Psalms

Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.

~ Psalm 119:144 ESV

In a world of confusion and misunderstanding, it’s nice to remember that I am not the ultimate authority on anything. I trust not in my own intuition, or desires, or feelings, or anything but Christ, His word, and His mercy and grace. I know what I know because he has given it to me to know, and I trust in Him that I will learn and grow at a suitable pace to keep up with what He has planned for me. There’s a lot of comfort in that. I just pray that I would be content in what He has provided and that I would live my life according to what He has taught me.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

~ Psalm 46 (ESV)

If God is who He claims to be in the Bible, is there anything that’s too hard for Him to do? He, who created the world in an instant by His word alone; who formed suns and solar systems as if they were nothing – can He not handle your stressful situation? Is your personal trouble or concern too much for the God who provides you air to breathe on a daily basis and who knows your every thought? Turn to Him when you are in need and He will assist you. He will help you.

If you are not a Christian, this help is not for you. If you are not a Christian, then the only assistance you receive from God is from His common grace which he provides as well to plants and to animals. At some point, you will die and you will be judged for your crimes against Him. No one goes to Hell because the didn’t believe in Jesus – the devil and demons knew who Jesus was and cowered in fear of Him, yet they will spend all of eternity in Hell. People go to Hell because of an inability to rectify their debt before God that was caused by their willing sinfulness against His holy law which He was kind enough to print on our hearts so that no one would be able to say that they “didn’t know” they were breaking His laws. That is called the conscience. When you are judged for your sins against God, your experience in His common grace will vanish and you will be punished for your crimes. As a perfect judge, He will not allow even one of your sins to go unpunished against Him. He will eradicate everyone who has even a drop of sin in their life before Him as He will not tolerate it in His perfect presence. Those who are not forgiven by God through repentance and faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross will spend a million, million years in utter torment before they realize that their suffering has only just begun. They will receive no kindness from God, and will instead be subject only to His wrath.

Those who are in Christ, however, are seen as friends of God. Our sins have been paid for by Jesus on the cross – our lives are no longer ours to control, but are His to use for His purposes. We have wholly surrendered our will, our desires, and our right to choose what we’d like to do with our lives in order to obtain the salvation that He has provided for us through His sacrifice on our behalf. Surrender control of your life to Christ and trust in Him for your salvation today and you can know that the Creator of all eternity will be there to defend you and to lead you through your times of suffering to create in you a new person who is perfectly created to serve Him in glory. Repent and trust in Him today.

In my daily reading I’m to the point where I’m reading a bit of the Psalms each day. This makes my reading a real joy to me. Today I came to Psalm 23 which I really enjoy as it always brings great comfort and reminds me that I’m merely a participant in God’s love. Follow along:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

~ Ps 23:1

As my shepherd, God is responsible for my every need. Not my every desire, but my every need. To be in want implies that there is something necessary that I am lacking. In these last 7 years after God converted me I have learned over and over that there is nothing that I need that He will not provide. We’ve been without money or means of getting money and He’s always provided food, money for bills, clothing, etc. God is my ultimate provider – He knows my every need and He fills it so that I am blessed and He is glorified.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

~ Psalm 23:2-3

God knows my limits and He knows what I am capable of. When the time comes and I am weary of my work or stresses, He leads me through times of quiet and rest so that I am better prepared to worship Him and for my personal pleasure.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:3

I am not wandering blind in my walk with Him – He is leading me. While it may appear to me from time to time that I am blindly trudging along, God is orchestrating events, interactions, and situations so that I am constantly growing in Him. He does so in order that when I get to the end of a long path I can turn back and see how and where He has influenced my journey and that I can glorify Him for His care and power.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

~ Psalm 23:4

We are never promised a bed of roses, or a life of luxury. In fact, Jesus says exactly the opposite in Matthew 24:9-10, stating, ““Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.”, and in Luke 12:51-53 He states, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Despite all of this tribulation and fear, it’s good to know that God will always defend us and, as Christians, we know that what happens here on the earth is temporary but that our hope lies in the kingdom to come. With that knowledge, it’s hard to be worried when things get bad here on the earth. God will never leave us or forsake us.

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

~ Psalm 23:4

A rod is a stick or bar made of either iron or wood that’s used for defense. A shepherd would use the rod to correct a wayward sheep, occasionally going so far as to break its legs if it continued wandering off. The shepherd would then physically carry the sheep along until it healed. As I look at my own walk with Christ I can see many such instances where God has physically cut me off from something I desired or severly damaged me for my good and His glory. In those times I’ve learned to trust more in God because I need to lean on Him for guidance and security. This is how a Christian can say that despite issues like cancer or death of loved ones we can rejoice in the sovereignty of God in that we are under His constant care and that when things seemingly go from bad to worse that He’s always at the controls, fine tuning it so that we will never take on more than we can handle and so that we may gain the most benefit from it in the long run.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

~ Psalm 23:5

Despite the fact that others seek to do evil to us, God meets our needs – even while others are seeking to do us harm.

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

~ Psalm 23:5

This speaks of God blessing us, even beyond what we need. He has done this time and time again for me, eventhough I don’t deserve it.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~ Psalm 23:6

This is the exultation of joy at the end of this exclamation of worship before God. If God has done all of the above for me while I am here on the earth, and because He is forever faithful and true, then I know that I will experience His goodness and mercy on my life all the days of my life, and then, upon my death, I will dwell in His house in Heaven forever. What greater encouragement can there be than this? What greater news can be found? The creator of the universe has redeemed me from my debt against Him and now He seeks to place me along side Him in His house where I can live and worship Him forever! I LOVE this psalm!

What are the signs of a wicked person?

Psalm 10 describes a wicked person as follows:

They boast of the desires of their soul. In their deep pride and self-confidence they curse and renounce the Lord. Their hatred for God is so great that they even make the ridiculous claim that “There is no God”, despite all the evidence seen in the world around them which point clearly to the contrary. In their own mind, all of their decisions and thoughts are exactly as they should be because they have refused to listen to the God who created them and are instead following their own vain imaginations. They are constantly cursing; uttering deceit, trickery, and lies. They are quick to make a fast dollar at someone else’s expense and think nothing of it. Their eyes are constantly looking for opportunities to take advantage of a person or situation for their own gain. The reason they do this is because they think they will not be punished by God for their actions. If they clearly understood who God is and the punishment that awaits them, they would never have acted in this manner.

As I read this psalm and I am immediately reminded of how wicked and worthless I used to be. This description, written 3,300 years ago, is a detailed account of my life prior to God converting me to Christianity. The point is that the God of the Bible is the God of justice who will not allow the law breaker to go without punishment. When you examine God’s standard for entrance into Heaven (the ten commandments) you can easily see how everyone is without hope of salvation on their own merits. This is why God send His Son to make full payment for our sins on our behalf – none of us could do this on our own. How do we obtain this gift of salvation? Jesus, God in the flesh, told us how:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

~ Mark 1:14-15

The word “gospel” means “good news”. Jesus is telling you to repent of your sins which means to reject them all and not go back to them and to trust in the salvation that God has provided to all people. Even if you are not as bad as I once was, telling a lie once or stealing anything is enough to break the laws of God and to place yourself at the wrong end of his judgment. Does God have a plan for mankind? YES! It’s that all people should repent of their sins and turn to Him for their salvation. When should you do this? NOW! As the ticker on the right shows, 150,000 people die every day. 150,000 died yesterday – 150,000 will die before midnight tonight, then another 150,000 tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Eventually, you will be in that number as well. How many of those people knew that they were going to die that day and got their affairs in order? Psalm 10 concludes thusly:

The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

~ Psalm 10:16-18

How do you know that you will survive the day? Do you really want to take your chances with the God who created the universe when you die?

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

~ Psalm 1

Blessed is the man…

Did you read that? Blessed is the man…

God promises, here in His Word, to bless the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way (meaning “path”, as in “heading down the same path of”) of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. Do you see the progression here? Walks, stands, and sits. This is the progression of sin in the life of an unbeliever. The person who walks with those who are against God, are doomed to stop seeking righteousness, and will eventually settle into their own pit of despondence. I know this after learning this same lesson on my own. It is only through the law of God that the mouth of the proud will be stopped. It is only the law of God that can show me the depth of sin before Him. It is only the law of the Lord that will point out to me that I have no recourse, no option other than to turn to Him for my salvation. So, what are the characteristics of a person who refuses to turn from their devotion to God and His written word?

  • (vs 3a) He is like a tree, planted by streams of water:
  • Have you ever seen a tree by a river? I grew up in Denver, on the western edge of the “Great American Desert” – the Plains. The only place you’d ever see trees in great number is around a river or a lake. Other than that, they were always small and not very resilient. The trees found by the rivers and lakes, however, always had large, deep roots and never worried about the storms that would come their way. They were going to be there today, tomorrow, and probably in another hundred and fifty years. These are the trees of stability that are present in the lives of the believers, fed daily by the watering of the Holy Spirit. What does all this watering produce?

  • (vs 3b) that yields its fruit in its season,:
  • FRUIT! Not fruit that you eat, but fruit that’s revealed through your thoughts, words, and deeds. What does the fruit look like? “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” ~ Galatians 5:22-23. This is what a daily watering of the Holy Spirit through reading the Word of God presents in the lives of the believer. How long will this continue?

  • (vs 3c) and its leaf does not wither
    In all that he does, he prospers
    :
  • FOREVER! The promise of God to those that focus on His word and that spend time meditating on what He has to say to us is that we will never, ever, need to worry about running out of His grace and mercy. For those who daily take time to read His word, He has promised to fill us and that in all that we do, as we will already have our minds on the Kingdom and on His desires for our lives, we will honor that and prosper us in everything that we do.

The problem comes for the unbeliever. The wicked, those who refuse to bend the knee to God and who are already running head-long into Hell, are unable to hold onto anything of any substance. They are controlled by the ever changing winds public opinion and a morality that they form for themselves. Do you think that Hitler thought he would have murdered 6 million Jews if he has thought that it was immoral? Never! In his own mind, however, he was the most moral person he knew. He was, as the captain of this own destiny, the king of his own morality. Don’t for a minute think that he “got away with” anything when he chose to commit suicide, rather than face judgment on this earth for his crimes. God is a perfect judge, who will not let those who try to escape their judgment here off on their crimes. They have sinned far worse for far longer against Him than they ever have against us here on this planet.

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” ~ Revelation 21:8

God has promised that there will be a day of judgment and that those who have been wronged in this life while serving Him will find justice. While those who are chosen by God for salvation are praised and elevated, those who would never take their eyes off of themselves long enough to even seek salvation by God are punished in Hell for eternity. God alone is the one who knows what evil lurks in the heart of mankind. He alone is the one who can see our intentions and judge us for our thoughts, words, and deeds outside of His saving grace. It is He alone who can be the proper and true judge who is never wrong in what He does. At the moment that the last, final sinner is sent from God’s white throne of judgment to the pit of fire and brimstone for all eternity, the whole of Heaven will stand to their feet and erupt in aloud proclamation of praise and honor to God as He is glorified in the execution of His judgment against those who have sinned against Him.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)