Tag: psalms

Psalm 115

Last year I had the opportunity to go to a place of worship in Nashville.  It was a beautiful building and the people who were worshiping there were doing so with passion and with devotion.  Unfortunately, the objects of their worship were statues of many shapes and sizes.  We had been given the opportunity to visit this Hindu temple to learn more about their culture, and while I was impressed by their devotion, my heart was broken by their desire to worship these idols made of wood.

We were designed to be worshipers.  We have a desire that God has put into us to praise those things that are higher than ourselves.  This desire can lead us into the most powerful experiences of God’s presence.  It can also lead us into worshiping creations rather than our Creator.

In Psalm 115, the people of Israel are asked about their God.  Where is he?  Why can’t he be seen?  It’s a good question when your frame of reference to a god is an idol or a statue.  It’s not a great question if you serve the one true God whose dwelling is in heaven.

While most of us would not build idols for worship, we certainly have a tendency to worship things in place of God.  Maybe it is another person such as a spouse or boyfriend.  Maybe it is a car or a house.  Maybe our object of worship is ourselves.  We may not sing songs to these things or sacrifice to them, but when they become something we could not live without, we have made them into our idols.

God desires to be the most important thing in our life.  He does not want to be a part of your life.  He wants your relationship with him to be the foundation of your life.  The Christian faith was never meant to be part of who we are.  It was meant to be the definition of who we are.  When our lives are not based in our relationship with God, it is typically because we have decided that other things are more important than God.

Reflection
Take some time to identify the things that have become idols in your own life.  Chances are there are some things that you have begun to worship in place of  God.  As you identify the things that have been living for, compare what they have to offer to what God has to offer.  Ask God to help you refuse to serve things.  Instead, ask that he would reveal himself to you in a way that makes serving anything else seem incredibly foolish.

 

Living Our Worship

Psalm 146

In the first week of devotions, we sought to discover what worship really looks like.  In the second week, we celebrated the character and nature of our God.  This week we will be looking at how we might live out the worship of our God and King.

Today, we are looking at trust.  There are plenty of things that can give us comfort.  We can put our hopes into all sorts of things.  We may put our trust in our bank accounts or in our jobs.  We may put our trust in ourselves, believing that we are in control of the future that we desire.

But what happens when the things that we have put our trust into fall apart?  Where do we turn?  Who is our help then?

Psalm 146 reminds us that our help and our hope is the Lord.  While our inclinations are to put trust into many other things, only God is the true source of salvation and of help.

We don’t just put our trust in God because he tells us to, though that might ought to be enough.  Instead, the psalmist reminds us of the things that God does in our midst to rescue our fellow human beings.  He gives food to the hungry.  He gives sight to the blind.  He sustains the fatherless and the widow.  He sets the prisoners free.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed.

And in the back of our minds we perhaps remember someone else saying something along these lines.  In Luke 4, Jesus chooses to read these words from the prophet Isaiah:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Reflection
Spend some time thanking God for all of the ways that he works in the world.  Pray that your trust in his ways would increase, and that you would find peace knowing that God is worthy of our trust.  Ask God to help you to trust his plan for your life, even when you might think your plan is better.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 100

Human beings are obsessed with love.  Think about it.  Most of our songs are about love.  Nearly all of our movies have some story line built around love.  We even say that we love particular restaurants or clothing brands.  We love to love.

Despite our obsession with love, we are not always particularly good at being loving.  Our love is imperfect.  We frequently fail to show love even to the people that we know we love.  We also confuse love for infatuation or even desire.  We have a difficult time really understanding love, even when it comes to loving God and ourselves.

However, as we struggle to demonstrate real love, we are given the picture of perfect love when we consider God’s love for us.  God’s love is a perfect love.  The love that we have is merely a shadow of the love that God feels for us.

Have you ever really thought about what it means to have a God that loves you?  God doesn’t just like you; he loves you.  The love that he has for you is a love that is greater than anything we can muster here on this earth.  It is an amazing love that we are given despite our many failings and imperfections.  It is a love that is not dependent upon our obedience.  We don’t earn God’s love.  We have God’s love.  We cannot even lose God’s love.

When you consider the whole story of the Bible, we see God constantly demonstrating his love for us through his offering of grace and mercy.  If we are honest, God would have good reason not to love us.  Even the most devoted Christians fail God each day.  But we can rest in the fact that God’s love was never based on our efforts to earn it.  Because of God’s love, he has given us a story of redemption.  He has rescued us so that we might be his people and he can be our God.

If we want to really understand the nature of God’s love, we need to simply turn to 1 Corinthians 13 and see that the love described there is the love that God has for us.  His love is patient, kind, and it never fails.

Reflection
Take time to be loved by God.  We were designed to need love, and God’s love meets that need perfectly.  Thank God for loving us, even when we would not think we are deserving of his love.  Spend the day dwelling on the fact that God not only loves us, but he demonstrates his love in everything that he does.

 

Character Of God

Psalm 8

Even a brief glimpse out of a window can give us a picture of the goodness of our God.  Some of the most devotional moments we can have occur when we catch a glimpse of God’s creation.  Whether it is a scenic overlook or the presence of a newborn baby, God’s creative work on this earth can blow us away.

In Psalm 8 we see God celebrated as our creator.  The author David points to the fact that when we look at the creation, it should instill in awe for the creator.  As we see what God has done through creation, we marvel at how God chose to bless us with the beauty of the world.  When we consider the complexity of life or the sheer size of the universe, we stand amazed at God’s creative power.  Celebrating God as Creator allows us to reflect on his majesty, power, glory.

We also are reminded in the psalm that human beings are a special part of God’s creation.  He has put each of us together, and as our creator, he loves his creation.  The psalmist reminds us that God cares for us and that we as human beings are God’s crowning achievement in creation.  God in his wisdom chose to make us rulers and stewards over all of His creation.  We read that God has bestowed upon us glory and honor when it comes to his creation.

It truly is an honor that the God of the universe would think enough of us to create each of us with special skills and abilities.  His plan for this world is complex enough that he also gave each of us particular callings and desires.

We also understand that God created us with a purpose.  Our purpose is to glorify God, and we do that through our worship and our obedience.  Using our skills and desires, we serve our God.  We don’t do it out of obligation, but we do it because our God is the only thing worthy to be served.  Our lives are lived for his glory because he is the only thing worth glorifying.

Reflection
Take time now to consider the wonders of God’s creation.  Think about the complexity of the human body.  Take a look outside of your window and marvel at how God has made everything to work together.  Consider also that you were created in a place of honor, greater than all of what we see in nature.  Be humbled that God would create you, and feel loved that he would design you just the way that you are.  Ask God to reveal to you your purpose and calling in this world.

 

Character Of God

Psalm 29

While they can be terrifying, thunderstorms are amazing events.  The skies change colors.  The wind charges in.  The thunder crashes with an intensity that makes the walls shake.  The lightening nearly blinds us as it stretches across the sky.  Psalm 29 uses the imagery of one of these storms to describe the power and the glory of God.

Our God is powerful, and we would do well to remember that.  There are situations in our lives when we feel like everything is hopeless.  We may feel that there is no way out of our circumstances.  This would be true if our help and salvation was only found in ourselves.

However, we are reminded that anything is possible with God.  God has power over sickness and disease.  He has power over our finances and over our broken relationships.  He has power over our struggles with sin and doubt.

When God speaks into a situation, nothing can stand against him.  Like a storm that blows down a forest, God overpowers anything he chooses to overpower.  Sin and death—he’s conquered that.  Disease and blindness—he’s conquered that.  Suffering and oppression—he’s conquered that.

Celebrate that God is a God of power who can do anything when He wills it to happen.

Next time you encounter a thunderstorm, take time to consider how powerful God truly is as he speaks into our lives and changes our circumstances.

Reflection
Where do you need to feel hope today?  What have you convinced yourself to be impossible?  Take time to ask God to move in your life and do big things in your world.

Character Of God

Psalm 23

Last week our devotions focused on understanding the nature of true worship.  This week we will be focusing on celebrating the character of our God.  When we can recognize God for who he truly is, we will have all the more reason to worship him and praise his name.  The purpose of our devotions this week is to help you come to a fuller understanding of the character and nature of the God we worship.

Today we are looking at a familiar psalm that depicts God as both a loving shepherd and as a gracious host.  This psalm serves as a great introduction to the character of God because it demonstrates that our God is a God who cares for his people.  Our God is not a vengeful God who stands apart from his creation.  In our psalm today, we see that God is a God who serves as a caretaker and a provider.

In the first part of the psalm we see God as our shepherd.  This means that God is a gracious provider.  He provides rest.  He provides comfort.  He provides direction.  He provides protection from evil.

In the second part of the psalm we see God as a host who has prepared a lavish banquet for his people.  The idea of God as our provider is reinforced with this metaphor.  In this picture of God’s banquet we are anointed with oil as honored guests, and we are provided with more than we will ever need.

God’s provision for his people is a sign of just how good a God he truly is.  Our response to his provision is not just joy in our present circumstances, but also joy in the promise that God will be our host forever in heaven.

Reflection
What do you need God to provide for you today?  If  you need rest, pray that you find rest in God today.  If you need direction, pray that you receive direction.  If you need provision, pray that God will meet your need.  Find comfort in our Good Shepherd.

 

Character Of God

Psalm 56

True worship is in itself an act of faith.  When we praise God for his works, we are declaring that there is a God and that this God does amazing things in our world.  When we ask God to do amazing things in our lives, we are expressing our belief in God’s power. When we thank God for his provision, we are acknowledging that we are dependent upon something much greater than ourselves.

When our faith is strong, our worship grows stronger.  When our worship is strong, our faith grows stronger.  Unfortunately, there are many enemies of faith that disrupt our confidence in God and negatively affect our worship.  One of the major enemies of faith is fear.

There is much to be afraid of in our world.  We see and hear things every day that cause us to feel vulnerable.  In fact, because we have more information about the world around us, we have more things to be afraid of.  However, if one of the enemies of faith is fear, one of the enemies of fear is remembering how God has protected us in the past.

When we can declare “in God I trust and am not afraid” we are declaring in faith that God is more powerful than anything that we can encounter.  We are saying that God has put light onto all the things of darkness and shown them to be mere distractions on our path to true worship.

Psalm 56 was written by David when he had every reason to be afraid.  He was in the hands of evil men who sought to do him harm.  And yet David’s response is to turn to the Lord and thank him in advance for the deliverance that he will experience.  The psalm is a reminder that even in our darkest times, we can still praise God.  Worshiping in faith allows us to experience God’s presence even when it would seem that all hope is lost.  Remembering that God has done miraculous things gives us faith that he can do these again if it is his will.

Reflection
Take some time to talk to God about your fears.  What is it that keeps you up at night?  What is it that you worry about?  Ask God to help you overcome those fears.  Ask God to remind you of the mighty things he has done in your life and in the lives of those around you.  As you recall these things, allow the fear that you have in your life to fall away as you remember that you serve an all-powerful God.

 

Pursuing True Worship

Psalm 1

If we were to speak kind platitudes to our parents all day long but fail to obey them at every turn, it would not take long for them to realize that in our hearts, we do not honor them.

We might expect that the first psalm in the book of Psalms would be one of celebration or thanksgiving.  Instead, the first psalm serves as a reminder that true worship does not simply come in the forms of songs and declarations.  True worship is born out of obedience to God’s word.

This psalm reminds us that those who walk according to God’s word will experience life in abundance, but those who choose their own way will undoubtedly fail.  It is not hard for us to see this work out in our own lives.  If we are honest, the times when we are in a season of disobedience to God, true worship becomes very difficult.  Life tends to become difficult as well.

Many people are surprised to find that there are many psalms praising God for his word and for his law.  In fact, the longest psalm, Psalm 119, is a psalm celebrating the beauty of the law of God.  The law of God is celebrated not because it gives people a ton of rules to follow but because the law of God is seen as God’s covenant promise to his people.  God’s law reveals God’s character and his desire to be in a relationship with his people.

We are called to worship with a pure and clean heart.  If we are going to celebrate God and worship him, it makes sense that we would also honor him by obeying what he has taught us through his word.

Reflection
For us to be obedient to God’s word, we need to know God’s word and make it a major part of our lives.  Take some time to think about the delight that you can find in knowing God and his will for you.  If you have begun to find spending time with God to be a difficult thing, ask God to reveal to you areas in your life where disobedience is preventing you from experiencing true worship.

Pursuing True Worship

Psalm 90

Having looked at the worship elements of adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, we now turn to the element of supplication.  Supplication in worship is essentially the act of asking God for something or to do something.

In this psalm we see Moses making several requests of God.  Moses asks God to give understanding, compassion, and ultimately asks for mercy.  In the psalm Moses acknowledges the sin of his people.  Moses’s main request is that God would find favor with his people despite their shortcomings and failures.  Because we know the rest of the story, we know that God indeed showed them favor and forgiveness.

If we are honest, most of our prayers are prayers of supplication.  We pray for other people.  We pray for upcoming surgeries.  We pray for positive outcomes to difficult situations.  We pray for provision and encouragement.  We pray that God does something for us.  Thankfully, God is a God who provides for his people and answers their prayers.  We show honor to God when we ask him to work in a particular situation because we are demonstrating our dependence upon him.  We must be careful, however, that we don’t begin to treat God as a cosmic genie whose sole purpose is to give us what we want.

We must also remember that when we ask God for something, sometimes his answer will be no.  This is not because he does not want what is best for us.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Because God knows what is best for us, he does not always give us what we think we need.  It may seem that God does not answer our prayers, but perhaps he has simply answered them with no or has answered them in a way that we do not yet understand.

One other thing that we must remember about asking God to do things in our lives is that sometimes we shortchange what God can really do.  Sometimes our prayers are simply too small.  God wants to do amazing things in our world, but sometimes we lack the faith to ask God to do the big things.

Reflection
When you ask God to do something, what is your expectation?  Do you pray expecting God to really work or do you simply want God to know about the need?  What is it that you are praying for today?  Take some time to pray for your needs and for the needs of the others around you, and when you pray, pray expectantly.

Pursuing True Worship

Psalm 111

It is rare that an element of worship gets its own holiday.  I don’t know how you feel about Thanksgiving Day, but I am a huge fan, maybe because it is obviously a holiday designed by a guy.  After all, it combines all of the ingredients of a guy’s perfect day: tons of food, loads of football, and naps.  While these elements are fun (for the guys) what is great about Thanksgiving is that we typically take the time to thank God for the many ways that he has blessed us.

Even though giving thanks gets its own special day, if we want to pursue true worship, we need to express our thanks to God every day.  In addition to adoration and confession, thanksgiving plays a major role in our worship.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul calls on us to give thanks in all circumstances.  God has provided for us in so many ways.  We have the basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter.  In addition to these things, we are thankful for transportation, jobs, friends, and for just being alive.

In our comparison-based society it is so easy for us to see what others have and believe that we are somehow deprived.  However, when we have a spirit of thanksgiving, we know that what we do have has been given to us by our God.  We are able to thank him for every blessing.

In Psalm 111 the psalmist thanks God for several things.  He thanks God for providing food.  He thanks God for the lands where his people live.  He thanks God for his precepts which help direct the people to a fuller life.

The psalmist also thanks God for God’s promise of redemption.  Understand that the psalmist is praising God’s promise because they have not yet experienced the fulfillment of that promise.  That would occur many years later when Jesus would come and redeem his people and pay the price for their sin.  How much more should we thank God as we are the redeemed people who have experienced the fulfillment of this promise.   If we had nothing else to thank God for, his salvation should be enough to satisfy our hearts.

Reflection
Take a few minutes and think of the things that God has provided for you just today.  Spend some time thanking God for the little things, the big things, the past things, and the promises of future things.  Most of all, thank him for the redemption that you have experienced.

Pursuing True Worship