Are You Guilty of Doing God’s Dirty Work?

Psalm 94  How often do we take on the role of God by becoming the avenger because we become impatient? The psalmist reminds us that God is the avenger and He is the judge of the earth. David knew God was the avenger and he told Goliath that before he slung that fateful stone. Gideon needed convincing but when he gathered courage, he was used by God to avenge Israel from the Midianites. Sometimes God uses us but more often than not He steps in to do the “dirty work.” He sometimes uses hailstorms like in Egypt or fire or blindness so the enemy cannot see. Whatever God decides fits the situation, He uses. The promise is what the Psalmist said: Lord the God who avenges that is his character. God uses what will reveal His splendor because we are the sheep of his pasture, the sheep he owns. It is fitting then that He would avenge the wrongs and He will render judgment to His righteous ones.

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Today be ye confident, the God who made the human ear hears your prayer. The God who made the human eye sees all that transpires. He is our avenger, protector, and deliverer.  Why? Because the Lord is our Shepherd and the Shepherd does not forsake his people, the sheep he owns.

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Trivia Notes from John Newton

Psalm 87 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

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The song Amazing Grace was written by a slave trader but born again by God’s will, John Newton. What you may not realize is that after that he abandoned that trade he went on to be the parish priest of Olney Church in England. While reading this psalm he was overjoyed to read the words in our title and sought help from his neighbor, William Cowper, a classical writer. With Cowper’s assistance, Newton was able to publish a hymnal including a hymn by this title. Also, you may not know but the Confederate General Andrew Jackson loved this hymn and awakened his soldiers one morning as he sang it.

The words of this hymn come from Ps 87:3 “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.” This is the place God calls “home” here on earth. He chose Zion for his dwelling place and it was there that Abraham came to worship as did others. It was there that Solomon erected the Temple in which the Ark resided. Now we are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit resides in us. Paul wrote: “do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Does God speak of glorious things about you?

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A Prayer in Hard Times

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Psalm 79  Today we see this Asaph as a poet. He was, as we say, versatile. Could this be the same Asaph as in earlier psalms? Scholars differ but most say that these traits belong to a man who lived at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign of terror; in other words a man in name only.  His heart is poured out in poetry as he recalls the recent events. The Babylonians have truly desecrated the Temple and the city and God has allowed it. As he pens these words he cries out to God “How long Oh Lord? Will you be angry forever?” He also seeks God’s vengeance upon the enemies of God. There are nations today facing similar hard times. Are we like Asaph crying out to God to end these travesties which fall upon believers and unbelievers alike? Are we asking the same questions Asaph asked?

As Asaph lives through this time he is reminded that this is but a moment in time and that God will end all suffering and He will bring to an end the travesties of life. And when all is said and done, the sheep of God’s pasture will not be vengeful but give thanks to God and all generations will praise Him.

Truly, Lord, we do not understand all that takes place and our hearts yearn for peace. Help us to keep looking to you for our salvation and we will give you praise.

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Psalm 73 Asaph and His Questions

Are you inquisitive? Do you want answers? You are not alone! You wouldn’t think that Asaph, a court musician would be one of them but he is! King David appointed him to be in charge of the cymbals. When you watch an orchestra you will see only a few who carry that distinction. I mean how much training do you need to bang two cymbals together? Or so I thought! But, realistically there is a fair amount of training needed to know when one should clang those instruments as well as the technique. You can check it out – just google it like I did and you will walk away with a better appreciation of this simple but compelling instrument.

Asaph was a cymbal player but not just any cymbal player but one chosen for the Temple services. He also was like some people, very inquisitive and curious about life. Of all the people who walk this earth, there just are some people who are not satisfied with just an answer;  they want to know the “why!” Asaph falls into that category.

Many years ago I went to our pastor with questions. As he stood on a tall ladder fixing something I looked up at him and said I have a question; much like Asaph does here. His answer? Go home, study that topic and then come back and we will discuss your question. And so I did. Sometimes we have questions but we aren’t willing to do the homework to find the answer. That pastor was very wise. Maybe you have questions too much like Asaph. My advice—follow Asaph.

Asaph walked through his thinking about the proud. He analyzed them and discerned that they seemed to have it all together. They didn’t have the same problems as he and in fact, they were doing pretty darned good. He noted that they mocked and were not disciplined.  He noted, “I suffer all day long and am punished every morning.” He noted in his journal all of these thoughts and tried to make sense of it all. Then it was like he had a lightbulb moment when he entered the Temple. All of life flashed before his eyes and then he knew. Their lives might be okay now but had they taken time to consider their destiny?

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Asaph walked away from that encounter knowing all was right with his world and all was right with him and God. He drew a line in his journal noting: God’s presence is all I need.

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Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Choice–BUT God gets the glory!

Psalm 71 God – Have you ever experienced a situation when it seems that God is totally unequivocally silent? That is where we are finding David as he pleads for God to rescue him. He is saying, where are you, God? Don’t you see what is happening to me? Like him we beg God to rescue us, forgetting that sometimes we are in the mess in which we find ourselves is our own doing. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time and made the wrong choice.

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Case in point: Moses thinking the Hebrews would welcome his intervention into their lives. Wrong place: watching his people toil in the hot sun to satisfy a Pharaoh’s quest for honor. Wrong time: why wasn’t Moses taking care of palace business? Wrong choice: seeing an Egyptian beating an Israelite he stepped in to help and the next thing he knew that man was murdered by his hand.

Or, how about David’s sin with Bathsheba? Wrong place: on the palace veranda instead of in the field with his army. Wrong time: evening when bathing takes place. Wrong choice: get that woman for me.

With Moses, God sent him into the desert for 40 yrs. learning how to tend the most humble and stupid animal, the sheep. With David, God sent him the prophet Nathan to tell him a story about a tender sheep being taken from a poor man. Interesting how many times God uses the sheep as an illustration!

Yet, even when we make horribly bad choices, God will use them to bring about His work because front and center we are his children. (Romans 8:28) “know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”  He will use us in our worst moments to bring about His good and His perfect plan because in eternity past He knew and yet His lovingkindness will take those and turn them on their head.

Where can you look at your past and see yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time making the wrong choice? What did God do with all of that for His kingdom work?

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Father to the Fatherless

Psalm 68 “Father to the Fatherless”

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One of the joys of teaching Sunday School is seeing the happy smiles on the children as their parents drop them off and then return to pick them up. But, one little girl has recently lost her parent due to unfortunate circumstances. What about her? Her mom drops her off and picks her up but our hearts reach out to her knowing that on the day we set aside to say Happy Father’s day, she has no Daddy to shower with gifts or to run and get a hug. Thus when David wrote this verse it was poignant for children such as our little E. “He is a father to the fatherless.”

Perhaps you know of a child that needs the love of that absent parent. Until we have walked a mile in those shoes we ought to stop and praise God for the time we have had with an earthly father but more importantly our heavenly Father. But maybe you didn’t have a relationship with an earthly father that was good or it was nonexistent. It is at times like this we need to remember that verse: God is the father to the fatherless. He will not abandon you. Trust Him to be your father.

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Another Backstory…

Psalm 60  Taking time to just read and meditate unearths many questions. Why is David writing this? Who is against him? Where did this happen? Why is Edom mentioned? To unearth all of this we need to backtrack to 2Samuel 8. It is here that we read: Perhaps while Israel was at war with the Arameans, the Edomites seized the opportunity to invade Israel and proceeded toward Israel as far as the Valley of Salt (a.k.a. the Dead Sea.) There is a lesson here for us; when we are busy doing God’s work, the enemy seizes the opportunity to surreptitiously enter our space.

Evidently, David feels like God has rejected them but he isn’t sure why. He begs for restoration! He begs for the land to be repaired! He begs God to deliver them by His power so that they might be safe! It is as if we are reading today’s headlines for there are many who are begging for help and restoration; perhaps even you.

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Abruptly in the middle, God speaks. I will be the conqueror over Israel’s enemies, not you. This is another lesson for us; when we face enemies God will restore, repair and deliver because He is the triumphant warrior for His children.  And that my friend is why “rabbit trailing” through the scriptures encourages us to hang in there when life is tough and questions abound. God is the answer! He is our triumphant warrior!

 

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Ecstatic Joy

Psalm 43 “Ecstatic Joy!”

Ben White captured this little boy’s ecstatic joy don’t you think? Is this how joyful we are when we consider going to church?

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How does your morning start when you contemplate getting ready to attend church? The unknown author says in vs 4 that when he returns to the place where God dwelt he will go into the altar to the God who gives him ecstatic joy. Is this how you enter your place of worship? When you go do you sit and listen attentively or do you nod off and fail to comprehend the Pastor’s message? Do you grumble about time? Do you grumble about the Preacher’s message which he has spent hours crafting? We all are so prone to these questions and we find ourselves lacking that ecstatic joy the psalmist talked about. Stop right now and pray for those who will serve in any capacity at your church.

Why is the psalmist so ready to return to worship? He knows that is where God’s people are and where God’s message will be pronounced. It is where he can sing and praise God. It is where the balm of Gilead is poured out upon him to refresh him and renew his energy to serve God. The Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

And if you don’t have a local church, find one!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash (and author’s caption)

 

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In the Pits? Try God!

A friend is in the pit or maybe it is you. No matter, try God first. When that doesn’t seem to work, try Him again and again and again! The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much so says, Elijah! He is right! Does King David agree? Read on:

Psalm 40 “When in the Pit, Reach out to God”

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We all have those pit days when all of life seems to come to a grinding halt and you are reaching out for any solution to take the pain of the pit away. David says he completely relied upon the Lord—then! But, we know that he didn’t always and we don’t either. We seek the surest, quickest and easy solution to our pit problem but David’s advice is completely right. Prayers in the pit are the solution that keeps on giving, to quote a recent commercial, but it might not be quick, or easy. In fact, it may take you on a circuitous route before that solution is available or even noted. Remember the Israelites? God’s timing is not ours nor should it be. He is sovereign and knows the right time or solution.

Follow David’s advice, rely completely on the Lord. He will turn to you and hear your cry for help. He will lift you up and place you on a sure footing—when you least expect it. What we can pray is for God to heal us so we can praise Him where others hear and they turn to Him.

Beloved, we are praying for those of you who are in the pit. We may not know or understand your circumstance but prayer is what we can offer.

 

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Walls Protect…Usually

ps 34 ezek 22 broken walls.2ajpgPs 34:7 & Ezek 22:30  Jerusalem had walls to protect the people from danger, wild animals and advancing enemies. Yet Nebuchadnezzar tore down that wall and it lay unrepaired for 70 yrs. until Nehemiah rebuilt that wall in just 52 days. The false teachers in Jerusalem were charged with not repairing the spiritual walls of the people. Instead, they whitewashed them with teaching false doctrine or truths to make the people feel good. Physical walls can be repaired but you may have erected a wall around your heart because you have been hurt in some way. Instead of repairing it you may have whitewashed that wall by falsely saying you are “fine.” But, little by little the rains and the tears wash off your whitewash and you are exposed to the enemy—life is not fine and you aren’t either.

Beloved, when that happens, God’s loving angelic presence protects you when you are vulnerable. Sometimes God uses others who note our distress and stand in the gap with prayer where our walls show empty spaces. The body of Christ begins its work of closing up the breaches with prayer because the prayer of faith will raise us up.

Dr. Linda Smallwood writes: “When we intercede for one another, our chief purpose is to fill the gaps in another’s spiritual armor.” May we take her advice and stand in the gap with prayer for those whose walls are in need of repair.

Dr. Smallwood quote: http://www.myredeemerlives.com/intercession.html

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