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.
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.
I don’t think I am alone in the reality that it seems like it is easy to let clutter build up. Or maybe put another way to let things become a mess. I often clean out my garage by throwing out trash that somehow got thrown on the floor or left on a shelf, by taking tools to the shed or putting them in the tool box where they belong rather than where they were left, and by sweeping out rocks and dirt that have been tracked in by the cars or feet. When I get done I often marvel at how much better it looks. There seems to be much more room when the clutter is gone and less stress since things at least seem more organized. For you, you place might not be a garage but maybe a work room or some other room or place. It might even be your car or office desk. Now, if you are like me, the frustrating part is that it never stays clean. I have even thought before “I am not going to let things get like this again.” However, it always gets messy again and I have to go through the routine of cleaning once more. Unfortunately, our life is like this. We let our life get messy. Not with dirt but with sin and our lives need a good cleaning. The words of Psalm 51 are great words that God had written for us from the hand of David to help us clean the filth out of our lives. It is a Psalm that pleads for mercy, asks for forgiveness, and seeks a cleansing from God. You may even know some of the familiar words. David starts with a great plea. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. And notice this plea is based upon God’s steadfast love and His abundant mercy. We can go to God for a cleansing because he does love us and wants to show mercy to us. David goes on to show us one of the biggest parts of finding our cleansing–confession. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, Unfortunately when it comes to things like my garage, I let them get overwhelming filthy before cleaning, but with sin it is best to confess regularly. Really we need to seek this cleansing daily. And the best news is God is ready to forgive and restore. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. That is great news. On top of this truth, God’s cleansing is the best because as David described it, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Take time today to read through Psalm 51 completely and thoroughly. Then take time to do what David did–go to God for a cleansing of the soul. If you do this regularly, you will keep the clutter of sin from building up in your life and becoming overwhelming. You will then be able to experience what David requested of God, Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Have you ever noticed that when you are in the midst of something bad it seems like time goes more slowly and the hard time lasts forever? Some even now look back and talk about how March seemed to be the longest month ever as we began our journey of quarantine because of COVID-19. However, when you truly consider things, this past March was the same length as last March–31 days. The difference is our perspective. As our eyes were on the difficulty we were facing, time seemed to stand still. In Psalm 30, David is trying to give some perspective. He says, 1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. David seeks to turn our eyes to the source of strength and deliverance. By the way, if you notice in the introduction of this Psalm it says “A Psalm at the dedication of the temple.” This is a reminder to you that one aspect of worship is to refocus your mind on God when you have turned your eyes to other things for help. As your eyes focus on God you are given perspective in regards to your bad times. If you are suffering punishment from God for sin, you are reminded that God is still your source of help, 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. If your suffering is part of the general suffering in life God is still your source of strength for 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. As you look to God you are reminded that your suffering is really temporary and God will turn your suffering into joy. What a great comfort when suffering seems to be lingering. But let’s not forget it is not just in your suffering that you turn to God, it is also when things are going well. 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7 By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face. Maybe the real reminder here is that you should always make worship of God a priority because worship turns your eyes to your source of strength in both good and bad times. Remember you need this because we have the tendency to get our eyes off God and onto other things. Let worship be a priority in your life. Are you worshipping God today? 12 O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
When someone in your life does something special for you, you find it easy to give that person praise. When a wife receives flowers from her husband out of the blue, she tells everyone what he did. When a husband receives tickets from his wife to go see his favorite team play, he lets everyone know. When kids are taken on a special vacation by their parents, they tell all their friends. The special things that you might tell others vary by what you like, but when someone does something special for you, you sing their praises. The reality is those people in your life most likely deserved your praise anyway, but you only praised after their special action. Psalm 18 is an occasion when David was praising God after he had done something special for him. He had delivered him from his enemies and so he spent time praising the Lord. In truth, God deserved his praise even before he delivered David, yet David’s words are worthy of our consideration. David started this Psalm by saying, “1 I love you, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” David noticed that the Lord is worthy of praise, and that is true no matter our circumstances. He then went on to describe in descriptive terms how the Lord worked to deliver him. There is no doubt that David saw God as mighty and powerful and worthy of his praise, so he was trying to describe God’s greatness. These words I’m sure still do not do God justice but at least David sought to express his appreciation to God, and we should do the same.
David also recognized the importance of people living in a way that pleases the Lord. Beginning in verse 25 David says, “25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. 27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” We shouldn’t take these words to mean that everything goes perfect in life for a person who follows the Lord, but these are some general principles that you can observe in life. God has even told us in other places that he shows mercy to the merciful and that he is on the side of the humble. As David lived out these principles, he saw God deliver him in mighty ways. What you can know is that as you live for God, you will be able to see his hand work in your life as well. What you must not forget is that when God works in your life, remember to give him praise. That is how David also ended this Psalm as he said, “49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name. 50 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” Let’s make sure in our lives that we sing God’s praises. We should always sing God’s praises, but most certainly, we should sing his praises when we see him deliver or bless in some way. Has God done something recently for you that deserves praise? If so, tell someone about it. Let others know what he has done. By praising God and sharing with others what God has done for you, it helps point them to God who wants to work in their lives, too.
One time I was visiting a good friend in Florida, and while there, we went to a local state park. You could take a boat road there on a river and view some of the natural wildlife including alligators. One thing that struck me about this park was right next to where you boarded the boat, there was a popular swimming area. It was clearly marked off for swimmers with rope and buoys and then signs saying not to swim beyond that point. What intrigued me as I watched these swimmers having tremendous fun was that as our boat pulled away a small alligator was swimming and disappeared under the water just outside the swimming boundary line. I was amazed that people were in the water that close to alligators. I assume somehow there was protection inside that boundary as the swimmers continued to have fun without incident.
Psalm 1 reminds me in a way that everyday there is danger nearby. We live in a world filled with evil and dangers of many kinds. Yet, God has given us a means by which we can enjoy this world and flourish. Psalm 1 begins by saying…
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.
God tells us in life that when we stay within his boundaries there is blessing to be found. We are encouraged to delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it constantly because that is where the blessing is found. In fact, the Psalmist goes on to describe it this way…
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.
No doubt when we read that verse we understand the idea of being planted by streams of water and always having a source of refreshment and strength. We understand having a source for growth. However, maybe the part we ignore here is that we yield fruit in season. That means that sometimes the blessing we are looking for may not come immediately. There may need to be some time for growth before the fruit comes in season. However, if one is patient and continues to walk in the way of the Lord, strength will be found so you do not wither and blessing indeed will come. In fact, the Psalmist indicates that the ultimate blessing comes when judgment day comes in the end. We know that as we take a moment to hear the warning that to fail to stay within God’s boundary is destructive to your life. The Psalmist goes on to say…
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.
It is clear by these verses that those who choose to not follow God’s law will experience destruction. If not in this life, they most definitely will not stand in the judgment. Maybe they are a little like a person at the swimming area who might choose to go outside the boundary. They may have fun swimming for a little while, but with alligators near, you could be sure that the swim would ultimately be deadly. Let’s choose today to delight in the law of the Lord. God has given it to us for our good. Let’s walk in his ways and flourish even when danger lurks nearby. It’s good to swim in the boundaries and even better to delight in the law of the Lord.