What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Psalm 8

I am often amazed at the simple truths that come out of the mouths of children. However, David in this psalm tells us we shouldn’t be so surprised. In The Message verse 2 says,
“Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
            toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
            and silence atheist babble.”
Even gurgling babes proclaim God’s name. The fact that babies were even conceived is testimony of God’s greatness. The fact they grow and develop into toddlers, then children, then teenagers, then adults is amazing. The whole process is a miracle that God put in place. It’s not some accident of nature or the primordial ooze. It’s part of God’s plan.
When I think about how people are formed and born and grow I am amazed that more people don’t get it. Babes proclaim God’s existence by their existence. What miracles they are. How wonderfully made they are. It amazes me that someone could look at babies and think they happened by chance. It’s too much of a miracle for chance in my book.
Psalm 8 goes on to tell us that we are part of the creation God has made, a very special part of the creation (verses 3 – 8):
“I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
            your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and star mounted in their settings.
            Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
            Why take a second look our way?
Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods . . .
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world . . .
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
            Even animals out in the wild . . .”
God chose to make us be almost like gods. He created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, but He gave us the position of ruling over them. That amazes me, too. He put all things under our control. We have rule over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. He takes a second look at us. He takes a third look at us. He watches over us constantly so we may, in turn, worship Him. That’s what He wants from us. So today, as I think about these things, and ponder the miracle of life, I praise Him and stand amazed that He looks at me at all.
I say with David verse 9:
“God, brilliant Lord,
            your name echoes around the world.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Psalm 7

In my Quiet Time (daily reading from the Scriptures) from April 15th, I discovered that David wrote this psalm primarily asking God to take care of him. He starts off this psalm praying, “God! God! I am running to you for dear life . . .” I often feel like I’m running to God for dear life, or at least for my sanity. I liked David’s request in verses 6 – 8:
“Stand up, God; pit your holy fury
            against my furious enemies.
Wake up, God. My accusers have packed
            the courtroom; it’s judgment time.
Take your place on the bench, reach for your gavel
            throw out the false charges against me.
I’m ready, confident in your verdict: ‘Innocent.’” [The Message]
I like the imagery of God sitting on the bench as judge and His knowing what the charges are and that He knows they are false. He knows what’s up with me. He knows I’m innocent of all the false charges, of all the Devil’s charges against me. He knows that I am innocent because I am in Christ and that means that I am innocent. I’ve been declared, “Innocent” by the Judge Himself because I have Jesus Christ as the center of my life.
I also liked verse 9, which in The Message says,
“Close the book on Evil, God,
            but publish your mandate for us.
You get us ready for life:
            you probe for our soft spots,
            you knock off our rough edges.”
It’s a comfort to know that He is preparing me for whatever is coming in this life. He’s getting me ready to deal with every situation that might come up. Not that I will always deal with things the way He wants me to. Unfortunately, I do not understand everything He wants me to do in every situation, yet. But, He’s in the process of showing me and teaching me what He wants. Sometimes I have to do things the wrong way before I realize what God’s way is. There are a lot of rough edges to be knocked off.
Some of the rough edges have to do with behaviors, but more often they have to do with my attitudes about things. I’m not always as loving and caring of others as He would have me be. Sometimes I’m just down right judgmental. Sometimes I’m just very anxious and fearful of certain situations. However, God shows me where I could have done things differently and, if I’m paying attention, next time I do things differently. My goal is to do things from a position of love and caring in spite of how I feel.
So I willingly ask God to probe my soft spots and knock off the rough edges. I ask Him to get me ready for life, for whatever may come. I ask Him to be my judge and pronounce me “Innocent” as I seek to change and become more like Him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Psalm 5

I’ve been reading through the Psalms in The Message version of the Bible since early April. I’ve been encouraged by the perspectives of the various psalmists. I have found that while many of the psalms have similar themes, they are expressed in different ways depending on who wrote a particular psalm and what the circumstances were during the time when the Psalm was written.
Psalm 5 was written “For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.” So when I read this psalm back in April, I tried to imagine flute music playing while I read it. That gave it a calming feel, and also a light and airy feel. That was in direct contrast to the content of the psalm that seemed to me to be about a very serious subject. Verses 1 – 3 say,
“Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
            my groans and cries?
            King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
            you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
            I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar
            and watch for fire to descend.”
David asked God if He could make sense of his ramblings, his groans, and his cries. I often wonder the same things, yet I know, as David also knew, that the things I pray about make total sense to God. In His omniscience, God does understand me. Even as I pray the same things over and over again, every morning, as David says he did, God understands and is listening to me. And like David, I lay out the pieces of my life before Him and wait and watch for God to take action. And He does take action. In verses 11 – 12 it says,
“But you’ll welcome us with open arms
            when we run for cover to you.
Let the party last all night!
            Stand guard over our celebration.
You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers,
            For decking us out in delight.”
He welcomes us and decks us out in delight. We just have to wait to see Him work. That encourages me to continue to seek Him every morning and to call out to Him with all my trials and struggles. He will answer and He will answer in a mighty way. He will answer in ways that give me cause to celebrate and to be decked out in delight. As I pray, I can expect such joyful and memorable answers to my prayers. And, no matter how upset I am when I pray, God hears and answers me, understanding exactly what I need to end up being delighted with my circumstances.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Praise Throughout the Day

Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous ordinances.” [NASB] This is found near the end of a psalm written to tell us to value God’s Word. We don’t know who is the author(s) of this psalm but whoever it is was going to praise God seven times a day. I think that’s a good example for us to follow.
I’ve been writing blog articles about various attributes of God for which we can praise Him. I’ve written about twelve different attributes of God. If we were to focus on just one of those attributes in each of seven times of praise throughout a given day, we would have a new perspective on life. As I read Psalm 119:164 in my devotional time this morning, I was challenged to praise God seven times throughout the day. (I have already failed to do that when I planned to do it.) Why is it so hard to follow through on something as simple as praising God?
So, I paused in my writing of this article to think about and say out loud one attribute I praise God for: His power, His almighty power. And, I feel stronger already just because I know I have an all-powerful God who is working in my life. Now I just need to remember to praise Him four more times today. This is the least I can do for the God who is deserving of praise all day long, every day.
I found the number seven comes up a lot in Scripture. The priests were to sprinkle blood and oil seven times on the altar of the Lord (Leviticus 14). There was to be seven Sabbath of years to mark out the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8). The Israelites marched around Jericho for seven days and on the last day, marched around Jericho seven times (Joshua 6:4). A man is cleansed after washing himself seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5). Future prophecies speak of the sun being seven times brighter than it currently is (Isaiah 30:26). The furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual for Daniel’s friends (Daniel 3:19). And we are to forgive others seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22).
I’m not sure why the number seven is so important in Scripture. However, I realize that praising God seven times throughout the day was important to the writer(s) of Psalm 119, so it is a good example for me to follow. So I am going to try to do that for today, and for tomorrow, and for the day after that. One day at a time. Even seven times a day is not enough for God deserves me to be in constant praise.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Praise God for His Wrath

Today, I looked into another of God’s attributes that we as Christians don’t often like to look at. One of God’s attributes is wrath. That’s a loaded word because we think of it in terms of human anger. But, although we are made in God’s image, we humans are not automatically the same as God. This is true for all our attributes, but especially in the ways we see as negative or bad. I think J.I. Packer put it better than I could in Knowing God:
“. . . when Scripture speaks of God anthropomorphically, it does not imply that the limitations and imperfections which belong to the personal characteristics of us sinful creatures belong also to the corresponding qualities in our holy Creator; rather it takes for granted that they do not. Thus, God’s love, as the Bible views it, never leads Him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us. And in the same way, God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. Even among men, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps, rarely found. But all God’s indignation is righteous. Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect? Surely not. But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God’s wrath.” (p. 136 – 137)
God’s wrath is tied closely to His judgment. It is always right and judicial. It’s the execution of His judgment. Some view this as cruelty, but it is not cruel in the same sense that man can be cruel. Cruelty involves being immoral and God’s judgment is never immoral or designed to assign unwarranted harm to anyone. In fact, God’s judgment is meted out based on man’s own responses to the knowledge and gifts God has given him. For example, God will judge those who have been given much more harshly than those who have been given little (Luke 12:47f). If man chooses to respond in obedience, God’s wrath will be limited. It’s up to each man to choose the path he will follow. And as a result, that choice will determine the extent of God’s wrath upon each individual.
I know it’s hard to praise God for something that seems so cruel. But with God it is not cruelty. It’s justice. As Packer said, what kind of God would God be if He allowed evil to go unpunished? He would not be righteous, holy, or perfect. God’s wrath is a necessary part of Who He is. Without it, there would be no need for a Savior.