A Leader’s Prayer

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…May the Lord grant all of your requests (Psalm 20:5). 

To me, the blessing of this psalm feels like the blessing God gave to the high priest to pronounce over the people of Israel (Numbers 6:23-27). But in this blessing of Numbers 6, the people are simply passive recipients of the priestly blessing. 

Here in Psalm 20, David is asking God to give the people the blessing of His answer to their prayers. The people aren’t just passive but are actively involved in seeking God’s blessing. David teaches his people that they can pray for: 

  • relief from distress 
  • protection
  • help
  • support
  • acceptance of their sacrifices 
  • fulfillment of their desires
  • successful plans
  • victory

And in case someone might think that one or two of those items aren’t worthy of God’s attention, David adds this closing line, “May the Lord grant ALL your requests.” 

David also shows us the assurance with which his people can pray these prayers. He says, “Now I know…” 

  • God is the Source 
  • God answers out of His limitless power 
  • God is completely trustworthy 
  • God does “answer us when we call” 

This is a blessing a leader prays over his people as an encouragement to them to pray about anything and everything that is of concern to them. 

A mark of a godly leader is his prayer of blessing on the people under his care. 

This is part 56 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Global And Personal

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You who answer prayer … You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior…. Shout for joy to God, all the earth! (Psalm 65:2, 5; 66:1). 

Psalms 65 and 66 tell of God’s awesome involvement in our lives. He is both globally involved and personally involved. He’s not too big to care for my needs, and He’s not so preoccupied with me that He is unaware of global events. 

Look at the grandeur of our Creator—

  • You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness 
  • You are the hope of all the ends of the earth 
  • You formed the mountains by Your power
  • You stilled the roaring of the seas 
  • You care for the land and water it; You enrich it abundantly 
  • Your carts overflow with abundance 
  • all of creation shouts for joy and sings praise to You
  • all the earth says, “How awesome are Your deeds!” and bows down to You in praise 
  • You rule forever by Your power, Your eyes watch the nations 
  • how awesome are Your works on man’s behalf! 

And yet He is not just God of global events, but He is intimately involved with each and every person. He notices me! 

The psalmist says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.” Then he tells how God…

  • forgave my sin
  • listened to my prayer
  • honored my prayer 
  • has not withheld His love from me 

Oh, come and see! See how awesome God is that the earth trembles before Him. See how awesomely loving He is that He stoops to listen to me. He is indeed a global God but He is also an intimately personal God. 

The more we know our God in both His majesty and His intimacy, the more we will praise Him.

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Blessing Over Judgment

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My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (Psalm 57:7) 

David is on the run, hiding in a cave. The bad guys are described as lions, ravenous beasts with teeth like spears and arrows, and tongues like swords. They hotly pursue David, setting traps for him everywhere he would go. So it’s no wonder that David begins this prayer crying out to God, 

Have mercy on me, O God have mercy on me, for in You my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed (v. 1). 

As David is prone to do in many of his psalms, he inserts the word Selah, reminding both himself and his readers to pause for a moment. He records how God answers his prayer: “God sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me” (v. 3). 

But the Selah comes in the middle of the verse, almost as if David is pausing to ask, “How exactly does God save me?” In this instance, it’s not so much God rebuking the wicked as it is God blessing David. After the Selah pause he says, “God sends forth His love and His faithfulness. 

By blessing His righteous servant David, God rebukes the wicked and vindicates David by creating a longing in those wicked men to also be blessed by God. 

In the New Testament we see that the arrival of Jesus was an act of God’s kindness: “Because of and through the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit us” (Luke 1:78). And it is God’s kindness that continues to draw us to Himself: “…Are you unmindful or actually ignorant of the fact that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent—to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will?” (Romans 2:4). 

David foresees his enemies falling into the very traps they have set for him (v. 6). And then once again he calls for a Selah pause to consider how God has and is blessing him. 

From this point on, David expresses no more thoughts about the wicked people pursuing him, but all of his words through the remainder of this psalm are worship, praise, and exaltation (vv. 7-11). 

When evil people are assailing you perhaps you could pray this prayer: 

O God, that my heart could be so transformed that I desire Your blessing on my life more than I look for Your judgment or retribution on the wicked! I pray that my heart would be a place of continual praise to You, and not a hotbed of anxious thoughts about wicked people. Father, may Your kindness to me be such a powerful testimony to even evildoers, that they will repent—change their mind to accept You as their God too. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. 

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5 Truisms From Psalm 62

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When I see words like truly (3 times), surely (2 times), and yes (1 time) occurring so frequently in a rather short psalm, it catches my attention. Combined with the call for a Selah pause another two times in this twelve-verse psalm, and this is clearly a chapter that we should read slowly and deliberately. 

Because of these words truly and surely, I find five truisms that David makes clear to us, and I also find that they are linked together in a beautiful circular chain. 

Truism #1—God keeps me secure. He alone is my source of security (vv. 1-2). 

Truism #2—Evil people are envious of a righteous person’s secure position and will try to pull them down (vv. 3-4). When this happens I need to take a Selah pause to remember Who holds me secure. 

Truism #3—These attacks by evil people do not put my security in jeopardy, but instead it gives me a been-there-done-that testimony to share with others (vv. 5-8). Again, I need to Selah to remember that my challenges are often for the benefit of others as much as they are for my strengthening. 

Truism #4—Poor people are not excluded from God’s help, and rich people are not above God’s help (vv. 9-10). God sees every human being as infinitely valuable. 

Truism #5—God is both All-Loving and All-Powerful. He gets the final word on both judgment and reward (vv. 11-12). This fifth truism should refuel my understanding of the first truism—that God holds me securely—which continues my confident journey through this chain of beautiful truisms all over again. 

Friends, I urge you to go slowly through your personal Bible reading time. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s illumination before you begin reading, and then watch to see how He will point out to you patterns, repeated words, and other insights that will allow you to apply God’s Word to your daily life.

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“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

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I have some sobering news for you: You are going to die. 

Death is the great equalizer. It comes for the rich and poor, the scholar and the illiterate, all races, all ages, the healthy as well as the sick. Unless you’re still alive when Jesus comes back again, your odds of dying are 1-in-1. 

What happens “on the other side”? What happens after this life is over? Since it seems dark and mysterious to most people, they tend to ignore it until it’s thrust upon them. That’s why I find the dying words of people interesting. Like P.T. Barnum asking, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” or W.C. Fields reading a Bible on his deathbed and telling a friend, “I’m looking for a loophole.” 

Or the very last words of Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 

Jesus is steeped in Scripture, so nearly everything He says in His final four declarations come directly from the Psalms, including His final phrase which comes from Psalm 31:5. 

When Jesus broke a three-hour silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” both Matthew and Mark use the Greek words megas phoné to describe how loudly Jesus spoke. And now with His final words, Luke uses the same megas phoné description. 

Notice in the first megaphone cry Jesus calls on God the All-Powerful Creator. And with His last megaphone declaration, He calls on His Father who is All-Loving. How comforting it is to know that God is both All-Powerful and All-Loving! Not only can He answer our cries, but He delights to answer them! 

The word Jesus uses for “commit” is in the future tense and it means “to entrust as a deposit.” Jesus believed that God was going to do more than just give Him life again, but that He would give life to all who would believe in Him. 

Unlike atheist Bertrand Russell who said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong,” Jesus DID die for His beliefs, and by rising from the dead proved He was right in trusting God. 

Job saw an inescapable death for all mankind, but he also foresaw the forgiveness of God (Job 14:5, 16-17). Jesus died once for all mankind and was then resurrected, bringing about the death of death by making forgiveness accessible to anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22). 

We can now have the peace that comes from trusting the only One to Whom we can safely entrust our souls. Because Jesus brought death to death, we can have the same peace when we die that Jesus had when He died. 

With faith in Jesus, you can…

…live today knowing you’re invincible until God calls you home 

…live today full of joy because your home in heaven is secure

…live your very last day in peace because you know to Whom your soul is entrusted 

Because Jesus died at peace with God, we can face death triumphantly! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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(Im)Patiently Waiting?

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I waited patiently for the Lord … You are my God, do not delay (Psalm 40:1, 17). 

These bookend verses—the first and last verses of the 40th Psalm—are humorous to me. I wonder: Is David saying something like, “I’ve waited long enough, c’mon, God, let’s get moving”? 

Not exactly.

The first part of this psalm is a backward look that recounts all that God has already done for David: He heard me, He lifted me out of a pit, He set me on a firm place, He put a new song in my mouth (vv. 1-3). While the end of this psalm is David’s anticipation of what is still to come: the enemies of God turned back, and the saints of God rejoicing in His deliverance (vv. 11-17). 

The backward look in gratitude fuels the forward look in expectant hope.

In the meantime, in the middle of this psalm—between the backward look and the forward look—David is living as a testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness:

  • many will see how God has delivered me and put their trust in Him 
  • I speak of Your deeds 
  • I listen to You and proclaim what You speak to me 
  • I do not hide Your righteousness 
  • I speak of Your faithfulness (vv. 3-16) 

This is a good lesson for us: Our continual praise and proclamation of God’s goodness is what connects our gratitude to our hope!

So in looking at these bookends verses again, I think that what David is saying is something like, “Father, I have so many good things already to say about how You have provided for me, so do not delay in moving again so that I have even more to share with others! Let many see Your hand on my life so that they too may learn to fear and trust You. Amen.” 

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“It Is Finished”

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Just before Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew everything written about Him in the law had been completed and all of the prophecies about Him had been fulfilled. Jesus knew this to be true but no one else standing there would have said “Aha!” because of that statement. But Jesus left no doubt for any of us when He next said, “It is finished!

These three English words are just one word in Greek: tetelestai. It’s in the perfect tense, telling us that nothing more needs to be added to Christ’s work. It not only shares the same root word that John uses for completed and fulfilled, but it closes the circle of another dying declaration of Jesus when He quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His “It is finished” statement is also the last verse of Psalm 22.

The root word telos translated as completed, fulfilled, and finished has a very rich meaning. Here are three definitions we should consider: 

(1) To complete or bring to a conclusion

Jesus told His Father that He had finished (telos) His mission (John 17:4). Q: How do we know His mission was completed? A: Jesus sat down! Think about this: There were no chairs in the Old Testament temple because a priest never rested, there was always more work to do. But when Jesus finished His work, He sat down (see Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12). 

(2) To discharge a debt

Since Jesus was the only One who could make the final “once for all” payment, that means that we were hopeless debtors prior to that. God foretold of His forgiveness using the picturesque language of a debt being “doubled up” when it was paid in full (see this video where I explain this concept more fully). Here’s what Jesus did: 

Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This note with its regulations, decrees, and demands He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP) 

Q: How do we know the debt was paid in full? A: The curtain that had separated us from God’s presence was torn in two.

(3) To fill up what’s missing

In this case, Jesus took what was missing by switching cups with us. He drank the cup of God’s righteous wrath—which was justly ours—and gave us His cup of righteousness in its place! (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Matthew 26:39).  

Q: How do we know we have a cup of righteousness in place of a cup of wrath? A: Dead saints of God were resurrected when Jesus died. “It is finished” was not Jesus giving up, but death giving up … it was not Jesus defeated, but death defeated! 

Jesus paid it all! There is nothing I can do to add to His completed—tetelestai—work, so I can now do what formerly was impossible: I can live a holy life for God’s glory. I can now finish (telos) my race on earth and receive the rewards God has stored up for me (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Christ’s tetelestai confession is our empowerment to live holy! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the dying declarations of Jesus, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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The Reason We Can Live Securely

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The wicked plot…but the Lord laughs… (Psalm 37:12).

The wicked may hatch all sorts of evil plots that appear to benefit themselves, but God always gets the final word and the last laugh!  

This 37th Psalm is filled with the contrasts of the temporary advantages of evil versus the eternal rewards of righteousness. Wicked people may flourish for a moment in time, but righteous people have both an inheritance that lasts forever and God’s help every single day too! In other words, the righteous get to securely live in a win-win relationship. 

With this in mind, David instructs the righteous how to live out their days: 

  1. not fretting over evil people
  2. trusting God to supply their needs 
  3. doing good for others
  4. delighting in God
  5. remaining steadfastly committed to God
  6. patiently
  7. refraining from anger 
  8. full of hope
  9. generously
  10. securely in God’s peace 

Righteous people can live securely every single day because they know that not only does God holds them securely today, but He will continue to hold them securely for all of eternity. Secure people are empowered to live a joy-filled, others-centered, God-glorifying life. 

If you know Jesus as your Savior, you can say “Amen!” to this secure way of living. 

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“I Am Thirsty”

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Jesus has just broken a 3-hour silence with His megaphone-voice cry: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Now His final three statements will follow in rather short order, beginning with, “I am thirsty.”

It might seem trivial that Jesus expressed His desire for a drink, especially since He also knew that there was no thirst-quenching water nearby. Far from being trivial, however, this was eternally important because it completed His mission. 

Before saying, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew “that all was now completed.” The Greek word for know is sometimes translated as “see” and sometimes “know.” When it’s “see” it’s always in the past tense—“saw” or “have seen.” Perhaps in His 3-hour silence, Jesus was reviewing His earthly life, looking back to see what He had accomplished. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was on-mission for all 30+ years of His life in Israel. 

But now that He has seen His life, He “knows.” This word is in the perfect tense. He’s seen it all and He knows He has accomplished all He set out to complete. As He had told His audience earlier in His life, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till ALL is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). 

In looking back on His life, Jesus saw one final thing: He needed to be given vinegar to drink just as David prophesied (Psalm 69:13-21). With that sour sip, ALL the Ts are crossed and ALL the Is are dotted! 

When John writes, “Knowing all was now completed, and so the Scripture would be fulfilled,” he uses the Greek word which means mission accomplished! 

Why did Jesus need to fulfill ALL the prophecies and complete ALL the law? Check out His earlier statement from the Amplified Bible: “For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook identifying certain Hebrew letters will pass from the Law until all things it FORESHADOWS are accomplished.” 

The law was just our temporary guardian and the temple practices were just a shadow of the realities of Heaven (see Galatians 3:23-25; Hebrews 10:1-10). ALL of them were merely pointing to Jesus, so Jesus made sure ALL of them were completed. 

His “I am thirsty” statement was really His “Amen” to His completed mission. 

Jesus fulfilled every Scripture so that we could stand on every promise! 

Check this out: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

The shadows of the law were turned into the substance on which we can come boldly before the throne of God’s grace! In just three words—“I am thirsty”—Jesus completed His mission for God’s glory and for our eternal help! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying confessions of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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When You’re Unfairly Attacked

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Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. (Psalm 35:1). 

This psalm is in a category called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” 

Does it sound unusual to your ears to pray a prayer like that? After all, aren’t we as Christians commanded to forgive those who offend us? How do we square that teaching of Jesus with these brutally honest prayers that David offers up? 

Always remember that imprecatory psalms are spoken exclusively to God, not to our enemies. So when we pray these prayers, we are really turning the matter over to God. God does the contending and the vindicating—He knows best how to dispense the appropriate judgment. 

David also shares with us several introspective prayers throughout the Book of Psalms, where he asks the Holy Spirit to search him. This heart-searching is interwoven in this imprecatory prayer of Psalm 35, as it should be with our prayers too. 

Notice that David can only say these things with integrity because he had already allowed the Spirit to search his heart, and then he had asked forgiveness and he had repented from any sin (see Psalm 139:23-24; Matthew 5:22-24; 6:12, 14-15). David could point out with a clear conscience what his enemies were doing because David was innocent of these actions himself. Things like… 

  • their attack was without cause (v. 7) 
  • their accusations were purposefully designed to entrap him (v. 11) 
  • they were repaying David’s good work with evil deeds (v. 12) 
  • David had attempted to treat them well (vv. 13-14) 
  • they gleefully piled on more slander when David stumbled (v. 15) 
  • the enemy’s mocking was malicious (v. 16) 
  • they hated me without reason (v. 19) 
  • they invented false accusations against David (v. 20)

After his imprecatory prayer, David resolves to turn his eyes from the bad guys to God. He declares that worship of God will be his comfort (v. 28). What a great example for us still today! 

When you are falsely, unfairly attacked, take these three actions: 

  1. Introspection. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, and then quickly take action where necessary: Ask forgiveness, and repent from sinful thoughts, words, and actions. 
  2. Pray. Remember to share your hurts with God alone. There is no need to unleash your anger on those who have attacked you. 
  3. Worship. As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

Please keep these God-honoring action steps in mind the next time you are unfairly attacked. 

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