe all disciples of Jesus have that same belief in their hearts, the same desire to praise God and meditate on his works and share it all with others in their life. Satan knows how to distract and redirect our attention to his own agenda for us.
Our earliest brethren struggled to maintain a daily commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, they too were surrounded by distractions. The book of Hebrews was written to urge them to maintain focus. "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we've heard, lest we drift away from it." Hebrews 2:1"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider (keep your eyes on) Jesus." Hebrews 3:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus." Hebrews 12:1-2
Over the years I have met a literal multitude of men and women, young, middle aged and very old, who "drifted away". They never intended to, but they got distracted and the distraction became a habit then habit became a lifestyle. Probably all of us have been there at some point too.
David's commitment to praise God daily, meditate on all his works and share it all with others is the only effective antidote to spiritual distraction. He's still doing that same thing as he said "every day forever and ever." I want to do that too and with David's encouragement, the daily presence of Jesus and the help of God's Spirit, I will join David and a mighty host of others like us who overcame the distractions. We just have to pay attention. HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

UNBREAKABLE FAITH IN A DARK CAVE

Many of David's psalms have the sound of having been written at a very low point in his life. Although only two are identified as being written in a "cave" while on the run from King Saul's incessant hounding, there seem to be to be many others that probably were written in similar circumstances. Since all of David's young adult years were spent on the run from Saul, he undoubtedly spent many days and nights in caves.
Psalm 143 fits into this category, at least for me. David wrote, "The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed." Psalm 143:3-4
I appreciate how the Message interprets David's words, "The enemy hunted me down; he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life. He put me in a black hole, and buried me like a corpse in that dungeon. I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away, my heart heavy like lead."
The "enemy" who put David in this sorry state wasn't really the King, it was the same enemy we all must face, satan, the evil one. Satan always delights in putting me in a place of darkness where I am unable to see where I'm going. Driving blind is not only unwise and unsafe, its frightening. I don't even feel comfortable driving behind any large vehicle that I can't see around.
David felt a flood of conflicting emotions ranging from anger to fear but he ended up in the right place. "I 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." v:5-6 "For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant." v:11-12
I've been that "parched land" thirsting for the comforting nearness of my Father and he has never failed to sweeten my parched soul. Sometimes I have become impatient to the point of fear, like David, but my Father always comes through. People of faith always get to that point and seek the light, Jesus Christ our High Priest. HALLELUJAH!

Monday, August 2, 2010

DAVID, DANIEL AND YOU

"Set a guard O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies." Psalm 141:3-4 ESV
The exiled young priest Daniel had probably sung this song of David all of his life. So, when he found himself in the captive court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, he refused the rich food of the king's banquet table, opting instead for a spartan diet of vegetables. There is a spiritual principle involved here that modern disciples of Jesus need to know and follow.
It is centered in the pressure to "fit in", to seek the favor of reigning political power. Quite often that pressure begins to manifest itself with words and ideas that ignore the word spoken by God. David uniquely represented both worlds simultaneously. Yet there were those around him who constantly attempted to control his actions in an evil {ungodly) way.
There was a time when I too thought that in order to "fit in" I should laugh at others dirty jokes and throw in some of my own colorful language. That becomes a habit which can easily morph into a lifestyle. I feel certain that David was often tempted to sit at the wrong table and share a few of his own choice thoughts. I can't really see Daniel doing something like that but he was a captive in a foreign land and totally at the mercy of his captors - or was he? His story proves that the king wasn't powerful enough to take Daniel's life, much less control his faith.
I want to urge my blog readers to closely monitor what comes out of your mouth. Your enemy is always listening, watching and waiting for just the right circumstance to step in with his exquisitely crafted temptation that is designed for control.
Sing David's song and ask God to "keep watch" over the door to your heart that your words depict. Stay alert for those who will entice you to become someone other than God's servant by inviting you to "come sit at our table". It might be an evil place. As David said, God will always send you a "righteous one" whose rebuke may sting a bit, but let it be like "oil for my head". HALLELUJAH!