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Showing posts from April, 2010

The Cross - Power for Living

I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galations 2:20) Paul pens these words to the Galation church with the definite intention of calling attention to the fact that a follower of Christ lives a transformed life – a life affected by the cross. The cross is a place of execution – a place where something is put to death, or the power of it is destroyed. That is what those opposed to Christ’s ministry on earth hoped would happen when they hung Jesus on a cross all those years ago – they thought his power and influence in the lives of the people would be destroyed. They put him on the cross with the hopes that the “status quo” he had so dynamically challenged would be allowed to continue – things would go “back to normal” and life would go on without having to change. The Christian is called to allow the cross to affect their lives – but it has to be embraced in order to be effective in our lives. We are called to crucify (apply the cross to) several influences that create comprom

Be still and know

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Events in life can creep up on us, our schedules become so filled that we don’t really know when we will have time for even one more thing, and before long, things are spinning out of control. That is when we need to breathe in these words, letting them sink deep into our spirit and refresh our soul. “I am God” is a declaration that he is first our refuge - our place of shelter or escape when all seems to be caving in around us. As our refuge, he is our covering – guarding us against attack and penetration from forces that we would otherwise be very vulnerable to. He is our protection against danger and distress – both spiritually and emotionally. Not only is he our place of shelter, but he is our place of resort when life becomes more difficult than we imagined. He is the place we run to when we are looking for help – he is the place of all resource. “I am God” is a declaration that he is our strength – the provider of all endurance

Restored Foundations

In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jozadak, in company with their brother priests and Levites and everyone else who had come back to Jerusalem from captivity, got started. When the workers laid the foundation of the Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise GOD in the tradition of David king of Israel. They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God: Yes! GOD is good! Oh yes – he’ll never quit loving Israel! All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising GOD as the foundation of The Temple of GOD was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who has seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for m

The Free-Will Offering

An offering is something presented as an act of worship or devotion. It represents sacrifice for the one bringing it. Some offerings of the Jewish nation were required – God stipulated that they were to be given at certain times, with a certain purpose in mind. They were usually taken from what the Jew could raise in the form of crops, as with the farmers, or in the form of a member of the flock / herd, as with the ranchers, shepherds, or those that raised animals. Some of the heads of families, on arriving at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, made Freewill-Offerings toward the rebuilding of The Temple of God on its site. They gave to the building fund as they were able… (Ezra 1:68) The free-will offering was something brought without compulsion or demand. It was given from the heart, not because you had to, but because you wanted to. It was a sacrifice of a part of your assets, crops, herds, or self (as in your time or energies). These men and women were prepared to go, to give and

Waiting on God

Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Waiting is a process of learning to remain in our present circumstances until we get further direction. Webster’s defines waiting as both the process of looking forward expectantly and remaining stationary in readiness or expectations. It carries the idea of being ready and available – watchfulness. Waiting can be difficult for even the best of us – we wonder if God is late in his reply or if we are too early in our expectations. The whole “timing” issue of waiting is not easily grasped by those of us with “Type A” personalities – we are not easily settled in our waiting, but chafe a little under the “pressure” of waiting. In our waiting, we can become discontent with God – wondering if he even has the power to change the circumstances we are in. When this occurs, we jump in to do things our way – in our own strength or power. We may think God has given up on us, forgot

The Price of Drifting

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled into their towns, the people assembled together in Jerusalem. Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brother priests, along with Zerubabbel, the son of Shealtiel, and his relatives, went to work and built the Altar of the God of Israel to offer Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it as written in the Revelation of Moses the man of God. Even though they were afraid of what their non-Israelite neighbors might do, they went ahead anyway and set up the Altar on its foundations and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it morning and evening. They also celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed and the daily Whole-Burnt-Offerings set for each day. And they presented the regular Whole-Burnt-Offerings for Sabbaths, New Moons, and God’s Holy Festivals, as well as Free-Will Offerings for God. They began offering Whole-Burnt-Offerings to God from the very first day of the seventh month, even though the Temple of God’s foundation had not yet been laid. (Ezr

New Mercies

As we continue with our wrap up of Psalm 119, we will now focus on some of David’s prayerful pleas to the Lord. His frequent requests of the Lord express much of what he is dealing with in his heart. More importantly, they express the attitude of a surrendered heart in earnest need of God’s direction for his life.   Turn my way, look kindly on me, as you always do to those who personally love you. (vs. 132) I called to you, "Save me so I can carry out all your instructions." I was up before sunrise, crying for help, hoping for a word from you. I stayed awake all night, prayerfully pondering your promise. In your love, listen to me; in your justice, GOD, keep me alive. (vs. 146-150) David asks God to turn his way and look kindly on him. This is based on David’s assurance that God desires personal relationship and responds positively to those whom he loves. God may not respond in the way we expect – often his response is quite different from what we ever imagined possible.

Rewritten Books

As we explore the remainder of Psalm 119, I am going to jump around a little to focus on some of the central themes of what David brings together in this last half of the Psalm. As we read the verses from 129-176, we can see that David recounts the benefits of being in service to the King of Kings – Jesus Christ. Every word you give me is a miracle word— how could I help but obey? (vs. 129) You are right and you do right, GOD; your decisions are right on target. (vs. 137) I call out at the top of my lungs, "GOD! Answer! I'll do whatever you say." (vs. 145) Take a good look at my trouble, and help me— I haven't forgotten your revelation. (vs. 153) I've been slandered unmercifully by the politicians, but my awe at your words keeps me stable. (vs. 161) Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. (vs. 169) David has focused intently in this Psalm on the importance of the Word of God in his life. I

Rebuilt, Renewed, and Restored

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites – everyone, in fact, God prodded – set out to build The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Their neighbors rallied behind them enthusiastically with silver, gold, tools, pack animals, expensive gifts, and over and above these, freewill-offerings. Also, King Cyrus turned over to them all the vessels and utensils from The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had hauled from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods. (Ezra 1:5-9) The nation of Israel was divided into tribes. Within each tribe were multiple families who each had leaders of the households. Judah and Benjamin were the tribes who initially occupied the Southern kingdom of Judah when the Northern tribes split from the Southern. Priests and Levites were necessary because they were needed to oversee the rebuilding of the temple in the right pattern and then to perform the acts of worship that would ensue. The nation of Israel had been taken into captiv

Servants of the King

Psalm 119: 121-128 (The Message)  "I stood up for justice and the right; don't leave me to the mercy of my oppressors. Take the side of your servant, good God; don't let the godless take advantage of me. I can't keep my eyes open any longer, waiting for you to keep your promise to set everything right. Let your love dictate how you deal with me; teach me from your textbook on life. I'm your servant—help me understand what that means, the inner meaning of your instructions. It's time to act, GOD; they've made a shambles of your revelation! Yea-Saying God, I love what you command, I love it better than gold and gemstones; Yea-Saying God, I honor everything you tell me, I despise every deceitful detour." David recognized better than many of the Israelite people of his time that he was a servant of God. His life was wholly dedicated to the service of the only true God. Yet, David comes to God and asks God to personally help him to understand what it rea

My Retreat

Psalm 119:113-120 (The Message)  "I hate the two-faced, but I love your clear-cut revelation. You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me. Get out of my life, evildoers, so I can keep my God's commands. Take my side as you promised; I'll live then for sure. Don't disappoint all my grand hopes. Stick with me and I'll be all right; I'll give total allegiance to your definitions of life. Expose all who drift away from your sayings; their casual idolatry is lethal. You reject earth's wicked as so much rubbish; therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say. I shiver in awe before you; your decisions leave me speechless with reverence." Life is filled with all kinds of relationship challenges, but probably one of the hardest to deal with is when someone is two-faced. They act one way to your face, but behave completely different when your back is turned. The term David uses here lets us know that he is dealing with people who a

Leaving a Legacy

Psalm 119:105-112 (NIV)  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.  I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.   Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.  Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.  The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.  Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.   My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end." There are times in our life when it seems like the pathway we are on is covered in darkness and the way just does not seem clear to us. The twists and turns of life’s circumstances present obstacles for our safe passage, trying to trip us up at every opportunity. David knew something about dark times. He spent the first months after being anointed the new King of Israel on the run from the then

One single blessing

Psalm 103:1-2  (The Message) "O my soul, bless GOD. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless GOD, don’t forget a single blessing! He forgives your sins – every one. He heals your diseases – every one. He redeems you from hell – saves your life! He crowns you with love and mercy – a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness – beauty eternal. He renews your youth – you’re always young in his presence." Blessing #1: He forgives our sins – every one. David is recounting the blessings of God in his life and he starts with the pardon of God. He excuses the offense by releasing us from the penalties of that offense. Our offenses are great, but God’s pardon is even greater. God gives up his claim to requital – no longer demands payment or restitution for the offense. The payment or restitution was already made in his Son’s death, burial, and resurrection. All we need to do is to walk in that forgiveness. Complete forgiveness is granted. We have been given an of

Expecting our fill of good things

Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God, and also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all. (Psalm 65:1-2) Silence is the absence of sound or noise; a perfect stillness – absence of motion. Too often, we find ourselves requiring “noise” or “movement” to know we are “connected” with God. We think it is impossible to make a connection with him if we are not doing something or saying something about or to him. Yet, God inspires the Psalmist to write the words, “Silence is praise”. David had learned that even in the quietness of waiting in his presence, we praise our God. When we can stop long enough to just simply admire him, we connect with him afresh. This is a tough thing for us in our modern world of busy lifestyles – but it is worth more to our soul and spirit than any other pursuit. David does not stop at acknowledging silence as a form of praise to our God, he also focuses on our obedience. We rarely equate obedience to praise – but God does. Obedience is submission to the

Are you hungry?

This morning, I would like to “sum up” what we have learned from our Psalmist thus far in our study of Psalm 119. There are some common themes that run the entire length of this Psalm and recalling them can help to “cement” them in our memory. David repeatedly refers to his desire to serve God with his entire being – following the course God sets out for him without any wavering. We have explored the truth that a desire is something that we long for or base our hope on. When we have a desire of heart, our heart is moved toward that which we desire with the hopes that we will find absolute fulfillment and enjoyment in what we are moving toward. We are looking for satisfaction of heart, thrill of our soul, or touch of our spirit. That desire “drives us” or gives us a conscious impulse to move in a particular direction. Part of desire is the idea of hunger. Hunger is most often thought of as a craving for something that promises fulfillment. It carries the idea of urgency – if we don