Psalm 66 – He Has Not Withheld His Love

imageCome and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. ( v16 )

God has a history with each of us. He has pursued us and extended immeasurable grace to us that we do not deserve. Many of us have been brought to repentance and restored into relationship with our Savior. No matter how many years have passed in this relationship, or if it is still brand new, our proper attitude is ensured by a consistent practice of rehearsing in our minds and with our lips all of the things that God has done for us.

Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!

He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot – come let us rejoice in him. (vv 5-6)

You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (v 12)

If we turn back through the preceding pages of the Old Testament, we find that over and over the people of Israel recite all of their history with God as they praise Him. The blessings and the testing are all there, and from the rehearsal of this history His people are reminded of how deeply God loves and wants to restore them to holiness and relationship with Him. Both His loving blessing and His difficult testing are meant to achieve the same purpose, that you and I become who we were meant by His design to be.

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.

All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.” (vv 3-4)

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Day 21 in the School of Prayer : Remain in Me!

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If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)

As we sit at the feet of the master and learn the art of prayer from the One who knows, the easiest lesson we are given is also the most obvious. Embedded in His teaching regarding the vine and the branches is this point; it is impossible to pray correctly separate from relationship with and faith in Christ. To send prayers heavenward apart from knowing Jesus as Savior results in silence. To gain the promise of answered prayer we must fulfill the Answerers command to abide in Him.

This lesson greets us as Jesus as explains interconnectedness of He and His people. Our salvation reconnects us to the vine of life from which the new life flows into us and quickens our life. Our fruitfulness is a product of how well we build the bonds of our connection to the vine. To separate is to die. To nourish and grow the bond is to be graced with the ability to communicate our prayers directly. Connected to the vine we are connected to God and our prayer is His prayer. Our fruit is God’s glory.

Psalm 65 – Praise Awaits You, O God

imagePraise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)

When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)

Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.

Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)

Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)

Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.

 

 

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Day 20 in the School of Prayer : Glorify!

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And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. John 14:13

Self-centered as we are wont to be, we often envision the chief aim of prayer as having something to do with us and our satisfaction. The communion with our Father that is engenders is often viewed peripherally. We pray most often to seek answers from God and these answers feed the ego that we try to suppress with little success.

Jesus turns our thinking around with this brief statement found in the Upper Room discourse, his last moments with His disciples before heading to the cross. Prayer and its answers, He says, are not intended to show the recipient/participant as favored (though we certainly are). The chief aim of prayer to bring glory to God. Unlike the powerless Baal who ignored the pleas and histrionic contortions of his followers (since he didn’t exist in the first place), our Father and Lord does respond to our prayers. In this display of power He is glorified, unlike the false gods who constantly attempt to replace him in our hearts.

Confess. Be forgiven. Glorify through obedience.

Ask. Receive. Proclaim.

Psalm 64 All Mankind Will Fear

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Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint;

protect my life from the threat of the enemy.

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers. (vv 1-2)

The psalmist hides much of the depth of this psalm in the Hebrew but the English reading expresses the trusting relationship between the victims of the wicked and God. They will be attacked publicly but fear nothing that the earthbound can do. Their trust is rooted in the long term. God will prove the righteous true.

All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done.

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him;

let all the upright in heart praise him! (vv 9-10)

This psalm embraces familiar territory. As Jesus reminded his disciples (for all of history), we will have trouble in this life. The strength we show, rooted in our trust in the Lord, will demonstrate His strength to an unbelieving world.

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Getting In Shape for Worship

Much of what passes for worship these days has drifted far from its biblical definition. In the minds of many, worship is the praise-singing portion of a church service and nothing more. It gets compartmentalized into a small part of life and becomes a checklist item… read my bible (check!), said grace at dinner (check!), sang a praise chorus at church (check!). This segmentation extends to the whole of our faith. Rather than faith permeating our life and all things passing through that filter, Christianity becomes simply a part of who we are.

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Modern worship has become I shaped. It is still pointed at God but notice how narrow it has become. It is just a portion of our life, perhaps as little as twenty minutes on Sunday morning. We have allowed worship to become associated solely with the praise choruses of the worship. Many of these contribute to our weak worship as they encourage us to express our singular love for the Lord without expressing the magnitude of his being, his creation or his acts. Segmentation also allows for worship to be put aside as the band lays down their instruments. We fail to make it a part of everything in life.

image When we decide to get in shape for worshipping God, the first improvements we see are that our worship life begins to look more like an upside-down T. Our worship is focused on our love for God but maturity helps us to see that it is a lifestyle. Being a Christian defines who we are rather than being one of many attributes. We have been reborn and given the Holy Ghost to dwell within and guide all we do. Worship is reflected in right thought and right action as we take all things captive to the will of God. The Apostle Paul spoke of this in Romans 12:1-2 in which he preaches that our (whole) lives should be an act of worship.

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We can declare ourselves in shape for worship when we can see the capital I taking root. In addition to expressing worship through all aspects of our life, our worship of God is told through all available channels. We see the musical, prayer, and teaching events of Sunday service as a part of worship in which our hearts and minds are stretched by the glory of all of God’s acts laid out before us. We express awe as the psalmist did and though the seas were not parted for us, we can look to equally momentous changes in our new birth. We are unsatisfied with prom songs for our friend God and we demand depth; we are convinced that All Is Well with our souls despite the crashing waves, that the grace we know truly is amazing. Prayer encompasses the entire body and not just our own wants and desires. The words of the pastor build muscle and strengthen us in areas that we may not have even seen the weakness.

We cannot afford to continue allowing worship to atrophy, even if our intentions in restraining it seem to be good (such as seeker sensitivity.) Whether we face joy or cataclysm, our first attitude should be that of a worshipper. Remember, others are watching.

Day 19 in the School of Prayer – Work!

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I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. (John 14:12-13)

As the Lord prepared His disciples for His departure from this plane, He left them with a new tier of prayer to attain to. At first, Jesus taught the disciples to pray for themselves and their role in the Kingdom. Their prayers were childlike, simply learning to trust in God as their Father but now the time had come from a new maturity. As the Lord would leave He would expect the disciples to take His place and continue His ministry. For this, they would need to learn that prayer would be their source of direction and power in ministry. With enough faith and a deep relationship with Christ, the disciples would do even greater ministry than He.

Work in the name of the Lord must be accompanied accomplished by prayer. There’s no way around it. Without the guidance, power, and shield that comes of a deep relationship with Jesus, our work is in vain, or worse, it is self-centered and humanist. We must be consumed with prayer and power that emanates from that conduit. The promise that whatever Kingdom objective we raise will be granted energizes our work. The ministry of Jesus is now expanded by billions as each new disciple takes this message to heart. Pray. Ask. Work.