Thanks for Seeking God With Me.

If you need some Christian Nonfiction books to read, check out 5 Powerful Ways to Show Love and Heroine: Rising to the Challenge on Amazon

Praying for Stuff, part three

Psalm 73:9 

“Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.”

Prayer is easy. It’s not what you think. You don’t have to learn a Christian vocabulary in order to make God do what you want. Prayer isn’t about the struggle of getting God to do something. It’s the struggle of getting us to do what God wants.

Prayer is the communication of a parent and child. I came to this realization because I’m a parent. I’ve tried to be a good parent. My children have been raised to believe that they will be corrected and given appropriate consequences for their bad decisions and attitudes. I haven’t let them grow up thinking they can have anything they want and can do anything they want.

Psalm 73:9 is a description of the arrogant. They need correction because they think there is no consequence for their evil. This verse follows:

Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”

Prayer isn’t about getting. It’s about getting to know someone. Those who say, “How would God know?” don’t realize God’s listening.

Have you ever spoken about someone and then realized they were in the room. You realized that when they said, “I can hear you.” I think it would freak out people who use God’s name in vain if God would respond in their hearing, “I can hear you.”  

When you’re looking for stuff to add to your prayer list, consider asking God to grant repentance to those around you who fit the description of the arrogant. You know who they are. They’re the ones with the bad attitudes. According to Psalm 73:8, they “scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.”

When you see the arrogant around you amassing their wealth and living like no consequence will ever affect them, remember to stay humble. Stay in communication with God, and stay obedient to him. He may ask you to speak to the arrogant, using helpful words.

Praying for Stuff, part two

Psalm 73:3 
“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Has anyone accused you of being “perfect”? Has anyone been thankful that you’ve been “real” with them?

Most true Christians are simply trying to be obedient to God. We don’t get it right all the time. God knows that. We know that. And our neighbors know that.

When you are asked to say the mealtime prayer at a family gathering, don’t be worried that you won’t live up to your relatives’ expectations. Don’t worry about getting your prayer “right”.

Be real, not fake. God knows you.

Maybe you’re not the richest person in your neighborhood. Maybe there are some real needs on your Christmas list. Don’t you think others envy your relationship with God? Isn’t that what should be happening? Others should desire to have a real relationship with God because of what they see in you.

If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, consider walking down the street and asking them if they want you to pray with them. Many of us feel a lot of stress because of the jumbled, frenzied schedules we have this time of year. Your neighbors are no different.

Some of your neighbors are concerned about many things and may welcome your prayers for them. Allowing them to join you in prayer is helpful in building their faith. Let them believe God’s word with you.

When you see your neighbors’ wealth and are tempted to wish you had all their stuff, remember to fight envy with compassion. Envy is from the fleshly part of you, but compassion is from the heart. According to Psalm 73:26, God is the strength of your heart.

We can ask God to speak through us to our neighbors. Without him, nothing good will happen. We can also take action on that prayer by choosing to be free of envy. That is a choice that will make room for God to work it out. As you listen for God’s direction this season, keep an obedient spirit.

This is one way to pray for stuff.

Praying for Stuff, part one

Psalm 73:25  
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
When Jesus was explaining to Martha in Luke 10:38-42 about her sister Mary’s priorities, he said, “few things are needed—or indeed only one”. If only one thing is needed, shouldn’t we desire that one thing? What is that one thing?

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, getting to know God. Jesus said that the time she spent focusing on what was important will not be taken from her. Are you and I doing what Jesus considers important? Do we have the same priorities as Jesus?

What would Jesus tell you to pray for this Christmas?

I think Mary had the right idea. I think we should all pray to be closer to God.

However, we should never pray for something we aren’t willing to do something to get. If we pray for a promotion at work, then we should be willing to do what it takes to look like an acceptable candidate for that promotion. If we pray to be closer to God, we should be willing to change our priorities so something on the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book isn’t topping our list – and God a close 2nd.

Pray to be close to God, but take action by desiring God above all else.

Praying for Leaders, part three

Galatians 2:2 

 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

There is a misconception running rampant. I’m bringing it up as a warning, that we would be aware and not fall into the trap.

Many think we’re supposed to pray and God will make stuff happen for us.

That’s not what prayer is all about.

Prayer is about developing a relationship with God. We are supposed to listen to God, talk to God, and do what he tells us.

It’s really that simple. The praise and worship happens naturally when you get to know God. You can’t help but worship someone who loves you so completely and strengthens you for tasks that fill you with joy.

So while we’re praying for our leaders, we can be asking God if there is something we should be doing. Our job is to pray for leaders, but if God gives us something to say to them, then we should not hesitate to obey God.  

Paul, the author of the book of Galatians, made a private appointment with some leaders because he had received revelation from God. He didn’t do it as a dare he’d accepted from one of his buddies. He didn’t buy a table at a fund-raiser so he could pin down a politician and preach to him, just because he felt it should be done.

If God reveals something to us, we should act on it like Paul did.

However, there is a difference between being sent by God and doing something because you think someone should be doing it. If you take action because of a revelation from God, you are acting under his authority. You’re an ambassador. But if you just go and do because you want to go and do, God didn’t send you. You’re on your own. Don’t be surprised if you’re not successful.

Sometimes prayer is followed by specific action, but let the action be directed by God.

Praying for Leaders, part two

Nehemiah 9:17 

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them

God is a good Heavenly Father. He sees his children as a work in progress. He isn’t finished with us yet. Many of us try to work out our problems with our own wisdom and strength. A few of us know we need God’s wisdom and strength. But God loves us all, no matter where we are in our journey to spiritual maturity.

When I read in the book of Nehemiah about what happened when the wall had been repaired, I found it interesting to see how they approached God. The wall was completed. People came to be registered. They had a festival. And then they confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors before they asked anything of God.

Funny to hear the way people pray to God today. We ask a lot from God without celebrating the fact that he is with us and we can have a relationship with him. We save our praises for those moments when we see that God has answered our prayers.

Are we willing to learn from this? Before we ask God to do anything, we can confess our own sins. We can confess the sins of those we follow, not in accusations, but as if we had done it ourselves. We can praise God for his abundant mercy. He is the God who loves us and sent Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners.

If we run around in our arrogance telling God what to do, we’re doing it wrong. Let’s make it right by seeking God together during this month, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Praying for Leaders, part one

Romans 8:26-27 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 Spiritual mysteries spark a lot of conversation in some church groups. We talk about what we think the Bible means. However, I’ve found that God says what he means and means what he says. Our problem is that we don’t know what he’s talking about sometimes.

It’s the day after the Presidential election, and some people are happy while others are sad. Some people are wondering why God allowed this to happen, and others are thanking God that it did. That’s the way it goes with elections.

But if you and I are brothers and sisters in Christ because of the unity of the Spirit, we can all pray together as one for God to use us to bless our country. We can show proper respect for our leaders just like God tells us to in the second chapter of First Peter.

I’ve seen the question on faces of people who voted and became frustrated when the other guy won. “How do I pray for someone I don’t agree with?”

God wants us to pray according to the Bible. There are many passages in the Bible which lead us to pray for the protection of others. But God also gives us power by the Spirit of God to pray those mysteries known only to God. This is how we pray God’s will when we don’t know God’s will.

In First Corinthians 14:14, we read,For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” Our job is to trust God when we understand and when we don’t understand. Our job is to not let the world change us, but let God change us. Change for the better will occur, starting with each one of us, when we let God change us down deep inside. For that to happen, we must keep our focus on God, not social media, not politics, not the weather, not public opinion.

God is able to change anything. Do you want him to change you?

Facing Self-will

John 6:38

  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
You and I are human. Being human means we make mistakes. One of the mistakes common to us all is the tendency to do whatever we want.

We tell others, “I will compete in that race.” It doesn’t matter if something important comes up like an invitation to be Best Man or Maid of Honor in a wedding. We turn down all invitations in order to compete. We send a gift, wish them well, and continue training for our own big day.

Some of us don’t pray about our decisions. Some make a decision and then ask God to make it happen. We throw out emergency prayers all the time, for example: we need a parking space on a rainy day or we need that policeman to not pull us over for speeding.

What would happen if we allowed God into our decision-making process? Can we be patient enough to wait and find out what God’s will is before we act?

All of us could use a little self-discipline now and then.

We could take a moment and examine our self-will the way Jesus did at the Mount of Olives as shown in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

“Not my will” is a prayer that requires us to stop and think about what we’re doing. If we’re powering through our day like a bulldozer, we may miss the blessings God planted along our path.

We aren’t going to be perfect, but we can make changes to our lifestyle to include God’s ideas before we make our plans. These changes may force us to slow down and listen rather than speed up and accomplish. Listening to God’s wisdom helps our preparation and prevents our mistakes.

Are you ready to face self-will with me? Jesus had to do it too. We are not alone.

Facing God

Exodus 19:16-17

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

I think there are a lot of people who have a reverential fear of God. Then there are those who are afraid of God and those who show no respect for God. Those who show no respect for God should be afraid. Very afraid. But those who are afraid of God simply don’t know him well enough to accept that he wants a relationship with us.

When Moses led his people to the mountain where God wanted to meet with them, they were so afraid they trembled. Rightly so. If they were disrespectful enough to be clowning around at the mountain, they might go too far and die.

God said to set the mountain apart as holy. The people had to take God seriously to appreciate the kind of event that was about to take place. When God gave Moses the ten commandments, the people saw smoke and lightning. They heard a trumpet and loud thunder. It was a scene none of them had ever experienced. Of course they stayed away from the mountain. I would’ve been apprehensive too.

Moses had a relationship with God. They had conversations. So obviously, Moses had an appropriate and reverential fear of God. If you read through chapter nineteen of Exodus, you can imagine yourself in place of Moses and listen to God’s words as if you were there, kneeling in the dust. I love seeing myself in that place, listening to God telling me that he carried me on eagles’ wings and brought me to himself. I hear him say that I am a treasure. Can you hear it?

Today, you can face God and accept his invitation to begin a relationship or grow in your relationship with him. When others are shaking in their boots, you and I can climb the mountain of fear and face God. You and I can get closer to him.

What happens when you meet with God? Do you tremble or do you listen?

Facing Disease

Luke 17:15-16

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.

I understand from Bible stories that Jews and Samaritans did not get along very well. Yet two popular stories speak well of Samaritans. The Good Samaritan was someone who took care of a wounded person on the side of the road – someone who probably wouldn’t have taken care of him if their roles were reversed. Another Samaritan was one of ten men with leprosy.

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of the one out of ten who thanked God for healing him. The oft-asked question is: why didn’t the other nine throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and thank him?

I couldn’t begin to put myself in their position since I’ve never been faced with that kind of torturous, flesh-eating disease. It would be a very scary situation. It’s a rot-while-you-wait kind of slow death. I would imagine living in a colony of lepers and watching everyone around you go through the same pain you’re feeling could destroy anyone’s positive outlook.

When these ten men saw Jesus, they yelled and tried to get his attention. They wanted relief, and Jesus had a reputation for giving people their lives back. When Jesus yelled back for them to go to the priest, he wasn’t putting them off. They were supposed to let the priest officially pronounce them clean and healed.

I don’t know what the other nine were thinking as they went on their way. However, I know that when your life is given back to you because of a miraculous healing, God did it. God should be thanked.

If something good happens to you that turns your life upside down, I wonder if you automatically think, “Wow, this is my lucky day.” Or do you thank God?

I’m pretty sure Jesus appreciated the joyful praises that came from the Samaritan. You and I don’t have to wait for God to perform another miracle. We can fill the air with joyful praises to God for what he’s already done. Why wait for God to answer another prayer when he’s already done so much for us? We don’t have to wait. We can praise God right now.

Facing Demons

Mark 5:18-19

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

The story in Mark 5:1-20 where Jesus faced a demon-possessed man and restored him seems like a story that would strike fear in the hearts of the hearers – until they heard the happy ending. Of course, the local people of the day were unhappy to have lost their pigs. I think they had to look at the bright side of the situation and remember that they were no longer plagued with fear when traveling through that area. Since Jesus let demons run the pigs off the cliff, the pigs’ owners were sad at the loss of money, but money isn’t everything. It was as true then as it is today.

When I read some of the Bible stories, I think about what it would’ve been like to experience that event as one of the disciples of Jesus. If I had been standing there with the disciples, my knees might have been knocking.

Jesus was always facing challenges to his authority. People gave him trouble wherever he went. But this man with the legion of demons ran to Jesus and fell to his knees. The demons asked Jesus not to torture them and not to send them out of the area. The demons were scared.

We need to remember who Jesus is. The demons hadn’t forgotten, and neither should we. Jesus has control over what we think are uncontrollable situations. When we face uncertainty, Jesus is certain. When our hearts are racing, Jesus is calm. If we can remember who Jesus is and that he is with us, then we’ll find that Jesus will take the scary out of our situation.

I love stories that have happy endings, even scary stories. The happy ending in this one is when the man went home to his family and told them how Jesus gave him back his life.

Benefits of Believing

John 3:12

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

If Bobby said to Billy in the heat of summer, “I have some ice cream in my car. You can have it.” Billy has to decide whether he trusts Bobby. If Bobby is a stranger, he might not believe him. If Bobby has deceived him before, Billy probably won’t believe him. If Bobby is a friend, but Billy knows the car has been in the hot sun for an hour, he might not believe him. If Billy’s mother said there was some ice cream in the car, Billy might run to the car in expectation of finding it.

Why? Because he believes her.

The above verse from John 3 reminds us that we have to trust the messenger before we believe spiritual things. Jesus taught about spiritual things in parables, which were pictures of natural, earthly things. Those who trusted Jesus enough to take action on it received more than just earthly wisdom. They received spiritual blessings.

Do you have the wisdom to believe simple things?

I have a kitchen chair that supports my weight every time I sit in it. I’ve had decades of experience with that chair. I don’t have to worry about crashing to the floor when I need to sit. I trust that chair.

God blesses his kids with the comfort of  knowing we are his. I know I’ll be with God forever because he said he’ll never abandon me. I don’t have to worry. I trust that truth.

The chair and God’s truth are similar enough to make a point about trust. But they’re different in that the chair can be demolished and God’s word cannot. Knowing the similarities and differences help to etch the truth deeper inside me. Why? Because I’m building on the truth I already trust.

If you look at your history, you might find a path from spiritual blessings backward to the earthly truths that laid the foundation for your belief.

Will that help you make forward progress? I hope so. Thanks for seeking God with me.

Acting On The Truth

Jonah 3:4-5
Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
 Jonah hated the Ninevites and wanted the prophecy to be fulfilled. He was only warning them about being overthrown because God told him to deliver a message. He thought they had no fear of God and would disregard his message. But the king of Nineveh proclaimed that all people and all animals would not eat or drink, would be covered in sackcloth as a sign of repentance, and would stop all violence. God saw their sincerity and relented.

The Ninevites believed the truth about God, and they acted on it. How many of us in our busy little worlds hear an invitation to draw closer to God and decide that we don’t have time for God. The people of Nineveh tore up their To Do lists and made time for repentance. They believed Jonah’s message about God.

Are we acting on what we know about God? We can start today. Thanks for coming here to seek God with me.

What If They Don't Believe?

Exodus 4:4-5
Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
What would happen if God spoke to you? It happens all the time to Christians who are serious in their relationship with God. What if he told you to tell someone specific about him? What if they don’t believe you?

This happened to Moses when God sent him to set free those enslaved by Pharaoh. The proof that he was on a mission from God was not a signed document, but miracles and plagues.

What’s your proof that you’re on a mission from God?

We’re supposed to act like we belong to God. We’re supposed to look like him. Not with a physical feature, but with a spiritual family resemblance. Children often pick up similar body language and verbal expressions from their parents. If we hang out with God long enough to pick up his attitudes, we’ll be easily recognizable as children of God.

God doesn’t ask me to do miracles everyday as proof that I belong to him, but if he asks me to perform a specific task and someone sees it as a miracle, I’m okay with that. However, God does expect me to behave like I’m his kid. I tell my children that they represent me when we’re not together. People who know they belong to me expect them to act according to my values. The same should hold true for God’s kids.

What if you told someone that you belong to God, and they didn’t believe you? What would you do?

Who Will Believe The Truth?

Mark 16:17
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;”
 This month, I’m thinking about the question, “Who will believe the truth?”

Students are starting a new school year, so they’re receiving information that they assume to be true. If they don’t believe the new info to be true, the teacher must convince them. It takes a lot longer to teach a student who doesn’t believe what you say. Those who listen and believe can act on the truth and grow in that truth faster.

If you don’t believe the truth, you can’t act on it. Those who do believe the truth can show evidence that what they believe is truth.

When Jesus was turning everyone’s world upside-down simply by telling the truth, he gave evidence to back up what he was saying. His truth was spiritual. There were spiritual responses that showed up in visible form such as healings, walking on water, and divine protection.

He taught his disciples that those who didn’t believe the truth couldn’t benefit from those evidences. Jesus went to his hometown, but few there would believe him. The few who did believe were able to receive not just healings, but also a new perspective. And a changed life.

How about you? Do you believe what Jesus said?

Summer Reading, part twenty-six

Here we are at the end of the book of Psalms. We’ve encountered sadness and joy, conflict and victory. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

Psalm 145 reminds us to tell of the power of God’s awesome works. This is something we don’t do as often as we could. I tell my children when I lean hard on the arm of God and he shows up with the victory. I have a new story of God’s goodness every time I step out and trust him.

When people look for a verse to memorize, we often pick something like 145:19. “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” seems a little more selfish than verse thirteen, which is “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.” Both verses are true, but verse thirteen keeps our minds on God rather than ourselves. With the right perspective, there isn’t anything wrong with verse nineteen. We just have to stay in touch with what it means to fear God.

Psalm 145:8 is a good reminder to me to be patient with others as God has been patient with me. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” If I’m going to continue growing into the person God created me to be, I must remember to act like I belong to him. Be slow to anger. Be compassionate.

I’ve read all 150 psalms this summer and enjoyed learning new things and remembering things I’ve studied before. I hope you have used this time to get closer to God. Once you let God deeper into your life, he transforms what you were into what he knows you can be. We’re one step further along in God’s plan. It makes me want to praise him for all that he has done this summer. Join me in Psalm 150.
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Summer Reading, part twenty-five

We’ve been reading the book of Psalms together this summer, and it has been enjoyable. Thanks for journeying with me. Today’s selection is Psalms 134-144.

Psalm 137 isn’t a praise-filled song. It’s a pain-filled, tear-jerker of a song. The words vividly take me back to the stories of God’s people being taken into captivity. The psalms often take something that is described one way in one of the other books of the Bible and adds a little different description to it. This psalm could be made into an emotional music video about loss.

Psalm 139:13 is a memorable verse for me because I’m a mother. It’s comforting. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This psalm was one of the few I read often during my pregnancies. I love knowing God is actively involved in forming babies. A child is never an “accident”.

Psalm 139:20 is a verse that reminds us to be respectful to God when looking for just the right exclamation phrase (example: Wow, that really hurt!). Some people don’t describe how they’re feeling. They just shout God’s name. “They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.” People who misuse his name are called God’s adversaries. I’d rather be called God’s friend. People don’t misuse the names of their friends.

Psalm 143 is a good place to turn in your morning prayer time when you’re asking for God’s wisdom. We often have decisions to make that challenge us and force us to ask for God’s instruction. When I want God to give me direction, I can use verses eight through ten along with James 1:5 and James 3:17. God loves it when we show that we’re willing to receive from him.

Psalm 144:14-15 bring up the subject of captivity again. “There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.” Quite a different mood to it this time.

Join me tomorrow for the final selection of the Psalms. We’ll start September with the usual film review and devotional routine. But for now, read Psalm 145 through Psalm 150.

Summer Reading, part twenty-four

I’ve enjoyed reading the Psalm selections with you this summer. Thanks for joining me.

One of my favorites of the Psalms is 133. It’s about unity. Where there is unity, there is blessing. Unity is important to sports teams, families, and corporate environments.

It’s like oil. Oil is a symbol of power. Pouring anointing oil on someone is a symbol of God’s power on that person. Oil is also a fuel for fire, and fire is one of the symbols of the power of the Holy Spirit. Unity must be present for your group to have power.

Psalm 136 also stands out to me. It’s like a responsive reading. A leader can read one part of it and the congregation can read the repetitive “His Love endures forever.” This is a great way to remember that God has done a lot of things for his people, and everything he does is done from a heart full of love – which, by the way, endures forever.

I think it’s so important to teach children that there are many things on the earth which will pass away (like people, pets, and even homes), but God’s love is forever. Everyone of us will make mistakes, but God’s love is strong enough to endure forever. You can count on him.

We’ve almost finished the book of Psalms. There are only fourteen psalms left to read, so don’t quit. Keep going. Read Psalms 137 through 144 for next time. I can’t wait!

Summer Reading, part twenty-three

Today’s selection, Psalms 120-126, can be described using the word SHORT. These seven psalms each have fewer than ten verses. Quite a contrast from Psalm 119.

Three of these psalms specifically mention a desire for peace for Israel or Jerusalem. One psalm suggests peace by describing the comfort of knowing God watches over Israel. One psalm cries out for mercy. One describes rescue. And Psalm 126 speaks of the joy of restored fortunes. So peace is the common theme in these seven psalms, whether by word or feeling.

I like the comfort given in Psalm 125: 2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” It sounds to me like God hugs his children. That kind of protection feels good.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Psalms 127-136. This next selection includes one of my all-time favorites.

Summer Reading, part twenty-two

Did you read all 176 verses of Psalm 119 yet? Let me share some of the highlights.

Psalm 119:1 begins with a blessing for those whose ways are blameless. But who among us is blameless? We’ve all messed up. That’s why I love Psalm 119 so much. It doesn’t dwell on our past sins. It picks us up where we are, and we are at the feet of Jesus, having received forgiveness of all our sins. If we choose to follow in the way of righteousness instead of chasing after sin, we will have faithfulness to God as our goal. In your mind, see yourself as already having achieved your goal. Then read verse one again.

Yes, we all mess up from time to time. Verse five agrees that we still have faithful obedience as our common goal. If you fall down between verses four and five, you can stand back up in verse seven and start over by the grace of God. Verse seven is encouraging and reminds us that we are teachable. “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.”  

I need to put verse sixteen on my coffee cup to bolster my determination to get direction from God first thing each day. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” If we start our mornings with a diligence to be open to God, our hearts will look like the eyes of children, wide with wonder and amazement at God’s goodness.

Going to God with child-like trust will affect our prayers. We’ll be more transparent and intimate with him. We’ll hear him better. Verses eighteen through twenty will be the song of our hearts. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

I love Psalm 119 because of all the “sound bites” and memory verse opportunities. You can take one spiritual goal and find several verses that would serve as encouragement for that goal. For instance, just in this one psalm there are at least eighteen verses about getting guidance and understanding from learning God’s word. Teachability is an important character trait. If you only study eighteen of the 176 verses in this psalm (7, 12, 18, 26, 27, 29, 33, 34, 64, 66, 68, 102, 124, 125, 135, 144, 169, 171), you will still get a lot out of your effort.

Read Psalms 120-126 for next time. Enjoy!

Summer Reading, part twenty-one

Are you feeling as blessed as I am? Today’s selection, Psalms 112 through 118, is full of praise. Psalm 112:1 starts us off with a blessing. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.” Verse five helps us check up on our actions toward others. “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Will good come to you?

Psalm 115 compares the idols worshiped by others to the God who lives and protects his people. The first verse gives God the glory before the comparison even begins. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Since I started the first section of our summer reading selections, I’ve never put a whole psalm in one of these blog posts. Until now. Psalm 117 is two verses. Just two. “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” Don’t you love it? I do.

Join me in reading Psalms 119 for next time. That’s right. Only one psalm for next time. Enjoy.

Summer Reading, part twenty

Are you still smiling from the last section of Psalms? I know I am.

Today’s selection is Psalms 105 through 111.Psalm 105 briefly recounts the stories of Joseph and Moses. Psalm 106 continues with the story of Moses, giving different details. The people God saved out of the hand of Pharoah through many miracles, those people turned their backs on God. They forgot his goodness. But God allowed their descendants to enter the promised land anyway.

Psalm 108 reminds me of all that David went through. I can hear him singing at sunrise, full of victory and expectation. He knew how many times God had saved him, and yet he still needed rescuing. David asks in verse 11, “Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies?” I can almost hear his tone of voice and see the head-shaking. He believes more in the rescue than the rejection. He knows “human help is worthless” and that God will “trample down our enemies.” It’s not a psalm of wondering if God will help. It’s a song of victory.

Psalm 111:10 is a great place to go when you have a problem you can’t figure out. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” I need God’s wisdom to help me solve problems. But in order to have the right mind set to be able to use his wisdom, I must first have that “fear of the Lord” which is a deep respect for his presence.

You don’t get all of what you need without getting God’s powerful presence. If you don’t know how to deal with your problems, just focus on following God’s orderliness. An orderly mind is a peaceful mind. Following God’s precepts will prepare the soil of your being for the understanding God will plant in you.

Next time, we’ll cover Psalms 112 through 118. I’m looking forward to it. Aren’t you?

Summer Reading, part nineteen

This section, Psalms 100-104, is jam-packed with memorable verses.

Psalm 100 is five verses of joy. But I found eight reasons to shout.
1. “Come before him with joyful songs.” We get to come before God with singing. We are not judged by our vocal talents, but enjoyed by the one who designed those vocal chords.

2. “Know that the Lord is God.” We know who God is. We don’t wander around with no idea that a “God” even exists.

3. “It is he who made us.” We can grow in our scientific discovery of our own bodies because we can ask questions of the one who made the bodies.

4. “and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” It is so comforting to know I belong to God. Knowing I am his brings limitless joy.

5. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” We get to enter into God’s place. I don’t get to enter The White House any time I want. I can’t get in to see many business owners without an appointment. But I can run to God and enter his courts day or night with praise on my lips.

 6. “For the Lord is good.” If you’ve been forgiven, then you know God is good. You know the difference between trying to live without God and trying to live within the limitations of his joy. Contrasting the chaos of living in our own foolish plans with the order of living in God’s plan gives us the confirmation that there isn’t anyone like God. He is good to us.

7. “his love endures forever.” I don’t know what forever looks like. I only know that time exists because of God. Time exists inside God. God doesn’t exist inside time. I have limitations, so I can’t know what the end of time looks like. And even with my limitations, I know that at the end of time, God’s love will still be strong.

8. “his faithfulness continues through all generations.” I’ve seen children who look a lot like a grandparent or a great-grandparent. I know that some of the genetically-transferred parts of us show up more in some generations than in others. And I know that God’s faithfulness isn’t shown to his people based on genetics. God is faithful, regardless of what we do. God is faithful whether we respond to his faithfulness or not. God is faithful. Period.

Do you feel like shouting now?

If not, keep reading. Psalm 103 lists the benefits of knowing God. He forgives us, heals us, redeems us, crowns us, and satisfies us. And he renews our youth. Not shouting yet? Read Psalm 103: 8-12. In fact, read the whole psalm out loud. So loud your flesh can feel it. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve.”

Make sure you read all of the psalms in today’s selection. You’ll finish with a smile.

Summer Reading, part eighteen

If you’ve been reading along with me, we’ve covered 1,523 verses by the end of Psalm 99. We’re basically two-thirds through with Psalms. Today’s section, Psalms 94-99 is full of beautiful praises to God who has been faithful.

Psalm 94:6-7 describes the wicked who are foolish enough to think they’re getting away with their crimes. “They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’” How sad they’ll be when they find out that they’re not getting away with anything. If they’d only read James 1:27, they would find out that God wants us to look after widows and orphans to supply them with what they need. But they won’t read it because they’re fools. They say God doesn’t see, but God formed the eye (verse 9). He can surely see. The wicked are the ones who can’t see. Sad.

Psalm 97:6 reminds me of the description of Jesus appearing in the sky so that the whole earth would know of his second coming. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.” There will be much rejoicing when he appears. Those caught worshipping idols will be shamed. I can just imagine that his appearance will be bigger than most people think. We think too small when we think of God. He’s bigger and better than our words can describe.

Psalm 99:6 reminds us that God will answer us if we’ll call to him. “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them.” They expected a response from a righteous God, and they got one.

I enjoyed reading these 99 psalms with you. Please continue with our selections as we read Psalms 100 – 104 for next time. Happy reading.

Summer Reading, part seventeen

We’re covering four psalms today: Psalms 90-93. Many of these verses refer to a cooperation between God and man. Our part is to stay with God and do what he tells us. His part is to bless, protect, and rescue us. In short, we are to act like his good children, and he will do everything else.

I found several power verses in this section. Psalm 90:17 is very encouraging. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” When you’re living in the favor of God, you’re in a powerful and peaceful place. It sometimes feels like surfing a big wave while relaxing in a recliner. Exhilarating, yet peaceful.

Psalm 91, the whole psalm, is one of my favorites. Verse one is comforting.  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” To me, this means that God is going to be there for you. You can’t be in someone’s shadow if they’re not there. And if God is there, he will look after you to protect you and guide you.

Psalm 91:14 is also comforting. But it reminds us we can be bold in front of an enemy the way David approached Goliath.  

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” 

If we do our part and live like we belong to Almighty God, the enemy will be defeated by him. David was little, but loved God. There’s power in that relationship.

Have you ever wondered where God was from? Psalm 93:2 tells us, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.” That verse makes me laugh because I’m from Texas. Everyone says things are big in Texas, but God is from Eternity – and that’s way bigger than Texas.

Join me next time for Psalms 94 through 99 as we finish the powerful nineties.

Summer Reading, part sixteen

Today’s reading includes Psalms 84 through 89. This section gives us a few verses that are easy to memorize. Pick out a few that stand out to you and keep them at the front of your memory banks for a quick withdrawal.

Many people strive to become well known in their industry. There are also those who hate their job and long to do meaningful work. They want to be in a good place. Psalm 84 is a great song to sing in gratitude of being in a good place. This psalmist understood the comfort and contentment of staying in the presence of God.

Psalm 84:10 speaks to our connection with God. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Never have I felt more content than when I’m in the presence of God. It's a good place. I wonder if those who long for success in their jobs can see that there is a deeper success in the presence of God that will affect their daily jobs in a good way.

In Psalm 86, two verses stand out to me. Many people pray, but few listen. That’s why Psalm 86:7 stands out to me. “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” The ending, “answer me”, is something you have to listen for. Are you just praying or are you hearing God’s answer? How will you know if God answers prayer if you don’t stick around and listen?

Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”, is similar to Psalm 32:8 in that they both are written by someone whose heart is inclined for receiving instruction. If we remain teachable, we can grow in our obedience to and success with God. Hanging out with God is a great way to learn from him.

Next time, prepare for the powerful nineties. We’ll begin with Psalms 90-93.

Summer Reading, part fifteen

If you've been keeping up with the Psalms selections, we've read 1,213 verses by the end of Psalm 79. Together, we've read half of the book of Psalms. So don't give up. Stay with us, and we'll finish strong.

In reading Psalms 80-83, I recognize that I have a relationship with God, my Heavenly Father. He gave me children to raise so I could see how he feels about me. He loves me very much. I knew this before I had kids, but it’s much more meaningful now.

In Psalm 81, I hear the cry of a parent who wants only the best for his kids. Psalm 81:8 sounds like any loving parent, “Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel!” How many of us have said that? Then, God’s heart breaks in verse 12 like any parent who knows about tough love. “So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” I know how a parent wants to bring goodness and beauty into a child’s life, but we parents have to wait until the kids can receive the good things we want to give.

So many of the psalms have been a cry for help. Do you think God gets tired of us pleading with him to take vengeance on our enemies?

I think he is glad we’re still coming to him. He wants us to run to him whenever we need him. He hopes we want to run to him when we don’t need him. I understand that from the perspective of a parent. Psalm 83 is another “Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind” (from verse 13) type of psalm. I don’t think God ever rolled his eyes and sighed at these words.

I know from my experience of parenting that the kids’ trials and torments affect the parents as well. God keeps trying to bring his people back to him. And we parents keep trying to train our children to become the people they were meant to be.

Next time, join me in Psalms 84-89.

Summer Reading, part fourteen

It seems that troubles abound for psalmists. This section, Psalms 73-79, isn’t written by King David, but the same agony of having to live around trouble-makers is present.

Psalm 73 tells of our problem with watching the wicked amassing wealth and seemingly getting by with their sins. The whole psalm gives an overview of the wicked and their foolishness. It ends with Psalm 73:28, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Like David, this psalmist is able to express inadequacies and still keep praises and longing for God in his mouth. 

Psalm 74 is a cry of the heart for God to take his hands out of his pockets and do something. The psalmist reminds God in verses 16-17 that he is still in charge, since he’s the Creator, “The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.” We all have our needy moments. When you call out to God, just remember that God’s heart is still for you. Be patient and rest in the fact that you will eventually get the victory.

Psalm 75 can be seen as a response to the cry for help in Psalm 74. This one is a declaration that God is the rightful judge and will come to our rescue. The psalmist admits that he’ll sing praises to God forever.

In our distress, we can remember what God has done for others. Psalm 77 is a good place to re-read the ways God rescued his people. This psalmist felt overwhelmed, but thought about the miracles God did for Moses to bring his people into freedom.

Another reason I have been maintaining a devotional blog is for the purpose of (as stated in Psalm 78:4) telling “the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 78 is an example of teaching from the mistakes of our ancestors. God was furious with his people, but he didn’t give up on them. He continued his plan of salvation for his stubborn people.

Please continue reading the Psalms, and don’t skip anything. It’s all good.

Next time, we’ll go to Psalms 80-83.

Summer Reading, part thirteen

Do you like to listen to sad songs when you’re sad? Songwriters know how to bring us to tears with an emotional ballad. We listen and cry along, and maybe identify with the person in the ballad.

David wrote psalms or songs which told of his many problems. Psalm 69:3 tells us woefully, “I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.” Psalm 69:20, also woeful, tells us, “Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.”

David also wrote Psalm 69:30, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”  Verses 3 and 20 sound like someone in the midst of trouble, but verse 30 seems different. What changed?

Nothing changed. David praised God before, during, and after trouble came. Having trouble in his life didn’t make David stop praising God.

David kept telling those around him about God’s presence in his life. He sang about his relationship with God. He wrote about it. He did this even though he knew that praising God wasn’t going to keep him out of trouble. He knew that when trouble came, God would be there for him, as he described in Psalm 71:3, “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go.” Psalm 71 is another example of David giving God praise in the midst of trouble. Psalm 71:14 tells us, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

Psalm 72 continues David’s praises to God. We can see in these verses how full of love for God David’s heart is. He ended this psalm with verse 19, “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” And then verse 20 tells us, “This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.”

Next time we’ll cover Psalms 73 through 79. Happy reading!  

Summer Reading, part twelve

Here we are in mid-July and we’re moving right along in our summer reading plan, aren’t we? We’re covering six psalms today: Psalm 63 through 68.

Have you ever read a love letter written by someone else, and yet you felt their passion as if it were written by you? Psalm 63 is a passionate love letter to God that each of us can use to tell him “my whole being longs for you.” If you can tell God that his love is better than life itself, then read this letter aloud to God during your prayer time. If you’re not just reading aloud, but getting up into God's face and actually speaking this to him, your prayer life will be richer, fuller, and more satisfying.

David was just like us in that he wanted a peaceful life. But having his enemies plotting against him all the time, trying to kill him, and aiming “cruel words like deadly arrows” was more than David could stand. According to Psalm 64, he had a complaint. When you take your complaint to God, you have to remember that God has everything under control. David knew that God’s arrows are more powerful than those of his enemies. He was tired of having enemies, but he knew to “rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him.”  

Psalm 66 takes us back to the days of Moses in verse 6 where God’s unmistakable power was revealed. “He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot – come, let us rejoice in him.” Verse 9 tells us God keeps our feet from slipping. God frees us from bondage, protects us, and tests us too. But the psalm ends with praise to God who has not “withheld his love from me!”

Don’t forget to read Psalm 65. And Psalm 67, which is a short blessing. And Psalm 68, which gives examples of how God’s power can be seen. Psalm 68:35 ends with these praises, “You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!”

Next time, we’ll read Psalms 69 through 72. Enjoy!

Summer Reading, part eleven

Today’s reading is Psalm 57 through Psalm 62. A psalm is a hymn or sacred song. David did a lot of singing. He often wanted to worship God because he was grateful to God for saving his life every time the enemy came against him.

When David fled from Saul and went into the cave, he wrote songs of praise because God kept saving him. Psalm 57:6 gives us a look at what happens when the enemy plans our demise. “They dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it themselves.” David felt like singing. Verse 9 shows his attitude. “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.”

Psalm 59 tells us once again of how David, running for his life, was able to sing every morning in praise to God. Verse 17 is David singing about being kept safe by God. “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”

David wrote in Psalm 61:4, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” God protects those who are his. David experienced this, and we can too. David had a very close relationship with God. We have to get close to God and lose ourselves in him in order to be hidden in his wings.

If anyone needed a rest, it was David. He ran from his enemy and hid from those who wanted to kill him. But David knew where to go for rest. Psalm 62:1 tells us, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”

Because David shared his experiences with us, we know that we can trust God too. We can run to the shadow of God’s wings and find rest. Next time, we’ll be reading Psalm 63 through 68.