Pondering Psalm 103

To read all of Psalm 103 click HERE

Here are the first 5 verses…

Psalm 103:1-5

Of David.

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Are there times when you do not feel like worshiping? You walk into church and the music starts and your heart just isn’t in it. Or you know you need some time alone with God but you have a bad case of the “I don’t want to’s.” I get the feeling that David was feeling this way as he sat down to journal. The first two verses almost sound to me as if he is telling himself to “Praise the Lord.”

In order to get himself into a worship mode he does something which I think is key for anyone who just doesn’t feel like worshiping. He begins rehearsing all the things that God has done for him. And as he reflects, he  remembers why he should worship. He was made to worship God and beyond that there are innumerable reasons why he should worship God.

Just as there are for us.

He has forgiven all our sins. (v.3) He has removed them as far as the east is from the west. (v.12) That calls for worship!

He has redeemed our lives from the pit (v.4)  In other words the changed our destiny and our eternal destination. We were bound for hell on a fast train but now we are on a pilgrimage to heaven. That calls for worship!

He has crowned us with love and compassion (v.4) He did not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (v.10) He saw us in our miserable state. He saw what the influence of evil had done to us. He saw our despair and our ever searching for something, anything, that would satisfy our hearts. And instead of judging us because we had defamed His name, He showed us incredible kindness. That calls for worship!

He satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth in renewed (v.5) I am now 54 and I will admit that I can’t do some of the things I could as a younger man. But I firmly believe that because God has satisfied my heart my youth is renewed daily – I don’t feel like (and hopefully don’t act like) an older man. That calls for worship!

So here’s the point. Most likely you did not wake up in a worship mode this morning. Nothing unusual about that. But don’t let that stop you from being a worshiper. Take some time to rehearse ALL that God has done for you and let the Spirit of God draw you into worship.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week: Psalm 119:1-40

The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Understanding God’s Grace

Quotable Quotes

“The word grace , in the fulness of its meaning, is one of the most precious truths in Scripture.” p.77

“I believe that a correct understanding of God’s grace and a consistent reliance on it is the only sure foundation for progress in spiritual transformation.” p.78

‘Historically, the evangelical definition of grace is “God’s unmerited favor.” This definition is not wrong, but I believe that it is inadequate – that it does not do justice to the concept of grace presented in the Bible.” p.79

“I believe that a biblical definition of grace is “God’s blessings through Christ to people who deserve His curse.” It is because of Christ and His sinless life and sin-bearing death that we do not receive the curse we deserve but instead receive the blessings from God we do not deserve.” p.80

“And it is important to realize that all of God’s blessings to us are expressions of His grace. All of them come to us as a result of the work of Christ for us.Not a single blessing from God comes to us apart from the work of Christ on our behalf. Not even one!” p. 80-81

The truth is, God’s approval does have to be earned. That is what Christ did for us.” p.81

“The question is do we really believe we deserve the curse of God? Do we have such a view of the holiness of God – that is, both His transcendent majesty and infinite moral purity – that we see even our “small” sins (small in our own eyes) as what R.C. Sproul calls “cosmic treason””? p.83

“So why should we obey if our obedience does not earn favor with God? The answer, as we have already seen, is gratitude for what God has done for us. Obedience that flows out of gratitude is the only obedience acceptable to God and is the only obedience that will bring joy to our own hearts.” p.84

Next Week: Chapter 8 – The Transforming Work of the Holy Spirit

Pondering Psalm 95

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”

Grumbling and complaining never gets you anywhere. This was certainly the case for the Israelites. They were on their way to the promised land when they started grumbling and complaining about not having water – this is the Psalmist allusion to Meribah and Massah. You can find the account in both Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. The grumbling was an indication of something going on in their hearts. The Psalmist says here that their hearts had “gone astray” and that they did not know the ways of God. And as a result they spend the next 40 years wandering in the desert and probably wondering what went wrong.

I don’t ever want to be a grumbler – nor a complainer. I have been around my share of people who who do this a lot and it is no fun to listen to. There are at least 3 things that I glean from this passage that can help keep us from become grumblers…

Worship God with thankful hearts – Note verses 1-2. God is the Rock of our salvation. We must never ever forget what God has done for us to rescue us from our sin and depravity and give us Life when all we deserved was death and wrath. This is why author Jerry Bridges preaches the gospel to himself everyday. It is a daily reminder of how much he has to thank God for – no matter what else might be going on in his life. Not a bad habit to cultivate.

Worship God for His sovereign care – Note verses 6-7. God is our Maker and Sustainer. We are under His care. We must never ever forget this. Even when life is hard and and there are seemingly good reasons to complain, this especially is when we need to worship God and cling to the promise that as our Sovereign King He knows our needs and provides for us according to His (not our) perfect will.

Worship God through obedience – “Today if you hear His voice…” v.7.  Believers should delight in hearing God’s voice not dread hearing His voice. I wonder if the reason so many Christians neglect the reading of God’s Word is because they don’t want to be responsible to do what the Word says. When we remember how God has poured out His blessing upon us (salvation and sovereign care) then when God gives us tasks to do we should joyfully go about doing them. We have been blessed in order that we might be a blessing – and we should never ever forget that obedience is an act of worship.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week: Psalm 103

The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The Motivation of the Gospel

Some quotes from this chapter that help to sum up what it is about…

Isaiah had been totally devastated  morally and spiritually, by his vision of the infinite holiness of God. Then the seraphim had announced the gospel to him: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Is 6:7)

Soon he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I! Send me” (verse 8). His response is immediate and spontaneous. He said, “Here am I,” not “Here I am.” The latter denotes location, whereas, “Here am I” means “I am available.” He didn’t ask any questions, such as “Go where? or “Do what?” He, in effect, gave God a blank check for his life. He sai, “Here am I. Send me.” Why did he respond in this way? It is because Isaiah was so deeply impacted by the gospel that he responded in heartfelt gratitude to God for what He has done for him. p. 65

It is Isaiah’s vision of the infinite holiness of God that awakens his painful awareness of his sin, leading him to a deep appreciation of the gospel and resulting in a joyful expression of gratitude. p.70

Because we tend to define sin in terms of the flagrant ones in our society, we have little sense of our own personal guilt before an infinitely holy God. Consequently, we have little appreciation for the forgiveness of our sins and so little enthusiasm to earnestly pursue holiness or serve God sacrificially. There is no “guilt, grace, gratitude” sequence in most of our lives. p.71

…the question is whether we are growing more each year in our awareness of our remaining sinfulness and, consequently, of our desperate dependence on the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. p. 71

But the reality of the Christian life is that even as we come more and more to desire to do our duty, we still experience the combat between the flesh and the spirit….How then can we keep motivated in the face of this growing tension? The answer is through the gospel, particularly the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to us…. We must keep our eye on that glorious truth, and we must do it daily as we embrace the present reality of our justification: our righteous standing in Christ. Only then will we be motivated to keep pursuing holiness  even in the face of the increased tension. p.75

Next Week: Chapter 7 – Understanding God’s Grace

Pondering Psalm 90

To read Psalm 90 in it’s entirety click HERE.

Verse 1: “Lord You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” What might Moses have been thinking as he penned these words in the wilderness? Charles Spurgeon does such a great job detailing this that I will let him speak as I could do no better.  He uses some words that we don’t use and it is a little lengthy but worth the picture it paints.

At nightfall, or when the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched, and the Israelites laid themselves down to rest. Perhaps to-morrow, ere the morning sun had risen, the trumpet sounded, they stirred themselves from their beds and found the ark was in motion, and the fiery cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain up the hillside, or along the arid waste of the wilderness. They had scarcely time to arrange their little property in their tents and make all things comfortable for themselves, before they heard the sound of “Away! away! away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying toward Cannan!” They could not plant a little patch of ground around their tents, they could not lay out their house in order, and arrange their furniture, they could not become attached to the spot of ground.

Even though just now their father had been buried in a place where a tent had tarried for a time yet they must be off. They must have no attachment to the place, they must have nothing of what we call comfort, ease, and peace; but be always journeying, always traveling. Moreover, so exposed were they, that they never could be very easy in their tents. At one time the sand, with the hot simoom behind it, would drive through the tent and cover them almost to burial. On frequent occasions the hot sun would scorch them, and their canvas would scarce be a preservation; at another time the biting north wind would freeze around them, so that within their tents they sat shivering and cowering around their fires.

They had little ease; but behold the contrast which Moses, the man of God, discerns with gratitude, “Thou art not our tent, but thou art our dwelling-place. Though we are uneasy here, though we are tossed from side to side by troubles, though we travel through a wilderness, and find it a rough pathway, though when we sit down here we know not what comfort means, O Lord, in thee we possess all the comfort which a house can afford, we have all that a mansion or palace can give the prince, who can loll upon his couch, and rest upon his bed of down. Lord, thou art to us comfort, thou art a house and habitation.”

Have you ever known what it is to have God for your dwelling-place in the sense of comfort? Do you know what it is, when you have storms behind you, to feel like a sea-bird, blown to the land by the very storm? Do you know what it is, when you have been caged sometimes by adversity, to have the string cut by divine grace, and like the pigeon that flies at once to its own dovecot, have you sped your way across the ether, and found yourself in God? Do you know what it is, when you are tossed on the waves, to go down into the depths of Godhead, there rejoicing that not a wave of trouble ruffles your spirit, but that you are serenely at home with God your own Almighty Father? Can you, amid all the uneasiness of this desert journey, find a comfort there? Is the breast of Jesus a sweet pillow for your head? Can you, lie thus on the breast of Deity? Can you put yourself in the stream of Providence and float along without a struggle, while angels sing around you—divinely guided, divinely led—”We are bearing thee along the stream of Providence to the ocean of eternal bliss!” Do you know what it is to lie on God, to give up all care, to drive anxiety away, and there—not in a recklessness of spirit, but in a holy carelessness—to be careful for nothing, “but in every thing by supplication to make known your wants unto God?” If so you have gained the first idea; “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.” Charles Spurgeon

I underlined the phrase “holy carelessness” because I liked it. There is a lot to ponder in that phrase alone. But I thought Spurgeon did a great job of helping us understand that this is not our home. And even though we are settlers and not sojourners, so to speak, we must never forget that God is our home. God is our dwelling place. This place is is our temporary home-away-from-home and we MUST not get too attached. And yet we do.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week: Psalm 95

The Transforming Power of the Gospel: Chapter 5

Chapter 5:  A Daily Embracing of the Gospel

Bridges is making the point in this chapter that it is very easy for us to try to live the Christian life via our default mode – works righteousness. Here are a few quotes from the chapter that I thought were helpful and pertinent…

Dependence on one’s law keeping and faith in Christ are mutually exclusive. In fact, faith involves a total renunciation of dependence on one’s good works and instead total reliance on Jesus Christ and His righteousness. p.54

Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification…. Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification, drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. (quoting Richard Lovelace – who was one of my professors when I was at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary) p. 55

If we want to enjoy the benefits of the gospel in our daily lives we must learn to… look outside of ourselves and our performance, whether good or bad, and see ourselves standing before God justified – cleansed from our sins through the shed blood of Christ and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. p. 56

We never, of ourselves, earn God’s blessing through our good works because even our very best deeds are imperfect in accomplishment and defiled by our remaining sinful corruption. p. 59

My all-time favorite quote outside the Bible, one to which I return almost daily, is the first few words of the hymn “My Hope Is Built”: My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” For me, that hope is not only for eternal life but for God’s favor and blessing on my life today. p. 59

We have a natural drift toward a performance-based relationship with God. We are like a person in a rowboat trying to row upstream against the current. The instant the rower stops pulling on his or her oars, the boat will start drifting backward with the current. We can never as the old saying goes, “rest on our oars” in our daily dependence on Christ. Practically speaking, how do we keep plugging along? We go to the Scriptures containing the promises of God regarding the forgiveness of our sins and the imputation (crediting) to us of Christ’s perfect righteousness. p.59

Bridges then lists a bunch of these promises in Scripture including: Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 1:18, Isaiah 43:25, Isaiah 53:6, Romans 4:7-8, Romans 8:1, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9

He sums up the chapter by saying that “A daily embracing of the gospel is everyday work. That is why we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”

Next Week: Chapter 6 – The Motivation of the Gospel

Pondering Psalm 84

Click HERE to read Psalm 84 in its entirety

Here are some thoughts about a few of the verses…

But before we get to them there is a note that tells us that this Psalm is “Of the sons of Korah”. Here is a good article that will give you some background information on who the sons of Korah are. To sum up, they were doorkeepers and musicians in the court of David. Their lineage however went back hundreds of years to their ancestor Korah. Korah incited a rebellion (Numbers 16) against Moses that involved over 250 people. God had to deal with him severely (the earth swallowed him up) but some of his descendants went on to serve faithfully in the house of the Lord. As I read this account I was reminded that God can always redeem our past. It doesn’t matter what kind of a home that we have grown up in, or how bad our parents were, or what influences we had early in life – God can use us to bring Him honor and glory as we follow after Him. We are not victims of our past we are victors with a future!

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…

10 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.

These guys loved God. They loved to be in His presence. You can hear the passion oozing out of them. They were singing from the heart. Here is the question that I have to ask myself: When I am in the “court of the Lord” and singing with the community of believers, do I sing to Him with this kind of passion? Or do I just go through the motions of singing but my heart is far from God? Does my “heart and flesh cry out for the living God?” Would I rather be in God’s presence than anywhere else? Than at my favorite Sunday restaurant? Than home watching the NFL pre-game show? Than on the golf course? Than taking a nap? Need to move on before too much conviction sets in…

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

We are sojourners. Not of this world. Journeying through this world on our way to another place. A better place. A holy place. Our hearts MUST be set on that place if we are going to make sense of this place. We must keep our focus on the future if we want to thrive in the present. Otherwise the best we can hope for is to make it through this world in survival mode. But in God we find our strength. And even when we go through those dark and desperate valley times we can still “make it a place of springs.” We can still see the hand of God. We can still find hope when those without Christ would be hopeless. We can still see the goodness of God “though the darkness hide thee.”

And we can draw strength to continue our pilgrimage in Him. In the valleys we find strength. On the mountaintops we find strength. On the long and winding road we find our strength in Him. We “go from strength to strength” until one day we find ourselves in the strong arms of the One who stretched out His arms on the cross and secured our salvation and procured for us an eternal home in the Heavenly Zion.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week: Psalm 90

The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Chapter 4: The Great Exchange

“The good news of the gospel is not that we are not so bad; the good news is that God, through Christ, has dealt with our badness.” p.41

“God cannot exalt His mercy at the expense of His justice.” p.42 – In other words He cannot say “sin is not a big deal, I’m not going to let a few little sins keep you out of heaven and out of relationship with Me.”

Bridges spends the bulk of this chapter walking through and unpacking the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21. A verse that theologian Charles Hodge wrote this about: “There is probably no passage in the Scriptures in which the doctrine of justification is more concisely or clearly stated.” And which commentator Philip Hughes wrote: “There is no sentence more profound in the whole of Scripture, for this verse embraces the whole ground of the sinner’s reconciliation to God.” p.43

2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

As he unpacked this verse, Bridges talked about The Great Exchange – whereby God exchanges our sin for Christ’s righteousness. he did so by discussing…

Our Condition – The fact that we are helpless, ungodly, sinners and enemies of God.

The Sinlessness of Christ – Though He was tempted in every way during His days on earth Jesus was without sin.

God Made Him To Be Sin – Jesus was made to be the very embodiment of sin. He was made to be all that which is abominable and hateful to God – all that which is the object of His holy and just wrath.

The Righteousness of God – Meaning the righteousness of Christ that was lived out in His 33 years on earth. A righteousness that was both holy and wholly pleasing to God.

Union With Christ – Jesus is our “representative union” – he acted as our representative in both His sinless life and sin-bearing death. he is also our “living union” – He lives within us by His holy Spirit and empowers us to live the Christian life.

Justification – In our standing before God we are righteous in His sight. Not because of anything that we have done but when by faith we trust in Him, God regards us as righteousness because He has credited to us the righteousness of Christ. He sees us just as if we had never sinned and just as if we had always obeyed.

Bridges told a really good illustration to help make his point. He was having a conversation with a self-employed landscape contractor that went like this (p.51):

Bridges: Suppose you have been working on a job all day and come home sweaty and dirty and your clothes all grimy. What do you need to do before you sit down to dinner?

Contractor: I need to take a shower and put on clean clothes.

B: How about just putting on clean clothes without taking a shower?

C: No I would never do that?

B: Then how about taking a shower and putting your grimy work clothes back on?

C: No, I wouldn’t do that either.

B: So you need to take a shower and put on clean clothes?

C: Yes, that’s what I need to do.

B: That’s what God does to you. he washes you clean in the blood of His Son and clothes you in His perfect righteousness.

Next Week: Chapter 5 – A Daily Embracing of the Gospel

Pondering Psalm 67

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us, 
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth. 
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Evidently David spent time reading the Scriptures. And evidently he was a fan of praying Scripture. Note what Numbers 6:22-27 says:

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

You can never go wrong when you pray the Word of God. Here are a few reasons why I am a fan:

1) Prayer is supposed to be more than talking at God. It should be a conversation. As we read God’s Word and ponder what it says we can pray based on what His Word is telling us. Our time with God then becomes more of a dialogue than a monologue. This is a good thing.

2) Sometimes our prayers can become very mundane. They can become overly “me-centered.” When we learn to pray Scripture we start praying things that are important to God. I especially like using some of the prayers that are recorded in Scripture as starting points for my prayer time.

3) Sometimes we pray robotically. We do it because we are supposed to do it not because we are emotionally engaged. The Psalms are a great example of prayers that were prayed where you can hear the emotion that is involved. We need to get our emotions involved in our praying – praying with passion for God and compassion for people – and praying Scripture helps me to do this.

Verse 1 is a great prayer to pray for ourselves and others:  “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”. But don’t pray it without verse 2: “that your ways may be known on earth your salvation among all nations.” Verse 1 alone is a selfish, me-centered prayer. But with verse 2 it becomes a God-exalting prayer. God blesses us not as an end in itself but in order that we might be a blessing to others and that we might make His great Name known.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week: Psalm 84

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