Psalm 113

“Who is like the Lord our God”? Verse 5 of this Psalm asks this question so that people will not only ponder just how great and amazing God is, but will also joyfully and unabashedly sing and proclaim His greatness. So this begs the question, what makes our God so great? Let’s look at just some of His characteristics: God is holy and perfect in all His ways. God is just and impartial and will judge every person for their motives, deeds, and actions. God is all-knowing and can proclaim what the end of time will be from the very beginning. God is all-powerful to create and destroy all things with a word. God is merciful and is slow to bring wrath towards mankind’s sins. God desires that we respond to Him by faith in love and not by actions alone, trying to earn His love. A person comparing the God of the Bible to other gods might find some similarities, but there is no god like the God of the Bible.

And of all the things that makes God so unique is how He loves people. Verses 7-9 state that a main reason why we should praise Him is for this very fact: He loves those who the rest of the world thinks are less than. Many times our human nature is to discount people that society considers “beneath us.” But Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that when we choose to love and care for those that society looks down on that we are ultimately serving Jesus Himself. If we truly think about it, all of us are “beneath” God, and He should discount us for our sheer pride and sinfulness. Yet God shows us an amazing love by ultimately dying to pay for our sins when we were still in complete rebellion towards Him. Instead, He looked upon on us and chose to pour out His amazing grace and love towards us. That is the reason why we as Christians can love- because He first loved us (1 John 4). When you truly think about just how amazing and awesome God is we should do nothing but praise His name and tell others of how amazing He truly is- all because He loves a sinner such as me!

Psalm 109

This Psalm is not one of excitement or joy, rather it is the song of lament sung by the psalmist as he was overwhelmed by his enemies. He speaks of the accusations and hateful words they hurl at him as he attempts to show them love. It’s a dark scene of sorrow for this innocent man, but he responds with a powerful statement in verse 4, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.” At this point it would be very easy for him to vent his anger to a friend or try to get revenge on his enemies. However, that isn’t the choice he made. He chose to go to God in prayer. He pleads for God’s help, for God to avenge the evil of his enemies, and then he gives thanks to the Lord in praise. 

In today’s world of constant connection through social media and texting, it’s far too easy to rush to our phone or computer when we are in despair. In a matter of minutes we can type up a hateful post to “get it off our chest” or to “rant for a minute.” We can easily rattle off a heated text to a friend bemoaning the ways we’ve been wronged, seeking justification for our attitude and anger. The psalmist here provides a clear example of what our reaction should be. We should head straight to God in prayer. He is the only one who can bring us peace and the only one worthy of our praise. And yes, He’s worthy of our praise even when our circumstances seem unfair or people are treating us poorly. 

So I challenge you to read this Psalm again. As you do, think of Jesus in the midst of His enemies. Remember His response and notice the parallel with that of the psalmist. No doubt you will frequently encounter a time of despair, turmoil, or division in this broken world. When you do, simply stop. Put your phone down. Leave your computer. Seek the Lord and His guidance, asking Him to help you and bring you peace in the midst of the turmoil. Finally, praise Him for His faithfulness. 

Psalm 107

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;

let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:43 (ESV)

God’s steadfast love reaches wherever you are, even in the moments it does not feel true. Maybe the shadows just seem too dark. Maybe it just feels like you’re too far off track. Maybe everything swirling around you has you wondering which way to turn. Whether it feels true or not, God’s steadfast love reaches wherever you are.

Psalm 107 describes four groups of people in four different places. Some wandered in the desert with no place to dwell. Some sat as prisoners in the darkness. Some found trouble through their own foolish choices. Some were tossed by the waves until they were at their wits’ end. Four different groups in four different places, but each one responded the same way, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28).

They cried out, and God delivered them from their distress. For those wandering, hungry and thirsty, God led them to a place where their souls were satisfied. For those imprisoned in darkness, God led them out of the shadows and set them free. For those suffering the consequences of foolish decisions, God sent out his word and healed them. And for those in the midst of the storm, God calmed the waves and brought them to safety.

They cried out, and God delivered. They were four different groups in four different places, but like us, none of them were beyond the reach of God’s steadfast love. Where were you when you cried out to the Lord in your trouble? How has he delivered you from your distress? Thank the Lord for his steadfast love!

Psalm 103

My gift to Link on his last birthday was new headphones.  I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit for me because I was tired of hearing the sounds coming from whatever device he was using at the time.  Link would take the headphones and stretch them out as wide as he could before he put them on his head.  I warned him that doing so would cause them to break… and I warned him… and I warned him.  Not even two weeks after his birthday he broke the headphones.  My initial reaction was “I told you so.” However, almost immediately I thought, “You knew this was probably going to happen and he feels bad about it, so show him grace.”

Link is a sensitive soul, so my potentially being angry with him weighed on him.  When he saw I wasn’t mad he gave me this huge hug.  It was super sweet.  I imagine in that moment his thoughts were about how much his dad loved him and thankful he was that, while he messed up, that didn’t stop him from being loved.

I feel like Link in that moment when I read Psalm 103.  Not only does God forgive us in the innumerable ways that we fail every day, but he is also the creator and sustainer of all life.  In verses 3-5 we see the benefits that come from Him:

3who forgives all your sins

    and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

    and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

How our God loves us is unfathomable, amazing, and something to never be taken for granted.

I said Link is a sensitive soul.  That is one of the reasons I didn’t come down hard on him for breaking his headphones.  I might have handled that differently with my other children because they are all different and Kasey and I understand them better than anyone because we live with them.  If I understand my children well from just living with them, how much more so does God know us?

As a father has compassion on his children,

    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

    he remembers that we are dust.

The God who created us knows us on a level much deeper than even I could know with my own children.  He knows our innermost being to the core of how we were formed.  He can, and does, care for us on an intimate level.  His love for us, even in our failures, is perfect.

My hope is that, like verse 20-22, I will sing praise to the Lord in all things and at all times because He is worthy.

Psalm 100

It seems like one thing that comes easy for people is complaining. We complain about the weather being too cold, but then it’s too hot. We complain that we are getting too much rain, then complain because we are not getting enough rain. We complain that the drive-thru is not fast enough. We complain that politicians don’t seem to really care about their constituents. We complain because our boss is mean. We complain because we don’t get enough pay. We complain because the grocery store didn’t get our pickup order right…I think you get the point. Complaining is something that comes easy. That is probably why we are continually told in scripture to give thanks. Psalm 100 is titled a Psalm for giving thanks and it is a Psalm worth giving some time to. In it we can find some direction for giving thanks to the Lord. We thank the Lord by making a joyful noise (no need to be on key), we thank the Lord by serving him with gladness (attitude does make a difference to God), and by coming into his presence with singing (no doubt music is a gift from God). If you think you don’t have a reason to thank the Lord, this Psalm gives all the reason you need. He deserves praise simply because He is God and that He has made us. No more reason is needed. However, verse 5 reminds us that we have something extra special to give God thanks for. What is that? Let the scripture speak for itself. Psalm 100:5 “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Take some time to read the five verses of Psalm 100 and then spend time giving thanks to the Lord. My guess is if you will take time to be thankful, then you will find many things for which to thank God.

Psalm 96

A follower of God cannot remain silent about their faith. In Psalm 96, the author tells everyone to sing, declare, and proclaim God’s magnificence all over the world. When we are silent about our faith, we are being silent about the most important relationship in our life. If you have a healthy marriage, you would not hide the fact that you are married. It raises red flags when someone is hiding the fact that they are married. If you have children that you are proud of, would you fail to talk about them when others bring up their children in conversation? Can a proud grandparent remain silent about their grandkids? When we have healthy relationships, we cannot help but bring up those people in our lives and talk about them with others. When we have a healthy relationship with God, this is the same exact thing. We cannot do anything but share with others just how amazing God is. If we are not sharing, why is that? I believe it is because we have forgotten just how amazing God is and how much He has really done for us. In a way, we have an unhealthy relationship with God when we have gone silent about Him when others are around and we do not share. So what do we need to remember about God that makes Him so worthy that we should share Him? Psalm 96 gives us some insight.

First, we are told to “tell of His salvation” to others. What is His salvation? God chooses to approach us while we were His enemies and restore our relationship to Him to that of becoming His children. I do not know of any other religion that has a god that is this loving and personal towards those who intially hated Him. In every other religion, a person must work or perform in order to be accepted by the deity, let alone loved. This, however, is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible chooses to rescue people while they stand against Him and change their hearts by His love. When we see how miserably we fail in our sinfulness against God and yet see how greatly He loves us, we should be overwhelmed by that love and want to proclaim it everywhere just how amazing His love is for me and for people everywhere.

Second, we need to stop and look at the world around us and acknowledge God and His magnificient works. Have you stopped to take in a sunset lately? Have you taken a moment when you come home at night and just taken a few minutes to observe the stars? Have you picked a flower and just stopped to study it in all its beauty and intricacies? Most of us are too busy and just keep staring straight ahead in order to check off the next thing in our long list of busyness that we need to accomplish. However, when we stop and just start to observe and ponder the world around us, we become overwhelmed in just how amazing the world is. How did any of this come into being? Why does the beauty of this world sometimes cause me to catch my breath when I actually stop and take the time to look? It causes me to think and ultimately realize that this all didn’t just happen. God created all of this and created it out of nothing! How awesome!

Third, this Psalm points to God’s salvation and love but also to His judgment. In verse 10, it tells us that we should “Say among the nations…God will judge the world with equity.” This means that God will not play favorites, but will judge everyone according to the same standard. The standard of God is perfection. I am created by God to be perfect and to have a relationship with Him in that perfection, and yet I know that I do not. I have attitudes, actions, and words that I have used to hurt and harm others and ultimately blaspheme against God Himself. We do not like to talk about God’s judgment in modern society, but God will judge people according to His standard…and His punishment is eternal torment for those who are found guilty.

Psalm 90

When I was a kid, my dad and I built a tree house in the backyard. I say “we” built it but really I just stood around and watched and listened every now and then when he wanted me to learn something. At the time, it seemed like that tree house took at least 7 years to build! Honestly, it still feels like it took forever, but I know that in reality it only took about a year. I realize that still seems like a long time, but my dad always said, “If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.” Then he’d get it as close to perfect as humanly possible. He’d accomplish this with laser focus and absolute silence. So a tree house was a big project. But the deal was that I had to be there to watch so that I could have a part in it and learn something. Did I mention he worked in complete silence? As a kid, that was torture and completely exhausting. I would whine and complain and beg to do more than watch, but that wasn’t the plan. I’m really not sure how he had the stamina not to give in to my pleading. Despite all the whining, it turned out to be the best tree house I’d ever seen and became the headquarters for all of my adventure planning! 

We’ve all experienced parts of life that seem to drag on (usually when we are struggling or in the midst of difficulty) and other times that seem to fly by unreasonably fast. The psalmist points out that our time on this earth is fleeting. He is praying for God to give us wisdom and guide our priorities. I love verse 12 as it says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” The idea of numbering our days brings to the forefront the need for intentionality in the way we spend our time. What are willing to approach with laser focus? What are we willing to invest our time in? My dad was willing to invest countless hours into trying to teach me how to strive for quality in my work, even as it disrupted his silent system. Are we willing to take inventory of our hours, and even when it disrupts our comfort, invest in the lives of those around us? Let’s seek His wisdom and be intentional with our time, striving to glorify Him with what little time we have!

Psalm 85

I love the old hymn by W.P. Mackay that begins, “We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love, for Jesus who died and is now gone above.” It praises God for sending His son to rescue us. It praises God for sending the Spirit to point us to our savior. And it praises God for what Jesus has done to bear the weight of our sins. In many ways, it mirrors what we see here in Psalm 85, where the psalmist is praising God for the ways He has provided for His people, praising Him for the forgiveness of His people’s sins. It can be easy for us to wake up and begin with our focus on what is wrong in the world and in our own lives, to focus even our prayers completely on what we want God to do, but this Psalm points us to a different starting place. God has been favorable to us. He has shown grace and mercy to us. We see it all over the pages of Scriptures. We hear it in the songs we sing in worship. We know it in our own experiences.

And far from being stuck in the past, when we begin by praising God and remembering what God has done for us, it leads us to call out to Him in faith to do today and tomorrow what He has done before, Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!” Those words from Psalm 85:4 are a cry that is echoed again in verses 6-7, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” Those aren’t calls to return to some past time when everything was perfect. They’re calls to a God who is perfect, One who has proven it before and can do it again. So today, may hearts of praise lead us into a prayer like the final verse of that old hymn, “Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love; may each soul be rekindled with fire from above.”

Psalm 81

I have been aware that the 4th of July is just around the corner for almost a week now. Why am I so keenly aware of the upcoming celebration of our nation’s independence you ask? The answer is a simple one, the people in the surrounding neighborhoods began the firework shows early. I know this really bothers some people, but I find it amusing. It seems they start earlier and earlier each year. Last Thursday, I heard a rather large firework go off as I was taking my garbage to the street at 7:30 AM. Yes… I heard fireworks before a normal school day would have even started. I guess people just love a celebration, especially a noisy one!

In the first half of Psalm 81, we have the Psalmist encouraging the people to celebrate (the noisy kind)! It encourages the people to party like it is the day of the feast after the new moon, with all the music and pageantry. Why? Because of how good the Lord is. That is all! Not because it is a holiday or that something extravagant has happened but simply because of how God has already proven to be faithful because of the history of Israel. The Psalmist recounts the amazing stories of Jacob, Joseph, and the freedom from the bondgage in Egypt. It is a powerful reminder that it does not have to be Easter or Christmas for us to celebrate the God who rules over all things and cares for His people.

We celebrate the 4th of July as a reminder that we have freedoms that are not found in all places on this planet.  It causes us to reflect on, or at least remind us, that we are blessed each and every day in ways we probably take for granted.  The second half of this Psalm (verses 8-16) help us understand why we should be singing for joy to God regularly… because he is, and has been, doing things for us we take for granted!  When we attribute to God his proper praise and place nothing before him there is no enemy that can’t be subdued (verse 14) and those who oppose the chosen of the Lord will be properly punished (verse 15).  As for God’s people?  Well, they will be provided in ways they cannot imagine (verse 16).  

I hope everyone has a fun, relaxing, and safe 4th of July this year.  I also hope we all take time each and every day to celebrate our God who has blessed us beyond measure.

Psalm 77

If you have ever taken time to reflect on the past you know that your memories have two sides. One side is positive and encouraging while the other is negative and discouraging. For example, when one looks back at childhood there can often been many great memories of vacations or the fun had as a child, but then there are the memories of presents not received, broken bones from careless accidents, maybe even punishments for wrong actions. Memories of teenage years are often filled with the joys of time with friends or maybe even fun activities at school whether part of a team or band or some other extracurricular activity. However, memories of teenage years are often filled with regrets of mistakes made by poor decision making. As we move to adulthood the theme continues–good memories and bad memories together. Married couples remember both the joy of being newlyweds but also the difficulties of learning to live life together. Sometimes memories involve the joy of getting a new job but then the disappointment of the job not received. Looking back truly has two sides. Some people spend their lives remembering the good and are joyful, others concentrate on the bad and are miserable. The same can be said about looking back spiritually in life. In Psalm 77, Asaph is experiencing a difficult time. He is looking for relief as he cries out to God. In verse 1 he even declares that God will hear him and in verse 2 states that he is reaching out to God without wearying. However, at the end of verse 2 Asaph declares, “my soul refuses to be comforted.” Unfortunately, the reality even for many Christians is they refuse to be comforted by God. They choose to dwell on the negative. Asaph describes how when he looks back at history and how God worked mightily in the past that instead of finding comfort he finds the opposite. Verse 3 says, “When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.” The reason? Asaph in this moment consider what God has done in the past and thinks that God has forgotten him in the present. What Asaph most likely forgot to do momentarily is to consider how God’s mighty acts of the past often happened when the people of God found themselves in a difficult place. When the people appeared most hopeless, God acted. If he had remembered both sides from the beginning he might not have been so overwhelmed with his present situation thinking God had abandoned him. Maybe he would how thought, “I right where I need to be for God to act.” Thankfully though, Asaph continued to look to God and remember all the mighty deeds that God had done so that he found strength in the present. He declared in verses 11 and 12, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” He ended up choosing to look fully and what God had done and find hope. As you consider this Psalm remember you have two choices–you can look to who God is and what he has done in the past and draw strength knowing God will deliver you or you can choose to think that God has abandoned you. The best choice anyone can make is to remember who God is and what he has done and draw strength. If you do, God will be there for you. You might even get to the place like the children of Israel did when they thought there was no hope. Fleeing from the Egyptian army they found themselves trapped, the army closing in behind them and impassable water in front of them. Yet what they discovered by the hand of God as Asaph declared in verse 19, “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprint was unseen.” They discovered that not only can God deliver but that he can deliver in remarkable ways. Choose today to remember God’s mighty deeds and draw strength in your time of need. If things are difficult right now, maybe you are in the perfect place for God to act.