Category Archives: Psalms

Singing with the King (99) – One Stop Shop

You alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

Last time we looked at this Psalm with a more or less theological approach. We considered this verse the way David was seeing it, the way he was seeing and knowing the LORD. But then we continued on with more verses from this Psalm to understand why David knew this to be.

Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.  But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (vs. 2-5, 15)

Notice the couplets:

Protect me— I am devoted to you.

Save me— I serve and trust you.

Be merciful to me— for I am calling on you.

Give me happiness— I give myself to you.

Then David lists off a string of characteristics about his God, who alone is God: good, ready to forgive, full of unfailing love, compassionate, merciful, slow to get angry, filled with unfailing love, and faithfulness. Who wouldn’t want to come to a God like that?

I mention all this again because God being the “one and only” is more than just a theological truth, it’s a relational truth. What I mean by that? Not only is He God alone, He’s all you need. Consider these following verses:

In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want. (Ps 73:25)

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (Ps 23:1)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

The apostle Paul picks up on this theme in in his letter to the Philippians: And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:19)

So now we have in effect, a double-edged sword. The LORD, he is God alone. And he’s all that you need. God does not call you into an exclusive relationship, just to exclude you from all else. Your salvation need and you relational need are one.

Your salvation is both eternal (John 6:40), and to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

Your heart has more than you can ever ask or imagine:

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The greatest need for your heart? The greatest need for your soul? Jesus Christ… Only.

Singing with the King (98) – The End

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73:16-17)

For those of you who know me (and I may have mentioned this a few times in this blog), Psalm 73 is my favorite. Now it breaks my heart that David didn’t write it… but I still love this one.

I’ve talked about this verse before in number 72, called Understanding. But tonight I need this to be more immediate, more urgent.

So who’s end is Asaph talking about? Well he wraps it up with an explanation in the last two verses:

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Those who are far from the LORD. Do you know anybody like that? I’m sure you do. We all do. Now the good news is that thought they are far from Him, they are near you, and you have another new year to talk to them. You have this new year because God is patient:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Now note it doesn’t say that He is patient with that with those who are perishing, those who are far away. No, it says He is patient with you. Why? Well who’s supposed to tell them about Jesus if it’s not you?

I end with the words of Jesus as an urgent reminder:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

As we draw another year closer to the return of our Lord, who is it you need to share the love of Jesus with? Not all ends are good ends.

Singing with the King (97) – Foundations & Righteousness

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?           (Psalm 11:3)

When I was younger, many years ago, I heard Billy Graham talk about how he did his devotions. He did 5 Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs a day. So every month, he would go through the entire books of Psalms and Proverbs. When I don’t have time to do my study, that’s when I do this same devotional. But I only do the Psalms. So like today, being the 28th, I would read Psalms 136-140. The great thing about this approach is that if you miss a day, you just multiply the date x 5, back up five, and start there. No need to make up.

A few years back I started using the NLT. Years and years of the NAS kinda got familiar, so I picked a new translation to stir things up. And it was a great move. As we look at the above verse, which is the NAS, here’s what the NLT has, and it provides, what I think, is some excellent insight:

The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?

So we move from plain old foundations to foundations of law and order. Now if you look up the word foundations in the Hebrew, you don’t find anything in its meanings anywhere that specific. But I think this translation does David justice. And I believe that it has just as much to do with us today as it did King David.

Our foundations have collapsed. I doubt anybody would debate that. We have suffered a collapse, but the opinions surrounding why, are as varied and divisive as our culture. For the sake of moving on, let’s assume David’s description and definition would be best, much of it having to do with a complete lack of understanding of Who God is, what He does, and outright denial of Him having any right in declaring to us how we should live, both as individuals and as a nation.

So the question still stands: What can the righteous do? And the beginning of our answer—we need to be righteous, and proclaim His righteousness.

But the complete answer comes in the next verse:

But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. (vs. 4)

Deny Him, ignore Him, dis-invite Him. He still rules. Remove Him from academia, from the marketplace, from politics, He still shows up in the hearts of the Righteous. And it’s up to us to make Him and His Way plain. Because the day is coming when, as David said:

The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face. (vs. 5-7)

Simply put, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commands are: Love God and love people. If the righteous of God we do that, love will go a long way in healing and repairing these foundations.

Singing with the King (96) – Accept No Substitutes

Accept No Substitutes

You alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

Are you OK with that statement? Is the God of David the only god? Well, what does God Himself say about Himself? Isaiah was present to record some of His comments:

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be.” (Isaiah 43:10) Note that God had made this known to His People; not only Israel, but the Church.

All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 25)

Back to Isaiah:

I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them. (Isaiah 45:5-8)

 “Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isa 46:8-10)

The LORD is not leaving us much wiggle room here. And He even speaks of those who whine and complain about it:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’” (Isaiah 45:9, 10)

But it’s not just a matter of whining and complaining. No, we take the matter of god into our own hands and rather than acknowledge we are made in His image, we make gods in our image.

Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)

How sad that we, who were created in the image of the Living God, would choose to embrace the image of things that are dead.

Let’s go back to Psalm 86 and see why David is able to say: “You alone are God.”

Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. (vs. 2-4) Why can David ask the LORD to Protect, save, be merciful, and give him happiness? Because…

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (vs. 5) And…

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (vs. 15)

David also contrasts the One True God with the gods of the pagans, and puts it into a global context: No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do! All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. (vs. 8-9)

Paul echoes a similar reality: Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

All nations, all peoples will bow and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Some will do so out of love; others because they are constrained to do so. Will you acknowledge the One who alone as God? The One who protects you, saves you, is merciful to you and gives you happiness. I hope so.

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Singing with the King (95) – Pride & Humility

Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Israel, trust in the Lord now and forever! (Psalm 131)

Last time I looked at this Psalm, I focused mainly on the author. It was King David, who was, shall we say, a reasonably successful King. Yet this is where his heart was. But this time I want to look at our hearts in relation to this Psalm.

This is one of the Songs of Ascents, there are 15, which are presumed to be the songs the Jews sang as they walked up to the Temple. If that is indeed the case, then the four David wrote were for future generations.

So here we are walking to worship, and it’s probably a good time and place to give up your pride and turn away from your arrogance. God’s not particularly fond of either of those attributes:

Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. (Psalm 136:6) It’s going to be tough to worship—to draw near—if the LORD is keeping His distance from you.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13) Fear of the LORD means you understand Who He is and who you are. Pride and arrogance will not only NOT lead to understanding, it will put you in a dangerous place where God hates you.

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) Disgrace or wisdom…it’s your choice.

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.  Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19)

Disgrace, distance, and finally destruction and a fall.Can you see how impossible it is to have a loving and worshipful relationship with Him, with all that against you? Pride exalts us beyond our place. Pride replaces God, or at best ignores Him. Pride completely re-writes our priorities. Pride makes us stupid. And the damage? Well that’s what the Psalms and Proverbs are talking about.

So what is it that grabs your attention? Great things? Difficult things? In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with either. But what if they become a distraction? What if they complicate too much? Find the simplicity of a child’s love and rest in the Lord.

Finally, lets not forget the context. You’re on your way to worship. God knows your heart. He knows when you’re being prideful and stupid, and he knows when you’re being humble like Jesus. He knows when you are near, and when you are distant. But what about your friends around you, as you’re going to worship? Are you being transparent so they can see that you’re struggling, and therefor could encourage you and strengthen you? Or are you keeping to yourself, hurting alone, being alone? It could be that your willingness to be open could bring about the healing you need, the truth you need, and so as your walking to worship, you’re actually being made ready for worship.

Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) You might even find yourself held in His loving arms.


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Singing with the King (94) – Forgiven Forgotten

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? (Psalm 130:3)

Have you ever noticed that the Bible asks some pretty tough questions? And I see this verse within the context of another verse from the Psalms: For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage. (Psalm 40:12) Yeah. There are days like that, when my sins pile up so high around me I can’t see my way out.

Please understand, we’re not talking about sins which are committed by those who do not love the LORD. They wouldn’t even recognize them as sins, let alone even know what sin is. Psalm 40 is about a soul who is vexed by and overwhelmed by his sins. And being in such a state, you see no way through, no way out. Paul felt this:

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:18-24)

Now he good news is that Paul does not leave us waiting. The answer comes immediately in verse 25: Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 7:25-8:2)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. So when Christ died for our sins, and we accepted His sacrifice and His salvation, the Father stopped keeping records.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (Isaiah 44:22)

“You have put all my sins behind your back.” (Isa8ah 38:17)

“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)

“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

Once our sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. The problem is WE keep remembering them. And that’s where we need to learn a lesson in Divine forgiveness. If He has buried our sins in the sea, scattered them like the mist, and removed them as far as the east is form the west, don’t you think we should forget them as well. Otherwise we could be saying that His forgiveness isn’t good enough, and that’s terrible and scary position to take.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5-8)

Singing with the King (93) – The Necessity of Community

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

I suppose I inherited it from my mother—she loved to walk. Now I’m not sure I love to walk, but I do need to walk, as I’m dealing with heart disease. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go to the gym. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, I walk.

But today, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, and walked down to the Whole Foods and picked up some healthy snacks: apples, nuts, etc. So here I am, walking back to work, with my bag of healthy goodies, and walking in the opposite direction I approach a young man, and begin to say, “Good morning”, but then I notice he has his earbuds in and he won’t hear me, and he doesn’t look up.

And therein lies the danger of social media, smart phones, et al. We isolate ourselves from personal touch. We lose even the common courtesy of being able say “Good morning” to someone. Who knows, perhaps you’re having a bad day, and if someone happens to look at you and smile and says good morning, wouldn’t that help at least a little bit? Maybe even more than you can imagine.

This verse from Psalm 122 reminds us of the necessity of community. Not only should worship be done together, but going to worship, and leaving worship, whenever possible, should be done together. Why?

Well, the conversation is going to be a blessing and encourage you. You will be after all, talking about Jesus, what He’s done for you, how He’s answered prayer, or how you need prayer. How you’re feeling lost, or how He’s been guiding you. There’s a whole myriad of topics and thoughts and hopes and needs that could be expressed in your coming and going to and from church. Or, maybe you’ll talk about the sermon, or the worship pastor (hopefully mostly good).

As far as being in worship, it’s all about Him. Your fixing your eyes on Jesus, and worshiping Him. And you’re doing it with people you love. Your adding your voice to a host of others, and lifting your praise to the Most High. Perhaps there is prayer time, and you hear about those who are going through some really tough times, or the latest request from one of the missionaries, or maybe the church is starting a new ministry, or a building program. You as a community, you as a congregation, are lifting up these needs Together. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)

And so for a time, you’ve got yourself out of yourself, you’ve got your eyes off of yourself, and your focus has been on the Lord, and your concerns have shifted from self to others. The apostle Paul talks about that:

Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. (Romans 12:10-11)

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Now unfortunately, I need to make a disclaimer. Not all churches are kind churches. Not all churches are friendly churches. There are some who are judgmental, critical, legalistic, and cold. Now in regards to the latter two in that list, some could make a case that they are being biblical. But when grace and love are lacking, how long can you stand upon a “good doctrine” platform? But I like to think that most churches that love Jesus, love people; and I hope you can find one. I’m fortunate, in that I attend two churches that love Jesus and love people in my hometown. So I know they’re out there. So don’t get discouraged. Keep looking.

But for now, take out your earbuds, and look for opportunities to smile and say hello. Let the love of Jesus shine through you. And get off that little screen—or big-screen— and go to church, with friends, and share what’s going on. And when you’re in church enjoy the fellowship, embrace the community, as you worship the One True Living God

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 

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Singing with the King (92) – The Big Question

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1)

That is a good question. The Apostle Paul’s take on this question could be:

If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more.  I don’t know what to choose. I could keep on living and doing something useful. It is a hard choice to make. I want to die and be with Christ, because that would be much better. (Phil 1:21-23)

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-12)

So for King David, for the Apostle Paul—and for the follower of Christ—our greatest goal is to be with the Lord.

Now there are times when David asks questions, but no answer is forthcoming, because like us, he is waiting on the LORD for an answer. But this time, in this short little Psalm, we have the answer to the question. Now understand, the Psalmist doesn’t give the names of those who may abide, who may dwell (only the LORD knows who are His.) But he does give a description. Does it describe you?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.

In just this one sentence it talks about your walk, your works, and your words. Your walk is the sort way of saying how you  live your life. It’s your worldview. Works are obviously what your do. And words are what you say. It’s your character, your actions and your speech that exhibit integrity, righteous living, and a truthful heart.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15)

But wait. You don’t have to wait for Heaven to dwell with God. As a follower of Christ, you have His Spirit dwelling within you here and now:

People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God’s laws. If we follow our desires, we cannot please God. You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God’s Spirit, who lives in you. People who don’t have the Spirit of Christ in them don’t belong to him. But Christ lives in you. So you are alive because God has accepted you, even though your bodies must die because of your sins. Yet God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life by his Spirit. (Romans 8:5-11)

I asked earlier if David’s description describes you. It should. People should see the life-transforming effects that the Spirit of God has upon you. You walk, your works, and your words will show that you are abiding and dwelling with the LORD.

 

Singing with the King (91) – Precious

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:10)

jesuschild9I believe this is the Old Testament precursor of a passage from Revelation:

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

I first ran across this latter verse when I performed the Brahms Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now don’t get all impressed with me. I was just a Bass in  a choir of about 150 singers. There are seven movements in the great work, and the one based on the above verse is the final movement, which makes sense. And at the end of this post, you’ll hear this movement. Now back to the Psalm.

From a contextual point of view, verse 10 is rather interesting, because it is the only one dealing with someone actually dying. The remainder of the other 18 verses speak of one that has been delivered from the grasp of death.

The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.  Then I called upon the name of the LORD:  “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;  Yes, our God is compassionate.  The LORD preserves the simple;  I was brought low, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.  For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. (v. 3-8)

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So why insert this verse about death, when all the others are about escaping from it (and being   thankful)? I think the key is in verse 8: For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. You see, for those who have lost a loved one, their eyes have shed many tears, and they have stumbled. But the Psalmist gives them a glimmer of hope when he tells them that their loved one is one of the Lord’s godly ones, and their death is precious in His sight.

Some of the meanings of the Hebrew word for precious are: prized, rare, highly valued and influential. And all those describe my friend Mark. For those who knew him, and many much better than I, you can see those words describing Mark. But the most important aspect of Mark 20245779_10154842661725872_4178047506386990472_nis that he was and is one of  the Lord’s godly ones. And since his death is precious to God, I have no doubt that it grieved our Heavenly Father—or rather—our Heavenly Father grieves for Mark’s wife Lorri, and their families; because Mark is now with Him, probably shooting videos—and the resolution is out of this world.

So for those who have grieved, cried and stumbled, know two things (at least):

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.. (Philippians 4:12-14)

Because Mark is one of His godly ones, we DO have hope. And despite our tears and stumbling, we need to continue to press on. For like him, we too will one day rest from our labors.


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Singing with the King (90) – My Shepherd

The LORD is my Shepherd. (Psalm 23:1)

Good Shepherd2Years ago, I heard a preacher—I don’t know if it was live or on the radio— who talked about the choices we make and the paths we take. So there you are, walking along with God, side by side, fellowshipping with Him, following Him, just being WITH Him. And then you decide to take a right turn, and go off in your direction. Now this is not without biblical precedence.

Note what He has done for us:

  • He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isa 53: 4-5)

And what do we do after all this?

  • We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. (v.6a)

So yeah, wandering off is in our nature. Now, back to the sermon. This preacher talks about us wandering off, to go down our own path, probably to do something sinful, something selfish, something displeasing to God. And the picture he painted was that God remained on the chosen path, while we trotted off on our own. And when we finally come to our senses, like the prodigal son did, we then turn around and go back to the path, and find God patiently waiting there for us.

THAT IS WRONG! And here’s why.

Does a shepherd just let his sheep wander off? Or does he go get them? He goes and gets them, because He knows we are too stupid, or too lost, to find our way home. Now granted, we may be off on this little tangent, this little side trip, and be totally unaware that He is with us—but He is. Because The LORD is our Shepherd. (Who by the way, laid down His life for us – John 10:11)

Also consider His nature.

Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you. (Psalm 139:7-12) With the exception of Hell, the is no place He is not.

Omnipresence is pretty tough to escape.

So, a role He willingly embraces, and a divine characteristic which is tough to get by (pun intended). God is not waiting at the beginning of your detour with arms crossed and foot tapping. He is with you. Now, you may not know that He is with you, because you’re trying to avoid Him, or ignore Him, or forget Him. But He is with you, and He always will be.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrew 13:5)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)


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