Thursday, March 29, 2012

Psalms: God's Mercy

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8, 11-14 NKJV*

We may choose sin, but when we also choose repentance, God chooses mercy. He is compassionate towards us even in our failings. He pities us as a father who has compassion for his children who make mistakes as they grow up. God understands that just as a child who is learning to walk will stumble, we will stumble as we learn to walk in His ways. But when we stumble, His mercy is abundant and His forgiveness complete. He removes our sins far from us. He may not always remove sin’s consequences, but He will give us the strength and grace to help us return home to Him and to get back on His path for our lives.

Hebrews Chapters 9 and 10 also bring us much-needed freedom and relief. Because Jesus died for our sin, we can “enter” God’s presence freely. “Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus … and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19,21-22 NKJV). Jesus is active in our lives, standing before God as our Advocate and cleansing us from sin. Because of Him, we can move past being focused on our failings to drawing close to God and embracing Him and His ways for our lives.

Sin and guilt don’t have to keep us from enjoying life with God and serving Him. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The freedom we have in Christ is not an excuse to pursue sin as much as we want, but a motivation to love the One who forgives us and graciously draws us close to His heart. When we see ourselves, God, and His mercy from His perspective and take that to heart, guilt no longer reigns over us, but gratitude. Thank You, Father, for Your mercy!

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Psalms: God's Giving Heart

I have already thought about Christmas—the cold weather, the warm sweaters, the snow, and the joy of the season. And it’s not even April yet! It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is—when I am really happy, I hum Christmas songs. They just seem to “eek” out when my joy is overflowing. I just hummed “Deck the Halls” with my eight-year-old friend the other day. Christmas is a beautiful time of the year, not just because of the music, lights, and decorations. It’s a chance to show people you love them, with the fellowships and the food, the presents and the cards. It’s a time when you get to share good things and give good things to those you love.

God is a gift giver. Giving is something He does all year long because He delights in giving “good things to those who ask Him” (Matt 7:11 NKJV). As James 1:17 (NKJV) tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” The book of Psalms is filled with the kinds of things our heavenly Father loves to give us.

What does God give us?

• Life (Ps 119:50)
• Strength and peace (Ps 29:11)
• Light and understanding (Ps 119:130)
• Counsel (Ps 16:7)
• Grace and glory (Ps 84:11)
• Protection and support (Ps 18:35, 37:24)
• Justice and freedom (Ps 146:7)
• Food/necessities (Ps 111:5)
• Sleep (Ps 127:2)
• Rest from adversity (Ps 94:12-13)
• Deliverance (Ps 18:17, 34:4)
• Relief (Ps 55:18)
• The desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4)

God gives the best presents. At Christmas, we celebrate His most precious Gift—Jesus, who came to earth as a Man and lived a sinless life. At Easter (which is coming soon), we celebrate Jesus’ death for us which paid for our sins, and we celebrate His resurrection which gives us the assurance of life forever with God.

God’s gifts are an expression of His perfect love for us. He doesn’t withhold any good thing “from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). If He gave us His Son, we can know that He will give us everything we need for daily life and for the Christian life. We can trust Him that He will give us the desires of our hearts, as we delight in Him first (Ps 37:4). If for some reason our desires haven’t been fulfilled yet, then we can trust Him that He has something better in mind for us, or perhaps the timing just isn’t right. But being the perfect, loving Father that He is, we can trust God’s timing and wisdom. After all, He gives “perfect” gifts—just what we need when we need it. Thank You, Father, for Your gifts of love!

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NKJV).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Psalms: God's Protection

I was surrounded by them. Standing on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, my family and I saw the mountains all around us. At our elevation, we were about eye level with the peaks. A blanket of green covered the mountains. In the valleys below, we saw houses, roads, and lakes sprinkled among the trees. The legendary blue haze softened the ridges in the distance, while the mountains before us appeared strong and formidable.

Mountains are a natural defense against danger. Psalm 125:2 (NKJV) compares God and the protection He provides to the mountains: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.”

The LORD protects us. “The LORD is round about His people” (KJV)—“He is above, beneath, around them; and while they keep within it, their fortress is impregnable, and they can suffer no evil.”* When God surrounds us with His love, power, and protection, we can rest assured that nothing can assail us unless He allows it. And if He allows it, He has a good purpose for it (Romans 10:28; Jeremiah 32:40-41). We can always trust His heart, His wisdom, and His protective hand. Hiding in God’s hand is the safest place for us to be. He won’t ever lose us or let us go (John 10:28-29). He keeps a constant watch over us while we sleep (Psalm 3:5, 4:8). When a multitude of anxieties come against us, He is our shield and comforts us (Psalm 3:6, 94:19). His fierce love for us and His absolute authority make Him a powerful protector and a refuge for those who love Him (Psalm 7:10, 18:1-2).

So where will you hide? When anxieties, fears, or Satan seek to trouble you, run to the Most High God, and abide under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:1, 4). Count on the LORD as your protector, and remember that He surrounds you with His strength and goodness.

* Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, quoted in Phil Lindner, Power Bible CD, CD-ROM (Bronson, Mich.: Online Publishing, Inc., 2007), Psalm 125:2.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Psalms: A Primer for Life

Do you know what my favorite book of the Bible is? Psalms. It was my “primer” growing up, a textbook that taught me the basics of life with God. I love Psalms because it showcases the multi-faceted character of God—His mercy and love, His forgiveness and restoration, His zeal and “formidable-ness,” and His patience and wisdom. Psalms showed me that God is Someone we can draw close to, cry out to, and depend on when everything is fine or when everything falls apart. It gave me hope that God could provide for my needs, calm my fears, comfort my sorrows, and strengthen me to serve Him.

David and the other psalmists knew God well. David had spent time with God, thinking about Him and probably talking to Him as he took care of his father’s sheep. When King Saul sought to take his life, God protected him. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he received God’s forgiveness. David knew from experience God’s protection, fellowship, and mercy. When I studied what David and others wrote in the book of Psalms, I was inspired to know God more and to trust Him to also take care of me. I'm still inspired today.

In the weeks to come, I’d like to focus on what the book of Psalms says about God—the glories of who He is and how that relates to us. Because He has perfect knowledge, He knows what our needs are. Because He has supreme power, He has the ability to meet those needs. More than that, He is Someone worth knowing, loving, and serving just because of who He is. His heart of love, His strength, and His goodness move us to follow Him. How have the Psalms, and the God who inspired them, blessed you? Leave a comment about what Psalms means to you. As David said in Psalm 103:2 (NKJV), “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits”!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Song in Your Head

Sometimes I just can’t get a song out of my head. Does it happen to you? I hear a song on the radio or TV, and it plays over and over in my mind. I take it with me everywhere I go. It sticks like glue to my brain. Then I go into a restaurant or store, and I hear a different song with a totally different beat. Sometimes the new music clashes so badly with the music in my head, it’s hard to keep singing the first song. The temptation is to turn loose of the song I came with, and conform to the music around me. If you were in that situation, which song would you hold onto?

God places a song in our hearts, but the world tempts us to conform to its rhythm. The beat of the world is totally contrary to the beat of God’s heart and mind. The world says, “Live for self.” God says, “Live to bless others” (Philippians 2:3-4). The world says, “You have to take care of yourself, because no one else will.” God says, “I will supply all your needs, and satisfy your heart” (Phil 4:19; Psalm 107:9). The world says, “It’s OK to step over people to get what you want.” God says, “Love each other as you love yourself, even as I have loved you” (Mark 12:31; John 13:34).

God’s song is always better than the world’s—His melody of love, peace, strength, endurance, and victory outshines the harsh and self-centered mantra of the world. The question is—which “song” will we hold onto? God’s music that satisfies us, heals us, strengthens us, and makes us useful to Him; or the world’s music that will only leave us empty and searching for true fulfillment? Whatever noise from the world you hear around you, keep God’s song in your head. Tune your heart to hear His melody, and let it direct your life into the good things He has for you. The world and its pursuits don’t compare with the love, freedom, and fulfillment we find in Christ. Keep singing His song!

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not him…and the world is passing away…but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15,17 NKJV).