July 1, 2017 Bible Study — Our Time Is Short, Let Us Spend It Praising the Lord

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 90-97.

    Before I get into writing about today’s passage, I want to stress the importance of reading the Bible for yourself. Do not just take what I, or anyone else, writes as your devotional. Read the passage and allow God’s Spirit to speak to you through it. Today’s psalms begin with one which reminds us that our days are numbered. We only have a limited amount of time to serve the Lord on this earth. We need a sense of urgency about accomplishing things in this life because all too soon our time on this earth will be over. Let the fear of the Lord inspire us to act while we still have time. However, we should not live our lives in fear, either of God or anything else. The psalmist goes on to tell us that if we put our trust in God He will protect us. These two psalms go together. The first telling us that we do not have much time to accomplish things in this life. The second one telling us we need not fear stepping out to perform God’s will because He has our back.

    I like how a psalm warning against doing evil is sandwiched in between several calling on us to sing and make music praising the Lord (and trust me, if you have ever heard me sing you would realize that that is not redundant). I will sing and attempt to make music praising God because He has made me glad. Yes, part of what God has done which makes me glad is the way in which He has brought judgment on those who do evil. I also praise God for the times He has disciplined me for my sins, discipline which has taught me to change my ways. I will sing to the Lord and declare His glory. I will proclaim my faith in Him in front of and too those who will mock me for doing so.

June 30, 2017 Bible Study — Serving The Lord To Serve The Lord, Not For Any Other Gain

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 82-89.

    I truly believe that the first of today’s psalms is addressed to rulers and government officials, especially those who believe that their position makes them superior to others. God has commissioned those in government, whether they acknowledge Him or not, to give justice, especially to the poor and powerless. God has appointed them to deliver the poor and the helpless from evil people. However, all too often, rather than fulfill their commission they join with the oppressors. However, in due time, they will discover that they are just like everyone else and they too shall die. They shall face God’s judgment and He will hold them to account for failing to carry out the task which He gave them.

    The other psalm I am going to focus your attention on today is Psalms 84. The psalmist expresses his desire to be with God, to live in God’s house. I will echo the psalmist and say that I would rather be the lowliest servant in God’s presence than the ruler of the entire earth, with all the pleasures possible at my finger tips. I will trust in God because He will deliver true joy. I said that I was going to limit myself to these two psalms, but my thoughts on Psalms 84 lead me right into Psalms 86. In particular Psalms 86:11

Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.

June 29, 2017 Bible Study — Telling Our Stories To The Next Generation

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 78-81.

    The first psalm in today’s passage, Psalms 78, tells us the importance of teaching our stories, and the stories of our ancestors, to the next generation. We need to teach the young about the mighty deeds which God has performed in our lives and tell them the stories we were told by those who came before us. Each generation must set their hope in God anew and if they are going to do that they need to hear and understand what God has done in the past. There is a very human tendency to think and act as if history began with our own birth. The only remedy for that is for the elders to teach the young the stories of what went before. We must do more than just teach the next generation God’s commands and our understanding of them, we must teach them why it is important to follow those commands. I will go even further than that. While it is important to teach theology and godly doctrine, it is not possible to truly understand what it means to follow God without learning the stories about what God has done in the past. As a child, my parents and my congregation spent time teaching us the stories from “The Martyr’s Mirror”. In the last few years I have realized that those stories gave me an understanding of what it means to be a Christian which no one who was not so immersed in those stories will ever have.

    Once he made his point about the importance of telling our stories, the psalmist goes on to focus on the stories about how the Israelites had, time and again, failed to obey God and suffered the consequences. He first tells of how the Israelites did not trust God to supply their needs. While they were in the wilderness they craved meat and rather than ask God to provide it, they conspired to return to Egypt to get it. Despite the great miracles which God had already done on their behalf they believed Him unable to give them this thing. God both showed them that He was indeed able to supply their needs and the consequences of not trusting Him. The story reminds us of the danger of not trusting God to supply us with what is best for us. We must learn to ask God for what we want, but to know that perhaps He has not already given it to us because it is better for us not to have it. We must learn to persistently ask God for what we desire, but remain accepting of God’s judgment about what is best for us. If we have been asking God for something that He has not given us, we should re-evaluate our desire to see if perhaps we will not be happier without it. Perhaps the reason we do not have it is because God is teaching us patience and persistence, but perhaps it is because He knows our true needs and desires better than we do.

June 28, 2017 Bible Study — Focus On What God Has Done In Order To See What He Will Do

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 72-77.

    I will once again encourage those reading this blog to read the passage for the day. The psalmist expresses his ideas much better than I can, and I cannot cover everything that is in the passage. I will start by writing about Psalms 73. There we are warned about focusing our attention on the wicked and the things they do. If we do that we will become envious of them and wonder what point there is to keeping ourselves pure. If we instead focus on God and on worshiping Him we will realize that the “joys” and pleasures of the wicked are empty and fleeting. Time spent watching the wicked will leave us bitter and torn up inside. Time spent with God will heal us inside and drain the bitterness from our souls.

    It may seem like we no longer see God’s miraculous signs and hear no word from His prophets, but that is because we listen to those who insult God. Instead let us praise Him and tell the world about the wonderful things He has done. At the time He has selected God will bring judgement against the wicked and increase the power of the godly. We do not see God’s miraculous signs because we do not look for them. We do not hear God’s voice because we are not listening. If we recount the small things which God has done, we will start to see the bigger things which He does. As we recount the words we have heard from God, we will hear His voice more clearly.

June 27, 2017 Bible Study — Is My Life An Example?

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 68-71.

    Psalms 68 starts us off by calling on us to praise God and giving us reasons to do so. He is a God of justice, mercy, and power. He is father to the fatherless and the defender of widows. He places the lonely into families. Yet His power is so great that all the kings of the earth will give Him tribute. In the next psalm, the element that most strikes me is that in all of his suffering, the psalmist’s greatest concern is that his sins not bring disgrace on those who put their trust in the Lord. He despairs and cannot keep his head above water, so he cries out to God. He first confesses his sins, then asks that God not allow those who trust Him be allowed to be shamed by his sins. Only after making these requests does the psalmist begin to make requests for himself.

    In today’s final psalm the psalmist proclaims that he has been an example to many because he put his trust in God and never stopped praising Him. That sets a standard for us to live up to, are we, am I, and example for others? Have I lived a life that is an example for others to follow? The rest of the psalmist tells us what we must be to be an example. If we wish to be an example to others we must praise God continuously; we must tell others about the wonderful things He has done.

June 26, 2017 Bible Study — Keep Calm And Wait For God To Act

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 60-67.

    I am struggling today to get the thoughts to come together. However, I will start by pulling out two quotes from Psalms 62 which I believe reflect what our attitude should be. First:

I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.

This is certainly easier said than done. We want to act to deal with what we perceive as threats, but God wants us to want quietly for Him to act. In this context “wait quietly” does not mean that we do not tell others about our understanding of God. It means to wait calmly for God to reveal our part in His plans. When our enemies are attacking us, we need not panic If we rely on God to be our fortress.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.

The key is focusing all of our being on serving God and calmly waiting for Him to act. Then, when He has acted, let us tell all who will listen what He has done for us.

June 25, 2017 Bible Study — Trusting God Is Not Foolish

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 52-59.

    In today’s psalms the psalmist calls on God to protect him and save him from those who have attacked and betrayed him. Those who put their trust in wealth or power, or both, will discover that those things will fail them in their time of need. However, if we trust in God we will thrive, even when we are betrayed by our closest friends. We will encounter those who tell us that we are fools to believe in God, let alone trust in Him. They are the fools. We may feel overwhelmed by those attacking us, but, if we trust in God, we need not fear them. No mortal can be a threat to us when God is defending us. We may be surrounded by enemies, all of whom are more powerful than us, but God will save us from them. Some of those enemies may be corrupt, wicked rulers, but God will avenge their injustices. Our enemies will prowl at night, but the following morning we will still be here to sing about God’s unfailing love. I will put my trust in God, I will not fear those who threaten and attack me because God is more powerful than any possible enemy.

June 24, 2017 Bible Study — Keep Calm and Know That He Is God

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 45-51.

    The Psalms readings for the last several days were written from the perspective of someone who suffered from depression and outlined how he dealt with it. Today’s Psalms reflect the thoughts of a psalmist who takes joy in worshiping the Lord. He tells us that we need not, and should not, fear, no matter what is happening around us. God will be our shelter and our strength. So, we need not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble into the sea, not even when the oceans rise and storms bring floods. A God who can protect us from the mighty forces which nature can bring to bear, and our God can, will find the forces which mere mortals can exert a minor nuisance. When turmoil surrounds us, rather than panic and run and shout, let us be still and know that He is God. I cannot emphasize that enough, when turmoil is all around us, the earth shakes, mountains are crumbling, the waves are rising, be still, stay calm, and know that God is in control. We do not need to fear the rich and/or powerful. They too will die. No matter how much money or power they have, they do not have enough to ransom themselves, or anyone else, from the grave. On the other hand, God will redeem those who trust and obey him from the grave.

    The final two psalms call for us to recognize that we have sinned, to confess our sins, and to turn away from our sins and commit them no more. That last is much easier said than done. God does not need our material possessions. We cannot bribe Him to look the other way when we sin. Sacrificing from our material goods benefits us, not God, and no amount of money, or goods, given to charitable organizations will make up for doing wrong. If we lend our approval to the dishonest, spend our time with the adulterer, speak lies and slander those closest to us (or even those not so close to us) God will rebuke us. He calls on us to repent of our sins and acknowledge that we have wronged by our sins. We are unable to do anything to clean this up. It is only by God’s action that we can be made clean, that our hearts may be made pure. He must make us willing to obey Him. Only then will we teach the rebellious His ways so that they too will return to Him.

June 23, 2017 Bible Study — Dealing With Depression

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 38-44.

    I was talking about how the psalmist (actually, psalmists, there was more than one) advises us to deal with depression this morning with a friend at breakfast (remember, I write these the day before you read them, sometimes longer in advance). I am cautious about saying this because I have never had depression, but I believe that reading the Book of Psalms can give you sound advice on how to deal with and overcome depression. It is clear to me that those who wrote the Psalms suffered from depression at points in their lives. I believe that the psalmists gave sound advice on dealing with depression. I do my best to condense that advice in my devotions on those psalms, but don’t take my word about it, read what the psalmist had to say.

    Our first psalm today is primarily an expression of the despair which the psalmist is feeling. To a degree that is part of the psalmist’s method of dealing with despair: he expresses what is making him feel despair. But it is more than just expressing his reasons for despair, it is also a prayer. If you are feeling despair, cry out to God and tell Him why you are feeling desperate and depressed. There is one thing more the psalmist offers in this psalm: do not listen to those who threaten and condemn you. Wait for God to speak to you and listen to Him. Again and again throughout these psalms (and throughout the entire Book of Psalms) the psalmists remind us to wait for God.

    Another thread in the psalmist’s advice is to watch what you say. It is better to be silent than to say something which will hurt someone else needlessly. Yet, if we are doing God’s will and listening to Him, His Spirit will cause words to burst out from us that need to be said. If you are suffering from depression read Psalm 40, see how the psalmist waited for God, then he spoke out and told everyone who would listen how God had saved Him. He did not break out of his despair by force of will. He did so by turning it over to God, by calling on God to save him and trusting that He would. Then he told people about what God had done before he even saw his deliverance completed. While his trouble still surrounded him, the psalmist told anyone who would listen about the great things which God had already done. In Psalms 42 and 43 the psalmist repeats a verse which really strikes me:

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

If you are feeling discouraged or depressed (and even if you are not), put your hope in God and praise Him. He will come to you and lift you out of your despair. This is not an easy fix. You may need to cry out to God day after day and wait for Him to come to you. I have never suffered from depression, so I want to make clear that I am not sure how this works, but I place full faith and trust in God. I believe that if you do the same He will rescue you from whatever is overwhelming you. Don’t rely on what I say, read the Psalms as you cry out to God and He will show you the path.

June 22, 2017 Bible Study — The Path From Despair To Joy

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Psalms 32-37.

    I am not sure that my title quite captures the theme I want to talk about from today’s Psalms, but it is close. If we are feeling depression and despair the first step is to confess our sins to God. There may be exceptions, but the source of much depression in this world is unconfessed sin. Refusing to admit that we have sinned can send us into a spiral of despair and depression. Giving in and admitting that we have sinned, and repenting of that sin will allow us to discover God’s forgiveness. When we receive and understand God’s forgiveness, we will be filled with joy.

    Our response to that joy should be to sing praises to the Lord, but even if we do not feel the joy we should praise the Lord. This is a second tool which God provides us to fight depression and despair. Praising the Lord will fill us with joy. There is a progression involved. In order to praise God, we must recognize the power and majesty of God: He merely spoke and the Universe came into existence. That leads us to fear the Lord, to hold Him in awe(a mixture of reverence, respect, and dread). When we hold the Lord in fear and awe we do as He instructs, which leads us to discover that He loves what is just and true. We learn that His love is unfailing. When we sense and experience God’s love we are filled with joy, which leads us to praise Him.

    These psalms fill me with a sense of wonder that I have completely failed to convey in what I have written in the previous two paragraphs. In order to try and capture those thoughts I am going to pull a few things the psalmist says out and highlight them.

Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

From there the psalmist goes on to tell us that the righteous will face many troubles, but God will come to their rescue. Related to my theme about turning to God to overcome depression is this statement by the psalmist:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

That is something important to remember, God is close to those suffering depression and despair. He will rescue them.

    It is a bit of a stretch to connect this last bit to overcoming depression and obtaining joy, but I am going to go there anyway. The psalmist calls on the Lord to fight his enemies. He outlines what our behavior needs to be if we want God to take on our enemies for us. First, we must do them no wrong to justify their attack against us, but that is not of itself enough. When they are suffering let us grieve for them. Let us fast and pray for them. Let us think of them and treat them as if they were our own family. We need to give up our anger and our rage. Losing our temper will benefit no one. It is only when we have done all of these things that we can know that WE are not the ones against whom God will be fighting.