Psalm 139 – The Colors of Life

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Psalm 139 ColorsToday’s Chapter is the 139th Psalm.  While reading through the Psalms – it can be easy to forget that these were actual songs of praise – each written during a specific event in the life of the author.   Many times that are formed out of the depths of emotion that the author experienced while enduring some tragedy or difficult situation.  They can serve us in this same capacity!

Psalm 139 is a beautiful tune by David – which can encourage us in our individual circumstances.  In it David pours out his love for God – and confirms God’s love back to him.  As we read, it is obvious that David had developed quite a relationship with God.  With just a casual reading of this Psalm – we can once again hear that loving relationship being sung by this warrior-king.

Hidden within the lyrics of the love song – we find a beautiful description of the beginnings of life and how God sees all of us.

“For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! 

Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. 

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret

[and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors]

 in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].

Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were

written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13-16 AMP

I love the way the Amplified Bible puts this – using words such as “formed” and “knit” and “wonder” to describe how God not only made each of us – but knows us in a loving way.   According to David – God lovingly crafted us – “embroidered us with various colors”.  With that much attention placed into us – how can we help but have any other desire beyond pleasing Him and living up to the great potential He has placed within us all?

You are valuable!

You are cherished!

You are not a by-product or a mistake!

You are His treasure!

David wrote these words out of an overflowing relationship – one not formed just by reading a book, but by actually living out this beautiful life that he had been given.  David saw himself through the eyes of His Creator – in all of his vast colors… and it changed his life forever.

I encourage you to get this same vision of who you are!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

10 Reasons to Praise the Lord in Psalm 113

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hallelujahOur chapter today is Psalm 113 – and in it we are given 10 reasons for us to daily praise the Lord.

1.  He is higher than anything and anyone (vs 4).

2.  He outshines everything we can see in the skies (vs 4).

3.  Nothing or no one can compare with Him (vs 5).

4.  He “humbles Himself” to survey things in Heaven (vs 6).

5.  He “humbles Himself” to survey the corrupt conditions of the earth (vs 6).

6.  He picks up the poor from out of the dirt (vs 7).

7.  He rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash (vs 7).

8.  He seats them (poor and wretched) among the brightest and best, honored guests (vs 8).

9.  He gives childless couples a family (vs 9).

10.  He gives the joy of motherhood to the formerly barren woman (vs 9).

After proclaiming all of that – the psalmist ends as he began… “Hallelujah” (Praise ye Jah)!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 106: Nevertheless

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NeverthelessHistory has a way of repeating itself.

A wise people will learn from those who have gone before them – steering clear of the things that caused them trouble and embracing those choices which led to victory.  Taking a “but that was back then” approach will only lead us through the same pitfalls others have descended before us.   In Psalms 105-107 we see the Psalmist taking his audience on a crash course through history.  He recounts the many mistakes those before them made, in the hope that it will help the people of his day avoid repeating them.

That lesson is for us today as well…

Take a moment to pull out your Bible and trace a bit of Psalm 106 with me:

Notice that the writer revisits the miracles that the Lord has performed for His people – to save them, yet, time and time again the response of His people is rebellion.   (Just like us today) they forget what the Lord had done once the issue was corrected and time had healed the wounds.  Vs 7 sets up this cyclical pattern… “they gave no thought to your miracles… they did not remember your many kindnesses…”.   A verse earlier the Psalmist admitted that this was the pattern that his current generation was repeating; “We have sinned, even as a fathers did…” (vs 6).

But then verse 8 comes in… the King James Version uses the word “Nevertheless”.   That is a very powerful word and a wonderful key to who our Lord really is.  The people sinned – forgot the good that was done for them – rebelled… but NEVERTHELESS, the Lord saved them.  That is grace in action.  Although they did not deserve it – NEVERTHELESS God intervened and rescued them.

(You should stop and thank Him for a moment…)

Once God saved them – it all suddenly came back to the people.  They figured out that their calamity was due to their rebellion – and they “believed His promises” once again (vs 12).  This is another wonderful lesson for us.  The Promises of God (as outlined in His Word) are for all of us forever – and we can bank on them.  When we remember those Promises, we can enjoy them… but when we forget – we experience trouble.  Simply… really.  Look at the next verse… “But they soon forgot what He had done.” (vs 13).  They forgot – and the result was they began to crave (desire) things contrary to what the Lord had given them.  So He “gave them what they asked for… (vs 15) – and that led them into all sorts of problems.

It wasn’t Big Meany God who did it – He simply gave them what they rebelliously clamored for.  They forgot the past mistakes – failed to learn their lessons – and instead threw a tantrum in the desert – demanding their own way.  So God gave it to them… and it hurt both themselves and God in the process.  The traded the powerful God (who had saved them so many times before) in exchange for powerless idols crafted in the images of fat cows (who eat grass) (vs 20).  “They forgot the God who had saved them…” (vs 21)“They did not believe His Promises…” (vs 24).   “They grumbled…” and “did not obey the Lord” (vs 25).

Notice a pattern here?  When they remembered all the many good things the Lord had done for them throughout the ages – they believed what he said – and the end result was victory and peace.  BUT – when they forgot those past times – and did not believe His Promises – then God withdrew from them and calamity strikes.  Over and over again this happened (and is happening).   We forget – we don’t believe – bad stuff happens – we blame God.  Over and over and…

Then watch what happens next:  In verses 30-31 a guy named Phinehas (a pastor) prays for his people and the calamity is stopped.   God sees this simple act of faith and it moves His heart so much that He not only blesses Phinehas – but everyone around him and future generations!  One act of faith – one prayer – one guy who chose to believe God and “stand in the gap” for the people.

Fast forward to vs 43-44.  The same old story… “Many times He delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion…”, NEVERTHELESS – He heard their cry for help and saved them!

(You should stop and thank Him for a moment…)

After all of these warnings, this great psalm ends with a final powerful picture.

“He remembered for them his covenant,
and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.”106:45 KJV

Did you see that?  God repented.  He remembered His Promise to His people – and when they cried out and believed Him… He repented!  The word for repent is NACHAM and it means “to be sorry in a favorable sense; to change ones mind”.  That is what God does!  When we turn and confess our sin – stop making the wrong choice and return to what He told us to do – He is filled with compassion and “relents our sentence” (AMP).

That is what NEVERTHELESS means!

(You should stop and thank Him for a moment…)

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 100

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worshipCongratulations on your quest through God’s Word!  Today we arrive at the 2/3 mark through the Book of Psalms.  As we have read through these various hymns and songs which make up the Psalms – we have seen a wide range of emotions… stemming from fear and doubt to despondency to an exaltation of joy.  Psalm 100 is a little psalm which provides us with great instruction on how we should worship the Lord.

I am always amazed at how many people feel that how we worship is simply a matter of personal preference.  Many Christians seem to view worship as wrapped up in a certain style of music or personality.  For instance – if you attend a church where the Pastor has a more conservative personality, then your worship may be more traditional – with just a piano/organ and possibly singing only hymns out of a hymnal.  On the other hand – if your Pastor is a bit on the wild side – your church may have more upbeat music with drums and guitars (and smoke machines).  In fact, churches do cover a wide array of styles…  from loud music to no music at all – but (as in everything we are trying to do), what does God tell us our worship should be like?  Is it really all about personal preference or do we have some guidelines that we should be following?

I believe part of that answer is found in Psalm 100.  Within this psalm are several keys to what it looks like when God’s people gather and worship Him.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come before His presence with singing! 

Know (perceive, recognize, and understand with approval) that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]!

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise!  Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! 

For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

First of all – notice that this begins as a command.  The psalmist makes it quite clear that this is an expectation of those who are God’s people.  According to the psalmist – not only will God’s people worship God this way – but the very land will as well (vs 1)!    Next – notice the word “joyful noise”.  This is the Hebrew word ruwa – and it literally means “to split the ears with sound; to blow an alarm”.   Already this worship service is a far cry from what we see in so many churches today.  It isn’t polite nor soft – but instead is loud and alarming.  It is the picture of a joyful (not depressing) worshiper who is declaring the wonders of God at the top of their lungs!

Next we see that the psalmist speaks of “coming before the Lord presence” this way (vs 2).  He also speaks of “entering His gates with thanksgiving” and “His courts with praise” (vs 4).   These provide us with more details regarding how we should worship our King.  The word for thanksgiving is towdah and it means “an extension of the hand in adoration” and the word “praise” speaks of a song of love and devotion.  This is not simply how we END up in our worship (as if God has to prove Himself to us to deserve our affection)… but more so it is how we ENTER.  The proper time of worship begins with praise and expectation based on what God has already done (namely Jesus on the cross).  We sing and declare our love for Him based on His goodness as revealed in the past… not on what He will do for us in the future.

Finally – the psalmist tells us to “give thanks to Him and praise His name” (vs 4).  The original word for “thanks” is yadah and it means to “revere or worship with extended hands”.  As well, the word for “praise” is barak and it means “to kneel and bless the King as an act of adoration”.  This speaks quite clearly of our body posture during worship.  It is not one of folded arms or hands in our pockets – but instead one of arms lifted in reverence and then bowing over in humble adoration.

Obviously – we are not robots and God is not seeking a people who will simply follow the rules when it comes to worshiping Him, but it also is not all a matter of personal choice.  As Believers – Followers of Jesus – we should be overflowing with love and adoration for our King.  It isn’t the rhythm or whether we “like the songs” which dictates our attitude of praise – but the fact that the “Lord is good and faithful” (vs 5).  When we come together in our faith community, we should already be in the frame of mind as a worshiper of our King.  My emotions – my experiences that week – my present attitude should not be the controlling factor in how much I participate (or don’t participate) in corporate worship.

May this encourage you the next time you gather together to worship the Lord, to throw up your hands and give Him all of your heart.  You just might see other changes in your life come as well!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 92 – Worship

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worshipThe fourth book of Psalms covers 90-106 and in subtitled the “Numbers” book due to it correlating with the events recorded mainly in the book of Numbers.  It traces the concerns of the Israelites (as well as us ‘Gentiles’) in their interaction with God as their only hope for salvation.

Here is how Finis Jennings Dake describes it:

“The general theme of Book IV concerns Israel and the Gentiles on earth – the counsels of God revealing no hope for man in the earth apart from God.  It records the walk of man in his earthly pilgrimage to a better world and a better life.  It begins with Israel in the wilderness taking account of themselves (Num 1-8; Ps 90).  It continues with proper order, and instructions for the future (Num 9-14; Ps 91-94), rest anticipated (Num 15-26; Ps 95-100), and the basis for entering into rest (Num 27:36; Ps 101-106).  It concludes with a benediction (Ps 106:48).”

Psalm 92 specifically speaks of man’s worship of God.  Unlike what transpires in most of our churches today – the psalmist speaks of the act of worship in quite dramatic and purposeful terms.  He begins by declaring that IT IS GOOD to praise the Lord (vs 1)!  Praising the Lord is actually what we were all created for… it is our foundational purpose in life.  When a human being fails to correctly offer praise to God he/she will naturally begin to offer that praise to someone/something else.  Since we are created beings – created to reflect back to our Creator – then the act of worship is an already established seed planted within us.  We can no more worship then we could stop breathing… it is what we worship that is the question.

Next the psalmist connects music with this act of praising the Lord (vs 1-3).  Music is also a creation from our loving Creator.  Its purpose is to assist us in our worship of God by helping us express our hearts beyond mere words.  (Today, Satan has warped this beautiful gift from God into a tool that he is using to glorify sin and rebellion… but that was not it’s original purpose!).   Upon establishing the act of worship in the Tabernacle, King David had numerous instruments made for this purpose – and the psalmist mentions a few of these here… specifically the lyre and the harp.  (Today we would say the guitar, keyboard, drums, etc).

Next the psalmist inserts descriptive words such as “glad” and “joy” when speaking of this act of worship (vs 4).  Again – quite a bit different from some churches I have been in!  Our praise of the Lord should be a joyous occasion – filled with music, dancing, clapping and exaltation’s of gladness!   Praise should be our immediate reaction when we consider His great works – in our own lives and the lives of those around us (vs 5).   This is not something that can be faked – nor does one who lacks a relationship with God possess the ability to enter into this sort of praise (vs 6-7).  (Hence why some people come into our service and don’t seem to “get it”).

Finally, the psalmist concludes this mini-lesson on worship with the very Truths that drive our worship.  It is the many promises of God that fills us with life and causes us to proclaim His goodness forever (vs 8).  We – the righteous – will flourish like the palm tree (“be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful” – AMP).  We shall also grow like the cedars of Lebanon (“majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible” – AMP) (vs 12).  Both of these images would have been well known to the Israelites who heard this Psalm – as they grew in abundance throughout the region – tall trees that were very useful for supplies in many areas of their everyday lives.

just like the usefulness of these 2 examples – you and I are promised that we will grow strong and majestic – continuing to be useful in our old age – bearing fruit long after others have stopped – staying “fresh and green” (vs 14)… but all of this is provided on us remaining “planted in the House of the Lord” (vs 13).  It isn’t a promise for the compromising and the “every other Sunday’ crowd – but only for those who are established among His people.  It is for those that God sends His promise – and they will say He is their Rock (vs 15)!

Now doesn’t that give you something to sing about?

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 88 – Bad Theology

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Blind leading blindToday’s psalm doesn’t exactly uplift us as we read it.  While the psalms written by David, although occasionally peppered with despair and moodiness, typically end up with eyes once again lifted toward God in hopeful expectation – it seems the psalms written by other musicians take a slightly darker turn.  Whether it be Asaph, the sons of Korah, (or in this case Heman the Ephradite – a song leader writing FOR the sons of Korah) – these other various song writers display much less personal revelation when it comes to God and His ways.  That is the case here in Psalm 88.

Heman begins his musical pity party with a statement proclaiming God as his salvation (Rescuer).  Yet, that small attest of faith quickly dissolves as his eyes focus on himself and what he is experiencing.  Let’s quickly go through what Heman says:

“…day and night I cry out to you.  May my prayer come before you;  turn your ear to my cry.”vs 1-2   – Right out of the gate   Heman places himself in the right – as an innocent victim who is crying out for help.  Nothing that he is going to describe is happening due to any fault of his own.  He then basically begs God to hear him (due to his lack of knowing who God is).

Next – in vs 3-5 – Heman looks at his own situation and begins to describe it.  No positive outlook – no confession of faith – simply a lament.  He compares himself to the dead on the battlefield (again… a victim).

Following this – in vs 6-8 – Heman begins to sin by blaming God for what is happening to him.  Just as we saw in Job – Heman fails to take any responsibility for his calamity, instead falsely accusing God for causing these things to come upon him.

           In vs 9 – he writes;  “… my eyes are dim with grief.  I call to you, Lord, every day;  I spread out my hands to you.”   Once  again – this musician fails to understand the reason for what he is going through – instead implying that God is simply not answering his cries for help.

        Then, after more begging God for help (mixed with more accusations – vs 14-16) – Heman concludes this wonderful display of faith by accusing God of taking his closest friends away from him – “You have taken from me friend and neighbor-darkness is my closest friend.” (vs 18).

So – after unpacking these lyrics of Heman – and seeing how far they stray from the Truth about God – we are left with some questions:

Why does God allow psalms like this to be included in Scripture?

What is the lesson to be learned from Heman’s ditty?

Does all Scripture speak Truth?

As par the course – there are no simple answers to these questions.  While a quick search will tell you what most commentators think – I find myself in disagreement with a majority of them.  It seems quite clear to me that there has always been a near universal misunderstanding about God in the eyes of men.   After all – commentator after commentator all seem to stand in agreement with Hamen here – that God is the cause of his affliction – and his job is to plead prayers of desperation.  (Despite the fact that this resolutely contradicts the overall message of Scripture as we have seen time and time again!).

It is my belief that we are not meant to derive our theology from portions of Scripture such as the Psalms.  They are songs – worship – written by musicians who many times were in emotional situations.  Throughout the psalms we see various individuals make erroneous statements while in the heat of passion or calamity… that is NOT the best time to find Truth… nor is it when an individual is at their strongest.  I’m not going to learn from them while they are going through the storm… but rather once they come out the other side.

So then why are psalms like these even in the Bible?  To me – that demonstrates not only the validity of Scripture , but also the true love of God.  He could have just written it all out for us – treating us as if we were robots in a vacuum – but instead He allows us to see that there have been many people who have gone before us and wrestled with the things we are dealing with.  These people were human – made mistakes – had wrong thoughts… yet God has always been good and merciful.  By allowing statements such as Hamen’s (and Jobs) to remain in Scripture, God provides us with the incorrect perspective as a means of steering us toward the true revelation about who He is.

All Scripture does indeed speak Truth – yet only when taken as a whole.  Most of the error we see in the church throughout history has come about when individuals pull snippets of Scripture out and slap it into their already conceived world-view.  Although it looks like it all fits together – in reality the end result stands in sharp contrast to the macro-message of God’s revelation about Himself.

So – as you read through the Words of God to us – try to keep in mind the overall themes and images that we are discussing together.  God is good – God is light – God is love…  Then when we come across statements which seem to contradict these themes we can correctly assess them in context – and not create our own theology, which saves no one.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Psalm 78

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stringing a bowPsalm 78 is what is known as 1 of 4  “Historical Psalms”.  Through 72 verses the Psalmist provides us with a synopsis of the cluttered history of the nation of Israel – God’s favored people.  It lays out 80 mighty acts of God and couples them with 30 sins of Israel – often interchanging between the two.  (Some examples of this are the sins of Israel listed in vs 9-11… followed by the mighty acts of God in vs 12-16.  Again in vs 17-22 and 23-29, etc etc.).

There are many wonderful things we can glean from these “hidden things” (vs 2) that the Psalmist shares with us.  One glaring point is the clear compassion and patience that the Lord God shows towards His people.  As we have seen throughout our reading of Scripture – time and time again God is merciful even as His people rebel and demand their own way.   This cycle of sin and rescue (salvation) is repeated numerous times throughout history (as this psalm so powerfully lays out for us).

One picture that stands out to me is the description of Israel in vs 57.  Here, the Psalmist depicts God’s people as “tempting” and “provoking” God to anger by their stiff-necked and willful disobedience.  He then compares them to a “deceitful bow”.

So what is a “deceitful bow”?

First, remember that the pictures used in Scripture were typically of things the common reader would relate to.  In this instance – almost every man knew how to handle a bow and arrow – not only for hunting but also for defense.  They would have all understood how a bow operates when it was unstrung.  At rest – the bow had a tendency to resist the pressure applied by the string – in essence bending “backwards”.   It took a tremendous effort at the hand of the bowman to recurve the bow into a useable position by forcing it with the string.  A weak or unskilled bowman risked having the bow springing back with such force during stringing that it could break his arm.  (This could happen while discharging an arrow as well… not a good thing!).

A good, dependable bow was described as one that “turned not back”, meaning that it did not turn itself backward to it’s original position, such as Jonathon’s bow in 2 Sam 1:22.   It is the desire of every skilled hunter to train a dependable bow for use in his trade.

“They do not turn to the Most High, they are like a faulty bow.” Hosea 7:16

So both the Psalmist and the Prophet Hosea use this imagery to describe the nation of Israel during this time… in that, when bent toward God (the Master Bowman), she would suddenly spring back to her former position of sinfulness.

May we all avoid the trials of Israel – by being a bendable bow in the Bowman’s hands.

Be Fruitful and Multiply,

PK

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