Tag Archives: Love

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 4

4. What It Cost God

Burning Garbage2

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15)

This last phrase is not simply laying someone down in the dust; it literally has to do being laid in a fire. The word dust can mean ashes, powder, debris and rubbish. But this is a death that is fiery and debasing, perhaps like being laid out in a burning garbage dump.

There’s a place just south of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom, where Old Testament Israel sacrificed their children in fires to Molech and Baal. It eventually became a collection place for all the city’s refuse, and its fires were always kept burning. This became the New Testament picture for hell.

Note Who it was that has placed Christ in this situation: The LORD Himself—You lay me in the dust of death. How great the Father’s sorrow must have been to place the sins of the world upon His Son, then put Him to death, so that He would be the sacrifice offered for those same sins. Yet as great as the Father’s sorrow, how much greater is His love for us. And it was this same love that Christ Himself exhibited as He willingly went to the cross.

This love should stop us in our tracks. Just because The LORD is the Sovereign Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of All, we must never think that His love for us cost Him nothing. It’s not like the federal government, where you simply print more to pay your debts. Our salvation cost God dearly, personally and intimately.

One more thought. The depravity of man can reach such depths. Consider what God said to Jeremiah, concerning this Valley of Hinnom: “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (Jeremiah 7:32)

Although there are some things that do not come into the mind (or heart) of God, embrace the wonder knowing you were on His heart and mind even before He created the foundations of the world.

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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 (85) – I Love You (1/2)

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13,17)

Father and SonThe earliest childhood memory I have with my Dad was laying on his chest, as he sat in his recliner, with both of us eating out of a can of peanuts, watching Rassling (long before it became so dramatic and overproduced). I still remember his arms wrapped around me.

But, it took me 27 years to hear my Dad say “I love you”. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he loved me. (As testified by the above story.) He worked on big yellow things with wheels, tracks, etc., for as long as I could remember (a master mechanic), but he still had time to go to his son’s games and meets; band and choir concerts. And even if it meant skipping a day of weekend overtime to see his son run or sing, he was there.

When I was in college I read a book on prayer by a Jesuit theologian. It changed my life. Up to that point I had thanked God, praised God, worshiped God, rejoiced in God, and made my prayers and petitions known to Him (in Jesus’ name). But I had never told my Heavenly Father that I loved Him. After reading the book, I made sure that in all my prayers, to tell my Heavenly Father I love Him, to this day. And for the people who I loved, I made sure to tell them I loved them.

So it was probably around my early twenties that I noticed my Dad’s typical response to my “I love you.” It was either “Ditto” or “You too.” It became my mission in life was to hear those three words from him, whether over the phone on in person. It happened the summer of my 27th year. I was back on the West Coast, visiting my parents, with the usual hugs were going around. While squeezing my mom I told her that I loved her, and she responded as she always did: “I love you.” Dad and I grappled in our usual bear hug, and I told him I loved him and he grunted or something. But later in that week, I told him I loved him, and he said…”I love you too, son.” And I cried (maybe Dad even got a little teary). From that day on until he died 9 years later, the “I love yous” abounded.

Now why do I share this ancient history with you? Well, if you’re a parent, have you told your _20161125_125039kids you love them today? They need to hear it; and they need to see it and feel it. And for you Dads, loving your kids is going to give them a great glimpse into the love of their Heavenly Father.

What about the rest of the family? Maybe  you’re distant (emotionally or geographically). Or estranged. Maybe there are wounds, scars, whatever. Love them. Tell them. Because, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Now there are certain traumas and griefs we go through which may loosen your tongue, but don’t wait for that. A funeral and the loss of a loved one can pry those three words out of you, especially for those us who have been left behind. Cancer or heart disease can get your attention. It did for me and my family. But I don’t want to go through that again—so don’t wait.

What about those in the Family of God. Have you told them you loved them? Maybe they’re alone, or their family’s a complete disaster. Did God bring you into their lives to love them? Tell them. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, because maybe you—or they—end up in the presence of Jesus. Tell them… now.

Please understand that this tirade is for those who may be challenged verbally and emotionally—especially us guys. Who knows, if you speak these three words, with God’s help, you may be able to begin living them. But if you’re more at ease speaking, don’t allow those three words to become some glib motto. Rather, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  (1 Peter 1:22)

Singing with the King (74) – Praise Enough?

Dancing in the Sun1Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.  Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough? (Ps 106:1-2)

I’ve probably said this somewhere in this blog, but every time you see the phrase “Praise the LORD!”, it’s literally the English translation of the word Hallelujah! That’s not only a great way to begin the Psalm, it’s a great way to begin your day, because it puts your day into the proper context. The Lord is your focus, the Lord is your purpose, and your thoughts, words, deeds, and emotions are permeated with praise.

Since the Lord is our focus, and our purpose, we discover that the object of this praise and thanks (at least in this Psalm) is: He is good. And His faithful love endure forever. That’s something worth hanging onto, especially when surrounded by the uncertainties, sorrows, and pain that life brings. We need to remember “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) And “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

When you ponder that verse from Lamentations, about a love that never ends, about mercies never cease, you then realize what the psalmist was writing in verse two: Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise him enough? Those are what you call rhetorical questions, because we can never list His glorious miracles, nor will we ever praise him enough.

There’s an old hymn called The Love of God, the final verse goes like this:

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky
.

And notice that that’s just writing about the love of God. What about His other attributes? Such as His goodness, and His faithfulness. The end of the Gospel of John says something quantitatively similar:

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that His testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25)

May you begin your day with His praise. Because His love endures forever, you may discover that His praise may occupy your day.

 

Singing with the King (24) – The Ways of the Lord

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. (Psalm 18:21)

Walking On RoadFor us to keep the word of the Lord requires commitment, it requires the heart as well as the mind; is that not the nature of obedience? Two verses to put this into the proper context:

Jesus answered, “the foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD, and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30)

If you love Me, you’ll keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

After reading that previous verse, it should be obvious what it is we are to keep, if we do indeed love the Lord. And in this Psalm, David kept the ways of the LORD.

Some of the definitions of the way, are path, journey, direction, manner, habit, course of life, and moral character. Do you see how this is so much more than simple obedience? Indeed, keeping or walking in His way defines us: how we think, what we think, what we do, our attitudes, our perception, our character, our ambition; indeed our very lives. Why is that? Consider the radical change that has taken place within us:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. (Colossians 2:13)

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. (Ephesians 5:8)

You have been radically transformed from death to life, from darkness to light. Go out there and live Christ, and light up the lives around you!

Singing with the King (14) – Payback

My enemies speak evil against me, “When will he die, and his name perish?” All who hate me whisper about me, imagining the worst. “He has some fatal disease,” they say. “He will never get out of that bed!” LORD, have mercy on me. (Psalm 41:5, 7, 8)

Deathbed

It’s no surprise David had his detractors and enemies, and the reasons for this are legion. Rival kings with their armies; rival worshipers of false gods; add to those adversaries, the Devil, and you have a full time battle on your hands while seeking to serve and worship the One True God.

But not all enemies are external and foreign. Some had walked within David’s halls; for many are those who would seek to serve themselves rather than the LORD; to have their own cronies in office rather than the LORD’s anointed. Righteousness is not where their interest lies.

Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” So persecution is the result of living a Godly life; therefore nothing in this Psalm is unexpected, until you get to verse 10: Make me well again, so I can pay them back! Wow… I didn’t see that coming. Not “Make me well so I can serve you”; or “Make me well so I can glorify You”. No, make me well so I can pay them back.

Does that make David wrong? No just a different covenant. Regardless of whether we are betrayed or persecuted;  libeled, scandalized, or marginalized; we are told to love our enemies; to do good to them, and to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-46). That’s the path of righteousness we must take. The next time you suffer are the hands of an enemy, realize it is more about paying forward than paying back. You may be investing in them finding Christ. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Singing with the King (11) – Where Now is Their God?

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?” (Psalm 115:1-2)

angry mob

That’s an interesting question to follow a verse that talks about giving God glory.

When you read this question, you probably have an idea of how they asked it (sarcastic…duh yeah!) But the definitions of this word makes the mood clear: to boast, to act proudly. Remember, we’re not talking about nations that give God glory; they give themselves glory.

So, are the nations asking that question because they’ve seen us give God glory? Or are they asking because they haven’t seen us giving God glory, and since we are inactive, then God is inactive. Or maybe they’ve seen us God glorify God, but that doesn’t square with the circumstances.

Perhaps they’ve seen the walls torn down, and cities lying and ruin, and yet there is a people who continue to glorify God.

Perhaps they’ve seen someone dying of cancer, a family who has been split apart because of divorce, or a church fall apart because of what the pastor did, and still there are those worshiping in the ashes, glorifying God.

The nations see these kinds of situations, but they cannot reconcile the actions of those in the midst of these painful situations.

But that is what we are called to do: to give God glory in the midst of pain, trial, devastation; in the midst of whatever doesn’t make any sense to those who are watching. And because of the disconnect, they cry: Where, now, is their God?

Shouldn’t people who are giving God glory be in the midst of prosperity, or blessing, or good things? This would make sense to the nations; and to those who are watching. But giving God glory in hard times does not align with the world’s worldview; and it has nothing to do with their understanding (or lack thereof). We give God glory because we must. We give God the glory because our love for Him, compels us to do so.

 

Singing With the King (7) – God is Good

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1)

standing tallDo you have a foundational belief on which you stand? Something you can cling to regardless of what is going on around or within you? The Psalmist did—he made a declaration—and made his stand: Surely God is good to Israel.

The Hebrew word for surely has two uses: one is emphatic, the other is restrictive. So you can put an exclamation point behind the emphatic version: Surely God is good! Or because we understand Who God is and how He works, we use the restrictive version: Only God is good.

Christ Himself, the Son of God spoke to this: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

The Hebrew word for good has numerous translations; the most frequent are: better, best, pleasing, and favorable. It describes excellence of quality, excellence of character, and that which is of a higher nature (a vague way of saying God…).

This verse has the only occurrence of God is good in the OT. However, the Lord is good occurs seven times:

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. (Psalm 34:8)

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. (Psalm 135:3)

The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)

Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever. (Jeremiah 33:11)

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:25)

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. (Nahum 1:7)

So, how can you experience God’s goodness? In His refuge. In His love. In His faithfulness. In His mercy. In His care. And when you do, you will sing His praises—forever.